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-   -   In Retrospect, Chapter 1, Part 1 (http://forums.writersbeat.com/showthread.php?t=27818)

SortOfAWriter 10-26-2010 11:47 AM

In Retrospect, Chapter 1, Part 1
 
So this is a science fiction thing, which is strange for me to write, since I'm absolutely clueless about science. SO, while reading, bear that in mind and do tell me if anything I've written is just nonsense scientifically speaking - if you know nothing about science yourself: literary criticism please! I've written 16000 words of this in four days, which is much, much faster than I'd ever write usually. So, expect it to be full of problems. I split the chapter in two because it was 4000 words in all and I didn't want to overwhelm you.


Chapter I: The Transmission

The transmission came to Earth on 25/12/2210. It was Christmas day (Incidentally, also the celebration of the birth of Bob, prophet of another religion which had gained ground over the previous ninety years) and many families were celebrating with the traditional gift-exchange and boxing matches. Those that weren’t were mostly off celebrating the fact that they had an excuse to celebrate, and passing another meaningless milestone with casual drug abuse.

The transmission came to Earth at 35:47 – seconds having been shortened by one third after it was found this measurement suited some obscure branch of astrophysics better. Watchmaking had become a lucrative trade again for a few years after this change – once the population had finished its usual resentful moaning about changes in measurement – while any old watchmakers found they suddenly had a lot of useless overstock and quickly went bankrupt.

The transmission came to Earth thirteen neo-minutes (nineteen old minutes and thirty old seconds) before the end of the day. It was, to the pre-2109 reader, eleven-forty-one on Christmas day, and as such, no-one really noticed. Everyone was out partying or pugilising or present-giving, and very few people were working.

The transmission came right when nobody was listening. All the government workers across the United States of America – at this point comprising all of North America, England, Wales, Ireland, and Australia (Scotland remained stubbornly outside.) – assigned to monitoring receivers tuned to receive transmissions from places they’re not known to come from, were in fact asleep or inebriated. Similar circumstances applied across the rest of the now-slightly-closer-together world.

As such, when, the next morning, the first government worker assigned to this job returned to her station, she was unaware of any transmission. The transmission came to Earth, was recorded and went unheard for quite some time. The worker whose job it was to trawl through all the recordings of dead air, or dead lack thereof, recorded during any of the various holidays when stations remained unmanned and alien noises unheard, had the most exciting day of his life on New Year’s Day.

The night before he’d been out in the town, watching the fireworks go off in celebration of the fact that two-thousand-two-hundred-and-ten years had passed since someone had invented the current calendar system. The fireworks, he – and here he shall be given his name: Isaac, for the personal pronoun can’t quite serve for the entire narrative – Isaac observed, were becoming more impressive every year, rather as if each passage around Sol was more glorious and worthy of celebration than the last.

He remembered as a child being satisfied by mere patterns of explosions sending flowers into the sky, and the flowers falling down into rivers spelling out messages of congratulation to the new year. It amazed him that such a thing had seemed impressive to him, in light of the much more advanced displays these days.

Isaac himself was a man as unremarkable as the firework displays of his youth – brown hair, un-tousled; hazel eyes, un-teared; pale skin, un-tanned; medium height, average weight, normal gait; not quite yet middle-aged, not quite yet unattractive – and yet like the fireworks of his youth, a rose-tinted image of himself shone through in his mind – a tall dark stranger with a piercing gaze that won hearts to break. He had a high enough opinion of himself to project a low opinion of him onto others.

Of course, all this is background information, to add colour to what seems like a grey and uniform character. His high opinion of himself and his average appearance would have little impact on his monumental discovery. Trawling through the silence of a million messages unsent the next morning, all he could think about was the firework display.

He’d returned home after that wondrous mirage, strolling down the grey streets of London which had seemed so colourful before the firework display’s after-image left them faded and insignificant in his mind’s eye. He preferred walking home to taking the subway, and besides, he was a bit rusty at the handling on a train.

