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Friday, 25 March 2011


Sven shuts his eyes and draws a deep breath, evidently gathering his thoughts. I remain standing, glancing about every so often. I don't like just chatting out here in the open like this.

"Let me tell you what we know about them," says Sven. "You remember how they came here, right?"

"Yeah," I say, with a hint of sarcasm. As if I could ever, ever forget. "They came inside the meteor rocks, didn't they?"

"Not quite," says Sven. "They were the meteor rocks. We figure that's how they spread from planet to planet. You've seen how they're armoured on the outside, right? Well that armour's as hard as diamond. Solid. So a group of them lump themselves together and go hurtling through space. They smash into the surface of a planet, making a huge mess of everything, then untangle themselves and start to harvest the local wildlife."

"Harvest?" I say, wrinkling my nose. Knowing what it is the Creatures are harvesting makes the word sound horrible and sticky in my head.

"There are two types," Sven continues. "We call them Hunters and Feeders. Several Hunters for each Feeder. The Hunters are the ones who make the noise. It's their job to find food and bring it to the Feeder. It's a symbiotic relationship, like ants with their queen. See, the Hunters don't eat at all. The Feeder does that for them. Don't ask me how it works, because I don't know. Think of the Feeder as the brain and the body, and the Hunters as the arms. They do all the work to keep the body alive, because without the body they're nothing."

"Okay," I say. "Makes sense, I guess. How do you know all this?"

"I'll tell you in a bit. Let's just get it all out first. Now, the other thing we found is that they have tribes. The Hunters are loyal to the Feeder they came to ground with. They compete with the other Hunters for food if food is scarce. Like different gangs all trying to carve up territory for their leaders. They don't fight though. That's something we've never seen. But sometimes it'll be the case that a Feeder doesn't get fed, and if that happens it dies. Now bear with me here, because this is where things get interesting. When a Feeder dies, all its Hunters go AWOL. They lose it, like they can't think for themselves. I've watched it happen myself. They just wander off all dazed and helpless. That is, until they find themselves another Feeder to serve."

Sven stares at me with wide eyes. He looks like he's willing me to understand what he's saying. I nod. "I've been seeing empty craters," I say. "Out in the countryside mostly. That must be where they couldn't get enough food. So the Worm died and the Creatures..." Something clicks in my head. I flash back to the image of the giant thing squatting in its crater in the middle of town. "The Creatures...the Hunters, I mean, they must have all gone to join the nearest Feeder and ended up..." I trail off. "So what happens to the ones that don't die? The Feeders I mean. What happens when they just keep getting fed?"

Sven looks me dead in the eye, and says what I was afraid he was going to say. "They grow, David. They get big, and they get strong, and they get a bloody army of Hunters. It's Darwinism, of a sort. The strongest survive, and they're only going to get stronger."


G.S. Williams said...

I love the quiet tension in this story, focused through David's perspective. The emotional content of the story is deep because you feel for him, lost in a new vision of the world, surrounded by danger he doesn't understand.

While it had to happen sooner or later, the exposition in this chapter is my least favourite part of the story so far, as Sven tells us details that David hasn't seen for himself -- and this story's greatest strength is the intimacy of his narrative.

However, I think it would be hard to show every detail necessary to the story-world just from David's perspective, so I can respect it as a choice in the writing.

I just think it lacks the same emotional punch as David discovering things for himself with the reader by his side.

Kitt Moss said...

Hi, thanks for reading and commenting. To be honest, this is something I was worried about myself, but like you say it felt necessary to move the story forward. I'll have to have a very close look at this section when I come to edit. Thanks for pointing this out. One of the advantages of serialising a story is the fantastic feedback I get from readers. Cheers, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the story.

RickR said...

You are doing a great job with this story. My only complaint is that I wish I had found this as a book on a shelf somewhere, because I want to sit down & read it start to finish.


I will learn patience, keep up the great work.

Kitt Moss said...

Hi Rick, and thanks for your comment! It's always great to know people are reading and enjoying the story :)

G.S. Williams said...

I'm certainly enjoying the story! The first person immediacy of the narration is very compelling. If the world caved in on me tomorrow I would only know about what was happening to me, the wider world would be unknowable, so it's very realistic and heartfelt.

I think it's hard to decide what suits the structure of a story, and ultimately only the writer can decide -- and being a writer means constantly trying to figure that out!

I think the exposition jarred me somewhat because it has never been part of the narrative before -- so it seems out of place even though it might be used commonly in other stories. It has the advantage of speeding up discoveries, but the disadvantage of taking that discovery out of the narrator's hands, and the narrator is the strongest factor in this story.

Ultimately, it depends on what happens from here. In a different story, for example Stephen King's apocalyptic "The Stand," the details wouldn't be as jarring because it has a broad third person omniscient view -- there isn't that clustered intimate intensity with one character, you expect the broader picture.

But if you individually narrate every detail, it can really slow things down. I'm staying tuned to see what happens next -- have no fear of that! But it's a delicate balancing act between pace and plot and narration. You're doing such a great job I had zero concerns for 49 chapters, and only raise this one as a balancing act, not a disaster.

Hope that helps.

Kitt Moss said...

No problem. And like I say I love receiving feedback. I like what you say about The Stand, and how the viewpoint affects how exposition can be handled. Definitely food for thought :)

G.S. Williams said...

Well, Marshall Mcluhan said "the medium is the message" so the form of writing determines what the audience expects from it.

So in the Stand, the omniscient third person view makes it possible to have the thoughts of multiple characters, or exposition of great details.

A first person story rightfully only shows what that person knows -- and knowledge they gain from someone else is less effective and important to the reader than details told directly through the eyes of the narrator, because that's who they're connected to by the medium of the first person voice.

It can be balanced, I'm just talking about expectations. When a first-person voice is your window on a story world, a second or third person account muddies the picture because you come to rely on that first person's voice.

Your narrative voice in this story is so well-done that suddenly having someone else's experience relayed third person kind of shook me out of the story's conventions, because we rely on David so closely.

I'm a literature nerd, forgive me. :) I struggle with the same things in my own writing, what's the best way to show something? what's the best way to pace this?

Sometimes a choice has to be made between how fast something needs to happen and the other strengths of the story -- as I read on, David needed to meet Sven to hear about Holme -- so he was necessary to the story.

It's just less emotional to hear how the aliens work from Sven, when David seeing things is the medium we experience the story through in every other chapter. Is it a big deal? probably not.