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Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Critiques for Week XLV: In Which Too Many of You Make Me Envy Oscar That Whole Being Beyond Pain Thing


Not one of Thunderdome's better weeks, though there were a couple of gems amidst the dross. Oscar Wilde's ghost would be disappointed if it could tear itself away from ghostly absinthe long enough to care. sebmojo and I agreed altogether about who rose to the occasion; alas, we agreed on the loser too.

Also: thank you for the nautilus, mysterious benefactor!


Mercedes, "Anger Management"
Quote: "True friends stab you in the front."

I will try to be a true friend to you, Mercedes!

You can't make up your mind whether you're in third-person present tense or second-person present. That's a level of error that makes submitting five days before deadline seem rather unwise. Seriously, what the hell: Zoraida is the protagonist, but lines like 'Yet somehow the two of you bonded immensely and you now consider her your best friend; your only friend really, besides your boyfriend' float around like a half-decayed fish corpse in an aquarium, trailing slime everywhere. The not-word 'alright' is a fragment of intestine that has broken loose to hover before my disgusted eyes. I don't know what using 'your' in place of 'you're' would be in this metaphor--a string of fishy fecal matter tangled around the body? Sure, why not.

Strained comparisons aside, you don't keep the verb tenses straight even within one perspective. 'Zoraida explodes, holding her beer bottle like a club and swinging it at Rucks. He was not expecting such a sudden attack. His arms didn't come up quick enough to protect his temple from the vicious strike.' Present, past, past. Pick one.

The characterization, pacing, and structure are varying degrees of bad. Zoraida has a single personality trait, her anger. Rucks has two if you count 'being kinda racist' alongside his cheating ways. Elise is cardboard, so switching to her perspective in the second section serves no purpose but to dump exposition on the reader's head. None of the deaths in the story move me at all. I don't care about these people. Maybe if you'd stuck to Zoraida--shown her reaction to hearing about Elise's death, given her more than one emotion--then I would give a drat whether she hangs herself. Maybe. At least she'd be more than an Angry Black Stereotype. Speaking of which, making Zoraida a stereotype is the only thing your profanity achieves: I give you a D- in Effective Cursing. There's no point to a tragedy in which you feel nothing for the main character because she's a one-dimensional caricature, race-based or otherwise.

You hit your flash rule. The Wilde quote applies only if I squint. I could read it as 'Elise went around behind Zoraida's back and thus wasn't a true friend,' and that's fair enough but irrelevant to the plot. Zoraida attacks Rucks head-on, but since she kills him, I'm not sold on the truth of that friendship.

To sum up: You gave everyone else reason to think they didn't need to write brilliantly to avoid losing this week. Thanks for that. Next round, bring characters with some depth to the table.

**********

PotatoManJack, "Starting Over at the End"
Quote: "Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future."

What you've got here is a chain of exposition. You tell everything and show nothing, and your telling is passive, unengaging, and padded with details that don't matter. The result is dull. Barely anything happens.

You could cut your first five paragraphs. We don't need to know Michael's past for the sake of the plot or your quote, and they don't do much to develop Michael's character. The detail that he didn't want to physically hurt anyone, while nice, isn't worth starting us off with such an infodump. It's like the opposite of a hook. If you badly want the flashback, it could be slimmed quite a bit. It doesn't matter that Michael and Nathan staked out the shop, that it was a chain store, that the cop was off-duty or even that he had a gun, that Nathan could have been busted but wasn't, that Nathan wouldn't be picking Michael up; this is all just bloat.

Unnecessary details plague the story, and what makes it worse is how repetitive and/or redundant some of them are. You tell us four times that Michael expects Billy to be waiting for him. 'Three years had ingrained this reaction in him'--you've already told us how long Michael has been in prison, and the adverb 'automatically' in the previous sentence implies the ingrained reaction part. 'A fanfare of hoots and hollers that accompanied any prisoner being released'--I'd cut everything after 'hollers'; we don't need to know the prison's rituals, and we already know Michael's being let go. Etc.

Once Michael's out of the prison, the infodumps improve. The one about David establishes character and pertains to your quote. David shouldn't have to tell Michael their mother is an only child, but otherwise I believe their conversation, given their circumstances. You still have too much exposition and too little else. I'd sort of like to see David drive Michael to the home where their parents are so Michael has to face what's become of them first hand.

The 'I have six months to live' thing is cliche. Again, I'd prefer something different. Michael's future could have involved helping David rather than supplanting him. That said, I like where you went with 'every sinner has a future,' and I like sainted David's 'past' being nothing more sinister than not making enough time for his brother. It still had consequences for the family.

Your grammar's pretty rough. Lots of missing commas, especially in and around dialogue. Missing or extraneous words mar certain phrases: 'a few minutes silence,' 'because of a bad luck.' If you don't see the problems yourself when you have time to edit, take this to the Fiction Farm and ask for help.

To sum up: Dull. Not terrible, mind you. I hope you have more time to revise next round.

**********

Schneider Heim, "All That They Could Do"
Quote: "Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes."

Bugs? Troopers? Is this fanfic? It seems strangely familiar....

I haven't read that much SF of this type, but I still recognize the cliches of alien 'bugs,' a barking sergeant, young troops getting a glimpse of reality in the scars on an older soldier, and a series of horrible deaths on the way to the final confrontation. You haven't done much new with any of it. On the other hand, until the end you handled the ideas competently, and the story was mildly engaging. Most of your cast was cardboard, but Abnett and Bowens had potential.

Then bugs gassed them and everyone died. Bowens didn't survive, neither did Abnett, and I can't see the point of any of it. The troopers didn't make particular mistakes that caused their deaths. They died because of a lack of information, as best I can tell. They had no agency. So where's the story worth telling?

You address the quote, and your grammar is pretty sound aside from 'alright' (ugh), 'when I had been a lowly trooper like you' (this should be in past tense, not the past perfect: 'when I was'), and 'as a biter slayed him' (should be 'slew'). You should be safe this week, but don't make a habit of non-endings.

To sum up: It would be a decent pulp-style read if it had a meaningful conclusion and either contained more original ideas or used familiar concepts in a more original way. sebmojo agrees, however, that you've written fanfic, and you are therefore disqualified.

**********

PoshAlligator, "The Importance of Being Greg"
Quote: "Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not."

'“How did you know I said it without an 'e'?”' Groan.

'Sheep of a cloth.' What?

'Quesadilla, quesadilla.' I cannot put myself in the narrator's place if 'I' don't call Greg out on the difference between 'que sera, sera' and food. :colbert: Maybe the idea is that Greg mixes up sayings left and right, but 'I' could stand to reflect on the fact for the reader's benefit.

So you landed the cruelest of flash rules--for us, if not for you. Probably for you too. You didn't do so badly; this isn't a story that benefits from being in second person at all, and that's a missed opportunity, but at least you stayed in the perspective throughout, and the plot was easy to follow. Up to a point. I wonder whether I'm missing a reference to a play or a work of Wilde's that would make the body-swap at the end make some sort of sense. 'Word vomit' might be going too far, but there's an incoherence here for which the second-person perspective isn't responsible.

Looking under the spoiler tags, I agree your important decision didn't come across in the sense you meant it to--all I see is Mike pressing her about how he's weird, never deciding to tell her anything. His decision to play along with Greg's Patty Duke scheme covers that flash rule, though. I saw the reflection of your quote in the unfairly-good-for-Michael outcome before I checked the spoiler, so that's all right. But this doesn't read as tragedy or comedy.

