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[P]
Weird Flotsam

By CheeseburgerBrown in Fiction
Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 12:20:40 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

I.

On the edge of a small town on a small planet orbiting two small stars, three small boys stumbled on to something big.

Everyone knew about the medium-sized collection of flotsam that had recently been ensnared around the little planet, and most everyone had watched wee bits fizzle and burn as they slipped around the gravity well and impacted with the surface. What only the three small boys knew was this: one of the wee bits had not been so wee, and much of it had remained intact despite its fiery descent.

Boys love flotsam; boys love fire.


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II.

The boy who spotted the not-so-wee flotsam come down didn't have a name so as you would recognise, but I'll give him one for the sake of clarity. I'll call him Peter.

Peter saw the flotsam fall because he with bored by his companions, engaged as they were in a mock-duel. Peter was watching the sky, and wondering if the adults sent up to perceive the flotsam up-close had found anything interesting. He wondered how long his parents would stay at the launch site; in a way he found it disquieting that they hadn't been bombarding him from comm with advice and status checks. Could it be they were beginning to understand that he was no mere tiny tot any longer, that he was a young adult who could spend a day or two managing himself? At the same time, he wondered at their silence.

Peter stood almost two metres tall.
He had an absolute mass of eighty-two kilograms.
His complexion was dark, his hair short and nondescript.
He did okay in school.
He was forty-three years old.


III.

When the flotsam fell, Peter called "Perceive!"

His friends (I'll call them Tim and Imad) turned from their playful squabble in time to see the impact. A moment later, the colossal "whomp!" of sound struck them. Tim and Imad seemed stunned.

"It's some of the flotsam," said Peter. "And I don't think it was so wee as all that."

"They've all been wee," complained Tim, who did not enjoy tromping around after fallen flotsam, peering into one small smoky crater after another in search of space treasure. Tim has been experimenting with erections, and found himself interested in little else lately.

"Only the wee stuff's falling," Imad piped in. Imad believed that he could best service society by echoing any sentiment put forth by Tim. Sometimes Peter wondered whether Imad was fully human or in fact partly staff, for he seemed to have no mind of his own.

Peter looked far and broad into the distance where the ejecta still glowed. "I think it may be medium-sized," he confirmed. "I think we should locomote, in order to perceive at close range."

"No, I think we should send out staff," said Tim. "Let's vote."


IV.

Tim and Imad were climbing on top of large rocks and attacking one another with glee.

Peter listened to the staff as they made their ponderous journey across the plains to where the medium-sized flotsam had fallen. His father let him use spare staff to pursue his own interests, as long as he was responsible. Peter was always responsible. He knew that if he wanted staff early -- for his forty-fifth birthday -- he would need to impress.

None the less, he hesitated to use staff as casually as Tim usually did. He preferred to locomote personally, and to perceive directly. As his grandfather used to say, "It'd be a dadburned shame to have no one show up to your funeral but staffers." By this he meant, "live life as directly as possible." It had been this and similar philosophies that had prompted Peter's grandfather to move his family out here past Sirius, to live life more directly, to perceive one's neighbourhood personally.

Grandfather's initial goal had been to found a colony without staff at all. It hadn't taken long for the colonists to discover that this goal was too lofty -- for generations upon generations human beings have held their staff as their symbols of adulthood, of status, and of success. They could not be disposed of quickly, or easily, no matter how determined the forebrain was to outwit the guts. The use and development of staff had been officially incorporated into the genome source tree over eleven million years ago.

Peter watched what the staff saw, and listened to what they heard.
He felt their footfalls march relentlessly, mindlessly, forward.


V.

Tim and Imad tuned in when the staffers were standing on the edge of the smoking crater, looking in at the middle of the blackened dirt and fused, shiny sand. At the centre lay a twisted, burnt wreckage of something unmistakably intelligent origin.

"It's a craft!" gasped Peter.

He quickly set the staff to work peeling back the layers of hot debris. They smelled the dust, they licked the wreckage. Peter analysed their perceptions and coordinated their efforts. Tim insisted in commanding one staffer to repeatedly kick another one in the behind. Imad thought this was pretty funny.

