Candidate #2: Also Sci Fi

If you’re confused about this post, check this out first.

If you haven’t already, you can read the first candidate here.

And remember how I said the order was chosen randomly? It’s not any more. The random number generator told me to go from the previous story, about a stunningly beautiful slave, to a second story, about a stunningly beautiful outcast. Gag me.

So I cheated.

Alas, this heroine is probably beautiful too (I haven’t seen a photo of her yet), but only because she gets to pick her own body. If it were up to me, she’d have zits and bad hair.

This one is adult sci-fi with a suspense/mystery twist, about a woman in a hospital ward who discovers that she’s being held by authorities on suspicion of terrorism. Here ya go.

Relief: A Place to Back Up 

At 10:00 am precisely, 12 minutes and 37 seconds after Risha Lencionis walked through the front door of Kwahm Ca Sthaban, the facility exploded, killing her and all 67 clients and 12 employees inside. Unaware that this had happened to her, the chief thing Risha felt right now was relief. For all its excitement, foreign travel also entailed danger, the worst of it being the difficulty in finding a signal strong enough for data backup.

Standing there with her back against the old stone wall, listening to the sound of street vendors calling their wares, she took a deep breath of the heady old-world perfume—frying oil, fresh papaya, human sweat—and smiled at the message on her screen indicating successful upload. Thank goodness for modern hot spots.

Something was wrong, though. The noise and the light and the smells had been there a moment before, but now everything was dark and quiet. She was on her back.

Over the cool quiet lay a thin veneer of shushing—fans, murmuring bio-machines. Under the quiet was a layer of human voices. Her limbs felt familiar and relaxed, which was odd because rental units always had that fresh stiffness about them that felt exciting but never quite comfortable.

A port shushed open and shut, and soft footsteps approached.

“Can you hear me?” said a voice. She tried to form words to answer, but her lips felt thick and unwieldy, so she just nodded. “Great,” the voice was crisp and cool. “Do you remember what happened?”

She thought about that for a moment. She remembered the oppressive heat, the colorful bougainvilla trailing from the balconies across the street. Then this—the dark and quiet. She didn’t think that’s what the voice meant. She shook her head.

“Hm.” A pause. Then: “We’re going to begin the rewiring sequence now. It’s been a few weeks since you were in this Bod so it will take a little time to get all your systems aligned.”

A moment later, the footsteps retreated again, the port shushed open, and Risha heard her visitor speaking to someone as she passed through: “I know it’s not my job to call the shots, but really it would have been better for everyone if we had just left her dead.”


7 thoughts on “Candidate #2: Also Sci Fi

  1. I didn’t read your description before I read this, on purpose. I picked up that it was thriller-y, which matches with your description of mystery/suspense. I don’t read thrillers a lot, but having read some thriller sci-fi — Philip K Dick comes to mind — this feels similar to that.

    It’s hard to say a story is worthwhile or inherently more interesting than another story based on so short an opening. This is not too grabby, for me, mostly because I don’t see the terrorism angle yet. That’s not to say you need to fit it in so soon. In some ways, this snippet is already covering a lot of ground.

    • Thanks, Jaimie! Yeah, it’s hard to balance how much to put out there. The original version of this was basically an info dump, and I didn’t want to do that. The concept is that, lying in recovery, she starts reading newsfeeds & her inbox to find out what happened and discovers that she’s suspected of masterminding the explosion that killed her.

      It was originally conceived as a short story, to end with the revelation that she was awaiting either execution or at least prosecution, but that was in the old days when I thought all my ideas were short stories, before I realized I don’t really have any idea how to write a short story and that in fact all my ideas are for novels.

      There’s a good deal of back story written for this one too, all of which would have constituted massive info dump. I also don’t feel like this snippet captures her personality well–she’s kind of a punk–her full-time body is riddled with piercings and tattoos, etc.–a bit of a drifter, and makes her living as the future equivalent of a successful blogger. None of that comes through.

      Thanks so much for the response. I appreciate it!

      • There’s something amusing about having worked hard to punkify your body only to be given a perfect one and having to “start over” — even if that’s not the story.

  2. Hi!

    I think you had asked us not to pick so much on your sentence structure or whatever, so I’ll just go on concept!

    It’s interesting enough right at the beginning because you don’t start with the ordinary. People died, and your named protagonist is apparently one of them, but she is being referred to as still thinking and not noticing she’s dead, so that has obviously created a pretty decent hook for us–we’ll want to know how the heck that’s possible and will probably be willing to stick around for the explanation.

    The bit about “rental units” appears to be about her own body and that’s also interesting (and suggests she doesn’t realize she’s not in the same one as she was before), but it might be a little murky and possibly misunderstood because of the way it’s phrased. I’m not positive though. I like a little mystery and I just hope it will be reinforced enough that we’ll be able to be like “Oh, that’s what that was.”

    The final sentence is also intriguing and makes me want to know why this visitor believed it would have been better for Risha to be dead.

    For the record I’m weirded out by the use of the word “Bod” for what I guess are synthetic bodies, but that’s probably just me being weird. Maybe it’s because when people say “bod” in today’s world they are usually using it in a flattering/sexual context, like “nice bod, baby!” Just don’t like the associations. But probably just a personal pet peeve.

    • Thank you! This is great feedback. You are so good. Based on your understanding of the story, everything is coming through clearly the way I wanted it to.

      And thanks for the gut reaction to the word “Bod” too. I totally get what you’re saying, and will give some thought to the evolution of that (and other) parts of the language if I work on this one in the future.

      (Btw, I can’t wait to start getting your line-edit feedback on my WIP–I feel like you’re just busting at the seams to get at the language, and I love it! :D )

      Thanks again, so much!

  3. Hi. I am late getting back to this one… I have been enjoying my amazing weekend :D

    I was not going to comment except that I read what the others said and I agree in my own way. I read the first 3 pages of the first Hunger Games book, already knowing the plot bc my friend Jill spent an hour recounting the whole story to me over the phone one night when we lived in Brunswick. And I just put it down because it just seemed too dark for me, and didn’t give any hope of there being any light. I need what I read to have light, and air, and open spaces. I have a theory that if there is a movie or book that starts with something dark or tragic, I should be prepared for increasing darkness and tragedy, so I usually go ahead and just put it down. I think this would be too dark for me generally, but I am planning on reading anything you share, and certainly most definitely anything that is published! Maybe there is beauty in the dark, closed-in, mechanical spaces too.

    I like your hints about the physical setting, and Risha and bougainvillea are both beautiful words :)

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