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Muse_of_Ire
Posts: 49
Registered: ‎02-05-2007
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Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Exercise

[ Edited ]
The Trip

Marjorie Feldman hunched over her handlebars and pumped her bike vigorously along the smooth asphalt path. Walnut Street was all uphill from Center City to the university, which probably hadn’t bothered anybody when everybody drove. She cast a glance upward at the arch of green, filtering the bright May sunshine. So tall; so hard to believe that it had only been five years since the streets had been pulled up, some to be replaced with cafes and pedestrian malls, some with trees and bike paths. Sometimes Marjorie felt like her students, who didn’t remember a world with planes, trains, and automobiles at all.

She coasted over the bridge, enjoying a breeze over the Schuylkill, then renewed her attack on the pedals. At 34th Street she slowed to avoid the crowd being disgorged from the huge TAD station at the northeast corner, then turned left toward Spruce. The leafy canopy overhead gave way to blue sky as the walnut trees changed to dark evergreens. The city council had had a sense of humor when they made the decision to plant the streets. Marjorie wondered, as she often did, what they would have done if Center City had included an Elm Street.

Another push up Spruce Street to 36th. She rolled to a halt outside Williams Hall. As she locked the bike, three girls darted across the street from the TAD station that Marjorie still thought of as the Wistar Institute. She took off her helmet, shook out her graying hair, and followed them into the building.

“ – staying with my parents in Ibiza,” the skinny blonde wearing three scarves was saying. “It’s horrible, since they bought that apartment, they just want to be there all the time.”

“The whole summer?” grimaced the brunette with the facial tattoo. “Bor-ing. You should come to Cairo with Danny and me. We have to swing over to Houston for his sister’s wedding, but then we’re gonna head to Switzerland.”

“You can come see me in Beijing any time,” offered the chunky blonde, waving her hands so her interdigital piercings flashed. “Just call first to see if I’m in Sydney with Cheryl.”

The three continued chattering up the stairs as Marjorie pushed through the door to the third floor. She closed her eyes against a surge of jealousy so strong it made her sway. For years she had told herself she was resigned to her condition; but on the eve of her trip, her emotions were roiled and close to the surface. The blithe way these girls spoke of far-off olaces made her want to scream.

- - -

When she was a kid, telekinetic amplifier devices were just toys for the rich. But by the time she’d graduated college, public stations were being built in major cities around the world. After Philadelphia got its first, she had convinced her friends Angie and Sue to go to Paris for the day. It was expensive, but not as expensive as a plane ticket, and the idea of going to another country and back in the same day was intoxicating.

At the station, a dark young man in a stylish green Transport Guild uniform checked their tickets and passports and demonstrated how to use the bulky headsets they had in those days. “OK, this is easy,” he smiled, a priest explaining the mysteries to an anxious flock. “We set your destination on these consoles here. Just relax, close your eyes, and concentrate. The device will pick up and amplify your thoughts, translating you through the aether. It takes about 30 seconds. You’ll feel a little jolt, like static electricity, but it’s not bad, I promise. When you open your eyes, you’ll be in Paris. Everybody ready?”

Giggling, Marjorie and her friends donned their headsets. She closed her eyes and silently repeated to herself, “Paris Station Gare du Nord, Paris Station Gare du Nord.” She wondered when she’d feel the shock.

Then she heard someone say, “Oh, God.” She opened her eyes in surprise. She was still in Philadelphia. Angie and Sue were gone.

The TG tech was staring at her. “I – I – This has never happened before. I’ll get my boss.”

Then there was outcry, accusation, defense, another unsuccessful attempt, apologies, a refund. Hysterical phone calls, confirming that she was all right. A long period of doctors, of tests, of experimental changes to the TAD.

At last Dr. Chaudhury, the neurologist, shook her head. “I’m sorry, Marjorie, there’s nothing more I can do. If it’s any comfort, you’re not completely alone. Global data indicate a very small percentage of people who can’t use the device. We don’t know why, but we’ll keep digging.”

Now here it was twenty years later and all they knew for sure was that the condition affected less than 2 percent of the world’s population, it was tied to a peculiar configuration of the orientation center of the brain, and it seemed to be more common in people of Jewish descent. All that had really changed was that it had a fancy name, locational displacement insufficiency syndrome, and she wore a red enamel bracelet, alerting medical personnel in an emergency that she couldn’t be transported by TAD.

