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sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Bad Seafood posted:

Weakness (676 words)

this is technically very good but i didn't particularly like it, and that's why it got kicked back to the middle; this is where i find out why


The man's face was obscured by a plastic bag, his breathing calm and steady. His wrists were bound with wire to his chair. He'd been given an hour to pray to God. An eternity. i think starting with the victim/criminal is an error, it's like starting in a blank room, also the 'he'd been given' is begging the question of who did the giving - it's a passive construction and is too weak for a first para

Francisco rolled up his sleeves. The crowd watched. you're holding your cards close to your chest which needs a mofo of a payoff to justify in a story this short

He was long, Francisco; lean and athletic. He might've been a boxer. Where he stepped he made no sound. cool, i guess, or not, who knows

"You should hate this man," his brother said to him. An echo. A reminder. He was handed a bat. by whom more passive construction Wooden. He took it. In ten minutes it would burn. great worldbuilding detail but why should i care at this point?

Fransico slung the bat over his shoulder like a man in the fields. Like his father. He approached the captive graciously, signalling his arrival with a tap to the man's thigh. A gentle tap. Just to let him know. good character stuff, starting to get interested

The man's breathing stopped. The whole world stopped. pompous writering Fransciso waited for his breathing to resume. It did. so you're setting a nice deliberate pace with this and doing it well, but what purpose does this para serve?

Francisco ran his hand across his face. He'd forgotten to shave. Unusual, for him. The girls said it gave him a certain rugged charm. "It suits you," his brother said. "You're finally one of us." He'd been one of them for a long time, but never before had it carried such weight. so this is teh late ghost reveal which is a perfectly solid trick, but it's vagueness piled on misdirection - what am i standing on right now as a reader?

He studied the man in the chair. Short, portly, but not unfit. His clothes suggested he was no one in particular. NO ANSWERS HERE, BITCH Francisco reached for the bag. It would not do to kill this man in such a way. Not even in the name of rightous vengeance. this is the first whispery clue to what's going on and we're halfway through He would allow his victim to see his executioner.

The plastic bag tore and faded into nothing. whaaaat stop writering at me plz The man beneath was middle-aged, balding. He had small, thin eyes which betrayed no fear. His face was lined. He was bruised from his capture. A gag prevented him from speaking out. Here now was no mere concept of evil, an enemy, a prisoner to be punished. Here was a human being. i hate this para infinitely maybe its an everyman metaphor or w/e but i still hate it you can't take that away from me doof

Francisco locked eyes with the man. His memory churned. dislike this verb, or maybe the vagueness of that noun He could not recall this face, but he remembered this feeling. As a child his parents had taken him to the coast where he'd seen a dying turtle at the end of its life. It'd been a truly tremendous terrible adjective creature. As it lay there, breathing its last, cliche it turned its head to look at him. He hadn't known the right words for it then. He knew them now, in this man. Acceptance. ploddy trodding to bland conclusion this nonentity is feeling basically nothing about being killed i don't understand why i'm supposed to care

Francisco tightened his grip on the bat. The man didn't flinch. cool i'm glad he didn't do anything interesting

"Do it," his brother said.

Francisco stood still.

"Do it."

He raised the bat. The man didn't blink. His eyes followed Francisco's every step of the way. cliche, plus confusing with the eyes/arms/feet

"Do it."

There was a crack like lightning. cliche, maybe? The man and the chair toppled to the ground. Again Francisco swung, and again, and again. The man's blood pooled on the floor. The bat broke off and clattered to the side.

Francisco stood above the body of the broken man, his breathing harsh but quiet. The crowd applauded and cheered, but he didn't hear any of it. He turned to find his brother's face, but his brother wasn't there. Of course not. Of course. His brother now slept on an unfeeling slab, a knife wound in his side from the edge of a knife. if you're going to punch, don't pretty it up

Francisco dropped the bat. Hands in his pockets, he walked into the back. The crowd closed in behind him. They'd clean up his mess. They'd dispose of the body. whaaaat

The bathroom was empty, a dull green tileset repeating forever. Francisco leaned into the sink and turned on the tap. He washed his hands. Thoroughly. All the while staring at himself, his reflection, his long gaunt features and hollow eyes. He saw neither strength nor rage nor pride nor sorrow. He saw a child. He saw himself. nah, i'm baffled by this and dislike it a lot sorry man

He locked the door. don't care

***

Flashrule: (Pieces of murder fall slow as opal chips through glycerine.) aww poo poo that's a good quote i mean drat

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Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

:tfrxmas: :sparkles: Kaishai's Critmas Spectacular :sparkles: :tfrxmas:

My stance on audio critique has always been that written critique is superior. The latter is easier for the recipient to return to and reference. In accordance with this belief, I decided in October to write a crit for every story I've discussed on the recaps with the idea that this could be useful to some people--whether they've heard a recap but don't want to hunt through it again for their feedback or would rather not listen to us ramble in the first place. Though in the latter case I should note that if you haven't heard Twist or Djeser read TD dialogue aloud, you don't know what you're missing.

Somehow I managed it! I made it through all the recapped weeks from 159 to 227, including weeks reviewed in retrospectives and occasionally including crits for stories from weeks we haven't covered. Weeks I judged have already received their due and thus are skipped. The result is somewhat over 250 crits, so your best bet in finding out whether you've received any would be to search for your name.

Note that as the recaps focus on the low end of the spectrum, these crits do, too. The vast majority are negative. I've tried to make them useful if not kind, but in one or two cases I could only rant.

With luck, the links will encourage you to take a look at the older stories especially--TD is full of forgotten gems and lurking horrors, and you shouldn't take my word on their quality.

Merry Critmas, Thunderdome. :)



Week 1: Man Agonizes over Potatoes


Sitting Here, "Spudipus Complex": You wouldn't write this story now. I wouldn't vote for it to win if you did. The lifting from 1984/Star Trek: the Next Generation makes me sympathetic to the contemporaries who were, perhaps, slightly bitter to see it take the throne. But to dismiss it out of hand would be both to ignore the circumstances of the time, which didn't give you a clear blueprint regarding what the judges wanted (and as it turned out, they wanted this!), and to miss the qualities in the story that foreshadow your long reign on the Blood Throne. Stuart's meat binge is vividly described; more, there's a fair amount of suggestion about his relationship with his mother buried in his potato hallucinations. It could certainly be a stronger story--it's a vignette at best--but its victory is not entirely unjustified.

*****

Arivia, "Chantilly Potatoes": I doubt this would lose a modern round of TD any more than Sitting Here's potato trek would win one. Honestly, I've never understood that result. Granted that although it's damned good for a first effort, it's not a great or flawless story: the first paragraph is flat, Bernard's approach shouldn't work as unerringly as you suggest, you gloss over how exactly a parade of carbohydrates turns into sex like night into day, and Bernard isn't agonizing over potatoes so much as he's agonizing over (if anything) himself. Yet it's a concise, artful, somewhat layered sketch of self-contempt. Bernard doesn't think much of himself for his game with the women. Pity for them and scorn from himself is between his lines. I hope this is intentional; it almost has to be. The subtle strength of that portrait stays in my memory when the faults fade out. Keep writing. You have talent.


*************************


Week 3: Check Your Cis Privilege in Swaziland


Bodnoirbabe, "Control Within": Should have lost the week. Should have been savaged as fanfic, possibly, since Tifa Lockhart has a speaking role. It opens half-decently, but you're mentioning Vegeta and Piccolo by the third paragraph and there's no recovering a serious tone from that. Not that you likely want one; this fast reaches the point of openly stupid and stays there. That would be fine if it were funny. It isn't. I don't have it in me to defend headmate-ridden otherkin, but good grief, this kind of strawman satire comes off as so smug and self-satisfied that it makes the person writing it look worse than whatever he mocks. Never mind how damned long you draw out the joke--maybe this would amuse somebody if you'd kept it short and sharp, but I'm at a loss for who'd want to read 1,500 words of unclever condescension.

*****

Chairchucker, "I Still Get Paid, Right?": Sorry, Chairchucker. You shouldn't have lost any week with this, much less one that included "Control Within." Your formatting is pants, but your casually asexual PI and his short-lived (ba-dum pum) dynamic with his bizarrely homicidal partner never get old. The dame's as flat as a paper doll, of course. The fate of her husband comes out of nowhere and makes no sense. The humor's so on point that it doesn't matter, though I'd prefer a denouement that didn't hit the fast-forward button.


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Week 17: I Don't Know You


dromer, "Close Door Button": For what job involving a briefcase would those stickers not be against the dress code? Everything about the woman in your story is borderline ridiculous. It's a flaw that sends you directly to Strawmanland, do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred misspellings of porpoises. You could maybe pull off a quick vignette about sticking to your ways and habits in the face of people who judge you for them by making her less of a stereotype, if that was your intention; if you want a funny story, go back to the drawing board and draft something else.


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Week 18: TWO MEN ENTER, ONE MAN LEAVES


sebmojo, "Yard work": A clean, grim, compact piece. You build the tension efficiently and provide a suitable payoff, especially in the final paragraph with its implications that what has happened has not made anyone happier.


*************************


Week 20: Face Your Destiny


The Saddest Rhino, "Lessons": Going back to this in 2016 is a revelation regarding how much your English has improved. It's sort of rough here ("avoid it from becoming stuck in the mechanism," etc.). The fanfic angle is more detriment than benefit from where I'm standing. But this is a charming take on the Chariot, and Susie's quiet sadness about her bike rings true, and her realistic-little-girl disappointment contrasts beautifully with the not-at-all-realistic goddess out of nowhere. The pedal metaphor is blunt in a good way, straightforward and apt. The final line couldn't be better.


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Week 30: We're 30 / Time to get dirty / LET US gently caress


Steriletom, "Macy's Day": Though details like the tear puddle and the head-sized bubble of snot are hilariously awful, I can't summon ire about them. It's too clear you're trying to hit the genre. You come darned close to doing that with the living parade floats, a potentially great idea that doesn't end up working because the Pillsbury Dough Boy's behavior is bizarre, without clear meaning behind it, and Timmy's reaction to what he's just seen flat doesn't scan. The magical elements don't say anything, so the story doesn't hit the mark. The illogical elements stand in the way of it being enjoyable otherwise.


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Week 32: Playing Angry Birds on a Derailing Train


Baudolino, "Rural Rentboys": Thunderdome's favorite joke. Nothing has ever, or will ever, surpass England,Shropshire, Wroxeter, two 18teen year old boys are entering an abonend bunker as an opening line. Interestingly enough, Jeza's reading of the story brings out the surprising prettiness of certain lines that look awful amidst the word salad. I like "clothed in the colour of the ceasars," or I would if you'd capitalized Caesars and spelled it correctly. I'm not even sure "Spring was in full orgasmic explosion" is all that bad! It's evocative in the way I think you intended it to be evocative, so... kudos? Something else that dawns on me when I listen to the recording is that James and RIchard's tragic love, gay janitor and all, is kind of not completely stupid. The details are. Lord knows why you took Nubile Hillock's flash rule upon yourself and wrote bike repair into the story, but stealing the janitor's tire is a dumb plot point. Falling off a bike and breaking your leg is a dumb way to die. The sheer dumbness suffocates the tragedy, to say nothing of the failings of "The blood the blood blo" as a dramatic fade-out. You either don't make it clear enough why James would be so desperate as to go to the janitor or in fact intend to suggest that James just can't do without a sex partner. His decision to turn boy-whore mystifies. I'm eternally grateful you wrote this in exactly this way, for it's given me more enjoyment than any other TD story, ever, but I believe someone could revise it into something worth unironic praise.


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Week 34: No dragonshirts at the club


Khris Kruel, "Untitled" "Vambraces at Sea": Your earnest application of Nubile Hillock's suggested title amuses me to this day. That assumes you were in earnest; I figured this entry for a deeply flawed but genuine attempt at storytelling right up until I saw your second submission, but now I have to wonder. The obtrusive and pointless references to clothing, the decapitations with a wooden dagger, the "bloody stump of a head"... yeah, it does look like you were writing bad fiction on purpose, doesn't it? Don't do that. If I'm wrong and this one is real, then in the case that the odd bits are meant to be comical, yikes, no--in the case that you're completely serious about everything, I scarcely know what to tell you. Read more stories so you can get a better grasp on action blocking, dialogue, and reasonable outfits to wear on a ship. Fur vambraces and silk are so tacky.


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Week 36: Polishing Turds


crabrock, "Yard Work 2: The Reworkening": On its own as an original piece in another week, this might pass as unremarkable despite the saidisms. It suffers a lot from comparison to sebmojo's. He drew out the tension by holding back the full story; you defuse it in your second paragraph by telling me Tracey's husband is dead. His Tracey was Dan's partner in their misdeeds; yours is a weeping mess. His title suggested something mundane and gained new meaning in hindsight; yours starts ridiculous and stays ridiculous. You flat weren't as good a writer as sebmojo when you wrote this. Copying his work beat for beat was a tactical error. It's fun to look at this years later, though, and see how far you've come.

*****

Voliun, "Untitled": You'll always be my favorite incomprehensible writer, Voliun, but your choice of toanoradian's story to rewrite makes about as much sense as "S.O.S." (Though would you believe, I almost think I understand that now--had Richard Ashford, roboticist, murdered T. Ashford, dentist, and switched their identities? The pieces almost fall into place, except that the line about his brother leaving his house refuses to allow it. Your execution was godawful, but maybe the concept wasn't?? What a crazy world.) The word-count gimmick hits a tire-bursting pothole in the first, incorrect equation. The story has nothing else whatsoever going for it. "A spaceship captain glazed in silence" is still the best clause TD has ever produced, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

*****

V for Vegas, "The Song.": You get this right! Taking a legendarily absurd story and stripping out the Vicks Vap-O Rub and DoomCORP while keeping the basic conflict has allowed you to come up with a genuinely affecting, credibly serious take on "The Drone of the Tower." It's a little daunting how much of the source you manage to maintain. You have banana chips, sort of, made significant instead of random. The relationship between Magdalena and Barros vibrates on the same frequency as the one between Magda and Baz, except your characters talk like real people. You incorporate the singing. The weakness and the factor I would name Most Likely to Have Prevented Your Victory is that the whole climax of the story doesn't really exist. No glimpse of the secret cash room. No meeting with Vorpale. No intimation as to whether Barros makes it to the cash room or dies on the way there. As a rewrite, it's incredibly impressive, but as a story on its own, it needs something more before it ends in song.

*****

Nikaer Drekin, "The Deviant Machine": Sorry, Nikaer Drekin. You've tried to bend the horror you were given into a form that won't make one wish to stab oneself through the eye with a pen quite as hard, while respecting the original more than it deserves. Sticking too closely to that thing wrought your doom. The moment when your AI declares itself an Otherkin demon married to Tifa Lockhart is the terminator seed in the punchbowl; you absolutely had to lose that line to salvage your source material, but nope, there it is, deflating the hitherto-serious tone. I sort of like Sarah's sacrifice, though. Her feelings for Calvin are genuine enough that she wants to save him from absorption into an AI, despite his rejection. It's more melodrama than tragedy, unfortunately, especially given that she's mind-melding with Tumblr. I would have spared you the DM myself: your version is still an improvement, and your task was nigh impossible, but that's what you get for requesting something pretty bad by Thunderdome standards.

*****

Black Griffon, "Sudden Loss": What were you thinking?? The word count of the original would have been a serious handicap even if it weren't, you know, panty-raider poetry. That said, your serious effort shows. You've cut the tee-hee, anime tone away and taken the raider a long step further down the criminal road. You outline something very dark. The raider's capture by a clothesline is the worst part, too much of a pratfall to satisfy at all. This is where I suspect the word limit hamstrung you. It's still a good job of redeeming the irredeemable.

*****

perpetulance, "Close Door Button": Turning Elevator Guy into a lech doesn't improve on dromer's work. Neither does making Elevator Lady even more of a judgmental harpy, oddly enough. Elevator Guy's douchiness doesn't justify her weird rant, and what you've written is a glimpse of two assholes being assholes without the slim possibility of a worthwhile idea that lurks in the source material. Maybe you mean for her to be the voice of reason. In that case, she shouldn't paint "modern men" with a broad brush in one breath and assume someone would ignore a dead human because he didn't notice her approaching the elevator in the next.


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Week 41: Get Everybody and the Stuff Together


Sitting Here, "All My Little Somethings": The age of the guy who works with the friend of somebody who tried to bone Easton's uncle is a weird thing for him to specify. It doesn't ring true. "A guy out of high school" or something similar would get the age range across without numbering the years. I'm also morally obliged to point at the varying number of asterisks in your scene break and make a wounded face. Anyway, the no-dialogue approach works better than I'd remembered, but it mixes badly with the jumps in chronology. You could have had something special if you'd taken a linear approach, although I'm not buying the mother more or less accusing her son of murdering Uncle Wallace. What the hell? Chase and Wallace must have had a good relationship for Chase to have a spare key, so this makes zero sense. You weren't kidding about shoehorning in the shoe horn. It's a nice idea, the memento and Chase's and Easton's respective perspectives on it, but Wallace's murder starts to feel like an afterthought, which makes me think it wasn't a great fit with the other half of the story. Who did kill Uncle Wallace, anyway?


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Week 43: He's dead, Horatio


PoshAlligator, "Swaying In The Wind": Your story of a sentient cactus sacrificing itself to save its brethren rides the line between cute and clever. It disguises the truth for too long to avoid cuteness entirely, and in retrospect, a couple of lines wink at the reader. Maybe not intentionally, though. I'm thinking you postpone revealing the botanical nature of the victims in order to build sympathy for them as living, thinking (in this world) things, and that's closer to clever; it works, more or less. I'd like more reaction from the protagonist to the first cactus death. Of course he/she/it is unable to act at a distance--it's a cactus--but it has to be able to feel for your ending to work, so an emotional response before that final moment would be welcome. Otherwise, I like this a good deal and consider it a whole saguaro's height above "Puttin' on the Ritz" or "The Black Mountain's Bell."


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Week 44: Old Testament Studies with Chairchucker


Sitting Here, "Story title goes here": What you have is pretty decent, and interestingly enough, I almost think it's better off for not being finished as you planned; the plot you sketch out is nearly as overflowing with SF tropes as with ambition. You would have had to handle the clock-hack carefully to avoid too many memories of Independence Day, and the Federation of Awesome being unable to handle this problem raises my eyebrows. The breeding program would have been at least one complication too many for a work of this size. You have almost a novel's worth of plot, in fact, so if you like this enough to come back to it, you might consider expanding it all the way out to heck and back. With room to work, you could avoid the trope issue by filling out your concepts.


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Week 67: Lions and Tigers and Bears


Sitting Here, "A Portrait of the Endless Scatalogical Cycle of Life and Death": Okay, you're right about the penis in this story not waggling on its own. Whether it waggles while Kyle pushes Bud away from the leopards depends on the condition of the path and the suspension on the wheelchair, I suppose. Still: you have a fine story with a fine, bitter tone going--the expression of sexuality is crass for my tastes and fits oddly with the narrative tone otherwise, but then that may be the point--until you throw it away for the sake of a joke only a few people would understand, leaving two of the judges out in the cold. The hell? The story deserves better, and I'd almost say you deserved more of a rap on the knuckles than you got for pulling this stunt.


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Week 69: Good, Giving and Game


Jeza, "All Fall Down": In the recaps we regularly hold this story up as an example of a gimmick done right. The reverse chronology your flash rule forced on you could have made for a completely terrible story; others have tried something similar and failed, rendering your success even more imposing. With the Jenga tower in the background serving as a metaphor for the collapse of both a family and what we think we know, Eleanor, Alice, Jared, and Marcus move back through a tragedy that changes its form as the details are uncovered. Two blackly opposite versions of events are presented. It's like an optical illusion in story form. We're left to choose for ourselves which ending we desire: one in which the police save Eleanor and Alice somehow, the blood is Jared's, and Marcus is punished; or one less happy, in which more than one body has to be removed from that house. I prefer the first. I suspect the second. I admire the duality of it, all the way through.


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Week 81: Chairchucker's LEGO prompt about LEGO for people who like LEGO which is about LEGO


Baudolino, "Leaving New York": Charming. Whimsical. Inspired. Good. I love this story. Not on its technical merits, no, as the mechanical quality is kind of summed up by Life was good Em tougth, but because it's such a perfect job of making your flash rule work within Chairchucker's restrictions. This "gets" LEGO in the sense that it takes a set and has fun with it in a way the designers probably never expected, and I think the inventors of LEGO would approve. The pacing is great, always moving and never boring. Please write more things like this whether you share them with TD or not.

*****

sebmojo, "Jim Spaceman: Moon Attack!" This is the first time I've noticed Jim's multiple last names! New vistas of theory open up before me as I speculate that each Jim Spaceman is a different man, fulfilling a role that humanity needs. Jim Brockson's sadly short-lived adventure is like other Jim adventures in that it's so full of pulp it could choke a paper machine. You're good at suiting mood and tone to prompt, though, and his space antics fit LEGO to the ground. The pizza bit is silly, you know it's silly, and you play it as silly with character voices that carry it, so that's fine. Any concern I might have in a different week is negated by how well you met the requirements of this one.


*************************


Week 82: Captain Thunderdome


Oxxidation, "Full Course": I remember that one of the reasons I voted for Anathema Device to win Week 47 over Sitting Here was a familiarity on my part with couple-facing-the-end-of-the-world stories. Yours escapes vanishing into that category because of the Serpent fed on hot dogs, the final look it gives your characters, and the end that echoes the beginning. Specific details. I don't have much to criticize, but if I reach for flaws then I come up with the possibility that the reference to Norse--marking the snake as the Midgaard Serpent or the next best thing, I reckon--might leave readers ignorant of that mythology out of the loop to no real purpose. If you didn't point to the parallel, the readers apt to recognize Jörmungandr could still do so. On the other hand, there's the chance someone who doesn't know what you were on about will look up Norse mythology and learn things, which I'm loath to discourage; I leave it to your discretion.


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Week 90: Down With the Sickness


Narahari, "Returning Produce": I maintain that you wrote this with malice aforethought. Look at it. The narrative voice is at once smug, petty, malicious, and inane for all that your protagonist believes himself very smart (or you believe you've written him in a way that suggests intelligence, but I'll give you benefit of the doubt). It's a chore to endure even without factoring the rotten gourd and all its effects. Not to mention that this concept is stupid. No store in the goddamn world is going to accept the return of a decomposed, half-eaten cantaloupe. Never. And if, God forbid, I'm wrong and you based this story on a real-life event, 1.) a plague on your house if it's autobiographical; 2.) when life is stranger than fiction, you have to put extra effort into making it credible. You need to explain why Julia accepts the item rather than giving the cash back but insisting he keep the cantaloupe. It belongs to him, now, not the store, so I'm not seeing what right he has to expect them to deal with it. Worst--and it hurts to call anything but the superfluous diarrhea the worst--is that when you boil this down to the bones, what do you have? A man returns a cantaloupe and goes home. In the interim he's incredibly self-satisfied about putting other people in a situation where they have to suffer his bad action. It's an insanely empty and lovely shell of a story.


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Week 94: TRULY ALIEN


Ironic Twist, "The Non": The story starts strong. I could get into the adventure of a man road tripping across the universe. I can't get into a drone of exposition from sentient bar stools, not even with an interesting concept at the heart of it. I can't understand the ending, much less engage with it. Why is there a bed on the Non's planet? Why the cloud? Is he being warped and reshaped into a tool of the planet somehow, or was the entire exploration sequence a sick man's hallucination? The latter would be terrible, but the possibility is too real to dismiss. I don't know for sure that a different conclusion would have spared you--the Non's infodumping would still have been egregious--but if you were ever to revise this, rather than inverting it, then the end would be a great place to start.


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Week 103: Pacifist Run


Entenzahn, "Memorabilia": Some of the charm of this piece is lost on me because I'm not sure how Jonah thinks his efforts will help Elaia. If I lost the use of all my fingers tomorrow, it wouldn't ease my despair if one of my nearest and dearest learned how to type C-A-T. I sort of see why Goodpancakes turned this man into an outright buffoon in Inversion Week. To dismiss Jonah as a fool would be to miss what does work, however: his love for Elaia in her loss is both touching and clear, and the subtle message that's maybe only in my head, that passion--like fire--doesn't have to be destructive, is a sweet one. Maybe that's what Elaia needs to learn, but that's pure conjecture on my part. I want to know more about why Elaia's magic died. That might let me understand Jonah's approach to bringing her hope.


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Week 112: Attack of the Graphophobes


SurreptitiousMuffin, "Many Hands": The hell is with your dialogue capitalization? I can't tell you how hard that throws me out of appreciating the story and your skill. Proofread better, Muffin, for the love of crackers. I'm not in love with the lapse into written notes as a form of exposition either. The peculiar spellings and phrasings are odd, as though you're trying to make grim humor fly. (The strength of the piece is in the horror, not the humor. Some of the absurdity does work--the brand of bratwurst, the entire business of the factory workers chasing reconstituted pigs--but when you push it too far as with Please also forgive any unchristian language used previously in the document, which was deployed due to the arisural of a surprising circumstance, you get in your own story's way.) It snaps me out of the story again when Jonno dies, because isn't he the main character? Oops, no, I guess that's the foreman who doesn't show up until several paragraphs in and never gets a name. I can live with the late arrival, actually--it's more of an ensemble piece, so it doesn't strictly need a main character. I want him to have a name, though. It's hard to understand what the men were thinking in feeding that many body parts back through the machine at once. In short, there's a lot here at which to pick. Here's the thing: the images are so visceral and striking, the tone--when it doesn't edge too close to a guffaw--so perfectly suited to the story being told, that when I think back to this piece, those images and that tone are almost all that I remember. The flaws fade away. So does most of the story, but with a horror work of this type you're probably out to stick an image in the reader's head forever more than to tell a story that will last; you've succeeded, and that counts for much.


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Week 113: OK YOU ASKED FOR IT SUCKERS


ZeBourgeoisie, "Red Eggs": Your debut entry is still your most successful, judging by widespread reception. I don't share the love altogether. Grossness and body horror are most of what it has to offer. It's effectively squicky and weird, and the images are handled well for the most part--they're gross enough to be gross but not so much they become absurd, excepting "the melted remains of the foetal eyes smashing between his molars," which makes my own eyes roll. But if you're not into that, what's here? There's a moral about not abusing the hell-pig that feeds you and maybe not eating fetuses at all, but the ending doesn't match the creativity of the premise. In a way I wish this hadn't been received so well, because I've thought more than once that you're still trying to replicate it without remembering that body horror alone won't carry a story.

*****

crabrock, "Novalust": Good opening line. I remember thinking at the time this won that it was good work, but overpraised, and I'll stand by that. Ayame's death is beautiful. The final four paragraphs are where the story's strength lies, and they close on such a strong note that I could almost forget the "little avian psychopaths" (the birdwatching scene makes Ayame read like an "edgy" teenager in an adult body; that might be intentional, but I think you go an inch too far here) or how unnecessary the science fiction elements appear to be. Would the story be any different of Ayame's job took him all over the Earth? If the robots were civil servants? The bulk of the story doesn't have the elegance of the end. Yet this is an entry that stays with me, and it certainly deserves its crown.


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Week 125: Thunderdome is Coming to Town


ZeBourgeoisie, "The Lockbox": I notice Calvin never expresses the least desire for a child but neither the narrator nor the story cares. Not much wonder the marriage is failing, is it? The devil, or whatever Nachash is, has no motivation for "helping" the couple; they have no motivation for accepting the box (and they don't have a childless "problem" just because one of them has decided a kid is the answer to boredom, but that's neither here nor there); seeing his partner's eyes in a putty-child's face would not make a man embrace that putty child in a reasonable world; there's no way whatsoever in which the men cheat Nachash; Nachash gains nothing by blowing Carrie up. Nor does the story. Everything is so poorly thought out that it reads like a straight-up excuse for the body horror, though: like that scene is what you wanted all along and you skimmed over the steps necessary to get there. The result is half-baked, and I end up hoping Calvin escapes this relationship through divorce.

*****

kurona_bright, "Man, I'm a Genius": Thank you for not formatting entries this way anymore! I spot a couple of other old problems in this entry, too. Most of the story is conversations. The inciting event takes place off-camera before the narrative begins, requiring you to exposit about it. The conflict itself has a fatal flaw, namely that I'm meant to believe someone lost a prized leather jacket in his couch somehow and that he didn't search his house well enough to find it there before accusing another boy of theft. Is Cole's couch made of quicksand? Leather jackets aren't small items! Cole's decision to go from thoughtless dick to fully intentional dick is an unsatisfying conclusion. It isn't an offensively bad story, really, but it's pointless enough to grate.


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Week 143: Smells Like Dome Spirit


Killer-of-Lawyers, "Decay": "Stale and cold air rushed inside her. She chimed as fans inhaled a sample for her. The air was stale and very cold." Do you see the problem here? Otherwise, this is reasonably cute, and it's the closest of any of the John-and-Sarah triptych to standing alone. There's an irritating sense of a larger story at work (what's the derelict? Why cyborg zombies? Why are they there? Etc., etc.). It still feels more like a fragment of something else than like its own thing. But Sarah's impulses regarding John form an arc of sorts--worry and frustration to protectiveness to frustration again, only now we've seen how much she cares and how they interact. It's a character sketch with some action in it more than a story proper, but I enjoy it anyway.


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Week 152: Rhymes with Red, White, and Blue


Lazy Beggar, "next": You successfully capture and convey an impression of extreme tedium, and from what I can tell that's exactly what you aim to do. Kudos, I guess. But tedium is tedious. Alex and her work day are too dull by far to carry 1,300 words. Shear off a considerable amount of material and there could conceivably be a story in her breakdown in the face of the unending queue--the last paragraph holds the sole glimmer of interest, too late to redeem the rest. Boiling this down to its bones would be a worthwhile exercise in concision.

*****

Bompacho, "Deals on Wheels": I'd like that ending on a different story! It's ludicrously grimdark for this one! Jason/Hunter's battle with Betty, Woman of Voidmart and thief of muffins, is too lighthearted for you to then grind her up into coffee mulch. His goal of avoiding unionization so customer complaints will continue to slide off him is likewise too borderline goofy. The resolution to that subplot is arguably weaker than Betty's fate. It doesn't resolve much of anything, and it focuses on a character--Lara--who has only previously, briefly appeared in one paragraph. Imagine if you cut the mistaken identity and the union dance and kept to the tale of how Jason brought down the Golden Bean's most notorious shoplifter. You might have to give Betty a bit of character beyond her stereotype, but that would be to the good anyway. Spelling muumuu correctly would also be beneficial. Maybe you could get away with hinting at a dark date with destiny and the coffee fields for her if you could swing a black-humor tone.


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Week 159: SINNERS ORGY


Jonked, "Capitalism is the one true ideology of Freedom": I can't claim a knee-jerk hatred of Ayn Rand--it's more a knee-jerk apathy--but this is godawful regardless of one's stance on Our Lady of Objectivism. You start off in the realm of Strawman's-Got-a-Point. Alisa's parents lie to her, and even a grown adult would be justified in a negative response to that dickery. Parents who lie to their daughter and then try to pretend they never did make lovely voices of reason. Young Ms. Rand is the more sympathetic party right up until the paragraph containing the immortal line "Your beliefs are a joke - altruism is a sin!"--a line so over-the-top and absurd from a child (and no, disclaiming it as her exact thought doesn't excuse it) that it doesn't make her sound evil, it makes you look incompetent. If you intend her to be the sympathetic figure--and the petty deceit of her parents creates room for doubt--then it's even worse. All of that is without getting into the question of the frame story and how it relates to the interior fanfic. You're a much better writer than this, Jonked. You shouldn't have to depend on weaponized gayness to save you.

*****

Screaming Idiot, "Gut Instinct": That diarrhea scene isn't necessary even if your execution of it is tolerable, you know. Other than that, you've written a decent interpretation of your sin and flash rule. Something that doesn't appear to make sense at the start of the story is in fact a clue that not all is as it seems. I would have left you off the DM roll, probably, but the whole premise for your horror sting is undeniably weak: what the hell purpose is a virus that turns people into cannibal zombies supposed to serve? There have to be more efficient ways of depopulating the planet.

*****

PoshAlligator, "Closing Day": Your story stars a kung-fu octopus. What could possibly go wrong? The villains' motivations, as it turns out: I'm not buying that an aquarium is so urgently needed by shady government types that they have to kill all the marine life right now. A whole week is too long to wait! They're so inexplicably bent on Osmund's death that I'm distracted from awesome questions like "Did the octopus just suplex Dave?" by how little sense the situation makes. Above and beyond the kung-fu octopus, I mean. I learn Windex + fire + fish = barbeque, a recipe Food Network has persistently failed to divulge. Then the child protagonist has to shoot the kung-fu octopus because... reasons, and I wonder what the point was to no avail. A happy ending would probably have saved this; it's easier to ignore the nonsense while things are fun.

*****

C7ty1, "In the Land of the Blind": It doesn't take much to drive King Graham to the brink of maiming himself. Oooh no, he has to see ugly clothes and ugly houses! Who's painting those houses? Who is going around slapping chartreuse on the homes of these blind people? Why do they own shirts in violent colors? It's like they all inhabit a world peopled by malicious artists. I'd rather read about the painters with a strange, spiteful grudge against the blind than about a man who runs away because he had to look at some dead bodies. Though Graham's selfishness fits your sin, it's darned hard to empathize for his longing for sightlessness when it's driven by not wanting to see clashing trousers any more.

*****

SlipUp, "Ken & Jake": An after-school special in which everyone, not just the bully, is awful. Ken beats on a kid he sees as a deviant, with the almost-expected implication that he's closeted himself; Jake decides the best way to get revenge is to get a straight (maybe) boy to kiss him under false pretenses. Sure, why not? Deceit is such an admirable part of sexual relations. There's no triumph for Jake in this, because turning into a slimeball is no victory. His speech to his mother couldn't be more ham-handed. No one in this story does anything of which to be proud.


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Week 160: Spin the wheel!


Cingulate, "The priz*e being right": Ignoring the entire issue of the asterisk in your title and the footnote re: your willingness to inflict carnal actions upon the reader's private person, you've botched a brilliant premise. I love the inexplicable rain of the once-dead. It's a beautiful fusion of your genres. This story proves, however, that man cannot live by clever ideas alone, because the falling bodies go to waste as a backdrop for the relationship drama of two dull people. It's unlikely that Bryce and Franka would stumble across each other in Syria, but it's downright impossible that Bryce can tell a bunch of corpses that fell from an immense height used to be native Syrians. None of the revelations about the dead people fit into Bryce's or Franka's perspectives. And why do Bryce and Franka have to go somewhere that no humans have lived when the corpse rain is only happening in Syria? After we recorded the recap, it occurred to me that maybe it's all a metaphor for relationships, that a couple that would be happy should run from the falling past that could destroy them and start fresh on untrammeled ground. Franka's infidelity would be relevant, then. It's a theory I rather like, but it's possible I'm reading too much into things, and you still wrote a footnote about sucking dicks. Don't do that.

*****

Halbey, "The Hunt for Saranita": Most of your problems boil down to tone, and that could boil down further to an inability to blend your genres. All your goofiness is tied to Action Adventure. As you shift gears into Urban Fantasy, you drop the lighthearted touches, until by V (P.S. the Roman numerals don't fit this story, if indeed they'd fit any flash piece anywhere) everything is dead serious and descending rapidly into hell. The hell segment wouldn't be so bad if it had a suitable on-ramp. The goofy stuff has charm that the gory ending destroys. You need to pick an approach and stick with it if you work with this further.

*****

Thyrork, "Wrathful": Terrible formatting, two protagonists with six names between them, a void where the ending should be--I wouldn't be much surprised if you have a footnote to thank for sparing you the losertar. The buddy-cop banter isn't godawful while they're delivering exposition, and that's a point in your favor since it's more common for infodumps send dialogue into the toilet. You deliver the information on the case in a reasonable way. The exchange about names is not so good, forcing a laugh-track moment and emphasizing the glut of things you've come up with to call these people. Seriously, no one should have four monikers in a story of this length, especially when you use them interchangeably. The not-ending renders the rest sort of moot. I can conjecture that Ira'Ignolai/Ign/Ira/Wendy went to town on the cultists and left none alive, but I shouldn't have to conjecture.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 06:42 on Jan 4, 2017

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Week 161: Negative Exponents

Most of my feedback for this week is here.


Killer-of-Lawyers, "Dreams of Babel": I can follow what's going on, more or less, and it reminds me of the lost/dead radio messages in Fallout 3 that I always liked. I'm expecting everyone to be gone--the decay and malfunction are more serious than the recorded voice seems to think. This starts to fall apart when you bring Sarah in, a character who isn't a factor in this story and is only relevant to the larger picture that you've broken into pieces for TD. This reads exactly like a direct sequel to the Pilgrim Week entry that you hadn't submitted yet. I'm getting a sinking feeling that you wrote these long before the prompts were announced and only dusted them off. There's never been a rule against that because there's never had to be, but maybe that's changed. Anyway. Yank the Sarah stuff, clarify the voice's story some--how does John know "him" is the woman's husband? Why doesn't she say?--and despite John being featureless, you'd have a passable SF yarn. The mood is good, and the last line is strong.


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Week 162: The best of the worst and the worst of the best


Lazy Beggar, "Pumpkin Mash": Oh, man. The choice to blend Some Guy TT's story with mine was not a wise one for you. There's next to zero overlap between them, and you stick close to my work in your revision and don't or can't make the Some Guy TT elements fit. It could be done, probably: if you removed Luke and focused on Amy's relationships with her mother and Trish--maybe Amy would want to carve a pumpkin to be like Trish instead of to impress a boy--then the work would be less disjointed; as it is, Luke's part in the plot is dropped after the first section. You'd still have needed to do something about Trish's pointless man friend and the physical trip Amy takes into the castle, which currently has no payoff. That description of carving the castle is over-long and over-dull, too. If you'd focused more on her emotions as she carved than the minutiae of the process, you could probably have gotten the idea that she dreams of another home across without sending her on a pumpkin journey.

*****

No Beer Left, "The Abduction Myth": Loss or no, your entry is superior to its source material by virtue of not making any character apologize for not wanting to be used as a broodmare by strange men in the one year of life she has left before cancer kills her. Maybe sebmojo thought he was throwing the new guy a softball, since there was nowhere for that story to go but up. Unfortunately, your improved version still isn't good. Tense shifts. Odd phrases: if, as in "Not if he worked for me," isn't the right word to use when the fact that Izzy works for Declan isn't in doubt. Izzy is a decent sidekick, but Declan doesn't have much to him beyond a vague assholery. And although the attempted "rescue" of Cora being fruitless is critical to the story's point that you can't save people from the fates they choose, you don't quite succeed at the challenge of pulling off a nothing-we-just-did-mattered ending without leaving the reader questioning your use of her time. I see connections to "Broken Women" now that escaped me at the time of the recap, but I find myself hoping that the intentional ones are limited to exploration of abusive sexual situations and a woman's consent to same. Any closer parallel between Cora's desires and Jessica's resignation would be off-putting.

*****

Tyrannosaurus, "50m": It's not too weird that you edited this out of the thread, I guess, since enough changes were made that you'd only have to rename the characters to divorce your version from the original. That's fine! Yours is the most successful rewrite of one of my stories largely for that reason. I don't see it as an improvement on the original, though of course I'm not the best person to rule on that. One solidly unlikable character murders another for cheating at a sport. It's not very compelling, you know? Brennan starts off as the kind of guy who opens the packages he's supposed to deliver (else how did he know about Monty's orca hormones?), and soon he's fixated on anger and jealousy. There's not enough else to him to make his revenge plot interesting. I wish he were mistaken about the hormones and the fake abs (although that line is funny) and ended up eaten by the sharks, but that could be a matter of taste.

*****

Dr. Kloctopussy, "The Last Man on Earth": The originality would be enough to make this an improvement on Sitting Here's "Spudipus Complex." The characterization is superior too, as both Stuart and his mother are distinct people rather than archetypes. Whether it improves on "Full Course" is a different question, and my verdict is no--though comparison is more difficult between two stories so completely different in aim and tone for all their surface similarities. Oxxidation's piece is closer to flawless, however. This one doesn't live up to its ominous beginning, in the end. The discovery of the snake is anticlimactic; Sarah's rejection of Stuart is anticlimactic; the mother sinking into bed is anticlimactic; insofar as the story has a climax, it happens when Stuart wanks over his mother, far and away too early. I'm not impressed by the transformation of the sexual elements of the Stuart/Mother relationship from implicit to overt, either. It only adds shock value. Yet the melding of the two, distinct stories is done with incredible skill, and the heart of the work is strong enough to counterbalance the weaknesses.

*****

kurona_bright, "Cervical Fracture": The first section is solid aside from tiny scuff marks. (The pool had evidently swelled past its usual bounds sounds too clinical for the moment, and the higher water level is only a detail worth mentioning if Jefferson knew about it beforehand. I brought it up in my story because the kids thought that made the pool deep enough to be safe.) I dig the tension of Jefferson's fight with the water, the rot and invasiveness of which you use to grand effect. The second section doesn't live up to it, maybe because you don't show the memory haunting Jefferson before you kick him off that branch. His smile even gives it a vaguely happy vibe. The gap in mood between Point A to Point B is too wide; it wants a bridge, but you try to jump it. It would have been better not to hew so closely to the original--you kept every event basically the same, and that didn't leave you with much room to make the story your own.

*****

Grizzled Patriarch, "Did He Who Made the Lamb Make Thee?": The connection to Rhino's work is slight: the two stories have different themes, different settings, different characters, different tones, different messages. I don't think you've so much rewritten Rhino's piece as written your own take on Calvin and Hobbes. Given that, I get why you didn't HM. And I wonder how good a tiger Calvinus could draw, considering that his only tools were fingernails that must have been constantly worn bloody. The question of how he could know what a real tiger looked like is a more interesting one, because it's the question, isn't it? Does he know the tongue of God? Has he spoken to the Tyger's maker? Is his will to kill some reflection of the Divine? It's all elegantly executed, and the small character details for Albanus are great. This fails as a rewrite and succeeds as a story.


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Week 164: I Shouldn't Have Eaten That Souvlaki

I posted crits a while back for most of the stories we talked about in the 164 recap, but here's one I missed.


Ironic Twist, "Taking Your Order": The dialogue is snappy and fast-moving, which makes the all-dialogue gimmick work. With my memory of both stories refreshed, however, I'd say the stronger half of Sitting Here's all-dialogue piece does a better job with the gimmick by virtue of benefiting from the gimmick, whereas this doesn't, particularly. Her story uses the trick to build dramatic tension; yours opens like a comedy of errors, meaning the truth apocalypse comes out of nowhere and isn't a welcome guest to the party. When you have to explain its details, you fall afoul of the exposition issue that makes so many all-dialogue stories clunk. I do like the concept of a truth apocalypse, or I would if it were more gracefully shown. The good idea, initial good dialogue, and eventual sympathy between the two speakers give the entry a spark. The ending's a miss, alas. Does every connection between a man and a woman have to end in sex? Does it really?


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Week 166: Comings and Goings


Baudolino, "DANCE WITH ME.": Only a line-by-line would have a hope in Hell of beginning to fix what's wrong here. Regrettably, I have a lot of crits to write, so I'll settle for saying that your grasp on English grammar is execrable beyond what not being a native English speaker excuses in someone who's aiming to write fiction in the language. "June 22th" is hilarious but understandable. (It should be June 22nd: the -st, -nd, -rd, or -th after an English cardinal number is short for first, second, third, or fourth through twentieth. Say the number aloud and you'll know which suffix to use.) The godawful punctuation in the paragraph in which Maxwell talks to his sons is neither. You've done much better than this, dammit! This is your second-worst effort to date on the mechanical level. More's the pity, because the transcript-format opening, the tragic grammar and syntax, the diary gimmick, and the distraction that's the entire Maxwell family strangle a promising story in its cradle. You heard me. There's something here, just as there's something in "Rural Rentboys" if one can look past how it's written (which one can't). The haunted lake is ominous. Thomas's relationship to his wife is creepy. His end could be chilling. Cut the transcript and the diary and the Maxwells and you have the kernel of a potentially good horror piece. No one else could possibly have lost this round, but yours is the low-end entry with the best bones. The twisted, mutated pustules of prose you've attached to them are a shame.

*****

curlingiron, "Time Is a Four Dimensional Vector Moving Toward the Future": Proof that good sentence-level writing will not save a rotten concept if ever there was. I've watched a lot of Full House in my day, and most episodes of that show wrap their twee morals in more entertainment than this. What do I care about the character writing this letter? What's she like, beyond being G-rated Teen Angst incarnate? (I'm not complaining about the G rating. I say that to be precise about its type, since goodness knows there are so many flavors of Teen Angst that Baskin-Robbins is jealous.) Everything she says is so on the nose that it hurts to see. This wasn't my teenage experience, no matter how hard media push the the idea that it's universal, so I feel no resonance, and that leaves me with nothing at all. No character. No action. No plot. No story. You missed losing because you hit the Baudolino jackpot, I suspect. Anyone who's read anything else you've written knows you're better than this, including you, so just don't do it again!

*****

Screaming Idiot, "The Cost of Existence": You shouldn't have done the trick with the names. Having a diplomat for each of your cards is more clever than cutesy, but the names? Definitely more cutesy than clever. The dialogue between Kingston and Hexa is awkward with exposition, but I'll grant you it's not as bad as it could be, given the amount of worldbuilding your premise and setting require. That line about seeing the truth within falls a bit flat since Hexa hasn't shown an iota of charisma: it isn't some kind of -ist to be unattracted to an unpleasant personality. I don't find a lot of charm in the larger-scale story. Once KNYT starts going into his "perfect harmony" shpiel, I can't ignore how cliche it is, and then I look at the robots vs. humans vs. militaristic aliens and remember that Mass Effect did it better. The implausibility of KNYT handing over copies of "every Fiver system," whatever that means exactly, or Kingston plotting with Hexa against the robots when the inability of the humans and Grensk to work together should have been blindingly obvious, hamstrings your twist considerably. I don't hate the first part of that twist. I'd like to see a version of this in which Kingston and Hexa prove KNYT wrong by working together just fine, thank you. The final betrayal ironically makes the ending more predictable, not less.

*****

CARRIERHASARRIVED, "Renege": Sometimes being cagey about what exactly is going on at the start of your story works out. Usually, at least in Thunderdome, it does not. It doesn't work here. I finish this piece still unsure of what the deal is with the protagonist's accounts. The most likely explanation is that the "original contract" is the accept-Jesus-and-you'll-go-to-Heaven deal, but a word like contract is more suggestive of sold souls. Sinning wouldn't invalidate the Jesus covenant, either, would it? Maybe my ignorance is showing, but you should have been more specific about the nature of the agreement. Neither contract negotiation nor haggling makes for good reading without some effort on the writer's part to enrich the back-and-forth with interesting relationship dynamics, tense stakes, or something. In theory your stakes are high, but in practice, I don't know this man and I don't care. It's the cherry on the sour-milk sundae that your ending is nonsense. All that back and forth and then he just dies? What? What? Where did the eleven years go? Was it all a hallucination?? Why did I endure that story?!? It was all a dream! is one of the most bullshit endings fiction can offer, and you throw it on top of a pile of confusing tedium that wastes a half-decent opening and switches one character's gender from female to male and back again? From Hell's heart I stab at thee!


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Week 167: Black Sunshine


ghost crow, "Obelisk": Your punctuation is rough, but in the early stages I'm at least a little interested in why the ominous obelisk has telekinetically swatted Amelia out of the sky. The dead radio is suitably foreboding. The story loses its momentum, never to regain it, when Amelia sets up camp, and this is also the point at which I'd say it loses the spirit of the prompt. Sleep and nightmares suggest night strongly; despite your mention of the sun, the scene doesn't "feel" like it takes place during the day. Horrible, prophetic dreams are cliche on top of that. Why in the world does Amelia walk toward the obelisk after that instead of sitting tight? Has knocking up an obelisk been a lifelong dream that she now has the chance to see through? This second half is weak enough to outbalance the first, though I'd call yours the strongest of the low entries in this round.

*****

newtestleper, "The Reddleman on the Barrow": I'm flat not buying this behavior from a woman of breeding. I half think I should give you benefit of the doubt since I don't know antique New Zealand mores, but Effie acts as though what she's doing is highly scandalous, so... yeah, no, it's as bizarre as every other aspect of her behavior. Throwing a fit because the reddleman doesn't gape at her? Ridiculous. Misdirecting him? Ridiculous. Murdering a man because he might maybe tell someone somewhere that she's been lying around naked? Words fail me. The reddleman himself could have made a credible source of horror; Effie's more a font of random stupidity. The story makes no sense in the form that it's in. I have a theory that you wanted to tie Effie to the maenads with your ending, the wild followers of Bacchus who would run about naked and tear men apart, and it's a fine idea. To say you didn't pull it off is to understate the case.

*****

Killer-of-Lawyers, "Purgatory": An IT guy walks in the desert, the short story. I know there's more to your concept than that. Yabarra works--probably--for a company involved in transdimensional shenanigans, in the style of Phantasmagoria 2, and he was on the scene when people were killed or lost or something else dreadful after they walked into an aperture that presumably led to this desert out of Beetlejuice. Yabarra has walked into the aperture himself, but instead of matryoshka sandworms, he finds a void that rejects his very being and sends him back to the beginning of his desert trek, a bit like--I can't name the major novel series that does this without spoiling it, but I think a few readers of this crit will know that to which I refer. Every part of this feels familiar. I'm not convinced you copied anything directly, though, and it doesn't much matter: similarities to other works aren't what make it boring. Your guy trudges around in the desert for over a quarter of the story before you tell us anything about him, and then you dole out details by dribs and drabs. By having him remember things, worse luck. Nothing invites me to care about this man or his compulsion toward suicide. You could fix this by changing the starting point of your story and including the moment he chose to step into the aperture, if not the tragedy that provoked him. Spend less time and words on the desert, more of both on showing what brought him here, and you might pull off decent daylight horror.


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Week 168: She Stole My Wallet and My Heart


anime was right, "Cult Classic": Aggravating as some elements of memestory might be if you're so tired of memes you want to die, there's no doubt in my heart this earned its loss, because holy hell is it bad. It opens nebulous and stays that way. You're trying to build a detailed SF world without falling into the exposition gutter, I think, but possibly the world is too detailed, or maybe you've chosen the wrong details on which to focus--Crow's fixation on cloaks doesn't appear to matter to the story or tell us anything significant about her--or maybe it isn't interesting, full stop. I lean toward a combination of all three with emphasis on the last. Jredge is right up there with Grignr on the slope of Mt. Questionable Naming Decisions. The sentence ending in a population tally is bloody awful. (Due more to the misused semicolon than to the statistic, granted.) That cult shouldn't be able to operate if it's going around handing out pamphlets in an energy-starved world. It's also dumber than any real cult I've ever heard of, including those comet people. Some blame for everything falling flat belongs to the tone issue, the mix of a grim, apocalyptic setting with the goofy cult--the duck sort of works, but the cult is too much. And you don't begin to explain it. If you love this world and character, write a much longer story about them to give Crow's adventures room to breathe and cohere.

*****

Obliterati, "I Used to Be an Adventurer Like You": My opinion of this falls somewhere between Morning Bell's liking and Broenheim's hatred. It's better than it has any right to be! The concept has so much inherent potential to grate that I'm impressed to see you make it work, sort of, kind of. On the other hand, better than it ought to be doesn't mean good, and one might reasonably ask whether the risk is worth taking. I don't know the answer myself. I tend toward no, I suppose, when the memes are all current. Think about that for very long and it's hard to ignore that it doesn't make in-universe sense, which pulls the memes back toward the attention-seeking-gimmick territory you were likely out to avoid. With focus on the concept of memes rather than memes familiar in The Year of Our Lord 2015, could this have worked as half-absurd, half-genuine tragic romance? Possibly. Cass and Martin could use more chemistry, and Cass could use a reason to be so resistant to going straight, because I'm not convinced the memebots are such amazing company.


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Week 170: Cities & Kaiju


Screaming Idiot, "The Perfect Man": The opening leads one to expect a different type of story than one gets, and whether that's good or bad probably depends somewhat on one's taste for romance relative to one's taste for government conspiracies and anime supermen. The sets of cliches you employ don't meld especially well. They're also boring! Every word out of every character's mouth might as well have been copied from a cheesy movie, especially in the scene in which Raj breaks up with Priya for her own good. Gah, that part is painful. Raj's backstory requires too much exposition from the dull, nonthreatening grey men, whose actions make no sense whatsoever. I figure you often want to offer your readers high-energy experiences with lots of exciting things happening, and that's a great instinct: the world needs pulpy fun--but pulpy doesn't have to mean tired or overdone or cliche as gently caress. The day you stop pouring tropes over your work is the day you improve as a storyteller.

*****

Sitting Here, "Salamonster": You know and I know and I know that you know what's wrong here, but I'll go through it one more time, and then we'll be free of lattecopters until the next time someone cracks a joke in a recap. Stella and Clarkia have zero chemistry, making the too-frequent reminders of their sexual relationship come off as especially forced. Everything that happens in the story would make as much sense anywhere as it makes in Valletta. Your proofing has allowed phrases like "fat, slow, week blood" to escape. The salamander's appearance is random and weakly justified. The means of defeating it is inane beyond my ability to tell. All the tweeting and selfie-taking during the crisis portrays social media junkies as insufferable idiots; I question whether that was your intent! And there are lattecopters. Lattecopters. It flat doesn't have the energy or charm to be fun, when fun is all that could have spun these salamander feces into gold.

*****

sebmojo, "Black Yolk": I'm going to stand with the judges on this one. Much of what's here is good enough, even with the heavy hints of research on oil refining. Those straddle the line between too much and just enough, coming down on the latter side for me but plausibly turning someone else off. The serpent's attack would work if the serpent were properly introduced instead of just suddenly being there and digging trenches I guess? Then rising from the earth a couple of sentences later?? It reads like you scrambled the order of things in an editing mishap. Your conclusion is why this is DM worthy: Miguel lays out what's going on too directly, turning into an exposition tool instead of a character. Your characters witness Quetzalcoatl's rise and do not act. The final quotation is beautiful, but it's a crappy ending. There ought to be more; there isn't; despite the grand treatment of your prompt and fine writing, I come away with a feeling of time wasted.


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Week 171: The Honorable THUNDERDOME CLXXI


Lazy Beggar, "A Sealed Fate": Boooo. "A clubbing incident." Boooooooooooooooo. I'm laughing as I call for your fast and horrible demise, but you seriously out-clevered yourself with this one. You could have written a solid story about selkies vs. seal hunters, but no, you had to send the selkies after Captain Squeamish to vandalize his car and beat him with flippers. This is not a story that benefits from a twist of the ridiculous. I suspect, too--although I can't swear--that the vandalism to the hunters' boat would have been enough to meet that part of your prompt. While the transition back to the city and the seal vandalism is what truly earns the crap crown, the appearance of the shifted selkies is pretty goofy too. They're men until suddenly they're seals? Why would they change into a form that has its guts hanging out to attack the hunters? Aren't those intestines going to get in the way? The presentation aims for dramatic and lands on ludicrous. Or else it's meant to be a silly story, in which case... lord, I don't know which is the less charitable interpretation of things, humor with a side of seal butchery or serious vengeance via seals spray-painting PETA slogans.

*****

Thranguy, "Current Playlist: All The Worst Songs, Ever": One of your worst and least justifiable formatting experiments. The story you're trying to tell has serious problems independent of that, burdened as it is with a complete rear end in a top hat of a protagonist and his beyond-stupid plan to ruin an important event for many people, not only his also-an-rear end in a top hat ex. What did this guy imagine the ex would tell his child someday, if this had gone through? I don't buy that he wouldn't care. Does he think no one would come after him for the trespassing and vandalism? Is he clever enough to come up with all these far-fetched and redundant and petty ways to ruin the wedding but too stupid to think about consequences, ever? (That does go with him sleeping with this lady in the first place, admittedly.) And where did he find a groom centerpiece with a stick up its posterior? No. That he ran off and let the DJ take the blame is the fecal icing on the crap cake. Scrambling the chronology to make the already insane plot even harder to follow is a decision I can't fathom.

*****

Propaganda Machine, "Caveat Emptor": Do I understand correctly that Louise sold Marty a badly behaved dog named Bubbles in order to take his money while keeping the sweet-tempered animal for herself? Good grief, that plan is only a couple of smidgeons less dumb than Thranguy's protagonist's revenge scheme. It's also rather heartless coming from an ostensible dog lover. I'd possibly dislike this less if I thought you intended to paint Louise as a lovely scammer, but the story seems to try to cast Marty as a man who deserved to be scammed for some reason. His desires in a canine companion don't seem unreasonable, nor does his irritation with Bubbles' behavior, so what gives? The final, italicized section doesn't accomplish much beyond burning words and underlining information the story has already established.


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Week 172: Thunderdome Startup


ZeBourgeoisie, "I Can't Believe It's Mort!": Sigh. The advent of the robo-fellatio and the lizard sex makes me think everyone who laughed at this did you a disservice. Maybe we didn't make it clear that Butterman is awful. You've written a story in which the school bully is the only reasonable individual, not counting Sam, who only exists to be drooled over and then killed by Mort. I'm skeptical that this was your intention. Your app is effectively a magic lamp, so you miss the spirit of the prompt. A kid turning into butter because of a monkey's-paw deal could be horrifying, maybe, possibly, if he didn't embrace the change and randomly asphyxiate the girl he professed to love. What. The. Hell. The buttered bone fragments somehow put a capper on the stupidity of it all. It's bad work in that "Eye of Argon" way that makes it fun to talk about, but if you want to write stories that make people glad to have read them, don't use this one as your pattern.

*****

Ventadour, "Death Before Bad Reviews": A witch comes to a new town to open a magic business; she plots to steal customers away from the local specialist; the specialist is smarter than she is but agrees to help her anyway, for some reason. Too many words center on Aniela's fixation on Magic Yelp and the Internet in general--probably due to the prompt, but you still needed to write a story. A woman obsessing over her new business is neither a story on its own nor compelling material. I wish too that Mrs. Twarda had told Aniela where to stick her predatory ways: some sort of comeuppance for Aniela's plan to use Mrs. Twarda but cheat her out of recognition would have given this entry more shape, if nothing else.

*****

Grizzled Patriarch, "Certified Cool": I couldn't sympathize less with Craig if you paid me. Look at this man. He kills himself because his party with the expensive cheeses isn't popular enough, oh god, oh no, the horror--! Four paragraphs in and I detest this guy, and nothing seems tragic about the fun other people have around him; or his boyhood crush, who wasn't gay anyway, not remembering him; or his rather understandable dearth of popularity. For want of social approbation he chooses to die not once, but twice. People do and will off themselves for reasons that are insanely stupid to a mind not bent by despair, but if you want to make me feel anything for Craig then you need to make him more than his obsession. Make him a person. And then revise the ending so suicide doesn't take Craig to an afterlife where he is the most popular and the most cool and everything is wonderful, because seriously?


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Week 174: Ladles and Jellyspoons


ZeBourgeoisie, "Into the Mineshaft": Ignoring the obscure type of sword you dropped in your first line and your apparent confusion of knave and squire, this is blah, but not ghastly, so I expect you landed on the DM stack for missing the nonsense genre by a mile. You wrote a fantasy story with a random tea party in it. My Lewis Carroll senses are tingling, not for the last time this week. The thing is, you appear to have borrowed surface details from Carroll without getting to the heart of nonsense--an understandable error, but this story lacks sufficient charm to wring mercy from black judge hearts.