Regarding your question: I think you could have combined the last two scenes with some sort of one-line time jump along the lines of 'You're too preoccupied by the question to enjoy the rest of the play.' You were out of words, but you could have clipped some out of the first section's banter especially--you could have cut the Wild/e joke. Nothing of value would have been lost. (Seriously, it's too cutesy-meta for this story.) The Scooby Doo interlude could have been canned wholesale. Three scenes wouldn't have been too many. I wouldn't have minded four, even, as long as they each had a point.

You should do another round of proofreading and/or take this to the Farm. Small points: I strongly suggest using Greg's name instead of 'he' in the first sentence. You need a period after 'quesadilla.' You frequently put commas before dependent clauses (clauses with no subject of their own, such as 'and have to admit you're not entirely sure what Greg's on about'). In such cases, either lose the comma or stick a subject in there: 'and you have to admit' etc. The name of the play should be underlined or in italics. The clause 'you know he knows you did it' makes my eyes cross. (What did I do? Did I murder my rich great-aunt for her inheritance? Oh, wait, I shrugged. Somehow this seems a dramatic way of putting it!)

To sum up: I don't dislike this as much as my criticisms may suggest, but it's neither funny nor sad. Nor is it altogether coherent.

**********

Auraboks, "What could possibly go wrong?"
Quote: "Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong."

You've used a narrative voice that suggests a third party is telling this story to the reader, which makes your mix of present and past tense kinda-sorta work (some lines read better than others; 'it was the best idea anyone's ever had' makes me wince), but the sentence 'Bob was willing to admit that fire was on par with his new idea' stands out. A third-person narrator can be thinking about cavemen having good ideas, or Bob can be thinking about it, but when they both do I feel like I'm witnessing some kind of freaky mind meld.

'Take no notice of the pencil he was holding being flung across the room.' Ow. Now you're turning the story itself to present tense, and you're making me picture the pencil being flung while he was holding it. No sir, I don't like it.

(The idea for this chatty narrator was fine. The execution hurts you because the voice distracts me from the story instead of adding humor as I'm guessing you wanted it to do.)

The quote. Enh. I'm not crazy about how you've worked it in. Billy says it aloud (more or less), but neither brother seems to hold it as a personal view. Still, that counts, and it's clear you were going for comedy; some of your lines amused me, so I'd call you the most successful thus far in that respect. That's not saying a lot, though--with the story ending with Bob's launch instead of the launch's outcome, the joke feels incomplete to me. You had room to take it further!

To sum up: Wonky execution mars the humor for me, and this, too, could use a stronger ending.

**********

Nubile Hillock, "and such"
Quote: "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."

Okay, this is one of those 'let's see if I understand this' stories. My take: your narrator is one of several people camping out on a beach; he doesn't know why, or at least he doesn't remember. In fact, he doesn't remember anything of his life before the beach. All he knows is the routine of lakeside bonfires with Mona presiding as prophet and priestess. He isn't satisfied; he wishes to recall, but when he presses Mona too far, he dies of something like electrocution.

I'm wondering whether it isn't all a metaphor for excessive drinking given the Hangover Halo, an idea that intrigues me. Are the forgetfulness, the isolation from the outside world, the dull complacency, the endless repetition, the 'nothing,' and the ultimate death all part of this? Maaaaybe I'm reading too much into things. That would be pretty cool if it were true, though.

Anyway, ignoring interpretations that may be harebrained, your setting leaves me with a lot of questions, like how the bonfire replenishes itself and what these people are living on if they've been there any length of time. (How many Pop Tarts did they bring? You should capitalize brand names, by the way.) How does the narrator know how to interpret the feathers on Mona's mask when he and the other characters appear to be drifters from the modern Western world?

'There is nothing' is the truth, and searching for more leads to oblivion. This is grim. I don't know whether I'd call it tragedy. You switch from past to present and back again with gleeful and ill-considered abandon. I'd suggest sticking to present for this one: the immediacy works.

To sum up: This is interesting. It may be ambitious depending on what you were trying to do. The conclusion is abrupt and verges on meaningless, however, and there isn't much emotion on the surface level--it almost needs to be a metaphor to work.

**********

Sitting Here, "Symbols and Maps"
Quote: "Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more."

I like this, and I have only two serious problems with it. First: comedy? Tragedy? I wouldn't call it either. It's certainly not funny, but a moment of realization without loss isn't tragic. If anything, the protagonist's future looks more hopeful at the end than in the beginning.

Second: there's a lot of infodumping in the early paragraphs. The second and third paragraphs are pure exposition; the second works for me, the third does not. Probably because it reads more like 'look at what I know about the dot-com bust' than like anything intended to establish character or relevant setting details. '"That was some voodoo you pulled when you were with Appster. When are you gonna stop kicking all our asses man?"' isn't very graceful either.

There's rather more elegance in your approach to your quote, specifically its second half: the implication I see is that the lady artist (or whatever she is) is leading Erik toward the kind of true progress she has already begun. Nice. Erik and the lady are intriguing people. They reach a conclusion--a moment of change--and I'm satisfied, if curious about what happens after. It's my favorite piece so far, but that not-tragic-not-comic element could do you in.

To sum up: It needed to be comic or tragic; it was neither. Other than that, I quite enjoyed it.

**********

crabrock, "Manual of a Dream"
Quote: "I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability."

Something about the way this was written set my teeth on edge. Other stories of yours haven't done that; the phrasings here are unusually strange. Every time I got past an odd bit of structure, grammar, or word usage, another one would leap up and go for my throat. It's a shame. This is a weird, quirky tragi-comedy, a cross between a horrific Twilight Zone episode and a ridiculously goofy one. The execution is lacking, but the idea's a keeper.

Among the things that drove me nuts: the line about Joe working a job doesn't make sense. Making all those dolls on commission is a job. If you mean a desk job or formal employment, say that--or better yet, don't; that sentence and the one after it don't tell me anything Joe I couldn't figure out from him having a zillion dolls in his workroom, and they make the first paragraph awkward as sin. That colon in the first sentence of your third paragraph doesn't work for me at all. I'd far prefer 'he said' be thrown in. Who did Joe promise these dolls to? His client is a big blank space in the story and it bugs me. 'Joe’s insomniac neighbor had finally known what it was to sleep the first time the soulless vessels filled the night with their unholy wailing'--I can parse this sentence, but there has to be a better way. Your prose veers toward purple at the oddest times. I think you're doing it for comedic effect? It's not working that way, at least not for me.

In the first sentence of the second paragraph, you wanted 'were articulated' since articulated, as a verb, means 'expressed clearly.' The number in 'I have 6 days' should be spelled out.

I'd stick to one perspective, Joe's, if at all possible--except for the last paragraph; that PoV switch works just fine. You could chop the sentences/clauses in Harry's point of view without losing anything, and it would do wonders for your structure.

Good use of your quote. I'm amused by Joe creating the dolls as the equivalent to God creating Man. I wouldn't say you hit tragedy or comedy cleanly, but your mix holds the idea of each. You get full marks on the prompts.

To sum up: It was put together in such a way that I didn't enjoy reading it. That said, the idea was kinda fun. The conclusion is the high point.

**********

Walamor, "The Price of the Favored"
Quote: "Those whom the gods love grow young."

Theo's heist sequence is a bit rough in a likely-to-get-better-with-practice way: the exposition's a little clumsy, and the actions don't flow as well as they could. It reads sort of like 'Theo did this. Theo did that. Then Theo did this, and that, and such, and Theo did this, and it's a run-on sentence.' Stress on sort of because it's not nearly that bad. You've varied your phrasing and rhythm. Theo and Sophia's conversation is better, the goddamned 'alright' aside. I believe these two as a couple of idiot, amoral kids.