At first it hadn’t been so bad. For a couple of years the TADs had co-existed with more conventional forms of transportation. She had made it Paris, and Florence, and Amsterdam. But as the units got smaller and cheaper and more ubiquitous, the more the alternatives disappeared. Now cars were the rich man’s toys; with most streets and highways destroyed and the land reclaimed, there was no place to drive one even if you could find the gas. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a plane. People still rode bicycles and sailed small boats for fun, but otherwise the only ways of getting from Point A to Point B were TADs or your own legs. Marjorie had never gotten to Tokyo, Moscow, or Nairobi; she had never seen the pyramids of Egypt, the glaciers of Alaska, the beaches of Hawaii, and now she never would. She hadn’t been more than 150 miles from Philadelphia in 15 years.

- - -

Marjorie sucked in a deep breath and walked into her classroom. There were upsides, she reminded herself ruefully. Cost of living so much less as energy and transportation costs plummeted; global warming reversing itself as greenhouse emissions disappeared and grass replaced asphalt; forty-five years old, and in the best shape of her life.

She went through her lecture briskly, refusing to give in to self-pity or panic or to acknowledge the restlessness of these young creatures aching to finish their last day of classes and scatter themselves from Boston to Borneo. She answered a couple of last-minute questions, then said, “I want to thank all of you for agreeing to take the final last week. That really helped me out. I won’t be here to give them back to you, so check my departmental mailbox tomorrow.”

“But Professor – ” Kirsten started to ask, then fell silent as Corey nodded significantly toward her bracelet, his dreads bobbing for emphasis.

“OK then,” Marjorie said brightly. “I’ve really enjoyed teaching you. As you know, I won’t be back next semester, so if I don’t see you again, good luck with everything.”

A ragged chorus of thanks followed her as she grabbed her gear and walked to the elevator. She stared at the usual jumble of posters and notices on the bulletin boards, concerts, club meetings, used books for sale, lectures. There was a recruiting poster for the TAD service: a crowd of smiling young people in the green and crimson of the Transport and Courier Guilds, with their tagline, “Across the City. Across the Country. Across the World.”

She took another steadying breath. So many years in these shabby hallways, capriciously heated classrooms, precariously functioning stainless steel elevators; would it be the same in San Francisco? Would the job even really come through? Would she even make it there?

The ping signaling the eighth floor startled her; she hastily blinked back tears. She stepped off the elevator and nodded at her colleagues Eduardo and Nancy. If they remembered that this might be the last time they saw her, they gave no sign of it. They nodded back without interrupting their conversation.

“Those home units are really coming down in price,” Eduardo was saying as she passed. “Alice and I are thinking of getting one in the fall.”

“Hannah and I love ours,” Nancy said. “It really helps getting the kids off in the morning.”

In the department office, Marjorie checked her mailbox and made small talk with the admin. Tanika finished up a story about her son, Zwayne, then asked hesitantly, “And how’s Hal?”

Marjorie gave the same unconcerned shrug she gave every time someone asked the question. “He’s OK.”

“I’ll bet he’s excited you’re going out to join him. You leaving tomorrow?”

“That’s right.”

Stephen, the department chair, spotted her and waved her into his office. Tanika said, “Well, you take real good care of yourself on the road.” Then softly, almost to herself, she added, “I’ll pray for you.”

Stephen grinned at her while she sat down, his diamond studs shining against his chocolate skin. “I had dinner with Rick Chang at UCSF last night. He’s very anxious to meet you in person. It’s just the timing that worries him. Six months is a long time to hold a teaching position. If another candidate comes along in the meanwhile, he may have to take him.”

“I understand. I just don’t see any way around it.”

“Pedal faster,” Stephen joked, but with a frown. He was a problem-solver; it irked him not to be able to come up with a better solution. He leaned forward confidentially. “Listen, Margie, you know I wanted to give you undergraduate chair. It’s just that with you not able to travel – ”

“I understand,” she said again. She was angry, but he was a good guy and truly none of it was his fault. Meetings and conferences made up a great deal of academic life, and it was a part of the job she couldn’t fulfill. She’d biked to a conference in Washington five years ago, pleased with her own cleverness and daring; the cycling had been harder than she’d thought, she’d had a slight accident and injured her foot, and she was a week late getting back. She was never going to advance to chair, or dean. “It’s not that, anyway. It’s Hal.”

