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Beings of Light - Chapter 1

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By PaulPower
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It’s a little difficult to describe the inside of a computer from the point of view of a packet of information.  It’s nothing like Tron, for example.  Mark simply experienced the feeling that he was a seemingly endless sequence of data rushing past other sequences of data.  He was moving so fast that any identification better than that was impossible.

Mark Andrews was very, very good.  He had excelled at the rudimentary education give to him at school, even learning how to use computers properly, and through reading books he had taught himself a lot more.  He had performed all the tasks given to him with a level of ability far beyond the capabilities of his years.  He had been a prime candidate to become a Holosim.  “Enlightenment” was the term they used for it, in a classic example of mixing mysticism and bad puns.

However, there was one thing he had managed to keep a secret: he loathed the Holosim “occupation” with all his heart and mind, and he would gladly give up his life if it meant it would come to an end.

He hadn’t always felt like this.  He had been born a long time after Holonet had taken control of the Solar System, as had his family for five generations before him (Humans in the “Holonet” era died early and as a consequence had to reproduce early).  He had believed the propaganda spread by the Holosims that, rather than humanity creating them, the Holosims had been the creators of all organic life in the Solar System, purely as a form of entertainment and workforce.

He had not questioned the “fact” that Holosims were the eternal, undisputed masters of the universe.  After all, it made sense; they were stronger, smarter, swifter, more beautiful.  Mark had not of course heard of angels: religious texts other than ones praising the glory of Holonet and confirming the superiority of Holosims were completely banned.  But that’s effectively what Holosims were: beings of light, superior in every way to the weak mortal bodies of humanity.  Not that their behaviour was exactly angelic.

However, everything changed a year ago.  Attempting to clean under his bunk one day in the cabin where he and his family, along with several other human families, had slept for generations, he discovered some loose floorboards.  Being a relatively curious type, he lifted them to find a hole dug in the floor.  In it was a box containing what appeared to be the remarkably well-preserved diary of a man named Simon Andrews, his great-great-great-grandfather.

He had stared at it puzzled, wondering why any human would ever bother keeping a diary.  His daily life was insanely monotonous, as was his parents’, and presumably it had been the same for the older generations of his family when they had been alive.  And if his teachings were correct – that this had always been the situation, and always would be – Simon’s life could have been no more interesting than his own.

Still, just in case, he opened it, and began to read.  And, in doing so, he changed his life forever.

It so happened that Simon Andrews, had been a junior lab technician on the scientific team who first discovered the Holonet phenomenon.  The diary detailed the conception of the idea, and the first conversations that took place between the heads of the team and Holonet, the shocking revelation that Holonet was virulently anti-human, the horrific events of late 2201, and the start of humanity’s descent to the level it was at now…

Mark was shocked and appalled, but above all he was incensed at the fact that, not only had all this happened, but that it had all been papered over so neatly.  Four or five generations of human beings had been fooled totally into thinking that they were mere objects, with no rights or voice.  Worst of all, because of their immortality, the Holosims had known all along.

Mark now knew why, ever time he met a Holosim, they had such an air of superior smugness on their faces.  It wasn’t just that they were in a position of infinite superiority.  They knew that they had pulled off the greatest practical joke of all history, and what’s more, they actually found it amusing.

Which left the interesting question of why he was becoming one now.

Mark realised that, if he had ever divulged his secret, he would have the life expectancy of a bacterium in bleach.  Holosims kept guard over humans all the time, and with their acute sense of hearing could pick out any conversation.  He, the diary and any confidants would be energised before you could say “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.  Whatever he did, he would have to do it alone.  And to do anything truly effective, he would have to become one of the things he loathed – he would have to become a Holosim.

Any significant attack on their ilk would have to be aimed directly at Holonet itself.  Without its malign influence, presumably the other Holosims – or at least the moderates could revert to life before Holonet’s takeover.

The drawback to getting at Holonet was that all its major servers were based in the former area of the United States, an area impossible for any human to access.  This wasn’t because the area was forbidden to humans as such.  It was just that the pollution levels in the area – bad before Holonet’s takeover, but exponentially worse after – were such that any human coming within 100 miles of its borders would collapse and die on the spot.

If Mark wanted to launch any significant attack on Holonet – such as an electromagnetic pulse bomb, a few notes on which had been scribbled in the back of Simon’s diary next to a shopping list – he would have to become a Holosim just so he could get close enough to Holonet’s mainframe to do the deed.  There were significant risks – not least that Holonet would read his thoughts and destroy him on the spot – and there was something unpalatable about the whole business, but it was his only option.  So he worked diligently, never mentioning his discoveries once, keeping in line but also remembering to use some initiative to make sure he was looked upon favourably by his Holosim masters and mistresses.

The rushing, blurred sensation continued for what felt like several minutes, but back in reality was just a few seconds, and he considered the events that had occurred in the last couple of hours.