One by one, the narrow little staffers dropped into the interior cavity of the craft, their faces and hands coming aglow to light the way. All around them were dark cylinders a few metres long, entangled in ridiculous, awkward machinery of giant proportions. Tim's staff, which had sub-staff, now dispatched them to crawl among the nooks and crannies, to explore and to map.

Peter had his staff perceive as broadly as they could. He was startled by what they saw, beyond radio. Human forms! Unmistakable!

In a flash, the staffers were pulling apart the nearest cylinder, deftly slicing its metal hide with hot fingertips. They reported no radiation, no comm, no hint of life. With a final incision, a staffer peeled back a knitted polymer layer to look upon the cylinder's cargo: a frightful and horrible apparition.

Imad screamed.
Tim gulped.
Peter was simply astounded.

It wasn't a human being inside at all! Instead, some grotesque mockery of the human form -- a twisted artwork, perhaps? Peter couldn't fathom any natural process that would turn a human being to such a state as he saw before him, through the eyes of the distant staff.


VI.

What the small boys and the lithe staff saw was this:

A brown assemblage of chords pulled together at odd angles to create the rough outline of a human being, the head disproportionately large and the limbs obscenely thin. The brown skin, if it could be called skin, knotted and curled around the underlying structure with no apparent rhyme or reason. Most startling were the eye sockets, for in the place of eyes were pale, shrivelled sacs, discoloured and run-through with rusty threads. The nose had more or less collapsed in to the face, and the open mouth was bizarrely ornamented with irregular pebbles of calcium deposits. The gruesome figure's hair was a massive coil of crusty filaments.

Peter directed the staff to look at the torso, which was corrupted and broken open. Ribs and sternum were replaced with calcium facsimiles, but the shapes beneath them were wholly unfamiliar to the boys, who, like all boys their age, were encouraged to open themselves up and have a look around from time to time. (This was how Tim has discovered his erection ability.)

The staffers' hands picked into the dehydrated mush, and much of it dissolved on contact. In place of a heart, Peter saw, the chest housed another knotting of carbon chords behind the solar plexus. "It looks like a simple pump," Tim commented.

"Shut up," said Peter.

As Peter felt the cool heat of his own heart within his breast quietly fusing light elements all day and all night, he commanded the staff to look wide and shallow, to see into the chords that constructed the mock-heart. He saw that each sinewy strand was composed of cavities and membranes, within each the shrunken remains of intricate molecular engines -- the engineering was of a kind he had never before seen, or imagined. He saw that some seemed to have frozen in a state of discharge, while others were in a state of charging (charging from what heart? he wondered again). "I think you're right, Tim. It's a pump."

He followed the narrow channels that connected the chords, and saw them join other channels in the calcium-encrusted spine. "I don't understand," he said aloud; "they look like nerves, in a way. I bet they all lead up to the brain." That was the answer: the brain!

It only took the staff a matter of moments to crack the soft calcium exterior and extract the brain. It was shrunken and brown, another clump of long, strange molecules full of the nerve-like strands. The surface folded upon itself in crazy patterns.

"The whole thing looks like a human being put together by a tiny tot," said Peter, and Tim agreed. "Everything is too big, too awkward by half."

"What if it's artificial life?" Imad asked.

"Artificial life?" Tim echoed.

Peter blinked. "What kind of a coo-coo would want to make an artificial human being out of complex carbons? It's insane."

"Let's turn it on," said Tim.


VII.

It was Tim, who was sharp in complex systems analysis, who first figured out that the tiny mechanisms inside the cells could be powered by unwinding adenosine triphosphate molecules. "Cool!" said Imad.

Peter found himself considering his own insides, filled as they were with intricate tapestries of diamond-hard polymers, set in motion by autocatalytical masterworks of sub-atomic science; his thoughts were but oscillating harmonics written into the lies of quarks...

What makes a man? Peter wondered as the staff explored the inspired madness of the soft, melted-looking brain. Could consciousness somehow reside in that muck?


VIII.

That's pretty much when comm lit up with everybody's parents calling at once for supper and communion. Peter jumped, startled. Tim and Imad just groaned. "Aw, scat," said Tim as he called his staff back. Peter's were already on their way, still instructed to pay strict heed to parental directives.

