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Author Topic: "TPOTFT: The Second Coming" by JL Myers (KE)
KnightEnder
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This thread is for discussion and critique of Knight Ender's story "The Parable of the Fig Tree: The Second Coming".
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Richard Dey
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posted March 23, 2005 10:05 PM
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Another masterpiece! I've read KE's Second Coming (as I call it) and it is as tragi-comic as Canadian's story is tragic. It's just begging for a 5-act screen play. Both of these stories have great suspense, they're real page turners if that means anything to cyberpsyches, and bango finales.

These are both true short stories, well defined, well wrought, and (one short, one long) beautifully paced -- one thing I find godaudably lacking in the best short stories today.

I do have the caveat with KE's, however, that I think he learned punctuation from aliens . He has taken that theory of breath lines and applied it to paragraphs. The result is that the punctuation is actually interruptive -- if nowhere destructive. My assassination of his punctuation will be shocking -- but, good news, hardly anything else would have to be changed. My questions had to do with locis.

As I remember the Pentagon, it was like a spider's web and had many 'courtyards'; I just do not remember a central one. Maybe it does have one -- where the sacred time bomb is kept or something. Likewise, there's a final scene in the so-called Oval Office that I'm sure would have been held in a briefing room or someplace else.

Otherwise, all KE's SS needs to my taste are dramatic but actually inconsequential punctuation modifications, most of them for consistency's sake. And there are breakaway paragraph that need to be tucked in. Otherwise, the considerable dialog reads beautifully, logically, and indeed artfully. You're a good dialog writer, KE! Had some practice at Ornery, have you .

The length of my 'critique' is short, another A+; but my commentaria on punctuation go on for pages and pages. Oh well, nude-beach criticism here goes.

SR, BTW, means "ought to read"; while MR means "might read" or "must read". I suspect a lot of missing double-quotes were lost in transmission, and possibly those are single-quotes within doubles and just didn't show as such.

Joint Chiefs of Staff (sic)
Zippo, and (that unnecessary ‘extra’ serial comma, again, or did he suck on his Zippo???)
well-known SR well known (not a compound adjective as well is an adverb)
just over a year ago (if text is in the past and pluperfect, requires something like ‘just a year
previous’)
its’ SR its
virtue NOW peppered (tense switch from past perfect to present)
on his feelings SR with his feelings (feelings are thinks and he’s speaking out on abortion, etc.,
not feelings
advisor, the (sic)
snorted, (expressing) his skepticism (sic)
fraud, (you’re 10 words into a preposition phrase so nobody will quibble with wasted comma!!)
asked, flicking (sic)
near by SR nearby or near-by
won and earned (interesting distinction!)
query: dictated that they wear them to the situation briefing (because?) the President’s presence
‘called for’ full dress? Clarify, or am I missing something? I see, ‘protocol’ called for this, in
which case this is a run-on sentence -- not that that isn’t exactly the way the military talks!!!
Maybe you should leave as ememplary!
chairman said, checking his watch (sic)
[I’m laughing too hard to critique seriously.]
president or President pick one or we’ll have two, one articulated and one not.
at the president (or President)’s left should be possessive
science advisor, Mrs Curry, (sic)
nation,” the President SR nation.” The President (or president)
In my opinion,” said Billy Lee, ... trademark, a slow ... drawl
... claims to be.”
you you SR you, you
their attention SR his attention or his and her attention
“... Revelations!” (I am laughing so hard that I can hardly proof.)
“... miracle!”
“looked on it.” If ever upon was called for, this is the miracle!
Revelations: “ (would be good)
that is what you would see,” he
“ship” SR ‘ship’
in front of him, and held aloft
Mark! SR Mark!”
propheses. SR propheses.”
Albeit SR “Albeit
the last I heard, SR no comma. One could even remove the next comma unless he using this as a
restrictive clause in which case precede by ‘that’
“No sir,” the (maybe these commas are missing in the transfer?)
moment allowing ... SR moment, allowing ...
chairman, “Matthew ...
again, single quotes in double quotes
non-believer (UK) nonbeliever (US); Americans don’t hyphenate non-words ( )
I had to go get a drink for this .
roll SR role
what we saw yesterday, the way SR what we saw yesterday as the way ... then this sentence just
runs on. Maybe:

