"Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze


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Post May 02, 2016, 01:28:47 PM

"Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

I don't know if it's seemly or not for me to start a thread about my own story. If not, I'll gladly remove this. Assuming it's ok, though, I'd really be interested to hear any feedback/constructive criticism/etc about my story.
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Post May 02, 2016, 02:28:57 PM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

Nothing wrong at all, Randy. Be patient; I've got one cooking.

While you wait, maybe you could look around and find some of the damage I've infl—uh, the help I've offered others here.
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Post May 02, 2016, 06:06:06 PM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

As threatened ...

CRIT-Curse the Darkness

-------------

* What is the ISRO? You never tell us.

* At breakfast, Arav puts a hand on Pari, even though he has his tray in one hand and an extra OJ in the other.

* The scene just before takeoff, "he" is strapped against his seat. We don't get told who "he" is for three paragraphs and have to guess.

* Since the shuttle is a conventional rocket—and a really big one, at that— I'd think they would raise it into vertical position _before_ loading cargo or passengers. In fact, I doubt very much that it would be safe to fuel such a beast if it weren't already vertical.

* At liftoff, you have:

The padded bunk slammed into Jal’s back as though he’d been dropped off a two story building


The acceleration is nowhere near that sudden. If you've watched big rockets launch, they don't actually lift at all for the first couple seconds, and then they rise rather slowly at first. It does pile on pretty quickly after that, though, and the second stage will kick.

* Also at liftoff, Jal starts out being able to read the display, but the next mention of it has it shaking so bad he can't read it.

By the way, these displays are probably not needed by the passengers at all, and along with their wiring, they add extra weight to the launch vehicle. Extra fuel needed, extra expense. Also, they'll get sprayed with barf. Nice device for the story, but why not just put a single display up high on the forward bulkhead where everyone can see it?

By the way, I got a kick out of the "fat men" simile.

* The suction vents for the barf? I'd say, emphatically, NO. First, if they work "gradually," the ejecta has lots of opportunity to coat everything and everybody in the compartment. Second, if somebody pukes while they're still under acceleration ... well, they and whoever's behind them are going to get an unwanted warm bath, no matter how strong the airflow. Third—two dozens seats' worth of plumbing, plus pumps and filters? That's a LOT of extra weight for that system, too. Even worse than the displays mentioned above.

* Generally, it would be helpful if you were more generous with names in attribute tags. I found it easy to lose track of who was speaking in dialog passages. I'd say this was one of the biggest distractions for me.

* You sometimes mix characters' action beats in among other characters' dialog, such as:

“Really? I didn’t know you were a Christian,” she said. He shrugged. “What was it like?” she asked.


This can get confusing. I follow a common guideline: only one character to a paragraph; this goes for dialog and action beats (ex., "He shrugged" above).

Also, I found a couple places in the story where you have two people speaking in the same paragraph. That's bad for clarity. For dialog, one person per paragraph always works. Now, there are times when you can get two people's actions into one paragraph; for example:

[John speaking] "You got everything tied down?" Bill grunted an assent. "Good," John said, "we're ready to go."

This saves you from having Bill's wordless reaction taking up a paragraph of its own, which would look choppy on the page (assuming you don't want that much choppiness in the passage).

* Wouldn't that water between the hulls of the ferry freeze? It might not matter if it did; just wondering.

* Also, regarding the ferry, I like the idea of the inflatable hulls—very clever—but I have to wonder if it's a good idea. Space is full of micrometeors, and the shuttle is going to be moving at roughly 2600 miles per hour, average. I'd think that thing would get punctured pretty early in its career.

* Everyone in the passenger compartment should have felt the cabin pressure going up.

* Why wasn't the Sacred Fire Device secured? That should be a given, and a safety requirement. They'll be in free-fall for most of the trip; the thing could float loose about the cabin. And if emergency maneuvers were required, a large loose object could be deadly.

* Here:

“YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND AT ALL!” The girl stormed closer, then realized what she was doing, and stopped short of the airlock hatch.

... you seem to have a momentary lapse of zero-g.

* In this passage:

She then sent a distress call to the ISRO, and explained the situation. They explained that regardless of whatever she’d told the passengers, Priyanka had made it clear she’d intended to crash the ferry into Strongarm City, killing as many people and destroying as much of the place as she could in the process.