"I guess we'll have to come back tomorrow," said Peter, reluctantly watching through staff eyes as they retreated from the impact site.

Presently there were greater concerns. As soon as the boys touched the meta-library with their minds they were deluged by a wash of angry red warnings: chunks of burning debris were falling from the sky, and their location was a high probability target. "We're going to be in some dutch when we get central," whined Imad as they scampered over the rocks.

The staff caught up to the boys at the shining edge of the mercury lake that ran along the coast of the central district, the towers and lights and gems of humankind reflecting on its smooth, silvery surface. The meta-library was filled with details of further impacts, and it was not long before the boys heard their distant reports, rumbling thunders that rolled and echoed across the long, rocky plains. They saw the streaks in the darkening sky. Even before the reports were posted the boys had triangulated the impact, and divined that their playground of human-shaped puppets had been immolated.

"Oh well," sighed Tim. With a shrug he turned and walked into the lake, his easy stride taking him quickly below the glassy waves and away. Imad followed.

Peter paused, casting a long look back at the burning horizon. He thought about little machines running on adenosine triphosphate, and ran his mind over the repeated signatures in the chemical helices he had glimpsed inside of the thing's cells -- they had to be a kind of simplified genome. Perhaps, given the right materials and some good will on the part of his mentors, Peter just might be able to pull it off: to build a thing like he had seen through his staff's eyes, to build an artificial human being! He commanded his staff to memorise the ancient genome, and then purged it from the meta-library cache.

Finally, he had found a science fair project that was guaranteed to hold his interest! Contentedly, Peter turned heel and walked across the bottom of the lake, hurrying home for supper.

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Weird Flotsam | 63 comments (43 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
Nice work Cheese (4.00 / 3) (#10)
by Dphitz on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 12:51:40 PM EST

Clever and thought provoking, +1


God, please save me . . . from your followers

-1 vocabulary (4.57 / 7) (#14)
by skelter on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 01:24:47 PM EST

In any culture that is so fantastically different from ours such as this one, the language certainly would have little to do with colloquial english. Therefore when you "translate", please refrain from using irritating made up dialects.

-1 what now? (4.66 / 3) (#16)
by Qarl on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 02:35:20 PM EST

Just because it's "translated" doesn't mean the language can't have some flavor, either to show the "feel" of the native language or just to make the narrative interesting. If you don't like the specific colloquialisms used, that's a separate matter. Use of interesting language can be a fine device, and just because something is science fiction doesn't make it invalid.

--Carl
[ Parent ]
Agreed (5.00 / 2) (#38)
by ad hoc on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 10:18:04 AM EST

Read two versions of, say, Beowolf, and it's clear that the translator has an awful lot to do with how the translation reads.

An even better example, perhaps, is the Bible. Dozens, if not hundreds, of radically different English versions, all from the "same" orignal Greek, Aramaic, Latin, &c, texts.


--

[ Parent ]

Okay, then. (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 03:08:39 PM EST

So what should I use?


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
On Second Thought (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 03:19:26 PM EST

Being less glib after a second thought, I know what you mean. For instance, I have frequently thought that in an ideal world where box office revenues didn't matter someone could make a wonderful science-fiction movie that took place in the future in which the actors actually spoke a hypothetical futureese (more than the smatters of cityspeak we hear in Blade Runner)...with subtitles.

Being immersed in the linguistic soundscape of a time would be very cool.

...Of course, you'd still have the problem of the "translation" being used in the subtitles, but at least your audience would be less apt to miss the gap between the translation and actual communication with the aural reinforcement behind the text. Oh well.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Clockwork Orange, Riddley Walker (5.00 / 5) (#25)
by LairBob on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 07:47:49 PM EST

If you're interested in reading works that have actually tried to create a coherent, futuristic language, there are at least two that arguably manage to pull it off--Anthony Burgess' Clockwork Orange, and Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker.

If you've only seen the movie version of Clockwork (a classic in and of itself, in my opinion), then you've missed an entire dimension to Burgess' work. The slang dialect that the characters speak in the book is taken much further than Kubrick was able to go in the movie--it's almost impossible to imagine a Hollywood studio, now or in 1971, agreeing to shoot a movie that no audience could actually understand in spoken form. (At least in text form, you can puzzle things out through spelling, and taking your time.)

