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The Reflection Engine

By delmoi in MLP
Sun Dec 10, 2000 at 12:46:11 PM EST
Tags: Books (all tags)

Ever since k5 reopened after the DoS, I've been toying with the idea of posting fiction, just to see what would happen. Tonight, I've decided to do it.

I've been working on a Sci-Fi/Cyberpunk novel on and off (mostly off) for almost a year, and I've gotten about twenty or thirty thousand words tacked out. I've posted the stuff on the web, and linked it my slashdot sig. Since then I've gotten about 1600 hits to the page, several emails telling how great it was, and one slashdot troll telling me how much it sucked. What I'm posting is the 'prolog/intro' witch actually takes place in the middle of the story.

I know this hasn't really been done on k5 before, at least to my knowledge, I hope you don't mind me experimenting like this. Anyway, I'm curious as to what you think? Is it any good? Would you pay $5 for the final draft in HTML format :P? How do you feel about the idea of posting original works of fiction on Kuro5hin?

Finally, if you like TRE, I've got some Short stories up on the web as well. Anyway, here is the story:


The Reflection Engine, Chapter 0: megatek

Ama Hatori stood in the shadows. She was a beautiful woman, Asian. She was tall for a Japanese, with shoulder length hair as dark as the night, and Clothes as dark as her hair. Illuminated by the stark blue lights of Tokyo at night, far below her.

The gun was held at her chest, pointed upwards. It was beautiful in its own respect, not for its esthetics, but the idea behind it, the power that it held. It was an Industrial design, with a dull silver finish. It had a short muzzle, but was extended about 8 inches by a cylindrical silencer.

She had been there for a long time, waiting, though she showed no signs of fatigue, or boredom, she stood with the inhuman patients of a machine. At 11:58, she heard them coming down the hallway.

As they came through the door, it obscured their view of her, and when they cleared it, she closed it with her foot.

There were two men, one a short Japanese man, old. He looked to be in his 50s or 60s, with silver strands in his black hair. Is face was wide, with thin lines of agedness. His black eyes looked at the tip of the silencer in terror.

The other man did not. Nor did he show any other signs of fear. His eyes were as calm as Hatori's, they were looking at each other, but it seemed as if he was looking into her, his green eyes piercing her, studying her. And although she didn't show it, it unnerved her.

"Hatori" He said, his voice was smooth and calculated.

"You know why I'm here, westerner" she responded, in perfect English. "Not so happy to see me again so soon, are you?" And Her lips bent into the smile of a murder, but his eyes had robbed her of her calm, and he didn't seem unhappy with the situation. But she was She was too nervous to change the speech on the fly.

"I knew that I would see you again, Hatori. Although, I had hoped it would be under more pleasant circumstances". He spoke came slowly. There was an absolute composure to his words, and his eyes. Hatori had not anticipated this in anyway, this coolness, this stare. This wasn't the way that things were supposed to be going.

The Japanese man, clearly shaken spoke up. "We can pay you, anything," his voice, in broken English, was trembling, fearful.

Hatori never moved her eyes, or her gun from the westerner, but he smiled upon hearing this. "She cannot be bought, of course." He responded in Japanese, though voice held the hint of an American accent. He never broke eye contact with Hatori. "To dissuade someone Koshi, you must first, understand why they are doing what they are doing."

"She is doing this because she is a slave" again in English. Emphasizing the word 'slave' "Annabelle, You must listen to me."

Upon hearing that name, Hatori lost any pretence of composure. Her eyes widened, and her mouth opened, sucking in air. "How did you know that name?!" She demanded in Japanese.

"I know more about you then you could imagine, Annabelle"

"How did you know that fucking name!" She asked in English, The urgency was overwhelming. There was involuntary movement in her arm, a threatening motion with the gun.

"Anything!" the Japanese man cried. "We can give you anything you want."

"Koshi, Shut up", the westerner said, the calmness gone. He broke his eye contact with Hatori.

Hatori pointed her gun at the Japanese man. There was a soft thunk, as she shot him. His head cracked open. The westerner grabbed the silencer, and forced the aim away from himself, He pushed his body into hers, pinning her against the wall. He wasn't supposed to be this strong, no one was "Listen to me, Ama" he said.

