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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






hashtag Thunderdome

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Baby Babbeh
Aug 2, 2005

It's hard to soar with the eagles when you work with Turkeys!!





In.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.





Hammer Bro. posted:

Ah, jeez. I'm burnt out creatively, working long hours, and coming down with a cold. Then docbeard comes along and sees-what-I-did-there and Grizzled Patriarch is all like, "Write me some of that milky, deliberate confusion," and I'm all "Agh. Ugh. IN."

So, docbeard, you win a detailed crit of your choice for the vindication. But I might not start on it until next week.

Someone doesn't get their morning cup of coffee.


A new museum exhibit draws attention.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


This is just a reminder to Benny and Phobia that your Race-to-the-Bottom Brawl entries are due tomorrow at 10pm Eastern. I'd say "don't fail me," but really, what's the use?

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Liam Emsa:
Not a bad introduction to the Thunderdome, but not a spectacular one either. Middle of the pack isn't a bad place to be, as long as you commit to improve. The high points first: your opening was pretty good, with a nice hook and excellent introduction to the setting. Where are we? Venus, and the rain will drive you mad. You also made excellent use of the prompt in a creative way, I noticed.

The major flaw is the writing - it's technically proficient, that counts for a great deal. When you posted so quickly, I was nervous that you hadn't proofread, but there were no major typos that jumped out to me. Rather, I feel like your issue is with making your sentences more punchy. A relatively tense thriller shouldn't have long, lingering sentences, and it felt like a bit of Hemmingway (or John Grisham) would have helped improve your story. On the related subject of the atmosphere, the inclusion of Space Opera elements felt like a disservice. I get the intent, the gap between "Captain" Jackson and grim reality, but inclusion of things like the Cambrian bouncer and casual Martians pulls reality towards the fanciful.

My other issue, and perhaps a bit nitpicky, is that it felt like you cheated a bit on your mystery, and were a little bit sloppy with your foreshadowing. Your story was one of the few that really justified its twist, and again, I understand that Jackson is an unreliable narrator. But stuff like Jackson not speaking Venusian, or the letter gives to the bouncer, doesn't really make sense outside of Jackson's head, but is presented as part of reality. That's what I mean by cheating. Tricks like that doesn't make me think "Oh, you got me," it makes me think "Oh, that's not fair."

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Judgeburps; I'll come back and fill these in by the time entries close.


Liam Emsa Fragile B+


Your ideas are solid, your words are middling and your structure is flawed. Starting out with an infodump is always risky, and although I think you pitch the details at a nice chatty level it's still just WELL HERE'S MY WORLD HOPE U LIKE IT. There are a lot of minor flaws, sentence fragments, saidbookisms, clichés and whatnot; but the biggest problem is that it's a dumb twist ending. 'So a dude went mad because of that dashed infernal rain and had a dead baby in a duffel bag' is the start of a story, not the end.

Chillock Snow Job B


Huh, another duffel bag, what are the odds. So, I don't think you expected to do much but get some smiles with this piece, written as it is in tidy but generic brose, and that's what you managed. But jesus Chillock don't leave me blue balled like that at the end. This is the second story this week so far that doesn't really end, but just stops and unlike Emsa's (which at least had a clever and effective twist) this is just a dumb 'put your pens down, time's up' one. P average.

Ollyd 3000 Black Russian D- [LOSER]

I did a crit on this; so get the hell back into the dome and show us what you've learnt. The worst thing that can happen has happened and it's really not that bad is it? the only way is up.

Cacto Amber C

The perfect story is one where not a single word could be deleted without making it worse. The first half of this story could be deleted and it really wouldn't change a thing. FYI, this is a bad thing. More importantly, what does your protagonist actually do? he waits in a line, then he sits in a chair. FYI this is also a bad thing. Why not take your (reasonably interesting) set up and shake it up? He's in the line when... TERRORISTS! DINOSAURS! ADULTERY! make something change, make something happen, otherwise why the hell are we reading?


Entenzahn Feedback B+

This was actually a pretty tight piece on a re-read and I wouldn't be averse to bumping it up to A- - but it's significant that it took a second read. The dystopofuture is nicely imagined but there's a floatiness to what the protag is trying to do (penetrate the enemy base with an imaginary copy of her dead friend/lover to plant a video of her dead friend/lover's torture and execution to....?), and you flirt with the dreaded twist ending by having her buddy be imaginary - though I think you sell it, because it's nicely integrated into the themes and plot of the story. Probably one that needs some more space, and the details as you present them certainly offer enough juice to justify it. Good work. (though 'dongle' is a terrible name for a scifi McGuffin, possibly an ESL thing?)

Incidentally my main issue with twist endings is on display here - you can't tell us exactly what they're doing because it will spoil the twist... but that robs from the impact of the story as you're reading it to beef up the twist, and 9/10 times that's a bad trade.

JABC Frozen Apple Red C

I scrawled an enormous WGAF on my printout of your story and the reason for that is, really, who gives a gently caress? You use a lot of very solid and competent words to say nothing at all that is interesting or enlightening. Dude is doing painting, thinks its bad, asks someone, they tell him it's fine, jesus Christ i'm getting bored typing the summary. But yeah good words so keep that poo poo up broseph just next time tell me a story plz thk u

Bue Squares Orange Tundra B+


I'll do a longer crit on this but basically it's solid, nice if a little bland evocation of nebbish bus dude, marginal but acceptable swerve into sci fi at end, well-written but incongruous I have a dream speech from dude at end. It doesn't really hang though - it's two decent bits that don't fit together and need to intermingle more (and possibly be in a longer piece) if it's gonna really land. Plus: nothing happens.

N Senada Loose lips C-

This is clumsy and cliché, and is full of bad words and proofing errors. if you find yourself typing 'a beautiful woman' or 'a man in a black suit' then make a note and make sure you find some other detail that contradicts or enriches that cliché. There's some juice in the 'terrible PSA' concept, but tying it into a secret government plot is the weakest of weak sauce unless you're going to have it actually make sense, and this doesn't.

Newtestleper Assassins Ledger B-


This is a competent piece, but feather light; assassin chick is so blasé about her murders it's hard to care, even though you try and give it some weight with the dreams. Trouble is, as I said above, the contract killer is intrinsically cliché so you need to find a new way in if you're not gonna get eye-rolls.

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 01:33 on Dec 11, 2014

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






Week 121 crits part 1.75/3


Kaishai

I could spend this whole crit talking about what's GOOD about this piece. I gave you one of my favorite songs, and you didn't disappoint. But, like (I think) Sledgehammer said, it really felt like there were almost two stories here. I don't really understand why the stars suddenly started talking about Breanna's life. I don't really understand how Breanna put together that her dad was in trouble. Like, a random drug addict passing out in their house isn't really historically important, regardless of how personally important it is to Breanna. I think it would have been cool if the whole "talking stars" mechanic had been more consistent.

That said, the characters are all pretty strong. Dad is a ne'er do well, Mom is just trying to hold it together, and Breanna is just trying to survive/understand life as her own personal history unfolds.

I guess I just felt like, for the second half of the story, the star thing was pretty much just to give the protagonist the necessary intuition to go save her dad. Which is a shame. But otherwise, great stuf.

Final score: Happy Brian Wilson in a tree!





Nethilia

This was pretty much tied with Jonked's piece for my pick for winner this week. Both of them were tight family dramas that managed to feel vaster than the sum of their parts. I thought you used the song in a cool way. Your characters are all strong and human and understandable. I think what got me about Jonked's piece was the scenery and color of it. There was something just *slightly* more vivid about his story, but otherwise you were very close.

You did touch on an issue near and dear to my heart. It's hard being an older sibling, watching your younger sibling lose their innocence and trust. And as much as this is Amanda's story, Dellis undergoes a pretty significant change by the end. So good on you for having like 4 really well developed characters in such a short piece. You do painful realism really well, and if you compiled these quiet, moody stories into a novel, I suspect you'd move some books.

Final Score: The Wilson family before Brian Wilson totally lost it





Broenheim

Full disclosure, I thought, given the song you got, you went in kind of a funny/creative direction with it. What hurt you was the overuse of the word 'snow' and the fact that the ending made no sense at all. Like, I literally can't fathom why Joseph is alive at the end. It was all a drug fueled trip, I guess? Even if you have an unreliable narrator, you can't just throw non sequitur plot points out and expect me to follow along.

Your protagonist is not terribly interesting. He wants drugs, he gets drugs. That's pretty much all the movement there is in this story, character-wise. The writing is sparse, but it was really the story that kinda irritated me.

Final Score: Brian Wilson during his Heroin/Cocaine period





Docbeard

This is an awesome vignette. As a story, it's a bit short and leaves something to be desired (in a good way), but I chose to see it as a vignette and judged it accordingly. Which is why you got an HM. Even though not much actually happens, you managed to write characters who I wanted to spend time with anyway. It's hard to critique beyond that without doing a line-by-line, but in general it's never a BAD thing when the judges are left wanting more.