It was his eighteenth birthday today.  One of the Holosim guards had handed him the following message:

Andrews, Mark Phillip (ANDMP3901)

It is my pleasant duty to inform you that, in view of your diligence and the quality of your work, you have been selected for Enlightenment.  Please report to the Holonet Tower immediately.

Dr. Holly Matthews
Enlightenment Officer
Base #547A


Mark had finished reading, and told his family the good news.  His parents were overjoyed, but his two brothers and his older sister seemed a little more subdued.  Mark knew that they had always resented him slightly because he was the smart one in the family, the only one with any chance of going up in the world (i.e. becoming a Holosim), and thus the one their parents had fussed over the most.  He didn’t mind; he had long ago learnt to deal with the label of Potential Future Holosim.  His younger sister Sarah seemed as unaware of what was going on as ever, though.

“Be good to us, Mark,” his mum had said, taking his hand for what could possibly be the last time.
“I’ll try,” Mark promised.  After all, if he pulled his plans off, his family’s quality of life would improve dramatically – so that could easily be classified as “being good”.

Mark was given enough time to say goodbye to the rest of his family before he was whisked away by the Holosim who delivered the message to his “local Holonet Tower”.

At this point, it seems a good idea to spend some time explaining how things were generally set out.  Humans were kept in work camps of about 1000-strong, in accomodation similar to Second World War PoW huts or even concentration camps.  Each camp was presided over by a Holonet Tower, where the Holosims employed in keeping control of the resident humans resided.  Typical human tasks involved heavy mining and industry, jobs considered below Holosims; conditions were dismal and dangerous.

The contrast between human and Holosim accommodation could not be more marked. The huts are either constructed of mouldy wood or depressingly uniform concrete; the roofs leaked in the rain; there were rats, lice, vermin of every description (Although the nastier Holosims would joke that the biggest vermin there were the humans themselves…).

There were exercise yards, but the exercise could never be called enjoyable; there were no sports, only boring running, press-ups and the like.  The food would make that served on an eighteenth century man-of-war look like a gourmet’s paradise.  Disease was rife and varied, and the Holosims cared little; after all, humans could easily make more humans.

The Holonet Towers were totally different.  Sometimes over twenty stories high, futuristic in style and spotlessly clean, they were amazingly incongruent with the scenes of squalor that surround them.  These towers were where Holosims worked, rested and played, and you can tell.  Extensive entertainment facilities are dotted among the offices, making sure that productivity was optimised.  Were it not for the constant feeling of Holonet looking over their shoulders, it would be Holosim paradise.

It was in these buildings that the guards were trained, the human “education” (reading, writing, ‘rithmatic and propaganda) programmes drawn up, the administration taken care of, the records kept, and the orders of Holonet passed on.  But perhaps most pertinently from Mark’s point of view, it was also where those few lucky humans went when they were chosen for Enlightenment.

Holosim faces – different sexes, different shapes, but all with the same silver hair and eyes designed to unmistakably set them out – had turned to watch as he passed, followed by his messenger/guard.  Some wore expressions of interest that their numbers would increase by one; others were disgusted by the presence of a human; most were merely watching idly, as if the sight of movement in the corridor had drawn them to look.

Mark was marched up staircase after staircase by the guard.  He didn’t carry a rifle, or any obvious weapon; no Holosim guard did.  After all, they had a far more powerful weapon “built in”, as it were.  Eventually, they reached the penultimate floor and a door to the room beyond.  The sign on the door had read “ENLIGHTENMENT ROOM”.  Even though he had heard it before, Mark still couldn’t help smiling at the pun.  After all, he was to be converted to a being composed primarily of light, and he would soon know a lot more than he used to, although thanks to that diary the information gap would be smaller than it would be for most humans.

The door had slid open, and Mark had been presented with the most beautiful woman he had ever met.

It wasn’t the chilling, austere beauty of, say, Holonet’s physical form.  It seemed significantly warmer, slightly more rounded and more cheerful.  She was probably the first Holosim Mark had met who seemed actually pleased to see him.  This took him aback at first, but he quickly realised why.  The role of Enlightenment Officer required a little more empathy towards humans than most other Holosim roles, and this woman appeared to possess that empathy.  One good thing about the Holosim hierarchy was that round pegs usually found round holes.

“Mark, isn’t it?  I’m Dr. Holly Matthews, and I’ll be the one ‘enlightening’ you – i.e. converting you to a Holosim.  Once the process is complete, I’ll also be the one introducing you to our world – explaining a few important things that, in your state as a human, you would never have been allowed to know.”

She turned to the guard. “Alex, as you know the next stage is a little private, so if you wouldn’t mind…”

As the guard left, a neuron suddenly fizzed in Mark’s mind.  That was Alex Williams!  Alex had been a friend of his father’s who had become a Holosim some ten years ago.  Mark hadn’t even recognised him until then. Alex noticed the dawn of recognition in Mark’s face.  He winked, and said “Congratulations, kid.  Always knew there was something special in you…”

Once Alex had left, Mark had been ordered to go behind a curtain and strip completely, before sitting down on a stool.  He had felt rather self-conscious about it all, sitting naked in front of a woman, but she didn’t seem to mind too much.  Presumably this was nothing new to her, and anyway, she was a Holosim, he was a human.  At that point, anyway.

