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for The Sign

3/19/2016 c1 4lookingwest
Wow I really liked the concept of this if it's really about a man who is sort of in a time loop or something - I have to say though, I didn't quite get it after first reading, and had to look through again and even peek at some of the reviews to see what the general census was. I think Murphy might've been close as your first reviewer - and I agree with them that perhaps it might be a little too subtle.

Someone else also mentioned not catching "The sign is broke" as "The nine is smoke" - I'm also in this camp. I just wasn't thinking about it anymore since there was so much information as far as exposition. During the exposition section in the middle I kept thinking, "What does this have to do with anything? When will it wrap back around?" and my mind did start to wander with all the company names and project names and experimentations. I think maybe to combat this from happening, it might be smart to come back to the present throughout that exposition - and maybe it wasn't possible to do for WCC because of the word count restraint, but if you come back to revise this, come back to the present scene of Jose's death more often. The piece doesn't need to end there or anything, but I think we need to see more braiding of past and present for that last line to really click.

It's also a difficult thing because I think one of your reviewers was like, "why didn't she notice it when the guy said 'the sign is broke'" - well of course, that scene happened /before/ the opening line when her grandfather was dying. So she wouldn't have known then. But I think it's important to keep the present in the reader's mind instead of leaning so much on the past, and it can be pulled off clearer.

Like I said though, I really like this concept and it's an excellent short story in terms of characterization and originality. Lonnie was great. I have to say at the opening I thought maybe she was a young boy, though, but I think that was just my reading and while I did glance to see if perhaps we could get her name and age sooner, I decided it's fine where it's at! Man, if you spiced this up in that middle section of exposition, I bet you could have a chance at Shimmer magazine or something - maybe even Lightspeed, depending. The bridging of the soda pop machines between the two times, and the way that contributed to your setting were also well done. I enjoyed that feature of this world a lot. Great use of setting. I also liked the theme that Lonnie is doing something very sinister in her experimentations, but her attitude towards it is so distant, in a way. Classic sci-fi stuff happening here. But yeah, my biggest concrit would just be to bring in that present thread back into the narrative when you are in those exposition paragraphs. Have the mother talk to her or something else happen at the pop machine with the boys. Then we won't forget that we're not in the present by the end, and we'll also have that in our minds when we get to that "sign."

I'm blown away and envious of the cleverness of this plot though, ahha, I wish I could write short stories as well rounded as this! It also touches on so many themes, and again, your characters are all quite rich. Love love love the multiculturalism in here and the thematic conversation this brings forward about labor and border spaces. Well done! I didn't get a chance to read through all the entries the month this was playing, so I'm glad I found the chance! I think I'm actually officially blocked on all your works now - so get to writing! :D And...OHHHHhhhhHHhhh man. I just realized something, xD I was playing this for EF, but I also owe you a WCC review, haha. WELP. Gonna make this your WCC since I just realized I'm blocked on all your other works, hahaha! Now SERIOUSLY get to writing! Heh.

Congrats on winning this month, and loved this piece here! I hope this year proves very fruitful for you and I see more of your works in the WCC :) I used WCC all last year to generate some new short works to publish and while I haven't gone back to refine any yet, it's a really smart way to use WCC, I think.

See you around!
2/2/2016 c1 17whispers of lowlit flames
NARRATION: The narrator has an interesting way of describing things, especially her family. She gives names to some of them - like this is what I call them, this is what other people call them/might be expected to call them, and this is what their names are. It's the sort of thing that can be cut out for brevity if required, but adds a layer of context and complexity. The tidbit of the spanish arm of the narrator's background might not have come out otherwise, so something like that gives more information than apparently. The other interesting thing I found about the narration was there was quite a bit of background contained in it, the narrator explaining the past to us, the readers, without going through a medium in-story, and yet it works out quite neatly at the end. Definitely the potential to be expanded on if you chose to, but it makes a fairly solid stand-alone piece as well, if somewhat disjointed.

