The City


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Post March 19, 2005, 04:28:22 PM

The City

Hey, this is my first time published anywhere. Any feedback on this story would be appreciated. It's really hard for me to evaluate my own work, and while friends/family are great to have read a person's stories, I'm not always sure they're objective.

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Post March 19, 2005, 05:13:17 PM

Re: The City

The City will stay posted until the first (or second) week of April. Be patient; it will get a comment or three. Unfortunately, the novellas--great stories they may be-- don't get half the comments that short stories do. I suppose there are others like me, who find it difficult to read stories online because of poor eyesight--especially the longer stuff.<br><br>But I manage to read most of the stories before they go into the archives. I'm sure your hard work will be rewarded by a few comments before the month is out. :-)<br><br>Donald<br><br><br>
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Post March 19, 2005, 07:48:49 PM

Re: The City

I usually read everything in the zine, but I don't comment a lot because others handle the detailed technical critiquing a lot better than I do. I usually just post to say whether or not a story grabs my interest, etc.<br>This month, I have to plead the flu. I've missed half a week or more of work every week for the last 4 weeks. I'm having to stay out of work again tonight. Since I don't feel up to working on my Nightwatch, I should do some reading and commenting.<br>I'll be hanging out in the chatroom until the wee hours of the morning, too. Please drop in, misery loves company and I feel miserable. This bugger just won't go away.<br><br>I have flu pills<br>I have tomato soup<br>Why didn't I buy some chicken soup?<br><br>Andre' Norton died this week too. Tragic loss to everyone who will ever learn to read. She will be greatly missed. I think the best memorial to her I can make would be to read the 4 feet of her paperbacks that sleep on my bookshelves, once again in the near future.<br>Odd imagery, maybe the medication is working after all.<br>I obviously need something to read. And maybe another meal, in a couple of hours.<br>Gonna go prowl the index page. Time to kick back and relax with some Aphelion reading.<br>Dan<br>
Last edited by Vila on March 19, 2005, 07:52:04 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post March 24, 2005, 12:11:28 AM

Re: The City

The title reminded me of one of Cifford D Simak’s stories, and the storyline reminded me of Logan’s Run. <br><br>This is the second story I’ve read in this issue that had a rotten ending! Like “Eyes,” I found this story really, really super until I reached the ending. In “Eyes,” however, the ending became apparent a little over halfway through. In “The City,” I kept up hope until the last couple of paragraphs.<br><br>What made the ending worse, was the buildup of the love affair between Michael and Catherine. I figured that this romantic buildup would lead to a good ending, where Michael would somehow figure out--in some ingenious way--how to outwit his boss and find a way out of his dilemma. But no, the poor slob just succumbed to the inevitable, though he did agonize over it a bit.<br><br>One of the ends wasn't tied together--or if it was, I missed it. Early in the story, Catherine tells Michael that she doesn’t deserve him because of some terrible thing in her past. I kept waiting to find out what that terrible thing was, and if it had anything to do with the ruling powers wanting to have her killed.<br><br>Something else--though no big thing--bothered me. Michael’s boss gives Michael his assignment to kill his target, telling him that he doesn't care how he does it. But the boss is confident, because Michael is very good at finding a way to dispatch his targets. Also, he states that Michael seems particularly well suited for this job.<br><br>But the way I understood the story, it doesn’t really require any expertise, or any particular suiting, because the “hitmen” have a license to kill who they want and when they want The police simply back off when they see who they are dealing with. <br><br>All said and done, IMO “The City” is a great story in every way. But alas, the rotten ending spoiled it. Some others won’t agree with me, and will no doubt feel that the ending was great. To each his own.<br><br>Donald<br><br>
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Post March 24, 2005, 12:52:57 AM

Re: The City

Andre' Norton died this week too. Tragic loss to everyone who will ever learn to read. She will be greatly missed. I think the best memorial to her I can make would be to read the 4 feet of her paperbacks that sleep on my bookshelves, once again in the near future.
<br><br>I was saddened to hear about Andre Norton's death. She was among my top favorites as both a scifi and fantasy writer. I, too have some of her books, but not four feet of them! I'm sure, however, that all of her books that I've read would stack up to four feet, at least.<br><br>Her vital statistics, obit, bibliography, and more information can be found on Spacelight, at http://www.gwillick.com/Spacelight/norton.html, or you can go to my Website and find a link to Spacelight there.<br><br>Donald
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Post March 25, 2005, 03:58:45 PM

