Another excert 1500 words - Guy Erma and the Son of Empire By Sally Ann Melia

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Sally Ann Melia

Sally Ann Melia, SF&F
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S A Melia is an English SF&F writer based in Surre
Apologies for typo.

Another Extract 1500 words.

Dear all,


Following feedback from beta-readers and from this group I have had a fairly substantial rethink on this novel, particularly the beginning.


So here's goes nothing... This is page 1 again.



Chapter 1. Introducing Karl Valvanchi


Cover Letter from Karl Valvanchi to his brother Simonelle. 1st document in Valvanchi submissions to the United Races commission investigating the events following the unprecedented biological disaster on Freyne 2 the second planet of the Imperial Empire of Freyne.


My dear Simonelle,

Thank you for agreeing to help and speak on my behalf at the United Races (UR) tribunal. I have pulled together everything I have on the weekend in question. There are reports, some messages, video footage from my helmet and my diary. I’m not sure I should be sending you my diary, since you know I am terrible at writing. Yet despite this I often find it use at the end of the day sitting down to try and capture my thoughts. Sometimes I ramble on a bit, but I include all the entries I made on the days in question. Anyway I don’t know whether it will help.

Just no grammar corrections right? This is my diary.

Anyhow I have sent you a numbered list to help you work through all this stuff. I think it makes more sense if you follow the order I have given you. But who am I to say? In any case I want to tell you the whole story and starting from the beginning. And of course, for me the beginning is on Sas Darona.

Thank you once again, I don’t deserve to have a brother like you.
Let’s talk soon.

Karl



Diary of Karl Valvanchi
Commander of Security
Sas Darona Research Post.


Dear Diary,

Today was a terrible day. The pain of it is as raw as the day I ripped triceps in training and yet there is wonder too. I have seen something so terrible yet so fascinating. Our scientists will surely download the images from my helmet camera a million times. Yes, a million times! I am quite sure. And the public … but this must never go public, the horror of what we have done here. What we have achieved by combining the sciences of cybernetics and entomology will be deemed the most terrible weapon since we harnessed fusion power. But I get ahead of myself. I need to write this down as it happened and start at the beginning, because the start is very important.

Today was a normal day and as I write this I wonder how many other times in history a man or woman has started a diary entry, today was a normal day only to continue to write up a terrible tale of horror and death like the one I have to tell. But stop… I am writing the end before the beginning again. I must write the start. I will check my call history so I can be precise.

It was 8.32 when the call came in, and I have the audio transcript so I will cut and paste as I go along. I will use a different colour font, so you know this is the tape talking not me:

“Mezzatorra to Control, we are under attack, strong attack, please assist.”

I have to stop now and give you a few words of explanation since I suspect many people who don’t know me, might read this account as they try to understand today’s events. So ‘Control’, that’s us. A small exploration base on Sas Darona. Sas Darona is a standard habitable planet on the far edge of the zone of United Races influence and almost every approach involves passing through the territory now claimed by the newly emerged Freyne Empire.

Oh, you can reach Sas Darona without entering Freyne Space. There is a long circuitous route protected by United Races. Our supply transports take this longer route, and so avoid the paperwork and nosy scrutiny of the Freyne. But this also makes them suspicious. So we, that is my fellow officers and senior scientists have long decided to comply with the Freyne demands for transit certification and the necessary unnecessary paperwork with a view to cultivating trust and hopefully friendship with this aggressive young Empire.

Indeed these past years, first King Serge – his death was so tragic, dead with his son in his arms! –and the sad Regent Sayginn have been friendlier to us than any of the other Barons. And transit through the Freyne Empire passing within range of the six planets once King Serge’s now controlled by Regent Sayginn is short, straight and very fast. So all’s good. Well as good as things can be when it comes to the Freyne.

Did you notice I wrote controlled? I add the emphasis to underline the difference between ourselves and the Freyne. The Freyne as I say are a primitive people. Not that they don’t have very respectable space technology. No, their politics and philosophy is primitive. They cling to notions of ownership and privilege. They have put in place some notional democracy. Almost exclusively on Freyne 2, thanks to King Serge, alas that he is dead. But they are far from living the life of curators and equals which is the way we Zaracans have lived for thousands of years. Each Zaracan works as suits their talents and inclinations. Wealth is shared. We delight in the overall prosperity of our union’s success as well applauding an individual’s success.

But I am long way removed from the story I must tell. So to reiterate, Control is a small base on Sas Darona.

Attack and strong attack are command words. They mean over twenty-five men have invaded a base. Strong means over twenty-five men, without the word strong, there could be as few as five attackers. If less than five it is not an attack, just an incursion. Maybe I should refer you to our military vocab look up. Yes. Maybe I should. Sorry, I can’t find the details. The important point for our story was that Mezzatorra was under attack.

And Mezzatorra is? Mezzatorra is an outlying outpost about 200km from Control.

