Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New Beginning 303


" . . . And Lords of Chaos ruled the cosmos until . . . There's no appropriate word in any human language, but the concept 'Uhrlicht' comes close." Jan stopped to think. "Uhrlicht when the creatures of light made battle and sealed Chaos in the dark void."

"Loses something in translation," the Captain said, staring out the porthole. "I've seen blue-white dwarfs, planets ten times the size of Jupiter and Aldebaran's bloated visage, but nothing . . ." His voice faded. Ten light years away and yet the Gateway filled the porthole. Six dwarf stars surrounded it with beams of green light. "It's real," he whispered in awe. I never believed . . . 'Down to bottomless perdition, there to dwell in adamantine chains and penal fire.'"

"Yes, and the rebels are preparing to open the Gateway to hell, itself." Jan drew his attention to the image on the long-range scanner. Chemical-fueled rockets flashed in front of the gateway.

“Reverse thrusters, Jan! Activate the solenoid!” Too late. They had strayed too far, and no amount of nuclear fission or electromagnetic force could break the inexorable pull of the Gateway.

“Well, Captain, at least you’re a ranking officer. They say it’s better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven. Maybe you’ll catch a break.”

The ship eventually halted, having reaching a docking station beyond the rockets, just outside the Gateway. Through the porthole the Captain could see the bright yellow orb. The image was at once distinct and familiar: an enormous yellow smiley face. The hatches flew open and a wizened alien in a blue smock greeted them: “Welcome to Wal-Mart.”


Opening: Dave Fragments.....Continuation: ME

27 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Un (but almost) chosen continuation:


As he stared through the porthole in helpless despair, the Captain could only agree with what millions of life forms across thousands of galaxies before him already knew. The proof was before him, after all, in living, pulsing color.

The reason New Yorkers are always so pissed off really is because the light at the end of the tunnel is Jersey.

--Gutterball

Dave said...

You guys are too much. ROFLMAO.

Bernita said...

Difficult to delete the hilarious continuations from my head... but...Dave... I liked it.

Anonymous said...

I felt very ungrounded reading this. I thought that the entire first paragraph was a teacher in a classroom. 2nd paragraph and I got the location, but unless they are literally looking at hell, I have no idea what it is we are viewing.

I'd suggest giving us a person/place first and then have them look out the window. I think this can be done in the first paragraph where Jan 'thinks.' Use that line to give us a tad of description.

RT

ME said...

Put a Milton quote in anything and I'll read on. I am not going to pick at the grammar here, but there does seem to be an awful lot of ellipses -- could they all be used correctly?
Star Wars and Star Trek are my points of reference when it comes to Sci-Fi so I am probably missing some nuances here. After stumbling over "Uhrlict" (?Some kind of apocalypse?)twice in the same paragraph, I proceeded onward, undaunted. I was quite relieved that the Captain did not reply in Kligon.
I repeat that I am not facile with the genre and add only this: Rebels = Star Wars; Heinlein? already wrote a book called Gateway. But I'm sure you know that too. Maybe that works in your favor. I would read more because the idea of 'nauts finding Hell somewhere out in the universe sounds like a damn good plot to me, especially if the author weaves some more of "Paradise Lost" into it. Could be wildly popular!!! It's my other who would probably enjoy the whole book.

EE -- Thanks for the edits (you devil you!). Too bad you weren't around when Milton wrote on and on; I'm sure you could've cut that sucker in half.

Anonymous said...

Uhrlicht -- a symphony by Gustav Mahler (1860 -1911)

phoenix said...

Both continuations are great! I tried really hard to come up with one for this opening, but got nada.

Dave, you do know that this is going to dredge up images of Ricardo Montalban and William Shatner, as well as that episode in ST:TNG where the guys talk all in metaphor, right? At least those are the scenes I couldn't get out of MY head when reading this.

The next thing I couldn't get out of my head was the size and distance of the Gateway. Ten light years is more than TWICE the distance of our nearest (non-Sun) star. (The Captain saying he's seen planets 10X the size of Jupiter would put them about the size of our own average-sized sun, so that awed comparison falls a bit flat. It's like looking at a mountain and saying you've seen boulders the size of a pickup truck.) As for long-range scanners picking out and imaging rockets from 10 light years away -- I won't discount the improbable, but that was just too much of a stretch for me.

