Robert M. West

Los Angeles

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Too Hip for the Room

When your standup material is perfect for a smoky little comedy club in the Village — a great joint filled with people who get you — but the closest gig you can get is at the Airport Ramada lounge … well, sometimes the venue just isn't a perfect fit for the act. On, the Village clubs, the Ramada lounge, and T.G.I. Fridays all share the same front door.

So, when you're writing (prolifically, I might add) comedic science fiction in the time-honored tradition of Adams, Harrison, and maybe even Vonnegut, but the patrons are used to something, shall we say, less than scientific … the patrons are bound to get a little unruly. Through no fault of their own, or of yours. You just aren't their cup of Romulan Ale.

I, on the other hand, tend to frequent those Village night spots and even hit open mic night myself once in a while. In other words, I'm your audience, Alex. I get you.

I dig the voice you've developed here — and which shows up in "The Waters Above," as well. The "adorable little shits" thing is hilarious, and really encapsulates this recurring character/benevolent trickster spirit.

I also think "talking at" is exactly what this character should do. I mean, this is the supreme being, after all, and ey is used to a certain level of attention being paid when ey holds forth.

I really wanted to hear more about the stellar nodes and how the whole universe-as-mind-as-emulator thing works, but you probably left it where you should have — with the reader wanting more.

All in all, the work is literate, but entirely approachable at the same time — and that's not always easy to achieve. You're clearly versed on the latest cosmological theories, including the whole holographic Carnival Cruise thing, and that makes the piece timely.

Some items you might look at:

+ I think you lost that charming ring-a-ding voice in the bit from "An interesting corollary" to "… perfect justice awaits all of you after death." That felt to me a little like a cue: "And now, a word from our sponsor, the moral of the story." I think it might have been more effective with just a touch more of that Jove Jovial feel … or maybe using that more serious voice once or twice above might make the last instance feel less out of place. On the other hand, transitioning out of all that sobriety (with only a shot or two of wry) before hitting the Adolf punchline is a great setup. Surprise: one of comedy's most reliable fundamentals.

+ The Adolf line is a great punch … although I feel like the story might have benefited from some sort of plot-like twist just before we get to the Paper Hanger. I love the message in the last few graphs, but I crave a little more trickster in there. Or maybe just a little more mind-bending, by flipping the scale or topology of your cosmic shell game on its head — like turning the onion inside-out. I guess it could be said that this piece doesn't have a traditional plot, but those light bulb moments almost serve as plot points. Maybe a really whacked-out neon moment could be the delivery vector for the message. Or maybe I'm over-thinking again.

In any event, you've integrated so many great concepts here, in a really coherent way.

This is only the second of your stories I've read, and I'm looking forward to getting to the rest!

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