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*Odyssey

Posted: 12 Apr 2018, 19:15
by Kiruvi
Characters/Actors: Kiruvi
Description: Atmospheric / Self Discovery / Introduction
Synopsis: A space odyssey. Brief encounters on strange worlds outside the main circuit of the universe. The beginnings of a long, and dangerous journey. Kiruvi (pronouns: they/them) has been sent on a quest to awaken an ancestral seed. They journey aboard a sentient, living starship, seeking experiences that will resonate with the Odyssey Seed they were imparted in the swamps of Hydia.


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There was a planet of red dust. With dunes that scraped against the sky and winds that would move them and unearth caverns that lead deep below. The people on that world collected water into wicker baskets from the caverns that would open, and carry them back to the surface. They wrapped their bodies with heavy cloth, and Kiruvi never saw their faces, but their hands were calloused and wrinkled like leather. Their voices rasped from where the sand and the sun had dried them out like gourds. They wandered the deserts in caravans drawn by giant tortoises and at night they would light small fires and play music with drums and rattles.

One of the Desert-folk told Kiruvi a story about how the sands had once been the bottom of the ocean until the Tira-Mak’lun had tread across the world wearing a spiked sandal. The spikes pierced the rock and the ocean drained below.

+

There was a world of steepled stones and clouds that were so heavy that Kiruvi could stand on them. Sometimes it would storm and the clouds would rain tiny diamonds shaped like tears. The thunder would echo through the spiked mountains causing landslides that would carry the rocks and the diamond tears far, far below. Kiruvi never saw the bottom of that world, and it was very lonely. The only plants were tough lichen that clung to the towers of rock and whose roots were strong enough to hold them fast when the winds and the rain of falling stones came.

Kiruvi left that world after only a few nights. The thunder scared them, and they weren’t sure if they were as strong as the lichen.

++

There was a world of fire and oil. A hot planet where the air was smothering and Kiruvi never stopped sweating. The ground was crater-pocked and the broken stone held cupped bowls of sizzling tar that seeped up from below. Embers filtered down from the peaks of red, angry mountains, and often the bowls of oil would explode into geysers of fire that burned for hours. There were giant salamanders on this world who could swim in the oil and who fed on minerals in the rock that the fire and the magma would loosen from the stone. Kiruvi listened to the lizards as they chewed on the ingots at night and wondered what the stone tasted like. There were lots of creatures on the fire world, and most were blind for the world’s star was hidden behind the black clouds that the mountains belched.

One night while Kiruvi was watching the falling meteors a giant came through the pass. The tread of its feet made earthquakes. It had skin as red as the mountain fire, a grizzled, black beard, and horns of stone that stuck out of its forehead and wrapped back behind its skull like a ram. It carried a club made of steel that the pits of fire and oil had forged. It was blind, so Kiruvi kept very still and held their breath. The giant swept up the salamanders from their oily pools, flattened their heads with cracks of its metal club, and found a stoop of rock to sit on while it ate them. The Salamander’s legs were still kicking as the giant gulped them down.

+++

There was a world of singing stones and meadows. A mostly flat world with rolling wealds of grain and flowers whose blossoms were as big as church bells. A roaring wind swept across the plains and chiseled holes in the eruptions of stones that it whistled through as it passed, making the valleys sing. There were lakes and trickling streams that criss-crossed the lowlands like fishnets, and the muddy thoroughfares that surrounded them were full of whisker-fish that slid about catching insects fatigued from pollinating. There were gold-fleeced alpaca with a single, coral-white horn that protruded from their skulls and large, leen, hummingbird-like creatures with flesh that was thick and glossy like that of an orca or a shark.

There were lovely, small people on this world whose hair was like wool and whose heads bore little brass colored horns. They traveled by tying kites to the large, nectar-drinking birds and also by way of little wooden skiffs that slid up and down the wet slopes of the weald by the pulling of a sail. They built their homes inside the groves and hedges of the towering flowers. They lit their windows with lamps filled with fireflies. At night their little communities would gather and they would sip on sweet nectar and knit sails for their ships while telling stories.