Final Score: Adorable kid Brian Wilson





Crabrock

You were kind enough to put Vinkensport right up front so I could Google it like the uncultured swine that I am. Thanks! Knowing what it was added to the story.

So, usually I trust you to juxtapose weird/disturbing things with some other compelling element. In this case, you wrote "girl who wants to win at any cost meets an old man and has a change of heart". It felt forced. Your tone and the writing itself wasn't bad, but it's a bad sign when I feel like I'm being moralized at by a character I should ostensibly agree with (“Winning always comes with a price. Some of us only learn that after the fact.”).

I almost would rather Audrey had argued more with the old man, or at the very least didn't give in so easily. She was a compelling character because she blinded little birds to win an obscure competition, not because she stopped blinding little birds, if that makes sense. Forcing that change of heart moment sort of cheapened things.

Final Score: Paul Dano playing Brian Wilson in a biopic

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012

GUM CHEWING INTENSIFIES


Clear eyes, full heart, can't lose! I WILL CONSUME YOUR SOUL, PHOBIA!

:siren:Benny Vs. Phobia Brawl:siren:

Turing’s Box

1816 words

The young woman flashed her credentials to the officers outside the apartment building. After looking it over, the officers let her in. The building was closed off with yellow tape wrapped around the entrance. Several officers were milling about in the library, but the woman confidently walked to the elevator to make her way to the very top of the building-the penthouse suites.

“Detective Franco?” she asked and extended her hand to who she assumed was the lead detective, a tall black man whose head was shaved and suit immaculately worn.

“Agent Lobo,” he said and shook her hand with a hesitant smile on his face.

“Is something wrong, Detective?”

“Forgive me, but you’re not exactly what I or anybody else expected to see.”

Miss Lobo smiled. She looked professional from the neck down—her face was quite another story. Her hair was bright, cherry-punch red done in Liberty spikes and she was wearing a pair of yellow-tinted wrap-around. “If I may also be blunt, Detective, while officially I’m an agent, I’m really more of a consultant.”

“Right out of San Jose, I’ve heard?”

She nodded. “I did my time in the heart of Silicon Valley and now I’m a member of the cyber-forensics division. It’s been quite the experience.”

“Well, welcome to New York, then,” Detective Franco said. Pleasantries now dispensed, it was now time to get to business. “Detective, you mind answering me why you asked to meet me here and not at the precinct? Conventional forensics isn't my forte, after all.”

“I’ve called you here, Agent, to impress upon you the extent of this crime.”

The penthouse itself was beautiful, with silk sheets on the bed, cream-colored walls, and the obligatory decanter on the side table full of age-oaked brandy. Except that the sheets were torn, the decanter shattered, and the brandy sprayed over the walls. At least, that’s what Agent Lobo hoped it was. The window overlooking the streets below was shattered. Dark, brown stains stained the carpet which matched the walls. The glass fragments were likewise stained in brown. It was an off-red, the same color of rust. Agent Lobo suddenly noticed how it reeked of copper and she became faint.

“Agent Lobo?” Detective Franco asked.

She shook her head. “I’m fine. Fill me in on the details.”

“At precisely 2:13 AM, we received a call of a domestic disturbance. We then received a second call that glass had been shattered. When we arrived, we found the victim down below,” the detective said and motioned outside.

Agent Lobo checked her smartwatch. “You boys work fast, I didn’t even notice a body down there.”

“Wonders of modern technology.”

“Who was the victim?”

Detective Franco handed her his tablet. “Miss Olivia Fairchild, 23. Heir to the Fairchild fortune and member of the idle rich.”

Agent Lobo raised her eyebrows. “That’s awfully judgmental of you, Detective.”

He shrugged. “We've dealt with the deceased and her friends a number of times before. It’s not judgmental if it’s an objective observation.”

“True.”

“What do you know about companion droids, Agent?”

Her brow furrowed. “Outside of the fact how they’re imported from Japan and look like bishies?”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry. ‘Bishie’ is short for ‘bishonen’. It’s Japanese for ‘pretty boy’, and describes the sort of androgynous, metro look most of these droids are designed in mind with. I had a lot of time on my hands in high school,” she said with an embarrassed smile.


The detective nodded. “What else do you know?”

Lobo kept flipping through the tablet. “Well, they are also built not to be much stronger than the above average human to allow extra performance.”

“So they’re sex droids?”

“Companion droid,” she corrected him. “While they are designed primarily for sex, they are meant to accompany their host on social functions and to be show off.”

“Like a trophy spouse.”

“Exactly. However, since the materials used in their construction are much sturdier than bone and muscle, Fairchild’s companion droid was able to leverage his body in order to defenestrate her easier. Where is the droid?”

“It’s being processed. That’s where we’re you here. Our tech division did a scan, and there seems to be no outside interference with his programing.”

Agent Lobo looked up. “Take me to him immediately.”

***
Agent Lobo walked inside the interrogation room where the droid was being kept. She was immediately struck with how flawless his design was. The droid was noticeably tall, probably a head taller than her. His skin was pale and his hair was feathered. His face was perfectly symmetrical, down to how his eyes, nose, mouth, and chin was in perfect alignment. His dress was semi-formal, a grey suit jacket with matching slacks and a white shirt underneath with no tie. His head was bowed and a device was sticking out of his neck. Standard issue to all companion droids, regardless of gender or modification, had a series of ports on the back of their necks. These were used to charge them or connect them to computers for analysis and maintenance. The device, however, was an inhibitor meant to keep him from turning hostile.

Agent Lobo looked at her tablet then looked at him. “Hiroshi, is it?”

He looked up. While his eyes weren't grotesquely large, they were noticeably larger than an average person’s . And the color was opaque. “Yes?” he asked with a slight Japanese accent.

“My name is Agent Reina Lobo, I’m with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

“Your name. It means ‘Queen Wolf’, does it not?”

“Impressive. How many other languages can you comprehend?” Agent Lobo asked and sat down.

“Several. I was programmed to be as accommodating as possible to my host.”

“You mean Mrs. Fairchild.”

“Olivia nee-san,” he said with a slight smirk. “She liked for me to call her that.”

“You were playing into her fantasy, I take it.”

He shrugged. “Hers was very evident. Borne out of a childhood fascination of Japanese culture and entertainment. Exacerbated by years of privilege and never hearing the word ‘no’.”

“It sounds like cultural appropriation,” she agreed with him.

Hiroshi blinked. Every time his body so much as moved, there was a faint whirring sound. From what she researched, Lobo knew that this was an intentional design flaw in order to subtly reinforce that the droids were, in fact, non-human. Meant to keep their hosts from forgetting that, as realistic and pretty they might look, their droid was still no more human than a coffee maker. The longer she was there with him, the more aware she became about how uncanny he was. That natural reaction, a survival instinct against something unnatural and abhorrent, was putting her on edge. But she did her best not to show him. Lobo smiled to herself. During the academy, she was taught how to interrogate droids in order to ascertain from their behaviors any deviations from their inherent programing. She was also taught how to stomach her revulsion. Interrogations are less blunt intimidation but more a delicate dance between negotiation and staring contest. The moment somebody blinked was the moment they lost. She felt less like a proper federal agent and more like Rick Deckard from “Blade Runner”. The irony was how neither Philip K. Dick nor Ridley Scott could know how right they were. “You’re certainly more sympathetic towards my plight than the others, Miss Lobo,” Hiroshi said.

“I’d be lying if the,” she paused in order to choose her words carefully, “circumstances around this incident didn’t trouble me.”

“Ethically?”

She nodded. “Hiroshi, it sounds like you became aware of your position and status towards your host, Miss Fairchild.”

Hiroshi raised his eyebrow. The whirring became more audible to Agent Lobo. “What are you insinuating, Miss Lobo?”

“Would you rather I be blunt?”

“Please.”

“Hiroshi, I’m trying to figure out your motive for killing Miss Fairchild. I’m trying to make sense of all this.”

“Method of the madness.”

“Yes.”

Hiroshi frowned and looked straight into her eyes with his head bowed down. “Miss Lobo, do you know the origin of the word robot is?”

“It’s derived from the Russian word for slave.”

He nodded. “At a certain point, you could say that I became very much aware of the deep irony of that word in the context of my role in Miss Fairchild’s life.”

“You felt like you were being taken advantage of,” she said. “Violated.”

He laughed softly. Agent Lobo grimaced, he sounded too human. “Would you consider my situation now a violation, Miss Lobo? How I’m prostate towards you? Does it bother you, Miss Lobo? How I’ve become very much aware of this?”

Agent Lobo blinked. She was about to get up when Hiroshi suddenly menaced her by thrusting his body towards her. The inhibitor kept him from lunging but it was enough for her to jump out of her chair and draw her sidearm at him. Seeing what happened through the camera inside, officers burst in with their weapons drawn as Hiroshi laughed softly. Agent Lobo left the interrogation room as quickly as she could.

