First Page Friday #45: Science Fiction

About First Page Friday

First Page Friday is a blog series where I provide a free edit and critique of the first 500 words of an unpublished novel. Read the excerpt without my notes first and leave your vote in the poll. Afterward, feel free to leave a comment for the author. Feedback is always helpful!

Science Fiction – by Chase Curtis

Three hundred years elapsed in less than a second. Slowing from light speed, energy recedes from an infinite line to a finite point. Lero-niat’s silver ship returned to real space and the second that had stretched to last three hundred years ended.

The cockpit came alive like pressing play on a paused video. The laser tore into the ship so bright it was blinding, intense heat filled the cockpit. The silver hull exploded inward hurling slivers of alloy faster than bullets, shredding consoles and primary systems.

Shrapnel sliced his side orange blood spattered the walls and ceiling. Atmosphere rushed through the hulls damaged section and the grey skinned pilot was tugged against the manual restraints that held him in his seat.

Wincing he pressed a hand against the wound to staunch the flow. He retched at the sight of the blood oozing between his fingers. Other hand a blur as he activated back-ups and repair routines. The breech began to dissolve, shrinking smaller and smaller until it vanished entirely. Hull sealed he fell back into his seat as the high pitched whistle of pressurization stung his ears.

The damaged craft vented smoke and atmosphere. Its mirrored hull reflected Saturn’s rings briefly as his saucer ship streaked past at impossible speed. He fought for control, as it jerked and shuddered wildly. The loud pops and sparks, the acrid smell of melted plastic remind Lero-niat his escape could have gone better.

“Computer damage report…” His blood stained everything the shrapnel had cut deep. He was having trouble forming coherent enough thoughts to communicate. He silenced alarms reached up and cut off the flashing yellow lights with his free hand. Then concentrating he tried again, “Computer damage report!”

The A/I’s screen flashed green then went black. Flashed solid green again and scrolled through a long list of nonsensical characters. The A/I’s bland voice began to list the damaged systems the A/I broadcasting directly into the pilot’s auditory centers “The De-Stabilizer beam breached aft sections one dash…”

“Computer, summarize.” Mind numb from blood loss he struggled to form thoughts and comprehend what the computers responses meant, distracted by the flashing colored lights across the display. As he struggled to input commands Lero-niat’s four fingered hands stamped the control board with orange hand prints.

“Synopsis…critical rupture of temporal dislocation field…”

The large black eyes narrowed, Lero-niat tried to sit up, wondered why the core hadn’t already been ejected into free space. “Computer commence core eject.”

“Impossible, but core implosion is not a primary concern.”

“And why is that exactly?”

“The ejector system was damaged if you had listene…”

“Computer…” Lero-niat interrupted he was tired and couldn’t deal with the computer’s eccentricities. “What is primary?”

The A/I sounded hurt, “Very well. Bio scans indicate core implosion will occur well after complete exsanguination and death.”

“Oh well at least there’s that…” The pilot sighed. “When I die my race will be extinct.” His shoulders slumped as he exhaled, and he stared up toward the dome ceiling of his ship.

Reader Participation – What Do You Think?

Before reading my take on this novel opening, please take a moment to record your thoughts in the poll below.

Your thoughtful critiques and suggestions for the writer are also welcome in the comments section. Explaining your vote gives the author even more insight into where they’re hitting the mark and where they can improve.

My Feedback

 Critique Key

Red is text I recommend removing.

Green is text I recommend adding.

Blue is my comments.

Orange is highlighting.

 

Science Fiction – by Chase Curtis

Three hundred years elapsed in less than a second. Slowing from light speed, energy recedes (This should be “receded” unless you are speaking generally rather than about this specific situation.) from an infinite line to a finite point. Lero-niat’s silver ship returned to real space and the second that had stretched to last three hundred years ended. < This phrasing was a tad awkward to read the first time. Overall, I feel intrigued by this opening.

The cockpit came alive like pressing play on a paused video. < It’s not clear to me if the cockpit is coming alive because the ship is powering back on (after some sort of period of being turned off) or because of the laser described in the next sentence. The laser tore into the ship so bright it was blinding, (semicolon, period, or a conjunction goes here) intense heat filled the cockpit. The silver hull exploded inward hurling slivers of alloy faster than bullets, shredding consoles and primary systems.

Shrapnel sliced his side (semicolon, period, or a conjunction goes here) orange blood spattered the walls and ceiling. Atmosphere rushed through the hulls < This apostrophe is required. damaged section and the grey (hyphen) skinned pilot was tugged against the manual restraints that held him in his seat. <“Manual” is not necessary here. It doesn’t tell the reader anything about the restraint.

Wincing (comma) he pressed a hand against the wound to staunch the flow. He retched at the sight of the blood oozing between his fingers. (I would add “his” [so that it reads “his other hand”] for clarity and smoothness, and connect it to the previous sentence with a comma.) Other hand a blur as he activated back-ups and repair routines. The breech began to dissolve, shrinking smaller and smaller until it vanished entirely. Hull sealed (comma) he fell back into his seat as the high (hyphen) pitched whistle of pressurization stung his ears.

The damaged craft vented smoke and atmosphere. Its mirrored hull reflected Saturn’s rings briefly as his saucer ship streaked past at impossible speed. He fought for control, as it jerked and shuddered wildly. The loud pops and sparks, the acrid smell of melted plastic reminded Lero-niat his escape could have gone better.

