Nightwatch: Sed Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes III


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Post July 03, 2007, 11:54:17 AM

Nightwatch: Sed Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes III

Man, how many words did this thing total, anyway? :)

Finished reading it at 1:30 in the morning, and I need to read it again before I post any serious critique.

I will say though, I was surprised and a bit touched by the Maria flashback bits from Tinsel Rime. I haven't read that in quite some time, and I was able to feel the emotion like when I first wrote the scene. That was cool for me, because it doesn't happen very often. Plus it was neat to see how they were woven into a new situation. It was like those parts were "Forrest Gumped" into a whole new story.

Thanks, Bill.


Nate

PS-I just did a count in MSWord. Unless I did it wrong, all 3 parts of this thing together total over 73,000 words!

I mean, I guessed you'd need 45,000 more words than the 1st one, but damn, I didn't think you'd actually do it. That's a lot of work!

Gonna take me a few days just to read it all again...
Last edited by kailhofer on July 03, 2007, 03:23:50 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post July 04, 2007, 02:32:48 PM

Re: Nightwatch: Sed Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes

Very well.  As a new reader I'm coming in late.

I accept that.

But what I expect to find is an opening to the third installment which will draw me in, will make me want to go back and find parts I & II, and then explore the rest of the Nightwatch series.

Instead I get this:

Tom Weldon, psychologist and part-time operative with the supersecret organization which calls itself The Nightwatch Institute for Strategic and Economic Studies paused, waiting.  He was waiting for an answer from a psychic who was probably miles away, but connected to him in his mind.  He and Simon Litchfield, his friend and only real connection with Nightwatch, had just emerged from the zone of psychic interference created by an otherworldly artifact that everyone called The Egg.


That first sentence is clumsy.  It's a mini info-dump. By the time I've reached the verb I've forgotten who's doing the pausing. At the very least we need a comma after Studies.

Then we have the repetition of connected and connection in the next two sentences. Again, clumsy. And if the Nightwatch is supersecret, who's this everyone who calls the artifact The Egg?

Choosing a few more lines at random:

By the time the very modern, luxury coach bus pulled up to the corner where the three stood.  They were loaded with enough food and drink to last them the rest of the day.  The fruit vendor who had arrived last, even brought a roll of paper towels and a paring knife that though sharp, had definitely seen better times.


I assume the full stop after stood is a typo. But the very modern, luxury coach bus is again a clumsy use of words. Although I understand what the writer means, the sentence is so dead, so lacking in any rhythm, that it jars. (A coach bus?) Instead of being lost in the author's world, standing on the street corner of a foreign city, I'm jerked back into an awareness that I'm reading. And please, either a comma after vendor, or no comma after last.

There may well be good stuff in here, but this installment reads like a first draft. As a reader I don't want to wade through first drafts.

The piece needs a huge amount of rewriting.


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Post July 05, 2007, 08:35:31 AM

Re: Nightwatch: Sed Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes

Well, Mr. Kendon, let me first take this opportunity to welcome you to the Aphelion Forum.  Your insights are a welcome addition to our little coterie of critical critters.  I truly hope you can keep up this level of analytical effort in the future.  In so many words, we too often need this kind of slapping around and it does everyone (the same 'everyone' who call the artifact The Egg, by the way) a world of good.

Now to address your critique:

As for the punctuation, no excuses.  One of the reasons you don't see problems like this in professional work is the fact that editors hire proof readers who can look at the manuscript with 'fresh' eyes and spot mistakes of this nature much more readily.  The only way to do this for the amateur is to either farm it out to someone else or to take a long break and write something new for a while, and then come back to it.  And even then, you still know the story too well and you know what it's supposed to say.  This intimate knowledge makes it far more difficult to spot these things than on a first, cold read.  

So it's going to be a persistent problem that we all need to address the best we can.

As for the phrase "very modern luxury coach bus", would it have made more sense if I had punctuated it thusly? "very modern, luxury-coach, bus"

'Luxury coach' is a bus classification, though not a specific make or model.  These are equipped with more comfortable seats, an excellent heat/air system and a distributed sound system that allows everyone.  .  .uh.  .  .all the passengers, that is.  .  .to hear the tour conductor's voice without straining.  And in the city of Lucca, they are as easy to spot as a triceratops waddling down the streets.  Busses are incredibly common in the land of $8/gallon gas, but luxury coaches attract attention.

So how do you tell your reader—with a single phrase—that the bus that stopped for them was top-of-the-line, and not just some junky old cattle car?  

As for the mini info-dump at the introduction.  Guilty.  But don't forget that info-dumps aren't always a bad thing.  A writer should regard info-dumps like any other kind of dump.  .  .carefully pick your spot and wash your hands afterward.

