Posted 12 July 2011 - 05:35 PM
There’s nothing to do here. I signed a 15 year contract, but I changed my mind 6 months into my trip towards some moon on Saturn. I’m on one of the asteroid outposts in the Belt, along with a handful of my fellow deserters. I thought I’d be one of those who can withstand the journey and time as a harvester of space ores on the outer moons, returning home a millionaire set to retire to one of those fantastic Arctic resorts with year round sunny weather and that artificially warmed air.
That’s not the case anymore. I’m now stuck here for a year - with all the drunkards wasting their days away in boredom, struggling to find something to hold their interest until they could make it home - until the next drop-off. All the employees of Jovian Resources are given half a year’s cash salary in the pocket of their uniform, so there is no wonder that a culture of gambling is prevalent at the outpost, even though there is a frequent rotation of deserters. On top of that, Jovian Resources setup a stadium with an underlying system to support gambling rings. So many people claim that Jovian is manipulating and enslaving its employees to a life of immorality, while I say it’s business sense. The option to chicken out of a contract is there. It’s not like anything productive can be done on the Outpost, there are no resources of value, no structural stability to connect to other asteroids for an interspace Free Nation Network. Most of all, there is no time to get important things done. I’m just as anxious as the next person to get off this tiny rock of a town. Better Jovian make a profit than concern itself over the goodness of their employees.
So, yesterday, I decided: If I am to return home, I should be better off than I was. I have to become a Laser Pick Dueler, no doubt about it. The poker tables are full of cheaters and thieves, and the payouts are at best a doubling of the salary given – if you’re lucky enough. Ah, the LPD League, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before…
The course of action was obvious. All I’d have to do is challenge the current 25-time LPD champion. Nothing complicated, and winning would gain me a helluva lot more than I’d need to get by the next 20 years of my life. The fame of victory over the best of the best, the fortune acquired by pure skill. I didn’t need to think if it would be worth it. It was just obvious. If I were to lose, well, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Nobody cares about a twenty-something without any real skills, so I certainly have no reason to care if I die. Better to live life and burnout as one of those mercenaries in the Aresian battlefields trying to stake a claim on martian iron for their employers. Who would want to grow old in a cubical with a meager salary while hitting buttons to operate automated bureau robots? There was no other option; all that would be worth doing is to make life meaningful at any possible cost.
I put on my spacesuit, grabbed an EggNToast bar, and walked out of my pressurized tube home. I couldn’t hesitate, I couldn’t change my mind. It was already decided: I’d find the LPD champion, Wurther, and his entourage at their usual place in the Outpost Casino, in the back corner at the Double Whitejack tables. It didn’t seem like it’d be a problem at first. While I walked straight to the casino, I didn’t say hello to my buddy Greg, and I even ignored the long-anticipated Hellenda versus Smith duel being shown on all the screens along the main asteroid pathway.
Then I was five feet from Wurther’s table, unable to move, unable to take the actions I had been so carefully planning for the previous 24 hours. I simply looked stupid, especially since I didn’t bother to take off my helmet. Fortunately, his back was towards me, and no one bothered to ask what I was doing. Grabbing a glass from the bar right next to me, I threw it at Wurther and scored a direct hit on his chest. The glass shattered, but didn’t do any damage. Almost instantly, I heard Wurther shout while turning right towards me: “The hell was that for? You do know who I am, or are you just plain stupid?” I could not respond, I just stood still and stuttered some phrase that I don’t even remember. Not that it mattered, I got the sort of response that I wanted, something to the effect of “Whatever, tomorrow at the LPD arena. Or you won’t wake up the following morning.”
That was exactly the response I wanted. I could not turn back at this point, and I was ready to face what was to come. I still am. I’ve waited here in my cramped preparation quarters of the arena since nine, standard solar time. I trembled a little this morning when I woke up, but I quickly overcame the feeling. This was my opportunity to make it big, to become famous with all the money that comes with fame. The authority that comes with it. The respect that comes with it. This trip will become worth it after all. There is no doubt I will return home a better person, remembered for defeating the most successful asteroid duelist around. I will show everyone who doubted my ability to do something great that they were wrong. If I imagine victory, it will happen, the mindset is all that is required. Thoughts will be reality because I see the future I will create so clearly.
It’s almost time. The screen above the inwardly slanted door says fifteen seconds left. Victory. Fame. Money. Respect. Achievement. My mantra. That’s all I need to think about. This has been my goal since I was a kid, so I can’t forget it now. It must be won at any cost. Five seconds left. The laser pick in my left hand is my weapon, my tool of dominance over this empty-of-passion reality. This is the moment where my future will be changed. The door is opening…
I see Wurther on the other end of the arena, along with all the observers watching from above, in the overhanging glass bleachers. Far in the distance is nothing more than a black expanse with other asteroids in view. I think I can see Earth from my position here. The next time I’ll be there, I’ll be able to buy my own skyscraper and have all the rooftop parties I could ever want! All I need to do is concentrate long enough to slice my laser pick right through his neck. It will all be over in a few minutes. Then I’ll have all of Wurther’s money and 25% of the amount bet on me.
