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Thread: Space

  1. #1
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    Space

    Space
    Chapter 1
    Milikos Drift

    I stared at Keo's eyes. So crystal clear, I could see the tiny blood vessels spreading out like broken spider legs, but no blood pumped through them, frozen in brilliant clarity—all life was gone.

    Keo had lasted over a week. I could last ninety days, unless, I killed myself from space crazy before that. I detached the lifeline that had kept us together for eight days. One day past expectations, a day that had been filled with talk of memories, exciting adventures and heartache, for we thought it was his last. He didn't seem to suffer, as his solar heater died, he shivered but had kept talking.

    “Parker, do you remember the two alien Jellybean whores on Venus 2?” Keo laughed. His teeth sparkling in the bright light from the far off super sun of Janus. “I thought I was too drunk to find a way into her. Finally, you yelled from the next room. Turn her over!”

    I laughed. We were young and neither of us yet married. The galaxy had been our playground and we had money and a degree of power as Rim Pilots.

    “Parker, do you remember when you met Martha?” Keo asked. His helmet only inches from mine as we floated helplessly.

    I nodded. I didn't really want to talk about this, not now, not ever, but I wasn't the one dying, not yet. My more advanced and larger space suit was designed to last three months. Keo's was a quick deploy suite, rated for only seven days. I, being the first one to the ejection pod, had time to activate and don the two ton Stage 6 Zenar suite, almost a whole ecosystem to itself, designed to last six months. All food, oxygen, piss and **** was recycled, reconstituted and reused until at the end of 200 days the molecules had enough, and were barely hanging together.

    But now, Keo had only a few hours to live. Perhaps, if places were reversed, I would want to talk about the past. My wife had been Keo's first love.

    So I held his arm as I answered. “How could I forget?”

    He never answered me; his lips frozen in his last smile.

    Three days earlier there had been three of us; Tarp, Keo and myself tethered together. We talked little. We knew we were dead. We wanted to be alone with our thoughts, but that got boring and by the third day, we talked for hours on end like old friends at a bar.

    My suit was big enough to ball up and even turn around in. Kind of like the only sardine in a can. Keo and Tarp had only enough time to side into stage 2 suites.

    We had thought of our options, turn our thrusters on and aim the way we had come, hoping to get near a flight route. Or try for the rumored Sestar, a planet whose whereabouts was pure speculation. Our mission had been to find it.

    A decade ago, a wagbottom ship had crashed on Uranus and a recording from the captain had talked about the planet in great length, but the exact coordinates were not recorded. He said there was H2o, O2 and carbon, everything needed for life...or death.

    We sent beacons from the ship before it imploded. We had calculated it would take three months for any to reach the closest outpost, and then a year—if they even sent a rescue ship—to reach us.

    The OSP, Outreach Space Program, was reaching its first millennium and had yet to find another inhabited or inhabitable planet. A few Quick Start planets were discovered, but they would take hundreds of years to produce a habitable environment where life support was not needed. Barninium reactors could make all the power a whole planet required to make air, water whatever was needed.

    Tarp was the engineer, his mind was a racehorse of contradictions. He kept everyone on their toes. “Lets try to com-stat our radio frequency that will penetrate three times father and faster.”

    Keo asked, “If I knew what you were talking about. And lets pretend I do. Three times faster...better...towards where?”
    Tarp was facing away from us so we could not see his face. He popped a jet and turned back to us. “I think over there.”

    It was always funny to me, that in space, without a recognizable planet in close proximity or a computer to figure it out for you...there was no direction. Pointing was as high tech as it got out here.
    We had limited thruster use only to turn to face each other. Though, the thrusters had the power to send us over a thousand miles, we would save them for when a miracle planet appeared. Then, we would need the thrusters to slow our entry.

    At least I didn't have a wife and kids to burden me. I knew Tarp felt overwhelming guilt for, as he called it, abandoning his family.