*****

Silmarildur, "Sugarplum Fairyland Home for the Insufficiently Exuberant": The most egregious nonsense of the week is that this story didn't lose. Yes, yes, it takes a stab at charm and whimsy, but it wraps up a saccharine, twee feast of sugared monkeycheese with an It was all a dream! ending. I sort of want to drown you in a fifty-five-gallon drum of glucose for that. If you'd told the story of Dr. Snuggles and his Sugarplum practice instead (fanfic problems aside; Dr. Snuggles never aired in America, it appears, and I'm inclined to call your use of the name coincidence), I could sort of, maybe, almost imagine this being interesting if not fun. Jeff's pointless sojourn? Nope. And that onesie is weird in all the wrong ways.

*****

Lazy Beggar, "Rotten at the Core": Neither the dull content nor the staccato rhythm of the first few sentences makes for a good hook. Charm and whimsy are missing from this tale of a jerk so fixated on apples that he kills a talking, sentient being as it pleads for mercy, all for the sake of a few apples now. What will he do when his supply runs out later? It's a vaguely repulsive piece that would play better as horror; it misses every element of this prompt, so its loss doesn't surprise me for all that I would have chosen another.

*****

Thranguy, "Who Ordered That?": "Doggerel," fie! The meter is more rigorous than that! It does bobble in places, and I couldn't wince harder at the tortured "Surprising as a muon," the more so since muon doesn't even rhyme with new one. One slip that bad is enough to knock wind from a poem's sails. I think the judges are right that it could use a stanza or two fewer: cut the one starting with "I dived into the fray" and you'd lose little, if you could find a way to have Fat catch the bird elsewhere or edit the lines to render it unnecessary. However, I have more fun reading this than anything else, and some of the rhymes are fantastic--my favorite despite its shameful lack of punctuation (a frequent problem) is "He won't call me Bartholemew / He won't call him McGonick / While in the gym, I'm Fat, he's Slim / (The names are both ironic)." Hah. You've earned an HM in my irrelevant books.

*****

jon joe, "Barrel of Fun": It's rough to look at this because of the clear effort made to do the prompt right. You've reached for a combination of charm, whimsy, nonsense, and story. I don't want to hate it--but I do. Too many characters of which to keep track plus repetitive adjectives plus most of the story being dull dialogue plus everything being written at a second-grade reading level plus the near-immediate resolution of the parrot's problem, which is the most interesting part of the story but doesn't have much to do with the larger plot, equals tedium cubed: the worst reading experience of the week. I suspect, though I'm not sure, that the super-simple prose is the keystone of its arch of failings, and maybe if you took another stylistic approach you could wring charm from your general concepts. Maybe.

*****

Grizzled Patriarch, "Joey Romaine's Live House of Wax": I don't know about your grasp on prompts sometimes, GP. I've seen you appear to skip the whole "prompt" thing and suffer consequences for it on multiple occasions now, and it baffles me every time. This has to be the most egregious flop of the lot. A man working as a wax replica of Hitler is barely surreal and certainly not nonsense of the sort Fumblemouse wanted. There's charm in a reality show that's all about kicking Hitler in the groin, I'll give you that, but I keep asking myself why this man can't dye his hair or shave his moustache or do anything to look less Hitlerian if it's such a burden on him. The work has a moody, melancholy tone that goes right against what you were asked to do. The ending functions as a conclusion on the arc of this man's angst, but I feel it would be stronger if it went just seconds further--just to the girl taking his hand, so we know she's alive and all right.


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Week 175: Speels of Magic


Entenzahn, "A MALICIOUS LETTER OF APOLOGY/THE B-SIDE OF LIFE": Somehow I doubt there's a whole lot of point in telling you the weaknesses this has as a story, since you probably have at least an inkling that you filled it too full of pokes at Sitting Here's favorite band for it to make optimal sense outside the TD context. It might be helpful to note that your slipshod proofreading hinders it even as a joke, so I'll do that. The sardonic humor of the narrative voice is fairly great. I dig both Harry and Tom in different ways. That ending, though? That punchline of an ending that requires wizards to be ignorant of water's effect on fire? Godawful. I could forgive the cheeky Beach Boys references if the conclusion weren't so abominably dumb, but it is, so you can expect to suffer the results of my revenge spell any day now.

*****

Broenheim, "Drowning": This shouldn't have worked, Sitting Here said; I'll go further and say that as a story, it doesn't. As something that runs for a thousand words without wasting my time, it doesn't. Depression is interminable to live through, and it's a heavy, crushing weight, but evoking that emotion-dulling endurance trial by dragging out your metaphor is a mistake. Some of the images and the central idea are potentially haunting, and in a shorter piece perhaps those images wouldn't blur together into a long and essentially repetitive slog. Condense it. Compact it. Reduce the numbing detail.

*****

WeLandedOnTheMoon!, "The Apple of Benus": The title-part-way-through-the-story trick hasn't gotten any more clever since crabrock shot himself in the foot with it in Pilgrim Week. Not all of your words are spent wisely: look at "How could a pudgy, weak-spined, well meaning dimwit of a postman, barely capable of calculating the postage on a pale-pink Mother’s Day card sent from Mackinac Island to Wannachee, Kansas"--do you need to specify the color of the card? Or the holiday? Or to throw so many negative traits on poor Felix? You've chosen to tell a complex, layered story, and you could use those words to better effect elsewhere. Maybe you should trim or rewrite Joel's section, too. His obsession with a baby-sitter who was fifteen years his senior when he was a child (making him what, three? Four?) is off-putting; it would be less so for him to have been Aimee's peer. Shortening and tightening up his scene would likely give it more punch. I would cut Helena's section altogether and replace it with something else, perhaps a sub-story about one of the funeral guests who eats the pie. There's no reason to keep Joel a factor: he's the least interesting character. The work is too messy in its current state, but you have good ideas, so dig up that apple and give it another go.

*****

jon joe, "Moistman": The point is that "Moistman" is a silly, unpleasant name, but I could have done without reading moist over and over, you know? Nor does beating Grim Nidder make that name any less awful. So while I see what you were going for in having your protagonist take pride in his name, I'm not quite buying that he'd stop hating it. I for one would be petitioning my bosses for a change to Deus Ex Aqua given my powers that conveniently increase as the plot needs. The wooden things growing roots and branches when Moistman touches them breaks any sense that his abilities are limited and consistent: watering a plant should not do that. Rusting a knife on contact isn't within his powers as described. It bugs me. The tone, however, is fairly charming, and the ending is sweet if predictable.

*****

Killer-of-Lawyers, "Persistence": The sentence-by-sentence writing is fine, the concept's okay, but it turns out tech support calls are boring even when some kind of star with a tail is involved. If you went a different route after the first call, you might have something. Instead you triple down on the light-but-not-funny nattering about minutiae and wrap the package up with a twist/punchline that emphasizes that the whole thing is a waste of time. A DM seems harsh when Broenheim got away scot-free, but I can't summon up a lot of indignation over something so bland.

*****

C7ty1, "Heroes": So Joe is a sandwich telekinetic in a world in which people with magical talents are put in camps or something if they can't pay for licensing fees? What would the government get out of locking up a guy who wiggles gyros? Never mind that; it's a small question compared to others, like why Joe was dumb enough to make the fateful telephone call in the meeting place instead of, I don't know, anywhere else; or why Joe gets a psychic vision out of nowhere; or why no one else sees the vision; or how Joe couldn't wake Don up given five minutes to do it; or why the solution to that problem was sandwiches out a window; or why Don went back into the hall instead of taking his escape opportunity. None of the things people do in this make any sense, so it's hard to sympathize with them or care how their stories end.

*****

kurona_bright, "A Flight Home": You know what I'm going to say, don't you? You've written a conversation on the very fringes of an actual story that took place somewhere, sometime, but that we-the-readers don't get to see. This reads as though Ri and Frieze are people I'm supposed to recognize. I have no idea why the map and its pins would be dangerous--if somebody goes around stabbing a bunch of places, so what? Why bother enchanting the thing? (I see the connection to your spell, but nothing within the universe of your story indicates the map has transportation powers. I'm not sure it does, in fact. Frieze flies Ri away in the end; the map doesn't.) Why does Ri's boss care that he's never put in a pin? It's all explicitly a fuss about nothing. You get an appreciative nod for your attempt to work multiple elements of your spell into the story, but they aren't integrated very well, unfortunately.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 16:27 on Jan 4, 2017

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Week 176: Florida Man and/or Woman

Overall feedback: Few rounds of Thunderdome have deserved mercy less than this one.


ZeBourgeoisie, "The Alpha Man": The prompt encouraged a certain amount of shock value. I get that. This would still have a red tag by its title in a just world. Even if the play on "Alpha" men were necessary, even if there were some evident reason that a bionic body would turn a man into a controlling douche, even if the disturbing implications of making Karen a bionic woman without her consent were explored at all, even if Karen were a character instead of of a sex McGuffin, there would still be the question of why God why the body swap and gender swap needed to happen. Why the hell couldn't Karen's brain have been put on ice instead of Andrew's? How could Andrew do that to her, why would Dr. Detty agree to it, and why isn't there even a hint of her reaction to being reincarnated in the male body she was being pressured to perform sex acts on when she died? The story reaches the pointless-and-gratuitous mark and runs right past it, waving its bionic dong about the whole while. The spectacle does not entertain.

*****

klapman, "A Day At The Meat Shack": Awkward phrasings, strained metaphors--about which I'll have more to say when I get to another story of yours!--rough sentence mechanics, and a sequence of improbable events don't add charm to this tale of a man too dumb to live. You're trying for humor, right? Surely you have to be. But Dewey's story is colossally stupid without being funny, so it's a painful read. Dewey would need to be an engaging character (not necessarily sympathetic, but interesting) for this to begin to work.

*****

Ceighk, "The Night of the Goat": I'm intrigued by Charlie's occult past and her relationship with Jake. The business with the acorn likewise has my attention. But not everything hangs together: Charlie surely needs money more than power if she's to make her mother comfortable now, and I'm at a loss for what the devil would get out of blackmailing Charlie. Do devils need money? Is the final line meant to suggest other goats were sacrificed for... some reason? I think it was Twist who had the theory that Jake sacrificed another goat in trade for power over Charlie, which might make sense if he weren't more likely to want sex from her than money or if three goats hadn't died. Whatever you're trying to get at there is too obscure, and it's a shame since there's a lot more potential in this entry than in most of its company.

*****

crabrock, "Dare To Be You": All right, the dialogue between the weedheads is engaging enough. The transformation of the doofus protagonist into a doofus sex cannibal shows consistency of character. It's an infinitely more successful example of dark, absurd humor than whatever is going on in klapman's Meat Shack. But shock value appears to be the main attraction, and trust me: if you don't care for goon-written sex scenes or insane, drug-fueled romps, only Twist's best Ned Flanders voice can make this enjoyable.

*****

C7ty1, "The Proper Care and Feeding of Your Bobcat": You know, there's being creative with your prompt, and then there's going deep into the absurdity weeds. Tyler's boss's car has a horse under the hood, does it? What exactly does that look like? It's clear as crystal you don't know how this system is supposed to work: "it did - whatever it did" calls attention to the fact. Then the bobcat leads Tyler to a love affair in the woods, I suppose, though Tyler's and Greg's first exchange is so banal that I didn't pick up on the romance on my first read or second. Why can Greg's house only be found by an injured bobcat engine? There's a vibe of magical realism running throughout, but none of it means anything. The cat isn't a metaphor. It's a car engine because why not. The gardener boyfriend could be a metaphor for happiness, and in that case the idea could be that you can't find lasting happiness through abusing others? I do like that message, yet a haunting suspicion lingers that you're just trying to tell of the shining love of two gay dudes in the woods who met through a bobcat car.

*****

kurona_bright, "Moist Cotton Hands": Your issue here, other than writing moist when you don't absolutely have to, is that you've followed your headline to the letter and put little spin on it; what details you have added make Nathan dumb. Very dumb. A man with tinfoil on his windows isn't playing with a full deck, granted, but his reaction to one glimpse of a gold watch and some pearls is to rob the owners blind? I can't fathom how he's still walking around free. His plan is so asinine I suspect your goal is humor, but Nathan and his sock antics are gross and tedious instead.


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Week 177: Sparkly Mermen 2: Electric Merman Boogaloo


Thranguy, "When You Can't Even": I couldn't have thumped you for this. Yeah, it bobbles to the wrong side of the line between goofy and dumb, and it draws the same basic idea out too long, and you get caught up in the questions of how mermen would function and forget you're supposed to be telling a story. It would be a more buff entry at two thirds of the length. The ending is weak, too: an ill-supported romance that explicitly denies a happily-ever-after. Why not let them find love through their new shared interest in merman physics? That would be funnier! But I'm charmed by any story that uses specific ornaments, and you definitely got into the spirit of the thing. Some cutting and better proofing ("Sparky didn't lit go of the weights," really?) would let it sparkle as a merman story should.

*****

RedTonic, "No Refunds or Exchanges (A Merry Buttmas Tale)": This I would have merrily thumped into the ground. The title warns me that I'm probably in for inanity, and yup, I sure am! Bidet bidet bidet bidet bidet bidetbidetBIDET! I just summed up the first half of the story. Not a word of it is funny. I'm painfully aware of how you're wasting my time by the time it's over. The second half is stronger, but it doesn't work for me either: you don't build any chemistry between the two women. Further, this kind of Wacky Misunderstanding is best left in sitcoms. A sitcom episode is exactly what the entry resembles--one that could get more grating only if Matt broke in on the bidet banter to tell his family he had AIDS and everyone turned to the camera to rattle off AIDS facts. I'll cross my fingers you enter TD again and write good words that erase bidets from my memory forever.

*****

Entenzahn, "An Empty Shell": That cowboy dialect is off, pardner. And I wish Jenna were more than a worrier, that she hadn't nagged her husband from the outset and ultimately been vindicated. That's a stereotype and not one of which I'm fond. But your imagery is grand, particularly the seahorses as question marks, and Gendos' struggle with abandoning his home with all its memories in the face of ruin is powerful. You play the merman card utterly straight, for the most part pulling it off with aplomb. (I do wonder about underwater pancake dough.) I don't care much about Jenna of the single character trait, which probably takes a little away from the ending, but Gendos is sympathetic enough to take up most of the slack. I would read another merman cowboy story of yours any time.

*****

Bad Seafood, "Christmas Rush": First off, that merman isn't a wizard. That's not to say your story lacks for other problems. I'm more familiar with Bruce now, but when I first read this, I didn't know him--or Mattie, though I don't find that as detrimental. There was a sense that I was missing something. I'm still in the dark about the story about Bruce's leather jacket, the references to which read like you're building up to something. Nothing comes of it, though. The pun-chline is the greatest sin because it's a rotten point at which to stop. Some attempt to wrap everything up might have spared you a loss that I don't think you deserved anyway; the fun of Bruce and Mattie's interaction puts this story a couple of tiers above RedTonic's for me, despite the flaws.


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Week 178: I'm not mad, just disappointed


klapman, "The Night Winds": Normally I'm skeptical of reader claims of rampant homoeroticism in a story, but in this case... yeah, those salty pirates belong in a Kate Beaton cartoon. (I'm suspicious that you did it on purpose. I mean, "The night was long and thick with heat"?) That's the most interesting thing about this entry; the visit to Kletanu is dull stuff, the fight is confusing, the plan to take on the Navy with a fleet of three ships and a crew large enough to man two is stupid, and the ending suggests the real story hasn't been told. The florid style comes surprisingly close to working. You had a good idea for what sort of voice to use for this story, I think, but couldn't pull it off due in some part to your crazy similes and descriptive phrases rearing their heads again. "Pirate-toothed" is not a phrase that helps me picture anyone, certainly not someone with one false, presumably gold tooth. As for "what appeared on the horizon was like a pair of shoes," look at that and ask yourself WTF. Considering how the fight went down, I'm guessing you meant to say there were two ships and not one? Okay, but shoes? No. No no no. With luck, you're still writing somewhere, and with luck, you'll learn to rein in your metaphors if you haven't yet.

*****

Sitting Here, "High Maintenance": The grief at the core of Mr. Schipper's bitterness and the moment when Linnea sees her difficult customer as a human man are the heart of this piece, but you've buried them under inelegant exposition and flabby, mundane hotel-work blah blah blah. Neither exchange with Juan needs to happen. They both waste time underlining what doesn't need to be underlined. The explanation of the "maintenance issue" confused me into thinking that the sprinklers had been repaired in 422, so why were they erupting in Mr. Schipper's consolation suite? Your skills aren't on display here until the conclusion that tries so hard to carry the rest, and even that clunks a bit in the cheesy final exchange. A DM is harsh considering that the basic story is fair; on the other hand, the touching finale shows the earlier pointless faffing about for the mess that it is.

*****

kurona_bright, "Moving On and Up": Here we are again. Eighty percent of the story is conversation. One hundred percent of it takes place in the space between interesting events. The amount of backstory and peculiar choice of focus gives the impression you're writing fanfic of your own world. This one reminds me strongly of your Spells of Magic story, with all the same problems and the same unhappy result: I don't care about any of it, and I move through the text wishing Mira and Sanch would stop talking and go away. Thank goodness you appear to have escaped this approach in your entries since!


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Week 179: Strange Logs


Pham Nuwen, "Get off my magical lawn": The overblown names, overblown dialogue, and general tone leave me thinking you're attempting a Pratchett-style parody with this, and to be fair, not everything Pratchett tried was funny either. Nothing about two children being cursed with invisibility and threatened with death is innately humorous, so you need to make it so with tone, dialogue, or character writing. You don't. The tone's slightly off-putting, even, like a sitcom laugh track. Zum's only trait is that he delivers exposition, and Nablo Ce's only trait is that he receives it; their conversation is pure tell-tell-tell-tell with zero show. Your Sports Week wizards will be much more engaging, to the point that I'm inclined to write this fumble off as a fluke.

*****

Masonity, "The Umbrella Man": Good grief. That "As I was saying..." opener is almost, almost as terrible as your formatting, which says a considerable amount; the punctuation of the dialogue that comprises eighty percent of the story is disastrous; the final paragraph is a bad punchline; and the entire premise is garbled and ridiculous. I can't tell whether the acid rain is real in this world or the narrator is a moron. My hunch says you wanted this to be a funny story, and I'm supposed to be laughing either at how dumb the narrator is or at an obvious and potentially amoral shyster being rewarded for his gouging with a job as head of Sales. Neither joke is funny, though! And the dialect doesn't work well as a visual effect. It's tremendous fun to hear read aloud by a couple of would-be Cockneys, but you could say that about basically anything.

*****

Bandiet, "Rabbit & Turtle": So are these adults or are they kids? They sound like kids, but Turtle thinks about venturing out in lingerie. The quest for weapons could be two boys being trespassing dicks, as kids are wont to do, but there's a death pit. A physically vague death pit! That ground "somehow" gave way like water, huh? Not much about this adventure makes any friggin' sense. The situation has a hint of pathos if these are children playing a game, and that's the interpretation I prefer, but the character voices aren't childlike until Rabbit panics and calls Turtle by name--and immediately after that they're back to sounding like adults. No matter which way you mean to go, the death trap is dumb dumb stupid dumb, much like the (admittedly hilarious) phrase rear end-white night.


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Week 180: Maybe I'm a Maze


Pantothenate, "Saviour Machine": Sigh. The Three Laws don't belong to you, of course. This is Asimov fanfiction. I can see, sort of, how you got away with it, as other SF writers have used the Three Laws in their published works and Asimov himself never minded, but would it have killed you to either mention your debt to Asimov or not use his exact ideas while naming your characters after Asimov characters? That part might have been intended as a tip of the hat to him, but imagine the reader who isn't familiar with Asimov's work. He or she will think these ideas are yours. Not cool. Other than that, the writing is good; the bitter nihilism of the robot is wearing, but you draw it well; the final note is a black punchline that I half like. My sympathies aren't with the robot (a bad thing if you meant them to be, and I think you did; he's too much of a ball of unrelieved hate), so there's a slice schadenfreude to enjoy. It's effective if read as horror. But what's the point, other than to riff on Asimov's concepts and suggest all robots bound by the Laws would come to hate humanity?

*****

WeLandedOnTheMoon!, "The Delivery": Imagine your reader doesn't recognize Mifepristone or RU-486. Your opening is reduced to confusion and Shakespeare quotes. The quotes and repetition thereof take up too much real estate regardless, bogging down the text in one of the worst possible places. The second section begins on an off note too, talking about Barron as though he's going to be a second perspective character. The depiction of the maze is more confusing yet, though I see now that the initial four-way intersection is inside the school building and that Camille gets into her car later, skipping the guidance meeting. The blocking is fairly bad here. Some of the cryptic dialogue with the baby could have been cut to give you more words to spend on clarity. Why was the entire business with the smoke maze necessary? Why couldn't the baby wait until Camille got home to pressure her to abort, even if it had to wait until the next day? And what is the deal with this kid? I wonder a little now whether it's supposed to be Satan's voice disguised as her child's, because the arguments it makes in favor of abortion don't make a lot of sense coming from the fetus. It also refers to "the baby" instead of "me." If this is the case--if it's not the baby but something else trying to push her, whether Satan or her subconscious or goodness knows what--then that's one more thing that's not clear enough; if the baby is the baby, statements like "God doesn't care about us" don't fit. I flat don't get why the child would be so determined to die. It's no surprise given all of this that I don't know what to make of the ending. Trying to include a literal, physical maze as well as a metaphorical, emotional one may be what did you in, since the smoke maze devours words but doesn't stand up to thought.

*****

Ceighk, "Weekend of Lights": Using precise details to establish a situation and say something about your characters at the same time is a sound technique, and I think I see what you're going for with Craig's fixation on lists and exact times. It's a bore to read, unfortunately. Also dull are the descriptions of the party that take up so much of the story's early real estate. On top of that are too many named characters: Ken and Toby never appear on screen and don't serve much purpose, and in Toby's case that's borderline ridiculous considering how many times you mention him! Maybe you'd have been all right if you'd written less mopey guy moping through a tent party, more Quest for Toby, as long as you avoided throwing in any helpful Muppets. Nothing comes of Craig's wandering except a willingness to cry on the shoulder of his bro. It's a character moment that might have some weight if I knew or cared more about Craig, but I don't, so instead it's a weak finale to an aimless, empty vignette.

*****

Julias, "Corn!": Crime-a-nitly, that first line. That footnote. Those Carls. You've written something more rare and treasured in Thunderdome than a winner: a so-bad-it's-good story that makes about as much sense as Tommy Wiseau's The Room and yet somehow feels true to its own in-universe logic. I'm grateful this exists. Don't mistake me, though! It's still terrible! The dialogue, mirrored names, character choices, death by corn cob, etc. stop working the moment I try to take them seriously even as a corn-cob stab at humor. All the charm is in how broken it is. This kind of lightning rarely strikes twice, as your Week 189 effort proves, so if you come back--and I rather hope you do--you should probably resist the urge to inject your work with insanity.


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Week 181: We like bloodsports and we don't care who knows!


Pham Nuwen, "Staves and Knaves": Reverse the order of the third and fourth paragraphs if you revise this. The explanation of what needs investigating belongs after the protagonist expressing curiosity about exactly that. I wonder why the 'roid-pusher wizards aren't making bank by enchanting a bunch of these pre-loaded staves and selling them to normals as this world's answer to Magic: the Gathering decks. Overall, this is a fun pair of fight sequences with a noir flavor that never becomes too strong. The action is pretty good; it makes me want to read more about this tournament, so you get an A in Interesting Treatment of Subject Matter. The last joke gets a D-. I would have given you the win against Titus82 anyway, but I swear that pun is worthy of Family Circus.

*****

Killer-of-Lawyers, "Game Face": "Caroline reckoned that news casting was kind of like a sport." Uh-huh. That's some lampshade you're hanging on the way your entry misses the spirit of the prompt wholesale! I doubt the low sports content did you in, though; more likely the lack of action or change by Caroline failed to impress. What happens: a reporter thinks about and talks to her error-prone colleague, then catches him with his face off. Surprise! He's a lizardman! She does nothing about that. The intern who replaces him may also be a lizardman. She does nothing about that either. The end! Maybe a good flash story doesn't have to have change or noteworthy action in the event that the situation it reveals is sufficiently compelling, but the old-hat factor of secret lizardmen makes that argument moot in this case.


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Week 182: Domegrassi


Blue Wher, "New Year, New Life": Alex doesn't do anything to live up to his nickname. Having the obvious pointed out to you by a Wise Retard cliche isn't particularly badass. It's passive, as Alex is passive: his role in the story is to mop pee, listen to exposition, and be told what he should do. I don't know why he's so surprised by the idea of older people in school if his wife made the same suggestion just last year. The dialogue he overhears is clearly there to inform the reader, and it doesn't sound natural. The piece clunks and has a story/character arc so low that it's nearly a straight line, so although it doesn't strain my willingness to read it, it doesn't build on my initial interest or hold it past the final line.

*****

Pantothenate, "The Finger": A story should have a purpose in existing, whether to entertain, to amuse, to make one think, to deliver a message, to serve up a moral, to be admired as art--something. I don't see the purpose of this one. Jonas and Richie shouldn't be friends. They're dicks to each other. Jonas sets out to manipulate Richie from the start with his creepy thirteen-year-old-phone-sex-operator voice, and Richie abdicates the high ground when he threatens to post the dumb selfie on Facebook. Then Jonas escalates to a degree that colors him as such an rear end that I only wish Richie decided to humiliate him and drat the consequences. Where's the sorrow or worth in two dickish kids having a contest to see who's the most awful? You almost have something with the side trip into D&D memories. More of that and a shade or two less douchebaggery could make the broken friendship at least a little sad.

*****

docbeard, "Outlier": What the heck, docbeard. What the ever-loving heck. That flash rule was never destined for great things, but you won't convince me that you didn't have it in you to write something around it that made a slight amount of sense. No teacher who doesn't belong in a psych ward is going to despise a student for excellence. It's a dumb, dumb, stupid dumb concept, and you spin the whole story around it, so no surprise the whole story is in shambles. Then! Then you also have this teacher sending his nephew on top-secret pee missions! How are pee chips supposed to keep Millicent from getting good grades, will you tell me that? Wouldn't screwing with her scores be rather easier? "He'd be caught," you might say, to which I reply, "Yes, because conspiring with a middle-school boy to achieve urine vengeance is much less risky." On top of everything else, Sarah achieves little; the legwork and brainwork are done by her off-putting sidekick Spencer. Successful humor might have covered up or justified some of these flaws, and I would guess that was the intent, but boy howdy is intent ever the key word there.

*****

spectres of autism, "The Case of the Shy Ghost: A Domegrassi Jr. High Movie Club Mystery": "She makes people think hard about who they are and who they want to be." Does she? That may be what Catrice wants to think about herself, but the story doesn't provide any evidence. Getting blood all over a paper from paper cuts is absurd. The students clutching their ears is too: if the music is that audible through the earbuds, then there's no way the teacher can't hear it while Catrice has them in. A possible explanation for these things is that the narration is intentionally unreliable, describing events as Catrice wants them to be rather than how they are, but the narrative voice is completely matter-of-fact. One way or another, the execution has flaws. The blocking during Catrice's confrontation with Moira baffles me. What hit her? Violet? Was she thrown across the room by invisible force and that's why Moira looks shocked? The encounter with Violet is the crowning moment of WTF as throwing a music player on the floor somehow ends Violet's Time Stop spell and placates the ghost, who delivers a moral about making friends that's too trite for this story, and you use Russell as an exposition machine to explain some of what just happened. Okay. I see some of what this is getting at. (Maybe.) Catrice should stop tuning out other students and living in her own goth fantasy so she won't turn into a hellghost, because it turns out hellghosts are actually bad. Breaking her music player is a repudiation of her solitary self or some such. (Maybe.) It's still infinitely more muddled and nonsensical than it needs to be. The nonsense isn't interesting or intriguing or artistic. It's tiresome. What you're trying to do (maybe) and what you're achieving are still far apart at this point.

*****

Bad Seafood, "The First Last Road Show": Some of your exposition might be better cut, like when Moira's parents immigrated, the first paragraph of the second section, and all the details about Sarah. With fewer facts that don't matter, you'd have more words for the conclusion that feels shortchanged as it is. I'd like at least a glimpse of their movie's final form. It's a thin ending, to be honest, and the mention of the movie club is a non sequitur. The major characters and their interactions are where the story shines; the plot and pacing need more work.

*****

Boaz-Jachim, "Liberation": The judges viewed your use of George Orwell's words and ideas as a pastiche and liked your story. I view it as theft, and no positive response can make it past my anger. You owe Orwell acknowledgment if you're going to lift from him so directly. I wouldn't be thrilled with this even if you gave him the nod he's due, because the major scene of the piece is too evocative of the confrontations between Winston and his betrayer toward the end of 1984, but the prose (outside of wrongthink, thoughtcrime, etc.) is strong. The elements that show more of your touch--the mock-trial robes, the voice changer--are good! The copying was so bloody avoidable! If you stepped back to the more general concept of political persecution by an overpowered student government and didn't specifically mirror another writer's work, you would have a story that was all yours, and evidence suggests it would be a good one. I wish you had done that instead of this.

*****

Phobia, "Pray to Dionysus": Phobia. Oh, Phobia. Please proofread, Phobia. Missing punctuation and misplaced hyphens don't build a lot of confidence in a writer. I generally like this story, though. A stringbean in a tuxedo going into the ladies' room is enough of a hint regarding the main character's gender confusion that the later talk with Madelyn is only confirmation--for me; another recapper saw it as a twist and didn't care for that, and I understand why. It wouldn't hurt to be slightly less coy in the early going. I wonder how Madelyn's breath smells like cherries after she's been vomiting. I wonder too why the protagonist feels sorry for her. Because she was dumped, got drunk, and did something out of character? Is the implication supposed to be that Madelyn is closeted? I hope it isn't, because that would knock the wind right out of the story's sails. On top of the issue of whether one curious kiss makes someone gay or bi, the protagonist would have no right to pity Madelyn for covering up something about herself when she admits to being so wed to a facade that she can't date anyone for fear of having to break it. It's a bad closer on a story that's otherwise all right.