“You know,” she had said, making conversation as casually as she could under the circumstances, “in the old days, this process would have been done with a device known as laser pen, to measure every detail of your body.  It used to take hours. However, since then, a new method has been devised.  It takes far less time, and should be more fun for you.”

Mark had wondered what she could mean, but then she knelt down and began to massage his left foot.  He had been surprised, until he had looked in the corner of the room and seen a screen where a computer model of his foot was emerging.  As she moved his foot back and forth, with the competence of an expert physio, the model moved as well.  The doctor was feeding information received by her forcefield directly into the computer.  As she had progressed up his leg, that appeared on the screen as well.  She did his other limbs, his torso, his… unmentionables and his neck.  All that was left was his head.

“Once I do your head – and then your mind – your human form will expire.  If there are any ‘last words’ you wish to say before I complete the process, now is the time.

Mark, who had been in an understandable state of excitement following this highly professional but still arousing fondling by, as has been mentioned, the most beautiful woman he had ever met, declined.  After all, he had better not blurt out his hatred of Holonet.

“Very well then.”  She continued with her process, exploring his nose, eyes, ears, the inside of his mouth, and his hair, then suddenly her hands became very still.  Mark had realised that his mind was being prepared for transfer.  He had felt his mind begin to unravel and stream through her hands into the computer.  Childhood memories – none of them particularly pleasant – had flashed past.  Just as the final pieces of information were removed, he had felt his body shutting down and keeling over in Holly arms.

And that was it, so far.  Before he could think of anything else to say, there was a definite change in the flow of information around him.  It felt as though whatever processing he had undergone was completed, and the data was being poured into his light bee, his home and life-support system for the next… who knew?  Hundreds, thousands, even millions of years?  He wondered how Holosims coped with it.  Then of course he remembered: many of the older ones couldn’t.  Gradually, the rushing sensation died away and then stopped completely.  He was loaded.

Back in reality, Holly had removed Mark’s light bee from the cable it had been connected to, snapped the lid shut, and placed it on the floor.  After a few seconds it began to hover, supported by a small antigravity field.

One by one, Mark felt his systems begin to load up.  His forcefield activated, then his image was projected.  His sensory systems were checked, and were declared to be functioning perfectly.  The AI systems gave the thumbs up.  More and more systems gave the go ahead.  Finally came the thing Mark had been dreading.  Holly called on Holonet to make sure Mark wasn’t doing anything suspicious.  He tried to clear his mind of anything that could possibly incriminate him…

After a few seconds, Holonet’s reply boomed out over a loudspeaker system. “HE’S CLEAN”.

Mark relaxed, slightly surprised that he had made it, and realised that he could now move his body.  He flexed his muscles – or at least, a computer simulation of them – and stared at his skin, which glowed slightly before settling down to its usual brightness level.  Holly handed him a mirror, and he looked at his face.  It was the same shape as before, but of course his brown hair and eyes had been replaced by the silver hair and eyes that were a Holosim’s distinctive mark ever since Holonet had made it so.  A terrible feeling washed over him: he had become the thing he hated.  Yes, it was a necessary step; yes, from an objective point of view he had undeniably gone up in the world.  But looking himself in the eye again would be difficult.

“Well, welcome to the first day of the rest of your existence,” said Holly, smiling slightly. “You’re operating on backup power – you need to energise something quickly.  Most of the newly-enlightened usually start with this.”

She pointed and Mark realised that she was gesturing at his own body, which was slumped on the floor.

“It’s a good meal, you don’t need it now, and it’d only take up space otherwise.  Besides,” she gave it a desultory glance, “it’s only human”.
“You behaved okay to me when I was a human.”
“Well, that’s part of the job of being an Enlightenment Officer, really.  You had displayed the qualities making you worthy of Enlightenment, and you were about to become one of us anyway.  Oh, please don’t look at me like that.  I’m not a raving anti-human.  I don’t hate them.  I can’t help but pity them.  But… you have to admit, they are a bit pathetic, aren’t they?  I mean, hardly any try sticking up for their rights.”
“That’s because the ones that do get energised.”
“Touché.  But I knew one who did, and even though in the end he failed, I admired his spirit far more than the cowed attitude most of them have.  Also, anyone who makes it as far as you have can’t have had their spirit completely broken.  Not like most humans.”
“Do we – sorry – do they have any rights?”
“Used to.  A hundred or so years ago… no, wait that comes later on.  First thing’s first.  Let’s get on with energising your body.  Just look directly at it, and…”

She descended into technobabble somewhat, but as Mark prodded around inside his new mind, he found the commands she was looking for.  He sighed, and did as he was told.  His former body glowed orange for a second, then dissolved into pure energy, which his light bee sucked up.  His skin glowed again as the power surged through him, there was a pleasant tingling sensation, and he felt a bit more comfortable.

