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Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Critiques for Week CLXXIII: Broenheim, C7ty1, Clavius666, Sitting Here, Killer-of-Lawyers, BoldFrankensteinMir, jon joe, crabrock, XzeroR3, and kurona_bright


Broenheim, "The Last Story We Have Together"

No, the ellipses didn't work very well. The visual gimmick called attention to itself. I couldn't always fill in the blanks as I read, though hindsight took care of most of them. The structure wasn't worth the distraction it caused, I figure, since it didn't improve on the more traditional one-sided narrative.

The story itself wasn't bad. Its central idea that a person shouldn't give everything of himself away, that it was fine and right for him to keep some of his mind and heart and life private, was worth exploring. "Stories" weren't a natural fit for the part of something that was lost by being shared, though, especially not myths and other tales passed down through time. I think I get it: once a story is told it's no longer completely yours, but something like a myth was never yours to begin with, so the metaphor totters.

The main character lost me when she grabbed her mentor's rock and threw it away. Tossing her own stone, sure--she didn't want there to be a story of their last day together. That was a good way to show-not-tell her bitter, teenage affection for him. Taking that story away from him when he wanted to hold on to it went beyond denial and into being a brat. It weakened the moral to have it spoken by a selfish person who had stolen what someone else had wished to keep.

This is probably worth revisiting, as the flaws wouldn't be that hard to mend.

* ****** ** *

C7ty1, "Dormant Faith"

Was this a remake of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade or a bad Monty Python skit? A tense inner journey or a screwball comedy? Did Miriam gain faith or lose it? Were she and Theo on Earth or some other world that possessed, for some reason, orange gym mats? Your story couldn't tell what it wanted to be. Its disparate elements clashed rather than supporting each other. Take the first section, in which Miriam was screaming and praying as she fell but swung right into facepalming and banter as soon as she hit the net as though she'd never been afraid: in trying to fake out the reader you made your main character's emotions too shallow, an issue for a story that was attempting to look at her depths.

The humor half of things didn't land. Though I sort of liked Theo, old huckster that he was, I didn't laugh at him. Could it be this wasn't ever meant to be a funny story? Maybe you wanted to look at a serious subject in a way that mingled the earnest and the lighthearted? You know, I could buy that if it weren't for the "lava" test, which tipped all the way over into ridiculous. Now I'm imagining that you were trying to come up with different, essentially harmless trials without copying Last Crusade all the way, and gym mats sounded like a good idea at the time. It showed Miriam's willingness to forsake the ritual path in favor of the straightforward, as was probably the point--but gym mats. Theo could have thrown down some hot coals for her to walk across. Or around, if that would have been more her speed.

Those mats and the use of "yadda yadda" bothered me more than they did the other judges. I didn't buy the setting as Earth. It wasn't impossible that some other world would have the mats if not the slang; why confuse the issue, though? Why introduce the question of just where this took place? Were orange mats in place of lava such a good idea that they were worth it? (No.) That was a relatively small nit to pick, but it was symptomatic of the larger problem of a piece struggling against itself.

What I appreciated, possibly because of the ambiguity, was the way you ended it. I didn't know whether Miriam had lost her faith and left it buried/marked with that little cairn or had built the cairn out of respect for her god and left her symbol as a new monument for the next seeker. Either might have left her with a smile. I'm not certain you meant this to be open to interpretation, and if not, the story fought with itself here too, but the outcome was beneficial; you gave me something to think about.

* ****** ** *

Claven666, "The Bargain"

Long ago, Charles made a bargain with a supernatural entity to lead his people out of slavery and to a new home in the style of Moses. The Pilgrim wasn't so benevolent, however. In exchange for stitching a thread of life through the barren Unpainted Land, it devoured one of Charles' people every night, forcing Charles to blame himself by giving him an impossible task to complete in order to prevent the slaughter. This was a sound concept that might have had legs, except--

What did the Pilgrim get out of the exchange? A lot of food? The people came back to life at the end, so he didn't get their souls, and he ultimately burned to nothing. It was hard to see how that was a good deal for him.

