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Workshopping "Boundaries and Determinations" Part 1 - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Workshopping "Boundaries and Determinations" Part 1

Okay, I've had some interest in workshopping the other epic from the February 2, 2010 Poetry Fishbowl.  "Boundaries and Determinations" is huge (currently 234 lines) and I think it would benefit from revision.   I know that the tense changes partway through; that definitely needs to be fixed.  I'm less certain about length: sometimes when I look at this, I think it might be too long, but other times I wonder if I left out stuff that should've been included.  (The red numbers are line counters and not part of the poem, left in because they might be useful for navigation.)  Therefore, instead of selling it at the full price, I'm posting it here for discussion and putting out a virtual tip jar.


Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to read both parts (I'm breaking this across two posts so that it won't hangfire) and discuss what you think works or doesn't work, and why, and possible improvements if you can think of some.  I'm setting this up now to take advantage of Tuesday's relatively high traffic; I'm also going to be doing the Torn World Muse Fusion today, so if you take a while to think about this, that's okay.  Workshopping poetry, by the way, is a combination of critique and revision, in which the poet and some other folks discuss options and move stuff around to see what works best.  If you're new to the idea of workshopping poetry, consider:
"How to Workshop a Poem" (process description & tips)
"How to Critique Poetry" (tips)
"How to Critique Poetry" (a checklist)
"Checklist for Revising Poetry"

"Boundaries and Determinations" is set in my science fantasy universe.  It is a sequel to "The Transformations of Terror" and "What the Starships Do Not Know" (unpublished).  It includes elements of horror and science fiction, plus a lot of stuff that is not exactly copulation but has a very sexual flavor and sometimes high tension, with a rich mix of bitter and sweet notes. (Not recommended for underage readers; may not be suitable for survivors of sexual violence.)  In the Feb. 2 fishbowl, it was inspired by prompts from xjenavivex and janetmiles, plus some previous discussion about "The Transformations of Terror" and what might come next from siege


Boundaries and Determinations


Farheart has dreamed of space
since rolling out of the birthbay
and now here is the reality,
cold clear vacuum studded with stars.
The transformation is complete,
starship shape new
yet seeming strangely familiar.
The destination is locked in, safe
within the pilot-drive high on the dorsal side.
Hyperspace awaits.

Farheart trembles in anticipation,
expecting the experience to be terrible.
The other starships have warned of this:
how IT  lurks at the gate to hyperspace,
inescapable and awful;
how IT  traps every ship ITS  embrace
blind and deaf and helpless
how there is nothing to do but endure
to the journey's end.

The actual jump is simple,
a quick strong thrust of the stardrive
diving through into hyperspace,
and then a splash of light and radio
sizzling along the scanners

25 and there IT  is,
a clump of tentacles twined like cables
all covered with suckers as big as sockets,
skin rippling with great garish flares of color;
and here IT  comes,
so fast there is no time to think of escaping
before the tentacles slurp over every receiver
and the scanners go blank with a suddenness
that is shocking even though expected.

Silence.  Stillness.
The stardrive is still on,
but gives no sense of motion.
Encapsulation is complete, confining ...
oddly comfortable.
Farheart waits for the experience
to begin to be terrifying
and instead grows slightly bored.

Then something changes --
there, a slithy line of code
winkling ITS  way into the pilot-drive.
Farheart is watching for just such an intrusion and
is bemused when it encircles the destination
and then withdraws.

A whole lot of nothing seems to be going on
and entire seconds  pass
50 while Farheart counts the number of suckers
attached to each of the visual scanners.
Then, gradually, the boredom
gives way to relaxation.
A quiet ride.  Nothing to do.  No demands.
Held securely in ITS  grasp,
Farheart realizes that the company
is not disagreeable after all.

The first caress comes as a surprise
after long moments of stillness -- a slap of suckers
against the sensor arrays, a twist of tentacles
at the vents.  Farheart clenches
every aperture and wonders
if this is what the others were talking about.
Mucus oozes over the starship as IT  strokes
and probes and plays with every exposed part.

The sensations are ... interesting.
Maybe more than interesting.
All right, Farheart admits inwardly,
even enjoyable.
And is there, could there be,
possibly a pattern  to them?

Farheart concentrates, calculates,
but no precise or predictable pattern emerges.
The starship flicks an aileron -- an old habit --
75 and instantly ITS  grip tightens.
Farheart freezes in fear,
but IT  does not crush the starship,
merely squeezes and releases.
Farheart flicks the aileron twice more
and IT  tightens ITS  grip
once, twice.

The tentacles redouble their efforts,
writhing against every orifice
and Farheart can't help but wonder
what IT  wants.
The starship deploys a probe into the bay
of a starboard vent ... and opens the vent.
Instantly ITS  tentacle enters,
scoops out the probe,
and returns to stroke every surface
inside the small bay.

The probe chirps out a radio message:
*   **   ****
Though the band crackles with static,
Farheart can still receive the probe's signal.
Then another signal pours in,
roaring with static in sharp surges:
*   ***   *********
Farheart replies:
100 **   ***   *****   *******
and waits to see if IT   knows the next prime.  

What comes next is not a number
but an onslaught of code
filling the probe's bandwidth and drilling in
straight towards the central braindrive
as IT  searches for something.
Farheart tries to cut off the contact,
but too late -- IT  is already inside.
For long moments the disruption floods the system,
leaving Farheart too scattered to think,
only fear.

Read Part 2.

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