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Futurefarm Evolicious

by firethorne 

Posted: 23 March 2011
Word Count: 500
Summary: Maggie is worried for the safety of her children when military style Animal Rights protesters break into her farm. "Don't worry security will take care of them," she says trying to reassure them. Will her security be enough to stop the protesters?


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When Maggie first heard the intruder alert she thought her toast was burning under the grill and it had set off the smoke alarm. A red warning light blinked in the panel above the kitchen door.

"Mommy what is it? Asked Becky ," looking up from her colouring book on the kitchen table.

Maggie quickly glanced through the doorway into the living room and checked on the youngest kids. Samantha and Timmy were eating bowls of breakfast cereal, watching childrens TV on the wide-screen in front of their play pen. They'd be safe in there, perhaps.

"Mommy ?" Prompted Becky .

"Itís probably those stupid Animal Rights protesters again. Donít worry sweetheart, security will take care of them. It canít be anything much ,itís not on any local news update."

"Mommy why do they protest outside our farm?"

"I donít really know Becky. If some people donít want to eat meat thatís their business, but they have no right interfering with ours. Becky, have you ever seen a vegetarian? They look so grey and unhealthy."

Becky pulled a face and nodded seriously.

"And, besides" , Maggie frowned, "the way we selectively breed here, our livestock would never survive out in the wild."

"Mommy!" Becky screamed .

A yellow-white flame appeared on the inside of their door to the backyard. Within seconds the lock clattered onto the kitchen floor and the door was kicked open. Six armed protesters wearing military grade combat gear bust in through the opening , moving so fast Maggie only saw the outline blurs of their motion. Before she could react they'd grabbed Becky, Samantha and Timmy and had dragged them out into the yard .

Maggie felt her bicep encircled in a grip of steel."Come on you , now ! Letís go !" The distorted voice yelled through a military synthesizer in the protester's breathing apparatus. The combat lenses made his eyes appear a magnified and iridescent two-tone ,like a giant cockroach's. As they peered into her a shock wave of adrenaline and fear forced Maggie's feet to move.

In the yard Maggie found herself being led and treading ankle deep across a slurry of freezing mud and offal . At the main entrance to the farm she could see the protesters with placards, and farm workers fighting it out under the floodlights. She glanced around in panic for her children.

"Go to your left, your children are over there," the voice commanded ,"the containment fieldís down." The protester gestured to the rump of dimpled fat bottoms which wobbled as the herd of hopelessly overfed, flabby ,naked humans pushed through a gap in the outer wire and tried to clamber up a route between the mountains of broken concrete and rebar . As Maggie tried to rejoin the herd, the wind howled , blasting her with ice pellets and irradiated grit.

"Come on move faster, human cow, the weatherís good, youíve got a chance, now run, alongside me," came the translated metallic voice at her side.






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Comments by other Members



AnneC at 22:01 on 31 March 2011  Report this post
Hi Andy
I am going to comment mainly on the shape and concept of this story as there really wasn't much to nit-pick about in terms of the writing. You chose a fairly snappy, plain-speaking style which is perfect for this kind of story, where it is the concept that needs to shine through.

The only comments on writing that I have are:

[quote] In the yard Maggie found herself being led and treading ankle deep across a slurry of freezing mud and offal [/unquote]

This felt a bit like two sentences smushed together. I think it would be better to separate them out and you may not even need the "being led" part.


In terms of the overall shape, I think this was well paced and plotted. The build-up is just enough to set a scene without departing into too much exposition and the "action" part of the story is pacy and punchy.

BUT

I am not 100 sure what the twist was. I know there was one, but I think you need to make it clearer what exactly was happening. I can't decide between two possibilities:

1) Maggie owns a farm that breeds humans for meet. When the farm is raided she and her children are shoved in with their stock in a tables-turned kind of way.

2) Maggie and her children are part of the stock and are being rescued by the protesters.

If it is the former then I think the passage where she is told to run needs tweaking to make it clear what is happening.

If it is the latter then I think you need to lose the bit about "the way we selectively breed here" as that is very much a farm-owner comment.


Either way, I loved the twist and I absolutely did not see it coming. It gave me one of those little "ooh!" moments when you realise you have been misdirected. One general comment I would make - the "human cow" reference is perhaps a little heavy-handed for my liking. Is there some other way of making the point without actually saying that?

Hope this makes sense.

Anne

<Added>

Breeds for MEAT, not meet obviously!

