Sci-Fi Teaser

Alex posted a science fiction teaser in what looks like it could be one of those Internet memes, except this one is of course for writers and would-be writers.

Since I am not a writer, not really anyway, and I don’t have any completed works to tease from, I decided to create a teaser from scratch. It is about a new setting I am working on and that I may explore in my NaNoWriMo novel instead of what I had originally intended. (It is really an extension of the same theme rather than something completely new, sometimes those ideas that pop up in my mind happen to complement each other rather than compete for attention.)

The atmosphere in the shelter was a mix of tense anticipation and quiet resignation. Some occupants stoically awaited their fate, others whimpered or cried. Luckily nobody had panicked – yet. I kept to myself, sitting on a chair staring at the heavy blast door, wondering what I would experience had I been on the other side.

The radio played music that was decades out of date. It sounded like an automatic transmission that had been designed decades ago during the height of the cold war. There had been no messages after the initial emergency broadcast. Somehow the absence of any human announcer was much spookier than news of the world’s destruction could possibly have been. At least it meant that there was still a radio station, somewhere out there, that had not yet been hit.

Max, the shelter’s owner, kept things organized. He talked to people, introduced himself to those he didn’t know – most of those in the shelter, including me. Max was an older man, at least fifty, and his graying hair and beard gave him a bit of a grandfatherly appearance. He smiled and talked in a calm voice. I don’t know how he managed to be so serene, but then again he was the one who had had the foresight to build a bomb shelter. Even a few hours ago people probably thought of him as “one of those survivalist nuts” and while I am sure he was as devastated as everybody else, a small part of him may have been gleeful that he had been right after all. A kind of Noah, except Max had not hesitated to rescue strangers.

“You doing alright,” a woman to my left asked. I turned around startled. I had been so lost in my thoughts that I had not even noticed that she had pulled up a chair and sat down. She, too, looked straight at the blast door as I had done, imitating me. I studied her for a moment. Dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin. Pretty.

I looked back at the door.

“All things considered.” It sounded not quite as positive as I had hoped.

For a moment neither of us spoke.

“Listen,” she broke the silence. “I am helping Max by making a list of everybody here, so we know who’s who, what jobs they have, and any medical conditions we should know about. Would you please tell me about yourself?”

I couldn’t help but smile because of the unexpected attention. Under other circumstances…

“Sure. Name’s John Sanders. I… don’t have a job right now.” There seemed to be no reason to tell her about my recent legal troubles. It didn’t concern anybody in the shelter, and quite honestly, how could a little theft matter now?

“But what is your training? Maybe we must rely on your skills at some point.”

“I see.” I hadn’t thought her question through. There was too much on my mind. “I am a programmer. Not much help after the EMP fries every bit of electronics out there, I am afraid. Had first aid training, but that was a long, long time ago.”

I turned again, this time to find her looking at me. Yes, she was beautiful.

“I have two hands,” I shrugged. “Tell me how I can help, and I will. I can carry things, cook without poisoning us, and clean the bathroom. Whatever.”

She made some notes on her clipboard while I spoke.

“Thanks,” she said and stood up.

“Could I ask you something?”

“Yes?”

“What is your name?”

“Artemis.”

I didn’t have a chance to follow up on that. The radio stopped playing that very moment. Then the lights went out, except for the reddish emergency lighting.

Two minutes later a pattern of tiny cracks in the walls began to glow a brilliant blue.

I am not sure I am eligible to join the evil writers’ club just yet but were I a writer, that is something I’d strive for.

We get better at what we do with lots of practice so feedback is, as always, appreciated – this explicitly includes corrections on spelling and grammar, as I am not a native English speaker.

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7 thoughts on “Sci-Fi Teaser


  1. Nicely written, you have a nice balance there between "action" and "description". Almost seems to have been scrutinized by a professional Editor! 😉

    As for the story itself, I do like the setting and makes me wonder what will come next.

    I'm not a native English speaker myself but for what it's worth, I think you put my writing to shame. Well done sir!


  2. Hi Nils, thanks for stopping by my blog!

    You have a distinctive voice in your writing and that is critically important. Your grammar is more than fine for a first person point of view. You had some passive voice sentences, but rather than revise them, I suggest deleting them entirely. Looking at your intro, you can pull the reader into the story immediately, rather than later (suggested revision below).