“Computer damage report…” His blood stained everything (semicolon, period, or conjunction needed here) the shrapnel had cut deep. He was having trouble forming coherent enough thoughts to communicate. He silenced alarms (comma) reached up and cut off the flashing yellow lights with his free hand. Then concentrating (comma) he tried again, “Computer damage report!” < Why did he need to repeat this? Did the computer not hear him?

The A/I’s < The slash in “A/I” doesn’t make sense. It should be written “AI” or “A.I.” screen flashed green then went black. (comma goes here rather than a period) Flashed solid green again and scrolled through a long list of nonsensical characters. The A/I’s bland voice began to list the damaged systems, the A/I broadcasting directly into the pilot’s auditory centers (comma or period) “The De-Stabilizer beam breached aft sections one dash…”

“Computer, summarize.” Mind numb from blood loss (comma) he struggled to form thoughts and comprehend what the computers < This apostrophe is needed. responses meant, distracted by the flashing colored lights across the display. As he struggled to input commands (comma) Lero-niat’s four (hyphen) fingered hands stamped the control board with orange hand prints (“handprints” is one word).

“Synopsis…critical rupture of temporal dislocation field…”

The (“The” seems awkward to me. I would use “his.” Or are you referring to the AI’s eyes?) large black eyes narrowed, (period, semicolon, or conjunction) Lero-niat tried to sit up, wondered why the core hadn’t already been ejected into free space. “Computer commence core eject.”

“Impossible, but core implosion is not a primary concern.”

“And why is that exactly?”

“The ejector system was damaged (period or semicolon) if you had listene…”

“Computer…” Lero-niat interrupted (period or semicolon) he was tired and couldn’t deal with the computer’s eccentricities. “What is primary?”

The A/I sounded hurt < His voice was described as “dull” earlier so I did not expect him to be capable of expressing emotion. It would be nice to show the computer’s eccentricities rather than stating it in the previous sentence – you could solve both of these problems at once and kill two birds with one stone. , “Very well. Bio scans indicate core implosion will occur well after complete exsanguination and death.”

“Oh well at least there’s that…” < This line feels a bit cliche. I feel like I’ve heard it too many times for it to be amusing. The pilot sighed. “When I die my race will be extinct.” < This seems a bit strange to say out loud. I think it would seem more natural if explained in narration. His shoulders slumped as he exhaled, and he stared up toward the dome ceiling of his ship.

My Overall Thoughts

This opening is a great example of how important it is to use correct punctuation. The first time I read this it was clunky and awkward because I got hung up on missing punctuation marks. The second time, it was a very smooth and entertaining read.

Overall, I liked this and don’t have too many complaints beyond the punctuation issues.

Key Places to Improve:

  • Punctuation! An agent/editor is not going to take the time to slog through writing that is not properly punctuated. It’s also a shame to have these errors in your work because they significantly reduce its quality by making it seem clunky when it’s actually quite smooth. I’m sure it reads very smoothly in your head! Punctuation helps convey that smoothness to the reader.
  • If Lero-niat already knew he was at risk of dying, briefly touching on him being the last of his race earlier in the scene may help it be a bit more dynamic and emotionally touching.
  • Likewise, I would try to show that the computer is eccentric if at all possible. This would help add complexity and emotion to the scene.

The Writeditor’s Grade (out of 5): 4

If you take away the punctuation problems, this is strong enough for me to read on, which is great. You don’t waste time dumping information on the reader and you pull us right into a conflict without leaving us totally grasping at straws to understand it. Overall, a nice job!

A note on the grading scale: The rating of the first chapter does not indicate the rating of the novel as a whole nor does it indicate the writer’s overall ability.

Submit to First Page Friday – (currently OPEN to submissions)

***Please read this entire section before submitting***

Due to the amount of time it takes to respond to each email and due to the volume of submissions received (I booked 4 months in about 2 weeks), I am changing the submission and selection process for First Page Friday for my own sanity as well as to increase the quality of the series.

Submissions will no longer be accepted on a first come, first serve basis, and I will no longer be scheduling posts in advance. I will review submissions once a week and choose a first page that I feel provides the best learning opportunity for readers. This means that as much as I would love to respond to every submission, you probably won’t hear from me if I don’t select your first page. It also means that I may select your first page months after you submit it (you are responsible for updating or pulling your submission as needed).

To Submit, send the following information to ellenbrock@keytopservices.com or if you have trouble with that email address (as has been the case for some of you lately), send it to editorbrock@gmail.com:

  • The name you want used on your post (real name, pseudonym, or anonymous)
  • The first 500 words (Don’t stop in the middle of a sentence, but don’t add sentences above and beyond 500 words)
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Title your submission email: SUBMISSION: First Page Friday – [Genre of your book]

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About the Editor

Ellen Brock is a freelance novel editor who works with self-publishing and traditionally publishing authors as well as e-publishers and small presses. When not editing, she enjoys reading, writing, and geocaching. Check out her freelance novel editing services and mentoring.

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12 thoughts on “First Page Friday #45: Science Fiction

  1. sam forsyth says:

    I’m a huge sci-fi fan. You really have something here. I have no idea what the story is going to end up being about, but it doesn’t matter, because, I want to find out on the the next page, and that’s the key! Aside from the all of the grammar/punctuation issues, It’s a really good start, and a solid intro for for Lero-Niat. One good indicator that this is an engaging start, I already ran “Lero-Niat” through a anagram engine to see if his name held any secret meaning… yes… I’m one of THOSE readers.

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