Review - The Annotated AvP: The Story, part 1

As some of you might know, in November of last year I started work on a novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal was to write 50,000 words over the course of 30 days, a feat I was able to accomplish. However, the resulting digital tome—equivalent to half of a first draft—has sat untouched in its folder ever since, partly because I wasn’t satisfied with how it was turning out, but mostly because a story dealing with homicide investigations and acoustical science requires a lot more research than you might think. While this draft has been sitting in solitude I’ve been working on smaller pieces, as evidenced by this site.

But here’s something only a handful of you might be aware of: Threnody—as the work was tentatively titled—was not my first attempt at long-form fiction. In fact, I wrote and completed a novel nearly a decade ago during my time as a grade 7 and 8 student. However it is, I am quite loathe to say, a lengthy piece of fan fiction—specifically an adaptation of Monolith’s 2001 computer game Aliens versus Predator 2, itself based off the two respective film franchises—and a terrible one at that. Sure, it’s a Hell of a lot more legible than a lot of similar derivative works you’ll find on the Internet, but nearly every sentence exudes all the faults of a 12-to-13-year-old writer with few ideas and a lot of ego.

So, in the vein of Rob Bricken’s Fan Fiction Friday (a link you should avoid clicking on at all costs unless you want your computer to show up on watch lists for the RCMP/FBI/KGB/whatever), I’m going to select a few choice cuts from various chapters and provide my own running critique/commentary. Many apologies in advance.

(from AvP: The Story, Chapter III—Surprise, Surprise)
Professor Mary Sheilington of the Weyland-Yutani Science Committee walked down the hallway towards the man standing at the end. Looking at him, the professor’s eyes narrowed. None of them in the WY Science Committee really liked this person, only regarded him as an ambitious scientist, hoping to finally fit in. Still, Sheilington was the only member of the committee who liked traveling, and at certain times dealing with the most unwanted.
The man she was looking at was Dr. Allan Eisenberg, Ph. D. in Xenobiology and a Bachelor Degree in Basic Synthetics. As said earlier, Eisenberg was ambitious, though not in a cruel kind of way. He simply just wanted to go as far as possible to study the deadly Aliens and the elusive Predators. Though, many of his colleagues had heard much, much more than what this doctor said.
Eisenberg wore almost nothing but black. His sweater was black, his pants were black, his shoes were black, his hair, that reached down to the bottom of his neck was black; the only thing that wasn’t black was his pale face and left hand. He was known to always wear a black glove on his right hand, for reasons unknown. This apparel made almost everyone timid and frightened when they spoke to him.
He stood there, fondling a black pen, until he noticed Sheilington standing at the hallway entrance. He perked up and turned toward her.
“Dr. Eisenberg, I presume?” Sheilington asked.
“Yes,” he said in a Semi-English accent. “And you are. . . “

Man o manatee, I wasn’t wasting any time. From the professor’s awkward-sounding (but surprisingly existent) name to telling the reader everything they ever needed to know about a character right off the bat, this has all the hallmarks of preteen literary hubris. The bachelor’s in Basic Synthetics garnering such esteem shows how much I knew about university degrees at the age of 12. Also: black hair? black pants? black sweater? semi-English accent? Guys, I think this Eisenberg fellow might be evil. Though, granted, that’s how he actually looked and sounded in the game.

Moving on:

“Have you done any successful experiments?” Sheilington asked, half-sneering.
“In fact, yes,” Eisenberg said. “We’ve finally proved the Sub-Species theory. Basically we see some Aliens with smooth craniums and some with ribbed craniums. We originally thought the Aliens acquired the ribbed heads via age. We were proved wrong.”
“We found a smooth-headed Alien that was older than a ribbed-headed Alien. We figured out that the smooth-heads were Workers, who build and maintain the hive. The ribbed-heads are Warriors, who protect the hive and the entire species.”
“How is that useful information?”
“We now know who to especially stay away from. Warriors have been found to be much more intelligent and volatile than the Workers.”

Okay, so, some necessary exposition: at the time I was a member of an AvP-centric message board, and one of the hottest topics was a debate over whether the ridge-headed creatures in Aliens were a distinct caste from the smooth-headed creature that appeared in the original Alien, or if the ridged heads simply denoted age. Believe it or not, I poured paragraphs into that debate and this was my fuck you treatise on the subject.