He looked down. “How’s he doing?”

She shrugged. “He’s OK.”

“So are you all set to go? You know, I wish you’d change your mind and let us give you a party, take you out for a drink, something.”

Marjorie shook her head. “I don’t want to make a big deal out of it.”

His eyes flashed, “But it is a big deal,” and her own flashed back, “Don’t.” She stood; he came around the desk and hugged her. Briefly seduced by the sensation of solid male flesh against her after so long alone, she hugged him back hard for a moment. Then, embarrassed, she let go.

“I’m not falling off the ends of the earth,” she said. “Come see me once I get there.”

She went into her office to pick up the last of her papers. The walls were bare; the desk empty; the books packed into boxes ready to follow her to San Francisco once she arrived. She’d miss the view, out across the quad to the Charles Addams splendor of College Hall.

Time to go home. Downhill all the way this time.

- - -

Many people had asked her why, if she couldn’t simply TAD to work, she didn’t move closer; her little trinity rowhouse in Old City, with its Art Nouveau tile entryway and pocket jungle in back, was why. She’d had it a long time, years before she ever married Hal, and selling it had been one of the most wrenching parts of the whole experience. He had urged her not to do it, but she couldn’t have afforded to find a place in San Francisco without the money. Besides, despite Dr. Chaudhury’s unceasing optimism, Marjorie knew that any cure would be too late for her. She would never be back.

She poured herself some iced tea and sat in the garden grading exams. After a while she stretched and looked at her watch. 5 PM early afternoon for him, a good time to call.

She climbed up to living room and dialed the phone. She let it ring a while. If he were on the other side of the room, it might take him a few minutes to get to it.

After a minute he answered. His face filled the screen. “Hi, sweetheart.”

She looked at him hungrily. Eighteen months ago she had seen him off on a routine business trip, gone two days at the most, a big handsome man in his prime. Then a teenager on a skateboard had come barreling down Geary Street, knocking him backwards into a lamppost and crushing his vertebrae into his spine. There were surgeries, rehab, catheters and ventilators, while Marjorie beat at the walls of her helplessness like a butterfly in a jar. Now he was a frail figure in a wheelchair, his cheeks hollowed with constant pain, and she missed him with a physical ache.

“Hey, baby, what’d the tests say?”

The usual; nothing good. His doctors still thought it was too risky for him to travel. Given that nobody knew precisely the effect of TAD translation on the body, it might always be too risky. If Mohamed couldn’t come to the mountain, the mountain had better figure out a way to come to Mohamed.

They chatted for a while. His brother from Phoenix had come for an hour yesterday. She told him about a paper one of her students had written and what Stephen had said. He told her about a documentary he’d seen on Israel, where they still had buses and trains and were thinking about helicopters and small planes.

“Yeah,” she smiled at the old shared joke. “We should definitely go.”

“Kevin was here a couple of hours ago. Thanks for the books. And the truffles.” Chocolate, still his favorite indulgence. “He said to tell you he’d be by around 7, with dinner.”

“Great.”

Hal’s face spasmed with pain and her own heart clenched. He opened his eyes. “Are you sure about this trip, Margie?”

“Yes, honey, I’m sure.”

“I’m scared,” he whispered. “What if something happens to you? At least now, I know where you are, I know you’re safe – ”

“Shhh, shhh. I’m scared too, baby, but I’m more scared of never seeing you again. I have a good plan, I have everything I’ll need, and Kevin will help me.”

“And you have the Article,” he said bravely, wiping away his tears.

“That’s right.” The Article, lovingly named for a multifunctional travel case from the Patrick O’Brian novels for which they shared a passion, was a PDA that included a phone, a music player, a GPS, and a solar-rechargeable battery in a shell the size and weight of one of her mom’s antique iPods. “They could run NORAD with this thing.”

“That’s good, ’cause it cost as much as my first car.”

She gave a small laugh, feeling a warm glow of connection, of shared references increasingly alien to others. Good to get off the phone while he was recovered enough to joke again. “I’m gonna say bye for now, baby. I’ll call you tomorrow from the first stop. I love you.”

