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  1. #1
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    Aliens, Inc. second try.

    Attempting rewrite of Ch 1 and welcoming all criticism. Is this any better for an opening?


    With his chair tilted back and his feet propped up on the desk Isaac Carte teetered precariously. His Nike’s were blocking his view of the laptop but that was no problem since the screen had lapsed into sleep mode -- anyway, his eyes were closed. In his mind he was watching his parents sitting at the kitchen table, transfixed before a TV that was blaring out breaking news. It was an old memory, corrupted to the point where it bore only the slimmest resemblance to reality.

    On the other side of the dorm room, Hugh Perry lay on his bed, reading… for class, not for pleasure. He rarely read for pleasure. He was a tinkerer and considered reading was a chore, so he welcomed the interruption when Isaac spoke.

    “Imagine the thrill of being the first to detect that signal from space. No, wait. At the time it was thought to be just another pulsar. Not that that’s not exciting, but imagine the thrill of being first to recognize that it was something else, that it was The Message. How exciting would that have been?”

    “Just listen to you. You sound like one of those TV commercials. You know… the ones where they say ‘What would you pay for this handy gadget? Wait. Don’t answer yet. We’ll also send you this attractive carrying case. Now what would you pay?’”

    “I mean it. Think of the thrill Dr. Rose must have felt when she discovered that numeric sequence in the signal. Imagine having part of the data actually named after you: The Rose Pattern.”

    “Yeah, that would be something, all right,” Hugh conceded.

    “But here we are ten years later,” said Isaac, “and The Message still hasn’t been deciphered yet. The event that was to have changed everything has changed nothing. I think deciphering The Message would be even more exciting than discovering it.”

    “Yeah, well some people say it isn’t even really a message at all. I know they found the Rose Pattern in it, and that the chance of that happening randomly is supposed to be trillions to one. But there are lots of recognizable patterns that might appear randomly so even if the likelihood of any one pattern is miniscule, the likelihood of some such pattern showing up is much greater.”

    “But still small,” said Isaac.

    “But unlikely things still happen. In the infinity of space, the mathematical probability that Earth should be here and not there is zero, yet here we are,” said Hugh smugly.

    “Clever thought.”

    “And besides, what does finding the Rose Pattern prove anyway? You can find the Fibonacci Sequence in the seeds of a sunflower but that doesn’t mean there’s message hidden in there.”

    “Well, the entire eighty-five million bits of the message repeated multiple times and I just can’t believe that that happened by chance. There must have been intelligence behind it.”

    Hugh let it drop and went back to his reading. Isaac made his decision. He took out his phone and texted Uncle Phillip.

    *

    A few days later Isaac celebrated his sixteenth birthday… well, not celebrated exactly, in fact not at all. The only thing that distinguished the day from any other was the large box sitting in front of his dorm room. Hugh spotted it immediately when the two boys returned from the day’s classes and stepped out of the stairwell on to the second floor landing.

    “Look at that. What do you suppose that is?” asked Hugh.

    “I suppose it’s a computer,” Isaac replied.

    “A computer?”

    “A gift from Uncle Phillip.”

    “Why would he send you a computer?”

    “I asked him for it.” said Isaac, intentionally neglecting to mention that it was his birthday. Then he added, “Okay, technically, I suppose it’s not so much a gift. I’m sure he paid for it with funds from the estate, so that means that I actually bought it for it myself.”

    The estate to which he referred was wealth accrued by his father Alan Carte, billionaire founder of Carte Chemical. Uncle Phillip, Alan’s brother, managed the vast fortune that was left in trust for Isaac when he lost his parents eight years ago.

    “But what do you want another computer for?” Hugh persisted, “You’ve got your laptop, and if you need something with more power, it’s not like there is any shortage of computers in the library or in the classrooms. Goldshire is nothing, if not well equipped.”

    That was true. Artemus Gold had willed his entire fortune to the establishment to Goldshire Academy, a live-in school, catering to select, privileged offspring who will ostensibly develop into the next generation’s leaders of industry, science, and politics. Counted among its alumni, were numerous obscenely rich and powerful individuals who generously supported the school. It was something of an understatement to call the school was well equipped.

    “Actually,” said Isaac, in response to Hugh’s question, “it’s not an issue of accessibility, but of privacy. All student computer files are open to inspection by instructors. The only privacy we get around here is limited to personal property. Without this computer I wouldn’t have the privacy I need for the task I have in mind.”

    “I expect you’re about to tell me what that task is.”

    “I plan to decipher The Message.”

    “The Message?’ asked Hugh. “You’re still hung up on that? Experts tried for years to figure it out and they say that nothing can be learned from it.”

    “So they say,” said Isaac with a shrug as he set the box down on his bed and began clearing a space on his desk for the new computer.

    Hugh wasn’t about to let Isaac’s shrug go without a challenge. “Yeah, they do say. And, they’re the experts, aren’t they. You really think they’re wrong?”

    “I just think they missed something,” said Isaac. “The problem is that the public has an extremely short attention span. When the first attempts to decipher The Message failed, people lost interest.”

    “The public lost interest, yeah,” said Hugh, “but the researchers? If there was anything there to discover, they wanted to find it, didn’t they?”

    “Sure. But think about it. Aside from confirming that intelligent life exists beyond our solar system, no benefit has ever come from the countless hours spent searching for alien secrets. Researchers have to eat, you know, and people don’t like investments with no return, so after a while the grant money for deciphering The Message just dried up. And the researchers didn’t just accept the blame for their failure; instead they blamed the aliens, saying that they are just too alien to be able to communicate with humans. But I don’t believe that. I think they just gave up too soon.”