Hatori jerked her hand in a 90-degree motion, the gun followed but not the silencer. And with a click the two became separate. And the westerner was no longer holding anything of value. Before he could react, she shot him in the abdomen. It was a lot louder this time.

His eyes widened in shock, and he fell back, onto the soft, tan carpet. His hands griped the wound, clutching in desperation.

Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew that her cover had been blown, that she was no longer covert. The shots had been too loud without the silencer. She knew she had to run, that time was all she had now. But she didn't.

She walked over to the man, and knelt down, and again they look into each other's eyes. He was still alive. And again she felt as if he was looking into her mind.

"Annabelle" he whispered.

She gazed back into his eyes, those eyes.

"Finish the job Annabelle," she said to her self. She had only ever used that name, the only place she had ever heard it was in her own mind. But he knew it to, and he was calling her by it.

"Annabelle, listen" he whispered again, his breath was leaving him.

Hatori could feel tears welling up in her eyes. How did he know that fucking name?

"Finish the job," she said again, in her mind, and she pointed the gun at the westerners face, at those eyes. For the first time he showed fear.

"Ama?" He said it in a rising tone, with rising volume and rising fear.

She pulled the trigger. And then again, And again until the gun would fire no more, until those piercing eyes were gone.

"Fuck" she muttered. Her face was covered with a mixture of blood and tears.

"FUCK!!" She screamed for what seemed like forever, and then that over and over again at a volume and energy constant because it was at the maximum. There was no reason to hide now, they knew where she was, they were coming, and she could hear their footsteps. Running. She heard... seven maybe five minutes away. She didn't know what kind of security mega-tek had, but she who she was; she was the deadly Ama Hatori! And they would be no matches for her! Of course not! "Come on Annabelle" and then that name again, she had never wondered why she called herself that... no one ever had, but then, this man.

"Move Hatori, move!" she whispered.

And then she was running.


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Well, what do you think?
o OK, could use some polishing 42%
o This SUCKS! 8%
o This ROCKS! 3%
o This SUCKS ROCKS!! 10%
o C++ 33%

Votes: 56
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o Slashdot
o Sci-Fi/Cyb erpunk novel
o Short stories
o Also by delmoi

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The Reflection Engine | 21 comments (10 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
i followed your sig... (2.00 / 1) (#5)
by joeyo on Sun Dec 10, 2000 at 01:06:10 AM EST

I followed your sig on /. a few months ago and was pretty impressed, overall. I'll check out the new stuff when I get a chance (exams! argh!)

BTW, I think I made the chapters I downloaded into DOC files for my palm pilot. I think you'd get a lot of readers if you made chapters available as DOCs...

I look forward to reading more.

"Give me enough variables to work with, and I can probably do away with the notion of human free will." -- demi

Uh... Reminds me of Tom Clancy. (3.50 / 2) (#10)
by psicE on Sun Dec 10, 2000 at 09:24:55 AM EST

First, I think that every site has it's niche. Slashdot is for reporting news and making fun of trolls, K5 is for discussing current political and cultural issues (DCMA, UCITA, canada's election system :), etc. As for posting fiction, it would more appropriately go in a diary entry, where instead of everybody replying/voting, only people who cared would post. You could also do an MLP, so that someone could bookmark your site, read as much as they want, and come back later. I read most MLP links that weren't already posted on Slashdot.

Second, you seem to use a lot of description here. Is this the only way fiction can be written, in the likes of mass-market paperbacks? I actually couldn't say; almost all of what I've read in the past year+ has been non-fiction. The closest I've come to fiction is "My Ishmael" (try it actually, it's about someone with an earnest desire to save the world).

It might have helped more if I knew a general plot outline; namely, how is the plot of this different from any other book published in the last six months. I didn't get a favorable-enough impression from the excerpt to keep on reading, so you'll have to tell me that.

Passive writing critique... (3.40 / 5) (#12)
by Speare on Sun Dec 10, 2000 at 10:17:50 AM EST

I think your story has some promise, on the conceptual front. Maybe you'll become the next Stephenson.