Oddly enough, I wrote that intro just for you.  Seriously, I wrote it for the reader who didn't know anything about the storyline or the series and I considered it a bare-bones, this is where we left off, update.  Reading a plainly-marked Part III without having read Parts I & II is like picking up a novel and starting it two-thirds of they way through.  It's doable, but risky.  Expect to get a little lost.  And though this was anything but a first draft, I will certainly put more effort into polishing my prose in future offerings.

No kidding John, thanks for the comments.  I will take them to heart.

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Post July 05, 2007, 04:48:35 PM

Re: Nightwatch: Sed Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes

Bill, that's a very welcoming and generous response. Thank you.

Maybe I should make clear that I wouldn't have bothered with the "slapping around" (!!) if I hadn't felt your work was worth it. 73,000 words is a serious investment of time, energy - and love.

As to the coach bus business, I wonder if this isn't an example of us being separated by a common language (again!). It sounds strange and awkward to me as a Brit, but perhaps to you guys over there it seems natural. And actually, yes, I'd have preferred "the bus that stopped for them was top-of-the-line, and not just some junky old cattle car." Or even better, something that implied the sleekness and the comfort of it...

Keep writing, Bill.

John
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Post July 06, 2007, 12:32:59 AM

Re: Nightwatch: Sed Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes

I just re-read all the parts tonight, and my head is overstuffed. While all these bits are still freshly jumbled in my head, let me try to make sense of the notes I took.

And I should add that these are by no means any kind of line edit-level critique. There's too much to go through, and the crit would be too darn long as well. The following will be mostly random in order.

First off, for some reason, I can't look at the name Pasteel Agarwal and not think that it's some kind of anagram or code. I'm not good at figuring out anagrams, however. Maybe it's a perfectly normal name, and I've just lived a sheltered life. Is it one?

The 1st segment of the story seemed to have an energy about it that diminished as the story progressed. There were many extras, such as changing fonts & colors, as well as inserting graphics, that disappeared.

The "energy loss" may have been due to less editing to tighten the sentence structure and removing unneeded paragraphs as time went on, because I think it needed a lot of tightening in this 3rd part. There's a lot of good writing, don't get me wrong, but too many extra out of plotline thought tangents and too many sentences that could have been distilled down. It's hard to write a story that's so much inside someone's head, because so many other thoughts pop up. (It's why most editors will tell writers not to do 1st person stories--extra thoughts kill the action over and over again.) Everyone is too chatty for my tastes. My best friend the programmer would call it "loose coding".

An example of extra is the Stephanie backstory from part 2. A lot of Stephanie's psyche is laid bare in a lengthy series of paragraphs that take over 2000 words. Very interesting history for future stories, but all Agarwal would have to say to Tom or Simon is that her experiences with Gryphius affected her in such a way that if she found out people could read her thoughts, she'd fall apart permanently. They'd be curious, but would fight to the death to make sure that never happened.

I couldn't help notice things I would call "Jeff hints." These are things that Jeff tells you to work in somewhere. Having been through secret Nightwatch hazing rituals and conditioning (I twitch uncontrollably when I think of naming them) I won't spill anything, but since I also know the surprising freedom one has to create history for characters, I'm very interested to see which of them will come to fruition in future seasons.

There were a few continuity issues. For starters, in part 1 Pasteel doesn't consider himself human, but in part 3 he now does. Change of heart? Another one that glared at me was near the end of part 2 Pasteel says over the link that he knows the location of The Boy is "Bagni di Lucca, at the foot of the Italian Alps". Then at the top of part 3, he needs to be told again.

I'm not sure how any other season of Nightwatch ran, but in the one I was involved in, other Nightwatch writers critiqued and checked the heck out of each other's stories. Is that not the way it is anymore? Because I think a lot of these bits and the "looseness" of the writing could have been caught.

Is a Cray all that impressive anymore, especially in the secret number of years in the future where Nightwatch is set? Aren't the mini-supers better? My aforementioned friend the programmer used to work at Cray Research when they were based here in Wisconsin, and even gave me a tour once. He told me the 1st Cray, the Cray-1? was actually no more powerful than an off-the-shelf Macintosh from about a dozen years ago. Obviously they got a lot better, but so has the rest of the computer world, as well. I have heard that whatever their current incarnation was going to come out with something this year, but I don't know what. (A side note--the panels of LED lights on the side of a Cray, at least in the old days, had no purpose other than to make computer-unenlightened money men think the computer was doing something important and difficult. Honest. It was easier to get them to spend millions on them that way.)

I really like Tom's gun. I hope it becomes a regular.