Re: The City

Thank you for your comments. I'm sorry about the ending. I don't usually write tragic endings, but this is an exception. My brother read the first draft of this back in 1999 when I originally wrote this, and I think he wanted to clobber me because of the ending.<br><br>Ultimately, I intended this tale to be included in a much larger series that takes place in this universe, most of them with a much brighter outcome. However, my thinking was to use this story (and possibly one or two others) to set the norm, that it is not easy to break the almost supernatural type bonds the empire holds over everyone; so that when triumphs are achieved, they will be that much more outstanding.<br><br>With regards to the holes you've pointed out, perhaps I'll end up revising this again to fix those, or at least make them more clear. A large problem I've noticed myself having is forgetting that while I know the subtleties of what's going on in a story, it's not always so clear to the reader. <br><br>So yes, it would seem that Michael's job is a rather simple one. But the truth is, it is not simply to kill. Agents or "hitmen" of his type have a more sinister secondary generalized role to get to know and gain the confidence of their targets prior to killing them. Removal of their emotions (at least theoritically) enables them to follow through with this. The reason for this is twofold: A) To learn anything additional the target might know. And B), more subtly, to continually strengthen the mysterious and pervasive "cold" that is the true ruler of the empire.<br><br>Thank you again for your time.<br>

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Post March 25, 2005, 09:15:37 PM

Re: The City

I s'pose just about everybody on this board knows my feeling about endings. I'm a happily-ever-after kind of guy. :-) I think reality hands us enough depressing endings, and IMO fiction should offer us some kind of escape from that. Of course, not everyone agrees with that.<br><br>There are those who find depressing endings to their liking, but I always feel a little cheated when the protag doesn't overcome all obstacles and wins out in the end--or at least fights to a draw!!<br><br>I also write stories where *I* know the nuances of certain situations , and I'm sometimes I'm a bit surprised when I learn that the reader didn't catch it. :-) <br><br>Donald
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Post March 28, 2005, 10:15:50 PM

Re: The City

I felt that this was a fairly ambitious piece. It's goal: follow a cyborg assassin on his most difficult mission--to kill the woman he loved.<br><br>However, I don't think this piece delivered as well as it could have.<br><br>My first problem with the piece was the detached nature of the protagonist. He is apart from the rest of humanity, and he also perceived the world around at him from a distance. Therefore all of the sensory input that makes a setting real was removed. The rain was cold, but he ignored it. Someone was murdered at the restaurant, but it didn't concern him. He had cybernetic devices implanted inside him, but he didn't feel anything, and we never saw what they were. All of this made the world-building unconvincing for me. For all practical purposes, he could have dreamed the whole thing.<br><br>Feeling and perceiving things is what makes the setting and characters real, at least for me. Without that connection, the result on the character is a sense that he is an impervious machine. If he can't feel the chill, or the sense of loss, or the emptiness of his soul... then the audience never sympathizes with the hero. They're never drawn into the storyline on a personal level. I know I wasn't.<br><br>I never bought Michael's love for Catherine. I think this was because we never saw what happened in his mind that he could kill her. As I recall, he was defiant & frustrated. He wasn't going to do it. Next thing I saw, it was done.<br><br>I felt robbed of the drama. I wanted to know what went through his head--how he gave in. How did he do it? As he looked into the radiant pools that are the eyes of your beloved as you hold her, how did he crank the hammer back? What did he think? Did he see recognition in her eyes? Did he feel his finger tightening on the trigger, or did the implants do that and he fought against them? Was her face confused, not realizing what had happened, or was she terrified? Did he smell the gunpowder or the charring of the spot around the crimson hole in her dress that a shot that close causes? What did he feel?<br><br>In my view, this was the climactic moment. This was the spot where it's his last chance to defy his programming, the point where he can be most human, the most alive, in the whole story--even if he gives in to it like he did. But this moment, as it was written, was done as if you were supposed to see it from across the room, not close enough you can smell the fear.<br><br>I'd have to say there was something unbelievable about Catherine as well. When he first saves her, did she not notice that her savior takes a knife to the chest, and then snaps her assailant's neck with his bare hands--without so much as a yelp or even breaking a sweat? I'd like to think, if it was me, that I couldn't help but notice something like that. Danger, Will Robinson. Danger.<br><br>That the ending wasn't happy was fine with me, but that it was detached, robotic, was not. At least if we could have found out what she was running from, what she was supposed to have done or seen, that could have brought back out the humanity. <br><br>Like Donald, I didn't understand the need for the undercover action if the assassins could just walk in, Terminator style, and blow her away without repercussions. I saw the reason in your message, but that didn't come through in the text.<br><br>An author's first time published is a special thing. You call your relatives and all your friends. Everybody's happy for you, and all is good in the world. I feel bad if I've tarnished that for you, but I stand by what I said. This was very ambitious, but if you had just connected the story on a human level and perceived the world with all your senses to make set dressing concrete, I say this would have been one hell of a great story.<br><br>Nate
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Post March 29, 2005, 12:43:04 AM