... I have to wonder how this information was obtained. I had the impression that Priyanka only had one message and that she transmitted it to everyone.

---------------------

Okay, all the above are mostly minor niggles. Aside from that, I really enjoyed the story; it has a kind of loose, freewheeling quality to it, like with the one guy kicking the box to get the fan running again. Overall it was easy to read.

A lot of the detail (like people smoking in space) had a distinctively retro feel, and I wondered why the tech seemed more primitive than I'd expect.

Dialog, characterization, setting, and plot are really good. All aspects of characterization are consistent and clear and the characters are distinct. By the way, I didn't realize this immediately, but the true main character here isn't Pari; it's Jal, since he's the only one with a changing character arc. He has to confront his doctrinal background in order to act in the greater benefit of his religion and the realization of his goal.

Hope this helps,

LC
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Post May 02, 2016, 08:57:12 PM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

Lester Curtis wrote:* What is the ISRO? You never tell us.


"Indian Space Research Organization." It's a real organization, their equivalent of NASA. I didn't explain it because we don't generally explain "NASA" when it turns up in a story, we just know what it means. Likewise, I couldn't immediately figure a way to explain it without being clunky.

Lester Curtis wrote:* At breakfast, Arav puts a hand on Pari, even though he has his tray in one hand and an extra OJ in the other.


Ah, nuts. I'll fix that.

Lester Curtis wrote:* The scene just before takeoff, "he" is strapped against his seat. We don't get told who "he" is for three paragraphs and have to guess.


I'll have to reread that. Thanks!

Lester Curtis wrote: * Since the shuttle is a conventional rocket—and a really big one, at that— I'd think they would raise it into vertical position _before_ loading cargo or passengers. In fact, I doubt very much that it would be safe to fuel such a beast if it weren't already vertical.


It's patterned on the Soviet/Chinese style of doing things. They haul the rocket out horizontally, then elevate it to vertical. It's then fueled when it's upright. I just assumed a century or so in the future, aerospace materials would be a little stronger than now. And it is actually easier to load stuff horizontally, again, based on the Soviet/Chinese example.

Lester Curtis wrote:The acceleration is nowhere near that sudden. If you've watched big rockets launch, they don't actually lift at all for the first couple seconds, and then they rise rather slowly at first. It does pile on pretty quickly after that, though, and the second stage will kick.


I was on hand for most of the Saturn V launches and a whole bunch of the shuttle ones, and I gotta tell ya, they really do jump off the pad. "like a two story building" is probably a bit of a dramatic exaggeration, but you definitely would feel it.

Lester Curtis wrote:* Also at liftoff, Jal starts out being able to read the display, but the next mention of it has it shaking so bad he can't read it.


I'll check it out. Thank you!

Lester Curtis wrote:By the way, these displays are probably not needed by the passengers at all, and along with their wiring, they add extra weight to the launch vehicle. Extra fuel needed, extra expense. Also, they'll get sprayed with barf. Nice device for the story, but why not just put a single display up high on the forward bulkhead where everyone can see it?


The seats are basically bunk beds when in launch position, and somewhat claustrophobic stalls when horizontal. The screens are to give 'em something to look at, like TV or the details on the launch or whatever. Everything in the shuttle is obviously barf-proof. :D Given the position of the seats/benches, most of the people would be able to see a main viewscreen in the front.

Lester Curtis wrote:By the way, I got a kick out of the "fat men" simile.


Thank you!

Lester Curtis wrote:* The suction vents for the barf? I'd say, emphatically, NO. First, if they work "gradually," the ejecta has lots of opportunity to coat everything and everybody in the compartment. Second, if somebody pukes while they're still under acceleration ... well, they and whoever's behind them are going to get an unwanted warm bath, no matter how strong the airflow. Third—two dozens seats' worth of plumbing, plus pumps and filters? That's a LOT of extra weight for that system, too. Even worse than the displays mentioned above.


Point taken. I'll review whether to remove that, or simply to point out that the system just doesn't work very well.

A note on excess weight: This is a hundred or so years in the future. Given how much TVs and phones and things have shrunk in the last 30 years, the screens could be as thin as paper and weigh less than an ounce.

Also: they're really not terribly concerned about weight. The operations we're looking at here are huge. The port they're at launches a shuttle a dozen times a day. More in the busy season. Other countries do the same thing. There's lots of huge space stations. The ISRO was willing to allow the project, provided it wasn't any more inconvenient than carrying a person, but there's so much space traffic that they don't really care much about a few extra pounds here or there.