    I have a research suggestion. EMP burst/fried electronics received recent study, and many knowledgeable people are coming to the conclusion the effects of an EMP burst is vastly overstated. Something to look into.

    Anyway, what you have is somewhat creepy. The radio turns off, the lights go out and creepy stuff starts happening. Good job! I would keep reading.

    Here is my "less is more suggestion."

    The radio played music that was decades out of date. There had been no messages after the initial emergency broadcast, and to me, the absence of any human announcer was much spookier than news of the world’s destruction.

    “You doing alright?” a woman to my left asked.

    I turned around startled. I had been so lost in my thoughts that I had not even noticed that she had pulled up a chair and sat down. She, too, looked straight at the blast door as I had done, imitating me. I studied her for a moment. Dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin. Pretty.

    I looked back at the door.

    “All things considered.” It sounded not quite as positive as I had hoped.

    For a moment neither of us spoke.

    “Listen,” she broke the silence. “I am helping Max by making a list of everybody here, so we know who’s who, what jobs they have, and any medical conditions we should know about. Would you please tell me about yourself?”

    I couldn’t help but smile because of the unexpected attention. Under other circumstances…

    “Sure. Name’s John Sanders. I… don’t have a job right now.” There seemed to be no reason to tell her about my recent legal troubles. It didn’t concern anybody in the shelter, and quite honestly, how could a little theft matter now?

    “But what is your training? We might need to rely on your skills at some point.”

    “I see.” I hadn’t thought her question through. There was too much on my mind. “I am a programmer. Not much help after the EMP fries every bit of electronics out there, I am afraid. Had first aid training, but that was a long, long time ago.”

    I turned again, this time to find her looking at me. Yes, she was beautiful.

    “I have two hands,” I shrugged. “Tell me how I can help, and I will. I can carry things, cook without poisoning us, and clean the bathroom. Whatever.”

    She made some notes on her clipboard while I spoke.

    “Thanks,” she said and stood up.

    “Could I ask you something?”

    “Yes?”

    “What is your name?”

    “Artemis.”

    I didn’t have a chance to follow up on that. The radio stopped playing that very moment. Then the lights went out, except for the reddish emergency lighting.

    Two minutes later a pattern of tiny cracks in the walls began to glow a brilliant blue.


  3. I do know you can shield electronics from an EMP, but I wouldn’t know how much protection a car body or an underground bunker provides. I guess that is a simple research task that has to be done if it ever becomes relevant. 😉

    I’ll see if I can “expand” the Max part somehow, I do want to set down some setting/scenery before the weirdness begins. Thanks.


  4. Thanks, Anthony, for the kind words and the great length to which you went with your suggestions.

    I am not sure this would be the actual beginning of the story. At first, I had wanted to start with the protagonist on the street, but there were some problems with it. Thus the teaser is in medias res, but that may not be a bad thing.

    The EMP is a staple of nuclear holocaust type fiction. Whether or not it would actually have a big impact doesn't really matter for this teaser, popular belief is definitely on the "it will destroy all electronics" side, and our protagonist may not have specialized know-how. Even with surviving computers, such skills seem a little useless directly after a nuclear attack.

    My personal understanding is that the simpler a piece of electronics, the more likely it is to survive – the IC's in computers seem to be very vulnerable.

    As for your suggested revision: I wouldn't want to cut out Max, nor the other occupants. In the teaser, it doesn't matter much, but if this ever turns into a larger story it does matter that there are several persons. It also establishes the setting, that is, this is a private shelter, and thus probably very crowded unless Max also happens to be a very rich person. This is also mentioned in the woman's statement, but I feel that a little more introduction / setting is warranted. It may become important later. 🙂


  5. Oh no no, Max is good. Just introduce him in the context of momentum. That is, he comes out as part of what is going on, rather than a description.

    Indeed, I want more of Max. I want to see and experience him, not be told about him. 🙂

    The gist of the new EMP experiments has to do with grounded metal. For example, cars with computers seem to survive when many people thought they would not. Many nuclear war movies have cars go out after the first atmosphere burst, and this turns that probably will not happen.

    You should expect to see more EMP research that is easier to find, as EMP weapons are developed.

    Can you tell I have studied EMP lately? 🙂

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