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Week 183: Sorry Dad, I Was Late To The Riots


Blue Wher, "Audio Artifacts of Earth's Final Days": Transmission format, with footnotes. And clicks. And an abundance of Caps Lock. None of these choices add to the story's merit: the sound transcriptions are white noise, the footnotes more confusing than illuminating, the all-caps text positioned at the end of a story that hasn't built up an excess of goodwill, and the transmission format is arguably responsible for all of the above. A trick like this is probably intended to make a piece more interesting to read, but it has the opposite effect here. I'm not engaged by the Draca's bureaucratic reports. The content isn't much better, unfortunately, centered as it is on the adventures of a man so gosh-darn amazing that he perfected tech a thousand years ahead of his time. Never mind the apocalypse! Isn't this scientist awesome?? Look at him being super smart!! Oy vey--and I love intellectual characters. I want them to do more than show off their smarts, though! The alternative makes for a very boring story, as this proves.

*****

Broenheim, "Can't Say It": For a story with a title like "Can't Say It," this is sure full of people who can't shut up. The dialogue in the second section (side note: the second scene follows the first so closely that a textual transition would be preferable to a cut) is bland, bland, bland, and it takes for-bloody-ever to settle an argument that was basically settled at the outset. By the time it's over, the dread and urgency are gone from the main character's plight. (I wish he had a name. Giving him one would have been ease itself.) Some of it comes back--but then the horror of dying alone is replaced by Cute-Puppy Angst. I see why the protagonist, in his agony, would see the puppy as a metaphor for himself, inaccurate though it is. I don't see why he apparently faults Damien and Martha for "abandoning" the dog when he himself didn't know it existed until this point. How would Damien and Martha have known, then? None of this pulls my heartstrings, because it treats abandoning an animal that serves the role of a prop as though doing so is somehow worse than leaving a person. The final revelation is weak. Of course the main character doesn't want to die alone. Of course he couldn't say that. His pain over having to stay silent and die for the good of others is a worthy thing to write a story around, but it's so natural and obvious a concept that dragging it out only weakens it.

*****

YFDHippo, "The Devil's Grin": God help you and me and this world we live in if you wrote this in perfect earnest, because it reads like blatant trolling except for characterization and a through line that are kind of... good. Too good to let me dismiss your work entirely as the hideous proofing, abominable dialect, needless sausage sex, and :wtc: lizard poetry would otherwise have me do. Plus, you know, four different quantities of hyphens in the scene breaks. The probability you're taking the piss is approximately 94%, so why is a decent story of a man trying to honor his mother by obeying her commands even in a post-apocalyptic world buried under all the dross? Why is there a cool dichotomy between what his mother predicted people would think of his bright smile and what they actually call it? Why do I care about this character and want to know more of his story, though preferably as written by someone else? Bravo if you've layered your trolling efforts to cause maximum frustration. It would be grand if you dropped the idiocies and wrote something up to your potential instead.


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Week 184: The 2015teen/Year of the Ram Great White Elephant Prompt Exchange


Titus82, "The Gates of Mercy": You mess up by opening with the dead brother who goes on to not matter a whit. Willem comes off as a Grade-A self-centered bastard for standing over his brother's fresh corpse thinking that now his family is going to like it even less that he's gay. This wouldn't matter if he were intended to look like a bastard, but I don't believe he is. His preoccupation with his sexual preference wouldn't gall if you didn't set it right up against something that should be more important, so maybe rethink that if you rewrite, hey? Especially since Dead Brother disappears quickly in favor of quoted poetry. Those Romeo and Juliet lines are so corny it hurts. I wonder whether they would be so painful if I liked either of these men. Alexis is probably all right, but he's characterized entirely by his relationship to Willem the Bastard. The trench scene is the best part of the entry despite misusages like "The troubling remains [...] was all that we found" (was should have been were) and "The earth raised up in a wave" (rose, by any other name, would still be the correct verb form there). I want to like the ending, but Willem not only quoting Romeo and Juliet again but referring to himself as the sweetest flower of all the field--how egotistical can you get, man??--stands in the way; his sacrifice is sweet, but the way he goes about it is needlessly douchey, and that epitomizes the trouble with him and with any love story centered on him.

*****

Lazy Beggar, "Neglected Survival": Someone call the cops! We must have justice for this storytelling crime! Do you seriously open with dripping child limbs hanging from meat hooks and then fail to resolve that in any way whatsoever? Do you, in fact, drop your mystery to focus instead on a kid's desire to go to Denny's? It's an audacious approach; I have to hand it to you there. The plotline you abandon is unfortunately a lot more intriguing than your lead character's telepath angst, and like Titus82's protagonist, yours does himself no favors by dwelling on his personal issues when dismembered children are in front of him. The telepath angst is dull, but if it were fascinating the story would still capsize: you can't open with a powerful hook and then drop it cold.

*****

QuoProQuid, "Thus Always to Tyrants": Stephanus is the least capable assassin ever. Good grief, man. While you're figuring out how to get a knife into the emperor's chambers, maybe, just maybe, you should consider what you're going to do with it once it's there?? This is a classical (ba-dum pum) example of a story too reliant on its protagonist carrying the Idiot Ball. If Stephanus weren't such a fool that it beggars belief--so inept that when he has nothing to lose, he chooses suicide instead of even attempting to kill the tyrant he planned to kill--then Domitian wouldn't have time to roll out his speech before either he was too dead to tell it or Stephanus was too dead to hear it. You might also have to find a better ending for your story if he stopped to consider that he didn't have to become Domitian 2.0. His suicide is limp and meaningless, as is he. I understand what you were going for here, the commentary on coups that replaced tyrants with tyrants, the corruption of the soul perhaps inherent in an imperial system, but this execution (ba-dum pum, again) leaves much to be desired.

*****

God Over Djinn, "How the Devil Got His Claws into Jack o'Kent": Editing the word count down would have served you better than using your bounty. The bookend paragraphs would have been a great place to start cutting. Imagine the story without them: no lie told to the reader (and lie it is, because Baron has no knowledge of Jack's "very end" at the point at which he's telling the story; if you mean the "very end" of their adventure, that's so consciously misleading it still qualifies as deceit), no gleefully self-satisfied Moral-of-the-Story conclusion. Really, though, Baron and Jack going into business together is a fine ending, so it's only the frame and a pound or so of bloat that I badly want cut. This goes on too long for the abrupt, summarized fast-forward of an ending it currently has, but even with better pacing it would benefit from fewer words; the noir narrative voice is not especially charming (taste plays a part there, mind), and Baron spends so much time not accomplishing anything that surely you could trim some of it away? Surely? Or let him be more effective so that his viewpoint is a more engaging one in which to be stuck? I think that although his ineffectuality annoys me, you could get away with him being little more than a camera once he's signed that contract if you made the piece slimmer and tighter. You could keep the length if you gave him more to do. To have him hover around watching events take place for the greater part of 2,340 words is to tax this reader's patience beyond what the story repays.

*****

After The War, "They Want What They're Not": Disclaimer: I love "Don't Let's Start," which means I see the lines and concepts you've borrowed from the song and the way the central message, while quoting from DLS, misses what I feel is its point. I think you may have believed you were obliged to use as much material from the song as possible. Precious little girl? Check. Weak heart? Check. When you are alone, you are the cat, you are the phone? Check. Also, WTF. At least you don't try to put cat food in a bank account. This would be a rough song to have to work with under an assumption that you couldn't interpret it broadly, and by God you try, but the end result is hopelessly muddled. All right, so a divorced father sees visions of the child who was taken from him and slowly realizes that he needs to let go of the past in order to hold onto the positive changes he's made. I'm with you so far. Everybody dies frustrated and sad, and that is beautiful doesn't fit that story at all, isn't a sentiment that computes unless it's said in irony or insanity. You attempt to play it straight and end up having the father tell his daughter that she needs to have the experience of dying frustrated and sad. What? The whole thing's just a mess despite its reasonable core concept.

*****

skwidmonster, "Come Back": It's hard to know where to start to criticize the story of how a cat kills a man, then kills his ghost a few hundred times more, then tells him to move on so they can get together in their future lives, and the man falls in love with the cat for this. Why were the ghost murders necessary? What exactly was the bureaucratic, afterlife-intended point of denying Mercy passage from the world until he'd been hit by a van six hundred and fifty-five times? Why did you make deathcat his love interest??? Oh, lord, it's such a wreck of terrible notions that it almost comes back around again to fun. Almost. Not quite. I love "The Cat Came Back" too, but a sound basis for a romance it is not, and even reminding me that Toonces exists can't redeem the story's sins.


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Week 186: Giving away prizes for doing f'd-up things


Meis, "Armadillo": Not so much a story as a series of conversations between super-pulpy space lesbians. (The lesbians thing is noteworthy because Gildathrae's wife has no reason to exist other than to establish that Gildathrae has a wife. She doesn't even get a name! Gildathrae's sexuality is of no importance at all, so why give a nameless character a single line in order to make it clear?) The names are fairly ridiculous. The premise is very ridiculous. The climax is utterly ridiculous. How could one loose armadillo cue a giant warship to aim its weapons at the Aetherblade? Answer: it couldn't; that would be lovely warship design of the highest poo poo order. Why would Lucette sit back and let Gildathrae murder her young son and feel unfazed afterward? Why did you skip over the duel and avoid your story having anything like action in it at all? One bad decision after another leaves this such a dumb pile of fluff that it took something special to spare you the losertar. To your credit, though, your characters never talk about cereal.

*****

Benny Profane, "Moisture-Driven Loss of Brittleness and the Inhibition of Failure Propagation": Why. Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Why did you write nine hundred words of a man lecturing his son out of bitterness with his own life? I would like to compose a scientific paper examining how it is possible for a sane human being to decide this is a reasonable thing to do. Then I would like to propose myself for an Ignobel Prize and, should I win, flash rule you to have to use my paper as inspiration for your stories until you repent. The dad's voice is patronizing and unpleasant even before he starts playing the world's smallest violin for himself. His monologue drones on and on. The atheist Cheerios of Week 202 might make for a worse cereal story, but it's a tough call. You're an infinitely better writer than this suggests; with luck, corn flakes line the bottom of your barrel.

*****

After The War, "Further Upstream": I just can't hate this one after reviewing the company it keeps. Spies attempting to communicate through fish is an alarmingly credible notion once you've heard about Acoustic Kitty. You made what looks like an earnest effort to turn your paper into an interesting, fun espionage caper. The result never entirely loses my goodwill... but my praise can't go much further than that. There's too much handwaving of the science, given how many words are burned on chatter, and the bear costumes take the piece into farce territory. The punchline ending earns a facepalm instead of a laugh.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 14:58 on Dec 21, 2016

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Week 187: Lost In Translation


Killer-of-Lawyers, "For Want of Pulp": Oh, this isn't so bad. I wouldn't have expected chick-lit fantasy from you, which is definitely what this is considering the sassy protagonist searching for love with the help of her gay orc best friend, and it's neat to see a show of range. Maybe the Brigid-Devin dynamic is cliche, but what the hell. The calcified men put a fun spin on it. I rather like the way that Brigid's past follows her and refuses to let her reinvent herself; it gives some depth to the whole thing. The trouble, I think, is that the meat of the story and the entire relationship between Brigid and Raulyn are hidden inside the scene break, so there's no punch in Raulyn's choice to leave her--and most of what does make it onto the screen is chatter between Brigid and Devin. The time jump just takes us from conversation to conversation. Filling in some of the blanks would do the story a world of good; it's too hollow as it stands.

*****

Bird Tyrant, "Time is Nothing": What's under Agate Bay, and how did the main character meet it? Is the protagonist telekinetic? What does that have to do with anything? What's the refrain time is nothing meant to convey? The foggy ideas and dropped threads do your vignette no favors. The nebulousness of the "you" beneath the bay especially bothers me: if that being is important enough to be central to the story's beginning and ending, there should be more to it than the faintest whisper of suggestion. I don't care for the cartoonish level the abuse reaches. Real abuse can be horribly absurd, but you lose me once you hint the mother has killed multiple relatives already in such an offhand way. The worst thing is that your main character has no personality trait beyond "suffers abuse," doesn't struggle, doesn't act, doesn't seem to wish to. If you haven't read crabrock's "Whispers," do. It's a story about a different kind of abuse, against which the main character is almost entirely helpless, but it breaks the reader's heart successfully by making her a person and not a situation.

*****

ghost crow, "Aware": First off, you've overdone it with the Japanese stereotypes a trifle by loading your work with brief-blooming flowers, haiku, sushi, Go, and suicide trends. Second, this is the rare, odd story that I almost wish had ended with the main character's death. My theory on Sato is that she represents the world that cares about Hanako and not only Hanako's patterns, but she shows up too late. Her presence is too brief. The final section reads as though you didn't know what to do with Hanako after saving her, really, so you tried to force a change of heart via Go, and that's why I'd almost rather she'd died--a successful suicide would have been more conclusive if not more pleasing. What you have up until the point where Hanako wakes up is worth trying to save; if I were you I would pour more words into Sato and Hanako, building a more concrete connection between the two.


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Week 188: Insomniac Olympics


FreudianSlippers, "Castle Doctrine": That first paragraph is vastly tedious. It establishes your protagonist as a man of neither subtlety nor brains, and the first at least was probably the point, but it does it in such a dull-to-read manner. Concision would have served you here. Cutting the tossing about of random objects might have served you too, since I imagined this guy pulling a rubber chicken out of his bag-o'-crowbars and flinging it on the floor to confuse the police. Past that point, what makes this story hard to endure is the main characters lack of anything like smarts. The set-up in the second section is so obvious that I yell at him in my head when he agrees to it, and when he still goes to the site after his cop friend warns him off in words even a hamster could understand--good lord, you even point to how dumb this decision is. That only makes it more aggravating! Why, why should I want to read about an idiot being an idiot and continuing to be an idiot in the face of every opportunity to not be an idiot? This particular idiot is in fact so idiotic that he's going to waste his cop friend's efforts to save his life by being, somehow, even more of a moron than before. Thank goodness the story ends before we have to read that. A good piece of fiction doesn't require its characters to never think, ever, at all, in order for its plot to work.

*****

Tyrannosaurus, "Listening to: Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)": An 80%-dialogue piece in which the dialogue is neither amusing nor charming. Both of these characters are dicks; they shouldn't have been in a relationship for four years, let alone four centuries; their vapid teenage bullshit subverts vampire tropes, but subversion of tropes has no inherent merit. Even if presenting four-hundred-year-old beings as this immature made sense, they'd still be insufferable. The whole entry is a tedious, out-of-sequence account of how Marcella gives her boyfriend something she knows he'll hate and then throws a fit because he hates it, possibly killing him in the end for being unwilling to indulge her passive aggression. (It's possible she only breaks up with Lucien, but the mention of sunrise strikes me as deliberate.) If I'm supposed to sympathize with her, that's not happening. If not, you intentionally wrote almost 1,300 words of petty bickering between obnoxious vampires who eat cake for some reason. I couldn't spin that as a good idea if I had four millennia to try.

*****

Carl Killer Miller, "Dust Dust Dust All Night": Maybe this piece would have passed muster in Wizard Week, assuming you'd been assigned a wizard who got his mind-control ability from cocaine. Maaaaaaybe. Nah, scratch that: the bad proofing, incomprehensible motivations, ridiculous actions, excess of characters, and bulleted lists wouldn't have been solved by a feasible explanation for Joel's crack powers. As entertaining as this is to read in a group, it's a mess, and the amusing turns of phrase can't save it since it's probably not supposed to make me laugh. I don't begin to understand why Tammy's lover would leave a message on her family answering machine, why Tabby would be hosting a party at a home at which she didn't live, how she could possibly miss recognizing her husband, what kind of trump card Joel's toast is supposed to be, or why getting a bunch of people he didn't know (except somehow he did know everything about them!) to kill each other was an ideal revenge plan even in a junkie's mind. Like your wrestling story, it tries to ride on energy alone. It doesn't make it. But it adds "terminator seeds" to the English lexicon, so one could argue it's all worthwhile.

*****

Killer-of-Lawyers, "Beat": This story conveys the mood and mindset of its main character well enough. I feel his jaded tedium and the distance between him and those people who are no more than blurs of color in his periphery. Even an exciting moment, possibly a moment of heroism, is one more tick of the endless clock for him. You could view this as an accomplishment. Unfortunately, it's also the fatal problem. Going through the motions of life like a disaffected clockwork figure is a dull enterprise; dull is one mood a flash story can't afford to evoke for more than a moment unless it's going to do something brilliant with that boredom, and this doesn't. It leeches all life and interest from what could have been a shocking event--on purpose, yes, but boring the reader on purpose still means you bore the reader. The concept of routine numbing human sensitivity and empathy isn't novel enough to make up for that.


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Week 189: knight time

For this week I made notes on all the DMed stories. I tried to determine which would have DMed without the week's gimmick, since we couldn't discuss them all, and I've included my thoughts on that subject.


Jocoserious, "Concrete Graveyard": Unremarkably boring. Dr. Volkov is a potentially interesting character, and the dynamic between him and Olevsky holds glimmers of interest too; I like Olevsky giving the doctor his gun. Unfortunately their interaction is limited, and the doctor has no role whatsoever in the conclusion. That anticlimactic ending is a bad payoff for the tension built up during Olevsky's exploration. It wants to be happy, but it's meaningless. You could try having Olevsky think about survivors before he finds one or show an emotion beyond a sense of duty. That might turn the discovery of the boy into a better final beat.

Would this have DMed in a normal week? Maybe, if the conclusion annoyed the judges enough. More likely it would have gotten a pass for being banal but benign.

*****

J.A.B.C., "The Finest Wine": The crappiest formatting. Early on it reads like a prose story broken up like a poem to be "artistic." It gets some legs under it toward the end of the first section, but soon after it's all contrivance and slime on the walls of a kitchen stairway. The poem form becomes tedious long before the story is over, and the chef's plan is hilariously terrible--he'd probably get the blame for the king's death even if he weren't guilty. An interesting but unsuccessful experiment.

Would this have DMed in a normal week? Submitting poetry in a prose round is a risk when the story is solid, much less when it isn't. I would probably have let you slide by, though.

*****

Lazy Beggar, "Having a Mare": Naming a major character "Alf" is just distracting. Other than that, this is absolutely bizarre. The narrator's lack of insight into anything is surely intentional, but what's the point? There's the seed of a moral, that blessings may come in the form of hardships, but there's so much fluff around it that accomplishes nothing. Your horse knowledge looks shallow to me, but to be fair, despite what I said in the recap, it's more than plausible no one has taught that mare jumping signals if she's been blind since birth.

Would this have DMed in a normal week? You'd better believe it.

*****

Paladinus, "Two Equals": Terrible punctuation even with allowances made for British style. I checked to make sure the other side of the pond doesn't put commas outside the single quotes in dialogue, and this site and this one claim not. Despite that, what the characters say is far worse than how they say it. Look at Jeremy's first speech, Paladinus. The economic jabber goes on too friggin' long! Sir George's reasoning is tortured on purpose, but the intent doesn't make it more of a delight to follow. Nobody except the priest talks like a person, which is surely intentional too: it's meant to be funny. "Meant to be" is the key phrase, more's the pity.

*****

Carl Killer Miller, "'Word at the Gate'": I don't know, a pinkie that can still wiggle after violent amputation sounds miraculously useful to me. That finger is the most interesting part of a story that drowns in unnecessary detail and bureaucratic minutiae. That Jacobzi feels nothing and has neither mercy nor spite in him would appear to be the point--he represents the heartless system, maybe--but a protagonist who's an emotionless automaton makes for an unengaging story unless there's a compelling setting or idea behind him.

Would this have DMed in a normal week? Not in this crowd, but that's a bit of luck. The prose isn't bad, the premise isn't bad, but the whole doesn't go anywhere.

*****

Tyrannosaurus, "Mauka no Makai": Familiar dialect, familiar gangsters. The story tries to ride on dialogue that isn't fascinating enough to carry it. The dialect is the more grating because the characters using it come across as so stupid. I doubt you want to give the impression the natives of a place you love are all either criminals, surfers, or soccer players, but your Hawaii stories often read to me like you're stereotyping them something fierce. That said, you're a victim of the round's gimmick since this is a level or two above most of the other DMs.

Would this have DMed in a normal week? Unlikely.

*****

Rathlord, "Lancelot": I remember the argument over whether this was fanfic. I would say not, but given it ends with Queen Guinevere pressing herself on Lancelot in a peekaboo nightgown and his solution to that problem being murder-suicide, the point is somewhat moot. Is that supposed to bring something to the story or the reader other than pointless shock value? On a less important note, I'm wagering you mixed up Lancelot and Galahad, given that Galahad--Lancelot's son--is the knight known for chastity and one of the knights who found the Grail. Chastity was famously not in Lancelot's wheelhouse. Writing a variant on an old myth is valid, but mucking around with the canon for no clear reason is less so.

Would this have DMed in a normal week? Possibly; the ending is just that bad.

*****

Thranguy, "Sooner or Later He Brings Up the Templars)": This sure gets weird. The crazy character voices almost work, almost land on the right side of the amusing/annoying divide, until the deus-ex-machina talking sword. It stops instead of concluding, though I'm okay with that since I don't want to read on. Hindsight tells me that To be continued endings are a recurring problem of yours. Your TD record suggests that isn't doing you favors, so it's something on which to work.

Would this have DMed in a normal week? It lands square on my list of righteous DMs.

*****

Julias, "Dishonorable Mention": Monologue format? Complete with quotation marks? Huh. "And that short lived rebellious kingdom would go down in the annals of history as the Principality of Bestiality." Huh. Well, the title is prophetic. You avoid the cliches of a knight with a lowly past in favor of a power fantasy for assholes in Three Wolf Moon shirts. Huzzah? If I were a king, I sure would appoint the wolf man to the job of killing a bunch of wolves. That is at least as rational and wise a course of action as is ending your story with a bestiality punchline.

Would this have DMed in a normal week? And how.

*****

Killer-of-Lawyers, "Knight Trip": Ex-po-si-tion, ex-po-si-tion! It's a long dream sequence, which misses the spirit of "Your knight refuses to sleep" a trifle. You employ a lot of dream surreality--a man collapsing into spiders, the protagonist suddenly in her underwear--and weeeeeeird dreams, like descriptions of drug trips, are often more fun to write than they are to read. Combining the two doesn't help you much.

Would this have DMed in a normal week? In a good week you could have been in trouble, but in this one you would have been fine.

*****

skwidmonster, "The Feudal Struggles of Boyhood": I like this until it starts doing the exposition dance too. Then Randy gets out of Mark's treehouse and I like it again. The dialogue is a lot of fun when the characters aren't explaining things to each other; the mix of roleplay and normal speech sounds just right. The real social undercurrents of the kids' longstanding game are strong enough that I would have thrown this on the HM side.

Would this have DMed in a normal week? No. I could see myself voting to HM this even without the gimmick, though I may be in the minority there.

*****

Pokeylope, "Sir Runcel the Rat": It reads like a mix of the real world and Let's Pretend, like skwidmonster's, but that's a problem in a story that's supposed to be all fantasy. When I finished it I had the vaguest idea of what the hell had gone on. The moral of the story: law and order are worth having, even though they may be inconvenient at times. That's a fine message, but the formatting and Sir Runcel's motivations for hiding in the church are a mess. How does his accident drive him from public life? Sure, Eric hides from him. Kids avoid authority figures when they're doing something forbidden. Sir Runcel shouldn't have read the village's dislike of him from that. Furthermore, Eric saw Runcel's face and the old man's face both, so shouldn't he have caught on to the double identity before that thug came along?

Would this have DMed in a normal week? I would have said yes when we recorded the recap, but I've softened on it a bit. The ideas are decent even if the execution isn't hot.


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Week 190: Three-Course Tale


Khris Kruel, "KK Short story 59": Most of the charm that makes this so-bad-it's-good goes away if you read it as an intentionally bad effort, and I'm afraid I have my suspicions. It's just painfully stupid no matter how you look at it. You typed the words "ITS ALL READY HAPPENED." Kindly sit in the corner and think about what you've done. All of the dialogue is pure crap, and the mechanics of time travel are both inane and self-contradictory as presented. Nobody has an effing hint of credible motivation for anything he or she does. You filled your lack of intention to explain anything with neon gas and lit that sucker up like the Vegas strip! It's still a fun story to read with friends, but where I would be entertained and even appreciative if I thought you'd messed up a real effort, I'm disgruntled at what I'm increasingly sure is the embodiment of a thrown game. You should keep writing if you're sincere. You should consider making a genuine try, even a silly one, if you aren't.

*****

Carl Killer Miller, "Royal Blood": When you overdose on the tell side of the show vs. tell dichotomy, you get something like this, a "story" that reads more like a dry Wikipedia article. Extraneous details clog this particular work besides. However, its worst quality is that it's stretched so thin. There's one idea present: incest weakens children. Not exactly a difficult thing to grasp. You convey this as thoroughly and well as you ever will within the first section (honestly, in that section alone I think you overdo it), and the remaining two are an endurance trial. The one surprise on offer is a needless dangling penis. It's not the good kind of surprise, you know? The final line almost suggests that the moral of the story is meant to be that kings are bad, but you've strayed so far from a realistic portrayal of monarchy by that point that I'm frankly not buying it, sir.


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Week 191: We Talk Good


Titus82, "Addiction 101": Zzzzz. The script format ensures that you have two talking heads chatting away in white space. "Shakespeare pulls it off!" you might say, but even the worst Shakespearean dialogue or situation is more compelling than this. Two addicts talk to each other about being addicts in the blandest way. That's the whole story. It's a public service announcement, lacking the depth to be an after-school special. As with any PSA, the intention is good, but I'm still reaching for the remote.

*****

Jocoserious, "Cosmic Catch-Up": When I'm not looking at this story, I ask myself whether it really deserved to lose; when I read the first few sentences, I think it surely didn't--but then it keeps going. And going. The one gag gets stretched out until it snaps and then some, and by the end all you have is sagging text and broken patience. Cthulhu Dads (to steal a phrase from somebody--maybe crabrock?) isn't such a hilarious idea that it can sustain a whole piece on its own, you know? It doesn't help that the dialogue is so sitcom cheesy.

*****

Kharmakazy, "Clothes Make The Man": Maybe it's the word non-count, maybe it's the way nothing makes any flipping sense, but I suspect your best efforts didn't go into this tale of inexplicable time-travel murder. Your protagonist knows it, too. He keeps calling the time traveler out on his ~wacky~ BS, which doesn't, for the record, make it any less obnoxious. I feel a tiny bit of empathy for that guy, as he's more or less a stand in for the reader: he struggles through someone else's monkeycheese for reasons unclear, and the ending kills his last remaining hope of understanding.


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Week 193: the worst week


DurianGray, "Falling Star": Not magical realism at all, though it's difficult to hold that against you. The dragon PI makes this some sort of cheeky urban-fantasy noir. That business with the star is closer to monkeycheese, especially when you have an offhand reference to a giant ball of flaming gas donating to animal shelters. What's more your fault than the genre mismatch is the too-obvious, uninteresting mystery at the center of the "story," which isn't much of a story: a man comes to a PI with a problem, the PI sorts it out in two seconds with no effort to speak of, the man goes away again, and the PI is satisfied with himself. The puzzle would have to be extremely intriguing and engaging for that approach to work. Mystery is probably the worst genre to try at flash-fiction length, because it's so difficult to set up a compelling puzzle and give it a satisfactory resolution while still incorporating character agency and action--none of which things you do here, but at least bungling them puts you in good company.

*****

Carl Killer Miller, "Monday Night Meltdown": Nope, this isn't magical realism either. Or a story! It is instead a tedious, tiresome, and repetitive sequence of wrestling scenes. The closest thing to an arc or plot is Manotaur's progression through a series of opponents, each more boring than the last, while a pair of announcers defined by being scarred in one case and fat in the other look on. The dragon is a nonentity. I don't know, CKM--I don't think even a wrestling fan would have much fun reading this piece; it doesn't have the visual razzle-dazzle of a real match or anything close. It was a fun one to perform for the recap because I got to be hammy and ridiculous as one of the announcers, but even then it was hard to stay interested in the fights.

*****

skwidmonster, "The Family Business": Sometimes one has to ask oneself what the odds are that a TD entrant slammed the Post button at the last second, heedless of the quality of his work. Sometimes one's answer is, "Pretty drat good, I'd say." I'm as sure as I can be without having judged that you wouldn't have lost if your entry had, you know, a middle of any sort. Even what you've got is less of a slog than CKM's Wrestlemania show, but it's more hole than cloth. The small bit of characterization Mer receives paints her as a pretentious git, more's the pity. This is another story that lands in the urban-fantasy camp and bypasses magical realism entirely, and it would be a better world if that weren't the least of its problems.


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Week 195: Inverse World


Toxxupation, "Invisible Hand": I see the inversions, maybe. Hunter is talkative where Ekaterina was taciturn, making for a story that's all chatter in place of the original piece's introspection. Hunter pursues his future without thinking enough about it where Ekaterina considered and reconsidered her path. The first story was serious, and this is goofy. And the non-ending of "Realism" has been replaced by a conclusion that is, if nothing else, quite final. So considered only as an inversion, this does the job. It's an improvement, too, but the banter isn't witty or charming enough to comprise 90% of the text, and the premise holds up to thought about as well as spit holds up to the wind. The jab at political commentary or humor or goodness knows what is both dumb and out of place. The whole doesn't add up to a good story, which is the critical concern.