Lester Curtis wrote:* Generally, it would be helpful if you were more generous with names in attribute tags. I found it easy to lose track of who was speaking in dialog passages. I'd say this was one of the biggest distractions for me.


That's a stylisic thing on my part. Was in all the conversations, or just ones where more than two people were talking?

Lester Curtis wrote:* You sometimes mix characters' action beats in among other characters' dialog, such as:


I don't understand what you mean.

Lester Curtis wrote:Also, I found a couple places in the story where you have two people speaking in the same paragraph. That's bad for clarity. For dialog, one person per paragraph always works. Now, there are times when you can get two people's actions into one paragraph; for example:

[John speaking] "You got everything tied down?" Bill grunted an assent. "Good," John said, "we're ready to go."

This saves you from having Bill's wordless reaction taking up a paragraph of its own, which would look choppy on the page (assuming you don't want that much choppiness in the passage).


Ok, that's good to know. Thank you. My editor friend and I go 'round and 'round on that one. Looks like I just won.

Lester Curtis wrote:* Wouldn't that water between the hulls of the ferry freeze? It might not matter if it did; just wondering.


Probably not.

Lester Curtis wrote:* Also, regarding the ferry, I like the idea of the inflatable hulls—very clever—but I have to wonder if it's a good idea. Space is full of micrometeors, and the shuttle is going to be moving at roughly 2600 miles per hour, average. I'd think that thing would get punctured pretty early in its career.


Thank you! I got the idea from reading up on projects by Bigelow. They've been pushing for inflatable space station segments for years. The segments would be made out of kevlar, which, under sea level pressure against a vacuum, is actually stronger than aluminum. IOW, it'd be more structurally sound than any particular part of the ISS.

The liklihood of getting hit by something once you get outside of LEO is pretty much nil. I checked the numbers, and in most regions of space there's so little chance of it as to not be worth worrying about. Though I guess there's a lot of coffee mugs and laundry and a body out there now. Someone's gonna have to clean that up.

Lester Curtis wrote:* Everyone in the passenger compartment should have felt the cabin pressure going up.


My thinking is that they probably did, but didn't know what to make out of it, as space emergencies are very rare, and they were scared. Eventually one of them does point out that something ain't right, while the two crew were so distracted by other stuff they just hadn't noticed. They would have eventually, though.

Lester Curtis wrote:* Why wasn't the Sacred Fire Device secured? That should be a given, and a safety requirement. They'll be in free-fall for most of the trip; the thing could float loose about the cabin. And if emergency maneuvers were required, a large loose object could be deadly.


It was in one of the passenger stalls. Thought I pointed that out. The stalls are against the hull. When the hull went pop, the back wall was no longer there.


Lester Curtis wrote:
“YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND AT ALL!” The girl stormed closer, then realized what she was doing, and stopped short of the airlock hatch.

... you seem to have a momentary lapse of zero-g.


You caught me.

Lester Curtis wrote: ... I have to wonder how this information was obtained. I had the impression that Priyanka only had one message and that she transmitted it to everyone.


She'd been in contact with the ground.

Lester Curtis wrote:Okay, all the above are mostly minor niggles. Aside from that, I really enjoyed the story; it has a kind of loose, freewheeling quality to it, like with the one guy kicking the box to get the fan running again. Overall it was easy to read.

Thank you very much!

Lester Curtis wrote:A lot of the detail (like people smoking in space) had a distinctively retro feel, and I wondered why the tech seemed more primitive than I'd expect.


The in-universe explanation is that it's all just cheap-ass crap. They're using century-old designs because they're simple and easy to build, and why re-invent the wheel? If you're cranking out Saturn Vs in lots of, say, 300, their per-unit cost drops to crazy low levels, particularly if you're doing it for decades on end.

The out-of-universe explanation is that this is a bit of an homage to the old golden-age "something screwed up and now it's our engineering skills vs the universe, and if the universe wins, we all die" kinds of pulp stories I grew up on. That's also why I set the action en rout to and on the moon, rather than some place more exotic. The golden age pulps assumed the moon would be very important, and modern SF tends to largely ignore it.

Lester Curtis wrote:Dialog, characterization, setting, and plot are really good. All aspects of characterization are consistent and clear and the characters are distinct. By the way, I didn't realize this immediately, but the true main character here isn't Pari; it's Jal, since he's the only one with a changing character arc. He has to confront his doctrinal background in order to act in the greater benefit of his religion and the realization of his goal.


Thank you very much, I appreciate it! And, yes, you're right: Pari is the hero. Well, the hero who lives anyway. Jal's the protagonist. In the end, Pari merely survives. She's the same person she's always been. Jal's a bit richer for the journey, though. He's grown. You're the first person to notice that.

Lester Curtis wrote:Hope this helps,


Actually, very helpful. Sincere thanks, Mr. Curtis, I appreciate it!

LC[/quote]
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Post May 02, 2016, 11:07:29 PM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

Randy,

It's patterned on the Soviet/Chinese style of doing things. They haul the rocket out horizontally, then elevate it to vertical. It's then fueled when it's upright. I just assumed a century or so in the future, aerospace materials would be a little stronger than now. And it is actually easier to load stuff horizontally, again, based on the Soviet/Chinese example.


Wow, I had no idea. Loading would certainly be easier horizontal, and I was having a hard time picturing how a passenger would get situated with the thing vertical. Tricky and dangerous.

I was on hand for most of the Saturn V launches and a whole bunch of the shuttle ones, and I gotta tell ya, they really do jump off the pad. "like a two story building" is probably a bit of a dramatic exaggeration, but you definitely would feel it.


I was basing my comment on what I've seen on the televised launches, where they'll have a camera zoomed in on the nozzles. It sure *looked* like the thing sat still for a second or so. Now I've got to wonder what the astronauts have said about it.

A note on excess weight: This is a hundred or so years in the future. Given how much TVs and phones and things have shrunk in the last 30 years, the screens could be as thin as paper and weigh less than an ounce.

Also: they're really not terribly concerned about weight. The operations we're looking at here are huge. The port they're at launches a shuttle a dozen times a day. More in the busy season. Other countries do the same thing. There's lots of huge space stations. The ISRO was willing to allow the project, provided it wasn't any more inconvenient than carrying a person, but there's so much space traffic that they don't really care much about a few extra pounds here or there.


Okay, the electronics will be lighter and economies of scale can cheapen things like standardized structures and even fuel. And maybe material science will have gifted us with lighter stuff by then, but I think that in some practical terms, we're close to an optimum strength/weight/cost balance right now. 3-D printing may scale up enough to prove me wrong on that, but for now it's way too slow for mass-production of large items.

And, mass is still mass, gravity doesn't relent, and the specific impulse of fuels is, I think, unlikely to be substantially improved. So, to me, weight will still look expensive. I'm no engineer, though, and I'm steadily being surprised and delighted by amazing breakthroughs.

Lester Curtis wrote:
* You sometimes mix characters' action beats in among other characters' dialog, such as:

I don't understand what you mean.


Just that "He shrugged." Followed immediately by the "What was it like?" Without an intervening attribute, I wasn't sure if it was his quote or hers until I hit "she".

On the inflatables, yeah, I'd read about that some while back. Great idea, and since they've just sent one up to the ISS, they must have confidence in it. Really, I should know better; when have we ever heard of a spacecraft being damaged by little junk? Cassini flew right through Saturn's rings. "Look, ma, no hands!" Yeah, they turned it so as to shield the thing with its big antenna, but still didn't hit anything.

It was in one of the passenger stalls. Thought I pointed that out. The stalls are against the hull. When the hull went pop, the back wall was no longer there.


That is mentioned, but the structure of the stall partitions isn't described; if they were solid (extra structure to stiffen the floor structures), it could have been strapped to one of those. Of course, then you wouldn't have had your little plot device. Still, I'd think they'd strap it to something just to keep it from bouncing around in the stall and getting shaken up.

The in-universe explanation is that it's all just cheap-ass crap. They're using century-old designs because they're simple and easy to build, and why re-invent the wheel? If you're cranking out Saturn Vs in lots of, say, 300, their per-unit cost drops to crazy low levels, particularly if you're doing it for decades on end.


Even at that, I'd think it would make sense to make as much as possible reusable, as Space-X and Blue Origin are now doing. You don't mention that, but I assume they aren't.

Thanks for the science lessons!

LC
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Post May 03, 2016, 12:09:19 AM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

Lester Curtis wrote:I was basing my comment on what I've seen on the televised launches, where they'll have a camera zoomed in on the nozzles. It sure *looked* like the thing sat still for a second or so. Now I've got to wonder what the astronauts have said about it.


Actually, they're generally locked down for the first second or two. It takes a moment for the engines to get up to full thrust, they don't want a false start, so the rockets are generally physically locked to the pad. When it hits 100% they release the locks, and the rocket shoots up. That makes it look like it's taking a moment for the rockets to 'take hold.'

Lester Curtis wrote:And, mass is still mass, gravity doesn't relent, and the specific impulse of fuels is, I think, unlikely to be substantially improved. So, to me, weight will still look expensive. I'm no engineer, though, and I'm steadily being surprised and delighted by amazing breakthroughs.


True, but what is rocket fuel? The cheapest, most efficient form is Hydrogen/Oxygen. Take water, electrolyze it, there's your fuel. It takes a lot of energy to do that, but owing to the solar power satellites and stuff, they've got nearly free power by our standards. 30 years of the shuttle program showed that some forms of reusability are actualy way more expensive, dangerous, and inefficient than disposable stuff. The wasteful Saturn V cost about 500 million per launch and could put about 100 tons in LEO. The frugal shuttle cost about a billion per launch and could put 30 tons in LEO. So 3 billion dollars, 3 shuttle launches over the course of, say, half a year, and the risk of 3 crews - generally about 18-21 people - to do something a Saturn could do in one day for 1/6th the money, and risking no more than 3 lives.

I had more details about the shuttle used in the story, but decided not to use 'em as it bogged it down. Keep in mind the system you see is for passengers. They've got other systems for getting bulk cargos and stuff in to orbit.

Lester Curtis wrote:Just that "He shrugged." Followed immediately by the "What was it like?" Without an intervening attribute, I wasn't sure if it was his quote or hers until I hit "she".


Oh, I see. [scanning] Ok, yeah, I see. I'll futz with that in my master copy. Thanks.

Lester Curtis wrote: Of course, then you wouldn't have had your little plot device. Still, I'd think they'd strap it to something just to keep it from bouncing around in the stall and getting shaken up.


Well, the plot device is why I did it, obviously, but logically there wouldn't be much need. It's in a small closet, it weighs no more than a person, and the actual acceleration from LEO to lunar orbit is not very great compared with getting TO orbit in the first place. There'd basically only be 3 movements over the course of a 3-day flight: Initial acceleration, mid-flight turnaround, and decelleration/landing. Not a bumpy ride. And landing on the moon doesn't put much stress on you. The Apollo astronauts were able to do it while standing up. (No chairs in the LEM)

Lester Curtis wrote:Even at that, I'd think it would make sense to make as much as possible reusable, as Space-X and Blue Origin are now doing. You don't mention that, but I assume they aren't.


Well, the orbiter is reusable. The rocket may or may not be, but probably isn't. But, see, using my shuttle example above: a shuttle is 6x less efficient than a disposable rocket the way we did it (And, yes, there are better ways to do it which we didn't bother with) so as long as this way costs less than that way, this is the way they're gonna do it.

Lester Curtis wrote:Thanks for the science lessons!


Yer welcome
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Post May 03, 2016, 12:46:11 AM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

Actually, they're generally locked down for the first second or two. It takes a moment for the engines to get up to full thrust, they don't want a false start, so the rockets are generally physically locked to the pad. When it hits 100% they release the locks, and the rocket shoots up. That makes it look like it's taking a moment for the rockets to 'take hold.'


Okay, I'd forgotten about the locks. Important safety device, and I get it now: full thrust is available almost instantly.

I had more details about the shuttle used in the story, but decided not to use 'em as it bogged it down. Keep in mind the system you see is for passengers. They've got other systems for getting bulk cargos and stuff in to orbit.


Getting away from the story, what are your thoughts on a modular shuttle design? Say, make a standard chassis with a fixed internal volume, then fill it with cargo space, passenger accommodations, or a mix of each? Convertibility optional.

Well, the orbiter is reusable. The rocket may or may not be, but probably isn't. But, see, using my shuttle example above: a shuttle is 6x less efficient than a disposable rocket the way we did it (And, yes, there are better ways to do it which we didn't bother with) so as long as this way costs less than that way, this is the way they're gonna do it.


What better ways do you like? I've read of a lot of schemes for getting stuff to LEO, but I seem to recall that a lot of them had impractical payload limits.

Thanks again!

LC
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Post May 03, 2016, 12:20:47 PM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

Lester did a wonderful analysis of your story. I can only add a few thoughts that I like when I write or read a story, and my thoughts are not set in stone. Each of us are different, and that difference is essential. Just imagine if all stories sounded the same! It would be boring!!

I prefer to use science as a supplement in a story----just enough. However, I’ve read stories that have textbook sections about science, and I loved the story! Your story is filled with much more science that I would have used. But that’s not saying I’m right and you’re wrong. I liked you story even with the science interwoven though out it.

Your story had strong characters and the dialogue was good. I couldn’t find anything to nit-pick about and can see that you are very interested in writing science fiction. This is the site for you!

Maybe a little more sensory input might a added to the effect of being there, but you did use some.

To read passages like ‘a cold breeze struck my forehead’ or the ‘heat from the explosion washed over me.’ Simple techniques like those examples used sparingly really add to a story–they can get the reader into it. When you read sci-fi notice how authors use sensory input. But don’t over use the same one again and again.

I think you have skills to write good science fiction. Practice balancing the show and tell, sensory input, and beats.

Good job!
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Post May 03, 2016, 07:03:12 PM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

Lester Curtis wrote:Getting away from the story, what are your thoughts on a modular shuttle design? Say, make a standard chassis with a fixed internal volume, then fill it with cargo space, passenger accommodations, or a mix of each? Convertibility optional.


If you want a wholly-reusable system, then Shuttle II is the way to go. See, the shuttle we got was intended as a stopgap between Apollo and the "Real" shuttle program. The Shuttle we got was intended to go into service around 1978, and about a decade later, 15 years at the outside, the shuttles would be retired and "Shuttle II" would take over.

"Shuttle II" never got the go-ahead, so as you can imagine the details on it are scant, but the idea was a small shuttle perched atop a completely-reusable booster that would itself glide back to KSC. It would only have about a 10 ton cargo capacity, but given they figured they could do a flight a day, that wasn't much of an issue.

So if you're gonna go shuttles, that's probably optimal with reasonably-close-to-existing tech. The shuttle concept as a whole is still pretty inherently flawed, though.

Lester Curtis wrote:What better ways do you like? I've read of a lot of schemes for getting stuff to LEO, but I seem to recall that a lot of them had impractical payload limits.


Honestly, a nice big rocket is the easiest, best way. An unmodified Saturn V could get 100 tons to LEO, a Saturn V with 4 SRBs strapped on to it could do about 200 tons. A Saturn VIII (Designed but never built) could do about 135 tons to LEO.

The best concept I've heard is the Sea Dragon, a thousand-foot-long low-tech two-stage rocket that could be built in a conventional shipbuilding facility. It floats. You tow it to the equator with some big ship, say an aircraft carrier. The carrier's reactor electrolyzes water into hydrogen and oxygen, which you pump the Sea Dragon full of. When you're ready to go, you flood a ballast tank in the stern (How cool is that?) and the thing goes upright. You go far away in the boat, launch it, and you've just put FIVE HUNDRED TONS of cargo in LEO. So that's pretty snazzy.

I'm also fond of Nuclear Pulse Rockets, which could put Ungodly amounts of cargo in space, assuming you've got some huge tract of land that you don't give a crap about, and are willing to make unlivable, like, say, the Gobi Desert, or Antarctica, or whatever.

I used to like magnetic rail launch ideas, but they have more and more problems the more you look at them. Beanstalks are a neat idea, but their effectiveness is ultimately dependent upon their design, and the ones we're (nearly) capable of at present seem more trouble than they're worth.

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Post May 03, 2016, 07:12:12 PM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

Megawatts wrote:Lester did a wonderful analysis of your story.


Yeah, it was impressive.

Megawatts wrote: I prefer to use science as a supplement in a story----just enough. However, I’ve read stories that have textbook sections about science, and I loved the story! Your story is filled with much more science that I would have used. But that’s not saying I’m right and you’re wrong. I liked you story even with the science interwoven though out it.


