Friday, November 30, 2012

(15) SF Dystopia: Vitro/Vivo

TITLE: Vitro/Vivo
GENRE: Sci-Fi Dystopia

The Vitros live lives of genetically-engineered perfection. The Vivos are the opposite; superstitious, thriving on chaos. But when geneticist Drei stumbles across a conspiracy to eradicate the Vitro's genetic material and cannot find anyone in her own City who will help her, she must forge a reluctant partnership with a rogue Vivo to save both their peoples from extinction.

It was impossible to get lost in the City.

The streets were laid out in an ordered grid, meticulously numbered and labeled. For any wayward child who was too young to read or understand maps, the soothing voice of the guideposts described a path back home. It was the perfect blend of male and female pitches, soft and sonorous, and it never gave a wrong direction.

Drei had always loved that voice. Sometimes as a child she used to lie and tell a guidepost she was lost just so she could hear its golden tone and drift away on the music of Turn right at this corner. This is N400. You are five blocks from home. Home is N900 E700.

Now, amid the dark and the cold and a smothering stench, the memory of that voice provided Drei’s only protection against an overwhelming wave of panic.

“Home is N900 E700,” she said between retches. “Almost there.” A reassuring lie. She had no idea where she was.

The unthinkable had happened. She was lost.

Fumbling through the shadows, she sloshed into something that gave a fresh contribution to the smell. Her stomach heaved; her thoughts were a fog of confusion and disgust. Just enough rational thought remained to reach one conclusion – she must be in the sewers, fifteen meters below street level.

She had no memory of coming here. The events of the last few hours jumbled hopelessly together in her thoughts, out of order, without any clear cause and effect.


  1. You know, usually I wouldn't go for something that starts immediately with a sort of 'flashback', but you pull this off beautifully here. You establish setting and provide a start contrast to her current situation, increasing the tension.

    The only criticism that stood out to me is when she refers to the sewers being 15 meters below street level. Would she really know that? How many people know how far down the sewer is from street level? Especially in a city so pristine and perfect that the sewers were likely a topic never discussed?

  2. This is good, I really love the bit about her nostalgia for the guidepost voice. It's a small detail that so immerses the reader in your world - we've all felt nostalgia for childhood. Well done.

  3. I think the flashback at the beginning works in this instance because the main conflict point has to do with being lost.

    What's confusing, though, is that the Guidepost voice says Home is N900 E700. When that same line opens paragraph five, I think it's the guidepost speaking and not Drei.

    I'd work on the logline. To me, genetically engineered perfection is not the opposite of superstitious and thriving on chaos. You'd have to show that the Vitros like order and rules while the Vivos do not.

    I'd read on even though this is not a genre I usually read. I'm intrigued!

  4. Very interesting concept. The logline hooked me at once (not only as a former molecular biologist, but the premise of conflict between eugenetics and the contrary is really something SF can exploit to good results).

    The first sentences was a good opening line, but I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think it could be improved. Maybe make it more active, hint at once why it would be impossible to be lost in it? Or maybe keep it that way, because I was certainly eager to read on after it and the second paragraph.

    I'm usually wary of opening pages that throw me into too much action at once, but your opening works because of the tension in being lost, and the way you evoke the senses through the smell of sewers.

    I'd read on.

    If you have time to return a critique, my SF post is #19 Everett Quartet.

    Good luck!

  5. The worldbuilding at the beginning of the excerpt is really effective and sets the scene quite nicely.

    I did get a little confused when the address was repeated the second time and had to reread as I thought a signpost was talking again, but then she was in the sewers. That's an easy fix that would help clarify the scene.

    I'd read on to find out how she ended up in the sewers and what else is going on.

  6. Loved this. :) The dialogue line didn't throw me because it's short and attributed to her right away, but that's an easy fix if you're concerned.

    Like someone else mentioned, I don't think we need the "15 meters" detail. We assume sewers are underground, so unless HOW far underground matters, I'd cut that detail. Good luck!

  7. I think this is a good opening. It makes me wonder how Drei got lost in a city where that’s almost impossible. There’s also something wonderfully imaginative about the guideposts speaking and giving directions, and the comfort it instills. One question I have, though, is how she doesn’t realize she’s underground and not on the streets until she steps in something wet. That would seem pretty obvious to me, unless she’s blind? My other concern is that the names Vitro and Vivo are so similar that it could easily get frustrating trying to keep them differentiated.

  8. Beautiful writing here. You sucked me right in, and I would definitely read on. I do agree with Peter that I wasn't sure how she could be underground in the sewer and think she was on the street. I also didn't think "superstitious, thriving on chaos" wasthe opposite of "genetically-engineered perfection."

    Good luck!

  9. I really enjoyed this entry, except for the last two paragraphs. Up until that point, I was really drawn into this world, and I think the guideposts as a setup to it being impossible to be lost was superb.

    I think you could really tighten up the "Fumbling through the shadows..." paragraph. That really slowed me down as a reader. How did she come to consciousness? Would she be walking as she begins realization of being lost, or would she realize that upon waking. The last paragraph was throwaway for me. Amnesia needs no more explanation that that word.

    Those things aside, I really did like your premise and writing style.