The Collector by James Mascia


Tell us what you thought of the February 2010 issue.

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Post February 20, 2010, 10:56:30 PM

The Collector by James Mascia

Unfortunately I could not get the Disney movie Monsters, Inc. out of my head after the beginning of this story. The portals into children's rooms at night and the threat of monsters in the closet were just too reminiscent of the movie for my taste. Of course this story is a more mature take on these ideas. And I think what the author is trying to do has potential.

The author does handle the action in the story well and there is a good amount of tension in what the main character has to do and what will happen if he fails. But I think that the main character could use some more development so that the reader can sympathize with him more. He seems like just another stereotypical soldier/agent type who is wearying of his role. What makes this particular character different from any other. Could he undergo more of change in the course of the story? If he did, we might care about him and his situation more.

There is never a very clear reason given at the end of the story for the actions that are taking place. Maybe some further development of that reason and some use of that throughout the story would help the reader to like the main character and what he is trying to do more. Just some suggestions for possible improvements from my particular point-of-view.

Hero
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Post February 22, 2010, 09:43:37 AM

The Collector

Just as Davidsonhero was seeing Monsters in the closet, I was seeing the father using a shotgun to blow the door down.
I don't even like to think about there being a viable explanation for someone being in a child's bedroom.
I wondered why the parents didn't notice the children were actually...well, not children.
On the other side from Davidsonhero: I liked the idea that there wasn't a lot of explanation about why the collectors were doing what they were doing. I don't believe a long, scientific discussion of their motives would have been realistic or profitable. When in doubt, not throwing in some science to make the story sound better is probably the better idea.
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Post February 22, 2010, 12:01:22 PM

bottomdweller wrote:

I don't even like to think about there being a viable explanation for someone being in a child's bedroom. I wondered why the parents didn't notice the children were actually...well, not children.
On the other side from Davidsonhero: I liked the idea that there wasn't a lot of explanation about why the collectors were doing what they were doing. I don't believe a long, scientific discussion of their motives would have been realistic or profitable. When in doubt, not throwing in some science to make the story sound better is probably the better idea.


I do agree with you bottomdweller. I have three little kids all under the age of four, so I don't like the basic premise of the story either. But that's also why I think this story has potential, any idea that can cause such a reaction in the reader is fertile ground. The idea would probably work well in a horror story. But the way this story was structured, I wasn't led to sympathize with the father and the horror he would be facing realizing something horrible was happening to his screaming daughter. The story is written from Jerry's perspective. Which is an interesting attempt at reversal if you consider that this story looks at things from the "monster's" perspective. But why is this the only way they can collect information? It seems that a species with the technology to create these portals and modify themselves to be able to appear identical to particular human children to the point where they can replace them for a time, could come up with a better way to collect data. The author is setting up the premise and asking the reader to accept that this is necessary for some reason. He is asking us to care about his character who has a difficult and dangerous job that must be done for some important reason. That's a tall order especially when what the character is doing, and his species is doing is arguable wrong on so many levels. In the end I don't think I sympathize with the main character enough. This is important. I think that if a reader doesn't sympathize with the protagonist of a story, then the author has failed to a degree. I'm not suggesting adding a little science will fix the problem. I was just thinking giving the reader more insight into the reasoning for this scenario might help the story overcome some of the problems I see with it. :)

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Post February 22, 2010, 01:56:12 PM

I had a few problems with this one, as well. It reminded me more of the movie Milennium than anything else. John Varley's Air Raid, the novella that the movie was based upon, was excellent, but the flick really wasn't.

These are four-foot tall aliens with three fingers, and they have names like Jerry, Marcus and Glenn. That's one stretch.

If the kid wakes up and the Collector gets caught, everybody dies. Highly trained Collector, the fake kid with a head full of needed data, the real kid, and whoever caught them in the act.

But they can't shoot the sleeping kid with a trank gun from the portal? There's another stretch, for 'ya.

The real kid is kept in "stasis" for three years. And yet they still look like the kid that is going to be replaced. Do they grow in stasis? Do they have the three years of memories? Is this a ten-year-old who has lost all memory for three years? Think folks won't notice that? Kids change a bunch in 3 years, trust me.

And just what kind of information is this kid collecting? Who's the biggest poopyface at school? What's Hannah Montana up to? If they are up half the night hacking into government databases, then there wouldn't be the problem of them forgetting that they are actually spies.

I just can't see a kid that still acts like a kid being able to collect the kind of information they would need to save their planet.

Much of the base plot just doesn't make any sense, and I don't think it ever will. Hero is right about the potential, the action is well written and the sense of tension as daddy is busting down the door is palpable, especially since the reader knows what happens if he succeeds.

Though I have to say that this is one weird door. Even in an old house with very sturdy doors, the weak spot is the lock, not the hinges. That part needed a little work, as well.

The good parts of the story could have been done with a more sensible plot in any number of ways. Just off the top of my head:

Same story (without the kill-em-all attitude), same set-up, but they're replacing our kids with doubles for one month just to see how we treat our children. If we don't measure up, they invade. They've got several good planets to move to and they are trying to figure-out which species to wipe-out so they can survive.

Your kid acting a little strange? Better treat 'em nice. Never know who's watching.

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Post February 22, 2010, 03:38:18 PM

The Collector

As far as the kid acting like a kid: I was thinking the ending could have been 15 years in the future when he keeps insisting there are little green men, for real. Maybe hypnosis would accidentially bring up all these old memories of being taken. Perhaps he would remember something about the ship. It could have been a lot creepier.
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Post March 01, 2010, 09:56:43 AM

I’m finding it hard to digest this one.

The intro worked for it did get my attention, and I didn’t have a problem with the dialogue and the show/tell balanced out and the action Okay.

But the story didn’t hold my attention much. The content too reminiscent of the old monster in the closet. But it didn’t scare me.

To sum it up, all the needed mechanical elements of a good story are present in this one, yet I
couldn’t get into the story.

I have no problem with the imagination, words used or style, yet that story itself for some reason didn’t work at all for me, and I can’t pin-point what turned me off about it!!

Good writing, but I didn’t get it. :?:
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Post March 02, 2010, 01:26:50 PM

I agree with some of the other comments posted so far: good structurally but with major plot holes. I also thought the ending fizzled. Even with the flaws, there is potential for a major Ah-ha! moment at the end, but that never materializes. Although I like some degree of ambiguity, I felt dissatisfied with not knowing their overall purpose.

I believe is salvageable with some tweaking. As Bill stated earlier, it makes no sense to wake up their collections. However, I could see a plot where they attempted to tranquilize a subject and things go awry. There would be no need to deviate too far from the current storyline.
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Post March 02, 2010, 01:42:46 PM

I keep wondering what happened to the dropped syringe . . . it's still in the kid's bedroom . . .

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Post March 02, 2010, 08:35:57 PM

A different possible plot line struck me:

Aliens from a dying planet search the galaxy for a new home. Earth is a close match but with a few flaws. Global warming, acid rain, industrial wastes clogging the atmosphere. The aliens concoct human-like replacements whose bodies become the true collectors. When they return they are examined for tissue and metabolic changes to determine whether or not the aliens can exist in our toxic atmosphere.

How do the replacements find acceptance by their new parents? It would have to be some variation on Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

My shout from the peanut gallery.

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Post March 21, 2010, 12:31:03 PM

Just wanted to thank everyone for their comments. Maybe we'll see a different version of this one down the line.
James Mascia

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