Sivart and Evets walked across the work-yard. They were technicians in the colony, and had just gotten back from a long day’s work.

Funny names, aren’t they? Vaguely European, though you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone with one of those as their family moniker. That’s because they originated from me taking names of two of my grade school classmates, Travis and Steve, and writing them backwards. You’d think I’d had an allergic reaction to generic names—a fact which becomes increasingly apparent as the novel progresses.

A handy guide: any regular sounding name—Harrison, Tomiko, Eisenberg, etc.—came courtesy of the developer; anything sounding like two or more random syllables crushed together like the contents of a car compacter, well, that was me. Feel free to develop a drinking game based on this fun fact! After all, unless you're completely smashed while reading this you'll be clawing out your eyes in short time.

Sivart stopped short as he stared into the animal warehouse. Crouching inside was the most terrifying creature ever.
The creature inside was eight feet tall, and was covered in lizard scales from head to toe. Its torso was like a human skeleton’s and its hands and feet were clawed. The creature’s skin was of a brown tint; it had a barbed tail, plus five dorsal spines. Its head was elongated, like an upside-down canoe, and without eyes and a nose. The creature’s cranium was ribbed from front to back, and it had a tooth-filled mouth.
The thing opened its mouth, and extended a tongue with another mouth at the end. As they looked at the creature, they realized what it was: an Alien, the most deadly species on Lv-1201. It stared at the two humans and growled.
Sivart whimpered. “Run. . . like. . . Hell.” BOOM. The Alien launched himself at Sivart, and the man was ripped to shreds. Blood was sprayed all over Evets, who stood there, dumbfounded. Unknown to any human there, this Alien was Jimrakh, and things were about to go to Hell.

If you’ve ever seen one of the xenomorphs from the Alien franchise you’d find that to be a surprisingly accurate description. So way to go, preteen me. In hindsight, though, BOOM probably isn’t the sound a human body makes when it’s torn apart at a hundred miles an hour. More like SPRATCHTH!

As well, Jimrakh’s (take a shot) introductory sentence in the last paragraph reminds me too, too much of this (intentionally terrible) Song of the Sorcelator panel from Penny Arcade.

After disposing of the threat, Jimrakh continued looking at the door labels. Lab 5, Medical. . . where the Hell are the humans keeping my captured brothers? He wondered. Finally, he saw what he was looking for: Specimen Observation. He tore open the door and killed two more technicians. The room had to sections: the part he was in, which had the specimen and security controls, and the part he could see through the window, which had fifteen of his captured brethren contained in glass tubes.
Jimrakh poured over the controls, trying to find out which buttons turned off the security systems and opened the tubes. Any other one of his species would have been amazed at what he was doing; none of them had ever had the intelligence to operate machinery.
Finally, Jimrakh found two buttons beside each other. He pressed one, and the containment doors opened, shutting off the security. He pressed the other, and the fifteen captive Aliens burst free of the tubes. They immediately ran out of the containment room, reeking havoc as they went.
“Meh tsa kan,” Jimrakh said in his language. “Translation: Let’s rock.

Oh yeah, I totally forgot that I developed a (rudimentary) language for the Aliens… which they then used to spew action movie catchphrases. On a somewhat related note, I’ll understand if no one wants to be my friend anymore.

Just then, Dr. Eisenberg walked into the room. It was barely mentioned, but whenever Eisenberg entered a room, the temperature seemed to drop ten degrees Celsius.
“What’s going on here?” he asked.
“Sixteen Aliens might have broke loose in the Lab Complex,” Andrews replied.
“Sixteen?” Eisenberg puzzled. “We don’t have sixteen.”
“Exactly,” Cole said.
“Do you think we should deal with this?” Andrews asked.
“Of course,” Eisenberg said, nervously gripping his right hand. “Lock off the Lab Complex. Every single door. We can at least stall them before they get out. Also, get a security team ready.”

Remember, kids: evil scientists violate the laws of thermodynamics. Additionally, I’ll draw your attention to Eisenberg’s particular little tic, namely gripping his right hand in times of stress. I actually kind of like this bit for containing elements of both characterization and foreshadowing—pretty neat for a grade 7 student, if I may be so bold.

That’s it for this week. I have a funny (read: disquieting) feeling I’ll be returning to this long-forgotten text on occasion, with hopefully a larger set of drinking game rules. Until then, I’m so sorry.

(The original chapter may be found here, at PlanetAvP.)

No comments: