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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/profile/reviews/blackadder256
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191 Public Reviews Given
Public Reviews
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1
1
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Marvin reflects helplessly on the ongoing terrorist attack as he works to escape it: the triggering of the enormous but long-dormant Martian volcano, Mons Olympus.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked:
You took on both the contest theme (explosions) and mimicked the theme of the story example without reusing it: while making use of the story prompt is unnecessary, it's nice to see. The story had a clear setup and progression, foreshadowing, and substantial stakes. Your technical world-building was strong in this entry: the reader can gain a clear sense of what's going on, how, why, and why catastrophic consequences are on the way. The story reads cleanly, and the reader has a reason to care.


What Might be Improved:
There are a few minor grammatical errors, such as a missed quotation mark and incorrect quotation of italicized text. However, the main weakness of the story is that it invests too much in technical setup and not enough in the protagonist's interaction with events. Worse, while the protagonist likely understands something of the "Martian Human Extinction Rebellion" and its motivations, the reader does not - it's unclear why the terrorists would do such a thing.


Summary:
Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest! The depth and complexity of the world-building and use of science give it the edge over this month's strong competition!
2
2
Review of Sky Explosions  
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Nonic and his people pretend to let their "Sky Explosions creation buildings" be lost to the humans, only to set a trap for the following "Attack Ships."

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest:

What I liked:
This work sets up a powerful plot twist, reversing the sense of mystery built up throughout the story into just vengeance.

What Might Be Improved:
A little more variety in and complexity style would make this story stronger, especially regarding the use of simple capitalized words as technical terms. Additionally, while the plot twist is really good, a bit of a clue dropped earlier in the story would be even better: nothing is better in a mystery than discovering that you've missed a clue to a plot twist!

Thanks for you entryin the Science Ficiton Short Story Contest and welcome back!
3
3
Review of Life's A Blast  
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Mac's assistant Terry whips out a little science project to solve Mac's engine trouble - creating a small star that might or might not develop into a black hole.


What I liked:
While the newborn blazing sun hasn't exploded quite yet, it does pass for fireworks! Mac was certainly not expecting the trouble he got - which he and Terry barely were able to extricate themselves from. What the piece lacks in plausibility, it makes up for with dry situational humor and style.


What might be improved:
I might nitpick about the relation between stars and black holes or complain of minor grammatical errors such as using space as a transitive verb (Terry wanted to space so quickly). I might also suggest that in the quest for humor, you downplay the conflict underlying the plot. Mac is faced with two challenges over the course of the story: engine trouble and the overwhelming heat from Terry's star. The first is resolved while he's sleeping and the second with a single sentence as Terry turns the knob down on the anomaly. Most of the humor of the story relates to imaginations regarding what Terry's technology might do and his utter irresponsibility in deploying it. Picking one or more of these more "interesting" scenarios and handling it in real-time might lead to a stronger story.

Summary:
This is a creative and amusing story, and a pleasure to read, though it took me a couple of reads to "get it" because most of the interesting bits are implied rather than stated, and are not contained within the protagonist's experience. Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest: good to see you back!
4
4
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
The vengeful Mothim created a SpaceStorm to spite those who said it was impossible. Thankfully, Yangina and Janneal have devices to counteract it.

Thanks for your entry in the Science FictionShort Story Contest!

What I liked:
Thank you for an entry that makes the prompt into a central theme. This story has a clear conflict, real stakes, and a villain with clear motivations.

What Might Be Improved
There are improvements that might be made in word choice, grammar, and style. For example, I would advise against using repeated capitalized such as "SpaceStorm." While this might seem to allow simple English words to act as official scientific jargon, it's not a common convention and unfortunately is likely to take authority from your writing rather than strengthen it.

More importantly, a well-structured story should prepare its audience for the way it resolves its conflict using clues and foreshadowing. Ideally, the characters should progress through time, effort, and the careful unraveling of clues toward a solution that was hinted at over time - which the readers also have to work toward discovering in a process parallel to that of the characters in the story. In a short story, this is difficult to achieve - there is little time for twists and clues. Still, whatever budget of words the story has available should be used to establish them.