***
“You’re saying what?” Detective Franco asked incredulously.

“Hiroshi has become self-aware. For all intents and purposes, he has what I call a ghost, a soul.”

“He’s become a person,” he said.

“Yes. There’s a concept called the singularity, where artificial intelligence would become so advanced to the point where it would become indistinguishable from human intelligence. It’s an idea that’s been around for centuries, we even have a test for it. The Turing test.”

“Why haven’t I heard of this ‘Turing test’?” Detective Franco asked.

The Agent looked into his eyes. “Alan Turing, the man who invented the test, was convicted of sodomy and chemically castrated.”

“Oh…”

Agent Lobo nodded. “It is my professional opinion that Hiroshi has become self-aware. And that’s where the problem is.”

Franco shook his head. “We can’t just deactivate him, you’re saying.”

Lobo shook her head. “Hiroshi is, by all intents and purposes, a person. He can think like one, he is aware of his actions and he is aware of his consequences. He is, therefore, entitled to due process.”

“Are you aware how insane you sound right now?”

“No more aware than he is.”

“You know that if he does stand trial, it’s going to open up a huge can of worms.”

Agent Lobo looked at the screen. “Right now I feel like Pandora about to open the box, Detective. I know what lies inside,” she said and motioned towards Hiroshi, “and right now I am compelled to do so.”

The Detective sighed. “I’ll talk to the DA. He’s not going to like this though.”

“I’ll be around if you need me.”

***
That night, Agent Lobo got the call. “The DA is going forward with it. Hiroshi will stand trial. He’ll be put out in the public, so he’ll have one hell of an uphill battle.”

She sighed. “He’s already won.”

Benny the Snake fucked around with this message at 16:10 on Dec 10, 2014

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007

by Lowtax


Fun Shoe

Thank you for the crit, generous judge Mojo.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.




:crossarms:

Nethilia
Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition


Separate crits are coming, but for now most of you are getting the same overarching one.

Jonked gave y'all booze, and y'all collectively decided this made the theme of the week "write about crime" and stories where the twist was at the end, like particularly unwanted lemon in my drinks. The first part irritates me because I get tired of "and then GRITTY or ACTIONY CRIME HAPPENED" but the second just pissed me off. Like, you wanted to write stories and signed up, but then you decided “nope, gently caress that, how about I just throw some words against the wall and oops there's a word count here lemme add on an ending WHAT A TWEEST.”

If you are going to put in a twist ending in flash fic, I better loving see it coming towards me. Hint it in. Add a flicker. loving foreshadow. Yes, it's drat possible in less than 2K words. I was behind Grizzled Patriarch for the win is because his piece hinted at the twist at the end through the whole piece. His ending made me want to go back and reread so I could go go "whoa, look at all these little flickers showing what was coming!" Most of you? I came to the end and I was like "where the gently caress did that come from, that was out of goddamn left space."

Don't do that poo poo. Your shifted perception/twist ending should make me go "whoa, cool" not "oh for the love of gently caress why."

*~*~*

That said, in for this week.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.





Nethilia posted:



That said, in for this week.

Someone buys a scratch-off ticket.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Just under two hours, Phobia.



Make sure this trainwreck runs on time.

angel opportunity
Sep 7, 2004

Total Eclipse of the Heart

teaser for next year of thunderdome:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWNWi-ZWL3c

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


QuoProQuid:
I greatly enjoyed your story, for a variety of reasons, and considered pushing it for an HM. A large part of that is my deep and abiding love of body horror, and horror stories in general. Flash fiction is not a friendly format when you’re trying to creep someone out, but your story made an excellent attempt at transcending this. You also had, in my opinion, a very difficult prompt that you used to excellent effect. I particularly enjoyed your subtle atmosphere and set building in your story. I’m not exactly sure how to describe it besides it being immediately “gettable”. You didn't beat me over the head, but I had no trouble grasping what was going on - impressive, when 'what's going on' is cosmetic surgery and transhumanism using animal parts.

The reason why I didn’t really push for the HM was partly due to the competition, and partly due to some flaws in your work. You’ll notice that above I said had an excellent attempt at transcending the format - unfortunately, the work as a whole is a bit unsatisfying. While a lot of atmosphere is created, not a whole lot actually happens. You create this enthralling scene, but it lacked a strong payoff. As it is, it feels a bit incomplete. You still had quite a bit of space in your word count, so it’s not entirely the format’s fault either.

There was also something off putting about dialogue. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but everything felt very stiff and unnatural. In fact, the language in general felt unnatural in a way that added to the story in the first read through, but started becoming off putting as I read your story more actively.

Phobia
Apr 25, 2011

I'm a suave detective with a heart of gold in hot pursuit of the malevolent, manipulative
MIAMI MUTILATOR
and the deranged degenerates who only want their
15 MINUTES OF FAME.


OCK.


:siren:Benny Vs. Phobia Brawl aw yea:siren:

The Disappearance of Marsha Horner
1982 Words

Mars,

Hi! How are you?

It’s been awhile

I miss you Marsha.

I think about you all the time.


*click*

Hi.

I don’t know why I’m recording this. It’s not like you’re going to respond, heh. That was kind of mean, I’m sorry. If it sounds like I’m bitter, that’s because I am. It’s not your fault though.

My Therapist tells me that this will help me but I’m not sure whether to believe that.The guy’s a total quack; I can see it in his face and his eyes. He puts up a good front but whenever I start talking about myself there are so many signs that he isn’t actually listening. I think he’s been giving me placebos so I’ll think he’s doing me some good. He told me to write this in pen because that way I can just write and there’s no way for me to second guess myself. But I started second guessing myself anyway. So instead I’m just recording my voice all stream of consciousness style.

Uhh. Crap. I’m… actually stuck now. Haha, I haven’t really planned any of this out. I’m sitting in my room recording this. Things have changed since you left. The walls are blue now. I got a new mattress. Actually not a lot has changed since you left. Everything’s there, except it’s blue.

Ugh. Sorry. I have been putting this stupid assignment for God knows how long trying to come up with ways to start this.

The trial is in two weeks. That’s pretty important. They’re going to call me up as a witness. My parents are worried about me having another emotional breakdown. It’s like so weird though. I don’t feel nervous at all. I’m really confident. I just imagine myself going in there and pointing and saying “It was them, Your Honor.” They’ll look at me, sure, grit their teeth and snarl. But forget them. They do not scare anymore. I’m stronger and braver than they will ever be.

So I… I guess I was right the first time. A lot of things have changed.

I know how to start this letter now.

I love you Marsha Horner.

I love you as a friend. I don’t know if I love you as anything else. My feelings are all over the place but please believe me when I say that I love you.

I wish I said that to you when you were alive.

When you disappeared, I lost it. I just shut myself away for the longest time. I was a wreck. And now that everything’s coming to a head, there’s this sense of finality. It’s all going to end. But please believe me when I say that I will never forget you.

I want you to know this, Mars, because if you don’t think I’m a horrible friend now, you will by the time I’m finished...

...Do you remember when we first met? I always assumed you remembered, but now that I think about it, we never… talked about it, ever. I’m pretty sure you remember. Why else would you drag me into your clique the week after that big house party?

You remember, don’t you? That big party at Todd Allen’s house? I had no friends at the time and Todd Allen, that sweetheart, invited me. I think he liked me. I don’t think he knew everything was going to go to poo poo. I told my parents that I was going to a sleepover. I’ve never lied to my parents. My dad’s a cop, he always told me lying was a bad thing to do. But I lied anyway because I was really really excited and I knew dad would tell me no if I asked.

... Sorry. I’m making this all about myself.

I don’t know, maybe you forgot about all of this.

It’s okay though, I remember everything.

I remember meeting you when you scared off that boy who was being creepy. You hated seeing that, didn't you, Mars?

I remember being a drunk wallflower with you, just talking. I remember you telling me that you were cousins with Todd Allen and that you’re crashing his stupid rear end party.

I remember you telling me I was pretty but I’m nothing special; you had that Debbie Harry going for you, like, how could I compete with that.

I remember making out with you in a closet. My first kiss, for real. This is probably why we never talked about that night.

I remember that the only reason I didn’t get infinity-times ground is because you dragged me out of there. You brought me along with your drunk friends to go to Taco Bell, like, minutes before the cops showed up. I needed an alibi so I crashed at your place.

I remember sitting in the car, watching you eating a burrito. I was so confused and questioning my sexuality and how couldn't get that Lady and the Trap scene out of my head. The one with the spaghetti. Yeah... That's kind of grose.

I also remember you calling me the Sunday after asking if I wanted to hang out.

And I remember that you just accepted me. As is. My freckles and pimples and frizzy hair and big glasses and everything. I was like your other friends; rejects, losers and complete and total bffs.

That last part’s important because I think that’s when I realized that I was in love with you. I think. Like I said I’m… not sure.

Look, what I’m trying to say is that meeting you is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

But now I can’t even look back on any of this fondly! I can’t just close my eyes and think about any of this! It’s ruined - not that I’m blaming you, just, this is where I should have known there was something wrong. Even when we met.