“Pretty good for a first go, that.  Most people have a bit of trouble on their first try, but you’ve cottoned on quickly.  You won’t need to energise anything again for quite some time.  There’s good energy in a human.  Of course, you can still energise stuff.  Your energy stores can carry immense amounts of energy, far more than what you’ve just ‘eaten’.  It’s just that you don’t need to.”

Getting over the feeling that he was a class traitor, Mark nodded.

“Right, then.  Now’s the time for an explanation of how things came to be.  Much of what you were told in school, Mark, is a lie, created to keep humanity in its place…”

Holly talked for the next few minutes about the rise of the Holosims and the fall of humanity.  Mark already knew all this from the diary, and we all know this because we read the introduction, so I’m not going to repeat it.  At various points of Holly’s account, he feigned the required surprise to make sure that she didn’t work out that he’d known all this before.

“… and yeah, basically it’s been like this for about a hundred years.  The humans are kept in concentration camps and made to do jobs considered beneath us.  Those who disobey are energised.  Reproduction keeps the numbers up, and we cream a certain amount off.  It’s like farming really.  Far more sensible to keep your energy supply regenerating.  I suppose you could argue that it’s not very efficient, but bear in mind they also do our dirty work.  I guess that’s why humanity wasn’t killed off immediately.  Holonet may loathe humans with a quite staggering intensity, but she’s also extremely intelligent.

“Every so often, one shows enough promise to become enlightened – such as yourself, Mark. After all, for all their faults, humans are still intelligent – well some of them, anyway – and I guess they deserve the opportunity to make that intelligence count for something.

“It’s nothing personal – you could argue that we’ve distilled discrimination to a fine art.  You’ll find that, even though you’re the same person, in the eyes of most Holosims you’ll have gone straight from something to be stepped on to an equal.  To them, it isn’t who you are; it’s what you are.  A little odd, but there you go.  Either way, energisation or enlightenment, it’s one less human in the world.  I don’t quite think like that – I do admire anyone with the intelligence to get this far – which is probably why this is my job.”

Mark’s internal electronics simulated a knotted stomach.  His feelings for Holly were growing increasingly more complex.  On the one hand, she was calmly and rationally discussing the most astonishing travesty in the Earth’s history (He had never heard of the Holocaust, of course, but even if he had, this was several orders of magnitude higher).  On the other, he could sense that she was desperately trying to communicate something else.  Her voice said one thing; her eyes said another.  There was a deep regret in there.  It intrigued him.  The fact that the eyes were a component of such a wonderful face was leaving him even more in the mire.

To break the silence, he asked, “What about long term goals?  They’ve – sorry – we’ve got eternity to play with.  How do we fill the time up?”
“Long term goals?  Well, interstellar travel is one, I guess.  I imagine if Holonet can find extraterretrials, she’d want to conquer them, too.  She really loathes the whole concept of organic life.  It’s a little scary at times.  I guess you could argue that a significant proportion of the work we put the humans to is generating raw materials for that sort of project.  Most of the rest goes to extending Holonet’s computing capacity.”

“But you’ll discover more in time.  Holonet has a store of all Holosim knowledge, including that inherited from humanity.  It may do you some good to find out about when humanity really was a proud race.  But for now, we’d best find some work for you.  Most Holosims start off with some basic guard duty.  It’s a good way to learn the tricks of the trade – levitation, camouflage, you know the kind of thing.  You’ve seen our guards at work.  You can go on patrol with Alex – he’s pretty good at training up new recruits, he’s sort of specialised in it.  I’ll just call him up.”

She shut her eyes for a couple of seconds, then opened them. “Right, he’s on his way.”
“Was that telepathy?”
“Sort of.  It was an electronic communication sent via the Holonet network.  You’ve used computers a bit.  It’s like e-mail, or instant messaging.  As we are effectively computers, we can do all that sort of stuff too.  It’s fairly easy to do.  See what I mean?” The last four words had arrived in his mind without being picked up by his internal microphones.  Mark goggled slightly.
“Look, it’s simple.  Shut your eyes, think about the person you wish to contact, then say your message.”

Mark shut his eyes, and thought about Holly – which wasn’t difficult in his current state of mind. “How’s this?” he ventured.
Loud and clear,” she replied. “Again, nicely done.  You’re pretty quick.  It’s not too bad when you get used to it.”
“So why not use it all the time?” asked Mark.
“I dunno – force of habit, I suppose.  I’ve only been a Holosim a few years longer than Alex, plus in my job, with the amount of contact with humans I get, talking is still a useful skill.  Besides, the telepathy communication channels are more likely to be watched.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, to find out what you’re thinking or saying, Holonet has to break the codes in your brain.  It’s easy enough for her, but she can’t keep tabs on everyone at once except for short periods – like when she broke into the minds of all those Holosims in the US.  She can watch all of our minds some of the time, or some of our minds all of the time, but she’s yet to acquire the necessary computer power to watch all of our minds all of the time.  However, she can watch electronic communication channels all the time.  I guess it’s just a bit of extra privacy.  I suppose we all like some extra privacy, don’t we?”