“I love you too, sweetheart. See you soon.”

And thus Kevin, letting himself in about two hours later with a bag full of takeout, found her collapsed on the sofa.

It was a situation he was embarrassingly familiar with. A few days after Hal’s accident, she had gone to the nearest TAD station to courier his spare glasses to the hospital. She had broken down trying to give the instructions. The young courier had calmly taken her into the employee lounge, sat her on the lumpy couch, brought her some tissues and a cup of coffee, and let her cry as long as she needed. When she was done and she had poured out the whole story, he told her to wait there; in an hour he was back, with a full eyewitness report and a hand-scrawled note from Hal.

Since then he had become a friend, a confidante, a lifeline, as at home in her house as his own apartment. So when he stuck his spiky blond head up the stairs and saw her sobbing, he said, “I’ll set the table,” and retreated back to the kitchen.

By the time she pulled herself together and came downstairs, he had laid his crimson CG jacket over a chair, put out the dishes, and was opening the takeout containers: cioppino from Tadich Grill, still steaming, sourdough from Boudin bakery, and salad. She washed her face in the sink, then got a couple of beers from the refrigerator.

“Smells great,” she said, handing him one. “Were you in Frisco all day?”

“Nah, I was all over the place. But I went back. Had a taste for seafood. And if you’re gonna move there, you better learn not to call it ‘Frisco.’ ”

They sat down and ate steadily for a while. He said, “Hal looked good today, not as tired as Monday.” She nodded but didn’t respond. He went on, “So, what was that about?”

She sighed. “I keep think about what happened to me in Washington. What if I get hurt? What if I get stuck somewhere? It’s not like there’s a rest stop every fifty miles anymore.”

He shot her a glance; like so many other things, “rest stop” was a concept she’d had to explain to him. “You’ve done so much more training for this trip. You’re so much better prepared. You can do this, Margie. I’ll help you do this.”

“Let’s go over the plan one more time,” he said. “You’ll feel better.”

After they cleared the dishes away, she spread out the map across the table. Her baseline route had been devised by John and Mandy, the owners of her local bike shop. Then, using Kevin’s CG information, they had plotted the location of TAD stations along the route. It would take her almost due west to Cleveland, Chicago, Des Moines, Omaha, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, and Reno, then across California to Sacramento and San Francisco. Except for some stretches in the Western states, Marjorie would always be near population centers, hotel rooms, hospitals; she was after safety, not scenery. An experienced biker could make fifty miles or more a day; Marjorie’s plan called for an average of twenty-five. Kevin would meet her at prearranged TAD stations once a week or more often if necessary to bring her supplies and keep her company. The route was programmed into the Article as well as marked on the map. If all went well, it would take just over four months.

“The bike’s OK?” Kevin prodded.

It was; yesterday Mandy had checked it out thoroughly while John had filled the Article with even more names of biking friends across the country and their offers of assistance, meals, lodging.

They unpacked her panniers and reexamined all her equipment: a few extra clothes, sleeping bag, tent, water bottles, energy bars, first aid kit, tools. It looked pitifully inadequate to her.

“Come on,” Kevin said. “What’s your mantra?”

“I don’t need much. What I don’t have I’ll buy. What I can’t buy you’ll bring me.”

He grinned at her. “That’s it, kid. You’re ready.” And in that moment, she felt that it was true.

She gave him the graded exams to deliver back to campus and kissed him goodnight. “Thanks for dinner, Kev. Thanks for everything.”

He shrugged it off. “If I’m anyplace more than a day, I go crazy. This thing, with you stuck here and Hal stuck out there – that’s a hell I can’t imagine.”

“So, see you in Altoona.”

“Altoona,” he echoed. “You know, I’ve never been there.”

- - -

She rose early the next morning and looked around the house one last time. Strangers would come along later and pack up her belongings to send after her; for now she was leaving them behind, like slipping out of a heavy coat when spring comes.

She locked the gate behind her, strapped on her helmet, and straddled the bike. “Downhill all the way,” she said, pushing off down the street.

Message Edited by Muse_of_Ire on 02-14-200705:01 PM

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Muse_of_Ire
Posts: 49
Registered: ‎02-05-2007
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Re: Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Sample

I write mainly fantasy, so I used the suggested "default" topic. I appreciate any comments on my use of the idea as well as the execution of the story.

