ASIM pre-slush workshop post #1

We start with the first of the submissions, which will be posted here in no particular order. Please remember that this is the opinion of one editor. There will be others who agree, but there will also be those who disagree. In the end, it’s your call. If you appreciate what we’re doing here, please support our magazine. To coincide with the release of issue 50, we have a number of special deals. See the ASIM website.

Original text:

The Time Traveler

Prologue

Hi. My name is Sarah Flynn. My life began when I was born on February 2nd, 1989 in the small town of Greenville, North Carolina. Because I grew up loving the English language, I decided to teach it. On April 30th, 2012, my education finished, I arrived at my new teaching position in an Eikawa located in Higashikawa, Japan and proceeded to teach there for over half a year. December 21st, 2012 was the last time I saw my students. I’ve been exploring the universe since then. You see, in addition to being a teacher, writer, and knowing a little bit of everything, I’m also a time traveler.

Year: 2093
Jump no.: 56 (?)
Location: Outlying Colony of the Abractan Empire

My partner yelled across the room, “These things just don’t stop coming no matter how many we shoot.”
“Just keep shooting then. It may take forever, but we’ll clean these bugs out eventually,” I replied, taking a well aimed shot that blasted two bugs into metal shards.
“But to think that this kind of thing could happen. I didn’t know this kind of technology existed.”
“And I’m trying not to think about it at all. Slows down how fast I can shoot. I don’t particularly want to end up like Malk.”
“Speaking of which,” he shot another bug, “Where has the rest of the team disappeared to?”
“I have no idea. I just hope they’re alive.” I took aim at another bug and it shattered.

Year: 2193
Jump no.: 77
Location: The Terran Intergalactic Port in orbit around Jupiter

I woke up flat on my back, again. The ceiling was the flat, boring gray of a medical bay. Someone had tried to dress it up with a poster of a green meadow under a blue sky, but the effect was even more forlorn as it lay plastered there all alone.

Editor comments:

Technically, I can’t fault the writing.

I’m a little puzzled by the word prologue. Prologues belong in novels. Stories are too short to have prologues. We get to see a lot of stories that have quotes or short general/history paragraphs at the start. They rarely work. Usually, they go against the story.
The reason is this: you have a few paragraphs, rarely more than the 300 words submitted here, to catch the attention of a slush reader. I don’t think it’s a good idea to clutter up this space with historical quotes that don’t as yet mean anything to the reader.

I think the first paragraph outlives its usefulness. While there is nothing inherently wrong with starting a story with an introduction, the introduction needs to remain relevant without rambling. I think this introduction starts to meander off in the third sentence. Is it important that the reader knows all this life history? The last sentence is important, but that ones before it, in my opinion, are not.

After the first jump:
There is very, very little visual language in what must be a visual situation. We know the adversaries are bugs, but what do they look like? Why are they fighting? Who is the gender-less ‘partner’?

After the second jump:
Now I’m starting to wonder: where is this all going? I’m willing to forego a logical connection between the first mini-scene and the second one, but now there is another jump and I’m not seeing a connection. I’m not seeing a story develop. Alternatively, I’m not seeing any characterisation taking place. What is she doing here? Why? Why is she a time traveller? How did she become one? I think at least one of these issues should be followed through to create flow between these mini-scenes.

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One comment on “ASIM pre-slush workshop post #1

  1. Thank you for the critique! It will be very useful when editing this piece. From what your reactions were in the critique I can tell the first jump is serving its purpose. I intentionally left out the details (which will be explained later). I will admit the story has a slow start to it so the plot doesn’t become obvious till a bit later on. Pacing is one thing I need to work on for my short stories (having mostly focused on novels).
    Thanks again for your critique. I will refer back to it once I start editing (but first I need to finish writing the story–5,000 words and the end is still not in sight!).

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