It wasn’t too far to walk, only a few kilometres. He stopped along the way to watch revellers and partygoers, to marvel at their happiness. It seemed to him that isolation could never compare to their wonderful togetherness. To other lonely wanderers in the night, he paid little attention. He was a lost ship at sea, sending out an SOS to those who knew the way, inadvertently and inattentively passing by others as lost as him.

He’d slept well when he flopped onto his eternally tragically half-empty double-bed. The images of fireworks resounded through his head, but quietly, in a pleasant way. Ah, how that one had flown, and how that other had seemed to soar off into the night sky, to land in some unknown locale many years, and many kilometres, from here and now. He wondered if its significance would still be understood when it landed, and he wondered if its message of unreasoning joy would still be relevant. With these thoughts, he drifted into a briefly-memorable dream.

His remorse for staying out so late next morning was insignificant compared to the remorse of the party-people, as he called them in retrospect of having been one a lifetime ago, and he felt smugly superior to the hung-over inhabitants of his office, as he sat in front of his screens, tired and fuzzy but ultimately unharmed.

In the days between the Christmas and Old Year’s Night (the recent, more poetic name for New Year’s Eve) days off, the crew – The Extraterrestrial Monitoring Station crew, or EMS, to be precise – had been at work continuing to monitor the airwaves, while it was Isaac’s job at the time to check through what they’d missed during their time off. They had few enough holidays that this was a manageable and rarely required task, but at this time of year Isaac was usually only at Christmas Day by the first day of next year.

So, the morning after the night before, he was listening to the irritating sound of silence when, without warning, there was a noise.

~

The transmission was listened to several days after its first arrival, and at maximum volume. Isaac’s first reaction to it was to quickly turn down the volume on his computer – he was so used to receiving no transmissions that he hadn’t noticed his computer was at maximum volume, and the incomprehensible noise that issued forth was deafening. Suddenly he felt the pain of the hung-over crew around him as his own head began to throb.

Once he’d politely but firmly shut the computer up (“VOLUME – DOWN! Down! Down! Down.”) , he rewound the transmission to the point when the first noise came through. A woman named Laura came over to listen too, having heard the noise, as did the rest of the crew. Laura said, rather louder than necessary after the shock of the noise:
“What was that? Did we actually get something?” Isaac merely nodded.

Her headphones lay discarded on her desk, allowing her lustrous black hair some freedom. Apparently she had heard the noise over the static played through them, and heard it loud enough to cause her to shout too; and from the other side of the considerable room. Isaac reminded himself to keep the volume down in future. Some other part of Isaac told him to leave the volume high; that was the part that actually quite liked the feel of Laura’s hair touching his shoulder as she leaned over to stare at the screen. Most of Isaac didn’t notice this internal exchange, as it was busy wondering what the transmission was, and saying “Play.”

The computer’s speakers played the noise again, volume fluctuating as Isaac adjusted it to a sensible volume. What the transmission said was “wuegtuieudyiewprigbhvioewwyygreui” and then some things there aren’t letters for. Laura spoke over the transmission and the awed gasp of John, another office worker:
“It’s... it’s actually alien?” The previously mentioned part of Isaac quite liked the admiration in her tone too, but again went unnoticed for now.
“Yrrl –” Isaac cleared his throat, unused to talking. “Yes.” It seemed a strange thing to say. He realised soon that this was because it was true.
“Wow.” Laura gasped. This interested the part of Isaac which was getting rather annoyed at being ignored, no end. It interested said part less when echoed by several others in the office.

The transmission ended, after about two neo-minutes, with what could vaguely be perceived as music. Isaac couldn’t fathom what the instruments might be, or the shape of the singer’s vocal chords, but he felt certain it was music of some kind. The sorrowful tune faded slowly into silence, and the transmission ended.
“Wow.” John said again. He was a tall and handsome man, with shoulder-length blonde hair and defined features that were presumably wrapped around a skull containing a sizable brain as well – Isaac had always envied his intelligence, if subconsciously.