“... in his visions,” Billy Lee said, warming to the subject; he was falling into his role as preacher,
and talking of the glory of God. “Revelations says that ‘Every eye shall see him’.”
“. SR .”
Verse 8. SR Verse 8.”
again. (No paragraph)
presidents SR president’s
Mrs. Curry.” SR Mrs. Curry ....” asked the
conjectured. SR conjecture.
faster than light doorway. SR faster-than-light doorway.”
out. “Faith, is SR out, “faith is
events, or SR events or
“Bull****!” the SR “Bull****!” The
advisor. (No paragraph) “Mrs. Curry?”
dealing with we SR dealing with, we
this, alien, is not SR this alien is not OR not then
special effects!” affects?????
Mr. Chairman.” The president said evenly. I’ sure SR Mr Chairman,” the president said evenly.
“I’m sure
“Good, the SR “Good,” the
“Thank you, sir,” the SR “Thank you, sir.” The
patronize SR patronized
as I said there SR as I said, there
Paragraph “With all due respect SR “With all due respect, Mr. President,” Chairman Malin said,
“if someone expects us to turn over control of this country on the basis of some far-out claim, I
would say ...”
general” the SR general,” the
our lord and savior, Jesus Christ. SR no comma
, but, SR , but
with, or been in contact with most SR in this case: win, or been in contact with,
leaders, needless. SR leaders. Needless OR leaders, needless to say, and they are not happy.
as the Son of God. SR as the Son of God.”
that”. SR that.”
planet, it SR planet it OR and, if ... planet, (the whole prepositional phrase)
tersely, “is exactly ...?” Are you saying “what is it exactly that ...?” ???
forgone SR foregone
to varied SR too varied
“Fine ...” SR “Fine ...,”
conscious SR consciousness or conscience . Is there a true paragraph here or is he speaking for
the Joint Chiefs from it?
scowled at him and SR scowled at him, and (the reason for those is sequencing. he didn’t do both
at the same time did he?) Also, just slip “ He hurriedly continued. “ into one paragraph with
above and below.
steeped = steepled?
Again, don’t confuse the reader by switching paragraphs but not switching speakers.
dead, that SR dead. That
Or, perhaps SR Or perhaps
do, that SR do that
body, he SR body. He or body; he could (I don’t think we speak in semicolons, but you know
bureaucrats!!!)
self-replicating, molecular-sized robots, into (chuck the commas)
system. SR system.”
When Mrs. Curry is describing the nanotechnological research, she speaks in three difference
paragraphs and interjects herself!!! (Just link.) Also chuck most all of the commas.
himself! SR himself!”
, and in soul!” SR , and I (feel?) it in my soul!”
say, “you’ve heard his voice”, SR say ‘you’ve heard his voice’,
nothing knew SR nothing new
called, prayer, SR called prayer,
arrived? SR arrived?”
said sitting SR said, sitting
part, however SR part; however,
just to SR just
KE! I like that single man’s mind (but not a married man’s mind )
said shuffling SR said, shuffling
constitution SR Constitution
“reign for the next thousand years.” SR single quotes
the president went on ... interruption. SR the president said, ignoring the general’s interruption, “I
father’s SR fathers
situation, but ... SR situation but, ...
Eclipse the SR Eclipse, the
warns us “that SR warns us ‘that ... (confusing) just get rid of the internal quotes I think. The
semi is totally confusing. To paraphrase you wouldn’t any internal quotes at all.
retorted bristling SR retorted, bristling
study and I SR study, and I
president cut SR president said, cutting
their judgment. (i.e., influencing their judgment or the president’s?)
policies. SR policies.”
you, and the Joint Chiefs, are SR you and the Joint chiefs are
for if, I determine MR if I should determine (?)
Chairman? SR Chairman?”
claim, is SR claim. Is
Again, a new paragraph is not called for if the set-up is for that speaker (always Mrs Curry, or
that just a coincidence .
Secret Service agents OR secret-service agents
The press isn’t allowed en masse in the Oval Office. The Press Room perhaps?
Christ’s arrival. SR Christ arrived.
and asked them SR and had asked them
he asked SR he’d asked
, and the people’s faith in him, (chuck the commas)
talking heads and SR talking heads, and
No paragraph: However, the situation
Yes, move this to the press briefing room.
They’d made SR They had made (you’re in the omniscient voice)
He said he would want to confer SR He had said that he would want to confer
time, and the chairman had not seen MR time; and the chairman had not seen
Chiefs SR chiefs (or revise).
there, had gathered SR there had gathered
entered and a hush SR entered, and a hush
throat and took SR throat, and took
fellow American’s: the president voice was clear SR fellow Americans,” the president said. His
voice was clear
And, no matter how long the president, speaks without interruption, it is one paragraph. (That old
trick of leaving off the ‘unnecessary close quote’ don’t work in short stories, buddy .
congress SR Congress throughout
Nation SR nation
Jerusalem, here SR Jerusalem here
Malin finger SR Malin’s finger
All quotes within quotes single.
says “And SR says, ‘And
Here, is SR Here is
earth, God SR earth. God
fell swoop (is this right? is it felt swoop? can’t remember)
secret-service agent or Secret Service agent.
left shattering SR read left, shattering
balance and SR balance, and
quickly moving SR quickly, moving
side, and for an agonizing moment it SR side and, for an agonizing moment (if you wish),
light and zeal of MR the light and zeal of (?)
instance SR instant
agent’s SR agents
back (backwards ???) and skip the next backwards?
matter, the SR matter; the
shot’s SR shots
president tackling (are they tackling the president?, then:) president, tackling him (the president)
responded rising SR responded, rising
president and rounded the desk and MR president, rounded the desk, and
cameras and SR cameras, and

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KnightEnder
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KnightEnder
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posted March 23, 2005 11:23 PM

RD, thanks for the help, I will begin trying to institute the changes you suggest. However, you make a mistake when you call into question where I learned punctuation. I think I've made it painfully obvious that I never learned punctuation. SB, cperry, KL, Paladine and others having been trying to educate me on the MC thread, but I really appreciate your in-depth instruction. I am aware it is my biggest weakness, and I look forward to learning from your post and strengthening that aspect of my writing. Thanks.

KE

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Richard Dey
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posted March 23, 2005 11:33 PM
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KE: Well, you certainly learnt dialog! It was like Dr Strangelove it was so real.

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Richard Dey
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posted March 23, 2005 11:36 PM
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KE: Forgot. As a famous author now, you don't have to do that. Your editor does that. After all, he has to earn the huge sum he'll make on your book. There are editors who make more than their writers! agents who make more than both! and publishers who go broke . And beware: I won't be your only critic.

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Adam Lassek
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posted March 24, 2005 12:00 AM
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Quick note regarding The Parable of the Fig Tree--it's Revalation, not Revalations.

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KnightEnder
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posted March 24, 2005 12:16 AM
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Adam, is it RevAlation or RevElation? Now I have to find my Bible.

Do y'all think I was fair to the religious side of the argument? I tried to be, but it was hard for me.

KE

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Adam Lassek
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posted March 24, 2005 12:34 AM
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Oops, Revelation.

Great story, KE. I think you were pretty fair. That dig you made at the Catholic church was pretty funny.

There were a number of spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors and inconsistancies, although I think Richard covered most of them already.

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KnightEnder
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posted March 24, 2005 12:49 AM
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RD,

Just got through making the changes to the punctuation you suggest and I now realize exactly how much work you put into your critique. I sincerely want to thank you for that. I am deeply in your debt.

I am begining to be able to see how and why the punctuation should be as you say. If I can get the reason for it straight in my head, I can start to do it right the first time. In fact, that is pretty much my philosophy in everything. I realize I'm going to make mistakes, but I try not to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again once I've been shown the error of my ways. That philosophy has served me well in the job world and in playing ball, we shall see see how well I can apply it to writing.