In Walker, Hoban takes things significantly farther than even Burgess. Where Burgess' new language is basically an amalgamation of English and Russian, Hoban basically extrapolates what would happen to a language like English if the social structure that keeps it consistent just fell apart. His protagonist is a barely literate young boy, in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. What's truly impressive--if you like this sort of thing--is how Hoban takes advantage of this to add layers of meaning and ambiguity. The main character's name, "Riddley Walker", is a perfect example of this--a kid who's wandering around, asking questions and trying to figure out what's going on.

Like I said, though, this sort of thing has to be your cup of tea, or it's unbearable. For myself, Walker is on my shelf as one of the great, under-respected works of modern literature, while Burgess--for all the acclaim he's gotten--I can only take in small doses. As far as movie versions go, I have a hard time imagining anything like these books getting translated 'literally' into screen dialog. Kubrick managed an acceptable balance in Clockwork, but it still sounds forced sometimes when you hear people actually speak it.

[ Parent ]
Horrorshow Riddlies (5.00 / 3) (#27)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 08:39:18 PM EST

If you're interested in reading works that have actually tried to create a coherent, futuristic language, there are at least two that arguably manage to pull it off...

I haven't heard of Russell Hoban before, but I'll look into him. Thanks. Burgess, on the other hand, is already one of my favourites; he is always very playful.

In a somewhat less immersive vein, I remember as a kid really enjoying the way that Asimov started exploring different accented versions of Galactic Standard in Robots and Empire, because it helped justify my suspension of disbelief while reading the English text. Asimov described the accents, of course (a rolled R here, an elongated A there), he didn't try to render them in the English print.

(By the bye: thank you for not bringing up Marc Okrand's Klingon.)


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Hoban's breadth of work (5.00 / 2) (#33)
by LairBob on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 10:20:41 AM EST

One of the most impressive things about Russell Hoban's work, to me, is the sheer breadth of his accomplishment. (Amazon lists 91 titles by him, and there are remarkably few repeats.) He's actually quite well-known as a children's book author, especially for The Mouse and his Child and the Frances series of books.

Along the way, though, he's managed to write an entire collection of challenging and mature books for adults, that are nothing like his kid's books. Pilgermann, Kleinzeit and The Lion of Boaz Jachin and Jachin Boaz are all very different from Walker and from each other, but they all do share an aggressive use of language and an almost poetic take on reality, which makes them some of the most challenging and rewarding books I've read.

[ Parent ]
How about Latin and Aramaic? (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by LairBob on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 12:10:31 PM EST

Just came across a mention of Mel Gibson's somewhat controversial film in production, The Passion. (Forgive the link to a "for-pay" NY Times article, but that was what started the whole brou-ha-ha.)

Main reason this is relevant to this discussion is because it's at the other end of the spectrum--the entire movie plays out in Latin and Aramaic, and is subtitled throughout. The underlying reasons for this apparently stem from the rigidly ultra-orthodox strain of Catholicism/Christianity Mel inherited from his Dad, but I guess it does say something about what one person, with enough clout, can get done.

If the film does poorly, it'd be hard to separate the language out as a single factor in its demise, but if it does do well, I guess it would say something for the ability of the Hollywood system, and the audience, to be challenged.

[ Parent ]
Dances with Subtitles (5.00 / 2) (#48)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 11:12:53 AM EST

If the film does poorly, it'd be hard to separate the language out as a single factor in its demise, but if it does do well, I guess it would say something for the ability of the Hollywood system, and the audience, to be challenged.

I'm sure the producers have been citing the Costner precedent of 1990 until they're blue in the face. (How that lughead ever managed to convince the bigwigs to let him have the abos in his horse opera speak subtitled historical tongues rather than Pidgin English boggles the imagination -- I mean, he's a dope and they're convinced that American- (and therefore global-) audiences are too frickin' impatient and too ignorant to tolerate such linguistic immersion.)


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Inverted Superman Parallels (5.00 / 4) (#19)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 03:32:02 PM EST

If anybody cares, I came up with the idea for this story after reading a particularly dull treatment (allegedly) for a possible new feature in the Superman franchise.