This story is resolved by two characters using weapons to drain the power from the threatening storm. When this occurs, it is a surprise in the sense that it is not set up. However, it is not novel, because as far as the reader knows, the solution was available to the characters all along - they did not have to work to progress toward that solution, creating a sense of the anticlimactic. Without a strong hook or a poignant and ironic juxtaposition of emotional elements, the rest of a story has little to hang itself upon. A stronger central hook would make this story immensely stronger - which is why so many writers concentrate so singularly on coming up with that plot hook!

Summary:
Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest! Coming up with a truly worthy story hook is difficult, often the hardest part of writing - but also the most vital. This one fell a little short, but keep at it!


5
5
Review of Fly-by  
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Dhibh's earnest attempt to make sense of strange phenomena, his hope to make their first contact with aliens, are met with the modest indifference of humans remarking on storms as they fly by on their way to someplace more important.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked:
This story not only makes good use of the prompt but places it within a touching little vignette that calls to mind the insignificance of our attempts to impose dreams upon an uncaring reality.

What Might Be Improved:
This is a clean and well-written piece, but its central theme does not naturally deliver a compelling conflict or a strong plot. This month included stronger entries than average, and it would have been difficult to deliver a winning entry without those elements.

Summary:
This was an enjoyable vignette and a fine entry in the Contest. Thanks for bringing it my way!
6
6
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: E | (3.5)
In an alternate history, Tesla's brilliance allows the world to harness enough lightning to provide for all of Earth's energy needs.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked:
This original piece of writing makes creative use of the prompt, "lightning," to weave its setting. Tesla is a favorite of popular science imaginings, and a fitting character to build an alternate history around. Using the first-person musings of a reporter who interviews the man is a good choice, and that part is well executed.

What might be improved:
The piece has a few minor grammatical and stylistic errors, but not enough to distract the reader too severely. Like many frame pieces I see, this is more of a vignette than a story: it does not so much have a plot as minor twists and turns of exposition, robbing it of some opportunities for narrative strength. I do appreciate the work you have put in to include scientific considerations here. Unfortunately, as an electrical engineer, I am too aware of the scientific errors in this piece to suspend credibility regarding them (a conflation of solar and electrical energy, wrecking the laws of thermodynamics, and so forth) - a typical rule if one is going to break the laws of physics in science fiction is not to be too specific in describing the violations.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest! Good to see you back!
7
7
Review of New Eden  
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Adam plans to populate a colony with his and Evelyn's offspring - but Eve wouldn't have the murderer if he was the last man on the planet!

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked:
This creepy, bible-inspired science fiction story makes a central element of this month's contest theme: lightning. You've obviously spent some time editing this one: this story is pretty clean, grammatically (at least clean enough to avoid drawing my attention to errors - I am not the most scrupulous editor). Evelyn is a sympathetic character, and the reader is led to thoroughly dislike Adam before his betrayal, foreshadowing the ending and setting up a clean and straightforward plot progression.


What Might be Improved
The only grammatical element that caught my attention was the use of vertical space: often but not always you placed dialogue elements within a new line, even when it was not correct to do so. Stylistically, your writing is adequate but could be more elegant. The dialogue, for example, is a tad on the nose; however, this is the kind of element one turns to when there are not more serious stylistic elements to address. The ending line is a mixed blessing - it's clever, and almost but does not quite exactly fit. The snake in the Garden of Eden persuades Eve to betray God - in this story, Evelyn is entirely innocent. One of the most difficult things to do in writing is to kill one's darlings - if a quip is lovely and clever but doesn't quite fit, drop it.

Summary:
This is a strong entry and one I enjoyed reading. This month, it was edged out by another story with slightly stronger writing - but remains a solid runner-up. Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

8
8
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
A scientist who asks not to be called mad is persuaded to solve the "agelessness" problem - one he originally created. The death of those whose aging has been suspended immediately follows.


Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked:
This story makes use of the prompt, "mad science." It's a fully developed story, with a mostly internal conflict centering around Angra and others investigating missing persons, only to discover they are volunteers in a program to solve the "agelessness" problem. Thankfully, the grammar in this piece was solid, making it much easier to read than it otherwise might have been. I will say your writing is improving over time.

