Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March Secret Agent #5

TITLE: Darkness in Mind
GENRE: Science Fiction

Brian brought his face close to the ship’s tiny porthole, fogging the space-glass as he looked out. He steadied himself in the darkness, gripping the wall bar to support his weightless body while he wiped the window with a sleeve. Outside, the forbidding world of Mars floated beyond his one-man craft—a red marble of desert rolling against the black felt of space. It looked so innocent.

“Maja!” he whispered, fogging the glass again. His gut tightened at the old name of the planet that held his ship in its grasp. On Earth that name had long since become nothing but a curse. It had been two centuries since the self-proclaimed Righteous escaped the devastation of the Tumult, carrying away Earth’s precious resources to found their Mars colony Maja Arkanis—their Kingdom of God. It would take more than two centuries for Earth to forget.

He wiped the glass again, searching Mars’ mid-northern latitudes for some architectural trace of the Martian theocracy’s sand-shielded walls and thick bio-domes. He knew the colony would be impossible to distinguish during the day, but still he searched. He was the first Earthan ever to set eyes on Mars since the Kingdom’s founding. He wondered if he would also be the last.

He forced himself to take a deep breath, tried to relax. Back on Earth he’d laughed at the irony of the government using Mars—the old god of war—to slingshot his ship into the outer solar system on a mission of peace. He wasn’t laughing now.


  1. I love me some space science fiction! I think it's really great you give us some exposition right off the bat - who likes being confused? - but the exposition seems a little sterile to me. Like Brian is reading it out of a textbook. But I don't want you to give us Brian's emotion connection to the Righteous/devastation of the Tumult/Maja Arkanis either, at least, not yet.

    With speculative fiction, I find readers tend to tolerate being confused a little better because they're used to immersing themselves in entirely new worlds. Takes time to learn all the new lingo and history, you know? So maybe think about moving that block of exposition to a little later? Perhaps focus on setting/character at the very beginning, making us feel your new world first, and then explaining it to us when the time is right.

    Great start, though! I would definitely continue reading :)

    P.S. Love the last couple lines.

  2. Jon has some great points. I would add that I would sort of like to know a little bit more about what's going on. I get that we have a lone guy in a space craft, and his destination is apparently not mars. Of course, how much you talk about mars, we know where it's going, but we don't know what his original plan is.

    Why is he hanging out in his little tin can in space? It would have to be really important to send him all by his lonesome, so I would feel more grounded if I knew what he was on his way to do (even if there's going to be a dramatic change of events).

    And like Jon, I also love those last few lines. I would definitely keep reading.

  3. Although the concept is intriguing,and the description detailed and vivid, I'm finding myself wanting more character and less explanation at this early point. (But my bias is always character over everything else) The second paragraph took me some work to get through. I liked your last paragraph the best and wonder if you should start with that, then work in the background information more organically.

  4. I agree with the other comments. The premise is great, but the first page has too much explanation. A bit to passive for me.

  5. Yes, great descriptions - very vivid. I could see exactly what was going on. I did like the bit of explanation - not too much, not too little. Left me with questions I wanted to discover the answers to. The only element I would try to add is some conflict. What does he want out of this scene? To return home? To land? And the last lines - excellent! Good job overall. Best of luck :)

  6. There's clearly a cool premise here, and I'm a huge science-fiction fan. But I think the way this opening shifts between registers is problematic. The descriptions, like paragraph 2, are very complex and fantastical, and I want to slip deeper into their sophistication. But the sections with Brian and his reactions feel much more prosaic. Somehow it feels like the narrative voice here hasn't settled into a single style, and smoothing that out would make this a stronger opening.