Friday, November 28, 2014

(4) Science Fiction: DOWN INTO DARKNESS

TITLE: Down into Darkness
GENRE: Science Fiction

When linguist Brian Marconi visits the subterranean Sulcan aliens on Ganymede and finds his predecessor dead, he must keep himself alive in the alien underground long enough to convince Earth not to sacrifice him in an all-out attack on the hostile Sulcans.

“Your move, Jade,” Brian’s voice echoed in the empty cabin of the Empathy. He reclined his seat in the cramped space. Above the table in front of him, a holo-splay shimmered the dimensions of a go game board studded with green and white pieces.

Another green appeared on the grid. “Capture,” a woman’s voice filled Brian’s ears, softened by a subtle Japanese accent. His surrounded white piece dissolved and reappeared with a “clink” inside a green cage housing a crowd of other whites.

“Imprisoned by my own ambition.” Brian glanced around at the bare walls of the ship that enclosed him. “Rather fitting.”

“You’ve made that mistake 73 times,” Jade’s voice issued from his ear implants.

“Thanks for that.” A running account of his performance statistics was one of the side benefits of an AI companion.

“You’re welcome,” Jade said, missing his sarcasm.

Brian ran a hand through his hair, knowing his opponent saw the board from his side of the table, perceiving the room through every flick and glance of his eyes. That gave her an unfair advantage, but they didn’t spend a hundred million marks developing Jade so that he could play games.

When Brian landed on Jupiter’s third moon, every input Jade received through his eyes and ears would be sent back to Earth. The Terran Agency for Solar System Exploration and Communication (TASSEC) would not go blind and deaf a second time—not unless Brian did himself.


  1. I think your set-up here is very intriguing...the introduction of Jade as AI, and of a futuristic game, and of the mission. I had never heard of a go game board, so that tripped me up briefly, although at the same time it's a good detail. I would give a little more description so that the reader can be better oriented to the surface action (game) that leads to the real plot (mission).

    The very best of luck to you!

  2. This is really good. I love science fiction so I like how you challenge my imagination to picture a futuristic setting like this. It gave me a great impression of the world you're building.

    I know it's just a page, but it would be great if you could give us a better sense of Brian's personality. He's kind of dry, and maybe that's how you want him to be, but if you can have him reveal more of who he is as a person it could help make him more interesting. He lost the game to his AI again. Is it like a typical day-in-the-life kind of thing and it's what he expects to happen? If so, why does he play if he knows he's always going to lose? I want some reasoning behind his actions.

    It would be cool if he had won in the past and his goal is to win again. That would at least give him motivation. Maybe he likes to remind Jade of that auspicious moment to get a rise out of her, despite her being just a computer. AI's tend to have self-awareness.

    I think your opening scene should do more than just world-build.

    Good luck!

  3. Hello:

    This beginning works for me. I'm not sure I agree with the comments that there isn't enough Brian-building here. My impression of Brian is that he is kind of dry and laid back, and the fact that he will keep playing the same game against an AI that keeps beating him and he's cool about it says something about him right there.

    Good luck!

  4. Very effective opening. We're immediately drawn into a new world with, it seems, only Brian and an AI "being" as its occupants. I want to know more.

    I was also tripped up a little by the "go game" -- but I think a hyphen would eliminate that instant of non-recognition.

    Best of luck!

  5. I like your set-up and was immediately drawn into the futuristic world you created. I loved the line "Brian ran a hand through his hair, knowing his opponent saw the board from his side of the table, perceiving the room through every flick and glance of his eyes." because it gives a clear sense of a world with AI in it. How can he win if she knows all his moves? Love it!

    My only suggestion is that maybe you could build in a little of Brian's motivation in this first page, beyond just the game.

    Good luck!

  6. I like how the writing evokes the loneliness of space and yet he is on a ship called Empathy. Great descriptives in your sensory details-- "softened by a subtle Japanese accent," gives a good glimpse into the AI Jade's character.
    The last line I had to read a couple of times to get it, I think because of the long name before the acronym.

    Good luck!

  7. I think with hard sci-fi there is a fine balance of how to pull in readers. I'm guessing that is where you were going with this. The intro didn't bother me. It reads like a hard sci-fi set in space. I'd have to read at least another page before I could give really good feedback on this. All I see right now is a guy in space playing what appears to be chess with an AI.

    My concern about your pitch, why would earth blow the Sulcans to smithereens over a linguist? And why would your main character have the ability to sway earth one way or another as a linguist? Some things to think about before pitching again. As a sci-fi reader, I'd want to know those things when I'm reading the back of the book.