OPENING: Usually, this is my first category, but in this case it's pretty much my only critique and looked odd up there. :D Once I got to the end of the story, it came together quite nicely, but when I first started, it was more confusing than anything else. The sort of opening that baffled me instead of hooking me, instead of those two working together which seems to be what you need with a short story like this. The sensation I got from the opening was an interesting bit of dialogue, but a bit that didn't make sense to me (and the narrator, as the second paragraph said), so a part of me was like "well, the narrator doesn't seem to understand what they're explaining, so do I want to read to the end when there mightn't be enough hints for me to work it out myself?" There are, but with those opening couple of paragraphs, that was the impression I got. Once I was past that though, I was hooked. XD

FLOW: I think the first person narration helps here; it have a sort of linear flow despite the narrator not talking about events in a linear order. In dot points, a grandfather's death, a family history and an interview don't seem to connect neatly, but the narration adds a little something that links them together, and they're all linked to the opening statement as well. And even the more subtle things like the narrator's name - the precint for that was set up earlier when talking about her mother and grandmother's names... The sort of writing you can look back on in retrospect and read much more out of the piece.

CONCLUSION: I felt the last scene was the least developed of all of them, which makes for a slightly hasty conclusion - but then again, it nicely reflects the idea of the extra person, so it's quite clever in retrospect. And since it's the ending, it has a bit of time (like an echo) following a read, for it to sink in and go back and connect dots with the beginning... What I would have liked to know, though, was how long after that final scene the narration was done: how long the narrator remembered those interesting tidbits of the interview and why, if she hasn't come to a conclusion (as stated at the beginning), she's put this scene in the same page (relatively :D) as her grandfather's mind-boggling works?

A really interesting read, and one I'll definitely be coming back to! Congrats on winning Jan's WCC and well done!
1/20/2016 c1 20Ventracere
Hmm. I don't really know what to make of this piece? But I did like how it was mired in the past. Something she continues to emphasize throughout the piece is how her grandfather had an influence on her, and we got to see it as she continues describing how she got to where she is. You have some fantastic lines like, "It's like he's in between time and space, fighting the invisible." It's a poignant sentence, especially considering Lonnie. It's like she is there herself, she can't movie forward with her preoccupation with her thoughts on her grandfather.

The main squick that I have for this piece is that the ending feels so open ended. It feels more like a prologue rather than a oneshot. I want to see what would happen to the person she interviewed during the trials considering that her company is beginning to undergo them even with the failures in the past. It's a dangerous one. But actually, going back to the Lemonheadz character, I guess we know what happened to the previous test subjects, they're trapped in there with the lemonheadz character. It's a unique idea and definitely sent shivers up my arms once I realized what he was implying.

Thanks for the read!
1/19/2016 c1 90Timbo Slice
I love the setting of this piece, the subtle yet pervasive use of sci fi mixed with the futuristic southwest flair really gives this story a unique vibe, and you draw some insightful parallels between today's current political climate of immigration and human test subjects.

The prose in this story reads in a neat, fluid manner and it was nice to see the story come full circle in the end with the experiments explaining how the mutilated bodies came to be. On a more critical note, the POV doesn't leave much room for events taking place in the present tense, making the bulk of the writing mere backstory to the events happening.
1/16/2016 c1 82Solemn Coyote
Wow, great turn-around at the end. I wasn't sure how you were going to pull this back together, but that absolutely works.

This doesn't feel like a completed piece by itself, but it does feel like a solid first chapter to something longer. All the characterization you bring to Lonnie is wonderful, but the narrative feels like it jumps settings and eras without much warning. The part at the beginning with the hospital bed isn't really needed in this except as a vehicle for introducing Razzaberry...unless you want to develop the story further. Likewise, the bit about Abuelo crossing the border isn't needed either, except as a way to introduce the idea that things are being displaced in time...unless you do a longer piece and use memories of Lonnie's grandfather as an emotional anchor for the story.