But then... oy to the vey. Sofia and Theo explaining the Favored is awful. It's out of nowhere, this renewal thing, and it has nothing to do with the plot--if Sofia were a spoiled princess stringing Theo along for money, this scene could play out exactly the same. You bring the concept into the story with the grace of a mortal man trying to shot-put an anvil. It doesn't need to be there, which means the quote hasn't been folded into the story. There was nothing before this point to suggest a sci-fi setting, either. The abrupt change of genre is most disconcerting.

The death of the romance-that-never-was is suitably tragic, though. If that eleventh-hour infodump just weren't there... you wouldn't be my winner or close to it, but I'd probably like the piece.

One minor point: when you say 'Guards were collapsing on him from all directions,' a different verb would be better; maybe 'converging'?

To sum up: Your otherwise-okay work is kneecapped by horrible exposition. The quote needed to influence your story, not to be shoehorned in at the last minute.

**********

Nikaer Drekin, "Monsieur Musée and the Loss of the Lexicon (Or; The Benefits of In-House Security)"
Quote: ""The moment you think you understand a great work of art, it's dead for you."

Nikaer Drekin posted:

yeah screw editing amirite guys

No. :mad:

Your mistakes aren't so bad aside from the dangling participle in the sentence starting with 'Formerly your everyday curator'--it needs more proofing, but I was somewhat distracted from that by Hercule Poirot as an art-powered Superman. I doubt M. Musée is meant to be Poirot, but I imagined David Suchet with his little moustache as your protagonist nonetheless, and I highly recommend this exercise. I had little choice but to love your work afterward. And it gets better! He rockets out of the Louvre! He fights against truth and understanding! His utility belt is filled with paint! The ending wraps up the story in a satisfying way!

Of course, as I read over it again I noticed things like the inconsistent capitalization in mon Dieu and the way you italicize Mona Lisa but not The Astronomer. Rrrgh. But the serious scratch on your canvas is Musée's infodump about the Vivisector. This homage to anvilicious comic-book exposition--if that's what it is--would be less of a sore thumb if its longest sentence weren't so contorted.

Your use of the quote is great: you've centered the plot and climax on its idea. If your interpretation is literal, I'm not inclined to complain. Your choice of genre is obvious. In my books, this is successful comedy.

To sum up: One of the best of the week; this tickled my funny bone the most. It's not a clear winner, however. There is another.

**********

Jopoho, "Incompetent"
Quote: "Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives."

A few stories could have stood to be longer, but yours is the only one that very much needed to be shorter. Your premise doesn't support much length. You wrote about a bored man being bored while interesting/horrible things happen out of his view, and it works--the sense of missing critical events in favor of nothing of importance puts me in sympathy with Eric--but dragging the boredom out so long... well, it's boring. You could cut the paragraphs about water-sliding and fake emergencies. They have a slightly comic tone anyway that doesn't fit the overall mood. What remained would be enough to establish that Eric hates the dullness of his job yet is determined to do it well.

Aside from that, this is a decent piece: I wince for Eric's horror when he realizes what he's done, and because I care what happens to him, it's effective tragedy. The prose is competent, albeit rough around the edges. One example: 'Not unusual for the time of the evening, but it happened a lot more suddenly.' Awkward. 'Not unusual for that time of the evening, but it happened suddenly' might be better--the 'but' already implies that the suddenness is unusual. Your first paragraph reads stiffly to me. 'Each passing iteration' and 'alleviate the pain of chlorine burning one’s eyes' are rather formal phrasings for the context. You use the past tense in places where you should use past perfect, such as 'In his time, Eric never saw anyone so interested in that fence': the correct tense would be 'Eric had never seen' etc. It all just wants more polish.

The line 'You stuck with the protocol created to save lives, and I ignored it to save lives' is so ham-handed that it lessens the impact of your ending. Try to make Brian sound less self-righteous. You could possibly stop with 'Look, everyone did the right thing in their own way.' I'm not entirely sold on Eric's choice being stupid as per your quote. If I were him, I would have expected Brian to yell and wave his arms and try a lot harder to get my attention if it were life and death. But the quote clearly influenced the piece.

Oh, and the title is excellent.

To sum up: Shortening this would improve it by leaps and bounds: boredom is not exciting to read about at length. It's still a decent story, though.

**********

Accretionist, "The Last Maid"
Quote: "In marriage three is company and two is none."

I took your quote to mean that married couples don't spend much time together; you went a more adulterous, 'three's a crowd' direction. I wish you'd gone the other way, if only because that might not have led to the soap-opera-style death dominoes that make your ending less tragedy than farce. It's so contrived! Sarah's death is an unfortunate accident, fine, but Sam happens to head straight for the pregnancy test, then kills himself; Tabitha independently decides to kill herself right after Conrad gets home to hear the shot; it's all set up so Conrad will suffer as much as possible. That's what I mean by death dominoes: everything has obviously been arranged by you. This is not a natural sequence of events. The characters are puppets. As with Mercedes' story, I feel nothing for them.

Summing up most of the deaths in a clumsy infodump at the end didn't help. Jeeze criminy, Samson was never even alive on camera.

You shifted from past tense to present tense midway through the story. Don't do that. It served no artistic or dramatic purpose here. (And switching mid-sentence as you did in 'Sarah's head snaps back as Tabitha reached for her collar' will never look right.) I'd go with past tense if I were you since the present tense increases the overdone feeling of the drama, but it's more important to be consistent with whichever one you pick. Formatting-wise, some sort of symbol (# is popular) to mark your scene breaks would make for easier on-screen reading.

You switch PoVs within the same scene, too. Are we seeing Sarah and Tabitha's fight through Sarah's eyes or Tabitha's eyes? Choose one and stick with it.

Other issues are comparatively minor, but a few dialogue attributions in Conrad and Sarah's conversation would be helpful, and be careful of using he/she when it might not be clear which he/she you mean. Such as here: 'He tried to focus. He still hadn't when she arrived.' The last 'she' was Sarah. I can figure out you mean Tabitha now, but I have to stop and think.

To sum up: Pretty bad, sadly. You're lucky that other stories were worse. This probably needed a sense of restraint more than anything.

**********

JonasSalk, "Look, There Be Gold"
Quote: "No man is rich enough to buy back his past."

This... is really bad. I wavered, but you ultimately got my vote for the loss because I could barely parse your piece. Two first-person protagonists? I see what you were trying to do, but--you didn't mention the main character's name before 'older Bagger' showed up, and I had no idea why the tap-dancing hell Ronnie was talking to a Civil War carpetbagger all of a sudden. The ending isn't worth trying to keep the duplicates straight. It appears to be going for poignancy--which Bagger is dead?--but this premise and treatment and everything aren't rigged for emotional depth. And think: if you'd written the older clone's perspective in third person instead and hadn't revealed his identity, the reader wouldn't have known who this mysterious rich man was until the Raggy Blue Enigma Team unmasked him. Talk about a missed opportunity.

Also, it sounds like this Jack person had four eyeballs. That's weird.

The forming and reforming of the team doesn't make sense even on the second or third read. Do they replace the whole team with clones every time a single member is shot? 'Randomly selected' clones? Did you write a crossover of Scooby Doo and Parts: the Clonus Horror? My head hurts. The story's meant to be funny, but it isn't. Plot holes I probably wouldn't care about if I were busy laughing gape wide before me.

You have a lot of grammar issues. A missing space, an unnecessary carriage return, 'it's' in place of 'its,' etc. Proofing can't save this story, but watch out for the small stuff in the future.

