Paralan’s Children, by Katharina Gerlach (24:34)

IOD-ParalansChildrenToday we see that leaving story points unresolved creates confusion and frustration for readers.

What I gleaned about the story: A rookie human cop on her first assignment gets dragged into a mystery of humans and aliens on an isolated human outpost.

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WTF #1: The distant sun of this star system would rise a second time before settling for the night…

Analysis: This is a highly loaded sentence that begs for explanations. How is “night” defined on this world? Is it an arbitrary 24-hour human clock? Is there a brighter secondary star or gas giant nearby that provides the “daylight”? By default, I expect all terms to have “Earth normal” definitions, unless otherwise indicated. So the default reading seems to suggest that the planet is going to reverse its rotation briefly, before finally allowing the sun to set. Clearly, that is not what the author meant though, because the catastrophic physics involved would tear the planet apart. I ended up losing way too much time trying to figure out what this line meant.

WTF #2: Albert turned into an ever narrower tunnel. […] Due to the high costs, the corridors were deliberately kept narrow and low.

Analysis: The first sentence describes a tunnel that tapers, but apparently the author meant a tunnel that was even narrower than the one they’d been in. So “ever” must be a typo for “even.” And that’s a typo that changed the meaning of the sentence, which required a re-read. So it gets flagged. Along with a few others I noted: He paces behind the desk nervously. A quick switch to present tense? No, another typo. When that proved fruitless, her pulled out his plasma gun. Basic, garden-variety typo. But taken together, these are too simple and too frequent to let them pass.

WTF #3: What happened to the brawl in sector 17?

Analysis: The cops were on route to one disturbance when they got a call about a second one. They took ownership of both, but never handed off the first one, or commented on the fact that they’d simply chosen to ignore it. Leaving story points like this unresolved can be frustrating for readers. In my case, I spent several pages wondering when that was going to get resolved, but then the story moved on and it apparently it had just been dropped, so I went back to re-read, wondering if I’d misunderstood. Nope. So immersion definitely broke.

Note: The terminology used feels conspicuously “sci-fi” to me. The police are part of Galactipol, the lighting is from photoplasmatubes, they’re investigating trouble in  sector 17, and so on. It’s all just a little bit “gee whiz”. It’s not a show-stopper, but in my view, science fiction moved past that in the 1970s.

The Only City Left, by Andy Goldman (16:15)
A Summoner's Confession, by Khana Santamaria (10:27)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.