Kiruvi loved this world. They spent many days there. They wind surfed across the weald. They fished in the shallows for rainbow-scaled frogs. They boiled and ate insect legs. They enjoyed the stories of the old and wizened Wool-folk who were gracious enough to give them a hammock to lie in when the star of the world sunk below the edge of the flat sky. Kiruvi spent many nights in the light of the firefly torches scrawling in their journal about all that they had seen and done...

But the Odyssey Seed did not grow, and so, reluctantly, Kiruvi returned to their ship and set out once again into the stars.

++++

There was a world of deep, black oceans. A world of crashing seafoam and raging storms. Kiruvi’s ship was only able to land in the northern hemisphere of it where the waters had frozen into glaciers of ice. The seas stirred with endless varieties of beasts, reefs and plants. Kiruvi dived as deep as they could go and marveled at the plentitudes of creatures whose curiosity their presence provoked. At night the whales of the deep would sing and Kiruvi tried their best to remember the chords of the song.

There was a world of tangled jungles, where the boughs of the trees reached and scraped the sky and were interwoven like highways. Ravenous creatures prowled the higher reaches; Massive, predatory cats that feasted on winged drakes. There were Feather-folk who lived among the jungle in cities made of heaped sticks. They collected shiny stones from the forest floor and debated restlessly where they ought to be placed. They taught Kiruvi one of their ancient dances and gave them one of their precious stones to take on their journey.

There was a world of poison filled with noxious green fumes. Kirvui did not stay there very long.

There was a world filled with shining cities. A world populated by Strange-folk with blue skin who spoke through orbs on their shoulders. Their towns were pristine and clean. They built the cities out of white marble and carved them to resembles stretching hands. The stone hands held aloft gardens where they grew vegetables and flowers. Some of the stone hands touched one another, but the Strange-folk never touched. They told sad stories about how sensitive their skin was. How the light burned them badly. How even the wind made them hurt. Child birth always ended in death for the Strange-folk. They were a careful people. Everything they did was with caution. This made them marvelous sculptors and artists. The Strange-Folk taught Kiruvi how to throw pottery on a wheel and how to draw figures with charcoal. Kiruvi wanted to stay longer with the Strange-Folk but they made Kiruvi feel sorrowful, so they left.

There was a world that had been hit by a comet. Its landscape was shattered and electricity poured out of the cracks night and day. There was very little life left on that world, but what had survived was strange and ghost-like. There were giant transparent centipedes that could move through stone like it were air. There were manta-rays that sailed the sky and fed on the thunderbolts that poured out of the cracks of the planet. There were spiders that could jump in and out of existence and whose webs captured things that Kiruvi couldn’t see. Kiruvi was fascinated by the world, but one day they woke up and could see through their own hand, so Kiruvi left before they could see through the rest of themself.

+++++

Kiruvi watched the stars race by in the portal windows of the starship.

The vessel was unlike any other. A thing of living wood, with water-soaked roots that acted as circuitry. The ship was lit by candles that Kiruvi had made from beeswax, and there was a small garden that Kiruvi harvested for the food that was needed on the long voyage. The ship was not very large, and each of its cabins were bowl shaped with carpets of earth, stone and moss. On the outside the vessel resembled a wooden, multi-chambered maple seed. There was no machinery. No rockets. No computers. The only way to steer the ship was to politely ask it if it would take Kiruvi to where they needed to go.

Kiruvi drew their legs up and folded their hands in the creases between their calves and their thighs, before sighing as they placed their chin on the caps of their knees.

“Where to next?” Kiruvi asked aloud.

The leaves that carpeted the ceiling of the chamber bristled slightly, the emerald spades waving back and forth for a few tentative seconds before becoming still again.

“We’ve seen beautiful places. We’ve been to desolate lands. We’ve met merry and sad folk alike. I wonder what the Seed wants to experience?”