I am considering the change in the location of the final address to the nation from the Oval Office. But are you sure that wouldn't be the location for such an historic speech? I have kind of fallen in love with the idea of the general comparing President Kincaid to the pictures of Lincoln and Washington hanging on the walls of the Oval Office. And that ties into his battle with himself that ultimate leads to his hesitation. See what I mean?

Another question. In a lot of the books I read, once a person has began speaking, they leave the quotation mark off the end of the paragraph if the next paragraph is still the same speaker. You seem to disagree with this. Is this just a matter of style or is there a hard-and-fast rule?

Last question: Does anyone have any advice on paragraph length? Is there a handy rule for paragraph length? How about when content dictates begining a new paragraph? I'm not really sure of either of those aspects, and so far I have been playing it by ear. So, if anybody has any advice, it will be appreciated.

Once again, thanks everybody.

KE

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KnightEnder
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posted March 24, 2005 01:00 AM
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Thanks Adam. I tried to be fair in my insults and characterization of the other side from both men's pov's.

I too very much enjoyed Canadian's stream of conscious style of writing. With the noted small exception of finding it slightly difficult to make the change in my head from them thinking to talking.

KE

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Adam Lassek
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posted March 24, 2005 02:23 AM
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quote:
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Another question. In a lot of the books I read, once a person has began speaking, they leave the quotation mark off the end of the paragraph if the next paragraph is still the same speaker. You seem to disagree with this. Is this just a matter of style or is there a hard-and-fast rule?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I've never seen it done any other way, especially in fiction.

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KnightEnder
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posted March 24, 2005 03:18 AM
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RD,

Okay, I see about the single quotes, the quotes at each paragraph, and the roll thing was a funny confusion of words.

KE

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Richard Dey
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posted March 24, 2005 11:07 AM
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KE: "Do y'all think I was fair to the religious side of the argument? I tried to be, but it was hard for me." The tension kept me on the edge of my seat; I had no idea which side this confrontation was going to fall -- and it wound up a third way anyway . It was just fine. Don't go fugging with the tension and suspense. Just the consistencies.

Did I get the 'speech' wrong? I thought the president was giving a 'press conference'. If I remember rightly, "the press" was all crowding into the Oval Office. Well, that's hundreds of people. It's all fine and well for him to give a speech to the nation in the Oval Office because he's only got a technician or two; maybe have the press in the briefing room watching on tv like the rest of the world? Is the press invited to ask questions; that's the key to that setting. Any way, see where I went wrong.

As to drop-off quotes, they are fine when quoting a very long speech out of dialog. Queen's Christmas Message is quoted in full, say .... In dialog it's confusing so in novels it is almost never done; in short stories I can't remember ever seeing it done. I'd rather have it broken up with

," he said, looking the camera in the eye. "...," he said, farting voluminously, "and ...."

When the eye wraps in dialog, he expects a new speaker.

Much the same happens when that serial comma gets in a misleading place in a series of concomitant but discrete actions. "She beat the eggs and butter, added milk, and had an orgasm." There ought to be a sequence or a balance of discrete items or actions in any such series or it's jarring; if jarring is what you want, then jarr away! but I didn't see where you had that intent. In my example, knowing women, these could all link along in lovely fashion ; but a male can hardly comprehend it.

"Male writers have a fixation with competition and death, female writers with love and illness. I can't by that general rule assume that women are more optimistic than men, but this story ..."
-Mullin, reviewing something in TGR, and illustrating some notable exceptions -- like Shirley Jackson's 'Lottery'-

As to somebody's argument in FAVOR of the 'optional' last serial comma in a series (to be redundant? is serial the modifying form of series? guess it is), I am FOR it that option if only to play it safe.

Good example is a baby food story. Don't remember the name of the baby-food company, so I'll call it Urp Inc.

Snooty Urp Inc. mgt orders from unionized mfg floor "1M css of pureed: apples, bananas and spinach". [The period is not quoted in this case.]

How many cases of pure'e did they get? 2 or 3?

Mgt got from mfg 2M cases, not 3: 1M css of pureed apples and 1M css of pureed bananas and spinach.

Mgt, outraged, fires mfg mgr; mgr sues Gernut for the works.

Actually mfg won out. It was not the obligation of mfg to "check with" mgt over something that "should obviously appear ambivalent". It was mgt's obligation to write clear and concise orders -- "or," as the judge commented, "why else was manufacturing expected to take orders from management?" It was not manufacturing's job to interpret management's 'intent'. There it was in plain English: an option to throw pureed bananas and spinach in management's arrogant faces .

So yes, it's discretionary -- but I do try to use it. I might wind up at the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conference sucking my Zippo! .

The only reason a writer even needs to be aware of conventional punctuation is to prevent his editor (not his reading public) from misinterpreting his intent. The editor is responsible for the final product, the writer for the initial product.

English uses a lot of commas because, unlike, say, Latin -- where the function of a word and its relation to all other words in a sentence is fixed by suffix -- or in German, say, where word order is in goose step, English really has no absolute rules and regulations except by conventions which are just sitting ducks for creative writers. The issue is only consistency:-- not for its own sake but to further the text. I overpunctuate overelaborate overwrought overdrafts (cf per supra); but, then, I'm not trying to get published and often seek ambiguity, [see that comma? it goes there because I'm changing direction slightly:] and you and Canadian should be using punctuation to further your own ends. I just didn't think you were! Your confrontational dialog simply doesn't need any unusual or inconsistent punctuation to further it; it's fine as it is.

Afterthought, having slept betwixt, I am simply amazed that two so-different tales wind up having so much in common using two such different styles, language, characters, and social strata.

I read is it *American Short Stories and *Best American Short Stories every year; well, to be absolutely honest -- and why not, they're on the bedstand and everybody thinks I do. Gawds, some of them are so bloody fugging TEDIOUS! The male writers are typically constipated (or so 'corrected' by machofeminist editors) that it is a strain just paying attention to their 'correctioned' texts; the female writers, just as typically, have explosive diarrhea getting out their F-E-E-L-I-N-G-S.