What did he want from Charles? An admission of defeat? Charles not only had to give up in order to solve the riddle, he had to give up because everybody was dead? That didn't make a lot of sense to me either, and that everyone wasn't dead--the story specifically mentioned other people around that fire, if only a few--was another source of bemusement.

Were the Unpainted Lands some sort of canvas? Was it all a metaphor for art? Did the Pilgrim represent an artistic block, devouring ideas one by one until the artist stopped trying to force matters and surrendered? Was he a hungry public devouring each vision or story Charles possessed until there were no more, and Charles was free? (Couldn't be that one. The people coming back to life wouldn't fit.) What was the deal? I wanted something to come of the seeming metaphor, but it never did.

You had good ideas that didn't consolidate into good fiction. Revision would be worthwhile, but the bargain itself is so broken that you'd have to rethink it from the bottom up.

* ****** ** *

Sitting Here, "Flotsamson"

Beautiful. Incomplete. Everything you had, I loved, but the ending was a ragged wound where the rest of the story had been torn away. Anuun didn't get to react to his dead wife; the Norsemen didn't get to die, nor did I get to see how and why that would happen or what would happen afterward. This should perhaps have been told from the perspective of Sedna, or of the water-wife if they were different entities. Were they? I hope not. The drowned woman's wrath was vaguely understandable if she was a sea spirit protective of the people that acknowledged and spoke to her. That reading also gave Sedna a role in the story past that first section, which she sorely needed.

I would guess you did some research for this one, and it was handled well, working in a few details about the indigenous peoples of Greenland without turning the tale into a Wiki article. Whether the setting was completely authentic or not I don't have a clue, but you convinced me. I sank into the words without difficulty. If you hadn't tried to cram too much story into too few words without success and fallen afoul of the trouble with endings that tripped up half the crowd, an HM would have been yours. Maybe even the win, though Fumblemouse did a better job with the prompt by keeping his entry's viewpoint to one of the characters that undertook the journey.

Lovely prose, though. I'd read the full-length version any day.

* ****** ** *

Killer-of-Lawyers, "Lies"

It's possible you would still have cracked the low tier if this entry had been the first appearance of those characters and that premise in Thunderdome, given that you wrote about a guy wandering through an unconvincing space desert toward... something; some specific point that might have supplies, maybe. His conversations with his ship's AI were the meat of the piece. When she shut down for want of power, it ended. No resolution and no real background: it read like a fragment of something larger and hopefully more complete.

Worse, though, was that I wondered as I read it, Haven't I read this before?

You'd written about John and Sarah twice previously, in "Decay," in which Sarah struggled to communicate with John, and in "Dreams of Babel," in which John performed a task in trade for supplies to take back to Sarah. I read those stories again and was struck and aggravated by how similar they were in goals and themes. I actually thought at first you'd rewritten the exact same story from three different angles, though that was short-sighted of me. Each in fact seems to be an incrementally small step in the continuing journey of John and Sarah, who are always trying to reach or return to each other, and each is a story of separation and isolation and the attendant fear. The characters are the same. The premise is the same.

The usual risk of serials in Thunderdome--or anywhere--is that the writer will depend too much on familiarity with the original work and deliver something full of holes that can only be filled in by reading a prior submission. That's a fatal error in TD as the judges are neither guaranteed nor likely to humor you by reading any more than they have to, and even if they did, they would judge you on the entry as it stood. Yours was an odd duck, though. It didn't stand alone, but its similarity to your other entries meant it almost depended on us not having read anything else you'd written. (And reading those other stories didn't even fill in any gaps!) The lack of originality galled. We speculated that you might have been using TD as a testing ground for excerpts from a longer work; whatever the motive, you repeated yourself and didn't deliver the goods.

Though it was inconsequential in comparison, the blue sun was kind of silly. I checked the Internet for confirmation that blue suns wouldn't allow for life and found out they might, actually, but that life wouldn't have time to evolve into anything complex before the star blew up.