What might be improved:
The biggest issue I had with this story was that the "agelessness" problem wasn't well defined or described. What issues was eternal youth causing? It's implied that it was driving people mad, but it wasn't clear how or why. Without understanding the stakes clearly, it's difficult for a reader to get fully invested in the resolution of the problem. There wasn't much character development, nor did those characters encounter many challenges or plot twists. It takes a great deal of charm to overcome the lack of a strong plot hook, and there wasn't enough stylistic elegance to make up for the lack.

In Summary
This is a bit of a mixed piece, with good elements but some improvement in style and a stronger hook needed to really shine. Still, it's good to see your writing improve over time, and I'm looking forward to good things! Thanks for much for your entry!
9
9
Review of Mad Science  
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Dr. Jackson offers a former model a chance at eternal youth. But Sarah could never have guessed the catch.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked:
Mark Jackson is a true mad scientist, pushing the boundaries of science to achieve his own personal Holy Grail, with little care for the price that must be paid along the way, or for who must pay it. It opens with a question: "Do you trust me?" This is our first clue that Jackson is in no way worthy of being trusted. The setup is clever: the reader is highly unlikely to guess what will go wrong, though the fate of Sarah's cat foreshadows the failure precisely. The characters make sense: their motivations are persuasive and clearly explained. This story does a lot right.

What might be improved:
Sarah's transformation into a cat was an interesting and well-foreshadowed twist. However, it also requires some suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. A bit of a hint as to why this might be plausible would be welcome. Perhaps cat DNA was used as part of the formula because it happened to be well-sequenced. Perhaps some cat hairs were mixed in with whatever device was used to analyze Sarah's DNA (ala "The Fly"). Either way, a little bit of sugar to help the pill go down would be wonderful.

With a good story and strong characters, an author must still charm the reader. Your writing would benefit from attention paid to grammar, word choice, and elegance. The sentences a reader will remember most clearly are the first and the last: these will set the tone, and you should take care to edit them closely. Instead, two of the first three sentences have dangling clauses.

Consider the following edits:
'"Sarah, do you trust me?" asked Dr. Mark Jackson. He was dressed in a white lab coat, and he stood beside the table holding a needle filled with a darkish blue fluid.

Sarah looked at Mark with wide-open green eyes. Her beloved cat 18-year-old cat lay fast asleep in her arms.'

These details matter. A good editor can help improve one's writing style, but forcing yourself to do the edits yourself will help drill in the habits that might help you get your writing to the editor in the first place. I might not be an expert myself, but masterful writers know their grammar and their stories read well aloud. A good reader will find these kinds of errors distracting, and those are the readers you want.


In Summary
This is not only a strong entry, but one that could be substantially improved by a good editing pass. I encourage you to spend the time: you may find yourself justly proud of the result.

Thanks for sending your story by! You have once again won the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!




10
10
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: E | (2.5)
Ann uses time travel to impress her future girlfriend - and to provide the green energy the world needs by way of a viable and efficient design for a fusion reactor.


Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest

What I liked:
The form of this story is ambitious, given its brevity. It involves multiple distinct characters with their own personal motivations with a plot to "Save the world" as a mere backstory. The time-travel device is used to set up the kind of cyclical dependencies common to time travel stories, as Ann relies on kisses to prove her identity and knowledge - and to set up a relationship she's already experienced.

What Might Be Improved:
Ann is not a mad scientist per se, nor do her plans harm anyone or go awry. I would venture to say the story doesn't quite follow the prompt. Additionally, the attention given to the form of the plot isn't reflected in its details. This piece does not exactly have a conflict or a climax, nor does it offer a sense of progression or poignant juxtaposition common to most vignettes: in short, the plot lacks a strong hook. While Ann is given some color, the other characters are a bit flat, and more focus could be given to the grammar and writing style. There are some good pieces here, but work is needed in multiple dimensions to bring them to life.