If they're simply looking out the porthole and they're 10 light years away, it would be very hard, if not impossible, to see dwarf stars with the naked eye, and the beams of green (what? why? how?) light would have to be larger than the stars themselves to be visible. Also, technically, if the gateway is filling the porthole, then anything surrounding the gateway, like the stars, couldn't be seen.

Also, I'd like a better image of what they're seeing when they look at the Gateway. I'm assuming it's a huge black void-looking area because if it's a gateway, it's not generating heat/light or nothing could get close to it. Think about the monolith orbiting Jupiter in 2001. All dark with the occasional reflective glint for camera interest.

I'll be really blunt here and say everything from the dialog to the gateway to the rebels in this short piece reads more like fanfic than hard sf. Maybe that changes in the next 100 words. Or, if that's what you're after, great; I'm not your audience and any "hard sf" issues I have with the piece you can simply ignore.

Anonymous said...

The Gateway by Frederich Pohl

Anonymous said...

Jeez Louise. It's Frederik and The Gateway is also a computer game.

Dave said...

Thanks Bernita. This opening has given me fits. My worry now is that they sound like newscasters will all of the sentences beginning with "And now for the new, thoughts, etc." I think that "And the Lords of Chaos" is reflecting in the line "and the rebels are preparing," I don't want that to happen. I said that I over-think everything.

I also never thought about writing this from the rebels POV. That's why I laughed aloud at ME's continuation before the WalMart greeter. (I know, you can't hear me laugh.) As for SciFi, lots of books and movies find "Hell" in outerspace adventure. The story is always from the "Light" or "Good" POV. hmmm....

Whoever you are Anonymous, you're right. It needs a location.

Uhrlicht, a good German word, so if you look it up, get a really good German dictionary. I went to a German HS and learned the language (not that I remember it). It's like the verb "Dammert" when referring to time of day. Dammert referres to the light in-between day and night. So "Gotterdammerung" is properly translated as "Twilight of the Gods." That's the easy part of this explanation. Uhr (as in first, initial, prime) and licht (as is sunlight, day light) is not simply translated as morning, or dawn, or as a period between light and dark. NOPE! (I didn't say it was simple. It wouldn't be fun if it was simple). It's more basic. What was the absolute first light, the light that seperated the darkness, the light that began creation - PRIMEVAL LIGHT. It's the light of creation, the light that came after God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was a formless void. It is the prime light that splits the darkness.

BTW - The "Uhrlicht" movement in Mahler's 2nd symphony will only confuse you.

I have another explanation from modern day cosmology and physics, but I'll restrain myself.

Dave said...

Phoenix, I know what you mean, sort of.

That scene between Montalban and Shatner is so cheesy and awful. My opinion of Star Trek is rather bad. A few of the original shows were well written but many, so many of those shows are pure drivel. Do not assume SciFi books are written like Star Trek. Most all of the authors I read write better than than that. Please don't judge written Sci Fi by that standard. Even John Carter of Mars and Tom Swift are better written than Star Trek.

Ths size: I'll work on the size factors. The gateway, or whatever I call it, will be huge. I don't know its exact shape yet, but it isn't a huge black void. It is an actual doorway to another - something.

What I wanted in the opening was one character looking out in awe of a truly huge device. The other character, the alien, recites an alien mythology that mirrors human mythology. In this case I picked Milton's Paradise Lost because the tempter, the (I hate to use the word because it's so loaded with baggage) "satan" has convinced someone to open the gate.

BTW guys - "Hellboy" also has a gateway like this. THat's the one I thought people would think of and that's the one I tried to avoid.
- - Babylon 5 has a 2 hour movie called Thirdspace that also has a gateway to another "place". They never explain what it is. I'm avoiding that scenario, too. Big monster spaceships filled with aliens are not going to pour out of a metal gateway.
- - - And I'm not playing in F Pohl's HeeChee saga. this is not exploration.

Beth said...

Dave,

I thought I was in a lecture hall at first.