Just to mention, that at the time of writing, we have only mapped at ground level less than five percent of Sas Darona’s surface. And since last year we only have three satellites. The Freyne having successfully banned the import of this technology using the UR (United Races) laws of privacy.

There again the Freyne are wrong headed. It is not like the Freyne do not have surveillance on their planets. On the contrary almost ninety percent of life in their cities is recorded on cameras. And their Imperial and Baronial families live their lives under the constant scrutiny of an invasive press. No the argument the Freyne used to “protect their privacy” was that our spy satellite are deemed intelligent in that they analyse not just record what they see. Something the Freyne still cannot do.
(In fact WE ALL KNOW why the Freyne wanted to ban more satellites around Sas Darona, but I can’t write about that without causing a diplomatic incident, so I won’t. The truth will out when Chart Segat is brought to trial and then we will all know.)

Enough! I must get back to the story I wanted to tell.

So Mezzatorra was under attack, but while that sounds bad, it really wasn’t. That too was almost normal.

For you to understand I need to tell you more about Sas Darona. Did I mention it was uninhabited? Well it is true that when we Valvanchi on behalf of the Zaracan Democratic Union applied for a license to explore Sas Darona we had thought the planet was uninhabited. Then – as in all the best stories of exploration – on arrival - we had discovered sparse and hidden tribal peoples living as roaming hunter-gatherers travelling great stretches of the Savannah and the dark forests in long annual migrations.

At first we did not understand the need for such long treks, as far as we could tell food and water and everything they needed for their survival was plentiful. Many dubbed the planet a paradise, it was only in our third season that we discovered the deadly Sas Darona plague.
 
Since the site doesn't accept paragraph indenting we generally put an empty line between paragraphs to prevent the document looking like a solid wall of text. I've edited the spaces in this time, but I'd suggest doing a preview before posting, when you copy/paste documents.

I assume that
Just no grammar corrections right? This is my diary.
was addressed to me? (If we haven't already met, I'm the longest established grammar and punctuation nazi on the site; master of the red pen :D. but I believe you have some leanings that way yourself, so I will assume the comma splices and errors in punctuation are deliberate scene setting, and restrain my hand – mostly.

Yet despite this I often find it use at the end of the day sitting down to try and capture my thoughts.
Surely 'useful' ;).
 
Chapter 1. Introducing Karl Valvanchi


Cover Letter from Karl Valvanchi to his brother Simonelle. 1st document in Valvanchi submissions to the United Races commission investigating the events following the unprecedented biological disaster on Freyne 2 the second planet of the Imperial Empire of Freyne.


My dear Simonelle,

Thank you for agreeing to help and speak on my behalf at the United Races (UR) tribunal. I have pulled together everything I have on the weekend in question. There are reports, some messages, video footage from my helmet and my diary. I’m not sure I should be sending you my diary, since you know I am terrible at writing. Yet despite this I often find it use
ful at the end of the day, sitting down to try and capture my thoughts. Sometimes I ramble on a bit, but I include all the entries I made on the days in question. Anyway, I don’t know whether it will help.

Just no grammar corrections right? This is my diary.
– You’d be lucky! – heehee….

Anyhow
, - I wasn’t sure at the anyway pause above, but here I felt there was one missing I have sent you a numbered list to help you work through all this stuff. I think it makes more sense if you follow the order I have given you. But who am I to say? In any case, I want to tell you the whole story and starting from the beginning. And of course, for me the beginning is on Sas Darona.

Thank you once again, I don’t deserve to have a brother like you.
Let’s talk soon.

Karl



Diary of Karl Valvanchi
Commander of Security
Sas Darona Research Post.


Dear Diary,

Today was a terrible day. The pain of it is as raw as the day I ripped triceps in training and yet there is wonder too. I have seen something so terrible yet so fascinating. Our scientists will surely download the images from my helmet camera a million times. Yes, a million times! I am quite sure. And the public … but this must never go public, the horror of what we have done here. What we have achieved by combining the sciences of cybernetics and entomology will be deemed the most terrible weapon since we harnessed fusion power. But I get ahead of myself. I need to write this down as it happened and start at the beginning, because the start is very important.
To me this feels like telling in a letter. If the events were so exciting and filled with drama, why couldn’t I live them with the character instead of reading it 3rd hand in a letter?

Today was a normal day and as I write this I wonder how many other times in history a man or woman has started a diary entry,
today was a normal day” possible quote I’d say, I’m 50:50 here only to continue to write up a terrible tale of horror and death like the one I have to tell. But stop… I am writing the end before the beginning again. I must write the start. I will check my call history so I can be precise.

It was 8.32 when the call came in, and I have the audio transcript so I will cut and paste as I go along. I will use a different colour font, so you know this is the tape talking not me:

“Mezzatorra to Control, we are under attack, strong attack, please assist.”

I have to stop now and give you a few words of explanation since I suspect many people who don’t know me, might read this account as they try to understand today’s events. So ‘Control’, that’s us. A small exploration base on Sas Darona. Sas Darona is a standard habitable planet on the far edge of the zone of United Races influence and almost every approach involves passing through the territory now claimed by the newly emerged Freyne Empire.