I did find that the writing fell into passive mode too often. That is, it stated what was, rather than what was happening. "The gun was held..." "Her face was covered..." Two techniques that I find helpful to combat this:

  • for each sentence, identify the verb; can you reword it to make that verb more potent and clear?
  • consider avoiding all forms of the verb 'to be'; this technique has been called e-prime. Your writing becomes more impactful if you consider each sentence, as well as the flow of the whole.

    Minor nitpicks, but pay attention to homonym errors [to|too|two], sentence-to-sentence transitions, and paragraph breaks. One paragraph began "The other man did not." Did not what? The previous paragraph ended too soon, breaking the thought.

    The story interested me. As other stated, it would be a good jacket liner excerpt (though getting publishers to publish obscenity in a jacket liner may prove difficult). Good luck in your writing, and have fun with it.

    [posted as a topical comment as the poster is requesting feedback, and this shouldn't be construed as a negative editorial comment; +1 section]
    [ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]

  • Internet critique groups (3.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Broco on Sun Dec 10, 2000 at 12:52:09 PM EST

    I like your style a lot. I think you have the Right Stuff to become a published writer. (not that I would know, though; I'm only an amateur myself)

    But I'm not sure K5 is the right place for this. First of all, most editors will only accept previously unpublished work. Your novel being put up as an article on a news site is likely to qualify as "published" for many of them. So this may make it harder for you to sell your work.

    Secondly, few readers on K5 are likely to go into detail on what they think of your work. If you're interested in getting your work commented on, have you thought about joining a critique group? There are several communities of amateur writers on the 'net designed to help you improve. I'm a member of Critters. A dozen stories are put up there each week, and they all get flooded with long, constructive critiques (often several thousand words). The catch is that you also have to critique others' stories :). You can find some other such groups if you try a few searches.

    So, no, I wouldn't pay for it, because I get to read tons of stories on my computer whenever I feel like it. One of my shorts (Je t'aime, Grand Frère) is going up on Critters this Wednesday. I'd be happy to see you there.

    Klingon function calls do not have "parameters" - they have "arguments" - and they ALWAYS WIN THEM.

    I'd like to see a plot outline... (3.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Luke Scharf on Sun Dec 10, 2000 at 02:12:22 PM EST

    I'd like to see a plot outline - it's kind of hard to see the point of this exerpt.

    I initially expected a short story rather than an excerpt of a full length work. I haven't read your site yet.

    All in all, keep up the good work! I'd like to see more posts like this in the future.

    The Matrix (2.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Daemosthenes on Sun Dec 10, 2000 at 04:57:12 PM EST

    "Move, Hatori, move!"

    Sounds similar to Trinity's line in the matrix opening scene.

    Other than that, I think it's a rather good start, and I certainly look forward to reading the rest.

    "Run, Forrest, Run!" (2.00 / 2) (#18)
    by pb on Sun Dec 10, 2000 at 08:30:30 PM EST

    Yeah, there's no originality left in the world.

    Actually, it sounds like a catchy beginning, and I can see how two people could come up with an idea like that...

    In fact... haven't I seen your name somewhere before? :)
    "See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
    -- pwhysall
    [ Parent ]
    my name (none / 0) (#19)
    by Daemosthenes on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 02:18:45 AM EST

    Hrmmm, possibly. I guess I must be creatively the same as someone who in the fourth century B.C. named their child Demosthenes. No originality for me whatsoever; y'see, I just decided I'd knock off that person's creativity by adding a letter to their creation. In fact, I bet they stole the name from some other guy who was already named Demosthenes. Oh well, look what kind of world we live in today, er, used to live in during the 4th century, er, um......crap. Oh well....

    [ Parent ]
    Critique. (5.00 / 3) (#20)
    by Alarmist on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 03:13:27 PM EST

    I am not by any stretch of the imagination a professional literary critic. I have no special training in examining stories and evaluating them, nor do I suggest that anything of what I am about to write is fact. I'm going to give you my opinions. Those opinions are based solely on my tastes in literature, my philosophy of writing fiction, and the very small amount of fiction that I've actually written.

    That said, here's my review.