The SS (and I hope we do have some essays to discuss) is a tight-rope walk. It's like a haiku. It really has to be taut for the reader to get more than 'a slice of life' or, as I write, just take-offs on manners or spin-offs on politics, or religion, (really begs for that comma because what I'm saying next is a cop-out!) or whatever.

In short, in art, the comma should be used artfully rather than technically -- but to affect the effect. Good art is always some balance between the feminine and the masculine (Mozart has no trouble with the former, and Beethoven none with the latter), a balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar, "naughty versus nice" as Mullin used to put it. That's life.

The tension in the two SS I've read so far was as tight as a tight-rope, beginning to end in KE's -- a little slack in Canadian's at the beginning, but his very act of tightening it as I read it was fascinating (and ominous) to watch. It was like a new trapeze trick. (I read a story once where the words, sentences, and paragraphs got shorter and shorter and shorter until he uttered the one-word paragraph: "Bang!" It was just mechanical, and that ain't ahht. Mozart would have been nothing but the best of the Mannheim school if he hadn't been more artful than that!

Another thought: I don't think readers much enjoy the sensations that they're being left out, that something is being withheld from them, or, obviously, that they are being manipulated. They do prefer the sensation of watching things unfurl, unravel, or unwind. I think the use of the past and pluperfect tenses obviate that. The present tense just obviates what little control the reader has over plot. Deus ex machina sux -- which is very much a reason why I like the Greek myths and don't like the Hebrew myths.

In KE's 'parable' we have almost a double entendre for it is a parable within a parable; it's deliciously complex, twisted, and sick. It perfectly reflects the intersection between politics and religion. I loved it.

If you have any anal retentiveness over 'paragraph length', read Joyce with a monoparagraphic parabollock on the juvenile penis erectus (by a woman, if I remember correctly ) or Proust who uses a multi-page paragraph to turn a fugging doorknob. Don't obsess over it. One long paragraph in a brilliant short story will NOT turn off a reader. An occasional long paragraph is here a sign of strength, not pedantry.

That's why, I think, the confusing punctuation stood out so baldly. It was at odds with the a sermon writer and a man who, if he didn't write his own speeches, corrected them. Also, just a note, the old Bible version quoted here is not a good source for modern usage -- and contrasting its punctuation with modern might just underlying another point about the meaning, if any, of the written word.
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KnightEnder
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posted March 24, 2005 01:31 PM
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"Also, just a note, the old Bible version quoted here is not a good source for modern usage"

RD, could you clarify this point for me? I'm not sure what you mean. I have four Bibles, a lot of peole love me and keep giving them to me, so I can use another one if the one I'm using is "old"? Thanks.

KE

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canadian
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posted March 24, 2005 01:38 PM
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Re: The Parable of the Fig Tree

Outstanding work, KE!

It brings to mind the older sci-fi that I really love...Niven, Asimov, Silverberg, etc. It's nice to actually have a STORY!

I loved the pacing, and the end scene rocked. My heart rate increased and I really felt the tension and anxiety.

----------

I only found a few things (this is how I think it should be):

General Malin's finger strayed...

However, almost imperceptibly, the Chairman hesitated.

chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

----------

And this, to me, is just a little awkward:

Now, what I want from you and the Joint Chiefs are contingency plans for, if, I determine that this...

One last element might be the repeated use of "burden of proof", but then again, that's what this story is all about so maybe just ignore that...

----------

Again, great story! I was captivated. I've often found it difficult to "get into" something I'm reading on-screen, but I didn't have that problem with this story at all.

Being slightly OCD, I did find it hard to have cigars at the beginning of the story and no mention of them again. I think that may just be me, though..

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KnightEnder
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posted March 24, 2005 02:00 PM
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Thanks Canadian.

I too often have a hard time reading stories onscreen. I usually print them out if they are as long as the one I wrote. Yours I read onscreen and didn't have any trouble with. I think that is a tribute to the pacing and style.

The cigar thing. When SG reveiwed it for me maybe a year ago he like the cigar thing as a way of definging the differences between the two characters. However, at that time the Admiral played a larger role (roll, RD) in the story. So, does anyone else have any comments on that aspect of the story?

If so I would really like to hear it as I believe the first part of a story is really important in engaging the reader. Thanks.

KE

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RickyB
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posted March 24, 2005 03:07 PM
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KE, great story.
However, one syntax comment and one style somment.

"the stranger claiming to be Jesus Christ's arrival" should be "the arrival of the stranger...". I always try to put the adverb before the subject when the subject is compounded. (I hope I got all that grammar-speak right but the point stands)

As for style, I think the point that "thgere's no proof this alien is who he claims to be" is mentioned a wee bit too often.

Ed. to add: I love the way this story reminds one of Montezuma...

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canadian
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posted March 24, 2005 03:15 PM
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I wonder if there'll be a Montezuma's revenge...

A sequel?

[Wink]

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KnightEnder
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posted March 24, 2005 03:17 PM
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Thanks Ricky. I rewrote and cut and pasted moving paragraphs around that I think you are right about the repetition of that point. Others have pointed it out, and I plan on changing it. Thanks a lot for your time and advice.

KE

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Daruma28
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posted March 24, 2005 04:21 PM
EDITED

KE - I have to laugh at your story - but not because I think it's terrible or anything. Your narration is excellent, you create a good setting in the minds eye...but I think your a BIT over the top with the depiction of an evangelical fanatic as President and a Southern Televangelist as the most influential counselor. Although I do realize that it is essential for your story's ending - which was pretty good - one could almost see your contempt for devout religious belief. I think you could get the same result without being so overt.

My only suggestion would be to change the televangelists name to something less "southern" - Bobby Lee is almost a caricature to the point of ridiculousness...and I would change this kind of line: "despite the dire warnings of the liberal media, the talking heads and political pundits."

But maybe that is your overall point - to make an over-the-top satyrical jab at Christian beliefs and the current administration. My only real critique would be you could tone down the satire -- especially with the "Bobby Lee" character just a bit, and still get the same result in the end.

There are fundies in every corner of our country afterall...there is no need to make him a southerner.

Finally, I think when you do submit your story, take out the header "Finale."