This is telling. You’re not hiding it, it’s just not grabbing me.

Oh, you can reach Sas Darona without entering Freyne Space. There is a long circuitous route protected by United Races. Our supply transports take this longer route, and so avoid the paperwork and nosy scrutiny of the Freyne. But this also makes them suspicious. So we, that is my fellow officers and senior scientists have long decided to comply with the Freyne demands for transit certification and the necessary unnecessary paperwork
, with a view to cultivating trust and hopefully friendship, with this aggressive young Empire.

Indeed these past years, first King Serge – his death was so tragic, dead with his son in his arms! –and the sad Regent Sayginn have been friendlier to us than any of the other Barons. And transit through the Freyne Empire passing within range of the six planets once King Serge’s now controlled by Regent Sayginn is short, straight and very fast. So all’s good. Well as good as things can be when it comes to the Freyne.


Did you notice I wrote controlled? I add the emphasis to underline the difference between ourselves and the Freyne. The Freyne as I say are a primitive people. Not that they don’t have very respectable space technology. No, their politics and philosophy is primitive. They cling to notions of ownership and privilege. They have put in place some notional democracy. Almost exclusively on Freyne 2, thanks to King Serge, alas that he is dead. But they are far from living the life of curators and equals which is the way we Zaracans have lived for thousands of years. Each Zaracan works as suits their talents and inclinations. Wealth is shared. We delight in the overall prosperity of our union’s success as well applauding an individual’s success.
I would have stopped reading here, but as it’s a Crit I carried on.

But I am long way removed from the story I must tell. So to reiterate, Control is a small base on Sas Darona.

Attack and strong attack are command words. They mean over twenty-five men have invaded a base.
Strong means over twenty-five men - repeating, without the word strong, there could be as few as five more repeating attackers. If less than five it is not even more repeating an attack, just an incursion. Maybe I should refer you to our military vocab look up. Yes. Maybe I should. Sorry, I can’t find the details. The important point for our story was that Mezzatorra was under attack. – I’d question the value of this whole paragraph.

And Mezzatorra is? Mezzatorra is an outlying outpost about 200km from Control.

Just to mention, that at the time of writing, we have only mapped at ground level less than five percent
a satellite in space would map the surface of a planet easily. I wonder, just how advanced us humans really are? of Sas Darona’s surface. And since last year we only have three suspended disbelief, is suffering here as your giving too much info satellites. The Freyne having successfully banned the import of this technology using the UR (United Races) laws of privacy.

There again the Freyne are wrong headed. It is not like the Freyne do not have surveillance on their planets. On the contrary
, almost ninety percent of life in their cities is recorded on cameras. And their Imperial and Baronial families live their lives under the constant scrutiny of an invasive press. No the argument the Freyne used to “protect their privacy” was that our spy satellite are deemed intelligent in that they analyse not just record what they see. Something the Freyne still cannot do.
(In fact WE ALL KNOW why the Freyne wanted to ban more satellites around Sas Darona, but I can’t write about that without causing a diplomatic incident, so I won’t. The truth will out when Chart Segat is brought to trial and then we will all know.)
- If the addressee is a friend etc. would they not already know all this info, as they live in the same time period as the writer of said letter. So this is just for me the reader, and this reader expects a writer to work harder at world building.

Enough! I must get back to the story I wanted to tell. I couldn’t agree more.

So Mezzatorra was under attack, but while that sounds bad, it really wasn’t. That too was almost normal.

For you to understand I need to tell you more about Sas Darona. Did I mention it was uninhabited? Well it is true that when we Valvanchi on behalf of the Zaracan Democratic Union applied for a license to explore Sas Darona
. We had thought the planet was uninhabited. Then – as in all the best stories of exploration – on arrival - we had discovered sparse and hidden tribal peoples, living as roaming hunter-gatherers travelling great stretches of the Savannah and the dark forests in long annual migrations.

At first we did not understand the need for such long treks, as far as we could tell food and water and everything they needed for their survival was plentiful. Many dubbed the planet a paradise, it was only in our third season that we discovered the deadly Sas Darona plague.


The letters were a nice idea, but of little interest to me. Others might disagree, but mostly it was far too distant (I can’t live events in letters) and what felt like an excuse for info dumping and world building with a stamp on. The rambling letter never even got to the action, and I felt cheated I was always hearing about an events 3rd hand. If it was so good, why not have your opening scene start with the action? This is the question that hung unanswered for me, and because of it, I couldn’t enjoy what you were trying to present. It was too slow, very slow.
Some missing commas for me, which is not bad at all really. The writing even had a voice of sorts from the letter writer, which was good.
This is the place to experiment and try things out, so keep going and keep trying. For me, this letter idea didn’t work. In terms of an attempt, I think the idea had merit, but it’s not what I personally read books for. I read to live events with the characters and that feeling was absent here, as it always would be in letters. But as I say, this is my view and others may disagree.
 