Manusha at 20:59 on 05 April 2011  Report this post
Hi Firethorne,

I agree with Anne, nice pacing and a well suited snappy style. I also agree about the twist, Iím sure itís a good one, but would be even better if it was clearer what it actually was. After some re-reading I think its Anneís second choice, but why would Maggie not want their business being interfered with? Unless itís part of their Ďspecial breedingí to be happy that they will eventually be part of a stir-fry. Also why would she (if sheís live-stock), have a warning light in her kitchen, surely only security would have that. Whatever is the truth in this post-nuclear apocalyptic world, it needs a bit of fine tuning to let the twist really shine through.

The combat lenses made his eyes appear a magnified and iridescent two-tone ,like a giant cockroach's.

I liked this line, it really pushed the image of how they appeared in their combat/ survival suits.

Just a few picks:
A yellow-white flame appeared on the inside of their door to the backyard.

I thought here that the flame was coming from the inside. It slowed the good pacing youíd set as I had to re-read it at that point. Perhaps it could be put in a way that it was clearer that the flame was coming through the door.

The protester gestured to the rump of dimpled fat bottoms which wobbled as the herd of hopelessly overfed, flabby ,naked humans

I see where the thread you posted went to now, and good final choice. I just wondered if it might work better with Ďfat bottoms wobbling as the herd, etc.í

As they peered into her a shock wave of adrenaline

I think you need a comma after Ďpeered into herí.

now run, alongside me

But donít need one here.

Speaking of commaís Ė I have to admit to being sadly conditioned by convention as my eye keeps getting tripped by the unexplained gaps (or lack of) between a word and the preceding (or following) punctuation .I hope once itís had a little polish , that youíre thinking of sending this somewhere , Andy ,but I think youíll need to sort those little gaps , mate ! ;

Regards, Andy



firethorne at 06:27 on 06 April 2011  Report this post

Hi,

Thanks Anne and Manusha.

Certainly needs polishing and the twist making clearer. I decided to write this to understand how twists can work. I sort of had the idea if it came later on then it would make more impact . I'm not sure how valid this is because studying the work of other (very skilled) flash writers they seem to be able to measure how each block of information weighs in to the whole thing , and that's got to be a very sensitive , intuitive feel, which I hope I can develop. I guess what you have to balance is how much you give away and at the same time make sure the structure doesn't go all wobbly on you.

In terms of structure I did a bit of research on poetry, in particular haiku . I always assumed like a joke the punch line would come at the end. In some haiku it doesn't. They have what they call a cutting line (Samurai were sure fun guys when it came to terminology)

It's like a rule of thirds. The cut comes in some haiku after the first line , not the second. So I'm wondering if this two thirds rule could be applied to flash.

Taking this as the third of three in the structure "And, besides" , Maggie frowned, "the way we selectively breed here, our livestock would never survive out in the wild."and changing it to "And, besides" , Maggie frowned, "the way we are selectively bred here, we would never survive out in the wild", would define the conclusion better.

Totally agree that the red light on the panel could be changed to sirens outside in the yard .

Also agree "human cow " is a bit rushed and there should be something clearer and more thoughtful here.

I will work on it. If it is polished up and all the gaps taken out , if anyone has a clue where to send it, then let me know. I might need some help on this, because I'm not going to understand how the application process works and I won't get if someone wants it or not, unless they state explicitly, and I might end up making a mess of things because I won't immediately get the underlying rules they are are working to.

Andy




<Added>


Yep , go for wobbling as well.

<Added>


Anne : Unsmushing those two sentances . Will do.

Manusha at 10:04 on 06 April 2011  Report this post
Hi Andy,

Google 'Duotrope' to find places to send work. Just put in your genre, length of piece, etc, and it will give you a whole bunch of sites. If you go on the individual sites you can then get an idea of what sort of thing they are looking for. Good luck.

Cheers, Andy

P.S. is smushed a word? I hope so - I like it!

GaiusCoffey at 22:34 on 09 April 2011  Report this post
Hi Firethorne, (too many Andy's to call you anything else! ;)
Very many apologies for taking so long to get to this - I actually read it around a day or so after you'd uploaded it but, like you, have a lot on right now...

As ever, what follows is just my opinion, hope some of it is useful. Ignore any that isn't.

First of all; this is a great concept. If you'll pardon the pun, there is plenty of food for thought. The twist was genuinely surprising and you're making me think. However, the fact that I thought the twist was something completely different to the two that Anne offered, and the nuance of same was different to what Manusha picked up on, makes me think that you could make it clearer.