I will say, you hit your flash rule and kinda got your quote. Kiiiiiinda. I must have missed Bagger trying to buy back his past, unless it was part of Ben's nebulously defined plan. I think, at this point, that the advice I'd most like to give you is to rethink these all-but-fanfic parodies of outside sources. Your Greek brawl story did cute things with an established myth, but reinterpreting cartoons and fairy tales didn't work so well in your pulp entry, in your fable, or here. I'd like to see more ideas that come just from you.

To sum up: :cripes:

**********

Fumblemouse, "The Proposal"
Quote: "The well-bred contradict others. The wise contradict themselves."

Is the Dowager's feather part of a boa? A hat adornment? A peacock plume rising from a slash in her skirt? The mystery intrigues me, but it's irrelevant to the story at large, much like the rest of your first paragraph. You had to get Samuel and the Dowager off alone, but this is slapstick overkill compared to the sophisticated humor in the main body of your piece. ('Sophisticated': Hep C and HIV start to look classy when you've read a lot of TD stories, I suppose.)

Actually, the HIV may be a small step too far, but otherwise your humor is the right level of ribald to contrast with the decorum of the setting and premise without becoming crass. Huzzah! And maybe the problem with the HIV is that it sounds rather less plausible than the rest of the revelations, tipping the scales toward a 'the Dowager is lying to ruin Angela's life' interpretation. I prefer being unsure of whether she's telling the truth or not; it's funnier that way. Poor Samuel is certainly wise to go back on his decision if he has received accurate information--a cad to lie about all that colliding of worlds and suchlike, but wise. Taking the Dowager at her word may be less sagacious.

Nikaer's superhero gave my funny bone a sharper tap, but this story--the lack of a period after 'matchstick' aside; darn it Fumblemouse cut that out--is probably the more technically proficient. You do what Schneider Heim didn't by taking some familiar character types (lovelorn fiancé! Imposing noble biddy poised to stand in the way of his happiness!) and steering them down a road less traveled. My sympathy's with Samuel, but the Dowager (Dowager what, by the way? Duchess? Countess? Small point, but it bugs me) is the life of the story. I probably shouldn't be as pleased as I am that she died happy, given givens.

To sum up: Character, humor, skill: this piece has them all, and it ranks second only to the adventure of Super-Poirot in my affections. The distance between them is so slight that I readily gave my blessing to your victory.

**********

magnificent7, "Helping Death"
Quote: "Moderation is a fatal thing; nothing succeeds like excess."

I'm going to pick on some aspects of this, but let me say first that it's good. It's a huge improvement over your losing pieces. I like your idea; the execution and conclusion let you down somewhat, but the former is more rough than bad, and the latter would be a snap to change if you're so minded.

The good: your protagonist is a psychopath; you never come out and say this. His actions and thoughts illustrate it. He intrudes on the deaths of strangers, believing himself some sort of guide because a dying man once looked him in the eyes. Other people's deaths are all about him to him, whatever he tells himself. As creepy as I find him, that creepiness seems intentional: you're in control of it. I can spare him a scrap of sympathy until the end, and that's enough to make me care what happens.

The bad: those one-sentence scene introductions only last for two scenes and don't fit. I would cut them. The protagonist's motivation for deciding he was born to assist Death is thin even given his odd mind. I'm not sure how to fix this; maybe he needs to think about it longer. 'It wasn’t enough to watch a man die by accident' strongly foreshadows your ending--too strongly: I was just waiting for him to kill someone sooner or later, which stole the thunder from the conclusion. The way he personalizes Death really seems to come out of nowhere. I wonder how he got into the houses of the bedridden people; if he broke in, you should mention it. The conversation with Mrs. Langdon feels out of place.

Most of all, I don't like your final line. This would be a deeper tragedy if killing Mr. Johnson did not put Death behind the protagonist; if it had been a futile, wasted, horrible gesture; and if the protagonist realized he could not escape. Letting one murder solve his problems is unsatisfying. Maybe it's the quote. To fit the story to the quote, the protagonist had to succeed. Away from TD, there's no reason you have to stay wed to the prompt, so I suggest rethinking this part if you do a rewrite.

To sum up: A good story with the potential to be better. Keep writing like this, and someday you'll wear the crown.

**********

toanoradian, "Quotesman No More"
Quote: "I have nothing to declare except my genuis." Really, quote site? Really?

Huh. You went absolutely literal with this. I don't see the quote anywhere in it save as a quote. Turning a mangled quote and your flash rule into a story of mangled quotes appeals to me, and so I call this choice good. You've filled your entry with other people's words and shown your research (knowledge?) to a degree that would be tedious in many cases, but it works here: the result's a bit meta; it's quirky; it's intriguing. It's not funny, though. And not tragic. I'd guess you intended the former, but I'm honestly not sure.

You do, I think, take the quotes too far. That whole flashback to Langdon winning the contest--was the point to show what a quotesman does? That's what I thought, but then Sophie Wickham got the Quotesman of the Year Award for inventing a quote. Maybe the award is for best quote and not best quotesman; that would make more sense. (Although it sounds more like word salad than anything she'd get a prize for. Enh, awards go to strange things.) It's fuzzier than I would like.

I don't get the ending. He's so put off by misquotes that he throws up. Where's the conclusion? Can he no longer be a quotesman, thus the title? Was there a point? I dunno! If I had to guess I'd say you got your legs cut off by the word limit. The vomit is still a more conclusive beat than some of the other stories managed, so there's that.

The most significant technical errors I noticed were the tense shifts toward the end. 'The headaches had invaded his head and he can smell burning.' I know how you feel, sir. Also in present tense: 'his headaches sharpen.'

To sum up: An intriguing, original approach to the quote, but the story itself is murky and lacks a satisfying conclusion. You wouldn't have won, but you wouldn't have lost.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 14:52 on Jun 19, 2013

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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






I would've killed my millionaire at the end but I didn't have enough words. Capitalism is a tragedy tho

Oh and I will do this round please. I require an excuse to procrastinate on other things.

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


Thanks for the crits. Most of those problems were staring me in the face when I submitted the thing. It's so frustrating to know what the problem is, but to be afraid to change anything. Like when you get half-way through a rubik's cube.

edit: just reread your crit a second time. Yes - the prompt is the reason for the train full of deaths. My original story had the train pulling empty boxcars. So then, it was a tragedy, (if you squint) but didn't line up with the quote at all.

magnificent7 fucked around with this message at 16:08 on Jun 18, 2013

Martello
Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW


Sitting Here posted:

Capitalism is a tragedy tho

need a crying bong over a Washington state flag :PNW:

Bachelard Ass
Mar 26, 2009

Penetralium of mystery

In at risk of making my Thunderdebut on the torture rack.

Do epigrams count toward the word count?

Bachelard Ass fucked around with this message at 16:14 on Jun 18, 2013

Walamor
Dec 31, 2006

Fork 'em Devils!


Kaishai posted:

**********

Walamor, "The Price of the Favored"
Quote: "Those whom the gods love grow young."

Theo's heist sequence is a bit rough in a likely-to-get-better-with-practice way: the exposition's a little clumsy, and the actions don't flow as well as they could. It reads sort of like 'Theo did this. Theo did that. Then Theo did this, and that, and such, and Theo did this, and it's a run-on sentence.' Stress on sort of because it's not nearly that bad. You've varied your phrasing and rhythm. Theo and Sophia's conversation is better, the goddamned 'alright' aside. I believe these two as a couple of idiot, amoral kids.

