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Author Topic: EP263: Fuel  (Read 10250 times)
MCWagner
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« Reply #20 on: October 25, 2010, 03:34:02 PM »

I have a couple of points on this story, but, honestly, they both feel so petty that I hesitated quite a while before posting.

The major one is that I didn't like the story much because it felt like a revenge-fantasy... not for the characters, but for the author.  (I don't know the author from Adam, but I can only state how it appears to me.)  Template characters, absurdly one-sided abuse of the main character who "just wants to be left alone," predictable plot arc of "the little guy triumphant", etc.  A tale of revenge can be a gripping, emotionally engaging story, but revenge-fantasies always feel rather toxic to me... stories whose only purpose is showing how the people who picked on you in school end up cleaning toilets or dying horribly... how those people who don't share your political/social/moral outlook come to an ironic, painful end.  As one of those inathletic kids in school (scrawny, not chubby) who spent all his time with his nose in a book, I confess I indulged in similar fantasies, but it's just impotent dwelling and not a particularly healthy way to engage one's mind, nor a story I'd really characterize as "entertaining."

The other point is really, really petty...  I normally like Dave Thompson's readings, but in this story with a more science-based vocabulary, he fumbled the language pretty badly.  ("erythrocyte" (red blood cell) is pronounced "E-reeth-row-cyte" not "air-throw-cyte")  It probably only grated on me because of the six years I watched the damn things flow past on the microscope, but for future reference the merriam-webster site has pronunciation audio files for things like this.
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DKT
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« Reply #21 on: October 25, 2010, 04:03:54 PM »

Heh. I actually did check the Merriam-Webster dictionary for that one (and a few others), but admittedly, may have fumbled it regardless. Sorry!
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Scattercat
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« Reply #22 on: October 25, 2010, 04:11:39 PM »

It was... okay.  I strongly preferred "Usurpers," which had a fun language-level angle to it that this one didn't have.  I agree that this feels like a world idea that found a not-so-hot plotline to express itself.

On the other hand, I can empathize with the main character.  I was a pudgy, bookish nerd of a child, and my father tried several schemes to get me in better shape, including signing me up for sports teams against my will and spending his one-day-a-week with me and my sister making us run for an hour (which mostly resulted in my trying to play sick any day Dad was scheduled to pick us up after school.)  I can understand the need to strike back, even in a pointless or counterproductive way.  I kept my hair in a rat-tail haircut for *years* longer than I actually wanted it solely because my father was always pestering me to cut it, and the rat-tail was the closest he'd let me get to long hair in the first place.  If I'd had a brother who was athletic in the way the elder brother was here, I might well have fantasized about sabotaging his performance just out of sheer frustration and misdirected anger.
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« Reply #23 on: October 26, 2010, 08:57:32 AM »

Interesting that a couple people have mentioned that Usurpers worked better.  I guess that just shows how tastes vary:  I couldn't finish that one, the narrative style drove me bugnuts, and the character was so arrogant I really didn't want to listen to his story.

This one I finished, and I thought was pretty good, even though I had trouble buying that this kid thought the sabotage was a good idea.

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Talia
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« Reply #24 on: October 26, 2010, 12:20:56 PM »

Interesting that a couple people have mentioned that Usurpers worked better.  I guess that just shows how tastes vary:  I couldn't finish that one, the narrative style drove me bugnuts, and the character was so arrogant I really didn't want to listen to his story.

This one I finished, and I thought was pretty good, even though I had trouble buying that this kid thought the sabotage was a good idea.



He's an emotionally neglected, hurt, angry 12-year-old. why wouldn't he? Or rather, I doubt the "good idea" vs "bad idea" would even cross his mind.
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #25 on: October 26, 2010, 03:56:24 PM »

Interesting that a couple people have mentioned that Usurpers worked better.  I guess that just shows how tastes vary:  I couldn't finish that one, the narrative style drove me bugnuts, and the character was so arrogant I really didn't want to listen to his story.

This one I finished, and I thought was pretty good, even though I had trouble buying that this kid thought the sabotage was a good idea.

He's an emotionally neglected, hurt, angry 12-year-old. why wouldn't he? Or rather, I doubt the "good idea" vs "bad idea" would even cross his mind.

This ^^^  is basically the thought process that went through my head.  First was, Why does he think that's going to make them understand him?.  Then, Oh, twelve-year-old.

I have a twelve-year-old boy, you see (for 5 more days, anyway*), and figuring out actual consequences (rather than desired consequences) is not a strong skill in most at that age.

I didn't mind this story, but I didn't love it, either.  There were a couple of clumsy places that dragged me right out of the story and made me wish the author had had an editor.