Sally, can you think of any examples of science fiction published over the past two decades that was written in a faux-19th century style as this? I can't think of any, because it's not a style that appeals to a modern day audience.

I've had multiple sources say that a story needs "pace and clarity", but I cannot personally see this piece having either. It's too self-conscious and affected, and just doesn't get to any kind of point quickly. In fact, you can remove the first 500 words and not miss anything. The whole piece lacks punch and engagement, and I just can't - personally - see this working as it is.
 
Thank you once again, I don’t deserve to have a brother the name Simonelle made me think it was a sister he was writing to. like you.
Let’s talk soon.

Karl




Dear Diary,

Today was a terrible day. The pain of it is as raw as the day I ripped triceps in training and yet there is wonder tooI take it this is a deliberate nod back to explorers diaries of the past, given the tone of it? . I have seen something so terrible yet so fascinating. Our scientists will surely download the images from my helmet camera a million times. Yes, a million times! I am quite sure. And the public … but this must never go public, the horror of what we have done here. What we have achieved by combining the sciences of cybernetics and entomology will be deemed the most terrible weapon since we harnessed fusion power. But I get ahead of myself. I need to write this down as it happened and start at the beginning, because the start is very important.

Today was a normal day and as I write this I wonder how many other times in history a man or woman has started a diary entry, today was a normal day only to continue to write up a terrible tale of horror and death like the one I have to tell. But stop… I am writing the end before the beginning again. I must write the start. I will check my call history so I can be precise. I'd really like him to get on with it and tell me what happened, I've been tantalised enough.

It was 8.32 when the call came in, and I have the audio transcript so I will cut and paste as I go along. I will use a different colour font, so you know this is the tape talking not me:

“Mezzatorra to Control, we are under attack, strong attack, please assist.”

I have to stop now and give you a few words of explanationAwww, I thought I might find out since I suspect many people who don’t know me, might read this account as they try to understand today’s events. So ‘Control’, that’s us. A small exploration base on Sas Darona. Sas Darona is a standard habitable planet on the far edge of the zone of United Races influence and almost every approach involves passing through the territory now claimed by the newly emerged Freyne Empire. Info dumping, and quite an obvious one. I think I could live without knowing any of this at this stage. Think of the tension -- it's much more exciting just to take us through the attack.

Oh, you can reach Sas Darona without entering Freyne Space. There is a long circuitous route protected by United Races. Our supply transports take this longer route, and so avoid the paperwork and nosy scrutiny of the Freyne. But this also makes them suspicious. So we, that is my fellow officers and senior scientists have long decided to comply with the Freyne demands for transit certification and the necessary unnecessary paperwork with a view to cultivating trust and hopefully friendship with this aggressive young Empire.

Indeed these past years, first King Serge – his death was so tragic, dead with his son in his arms! –and the sad Regent Sayginn have been friendlier to us than any of the other Barons. And transit through the Freyne Empire passing within range of the six planets once King Serge’s now controlled by Regent Sayginn is short, straight and very fast. So all’s good. Well as good as things can be when it comes to the Freyne. I'd stop reading here (actually, I'm being generous, I'd stop earlier, sorry.) Nothing is happening except the author giving me her worldbuilding which, frankly, doesn't make me want to read a story.)

But I am long way removed from the story I must tell.Yes, he is. So to reiterate, Control is a small base on Sas Daronaand this is all we needed.


Just to mentionnoooooo, just tell me what happened. There's an attack, that's going to change the world and be replayed a million times. If this is a diary-entry, he knows all this, the codewords, where things are -- why would he put all this information in except to tell us it? It doesn't make logical sense, and it screams info dump. , that at the time of writing, we have only mapped at ground level less than five percent of Sas Darona’s surface. And since last year we only have three satellites. The Freyne having successfully banned the import of this technology using the UR (United Races) laws of privacy.



[/QUOTE]

I stopped there, as the rest of my comments were in the same vein. You have an exciting event here, you just need to tell it, as it happened, from one point of view (either this one or another's.) Don't worry about the world yet, get us sucked in first and then we'll wait and see what we think of the world. I'm sorry, but I think this is not a better route to go and that your second crit is still the strongest of the three starts shown. 2c.
 
The Passage by Justin Cronin starts in a slightly similar kind of way -- though it's a little snappier.

I rather liked the letter to the brother (though I wondered if it might be slightly tightened sometimes).

I didn't like "Dear Diary" (does anyone really write that?), but that's a personal twitch.

I rapidly got confused in the text that followed but in fact I think it's because he spends so long saying how significant the day has been -- how painful, how important etc. -- and I got impatient waiting to find out what he was talking about and irritated with him. I see what you're doing, and it would make sense that he's be all over the place after such an experience, but we also need the story to start and while he's rambling, it isn't starting.

Honestly, I'd start at something like "The call came in at 8:32...." and go from there.