Kiruvi glanced over at the Odyssey Seed that lay in the window beside them. It was large and earth brown, it’s casing thick, and riveted with deep, winding lines that all stretched from the peak of its curved, triangular tip to its wide, flat base. It could be mistaken as unremarkable except when it was held close to the heart. When brought close it would glow a hot, bright, white light that warmed the entire body and made Kiruvi feel embraced.

The canopy of leaves rustled again, whispering something, and Kiruvi giggled before rolling over onto their back and stretching out in the bed of grass lying at the foot of the window. Their arms stretched out and pulled the Seed up and overhead, their eyes tracing the intricate drawings in the shell with wonder and excitement.

“Maybe…” Kiruvi drew their finger along one of the deepest impressions in the Seed’s shell.

“It’s not where we go, but what we do when we find ourselves there?”

++++++

The maple seed starship lurched into hyperspace. Treading the stars. Tail-riding the destiny that was pulling it...

Re: Age of Resurgence -- Odyssey

Posted: 13 Apr 2018, 07:38
by thousand
4 greens and 1 red awarded to Kiruvi

Re: *Odyssey

Posted: 26 Sep 2020, 05:30
by CalebWachter
This is a review of 'Odyssey,' written for the dual purposes of critical analysis and suggested improvements.

A short story written in third-person omniscient, Odyssey is a narrative catalogue of stops made by the protagonist, 'Kiruvi,' during an interstellar adventure. The protagonist's objective is to find a suitable site for implanting a Seed of the Mother Oak, a mysterious treasure from Kiruvi's homeland, which is carried from planet to planet on a biotech starship during this grand quest.

I'll be reviewing this from the perspective of a reader picking up a short story, rather than a segment of RP-related material on DBI. since it is both strong and rich enough to stand on its own with very minor revisions.

(The ending of this short story is without a doubt my favorite part, and so I will refer to it periodically throughout this review. I think the ending is so good that the rest of the story should flow toward it, though not in an obvious or predictable way, to add a layer of reflection to Kiruvi's journey.)

The opening is abrupt and leads to this reader's mild confusion, which is quickly overcome by the engaging descriptions of the first and succeeding planets. An opening paragraph, or even a tightly-written sentence in Third Person Omniscient, would ease entry into this story. E.g. "The time had come to carry the Mother Oak's Seed up from Planet Hydia, and the task of finding the Seed's new home fell to Kiruvi's. Aboard a biotech starship and armed only with a mandate to find a suitable implantation site, Kiruvi's adventures take it from one end of the galaxy to the other in its search for a new home." My personal style would be 8-12 lines of dialogue between Kiruvi and the Swamp Elders before launch, but that doesn't fit the rest of the narrative, so a more declarative, no-nonsense summation is a better stylistic fit for this short.

Third Person Omniscient nicely lends itself to this type of rapid-fire, description-heavy content, and it is well employed here as the flow from planet to planet feels very natural and engaging. An important strength is the lack of a clear pattern of progression from planet to planet (no obvious cultural paradigms being juxtaposed, no technology/Luddite conflicts, just 'this is where Kiruvi went, what it saw, and what it felt.') which makes this short story feel unscripted and that's a good thing. The descriptions are rich and varied, though they tend to be wordy and that can detract from ease of reading flow. (I'll include a few systemic suggestions at the end of this review, since copy suggestions generally don't belong in the content critique.)

Content-wise, I suggest appending each planetary visit/segment with a uniform 'reaction/reflection' moment from Kiruvi. I sincerely think the author's close of this short story is so much stronger than what I typically produce that I hesitate to suggest examples of my own. Instead, I'll refer to the author's own reaction/reflection moment from the Second Planet ('Kiruvi left that world after only a few nights. The thunder scared them, and they weren’t sure if they were as strong as the lichen.') as an excellent model to follow in weaving these vignettes together with a unifying device that could tie every segment into the story's closing line. The material for these closing reaction/reflection moments is present in several of the scenes, but absent from others, and delivering them as a separate/final line to each segment will give this short story additional punch while fleshing out Kiruvi along the way. In adapting this structural device, you introduce a poetic element into the prose, and that's always a good thing.