At one point, Jamie "let himself in the front door with his keycard."  In a story using third-person limited narrative, this just doesn't work.  If keys as cards are ubiquitous in this future (I hope they don't become so in ours!), Jamie wouldn't think of it as a key card, any more than we call telephones something else because they now have pushbuttons.

To get across the idea that it was a keycard, it would have been better for the author to have done something like:

Jamie went to let himself in, but as usual, the card reader missed the first few swipes and he had to stand there like an idiot, swiping the card until the door finally swung open.

Only better.  Smiley

Also, the line, "You get better with practice. Like your brother Scott," really jarred on me.  Seriously?  Jamie needs to be told either who his brother is or who Scott is?

In the very next paragraph, the line "the way he gritted his teeth when he heard his older brother's name," made the solution to this clumsy line obvious.

In both of those cases, I had to go back in the file to listen to what came immediately after those bits, as my rants about the writing drowned out the story.  Cheesy

All it needed was a quick edit to catch both of those problems (and possibly other, subtler ones that I didn't catch).




*He's not going anywhere, just won't be twelve any more.
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« Reply #26 on: October 26, 2010, 04:10:58 PM »

I was a little unsure of what he thought the sabotage would accomplish. Seems like a long way to go to make a point, too -- change out all your blood? And won't his brother notice right away that the Fuel 6.1 isn't doing its job?

I almost thought the story was implying that the kid thinks his blood will make his brother smarter.
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chuk
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« Reply #27 on: October 26, 2010, 07:58:24 PM »

I kinda liked this one. It  was no big huge expansive plot, but it was a very human one. Was it a revenge fantasy? Possibly, yes, but it wasn't just revenge against his brother, but his parents. He really didn't seem to resent his brother so much as he did his parents insistence that he be like his brother.

And he got his revenge by outsmarting them, which made it all the more sweet.

And to those who called this a nightmare scenario....apparently you don't live in the USA. At least, not the south. If you really dug in, I would not be shocked to see many that offer far more money to athletics than academics.
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CryptoMe
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« Reply #28 on: October 26, 2010, 10:19:52 PM »

I almost thought the story was implying that the kid thinks his blood will make his brother smarter.

Oh, I like that angle. Especially because I was hoping the story would go in the opposite direction, where the MC takes the Fuel 6.2 blood and then finds himself too dumb to exact his revenge Wink.
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Talia
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« Reply #29 on: October 27, 2010, 08:32:47 AM »

I almost thought the story was implying that the kid thinks his blood will make his brother smarter.

Oh, I like that angle. Especially because I was hoping the story would go in the opposite direction, where the MC takes the Fuel 6.2 blood and then finds himself too dumb to exact his revenge Wink.

That would have been incredibly, incredibly depressing. Heh.
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Saaoirse
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« Reply #30 on: October 27, 2010, 04:21:11 PM »

I felt like this story was the author's first draft. The blood thing was a really interesting idea, and could have been a great story, but instead we got dull characters wandering around explaining it to us. There was only the semblance of a plot, which felt tacked-on. I want to read the story it could have been.
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« Reply #31 on: October 28, 2010, 08:44:48 AM »

He's an emotionally neglected, hurt, angry 12-year-old. why wouldn't he? Or rather, I doubt the "good idea" vs "bad idea" would even cross his mind.

The "good idea" vs. "bad idea" did cross his mind at the end of the story, and he decided good idea because his parents would understand him for a moment.  I think to say that he's incapable of predicting the bad outcome of this because he's 12 is to sell 12-year-olds short and he is, by all accounts, a very smart kid. 

*He's not going anywhere, just won't be twelve any more.

I'm glad you added the asterisk, I was worried!   Cheesy

I kinda liked this one. It  was no big huge expansive plot, but it was a very human one. Was it a revenge fantasy? Possibly, yes, but it wasn't just revenge against his brother, but his parents. He really didn't seem to resent his brother so much as he did his parents insistence that he be like his brother.

Maybe that's his primary target, but his brother is the one who'll suffer the most, by having his only chances at a scholarship ruined.  He sure isn't going to impress anyone with his academics.
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Talia
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« Reply #32 on: October 28, 2010, 09:39:39 AM »

He's an emotionally neglected, hurt, angry 12-year-old. why wouldn't he? Or rather, I doubt the "good idea" vs "bad idea" would even cross his mind.

The "good idea" vs. "bad idea" did cross his mind at the end of the story, and he decided good idea because his parents would understand him for a moment.  I think to say that he's incapable of predicting the bad outcome of this because he's 12 is to sell 12-year-olds short and he is, by all accounts, a very smart kid. 



Ah. But you are clearly drawing a dividing line between his mental and emotional states. Can't do that, particularly not with a kid of his age. This is a child on the verge of entering the most turbulent time of his life from an emotional perspective.  Regardless (I caught myself typing irregardless.. for shame) of his school smarts and relative cleverness, guy is kind of a mess inside.