But then... oy to the vey. Sofia and Theo explaining the Favored is awful. It's out of nowhere, this renewal thing, and it has nothing to do with the plot--if Sofia were a spoiled princess stringing Theo along for money, this scene could play out exactly the same. You bring the concept into the story with the grace of a mortal man trying to shot-put an anvil. It doesn't need to be there, which means the quote hasn't been folded into the story. There was nothing before this point to suggest a sci-fi setting, either. The abrupt change of genre is most disconcerting.

The death of the romance-that-never-was is suitably tragic, though. If that eleventh-hour infodump just weren't there... you wouldn't be my winner or close to it, but I'd probably like the piece.

One minor point: when you say 'Guards were collapsing on him from all directions,' a different verb would be better; maybe 'converging'?

To sum up: Your otherwise okay work is kneecapped by horrible exposition. The quote needed to influence your story, not to be shoehorned in at the last minute.

Thanks so much for this critique! I really need to work on planning my work out before I start because I had a decent idea (I think) for the prompt which then morphed into this piece without me realizing it. It originally was going to be a similar concept but he was still stealing but it was to save his mother, who had to get 'renewed' every day or her age would catch up to her and she'd die, and had a whole thing with the priests and was a bigger part of the plot blah blah blah nobody cares about this but I just wanted to say I appreciate you taking the time to critique my work! My apologies for the 'alright'.

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

Going Goes Gone Went Will Go
Asking/Discussing in the fiction writing thread.
http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3495955&pagenumber=42#post416619814

OH - and in my story, I found a typo that put me into the loathe box. "I smile at him" should have been "I smiled at him". But it was 11:59 and I'd been up all drat day doing sketches for my job.

PoshAlligator
Jan 9, 2012

When SEO just isn't enough.


Excellent critiques, thank you sebmojo and Kaishai. My proudest achievement with this piece is actually finishing ~something~ and submitting it. I was given the flash rule to write in second person after expressing my distaste for second person, so thank you for providing me the opportunity to prove my distaste somewhat. I will likely abandon this piece for several months, it's not really worth my immediate attention to mine for any nuggets that may or may not arise from the ahses (a mixed metaphor, oh my). At least my gut instinct for knowing when something doesn't work was correct.

As much as I wish to enter again and prove myself, I have a bit of a busy week, and also know little about paradoxes and thought problems. My passing knowledge of them would make it seem there could be some stand-out entries this week if it's done right, and hopefully I will not be disappointed. So I am out.

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


I'm in with the Liar's Paradox.

DoubleDonut
Oct 22, 2010




Fallen Rib

Count me in.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

toanoradian posted:

I'm in! Are we only allowed to use one thought experiment/paradox? Can we combine them? Like what if the cat inside the possibly radioactive box is also falling and had a buttered toast butter side up strung around his back.


If you think you can pull it off, there's no rule against it. But the odds of tripping over the razor-wire shoelaces of your own clever boots are pretty high.

quote:

why is the monkey/bullet boring i learned parabolic movement through that

Because you could easily replace that thought experiment with it with, say, an actual experiment. If I want a world where I can shoot a monkey and bullets follow a parabolic arc then I'll go outside. The premise lacks sufficient brainfuckery.

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


As a judge, do I still get to write?

Symptomless Coma
Mar 30, 2007
for shock value

Fumblemouse posted:

Because you could easily replace that thought experiment with it with, say, an actual experiment. If I want a world where I can shoot a monkey and bullets follow a parabolic arc then I'll go outside. The premise lacks sufficient brainfuckery.

Who knew AA Gill did Thunderdome?

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007

by Lowtax


Fun Shoe

I'm in with my favourite thought experiment, The Ship of Theseus

toanoradian
May 30, 2011


Fumblemouse posted:

If you think you can pull it off, there's no rule against it. But the odds of tripping over the razor-wire shoelaces of your own clever boots are pretty high.

Bah! What use are legs if we can't play around with things that may take it away? I'll try combining things. Maybe my fiction can be like a unicorn instead of some misshapen chimera.

PotatoManJack
Nov 9, 2009


Thanks for all the critiques. I know my story fell a bit flat, and think a couple of extra days would have helped for revision and removing my head from my rear end.

In again this week

Going with the good Game Theory stand by: The Prisoner's Dilemma

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







magnificent7 posted:

As a judge, do I still get to write?

You are a judge. The rules are creatures of your fickle whim.

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


sebmojo posted:

You are a judge. The rules are creatures of your fickle whim.
SO I CAN FLASH RULE YOUR rear end HERE AND NOW?

I mean I wont, sir. But. If I wanted.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







magnificent7 posted:

SO I CAN FLASH RULE YOUR rear end HERE AND NOW?

I mean I wont, sir. But. If I wanted.

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


I don't even know what... I. It's. What.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Judging Update:

Mag 7 is up for passing Kurosawa judgement on your Sturges asses, but Sitting Here was so inspired by the prompt that she has already completed a loving FIRST DRAFT, you slackers, and I didn't want to risk a city destroying warp-spasm if we took the fight away from her.

So if anyone from the OP list wants to step up to the judging plate, let me know, otherwise us new inmates are just going to have to throw away our anti-psychotics and play gods in your beautiful asylum.

Jopoho
Feb 17, 2012


First I wrote too few words, and then too many! I'll get it right one of these times. Not this coming week, mind you, but soon.

Thanks for the crits, judges.

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.






Kaishai posted:


Mercedes, "Anger Management"
Quote: "True friends stab you in the front."

I will try to be a true friend to you, Mercedes!

You can't make up your mind whether you're in third-person present tense or second-person present. That's a level of error that makes submitting five days before deadline seem rather unwise. Seriously, what the hell: Zoraida is the protagonist, but lines like 'Yet somehow the two of you bonded immensely and you now consider her your best friend; your only friend really, besides your boyfriend' float around like a half-decayed fish corpse in an aquarium, trailing slime everywhere. The not-word 'alright' is a fragment of intestine that has broken loose to hover before my disgusted eyes. I don't know what using 'your' in place of 'you're' would be in this metaphor--a string of fishy fecal matter tangled around the body? Sure, why not.

Strained comparisons aside, you don't keep the verb tenses straight even within one perspective. 'Zoraida explodes, holding her beer bottle like a club and swinging it at Rucks. He was not expecting such a sudden attack. His arms didn't come up quick enough to protect his temple from the vicious strike.' Present, past, past. Pick one.

The characterization, pacing, and structure are varying degrees of bad. Zoraida has a single personality trait, her anger. Rucks has two if you count 'being kinda racist' alongside his cheating ways. Elise is cardboard, so switching to her perspective in the second section serves no purpose but to dump exposition on the reader's head. None of the deaths in the story move me at all. I don't care about these people. Maybe if you'd stuck to Zoraida--shown her reaction to hearing about Elise's death, given her more than one emotion--then I would give a drat whether she hangs herself. Maybe. At least she'd be more than an Angry Black Stereotype. Speaking of which, making Zoraida a stereotype is the only thing your profanity achieves: I give you a D- in Effective Cursing. There's no point to a tragedy in which you feel nothing for the main character because she's a one-dimensional caricature, race-based or otherwise.

You hit your flash rule. The Wilde quote applies only if I squint. I could read it as 'Elise went around behind Zoraida's back and thus wasn't a true friend,' and that's fair enough but irrelevant to the plot. Zoraida attacks Rucks head-on, but since she kills him, I'm not sold on the truth of that friendship.

To sum up: You gave everyone else reason to think they didn't need to write brilliantly to avoid losing this week. Thanks for that. Next round, bring characters with some depth to the table.