Try starting here:

Ten light years away and yet the Gateway filled the porthole. Six dwarf stars surrounded it with beams of green light. [like little green flashlights? I can't quite visualize this...it seems a bit cartoonish as described.]

"It's real," Captain [?] whispered. I never believed... " 'Down to bottomless perdition, there to dwell in adamantine chains and penal fire.' "

"Yes, and the rebels are preparing to open the Gateway to hell itself." Jan drew his attention [not clear whether Jan switched his own attention to the image, or whether Jan drew the Captain's attention to the image]to the image on the long-range scanner. Chemical-fueled rockets flashed in front of the gateway.


I love the Milton quote. Very evocative.

Anonymous said...

the beams of green...light would have to be larger than the stars themselves to be visible.

Also, light has to shine on something and be reflected back to our eye for us to see it. Empty space won't do that, so the beams of light should be invisible.

phoenix said...

There's always Stargate SG-1 / Stargate Atlantis, too, on the popular scene. Deep Space 9 had the wormhole gateway thing going. And CJ Cherryh's Gates (500 of them) in her Morgaine Series books. Yeah, I remember the gate in Hellboy, but different genre, so I thought of all the other sf gates first -- the Star Gate in 2001 was the first to come to my mind. Huge fan of that book, and the movie, too.

But there's always room for another well-written, unique stargate, just as there will always be room for another unique vampire...

But you do have to know the "competition," and the fan base, so you know when you've hit on the unique factor.

Oh, and two of my all-time favorite books -- right up there in the top 20, I'd say -- happen to be Star Trek novels. Lovely, tight prose. Deep psychological characterization. Many, many of the Star Trek book authors have gone on to win Hugo and Nebula awards. In some cases, I wish more of the sf drivel out there were written as well as some of the ST novels. (Note, too, I refer here to the books, not the series/movies.)

- SF Fan Girl

McKoala said...

I'm confused, but I'm also cross-eyed with exhaustion, so I'm not sure how reliable a reader I am today.

Star Dreck said...

"Oh, and two of my all-time favorite books -- right up there in the top 20, I'd say -- happen to be Star Trek novels. Lovely, tight prose. Deep psychological characterization."
- SF Fan Girl


Good dog in Himmel! Surely you jest. Deep psycho-- Oh, all right, some adequate, even great, sf writers have been sucked into the maw--Vonda McIntyre, Joe Haldeman, the late John M. Ford--and managed not to cover themselves entirely with shame. Which were the two books you had in mind?

BuffySquirrel said...

Exposition-as-dialogue? Next!

get over it said...

Hey, I've been through all the literary criticism and art appreciation classes on my way to an MA. And what did I learn from all of that? Just how snobbish people can be in an attempt to make themselves out to be somehow above the masses when it comes to "art." Sheesh.

It took decades before the NYT finally deigned to review Science Fiction and give it some due. Fantasy and Romance in the Times - still waiting on the blessing of the Almighty there.

There's drivel in every genre (yes, even, gasp, literary fiction). But there's great stuff being created even in category. Please be careful about knocking an entire genre or category. Likes dogs and people, there's good and bad in every breed, race or genre.

takoda said...

Hi Dave, I really like where you're going with this. May I slice and dice--to get rid of everything I skimmed over anyway?

" . . . And Lords of Chaos ruled the cosmos until . . .

"the creatures of light made battle and sealed Chaos in the dark void." The Captain interjected, staring out the porthole. "It's real," he whispered. "The rebels are preparing to open the Gateway to hell."

The Captain drew his attention to the image on the long-range scanner. Chemical-fueled rockets flashed in front of the gateway.

Just an idea....

Dave said...

When I read a comment like this:

the beams of green...light would have to be larger than the stars themselves to be visible.
Also, light has to shine on something and be reflected back to our eye for us to see it. Empty space won't do that, so the beams of light should be invisible.


It only tells me that the rest of the text didn't hold the reader's attention. It doesn't tell me anything other than that. If the storyline, dialogue, description or exposition, doesn't move the reader past what makes the light beams visible, then the storyline, dialogue, description or exposition, didn't do its job.