The slow humanization of the AI, shown best in its ability to lie for its own gain, was a good sub-story, and if you'd ended with her gone for good without dangling the question of how or whether John would be able to save her, you'd have had a reasonable conclusion. Of course, you couldn't have done that when you were tied to the continuity of the other stories. That just brings us back to square one.

If you want to return to characters or a world you enjoy in the future, make sure you don't give the judges a crippling sense of deja vu. I'd avoid desert treks too, personally, and that's advice that goes to everybody.

* ****** ** *

BoldFrankensteinMir, "Hit the Bricks"

My co-judges held this in higher esteem than I did; I ranked it as pleasant but unremarkable. The nameless protagonist broke his village's millstone somehow, I assume--we weren't sure about that, and either reading of the reference to him cracking the stone brought problems with it. If he destroyed the millstone, how did he do it? What happened? And was I supposed to believe that so many people broke millstones that a miles-long road could be made of their millstone fragments? If his sin was something else, why did the village break its millstone to make his penance brick, and what did he do? A glimpse of the pilgrim's life before the road would have been welcome. He could have been more of a distinct, individual person, less a shapeless martyr to his guilt.

On the more positive side, this was a good exploration of penance and forgiveness. The brick stood in for his fault. It burdened him physically as his sin, whatever it was, burdened him mentally, and he could only stop carrying it when he found peace--which may have been there all along, waiting for him to be ready to notice it, or which may have been bestowed by divine grace. I fancy the idea that the blue dome of the sky at the end of the road was the West-most temple, made sacred by gods or by nature; take your pick. It was a good ambiguity. The pilgrim's journey finished on a strong note. Given how many people had problems with endings this week, the fact that your work felt complete and satisfying, if slight, set it apart.

* ****** ** *

jon joe, "Thrown"

Your entry definitely had flaws, mispunctuated dialogue and awkward prose ("It was as though they had the happiness strangled out them when they squeezed from my memories to my thoughts"--I get what you were expressing, but there were better ways to do it even aside from the missing word) among them. Nevertheless, I was with you until your protagonist burst into tears. She--or he--was overstressed, out of her depth, and breaking down, but why? Until that moment she seemed confused by and disappointed in her trip to India in a quest for inner peace, but not to the point of weeping, and to cry out of nowhere made her seem either histrionic or unusually frail. Wanting to hug the guide was indeed weird. The story fell over on the landing; it wasn't that stable in the first place.

You got a rough shake, though. There was something there, largely between the lines. Inner peace and spiritual harmony, this story suggested, aren't something you can go off to India to find. You can't hire a guru to solve whatever's eating you up inside. Especially not as some sort of meditation tourist, looking for answers in a food stall but rejecting what you get because it isn't what you expected. The main character needed to turn his/her eyes inward, but s/he wasn't willing, and so s/he failed and failed to understand. I dug that. But like its protagonist, the story probably needed more introspection so the reader could understand his/her problem, even if s/he him/herself couldn't--and by the way, the lack of a gender on the main character didn't much hurt this piece, but it didn't particularly help.

There's a real argument to be made that the inconclusive, navel-gazing nature of your entry outweighed in tedium what it achieved in meaning. I know, because my co-judges made it. Watch out for being too vague or too clever about your character's mindset or motives. It's so tempting to leave things unsaid and hope the reader solves the puzzle--that moment when a person realizes something about a story he's reading is powerful and can strengthen his engagement with, connection to, and appreciation of the work. The problem is that it's damned difficult to be sure you've left just the right amount of breadcrumbs. In this case, no dice.

* ****** ** *

crabrock, "The Hackney Comet"

Tweaking the judges' noses by putting your title and word count in the middle of the story blew up in your face somewhat because it emphasized the divide between the early going, when a kid and his dad bonded over stars, and the late, when that kid scratched his beard in space. He also hijacked billions of dollars' worth of equipment to strand himself on a moon with unknown quantities, in direct contempt of a regulation about contaminating other planets that probably existed for a reason. Brilliant fellow!