*****

Ironic Twist, "How To Finish A Sentence": Reading this again, I'm wistful for what might have been, because I forgot just how it ended and I thought the spider was weaving the man's broken mind back together for him as repayment for what it had taken. Instead the spider takes more memories to tell a dying person that he should live for the spider's sake. In a way, that mirrors "The Non" rather than inverting it, in that the Non were also focused on themselves and their needs and their compulsion to communicate. The spider still has more empathy, though, and it recognizes and regrets its own selfishness even as it acts on it, and I stand by my opinion that this is the much stronger story in part because the spider feels something. I wonder whether the ending could be tweaked, maybe minimally--maybe the spider's message is already meant to help the man and that point just isn't clear. I could believe it, because the spider's compassion doesn't gel with only wanting to use this man's body and mind as its stationery.

*****

ThatGuyStoneSoup, "On the Farm": I like your instinct to invert a story of having to leave into a story of having to stay. That's about all I like here, but it's a start. Jameson, as I understand it, left his village and Rebecca years ago, without a word to her. He's come back for an unspecified reason, but now he's ready to ditch Rebecca again. Because life under a slave master is preferable, I guess? His contempt for the farming life doesn't seem justified. Once he gets to his bike, he reconsiders and stays--for now. It wants to be a happy ending, but it isn't: he was a jerk to leave the first time, a jerk to want to leave the second time, and postponing his departure doesn't redeem him. Less exposition about farm life and more explanation of why he returned to begin with would be welcome. There's so little exploration of his motives in doing anything that he comes off as completely callous.

*****

Goodpancakes, "Whimsy": You should be sorry! Your inversion of Entenzahn's decent story appears to involve making it more stupid at every turn. Logic suggests that is not likely your intention, yet I confess myself confounded by the suddenly flamboyant Master, the card tricks, the ~whimsy~, the whole nine yards. Is it an attempt at humor? I'm a little bit amused that Jonah is such a complete airhead here, and Elaia's rejection of his goofiness is the one good moment. I like to think she's not depressed by the loss of her magic but because she has to live with this doofus. However, most of the story is a slog, and rewriting Entenzahn's work with the same characters, same situation, same everything is exactly what the prompt told you not to do.


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Week 196: Molten Copper vs. Thunderdome


Chernabog, "Upheaval (1202)": Although your entry has clumsy charm, you've gone right against the prompt post by taking your video in a hyper-literal direction. A DM was probably inevitable. Your snow-globe world leaves me with questions, like how Fred and May could read "Made in China"--yes, okay, it's a little silly to question the realism of a story about tiny snow-globe people, but I'm not sure you did a solid job of making the globe a world of its own. (That said, I laughed at "Don't use that name in vain!" Definitely your best line.) The formatting is messy. But you might have been all right if you hadn't poured copper over a snow globe, or, failing that, if you hadn't written the video-maker into your story and had it all be a show for YouTube, because Fred and May are fun little characters acting out a fun little premise.

*****

Mr Gentleman, "A Story of Salt": Ghastly. There's yet to be an MMO story in Thunderdome that's worth a drat, mostly because they all look a lot like this. Your contempt for the subject is clear. You appear to assume the reader shares it as a matter of course. And you don't bother to tell a story; this is prolonged and rather unoriginal mockery of a target seen as acceptable, without particular wit or charm. The only thing I can say in its favor is that Julian doesn't die in a poo poo geyser. When you want to satirize or make fun of something--preferably something that hasn't already been beaten to death--try to do it with, if not affection, then compassion for your characters, and make them human. Otherwise you risk your story coming across as mean spirited and humorless, as here.

*****

Grizzled Patriarch, "Inner Space": I don't know what you were thinking. The initial problem borders on banal, but you give it a touch of strangeness that keeps my attention. The second section, though, is off: the maintenance man is hurt by and looks down on the landlord for a mild and rather reasonable statement, and the business with the cat is a baffling waste of time. The third section just gets weird in a bad way. Why the maintenance man isn't scared is something else I don't know, and I wonder whether you do; his euphoria makes no in-world sense (on a meta level I could see it being linked either to ASMR or huffing glue); his fetishization of the "impossible craftsman" doesn't ring true, either, when what he dreams of is a destructive force. Not enough is shown or told about his life to grant understanding of why he throws it all away to climb through a glue hole. Maaaaaybe the Elmersdritch horrors behind the walls have done something to his mind that's akin to toxoplasmosis and that's what the cat's cameo is meant to help me infer, but on the off chance that's the case, why not tell the story straight? Why not tell a story, period, instead of pointing to something weird and then turning the camera away?


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Week 197: Stories of Powerful Ambition and Poor Impulse Control


Mr Gentleman, "The End of Some Things": I like this much more than "A Story of Salt," mostly because it is a story, but lordy. Are you trying to bring the insanity and inanity of soap-opera plots to the plot of your soap-opera story? That wouldn't explain the ultraviolet prose of the first paragraph. It wouldn't excuse the limp, faltering ending in which Genevieve sets up her own disgrace rather than facing the conflict in front of her. It wouldn't justify the bloated length, which does resemble a soap opera but shouldn't. The strange, petty dramas aren't fun to read, though Genevieve comes close in moments to being an intriguing character. Maybe they could be enjoyable with a tighter focus and with more characterization for Isa Suki Soto, who as it stands is just a name trying to take over Genevieve's show because the plot needs her to do it.

*****

Chernabog, "Self heist": So if I understand correctly, the main character is a weapons dealer who has somehow survived the murder of every other member of his crew, and his reaction to this event is to loot their store with plans to set himself up as a crime lord. Because there's not an object lesson in why that's a horrible idea lying in front of him or anything. He checks on the cache but leaves it in place and goes home to Rosa, the woman he hits when he loses his temper. When Rosa points out the obvious re: the whole crew being dead and his likely fate, he stomps off to sulk exactly like a teenage boy. He takes a bottle of rum with him, and apparently the booze is laced with tranquilizers because somehow he proceeds to sleep through Rosa stealing his keys, leaving the house, taking the guns, bringing the guns back to the house, and then burying them in the backyard. He doesn't suspect a thing! The watchdog/boy has to tell him a woman took the guns, at which point he confronts Rosa, she lies, he threatens to kill her, she says stop, and he wishes he'd died rather than nearly beating her. Uh-huh. Then she tells him where the guns are and implies she's leaving him. This is fairly ghastly. The protagonist is an idiot, and the intricacies of his relationship with Cesar and the gang get too much page space given that Cesar et al are dead. Edel is an idiot. Rosa is an idiot. Nothing makes sense, with the protagonist's torpor during what had to be a multi-hour burial operation right outside his house the worst offender--unless that honor goes to his eleventh-hour moment of regret. Nothing about his character to that point suggests he'd have the least remorse about killing Rosa, much less beating her. You wrote him as too shallow and selfish for the sentiment to ring true. I can see a lot of your subprompt in the story, and I think that's much of the problem: you tried to work in everything, and you were left with a mess.

*****

CANNIBAL GIRLS, "After the Show": Too many characters. Too many storylines. You got caught in your attempt to incorporate as much of your prompt as you could, I think. Song lyrics are often clumsy in stories, and yours are no exception (especially the spelling of missus as misses). Early's battle with drugs, Valerie's marriage drama, the conflict between Valerie and the band, the band's conflict with itself, Winston's antics with the handjob twins, and the handjob twins' secret identities as co-conspirators with a fired roadie all compete for space and attention with the result that none of them get enough. I figure you could cut this down to the Valerie/band and Valerie/Jack conflicts and have something. Reduce Early to a side figure; eliminate the early music vs. later music element. The final ambiguity regarding whether the band will fire Val and whether she'll get back with Jack is fine, but I'm not sold on the roadie-and-handjob-twins combo team as the best way to bring it about. Maybe it only needs more focus, but you should definitely make the link between the twins and the roadie less tenuous.

*****

flerp, "Going Back Through the Smiles": To your credit, you've written a story that's better suited to reversed chronology than to the more customary ordering of events, and that makes me think you didn't just whip out an experimental form and throw it out there carelessly. I can imagine that you thought the gimmick would enhance this particular piece. You might have been right if the dramatic reveal of the genesis of Christian's smile had been particularly dramatic or much of a revelation. That a child's biggest fear is dying is just not remarkable. It's nothing a teacher should be calling home about, and it's a weak, weak, weak climax and weaker justification for the hard-to-follow reversal. I believe you could fix this easily by shifting Christian's fear a little. Have him be afraid his mother will die, and maybe then the teacher would call to see if something's wrong at home. Show his adoration for his mother, and make it more poignant that he traps himself in this smile because his mother is trapped in hers. That wouldn't be the only change you'd need to make, as the strong implication that Christian is smiling into the camera as he reports an eight-year-old's death snaps disbelief. He wouldn't be able to hold his job if he smiled through things like that. You could probably stand to slim the whole thing down and get to the point faster. And while this no longer matters, the connection your entry has to your subprompt is as thin as spider silk.

*****

Fuschia tude, "The Road to Riches": You've tried to start off with a comedic tone and transition it to tragedy. Neither end of the spectrum works, though the comic half comes rather closer: if Dale's plan weren't so impossibly stupid--because it is, and Nic would have to be brainless to go along with it--then the banter might fly. There's a bit of charm to his idiocy, but good grief. The tragic half is slaughtered by Dale's long conversation with Frank and the emphasis on the novel as Nic's major character trait. Nope, I'm not moved, not when this information is brought in at the eleventh hour. The brief and offhand reference to writing in the second line isn't enough set-up. What I find interesting is that although I wince at Dale's dumb, dumb, dumb plot, when he kills the men who killed Nic, it's a strong moment. It looks then as though Dale is completely incompetent except at one thing, and that one thing is either murder or revenge. It instantly makes Dale a deeper character. But the drawn-out dialogue with Frank wastes the power of that turn and ends the story on a dull, limp note.


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Week 198: Buddy Stuff


Chernabog, "Corporate fiction": Thank you for no longer formatting your entries this way. Content-wise, I'm half convinced you mixed up "disgraceful" and "disgusting" when you wrote Claude; I suppose either adjective could apply to popping filthy pizza crumbs into one's mouth, but urgh. The whole premise is ridiculous, which is a larger problem. No company in the world would go along with Travis's plan. If it were for the benefit of another co-worker, and if Travis held a position other than corporate spy, then maaaaaybe? But for some employee's random friend, nope and nope and nope. The mousetrap scene adds bloat and nothing else. Too much of the text is dialogue. If I were to guess I'd say the talking is meant to be funny banter and that the entire piece is intended as comedy, and if you'd pulled that off, how little sense any of it makes might not have mattered (stress might). It's much too tedious to be funny, though, so the absurdity glares like a warning light.

*****

Hammer Bro., "Equites": Not one word isn't confusing, obscure, or some possibly pretentious combination of the two, and I have to believe with this one that you're intending to fly over the reader's head for some reason that only you and God know. What is the low-bord, high-bord business? Are those real terms? Sure. Will most modern readers recognize them? No. Do they add to the story in any way? No. None of the dialogue makes sense: why should Lil prepare to be carried home when they are home? Why do they cover themselves in food, like toddlers? Why is one of the intruders named after a Greek god, why do they come to Hyb and Lil's house to talk to them about marriage, what does Hyb's age have to do with it, why would Lil feel distinguished, where does the chariot come in--I could go on indefinitely. You critique well. You understand the English language. You are capable of coherent writing, and you ought to try it more often.

*****

Marshmallow Blue, "They've Taken Mr. Chips": It doesn't count for much, Marshmallow Blue, but in my opinion, you got hosed. There's a good bit wrong with your story. The proofing is poor, with punctuation missing and the capitalization of proper nouns haphazard. Study this guide to dialogue. The critical issues are the transformation of Jim and Sarah from ordinary dealership customers to moustache-twirling villains of the least sensible order and the coldblooded murder of both of them by Brady. Oh, I get the vibe you're probably going for, and I almost like it, but Jim and Sarah aren't heinous enough for that whole match-on-gasoline finale to be just. On the flip side, I wholeheartedly love the relationship between your wunza partners--even down to the last inappropriate fist bump. Brady loves Mr. Chips, and Mr. Chips is devoted to Brady, and they work well together. It's especially great given that you fulfill every element of your flash rule. Mr. Chips' saga has so much energy and comradeship that I want to like it despite its faults; it nails my perception of the buddy genre.

*****

Thranguy, "Comrade Rusty and the God": You'd think Rusty would have noticed such a plethora of agents assembling before they were all in place if he's so outstandingly observant that he can peg each one's allegiance with a glance. Your Aztec god doesn't fit in this supernatural spy story worth a darn. He seems less Amazonian than the lead character of Pumaman seems Aztec, for one thing. Too high a proportion of the piece is backstory and exposition; you finish establishing what's going on just in time for the story to crash into a brick wall that has Faux-Aztec Dick Quest spray-painted on it. The whole thing is setup for the story you don't tell. I wouldn't read that story on the basis of this entry; too little happens here to sell me on further adventures.

*****

Jitzu_the_Monk, "Cherry Grindon Park": You know, I'm not convinced this tactic of making me wonder how exactly public urination got Wallace listed as a sex offender right in the first paragraph is sound. It's a memorable opening, but perhaps not in the optimal way. Would a man really lose visitation rights over a drunken pee? I suppose all things are possible. There's some excellent sentiment in this one, and "pride would well up in his head, drowning the brain and leaking out the eyes" is a fantastic phrase. I quite like Wallace's love for his distant daughter. I dislike Nikeel's dialect, but enh, there's not enough of it to do more than mildly irritate. I detest the ending in which Tamika dies in a completely implausible way (nobody's going to buy self-defense), Nikeel suggests he and her father become murder bros, and Wallace actually considers it before just driving away. It's a ruinous flop of a finish. Cut it off and take the story in a different direction after Nikeel leaves the truck and you'll have something worthwhile--of the entries we talked about in the recap, this is the closest by a league to being good.

*****

Carl Killer Miller, "The Last Case of Detective Ford and Tumor McCoy": If I understand the Internet correctly, the police blotter is a public record, so I no longer see your opening as a cheat. Ford's only hearing what anyone could hear. This makes Ford's identity more obvious from the outset; I'm torn on what I think of that. It never was much of a twist, but a police detective who thinks his tumor is talking to him is more interesting and arguably more dangerous than a hospice escapee. Oh, well. There's almost some charm in the friendliness the old man bestows on his disease, and there's almost some melancholy and vague sweetness about his death--it's sweet that he dies contented, if not that he tried to shoot an innocent--but I'm not convinced this is a story worth telling, especially with Ford's dementia clear from the start. An ill old man almost does a terrible thing in his illness, but instead he dies. There isn't much point, and the text isn't so appealing that I feel my time was well spent regardless.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 17:04 on Dec 23, 2016

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Week 199: EVERYBODY KNOWS poo poo'S hosed


ZeBourgeoisie, "The Emperor": Okay. Pros: No one gets eaten in this. It knows what it wants to be, a goofy comedy piece that swaps the usual gender roles of pulp SF, even if it doesn't succeed. The sentence-level writing could certainly be worse. Cons: The human protagonists get raped by a lizard, and it's played for laughs. Probably someone exists who could pull that off, but that someone is not you at this point in time. The treatment you give the idea is creepy and vaguely lewd--for comic effect, I know, but how is it supposed to be funny? The narrator doesn't have a distinguishable voice, and none of the dialogue is humorous. You throw the idea of lizard sex down and figure we'll laugh, I guess. Comedy is harder than that.

*****

Chili, "The Stroll": Forty pounds of why? in a five-pound bag. Molly, Kitty, and all the nameless doctors are unpleasant people. Molly is defined by her fight against those who for her--understandable in the doctors' case, perhaps, but Mr. Noel doesn't seem so bad. Other than that, she takes a walk. Most of the text is conversation: short sentences, few of them interesting. It ends with a random act of cruelty and Molly doing what she knows is wrong. So what makes it a good read? What does it have to say, since it isn't trying (one hopes) to entertain? The aimlessness would have gotten it my loss vote even over the lizard sex. I do wonder whether the real story here is Kitty, who seems far too well-adjusted for this dystopian institution until she reveals her sadistic hand. Her actions tell me nothing about Molly, though, and nothing much about the setting, so at best she's a minor point of curiosity.

*****

Jitzu_the_Monk, "Depressive Realism": I'm trying to think of any premise that would work best as a series of article fragments, all incomplete, half of them breaking off mid-sentence. I can't, because articles themselves are a pain to read that way. The tone of each fragment is credible for an article, but the result is that they're very dry--you're serving up one distinct type of writing to an audience that came for another. That's not an inherently godawful thing, but it's risky; the risk doesn't pay off here. This is all without getting into my issues with your concept. You have a concept and not a story, for starters. Next, the text proposes that depression is inextricably tied to creativity, and that curing depression would lose the world its writers and artists, without doing anything to convince me that viewpoint is correct. Surprise, surprise: I don't agree! The notion that a depression cure should be suppressed for ~art's sake~ is infuriating, in fact! Which wouldn't be a problem if this didn't read like a propaganda piece for that notion. More than that, though, the way it draws an equal sign between STEM majors, non-depressives, fascism, and Donald Trump of all things is... why? Why in God's name is that there? What does it accomplish? You have something good in the fireman who is so free of concerns and worries that he cuts his own hand off for no apparent reason; that's an interesting twist on a world without despair; Republicans taking over is not. (Not to mention that in hindsight, it really doesn't work. There are problems with dating your fiction this way.) Your sentence-level prose is rather skillful, but this is a domino chain of bad ideas, and there's no realism in evidence.


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Week 200: Taters Gonna Tate Fuckers


Chili, ""potatos.jpg"": Some guy obsessing over the tiny, fiddly details of a CGI... movie? Cutscene? Whatever it is, you burn your opening paragraphs focusing on it, and it's dull. The fuss over exactly why the crops are wrong and exactly how it must be fixed intensifies that dullness in short order. But then! Something strange is happening! The protagonist's eyes have opened to the world of cushy chairs around him! Is something sinister going on, and the potato .jpg is the symptom that finally, somehow let him see? Oops, wait, no, it's all mundane and he takes a mundane call and he gets a mundane job offer and he turns it down to drag his wife and children into poverty. He spends the whole story fixated on these assets; why is he hanging up the phone? I'm afraid you don't convince me he's anything but in his element at the office, sloppy hygiene and lack of sleep or not. It doesn't feel like he'd be there if he weren't obsessing of his own free will. Instead of heartwarming, the piece ends up disappointing and muddled.

*****

Chernabog, "A very potato miracle": I don't hate the idea of a feel-good piece about competition and joy in craftsmanship at all, but you can tell me all day long that the wife of a man obsessed with this yearly rite would ever casually cook his special potatoes and I won't believe you. After thirteen years of marriage to him? Yeah, no. That's only the first float in your contrivance parade. The fight over potatoes isn't impossible but seems unlikely. That a snagged bit of clothing would overturn a shelf of nebulous "safety equipment" heavy enough to kill two grown men is fairly ridiculous. That Asher would focus on stealing a dead man's potatoes--to be fair, maybe that isn't implausible. Maybe it only makes him a sociopath. Rivkah turns out to be surprisingly invested in Asher's victory considering she ruined everything and shrugged it off just a day before. And Asher enjoying a "journey" that included two gory deaths right in front of his eyes again makes me question his mental health. It also wouldn't hurt if you introduced Bernard earlier. I would guess you had this story in mind before you got your admittedly difficult flash rule and then tried to wedge the rule in without altering the story too much, but that tactic left you with a misaligned juxtaposition of tone and events.

*****

Screaming Idiot, "Small Potatoes": It isn't your fault you got stuck with the flash rule that was the biggest trap for you. It is your fault you went with mecha as your subgenre, but enh, I can't blame you that much for trying to have fun with it. Here's what I do blame you for: Misi is the sort of Strong Female Character that's actually weak, because it's a cliche, and the "strength" she shows is a combination of bullying, sass, and outsmarting every man in sight even if the writer has to make the men incredibly stupid in order for her to do it. That she's introduced mauling a guy's testicles more or less says it all. Don't dumb men down or make them two-dimensional assholes in order for a woman to shine. A truly strong character won't need that. Misi's plan succeeds only because you made her opposition stupid and feeble too. You've so clearly stacked every deck in her favor that she faces no challenges and isn't fun to read about at all. Then you end with a weak joke. Even without the infringement upon Harry Harrison's intellectual property, an especially bad choice in your case because of how derivative so much of your trope-laden stuff seems, the judges had plenty of reason to condemn this to the pits.

*****

skwidmonster, "Losing": If this has a failing, it's that it's so close to saccharine. (Well, and some tense issues. Remember to use the past perfect when you're in or at least beginning a flashback within a past-tense story.) The flash rules have a lot to do with that. You handle them like a pro, spinning them into a heartwarming story in which the developmentally disabled character is only a little too much of a saint, but I wish--and this is probably personal taste talking--that Alex had a little bit of balance to her selflessness so she wouldn't make me think of how often handicapped characters are portrayed as borderline magical in fiction. Maybe I've just read too much Stephen King. Anyway, it's good work, and Martin especially is a wonderful portrayal of a father.

*****

Fuubi, "Perfect Art": You know what you did. Except there's a chance, however incredible, that you don't. Where do I even begin to explain? From the mangled Japanese to the woman with a tomato for a head, from the up-skirt shot that leads George to comment on the color of what he sees to cliched villain, from George seeking a potato in a brothel to everything else, this is terrible in true so-bad-it's-bad fashion. The sole glints of promise are found in the stretches that convince me your tongue was in your cheek. Now and then something comes along that borders on funny: George's assertion that potato magazines are the major news outlets, Josei falling asleep as he talks. I could maybe enjoy a story about this tuber bore and the young woman who has to put up with him if, you know, she didn't have a tomato head and he didn't lust over that. And if the anime cliches were toned down. And if you didn't treat Japanese shamefully. And if the formatting were decent. And if the proofing were decent. And if the plot weren't so stupid. And--you get the idea, or at least I devoutly hope you do.


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Week 202: THUNDER-O-S!


Fuubi, "Grandpa's cereals": Since I prefer dull stories to insufferable ones, I would have spared you the loss myself. Your formatting is still crap at this point. I would express skepticism that anyone would keep a fifty-year-old box of cereal, but I've seen unopened Cokes from the Sixties at flea markets, so touché. Two kids looking at cereal, chewing on cereal, and deciding it's okay is the entirety of the piece, and that's so uneventful and boring that you would have to make an effort to engage my interest less. On the other hand, while this story is poor, it's very different than the antics of the tomato-headed waifu or the dragonfly queen: you're trying out different storytelling approaches, in this case going for a quiet slice-of-life portrait of an ordinary family. The goal is good, but the situation, the character voices, and the conclusion are all as flat and bland as a square of cardboard. You need either to infuse Sarah and/or Daniel with much more charisma than they currently have or make something significant happen either physically or emotionally--"okay" is not the note on which most good stories end.

*****

artichoke, "Cheerios": It only takes your protagonist two paragraphs to show his or her insufferable colors. The situation is vaguely sympathetic. An atheist teen probably wouldn't get much out of church, would resent being forced to go, and to be fair, might well be a condescending dick about it in his own mind--the trouble isn't that your character is unrealistic, it's that s/he is as tedious to me as the service is to him or her. Those two paragraphs told your whole story, you know? A teenager doesn't believe in God and sees religion as a farce. That's the situation at the outset and at the end, with no change or event in between. It's possible that you're telling... well, no, you're not telling a story, but you may be drawing a layered portrait here. The protagonist is such a pill that I half think you've made him or her that way on purpose to illustrate how his or her scorn for community and ritual deprives him or her of those things. S/he looks at the child and pities her, imagines a connection between them, but no such thing exists. The child is happy in her father's arms, and the protagonist's imagined superiority makes him or her blind to that joy. The piece doesn't work even if that's the intent, since you've gone too far and said too little, but I hope something like that is what you were trying to say given that the alternative is that you thought this character would be widely sympathetic.


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Week 203: MYSTERY SOLVING TEENS


flerp, "Dreams High Up Above": Vague recollection tells me you pushed this story out to avoid failing the week. Kudos for that. I don't imagine the judges enjoyed giving a loss to someone who, unlike over half the crowd, actually showed up. But you made the choice stupidly easy by giving the prompt the finger, turning in a "story" in which a boy stares at his walls and ceiling until he falls asleep. Sabien has an obsession that rules his life and threatens to destroy it, but he makes no progress either toward achieving it or toward giving it up. He's still determined to be a pilot when he dreams of being a cloud. This would be unsatisfying in any week, but in a week focused on adventure? Stuff happening? You doomed yourself and reaped the spoils. With a different ending and less navel-gazing, this might be worth something.


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Week 204: Hate Week


Djeser, "Marked": A story by that title with a heroine named Zoey, huh? That brings back memories. If it made any sense for you to use that of all series for inspiration, I'd be suspicious, but I think if you were going to borrow you'd borrow stronger material. Unfortunately, this is worse than the Cast books by virtue of the Black Mark being right the eff out of nowhere and never explained or explored. Zoey's obsession with soccer in the face of her leg being devoured by skin-bubbling Lovecraftian darkness needs more humor to fly. It's too dumb to be played straight like this. But if I remember right, time was an issue, and this was another attempt to do something other than fail. I believe too that the rush had something to do with why Tyrannosaurus' influence is clear but Sitting Here's appears to be missing.


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Week 205: the book of forbidden names


areyoucontagious, "Abstraction": Does this story need the Stan character? Isabelle doesn't need his impetus to be fascinated by the cave, surely? He's such a nonentity that I'd rather you cut him; the sycophants Isabelle also kills in the end at least take up fewer words. Saying that, I would guess Stan's death was meant to be more shocking given his named status and relationship to Isabelle, but he's too cardboard for that to work. The strange, clipped phone dialogue in the first section is unpleasant reading. Your flash word is forced and mildly damaging to the story--not, honestly, that I blame you much for that. Otherwise, this isn't all that bad. You could possibly use a scene between the arrival of the clay and the murder of the sycophants, or a glimpse of the clay sculptures before the final bloodbath. Either the narrator could think or Isabelle could say that something seems to be missing. Then, wham! What's missing is dead bodies. Such a conclusion would still be predictable, but if you were to heighten the atmosphere (right now the surfeit of scene breaks weakens it), then rewarding our dread with Terrible Monstrosities wouldn't be a bad thing.

*****

Chairchucker, "Charnel No. 5": There's no way in sin this was meant to win. I doubt it was meant to lose. I'd gamble on you having some fun by goofing off around the prompt, maybe figuring you'd be dismissed. I'd have hit either Chili's post-apocalyptic midget or Archer666's incessant backstory rather than your riff on Lovecraft's distaste for miscegenation for the sentence There was a hint of sailboat about his features alone--well, and because it does pay tribute to Lovecraft in its way--but can I blame the judges when you blew off your word utterly and didn't even try for horror? Not with any heat. You should write a more involved piece about wereboats, though.

*****

Archer666, "Family Trade": That first sentence should have raised a large red flag. The opening of the story is every bit as boring as it implies. The story on the whole is more dull than any tale of a man vivisectifying his grandson to make him a tool for aliens from Dimension X has any right to be. It struggles under the burden of its endless exposition. It wrestles, and loses, with the lack of brains or agency in Michal. There's a reason people make fun of the sorts of idiotic characters who go down to the dark, scary basements of obviously evil houses. There's one intriguing idea: that "the Master" (seriously, how dumb is Michal to be unconcerned about this guy?) enacted his horrors and made his terrible bargains in order to be a magnificent, lifesaving doctor. Not the usual motive for that sort of thing! I'd sincerely like to hear his story. Alas, I couldn't care less about Michal's.

*****

Chili, "The Scales of Justice": So... for Lovecraftian Horror Week, you've written about a car-selling midget who may or may not be well-endowed waking up just in time to be sucked calmly into a glass globe in the sky, from which he watches the shredding of the Earth into confetti. Maybe the other people in the globe are shredded too, because they're gone, and he's left standing between a stunted giraffe and a giant monstrosity that turns out to be a krill; the aliens have decided every species should be left with one representative, because that won't end terrestrial life within a generation or anything, and that said representative should be of a physical size proportional to the size of his or her species' population on the shredded Earth. That makes sense! It especially makes sense that the giraffe is the same size as the human, given this! I'm always hearing about the overcrowding on the savannah by those five billion giraffes, I don't know about you. Then the midget gets a vote in what sort of planet his new home will be, except his vote doesn't count because there are a hell of a lot of ocean creatures (more than all the mammals, birds, and insects combined? That's interesting if true, but I'm sort of suspicious you forgot insects exist), so he falls into an endless ocean from a great height and presumably drowns. And while Chairchucker was obviously taking the piss out of the prompt, I'm not too sure about you. Criminy. As horror, this is ridiculous, but as comedy, it's not much better. The protagonist is as hapless as Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy without Arthur Dent's everyman charm. He has zero agency and only functions as a lens through which to watch this weird stuff happen, and as lenses go, he's clear glass. His viewpoint doesn't shape my perception at all. You were still getting the hang of storytelling at this point, and it shows.


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Week 206: WHIZZ! Bang! POW! Thunderdome!


Chili, "The Big Show": Failed comedy is one of the saddest danged things to see. I want to believe your situation wouldn't be so absurd or Trace so pathetic if you weren't trying to make me laugh, so don't tell me if I'm wrong, Chili. I'd rather pity a noble but unsuccessful attempt than want to thump my head and yours against a wall in frustration. The whole setup is so dumb, is part of the problem: why would a congressman have this diamond, and why would he stake it in poker, and why--if it's his property and he had the right to gamble it--would the U.S. care? And why oh why would Mr. Incompetence be tasked with retrieving it? I'm not even touching the question of how it got in his bag; there's no answer, and I think we both know it. That this is all terribly unlikely and stupid to boot wouldn't matter so much if it were funny also, but no dice. Trace is both boor and bore. His plans are so inept I cringe; the one thing he does well is puking all over a taxi, and I'll admit his casually rounding up the fare afterward does get a grin. The conclusion of the story is the textual embodiment of a writer having no idea how to wrap up his plot. Capturing at least a shred of the whizz-bang-pow adventure mood probably saved your bacon--rightly so, though I hope against hope that you never drop the McGuffin onto your protagonist's shoe again.