I was playing with the idea of playing up the humanity of Superman by identifying him more closely with us (the audience) than with his adopted world, by making the planet that blows up at the start of the tale a version of a hyper-advanced planet Earth from thousands of years in the future, instead of Krypton, an alien world. Superman would truly be a super-man, augmented in his human abilities by centuries of biological and technological engineering (like all Earthlings before their untimely demise). After a long stasis in deep space, the child-of-steel's escape pod would crash-land on a world of humble human descendants of the gods of old Earth. Among these simple people Superman would find his superhero niche.

...But since I don't do fan-fic I decided to just write a story about crap falling from the sky. What falls is an unsuperman, into the hands of powerful children.

Naturally, it is all a metaphor for the crisis in Iraq.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
Superman *is* boring... (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by djaynewman on Tue Jun 17, 2003 at 11:02:06 AM EST

First, I liked your story.

Second, I think that treatment of Superman was better than most. Superman is normally quite boring because he's too powerful. In order to produce some real drama in the story, the writer must actually think. And generally reduce Superman's powers in some way.

But that's what happens when you create a character so powerful that the amount of force needed to kill or hurt him is enough to destroy a planet.

That's why I like other comics, like Planetary and The Monarchy.

--
D. Jay Newman

[ Parent ]

+1 FP (4.20 / 5) (#22)
by collideiscope on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 04:03:18 PM EST

...for having the balls to submit Fiction.

-------------------------------
Hope is a disease. Get infected.
+1 FP even though (4.50 / 4) (#23)
by techwolf on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 04:34:33 PM EST

I do not like it very much...it takes some guts to submit a fiction story.


"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." - Thomas Jefferson

This is all well and good (3.75 / 4) (#29)
by Tex Bigballs on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 10:26:33 PM EST

but where does Jetsam fit into all this

Too busy (4.50 / 2) (#43)
by styrotech on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 02:15:07 AM EST

Elroy would've been there, but he had to take Astro to the vet.

<groan>

[ Parent ]
They're Made Out of Meat (5.00 / 3) (#30)
by BenJackson on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 11:14:58 PM EST

by Terry Bisson, in _Bears Discover Fire and Other Stories_.

Here It Is (5.00 / 2) (#32)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Sat Jun 14, 2003 at 10:17:35 AM EST

They're Made Out of Meat, by Terry Bisson


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
I like it (5.00 / 1) (#35)
by Shimmer on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 01:36:26 AM EST

Although it think it unlikely that creatures so far evolved from us would still consider themselves "human".

Brian

Wizard needs food badly.

not really (5.00 / 2) (#36)
by codepoet on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 06:11:34 AM EST

I don't think it odd. I mean, sure, the time frame would be pushing it, but there's some folks that insist upon calling the first apes to fall out of a tree human, so this isn't without some basis in current reality. Though having three twirps call him "cro-magnum" would not be without a twinge of hilarity, either. =)

"The French will only be united under the threat of danger. Nobody can simply bring together a country that has 265 kinds of cheese." - Charles De Gaulle,
[ Parent ]
"Human" & Swiss Cheese (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 11:00:47 AM EST

[It's] unlikely that creatures so far evolved from us would still consider themselves "human".

As discussed elsewhere, the dialect obviously can't be taken literally. It is a device.

While we're at it, though, it should probably be pointed out that: eleven million years is awfully long time to keep a basically humanoid morphology, yet alone nomenclature; how has organic matter of any kind survived for that long in space and through a fiery planetfall?; if staff are incorporated into the genome source tree, why does the protagonist feel he needs to be on best behaviour in order to deserve some?; why did the adults go to space personally, rather than sending staff?...

Holes upon holes. It's swiss cheese, if you look hard enough.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Human (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by Shimmer on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 10:26:46 PM EST

As discussed elsewhere, the dialect obviously can't be taken literally. It is a device.

You misunderstand.  These creatures think of themselves as being similar to the dead body.  It doesn't matter what you call it.