    “Well,” said Hugh, parroting what he had heard and read, “it should have been easy enough for aliens to share the secrets of the universe, if that was what they were trying to do. But The Message was never meant for humans. It wasn’t an attempt to communicate with us; it was something else.”

    “So they say,” Isaac said again. His voice took on the sing-song tone used to indicate a, ‘Yeah, yeah, I know, I know,’ attitude. “Maybe The Message was some kind of secure communication between aliens that even they would be unable to decode without the key, or whatever.”

    “But you don’t agree.”

    “No, I don’t,” said Isaac, as he finished unpacking and displaying the components of the computer and began the task of connecting cables. “I think it’s just sour grapes -- you know, ‘If I can’t figure out the meaning it’s because there is no meaning.’ And the pessimism has taken its toll. There’s almost no one left working on The Message. New researchers are apparently unwilling to risk their careers on a problem that may have no solution.”

    “So you think that the only success the researchers ever had was to convince others not to try, huh?”

    “Pretty much, yeah.”



  2. #2
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    It's not too bad. It moves along. One thing I noticed was overuse of "that". I bet you use it 30-40 times. You even use a double "that that" twice. A lot of times, you can just delete "that" without harm. You also use empty verbs like "to have" and "to be", but not horribly:

    “So you think that the only success the researchers ever had was to convince others not to try, huh?”

    “So you think the only success researchers ever enjoyed was convincing others not to try, huh?”

    Overall, not bad, but definitely cut down "that".

  3. #3
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    Thank you, John. I'll work on the verbs.

  4. #4
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    It does flow better but I'm still missing something.

    Ten years ago The Message made the news, today it is almost forgotten. Why is it important to a rich collage kid like Isaac? Where's the connection? Is potential fame what motivates him, or just curiosity?

    If his last name happened to be Rose or the message in some way contributed to his parent's death, I could understand it, but with his feet propped up in front of a monitor in sleep mode, I don't.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by MUSKETTER 3 View Post
    It does flow better but I'm still missing something.
    The second I embarked passed the first word of the first sentence, it instantly grabbed me. Not the content, but the preying mantis claws of stoicism. It's not grabbing the reader, that's one main problem. So here goes:

    With his chair tilted back and his feet propped up on the desk, Isaac Carte teetered precariously. ( Precariously over what? And, I really am not digging the first sentence.) His Nike’s obscured the comatose laptop, which had fallen asleep, but he wouldn't have noticed because his eyes were closed anyway. In dreamworld, his parents sat zombiefied before breaking headlines on that old cathode ray tube. The memory was a Picasso; an old, corrupted data bit abstracted to the point where it bore only the slimmest resemblance to reality.

    Not saying you have to do it that way, or that mine is entirely better, but you get the draft. Revision is up to you.
    Last edited by Author Pendragin; 04-08-2014 at 08:53 AM.

  6. #6
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    Musketter 3 -- Thanks for the input.

    Author -- Point taken. Your's is clearly an improvement. I'll keep working at it but I fear I don't really have your talent. Here's hoping I am just lacking skills and not genetically impaired.

  7. #7
    Administrator Wickett's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by n.p.doeleman View Post
    Musketter 3 -- Thanks for the input.

    Author -- Point taken. Your's is clearly an improvement. I'll keep working at it but I fear I don't really have your talent. Here's hoping I am just lacking skills and not genetically impaired.
    Oh please, we've seen genetically impaired before, and you're not among them.

  8. #8
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    I think you need to edit Isaac's dialog pretty hard. He's supposed to be the one to decipher The Message, right? The more intelligent you want a character to appear, the more quick and incisive their language needs to read. Read Isaac cut by over 35%:

    “Sure. But think about it. Aside from confirming that intelligent life exists beyond our solar system, no benefit has ever come from the countless hours spent searching for alien secrets. Researchers have to eat, you know, and people don’t like investments with no return, so after a while the grant money for deciphering The Message just dried up. And the researchers didn’t just accept the blame for their failure; instead they blamed the aliens, saying that they are just too alien to be able to communicate with humans. But I don’t believe that. I think they just gave up too soon.”

    “Sure, but think about it. Aside from confirming intelligent life exists beyond our solar system, no benefit ever came from countless hours of research. People don’t like investments with no return, so grants to decipher The Message dried up. Researchers blamed the aliens for their failure saying they were 'too alien' to communicate with humans, but I think they just quit too soon.”

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by n.p.doeleman View Post
    I'll keep working at it but I fear I don't really have your talent.

    Not to worry. We're all pilgrims on the great journey of literature. Keep taking it in stride, one step at a time. You'll get there.

  10. #10
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    Whatever problems there may be with flow and voice, as already brought out by the other comments, I think you are definitely on the right track. I really, really liked your overall tone, and the way you write seems easy and natural. Of course there are some rough spots, but nothing that's not fixable in two seconds.

    Also, many writers try to use large words and complex sentence structures to try to seem well-informed and witty, but end up sounding like they've got a dictionary pressed to the keys instead. You, however, use many "smart" words with flair and ease. Your writing sounds natural, which is a fabulous edge, because that's one thing that's really difficult to learn or acquire. So, seriously, from one writer to another, DON'T GIVE UP- you have a way with words that is altogether pleasing and enjoyable to read. Problems with flow and character voice and verb choice (lol) can all be dealt with later. Just be careful not to lose your style-or confidence, for that matter- while editing and rewriting. I promise, you're on your way to great things. Just keep plugging right along.

    Best of luck!

    Haha- I really hope that after all that talk about intelligent writing that I don't have a typo in here, or a stupid grammar mistake mixed in somewhere. That would be most embarrassing, indeed.

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