What I'm saying here is that I like this a bunch and you should make a novella out of it. As is, it needs streamlining if you want it to be just a short story. Maybe bring it entirely into the present with a few momentary flashbacks or recalls. It's good stuff, though.
1/14/2016 c1 13alltheeagles
RG EF

I always find first person past tense narratives a little awkward because for me, there's no logical reason for a character to be reporting what happened to him/her in 'real past time' unless he's reliving a memory. If s/he were telling somebody else what had happened, the tendency would be to summarise things rather than a detailed account that includes description and backstory. Anyway, it's not my favourite narrating POV, but you do a respectable job of it here in that everything flows smoothly - maybe the bits on her grandfather should be in past perfect? Since everything else is in past. I also do like the way you incorporated the riddle aspect without letting it overwhelm the rest of the plot. That was clever (and I use the word without any intention of condenscension). If it were me, I'd probably have interpreted the prompt much more literally.
1/14/2016 c1 51Electrumquill
An intriguing short story and the time loop arc is shown very subtly. I wonder how long the narrator will take to dredge “the sign is broke” up from the depths of her memories.

Anyway, a few comments. I think it opened at the right place. One can see that Dias and his granddaughter are close seeing as he will turn to her in his dying moments.

Good foreshadowing with the soft drink mascot signs.

On to the story of Jose Dias. I’m guessing he must have materialised AFTER 1964 although it can’t have been long after surely? My would he have had to be picky as to WHEN he time warped to…

Rather cute backstory and I don’t mind that it had to be told quickly, because there would be no other way to fit it into a short story otherwise. I like how you aren’t heavy handed about how prescient Jose was. It reminds me of Jacob in the Old Testament before he went senile.

As to the scene when he is with the narrator, this was the right point to start showing. They’re obviously close, waxing philosophical with one another. I would say that the narrator was clearly a very precocious child, which is absolutely fine if that is what you were aiming for.

I like how laid back the narrator is about the barbarities conducted for the purposes of research. Yes, 1940 was indeed a different era with many different standards. Judging by the fate of the coyotes, I hate to think how the human test subjects ended up. And the risks of such attempts were demonstrated well with these mysterious portals being left over. Who knows where they might all lead?

So here I think the narrator meets her grandfather and they create a timeloop. Obviously he is interested in her and wants to build and name a family after the one she describes. That’s the fascinating part of time travel stories. How to reconcile the apparent paradoxes.
1/13/2016 c1 1Cheddar-Graham
RG EF

You could be predicting the future, really, given the way things are going nowadays. Twenty years past the millenium isn't that far way. It's particularly scary because it's so possible. I like this plausability because it shows that sci-fi doesn't have to be all grand terminology and hard to grasp concepts. I also like how the plot comes back full circle with the reference to coyotes and the warring sodas as well as the MC's family history. Took me a while to see all that though - it's pretty subtle.
1/12/2016 c1 5Whirlymerle
Hi from the RG-EF!

I love the futuristic sci-fi elements blended seamlessly with the realistic elements of the story, which I think is really impressive. I love that you mention things like the father’s “Wharton credentials” and the mother’s “trendy causes.” I think the realistic/relatable aspects of the story grounds us with the futuristic elements.

One minor issue I do have with the story is that the grandfather’s cryptic message is pretty solidly etched in Lonnie’s mind. She says “To this day, it remains a mystery.” I feel like that set up high expectations that weren’t met when Santiago says “The sign is broke”; I’m kind of surprised that she doesn’t react even a little bit. Then again, what Santiago is saying is pretty non-cryptic, and relevant because the sign is indeed broke. I guess maybe I wished in the opening, there wasn’t as much emphasis on the grandfather’s words, but that’s just personal and nitpicky.

While they’re not a major part of your story, I love that you weave in some subtle commentary about immigration, and how hard immigrants have to work to “make it,” how they have to risk so much (in the end, their lives, in exchange for citizenship, which are other people’s birthright).

I really, really enjoyed this! Well done and good luck on the WCC!
1/12/2016 c1 9Sjoorm
Opening: I wasn't really pulled in by "The nine is smoke" other than I wanted to know what it meant. Until you made it just a throwaway phrase, that is.

Scene: I didn't get enough of a description from any particular scene to form a clear picture, though the desalination process that her hreat grandfather created was interesting.

Dialogue: My main gripe was that she was using words like "theoretically" at the age of 10. Unrealistic in my opinion.