I get why the explanations are important and I rather like the direct way you're putting them in, but if this is his diary (which he's wondering about sending to his brother) then why would he expect lots of people to read it? Maybe have a note saying something like:

"Simonelle -- I've added some explanatory notes in case the diary has to be shown to those unfamiliar with..." (so the notes are clearly added later, not while he was writing the diary entry). You might even have them as footnotes because right now they kind of get between the reader and the story -- if something terrible/ wonderful happened, I want to know what and I feel like I'm being led around by the nose with the intro and then not actually saying what's going on.

I hope that helps. I did like this.
 
Sally, can you think of any examples of science fiction published over the past two decades that was written in a faux-19th century style as this? I can't think of any, because it's not a style that appeals to a modern day audience.

I've had multiple sources say that a story needs "pace and clarity", but I cannot personally see this piece having either. It's too self-conscious and affected, and just doesn't get to any kind of point quickly. In fact, you can remove the first 500 words and not miss anything. The whole piece lacks punch and engagement, and I just can't - personally - see this working as it is.

Hi Brian,

This made me laugh, because clearly I have read a lot of Austen and Tolstoy, among others.

But I also had to laugh because the previous version was all pace and action, and all the remarks I got where along the lines, of What? Who? I don't get it! I think Cosmic Geoff said something like - who is Karl Valvanchi?

To clarify in case you think I am loosing the plot. The novel has four POVs.

Guy Erma (as per the title)
Prince Teodor (the Prince)
Karl Valvanchi (the hero)
Sayginn ( widower and mother of Teodor.)

What I am actually playing with/thinking about/trying out is telling the entire Karl POV through reports, emails, diary entries.

Which actually contrasts very well with the other chapters which are much more direct and yes action packed.

To refer to one of the greats. Iain M Banks often had intermittent chapters where the Culture Minds would talk to each other in machinese or reportese, which varied the pace and made the whole things more interesting. (best example Feersum Engin, but most of the culture novels use a variety of devices when changing POV.)

Moreover I have been reading Paul Torday Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.
Which is superbe and I recommend to everyone

Ok those are my sources.

LOL I am still laughing about the 19th century reference - did you not think Moby Dick?, I have not read it recently, but last night I had a moment of clarity because I think it has exactly the same opening LOL

Thanks,

Sally
 
Since the site doesn't accept paragraph indenting we generally put an empty line between paragraphs to prevent the document looking like a solid wall of text. I've edited the spaces in this time, but I'd suggest doing a preview before posting, when you copy/paste documents.

Thanks, I think I did edit in the spaces, you may have seen an early version - so apologies


I assume that was addressed to me? (If we haven't already met, I'm the longest established grammar and punctuation nazi on the site; master of the red pen :D. but I believe you have some leanings that way yourself, so I will assume the comma splices and errors in punctuation are deliberate scene setting, and restrain my hand – mostly.

Surely 'useful' ;).

Clearly, I am just trying out this opening, I know my writers circle who are more cross-genre then this group will love it, but I did wonder what the reaction would be here.

Thanks
 
Chapter 1. Introducing Karl Valvanchi



To me this feels like telling in a letter. If the events were so exciting and filled with drama, why couldn’t I live them with the character instead of reading it 3rd hand in a letter?

Well this is a bit of an experimental re-write the original is here:
http://www.sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/547092-introducing-karl-valvanchi-a-rewrite-by-sally-ann.html



I have to stop now and give you a few words of explanation since I suspect many people who don’t know me, might read this account as they try to understand today’s events. So ‘Control’, that’s us. A small exploration base on Sas Darona. Sas Darona is a standard habitable planet on the far edge of the zone of United Races influence and almost every approach involves passing through the territory now claimed by the newly emerged Freyne Empire.
This is telling. You’re not hiding it, it’s just not grabbing me.


Well its a different approach to World Building, all my beta readers are saying that I need to say more at the beginning because they can't see the world I am building.


Attack and strong attack are command words. They mean over twenty-five men have invaded a base.
Strong means over twenty-five men - repeating, without the word strong, there could be as few as five more repeating attackers. If less than five it is not even more repeating an attack, just an incursion. Maybe I should refer you to our military vocab look up. Yes. Maybe I should. Sorry, I can’t find the details. The important point for our story was that Mezzatorra was under attack. – I’d question the value of this whole paragraph.

Yes, I tend to agree, but once you are in this groove, why stop?

(In fact WE ALL KNOW why the Freyne wanted to ban more satellites around Sas Darona, but I can’t write about that without causing a diplomatic incident, so I won’t. The truth will out when Chart Segat is brought to trial and then we will all know.)+
a friend etc. would they not already know all this info, as they live in the same time period as the writer of said letter. So this is just for me the reader, and this reader expects a writer to work harder at world building.


Point taken. This is the first time the reader hears the name Chart Segat who is the villain of the piece, and trust me, he makes quite an entrance when he finally comes onstage about p20, but to trail his entry I have all the other main characters reference him with hate, disdain, fear before we actually see him

This is part of a build up. At least that is what I was thinking.