I think the core of the whole story is a very good one and the parts fit together. This is a startlingly difficult plot concept--one I wouldn't have touched with a ten foot pole--but you did it, Bill. You dug deep and hung in there. That's quite a thing, considering parts were going online and you still didn't know how to write yourself out of it at that point.

Yes, I think it could have used more editing for maximum effectiveness, but it is still quite good.

Nate
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Post July 06, 2007, 05:05:13 PM

Re: Nightwatch: Sed Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes

Bill, that's a very welcoming and generous response. Thank you.

Maybe I should make clear that I wouldn't have bothered with the "slapping around" (!!) if I hadn't felt your work was worth it. 73,000 words is a serious investment of time, energy - and love.

John


I meant to post this earlier, but welcome to the zine!  I hope that you will continue reading AND commenting.  

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Post July 23, 2007, 04:40:59 PM

Re: Nightwatch: Sed Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes

First, I want to commend Bill on a great job. It was a mammoth of a piece. I remember how long it took to write my 23K Nightwatch story. Bill’s seems four times that amount. Wow.

Bill doesn’t choose simple themes. As with his Mare Inebrium stories, the plot is complex, the concepts so enormous that you’re mind goes a bit funny trying to comprehend the repercussions of the ideas, and yet he lays it all out with an explainable logic. There are laws and rules to the universe. Many writers would fail just to articulate the themes. Bill seems to be proving a theorem and taken you along for the ride.

Of course, that a requires a lot of explaining at times, and that’s where the infodumps arise. The time between the parts didn’t help matters, as I could tell that Bill inserted a lot of backstory to bring the new readers up to speed. I would just have made them read the first two parts, but I’m just a pain in the ass like that. However, that said, the third part could have been tightened up quite a bit. I don’t agree with the “...huge amount of rewriting” comment. I’ve seen my share of stories and novels where the large sections need to be scrapped and recycled. That is not the case here.

Here are some random comments:
  • Tom acts like a psychologist. Not just with Simon and Stephanie, but in general. His offer to counsel Agarwal when the other psychic died was a great touch.
  • I think Stephanie would have major issues with Simon keeping yet more secrets from her. For right or wrong, he has done that too many times.
  • “The trip from Lucca, up through the valley of the Lima river, is one of the most beautiful, fascinating drives anywhere.” However, the sentences afterwards do nothing to explain the beauty and awe of the region. This is a case of telling versus showing and a missed opportunity.
  • Where Tom’s backstory about him being a gunner in an attack helicopter come from? Up to this point, he’s been brawny but not combat oriented. He’s seems to emotional and passive. It just doesn’t seem to mesh.
  • Why didn’t Prometheus flee sooner once their base was discovered? I thought they were smarter than that.
  • Is there a link between electricity and psychic energy? How did the Boy redirect the power surge? I didn’t quite get how the power amplified his mind.
  • Did the only thing Prometheus do with the Boy is use him for financial gain? Or did I miss something (very possible given that the two previous stories are a bit hazy given the delay)? With a weapon and/or instrument of such power, they could have toppled governments.
  • I was hoping to get more insight into Prometheus. However, saying that they’re the bad guys who resort to nefarious means doesn’t cut it for me. If Callow is representative of Nightwatch, how could one argue that Prometheus is worse? I could very well see Callow trying to pull a similar stunt.

I really enjoyed how Bill leveraged earlier stories. Everything seems connected again. Overall, I found the novella quite entertaining. It needs to be tightened up, but overall it’s sound.
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Post July 25, 2007, 11:09:20 AM

Re: Nightwatch: Sed Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes

Jamie,

Thanks for the praise.  This is certainly the largest project I have ever done and I tried to do it justice.  I will endeavor to answer your random points

  • I think Stephanie would have major issues with Simon keeping yet more secrets from her. For right or wrong, he has done that too many times.



Issues or not, Stephanie knew that she was out of the loop concerning certain aspects of this assignment.  She would be accustomed to this working for Nightwatch.  Regardless, she has a very strict reduced violence policy and when she thought she was the reason someone had been hurt (to use his computer) she was willing to make a stand.

Simon's dilemma was that he couldn't tell her what had happened for her own good.  

I was trying to use this as a testament to their deep friendship and trust that he was forced to very simply ask her to trust him that no matter what the situation looked like, nobody had been hurt.  Nobody else in the world could have asked that of her.

  • “The trip from Lucca, up through the valley of the Lima river, is one of the most beautiful, fascinating drives anywhere.” However, the sentences afterwards do nothing to explain the beauty and awe of the region. This is a case of telling versus showing and a missed opportunity.
     


