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8 thoughts on “Contact Me

  1. This is possibly one of the most interesting stories I’ve read in a while. I especially love the use of 2nd person, which is not easy to do. The research and notes are nicely detailed and extremely believable. A few concerns I have for the future are, one – the use of 2nd person. You’ve done this very well so far, but a problem with second person is that while it conveys emotional and visceral scenes well, it sounds awkward when taking about more general information or when the scenes become particularly complex. The research and notes are a good balance right now, and I hope they stay that way in the future, because they really provide that background knowledge that doesn’t come across in second person. Another issue is that I’m worried that the story will become confined by the original premise. While the treatment of cetaceans at these facilities can certainly be called inhumane, there are differences in the ability of humans and whales to respond and adapt to different situations. Ultimately I think this story will succeed if it’s a story about human captivity inspired by one of whale captivity, instead of just an allegorical story where humans are substituted for whales.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I really appreciate your thoughtful commentary and critiques.

      I’m glad that you like the second person. I’ve been worried about using it since it’s not something I’ve done before, at least not with any success. I wanted the story to be really visceral for the reader which was why I went with 2nd person. I’m also doing my best not to be limited by the premise of the story, but I do already feel like I’m stretching outside the boundaries of what I had originally imagined writing – which is probably a good thing. 🙂

      Thanks again for your comment!

  2. Hi Foster! I left you a review on Web Fiction Guide. Overall this is a pretty neato site you got.

    If I might make a suggestion — something that I feel could help the story is the introduction of a more radical point of view alongside the neutral researchers and the stark victimization of the reader-as-subgroup-B-child. Perhaps if the researchers started talking to some hardcore left-greens or studying eco-terrorism against WE or something like that, it’d let you talk about (if you want to, by no means would I want you to force this upon yourself) some of the heavier factors at play specifically in human trafficking in more detail and the story would feel a bit more rounded. In my opinion it’d be good if someone was promoting some wilder ideas that really immediately threaten WE and more starkly contrast the detached way that the A public (and in turn the researcher) interacts with these events.

    I feel like it’d be interesting to see a group like the Sea Shepherds but fighting slavery and imperialism instead of whaling boats, forex.

    Another thing I’d find interesting is how the researchers might change their opinions more strongly as they dig deeper, characterizing them a bit more strongly. I know in college, when I did a paper once on water bottling, I really came to hate what Nestle is doing in California, for example. I still have a great aversion to the idea of selling bottled water in areas rich in water while California suffers horrible droughts. I didn’t know about the issue before jumping in, and I came out quite, erm, “biased” when I left it.

    However, you don’t *have* to do this, and like I said I didn’t read all of it, so you might even be moving in that direction already. Whenever I read a story I think “how would I do this?” and I don’t often share those thoughts because they feel arrogant or unhelpful. So if that is the case, I am quite sorry! And I hope you continue to follow your passions on this. Environmentalist fiction of this kind is something I don’t really see every day and especially not on Web Fiction! Keep on hitting that niche, we need more than superheroes out here :).

    • Super, super helpful comments! Thank you! And that’s actually the direction I was leaning in. The researcher actually goes to WE at the end of the second section and encounters some protesters. She also watches a show and is physically sickened by it. So, her research, starting in this new section is going to be leaning in the more radical direction (which, of course, leads to her own radicalization and some questionable actions of her own toward the end of the story). We’ll see how well this turns out.

      Thank you again for taking the time to read and review! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. 🙂

  3. I want to applaud you for your efforts in utilizing different formats to create one story. The mix of memo, letter, post-it, report, and narrative is ambitious. As a reader, I get the sense that you were trying to envision a society and how it would function to create the conditions of the story, so there is significant world-building going on. This is a valuable contribution to the possibilities of the webfiction medium, and a worthy intellectual exercise. I also admire your desire to address animal rights through the allegorical use of humanity.