The letters were a nice idea, but of little interest to me. Others might disagree, but mostly it was far too distant (I can’t live events in letters) and what felt like an excuse for info dumping and world building with a stamp on. The rambling letter never even got to the action, and I felt cheated I was always hearing about an events 3rd hand. If it was so good, why not have your opening scene start with the action? This is the question that hung unanswered for me, and because of it, I couldn’t enjoy what you were trying to present. It was too slow, very slow.

Some missing commas for me, which is not bad at all really. The writing even had a voice of sorts from the letter writer, which was good.

This is the place to experiment and try things out, so keep going and keep trying. For me, this letter idea didn’t work. In terms of an attempt, I think the idea had merit, but it’s not what I personally read books for. I read to live events with the characters and that feeling was absent here, as it always would be in letters. But as I say, this is my view and others may disagree.

Thanks V encouraging. As an opening to the book possibly not, but this change of pace does add value when you see it in context. It feels much more contemporary when this is one chapter of 9 pages set amongst the first 3 chapters, ie the first 30 pages which set the scene for our story .
 
But I am long way removed from the story I must tell.Yes, he is. So to reiterate, Control is a small base on Sas Daronaand this is all we needed.


Just to mentionnoooooo, just tell me what happened. There's an attack, that's going to change the world and be replayed a million times. If this is a diary-entry, he knows all this, the codewords, where things are -- why would he put all this information in except to tell us it? It doesn't make logical sense, and it screams info dump. , that at the time of writing, we have only mapped at ground level less than five percent of Sas Darona’s surface. And since last year we only have three satellites. The Freyne having successfully banned the import of this technology using the UR (United Races) laws of privacy.

....
I stopped there, as the rest of my comments were in the same vein. You have an exciting event here, you just need to tell it, as it happened, from one point of view (either this one or another's.) Don't worry about the world yet, get us sucked in first and then we'll wait and see what we think of the world. I'm sorry, but I think this is not a better route to go and that your second crit is still the strongest of the three starts shown. 2c.

Thanks, very useful. I was thinking this might be more of a Marmite experience. I might try it on my readers circle tonight, i think the response there will be more mixed.

But the response to this extract here (SFF Chronicles) has been as popular as if I had shown dead kittens on Facebook, so...

As an opener its a non-starter, but if you read it in context among the other chapters it is more nuanced.

For reference the original is here: http://www.sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/547092-introducing-karl-valvanchi-a-rewrite-by-sally-ann.html
 
The Passage by Justin Cronin starts in a slightly similar kind of way -- though it's a little snappier.

I rather liked the letter to the brother (though I wondered if it might be slightly tightened sometimes).

I didn't like "Dear Diary" (does anyone really write that?), but that's a personal twitch.

I rapidly got confused in the text that followed but in fact I think it's because he spends so long saying how significant the day has been -- how painful, how important etc. -- and I got impatient waiting to find out what he was talking about and irritated with him. I see what you're doing, and it would make sense that he's be all over the place after such an experience, but we also need the story to start and while he's rambling, it isn't starting.

Honestly, I'd start at something like "The call came in at 8:32...." and go from there.

I get why the explanations are important and I rather like the direct way you're putting them in, but if this is his diary (which he's wondering about sending to his brother) then why would he expect lots of people to read it? Maybe have a note saying something like:

"Simonelle -- I've added some explanatory notes in case the diary has to be shown to those unfamiliar with..." (so the notes are clearly added later, not while he was writing the diary entry). You might even have them as footnotes because right now they kind of get between the reader and the story -- if something terrible/ wonderful happened, I want to know what and I feel like I'm being led around by the nose with the intro and then not actually saying what's going on.

I hope that helps. I did like this.

Also very helpful. I can certainly do most of that. Thank you.
 
Sally Ann, can I ask what your writing aims are please. Are writing for fun and the personal challenge, or do you want to get published (you'd think this is a silly question on here, but a lot of members I respect deeply write simply because they feel the urge/calling etc.)?
 
Hi Sally,

This reminds me a lot of the John Carter of Mars prefaces or some of the Jules Verne's novels. If that's what your going for you might look at those quickly to get the flavor for it.
On the other hand there is a more recent author out there named Andrea Host who wrote a whole series in a sort of diary style.

It's difficult to tell from this if you are trying to recreate something from long past literature but it doesn't work well for me even though it does sound familiar and ring bells they are how should I put it? Discordant.
 
I rather liked the style. It sounds very much like an actual journal would. Unfortunately, that's also the main problem. There are several places where I'm going "would you (the fictional writer, not you yourself,) just get ON with it already?"


If you want to read an author who writes in this 19th century way but is still very popular (or at least was when he wrote the books in the 60's and 70's) among modern readers, you could do worse than glance through the Flashman stories by George Macdonald Fraser.
 
Sally Ann, can I ask what your writing aims are please. Are writing for fun and the personal challenge, or do you want to get published (you'd think this is a silly question on here, but a lot of members I respect deeply write simply because they feel the urge/calling etc.)?

