ASIM pre-slush workshop post #15

Here is the fifteenth and last of the submissions. 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, what you do with your story is up to you; 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.

Following this post, I will talk a bit about the project, about slush in general and about the magazine and myths that surround it in cyberspace [cue in mysterious music].

Original text:

Price of Allegiance

“Mr. Tobin, there is a gray Cicada here to see you.”

Alastair Tobin, Earth’s official ambassador to the Galactic Union, was more than a little surprised. In his eight years of service he could count on one hand the number of times anyone had visited his office on Union Central station in person. On a rare occasion when someone had any business to conduct with the humans, they just sent him a message. A member of the Union’s oldest and most influential species showing up at his door was unprecedented.

“Ask it in,” Tobin responded via the intercom.

A Cicada walked in, folding its wings. The alien was short, corpulent, and had thin, veined wings extending from its midsection. Its severe gray garb was in stark contrast with the rich, bright colors the Cicadas generally favored.

“Welcome, on behalf of humanity. I am honored by your presence.” A wall panel emitted a series of high-pitched sounds, translating the standard greeting into the guest’s native language.

“Thank you. On behalf of the Union, I am honored to be here,” said the Cicada.

_On behalf of the Union._ The visitor was indicating that it was here on official Union business, rather than representing the interests of its own species. Tobin motioned for the Cicada to take a seat and lowered his own armchair to adjust for the height difference between them. The Cicada acknowledged the invitation by leaning on the side of the chair, but declined to sit down. At least they were now more or less at eye level.

“Tell me, Ambassador Tobin,” said the Cicada without any preambles, “what do you think is the most important function of the Galactic Union?”

Uncertain of his visitor’s intentions, Tobin chose his words carefully. “The Union facilitates the exchange of art and technology among all the known intelligent species that are advanced enough to join in.”
Editor’s comment:

This sets the scene reasonably effectively, but it’s a rather static opening. There’s a hint of intrigue–something unusual is evidently happening, in the background–but after 300 words, we haven’t really arrived at anything that could be considered a narrative ‘hook’.

Things are unfolding too gradually, in my assessment. Part of the problem is that you’re offering too much explanation: while the second sentence suffices nicely to telegraph that this is a SF story, rather than fantasy (for example), it provides too much of the wrong sort of detail: Tobin is Earth’s ambassador, he’s held the post for 8 years, his office is on Union Central station. These are things which are certainly relevant, but they’re not engaging: they don’t encourage the reader to identify with the central character.

This needs more tension, it needs a stronger sense of intrigue, and something dramatic or at least ominous needs to be waiting in the wings.

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10 comments on “ASIM pre-slush workshop post #15

  1. This is my story… except that I did not post this to the workshop!

    One of my friends/beta readers must have taken it upon themselves to do so, and I am not sure which, but I am going to get to the bottom of that.

    Thank you for the feedback though! It’s solid advice. I am going to try and create more tension much earlier in this story.

    • I’m sorry, and this is utterly weird. As I insisted, all comments were entirely anonymous. Please let me know if you want me to remove it.

  2. Patty,

    I have no problem whatsoever with it being up. However, I submitted another story which was critiqued earlier, and I feel a little uncomfortable about taking up two slots.

    I am sure one of my writing group buddies had the best of intentions in this, but it caused me to cheat the system, and for that I apologize.

    Alex

    • Hmmms.

      This is honestly what we received. I went through all of them yesterday to check if we’d left any out.

      Alex, your friend seems to have breached the ‘all work should be your own’ rule. I don’t appreciate that. The reason I put this rule in was to stop smart-arses entering pieces of Hemmingway and making us look like idiots if we’d have rejected it (which we probably would have, because we’re not a litfic magazine).

      Anyway, the bottom line is that we did not tell people that their stories would not be included, so the story didn’t take anyone else’s place. If there’d been sixteen entries, we’d have covered sixteen stories.

      Another bottom line is that we might do this again.

  3. Like Iznobu, mine doesn’t seem to have gone through either, but LJ didn’t error at me when I posted. On the other hand, posting anonymously with screened comments (which is an excellent way of doing it for anonymity’s sake) doesn’t really let you check if it posted correctly.

    Oh well, hopefully next time.

    • For future reference: on LJ, if your post goes through when you post anonymously, you should see only your own reply when you click ‘comments’. If you don’t see it, it didn’t post properly.

      Anyway, I’m open to suggestions as to alternative methods for people to post anonymously, since I don’t really like to advertise my LJ to the entire world. It’s just that LJ has this elegant option to all users. On WP, if you’ve been pre-approved by the blog author, your posts will always show and have an ID handle.

  4. Two phone calls later, the mystery is solved.

    A well meaning but sophomoric friend saw my post about this workshop on Absolute Write and decided entirely of his own volition to “improve the odds of one of my stories being selected for review” by sending this in. I’ve given him a piece of my mind, and asked that he buys a PDF of the current ASIM issue in penance. Something I will be doing as well, over the weekend.

    To make the best of the bad situation, I challenge the blog readers (and you. Patty, if you want to play) to figure out which of the other 14 entries was my original submission.

    Alex

  5. Patty,

    Have I?

    Maybe somewhere on AW, but I actually don’t recall admitting to which submission was mine anywhere publicly 🙂

    As to the submission process, why not have a volunteer (who is not one of the editors) collect the entries at a GMail address, strip them of personal data and forward the result to you? I can do this, if no one from ASIM wants the hassle.

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