    I was holding Tarp's arm when I felt a jolt. His thruster spurted. Too late. A fist size hole was bleeding out in the space between us. The meteor passed so fast I never saw it. Mickey's mouth was still open, as he was about to talk. Parts of his suite, blood and lungs misted about us. It was heartbreaking floating with his debris, so I unfastened him, wasted a bit of juice and pulled Keo and I away from the scene of Tarp's death. We should have cannibalized his suite but it and Tarp were such a mess, neither of us could do it.

    Keo and I didn't talk for a few days after that. Seconds dragged to hours and hours dragged for days. A week would be an eternity. Death was looking more inviting every day. The degree of our helplessness was pure hell.



  2. #2
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    This has possibilities, although there are a few things you need to address. The narrator's despair and the bleakness of his (her?) situation come through, but I find the non-linear flow confusing. You're essentially working backwards from Keo's death, which can be effective in heightening the "what's going on?" factor, but you need to be consistent about it.

    A few other nits and thoughts:

    A suite is a collection of things, such as rooms (an apartment suite) or furniture (a bedroom suite). A suit is something you wear.

    "So crystal clear, I could see the tiny blood vessels" - What, exactly, is crystal clear? His eyes? His suit visor?

    "Keo had lasted over a week." - Be careful with using "had". In a past tense story, "had" indicates something in the "past past" if you will, not current with the narrator's viewpoint. In this case, "Keo lasted over a week" would be better, I think.

    "I could last ninety days, unless, I killed myself from space crazy before that" - I like "space crazy"; it evokes the right sort of feeling. I avoid repeating the same verbs in close proximity (you used "last" in back-to-back sentences), and you want something a bit stronger here. Also, watch out for those extraneous commas: "I might survive another ninety days, tops, unless I killed myself from space crazy first."

    "One day past expectations, a day that had been filled with talk of memories, exciting adventures and heartache, for we thought it was his last." - You want this to be poignant, so keep it clean and clear: "One day longer than we expected, a day we filled with memories and heartache."

    "We sent beacons from the ship before it imploded" - Generally ships explode, not implode, especially in space. Implosion means its collapsed in on itself, which seems unlikely, unless a black hole appeared inside. There's certainly no external pressure to crush a spaceship, unlike, say, a submarine.

    "the two alien Jellybean whores on Venus 2" - I think "alien" is implied. Keo doesn't need to say it. Also, why Venus 2? Are they still in our solar system (you mention Uranus later) or somewhere else (you also mention exploring the galaxy and allude to a mystery planet)? I assume the latter, in which case you should come up with more unique names.

    "He never answered me; his lips frozen in his last smile." - You need to work on your punctuation and sentence fragments. Use a comma here.

    "Or try for the rumored Sestar, a planet whose whereabouts was pure speculation" - That's a heck of a spacesuit that can get them to another planet in a week.

    "A decade ago, a wagbottom ship had crashed on Uranus" - I have no idea what "wagbottom" means. Uranus, of course, is a gas giant with really no place to crash on; any human ship would be crushed and frozen. There's no H2O or O2 there.

    "Barninium reactors could make all the power a whole planet required to make air, water whatever was needed." - Great stuff, that barninium. However, this is grossly implausible and unnecessary.

    "his mind was a racehorse of contradictions" - An interesting metaphor, but I'm not sure whether it's effective.

    "Lets try to com-stat our radio frequency that will penetrate three times father and faster." - Farther, not father. Good technobabble is hard to write, but at least keep your grammar straight. "Let's com-stat our radios. That'll increase their range." Radio signals are limited by the speed of light. You're welcome to break those rules (common enough in scifi), but don't call them radios if you do.

    "If I knew what you were talking about. And lets pretend I do. Three times faster...better...towards where?" - Sentence fragments. "Even if I understood what you said, and let's pretend that I do, three times farther towards ... where?"

    "We had limited thruster use only to turn to face each other." - If they're tethered together, why do they need the thrusters to face each other? Just pull on the tethers.

    "we would save them for when a miracle planet appeared. Then, we would need the thrusters to slow our entry" - Seriously? They're actually hoping there's a planet within a thousand miles? You'd think it would be pretty obvious that there wasn't.