I already publish on Amazon Kindle and in paperback on Lulu, please see my website here www.sallyannmelia.com (Apologies for the plug I, Brian - I know its against the rules, but its also the truth..)

So in a nutshell I am a player.
 
Hi Sally,

This reminds me a lot of the John Carter of Mars prefaces or some of the Jules Verne's novels. If that's what your going for you might look at those quickly to get the flavor for it.
On the other hand there is a more recent author out there named Andrea Host who wrote a whole series in a sort of diary style.

It's difficult to tell from this if you are trying to recreate something from long past literature but it doesn't work well for me even though it does sound familiar and ring bells they are how should I put it? Discordant.


Its a real departure from the first draft but I have not get it right yet.
 
I rather liked the style. It sounds very much like an actual journal would. Unfortunately, that's also the main problem. There are several places where I'm going "would you (the fictional writer, not you yourself,) just get ON with it already?"


If you want to read an author who writes in this 19th century way but is still very popular (or at least was when he wrote the books in the 60's and 70's) among modern readers, you could do worse than glance through the Flashman stories by George Macdonald Fraser.


No I think that has been the point many people have made here, and It is well made.

Still not sure you are right, because the full section is 5000 words long, and this is only 1500 words. I know eveyone is saying they would have junked this before then; but in context this is a very slow burn start, because its gets very heated very quickly. Having said that I can also find it very easy to waffle at the start of a chapter.

I can see 500 words I can cut without pain, so I will have a new draft with you shortly.
 
Shorter and more to the point - but does it work?

Chapter 1. Introducing Karl Valvanchi

Investigation into the accident at Mezzatorra and subsequent impact on Freyne 2.
Submissions to the United Races. Valvanchi evidence item #3
Transcribed audio tapes, plus commentary by Captain Karl Valvanchi,


Simonelle,

As discussed I am sending you the transcribed audio files from the Mezzatorra incident. I have added in notes to assist those members of the United Races (UR) committee who are not familiar with Sas Darona and our operations here.
Please do not hesitate to get back to me should you have any further questions,

Karl

P.S. Thanks for helping with this, Si’. Its grim I know, I don’t deserve to have a brother like you.

Audio transcript – communications: Control – Mezzatorra.
Additional content provide by Karl Valvanchi


Just to say the day in question was a completely normal day. There was no advance warning of any attack on Mezzatorra, no intelligence on unusual shipments to the native tribes.
I have cut and pasted the audio commentary and added in my notes alongside it. I have used two fonts to differentiate between the audio transcript and my commentary. I hope this is clear.

“Mezzatorra to Control, we are under attack, strong attack, please assist.”


Here are my notes to help with the understanding of this audio:
Control is the local name for the Zaracan exploration base on Sas Darona. Sas Darona is a standard habitable planet on the far edge of the zone of United Races influence. The base is small, and the total number of Zaracan nationals on Sas Darona at this time was 43, of which 16 would die this day at Mezzatorra.
Attack and strong attack are command words. They mean over twenty-five men have invaded a base. Strong means over twenty-five men, without the word strong, there could be as few as five attackers. If less than five it is not an attack, just an incursion.
Mezzatorra is an outlying outpost about 200km from Control. [FONT=&quot]Mezzatorra was a centre of our research into cybernetics and entomology. Entomology being the study of insects and more particularly the Sas Darona plague insects. [/FONT]
Summary: Mezzatorra was under attack, but while that sounds bad, it really wasn’t. That too was almost normal.

"Mezzatorra to Control, we are under attack, strong attack. Please assist.”
“Are you in lock down?”
That was me, Karl Valvanchi, and I said lock down, and because it is the phrase we use to describe all of the scientists safely secured inside the vault. We have very strict guidelines on how we can defend ourselves against the Sas Darona indigenous tribespeople laid down by the United Races. They have no weapons that are any threat to us, nor our transformational medicine. Each of our bases has a large secure vault. Mezzatorra was no exception the secure area has a bunk room, kitchen and research area where the staff could continue to work during an attack.

“Lock down was successful.”

When Lock down was successful, that meant all of the staff were safely in this secure citadel. Most likely the most difficult choice they faced was whether to have breakfast or simply go get some more sleep in the vault bunk room. The sound you now hear is Sonia's laughing, she was a lovely girl.

“Most of us were still in bed, so it’s a bit like a pyjama party here.”
When you listen to the tape, it sounds strange to hear us joking and fooling around. You can’t help wondering what is wrong with us. Why we could not see the danger. But at that point we had no reason to be alarmed. I am on the record as saying:

"I won’t switch the camera on, but you’re all OK?”

And there you have it. It was me who switched the cameras off, to preserve the blushes of my colleagues at the remote base. I switched off the cameras least someone was embarrassed to be seen in the baggy tees or sweat pants, we all wear when we are in bed. As a result I have been much criticised, because we now have no video of what happened next. No visual record of the next fatal thirteen minutes, just audio. Those tapes are already painful enough to listen to, I cannot imagine what it would have been like to watch it. Anyhow back to the tape. Next she says:

“May I submit the formal lock down report?”