Just put in a line break like

------- or some othe kind of storyline break to indicate a change of scenery.

Overall, I did like it...especially the ending.

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posted March 24, 2005 04:41 PM
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Thanks Daruma. This is exactly why I wanted your input so much. In this case it is an asset that we see things from diametrically opposed directions, and I really appreciate your help. I appreciate your pov and agree with much of what you say. You put your finger directly on one of the biggest problems I faced. I wanted to avoid the caricature aspect, but still have the reader recognize the kind person the Reverend represented. To me it seems that most men that hold the beliefs that Reverend Matthews does are almost caricatures such as Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell, etc. I tried not to do the Reverend in the story over the top. I might have missed that goal with the name.

And all those guys are intelligent and I tried to argue his side of the argument intelligently. Did you think there was dialog from the Reverend that made him appear stupid or bumpkinish? I do admit that I think the religious argument eventually always breaks down to faith. Conversely I wanted to point out that the other side though I think based on logic, does eventually break down to a lack of faith. Which is why I had the president point out that there was absolutely nothing that the man in question could do that would convince him he was Christ. And my ultimate point is that there is no way of knowing.

I also though I erred on the side of caution in my depiction of the president. I made him eloquent powerful and beloved. Though overtly religious. Do you think I was unfair with him? Or that he acted in any way contradictory to what a religious president like Bush would act? That is one of the reasons I have solicited the opinion of the OA members in regard to the return of Jesus Christ. And most say that they will indeed welcome him and his reign.

Something I found suprising is the fact that names are some of the hardest things for me to come up with. But, I don't want anything to be overt so I'll edited it with an idea to that danger and I have considered changing the Billy Lee monicker before.

Once again, thank you so much for your help.

KE

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posted March 24, 2005 04:53 PM
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Daruma,

One other question. In regard to the liberal media line and the like. I was sincerely trying to paint the media as liberal and fearmongering, and contrast that to the fact that the people so loved, respected, and trusted the president despite of their liberal influence. Do you think I failed in that, and do you think that your knowledge of my political leanings had any affect on your ability to take me seriously when I slammed liberals in the media? Not that there would be anything wrong with that. In fact it would be natural. But it is not something the average reader would be privy to.

I really want to address the problems you see, so I really want to understand exactly what you are seeing and where you are coming from. Thanks again. I can't wait to hear from you on this issue.

Also, everybody, I would love to hear what people have to say concerning other people's reviews, and I'm sure Canadian and future authors will want that as well. Does anyone see any problem with reveiwers discussing their reviews and how they feel about the other persons comments?

Does anyone else feel I made a caricature of Billy Lee? I am not looking for justification or vilification of Daruma, that is the last thing I want as I value his opinion and think he is a rare asset especially to me because of his pov. I just want other opinions on the subjects raised to help me contrast and compare opinions and decide what changes I should make.

Of course we should demand extra civility in this area since much of it is based on opinion and not so much fact as we are used to dealing with on OA.

KE

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canadian
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posted March 24, 2005 05:06 PM
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Actually reading Daruma's review of your work raised questions and issues that I hadn't thought of. It actually enhanced my memories of the story and fired up some questions that otherwise would have remained dormant.

I tend to be a little skeptical of religions, so I kind of took the depictions of the "faithful" in stride. But now that the issue is raised, I see that I simply allowed for a bit of stereotyping.

KE, I think that if you take Daruma's suggestions, your faith-based characters will have an opportunity to really feel more complex than I first wanted to give them credit for.

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posted March 24, 2005 05:15 PM
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Great Canadian. This is what I was hoping for. Not just critiques but discussions of the critiques in order to get a consensus.

I have just reviewed and decided to take out the "liberal" and talking heads and political pundits. I think I can make the same point that the people trust the president by just saying "despite the dire warnings of the media" without causing the reader to think about the current "liberal media" argument and thus take them out of the moment. I'm going to look at the religious characters again, now.

KE

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Richard Dey
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posted March 24, 2005 05:30 PM
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KE: The Bibles that claim that God is a 'he' are 'old' and, by correctionist standards, 'obsolete'. There was a usage in the quote that used a semi for a comma. That was VERY old.

A strong voice of dissent on the issue of stereotyping . These were short stories, not a novella, not a novel. Look for example, at the 3-or-4-sentence deppiction of Phil in Candian's story -- just an impressionistic blink of him; and no problem for me. We all know 'the bully with the heart of gold'; we didn't know the bully with the heart of gold who goes a knife-edge too far. That's why I think a lot preferred to urge some motivation for the kids; we know his motivation: suppressed homoerotic interaction tendentiousness syndrome (****S).

Stereotypes and caricatures (I've yet to see cartoons) are MORE than acceptable short-forms in the SS. They abound. (And all the evangelists in the North I know have Southern accents.) Ayuh and Amen.

Chairman: I think the technics of managing version flow will eventually work themselves out, but I think there will be a couple of rough weeks if there's a flood.

I am ... I WAS ... working on a story, but now I'm so intimidated, I'm going to go to a workshop before I submit to OWW .

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posted March 24, 2005 06:12 PM
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I think I was trying to say that your presentation of the media and the nation as a whole in your narrative were a bit too caricatur-ish. I was thinking more along the lines of maybe just being a little more explicit in defining the liberal media as a PART...and maybe working in a little bit more of how the nation does have a significant faction that holds the skeptical/non-religious viewpoint.

Your constrution implies -- or gives the impression -- that the dissenting staffers/cabinet members were the only voices of logical reason in an entire country of religious fundamentalists.

You have to remember that Presidents like Reagan won by a massive landslide, of which no doubt a large contingent of voters were not religious minded folks. You can describe a religously faithful President, but NOT imply that he was elected and popular because of it.

And yes, when I did read your story, I really REALLY did keep reminding myself that I had to try and read this as if I had no prior knowledge of your political/philisophical viewpoint already....but even with that in mind, it still came across as a bit over the top.

I was thinking more along the lines of something like:

"despite the dire warnings of the talking heads and pundits from the liberal contingent of the media," rather than removing any mention of a liberal or conservative media..just a little more qualification instead of painting with such a broad stroke of generalization.