Thanks. I was trying for a balance between plausibility and people. It's ultimately a people story - the only good ones are - but I wanted to hommage the 1940s/50s engineering feel, the "We need to explain this in non-doubletalk terms" that you get in, say, The Cruel Equations, or Gentlemen, Be Seated, or that Heinlein story with the little blind girl on the moon. The other reason is that I just get sort of annoyed when getting from here to planet Clausiff IV in the Hoobajoob Starcluster is as easy as hopping a plane to Atlanta for the weekend. I like it when people have to *do* stuff. I don't like Transporters and Warp Drive and Replicators. I like stories about people on another planet trying to figure out how to raise bees, but because of the environment, the bees keep wandering off and getting lost. I like complications, which means you have to undestand the problem. Plus, this whole story was about the difficulty of doing a *literally* stone age thing - moving embers from a fire. That amused me.

I was VERY concerned about overwhelming the reader with technical stuff - specifically the stuff about the hypergolic fuels - so I'm glad you feel like I didn't. That's a relief.

Megawatts wrote:Your story had strong characters and the dialogue was good. I couldn’t find anything to nit-pick about and can see that you are very interested in writing science fiction. This is the site for you!


Thank you! That's very kind. Thank you for reading it, thanks for taking the time to tell me you liked it, and, of course, thanks for liking it. :D
Maybe a little more sensory input might a added to the effect of being there, but you did use some.

To read passages like ‘a cold breeze struck my forehead’ or the ‘heat from the explosion washed over me.’ Simple techniques like those examples used sparingly really add to a story–they can get the reader into it. When you read sci-fi notice how authors use sensory input. But don’t over use the same one again and again.

I think you have skills to write good science fiction. Practice balancing the show and tell, sensory input, and beats.

Good job!
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Post May 03, 2016, 10:43:21 PM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

I hadn't heard of the Sea Dragon before, so I went looking for it—and found this delightful page with some truly outrageous stuff on it. Enjoy!

http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/r ... eorbit.php
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?
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Post May 03, 2016, 11:09:49 PM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

... and here's one I remember following the progress of for a while:

http://www.wow.com/wiki/Rotary_Rocket
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Post May 05, 2016, 08:24:12 AM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

Lester Curtis wrote:I hadn't heard of the Sea Dragon before, so I went looking for it—and found this delightful page with some truly outrageous stuff on it. Enjoy!


Yeah! The Atomic Rockets site is awesome on its own, and it's a great resource for writers, as well.
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Post May 10, 2016, 02:03:41 PM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

Well, I'm not going to give lengthy feedback here. I see you've already had quite a bit of that. I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your story, and I really love the way the ending wraps the whole thing up into a theme that's something worth pondering, i.e. faith and the true meaning of our symbols of it.

I will say that I felt like some of the socio-political background felt unnecessary, especially the stuff about the U.S. Neat and interesting, but it didn't really add anything to the story arc.

Anyway, my two little bits.

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Post May 11, 2016, 11:41:37 AM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

KateStuart wrote:Well, I'm not going to give lengthy feedback here. I see you've already had quite a bit of that. I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your story, and I really love the way the ending wraps the whole thing up into a theme that's something worth pondering, i.e. faith and the true meaning of our symbols of it.

I will say that I felt like some of the socio-political background felt unnecessary, especially the stuff about the U.S. Neat and interesting, but it didn't really add anything to the story arc.

Anyway, my two little bits.


Thank you, that's very kind! Thanks for taking the time to read it.

I actually agree with you that the political stuff w/r/t the US was kind of gratuitous. I almost took it out a couple time, but it wouldn't have saved that much space, and I wanted to establish that the world has changed. I went a little overboard. OTOH, I thought the "Unpleasantness" and the Catholic Church being run out of the Potala Palace worked much better.

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Post May 14, 2016, 08:53:36 PM

Re: "Curse the Darkness" By Randall Schanze

Can't add too much to the extensive previous comments. Lester really said a lot of what I thought. I liked the story, it was an enjoyable read. Informative, engaging, retro, good characters, educational, etc. I'd add "daring" mainly because of the smoking pilot. One of the things I loved about the first "Alien" movie... the smoking. Nowadays if the SciFi channel tries stuff like this it just looks contrived. You pulled it off well.

Congrats on all the attention you received, it was clear a lot of work went into this story and you did a great job. Thanks for keeping it fun, light, and adding a refreshing dose of spirituality. A well rounded story that hits all the elements.
Glenn Diamond

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