You can be a genius and still do dumb things because of feelings.
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« Reply #33 on: October 28, 2010, 12:30:45 PM »

Ah. But you are clearly drawing a dividing line between his mental and emotional states. Can't do that, particularly not with a kid of his age. This is a child on the verge of entering the most turbulent time of his life from an emotional perspective.  Regardless (I caught myself typing irregardless.. for shame) of his school smarts and relative cleverness, guy is kind of a mess inside.

You can be a genius and still do dumb things because of feelings.

In general, I'd agree.  In this case, it didn't seem in character to me.  Especially since it's pre-meditated he's got lots of time to think about it, it wasn't a spur of the moment thing.
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Talia
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« Reply #34 on: October 28, 2010, 01:16:38 PM »

Ah. But you are clearly drawing a dividing line between his mental and emotional states. Can't do that, particularly not with a kid of his age. This is a child on the verge of entering the most turbulent time of his life from an emotional perspective.  Regardless (I caught myself typing irregardless.. for shame) of his school smarts and relative cleverness, guy is kind of a mess inside.

You can be a genius and still do dumb things because of feelings.

In general, I'd agree.  In this case, it didn't seem in character to me.  Especially since it's pre-meditated he's got lots of time to think about it, it wasn't a spur of the moment thing.

I would argue that since he's pretty clearly emotionally neglected, negative feelings are having an ongoing effect on his behavior and thoughts. You need to have a certain degree of emotional maturity to recognize if how your feeling is having an effect on your thinking and behaviors. Due to his age and the fact that his society and family are morons, he doesn't have it.
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Sandikal
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« Reply #35 on: October 29, 2010, 12:11:47 AM »

Having just sent my second smart child to high school, I agree completely with Talia about the emotional maturity of middle school kids vs. their intellectual maturity. 
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slic
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« Reply #36 on: October 31, 2010, 12:02:03 PM »

I'm seeing a general misinterpretation of this story, in my opinion. What I see here a case of a beautiful rough stone being chipped into a flawed gem.
...
It's a conceptually rich world: commodification of the body, a sort of anti-singularity of the physical, corporatist athletic competition beginning in junior high.
But when the time came for the actual story...
This is what I would suggest to the writer to make this story (or any others in this world) better.  I think it is simpler to codify the direct results with regards to sports than acedemics (i.e. it's easier to show gains in someone running faster than it is to show them being more intelligent), so a couple of lines in the story to indicate that this is new - maybe something about an upcoming market for "smart blood" would help. After all we have "smart" food on the market even now (here in Canada anyway).
The story is also too short - the consequences and how they affect Scott's family would be more interesting that the end idea of revenge.

I defintiely agree with everyone's comments about Scott's behaviour making sense - I have a 12 and a 13 year old, they are very sincere and try hard, but don't always get the "consequences" part of their actions (long term or as they really affect others).
... He'd be humiliated and his parents would be disappointed. For the resentful brother that sounds like that would count as a sure win.
Yup

Blood-doping ethics aside, why wouldn't better blood also feed your intellect and why wouldn't higher intelligence help your sporting endeavours?
I suspect it would definitely help but more of a side affect, and likely not to the same degree.  You'd want something that encouraged better memory retention, cognitive leaps, perhaps increased synapse firing.  Also the dumb jock is something of a misnomer.  There are many sports where the athelete needs to strategize on the fly (though I don't think sprinting would necessarily be one of them). 
As a parent I do struggle with the idea of doing whatever it takes to give my kids a leg up.  Is it worth it to them for me to drive them to study harder, take more activites, fight through unnecessary difficulty?  They are all three above average in marks, healthy and pretty much happy - we are incredibly fortunate.  Isn't it greedy and unfair to demand more?

Maybe it's just me, but the latest run of stories seem to be revenge-ended or at least an ugly outcome - perhaps some happier endings would be good.
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seanpeter
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« Reply #37 on: November 06, 2010, 01:03:43 PM »

come on, way to simple.  SciFi please, not teenage melodrama.
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Talia
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« Reply #38 on: November 06, 2010, 09:19:46 PM »

come on, way to simple.  SciFi please, not teenage melodrama.

And teenage melodrama can't be sci fi because...?
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Scattercat
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« Reply #39 on: November 06, 2010, 09:56:05 PM »

come on, way to simple.  SciFi please, not teenage melodrama.

And teenage melodrama can't be sci fi because...?

Duh!  Genre is strictly digital, not analog.  You can only ever be in one at a time, and their limits are codified in laws of stone set down by the Almighty Himself.
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Mirrorshards: Very Short Stories
100 Words.  No more.  No fewer.  Every day.
Splinters of Silver and Glass - The Mirrorshards Book
Pages: 1 [2] 3 4  All
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