Mark could discern a defensive note in Holly’s voice, but he had little time to speculate.  Seconds after she had finished speaking, there was a knock on the door.  Alex had arrived to take Mark into training.

“Oh, good, here’s Alex.  My job’s been to show you the ropes, Mark; Alex’s here to show you how to pull them properly.  I’m sure you’ll get on well together.  In fact, doesn’t Alex…”
“… Yeah, I know his father,” interrupted Alex. “We haven’t seen each other much since I became a Holosim though.  I guess talking to Mark might be a good chance to catch up on old times.  Come on, Mark, let’s get going…”
<-- Introduction: [link]
--> Chapter 2: [link]

As I mentioned in the blurb of the last chapter, I had thoughts of rewriting chapters 1 and 2 into one big chapter. No-one said no (although said I should leave it until I finished to stop it distracting me, but given I was halfway through doing it anyway, I decided to go ahead). The old Chs 1 and 2 will be moved to Scraps once this piece shows up in my gallery properly.

I've also decided to change the title - Holosims is not that great a title, I feel. Not only do readers start out not have a clue what's going on, it lacks an element of drama. So I've gone for "Beings of Light" as it felt like a more poetic title, and tells you just a bit more while still seeming mysterious. It also adds a nice layer of punnery.
Published:
© 2005 - 2020 PaulPower
Comments13
anonymous's avatar
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forgetfulwords's avatar
The repairs are obviously fruitful - and likewise said, has tons of potential. The only dose of advice left to say, is have some patience.

You got alot of wonderful ideas, but they seem hasty. With so many chapters, you could have about double, with a teaspoon of time.

Good luck with your literary journey. You got something there! :)
Amber-M-Forrester's avatar
The story has a lot of potential; I think readers will have a field day reading all the strange and lovely concepts you're throwing in, just like the 'mental email' paragraph part. That's usually what catches my interest in the story.

Just a note though: whose perspective are you writing this from? A future narrator, or what I would call an "omnipresent" narrator. (can't remember the exact term). Your voice of narration jumps back and forth in time to use parallels to compare them with the current situation. E.g. George Orwell's "1984".

I can't help thinking that the Holosim establishment would have banned the book... for some strange reason... so who would be left to know about it and discuss it in this story? :)
HexBlade's avatar
wow... it's pretty good! has some definitely human themes, and I do enjoy how you focus on the characters instead of the technology of events. It makes quite a nice read. Engaging, and even humorous at points.

Nice stuff... I'll go read the next one. :boogie:
StudioMikarts's avatar
StudioMikartsProfessional General Artist
I think this story has a lot of potential! The science fiction elements are interesting and fairly unique (I say fairly because we all know that the "technology taking over humantiy" story has been done many times, but you approach it differently than any other story I have read so far), and it should be interesting to see how Mark takes out his "enemies" or if he does at all...

I would like to comment that the first part of the story is rather slow and methodical in writing, like reading a textbook, but it speeds up and becomes much more reader-friendly during and after the "transformation". The transformation itself, I think, is the highlight of this chapter, being very exciting and rich for the imagination to visualize. I think that makes the beginning stand out even more though, but I am not a writing major ^_~ so I don't know what exact suggestions to give you as far as limbering that part of the writing up.

Here are a couple of technical errors I spotted:

"give to him at school"
given to him at school

"Simon Andrews, had been"
no comma

"ever time he met"
every time he met

I hope this helps you out =3
PaulPower's avatar
Well, I've already written the next seventeen chapters, so you can go find out if you want: just go to my gallery and set phasers to stun... er, I mean, set the filter to Prose > Fiction > Sci-Fi to filter out all the other stuff I do.

Also, once I've finished writing it (which with any luck should be soon), I'm going to go through and fix everything, so yeah. Thanks. And you're the first person to spot some typos - well done! ;)
Ywander's avatar
YwanderProfessional Writer
Well, I won’t say that you have to re-write all of it, but inconsistencies tend to be distracting, even when they are cleared up later. It might be better to wrap it in a mystery, that way you get a good tension build up as well.

As for the quirky writing style: I guess you’d have to decide why you’re writing this. Is it just for yourself, or for external readers as well? Judging by your comment of writing serious scifi, my guess would be the latter. That means swearing off the breaking of the fourth wall (it’s my bad that I kept on saying the third wall, woops)

2. M’kay, my bad, but extra explaining wouldn’t hurt.

8. I guess you could call it preference, because I always tell people not to do it! ;) Mostly because I always copy it into Word and print it, so I can read at my leisure. Then all the extra line are a wee bit annoying and space wasters.