I need to apologize to everyone. My ego was driving the wheel this submission. I basically went "First draft. Edit. Toast to my greatness. Awesome job Mercedes. Post." This is what happens when you never get a real criticism.

I'll be certain to take the next week more seriously and use the goddamn days to loving edit my poo poo. I'm in! And God help me because I have no idea how I'm going to come up with a story following these rules.

PotatoManJack
Nov 9, 2009


Going to have to drop out of this week's Thunderdome. I'm looking at my calendar and weekend and there's just too much on to put a decent effort in.

Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

In, with Swampman, partly because it's something that's crossed my mind before and partly because what an awesome name :rock: :krad:

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010


If anybody's wondering what was happening with those 'domers who were gonna get published, this is what's happening.

Blarg Blargety
Nov 3, 2004

Children love Totoro
and he loves them.


It's still Friday by EST. isn't it? In for the first time ever.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


I've got family over so I'm a little preoccupied to be writing anything this weekend, but not too preoccupied to pass judgement on heathens this Monday after they've gone (assuming Fumblemouse's offer is still open).

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


I'm in again, with Kavka's Toxin Puzzle. It'll be a bit difficult to present the inherent problem in a way that isn't boring exposition about choice and rationality, and since the problem isn't really 'solved'. Ideally I'd try to show that the rational person will do the 'irrational' thing and both intend and follow through with the drinking.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Bad Seafood posted:

I've got family over so I'm a little preoccupied to be writing anything this weekend, but not too preoccupied to pass judgement on heathens this Monday after they've gone (assuming Fumblemouse's offer is still open).

It is, and thanks. Welcome aboard the judgement train to crazy town.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

In.


18

Crouching in the Siberian snow with your flashlight off isn't the most pleasant thing you've ever done. But sure enough, the distant flash appears again, and it moves in such a way that you're pretty sure there's a human hand in control. Who else would be out here? You're tempted to find out, but that silent light sweeping the basin, searching for you, makes your stomach knot up. You wait, doing your best to look like a rock.

Going right and away from the light seems like a good option to you. You force your chilled knees to bend and your legs to work, and you keep to the mine's rim. The light doesn't return after its third sweep, and you cautiously flick yours back on. There's nothing to see but snow, a few outcroppings of stone, and a pennant the color of Raspberry Mint Explosion toothpaste.

Wait a minute!

You flounder toward the iced-over flag that sticks up at least two feet from the snow. The white crust around it is undisturbed! You hold your flashlight between your teeth as you put Uncle Zakhar's snow shovel to excellent use. Perhaps three feet down, braced against the quarry wall, you hit something wrapped in leather and fur: a wooden chest the size of your torso.

Opening it with shaking hands, you expose hundreds of teeth made of gold and pure diamond to the Siberian starshine. They sparkle and gleam, every one of them cavity free. You've done it! You've found the great Zopper Toothpaste treasure!

As you punch Uncle Zakhar's number into your cell, you wonder whether you can convince him his new house should be somewhere warm.

THE END

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 03:16 on Jul 15, 2013

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

You follow the suited man into the the Cave of Time. The crystals glow, keeping the walls illuminated as you go through many twists and turns, leaving the daylight far behind. The man stays a few steps ahead, turning every now and then to make sure you are still behind him. At one point you stop, taking a moment to observe a beautiful crystal formation alive with a glittering rainbow of colours, but he stops and whispers impatiently, “Hurry!”

“Why are you whispering?” you ask, but he only quickens his pace.

You race to catch up, but he seems to be increasing his lead. The glow from the walls is getting less and less, and you occasionally stumble over a lump of rock on the floor. You’re half sprinting, half scrabbling as darkness descends. The last thing you see is the suited man vanishing around a corner, and then the blackness is complete.

You stop. You can see nothing, smell nothing, hear nothing, not even the beating of your own heart which was so loud only moments ago. You crouch down, or you try to, but there is no floor - and you cannot even feel your legs and calves as you crouch. You are disembodied, except for the memory of flesh of bone.

You do not know how long you wait there, unable to move, unable to fathom your dim recollection of movement. It could eons. It seems like eons. Eventually you go mad, or you suppose you do. Composed only of thoughts you try and create a world to live in. You start with light, like in the books you have almost forgotten, but it has been so long since you had eyes that you are unsure where light ends and the history of your imprisonment begins, so you bore through the ages with the burning particles of your imagination, creating Caves of Time.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at 06:23 on Jul 15, 2013

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)


I used the survival lottery for my story.

A New One (701 words)

The room was bathed in white. William's senses betrayed him--colors danced in his eyes, and his ears kept ringing. Then he felt his father's touch, sending him back into a calm.

"Hey, dad." His voice was a whisper. "What's up?"

James stroked his son's hair. His warm eyes shone, despite the dark circles around them. "It'll be over soon, Will. You'll be better in no time."

The needle in his arm stung, as it would whenever Will would feel something. He had expected to die here. "I'll be cured? But you said I needed a pair of kidneys, and a liver."

"Right, Will." James smiled. "So what does the liver do again?" Will wanted to be a surgeon. At the age of seven, he was already poring over his father's textbooks.

"It keeps you healthy, right? And gets sick if you drink too much."

"That's correct."

William turned his head away. "Too bad, then. I'm sick and it can't help me."

"You'll be getting a new one soon, Will. Your case has been approved for the lottery."

William had read about the lottery. Since letting a person die was no different from killing them, life must be given to save a life. Every compatible individual will be eligible, compelled to surrender his or her life to the patient.

He shivered underneath the sheets. "What if you get picked? Or mom?"

James's smile didn't fade. "Then you'll have our organs. We'll live inside you."

"Doesn't it scare you at all?"

"Your dad would rather be around when you're back up. Mom, too. But think of it this way. Thirty years ago, people with sick organs just died. Nobody wanted to donate their organs to them, even though their lives were equal. Now, you don't have to die like them."

"I don't know, dad. Why should someone have to die for me? I'm just a kid. My grades aren't even that good. It would be terrible if someone like the President got picked."

"Then you'll have to take care of the President's organs and do good out there. Don't you want to be cured?"

"I do, dad. If I ever get better, I'll be the best surgeon in the world." He gave his father a wink. "Better than you, even."

"But you will," his father winked back. "I'm going to save you."

* * *

William woke up the next day, to his father's face. James was wearing his surgical gown, and his face was flushed with happiness.

"Feeling better?"

"Yeah." He tried to touch his stomach, but the needle remained. "Will it hurt if I move, doctor?"

"We put you back together well. There aren't even any stitches," James said. "They'll take out the needle in a few days."

"Thanks, dad." William already found his voice returning.

James grinned. "Mom will fetch you in a few days. Dad just needs to go somewhere."

He stood up, waving to William as he left.

* * *

William crouched on the top of the stairs, straining hard to eavesdrop on the dining table below. Lily, his mother, was talking to the police, with an edge in her voice. But their voices were too quiet, as if they had sworn to hide something from the child.

Eventually they left, and William's mother closed the door so ominously that it creaked. He chose to pop up at that moment.

"Mom, why were the police here? Were they looking for dad?"

Lily scooped him up in her arms. "Yeah."

"I don't understand. How could dad be a criminal, when he just saved my life?" William thought about his father's smile. It was a weary one, but he believed in it.

"He wanted to save you. The hospital was going to let you die."

"But he said the lottery would make me okay."

Lily hugged William tighter. "The lottery couldn't provide a match. So he made one."

William looked down on his shirt, imagining his transplanted organs through the fabric and skin. How was it any different? "Am I well now, mom?"

"You are."