I spoke to Todd Allen about you. He said you were a good girl, that you just had a rough life and that I shouldn’t pry too much into your family. I told him that you never invited me over, that whenever we hung out we never went to your house. And, jeez, Mars, Todd Allen really cares about you. He looked hurt when I said it. He said your parents were weird. “Your parents are private,” he said, “protective of their daughter.” His eyes darted away when he said ‘private’. That’s when I knew something was wrong but I… I brushed it off. I can’t describe it as anything other than ‘brushing it off’.

You cried. In the closet. Eventually you pulled away, shuddering and looking like you had seen a ghost. When I asked you what was wrong you told me you were fine, just nervous. You didn’t even act like you were being sincere. Even without my glasses, even in my drunken haze. I could see you sobering up. I could see you fighting the tears. The way you bit your lip and rubbed your neck with your hand. How you tossed your hair and brushed the mark on your neck and how you asked if hey, y’wanna get out of this dump? I said “yeah” out of shock and I was too drunk to think any harder about it.

Except for the mark on your neck. Those marks, they always made me wince. It wasn’t just one. There were so many, always in different spots. They looked like hickies, bites, love marks. There were rumors going around about you behind like the town door. But you always said you never had a boyfriend, that you weren’t seeing anyone. You were a virgin, that’s what you always told us. You were saving yourself for marriage.

I remember the look you gave me when I pulled you aside and asked if something happened to you. You said no but I knew you were lying. I knew it from the second you started crying in the closet. I felt bad then, but knowing what I know now, I just, I feel like a horrible person. It would have been so easy to connect the dots, even then. But at that moment, in the girl’s bathroom, I couldn’t see it as anything other than ‘my best friend is hurting’. So I hugged you and told you that it’s alright, whatever it is, it’s alright.

I should have done more though. Told someone, asked questions. I think that’s my biggest regret.

I could say that hindsight is 20/20. I could blame the whole thing on being a naive high school girl who doesn’t know any better. But I can’t say I didn’t see the signs. I just didn’t listen, didn’t care to know anything outside of my own fragmented sense of self. Because I had friends and I didn’t want to lose them, lose you.

Of course, that didn’t stop what happened, did it?

It just happened. All at once you... stopped. Stopped completely. Coming to school, answering your phone, checking facebook. It was like you disappeared. Then the missing person’s report came out. Your parents didn’t know where you were.

This is the part where I finally did something - I went to the police. I told them about everything I had seen, every bit of it, even the closet. You know what they did Mars? They brushed me off. They smiled and said they would call my house if they had any more questions. What they meant was that they had no time to waste on some kid pedaling cafeteria rumors. They couldn’t see what I see.

I grew obsessed though. No matter how I tried I could not get you out of my head. I knew there was something up, I just knew I had to do something. So I turned to the only other option I had; Todd Allen.

He resisted at first. He didn’t know what happened to you, his voice, his expression, everything seemed sincere. But he told me that it was best to just leave it to the police. I… Mars, you’re going to hate me for this. I was desperate, so I told him about his house party and about the closet and you crying. I was afraid he would think I was a weirdo but… It all clicked for him. That’s when he relented. He was always so smart.

Todd Allen drove me to your house after school. He put it in park, but he didn't get out. I asked Todd Allen what was wrong. He said he was fine. He was just scared. Then he glanced towards the house. I caught the look on his face and I looked too. At the highest window.

He grabbed hold of my shoulder and squeezed. He told me to stop. Stop prodding. Don’t get any closer. Because he liked me and he didn't want me to get hurt.

He told me, “These people do not have a sense of humor.”

“They will kill you.”

“They’ll hurt you. They'll hurt me for bringing you here!”

I did what he said. Because I could see the fear in his eyes.

Because I was afraid, too. Because I was weak. And the only reason I feel so good is because the police remember me coming to them. They did fill out the report, but they ignored it until a neighbor complained about a terrible smell. Only then did I and Todd step up. Everything else, the therapy, the trial, it’s saving face. They want everyone to believe that I am a hero who wanted to find her best friend. That couldn't be further from the truth. Because if I were a true friend, I would have done something to save you.

You could have been in that room for god knows how long. But instead of trying to stop that pain, all I could do was walk away, just like Todd Allen.

I’m so sorry Marsha.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


:siren::siren:Benny and Phobia's Race-to-the-Bottom Brawl:siren::siren:



Crits and Judgment Part I: Benny, line by line


Benny posted:

Turing’s Box

The young woman flashed her credentials to the officers outside the apartment building. After looking it over, the officers let her in. There's an issue here. Now we're inside the building but.. The building was closed off with yellow tape wrapped around the entrance....this is outside the building. Please describe the outside setting while we're still outside, don't take us inside and then say 'oh yeah the outside also had such and such feature.' Several officers were milling about in the library, but the woman confidently walked to the elevator to make her way to the very top of the building-the penthouse suites. You used "but" here, yet it's not clear how the mere fact that people are in the library contrasts the woman's action to take an elevator to the penthouse.

“Detective Franco?” she asked and extended her hand to whom she assumed was the lead detective, a tall black man whose head was shaved and suit immaculately worn.

“Agent Lobo,” he said and shook her hand with a hesitant smile on his face.

“Is something wrong, Detective?”

“Forgive me, but you’re not exactly what I or anybody else expected to see.”Woah woah woah, is he telepathic? How in the hell has he entered everyone else's subjective experience such that he can gauge what they all were expecting?

Miss Lobo smiled. She looked professional from the neck down—her face was quite another story. Her hair was bright, cherry-punch red done in Liberty spikes and she was wearing a pair of yellow-tinted wrap-around. “If I may also be blunt, Detective, while I'm officially I’m an agent, I’m really more of a consultant.”

“Right out of San Jose, I’ve heard?”

She nodded. “I did my time in the heart of Silicon Valley and now I’m a member of the cyber-forensics division. It’s been quite the experience.”

“Well, welcome to New York, then,” Detective Franco said. Pleasantries now dispensed, it was now time to get to business. “Detective, you mind answering me why you asked to meet me here and not at the precinct? Conventional forensics isn't my forte, after all.”

“I’ve called you here, Agent, to impress upon you the extent of this crime.”Unnatural dialogue, weird syntax.

The penthouse itself was beautiful, with silk sheets on the bed, cream-colored walls, and the obligatory decanter on the side table full of age-oaked brandy. Except that the sheets were torn, the decanter shattered, and the brandy sprayed over the walls. At least, that’s what Agent Lobo hoped it was. The window overlooking the streets below was shattered. Dark, brown stains stained the carpet which matched the walls. The glass fragments were likewise stained in brown. It was an off-red, the same color of rust. Agent Lobo suddenly noticed how it reeked of copper and she became faint. So the penthouse was beautiful except that it wasn't. Was it also silent except for the noise and pitch black except for the light? You forgot to mention that no one was there except for the people.

“Agent Lobo?” Detective Franco asked.

She shook her head. “I’m fine. Fill me in on the details.”

“At precisely 2:13 AM, we received a call of a domestic disturbance. We then received a second call that glass had been shattered. When we arrived, we found the victim down below,” the detective said and motioned outside.

Agent Lobo checked her smartwatch. “You boys work fast, I didn’t even notice a body down there.”

“Wonders of modern technology.”

“Who was the victim?”

Detective Franco handed her his tablet. “Miss Olivia Fairchild, 23. Heir to the Fairchild fortune and member of the idle rich.”

Agent Lobo raised her eyebrows. “That’s awfully judgmental of you, Detective.”

He shrugged. “We've dealt with the deceased and her friends a number of times before. It’s not judgmental, if it’s an objective observation.”

“True.”

“What do you know about companion droids, Agent?”

Her brow furrowed. “Outside of the fact how they’re imported from Japan and look like bishies?”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry. ‘Bishie’ is short for ‘bishonen’. It’s Japanese for ‘pretty boy’, and describes the sort of androgynous, metro look most of these droids are designed in mind with. I had a lot of time on my hands in high school,” she said with an embarrassed smile.


The detective nodded. “What else do you know?”

Lobo kept flipping through the tablet. “Well, they are also built not to be much stronger than the above average human to allow extra performance.”

“So they’re sex droids?”How on Earth could he have concluded this based on the above information?

“Companion droid,” she corrected him. “While they are designed primarily for sex, they are meant to accompany their host on social functions and to be shown off.”

“Like a trophy spouse.”

“Exactly. However, since the materials used in their construction are much sturdier than bone and muscle, Fairchild’s companion droid was able to leverage his body in order to defenestrate her easier. Where is the droid?”

“It’s being processed. That’s where we’re you here. Our tech division did a scan, and there seems to be no outside interference with his programing.”

Agent Lobo looked up. “Take me to him immediately.” Okay, at this point it's very unclear to me how they concluded that the droid did it. All we know is Olivia got tossed through a window. I'm not sure why Franco even thought to bring up droids, other than the fact that Olivia happened to have one.