-- Brian

Wizard needs food badly.
[ Parent ]

Shape Recognition (5.00 / 1) (#56)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 11:00:25 PM EST

You misunderstand. These creatures think of themselves as being similar to the dead body. It doesn't matter what you call it.

Respectfully, I think you misunderstand. These creatures see something with a trunk torso and head with bilaterally symmetrical arms and legs terminating in digits -- they see a similarity to their own bodies. This has nothing to do with how big or small a gap there might be between us and them: it's just basic shape recognition. By using the term "human" what I was meaning to imply was "like ourselves [the protagonists]". You follow me?


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Asimovian memories (5.00 / 1) (#37)
by The Arkadian on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 07:23:42 AM EST

Somewhat reminiscent of an Asimov short; nicely done, and exactly the right length. I look forward to reading more like this!
Regards, The Arkadian <========|===0
gimmie more....? (5.00 / 2) (#39)
by mounsterr on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 10:31:12 AM EST

I think it's a great little story. nice imagery and I LOVED THE SLANG. I think that creative dialects are a fantastic way of indicating a difference in society and culture. The only problem that I had, in reading the story; is the breaks in prose were too frequent. They seemed to give me too much of a break in the flow of the story, which (the flow, that is) was very good elsewhere.

Re: Slang, Breaks (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 10:51:05 AM EST

As for the dialect, you're the anti-this guy. As for the breaks, you can read my reply here and judge for yourself whether or not you feel the breaks are effective, given my goals. I don't know. Did anybody like the numeraled breaks?

At any rate, thanks for your comments mounsterr. Perhaps one day I'll work up the gumption to submit another piece to the dreaded fiction section.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Interesting, but not quite *that* interesting. (4.33 / 3) (#41)
by The Archpadre on Sun Jun 15, 2003 at 02:56:44 PM EST

First, a mild nitpick: I think dividing it up into sections like that was kind of pointless, merely interrupting the flow of the story. It's not like there's enough in each of them to be chapters. If there's a place where you really think there should be a division, a simple "* * *" or something would do the trick.

On a slightly more serious note, I just didn't find this story all that interesting. The idea was decent enough -- reminiscent of the old classic sci-fi short stories -- but the delivery just didn't grab my attention that much. Perhaps if you expanded on it and gave me more time to get involved with what's going on I'd find it less . . . well, dull.

Definitely potential here. I'd really suggest building it into something more substantial.
__
Where did my waffles go?


Just Short of Being *That* Interesting (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 10:35:38 AM EST

Archpadre,

Thanks for your criticisms. In both cases (frequent breaks, shallow angle of attack) my rationale was streamlining the story in order to make it more digestible for the largely anti-fiction, extremely impatient readers of K5 (it was originally a diary entry, but I still wanted people to read to the end).

Like longer magazine pieces, the text is broken up to help the ADD reader leapfrog along. I can certainly see how this could be irritating if you don't feel that it is working, but in this case I felt it helped the pacing chug forward for the reluctant reader.

...As for something more substantial, I'm not quite brave enough to submit more substantial, more personal fiction to the K5 hazing squad yet. Maybe some other time.



___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
I kinda liked it ... (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by dougmc on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 12:46:02 AM EST

Interesting perspective.

One thing I never got ... what is `staff' ? It sounds sort of like flesh (as opposed to mind) but not quite ...

Staff (5.00 / 1) (#45)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 10:43:01 AM EST

I have used different variations of the staff idea in a handful of stories; in this story in particular, the staff are literally small collections of mindless slaves whose purpose is to explore the physical world and wirelessly relay their sensory input back to a human being in real time.

Basically, they're like walking periscopes.

I imagine them to be monkey-sized in the case of standard staff, and ant-sized in the case of sub-staff (in the story, Tim dispatched scurrying sub-staff to send mapping data back information to his clamboring primary staff, to better inform their search through the debris).


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
wtf (2.25 / 4) (#49)
by mpalczew on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 12:43:01 PM EST

wtf is this tripe?

and wtf is flotsam?

-- Death to all Fanatics!

Flotsam (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 02:14:51 PM EST

flot·sam n.

   1. Wreckage or cargo that remains afloat after a ship has sunk.
   2. Floating refuse or debris.
   2. Discarded odds and ends.
   3. Vagrant, usually destitute people.