Actually, clarity is really my main criticism of this piece. I can almost smell the idea in your head, and it's a good one, but because it's so strong, you are jumping ahead of yourself every now. For example;

When Maggie first heard the intruder alert she thought her toast was burning under the grill and it had set off the smoke alarm. A red warning light blinked in the panel above the kitchen door.

"Mommy what is it? Asked Becky ," looking up from her colouring book on the kitchen table.

Maggie quickly glanced through the doorway into the living room and checked on the youngest kids. Samantha and Timmy were eating bowls of breakfast cereal, watching childrens TV on the wide-screen in front of their play pen. They'd be safe in there, perhaps.

OK, so if it was just the toast burning, why is she glancing at the children wondering whether they will be safe? Why the ",perhaps." that shows they are not safe? You have rushed ahead into the panic without allowing us to stay with you and the result feels a little "tell".

By contrast, if you got more into the mother's head, you could bring us up to speed more smoothly and allow the panic to grow. For example, you could open with something like; "A faint smell of smoke made Maggie think her toast was burning. But then the red warning light of the intruder alert started blinking" I would also simply omit ", perhaps" as this is a blatant sing-post of the author's intent - you don't need it! The warning light should be sinister enough and less, with fear, is usually more. (Never so scary when you know what is happening...)

These are slight changes in wording, but I think it makes the action clearer and brings you further into Maggie's head.

"Mommy ?" Prompted Becky .

It's a small thing... Manusha mentioned spaces before commas and, yes, I concur, they irritate me too! Moreover, they are trivial to fix;
1. Ctrl+H - open find and replace
2. Enter replace " ," with ", "
3. Click "Replace all"
4. Repeat with " ?" and " ." and so on

Sorry, I know it's picky, but little things like spacing your punctuation badly will make editors the world over view you in a worse light than you deserve as they know they, or somebody, will have to fix every one of them if they take your piece. It takes about thirty seconds to fix, but is thirty seconds well spent.

"Itís probably those stupid Animal Rights protesters again. Donít worry sweetheart, security will take care of them. It canít be anything much ,itís not on any local news update."

"Mommy why do they protest outside our farm?"

"I donít really know Becky. If some people donít want to eat meat thatís their business, but they have no right interfering with ours. Becky, have you ever seen a vegetarian? They look so grey and unhealthy."

Becky pulled a face and nodded seriously.

Mixed feelings on this. Becky's serious nodding struck a chord - I can imagine the earnestness of childhood. Likewise the question she asks. But Maggie's explanation seems a little too much detail for credibility. In my opinion, you could leave some of it out - it feels a tad over-explained. For example, how does she know it's not on any local news update? That is the author telling us things. If it's essential, maybe have her check to see if there are any reports.

"And, besides" , Maggie frowned, "the way we selectively breed here, our livestock would never survive out in the wild."

Reminds me of an argument I had once with a green-anarchist-vegan with whom I used to share a house... He was of the opinion that, in the same way that people used to view slaves as sub-human, cats "were just little furry people with claws." I never pushed him on why they shouldn't be convicted of murder or cruel and unusual torture, if that were the case... ;

A yellow-white flame appeared on the inside of their door to the backyard. Within seconds the lock clattered onto the kitchen floor and the door was kicked open. Six armed protesters wearing military grade combat gear bust in through the opening , moving so fast Maggie only saw the outline blurs of their motion. Before she could react they'd grabbed Becky, Samantha and Timmy and had dragged them out into the yard .

Alright, so it's flash and you want to do it all quickly, but this is a little _too_ quick so the action is confused. I imagined all kinds of different ways for this to happen, including the flame spouting from the surface of the wood.

There is also the detail; again, get closer into Maggie's point of view. You say "six" armed protesters. Put yourself in her position. You are alone and vulnerable in your kitchen, with your small children to protect, and the door is battered down. Do you really stop to _count_ how many there are? Do you look at their combat gear and admire the quality? And how did you do that if they were moving so fast that you only see the blurs of their motion?

What does Maggie see happening? How does Maggie experience it?

In the yard Maggie found herself being led and treading ankle deep across a slurry of freezing mud and offal .

Again, this felt a little removed from Maggie and the action. I would be inclined to talk about the sickly, cool damp of sinking up to her ankles in gore rather than her finding herself being led. The scene is a scary one if you let people feel it the way she does.

At the main entrance to the farm she could see the protesters with placards, and farm workers fighting it out under the floodlights. She glanced around in panic for her children.

Is a "glance" really the correct term for something one does in panic? This might be smoother, clearer and more compelling if reordered. For example, she could see the fighting as she looks frantically around for her children. Equally, on a point of practicality, were the protesters still holding the placards as they fought? I would imagine that would be quite difficult and place them at something of a disadvantage. Although, I would also imagine they could be wielded as weaponry...

