|It was supposed to be just one more in a long string of routine but profitable mining trips. Instead, Dana discovered the answer to one of the solar system's greatest mysteries - in the form of an enormous, telepathic space dragon.
Thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest!
What I liked:
The space dragon seems to represent all of the mystery of the final frontier, a being much older, wiser, and more powerful than humans. Rather than being impressed by humanity, it is irritated by it, and despite its superior knowledge and ability to read minds, confused by the nature of the human experience. Meanwhile, the story of the energy source that ends up being a dangerous sentient being is reminiscent of the theme of the old computer game, Starflight. These are the classic attributes of superior beings in fictional worlds such as those of Star Trek and Dr. Who, intended to bring about a sense of wonder. Those serve you well, as does your use of the question "why" as the one a superior being can't answer, and the human psychological struggle for existence as a possible answer.
What might be improved:
It should be noted this is essentially a vignette rather than a story with a plot and conflict. It details a memorable moment for Dana and humankind, where secrets were revealed to each about the nature of humanity, history, and the strange energy crystals. I enjoy vignettes, but not every reader does.
Dana could be more developed. She is an astronaut with training from NASA and a space miner. We know very little else about her or what she wants, expect that we are told she is introverted and likes the quiet. Her role in the story is to be suitably shocked as the creature arrives. You have an opportunity to add to that.
It's very difficult to write superior beings believably, and the dragon comes across a bit more childish and petulant than you might be aiming for. For example:
"To be honest, I loathe you, humans. Arrogant, ignorant, weak, selfish, and think the Universe revolves around you. But the slight interest I have is the why. You conveniently ignore the meaning of your existence. I want to know how you pulled it off”
So much of the power of your story revolves around creating a sense of awe at the meeting with the dragon that it's essential to get right. This paragraph is a bit too direct in the way it detail's the creature's emotions toward humanity, making it seem small and petty, and yet a bit cryptic about the most important point, the dragon's curiosity about what led humans to outlast Earth's predecessor species. Dana's answer that humans don't think about the question is a bit weak, since many humans obviously do: in fact, that's part of what you're banking on to make the story interesting! When creating a sense of wonder, especially, the on-the-nose dialogue will not do. Characters must
have other concerns going on in their minds, only some of which end up expressed in words.
For example, you might replace the statements above with less direct expressions of the same thoughts and emotions:
I find little use in you humans. You think yourselves clever as you steal from us. With such thoughtless pride you build machines to chip away at what is mine, toys I could crumple with barely a thought. You act as if the Universe was built to serve you, though you barely scratch the surface of understanding it, much less controlling it. Even choosing thoughts your little mind can hold is tedious. But you are here, though all those before you are gone. The question, the little thing that stays me from cleansing the world of your trouble, is why.
In all, I think you've got the core of something really enjoyable and compelling here, and I'd love to see you finish it up and polish it off. Keep writing, and thanks for your entry in the Science Fiction Short Story Contest. I'm looking forward to more!