*****

areyoucontagious, "Mistakes Were Made": Good grief. Don't give away your twist in the title! Don't hint so hard at it long before the story's end, either. It occurs to me to wonder whether it's possible the twist isn't meant to be a twist, but then I look at the last line and my spirit sinks again. The murder of multiple innocent people by a dense protagonist is given a slapstick treatment that couldn't fail any harder at being funny, morbidly or otherwise--in part because the main source of surprise here is that you thought this was a good way for the story to go. I don't see much worth salvaging (though the prose is fine), but if you were to try to save it you should do what you can to keep certain knowledge of the twist away from the reader before the final act.

*****

Maigius, "Final Depot": Writing a rescue mission that loops back to the beginning without accomplishing a thing is a bold choice, I grant you. The first piece of text is dialogue from someone whose identity I never learn for sure. It's weirdly passive and roundabout--you'd do better to show the conversation between Jan and whomever. (Karl?) Then again, the chat between Jan and Kristof that follows is hilariously stilted and strange. The subplot of Kristof having a thing for Jan's daughter and Jan coming to accept him as worthy of her after Kristof saves his life is meant to be heartwarming, I think, but one, Kristof's heroic action is off camera and lacks impact; two, Jan's daughter is a McGuffin; three, these men are flat and free of personality; four, the whole thing about rescuing a co-explorer who may be lost in Antarctica is a lot more interesting! So it's doubly sad that's the plot you drop wholesale in order to pull off the Kristof-gets-the-prize happy ending. When you sum your major conflict up with It was all for nothing, you should hear alarms go off in your head. I know, I know: the search for Otto isn't meant to be the major conflict. The action is just trapping on the bromance story. That doesn't fly for an action-and-adventure prompt, and you might have guessed it wouldn't.

*****

sebmojo, "Orbital Decay": Pulpy as an orange-juice factory, of course, which quality does you a better turn in this round than it would in many others. The action is fast-paced and reasonably fun. I don't much care for the space weasel or its role in the solution, but that's exactly the sort of thing a vintage pulp sci-fi yarn might pull. (Ba-dum pum.) It's pointless to complain about thin characters in a story like this! Jim and Rashkolnikov don't have much more depth in this one than Maigius's Jan and Kristof, but this is a true action-and-adventure piece--the events matter as much if not more more than the people moving around within them. You slam-dunked the prompt with a welcome addition to the Spaceman Jim canon.


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Week 207: Bottle Your Rage


terre packet, "Parlour Delivery": The high-speed offices miss the point of the prompt a trifle. That's the least of your problems, though. You've produced as blatant a chain of nonsense as I've seen in a while. Why the offices? Why the high-pitched receptionist? Why the strong giantess? Why does the giantess look like Devin's ex? Why is Ronmoth a spider? Why the implication of immortality? Why does Ronmoth throw Devin out the window? It's monkeycheese. Surrealism without any meaning. Good for you if you're a troll, since the alternative is that you see this as serviceable storytelling. There's a chance there is a concept, are connections and allusions that escape me, yet if so they're so obscure that it doesn't actually matter.

*****

Carl Killer Miller, "His Same Story": My understanding is that although Cardenas is named as a detective at first, it is in fact the man he's interrogating, Allan Gold, who is the detective; Cardenas's memories are being reset after each incompetent interrogation attempt in order to eventually finagle the truth out of him, because he is in fact the man who burned his family alive. It's a convoluted premise, and it doesn't hold up. For starters, I'm skeptical a court would accept evidence gained by tampering chemically with the suspect's mind, but even if it would, why should Cardenas be cast as the detective and not interrogated himself? Wouldn't this technique make a lot more sense if it worked as first described? Answer: Yes. Yes, it would. Therefore things unfold as they do only for the sake of the crappy twist. Contrivance is the bane of the twist ending: few twists will please when logic has to be tortured in order for them to happen.


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Week 208: Upper-Class Tweet of the Year


Jonked, "Happyville": This reminds me some of the company-retreat section of Player Piano. Vonnegut never had Paul rape a prostitute, however. (Spoilers?) Your premise of blackmail-via-rape-tape is too dark to be easy humor fodder, and your punchline is too lame to pull it off. It doesn't help that Frank is so blase. An rear end in a top hat finds himself in the perfect job under criminal rear end in a top hat bosses. Huzzah! Yeah, not really. To be clear, the rape isn't the key issue: blackmailing Frank with murder or armed robbery or anything else serious would have had a similar effect on the joke, i.e. deflating it, and if the joke worked this would still be too long and insufficiently charming.

*****

Sitting Here, "And so the Orchid": This is stronger as a piece of writing than it is as a story, yet there is a story present. A sketch of the old man, his garden, and the dying world is drawn around the figure of the orchid, which I feel is the center of things because the voice telling this story chooses it for a focus. It's the point on which the eye lingers while life goes on in the periphery. Orchids are beautiful. The life transpiring within these three hundred words is not. Does the narrative eye fix on the orchid as a hope, a scrap of paradise in a broken, burning existence, or is the orchid one of the shallow, short-lived things we cherish while horrors go ignored outside? That's without getting into whether the orchid controlled events or not. There's a lovely ambiguity here. I would be less impressed with it if you hadn't been so limited in your word count, I expect, but you met the challenge with such aplomb that I have to applaud.


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Week 209: WHAT DO YOU GET A DOME THAT HAS EVERYTHING??


Zerbra23, "Breakfast Time": That thing you did, copying your story into your post twice? Don't do that. Someone speculated you repeated the story on purpose to fit in with your cyclical theme. I don't think so, given the broken code bits, and I hope not since a formatting mistake would be a less severe error of judgment than handwaving the TV magically repairing itself, etc. Looking just at the first copy, then, I see issues with your prose--the first paragraph goes beyond purposefully vague into the realm of incoherence--but your concept? Not bad. Not at all bad. The self-repairing bracelet weakens it, but I kind of, sort of like this anyway once the worst problems are boiled off. I would regret your loss if the proofing weren't so sloppy and if suspicions that you did intend the doubled text as a "clever" trick didn't linger.

*****

Jitzu_the_Monk, "The Ascension of Paul VI: What The Vatican Doesn’t Want You to Know": Up until BRV's vision of Mary, I like neither him nor the story. He doesn't care or think about humanity or its concerns. He isn't fit to be Pope. His speech doesn't sell me on vernacular Mass, yet I'm told this speech is so moving that nearly everyone else cried. My sympathy is not with BRV, and this is the sort of story that depends on the reader siding with the character, so the entire first half gets more grating as I read on--a situation the preachy speeches don't help. (Regarding BRV's speech, it's difficult to write a speech that's meant to be incredibly powerful in-world. Glossing over it without giving the exact words would be one option. Mostly I wish you didn't try to tell me how I'm supposed to feel about it.) For all my distaste for the setup and rising action, however, the pope battle--although absurd and more than slightly anime--is at least interesting. BRV wins with dirty pool by taking advantage of Montini's reverence for Mary. I forgive him because by this point he's accepted (even if he had to be told what he should have seen for himself) that he should not be Pope and that compromise is the way to achieve what he wants for his people. Honestly? I'm still not that sympathetic; I don't know how much compromising I'd do in Montini's place, but your finale allows both characters to be both right and wrong, and it lands well enough that I believe it could be a good story after some work on the ground floor.


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Week 210: Crit Ketchup Week


Vinny Possum, "The Sixth Sun": It's the ship battle comprising two thirds of the story that reminds me so much of "Vambraces at Sea." All that action, and I have no idea who Ines and Laura are, why they're fighting, why I should care. Nor am I clear on those things at the story's end. Suddenly Ines is up on a rigging, looking down from an impossible perspective to see, I infer, a corrupt world. (Not buying the singing Mormons as on par with the rest, by the by.) Her answer is to blow up the world and rise above its ruin as the daughter of an Aztec god. Okay. Sure. Multiple paragraphs of sabers and flintlock pistols were definitely necessary for that ending. It's a potentially interesting ending and plot, but it needs more and earlier focus on the Aztec element and the sisters' mission--some hint at least of why they're fighting so that doesn't come right out of nowhere.

*****

Ironic Twist, "Decaf": My reservations are all tied to the ending. Great though it is as a visual, I don't buy that boiling coffee could dissolve lips. You need some sort of acid. It's a point that doesn't change the significance of the ending or overall gist of the story, yet it distracts me to the point my opinion of the whole drops noticeably. Mend that somehow and it would be hard to find fault with your look at the horrors of losing one's distinct self, punctuated beautifully by propaganda statements that are terrible for their truth.

*****

Thranguy, "Special Sauce": Okay, writing about condiments in Ketchup Week gets a :golfclap:. A shame there's not much else I like here. The red honey reminds me of the red honey in Sunless Sea, a resemblance that doesn't work out to your benefit since I prefer the game's treatment of the transposed-experience-within-a-drug concept. The real trouble is that beyond the concept, you don't have much. Your druggie protagonist starts out a mercenary rear end in a top hat and ends a mercenary rear end in a top hat. Nothing stands in the way of his honey theft. Possibly he's meant to have had a shift in priorities; he might want those revolutions as much as the money in the end, if you assume his own Orchestra experience affected him. He thinks about the world needing revolution briefly--but it's barely a flicker. You need to emphasize that rather more if you're intending to show a change, and if you're not, why not? Without a change or any swerves on the path from Goal A to Achievement B, this is as tepid as mayonnaise left out on the counter.


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Week 211: Next-Best-Friend Week


s7indicate3, "That Much he Knew": The Hebrew line asking why I bother to translate it leaves me wondering why I should bother to think about this story. Contempt for close readers would be weird on your part, so let's assume it's a joke that doesn't land and continue. The (inconsistent) tense of the piece is peculiar in the highest. Almost as strange--strange already being a recurring theme at this point--is a protagonist who actively resists having a story happen to him. “Just a glass of a water and then I hop back into this here bed again and continue staring at the ceiling, achieving nothing and having nothing done to me” reads completely like you're taking the piss. More oddities: Mr. Kooenig/Koeenig's name has multiple spellings; he's referred to by his initials; this insanely boring man is supposed to be an incubus; either his sexual partner or his daughter is a "pet," given the prompt; the helpful creature the prompt requires never appears in person; vocal cords are plucked; L.K.'s rim receives multiple mentions; and you imagine this story makes sense in any way. To be fair, it could. Maybe. A man waking to the knowledge of his hidden nature is a potentially powerful premise. If Lars didn't spend paragraphs being as boring as possible so I might have a small chance of caring about him, if the woman in the photograph were the creature that came to claim him, then you'd be more on track toward a tale worth telling or reading.

*****

Carl Killer Miller, "Nature Abhors a Vacuum.": The demon of alcoholism is neither a pet nor helpful! Argh, CKM, you had to fail the prompt as hard as possible in a week when your prose was pretty good and your idea decent. I won't call it strong because your protagonist beats off the devils and temptations too quickly, too readily for their power to be felt. It's a heavy-handed piece, though so much an improvement in terms of grace over your past anvillicious stories that I see the good more than the bad. I doubt you'd have come close to a DM in the majority of TD weeks. You earned this one by neglecting everything Twist required, sadly.

*****

SurreptitiousMuffin, "Ig, from Beyond": Good lord. How did you not know better? All right, yes, I see the idea: anxiety is Samantha's companion, and it "helps" her by making the peaceful moments in her life seem better by comparison. You hammer hard on this notion. You don't convince me, though. Telling someone she's worthless garbage is not helping her. Embracing abuse is no happy ending. Defying abuse, sure, and I wonder if you would have stuck to that route if the prompt hadn't demanded the companion be a helpful one--the Moral of the Story as delivered by Samantha isn't an organic fit. What you say about anxiety here, aside from that whole be-grateful-for-that-guy-who-tells-you-you're-garbage thing, is worth the saying (I read it as anxiety can goad you to act, it doesn't have to control you, and it brings a greater appreciation of every moment without self-doubt), but it suits this prompt like spats suit a snake.

*****

sebmojo, "Jane Air": A fantastic start to a story. It loses traction about when Melanie imagines her lip ballooning, because that bit reads so like you're reminding us that, hey, there's a griffin here. In accordance with the prompt, all right? You see it? Griffin? Yes. But of course things really fall apart when Melanie opens the door, and griffin, and flying, and old furniture smells, and what is up with that? You didn't finish this, and you know it. The weak stab at an end you've slapped on is so bad I'd almost rather read an postscript about how you didn't have time to finish. (Almost.) The part you had time to work on is good enough you could maybe have won if the second half had matched it in charm, but it turns out that just doesn't matter when your McGriffin flies face-first into a brick wall.


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Week 212: Vice News


Some Strange Flea, "Purely Coincidental": Implicitly murdering a real, contemporary person in your TD story is fairly off-putting. Would that you'd followed the advice to remove Daniel Radcliffe and write about a generic actor. The story would be a wreck anyway, mind you, what with the invisible tit-grabbing, the characters with grunts for names, their choice of money-raising scheme, the STEFAN ( :wtc: ), the current-moment scenes set in italics ( :wtc: :wtc: ), Arg defying physics with the bread knife through his nose (I'm going to hit the emoticon limit at this rate), Arg deciding he's Voldemort for no reason, Em happily dying if it means going viral, and basically everything else. Your phrasings are bizarre. What sort of crappy blocking is "Their blood-soaked hand emerged from over Arg's shoulder, wrapped its fingers around the hilt of the knife, and pulled"? The piece leaves me deeply suspicious that your headline defeated you, and you threw up your hands, said, "Screw it," and decided to be as nonsensical as your heart could ever desire. You almost have to try to be this off.

*****

Lazy Beggar, "Gam Zu l'Tovah": You've been around too long to still be formatting things this way. Otherwise, the trouble is that this is a situation and not a story, heavily burdened with the exposition that reminds me of the premise and your research in almost every line. You might as well have written a page about Jews in Sudan in a social studies textbook. Important dialogue is glossed over--I speculate your instinct may have been to avoid preachy characters by summarizing the things they said, but your summaries are still infodumps and provide zero sense of the speakers' personalities. That's still better than having characters lecture each other, maybe, but the difference is slight. Ibrahim's dilemma and the state of his life remains essentially the same at the end as at the outset: life is getting uncomfortable for Sudanese Jews, his friends have left, it would make the most sense to leave, but he wants to stay. That destination isn't worth a 1,200-word journey when the words are dull. "He found that his family had not suffered due the swift increase in antisemitism" embodies some of the problems: i's expository, it's dry, and it reassures the reader that nothing of note has happened.


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Week 213: Punked Out


Schneider Heim, "Test Flight": I look back at your entry for Eurovision Week II, I look at this, and I shake my head. Maybe a DM back then would have brought the point about the dullness of anime robot battles in flash-fiction form home. This whole thing is a fight between giant-robot-anime cliches and one about which I have no reason to care. Robot attack moves are more uninteresting than I can express. Worst, perhaps, is that to-be-continued conclusion that doesn't conclude a friggin' thing. Will Noa convince the mysterious Devil Blue to fight with him/her for the good of humanity??? Stay tuned! No, thanks. You can write, but your talent can't salvage this; it's action, boring action, and only boring action. That dullness is its principle sin explains both how it was no judge's first loss choice and how it became the consensus candidate.

*****

Daeres, "One Hundred and Twenty One Again": Terrible. A fun sort of terrible, though. Your formatting is more bollocks than your protagonist, and you have a ridiculous proportion of dialogue to Things Actually Happening. The conflict comes in too late and is flatly silly. My investment in this odd, artisanal-everything future is nil--you've spent most of the story building up Rod's character, so a climax centered on the doctors and the setting plays your weakest hand. Possibly you know it! "The more I think, the more poorly thought out this is!" points to the inanity of the blackmail in blazing neon. I enjoy Rod Bollocks punching the robot into oblivion with a homemade electrified gauntlet, but I sure do wish I'd had to sit through less of the robot and the doctors to get there. I thought when I first read this that for anything else to have lost was crazy. Now I've warmed slightly to its goofy heart.

*****

CaligulaKangaroo, "BlazinTrees.exe": This treatment of future memes is better than Obliterati managed in memestory. Although I'd like to see a VR future without anime and furries all over it--I sincerely doubt most avatars would be anthropomorphized animals, but maybe that's due to a faith in the human race I should have shed long ago--yours is a meme, meme world, so okay. I just don't think this is nearly as interesting as you want it to be. The mildly dickish protagonist and his pony gold don't bring much to the table, although I understand that somewhat since he's serving as the reader's stand-in. The terrorists' plan? That's where everything crumbles and burns. The protagonist reflects on how exclusive these MetaNet cultures are. He can't ask questions, or people will know he doesn't belong. They don't welcome outsiders. So why are a large number of these same people trying to force tons of outsiders to learn their language, erasing the shibboleths that let them hold themselves distinct? How does that make sense? How do they think this would work? It's absurd; it's stupid; the protagonist learns nothing and changes in no way, although that's less of a flaw. The prose is mostly just fine, even good. What you do with it makes this the story I enjoy least, though I'm not sure at this point that you would have gotten my loss vote over Schneider if I'd been in the chamber.

*****

Karia, "Mushrooms in London": Your setting, I dig. A Glucose Revolution? England powered by mushrooms? Troubleshooting problems via scent? You have my attention. I like your world so much that most of the exposition running rampant passes below my radar. (I'd cut the paragraph starting with "Still, it hadn't prevented the city," however. None of that matters.) It's a bitter disappointment that the story stops dead on the "twist"--the very dull twist--that someone has been growing magic mushrooms. Who? Why? Since when? How did they get them, and how did they plant them under the noses of the other techs? I'll never know! A mystery is introduced practically in the final line and left to rot, and this is all you do with your awesome premise. It's a terrible waste.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 17:18 on Dec 23, 2016

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Week 214: THUNDERDOME ALL-STAR TRIBUTE


Daeres, "Intense Heat": I'd like to know why an obsidian triangle that plays "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy," of all things, is in the Samoan rainforest. Check that, actually: I don't want to know, which is a testimony to how dumb that is. There's no reason the stone should be there, no reason it should be playing Tchaikovsky, no reason the golems should respond to it the way they do--nothing makes sense! You let your music genre strangle you. I imagine, though I can't speak for Rhino or the other judges, that if the golems had spun and leapt and danced as they worked, that would have shown adequate ballet influence. You'd still have the problem of Itinga lacking personality, and it would still seem as though she'd stepped out of some other story. My hunch says she's a character you've worked with before. The hints of a larger story around her that don't lead anywhere leave this one looking a little more ragged. You'd still need an even slightly logical source for the golems; a human mage creating them for whatever reason might be cliche (it would depend on the reason!), but that would give the story an antagonist. What if the wizard were a retired dancer himself, looking to create the perfect troupe without concern for the destruction of the trees? Would Itinga have to kill him or could a compromise be reached? The obsidian and the Tchaikovsky score are losses, but there's potential in the ballet golems if you'd like to revise the piece.

*****

CaligulaKangaroo, "Jean and Milan": You know what impresses me most? Jean and Morgan escaped prison violently, Morgan's a drug dealer, and neither is the least repentant, but you get me to root for them anyway. Jean has his tragic backstory, but it doesn't whitewash what he's done. Even Tyler Milan--despite helping these fugitives in exchange for cocaine--is a bit of a good guy, contributing to an ending that's messed up and heartwarming at the same time, rather like the rest of the story. The humor's on point; the proofing and the delivery of Morgan's backstory are weaker spots that could use attention. I like this a lot, overall, and it's a delight to see the prose powers that couldn't save "BlazinTrees.exe" at work in something much stronger.

*****

llamaguccii, "God's Window": I wish this were your first story of assholes being assholes and accomplishing rear end in a top hat goals without repercussions, but I've checked out your debut entry and now I know it isn't. The crustpunk piece is horror, at least. This is... what? A merry tale of the exploitation of a native populace by confidence men who are into disco? What the heck is the point? The story gleefully underlines how incompetent and eeeeeeeevil Cisco and Toni are, but to no obvious purpose. Marqi is drawn as a bloody idiot. It would border on trite if he killed Cisco and Toni for their plans to ruin his people, but it would be a lot more satisfying than C&T getting away with it, the end; and it might justify the time I've spent reading this. I can only guess your goal was to point at some douchebags, but douchebag things are done by douchebags is a message so weak that a newborn kangaroo could beat it up.

*****

Fuschia tude, "Stretching Silver": I can't say much for your explicit use of the fascinating Camino de Santiago as a setting. Without the extratextual assumption that Rodrigo and Luis are hiding the body of St. James--why?--there's precious little of the Way to be seen. Only the scallop shells traditionally worn by pilgrims. Your use of the music is stronger, and that is saying something given that nizhonot is limited to an overt, offhand reference that adds nothing to the piece. I cringe at the brothers'--sorry, brazzers'--dialect. And yet. If I assume Craig Billings is out to discover lost history more than to defraud Spain of treasure, I sympathize with him; I like him; I'm interested in his quest and his adventure; I'm sorry he gets murdered. I'm especially sorry if he gets murdered over the sunken silver, which you'd think the brazzers would have taken and spent if they'd found it. Dialect aside, I enjoy this considerably more than the other DMs. I understand why the judges would hold the bungled prompts against you, however.

*****

Schneider Heim, "Soul/Off": Well, it's not an anime battle. There aren't any robots. The conclusion is reasonably conclusive, and the characters have (repellant) character. I'd like to call it a solid step up from your previous entry, but a try at humor that flops this hard is almost worse to read than something boring. I can live with Funky's role among the tribe, harem and all, if those people genuinely value him--it's arguably exploitation, but enh. I'm not comfortable assuming native people can't think for themselves and must have made him chief because of naivete. On the other hand, there's the mind-raping sax music.... Joleen treating those villagers like they're the rats or children to her Pied Piper of Hamelin is gross. Full stop. That she does it to force her father to live as she thinks he should, another teaspoonful of gross atop the pile. Like llamaguccii, you have an rear end in a top hat being an rear end in a top hat without comeuppance, but unlike in llamaguccii's story, I think I'm maybe supposed to sympathize with this woman who threatens to throw a child off a cliff to get her way. She's the protagonist! Good grief, what if this isn't meant to be absurd and funny? Would that be better or worse? I don't know. I do know that it's turned out so poorly whatever the intent that you're lucky not to have netted two losses in a row.


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Week 215: El sueño de la razón produce el Thunderdome


mycatisnorris, "Claudia and the Black Wood": Neither the happy ending nor the portrayal of Claudia's mother and the villagers as the villains of the piece are effective. Claudia hears voices in her mind. They hound her, keep her from sleep, consume her life, "[burrow] through her like maggots through meat," and show precisely zero concern for her or her happiness during her childhood. Not buying them as the good, loving figures despite their grotesque bodies. Nope. Was I not intended to? The prompt does ask that stories be unsettling, so is the discordance between Claudia's reaction to Them and what They have done purposeful? It's possible, but the use of joyful in the conclusion leaves me with doubts. The impression created is of something bungled. The plot as a whole is something of a fantasy staple and predictable as such, and I wouldn't mind more of a look at what Claudia thinks and how Claudia feels.

*****

Thranguy, Twenty Questions and a Door Slammed Shut : Good show avoiding telling an interesting story. Megan's relationship with Malik, interesting. Barely explored due to the chosen format. Malik's motivation for killing Mr. Carr, interesting. Not even hinted at thanks to the chosen format. Whether Malik even did it or Megan is correct that he couldn't, interesting. No answer to that because of the chosen format. You're probably getting the idea. I don't know who Megan is, how she thinks, what she feels. I don't know who Malik is. I don't know diddly squat except that Megan's pregnant by a maybe-angel-maybe-devil (maybe-wizard-angel-vampire-demon-from-the-past-future, who knows) and that a priest would like her to admit she banged Satan so her hellchild won't melt under holy water. That isn't enough. The ambiguity isn't compelling in and of itself. The stuff of a fine story is here, but you've thrown most of it aside for the sake of another ill-advised format experiment when eviscerating story for format's sake is exactly backward! The good character voices of Lieutenant Driver and Brother Thurgen (but not Dr. Poliver) don't make up for everything that's lacking.

*****

Electric Owl, "And the House is On Fire": For trying to do something and say something with the gross goony-goon stereotype seen previously in such Thunderdome stories as "LYSANDER, THE MIGHTY AXE," "The Murder of Camper Lee," and "The Story of Salt," this earns more of my respect than any of the above. I like elements of what it seems to be trying to do. Pirtz has survived a childhood of abuse with the help of an imaginary friend, possibly a secondary personality; as the story begins that friend is back in his head, grown up and sexualized. Yet if he and she have sex, it's barely worth a thought even in Pirtz's own mind. She is the person who understands him, and he needs understanding. He lives on an island composed of his bed and his chair, surrounded by an ocean of garbage he has created through his grotesquerie. He's nearly immobile. (Which invites the question of where any of his food comes from.) His life centers on a camwhore who obviously reminds him of his blue-haired dream girl. But he still needs to burn himself to feel pleasure, so deep is his self-loathing, the same self-loathing that has created the island and the sea and his obese body that barely moves. And in the end, he dies--maybe?--amidst a conflagration of his own making, happy on some level to do it. There's something to all that, a look into what abuse can do to the abused and what the abused can do to himself. It's still unpleasant reading! Not just in the sense of unsettling, either. Gross characters being gross is a challenging sell even when there's a reason for it. The last section is ambiguous, furthermore. The direct addresses to the reader--the first of which I like, the second not so much--tell me that Pirtz dropped the match by accident (okay; maybe he didn't have the momentum for active destruction and continued his passive destruction to the end) and that he then sat and roasted to death, aroused by the demise he's courted for so much of his life. Sure, I'll buy that. But then why the sentence about trying to run, tripping, and falling? Did you mix up latter and former, in which case Pirtz actively sought death but then bolted from it? I could buy that, too, though I prefer the former for not making Pirtz's death a sad joke, and I'm not sure which is more accurately implied by the mention of momentum. It's an important point. You might have lost even if this ending worked, but I think, for what it's worth, this was infinitely more worth writing than that thing with the incubus and succubus and rims.

*****

llamaguccii, "Ablaze": That's a strong first line, I'll give you that, but it isn't worth spoiling the events of the story or the exposition required to connect it to the event itself. It definitely isn't worth the advent of completely pointless and illogical murder. Killing the boy I understand, stealing the mules I understand (N.B. it's spelled steeds), standing around sniffing the burning pig hair I don't understand, but barricading the doors isn't so much incomprehensible as idiotic. What's in it for them to murder some more children, and while I'm asking questions, who the hell brings their infant into a barn fire? It's another tale of assholes doing rear end in a top hat things with no comeuppance, and this time the rear end in a top hat things don't even have sound motivation. I'm not unsettled. I'm rolling my eyes at the random, aimless eeeeeevil. You could try telling this story through the eyes of the family if you wanted a horror piece; that would at least increase the pathos. Or the father or mother could survive, kill the raiders, and be left with nothing for utter tragedy.


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Week 216: Historical Redemption (or: Sin, Lizzie)


Boaz-Jachim, "Seeking gold, he wakes the dragon": Taking the Lovecraft route in a Massachusetts setting is clever enough. The style you've chosen builds boredom more than tension. There's no clear reason for the stone to create only one copy of each grain of gold at the outset, considering there are surely more possible paths for each grain than two, but to grow in power (how?) later; questioning these things is picking nits, but your protagonist's slow, scientific approach kind of asks for it. Most critically, what am I meant to get out of this story? I know the prompt, so I can surmise that the concept is that someday the stone the protagonist buries creates a multiplicity of Lizzie Bordens who both murder her father and stepmother and are innocent. Without that, I'd be left with "A man experiments on a magic rock, maybe has sex with his client, buries the rock, and walks away." (Why the sex implication? Why does he rave like a madman? Why are these possibilities? Do they say something about him or about the rock? Probably the rock, to exonerate Lizzie, but there's nothing to tell me within the text itself.) Even with it, it's a rather long and boring set-up for "A magic rock did it" as the answer. You maybe got caught up in being clever and forgot few stories stand on that feature alone.

*****

llamaguccii, "The Munster Monster": The police-report formatting isn't successful on the whole--too dry, too distracting when 1995 abruptly becomes 1905--but from the December 10, 1989 entry to the July 30, 1992 entry, I see some virtue in it. The details in the reports sketch the shape of what's not in the reports in a grim and suitably intriguing way. That approach doesn't make for good reading at length. It erases personality from everyone involved; it doesn't allow for anything but terse sentences, matter-of-fact stuff; and the last entry would not ever be in any sort of report. You betray your own concept. Your answer to the Lizzie Borden mystery is less satisfying than Boaz-Jachim's: "This cardboard character I made up did it." The motivation he had for killing the Bordens doesn't seem important, either, when the other reports suggest he probably would have killed them anyway for fitting his pattern.

*****

SurreptitiousMuffin, "Lizzy Borden loved her father (some doors even the devil won’t open)": Spelling Lizzie's name that way is a good example of one of my beefs with this. It reads enough like a take on the real Bordens that the places you haven't done your research jar me. I can't find evidence the Bordens were German, Lizzie's sister isn't mentioned in the piece, what I've read and seen on TV leaves me doubtful Lizzie would think of Abby as her mother--small points that add up and build an impression of sloppiness. Mind that not everybody cares as much about accuracy in historicals. The other matter is how predictable this is, though it's still clever. Hasse tür, ja ja is a good enough twist to maybe justify the German thing, but how the story will unfold otherwise is obvious the instant Andrew sells his soul. You deserve this win; it's not your most striking work.

