Tuesday, September 19, 2017

SCP-902

A kinda short post while I'm working on one of the longer articles. For those of you not in the know, SCP (Secure, Contain, and Protect) is a community wiki that was created to hold stories written in the format of research documents about objects with special powers. (Think of it like Warhouse 13 but with a horror bent) Certain conventions were also developed, like the use of censorship to remove specific details to give it the feel of a classified document and a darker view of the organization, using an army of expendables that are subjected to horrible experiences in the name of science. Since it's creation, it's grown large and even has a sort of fan fiction scene going on where people write normal fiction set in the "SCP universe."
This particular document happens to be one of the better ones around, and used to be my go-to as an example of when people do this right; at least before I got around to reading it again. Not much room for jokes this time around, so this one will mostly be substantive critiques, like I'm an actual editor for once.

Original Document Please be nice

Item #: SCP-902
Object Class: Keter
Special Containment Procedures: SCP-902 has been relegated to Arctic Base Theta-12, the only SCP to be contained at this site. 
I guess there are people who like this sort of format, but to be honest I think that most of the time it leads to clutter. So many of these details mean absolutely nothing, which is why normally SCP writers redact it, but if you can remove details from your story with it literally impacting nothing, common sense says not to even have it take up space on the page, it just wastes your reader's time and ruins the tone.
The site is to be staffed by a team of fifty security personnel. At this time, no research is to be done on SCP-902. 
I do like this segment on containment being put before the description of the item because it hooks the reader early on and sets the tone for the rest of the story.
Knowledge of SCP-902 beyond its number is to be limited to level three staff and lower. It is imperative that only a limited number of Senior Staff know of the existence of SCP-902. Only one O5 is allowed to know about SCP-902 at any time.
In this case though, knowing about what this item does, the restriction on who knows about it is slightly confusing. I'll explain more later.
In the event of a security breach from inside Arctic Base Theta-12, the onsite hydrogen bomb is to be detonated remotely.
I would hope so, do you want to be the poor guy who has to manually detonate the H-bomb?
SCP-902 must be guarded at all times against premature destruction.
Premature destruction doesn't really make much sense here either. The item destroys itself, but is also in danger of being destroyed too early which I guess is a bad thing?
Description: SCP-902 is a box roughly the size of an adult human head. It measures 30 cm x 15 cm x 19 cm. It appears to be an ammunition box of a type used roughly thirty years ago, despite this item having been in Foundation custody for roughly sixty years.
This time warp element has no bearing on the powers of this item, this detail is entirely forgettable which makes you wonder why this was included in the first place.
SCP-902 is made of lead. The composition of the item inside SCP-902 is unknown.
There is no item inside SCP-902, in universe, the person writing this part doesn't think there's an item inside the box either which ends up being important. This is just a small oversight.
SCP-902 emits what has been described as a 'ticking' sound, and anyone who hears this sound becomes convinced that the item is counting down. When opened, the box appears empty. 
Because it is empty, which is an important detail to not mess up.
However, the ticking remains, the object continues counting down. Anyone who becomes aware of SCP-902, whether through personal interaction, or by reading this report, becomes convinced that whatever is in the box is horribly dangerous,
By reading this report? That's a check literally impossible to cash. As a writer (especially a horror writer) you should avoid including the reader like this. It destroys their suspension of disbelief and proves that the danger isn't real which is the last thing you want in the reader's mind.
and needs to be destroyed as soon as it finishes counting down, and not before. 
BUT not before. Also why? If whatever is in the box is actually dangerous, wouldn't they want it destroyed as soon as possible? I mean, "It's the box's power" or whatever, but that doesn't make enough sense for the people effected and extending the power to forcing people to wait adds nothing interesting to the story.

A better idea would be to have it be unable to be destroyed just due it being invulnerable and then the added layers of security would be the logical effects of the box influencing people as opposed to just "something else it does".
Staff exposed to SCP-902 will typically continue to attempt to open and then close the box, trying to find the object inside.
Again, really making it vague about whether the writer thinks that the box has something in it.
There is no object. There is an object. That was quick It has to be destroyed, when the countdown stops. We are doing great work. That's a bit of an overstatement We have to be stopped. Could you make up your mind?

Okay so I like the concept, but clearly it needs some more work. Deleting the red herring of the time anomaly is a good place to start, as well as some consistency of whether the writer of the report believes that there is something inside of the box.
The restriction about who knows of the box doesn't really make sense since everyone who interacts with it thinks it's incredibly dangerous, so you would think that they would want as much resources on it as possible.
The core of the story is that there's this box that seems to be counting down, yet has no indication of what would happen or even if something would happen at all. This person took it in the direction of everyone being afraid of it, which I get, but the mind control aspect is what steps over the line for me. Instead, I think it would be much more interesting it was just a box that ticks. Maybe it's locked and nobody can open it, but the important thing is that it has no direct effect on the people interacting with it.
If you do this instead, then you can include how people react. Knowing that there's something already amiss means that people would probably be made slightly uneasy, which means that they would want to have people guarding the box and constantly observing it. On the other hand, a lot of higher ups would probably also want to know what it does, even if they're concerned about it being bad so nobody could just preempt the box and destroy it.
A box that ticks so people are afraid of it, yet they can't bring themselves to do anything but wait for it to finish is much more interesting than a box that mind controls people into being afraid of it, especially if you happen to go deeper into this wiki. Mind controlling objects are a dime a dozen and it's pretty rare to get any sort of human element included in these reports.

All in all, good base of an idea, but the execution takes it in a direction that makes me think they had no idea what to do with it and just filled in the blanks by copying the most common conventions.

Hope to have something more fun next time,
Cheshire

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