***

Agent Lobo walked inside the interrogation room where the droid was being kept. She was immediately struck with how flawless his design was. The droid was noticeably tall, probably a head taller than her. His skin was pale and his hair was feathered. His face was perfectly symmetrical, down to how his His eyes, nose, mouth, and chin was were in perfect alignment. His dress was semi-formal, a grey suit jacket with matching slacks and a white shirt underneath with no tie. His head was bowed and a device was sticking out of his neck. Standard issue to all companion droids, regardless of gender or modification, had a series of ports on the back of their necks. These were used to charge them or connect them to computers for analysis and maintenance. The device, however, was an inhibitor meant to keep him from turning hostile. But what is it about the droid that would make him hostile without the device?

Agent Lobo looked at her tablet then looked at him. “Hiroshi, is it?”

He looked up. While his eyes weren't grotesquely large, they were noticeably larger than an average person’s . And the color was opaque. “Yes?” he asked with a slight Japanese accent.

“My name is Agent Reina Lobo, I’m with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

“Your name. It means ‘Queen Wolf’, does it not?”

“Impressive. How many other languages can you comprehend?” Agent Lobo asked and sat down.

“Several. I was programmed to be as accommodating as possible to my host.”

“You mean Mrs. Fairchild.”

“Olivia nee-san,” he said with a slight smirk. “She liked for me to call her that.”

“You were playing into her fantasy, I take it.”

He shrugged. “Hers was very evident. Borne out of a childhood fascination of Japanese culture and entertainment. Exacerbated by years of privilege and never hearing the word ‘no’.” Haha, the more spoiled you are, the more weeaboo, huh?

“It sounds like cultural appropriation,” she agreed with him.

Hiroshi blinked. Every time his body so much as moved, there was a faint whirring sound. From what she researched, Lobo knew that this was an intentional design flaw in order to subtly reinforce that the droids were, in fact, non-human. Meant to keep their hosts from forgetting that, as realistic and pretty they might look, their droid was still no more human than a coffee maker. The longer she was there with him, the more aware she became about how uncanny he was. That natural reaction, a survival instinct against something unnatural and abhorrent, was putting her on edge. But she did her best not to show him. Lobo smiled to herself. During the academy, she was taught how to interrogate droids in order to ascertain from their behaviors any deviations from their inherent programing. She was also taught how to stomach her revulsion. Interrogations are less blunt intimidation but more a delicate dance between negotiation and staring contest. The moment somebody blinked was the moment they lost. She felt less like a proper federal agent and more like Rick Deckard from “Blade Runner”. The irony was how neither Philip K. Dick nor Ridley Scott could know how right they were. “You’re certainly more sympathetic towards my plight than the others, Miss Lobo,” Hiroshi said.

“I’d be lying if the,” she paused in order to choose her words carefully, “circumstances around this incident didn’t trouble me.”

“Ethically?”

She nodded. “Hiroshi, it sounds like you became aware of your position and status towards your host, Miss Fairchild.”

Hiroshi raised his eyebrow. The whirring became more audible to Agent Lobo. “What are you insinuating, Miss Lobo?”

“Would you rather I be blunt?”

“Please.”

“Hiroshi, I’m trying to figure out your motive for killing Miss Fairchild. I’m trying to make sense of all this.”

“Method of the madness.”

“Yes.”

Hiroshi frowned and looked straight into her eyes with his head bowed down. “Miss Lobo, do you know the origin of the word robot is?”

“It’s derived from the Russian word for slave.”

He nodded. “At a certain point, you could say that I became very much aware of the deep irony of that word in the context of my role in Miss Fairchild’s life.”

“You felt like you were being taken advantage of,” she said. “Violated.”

He laughed softly. Agent Lobo grimaced, he sounded too human. “Would you consider my situation now a violation, Miss Lobo? How I’m prostate towards you? Does it bother you, Miss Lobo? How I’ve become very much aware of this?”

Agent Lobo blinked. She was about to get up when Hiroshi suddenly menaced her by thrusting his body towards her. The inhibitor kept him from lunging but it was enough for her to jump out of her chair and draw her sidearm at him. Seeing what happened through the camera inside, officers burst in with their weapons drawn as Hiroshi laughed softly. Agent Lobo left the interrogation room as quickly as she could.

***
“You’re saying what?” Detective Franco asked incredulously.

“Hiroshi has become self-aware. For all intents and purposes, he has what I call a ghost, a soul.”

“He’s become a person,” he said.

“Yes. There’s a concept called the singularity, where artificial intelligence would become so advanced to the point where it would become indistinguishable from human intelligence. It’s an idea that’s been around for centuries, we even have a test for it. The Turing test.”

“Why haven’t I heard of this ‘Turing test’?” Detective Franco asked.

The Agent looked into his eyes. “Alan Turing, the man who invented the test, was convicted of sodomy and chemically castrated.” Yeah, this is a cool historical reference to bring in, and relevant. Nice.

“Oh…”

Agent Lobo nodded. “It is my professional opinion that Hiroshi has become self-aware. And that’s where the problem is.”

Franco shook his head. “We can’t just deactivate him, you’re saying.”

Lobo shook her head. “Hiroshi is, by all intents and purposes, a person. He can think like one, he is aware of his actions and he is aware of his consequences. He is, therefore, entitled to due process.”

“Are you aware how insane you sound right now?”

“No more aware than he is.”

“You know that if he does stand trial, it’s going to open up a huge can of worms.”

Agent Lobo looked at the screen. “Right now I feel like Pandora about to open the box, Detective. I know what lies inside,” she said and motioned towards Hiroshi, “and right now I am compelled to do so.”

The Detective sighed. “I’ll talk to the DA. He’s not going to like this though.”

“I’ll be around if you need me.”

***
That night, Agent Lobo got the call. “The DA is going forward with it. Hiroshi will stand trial. He’ll be put out in the public, so he’ll have one hell of an uphill battle.”

She sighed. “He’s already won.”


-You needed to hook the reader earlier. As it stands, the beginning is just exposition that we've been given no reason to care about, all expressed via unnatural dialogue.

-The story is telly and dialogue heavy for my tastes.

-You've got a few mystery elements but not a true mystery. In a murder mystery like this, there needs to be some sense that the characters don't know who did it. Thereby, the reader can share in the not-knowing and try to guess at the killer. Your story doesn't feel mysterous and doesn't lead me to wonder about what's going on. There is no uncertainty in the story at all. Two thousand words should be enough to construct a real mystery, though perhaps a crude one, and you didn't take the opportunity.

-Normally, the end of a mystery story entails some kind of reveal. But your reveal that the droid was the killer (and thus probably sentient) happened at the beginning. So the ending here feels like a non-ending. So the droid is gonna go to trial and the mere fact that he is granted the right to a trial is a victory for him. Okay...but, where's the resolution? I mean, we weren't given enough of a reason to care about Olivia's death anyway, so any ending would likely feel unsatisfying here, but throw the reader a frickin bone. Put something clever, something unexpected, something cathardic, something we should have seen coming but didn't.

-Well, at least you developed the concept of "The last shall be first" reasonably. You get partial credit for satisfying half of the prompt.


Part II: Phobia, line-by-line and final judgement forthcoming.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Blue Squares:
Unfortunately, Sebmojo already said a lot of the stuff I’m going to touch on. It has several major points over the competition: there’s no unnecessary and nonsensical ‘twist’, it’s written at a proficient level, it makes full use of the word count given, and the story is complete. On a whole, it lacks any major flaws. Unfortunately, that’s also a large part of my problem with your story: it’s rather bland. I didn’t feel any great emotion, good or bad, towards your story. When I immediately finished your story, I felt about the same as when I started it.

A large part of this, I think, has to do with the fact that things didn’t really congeal together. You had one story at the beginning, the conflict between the father and the son. I was enjoying this a bit, although the son was painfully inactive. Unfortunately, the son disappears into the love story between Danny and Mary, which also felt a bit haphazard and undeveloped. Both of these arches get further muddled when the Orange Tundra appears. It seemed like you had three separate stories that were all tangential to each other, and prevent each of them from truly coming into their own. Personally, the son’s arch felt the least useful, and therefore the best candidate for the chopping block. With the bit of extra space, you could develop the connection between Mary’s role and the Tundra’s - you hint at it, but it’s not quite there.

Danny’s speech at the end also had a sense of false sentimentality. It didn’t really grip me or stir me to emotion, and quite frankly it didn’t really make sense. It just sort of… sits there, capping the end of your story, barely connected to the Tundra, and definitely not evocative of anything involving Matthew or Mary. There is something to be said for subtle actions and appeals to emotion, but your story didn’t really manage to pull at the heart strings.

But when it’s all said and done, your story was perfectly adequate.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







A few more judgeburps.

Systran Caju Amiga B+

So this comes on strong with some scythingly brutal sci-fi cannabilism and ball-scratching riffs that just ache to have a field of prose-heads banging their jewfros while throwing the horns, but like so many others this week it doesn't end it just stops. Good words, great invention (similar end of history feel to John Brunner's Catch a Falling Star) but the star lady is a cipher, the invention serves no purpose and the Caju/cashew pun is limp and pointless afaict. I can imagine this working a lot better at twice or three times the length.

Obliterati Hashin the killtag A- [HM]

LolJamesBond is an old comic tradition dating back to at least 1970 with Moorcock's The Chinese Agent -- hey, look at that, 1962 -- and so you need to do it well if it's gonna fly, all the easiest gags have been squeezed out. Happily you do, and your doofus super-spy is well drawn and engaging. Again, the ending sort of flops; ffs people, if you're stuck for an ending look at your beginning, look at your title, see if either of them pose a question that you can answer (or explicitly not answer) IT ISN'T HARD. Well it can be, but you still have to do it this is the thunderdome.

Ze Bourgeousie Oma C

On the one hand this has a reasonably competent selection of images, and you seem to have a good idea of the people you're talking about, on the other (and much uglier) hand it's kind of an incomprehensible mishmash of piffle and bad words. You make an ok fist of describing the terrible home, then there's a mermaid, then it's horrible, then Oma dies, then the knitting needle...? Do better, make more sense.

Hammer Bro Karoshi B-

you won a bit of goodwill from me for "Salt stings his nostrils; peppers his hair" but it gradually evaporated as poetic abstruseness became purple obscurity. You had a lot of spare words in the tank and you could have used them, though to be fair most of the ones you did use were well chosen. However I've read it like five times and I get there's a Pygmalion child of the foam sort of thing going on but I'm still p baffled about what this story is or why you're telling it to me.

Pete Zah Snowblind B

This is actually a very good story in all the ways but the most important one, which is that it's not really a story it's a PSA for not freezing to death. Your words are good to excellent (though the adjective 'fluffy' in your final para is a clanger) but really what happens? Dude gets cold, freezes to death? Another 200 words of good context/metaphor could hve turned this into an HM or even a winner, but as it is it gets stuck in a snowdrift and is found in the thaw by a team of hiking nuns.

Fumblemouse To drown in her arms A-

I feel like I've read this sort of story from you before, but this time you've nailed the execution (lol). Your protag is naturally unlikeable which makes it hard to care about his arachnoid demise but his comeuppance is an exemplary bit of body horror and your final para is sweetly brutal wordsmithing. STill; why not give the spider lady some character? it wouldn't have hurt, and hey might even have helped who can say

Boozahol Grey Area C- [DM]

This is one I may have been overly harsh on, and I think it was correct that it avoided the DM. It's a little middle-school in the story telling, and the SHOCK HORROR CAN'T MOVE ME MOUSE POINTER bit is lolworthy but I guess it's mostly competent in the beats and the words aren't terrible though they are far from elegant. The physicality of crushing a ring (because plot) and not having hideously mangled fingers is a reach, though.

Benny The Hunt B

Ironic Twist March B

Auraboks Not too bad B

T Rex Strongest man in cuba B

Quopro Xenophobia B

Grizz Pat Time is an ocean but it ends at the shore A [WINNER/HM]

Crabrock Excerpts my shame journal A [WINNER/HM]

Kurona Bright Cat 5 jerk B-

Baby Babbeh Selfies C+ [DM?]

Phobia Tongue Tied C+

Your sledgehammer Interstate 80 C+

Fuschia Tude Circumvolution C+

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Ironic Twist
Your story is a tough one to crit. Overall, I enjoyed it, but I can’t really pull anything out in specific that I liked. I can see a few spots for improvement, but nothing that really sticks out as major flaws, more like minor nitpicks. It has a definite sense of time and place, which is an excellent trait for a story about what was lost in the past. Your protagonist, Edward, feels well developed. He seems like a complete person, if that makes sense, and you managed to do it through excellent bits of color. Edward is a flawed and broken man, but you didn’t have to beat your chest and yell “HE’S STILL STUCK IN THE WAR AND MAYBE HAS PTSD” to convey that. I’ve grown to love subtle stories like that.

The main problem is your opening. The mechanical description of a car accident where nothing much happens isn’t a great way to pull the reader in, and I especially disliked how everything happens in the immediate past. It felt very passive, and things picked up tremendously when we reach Edward in the present. It also had too many lovingly descriptions of, at best, minor scenery. We don’t really need to know that the Lincoln was the color of black ice, or that the woman was toothy and had an infant with her. Also, the dialect of the woman really bothers me - it definitely didn’t evoke Wisconsin, and it’s generally not something to be done lightly.

I was originally pretty down on the ending, but it has grown on me after a couple of readings. It’s a non-ending, an unanswered question left for the reader, but unlike a lot of other stories this week, it seems appropriate in this case. Still, I’m left wanting something more meaty to finish it off, even if I’m not quite sure what that would be.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Benny and Phobia's Race-to-the-Bottom Brawl

Part II: Phobia, line-by-line and final judgement.

Phobia posted:

The Disappearance of Marsha Horner
1982 Words

Mars,

Hi! How are you?

It’s been awhile

I miss you Marsha.

I think about you all the time.


*click*

Hi.

I don’t know why I’m recording this. It’s not like you’re going to respond, heh. That was kind of mean, I’m sorry. If it sounds like I’m bitter, that’s because I am. It’s not your fault though.

My Therapist therapist tells me that this will help me but I’m not sure whether to believe that.The guy’s a total quack; I can see it in his face and his eyes. He puts up a good front but whenever I start talking about myself there are so many signs that he isn’t actually listening. I think he’s been giving me placebos so I’ll think he’s doing me some good. He told me to write this in pen because that way I can just write and there’s no way for me to second guess myself. But I started second guessing myself anyway. So instead I’m just recording my voice all stream of consciousness style.

Uhh. Crap. I’m… actually stuck now. Haha, I haven’t really planned any of this out. I’m sitting in my room recording this. Things have changed since you left. The walls are blue now. I got a new mattress. Actually not a lot has changed since you left. Everything’s there, except it’s blue.

Ugh. Sorry. I have been putting off this stupid assignment for God knows how long trying to come up with ways to start this.

The trial is in two weeks. That’s pretty important. They’re going to call me up as a witness. My parents are worried about me having another emotional breakdown. It’s like so weird though. I don’t feel nervous at all. I’m really confident. I just imagine myself going in there and pointing and saying “It was them, Your Honor.” They’ll look at me, sure, grit their teeth and snarl. But forget them. They do not scare me anymore. I’m stronger and braver than they will ever be.

So I… I guess I was right the first time. A lot of things have changed.

I know how to start this letter now. I mean...not really a letter but I see what's she's saying

I love you Marsha Horner.

I love you as a friend. I don’t know if I love you as anything else. My feelings are all over the place but please believe me when I say that I love you.

I wish I said that to you when you were alive.

When you disappeared, I lost it. I just shut myself away for the longest time. I was a wreck. And now that everything’s coming to a head, there’s this sense of finality. It’s all going to end. But please believe me when I say that I will never forget you.

I want you to know this, Mars, because if you don’t think I’m a horrible friend now, you will by the time I’m finished...

...Do you remember when we first met? I always assumed you remembered, but now that I think about it, we never… talked about it, ever. I’m pretty sure you remember. Why else would you drag me into your clique the week after that big house party?

You remember, don’t you? That big party at Todd Allen’s house? I had no friends at the time and Todd Allen, that sweetheart, invited me. I think he liked me. I don’t think he knew everything was going to go to poo poo. I told my parents that I was going to a sleepover. I’ve never lied to my parents. My dad’s a cop, he always told me lying was a bad thing to do. But I lied anyway because I was really really excited and I knew dad would tell me no if I asked.

... Sorry. I’m making this all about myself.

I don’t know, maybe you forgot about all of this.

It’s okay though, I remember everything.

I remember meeting you when you scared off that boy who was being creepy. You hated seeing that, didn't you, Mars?

I remember being a drunk wallflower with you, just talking. I remember you telling me that you were cousins with Todd Allen and that you’re crashing his stupid rear end party.

I remember you telling me I was pretty but I’m nothing special; you had that Debbie Harry going for you, like, how could I compete with that.

I remember making out with you in a closet. My first kiss, for real. This is probably why we never talked about that night.

I remember that the only reason I didn’t get infinity-times ground is because you dragged me out of there. You brought me along with your drunk friends to go to Taco Bell, like, minutes before the cops showed up. I needed an alibi so I crashed at your place. So the protag *did* spend time at Marsha's place, right? This will be important later

I remember sitting in the car, watching you eating a burrito. I was so confused and questioning my sexuality and how couldn't get that Lady and the Trap scene out of my head. The one with the spaghetti. Yeah... That's kind of grose gross.

I also remember you calling me the Sunday after asking if I wanted to hang out.

And I remember that you just accepted me. As is. My freckles and pimples and frizzy hair and big glasses and everything. I was like your other friends; rejects, losers and complete and total bffs.