The way you had it come out, you can here YOUR voice of sarcasm in the narrative...and it gives the overt impression that this is a political piece rather than a sci-fi story.

Anyhow, enough of the critique...I must say it reminded me of my favorite Sci-Fi author - sorry OSC - but your short story reminded me of Alan Dean Foster. He's a master at short story sci fi while subtly pushing a point of view. For Foster it was mainly condemning corporate greed and exploitation. For this story, I wouldn't use the term "subtle" to describe your underlying theme here.

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posted March 24, 2005 06:36 PM
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Thanks again Daruma. I appreciate you explaining it to me, and I see what you mean. I'm going back over it now with your critique in mind. Thanks for the compliment. I have heard of, and I'm sure read Alan Dean Foster in the past, but I can't remember any of his books off the top of my head. Could you remind me of the name of a few?

KE

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posted March 24, 2005 06:47 PM
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Midworld

Gift of a Useless Man

The End of the Matter

The Man Who Used the Universe

Icerigger

The Spellsinger series

Slipt

The Day of Dissonance

Into the Out Of

Glory Lane

Maori

THe entire Flinx series, and a whole boatload of novels turned into movies including:

the Alien Series,
The Last Star Fighter,
PaleRider (not scifi of course, but his writing nonetheless),
The Black Hole,
Clash of the Titans,
Krull,
Starman, and Riddick.

The guy is prolific...but it was your story that reminded me of his short stories from his two collections, With Friends Like These... and Who Needs Enemies?

But my favorite is Midworld. IMO, it was his "Ender's Game."

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posted March 24, 2005 10:59 PM
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KE: I just finished Parable. I have to say, I was most impressed with the plot, let alone the way you handled dialogue! That's a hard thing to put together, but it flows well and naturally while achieving your goals for the plot. The pacing was also fairly smooth, though I would have changed some of the paragraph breaks (see my e-mail reply).

And besides, even though I knew there was going to be a twist, I didn't see it coming! You laid the foundation for it and executed it well, because afterwards I said, "Oh, right. Should have guessed that!" I also appreciated that you explained exactly what happened and how, instead of leaving me to guess. Miracles can be that way sometimes...

I have quite a few structural suggestions, and I plan on emailing you the Word document with my suggested changes highlighted. I won't post them here because it would take up too much space.

As a matter of story pragmatics, consider strengthening Chairman Malin's hesitance to shoot the President on terms of loyalty, fear of reprimand, fear of what history would say about him, etc. It provides a good reason why he would let so much be said without acting. If I was as resolved enough to shoot the President as Malin, I wouldn't wait until he had said all that before pulling the trigger! And you need the President to deliver his whole message in order to deliver your.

I personally don't really think you need to change Billy Lee's name. He's a caricature which we can identify quickly, and you should only change it if you feel like you want to change the caricature. When he insisted on calling the Chairman a heathen, I was my esteem of him went down--which may be exactly what you were shooting for!

Be aware that this story is a strong political and religious statement, presented in a traditionally powerful form (the sci-fi short story). Some people will agree with you and others won't, but they won't be able to attack your story. I think it's quite well done, and enjoyed it, even if my views on religion are different than yours! That says something, I think. It's easy to like something that reinforces your views (even if it's poorly written), but to like something you disagree with requires a better story. Let me know if you publish it. I'd love to see it in print!

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posted March 25, 2005 12:10 AM
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Hywer,

Thanks a lot for your critique I will be looking forward to seeing the changes that you suggest.

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Adam Lassek
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posted March 25, 2005 03:01 AM
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On second reading of the updated Parable, I think the neutrality of the narrative breaks down a little at this point:

quote:
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But Billy Lee answered for him. “The Catholics are concerned that with Jesus Christ on Earth, they will lose their monopoly on communication with him, and thus their money and power.”
The chairman smirked at the hypocrisy of a televangelist accusing anybody of using religion for personal gain.
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Perhaps you should rewrite the second paragraph as a thought going through the chairman's mind.

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posted March 25, 2005 03:27 AM
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Good point. It's usually better for the narrator to be outside of the story. Since you still want to say that, just change it to the Chairman. This happens a couple of times, and it's real easy to fix. (I think I mentioned something like that in my suggestions, but if not... I meant to...) ^-^

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Richard Dey
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posted March 25, 2005 05:36 PM
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The omniscient mode is omniscient!

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posted March 25, 2005 06:07 PM
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quote:
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Originally posted by Richard Dey:
The omniscient mode is omniscient!
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In the beginning was the Word?

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kenmeer livermaile
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posted March 26, 2005 08:35 PM
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Warning: I’m brusque. My opinions are only my opinions, after all, so why not pronounce them as if they were the Word of God?

“At the chairman s curt nod affirmative, with surprising dexterity for a man with thick fingers, he nimbly plucked out a cigar. Then, while the chairman prepared the end of his cigar with a gold-plated clipper, he bit off the end of his, pulled out a well-worn Zippo and applying the flame to the end puffed it to life.”

I’m good at critiquing my most common sins. The first is a wee technical boo-boo: is his curt nod surprisingly dexterous or his cigar plucking? Context says pluck, but syntax says nod. Thus I would place his surprising dexterity after the nimble pluck:

‘At the chairman s curt nod affirmative, he nimbly plucked out a cigar with surprising dexterity for a man with thick fingers.’

Immediately afterward:

“Then, while the chairman prepared the end of his cigar with a gold-plated clipper, he bit off the end of his, pulled out a well-worn Zippo and applying the flame to the end puffed it to life.”

I suggest you drop “applying the flame to the end”. One assumes he didn’t hold it to his nose. I suffer the urge to write every action in a cinematic sweep, relishing the continuity of verbal action. But wiser heads have taught me to leave out as much as possible. Folks’ heads actually fill in the blanks faster, more smoothly, and with better images, than they can read the 'screenplay'.