Her name is Sonia. She was nineteen, a recently arrives R&D assistant, a sweet thing. On the tape, you hear her reciting the necessary statistics. So many people have commented on her gentle husky voice.
I would not tell you, except it is no longer a secret. I don’t know how the press got hold of the story, but yes its true Sonia already had two lovers. Or so said the papers! But I had heard the rumours and the tittle tattle. What you have to understand is that these kinds of arrangement were not uncommon in our situation: An exploration base with many more men than women. So poor Sonia she did not deserve for there to be so much gossip. But the reason was this. She was so beautiful. She had a row of golden curls at the nape of her neck like fine lace. A beautiful beautiful girl. That and the fact that her chosen lovers were identical twins.
Yes I had noticed her. Maybe even I had wondered, if maybe. But the answer is no, I didn’t. I was too old for her, or if not too old certainly too… well, too jaded perhaps. Anyhow Jake and John were a better choice.

“Did you say there was only one pallet in the yard?”

This is an important detail in the audio tape. This was the first detail that made me start to wonder about the attack.

“Yes, that’s right.
That’s what is so unusual; the SDLA would not normally bother for one pallet of Monazite.”
We can tell by Sonia's reply, she is still unconcerned. Most of the people who died that day were only aware of the danger they faced at the very end.

“Look I’m due to fly today. I’ll buzz them. If they’re not gone already, that should scare them off.”

Some of the families called me a hero. I was the only one to leave Control that day with the specific purpose of helping Mezzatorra. In fact I was no hero. I had to take my flyer out today to complete other missions. I would only have been a hero if I had suspected anything was amiss, if I had even perceived the danger. But I didn’t, I had no expectation of danger. Just I knew them well. The scientists and analysts of Mezzatorra were my friends. You will have all heard the end of the tape:

“Oh great, thanks Karl. Why don’t you stop for breakfast? Jake’s planning to cook his speciality lizards.”

“Hum… Jake’s speciality lizards… What was that?”
“Oh. Look. I better check. See you Karl.”

Speciality Lizards see… how could I resist such an offer? And yes, the thing she heard in the distance was the SDLA placing the explosives against the vault wall. We estimate there must have twenty five kg of explosives and they were fixed with large magnets to the wall. The magnets would have made a dull thump when they were attached. From inside the bunker, the thumb would have sounded like a bass gong. The wall might have vibrated. Whatever Sonia and the others heard, felt or saw. Their lives were almost over.

I headed out to the flyer, the team had it prepped and ready. I was in the air within minutes as I headed out to the horizon I saw the first line of white fire light. I include now the audio transcript between me and the control tower. I am cut and pasting it. I have written in some comments to help you understand.

KV34: KV34 to Control, permission to leave.
Control: Permission granted have a great flight.
[[FONT=&quot]I have deleted 1 minute 5 seconds of the transcript since I spent those minutes undertaking some required acceleration tests, and I have removed all dialogue covering those minutes since it all irrelevant to this story[/FONT][FONT=&quot].[/FONT]]​
KV34: Control I can see a line of white fire on the horizon.
Control: What a forest fire?
KV34: The line of fire is rising vertical from the ground. It’s coming from the direction of Mezzatorra. Is that a shield test?


Control: A shield test? Are you… OK Let me check KV34. Keep your channel open and you can listen in.
KV34: No problem, I heading over that way anyhow.

Control. Well done KV34, though it’s probably just a drill.
…​
Control: Control to Mezzatorra, report please?
[…. No reply.]
[FONT=&quot]Control: Control to Mezzatorra?[/FONT]
KV34: “Karl Valvanchi requesting clearance to land in, oh eighteen seconds.”
[… Still no reply.]

I was flying my plane over and around Mezzatorra now, as the lines of white line rose spread and multiplied. I was flying through the arches of white fire. I remembered I was enjoying it. The smallest mistake and I would have been toast. But I did not make any mistakes. And it’s nice to be challenged.

Mezzatorra: “Negative Karl negative. We have a grade one cy-sect alert. We have initiated the protection shield.”
[It was Sonia and she was panicking.]
KV34: “Cy-sect alert?”

Mezzatorra: “For God’s sake Karl, just get out of here!”
 
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I think that this is a great improvement on the earliest versions.There are a some grammatical errors and contradictions and the writing could be tightened up further in places, IMO. You'll probably pick these problems up on a re-read, and fix them in your own writing style, so I won't comment further.

The paragraph about Sonia stretches credibility, however. I don't believe that a military officer would write in that way in notes for official scrutiny, particularly when he had already been criticised. Nor do I believe that he would have written, in that context, that he enjoyed flying through the arches of white fire.
 
I have to agree with TitaniumTi, this is awesomely better.

Also since it seems to be running commentary to audio feed on a serious issue I also agree you need to engage the editor and remove things that might only end up in a diary.
 
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