I would never modify the writing to this:
"Six dwarf stars surrounded it with an energy field of green laser beams."
because the basic problem is still there.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked this and thought the idea was really intriguing, but overall it's still a bit unclear what's going on and the way ideas are presented still needs work, because it confused me.

For me, the opening line was difficult to get past. Every time I read "Jan stopped to think" I also think, Me too!, because the first line, while interesting, is a little too non-sequitir-ish for me.

"Ten light years away and yet the Gateway filled the porthole." Like this oodles. Thought you might consider it as the first sentence.

"Six dwarf stars surrounded it with beams of green light." I'm confused. Image is great, but no idea what it means, and the following reference to gates to Hell makes me wonder if you know what you are talking about. Also, there's that minor detail Dave mentioned about beams being invisible...

Rei said...

It only tells me that the rest of the text didn't hold the reader's attention. It doesn't tell me anything other than that. If the storyline, dialogue, description or exposition, doesn't move the reader past what makes the light beams visible, then the storyline, dialogue, description or exposition, didn't do its job.

And I think you're reading too much into this. When people say they mean something, they probably really do mean it.

Example: Battlestar Galactica, the TV series. Everyone over on Slashdot seems to be going crazy over it. I watched one episode of it, and decided not to watch any more.

Was it poorly written? No, it was quite well written.

Were the special effects poor? Was the plot slow? Were the character dilemmas unappealing? No, no, and no.

What drove me off was the blatantly bad pseudoscience. Now, I have no problem with soft sci-fi in general, in TV or in books. I loved Firefly, for example. But what drives me off faster than anything else is when they rub the blatantly wrong concepts in my face.

In Firefly, for example, they skim over all of the technical details. It's just setting.

In the BSG episode I saw, the plot revolved around Cylon sabotage to one of the ships that made it lose much of the humans' water supply. So, they're dangerously low on water. They spend the rest of the episode on a desperate search, from starsystem to starsystem, planet to planet, searching for water. Planet after planet, system after system, has not the slightest signature of water.

Water. The third most common molecule in the universe. Made of the first most common element and the third most common element. Often found in convenient, ready-to-melt chunks, found on the surfaces of planets in the form of snow, boulders, solid -- take your pick. Or, make your own from the universe's copious hydrogen and oxygen. Water is in every solar system, in every galaxy, and it tends to concentrate on the *surfaces* of bodies. It can be found on essentially every body that's not hot enough to boil it all off. Yet, here we had people traveling around from starsystem to starsystem at will, landing and taking off as though it were free, and they couldn't find any *water* anywhere? Give me a break.

In other words, it's fine to not have the scientific concepts down in your head. It's fine to never mention how things work. But if you present something that a person who knows about the science will immediately realize is impossible, you're going to drive off the more technically-inclined readers. It's like making the moon out of cheese and not meaning it as satire.

*Now*, back to the situation at hand. What is being shown is not actually impossible, persay. What you need is a cloud of dust and gas to be lit up, and polar jets from the stars. So, if this were in a nebula, and these were accreting matter, generally newly born stars or fast-rotating super-dense bodies like neutron stars or black holes, it would work out fine. Of course, they won't be straight lines -- they'll be conical beams that fade the further away they get -- but close enough. Something like this.

Rei said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention -- if what is being expelled is hot plasma (as opposed to radiation, which is what you often get from neutron star or black hole jets), and there's enough of it, it could be luminous on its own without need of dust and gas in the interstellar medium, thanks to blackbody radiation. It would, however, be much less visible than the parent star.

M.W. said...

I was so completely ungrounded in this opening. I had no idea what was going on. I got the references, but I often think references like that so early in a writing are evidence of laziness on the writer's part. You can do this without them.

GutterBall said...

I loved Firefly, for example.

Amen, Rei. Amen. It had just enough "working" stuff to ground you without getting too technical. And the technical stuff they did mention was more for laughs than anything else. Great stuff.

Dave, there are some excellent suggestions in these comments. There are also some poor ones. More power to you if you know which is which.

Anonymous said...

I hate to be a grammarian, but persay is wrong. It's latin and it's spelled per se. It means "by itself."

Dave said...

Thanks all of you. It will take me a while to digest all these comments.
Dave