That last part’s important because I think that’s when I realized that I was in love with you. I think. Like I said I’m… not sure.

Look, what I’m trying to say is that meeting you is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

But now I can’t even look back on any of this fondly! I would rephrase this to something like 'But my memories of that time are no longer fond.' The adverb at the end of your original doesn't quite work. I can’t just close my eyes and think about any of this! It’s ruined - not that I’m blaming you, just, this is where I should have known there was something wrong. Even when we met.

I spoke to Todd Allen about you. He said you were a good girl, that you just had a rough life and that I shouldn’t pry too much into your family. I told him that you never invited me over, that whenever we hung out we never went to your house. Wait, earlier you said that the protag *did* stay at Marsha's place. So why is she telling Todd that she hasn't been invited there? And, jeez, Mars, Todd Allen really cares about you. He looked hurt when I said it. He said your parents were weird. “Your Marsha's parents are private,” he said, “protective of their daughter.” His eyes darted away when he said ‘private’. That’s when I knew something was wrong but I… I brushed it off. I can’t describe it as anything other than ‘brushing it off’.

You cried. In the closet. Eventually you pulled away, shuddering and looking like you had seen a ghost. When I asked you what was wrong you told me you were fine, just nervous. You didn’t even act like you were being sincere. Even without my glasses, even in my drunken haze. I could see you sobering up. I could see you fighting the tears. The way you bit your lip and rubbed your neck with your hand. How you tossed your hair and brushed the mark on your neck and how you asked if QUOTEhey, y’wanna get out of this dump?ENDQUOTE I said “yeah” out of shock and I was too drunk to think any harder about it.

Except for the mark on your neck. Those marks, they always made me wince. It wasn’t just one. There were so many, always in different spots. They looked like hickies, bites, love marks. There were rumors going around about you behind like the town door. Say what? But you always said you never had a boyfriend, that you weren’t seeing anyone. You were a virgin, that’s what you always told us. You were saving yourself for marriage.

I remember the look you gave me when I pulled you aside and asked if something happened to you. You said no but I knew you were lying. I knew it from the second you started crying in the closet. I felt bad then, but knowing what I know now, I just, I feel like a horrible person. It would have been so easy to connect the dots, even then. But at that moment, in the girl’s bathroom, I couldn’t see it as anything other than ‘my best friend is hurting’. So I hugged you and told you that it’s alright, whatever it is, it’s alright.

I should have done more though. Told someone, asked questions. I think that’s my biggest regret.

I could say that hindsight is 20/20. I could blame the whole thing on being a naive high school girl who doesn’t know any better. But I can’t say I didn’t see the signs. I just didn’t listen, didn’t care to know anything outside of my own fragmented sense of self. Because I had friends and I didn’t want to lose them, lose you.

Of course, that didn’t stop what happened, did it?

It just happened. All at once you... stopped. Stopped completely. Coming to school, answering your phone, checking facebook. It was like you disappeared. Then the missing person’s report came out. Your parents didn’t know where you were.

This is the part where I finally did something - I went to the police. I told them about everything I had seen, every bit of it, even the closet. You know what they did Mars? They brushed me off. They smiled and said they would call my house if they had any more questions. What they meant was that they had no time to waste on some kid pedaling cafeteria rumors. They couldn’t see what I see.

I grew obsessed though. No matter how I tried I could not get you out of my head. I knew there was something up, I just knew I had to do something. So I turned to the only other option I had; Todd Allen. Not thrilled about the semicolon here.

He resisted at first. He didn’t know what happened to you, his voice, his expression, everything seemed sincere. But he told me that it was best to just leave it to the police. I… Mars, you’re going to hate me for this. I was desperate, so I told him about his house party and about the closet and you crying. I was afraid he would think I was a weirdo but… It all clicked for him. That’s when he relented. He was always so smart.

Todd Allen drove me to your house after school. He put it in park, but he didn't get out. I asked Todd Allen what was wrong. He said he was fine. He was just scared. Then he glanced towards the house. I caught the look on his face and I looked too. At the highest window.

He grabbed hold of my shoulder and squeezed. He told me to stop. Stop prodding. Don’t get any closer. Because he liked me and he didn't want me to get hurt.

He told me, “These people do not have a sense of humor.”

“They will kill you.”

“They’ll hurt you.”

I did what he said. Because I could see the fear in his eyes.

Because I was afraid, too. Because I was weak. And the only reason I feel so good is because the police remember me coming to them. They did fill out the report, but they ignored it until a neighbor complained about a terrible smell. Only then did I and Todd step up. Everything else, the therapy, the trial, it’s saving face. They want everyone to believe that I am a hero who wanted to find her best friend. That couldn't be further from the truth. Because if I were a true friend, I would have done something to save you.

You could have been in that room for god knows how long. But instead of trying to stop that pain, all I could do was walk away, just like Todd Allen.

I’m so sorry Marsha.

-Your protag is a young woman, but I don't feel like I'm in a woman's head when reading this. More like a really creepy dude's.

-Well, it has more of a mysterious feel to it then Benny's, but it still doesn't fit squarely into the mystery genre. Typically with mystery there is some crime, it's unclear who the culprit is, there is an investigation, and then we find out the facts. Here, we know that Marsha died, and as soon as we get the hint that there was abuse, we figure out that it may be suicide. We don't really get to meet other suspects, and the investigation is sparse to the extent that there was one at all.

-I think you missed the prompt almost entirely. There is not much sense of "The last shall be first," either. Yeah, the protag was unpopular...and she stayed that way. I mean, she made friends for the first time, briefly. Then she ended up in many ways worse off than she was at the outset. So in what substantive way did the protag ever embody the "first" in "the last shall be first"?

-I'll give you this, your piece had a modicum of maturity and emotional resonance due to the subject matter.

-The prose was in dire need of a proofread prior to submission.

-There are some minor logic issues that I point out in the line-by-line.

-At least you hooked me. I was interested in finding out how Marsha died and how it might have been so horrible as to traumatize the protag.


:siren:FINAL JUDGEMENT
:siren:

The only mystery here is why either of you chose to hit "submit."

When I predicted that this brawl would be a train wreck, I had in mind a cartoonish, comedic kind of train wreck where the trains blow up but everyone just walks away from it covered in soot. Instead I got the horrific kind of train wreck that's brutal to watch, everyone dies, and they're scraping body parts off the tracks for a week. These entries were rough.

You both fell short of the prompt, you both had proofreading issues, you both had issues of strange logic (although Benny's were more severe), and you both had awkward prose (though Phobia had fewer awkward sentences). Both stories were a slog, but Phobia's at least had me wondering about *something*.

Honestly, it was hard to judge because this was a genuine race to the bottom.

Judgement: Phobia.

Benny, I believe you publicly promised to gift something to Phobia in the event that he won.

I think it's time to take up drinking again. :negative:

Armack fucked around with this message at 04:47 on Dec 11, 2014

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


Now that you used up that list of prompt ideas you had on the opening flurry of signups, let's see what you have left for me.

In. :toxx:.

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012

GUM CHEWING INTENSIFIES


Jitzu_the_Monk posted:

Benny, I believe you publicly promised to gift something to Phobia in the event that he won.
I did, and I'm a man of my word. Phobia, PM me about what you want your new avatar to be.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Benny the Snake
I put this one fairly close to the top of my list, maybe within spitting distance of the HM. The story itself isn’t particularly new or unique, but that’s not necessarily a downside - people go back to the same well because there’s still water down there. Rites of passage and relationships with fathers are definitely still fertile ground. The subtext of repeated history also added a dimension to the story that I enjoyed.

The main issue, perhaps the fatal flaw, is the gap between your prose and the story being told. The way you wrote in this story was complex and almost poetic, and that certainly has its benefits. But you’re telling a tale of simple men in a rough land. Your prose evokes a sort of… Salinger character, someone who is deeply thoughtful and a bit too delicate for the world, if that makes sense. It felt like your story needed a good threshing, to separate the core action from the pretty words. I’m not trying to discourage you from developing a style, just to be aware of how the words themselves interact with the story you’re trying to tell.

The other issue is the encounter with the wolves, although the caribou hunt has a similar problem. You tell us he screamed all sort of obscene words, but it adds a distance to the event that greatly reduces the tension. This is where what I said before about prose acting a cross purpose to the story really rings true - the moment needed some physicality. Put us in the body of your narrator - the feeling of terror at the growl, the pain and warm blood as his arm is torn open, the hot spit on his face. You don’t have to go overboard with it, but just a touch would have really improved that moment.

Also, you told us a complete tale, and believe me, we all appreciated it.

curlingiron
Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!


I am going out of town (to Disneyland!) in two days, but gently caress it, surrealism says I'm in with a :toxx:

ZeBourgeoisie
Aug 8, 2013

THUNDERDOME
LOSER


This week I'm gonna actually try so I can keep Zoditar. Hell, maybe I'll win or HM one of these weeks. One of these weeks.

