Wednesday, May 13, 2009

4 Secret Agent

TITLE: Dawn's Rise
GENRE: Science Fiction

Gravity stopped.

John Jacobs’ eyes shot up to the skylight above him where the laser-straight cable squirmed like an injured worm.

“What the—No. No, no,” he cried. “Sh**!”

The man howled as he floated off his couch in Earthward Lounge, his book tumbling away. He flailed his arms to grab a chair, a table, anything. Sirens screeched and lights flashed; bulkheads closed and residents shrieked. The cable shuddered and waved, free of its mooring 140 thousand kilometers away on Earth.

“No! No,” he gasped. “Come on! This can’t be happening! F*****g wake up!”

John panted and keened, spinning his arms and kicking his legs like a swimmer. His heart thundered in his chest. Screams echoed down the halls connected to the Lounge. Tears formed in the corners of his eyes and snapped off as he blinked, forming glimmering droplets in the air. He reached towards the planet hanging in the skylight, wishing he could reconnect the lifeline that fluttered before his eyes.

“We’re dead. We’re all dead,” he wailed.


Dawn Anami screamed.

Aunt Rose burst into Dawn’s apartment and rushed to her side. She motioned a hand gesture that activated her audio implant. “9-1-1! I need help in apartment 247120! Please hurry!” The walls turned red, displaying several countdowns, as well as the view through Rose’s eyes. Her ocular implants, microscopic projectors and recorders inside her eyeballs, echoed the wall display and provided Rose with instructions: “Receiving transmission. Do not move victim. Medical ETA: 03:21. Security ETA: 05:33.”


  1. It's nice to see some SF in all these entries! :-)

    I'm curious about what's going on, but not quite hooked yet. That's mainly because I'm a character oriented reader, and I didn't like John Jacobs at all. Something happens to him and he wails uselessly.

    Also, I was very confused by "The cable shuddered and waved..." I have no clue what the cable is? Is Earthward Lounge tied to Earth or something? I think maybe I just need more info.

  2. It sort of hooked me and I'd probably give this a chance for a little longer.

    The change of POVs is a little jarring and while there is obviously something going on in the first part, it seems irrelevant. Actually both sections are almost episodic in nature.

    If I were you, I'd stick with one of those POV for at least the first 250 words to give us some sense of what the big picture is!

  3. The POV shift didn't bug me that much. I read the first part as a tiny prologue, and from that perspective was okay with it. The biggest problem I had was the image in the second paragraph didn't work for me. If it's "laser-straight" then it's straight, not squirming. I think you meant it SHOULD have been straight, but that isn't how it reads. There are a couple parts that I think could have words cut to read tighter, but overall I'm okay with it as a prologue.

    It's a tough call to say on the next part since it is such a small snippet. The main issue I have is the second paragraph has a lot going on. It left me a little confused to be honest.

  4. I didn't like the POV shift, either.

    "He reached towards the planet hanging in the skylight, wishing he could reconnect the lifeline that fluttered before his eyes."
    I think this would be smoother if you took out "that" and changed it to fluttering.

    "She motioned a hand gesture that activated her audio implant." This sentence is very awkward to me. Maybe you could just say what the hand gesture was.
    "With a wave of her fingers, she activated her audio implant." Just an idea (especially since I don't know how to activate an audio implant).

  5. I found this a bit confusing. I think you have slight POV issues in both sections:

    **The man howled** - This made me think there was a second person in this scene. Say 'John' or 'He' since you're in John's POV; he wouldn't refer to himself as 'the man'.

    **Dawn Anami screamed.
    Aunt Rose burst into Dawn’s apartment** - This made me think we were now in Dawn's POV, but the rest of this section is actually in Rose's. Again, she wouldn't think of herself as 'aunt'. Maybe reword to something like: Rose heard her niece scream. She burst into Dawn's apartment...

  6. (Without reading other comments...)

    I'm not a regular sci-fi reader. That being said, I think what you have here could work, if it is clarified a bit. Some of the descriptors you use (particularly in the section about John) left me confused. I couldn't really get a good image of what the cable was supposed to be connecting them to, and images like tears "snapping off as he blinked" really bugged me.

    I would have been much more pulled into the story had the introduction been a bit simpler - simpler imagery, simpler sentences.

    Good luck!

  7. This didn't hook me because I was completely confused.

    First you start with the line, "Gravity stopped." Ok, so gravity stops? Are we defying the laws of physics? Are we not on Earth? Are we floating in space?

    Oh, apparently we are floating in space. But I'm still not sure how we're floating in space, and you're telling me there's a skylight, but the skylight seems to be upside down (would it not be an "earthlight"?), since it's attached to Earth by a giant cable, which is simultaneously laser-straight AND wiggling like a worm. Do you see what I'm getting at here? I can't even physically orient your characters in my head, and that's distracting from what could be a potentially interesting novel.

    I say potentially interesting because while the beginning part not only confuses me, and comes across as melodramatic--I'm somewhat interested in Dawn Amami, and would actually like to know more about her.

  8. I was put off immediately, and couldn't continue reading by your first line.

    "Gravity stopped."

    Stopped what? Stopped working, stopped time, stopped the ball? Don't like the first line.

    Not hooked.

  9. I like sci-fi so I was happy to see some here! I'm not sure if I'm hooked or not, though I'm definitely intrigued by the concept of a cable connected to Earth that has been severed. Why do they need this lifeline to survive? Why does it control gravity within the ship/craft/whatever they're in? You definitely raise some great story questions, for me, and I'm curious about what will happen next, as well as what happened to cause the cable to be disconnected in the first place.