    Overall, I didn't like the piece. Here's why:

    • You spent too many words on description. I don't care how long the silencer was, nor what shape it was (I assume that Hatori was using subsonic ammunition--otherwise, a silencer that small would be useless, and most silencers aren't very valuable indoors anyway). Verbose descriptions are best used when you want the scene that readers build in their minds to be unambiguous, or when something needs to be described for the reader to understand what is happening.
    • The story was littered with grammatical errors. I understand that some of this is due to translating the document from whatever format it was originally written in to the limited HTML Kuro5hin gives us. The parts you have on your website, though, have the same problems.
    • The writing, as a whole, simply wasn't effective. I tried to read the other excerpts on your website, but couldn't. The reason? You didn't hook me. Most of the good stories I've read had a hook in the beginning and perhaps a few scattered through the tale to keep the reader interested. Maybe it was just me and my tastes, but there was nothing about the story that was particularly compelling. I found it interesting that the woman was referred to as a slave, and that somebody knew what her name was, but these were minor attractions that couldn't overcome my general distaste for the tale.

    Those are the three major problems that I have with what you've written. Because I've taken the time to write about what I think is bad, I will further presume on your patience and give you some points of advice as well. Do try to remember that I'm not doing this to be mean, but because I think people should be encouraged in their self-expression, and that there's always something to be gained from criticism (even if the only thing you gain is the idea that the critic is a pompous ass).

    Point one: If you're writing a long story, feel free to describe the characters and things around them down to the slightest details. The trick, though, is not to describe everything before you do anything with it. Rather, describe only what is necessary at first, and sprinkle description in later. I don't need to know right away that Hatori is beautiful; that can wait for later (aside: why is every heroine beautiful? Can't we have a plain-Jane heroine every now and again? How about an ugly protagonist, one whose ugliness has nothing to do with the story?). Instead, give me some idea of what she looks like and let my imagination do the rest. If you prefer to tightly control the pictures readers have, then do it gradually. A paragraph of description is a dull paragraph in which the story is not advancing, and readers will tend to ignore it.

    Point two: Writers have a tremendous advantage over many other kinds of artist, in that our media (be it paper or electrons) is usually cheap and we can afford to change what we've created before too many people know about it. Use that to your advantage: proof your story, have someone else proof it, use spelling and grammar checkers (but feel free to ignore grammar checking when your style tries to convey something on its own--many grammar checkers turn out prose that is a bit plain, to say the least), and read it aloud if you have time. See if the dialogue you've written trips off the tongue, or whether it sounds forced or pedantic. Many people do not go in for flowery speech or use words that most people have to look up--write accordingly.

    Point three: Think about the story. This is hard to do, because you as the writer are omniscient with regards to the tale. You know why the guy who gets scragged knows Hatori's real name, and why Hatori was considered a slave. You know everything about what's going to happen--and it's easy to forget that your audience doesn't. Don't talk down to the reader, but at the same time, realize that the only way the reader knows what's going on is if you write what happened. Think about what might draw someone into a story, and about whether what you think is interesting is going to seem interesting to a total stranger who doesn't know the story. Maybe Hatori used to be a prostitute working out of a brothel and her victim was one of her customer years ago. Maybe her name was a nickname that her first love gave her. At any rate, give the reader some reason to want to know these things. If you don't draw the reader in, the reader has no reason to think twice about what you've written.

    I've had my say. Feel free to respond to my points, and be as harsh as you like. (smile)

    No I wouldn't pay anything to read the final draft (3.75 / 1) (#21)
    by phr on Sun Dec 17, 2000 at 06:19:57 PM EST

    I skimmed through that chapter (not because there was anything wrong with it, I just wasn't in the mood to read sf right now) and it looked ok. I'll leave it to others to critique the writing. The thing is, there's already tons of well written fiction on the net. I used to buy and read a ton of printed sf but hardly ever do that any more. Reason? Free reading material on the net has made proprietary fiction unnecessary, just like free software has made Windoze unnecessary. If you like writing fiction that's fine and if you publish it on the web I might read it, but both for privacy reasons (unless you come up with a true anonymous payment scheme instead of using credit cards) and out of being a cheap b*stard, I'm very choosy about what I'll spend actual money on. I'm not saying other people will see this the same way I do, but you asked readers whether they'd personally pay for an html file, not whether they thought other people would pay. thought

    The Reflection Engine | 21 comments (10 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
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