[Anglo-Norman floteson, from Old French floter, to float, of Germanic origin. See pleu- in Indo-European Roots.]

    Usage Note: In maritime law, flotsam applies to wreckage or cargo left floating on the sea after a shipwreck. Jetsam applies to cargo or equipment thrown overboard from a ship in distress and either sunk or washed ashore. The common phrase flotsam and jetsam is now used loosely to describe any objects found floating or washed ashore.

-from Dictionary.com
___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]

Tripe (5.00 / 2) (#51)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 02:17:45 PM EST

tripe

\Tripe\, n. [OE. tripe, F. tripe; of uncertain origin; cf. Sp. & Pg. tripa, It. trippa, OD. tripe, W. tripa, Armor. stripen.] 1. The large stomach of ruminating animals, when prepared for food.

How say you to a fat tripe finely broiled ? --Shak.

2. The entrails; hence, humorously or in contempt, the belly; -- generally used in the plural. --Howell.

3. Lazy bunk spewed by mpalczew.

-from Dictionary.com
___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]

I Like It (4.00 / 2) (#52)
by Surly on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 05:47:01 PM EST

I like it.  My only quibble is with the mention of Tim's fascination with erections.  Did you add this to anthropomolize the 'boys'?  This seemed to break the flow of the story for me.  Did we need a reference to our sexuality in the story?  To give you the benefit of the doubt, I assume that Tim meant erections in the 'Erector Set' kind of way and my dirty mind converted it to the other sense.

Over all, I thought it was a good story.  Post more from time to time, it's a nice distraction from the usual.

Anthro-polo-logy (none / 0) (#61)
by jonsg on Wed Aug 27, 2003 at 06:11:25 AM EST

(If you don't get the subject line, listen to the real (original) ending of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells".)

I suspect that half the point of mentioning erections was deliberate misdirection on Burger's part. I'm looking forward to Part II, in which we find most of our naïve assumptions woefully incorrect...



[ Parent ]

Just one possible improvement. (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by jabber on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 07:33:46 PM EST

I was half-expecting you to suggest at the end, or maybe in Part II, that the wreckage comes from an antecedent to one of localroger's stories.

Other than the absence of inside humour, a stunning story - and inside jokes are really just gravy anyway.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Troll Flotsam (5.00 / 2) (#55)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 10:54:24 PM EST

"Let's send staff," suggested Tim.

"Galumph, galumph," replied Imad.



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I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Very cute (none / 0) (#58)
by LilDebbie on Tue Jun 17, 2003 at 05:41:14 PM EST

Bravo, Burger! You have provided a moment's entertainment.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

Wow, very elegantly done. (none / 0) (#59)
by localroger on Wed Jun 18, 2003 at 12:43:52 AM EST

I'm sorry I was off on vacation in Panama when this came through; I didn't want to abuse the complimentary broadband internet terminal at Gamboa *too* much.

This is really really good and there is the spark of a furiously great novel here.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min

Hats Off To Panama (none / 0) (#60)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Jun 18, 2003 at 11:07:45 AM EST

Thanks for your compliments, localroger. I don't know nothing about no novelling, but if I keep going at this rate for another 2 - 4 decades I might have a decent kick at the can for collecting a slim anthology of short stories in the distant future.

...On the other hand, if they published anthologies of beginnings of short stories with no endings I'd have more material to offer up than a broadband-browsing eBay-frenzied money-launderer.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
My staff shall comfort thee? (5.00 / 1) (#62)
by jonsg on Wed Aug 27, 2003 at 06:22:34 AM EST

(Sorry, couldn't resist.;-)

I like it; it works well. A nice twist against the daft "Humans are the most powerful thing in the Universe" paradigm.

As others have commented, although this is the right length and content for a short story, it holds the germ for a novel-length treatment.

Well done.



Small words with big modifiers (none / 0) (#63)
by fenri on Sat Sep 20, 2003 at 09:21:50 PM EST

On the edge of a small town on a small planet orbiting two small stars, three small boys stumbled on to something big.

Somebody supersized their order of adjectives, didn't they?

Weird Flotsam | 63 comments (43 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
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