Re: The City

And if you don't get upset by Nate's critique -and everyone else's- but study them with an eye towards the educational value, I'm betting that you'll turn out an even better story next time. The same things have helped *me* a lot on my last few stories. <br>Dan
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Post March 29, 2005, 08:43:57 AM

Re: The City

I have just started this piece and plan to offer some kind of comment once completed, but I must humbly suggest that any revisions following from the above readings include the removal of the word "annoyedly" from the passage where the I-guy remarks on the couple that is making out. His eye rolling and sigh suggests that he's annoyed by the display (although why he's annoyed, I'm not sure; maybe I'll find out later). No further qualification is required. <br><br>In the words of another cyborg: I'll be back.<br><br>Dan E.
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Post March 29, 2005, 01:24:32 PM

Re: The City

Ack. I'm going to look like the bad guy here. Usually, that's Nate's job. :) (I'm joking)<br><br>Okay, I didn't care for this story. Perhaps it was that it felt more like a romance piece than sci-fi. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I like all sorts of writing, including the classics. But this particular story didn't click with me.<br><br>First, the pacing seemed way too slow. There's a lot of agonizing. Everyone feels sorry for themselves. I understand it's a tragedy, but if you include optimistic elements, it actually strengthens the tragic parts by highlighting the contrast.<br><br>Second, the dialogue is unnatural. It seemed scripted. Perhaps that’s the nature of romances, but people just don't talk that way. A writer once told me that he will go visit public places and listen to other peoples' conversations, just so he can capture the natural aspect of dialogue. (Be careful there, though; most conversations tend to wander, are circular, filled with 'uhm' and 'ers', etc; in other words, try to capture the essence of natural discourse).<br><br>Third, there has been a rash of late of improper construction of dialogue. Unless the speaker is talking at length, you should never break up a speaker's dialogue into separate paragraphs. On the flip side, you should not put multiple speakers in the same paragraph. So for example:<br>
I turned, as Catherine walked up behind me. I smiled at her. “I don’t know,” I said simply. She tilted her head questioningly. “I was just wondering…” I tried to explain. “Did we do the right thing?”
<br>should read as follows:<br>
I turned, as Catherine walked up behind me. I smiled at her. “I don’t know,” I said simply.

She tilted her head questioningly. “I was just wondering…”

I tried to explain. “Did we do the right thing?”
<br>You can readily see how much easier it is to read. I understand that a lot of classical writers didn't break up their dialogue, but that's the industry standard in this day and age. If you’re concerned about being environmentally sound by reducing the waste of paper, I will recommend sacrificing your Greenpeace sensibilities for readability. (A lot of writers view this as a way to pad their work, by the way). It would be a shame for an editor to reject a story just because it lacked in this certain aspect. And yes, sadly, editors and agents look for a reason to reject in order to reduce their workload (I won't start that conversation here; there's a couple threads about it in the Administrivia area).<br>
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Post March 31, 2005, 02:06:49 AM

Re: The City

OK, for what it's worth, I'm back.<br><br>I would say that I agree with most of everyone's points. <br><br>This is an ambitious piece, but a delicate task. And I must say too that I agree that it simply didn't deliver. But I think a lot of its problems are fixable.<br><br>Michael is too self-aware. He tells us too much and too often about his state of mind and being. I think that's a risk in first person. There are more effective ways to show his detachment that might make him more compelling. You've chosen a difficult character to work with, but with a little refinement you can get your readers attached to him.<br><br>The story was riddled with cliched description and dialogue, and the back and forth between Michael and Catherine was stilted. Jaimie makes an important point about construction: you'll lose the reader if he or she can't follow the conversation. <br><br>I think your world building suffered for lack of detail. Nate is big on description and detailed world building, and in general I'm with him on that; however, I also think a whole lot can be done with implication. Here though, I think your world is maybe too implied. It was an ashen backdrop that left this odd character Michael standing starkly in the foreground with little context. This may very well have been your intent, but I think you left a bit too much for the reader to have to generate. An example of this would be why these assassins can operate with impunity; it's distracting, I think, for a reader to have to fill in a key detail like that.<br><br>This seemed a sort of cyberpunk-noir thing, but the result was an overall detachment that left all the action flat and undramatic. <br><br>As is usually the case with the writers here, you've got all the elements for a great story, but I think a bold rewrite is required to bring them out and breathe some life into them. A cyborg can be soulless, but the writing doesn't need to be.<br><br>Dan E.

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Post March 31, 2005, 09:09:23 PM

Re: The City

I don't like this type of story, but I feel the author has <br>talent. His discriptions made me feel as if I were there, and at times I was wondering what I would do if I were Michael. Also, the author suggested that in the future we might easily be controlled by implants or some other mind controlling methods that are powerful<br>enough to make us go against our desires or believes.<br>Such a world is possible! even now.<br><br>
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