I have been staying away from these boards while I was writing in order to finish more quickly. Now that I'm done I'll participate more.
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LindaE
Posts: 22
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Re: Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Sample

First reaction: Freaking awesome!
I like the way you've used the TAD and that a small portion of the population can't use it - it is entirely plausible! Its implications on society are also well thought out. The protagonist has clear internal and external conflict. I empathize with her and want to see her get to "Frisco".
I'd definitely read more.
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KristenS
Posts: 136
Registered: ‎02-09-2007
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Re: Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Exercise

Interesting! Well thought out premise, and nice showing of a character who's affected by the technology. Way to go!

Is there going to be more? Does she make it??

:smileyhappy:
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Muse_of_Ire
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Re: Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Exercise

Hmm. I hadn't thought of going on. I wasn't really so much interested in the trip itself, just in the reasons for her going.

Does it seem incomplete the way it is?
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book_worm
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Re: Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Sample

Wow! That was really good Muse! You did an amazing job making that "default" topic your own. When I first read the default topic I thought it was a bit bland but you definatly spiced it up! :smileyhappy:

You wrote it very well, the characters had drawn out personalities. I began to care what happened to Marjorie and sympathized with her about her husband Hal - which are all great signs of good writing. What an interesting plight for her, not being able to use the TADs but needing to get to her husband. Sounds like a great adventure, I would read it.

I also can't think of anything to nit pick about it. Good job Muse! :smileytongue:
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book_worm
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Re: Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Exercise


Muse_of_Ire wrote:
Hmm. I hadn't thought of going on. I wasn't really so much interested in the trip itself, just in the reasons for her going.

Does it seem incomplete the way it is?


The only way it seemed imcomplete to me is that I wanted to see what happened to Marjorie and share in her adventure to get to her ailing husband. For a very short story I suppose it is okay, but I was hoping for more :smileyhappy:
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galenem
Posts: 30
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Re: Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Exercise

Muse,

Once I reached the second half, the story had me. The premise was wonderful and I got a real sense of Marjorie. I did think there was more to come but after you said naught, I went back and looked again. You certainly could stop at that point in time but may want to just wrap it up. Personally, I would like to follow her a little further. I'm rooting for her and I feel a little cheated. Has the future forgotten its prelude? What happened to things like the Americans with Disabilities Act. Surely a helicopter here and there would be reasonable. I'd like to know why the powers that be have made absolutley no accomodation for people like Marjorie.

I thought, for the length of the story, the landscape description was a little too long and I wasn't sure what you meant by "pulled up" which turned out to be intergral. I also thought the college girls came off a little spoiled and ditzy and had a touch too much dialogue. I don't think that was necessary to the story line and caused me to misjudge Marjorie's reaction. As it turns out, she's not jealous of them, she's jealous of everyone in the 98%. The effect of her disability (can we call it that) is enormous and your insight was amazing. I would not have gotten there without you.
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seekingreader
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Re: Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Exercise

Muse,

An excellent story. I thought you did an outstanding job of putting us into a strange environment with our hardly being aware of it. I was through the third paragraph before I really realized that this was some place new and different, and I had to adjust the mental picture I had been building. Bravo!

I concur with an earlier post that the scene with the three girls did not flow entirely smoothly. Yes, you were definitely “showing” us the everyday effects of the TAD rather than “telling”, but somehow it simply didn’t play well. Part of it may have had to do with the physical descriptions you attached to the characters. I found myself bogged down trying to visualize a scene that interrupted the smooth flow previously established. These are “spear carrier” characters and need very little in the way of description in order to speak the appropriate lines and leave the stage. The second item that interrupted the reading for me was that in demonstrating the ease of around the world jaunts for most people, you may have overdone it just a little. We dealt with Cairo, Houston, Switzerland, Beijing, Sydney, and of course, Ibiza, in a very short space. At least for me, it may have been too much travel.

The second section, filling in the backstory of how the TAD’s came to be and how fully they replaced all other modes of longer distance transportation worked very well for me. A bare minimum of exposition, broken up by appropriate dialog, and I hardly noticed that I was being given a lot of “telling”. Again, very well done.