"But these kidneys and liver belonged to someone." William sobbed in his mother's arms, wondering why the tears took a long time to fall.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Chapter 12: The Doctor and the Razor, 1481 words

Derek waved his sword proudly and stepped over the body of the Thin Tiger, eager to reach the next room. "Great Scott!" called out the Rational Knight as he followed behind. "I would have never gone against such a ferocious beast straight on! How did you know it would be so easy to defeat?"

"I didn't," replied Derek, "But I figured that if the Tiger really wanted to eat someone, it wouldn't have been so loud and make itself seem so very terrible. No, no one who announces how scary they are should be trusted as a good judge. But come on! We still need to rescue the Princess!"

"Of course, I can't wait for that great reward," the Knight replied.

They opened the next door of the dungeon, prepared for any sort of monster or trap. Instead, they found a small, rather round man with a bald head and a funny mustache. In front of him was a long wooden box, shining with a magical enchantment. The friendly looking fellow stood up and bowed politely. "How do you do, heroes? I am the great Doctor Kavka."

"Do you work for the evil wizard?" asked Derek cautiously, hand on the hilt of his blade.

"I do," the man replied, "But don't worry, I'm not here to fight you. In fact, I have a very generous offer."

"It doesn't make sense for our enemy to help us," the Knight said, rather obviously. "I wouldn't trust him."

Dr. Kavka ignored the Knight, and motioned for the chair in front of them. "Sit, sit! It's quite the simple deal. In my box, I have a sword with amazing properties - in fact, it's said to be the only sword that can truly harm the wizard. The Great Occam Razor." He carefully opened the box, showing the sword inside. It gleamed and shined, gathering up the light in the room until it seemed to glow from inside. The hilt was made of fine gold with small rubies and emeralds around the handle, while the blade itself was so thin that from one angle to another, it would seem to disappear. Awestruck, Derek reached out, only to have the box slam shut.

"There is a catch," the Doctor said smiling. "In the next room is a potion that makes your skin turn green, great big warts to pop up all over your face, and your ears grow three times as big, sticking out of the sides like the sails of a boat. It'll only last a day, of course, but until it goes away - well! You know what they say about a face that only a mother can love."

"And if I drink this potion, you'll give me the sword?" Derek asked, confused. "That hardly seems like much of a catch."

"No, I suppose it doesn't," Doctor Kavka replied. "But you've got it wrong. The box here is enchanted - it knows a man's true intentions. If you intend to drink the potion in the next room, it'll open for you and let you take the sword. Off you'll go to the next room to drink the potion - or not, as the case may be."

"I don't have the drink the potion?" Derek asked, curious.

"You can do whatever you want," Doctor Kavka replied, "you'll already have the sword - if you intended to drink the potion when you opened the box."

"A simple challenge!" the Knight whispered to Derek. "We'll take the sword with good intentions, and change our mind once we have it. We'll have the best of both worlds, and no warts besides." Smiling behind his visor, the Knight reached over to open the box - which didn't budge. He pushed harder, but still the lid remained closed. He grabbed it with both hands, trying to pry the wooden box apart. But even with all the formidable power of the Rational Knight, the box refused to open. Finally, with a snarl, he threw it against the wall.

"Impossible!" He yelled with rage.

With a genteel manner, Doctor Kavka stood up, retrieved the box, and placed it once more on the table. Derek didn't much care for the man's smile anymore - it had taken on a smug, malicious air. "Yes, impossible. The box knew your true intentions - you were going to change your mind. But since you already planned to change your mind, you never intended to drink the potion. You can never truly intend to drink the poison, because always in the back of the mind you know you won't have to - and therefore, you never will."

"Come on, Derek," The Knight said angrily as he stomped over to the door. "We'll find some other way to defeat that blasted wizard."

"Hold on," Derek replied, still staring at the box. "Hold on. Everything here has been a trick, or a problem, or some other sort of trap, right? So clearly, there must be a way through this one."

"No, you heard the man yourself. It's impossible to truly intend to drink the potion!"

Derek ignored him, and instead gently stroked his chin, like his father did when deep in thought. The box only opened to those who truly intend to drink the potion. But, since you could get away with not drinking the potion, clearly you couldn't intend to, unless...

"Unless," he said out loud, finishing his own thought, "Unless you'll drink the potion even if you don't have to! That's the trick, isn't it?"

The Knight looked at him perplexed. "Why would you drink the potion if you didn't need to? Why, do you want look like a goblin when you meet the Princess? It's crazy! It's irrational!"

"Yes," Derek replied, "But it gets us the sword. Doctor Kavka, I do solemnly swear that I will drink the potion in the next room." He rose three fingers in the salute. "Scout's honor!"

The box popped open with a loud bang! Doctor Kavka jumped forward, trying to close it shut again, but the box refused to move. "No! No! That's cheating, that's cheating!" The little man cried. "You little brat! It's impossible!"

Derek simply smiled and picked up the sword. It was light as air, and seemed to hum a musical note as he held it. He swished it around a few times, and it felt like the very fabric of the universe was being cut, in the spaces between the empty air. He took out his old iron sword, and gently placed it in the box, before sheathing the Razor by his side. He ignored the Doctor's angry shrieks all the while.

"Come on, Sir Knight, we have a Princess to save," he said gallantly, as the two marched into the next room.

On a pedestal sat the potion. It was a light green color, like someone who is seasick, and smelled of burnt popcorn and stale chocolate, with just a hint of vanilla extract. It bubbled and steamed, and somehow even looked slimy. It reminded Derek of nothing so much as snail trails and scabby elbows. Still, he strode forward confidently to pick up the concoction.

"Wait," The Knight called out, "Think about it! You don't have to drink the potion. We can just... leave it."

Derek looked at him, and at Doctor Kavka in the other room. The silence sat as thick as a wool comforter. Finally, Derek shook his head, exasperated. "Don't you get it? The only way to intend to drink the potion, is to intend to drink the potion. Otherwise, the whole thing doesn't work."

"Besides," He said with a queasy smile, "Scout's honor." And then he threw his head back and drink the potion with a single GULP! He coughed and sputtered, trying to wipe the taste off his tongue, then sat down heavily on the ground. His skin turned all the shades of the sunset in rapid succession - Blue! Orange! Purple! Red! Yellow! - before settling on a dark green, the sort of green you see at the bottom of a murky pond. The warts came next, starting out as freckles that grew bigger, and darker, and wartier, until they completely covered his nose and most of his cheeks. Finally, his ears started to vibrate back and forth violently, so quick that they almost became a blur, until finally with a loud FWIP! They stuck out of the side of his head.

He looked like a cross between Dumbo and the Wicked Witch.

The Knight looked on aghast, while Doctor Kavka laughed and clapped his hands mockingly. Finally, Derek got back on his feet, and took a few shaky steps towards the door. "Hopefully," he said, his stomach clearly still unhappy, "That will be the last potion I drink today." He opened the door, and walked into the next room.

"Crazy!" The Knight muttered to himself, following behind. "Irrational!"

Walamor
Dec 31, 2006

Fork 'em Devils!


I thought was going to be done with my weekend work assignment before now, but unfortunately I'm not and have some hours to go before I can finish. I won't waste the judges' time with a half edited submission. Sorry and good luck to everyone else!

Jeza
Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.


Walamor posted:

I thought was going to be done with my weekend work assignment before now, but unfortunately I'm not and have some hours to go before I can finish. I won't waste the judges' time with a half edited submission. Sorry and good luck to everyone else!

Are you kidding, none of the cool cats have even thought about starting yet.



(im a cool cat btw)

Walamor
Dec 31, 2006

Fork 'em Devils!