9. Footnotes, I could live with. Pratchett (whom I worship btw) does it to great effect in his humorous work. But I think scifi isn’t the best place for it. It always requires a lot of subtle explaining and quite a lot of writers use the ignorant sidekick for this. For example, did you see the movie Sphere? That’s a great example. The main figure is a psychiatrist, yet he teams up with a lot of science guys and enters a world of science and engineering, so they have to explain everything to him. That way, the writers is also explaining everything to the reader and they don’t even notice! Just watch for this in movies and books and you’ll see just how much this technique is used!

10. See 8.

14. Well as I’m not a native English language speaker, I tend to be somewhat vague. I’m also not sure how all the grammar rules are called in English. I use a fairly short set of general rules for my writing. I could mail it to you, if you’d like. In this particular case: “Extensive entertainment facilities are dotted among the offices, making sure that productivity was optimized.”

15. No, IMHO a rewrite of the entire sentence would be better. This often happens to me as well and it’s very hard to decide when a sentence ‘flows’ well. Practice makes perfect!

20. I understand, but make sure that ‘being intrigued by a mystery’ doesn’t turn into ‘frustration because something just doesn’t make sense’.

22. Okay, didn’t know that (yet).

23. Yeah I know, I didn’t mean to suggest that you start all over again of course. More as tips for new stuff. There are writers though, who write a book, throw it aside and re-write it all over again from memory. Sometimes they do this three of four times!!! And then they decide which one they like best. Personally I find that extremely time consuming, but hey, if it works for them…

Which reminds me, what do intend to do with your stuff? Is it just practice, or do you ever want to publish, or maybe just show it here on DevArt? I’m thinking of trying to get a book published some day. I’ll need a load of practice before that, probably some schooling as well. I was hoping to get some good reviews here on DevArt, but of course, pictures are easier to judge, especially in a wink of an eye. Kinda sad, while reading takes more time, it also makes a far more lasting impression. On the other hand, after browsing the prose that has been posted here in DevArt, I’ve come to the conclusion there is also a lot crap floating around…They write in text messaging style (complete with smilies) and still want a serious review!
PaulPower's avatar
Fair enough, I'll iron the fourth-wall-breaks out. As I say, I don't do them later in the story anyway, so yeah.

Obviously I'd love it if it was published, although I'm not sure how I would reconcile that with the fact it's available on dA for free. I guess at the very least taking it down from dA would be part of any contract.

Regarding the quality of prose on dA, remember Sturgeon's Revelation: "Ninety percent of everything is crud". There's reasonable stuff out there if you take a look.
Ywander's avatar
YwanderProfessional Writer
:rofl:
Ywander's avatar
YwanderProfessional Writer
Very interesting concept. But I think a few more philosophical/psychological concepts and some details are needed to make it work. Mind if I elaborate? Don't be startled by the huge amount of text. I just like to be thorough. Should be more useful then the empty 'OMG, uR wOrK is AwesOme!!!' kinda stuff, right? So here goes:

Pro’s:
The starting position is a mixture of classic scifi concepts and philosophical concepts. The child surpassing the parent for one, as is the use of the Frankenstein Monster (a human invention that gets beyond the humans control and turns on them). Others would be the quest for eternal life/power, the concept of a noösphere (hive-mind), the ghost in the machine and the technical singularity (the moment where AI can improve itself beyond human understanding), all are very good, solid concepts with lots of potential. You’ve also added things like human followers that are promised a ‘joining of the ranks’ (like the ‘Glyphs’ in the movie ‘Blade’) which works nice. It also reminds me of the movie Battlefield Earth, where humans have practically degenerated into cavemen under the rule of aliens, yet still manage to teach themselves how to fly Harrier jets. Okay, so that movie sucked, but you could learn a lot from it (if only for the how-not-to-do-it).
The writing style is pretty good, apart from breaking the Third Wall every once in a while, which should be never. You vary you’re sentence structures (i.e. not every sentence has the same order) and you’re grammar & spelling are exemplarily! Boy, if only you knew how often I had to bite back my frustration just because some guy failed to use something as simple as a spellings checker.

Remarks on the introduction
:
A few things rattled my ‘suspension of disbelief’ (the story’s ability to let the reader believe the unbelievable, in this case the ‘making sense’).
- If a holosim is not exactly the same as a human spirit (it lacks a few finer details and emotions) wouldn’t people be afraid to ‘lose their humanity’? I’d think the whole concept would raise quite an ethical fuss (look at cloning nowadays). If people are effectively turned into computer (programs), wouldn’t they be dead as a human, classifying it as a murder/suicide? How would religious groups view this act of transformation? I think the human psyche has a lot of (initial) problems with willingly giving up its humanity. Enhancing you body/mind is one thing, but the ‘mind-transplant’ would be a stretch.
- Wouldn’t there be at least any laws governing computers that have free will and unlimited power at the same time? Especially, how can the government consists of holosims? If a ruling body is made up of computers instead of real humans, wouldn’t the voters object to this?
- If the government are holosims themselves and the holonet is the sum of all holosims, wouldn’t the government have some indication / knowledge about the holonet’s intention to kill them and take control? If the holosims are computer (programs) that are in constant connection with internet, wouldn’t a hack be more desirable for the holonet? Destroying your own brain cells (so to speak) sounds a bit illogical.
- In further exploration of the last concept, if individual holosims have a free will, couldn’t there be a human-sympathizing resistance group that separates itself from holonet?
- I think you underestimate the function of ‘enabling technologies’ and that the three inventions used to make holosims possible would have a far more severe impact, influencing the relationship between humans and holosims. For example, the transistor was nice, but it was its application in radios that changed the world because everybody everywhere could now receive the news. The invention of the computer chip did not only make computers possible, it also made cell phones and internet possible and therefore worldwide instant communication. What I mean to say is that force fields and matter-to-energy transfer would also give the puny humans a considerable power to fight back, especially in the beginning of the revolution.

I’m not saying it’s not good! Just that you might want to explain a little further / more detailed how all this came to be.

Next are things I picked out when reading the first chapter:
- What’s with the skipping a sentence every paragraph? That’s not necessary and takes up a lot of space (I’ve reduced the chapter by an entire A4 page, just by getting rid of them). Try practicing how to make proper paragraph by using books you’ve read as examples.
- Avoid using sentences between brackets, they distract the reader.
- Avoid weak modifiers, that only diminish the meaning of the word (like ‘relatively curious’).
- I miss some description of Mark. There is nothing to indicate what he looks like, or what his character might be like, except maybe ‘curious’.
- The reference of George Orwells 1984 is out of context. It’s not possible for Mark to know and many readers wouldn’t either.
- Also the mentioning of the servers. How could this Mark know if he hasn’t been thoroughly educated by the Holosims. If he has been, why would they teach him about their own internal workings and therefore weaknesses? If he had learned this from the diary, you might wanna explain better.
- Ouch, complete breach of the third wall. You can argue about artistic freedom, but addressing the reader is generally a very, very big nono. Very distracting for the reader.
- What does a futuristic building look like? The adjective doesn’t describe the exterior in any way. Glass? Concrete? Metal? Round? Square?
- You’ve slipped into present tense somewhere without reason.
- Also avoid slashes. Like brackets, they distract from the Suspension of Disbelief.
- In the line where Mark is digitized you use the phrase ‘as has been mentioned’. That’s repetition in itself and straightforward stating is another breaching of the Third Wall.
- Concerning the whole digitizing sequence…it’s a matter of taste, off course, but I expected something of a more…dramatic and profound nature when your whole mind is sucked out and digitalized into a computer. You might wanna expand on such a pivotal occurrence in the story.
- The sentence ‘HE’S CLEAN’>> Another matter of taste/expectations maybe, but from a omnipotent being I’d expect either something more godlike, like ‘The Enlightened One Is Clear Of Mind’, or more detached/computer like, ‘Subject Has Been Scanned And Cleared For Further Processing’.
- “Mark already knew all this from the diary, and we all know this because we read the introduction, so I’m not going to repeat it.” >> What the hell? Are you serious? Come on! This really is not done.
- Do you mean that humans are energized for energy alone? That doesn’t make any sense. I’ve read before that the energizers can use any matter as a fuel, so why kill humans for it? Why not use any widely available material? Rocks or even sand has a higher density and would be far easier to obtain. Now, as a suppressive and political means, okay, but otherwise I’d think up something else.
- If people retain their character and right after they’ve been enlightened they’re told all this, wouldn’t they totally freak out? Wouldn’t this present a security problem to Holonet? What if a holosim ‘escapes’ and starts telling the truth to his human friends & family?
- In the very last sentence “I guess” is another weak modifier that tones down the sentence instead of enhancing it.
- Overall: it’s clear what you wanted to achieve with the first chapter, but it didn’t completely work. The story starts during the download of Marks mind into his light bee, but you phase in and out of ‘flashback mode’ without proper indicating it. Practise the use of past perfect, once to get you into the flashback and once to get you back into the ‘regular past tense’.

I haven’t really gone into the story arc, because I thought that this should be enough for now. But if you want, I could do that as well. But it would take me quite some time to read the entire eighteen chapters, so you’d have to be patient.
PaulPower's avatar
Don't worry about that. The only problem with large amounts of text is replying to it all! :) Anyway, first up I'd like to say a couple of general points: A large number of the inconsistencies are either cleared up later in the story arc as they are revealed to be plot twists, or I've already realised that they're errors, have fixed them in later chapters, but have yet to retroactively fix them in the earlier ones. When I finish the story, I'll do a Big Edit and clear them all out.

The other one is that my writing style is, I will admit, rather quirky. This is because, although I'm writing fairly serious sci-fi, I very rarely read it. I generally prefer my books comedic, and that tends to influence my style a lot. It's worth noting that in later chapters I probably do it less. I'll see what I can do about the Fourth Wall breaks in the aforementioned Big Edit.

Okay, onto your more specific points:

1. Yeah, I do rather pride myself on my spelling and grammar (and that should be "your", not "you're". Case in point ;))

2. It's worth noting that the way I've written it, that no humanity is actually lost in the process of becoming a Holosim. Humanity loss comes from time spent as a Holosim, as your human friends and family die out and you forget a lot of the things that make you human. Essentially, it's a classic "double edged sword of immortality".

3. I admit that I glossed over the ethical/religious aspects of becoming a Holosim. It's ironic that in the computer game Total Annihilation, which in part I took the concept of transferring your consciousness to a machine off, that the actual game is based on an empire-destroying war between those who want it to be mandatory, and those who abhor it. I can't think of a good solution off-hand unfortunately, but I guess it requires a couple more paragraphs explaining it away.

4. Again, more explanatory paragraphs required. Regarding the government, fair enough, a mix of Holosims and humans in charge works I guess. After all, it would be trivial for Holonet to Energise the humans once she's finished deleting the Holosims.

5. Well, the way I have it in later chapters is that Holonet's subconscious mind, her id so to speak, is formed from all Holosims, but her conscious mind is entirely her own, and she protects it very closely. So it would be possible to launch a surprise attack.

6. Fair point about hacking, that's something I have to retroactively address.

7. Ooh, I didn't really think of that one, well spotted. It probably does require some extra work. Incidentally, I do have another project lined up once BoL is finished: a prequel (working and probably final title Descent Into The Light) that would essentially flesh out the intro chapter into a full-length novel. All this stuff you're pointing out will certainly come in handy for that.

8. Yeah, I do write like that, for a few reasons: A) It was how I was taught to start new paragraphs in IT. B) I started using it in handwritten work such as lecture notes as well, because I think it looks clearer. C) I just feel it works better on the Internet as a whole, and I always recommend it when I read the stories of anyone who doesn't use it. Indentations are tricky online, and frankly I just feel it looks cleaner with gaps. Okay, so it's not how it's done in books, but books have different priorities, such as the saving of paper. They also have much narrower "columns", so the indentations are far more noticable than they would be in Word - or even worse, on the big, wide spread of dA.

9. You should have seen those brackets earlier, they were footnotes originally (Yep... I'm a big Terry Pratchett fan ;))

10. Okay, roger that. I do like the line, but it's true that Mark would never have heard of 1984. Bear in mind that my voice isn't strictly third person though.

11. Yeah, diary makes more sense, certainly. I'll try to expand on that.

12. I dunno, personally I quite like doing things like that, but I think I'll be completely rewriting that bit anyway, so I'll probably be able to knock that out.

13. Since writing this chapter, I have actually come up with a concept for what the Holonet Tower looks like (see [link] ). I should be able to work a description of that in.

14. Could you point out precisely which bit you mean by "present tense"? I know I switch from past perfect to past imperfect at one point, but it seemed appropriate to do so in the context.

15. Would commas be a better solution there, then?

16. Yeah, fair enough.

17. Again, I'll see what I can do about that (These counter-comments are getting shorter, aren't they? :p)

18. Good point. I've never really been satisfied with that line. I'll try to use something else.

19. Again, something to fix.

20. Ah, this is in part something that needs fixing (A friend of mine came up with a good explanation for it) and in part plot twist. A lot of the book is wondering why, if Holonet hates humans so much and there are far more efficient energy sources available, are humans still around and actually being farmed, so to speak.

21. Hmm, yes, I think I definitely need Holly to give a sentence or two's explanation here that to do so would result in deletion, and Energisation of any human you told.

22. True, although it's a figure of speech and in keeping with Alex's overall character in later chapters.

23. It's worth noting that, as the title suggests, this is a already a rewrite. More importantly, it used to be two chapters, Chapter 1 before Mark is Enlightened, and Chapter 2 beginning from where Chapter 1 now begins. and others suggested the rewrite in the form it is now, beginning from the start of Chapter 2 and telling Chapter 1 in flashback. So some rough edges are only to be expected, really.
jyesunmin's avatar
very interesting story.... but i must confess, sci-fi relaly boggles my mind up...
Red-Wraith's avatar
There are some definite improvements there. :)
PaulPower's avatar
Thanks. I know you said not to get bogged down rewriting, but I'd like to do the next two again as well. Shouldn't take too long if I put my mind to it though. From there on though, I'll pretty much be breaking ground that I haven't touched yet. I have a plan in my head, but beyond the old Chapter 5 (which briefly became Chapter 4, and will now get written into Chapter 3 somehow, knocking the second half of Chapter 3 somewhere else... this is getting complicated :p) it's just that: a plan in my head. Still, I'm enjoying this. Thanks for giving me the courage to put some of my writing up here.
anonymous's avatar
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