Some of this information flashed through his mind but was eclipsed by the pure emotion conveyed in the word “Wow.” In that moment it seemed to them all the only way to express the unending wonder they felt at hearing a noise presumably from another intelligent lifeform. Isaac wasn’t sure whether it was the beauty of the music or simply the sublime significance of their discovery, but it took them all a long time to realise that several of them were crying.

Both Isaac and John were among those crying, and Isaac noticed Laura wasn’t. Somehow he admired her for that. She was already leaning over his shoulder, deftly manipulating the touch screen and voice control, opening the single part of the recording that contained the transmission in a separate window, saving it; doing all the technical things that hadn’t even occurred to Isaac yet. He wiped a tear from his face.

His mind was a blur of activity; he was thinking about the scientific significance of his discovery: there was other life. It astounded him that what he had thought likely all his life was now true. It was no longer a concept proven probable by biologists and chemists and physicists he never knew; it was a fact, and one he was responsible for discovering.

He was thinking about the political significance of his discovery: was the life hostile? It had sent out a message; was it a message of greeting, of war, of panic? Was the message sent intentionally off-planet, or accidentally, or did they know Earth’s location, and send it there specifically? His head felt as though it would explode with the multitude of questions, and the certainty there were more questions to occur to him.

He was thinking about the personal significance of his discovery: he’d be a hero for discovering the alien life; he’d be on the cover of all the magazines in the world and write for the science ones; maybe he’d be sent on the journey into space to go and meet the aliens on their home-planet. Up until now he’d felt his degree in physics was a waste; he’d ended up sitting in front of a screen all day not needing any of his knowledge but just needing to have had the degree to begin with. But if he were to go into space...

Maybe he’d bring Laura with him.

He was thinking about Laura, leaning over him to reach the computer’s controls. He was thinking about Laura, as she turned and her hair swung in a graceful semicircle to frame the perfectly aligned features of her symmetrical face. He was thinking about her as he watched her walk away, and thinking about her more than he ever had before. As he looked, he saw John out of the corner of his eye: John, watching her go as well. Suddenly he felt the need to go after her before anyone else could.

Isaac left his first amazing discovery to follow his second, vastly more important one.

Dela Eden 11-02-2010 08:44 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SortOfAWriter (Post 359949)

Chapter I: The Transmission

The transmission came to Earth on 25/12/2210 Perhaps state it as '25th of December, in the year 2210'. It was Christmas day Maybe to emphasise the new religion, change Christmas to something else, since readers from today would already be familiar with what the date is now (Incidentally, also the celebration of the birth of Bob, prophet of another religion maybe more specific, ie. come up with a name for it or something, and perhaps use a slightly more unusual name for 'Bob' to make it seem more believable which had gained ground over the previous ninety years) and many families were celebrating with the traditional gift-exchange and boxing matches. Those that weren’t were mostly off celebrating the fact that they had an excuse to celebrate, deleted 'and' passing another meaningless milestone with casual drug abuse.

The transmission came to Earth at 35:47 – seconds having been shortened by one third after it was found this measurement suited some obscure branch of astrophysics better. Watchmaking had become a lucrative trade again for a few years after this change – once the population had finished its usual resentful moaning about changes in measurement – while whilst? the older watchmakers found they suddenly had a lot of surplus (instead of useless over-) stock and quickly went bankrupt.

The transmission came to Earth thirteen neo-minutes (nineteen old minutes and thirty old seconds - is this needed? You have explained the time change, and removing this might make it more believable) before the end of the day. It was, to the pre-2109 reader, eleven-forty-one on Christmas day, and as such, no-one really noticed. Everyone was out partying or pugilising or present-giving, and very few people were working.

This is as far as I have got so far. I must go now - revision for a delightful geography test - but I shall be back soon and I shall finish then. I hope this is what you wanted. :D

SortOfAWriter 11-02-2010 08:47 AM

Thanks, this is great! Do you like it so far?