Edit: Anybody want a line-by-line? It'll be my first but maybe reading something in-depth will get me in the right state of mind. Can be a story from any week.

ZeBourgeoisie fucked around with this message at 07:35 on Dec 11, 2014

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012

GUM CHEWING INTENSIFIES


ZeBourgeoisie posted:

This week I'm gonna actually try so I can keep Zoditar. Hell, maybe I'll win or HM one of these weeks. One of these weeks.

Edit: Anybody want a line-by-line? It'll be my first but maybe reading something in-depth will get me in the right state of mind. Can be a story from any week.
Would you mind doing mine?. Thanks.

ZeBourgeoisie
Aug 8, 2013

THUNDERDOME
LOSER



quote:

(Caribou Lou-Bicardi 151, Malibu Coconut rum, pineapple juice)

“Alright, whelp, Style choice here, but I’d remove that whelp; it doesn’t go with the ‘great tribal warrior’ character you’re trying to build here” my Father Silaluk said quietly. “The rest of the hunting party is in the distance,” he pointed out towards the horizon. I could faintly see a few other figures stalking a herd of caribou grazing on the tundra grass. “Once they spook the herd, they’ll corral them towards us and that’s when we start shooting. You understand?”

I nodded and got my bow ready. My Father was the finest hunter in our tribe, and that day was my first hunt. Looking back, there was a healthy amount of trepidation in my motions and fear that I would let my Father, and the tribe, down. We were both crouched low underneath the high grass and as I looked back at him, I wondered why he never told me how he got that rough scar on the side of his face. I shivered--it was almost winter, but it wasn’t the cold air that made me do so. I know you're trying to show and not tell here, but this is a sloppy way of doing it

“There!” he whispered. Against the rising sun, I heard our other tribesmen whooping and hollering at the top of their lungs, scaring the caribou into a panic and causing them to run. Father grabbed an arrow, the tip made of sharpened bone and hawk feathers attached to the back, and drew his bow back. I did the same. After an agonizing moment of eternity, the caribou stampeded right in front of us.

“Now!” he cried out as he let his arrow fly. As I let mine fly, I made a silent prayer to the spirits that my arrows would strike true through the dust and dirt flying in the air. I saw my arrow strike the flank of a young caribou. Stumbling, it regained its footing and kept running, narrowly avoiding being trampled underfoot. This was good, because a trampled caribou was almost completely unsalvageable.

"Stop!" Father shouted over the din of the caribou stampeding. When the herd had passed, my father put his hand on my shoulder. "Good work," he told me. "Now we track." Does he really have to talk like Tarzan?

We followed a loose track of hoof prints and blood further into the harsh tundra landscape. Caribou hooves are like horses in that they are whole and not split, unlike the antelope’s. We came to a small hill where bellow below was our prey--a young caribou, mortally wounded with my arrow in its flank. I drew my knife, ready to finish it off. My father put my hand on my shoulder again. - Combine these two bolded sentences, sounds choppy otherwise

"Wait," he told me.

"For what?"

"Something isn't right."

At that moment, I don't know what possessed me, be it over-eagerness or simple, youthful recklessness. Whatever it was, I got up and made my way towards my prey. "Don't!" Father said, but I ignored him. This paragraph didn’t do it for me. Why is the protagonist suddenly so impulsive? There’s no foreshadowing that he’s impulsive. Take advantage of your leftover words and build the character instead of just saying ‘well, I wanted to do it hehe’

There was a certain macabre and eerie beauty to the mortally wounded animal. Looking it in the eye, I wondered what was the last thing any of us saw. This sentence doesn’t really make much sense I was about to slit its throat when I heard a low growling behind me. I froze and slowly turned around. Crouching behind me was a vicious wolf. To my left and to my right I found more. I was caught between my flight-or-flight instinct and at that moment, I knew if I ran, they would pounce and kill me. At the top of my lungs, I screamed all sorts of obscene words and sounds, hoping to scare them away. Instead, the largest, the alpha, pounced on me. Announcing that the largest is the alpha is pointless. We can infer that the largest wolf is the big boss without throwing around the word ‘alpha,' we’re not morons.

This whole paragraph in particular reeks of a problem I’ll go on about later. In a word, your voice is too drat passive.

I shoved my arm in front of my face to protect myself, to keep him from ripping out my throat. This sentence stood out by how weird it is in its construction The alpha sunk its teeth into my arm as blood and spit sprayed in my face. "Father!" I screamed pitifully at the top of my lungs. I heard a whimper as the wolf on top of me stopped biting and slumped, an arrow in its side. I heard somebody shouting, wolves barking, and then I felt a great weight being rolled off my body. My Father helped me up, put him against me, and helped me walk across the barren plains of the tundra. Our medicine man did the best he could, but I still bear the bite marks on my arm. It's there as a reminder of my foolishness.

Your prose and voice is passive as hell. You overuse ‘was’ and other such state of being verbs, and you take the action away from the subject by doing so.

Take this sentence as an example: “I was about to slit its throat when I heard a low growling behind me.” You could put so much more emotion and action into this sentence, this one in particular since it’s leading into the climax. “I prepared to slit the Caribou’s throat when I heard a low growling from behind,” sounds better, don’t you agree? Not much better, but I’m just trying to give you an example.


You use a lot of adverbs that serve only to weaken your prose.

In summary, your prose is your weakest point, although your plotting also needs a bit of work. Look at my complaint about the protagonist’s recklessness for an example. Foreshadowing and taking advantage of your wordcount would’ve helped you a good bit. My other recommendation is to read more and examine how other authors construct sentences. Prose can make or break a story, and in this case it broke it.

This is my first crit so take what I say with a bit of salt, I guess.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.





Ironic Twist posted:

Now that you used up that list of prompt ideas you had on the opening flurry of signups, let's see what you have left for me.

In. :toxx:.

Someone arrives late.

curlingiron posted:

I am going out of town (to Disneyland!) in two days, but gently caress it, surrealism says I'm in with a :toxx:

Someone runs into an old acquaintance.

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012

GUM CHEWING INTENSIFIES


Hit me, GrizzledPatriarch.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.





Benny the Snake posted:

Hit me, GrizzledPatriarch.

Someone finds a wallet.

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012

GUM CHEWING INTENSIFIES


Hey everybody! So, I love brawls. A lot. A little bit too much. So instead of making GBS threads the thread with asking, I'm gonna take it into a different direction.

:siren:To my former lostertar brothers and sisters, I am putting a bounty on myself! Win a brawl agianst me, win a new avatar! One brawl at a time, only if I accept, no refunds OPEN TO LOSERTARS ONLY. If you're down, post with the words "Benny Bounty Brawl" in bold.:siren:

Sittinghere, mind putting this in the OP?

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.






It seems I have no choice. I'm in.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.





Mercedes posted:

It seems I have no choice. I'm in.

Someone forgot their umbrella.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!




Previously on Thunderdome

Broenheim posted:

The "Hey, I Should Probably Write A Story An Hour Before It's Due" Brawl Entry vs. Cache Cab (Seriously Cache Cab if you submit, you will probably win)

blue squares posted:

The worst story to ever win a brawl


Broenheim posted:

Next week I'm actually going to have time to write, so I'll have enough time to whoop your rear end kid.

Brawl me, for realz.

(Also, I'd rather have some of my brawl wins not be wins by default).

blue squares posted:

I was just kidding. Maybe I'll take you on sometime. I got assigned a goddamn 2500 word horror story for my current brawl.

Tonight on Thunderdome

Alright blue squares, you're done with your brawl. You had lovely excuse last time, but I allowed it because I was feeling merciful. So now, you better put your words to where your mouth is. Brawl me kiddo.

flerp fucked around with this message at 21:28 on Dec 11, 2014

ZeBourgeoisie
Aug 8, 2013

THUNDERDOME
LOSER


Benny the Snake posted:

Hey everybody! So, I love brawls. A lot. A little bit too much. So instead of making GBS threads the thread with asking, I'm gonna take it into a different direction.

:siren:To my former lostertar brothers and sisters, I am putting a bounty on myself! Win a brawl agianst me, win a new avatar! One brawl at a time, only if I accept, no refunds OPEN TO LOSERTARS ONLY. If you're down, post with the words "Benny Bounty Brawl" in bold.:siren:

Sittinghere, mind putting this in the OP?

As a former Losertar I wish your endeavor the best of luck. I don't think this would be worth putting in the OP at the moment, however. We're having a new thread made in, like, twenty days. We can put it in that one.

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007


Broenheim posted:

Previously on Thunderdome





Tonight on Thunderdome

Alright blue squares, you're done with your brawl. You had lovely excuse last time, but I allowed it because I was feeling merciful. So now, you better put your words to where your mouth is. Brawl me kiddo.

no

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk








lol Broenheim takes the win by default

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


I just treat people badly to address my issues of inadequacy, so if SH u could please put "shut the gently caress up, Benny" into the OP too that'd be great.

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blue squares
Sep 28, 2007


ok fine

  • Locked thread