In order to justify the gold-plating of a cigar clipper employed by ‘brass’, I suggest you either add a qualifier like ‘an annoyingly’ gold-plated clipper or replace “prepared the end of his cigar” with some deflecting term ranging from the too cute ‘circumcised’, since some times a cigar IS just a cigar, or ‘fussed’ or…. After all, real men carry a pocketknife so sharp it can snip a cigar tip with one slice.

“ It s not going to be easy with this president in the White House, he said exhaling and watching a breath of blue smoke rise toward the ceiling.“

On the one hand, it’s too easy to clutter a narrative with too much wryly commenting allegory or metaphor or simile, but on the other hand, watching him watch a puff of blue smoke rise upward is a bit too much like watching an author attempt to paint background. Yet background needs be sufficiently lined out to give a reader’s mind’s eye something to fill in.

So long as one doesn’t overdo it, such background details can be disguised by putting them to work:

“…he said exhaling and watching a breath of blue smoke rise toward the ceiling LIKE…” The LIKE ideally reflects something about the plot, but does so itself by metaphor. Example... I'm thinking... LIKE... can't. It's too soon in the story. Not enough plot development. But you get the idea?

“President Jessup R. Kincaid s religious views were no secret. He d been raised Baptist and had run on a platform of Christian family values and morality. Given his well known religious beliefs, his landslide victory was widely hailed as a mandate to bring the country back to its Christian roots. Always vocal about his beliefs he d become even more outspoken since the death of his wife. The nation mourned when he lost her to cancer, the previous year.“

Awesome paragraph. Drop “He’d been raised” before Baptist nad “and had” to ‘he’d’ and it’s perfect, sez I.

“Since that time he d begun” = ‘He’d since begun’

“Personally, he could not conceive of a god that would allow the pain and suffering he d seen, endured, and even inflicted over the years.”

“even inflicted” is great. It creates a point of reference you can hammer again and again: the president seeking to redeem his former bad-ass self.

“Pretty convenient coincident! ”= ‘Pretty convenient!’

“the vice chairman asked flicking his cigar ash in a nearby ashtray, careful to keep it off his dress uniform.“

Have him flick it TOWARD the ashtray? Careful of his uniform but careless of the rug? Suggest some nuance of character or inherent joint chiefs rivalry? It’s not HIS office but it’s his uniform.

“Both men were in their best dress uniforms, and adorned in all the ribbons, metals and citations they had won and earned over their many years of service to the country. Though not part of either man s usual attire, protocol dictated they wear them when attending the meeting called for by the president at 1600 hours.”

I’m wanting something like ‘awkward but proud’. It sucks to wear a tie, so to speak, but when one has the coolest tie in town…

“ No, not yet, the chairman said, checking his watch. But rest assured I'll think of something by the time we meet with the president. I ll be damned if I ll let that temporary politician in the White House turn over my country to some damn alien claiming to be ****ing Jesus Christ! ”

To which the vice-chairman replies, “Some of us can’t tell the difference.”

“The principal purpose of the President s Cabinet (drawn from Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution) was to advise the President”= ‘as required by…’

If one is going to trouble the reader with a civics lesson, make it mandatory. Saying ‘as required by’ explains why you mention it.

“Seated at his immediate right was the Secretary of the newly formed Office of Cultural Affairs, the honorable Reverend William Lee Matthews. Seated to the right of the Reverend were the Secretaries of Defense, of Homeland Security, of State, the Attorney General, and at the far end of the table the Vice President. The President s Chief of Staff sat at the his immediate left, and next to him sat the president s science advisor, Mrs. Janet Curry, the only lady present. Next to her sat Chairman Malin and the rest of the Joint Chiefs occupied the remainder of seats on that side of the table.“

I have enough difficulty remembering names and titles without also remembering where they should sit. ‘Seated with him were’ should suffice?

“He paused for the obligatory nods and noises of agreement around the table.”

Drop it, sez I, ESPECIALLY after the grave locking of eyes in turn, which works very effectively. Which reminds me: you’ve placed the guest of honor at the head of a table described in more depth than the prez. You’ve surrounded him with a detailed guest list/seating arrangement. We know nothing yet about those eyes locking the fellas in place. It would be tricky to directly describe them beforehand, but since they’re principal actors introducing his first body language, I think a description is in order of the cat from whose head they gaze out just a tad strangely. Give us the PREZ!

Read read read…. Yup. You got a way with dialogue. I’m jealous.

Read read read… one quibble. You’ve inadvertently introduced a ‘dummy plot’ device where one isn’t needed. A dummy plot is where the suspension of belief requires the protagonists to be dumb in a critical way. Not see the obvious. IN horror, such a device is often essential, but the victim need not be stupid per se as just too brave or whatever. But in other entertainments, the main protagonists must be able to ignore something otherwise obvious long enough for that obviousness to pass by or be buried in details.

So: were I at that long mahogany table, I would early on have said, “A civilization able to convincingly imitate the Second Coming must surely be able to read the Bible and stage events accordingly.”

“ Mimicking? Billy Lee erupted. Blasphemy!

Bull****! The Chairman jumped to his feet and faced the preacher. Call it what you want, Reverend! But I speak the truth! ”

Here your sure touch of dialogue succumbs to low high drama, i.e. inadvertent campiness. Harsh, but I speak the truth.

“ So, Billy Lee interrupted, what you are saying Mrs. Curry is that you have no idea what is up there?

Mrs. Curry eyed the reverend silently. Unwilling, or unable to respond to his sarcasm. “

THAT’S more like it! But why give Billy Lee all the good lines and make the generals harrumph like impotent mandarins? We all KNOW that President Bush-clone is gonna side with Billy Lee Jesus anyway.

“ So,, we ve had television signals beaming out into space since Hitler and the 36 Olympics. Hell, we ve had twenty-four-hour Christian stations like yours beaming television signals out into space for decades! How hard do you think it would it be for an alien to get hold of all that information and duplicate biblical events? “

There it is! But it needs to come in earlier and nastier, aimed at Billy Lee, with some crack about cargo cult exploitations by beings of intelligence great enough to delude superstitious earth quacks.

“ I hope you re not insinuating that I would become some kind of puppet, Mr. Chairman, the president said glaring at the chairman.