Jeza posted:

Are you kidding, none of the cool cats have even thought about starting yet.



(im a cool cat btw)

I'm in the UK, so it's a bit later than in the US. If it was still 4:30 pm I'd probably have time to submit something. Alas, I'm not in the habit of staying up until 5 am anymore.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






Jeza posted:

Are you kidding, none of the cool cats have even thought about starting yet.



(im a cool cat btw)


The Eighth Sea
1490 words

One night, Elliot's mother shook him out of his dreams with a very worried look on her face.

"The planes are coming," she said as she helped him put on his jacket over his pajamas. "Do you remember what we have to do when the airplanes come?"

"Go in the shelter," said Elliot.

"That's right. Do you want to take Mr. Shaggybear?"

Eliott nodded, took the teddy and held it to his chest.


Outside, sirens wailed. There were no cars on the streets, just other sleepy-eyed families making their way to what cover there was from the airplanes. Elliot saw friends from school and hoped they would be in the same shelter. Last time the planes came, it had been a long, boring wait in the dark for nothing at all to happen.

The school cellar had been converted to a refuge. Families filed in through the cafeteria, back through the smelly boiler room and down a ladder into the shelter. There wasn't much room for grown-ups to stand up, but Elliot and the other children scampered around the musty basement, making the best of the adventure, clutching teddies and favorite blankets.

At first, it was just another long wait. Elliot's eyes got tired from squinting in the harsh light of the lanterns and flashlights. Soon, he settled down with his head on his mother's lap, and the other children went to their parents, and for a little while the town slumbered once more.

Then came the rumbles, far off and faint enough that everyone could pretend it was something else. Elliot stirred from dozing as his mother ran her hand through his hair over and over.

Boom. Boom! Boom!

The last boom was directly overhead. The ceiling sagged and groaned, then gave way under the weight of the building's roof and the heavy boilers. Elliot's mother screamed. Elliot screamed. Everyone screamed. The whole world was very dark and very heavy for a moment, and then it was nothing at all.

~

"Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!" Elliot shook off the foggy feeling in his head, looked down and saw his hands on the long shaft of an oar. All around him, other little boys and girls rowed in time with the shouts of a strange looking man who stood at the head of the rows of children.

"Get that foggy look off your face, lad! We can't slow down now!" He shouted at Elliot.

By the gentle rocking of the room around him, Elliot guessed that they were on a boat. The shouting man was very short and very wide, and looked like a patchwork quilt made from different skins. Even his eyes were different colors, each one a kaleidoscope of browns and blues and greens. He spotted Elliot peering around the room.

"By the sky, they always send me the new ones. Up with ye' boy, you're no use down here yet." The patchwork man crossed the room and grabbed Elliot by the ear, dragging him to a staircase that led up and out of the oar room. "Go up an' ask around for the first mate. He'll find something more your speed."

Elliot only needed to be shoved once. He stumbled up the stairs, wondering in his daze where his mother was and how they'd got on a boat.

His mother wasn't on deck. There were more patchwork people scurrying to and fro, tending the masts and carrying great armloads of strange silvery wood from here to there. Everywhere he looked, Elliot saw busy people. Most of the patchwork men were working together to pull up old, faded boards from the deck and rails of the ship and replace them with the new, shinier silver wood.

Beyond the sails, fluffy white clouds piled high against a crisp blue sky. Elliot went to the rail and saw more blue sky, more puffy clouds going down as far as the eye could see. The ship was a tiny, lonely island. For just a moment, Elliot forgot all about his mother and the strangeness of the stitched-together sailors.

Then a rough patchwork hand gripped him by the shoulder. Elliot looked straight up into the patchworkiest face he'd seen yet. "You! No leaning. Get up t'the poop and start pulling boards with the other lads."

"The man downstairs said to find the first mate," Elliot said, stammering a bit.

"The first mate just found you loafing. Now get to it or I'll throw ye' to the clouds."

After some asking around and a few stern, muttered replies, Elliot found his way up to the poop deck, where half a dozen other little boys pulled and wrenched at the deck. The boards there were the most faded and worn of all, and Elliot thought that it must have been a very long time since they'd been replaced.

An older boy spotted Elliot and called him over. Elliot fidgeted as the boy gave him an appraising once-over.

"Pancaked, huh?" The older boy said at length. Elliot wasn't sure what he was being asked. "Y'know. Squished. Smashed. Crushed to goopy smithereens. Pancaked. That's how you got here, right?"

"I--I--" Elliot took a step backward. Crushed to goopy smithereens alright. His mother, his neighbors, his classmates. They'd all been flat as pancakes.

"Awe, kid. Look, I shouldn't have brought it up. It's just most of the newbies they send me aren't so full of stitches yet."

Elliot looked down, really looked at himself for the first time since he'd woke up in the oar room. He was wearing knee-length white linen shorts that made him think of pirates, and his small chest was crisscrossed with rough lines, quilted with different bits of skin that puckered around the stitches holding them together.

"Is this heaven?" Elliot's voice was barely more than a wavering whisper.

The older boy laughed. "This look like heaven? Nah, you gotta work the ships a few times before you go beyond. This is my third time around. You'll see. My name's, uh, I think it was Jeremy. If anyone asks, tell 'em you're on my crew now, ok?"

And with that, he put Elliot to work with the other children, using hammers and crowbars to pull up old boards, then fitting the deck with new ones. They worked quietly, and Elliot found that even when he tried, he couldn't think of much to say.

So it went on like that, until the great blue sky darkened to night and the ocean of sky around them glowed black-gold with starlight. There was no such thing as time for Elliot and the other children. They didn't grow tired or hungry or fretful, didn't whine for snacks or favorite teddy bears. No, all there was to separate then from now was the steady progression of shiny new boards across the poop deck.

That, and the new stitches that crept across Elliot's skin when he wasn't paying attention, as slow and sure as grass growing. He noticed it on the other children too, how they all looked a little more like the grizzled and patchy sailors who'd been working the ship for a long time.

The most bothersome thing of all, though, were the stitches that seemed to run through Elliot's brain, as though his memories were being taken apart and remade into someone else's. He didn't know what school he'd gone to, or the name of that silly old stuffed bear he'd carried everywhere he went. Elliot could still remember his mother's face, though, and that was what he held onto as they tore up board after board across the whole ship, and the endless night and day spun around them.

Day, night. Day, night. The children's progress grew slower and slower. One day, when Elliot found himself staring at a shiny silver piece of wood without the foggiest idea of what to do with it, Jeremy called the children away from their work.

"The first time is always the quickest," he said when they'd gathered around him. "It's time for you to go back."

"Where?" Elliot asked when no one else said anything.

"Ah. You can't remember, can you? See kiddos, there's this thing called life, and you had one. And now you're gonna go have a whole new one, cause you didn't get to finish your old one. Neat, huh?"

"Will I still be me?" said Elliot.

Jeremy gave him a sad smile. "Ah, well. Who are you, exactly?"

And the little boy with far too many stitches had no answer for him.

~

"What happens when a kid gets a owie that lasts forever?" Asks a little boy of his mother.

"Well," she says, tucking him in, "it doesn't matter because I'll never let that happen to you."

Then she turns out the light, and the boy dreams of dark, heavy places, and ships that sail through the sky.

The ships must needs tending.

angel opportunity
Sep 7, 2004

Total Eclipse of the Heart

I struggled with this prompt and couldn't do anything worthwhile... failing to submit second time in a row.

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autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007

by Lowtax


Fun Shoe

I'm out like a boner in sweatpants :(

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