In Summary:
Good writing is hard, and it's even harder to pull off multiple plotlines with multiple characters convincingly. There's not much room in a short story - one strategy might be to fully develop one's plot hook and then build the rest of the characters around that, making sure each has a motivation. If there's insufficient room to develop those motivations, fewer characters may well be in order. Still, there are some good pieces here, and you may find it worth your time to develop them. If not - well, practice may make perfect, but nothing is scarcer in the modern world than time. Thanks for your entry and the chance to learn from it as a reader!
11
11
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
The Sormanians, thought to be completely destroyed, have returned on wings to threaten the council. It will take all of Jordan and Cody's courage, and their special powers, to live long enough to tell the council what is coming.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked
The prompt was growth, and the Sormanians rapidly expanding their numbers and capabilities justifies the title of this short story - The Growing Threat. The plot is well-shaped. Over time, the nature and extent of the threat are slowly revealed, and we learn more about Cody and Jordan's abilities as they struggle to escape. In the end, the two characters live to tell the council about the return of the Sormanians and their increased abilities. But we know the story is not over, and I was left wanting to hear more.

What Might be Improved
This story has quite a few minor grammatical errors and slightly awkward phrases.

For example, "All of them. Whole of them.”
Perhaps this is simply an expression I haven't heard or an idiom common to a different dialect of English, but the last fragment did not seem to belong. Also, a few more hints about the community Cody and Jordan came from might help the reader feel connected to them. Was the council part of a Federation of Stars? What scale of threat did the Sormanians pose and to whom - a couple of planets or the whole galaxy? Knowing the stakes might help the reader feel even more connected to the story and the characters. What or who are the protagonists fighting for?

Summary
I enjoyed this story, and appreciate your bringing it my way. I wish I had informed you of the broken link before I had finished the judging, as this one was a good candidate for the prize. Thanks for your entry and hope to see you drop by again!
12
12
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: E | (4.0)
Carole wanted nothing more than to spend her days and nights doing nothing but glorious eating. In this story of horror and indulgence, a wish and an alien entity made Carole's dream come true - after a fashion.

What I liked
In this story, you knew what you were about, and went after it without compromise. The language is concrete, focusing on the visceral nature of Carole's disgusting transformation - and it does so with an explicit attitude of approval, in dissonance with the horror of the transformation the protagonist undergoes. In the beginning, the audience is moved to sympathy with Carole's plight, but before long that sympathy has vanished, even if the tone of the narrator is still supportive.

What might be improved
The reviewer might be improved: this is not my kind of tale. I tend to like stories where I can identify with the protagonist and novels where I can root for the "good guy." This is not one of those stories.
There are a number of grammatical errors in this writing, and while grammatical errors are far easier to fix than characters and plotlines, they matter if you don't want to lose your audience. Attend to the missing commas, incomplete sentences, capitalization of headings, pluralization, subject-verb agreements and so on.

In Summary
I'm not a huge fan of visceral horror, but it seems like, within the niche, you've got a pretty good start. Give it another couple of editing passes, and I'm sure you'll find an audience for it. Thanks for sending it by, and I'm sorry for the long delay in reviewing it. Keep writing!
13
13
Review of Click  
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Cindra discovers an android impersonating her dead grandfather, and puts an end to him.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked:
This story was a surprise. Compact and filled with action, it keeps the reader's attention.

What might be improved:
It doesn't seem to have much to do with the contest prompt, "Growth." Neither is it long enough for the reader to grow much much attachment to Cindra or understand what is important about the Sentients, or why they might be forced into stealing the identities of the dead. There doesn't seem to be quite enough here to latch on to. This makes it difficult to give much feedback, even if there isn't much to object to in what you've written.

Thanks for your entry in the Contest - I appreciate your stopping by!
14
14
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Legends from the bible have come back again - giants. And it took all the guile and strategy humanity could muster to get rid of them.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked:
The biblical theme of this story organizes it and binds it, taking an implausible threat and grounding it in history. Much of the piece is spent explaining the threat, including the scientific impossibility of beings the size humanity is facing, with the implication that understanding is power, that knowing where the giants came from would offer the clue to defeating them. And, in the end, humanity is up to the task.

What might be improved:
In the end, understanding the history of the giants did not offer much help in defeating them. The turning point in the story is instead when one human declares that working together and turning the giants against one another will allow the humans to achieve victory. The story fast-forwards to when humans have in fact done this. After mopping up the last few giants with drone strikes, they settle down to create a new world. This story may have been running up against the length limit, but it seems that instead of trimming the setup, the story itself was mostly skipped.

Thanks for your entry and for a nice biblical setup. In this month's crop, your story is the strongest and wins this month's prize!
15
15
Review of GROWING BRAINS  
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: E | (3.5)
Colleen's pregnancy develops in parallel with the progress of an anthropological expedition.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked:
Two parallel plots entwined under the umbrella of a master theme represent an ambitious and appreciated effort. I enjoyed the mature scientific discussion under that umbrella.

What might be improved:
Unfortunately, I'm not much of a fan of reading playscripts, and I found the text format and the blocking directions somewhat distracting. After a couple readthroughs, I don't think I entirely get the point. I'm not sure what the conflict is or how it serves the theme. At the end of the story, I don't see the result of the dig, the health of the mother or child, or how the mentioned climate and parasites will affect either. It's hinted that something in the environment is affecting Colleen's pregnancy in a similar fashion as human nature many many years back, perhaps leading to a new evolution in humanity. But if the story never goes beyond that hint, I couldn't follow it.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest! I appreciate your dropping by!
16
16
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
Monich One, Two, Three, and Four suffer massive and unknown alien growth that threatens the Universe. Junna, attempting to destroy the growth, appears to somehow contribute to its spread everywhere.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked:
This story follows the contest prompt and provides an image of an inexorable threat.

What might be improved:
Since it's not clear where the growth comes from or what other option Junna had, it's hard to fully enjoy the ending. Also the buildup is straightforward, and the reader is not left with the impression that the story could go any differently, with one exception: it's possible to imagine Junna's strike working. That part could go either way.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!
17
17
Review of escape plan  
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: E | (3.0)
Thanks for sending your story my way - I appreciate you thinking of my name when looking for reviews.

What I liked:
This story has a clear hook and plot progression. It explicitly draws inspiration from Cinderella as well as stories about noblewomen escaping from arranged marriages. While Zea is the protagonist of the story and her offscreen stepmother Helena is named the villain, in the text, it is Luna who really shines. It is she who at substantial personal risk frees her sister. With Helena sleeping, she is given the opportunity to show her love for her sister and her dislike for the women imprisoning her, represented by Aunt Surdia. The interaction among the three is the strongest part of the story: the reader can feel Luna's love, Surdia's spite, and Lea's gratitude. It's a straightforward story, but relatable and enjoyable.

What might be improved:
The plot has no real twists or surprises. It is mostly explained by the narrator in the second paragraph. Some back story is likely required, but the old adage applies here, "Show, don't tell." You would probably better off describing Zea, and then easing into her predicament through a description. Instead, you address the reader directly, asking how they would feel if imprisoned within the storeroom of a castle that ought to be home.

Additionally, I would be cautious of minor grammatical errors and awkward word choices. Attempts at flowery language often backfire, and this might be a good example:
"It is true that everyone, indeed, possesses a heart to be kind. However, it blossoms when one owns a conscience to question oneself."
Although I can guess what this means, it's not very clearly stated. One alternative, which might or might not capture your sentiment:
"It is true that everyone indeed possesses a heart capable of kindness. However, this kindness is easily choked by pride, or a failure to question whether a soul is doing what is right."

It's also not usually recommended for the narrator to address the reader directly: "How do you feel when you are forced to live in a store room in the castle, although you own the entire castle?— incredibly stupid, right?"
But if choose to, you might ask "How would you feel" rather than "How do you feel." Nor do I think such a circumstance would make the reader feel stupid. Instead, it would make them feel indignant or wronged.

There are a few other awkward phrases below, but most of those are grammatically correct. In writing a short story, extra care should be given to the opening and ending lines, as these can make or break or break the tone of the piece. Unfortunately, these are not your strongest. This is a common failing, and mostly a result of insufficient editing. Plan to rewrite your opening and ending, and you should be able to deliver a much stronger story.

Overall, I liked the story, but I think some work is required to help it meet its potential. Thanks for sending it my way, and good luck in your future writing!

18
18
Review of Natural Immunity  
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: ASR | (4.5)
Captain Chodor and his crew chase the mystery of what happened to the ship that didn't return, the Farsight. They speculate about the mutiny of a team unwilling to return to find a too-welcoming world - but discover for themselves how deceptive such welcomes can be.


Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked
There's a lot in this short piece, and it took me a couple of read-throughs to fully grasp it. It's a well-formulated piece, with characters that matter, interesting dialogues, a progression of discovery, a hook, and a dark twist at the end. It makes good use of the prompt's theme while offering a tone reminiscent of classic sci-fi horror. It's a well-written piece, with crisp descriptions and clean writing - well done!


What might be improved
I did not like the tagline: "Nothing ever means to evolve a defense mechanism. But sometimes they just do." It's technically true, but it mixes the concepts of individual intentionality with the logic of evolution. We are to presume the trees evolved a rather predatory "symbiotic" relationship with the planet's fauna which just happens to provide a defense against intragalactic explorers.

Aside from this, the concept of mutiny in the introduction was a red herring, and it left me a bit confused until I read the piece through more than once. It takes most of the piece to set up enough background to make the mutiny hypothesis plausible, and yet it turns out the story isn't about that at all. I've heard fiction described as making a promise in its opening lines and then keeping that promise in the remaining paragraphs or chapters - alternatively, asking a question and then answering it. While it's clever to open with the crew's incorrect presumptions, it's probably going to throw more readers than you expect. Figuring out what's going on feels a bit like solving a puzzle, but also a bit like having an inside joke explained - probably not as satisfying as if you'd taken a bit more of a direct approach to the mystery and introduced the mutiny hypothesis midway in.

In Summary
This is a good story, and quite well-written, if a bit overly clever at points. Thank you for your entry and Congratulations on winning this March's Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

19
19
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 18+ | (3.0)
Sorrina and Morgrem look back 100 years into the history of the Ghom-Homi conflict to discover a way to secure peace: the lost Space Lasers.

Thanks for your entry in the Better-Than-Real Sci-Fi Contest!

What I liked
This story had a solid plot, one which cleverly interprets the contest prompt. It even made sense of the term "Space Lasers," which otherwise might seem awkward - the intent of the prompt was to encourage both lasers and space to be used within a story, not necessarily the contrived term "space lasers." However, this story managed to make the term useful, and do so in a way important to the central conflict. I enjoyed learning about the world where the Ghom and Homi live and would have enjoyed hearing more about it.


What might be improved:
The biggest weakness of the piece is stylistic: much of the writing uses simple language repetitively or relies on "on the nose" dialogue. I also see some imprecise descriptions. Starting with the opening paragraph:

"Sorrina stops climbing the ladder that leads up to the
square opening at the top of it. She looks through that
opening up at the sky above them as two missiles hit and
destroy each other. When they do that it sends pieces of
them coming down toward Sorrina.
Most of those pieces don’t come through that opening. But some do."

There is nothing wrong with the grammar here. However, most readers would prefer a more precise picture. For example, I might have written instead:

"Sorrina stops at the top of the ladder, peering through the square hatch on the surface of the ravaged planet and toward the sky. Directly above, two missiles collide and destroy each other, raining debris toward her, and she ducks instinctively. Most of those pieces fall harmlessly to the surface around her, but she can hear the whistle and feel the wind as the chunks of metal fly through the opening and pass by the ladder below."

The first example is easier to write and easier for a young reader to read, but I think the second is stronger. My own style can come across to some as too complex and formal, so you should take my advice with a grain of salt. I've also seen some improvement in your writing through successive contests, but I would still encourage you to pay close attention to your writing style, especially your word choice.

In Sum
This was a worthy story, but there is still room for improvement in your storytelling. But if you're willing, I'd be glad to read more of your efforts in the future. Thanks so much for your entry!
20
20
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: E | (4.0)
Brad Field, whose ingenuity and perseverance turned Australia into a Green Superpower, is eulogized by his son at his funeral.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!


What I liked
The concept and setting are fully in keeping with the contest prompt, delivering a bright vision of Australia's future, with enough details to paint the picture and make it plausible. Especially for those with an attachment to Australia, the vision makes a hopeful and compelling vignette, told in part through the eyes of a hydro-engineer and his wife as they enjoy the ceremony.

What might be improved
It is not required for a writing entry to have a fully developed plot, but these are usually preferred to vignettes. The use of Jack and Deb as viewpoint characters is a good one, though their function in the scene is limited: they are excited to experience the event, proud and joyful as Brad's son speaks, and mournful at the loss of the man who made Australia's transformation possible. There's perhaps some additional opportunity to make the experience more personal, perhaps by recalling Jack's part in the work, or else his memory of the time before it. Emphasizing the challenges Brad faced a little more, or the comparison with other countries might have put Brad's accomplishments a bit more into relief, made them seem a bit more real and important.