  • In this case, it's all about perspective.  Most of the story was from Tom's POV.  And he didn't get to see any of the scenery so he couldn't describe it.  First of all, the light was fading.  Second, they were sitting in the back of the bus so they couldn't see well.  And third, they were demolishing a long-overdue meal and by the time they were done it was dark outside.  All of which were mentioned in the story.

    The whole point of the scene was really to detail how The Collective would work when they had a clear goal. It didn't hurt that they had lost one of their own but all the backbiting and petty differences were put aside and what they could do is downright startling.  

    It didn't make much sense to describe scenes that nobody involved was even looking at.  I've made this precise drive a dozen times (write what you know) and the only time I really appreciated it was the only time I was a passenger rather than the driver.  


     

  • Where Tom’s backstory about him being a gunner in an attack helicopter come from? Up to this point, he’s been brawny but not combat oriented. He’s seems too emotional and passive. It just doesn’t seem to mesh.


  • In one of the previous stories, it was mentioned that not even Callow could account for all of Tom's past.  We know he has traveled extensively, speaks Russian (?) and understands the military chain of command.  

    So his backstory is whatever the Nightwatch Cadre and Jeff agree to write. I had a little more info, but Jeff didn't want to give away too much.  He considers Tom's history of working his way through college as a gay porn star to be a Nightwatch Secret until he's ready to release the new story:  Weldon Well Done.


  • Why didn’t Prometheus flee sooner once their base was discovered? I thought they were smarter than that.  


  • I'll address the Prometheus misunderstanding a little later.  The folks who ended up holding the boy hostage had to keep his mental shielding in place once their location was discovered or The Collective would swoop in and it would all be over.


  • Is there a link between electricity and psychic energy? How did the Boy redirect the power surge? I didn’t quite get how the power amplified his mind.

  • Why not a link between electricity and psychicity (do you like that word?)?  Since psychic energy is pure fabrication, we can make it anything we want.  

    And the psychic amplifier is like FTL.  I didn't even try to explain how it works.  The Boy didn't redirect the surge so much as get nailed by it.  Stephanie burned the generator that was running his equipment and this gave him an opportunity to use his psychicity to interrupt the circuits that were controlling him.

    Only problem was, Stephanie didn't know that overloading the generator would also burn him.  The Boy allowed the surge to hit him in order to save the amplifier.  



  • Did the only thing Prometheus do with the Boy is use him for financial gain? Or did I miss something (very possible given that the two previous stories are a bit hazy given the delay)? With a weapon and/or instrument of such power, they could have toppled governments.


  • Well, I guess I did something wrong.  I thought it was pretty clear that Prometheus never got their sticky mitts on The Boy.  Another of The Collective contacted Prometheus much like Agarwal (Pasteel Agarwal is a real name, by the way) used Nightwatch.  It was the Prometheus/Collective team that was killed in the caves the night before Simon et. co. showed up.  

    The people who had The Boy took over from the slave trader that he initially contacted to fund his little enterprise.  I implied that they were just accumulating wealth in order to test their new toy out.  

    This whole subplot was to highlight some of the limitations of the psychics so that they wouldn't be seen as too powerful.  A single psychic can't keep tabs on a bunch of people all the time.  Somehow, the slaver told the wrong folks and they either killed him or kept him unconscious because The Boy could no longer contact him.  And this was a lesson that The Collective's archives and his instructors had tried to teach him.  Never let regular folks learn too much about you.  They will outwit you in the end.

     
  • I was hoping to get more insight into Prometheus. However, saying that they’re the bad guys who resort to nefarious means doesn’t cut it for me. If Callow is representative of Nightwatch, how could one argue that Prometheus is worse? I could very well see Callow trying to pull a similar stunt.


  • This is one of the plots that Jeff approved way in advance.  Agarwal explains it as being two sides of the same coin.  Prometheus failed because of their disregard for the body count.  They killed a guard that they didn't have to while The Collective representative—and the Control Pod—were in the poor fellow's mind.  This disabled the whole group of psychics.  There wasn't enough trust or respect between the two organizations for them to succeed the way the Nightwatch team did.  

    Every person on the Nightwatch team was absolutely essential.  Stephanie got them in there and kept security busy.  Tom figured out what The Boy's name really meant.  Agarwal was literally willing to give his life to protect his Nighwatch friends.  Simon went nose-to-nose with The Boy using his mental disciplines and good tactical planning (the hypnotically-induced memory of finding Maria's body) to resist.  .  .and even with a gun in his hand he spared The Boy and shot the machine, instead.


    I hope this answers your questions.  I did learn my lesson about submitting a story peicemeal.  

    Never again.

    Bill
    Last edited by Bill_Wolfe on July 25, 2007, 11:17:51 AM, edited 1 time in total.
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