"Go to your left, your children are over there," the voice commanded ,"the containment fieldís down." The protester gestured to the rump of dimpled fat bottoms which wobbled as the herd of hopelessly overfed, flabby ,naked humans pushed through a gap in the outer wire and tried to clamber up a route between the mountains of broken concrete and rebar . As Maggie tried to rejoin the herd, the wind howled , blasting her with ice pellets and irradiated grit.

This is the bit that seems to have caused so much confusion, but also the bit that makes this story worth pursuing. What is happening? I loved "As Maggie tried to rejoin the herd" but that implies she was separated from it before. I loved the interpretation that genetically modified humans were being bred for meat, but only got that when somebody else suggested it. I was genuinely gobsmacked by the [insert collective noun other than rump, methinks] of "dimpled fat bottoms" that, together with the reference to "human" cows brought your concept alive for me. But I remain confused! Why did a protester who appears to want her dead even bother to mention her children? Has she been added to the herd of dimpled bottoms or has she had a fortuitous escape? Have (as I thought on first read) a number of farmers been rounded up and made to feel the savagery of eating meat by being treated like animals? Or was the supposition that Maggie was breeding humans for food correct?

I would be strongly tempted to rewrite this bit as several paragraphs and then pare it back until it makes sense. For what it's worth, I definitely think you have something. I just don't know what it is yet!

"Come on move faster, human cow, the weatherís good, youíve got a chance, now run, alongside me," came the translated metallic voice at her side.

But this line just confused me, sorry. Why does he want her to run alongside? Why is he giving her a chance? Why is he running rather than propelling her into the field with an electric prod? Etc.

So, to sum up, I think you have a great story concept here, but I think you need to redraft it to get it to punch with the weight it deserves. It has the potential to be truly chilling, even as is it prompted some serious thought, but it is too confusing right now.

Hope some of this is useful, thanks for the read,

G

firethorne at 07:52 on 10 April 2011  Report this post

Thanks Gaius,

Phew! That was a lot of seriously useful crit,and I'm going to take this away and work on it.

I think I've been a bit over ambitious with 500 words. I was experimenting with setting up 'the trap' to produce the twist and rather arrogantly thinking "this is not to hard". It reminds me of the time ( as a teenager) I took a Kawasaki 250 apart with the misconception it would be obvious how this sophisticated Japanese piece of engineering went back together. My basic error was not respecting the intricacy of the engine and how much thought went into its design. The bike ended up on the back of a flatbed and going to a garage.

In this story I was trying to fit in two ideas. This is (say) a million years after we've nuked ourselves.All that survived was a few 'us' in deep shelters and the cockroaches, as well as few other bits of hardy organic life. Cockroaches evolved and interacted with us.In this future they become the dominant species. They breed us for food and recreate what they think is our pre apocalypse environment on the surface- houses with TV's which are their live-stock sheds. It's all very 'humane' and they find it impossible to conceive we could be anything except their next meal.

As they go through their own cultural enlightenment some come to believe eating us is cruel and protest against it. Originally I wrote six-armed protesters, but I thought it gave the game away too early ,so I dropped the hyphen. In the this future there are surface farms the size of towns, where genetically bred humans don't mind being eaten in exchange for comfort and shelter, because like genetically refined animals today with generations of conditioned behaviour, we would never survive in the wild. The protesters ,who think it's a beautiful day outside , ie just above freezing with relatively low levels of sandblast shrieking in off deserts of black glass grit, release Maggie and her kids along with the livestock out into the wild and are trying to cajole them through the fence.

As I said,I will try and fit it all in somehow,and when it's reconfigured try to get it published . Thank you so much for the detailed crit.





<Added>

"The protesters ,who think it's a beautiful day outside , ie just above freezing with relatively low levels of sandblast shrieking in off deserts of black glass grit, release Maggie and her kids along with the livestock out into the wild and are trying to cajole them through the fence."

The idea of which seemed funny and sad , but sort of fitted the scheme of things
in this nutty universe. Well meaning but slightly self deluding, probably very middle class, activist cockroaches.



GaiusCoffey at 21:40 on 10 April 2011  Report this post
Simply saying "wow" to that would surely be inadequate! Feels a lot bigger than a flash to me.
G

firethorne at 22:00 on 10 April 2011  Report this post
No I'm sure it will all fit somehow, all I need is the right spanner and some twiddling time , honest

Now, if everything were written in haiku intensity and could be fitted together like prose...

Maybe not.






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