No, sir, he said returning the president s glare. Of course not. “

He should say, “No sir. I AM saying that as a good Christian, you would never disobey the Word of God. Or do I misunderstand your faith?”

“ Yes, sir! He said and addressed the president and the assembled experts and officials. As you know, he cleared his throat, every major country on the planet is on war footing at this time. We have contingency plans for each country and every possibility, but the possible scenarios are many and varied. And they are subject to change when and if hostilities begin. It s a very fluid and volatile situation, Mr. President.

Yes, said the president, I agree it s a very volatile situation. I ve met, or been in contact with most of the world powers and all of the religious leaders. Needless to say they are not happy. Many of them have assured me that there will be dire consequences if we acknowledge the alien, as they refer to him, as the Son of God. “

I know that’s how the military cabinet is supposed to speak, but I hate it. How would a Heinleinian general say it? That’s how my ears want to read this (my eyes want to hear Stravinsky at the moment;). Not that I’m a Heinlein freak, but his mode is the obvious template for this tale. How would Lazarus Long say this?

“ I'm not going to tell you again, Mr. Chairman, the president said tersely. Answer my question in regard to foreign terrestrial powers. Exactly what can we expect in the way of reprisals from the rest of the world? What are our contingency plans and options?

The chairman stared at the president, shocked at the implication of his words. The president seemed to be saying that it was a foregone conclusion that the alien was Jesus Christ“

I don’t see that implication. I just hear the Prez asking a what if. Some additional something is needed for the reader to infer what the chairman infers.

“ More blasphemy! Jesus says the way to know him is by his works! Billy Lee interjected.

Why? Why couldn t he perform a miracle if he is Jesus? The Chairman asked. Something only God or Jesus could do? “

I want him to say that miracles were THE work of JC. After Billy Lee sputtered a bit more about faith and belief, I’d want the chairman to say that faith and belief are of the individual. The nation was of pure simple fact. “Frankly, Jesus can walk His talk… preferably on water… or he can walk the plank, Mr. President.” (ignoring the rev and going to the cutoff man)

“ Nano-bots... Mrs. Curry said looking at the president. She hoped he hadn t overstepped his bounds by mentioning a top-secret project. Surely all the men present had top-secret security clearance.“

Can nano-bots resurrect a man’s memory? Without a resurrection including a man’s soul, it wouldn’t be a religious miracle, only very advanced microbiology.

“ Are you suggesting that I ve been brainwashed? the president asked. If they have that kind of power why wouldn t they just brainwash the entire population? Why not you, general? Or are you somehow more resistant than I? “

I would reply, “With all due respect, Mr. President, the answer is obviously YES. You’re a believer; I am not. Your mind WANTS to believe; my minds needs to be convinced.”

“ That s right, Mr. Chairman. The President retorted, bristling at the word elect. If they come before the signs. But as I ve said, the signs have come to pass. “

“elect…bristle”

Hee-hee!

Read read read… excellent twist/denouement. But I think you should have the Prez take the bullet after all, and be… reanimated, only this time ABSOLUTELY under alien nanobotic control, with his memories still intact because he is not yet brain dead. And I think you shouldn’t ‘explain’ what the event meant, as in:

“Chairman Malin looked around the room at the awestruck faces. He couldn t feel the nano-bots running through his veins, and soon he wouldn t question them, or care, but in that moment he realized that he had given the alien the very thing he d been striving to avoid; he was the miracle that would give them the world.”

You should let the implications speak for themselves. Let the ending echo in the wind, not in the general’s mind. The general’s mind should, at that point, be overwhelmed by the miracle he is experiencing. His disbelief should be briefly suspended, and he should be succumbing to a lifetime’s indoctrination of a Christian culture, and should be kneeling at Jesus’ feet, weeping ands peeing his britches.

And then, perhaps, you could end with Jesus ET’s thought:

‘He hadn’t really expected the nanobots to work so fast or so well. Terran biology was so QUICK. It was almost like a miracle…’

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kenmeer livermaile
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posted March 26, 2005 11:17 PM
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"only this time ABSOLUTELY under alien nanobotic control, with his memories still intact"

Sorry, KE: don't know how I missed your obvious implication that 'Chaiorman Lazarus' would soon be under nanobotic zombie control.

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Adam Lassek
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posted March 27, 2005 01:02 AM
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quote:
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“And if that is the case, then this, alien, is not Jesus Christ!”
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What's up with all the commas? If you're trying to do what I think you are, it would look better as:


quote:
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"And if that is the case, then this... alien is not Jesus Christ!"
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kenmeer livermaile
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posted March 27, 2005 11:10 AM
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"If you have any anal retentiveness over 'paragraph length', read Joyce with a monoparagraphic parabollock on the juvenile penis erectus (by a woman, if I remember correctly [Eek!] ) or Proust who uses a multi-page paragraph to turn a fugging doorknob. Don't obsess over it. One long paragraph in a brilliant short story will NOT turn off a reader. An occasional long paragraph is here a sign of strength, not pedantry."

(Take it from a guy who regularly turns sentences into paragraphs. One thumb rule for deciding whether a paragraph should remain whole or fractured is to it in parentheses. Parentheses confer a private relevance to their contained text. If the text within the parentheses feels like two persons whispering, the paragraph probably should be cut?) See:

(Take it from a guy who regularly turns sentences into paragraphs. One thumb rule for deciding whether a paragraph should remain whole or fractured is to it in parentheses.)

(Parentheses confer a private relevance to their contained text. If the text within the parentheses feels like two persons whispering, the paragraph probably should be cut?)

Obviously, th above should remain one paragraph.

The other consideration I employ is eye/brain strain. Even if the ideas in a paragraph are 'contiguously continuous' (to strike a phrase lost in its own woods), their comprehension may require more brain work than can be sustained while ferreting out sentences from a paragraph bloock.

Then I like to separate by salient transitions and, if useful, isolate single sentences that state a crucial idea strikingly.

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KnightEnder
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posted April 05, 2005 03:06 PM
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I mailed it!

KE

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cperry
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posted April 05, 2005 03:11 PM
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Woooweeee! This calls for celebration!

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