Spelling/grammar: You spelt "trials" as "trails". Also, you have a double word "the The Terrors". Besides that I couldn't see much else.

Writing: The writing I'm not a huge fan of, just because it feels to me like it jumps from the perspective of a 10 year old and a 32 year old a bit. Usually (in my opinion at least, I'm not a professional) it is better to write as if it is always from the point of view of the main scenes, in this case her childhood self. As well, you have "work his fucking ass off" written into a paragraph, and I feel it kind of cheapens the sentiment. You don't need to curse to insert emphasis into something, and generally I follow the rule of only using curse words in dialogue to make room for more "intelligent" use of my sentences. Just my opinion.

Ending: I was a little confused on what exactly happened in the ending (or what the story was really about, besides her grandfather being great when he was still alive), but I get the feeling of time travel from the odd year being announced? Would like to see a bit more elaboration on this.
1/12/2016 c1 6Victoria Best
Hello!

(Not as part of Review Game.)

I enjoyed this. It's an interesting idea and I think it will do well in the WCC. It is certainly both emotionally and structurally complex, the way it goes from talking about Lonnie's granddad and his story, and then about how he helped shape her into the person she is now. It was also interesting to see how he encouraged her to pursue her field of work, and their conversation about astronomy was a particular highlight for me. Deep, meaningful and packed a lot of impact, and even more so when we see at the end how inspiring this was for Lonnie.

I love some of the sentences you use, such as, "with nothing more than his twenty-five year old body," and this last section at the end, which gets very complex, really starting to touch upon human life and what it means to be human. Almost a bit of a chilling scene really, the character without an opponent. It's great that you have packed in so much in just those two lines at the end.

"I was a frightened, freaked out, twelve-year-old, and he was in recovery after a nasty surgery to remove his left eye..." This sentence is way too long, even with all the punctuation. It's quite a mouthful, especially as it is one of your opening lines, so I would recommend cutting it down or breaking it up. Also, frightened and freaked out? Aren't they essentially the same thing?

The word 'theoretically' was not convincing for a ten-year-old's language. My brother is eleven and would not come out with this :p Just letting you know from first hand experience.

Finally, the only other problem I had with this was that the section from "Eddington strategies" down to "we've accomplished some amazing things," was a lot of unbroken infoloading and so became tiring to read. Do we need all of this information? And is there a chance you could cut it down? Or at least break it up with a scene in between or a bit of movement, for example Lonnie walking around the area? Just something so that it does not feel like one long essay-like narrative.

Otherwise, this was pretty solid and I enjoyed reading it. Good luck for the WCC! And keep writing!
1/12/2016 c1 2Murphy Chapelwood
Writing: "The initial trails were..." Should be trials.
"Defense Department" "DoD" If you are going to start using the acronym, I think your first mention of the government body needs to be Department of Defense.

"The overpopulation in the desert with the shrinking numbers of people and their trash created a lot of hungry creatures."

This sentence doesn't quite work. Read it aloud. Maybe, you could separate the prepositional phrase "with... trash" in commas, but I don't think that's going to fix it either. Overpopulation and hungry creatures needs to be more firmly connected, if that even is what that refers to. I'm definitely missing something.

Dialogue: Is the sole purpose of the solar system/galaxy dialogue to inform the reader that it had been granddad that inspired Lonnie to go into science? I would like it to have a bit more meaning than that, because why is a farmer/businessman, astute as he is, so intrigued by astronomy? Also, if she is supposed to be a child, or at least a good deal younger, I think her speech needs to be dumbed down a bit.

Technique: I like these sorts of stories, and I enjoyed the ease of reading about the changing world. The flashback with the grandfather is a nice touch, but although it infused character in the world building, I felt like it was too large a chunk not to have tied in better with the later half. It does tie in, but not in a plot way. I believe there is just a bit too much gushing about his greatness for there not to be some catch.

Ending: So, as I was getting close to finishing, I thought: She's is going to interview her granddad from the past/future. That sometime during his wanderings he fell into one of those portal things that you specifically mention being undetectable until being very close, and that sets up some kind of time warp/loop, and it would explain his prophetic business acumen. If that is what happened, then it might be too subtle.

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