Overall, however, this is a solid vignette, delivered at about the right level of detail. Aside from more of a plot, this was exactly what the prompt called for.


Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest! And Congratulations on winning the Contest for January!
21
21
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 13+ | (2.5)
Commanders Vultim and Navia are temporarily prevented from collecting solar energy by the innocent being flying in their way, but then decide to teleport the energy in containers, and are able to continue on their flight.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked
Unlike many entries, this is a story with a plot: an inciting event, a conflict, a climax, and a resolution. It uses the interaction between three characters to convey information and emotion. It even has a twist at the end, where the commanders who had been so careful to avoid the loss of innocent life around one sun are revealed to be on a genocidal mission to remove non-human sentient beings from the universe!

What might be improved
The writing style is a bit simple and the dialogue on the nose - characters often use simple language to describe events the others might be expected to see and know, for the benefit of the reader. Where descriptions are used, the language is vague.

For example:
"A few seconds later ten very long flat metal things slowly start lifting
themselves into an upward position toward the end of this
huge oblong spaceship. Between those things, something that
looks like a thin cloth appears to connect them."

I might suggest using more precise language to describe the scene, such as:
"A few seconds later ten thin dark metal bars lift themselves upward from the huge oblong spaceship until they are perpendicular to the ship. What appears to be a thin cloth connects them, forming a webbing between them."

Constructive stylistic criticisms are difficult to give, and it's not to write plausible dialogue or gripping descriptions, but an attractive writing style is a large part of what hold's a reader's attention: some extra practice in this area might be useful. Additionally, while this story has a clear plot and progression, its primary conflict is resolved by using a technology the ship already has onboard specifically to solve the kind of problem you describe. Since the power of the plot comes from the stakes of failure, its impact on the characters, the unlikeliness of success, and the skill and sacrifice of the characters in resolving the problem, the plot is not as compelling as it might be.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest. Your effort helps make the contest possible!
22
22
Review of Visitors  
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
A librarian is imprisoned for speaking with the crystal emissaries of an alien race. His king meets his comeuppance when the neighboring empire is wise enough to learn from the aliens and to receive their technology. But we learn they have done so out of opportunism, not peaceful coexistence - they turn on the alien's emissaries as soon as they learn how to do so, and hide their treachery from the public.


Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked
This is a fully developed story, with five distinct actors (Bagar, the King, the Chief Librarian, the eastern Emperor, and the Aliens), each with their own goals and perspectives. While each is unidimensional, together they provide the tensions that move the plot toward dual conflicts: the resolution of Bagar's situation and the resolution of the relationship among the nations. The treachery of the Eastern Empire provides an ambiguity that keeps this from being a simple morality tale - there are no good guys with enough agency to matter, just a messy situation to disentangle and a twist at the end.

What might be improved{\b}
Unfortunately, the protagonist has no capability to influence the meta-story, which means that his(?) personal conflict over what to do about the aliens and the meta-conflict between the empires and the aliens don't coincide. Additionally, it's not clear whether Bagar's decision is informed by the knowledge that he's probably going to be sent to prison for telling the truth. You might want the reader to root for Bagar, but it's hard to do when everything that happens to him is described as inevitable and ultimately fruitless. The only thing he is able to accomplish, in the end, is to provide the truth, a warning to those who might follow about the consequences of deciding who to trust.

At the meta-level, the conflict between the nations is described matter-of-factly as if part of the denouement, so there's not much narrative tension there. Consider carefully the emotional impact you want the events to have on the reader and make sure to drum up the tension to achieve it. It's usual to tell a story from the position of a character capable of affecting the outcome, focusing the narrative tension around the decision that cements the outcome, and setting up the stakes of the decision beforehand rather than after.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest, and congratulations on being this month's winner!
23
23
Review of Crystal Futures  
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: ASR | (3.5)
A rich old man shares with his granddaughter the story of his life's work - and the secret that will cost him his life.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked:
This story paints a broad picture of interplanetary development using a novel technology, but it's told from a personal perspective. The story progresses from utopia to dystopia as it goes, leading to a twist associated with betrayal and tragedy. The choice to reveal the story as a dialogue within someone from a younger generation who doesn't know the story is a good one and the idea of multi-planetary transport technology paired with an AI hooked my attention.