    Shakespeare challenged his society’s view of women in a similar way — by having male characters harm female characters he showed the status-quo — but because male actors played those characters, audiences would subconsciously question if the status-quo was acceptable, because such abuses directed at men were unacceptable. He was an undercover feminist in an era where being openly critical of society had consequences.

    It is an interesting ethical dilemma — if we wouldn’t find it acceptable for something to happen to a human, why do we accept it for animals? By putting the reader in the victim’s shoes you offer them an opportunity to engage with the ideas in a more visceral way.

    However, despite admiring the care, the ambition and the intellect of the story, I have criticisms regarding its effectiveness as literature. Some seem to enjoy the second person viewpoint — I find it extremely limiting and distancing. Oddly, I can never sympathize with the emotions in that point of view because they are being told to me as mine — and I know they’re not. Third person perspective can show events effectively, and then the emotional response is up to me as a viewer. First person perspective seems to me to be the most effective for visceral and emotional responses, because the reliance on the protagonist’s perspective creates sympathy and empathy because of its closeness.

    Secondly, part of the potential for the story rests in humanity’s ability to dehumanize other humans. Our history is rife with examples — current human trafficking, slavery in the United States until 1865, Nazi Germany, and apartheid in South Africa, just to name a few. In these cases, the difference between groups was emphasized over similarity, and part of that was in naming different groups. Subgroup A and B might be of use to scientific papers early on in a project, but over time society would have names of their own. African-Americans have a somewhat descriptive name based on geographical origins and current habitation — but when they were largely oppressed, they were known prevalently by much worse nomenclature. In particular, the narrative sections wouldn’t call the two societies Subgroup A and B, because they don’t even speak the same language. They would have their own names for the outsiders.

    The realism of the story rests in the ability to believe that society could oppress the less-enhanced humans and see them as inhuman. That would require emphasis on the differences, much like between the Eloi and Morlocks of Wells’ Time Machine, or Brave New World’s savages and civilization.

    Your researcher, ostensibly a Subgroup A human female, would naturally be on the side of her own people — and her papers should skew that way in the beginning. Becoming open to the humanity of Subgroup B would then become part of her narrative journey and character development through her experiences — but right from the beginning there’s no sense of the divide, the chasm that separates them societally. As a reader, then, this story shows intellectual promise but is emotionally not fulfilling or cathartic. I believe this could be solved with first-person narrative for the B group male, and a clearer sense that the A group society has accepted their superiority over the B group as a matter of history, much like humans currently don’t see gorillas or chimpanzees as citizens who can vote. And part of that would be creating actual names for the two cultures, including derogatory cultural slang. Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn might be a useful reference for this — in that an author ably shows an oppressed minority character in a positive light, yet stylistically it is clear that his perspective is soaked with his society’s oppressive tendencies, through no fault of the author.

    Again, thank you for contributing something so intriguing to the webfiction community — and I hope my comments will be seen as encouragement to take it further as a narrative instead of as frustrating criticism. I think if you go further with the idea, rather than backing off it, it will provide more emotional pay-off and accomplish what you want it to accomplish. Right now the narrative is playing it safe, and while it would be a delicate feat to ably demonstrate a culture’s oppression as a norm, without inherent judgement until experience changes characters’ perspectives, it is a goal worth pursuing.

    • Thank you so much for your (very detailed!) comment. I really appreciate the time you took to engage with the work. For now, I think I’m going to continue on the path I’m on – especially since I’m already halfway through and have the next two sections mostly planned – but if I decide to go back and significantly retool this work, your comments will be extremely helpful as a guide for where I need to push further and what I need to fix.

      Thank you again for the attention you gave my work. I sincerely appreciate it.

  4. Dennis’ review made it clear that your work was thought-provoking, and I felt that deserved examining. You have put a tremendous amount of thought into something that is necessary and good — it feels like a very promising first or second draft, perhaps partly because your “about” page indicates that for you it is a thought experiment. I agree that you should see it through to its conclusion, and then you can decide for yourself what lessons you’ve learned to take to the next work, or if it is worth a deep edit to refine into something for self or traditional publishing. Either way, it is impressive and I wish you luck.

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