*****

SkaAndScreenplays, "Terrible Purpose: 1199 Words": Here's another story set to confuse if you don't read it with the prompt already in mind. Will that business about the jingle make sense in that case? Probably not! The "good deed" is too vague in any event. Was killing the Bordens somehow part of his penitence for being Jack the Ripper? (What a question.) The Borden murders took place only four years later. I guess if he met Justice and went off on his perpetual penance tour right away, maybe, only that leaves what the Bordens did to rate axe murder unanswered, and "Jack the Ripper did it!" is at once the most creative and the dumbest of the various explanations on offer. You spend more time on lackluster banter between Charles and Justice than on his killing spree. "They made two more stops and killed two more people." Look at that, SkaAndScreenplays. Is that fascinating? Or is that a writer racing to beat the word count and making somebody's immortal punishment sound like a mundane grocery run? Your proofing is ghastly and your final line unfortunate, introducing a will-he-won't-he ambiguity that can't be interesting because Charles isn't interesting. It all points to a time-management crisis on top of ideas that maybe weren't planned out too well from the outset.


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Week 217: SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIORS, ATTACK!


llamaguccii, "Generations of Squander": Not the first time you've jumped to something from late in your story to provide a strong opening line, and not the first time that's failed you. You've given away the end in the beginning. You've also missed the spirit of the prompt some, I think: a boy is the shining star around which the climax and situation revolves. Hell, the very stilted conversation Agatha and Heidi have is, in truth, about a boy, though they don't know it at the time--I wouldn't say it passes the Bechdel, though that's more a problem with the Bechdel than with the story. I can tell you're trying for horror, but some of your lines shade toward purple: "the initial explosion from the dog food manufacturing plant that belched heinous clouds of black terror" is both lilac and unintentionally (probably) funny. The phrase "the governor had emitted a volatile substance" is so clinical it fails to convey what the witnesses, much less the governor, felt when that happened. Rodrigo stands stock still with a melting arm for too long. It doesn't read to me like this is happening to a person. Hitting the right notes with horror is difficult, so keep practicing. I end up not liking this story, but it shows some range and ambition on your part, so I'm not sorry you tried it.

*****

Teeny Zucchini, "Blood Of The Moon": The first section is traditional mil-SF fare, but it's not bad! I'm a sucker for starship captains commanding loyal crews. The interactions between the good guys, right down to Norris and the crewmen rescuing Thessalia and Maura so that the loyalty matters, are fun and engagingly drawn. I could wish Yamamoto weren't such an idiot. Bringing prisoners of war on board without expecting trouble, when Aegis apparently has a reputation? Thessalia's plan goes off too easily--if everyone on the Leviathan is so unprepared to fight, how did they win the battle in the first place? It's a hole, and a large one. I'm not crazy about Maura and Yamamoto having a History either, a cliche that does lend Yamamoto some personality, but the personality is cliche also. I want to like the story a bit more than I ultimately do. However, the overall balance falls on the positive side.

*****

Maigius, "An Ordinary Day": Oh, boy. I understand. I do. (I think.) You aren't trying to make your story a pointless waste of time with the last line, you're implying that Valkyrie life is so full of battle and dragons and testing awesome weapons that for them the extraordinary is ordinary. Alas! Your portrayal of those things is as thrilling as sawdust, and the extraordinary becomes ordinary in all the wrong ways. Detailed spear QA? I don't care! Tell me more about weretigers and less about how far the spear point pierces! Explain why there are weredeer in Valhalla! Stop treating all of this like it's the game of a very bored child! "The friendly fire did not matter anyway. Everyone would be revived at sunset." You would have killed the story here if it had ever come to life. Underlining that nothing going on matters is generally lethal.

*****

The Cut of Your Jib, "Why Chrome is Home": You've hit metal. You've hit the Bechdel. The story has two settings, Shallow Mode and Heartfelt Emotion Mode, each of which I like better apart than together. Shallow Mode includes zooming out of a converted missile tube to slice up zombie men from the back of a motorcycle--dumb, illogical, but a lot of fun if you're into that; for my money it also includes remembering the time you met that hot chick and wanted to put your finger in her butt crack. What the hell is that. It could be more effective at convincing me this relationship is based on love, I tell you what. Roz's death scene (flashback aside) twists the dial hard toward Heartfelt Emotion Mode, and it's effective, but it doesn't feel that connected to the zombie-killing hijinks; too, the bond between them is more told--insisted on--by Ruby than shown. Something is missing there. The final stretch and its attempt to combine the two modes has a forced ring. Everything is written well, though. Your good piece will be an awesome one if you can better meld its different aspects.


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Week 218: Duel Nature


Beige, "Screen test": Aiyaiyai, I can't get behind the notion this is the worst of the week, but I'm at a loss for why anyone would endure the casting couch for your male lead's sake. His behavior is too ridiculous to be tragic, though I think tragedy is what you were going for. My take is that he holds himself in contempt after his failures in his chosen field. He doesn't understand what his much more successful love still sees in him. To keep her, then, he behaves the way he did when they first met, not seeming to understand that she loves him and not just one long-soured aspect of him. Yet he knows not even that deep down that this aspect is scarcely worth loving, so his downward spiral continues--and meanwhile she wants to see him have his dream so much that his self-sabotage breaks her heart, but at the same time she'll help him along on the destructive path because she sees no other way to help him. They each give up the wrong thing for each other: "The Gift of the Magi," retold. Is that the gist? Assuming it is, it could be a strong story in the right hands. Those hands would have to cut away the moments when he's an absolute, unbelievable clown and make the final message a tad more graceful than a sledgehammer. Maybe yours are the hands. You won't know unless you try.

*****

Daeres, "First Contact": At least elder gods from the depths of space aren't stuck in a sitcom this time. Just alien hiveminds. Meaning the entire sentient consciousness of entire species, I gather. An entire species spends years, for some reason, trying to reach humanity for first contact (and I know it's humanity from the word go; there would be no reason to tell the story otherwise), only to get so pissy at the other entire species that finds its cutesy-poo antics somewhat wearing that it wipes out that other species and itself in a temper tantrum. I consider that for two seconds and kind of want to die. Probably it's intended to be humorous instead of exasperating and pointless and banal, like that Jocoserious story, and it flops for similar reasons--though I didn't dislike either of Jocoserious's Cthulhu Dads as much as I do the Aemete. The saga of Rod Bollocks wasn't as funny as it wanted to be either, but it had something this piece lacks and desperately needs: a bit of heart.


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Week 219: coz wer goffik


Hammer Bro., "The Graveyard King": It's every bit as legitimate and fair to mock left-wing concepts and causes as it is to mock right-wing politics, though I question your talent for gauging your audience--your odds of hitting a trio of judges sympathetic to something like this are not great! Since this is the sort of heavy-handed, on-the-nose piece that amuses the choir but is more likely to alienate and irritate readers outside of it, that's a relevant concern. This isn't the least subtle. Or particularly clever. Ham-fisted satire and smug mockery lack charm no matter the source or the target; I say this as someone with no particular fondness for Tumblr or safe spaces. There's also zero Gothic horror in sight, for a cemetery does not a Gothic story make. The wonder is that you didn't lose. However. Although I can't see a way to make this fit the prompt without a complete rewrite, I believe you could make it a more convincing fable if that were a thing you wanted to do. Strip the direct references to safe spaces and Black Lives Matter and focus on the conflict between Nezz, who works hard, and the gremlins, who don't but want to live off those who do; pull a goofy, graveyard-set "Little Red Hen" or "Ant and the Grasshopper," and you'll have a chance to make the point that I think is at the heart of this story without pissing off everyone who will currently sympathize with your antagonists. If message isn't your goal, then more subtlety in your satire would probably still make it funnier. If you're not wed either to satire or a moral, you could just tell a story about Nezz running businesses, because he's fairly cool when he's away from the gremlins.

*****

widespread, "The Thirst of the Land": "After a brief handshake, the two men shook hands." Where's that image of the unimpressed elder gentleman when I need it? Can't say I'm much more enthusiastic about the vagueness surrounding your concept. The main character barters his soul to become... a tour guide? A museum docent? But also to provide energy for the city? This process will consume the person that he is, yet it's something he can in theory do again. Is his soul replaced with another? What does the elder ocean god have to do with energy? Would that part make more sense if I knew more about the Carlsbad region? I'd like to find out where he ends up working; that could answer some of my questions. In short, your ideas are too nebulous and don't cohere into a solid shape, and I'm too busy doubting you know how any of this works either to feel the chills. There's promise in it, though--maybe if you simplify matters so that he's either going to become a docent or a gallon drum of fuel and then tailor the rest of the story around your choice (focusing on the elder ocean god's contract with the city in the latter case, his future state as a tourism zombie in the former) you'll have something good. It could be worth a try!

*****

Electric Owl, "Toronto Gothic": Your entry has a faint Gothic flavor, and there's power in the betrayal of a maimed man who wishes to be saved by the priest he trusted to lead him into righteousness. The execution isn't totally pants. I'm fond of the sentence The feeling of walking around with a morbid story where your arm should be. Father Archibald's initial behavior on meeting Nub may be, and I hope it is, a subtle clue that something isn't right about him: he makes Nub dependent on him instantly by suggesting that no, really, you have to use the right hand. No allowance can be made for the maimed. (I'm not up on my theology, but I think Christ might understand.) On the down side--and unfortunately the down side is rather larger than the up--the character of Stephen is a distraction, and his eventual death is stupid and weightless. A pentagram? Am I supposed to believe the corrupt priest got Nub to carve a pentagram in a man for some reason after Nub fled from his murder of his brother? Or did he carve it himself? Why? You could, maybe with a little tweaking and maybe even without, end with Nub lost in the snow and have a satisfying conclusion: he thought himself found who now is lost. That would also let you drop the phone number that currently has too many digits to exist.

*****

BeefSupreme, "Member's Only": A small corner of my mind wonders whether you'd have lost without that aggravating apostrophe. I don't know that your story's that bad. The opening's clumsy, sure, and Nathan carries the Idiot Ball for a bit by being unreasonably pushy in just the right way to get himself cursed, and Steve is fairly blase about refusing the creepy old man himself, and Nathan's run of bad luck reads like an ominous report on the consequences of breaking a chain letter, and nothing that happens to him is bad enough to turn this into horror or Kurt into more than a smug, manipulative rear end in a top hat--okay, it's bad. Missing the genre and instead telling a fairly rote evil fairy/witch story (as Kurt might as well be one) are the glaring faults. Saying that, I ask myself whether the notion that well-connected douchebags are the Danville equivalent of evil fairies is what you were driving at the whole time, an idea I like, in theory. Bullies being bullies and winning isn't much fun to read, though, even aside from the work's other problems.


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Week 220: Enter the Voidmart


Chairchucker, "Yeah, the Girls": Normally I dig the lightness of your work, but your story of standees is featherweight without being fun or funny. It reads like you're treading water. The first two scene breaks are pointless--you could pull the tildes, maybe move the last line of the first scene up to the preceding paragraph, and the story would flow just fine. The mannequin tower lacks purpose too, and that's a darned shame. I wish Margaret carried Lara Croft up the mannequin tower with the creeper in pursuit, and then she would make a Croft-like jump to a ceiling rafter or some such and the PUA would be buried alive in plastic women whose dressed state would ensure that he wouldn't enjoy it. You know what I mean? Margaret currently doesn't do much beyond getting her argument with the pervy dude resolved by Lucy Lawless. The whole situation isn't quite absurd enough. And the creeper is unsubtle and one-note, something of a disappointment. I've never hated anything of yours that I've read, and I don't hate this, but it's solidly meh.

*****

Beige, "Retail Therapy": Confused and confusing from the get-go, which I blame in part on the tense errors (presumably) that make it look as though Alexandra is greeted at the door after she's received the friendBOT--what strange capitalization--sales pitch. I'll be darned if I can tell whether Alexandra or Harmony is meant to be the protagonist. The opening says Alexandra; the conclusion says Harmony; the stuff in the middle says you tried to tell two stories at once and ended up with nothing satisfying. Does Alexandra have split personalities? Did she murder someone? What does her witchiness have to do with anything at all? While there's limited use in revising a Voidmart story, if you were to attempt it as an exercise you could try focusing on Harmony and the audit and moving Alexandra firmly into supporting-character status.

*****

contagonist, "Aisle Null": You are a recipient of that rare Thunderdome miracle by which stories that would rightfully lose many weeks are spared: somebody else screwed up but good. Your entry is in many ways more of a mess than llamaguccii's, but it's complete. It doesn't rush its ending. The end is even okay, more or less, because it implies that all the craziness we just saw is just another day for a Voidmart janitor. What's not okay: two pointless periphery characters who do nothing but ask about dicks (boring, time-wasting), another pointless periphery character whose role is to talk like a Western stereotype (ditto), mispunctuated dialogue (:argh:), the random naked purple hermaphrodite (why naked, except to further the cause of regular reports on the state of Jim's boner?), the regular reports on the state of Jim's boner, the she-he pronoun (I'm not personally offended by it, but it's tedious reading), the beetle that stands around waiting to be vanquished, and how little reason I have to care about any of the above. Ninety percent of Jim's characterization is based on what's in his pants. Giving you benefit of the doubt means assuming you're trying to write comedy, but the road to quantum boner hell is paved with good intentions.

*****

Guiness13, "All Paths Lead to the End": Transmission/diary format is a reasonably natural choice for this story, and there are places where it works. Day Six through Day Thirteen, excepting Day Eleven since that long passage doesn't read as much like someone talking into a machine, are effective. Day Twelve is my favorite part of the whole thing. I also like the mysterious postcard, which does more to tie the story to your flash rule than anything else. (Whether it does enough is another question. I say yes, but I understand why someone would say no.) However, the prose is--maybe unavoidably--dry. Ralph isn't complete cardboard, but the events don't show off much of his personality. The whole situation is stock horror to a degree, a problem I've had with your work before and will again. The end all but skips over the monster before sending Ralph running. I'm reminded, unfavorably, of the first Lovecraft story I read and how disappointed I was when it did the same thing. The final stretch doesn't work as a transmission, either. What's he doing talking at length when he's racing for his life and can't catch his breath? The conclusion is the fly in the soup for me, though the generic flavor is a negative factor too.

*****

ThirdEmperor, "Distractions": An excellent beginning trails off into the too-standard Voidmart tour. As with BeefSupreme's piece, I like your Voidmart, but I'd like a stronger story better, and your attempt to avoid infodumping by gradually, indirectly unveiling Ken's situation and goal semi-backfires. It's confusing and eats words. (That said, I like the idea. Maybe you only need more practice with this approach.) When Ken knocks the shelves down, the coherence of the story goes down with them. Why is Ken a trendsetter because of certain generic objects, and why is the manager suddenly attracted to him? Possibly those objects are distracting Ken from his insecurities--that would be clever!--but the manager's smile makes no sense, and an ending in which all Ken's problems are solved by someone else would be something of a letdown even were it completely logical.


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Week 221: The Escape of the Bad Words.


a friendly penguin, "Passenger Pigeon": Some guy gazes into his navel in traffic and gets himself and someone else killed. Instead of sympathizing with his frustrations with the rat race, I want to punch him. Pay attention to your life, man! Is that supposed to be the moral? I would like this more if I thought that were so, but I suspect I'm supposed to sigh over the waste of this self-centered git's existence. The "migratory pattern" metaphor might have gone somewhere; I wish there were more comparing of life to birds and less comparing of life to a highway. The latter is such a tired idea that I feel weary before the second paragraph closes.

*****

anime was right, "From Loaf to Crumbs": You didn't have to make your first paragraph such a significant barrier to understanding, and I get why the judges hit you for that, but if--if--I understand your story, it's a lovely thing at heart. My guess is that it tracks the deterioration of Richard's life and mind: he starts out with a wife(?), but she dies or leaves him. His son(?) kills himself, after which Richard sits by the lake alone. He visits the hospital(?) every day and comes to the bench afterward to keep feeding the ducks, and that routine is his one constant in a world that's falling away. Even when his mind breaks, the ducks are there. When he dies, the ducks wait for him in a heaven made up of the only peace he's ever found (so far as we know). I like all of this a lot, and I wish you'd done little things like clarifying who Johanna and Pat were to Richard so that your trail of breadcrumbs would have been easier to follow.

*****

Fleta Mcgurn, "Kotjebi": Good! I thought for a moment that the protagonist would turn out to be a bird in a lovely twist, and I probably like this a little bit more than I would otherwise for subverting my dread. It's still excellent work. The metaphor you employ is strikingly visual: I can see these kids fluttering, swooping, scattering. The detail of the protagonist taking her "sister's" belongings and leaving her corpse is a powerful tool for telling us how desperate the straits are. There's nothing you need to change, nothing negative for me to say.

*****

widespread, "Squawk at Night.": Have you heard the Good News about punctuating dialogue yet? Your sentences are awkward too. The second should have said had heard; "In the woman's mind" doesn't need to be in the third. A flashback doesn't particularly suit a story this short. Eyes don't wear bags. And the whole thing ends up being pointless! I guess there's a hint of a moral about not acting too hastily, but the flashback sequence doesn't seem connected to that.

*****

Crab Destroyer, "Cuckoo": I get the brood-parasitism metaphor, but what exactly is the point of this story? That some dude is a dick? You find a way within a 250-word limit to dwell too long on how blubbery the boy is and what a complete rear end the father is. It's a repetitive treatment of an idea somehow stretched too thin. Telling it from the boy's perspective might have given it some interest, at least, because the boy might have done something other than glory in being a douchebag.

*****

flerp, "Twittering Machines": I don't get much of whatever newtestleper and the other judges got out of this story. Too much of it reads like weird details stapled on for weird's sake. The one striking bit is the bird falling when the viewpoint character tells it what its limitations are. That's good stuff, drawing the boy/girl/whatever as someone who would rather bring others down to earth with him/her than try to fly with them. S/he strikes me as bitter. I don't like the second go-around as much as the first; everything after "No one can fly" is kind of weak, and I wonder why so many birds would give a drat what s/he thinks anyway. I dislike the PlayStation controllers as much as NTL likes them, and I'd cut them, which on its own would dial the forced weirdness down to a more fluidly strange level.

*****

Sitting Here, "Deep Sky": Beautiful. An art piece. In imagery and writing, this is the best of what I've read from this week, though the story could probably be stronger. At this word count it's hard to complain about that, but flerp and Fleta Mcgurn outdo you there. Your entry has the clearest message (there's always another perspective) but not much character depth. Despite this, I love the voice of the crow and individual lines like I spread my wings and descend toward the cold, blue rind of the world.

*****

Thranguy, "Fossils": Poignant. I would rather humanity be remembered for its brightest days, and I would rather be remembered myself for my singing than my weeping, so this resonated more strongly with me than many TD pieces of four times the length. Your sentences are elegant--though did you mean dirges for cousins?--and the small story of the break-up in the larger story of life provides the human touch that makes some of the best entries of this round stand out.

*****

steeltoedsneakers, "Birdsong": I agree with the message at the story's end and heart. I wish the presentation were less predictable and... yes, I'm going to call it trite. It shares problems with a friendly penguin's piece: it's an old idea with which you do nothing new, so the HM mystifies me a trifle. Your writing is nicer and you refrain from unmoving character deaths, so how you avoided a matching DM is at least no puzzle.

*****

ThirdEmperor, "Flying Machines": The imagery and ideas aren't bad, but they're all you have. A woman makes mistakes in making birds. Her newest creation breaks when it tries to fly. The end. Yes, and? I like the way you've written about these birds, but it's the wrong way for a story of this length. You need fewer details and more motion. What happens needs to matter.

*****

BeefSupreme, "Trickle-Down Economics": There might be some sort of message in play about rich people getting bronze statues while poor people get to clean the bird crap from them, I suppose. To which I say: Ennnnnh. This gets dumb when the bird shows up, especially when the only thing that happens is exactly what I knew would happen. It's too cartoonish to be taken seriously but not funny enough (read, at all) to make for a good light piece.

*****

Dr. Kloctopussy, "Junk": Why is the main character pumping breast milk when she's pregnant? Does she miscarry or have an abortion in the end? Who was Craig? An ex? A son? I can tell there's a story here, but it's more nebulous (though written better) than anime was right's entry. I can't put the pieces together for this one--I can make guesses at everything but why she was pumping milk in the first place. That's an utter mystery, and it makes me doubt my understanding of the rest.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 07:38 on Dec 22, 2016

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Week 222: Deliver Us From Bad Prompting


ZeBourgeoisie, "Creative Disobedience": A mild-toned story that swings into random body horror might as well be called the ZeBourgeoisie Special in these parts. I've seen you do it with your merman entry, with Butterman, with Madison, with the robo-blowjob, with the lizard sex, and again here. (Okay, maybe the lizard sex was plain horror.) It still doesn't work! A point is difficult to discern in this piece: Nathan receives karmic justice for being a douche about the vase, and that's fine as far as it goes, but what the hell is that business with John painting? It's the sort of nonsense twist that doesn't have detectable in-story logic behind it. It appears to exist for the sake of the melted lip and dissolving flesh. Those are striking visuals, but flerp wanted a story.

*****

The Cut of Your Jib, "Sky's Reprise": I thought after detangling the first paragraph that your entry was overwritten but intriguing. The second paragraph put paid to that intriguing bit. Your individual lines and possibly individual paragraphs have merit (though to be honest many of them appear to me to be wedged up their own posteriors), but the paragraphs don't cohere into a worthwhile sequence. Florid imagery is thrown around to not much purpose. All I'm getting from this is that a man's mind wanders off into fantasy, memory, and purple prose while he plows a field. There's a sense of straying thoughts just barely connected that I think might be intentional, and if so, you achieve an effect, but... why?

*****

Moxie, "Oh, Piolet!": Is this a misspelled title that I see before me, the error toward my eye? Come, let me edit thee. I want thee not, and yet I see thee still. Other than whatever's up with "Piolet"--Shakespeare parodying aside, I'm not sure whether that's a mistake or a choice made for reasons whereof Reason knows nothing--you know by now that the problem here is the cutesy, meta callout of sitcom logic acted out by tedious characters. It's neither surreal nor interesting. I would have passed you up for the loss, however, for what it's worth, since reading your work didn't make me want to impale my eyeballs on a number two pencil.

Later title note: Oh, now I see what you did there. An egregious typo might have been preferable to that pun!

*****

Maigius, "Market Fluctuations": You appear to be aiming to say something about the stock market, possibly that no one involved knows what he's doing and the whole thing is susceptible to manipulation. Then... that manipulation will have consequences? I don't know what Adam's death was meant to say, but I can't not see his horned boss as the Pointy-Haired Boss from Dilbert. So thanks for that. This idea about the stock market isn't a new one, and you don't do anything with it other than throw images at the reader until you're out of ideas. Many of them almost make sense, to your credit. The ending doesn't. That disconnected final beat underlines the randomness in the piece and overshadows the coherent elements.

*****

BeefSupreme, "Finn's": A woman goes to a club to meet its owner, learns from a fish that the owner is a vampire who will eat her feet, and decides she doesn't need to see the owner after all. What's the point? Why do people tell these stories in which someone encounters a strange thing and walks away, the end? In your case I can hazily imagine that Finn's foot vampirism is a literal take on the way certain people and certain relationships can drain a person's happiness, health, or humanity; E/N would applaud Eliza's choice to sever. I might, too, if anything happened. You write well enough and employ a solid surreal image. If Eliza's confrontation with Finn didn't fall flat--but you've paced the work badly and don't have words left for your climax. You should have trimmed the restaurant description in the early stages to give yourself more room in the later.


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Week 223: Dear Thunderdome


a new study bible!, "Comfort and Security": There's a good story in here somewhere, but you need to chip away half a pound of dross. The premise of a man seeking a job in security to protect children as a sort of penance for failing to save his brother is great. However, I don't see the benefit of making your protagonist oblivious to the obvious. He can't tell the woman with the money is a thief. He can't tell wandering into Disneyland through a hole in the fence is completely inappropriate. He possibly can't tell that Hector is with their father since he thinks of Hector as you'd think of someone whose fate is a total mystery. Did he ever tell his mother enough that she could figure out what had happened? I wonder if the idea is that he's an autist; I wonder what the heck the point of that would be. A horrible hunch sneaks up on me sometimes that you meant this to be funny. That woman-with-an-envelope scene reeks of comic misunderstanding. In that case, though, the tone is atrociously off. The stronger path for this story to take would be the serious one, so I'd advise revising it to remove the bits that paint Cory as a buffoon.

*****

Boaz-Jachim, "Remember, I will always be your Hunter in the night Sky": That is a godawful title. The quirky capitalization has stuck its head up its own posterior and is admiring the view. It's so terrible that I went into your work expecting to dislike it, and it came as a relief when your hunters' tale unfolded into an elegant story of love, necessity, and pain. I would do something with your first single line: "my star" has a saccharine flavor until it's explained, and putting that reference after the star memory would improve the flow. Maybe you could swap the bow/spear line and the star line, possibly fiddling with each a bit to make it work in its new place. You should come up with another title, whatever else.

*****

Jay W. Friks, "Deadline Imminent-Please Open Immediately": That would be an okay title if you'd used a dash instead of a hyphen. Two hyphens (--) often substitute for the em dash in forum posts. Your phrasing and punctuation could use some work: in the first sentence, the comma should be a period or semicolon, and there should be a comma after otherwise. "I implore to at least" is missing a word. Ditto "in not the intention." You get the idea! I'm not digging "liberally minded" as a proof of worth either, unless you're intending the protagonist to come across as more than a bit of a dick. Like if her family had been conservative, hitting her would have been less tragic? To be fair, maybe you did intend that; the protagonist is perhaps meant to come across as socially maladroit. Here's the thing. Reading this intensely awkward, self-absorbed letter has me cringing in sympathy for the father, and I just want the protagonist to stop making the daughter's death an excuse to talk about himself and his life story. The suicide is a final sour note that again makes Jessie Henderson's death all about him. It ought to be tragic, but the protagonist has come off so poorly that the tragedy is mitigated. I don't think that's intentional; I believe you've fumbled an attempt to make him flawed, tone deaf, and caught inside his own head, but still a compassionate person tortured by what he's done. In the story's current form his selfishness overwhelms his other qualities. One thing you could do would be to trim his long digression about his work and his meds. Keep in mind the person to whom he's writing. Would he imagine the father of the girl he killed would be interested in any of this? You know, now that I ask that, I wonder how this would play as a letter sent to almost anyone else. I imagine it as a letter to someone in his family, explaining what he did and what he's done as restitution, and I think a great many of its problems would vanish. So that's one option for revision; if you want to stay with the father as his recipient, consider how much he wants to burden this man with his own tragedies if he sincerely believes he's caused such suffering that his life is the only fit repayment.

*****

SkaAndScreenplays, "99 Songs Of Revolution": Funny, I don't remember the prompt for this week being Write a thinly veiled comment on political events. You neglect your flash rule entirely in order to throw this down. Ignore the almost-certain election connection and it's as empty of content as a flattened paper bag; Murphy is a mouthpiece, not a character; etc., etc., I could go on, but what's the point in writing a crit longer than the entry? If you want to respond to the issues of the day in your fiction, do so by fictionalizing them. You know. Write a story. I'd roll my eyes at that too if it were as transparent or ham-fisted as this, but it might say something other than "SkaAndScreeplays sure didn't like those election results, huh?"

*****

widespread, "My Old Friend Needs A Hand": Hmmm. There's a lot of conversation in this. A letter-writer using direct dialogue for dramatic effect is a concept I can get behind, but Captain Springsell remembers an incredible amount of banal speech--or else he's making it up, which puts some distance between me and this story because I'm no longer sure how much of it is real within its own universe. I'm not sure it would ever be so easy for a single man--a captain! An admiral outranks a captain! Why did the admiral accept Springsell's instructions?--to launch nukes, and I agree with the judges that his motivations for doing so are so thin that breath could permeate them. I don't come away from your story with the same displeasure that Jay W. Friks' inspired, but I understand why you lost instead: this piece doesn't show as much ambition or potential.

*****

BeefSupreme, "Protect the Future": As the judges said, you've flubbed the prompt. This just isn't an epistolary story. You might have gotten away with using Charlie as a framing device (but a dull one, so I'm not saying you should have done it) if you hadn't cut back to him again and again: the letter is supposed to tell the story, and instead of making it do so, you're dumping backstory on the reader by means of Charlie's thoughts. I wish waiting to submit until you'd finished your story to your satisfaction had worked out better for you, but the cliched evil-military plot would have been a hard sell even if you hadn't fumbled the round's main challenge.


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Week 224: I Wanna Dome You Like An Animal


Sailor Viy, "The Last Bison": An artistic piece, rich in imagery but frugal when it comes to coherent story. Do I like the mental picture of a man hunting a bison across the plains of his childhood? Quite a bit. Do I understand why the bison was his toy? Not entirely. It probably has something to do with loss and realization of loss; he's been searching for something, maybe an answer, since that night. But the bison lies down and dies, and I don't know why. The quest to feed his family in the post-apocalypse clashes with his quest to feed his soul with the Answer (if that's what it is), and I would do away with the post-apocalyptic setting and have him chase the bison because he alone is starving. That last point seems especially important since if he were hunting to sate his own need only, I wouldn't be left wondering how he's supposed to get that meat home.

*****

a new study bible!, "Truffle Hog": Oy to the vey. Do I understand properly that 1.) Marcelle buys a truffle hog in order to make money to save his ballerina daughter from creditors, but 2.) Flossy has mushrooms up her nose, so 3.) Marcelle heals her by cleaning them, and 4.) instead of truffles, the pig finds his daughter's shallow grave, with a note, because that makes sense? No, it doesn't. Why the pig would sniff out a corpse instead of fungus and why the corpse would be left for the debtor's starving father (granted he was paying her debt, but they're not going to get any more money out of him now, are they?) and why there's a note around a rock and why Genevieve was wearing ballet slippers when she died and why Marcelle took off his shirt all eludes me. There's some juice in the idea of a poor farmer trying to save himself with a truffle hog only to discover the hog is infested with fungus, but you'd need to focus on that and cut the chaff to make a good story out of it. You'd also need to do something with the nose fungus. Right now it's a red herring. My guess is that you had a much more complex story in mind and got throttled by the word limit, but that makes the expository bloat in the first paragraph even worse.

*****

Beige, "The Bear and the Snake": Ouch, tenses. You need the past perfect in your third sentence, which describes something that took place in the past of your past-tense piece. (So "he'd come across," etc.) The super-simple early prose with its repetition of ideas reads as though it's intended for rather small children. The snake's complete lack of motive, her unrealistic behavior (most constrictors aren't venomous, and venom isn't that fast or easy to regenerate), the lampshade you hang on both when she shrugs all the bear's questions off "somehow," and the bear's failure to give a drat about any of it read as though you don't know the point of the story you're trying to tell any more than I do.

*****

llamaguccii, "Foaming for Friends": Starting out with an infodump about your main character's passive-aggressive attempts to get someone else to kill him is not a strong strategy. Continuing to exposit about what an awful spouse he was, also risky. Maybe mentioning that Ben was looking at a dog before the third paragraph would help. (Never assume the reader knows your subprompt or flash rule.) Something else that might aid you is not writing about an irredeemable rear end in a top hat who has no reason to be such an irredeemable rear end in a top hat. Is the idea that Ben's such an awful human being that the Black Shuck sees him as a brother instead of prey? There's zero satisfaction in a terrible person remaining terrible or getting worse for no clear or interesting reason. I'm not that familiar with shaggy dog stories, so I only see what's on the screen in front of me, but after the judges' comments I'm not sure that's not for the best.


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Week 225: Pick A Century


Fleta McGurn, "Arrangements": I wouldn't buy your characters as twelfth-century nuns even without the reference to a man having a sex change and entering a convent. The speech patterns and the attitudes are all too modern. That isn't helped a whit by your choice to tell a heavy-handed "women's issues" story, which is so busy standing on its soapbox that it mostly forgets to be good. The first sentence clunks with exposition, and the rest is not much better, but Catherine's unexpected choice is a point in your favor: everything about the story up to that point had me expecting she would joyously renounce horrible men in favor of the far superior life of society with women alone, and if that doesn't sound like a flaw to you, it should. It isn't good when a reader feels beaten upside the head with a theme. It's a pleasant surprise when Catherine goes another way, but the rarr-men-who-needs-'em motif isn't any less tedious for being subverted in the end.

*****

Okua, "Journey": Considering Thorkild's thought about the Christian amulet, why doesn't he offer to buy Asa from the dying man? Why doesn't the father tell Thorkild what he's done? Why is the father such a nonentity? Asa is almost as blank as he, but that's to the story's benefit. The strange something this story has despite its parenthetical flashbacks ("That format is distracting," Kaishai said, "and you flash back too often, so it's not much wonder the present-day side of things is thin") is tied to Thorild's understanding, or lack thereof, of Asa, a girl who isn't Norse and isn't free. He makes an idol out of her, sees what he wants to see, but he doesn't know her. It's fitting the reader can't, either. But her decision to suicide comes out of nowhere, and her speech doesn't successfully justify it. I end the story asking again why Thorkild can't free her and why they can't travel together to the band of green across the sea. If the reasons are historical, you don't do a good enough job of explaining them.

*****

GenJoe, "Cut": Gore and beards are a lot less inherently interesting than you seem to believe. The dialect you've chosen sounds bizarre from supposed Romans. I can give the rat-catcher a pass, but the soldiers? Your rat-catcher and prisoner need names; it's stupidly difficult to tell which man you're talking about at points. I do like, somewhat, that Tiberius wants a knife not to kill anyone but to shave his beard so that he can meet Death with a clean face. The ending is such a disappointment, though. You burn seventeen hundred words on a condemned man eating rats through his last days and finally dying just as I was told he would at the outset. It sure isn't much of a story, and it's too long and full of pointless bloody bits to be a strong vignette. Side question: how did the rat man get that knife?

*****

Sitting Here, "One and Another": Is Daughter meant to seem not all there? Her argument with Mother doesn't read like a discussion rehashed for seasons, but later things like her chucking a rock at the man's head for no apparent reason make me wonder whether Mother talks to her so patiently because she has to be patient. I like this overall, it's a human story and an alien story both as befits the time you chose, but I'm not sure what I think of killing off the man so that the story ends with Mother and Daughter presumably starting a new life as sex slaves for a whole tribe. Put that way, I'm fairly sure I don't like it! The man's death is abrupt and makes him feel pointless in retrospect; we've barely started to know him, and now he's dead, so why was he ever in the story? I believe this would be stronger if it were longer and had room to see the Mother, Daughter, and man forming some kind of life--maybe fighting the tribe, maybe fighting each other, but having a longer journey before it all falls down.

*****

sebmojo, "Where late the sweet birds sang": But did that arse have spiders in it? Heck of an opening line there, Mr. sebmojo. Much though I enjoy Latin, I have to agree that insulae and pilae are awkward here, scatter-shot as such terms are through a story of arsefucking and naked fat men. Gladius works, though, maybe because it's a familiar word even now. (Psst: I believe the plural of neuter pilum is pila.) The business with the spear and the crowning and the elephant strikes me as implausible even for the Romans, but it's enough fun I don't much care. What's maybe most interesting about this piece, and what may hint at depth otherwise undisclosed, is the title, which I know best as that of Kate Wilhelm's book but which evidently hails from one of Shakespeare's sonnets about love and loss. It could just be a cute reference to the branches from which the emperor hung, or it could be a hint that the storyteller was fond of Maximilian and that his ribald recounting covers genuine melancholy. The final line hints at the same, but the touches are so light (if they're there at all!) that the sentiment doesn't land on first reading, and that sentence looks out of place.

*****

Guiness13, "Roanoke": I don't believe blood ever oozes up from a corpse, but you'd want to check with an expert or the Internet to be sure. The critical flaw in this entry is that you leave mentioning the gift of the idol and the warning to protect it until the very end. Why? It doesn't look like you're trying to hide it exactly, since the beginning implies strongly enough that the broken idol and broken faith have something to do with the deaths, but you put off making everything clear for no obvious reason. It reads like a revelation, but it's the weakest reveal possible. I might have spared you a DM myself since you build a decent sense of unease and dread as the inexplicable deaths mount. Still, that finale is unsatisfying as anything.


*************************


Week 226: Viking Wisdom


Sailor Viy, "The Guest at the Feast": The ghost is too shallow in his/her wants and motivations for me to much care about them. S/he could use a personality beyond his/her longing for drugs and sex. (S/he could use a gender, too.) Lily and Wally's turn for the villainous is comically absurd, except without the comedy; I too wonder with whom the ghost would get in trouble, and I especially wonder why s/he wants out of that body almost as soon as s/he's acquired it. Drugs as the solution to all problems could not resonate less with me if it tried. That's taste, of course, and I do think taste has a lot to do with my lack of liking for your work here, as the writing itself is solid enough and the concept--up until the magic drugs, at least--a cool take on the stanza. Unfortunately, the five-thousand-eyed fractal and "hologram universe" and everything else is about as interesting as any other fictional drug trip (which is to say, it isn't), and the ending ignores the issue of Lily, Wally, and their henchmen completely.

*****

Chairchucker, "Actually the Stomach is Way Bigger than the Eyes, I Mean That’s Just Basic Anatomy": Yeah, maybe the murder of the henchmen is a little too offhand even for a silly story. It doesn't ruin the fun for me, but it could be fun too if the henchmen acted as balaclava's family and bonded with the protagonist through long-suffering glances traded over schnitzel. Cowboy Randy in all his unfazed glory is the shining star. I'd read more stories about strange goings-on in his steakhouse! Other than Dad, the family verges on bland; I reckon that's okay since it keeps the spotlight where it ought to be. I'm writing this crit shortly after critiquing your Voidmart II story, so it's all the more great to see you return to form.

*****

Hawklad, "Home": Does Lucien's regular exposure to radiation have something to do with his child being born with a tail? I would like the answer to be yes. That would give the "twist" of Sirena being his daughter a reason to exist--I put that word in scare quotes because it's obvious the moment Lucien remembers her from his past. The predictable direction that part of the plot took is my largest beef with this otherwise intriguing entry. Your world is fascinating. The scenes of the ship cutting across the ice ocean and flailing in the north are wonderful, and I like, too, the eldritch horror of the tentacles in the water for all that I'm not 100% sure I understand. Is Sirena a sacrifice or does her mother give her to the water that is her natural home? (I like the latter better!) If she was born for the water, how did that come about? Is there a power that shapes ends in this world, rough-hew them as the characters will? I don't mind having some questions left over. I do wish Sirena's mother were much more of a character. If you were low on words, maybe you could have cut Carlos from the picture. But on the whole the piece is so striking that I understand why it took the crown.

*****

Baleful Osmium Sea, "First Contact By a Species that Speaks Almost Entirely In Metaphors": I'm not surprised this found favor with the judges for all that I don't share all their fondness for it. It's a nice art piece, though a cynical one. Few of the metaphors are new, but they combine well to sketch a dead romance, until the final line that I flat don't care for. The characters aren't really characters. There isn't a plot. An arc certainly exists, but I question whether a story does. Yet, final line aside, it's a fine example of the sort of thing it is.


*************************


Week 227: It was a Dark and Stormy Night....


Fleta Mcgurn, "Malus Domestica": Yours would not, to be clear here, be a fine story if only it weren't for that pesky incest. Theo and Marina's relationship is dull otherwise; the cracks in the ceiling and the apple tree overflow with potential that goes mostly unused when Marina curls up with the ghost tree and sleeps, the end. (I thought she died, on my first read. The sleep ending is no better.) Why not spend some of the words you spend setting up the needless incest on establishing a connection between Theo, Marina, and apple trees, so that the appearance of such a tree would be significant? I've heard it suggested the tree is meant to have a Biblical resonance tied to incest as sin, but in that case, is the idea that--as the tree is flowering, not fruiting--Marina is sleeping peacefully in pre-apple innocence, and everything is okay because she's forgotten how hosed up it is to gently caress her brother? What? Let's say for the sake of argument you do want to make incest sympathetic for whatever reason. Do it by showing us more of Theo and Marina as people, with chemistry and love between them. In the case that romanticizing incest wasn't your goal, you done effed up almost as much as your protagonists. In the case that you were out to write a Gothic, as I'm inclined to believe, the bland middle and happy-seeming ending undermine your attempt altogether. The incest is an established, mundane, everyday element of Theo and Marina's lives to the point where it doesn't have the dramatic weight of Original Sin.

*****

N. Senada, "Osmond Diaz, King of Kings": You probably should have just called him Ozymandias, and you definitely shouldn't have named his bodyguard Percy. It wants to be a clever allusion to Shelley, but this piece is too straightforward, on the nose, and dull for the reference to appear clever rather than clumsy. I do see attempts to twist the Ozymandias story. The storm qualifies, but it lacks the power and poignance that the weight of ages has as the destructive force. You've allowed some of Ozymandias's people to escape his downfall, but--so what? In the poem, Time unmade Ozymandias's life and works and memory. Time will end Percy and the bandits too, so Percy's temporary reprieve is also an empty one according to the message of the source material. (As I understand it, anyway!) The final line suggests you're going for something different, a moral about bending with the wind rather than breaking before it, so now I'm thinking your error was in connecting your story to "Ozymandias" at all rather than writing something wholly your own. You might still have ended up with the crap crown, though. Osmond and Percy are both flat, and Osmond's downfall isn't compelling in part because of this. One solution could be to set everything entirely in Percy's perspective even if that means losing Osmond's death scene. Let Percy see enough of his futile fight against the wind for the reader to infer what happens.

*****

Erogenous Beef, "Frozen Out": Cute, but empty. I like Papa Winter and Frosty, and I'm glad they beat the selfish, manipulative Esther--except for the thing where they don't. Papa Winter shows back up and ruins her plans more or less by existing. But only temporarily! Nothing and no one is permanently changed at the story's end. The starting status gets a few more weeks of quo, and that's it. There's an obvious political undercurrent, but it doesn't go much of anywhere. The apparent moral of the story: all victories are temporary. I could see that being worthwhile if Esther's victory and then Winter's weren't each so effortless as to leave me unengaged.

*****

steeltoedsneakers, "Round White Pebbles": The first line reads confusingly like the present tense. Try Ten months before it had rained for the last time. Remember you need the past perfect to describe events in the past of a past-tense story. The problem crops up again with had set off last week--it would only be last week in a present-tense story. You want the week before. Rachel/Rachael needs a consistent name. Otherwise... well, I see how this won. Like Hawklad's ice boat, your dry river of pebbles and its call are so striking that I like the story somewhat for their sake. I'm more interested in the river, why the rain stopped, why it calls, who waits beyond, and how Steve shows up just in time to go under when everyone else has been waiting than I am in the relationship story, which is unfortunate for me since the relationship is the center and everything else is apparently only a metaphor. That's no terrible idea, my disappointment notwithstanding. I would like to see more of Steve and Rachel before the end, however. Why are their problems apparently all his fault? What part has she had in their estrangement? Were they estranged? Until the end, which forces the issue, I'm not sure. You don't convince me. It could use more work if you want that finale to have much punch, yet it's not far from being a rather good story.

*****

Tyrannosaurus, "Nobody Wants to Die Here in the Strip Club": Good setting, good situation, good character in Percy if you read him as complex rather than one-dimensional--something the story discourages at the end, but more on that shortly. I'm along for the ride on this until I stall hard on Chastity turning tourist's privilege into a race thing, like white people don't live in Hawaii and like oblivious first-world black or Asian or Hispanic or whatever tourists don't exist. It's a misstep. Then the protagonist judges Percy's worth as a human being based on this particular inconsiderate idiocy. I'm less convinced Percy isn't a good person at all (people are rarely that simple) than that the protagonist adopts the viewpoint of the last person to talk to him. You've told me Percy is bad but shown me the protagonist has no opinions of his own--probably not what you mean to do, so if you revise, I'd pull the reins on that judgment a little and have him realize that Percy isn't an idol, and that Percy's being incredibly callous, both of which are true without necessarily meaning he isn't in any way good. I would personally nix the corpse and replace it with inhuman debris also, since a dead body delivers your point with the weight of an anvil. Some more finesse in the finale and removal of the shoehorned race issue (mileage will vary on that one especially, but You loving tourists would be so much more accurate) would bring out the story's respectable strengths.

*****

GenJoe, "Misgivings": Did, uh, did your protagonist and her mother refill the bathtub with toilet water? Talk about a source of misgivings. It's probably meant to be tank water and fresh enough to play with boats in, but one, a week seems like too long to still have fresh tank water; and two, unless that's one heck of a jug, a jug's worth will only begin to cover the bottom of most tubs--not enough for boat games, I wouldn't think--so I had to think about what they were going to do with that toilet water for somewhat too long. I'd cut that bit, is what I'm getting at. I wonder too how Rebecca could go to school on the money from an old house in a dying neighborhood that loses power for weeks--who's ever going to buy it? The whole is a vignette and not a story. No plot exists, and no conclusion is reached. I like it anyway for the outline of the bonds between Rebecca and her mother, Rebecca and Jay, Rebecca and the house--not all of them positive, but bonds nevertheless. I'm intrigued; I want to know more of Rebecca's history. Your entry does a better job of making me feel for your character than any other I've read from this week. It's too low on events and resolution to win my whole heart, but in this round it's definitely toward the top of the barrel.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 18:40 on Jan 1, 2017

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






:catstare: :eyepop: :catstare: :eyepop: :catstare: :eyepop: ty for the crits kai :catstare: :eyepop: :catstare: :eyepop: :catstare: :eyepop:

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009



BIG DICK NICK
A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly



yeah but can you post a 1000 word reflection on your specific process of writing each individual crit?

:smug::smug::smug::smug::smug::smug:

The Unholy Ghost
Feb 19, 2011


In for Week CCXXIX

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009



BIG DICK NICK
A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly



Thanks for the critpocalypse, although I can't, for the life of me, figure out why you would subject yourself to such punishment just to make another's life slightly more convenient.

It's crazy town.

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009



BIG DICK NICK
A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly



Also, in for this week I guess.

katdicks
Dec 27, 2013

SO BIG

In :tipshat:

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Kaishai is the multigrade synthetic which keeps the cylinders of Thunderdome churning.

Ceighk posted:

IN with a :toxx: but having a hard time narrowing down my ideas, don't suppose someone could chuck me a flashrule?

Flash Rule: Involve a "hero" with a foul motive. (Clarification: "Hero" does not necessarily imply "Protagonist".)

:siren: Second Word Bounty :siren:

For either +50 or +100 words: Before the close of sign-ups, illustrate one of your favorite scenes from a Thunderdome story. The story may not be your own. Link to the story along with your picture. Good illustrations (as determined by the judges) will receive the larger bounty. I cannot guarantee when the 50/100 decision will be posted, but it will be at some point during Saturday, Eurogoon time. Bounty may only be claimed once per person, etc. etc.

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.



SittingMojo Anibrawl

OK tricky one here. Both pretty good stories but very different. SH's has very pretty words. So pretty and intricate in fact that I just could not deal with it when I first read it directly after waking up and before having breakfast. Mojo's on the other hand had much simpler language, but it worked; it fit the character and it fit the story.

I reread them both after procrastinating a whole bunch and having breakfast. Was able to better process SH's story, and also noticed a couple grammatical nitpicks I had with each of them.

While I still found Mojo's story easier to follow, I am awarding the win to SH's story because the words were v. pretty and nice, the story mostly made sense once I was fed and able to concentrate, and it evoked kind of a non-human POV thing that I really dug.

TL;DR SH is the champ and Mojo is a butt.

GenJoe
Sep 14, 2010


In

BeefSupreme
Sep 14, 2007


okay widespread you get a crit since you dm'd

widespread posted:

Silver Nitride Is A Hell Of A Thing.
Words: 503.

The smoke rapidly filled the laboratory. Everyone was running away from the room, in various coughing fits. One man in particular fell face first onto the tile ground just as he cleared the doorway. The action here isn't strong enough. We're in the aftermath of a seemingly disastrous event, but it's described blandly. Need more/better imagery

“Jackson! What on Earth has gotten into you?” a voice boomed from inside the lab. “It’s only day one of the experiment, and you’ve hosed everything up!”

“Sorry, professor,” the man on the ground replied. “I must have misread the labels or something.”

A man then stepped out of the smoke which man? the one with the booming voice? confusing attributions, coughing with a cut along his cheek. The cut was fresh, and trickling blood.

“Whatever it may be, it certainly will ban you from any lab experiments for the rest of the semester. And judging from that volatile reaction, this semester’s been cut short!”

Jackson had to look around at his fellow classmates. Some of them had a few cuts on their arms, legs, and faces. One even had a hand over their eye, clutching and rubbing it in pain. I still don't actually know what happened. Did something explode? you never actually tell us anything

“I’m sorry! I couldn’t tell it was ammonia! The label didn’t mention-“

“It’s called studying, Jackson! And you wouldn’t have multiple casualties if you knew not to mess around with the sample!” Did he mess around with the sample? still don't know.

“But it looked similar to the actual testing compound-“

“But nothing. Get out of my sight. And hope that these kids live to see their own graduation!” seriously what the hell happened

-----------------------------------------------------------

Jackson slumped against the bench. He was certain that there needed to be labels in the lab. But no, no labels to designate what was a silver compound and what wasn’t. I agree with him. There should be labels. Am I supposed to blame the school at this point? To make matters worse, his phone was constantly buzzing. Whether it was a news update or texts from his fellow classmates, he knew that this confusion screwed him out of a degree. But then I don't think 'but' is the right choice here--there isn't an apparent relationship between what happens immediately before and after the 'but', an email notification went off. Jackson quickly checked his phone to see who would email him at a time like this. I might think an email would carry more dread than surprise, considering his thoughts and the circumstances

It was an automated message that's cold from the school. And inside, as Jackson found out, was the following message: totally unnecessary

“Due to an unforeseen circumstance, this is bad phrasing--seems as if the unforeseen circumstance is responsible for them regretting to inform him, and not for the expelling. Also, i wouldn't call this an unforeseen circumstance; due to his recent actions or something else we regret to inform you that you have been expelled and barred from applying next semester,” the message started. Seems pretty unlikely they would expel a student the same day (is this the same day?) without any kind of judicial review or something Jackson couldn’t finish the email. The guilt of possibly injuring several students permanently was enough. In a fit of rage, he lobbed his phone far away from him. The phone had don't know why you change tenses here landed right in front of a grounds worker’s moving lawnmower. As soon as the device disappeared under the machine, a series of clanks and thumps resonated throughout the area. Before Jackson knew, his phone was launched from the lawnmower and right at his head.

-------------------------------------------------------------

“… not long after the lab incident, a foreman witnessed what he considered a ‘freak phenomenon’,” the reporter said.

“I didn’t know he threw the phone in my direction,” the foreman spoke. “I tend to listen to music as I work the lawns, plus the phone looked like a rock to me.”

“Doctors report that the victim- one Jackson Palade- suffered instant death through an excess of immediate cranial trauma. Back to you in the studios.” well, that came out of nowhere

Looking back at the prompt, I don't know that this really fulfills it. I never get the sense that Jackson is incompetent or in over his head. He clearly screws up (I think), unless these compounds are actually unlabeled, which is totally not chill in a lab. Again, I don't really know. I don't even know enough about Jackson to draw any meaningful conclusions either way. Part of the problem is I have no idea what actually happened, as I said a couple of times above. Seems like maybe he mixed the wrong two compounds together? A couple of sentences really could have cleared things up.

And if lab work is beyond his capabilities, how did he get in to the lab? An experiment, especially one in which the professor knows this student's name on day one, would seemingly be hard to get into on false pretenses. Why get into this lab? Is it particularly prestigious? I have a lot of questions, and not the good kind.

And why does he die in this story? And it's still not due to any sort of incompetence. It's really just bad, bad luck. It's not an earned death in the framework of this story. And I don't even really care, because, again, I know next to nothing about Jackson.

There is an interesting story in there about someone doing science who should not be doing science, but that is not the story we got.

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!




Erogenous Beef posted:

Kaishai is the multigrade synthetic which keeps the cylinders of Thunderdome churning.


Flash Rule: Involve a "hero" with a foul motive. (Clarification: "Hero" does not necessarily imply "Protagonist".)

:siren: Second Word Bounty :siren:

For either +50 or +100 words: Before the close of sign-ups, illustrate one of your favorite scenes from a Thunderdome story. The story may not be your own. Link to the story along with your picture. Good illustrations (as determined by the judges) will receive the larger bounty. I cannot guarantee when the 50/100 decision will be posted, but it will be at some point during Saturday, Eurogoon time. Bounty may only be claimed once per person, etc. etc.
http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=1229



the blue is kaishai's tears

flerp fucked around with this message at 06:07 on Dec 21, 2016

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


In.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019



Sitting Here posted:

:catstare: :eyepop: :catstare: :eyepop: :catstare: :eyepop: ty for the crits kai :catstare: :eyepop: :catstare: :eyepop: :catstare: :eyepop:

:same:

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



In.

And I'll take the 100 word crit bounty. If there's someone I haven't done a crit for let me know by tomorrow (GMT) morning and I'll crit your piece specifically. Otherwise I'll just make my way through the rest of last week's stories. And I'm opening a bottle of wine so praise and/or hate might be as flowing as the Merlot.

CaligulaKangaroo
Jul 25, 2012

MAY YOUR HALLOWEEN BE AS STUPID AS MY LIFE IS


Sitting Here posted:

:catstare: :eyepop: :catstare: :eyepop: :catstare: :eyepop: ty for the crits kai :catstare: :eyepop: :catstare: :eyepop: :catstare: :eyepop:

THIS

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



Jagermonster posted:

no don't do this

it was fine when you were commenting on a crit of another writer's story, thereby giving that writer more nuanced feedback

but don't do this poo poo for your own stories, not here

I wrote a statement of intent for my latest TD story. I can post that here if you want.

I'm not arguing with crits of my stories. Or saying people don't get my glorious art. I was acknowledging the very helpful critique and trying to show the other writers in here that with a bit of thought it's possible to integrate these critiques in a formal manner into your writing process. I understand people want this type of response posted in the Fiction Advice thread, but it's not fiction advice I'm responding to, it's Thunderdome specific work. I'd have to quote posts from here to there to keep a thread of coherency. Although that absolutely is something I can do.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



flerp posted:

800 words

In some mythologies, the whole world is on the back of a turtle which is pretty cool

Bounty 2 - A drawing of a dude on a beach with a turtle, where everything is grey and the world is about to end.

Flesnolk
Apr 11, 2012

h

Mrenda posted:

I wrote a statement of intent for my latest TD story. I can post that here if you want.

I'm not arguing with crits of my stories. Or saying people don't get my glorious art. I was acknowledging the very helpful critique and trying to show the other writers in here that with a bit of thought it's possible to integrate these critiques in a formal manner into your writing process. I understand people want this type of response posted in the Fiction Advice thread, but it's not fiction advice I'm responding to, it's Thunderdome specific work. I'd have to quote posts from here to there to keep a thread of coherency. Although that absolutely is something I can do.

All well and good, and it's good to see you're passionate about writing, but the rules are the rules.

Flesnolk fucked around with this message at 19:00 on Dec 21, 2016

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






Guys, I'm drafting up the 2017 thread and I think I might have to split it up into two posts because there are so many rules I have to expand on or add

Which you will all summarily ignore

loving thunderdome

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Sitting Here posted:

:siren: DON’T RESPOND TO CRITIQUES IN THIS THREAD! :siren: If you really want to talk shop about a Thunderdome entry, move the discussion to either the Fiction Advice thread or the Fiction Farm.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Mrenda posted:

I wrote a statement of intent for my latest TD story. I can post that here if you want.

I'm not arguing with crits of my stories. Or saying people don't get my glorious art. I was acknowledging the very helpful critique and trying to show the other writers in here that with a bit of thought it's possible to integrate these critiques in a formal manner into your writing process. I understand people want this type of response posted in the Fiction Advice thread, but it's not fiction advice I'm responding to, it's Thunderdome specific work. I'd have to quote posts from here to there to keep a thread of coherency. Although that absolutely is something I can do.

quote whatever you need to and put it in fiction advice

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



sebmojo posted:

quote whatever you need to and put it in fiction advice

Will do. Hopefully it'll pick up a bit in activity.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






Like, yes, don't respond to critiques, but also maybe everyone doesn't need to spend days and days responding to the critique response. Both are things that clutter up the thread. I would love to see more workshopping in the fiction farm! Maybe someone could create a new thread for 2017? Something that encourages people to discuss TD stories as well as other writing???

idk, the sky's the limit but please everyone stop trying to have the last word about crit responses and do something productive you pedantic poo poo brigadiers

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Sitting Here posted:

poo poo brigadiers

https://youtu.be/W2Aq-gm3An0

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 19:20 on Dec 21, 2016

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!




Sitting Here posted:

Like, yes, don't respond to critiques, but also maybe everyone doesn't need to spend days and days responding to the critique response. Both are things that clutter up the thread. I would love to see more workshopping in the fiction farm! Maybe someone could create a new thread for 2017? Something that encourages people to discuss TD stories as well as other writing???

idk, the sky's the limit but please everyone stop trying to have the last word about crit responses and do something productive you pedantic poo poo brigadiers

no u

steeltoedsneakers
Jul 26, 2016







Chili
Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe



http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3758791&pagenumber=109#post465434730

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!






http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=4446&title=Corn%21

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









every spaceman jim story ever

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


sebmojo posted:

beef would you crit this one?

You requested a different one earlier, chum. Anyway. Overall take: Decent but needs editing, and a bit of a letdown at the end.

I like the first line; it's a good hook and gets straight to the premise. After that, you develop the idea a bit but you also meander a bit. I don't get the meaning of the "I type something, erase it, type it again" sentence -- I'm used to assocating this with someone being nervous about revealing a deep secret, but your premise suggests that this motive wouldn't be present any longer. Maybe I'm overthinking it, maybe it's unclear.

Second section's second paragraph seems redundant. You're already illustrating the increasingly small number of fucks people give, so I don't think you need to smack me in the face with something like this. In fact, the first/third paras go together so well that I'd suspect you inserted the second para in an attempt to add clarity.

Third section, mostly good, we're building to a crescendo here, but there's a few minor details that seem off. I don't get why Karen's eyes are red; again, I'm expecting this would be an emotionless way of expressing bloodiness, but there's no other hints about physical damage, so it reads more like "crying" which again doesn't make sense given the premise. Without more explanation of this detail, it's just distracting.

Fourth section, the whole thing falls down. Obviously you don't want to go into the cause of the weird events, but this really just reads like a buildup to some other climax scene -- one more logical step towards zero fucks given. Thing is, it follows so directly from the pattern you've set up, it comes off bland. Also, possibly because this is the one section that isn't about interpersonal relationships collapsing, it feels disconnected and tepid. The universe stops giving a gently caress; the end. Nothing learned, the trajectory hasn't altered from the start, and I'm not really terrified/chilled by the premise any longer.

Minor stuff: there's a number of places where the use of language feels awkward or repetitive, and not in an intentional way.

quote:

a tepid gulf of vacuum.

The 'X of Y' construct here interrupts the natural rhythm of the sentence. I suggest a rephrase.

quote:

My hand was still in hers but it felt inert, felt like a rubber glove taken off

Good metaphor, but the reuse of 'felt' within 3 words irritates me. Perhaps just cut the second 'felt'; I don't think it's necessary for rhythm.

quote:

I could see the old woman she was going to be walking inside her.

I'm assuming you added 'walking' here to call back to the previous sentence, but the final "walking inside her" phrase reads awkwardly. I suggest rephrasing it.

Erogenous Beef fucked around with this message at 00:38 on Dec 22, 2016

BeefSupreme
Sep 14, 2007


Beef-Actual, this is Beef, requesting a flash rule, over.

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kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


a bit late, but :eyepop:

Thank you very much for the crits, Kaishai! I really appreciate it.

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