As you began to develop the challenge facing your heroine in the third section, I found myself reading eagerly, wanting to know more about this lady and her problems. The tension developed slowly and steadily, and I kept wanting to know more. I noted in passing the closing comment in the section and nodded: “Downhill all the way.”

If I were to offer a suggestion it might be in the area of your tendency to add physical descriptions in areas where they may not be necessary. Corey and his dreadlocks, Stephen's diamond studs. By the time I got to Kevin's spiky blond hair I was really, really, really noticing them - and that slowed down the reading. Corey and Stephen have no major role to play in the story and other than hearing their words, I, as a reader, don't want to be side-tracked from the story. Kevin is more of a secondary character and has a significant role in the story and some description can help us place him in Marjorie's world. But by the time I got to him, the physical descriptions were becoming overpowering and got in the way.

I thought you wrapped the story well – introduction, problem, tension, solution, and room for more. And I was absolutely delighted with the last line, echoing the earlier comment: “Downhill all the way.” It provided a clear and concise description of Marjorie’s character. Refusing to bow to huge odds and going forward in spite of everything and doing it her way – “Downhill all the way.”

Again, bravo.

Jim
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Josh_Crowe
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Re: Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Exercise

This story is adequately constructed (for a first pass it is possibly over-refined) but the science is weak.

1)The timeline is awfully fast for complete conversion from car to teleporter.
2)Teleportation should have incredibly large energy requirements, why doesn’t it? Don’t say “no one knows” unless you intend that to be part of the story.
3)There are a number of issues surrounding teleporters that need addressing, like teleporting into peoples homes to rob them. What are the “rules” of teleportation?

My other questions are, what is the story arc? What is the “point” of the bike trip?
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Cluecorner
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Re: Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Exercise

Love it. I think you said that you didn't plan to continue the story into the trip itself, but I wish you would. I'd like to know more. I'd also like to know if something happens on the trip that changes her, or allows her to find some way to deal with her "handicap", or even something that shows that because of her inability to travel quickly, she's gained some other benefit.

The setting, the characters,and the situation all caught my interest. If I was browsing in a bookstore and skimmed a first page of this, I'd buy the book.
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Muse_of_Ire
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Re: Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Exercise

[ Edited ]
Thanks for all the feedback, especially those of you noted that the character descriptions were clunky. That is something I struggle with; I don't want everybody but the main characters to be colorless drones, but they shouldn't distract from the story. In the case of the three girls, I wanted to make a small point about the evolution of fashion to further alert the reader that we're in a near-future world. I also wanted to make the point that everybody but poor Marjorie is hyper-mobile.

Galenem, I didn't fully think through the helicopter issue, but I did think it would be economically unfeasible to have/use/develop alternative technologies for people who represent less than 2% of the world's population. Think of orphan diseases, too rare for the drug companies to want to spend resources on. Now that I am thinking about helicopters, it seems like they would be uneconomical also. Who would manufacture so few of them? Where would you get parts, gas, pilots? When a system like this goes out of use, its whole infrastructure disappears as well. However, I'll give it some further thought if I decide to pursue the story.

Josh_Crowe, I'd like to address your comments one by one.



This story is adequately constructed (for a first pass it is possibly over-refined) but the science is weak.

1)The timeline is awfully fast for complete conversion from car to teleporter.
2)Teleportation should have incredibly large energy requirements, why doesn’t it? Don’t say “no one knows” unless you intend that to be part of the story.
3)There are a number of issues surrounding teleporters that need addressing, like teleporting into peoples homes to rob them. What are the “rules” of teleportation?

My other questions are, what is the story arc? What is the “point” of the bike trip?.



I know the science is weak. I don't have a clue what a telekinetic amplifier device is or how it works. For me that isn't the point, which is not the functioning of the TAD itself but its effects on society. Like writers who deal in FTL, I simply posit the existence of the technology and go on from there.

Maybe the timeline is fast, but it seemed reasonable to me. It took about 15 years once the infrastructure was in place. Once cars became mass-produced and affordable, this country changed to a primarily automotive society within that time, and the rate of technology-driven change has certainly accelerated since then. How long did it take for PCs to revolutionize people's lives and work?