    "At least I didn't have a wife and kids to burden me" - I could have sworn he said he was married earlier, so I presume she's dead or divorced now.

    "The meteor passed so fast I never saw it" - Technically, a meteor is a meteoroid that burns up in the atmosphere and a meteorite is one that makes it to the surface. More importantly, the odds of getting hit by a rock out in the middle of literally nowhere is so infinitesimally small that this event becomes a cliché. I'd look for another tragic way to kill him off.

    "The degree of our helplessness was pure hell" - This is a very weak statement. Find something more compelling.
    Last edited by Gilfindel; 01-25-2015 at 09:39 AM.

  3. #3
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    Space-Revised

    Space
    Chapter 1
    Milikos Drift

    I stared into Keo's eyes. So crystal clear, I could see the tiny blood vessels spreading out like broken spider legs, but no blood pumped through them, frozen in brilliant clarity—all life was gone. Keo lasted over a week. I could survive ninety days, tops, unless I killed myself from space crazy. I detached the lifeline that had kept us together for eight days. Days that had been filled with talk of memories, exciting adventures and heartache. He didn't seem to suffer, as his solar heater died, he shivered but kept talking.

    “Parker, do you remember the two alien Jellybean whores on Uranus 2?” Keo laughed. His teeth sparkling in the bright light from the far off super sun of Janus. “I thought I was too drunk to do it right. Finally, you yelled from the next room. Turn her over!”

    I laughed. We were young and neither of us yet married. The galaxy had been our playground and we had money and a degree of power as Rim Pilots.

    “Parker, do you remember when you met Martha?” Keo asked. His helmet only inches from mine as we floated helplessly.

    I nodded. I didn't really want to talk about this, not now, not ever, but I wasn't the one dying, not yet. My more advanced and larger space suit was designed to last three months. Keo's was a quick deploy suit, rated for only seven days. I, being the first one to the ejection pod, had time to activate and don the two ton Stage 6 Zenar suit, almost a whole ecosystem to itself, designed to last six months. All food, oxygen, piss and **** was recycled, reconstituted and reused until at the end of 200 days the molecules had enough, and were barely hanging together.

    But now, Keo had only a few hours to live. Perhaps, if places were reversed, I would want to talk about the past. My wife had been Keo's first love.

    So I held his arm as I answered. “How could I forget?”

    He never answered me, his lips frozen in his last smile.

    Three days earlier there had been three of us; Tarp, Keo and myself tethered together. We talked little. We knew we were dead. We wanted to be alone with our thoughts, but that got boring and by the third day, we talked for hours on end like old friends at a bar.

    My suit was big enough to ball up and even turn around in. Kind of like the only sardine in a can. Keo and Tarp had only enough time to side into stage 2 suites.

    We had thought of our options, turn our thrusters on and aim the way we had come, hoping to get near a flight route. Or try for the rumored Sestar, a planet whose whereabouts was pure speculation. Our mission had been to find it.

    A decade ago, a wagbottom ship had crashed on Cordor and a recording from the captain had talked about the planet in great length, but the exact coordinates were not recorded. He said there was H2o, O2 and carbon, everything needed for life...or death.

    We sent beacons from the ship before it exploded. We had calculated it would take three months for any to reach the closest outpost, and then a year—if they even sent a rescue ship—to reach us.

    The OSP, Outreach Space Program, was reaching its first millennium and had yet to find another inhabited or inhabitable planet. A few Quick Start planets were discovered, but they would take hundreds of years to produce a habitable environment where life support was not needed. Barninium reactors could make all the power a whole planet required to make air, water whatever was needed.

    Tarp was the engineer, his mind was a racehorse of contradictions. He kept everyone on their toes. “Lets try to com-stat our laser freuency that will penetrate three times farther and faster. Someone might hear our distress signal.”

    Keo asked, “If I knew what you were talking about. And lets pretend I do. Three times faster...better...towards where?”

    Tarp was facing away from us so we could not see his face. He popped a jet and turned back to us. “I think over there.”

    It was always funny to me, that in space, without a recognizable planet in close proximity or a computer to figure it out for you...there was no direction. Pointing was as high tech as it got out here.

