Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Name That Genre: Critique Round #6

TITLE: Live Free or Die Trying
GENRE: Science Fiction

There was no life support, gravity, or light. Even so, Captain Mark was not convinced this derelict ship they had boarded was truly dead. He reminded himself of The Three Bears and Goldilocks. In this situation he would be-- a little blond girl looking for some porridge? Not even, but casting the owners of this ship as the mythical hairy mammal with big teeth and a grumpy personality--that fit well. Also the door to the Bear's house had opened way too easily, just as the air locks on this ship gave way without effort. Didn't these people believe in locks? Wendy had simply applied suction to expose a small fissure at the door seal. While she held a pry bar at the ready to finish the job she didn't use it. The hatch popped its top like a ripe can of soda, laying out the welcome mat. Mark ducked as it flew past.

“That was lucky,” Wendy had said.

Lucky​? Trouble with the Goldie comparison--Mark knew how that story ended.

“Something is wrong,” he said into his microphone. “Everything looks . . . staged.” He was dressed in full combat armor completely sealed against the cold void of space, and he carried a laser assault rifle of the old style, outdated but still rebel cool. He floated through the dark corridor, breathed through a tube attached to a tank, and cast a beam of light from his helmet to reflect off the alloy walls. The ship was quiet and cavernous, scary at best. Maybe Mark was simply having a case of nerves, but that was ridiculous. If he felt something, it was real. Right now he felt everything was just a little too perfect to be true-- like if some video producer had said let’s make a dead ship, this would be the theme park version.


  1. I'm not the best at doing critiques on science fiction. With that said I like this entry. I get a firefly vibe. I just wish there was more dialogue or something to break up the long text. I prefer more white space on a page. Well done. I wouldread on even thothough it is science fiction.

  2. Loved the phrase 'like a ripe can of soda'. I also like the tone set with the Goldilocks comparison. I did pause at the description of his weapon as 'rebel cool' as that felt like it came from outside the story. Nice close to the excerpt, gives the reader a strong visual -- without actually providing a lot of description -- about what is wrong with what he's seeing.

  3. I enjoyed reading this piece. The suspense is killing me, LOL. I would read to find out what happens. The only thing that did not work for me is the repetitions and it's too telling. I mean you keep repeating it's staged, it's not normal, it's scary. It does work in an odd way, but still it seems forced and too telling.
    I would have liked to know more about how the ship looks like as in shape and size and if they do this a lot.
    This being said, this is intriguing and a good introduction to the characters.

  4. I like this beginning. The captain seems smart and seasoned. I am not sure about the rebel cool thing either that pulled me from the story. I found the dialogue confusing in that it seems like they broke in before and the dialogue should have already happened. You might have him thinking this as he's watching her break in. Maybe that's what you meant but the had confused me. Overall though, I like this beginning. Makes me want to read more.

  5. I like it. The rebel cool threw me off too. Also the ripe can of soda because if this is the future, would they have soda cans like we do? I can see having the Three Bears story since that's a classic. I don't think it was too repetitive. I do read SF and I'd read more. Good luck!

  6. I like the Goldilocks comparison, and I like Captain Mark's personality so far. I am curious as to what is going to happen, but I don't feel any sense of real menace. I'm not sure if you intended there to be menace or not. :)

    I was confused by the time of the breaking in. First, I thought he was remembering how it had happened, then it seemed like it was happening currently, as he ducks the flying airlock door. I wondered if you were meaning to transition into a flashback sort of scene, where you recount the events in present tense? If so, it's not quite working here. Maybe this is too short a snippet.


  7. Overall, I like the tension of this piece. I want to see what happens when the trap is sprung.

    I want to say to use an ellipsis instead of an em-dash before the Goldilocks reference, but I'm not entirely sure. I just feel like it's something he thinks uncertainly, which I'd use an ellipsis to indicate. I'm torn on the whole Goldilocks analogy, to be honest. On the one hand, I think it's interesting and clever... on the other, I think maybe there's too many reference to it. I think I'm not fond of "the mythical hairy mamma with big teeth and a grumpy personality..." He knows it's a bear; I know it's a bear. Having him describe what a bear is seems redundant. The aliens are sort of like bears; I get it. I really just want to get on with the story.

    I feel like there are some tense issues. I can't tell if he's currently in the corridor and thinking back to when they opened the hatch or if this story starts with opening the latch. In some cases, you're using the past perfect: "Wendy had simply applied suction... " and "Wendy had said...". At the same time, you're using simple past: "The hatch popped its top..." and "Mark ducked....".

    The description is nice, but I wish you could work in his armor and rifle more organically with some of his perceptions or feelings—like maybe gripping his rifle as he's thinking about how cavernous the ship is. Right now it feels a bit like you're interrupting the scene to describe him. I couldn't decide whether "rebel cool" would actually be a way Mark would think of his own rifle. The phrase jumped out at me.

    While I like his descriptions of his emotional awareness... I'd maybe like some observations of things that are out of place... or too in place, as it were, followed by his feeling of it being staged.

  8. I like this. I think a lot of sentences could be tightened up or made more powerful.

    For example, "The ship was quiet and cavernous, scary at best." To me, it would work better reversed - "Cavernous and quiet, the ship was scary at best."

  9. I really like this! The tension is good, and I want to know what happens and what's on the ship. I do agree about some of the tenses seeming off. It was a little unclear whether they'd already broken in, or whether they were breaking in as the scene unfolded. You might also break up the long paragraphs to have more white space. But I would definitely keep reading!

  10. I have to share. . . my husband read through of these, including yours, out loud, in a mock-sexy voice. It was most amusing.

    So, people in space-suits breaking into a dead ship. The Goldilocks comparison could have come off very very cheesy. . . but it fits pretty well.

    My biggest complaint is that I can't get a visual of that ship, inside or out. We're getting more of Mark's interior state than of the setting. And this is not enough to set the mood. Instead of saying Mark has nerves or the ship is scary-at-best, try describing the ship using horror-laden words.

  11. I thought you started with a suspenseful scene, but I also think it's not as suspenseful as it could be. Practically everyone knows Goldilocks and the Three bears, so once the comparison is made, it felt like that was enough. Constantly referring back to it seemed too much.

    I also had no sense of what the ship looked like. Instead of starting with what is not there, start with what 'is' there. What does he see as he enters? What is he hearing? Give us a description of the ship and show us what looks fake or staged and tell us why he thinks so. How does it make him feel?

    As others have said, the tenses are off which makes the reader question the opening. Is it happening now, or has it already happened. The rebel cool line also stopped me. I also questioned 'Captain Mark.' It reminded me of kindergartners calling the teacher Miss (insert first name) It just seemed the Captain of a spaceship should be Captain (last name) If Mark is his last name, you might consider changing it.

    And as Almitra said above, if you want it to be scary, use scary words. If you want it suspenseful, use suspenseful words. Again, it's a really good opening point, it just needs more of the external stuff right now, I think, than the internal.

  12. Thank you all for reading and commenting. I've gleaned a lot of great insight!