Why won’t he stop shouting like that? I really don’t care what he has to say about how many victories he has, nor do I care about how quickly he subdued his opponent last week. What matters is the adoration of the crowd, adoration of the masses. That’s what really counts. How else could anyone judge their worth in the world? If I am nothing, I will be seen as nothing. If I am something, I will be seen as something. Straightforward logic. Defeating Wurther here is the whole reason I was destined to end up on this barren asteroid. The fact that I am here proves that everything was meant to come together like this. This duel is the quickest way to go from nobody straight to the third most famous celebrity in the System. My life is so boring and lacking in interest that it’s about time I was repaid all the misfortune I’ve had to endure.
The crowd is cheering now that Wurther has started walking towards me. He’s walking slowly and surely, confidently with his goal to kill me in mind, kicking stones on the ground out of the way as though he did not give a thought to his movements. And here I am, standing motionless, holding my laser pick’s blade just above my shoulder. I want to move but… why can’t I! I need to act, I need to live. I need to matter by showing that I can do something with myself. But my body won’t respond, as though it has long since forgotten that its sole purpose is to keep me alive.
I can see Wurther’s focused eyes now, and I can see why he has so many victories: he knows what he wants, whether or not I can figure out what it is he even wants. His movements prove it. He has something real to gain, something more than merely an excuse to live. The money, the fame, it would provide me with nothing. I’d only end up how I was before, lacking skills, friends, and a productive future. I’d have some pleasurable values, but for what end? I’d have my material values, then what? Wurther has his prowess of confidence and certainty. Or maybe he is as empty as me. What does he have to come home to if all he has is his reputation for violence and short-temper, ready to kill at a moment’s notice? Living life as a wild and irrational monster - unable to think like a stable person - is not something I’d want. But at least he’d be alive. Me, on the other hand… I’d be a titanium crate, filled with as much cash as can fit, without a means to feel any of it.
Ah, my hand is moving! Still… it’s too late… The blade of Wurther’s pick is quickly flying right towards the my helmet. I’m too scared now, I can’t hold onto my laser pick any longer.
Wurther’s blade has just struck my throat and blood is gushing out. I’ve failed to achieve anything out of my life.
I wrote this a year ago. Simple story about someone who values fame and fortune as primaries. Criticism welcome.
Posted 12 July 2011 - 06:37 PM
Now, the first aspect is illustrated well through the events of the story. We see the narrator fixated on fame and fortune, and giving nary a thought to what is actually needed to win a Laser Pick Duel, and as a result when the moment comes he is frozen and then killed. I really like this aspect of the story.
However, the second aspect that you attempt to weave into the story, basically cannot be shown through the plot as it stands (because he never actually achieves fame and fortune, and we don't see anyone else who does, really), so you basically have to tell the reader, via a realization by the narrator just before he dies: "The money, the fame, it would provide me with nothing. I’d only end up how I was before, lacking skills, friends, and a productive future. I’d have some pleasurable values, but for what end? I’d have my material values, then what?" Personally, I'd just focus on the aspect of fame-seeking that is illustrated in the story, and drop what amounts to telling the reader, "If you pursue fame and fortune and actually get it, you'll still end up empty." It is a short story after all, and I think including both of these aspects is attempting to do too much. The plot structure which is perfect for illustrating failure doesn't work very well for attempting to show the results of success.
Edited by Dante, 12 July 2011 - 06:50 PM.
Posted 12 July 2011 - 08:19 PM
I'm glad you liked this part, as that was really the whole basis and main idea of the story.
We see the narrator fixated on fame and fortune, and giving nary a thought to what is actually needed to win a Laser Pick Duel, and as a result when the moment comes he is frozen and then killed. I really like this aspect of the story.
I didn't really note that before, but I see exactly what you mean. Conveying a certain *kind* of fixation is much trickier; I was attempting to point out the root of the narrator's failure was due to a materialistic attitude. Going to that level of depth would require lengthening to story.
The plot structure which is perfect for illustrating failure doesn't work very well for attempting to show the results of success.
Posted 11 June 2012 - 01:41 PM
Posted 11 June 2012 - 05:37 PM
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"I realize, of course, it is no shame to poor; but, it's no great honor either" - from Fiddler on the Roof
Posted 11 June 2012 - 06:51 PM
Secondly and less importantly, I felt that the thoughts he had during the fight, especially at the end with the spike in his neck made it less believable. Unless he's autistic or he has some really strong sociopathic tendencies or maybe a great deal of fighting experience, his brain is not going to be physiologically capable of entertaining those sorts of philosophical thoughts while someone's trying to kill him with a laser pick. It would make more sense if he did all that just before engaging in the fight plus a little while he's bleeding out or if a third person narrator or other character was identifying the issues.
Edited by aequalsa, 11 June 2012 - 06:51 PM.
...or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly;
who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings;
but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause,
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.
So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.-Teddy
Posted 20 June 2012 - 03:13 PM
The trouble with motives of characters here is that they don't have any real dreams, yet I want to convey that they are lying to themselves about how they believe they're going somewhere with their life. Wurther is just a gambler of no real aspirations except for a lot of money and striking fear in others. The MC naive, believing that something good can be made of a bad situation, while I want to have the reader see how the MC's life was already ruined by choosing to go all that way to Saturn. Life-changing decisions have no going back.
I agree that going over philosophical ideas in such a situation is not plausible. Such is the difficulty in writing when I as the writer have a lot to say.
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