    We had limited thruster use only to turn to face each other. Though, the thrusters had the power to send us over a thousand miles, we would save them.
    At least I didn't have a wife and kids to burden me. I knew Tarp felt overwhelming guilt for, as he called it, abandoning his family.

    I was holding Tarp's arm when I felt a jolt. His thruster spurted. Too late. A fist size hole was bleeding out in the space between us. The meteoroid passed so fast I never saw it. Mickey's mouth was still open, as he was about to talk. Parts of his suit, blood and lungs misted about us. It was heartbreaking floating with his debris, so I unfastened him, wasted a bit of juice and pulled Keo and I away from the scene of Tarp's death. We should have cannibalized his suit but it and Tarp were such a mess, neither of us could do it.

    Keo and I didn't talk for a few days after that. Seconds dragged to hours and hours dragged for days. A week would be an eternity. Death was looking more inviting every day. The degree of our helplessness was pure hell.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for your input. I used most of your advice.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    Well, you used some of it, but I still see sentence fragments and punctuation errors. You need to clean those up before you get too much further.

    Incidentally, who's Mickey? I gather it's Tarp, but this is the first time you mentioned his first name so it just looks like an error.

  6. #6
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    Here's one take:

    I stared into Keo's eyes; so vivid, I saw tiny blood vessels spread out like broken spider legs in them; all life was nearly gone. In my behemoth, Zenar suit I could survive a maximum of ninety days, unless deep space dementia claimed me first. I detached the lifeline that bound our bodies together for eight nostalgic days filled with memories, heartache, and adventure. After his solar heater died, Keo didn't seem to suffer. He shivered but kept talking.

    ““Parker, do you remember the two Jellybean girls on Uranus 2? ”Keo laughed. The brilliant light from Janus' supersun bedazzled his teeth.

    I laughed. In those days, we had the notoriety and wealth of rim pilots, and lived as though we had no expiration date; we were young and reckless and the galaxy was our playground.

    “Parker, do you remember when you met Martha?” Keo asked, his helmet only inches from mine as we drifted.

    I nodded. I didn't really want to talk about this, not now, not ever, but I wasn't the one dying, not yet. Keo had only a few hours to live. Perhaps, if our places were reversed, I would want to talk about how my wife had been Keo's first love.
    Last edited by Author Pendragin; 04-27-2015 at 06:31 PM.

  7. #7
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    A couple of quick thoughts that occurred to me, in no particular order!

    I agree with Gilfindel about the last line being weak. I would just cut it and finish with "Death looked more inviting every day" it's a strong statement and implies the hopelessness and helplessness that I think you were trying to capture.

    Boredom as a motive for them to start talking rings a little false, perhaps something like "who can say what motivates people in a crazy situation like this, maybe it was just boredom, but in any case we started talking on the third day" At least then you've acknowledged that boredom isn't the response you'd expect!

    "My suit was big enough to ball up and even turn around in. Kind of like the only sardine in a can. Keo and Tarp had only enough time to side into stage 2 suits." This whole paragraph seems extraneous. You already said Keo didn't have time to get in a better suit and I don't know why the size of the protagonists suit is relevant at this point in the story? The only sardine is a confusing image- it took me a minute to work out what you meant. For me it evokes someone formerly surrounded by a crowd but now alone, which isn't quite effective as there were only three of them to start with. I would cut these lines

    I love the "racehorse of contradictions" :-)

    I was also was confused by him saying he had no wife and family. It may be explained later in the story but it reads like a mistake in its current form.

    Apologies if this seems crude but when I read the term 'Rim Pilots' there were sexual associations in my mind, maybe this is a British thing?

    Generally however, I liked it as an intro and I want to read more- the relationship with Keo and the wife/ex-wife is intriguing

  8. #8
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    I stared into Keo's eyes. So crystal clear,
    As quibble, cats eyes are clear. People's are not.