I can almost certainly guarantee it's more entertaining than a geography test. :P

Dela Eden 11-02-2010 09:03 AM

I know, it is far better than my geography test, but its my first GCSE practice paper tomorrow, and I haven't revised yet. Whoops, I'm getting carried away. [hits herself on hand and hurries back to her textbook] :lol: Nah, I'm hungry. Time for a :cookie:

thelastwordsmit 11-02-2010 10:57 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SortOfAWriter (Post 359949)

Chapter I: The Transmission

The transmission came to Earth on 25/12/2210. words please.

It was Christmas day (Incidentally, also the celebration of the birth of Bob, prophet of another religion which had gained ground over the previous ninety years) tacked on here for no reason. Yes I know its enclosed but still a bad way to introduce Bob. and many families were celebrating with the traditional gift-exchange and boxing matches. That's why I said mentioning Bob like that's a bad idea...now I'm not sure if the people (exchanging gifts/boxing) are celebrating Christmas or Bob's birthday.


Those that weren’t were mostly off celebrating the fact that they had an excuse to celebrate, and passing another meaningless milestone with casual drug abuse.
Rewrite... You just said the people weren't celebrating, then you turned around and said they were celebrating?

The transmission came to Earth at 35:47 what? – seconds having been shortened by one third after it was found this measurement suited some obscure branch of astrophysics better. I have no idea what I just read. I don't read too much sci-fi anyway.

Watchmaking had become a lucrative trade again for a few years after this the change Tenses are very confusing.

– once the population had finished its usual resentful moaning about changes in measurement – while any old watchmakers found they suddenly had a lot of useless overstock and quickly went bankrupt. I'm assuming those are dashes and either you're not using them well or you need to rewrite the sentences and make them flow. You used "any" so ... I don't know why all the old watchmakers would go bankrupt. They already have the resources to make watches, while the newcomers to this "lucrative" business have to start from scratch.

Or did you mean some people were still making old watches after the change? So why make old watches nobody's buying to the point of hitting the overstock thing. Surely they deserved the bankruptcy.

I'm still not sure I understand. Don't confuse the readers with sentence construction. Or maybe its just me.


The transmission came to Earth thirteen neo-minutes (nineteen old minutes and thirty old seconds) before the end of the day. It was, to the pre-2109 reader, eleven-forty-one on Christmas day, and as such, no-one really noticed. Que?

Got lost there. Sci-fi isn't for me. I agree.

HA HA...the EMS thing was funny.:D

SortOfAWriter 11-02-2010 01:24 PM

The Bob thing's not important, it just seemed funny at the time and I wanted to create a feeling that things had changed. It does look stupid to me now. The second part - the people weren't celebrating in that particular way. But yeah, it does need to be clearer. What did you mean about the dashes? I suppose it should have been watch salesmen or something like that that went bankrupt. The actual makers would probably be fine. Another thing I know nothing about: business!

Thanks for the criticism. I'm more interested in how it reads overall, but I know little things can annoy the reader too and draw them out of the story.

Dela Eden 11-03-2010 12:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SortOfAWriter (Post 361525)
The Bob thing's not important, it just seemed funny at the time and I wanted to create a feeling that things had changed. It does look stupid to me now. The second part - the people weren't celebrating in that particular way. But yeah, it does need to be clearer. What did you mean about the dashes? I suppose it should have been watch salesmen or something like that that went bankrupt. The actual makers would probably be fine. Another thing I know nothing about: business!

Thanks for the criticism. I'm more interested in how it reads overall, but I know little things can annoy the reader too and draw them out of the story.

It's not stupid, I just think a more believable name than Bob is called for :D

LiquidSquirrell 11-04-2010 02:28 PM

I don’t think the bob thing is stupid. Its kind of zany and reminded me of hitchhikers guide to the galaxy. i like it =)


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