I think of the TAD in very much the same terms. Both cars and computers started out huge, bulky, and expensive. Over time they became smaller, more efficient, and more affordable. So has the TAD. I think that it uses a certain amount of electrical energy, although less would be needed to move the equivalent mass of people and goods via gasoline power. This power consumption has also been decreasing over time, to the point where individual households can now afford to use the units.

I agree that issues of privacy and security and so on would need to be addressed. I actually thought about this a great deal but decided that the information was peripheral and wouldn't fit within the confines of the story. If I were writing a longer work, I would definitely spend some time setting this up. For now, I feel like I dodged the bullet by showing that people can only travel to and from stations -- no teleporting into someone's bedroom.

As for the point of the story, I think it's this: For half her life, Marjorie has felt powerless, stuck, left behind. Now she has the one incentive she needs to un-stick herself, but it's scary. Up until the last minute, there's the possibility she might give in to her fear and stay. I don't think there is an "arc" so much as there is a "moment": will she or won't she? And she does; she embraces uncertainty and moves forward.

I hope that helps to clarify some of my decisions.

Message Edited by Muse_of_Ire on 02-15-200703:53 PM

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marta_randall
Posts: 166
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Exercise

This is a very impressive piece of work: vivid characters, a convincing situation, solid motivation, and a great eye for detail and dialog.

My concern is that the TAD makes movement so easy in this future world, that the reader is left behind a bit. For example, the opening bike ride made me think that Marjorie might be in New York (as it turns out, I was wrong), but references to San Francisco landmarks such as UCSF made the location confusing, especially at the opening of the story when readers don't have a lot to hang on to yet. The confusion is compounded when we learn that Marjorie won't be around next semester -- since we have just learned about her inability to use TAD, it's easy for the reader to assume that this inability is what is causing her to lose her job.

These are not major issues, except that they come at the beginning of the story when readers are still feeling their way into the setting. Luckily, these are also issues that are easily fixed. First, be up-front about where she is. Say the name of the city right up front. Remind the reader too: do one of the windows in Stephen's office face a Philly landmark? Say so. Place her firmly in her geographical location.

Second, think of ways to make the difficulty of travel for her more concrete. You say that cars are rich men's toys, but rich men would have places built for them to drive their toys. Are they off-limits to other people? I also wonder how goods get from place to place: a courier has to take Hal's glasses to him, but how do vegetables and meats get to market? How about manufactured goods? Is there some form of land or air transportation for goods, that is barred to humans?

All of this quibbling isn't meant to knock down the story, but to point out places where it could be shored up a little bit, to make it more solid and engrossing. Given how well you have done with the rest of the piece, I can't see that this is going to present any problem.

I presume that this is the opening of a longer work, since the conflict here (Marjorie's desire to reach Hal) is presented but is not worked out yet. If so, I think it will certainly reward further work.
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Muse_of_Ire
Posts: 49
Registered: ‎02-05-2007
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Re: Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Exercise

Marta, thanks for your comments. I have answers for some of your questions and am thinking about the others. I will try to address them as well as the previous suggestions in a second draft.
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Josh_Crowe
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Registered: ‎01-29-2007
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Re: Muse of Ire: What Is Science Fiction -- Writing Exercise

Quote:
"I know the science is weak. I don't have a clue what a telekinetic amplifier device is or how it works. For me that isn't the point, which is not the functioning of the TAD itself but its effects on society. Like writers who deal in FTL, I simply posit the existence of the technology and go on from there."

Well lets put it this way. I am dealing with FTL in my writing and hyperspace is easily described by supposing that the Klein-Kaluza theory is correct and that fundamental forces are explained by compactified dimensions. At our regular state of rest you can visualize that we are a marble at the bottom of a bowl. Applying energy to this system the marble can be moved into a part of the universe where the speed of light is conveniently higher and easier to reach. Also high speeds can be attained by use of the Casimir effect.

Of course that is a massive simplification, but it forms the backbone for my world. My reader never needs to know these things, but I do.

Quote:
"Maybe the timeline is fast, but it seemed reasonable to me. It took about 15 years once the infrastructure was in place. Once cars became mass-produced and affordable, this country changed to a primarily automotive society within that time, and the rate of technology-driven change has certainly accelerated since then. How long did it take for PCs to revolutionize people's lives and work?"

The roads of Boston are laid out for pedestrians and farmers carts. So the automobile has yet to completely replace the horse.
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