What might be improved:
The technical explanation of the Time Crystals is a bit lengthy for a short story. There's not much payoff for the reader to get invested in it, and it's a good portion of the story. Most of the explanation is not required to understand the plot or setting, and it won't be referred to elsewhere in a larger work. Whatever you draw the reader's attention to has to be worthy of it, and a short story especially should strive to be efficient.

Sophie's betrayal at the end of the story is puzzling. "Granpa" isn't much of a threat to the AI entity from within his yacht. Any threat he did pose would have come from his family taking action after hearing his story, but anyone sympathetic to him is going to be much more motivated by seeing him murdered. Meanwhile, it's even less clear why Sophie would have drawn him out only to murder him. I might have thought the murder was the action of the AI alone, but her words and expression indicated she hated her grandfather, only there's no setup explaining why. I could imagine greed or ambition playing a factor, but that's never set up or explained. This not only reduces the sense of the story's plausibility but the reader's sense of the characters' agency: the betrayal should resolve a conflict you've set up earlier, but instead it feels arbitrary. Replacing a bit of your technical explanation with some background that explains (especially in hindsight) why Sophie did what she did, and I believe this story becomes much stronger.


Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest and the chance to read an original work!
24
24
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: ASR | (3.0)
The advent of seeming Utopia coincides with the rise of a competition reminiscent of The Hunger Games, enabled by a culture of people physically separated but obsessed with social media.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest! I apologize for the late review, but somehow I missed your entry originally. If you don't see it listed on the page in the table of entries, please add a comment on the forum!

What I liked:
This story contains a clear theme based on the contest prompt: social media. Upon that theme, a painting of the future is made where human beings are almost always physically distanced from one another. Despite apparent happiness and prosperity in society, the narrator declares death preferable.

What might be improved:

There are some grammatical errors and awkward phrases that could use some attention. It doesn't take many errors to distract the reader, but the errors I see aren't too hard to fix. A few examples:


" Everyone has electronics and everyone can work from home, take care of business in their PJs"
might better be expressed as:
Everyone has electronics. They can work from home and take care of business and their PJs.

"except possibly me and few others who knew the truth"
Should be:
"except possibly me and a few others who knew the truth"

"After the net game that winner is never seen again."
Presumably, you mean:
"After the next game that winner is never seen again."

Aside from grammatical errors, I would like to see a few more traditional story elements, such as more and better-developed characters, a central conflict related to choices made by those characters during the course of the text, and so on.

Additionally, I'd point out that unlike in the Hunger Games or The Running Man, the origin of the events that disturb the narrator isn't explained. It's not clear where they come from or why people think they're necessary. Adding that would make the premise a lot stronger.


Thanks For Your Entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

25
25
Review by BlackAdder
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Jack, a rich social media exec, dodges a potential social media scandal at the hands of his AI assistant only to discover that his recent change to his home security settings has killed off his wife and children.


Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!

What I liked:
The concept of LifeShare and the examples of what could go wrong with it worked well. Jack, as the mogul peddling it, made a relatively unsympathetic character, and an appropriate target for schadenfreude. The story worked well, with an interesting concept, setting, character development, progression - and use of the contest prompt.

What might be improved:
I didn't particularly like reading about the death of Jack's family, but this probably has as much to do with my preferences as a reader as with the workability of the concept, so I'd take that feedback with a big grain of salt.

That said, I think part of the problem with the homicide as the story's pivotal moment is that the consequences were revealed during the normal time-flow of the story, but the choice that led to them happened some recent and unspecified time in the past and hadn't seemed particularly noteworthy then. While this is realistic, it's not that compelling from a narrative perspective: essentially, it provides the sense that no choices were made over the course of the story: instead, tragic events simply arrived. If Jack had muted an incoming call from home right before the update, for example, because he was busy deleting the bikini pics, the effect on the reader would have been entirely different, and probably better.

Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest, and Congratulations on being November's Winner!


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