Reviews for Icon
lookingwest chapter 1 . 5/29/2016
Hello hello! I wanted to drop by and let you know that I loved this piece and all its complexities :) Voted for it this month, haha. Like Whitlock, I also loved the "Windom" name - Window flip. Unlike Whitlock, I wasn't seeing so much as Carroll as I was all my favorite cyberpunk vibes. I just finished reading Count Zero by William Gibson about the time that I read this and I feel those vibes - plus Bladerunner, even, with the opening hotel scene, it reminded me a bit of automatons made by the man who worked for the Tyrell corporation and lived in the abandoned building - his name is slipping my mind at the moment. Anyway, the futuristic-esque setting was the background to this piece, but I loved the in depth exploration into the world of art and industry. Reaaaly reminds me of Count Zero haha! Oh, and is Haraway also a Donna Haraway reference with "The Cyborg Manifesto"? I do hope so! :)

Lovely amazing piece! Thank you for producing such a wonderful read! Hope you are doing well!
m. b. whitlock chapter 1 . 5/13/2016
Your stories are always vivid, hallucinatory, prismatic sensory experiences. This piece might be the most stunning so far. Every sentence seems sculpted, each letter block printed on parchment using hand-carved type, words painted with tiny brush strokes. It’s a lush, beautifully crafted piece. I enjoyed it immensely.

There were so many wonderful artworks in this. I’ll get into that aspect of the setting more below, but I do have one question: Was your character Bruna Schulte and her clouds inspired by Berndnaut Smilde…? Regarding the literary arts, I adore the Lewis Carroll references (more on that later too).

The way you develop the characters is very original. We get a sense of who Sabine is through the glitter of “liquid black” eyes and the click of porcelain sockets. Love the name Haraway too. It has ’away’ and ‘hard’ and lots of other words/ideas/refs crunched up. Windom is a very interesting and unique narrator. By the end they remain as mysterious (if not more) than Sabine Haraway. I think that Windom *IS* a looking glass (droplets of Carrollian ink are speckled everywhere). We never learn much concrete about them, and gain our familiarity through experiencing what they see and what they dream. I think the real clue lies in the name, if you turn the ‘m’ in ‘Windom’ upside down it spells ‘Window’. A fun Carrollian trick, and this story is full of tricks. I really hope you revise and expand this clockwork-spiegeltent world because the tiny glimpse you’ve given us is enchanting. :D

I love your opening paragraph:

“I had always imagined the stereotypical gothic romance, an isolated manse on a plot of manicured land, edged with twisting forests.”

This tells us as much about your narrator, Windom, as Sabine Haraway. The fact that Windom has a romantic notion of Haraway’s misanthropic lifestyle sets up the later part of this well. It makes sense that Windom can’t resist the rabbit doll, before we learn that Sabine designed it to be the perfect lure.

The setting in general is fascinating, as are the artworks and the automatons. Your descriptions do more than tell us what these pieces look like, you give us a tactile sense of the intricate processes involved:

“It was an automaton, made to look a like a child's pet, with wide, sloping eyes like a rabbit or a Mesopotamian goddess, liquid black glittering from beneath a heavy fringe of blonde, but the soft, pleasing click of its joints as it approached revealed a material more brittle than polymers or resin.”

The delicate, antique, textured elements remind me of the early work of Czech animator Jan Švankmajer. I wonder if you’ve ever seen his short films ‘Punch and Judy’ (1966) and ‘Jabberwocky’ (1971). Jabberwocky in particular rings bells because of the Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass references/homages. Švankmajer’s aesthetic in these films, mixing/collaging 19th century toys––porcelain dolls, lead soldiers––and early 20th century newspaper clippings, school papers, animal pelts, all of them moving like dancing machines, seems to reside in a solar system near the worlds you create. :D

I also like how this introductory section sets up the thematic conflicts of the story––the inhuman, impractical beauty and extravagance of art vs. the quotidian, limited aims of corporate science/technological development. It makes me think of edition-based art. Once there is more than one, the object, the work, is no longer singular. It becomes a product, the result of replication processes. I find it compelling that Sabine’s revolutionary creations, despite their individual uniqueness, incorporate replicated human forms of the past. There is a dizzying sense of revisitation throughout this piece––faceted histories within faceted histories, a contemporary perspective on the twentieth century USA’s view of eighteenth century America’s reverence for Imperial Rome and Classical Greece for example.

The second paragraph could use some revising:

“Or so the media likes to perpetuate between acknowledging her advancement in the field of robots and bioengineering and her apprentice scandal of the last decade. Or why she no longer collaborates with other engineering projects or gives lectures on theoretical limitations of artificial intelligence.”

I found the first sentence quite confusing. I would break up those rather long sentences and let the media stories breathe, have their own space (they seem crammed together though I bet this is likely due to the constraints of the word count). The hint about the apprentice scandal is well placed, like it! I wonder if that was the only apprentice scandal… Could there be other harrowing stories about Sabine’s protégés?


“"No partners, no children. Why else would a woman spend her entire life *with* alone with machines?"

I like how Windom is guided to Haraway’s workshop and how it’s far more industrial and inconspicuous than Windom imagined:

“Shabby, dilapidated, a skip away from the worse for wear areas where young gutter ravers often disappeared at the wrong times and outmoded automaton reproductions shamble into regressed consciousness.”

Good contrast with the gothic manse in the opening. Also wonderful juxtapositions there––“gutter ravers”, “regressed consciousness”…

“But then I looked closer at the building across the street from where we stood.”

As soon as I read this, I wondered who the additional person was. I think it works because you quickly reveal it’s the rabbit girl and it also shows that Windom is building a relationship with rabbit-eyes. They are already ‘we’. Windom is imagining her pov.

Wondering if you mean ‘calves’?:

“Pointed chin, narrow chested, thick *claves*.”

This is good:

“I followed through the automatic gates and ungainly security cameras, up an old caged elevator, the kind that plunged and shuddered in your stomach as it lifted past empty cavernous floors.”

I like how it reinforces the anxiety that’s building up within Windom. It makes me sense the depth of all the work and all the dreams that may be about to bloom into magnificence, or explode into bits.

Beautiful image here:

“Her dark, red-rimmed eyes seem to sharpen at the corner, winged.”

Winged eyes!

You do a good job keeping rabbit-eyes in the story:

“The doll continues to watch from the chair.”

This is really important for the conclusion. I have to say that I feel the ending is a little abrupt and doesn’t quite have the shimmer and scope of the earlier sections. I have a feeling this is mostly due to the limited word count though.

Overall, I loved this! Wonderful work!