Critique Group – Touchdown

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Touchdown – by John

As we touched down on the starsi’de of the asteroid “Molybden’um 59%”, th’e shi’p-s retro-thrusters feather-dusted the black rock with flam’es the same shade of teal as my father-s ancient propane grill. We bumped and the landing tether clunked free and raced back upw’ards to aid the’ next down-bound ship. We l’et out a collecti’v’e’ sigh. Down a’t all is down’ good’.

This chunk of rock, “Molly B” as the locals called her, bullied the local neighborhood, dragging the sm’aller astero’ids to her bosom by sheer force of grav’ity. She’ wa’sn’-t a planet, per se, since larger objects shared’ th’e sa’me orbit, but while they stayed far enough away, she had all nearspace to herself. Astronomers may hav’e’ predicted a do’omsday encou’nter’ in five hundred years; the locals yawned and paid their b’ar tabs anyway.

That-s why we’ were here: a li’ttle much-n’eeded R-and-R.

My two fellow crewmates jostled each other by the airlock. The skinny eng’ineer hummed a’nd tapped in time on the doorplate. The other, a beefcake as’t’roid miner, yelled at me th’rough his he’lmet, “Yo, Rocco, you ready?”

“That-s Cap’t-n Ro’cco to you.” My finge’rs played t’he dis’embark sequence by muscle memory. Th’e a’irlock v’accuum chuffe’d on. I took my place behind my res’tless compa’ni’ons. We all had’ ants in our spacepants. “Helmets sealed, boys.” Just in case.

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18 replies

  1. I love the image you chose for this post, Bryan Davis!

  2. I enjoyed the writing of the first 2 paragraphs especially — the personalization of the asteroid as bullying smaller asteroids, the description in the first 2 lines. The many apostrophes are distracting, though, to the point of possibly discouraging a reader from continuing. If they are intentional, designed to produce some effect or characterization, you may want to get an explanation — at least a hint — in pretty soon.

  3. “We all had ants in our spacepants.” First of all, that little twist on the common phrase was great and definitely sparked a smile!

    The mention of an ancient propane grill, along with vacationing on an asteroid, definitely made me interested in learning more about the world/time of your story. The many apostrophes were rather distracting for me personally, as was the fact that in hyphenated words I was seeing dashes instead of apostrophes: “Haven-t” rather than “haven’t.” Does this have to do with the language or accent of Captain Rocco? I have seen apostrophes used to clip words: “Heav’nly” (two-ish syllables) vs “heavenly” (three syllables). If that is what you are going for, I would read your work out loud and only replace a section of a word with an apostrophe where he would leave out a syllable. In this excerpt they were simply added in the middle of words, so I wasn’t sure how to pronounce them differently.

    All in all you have a very interesting setting! My first thought on seeing the title was football, with the first phrase being a neat twist. By any chance will you be using both meanings of the word (which would be really neat!) or is that classified? 😉

    • I’m so glad you liked the humor in that line. 🙂 As an avid singer of old hymns, I see your point that apostrophes are sometimes used to clip words.


      I have a different (nefarious?) purpose for the apostrophes, but it seems I need to find a way to let the reader know that they are not intended to affect pronunciation. I need to ponder how to do that, while keeping some sense of mystery/wonder about their odd placement. (I might remove them entirely, at least until I’m a famous author…someday…)

      As for the title, it was really just a working title for this small section. BUT, I do like the double entendre you see in it. You have made me explore this in a different direction than I had planned. Thank you!

      • You’re welcome! I enjoyed reading over it! (And I’ve gotten a few plot ideas from reader speculation as well. ☺)

        As far as the apostrophes go, if you end up having beta readers who know very little of the story, you might test your foreshadowing on them, asking them to share what they were thinking might happen at different parts of the story. It is a fascinating concept, that there is a hidden (possibly nefarious 😰) purpose for the apostrophes… If there were simply a way to state that they were not for punctuation (that flowed naturally in the story, and was early on), for me at least they would become invisible as I read, unless I chose to look at them and try to figure them out. As it was I was paying too much attention to them to be immersed in the story. Just that little “hint” would (in my case) prevent reader frustration and increase my reading speed. At the same time, it leaves open any possibility other than pronunciation. For me, not knowing anything of the story, it is still a mystery. I hope that helps!

        • Just re-read to be sure, and I was aware of the apostrophes, but glazed right past them. So, I for one wouldn’t be phased as long as I knew they were intentional but not for pronunciation.

          • After looking at the apostrophes again, I’ll have to admit I actually came up with a theory… I’m not sure it’s right, but if I am you may be right that not hinting is the best way to go. (I don’t want to guess in case I’m right.) If not hinting is vital, and the story is good, I don’t think the apostrophes would be too much of a problem. (Between my two non-avid reader parents, one would be too distracted, and one would base their continued reading on whether they liked the story. I am of the latter opinion, myself. ☺)

            • Actually, Dad said if it was an edited book (eliminating the possibility of extreme typos) he would be distracted by the first few, but then intrigued and figure there was a purpose. So you have three readers!

              • Thanks so much for giving this a second read-through AND for sharing it with your Dad. It’s great to get multiple perspectives.

                I’m still wrestling with how/whether to “advertise” the purpose of the apostrophes. Part of my fun has been hearing your thoughts on why they are there. 😉

  4. I apologize for breaking the rules by failing to begin with something positive, but I couldn’t read this excerpt, so I can’t critique it. The odd spellings and apostrophe placements are too distracting for me to comprehend the writing. 🙁

  5. I’m very intrigued by your setting. It has a Star Wars scrapper meets Captain Marvel sort of feel, which has me wanting to know more. I also really liked the line about the locals yawned and paid their bar tab anyways. That paints a really specific picture, I love it.

    I didn’t love the ants in their space pants line. For me it felt really contrived and I felt like it pulled me out of the story, not into it.

    And I’m sorry, I realize everyone has said this, but the apostrophes. You may be trying to set something up with them, but unfortunately they’re just incredibly distracting and they make it almost impossible to read. You may want to think about incorporating it on a smaller scale (based on whatever nefarious thing it is part of) – either a specific person or people groups speech, or in written ships logs, etc. A little bit could give it a cool, disjointed, jarring feel in a way that contributes to the story, but the amount you have now, sorry to say but as much as I’m intrigued by the setting, it’s enough that I wouldn’t keep reading.

    • Thank you! I recently heard someone say, “A specific detail is better than a lot of generalities.” I’m glad this one worked.

      I like your thought about using the apostrophe thing “on a smaller scale.” I may experiment with using just the dashes (“my father-s ancient propane grill”), since that doesn’t seem as big a disturbance as the apostrophes. I may also put a lot more distance between the apostrophes, so when they show up, they make the reader curious, but not annoyed.

      However, I’m definitely hearing a strong negative reaction (from everyone) to the apostrophes–at least how they are at present. This is excellent feedback for me, and I’m grateful for your input.

  6. I do love a good space story.
    I agree about the distracting apostrophes. Maybe there’s a way to make them still be there, but only once every paragraph or so? I theorize this is some sort of story based off corrupted data, or it’s written by an alien. (I like aliens.)

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