Copy edit suggestions:

1. Ensure each planet is properly segregated (as planets I-V are, by graduating '+' breaks, or any other uniform demarcation). Possibly even number them, and skip numbers to give a sense of scope to Kiruvi's adventures, with mini-chapter-headings like 'Planet One,' or 'The First Planet,' etc.. This addition dovetails with Number 2 below...

2. Re-work the 'There was a planet...' intros for the planets. Repetition of that kind is immersion-breaking and interrupts flow. Vary it up a bit (e.g. Dunes of rust-red sand scraped the very skies of the first world Kivuri visited; Fire & oil, ashes and smoke smothered every inch of this sweltering world; Singing stones and verdant meadows lush with the sounds and smells of life; etc..).

3. The grammar, spelling, and reading flow is very good within these paragraphs, with a few typical flow errors and examples of wordiness common to most/all early drafts. A few typical issues which could be improved are the use of comparative descriptors (e.g. '...was like leather...') rather than adjectival ones ('...was leathery...'), with the former being unnecessarily verbose (an extra word to achieve the same effect--and I'm speaking here as someone with a verbosity issue in ALL of my works, so this is something I have to continually battle in my own works). Relatedly, the 'like ___' comparison works well, in my experience, if chained with three or four successive statements (e.g. Its scales were like stone, its teeth were like daggers, and its tail like a whip.'\) but with just one or two statements, it's usually cleaner to stick to adjectival descriptions.

4. We finally 'meet' the Seed in the closing segment, and it is well-described with a key omission: its size. It is inferred that it can be held/clutched to the chest, which helps, but when meeting such an important character in the story, 3-6 words of additional detail would complete an already well-done portrait.

5. 'They/their' pronouns are tough, so bear with me here. I've written a space opera series which had a genderless character named The Crafter, who got a lot of page time in the last couple books, so I've learned a few tricks the HARD way. What I settled on after working, re-working, and re-re-working a couple hundred thousand words' worth of novels which featured a character who presented this very issue, was simple: whenever a gender neutral pronoun doesn't read *perfectly* to you, the author, use the character's name instead. 'They/their' instances should flow smoothly, and they do here in many instances (e.g. 'At night the whales of the deep would sing and Kiruvi tried their best to remember the chords of the song'). But in some instances it is potentially confusing (pretty much any time Kiruvi and natives of one of the planets share a paragraph) or just clunky to read through (Kiruvi drew their legs up and folded their hands in the creases between their calves and their thighs, before sighing as they placed their chin on the caps of their knees.), so even though 'it' is impersonal, a few of these instances would be improved by swapping they/their with it. 'They/their' become very, very confusing whenever the context includes *anything* else that is active enough to potentially be referred to with the same pronouns. If you follow my advice here, you'll end up chopping a few sentences to ensure you can mix in 'Kiruvi' for a few of the 'they/their' instances early in a paragraph/sentence, with a prime example being near the beginning of the final segment ('Kiruvi drew their legs up and folded their hands in the creases between their calves and their thighs, before sighing as they placed their chin on the caps of their knees.')

6. Similar to #3 above, re-write *most but not necessarily all* instances of 'there was...' or 'there were' with more active descriptions of the same material. (e.g. 'There were giant transparent centipedes that could move through stone like it were air,' could be re-worked to 'Giant, transparent centipedes moved through stone like it was air,'). Whenever possible, be active rather than passive with your voice (God, I struggle with that...Grammarly never lets one slip by, either.).

Overall impression: This is an excellent short story and superb backstory for a character's journey through the cosmos, though it's a little light on character development. Kiruvi's character can be well-defined and developed by adding the reaction/reflection moments at the end of each unique planet's section, which will provide a structural device that is well-suited to the author's strengths. The entirely typical, early draft copy issues present here are simple to address, and will flesh this work out into a well-rounded piece of fiction that should serve as the launch-point of a grand adventure.

I'm cross-eyed here and have to take a break. I want to make sure this gets submitted before my computer crashes.