    That said, I definitely think there are things that could be tightened. Right off the bat, I was chuckling at the imagery of John Jacob's eyes shooting up to the skylight. No gravity, indeed! I really notice when body parts, especially eyes, do things they really shouldn't. I'd recommend tweaking this. His eyes can open, but it should be his attention or his gaze that "shoots up" to the window (rather than skylight, I would think).

    There was such an abundance of strong action verbs in the first part that it actually got to be a bit much. Squirmed, cried, howled, flailed, screeched, flashed, closed, shrieked, shuddered, waved, gasped, panted, keened, spinning, kicking, thundered. In general the use of such verbs is a good thing, absolutely, but I felt like there were too many here. There were a couple places where you used two when one probaby would have sufficed: "shuddered and waved" and "panted and keened", specifically. It just all felt over the top, for me.

    I really do think this has great promise. I don't have much to say about the POV shift to Aunt Rose, because there was so little of that section. I wish I knew how they connected. I am interested in what's going on with her, though.

  10. Re: Meghan's comment

    Hahaha, I hadn't even noticed that. My eyes passed right over it when I was reading, but you're absolutely right about his eyes shooting up to the skylight; it gives off the imagery of his eyeballs popping out of his head and zooming up towards the skylight in order to look out of it.

  11. No, I'm sorry.

    The first part pushed me out with some odd descriptions... (tears snapping off).

  12. Sorry, confused so badly in the first paragraph I couldn't keep going.

    His eyes shot up. Really? Or did his gaze shoot up? Why should he be concerned about a straight cable that is nonetheless somehow squirming? Then there's another man howling and I have no idea where we are.

  13. Thank you all very much for the feedback. It's some of the best (or harshest) feedback I've gotten.
    For those still interested, I'll explain a bit.
    I apologize for the confusion. In my effort to reduce it to 250 words, I chose not to include the section headers which include time and location. It's 1/22/2101. The first part is aboard a tethered space platform. The second is an apartment in Charlotte, NC.
    Now I'll address some specific comments:
    Sandy: as far as the wailing, I liken his response to someone on a flight who sees the wing break off. I wanted pure panic. Maybe it's too much? Yes, the station is tied to Earth.
    John & others: If I do this again, I'll stick to one POV :)
    selestial: I'll work on the laser-straight description
    NewGirl: good thoughts. thanks.
    Melinda: Ack, there is no 2nd man. I'll stick to John. And 2nd part is not Rose's POV, so I'll clean that.
    Samantha: got it. thanks.
    Secret Agent: THANK YOU for doing this! Actually, there is no gravity, just centrifugal force. And when the cable's gone. But that's wordy. Orientation is difficult to describe, so I'll work on that. I've tried really hard to not describe a whole lot and just throw people into the action...hard to do this in 250 words.
    Omi: It was the best and most concise way I could state: "The cable supplying centrifugal force snapped, releasing the station into a freefall and reducing the apparent gravitational acceleration to near zero."
    Meghan: Thanks! See my other replies for an explanation of the gravity. I got it RE over the top. Someone suggested that I remove all adverbs and adjectives, so I just added more verbs. I see what you mean.
    Megs: Maybe that was too much :)
    Victoria: Thanks for looking. I'll clean that up.

    If anyone's still reading, I'm definitely looking (begging) for people help critique Dawn's Rise. Shoot me an email (but not your eyes) and we'll get in touch, and of course I'm willing to critique your work as well.

  14. This was a bit too chaotic and confusing, with a bit too much melodrama. The story sounds like it has potential, but you will need to let the reader in on what's going on by providing a little more clarity.

  15. The picture I get from this is the space platform is connected by a cable to a point on earth. The rotation of the earth is creating centrifugal force. When the cable snapped, the force stopped. To me, this does not work.
    First of all, the force of the rotation would push the occupants of the space platform against the far wall. It would not create any kind of false gravity for them to be able to walk around.
    Secondly, I am not sure if the earth is rotating fast enough to do this. The air resistance going through the atmosphere would be huge to overcome. If they found a way to speed up the earth, it would increase gravity on earth and that would be overly disastrous.
    Thirdly, the centrifugal force would have to take into account the gravity and orbit of the moon. Since its orbit is not circular, but elliptical around the earth its gravitational pull varies.
    Lastly, how many satellites is this cable wiping out? :)

  16. The scene on the space elevator(?) is gripping, but I found the change of scene a bit jarring. Also, how can a "laser-straight" cable squirm like a worm? That imagery isn't working for me. I think you may mean that the cable, which should have been laser-straight under all conditions, suddenly wasn't any more (which is a source of the terror John feels). It could use some tweaks.

    Overall, it caught my interest.

  17. Tony: I'll work on that. Didn't want to overload the reader that quickly

    Jeff: Check out this Wikipedia article which will answer your questions:
    These stations would replace conventional satellites.

    CN: Thanks for the feedback

  18. *Posted without reading other comments*

    I'm hooked by this, but I have some minor nits with it. A 'laser-straight cable' can't 'squirm like an injured worm'. If it's squirming, it's not straight. If you insert 'formerly' before 'laser-straight cable', this sentence will make sense.

    I'm also not sure whether the sequence at the start was a dream, a flashback, a prologue... that bothers me, but I can deal with it.

    Thirdly, the 911 thing pulled me out. Would a space station still use 911, particularly when it seems that they don't have to dial numbers? Why wouldn't she just ask for emergency? Again though, I can deal with it, and I'd keep reading.