    But that aside, you have an advantage over the reader. When you begin reading you know where we are, so your mental picture is of someone suited for vacuum looking at someone unmoving. The reader has no picture. They don't know whose skin they're wearing. They don't know where they are in time and space. And, they don't know what's going on. So while it's more than just words to you, because you have that all important context, the reader has only words. And it doesn't matter if you clarify in the next line, because this line, as it's read, has no meaning to the reader. That's why, on entering any scene, it's best to bring the reader up to speed quickly, on: Who am I? Where am I? What's going on? And what does the protagonist expect to happen, or want to accomplish? With that, the action makes sense. Without...
    I could see the tiny blood vessels spreading out like broken spider legs, but no blood pumped through them, frozen in brilliant clarity
    Presented this way, it's not the protagonist, in the moment he or she calls now, noticing this. When you say, "I could see," it doesn't tell us what the protagonist is focused on, and will react to. It's what could be seen, so it's a bit of scene setting by the narrator. But the narrator, lives at a different time from the one experiencing the event, and is talking about it, not living it. That's a critical difference. A storyteller can turn to the one they're with and say, "Just a minute and I'll get us coffee," go, and return ten minutes later to continue, with nothing lost. But no matter how beautifully the narrator on the page explains, there's no sense of immediacy because we're hearing the history of the event, and there's no uncertainty or feeling of involvement.

    Yes, when we tell a story, personally, there can be a feeling of involvement. But that's because we're giving a performance, the emotional part of the story carried in the way we tell the story—through tone, cadence, volume, and all the vocal tricks, plus gesture and expression. None of that makes it to the page. None. That's why you see people railing against the use of the word "was." It's not that there's a problem with that word, it's that in many cases it can only come from the storyteller. And it doesn't matter if the storyteller is wearing a wig and makeup to pretend to be the protagonist talking, if we're with the storyteller we're not on the scene.
    I could survive ninety days, tops, unless I killed myself from space crazy.
    Look at this from a reader's viewpoint, knowing only what the words have said to this point: missing the information that would give context, we don't know the smallest thing about the situation or the characters other than that someone we know nothing about, named Keo is dead.

    To you, who knows the story, and the purpose of this scene, this makes perfect sense, so you fill in the missing context, automatically, and don't see the problem. And in that you share the single most common problem hopeful writers have: we think we learned how to write in school. And since writing is writing...

    But it's not. The goal of public education is to help us become self-reliant adults, with a set of skills that will make us attractive to an employer, and so help is keep off welfare. They're preparing us to learn a profession, not providing one. So though we don't realize it, and believe we have the writing part of the profession of fiction writer taken care of, we are exactly as well prepared to write a novel as to successfully remove an appendix.

    So it's not a matter of talent. For all I know talent oozes from your every pore. But if it does, it's untrained talent, which is potential. And that's the key. You need to give your talent wings. Like any profession there are things not obvious to those viewing the product. There are tricks to be learned before we can perform the magic. There are gotchas to be avoided. The craft isn't all that hard to learn. It's just different from the techniques we had driven into our heads in our schooldays because the goal is different. In school we learned to provide facts, concisely and clearly, because the goal is to inform. But the goal of fiction is to entertain, so it's emotion, rather than fact based. The goal isn't to make the reader know that our hero feels terror, but to terrorize that reader. And that's more fun for the reader and the writer.

    So keep writing, of course. But at the same time, dig into the techniques and specialized knowledge the pros take for granted. The more you know, the greater your options. And a good place to begin is the local library system's fiction writing section. There are lots of good books there. My personal suggestion is to seek the name Dwight Swain, Debra Dixon, or Jack Bickham on the cover. Find them and you've found gold.

    Hang in there, and keep on writing.

  9. #9
    Rogue Mutt
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    When will you people ever learn to check the dates? The person who posted this hasn't been here in 3 months. Yeah, yeah, it could help someone else or the author could come back. Keep telling yourself that so you don't feel like you just wasted a bunch of time on nothing.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Mutt View Post
    When will you people ever learn to check the dates? The person who posted this hasn't been here in 3 months.
    The post date on his heading says: 1/25/2015 2:56 am. Isn't it a revised post. Granted, I remember seeing it somewhere before (I think).

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