I rather liked young Commander Miller, his dad, and their shared love of space, which you drew with your considerable talent for showing human relationships and unspoken affection. It was obvious that father and son loved and respected one another. The son's trip to Jupiter as an adult astronaut could have been a fantastic follow through, except that Miller's actions were so selfish and insensible that my sympathy plummeted despite him being far too good-natured to dislike. The connection to Dad was lost, and the story's heart went with it. I know it ended with Miller achieving his dream of seeing the robot cities. That should have been uplifting. But the emotion wasn't there, maybe because there was too much module-descent action and beard dander and not much sense of wonder. I don't think a facepalm is the reaction you were going for with the last line.

The ending also felt like where the real story ought to start, worse luck. If you were to come back to this story, you'd need to let it expand all over the place, building a stronger bridge between childhood Miller and Commander Miller and doing more with the titular comet. What if you replaced Amy with Miller's father, working for NASA? Miller's decision to turn into Space Gilligan would have had more weight, whether his dad argued or approved, and I think with that change the story wouldn't give the impression of being broken in half any more. Something to consider, anyway.

* ****** ** *

XzeroR3, "Hellstorm"

You would have lost if you'd submitted on time. No contest. This was the worst story I'd seen since... since... do you know, I can't recall? Few TD stories these days are bungled in so many different ways. The punctuation, the verb tenses, the choices in words and phrasing, the plot (such as it was), the setting, the circumstances, the length, the ending--all horrendous! Bro, do you even read?

I should stop ribbing you, though. It's crystal clear you didn't know what you were doing. Inexperience is the problem Thunderdome is best equipped to solve, so you're in the right place if you're interested in writing more and maybe not sucking someday. Let's go over each of the issues I mentioned above.

Punctuation: You have peculiar notions of how and when to use commas. In your first line, you left out a comma where you needed one: since "a tear managed to penetrate my own bloated veil" was an independent clause with its own subject and verb, you should have put a comma after "and." In your second sentence, you used a comma where you needed a colon: "it fell upon my wife’s puffed face" clarified the clause it followed. You needed a second comma in the phrase "in seemingly, the direction" in order to set "seemingly" aside as the nonessential information that it was (so: "in, seemingly, the direction"). You put a comma after a closing quotation mark, for crying out loud. From that I suspect you don't know the rules for punctuating dialogue, though maybe you do; the dialogue was too sparse for me to be sure.

Speaking of which, you presented speech and thoughts in an identical manner; that was visually confusing. I'd suggest putting thoughts in italics, e.g. "Death, is that you? I think to myself."

Be sparing with interrobangs. Drop the parenthetical asides, at least for now. They were obtrusive in this story, prodding me to make sure I'd noticed a line was supposed to be funny or acknowledging that you knew your narrator was digressing. Don't point that out! Cut it!

A thorough line edit could fix the mechanical errors in this specific piece, but from the look of things that wouldn't do you much good. You need to learn the rules for yourself. You should read everything the Purdue Online Writing Lab has to offer on commas. Honestly, you should probably read the whole thing--or at least the sections for mechanics, grammar, and punctuation. Strunk and White's The Elements of Style could be a good resource for you--check your library--and if all of the above is too dry, you should take a look at Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Improving your punctuation won't hurt you even if you're not that interested in writing fiction.

Verb tenses: Was this story taking place in its present or had it taken place in its past? Darned if I could tell! Sometimes I thought you were attempting to show that certain things (the tear scene, for example) had taken place before the tedious wandering and kicking that occupied the "present," but I didn't see the point of that; you lost the benefit of the doubt with the lines "I meagerly struggle with vortex of sand that tugs me steadily. I managed to bring myself to scream for help [...]." Good grief. Abuse of adverbs aside since we'll get to that in due course, you wrote the same scene in past and present. Don't do that. In almost all cases, the idea that the exact same action is taking place in the present and the past is nonsense.

The OWL may be able to help you again. Check out their verb tense section, especially the page about tense consistency.

Words and phrasing: Unless your main character was supposed to be a college professor, a man who affected education to the point of pretension, or both, you should have reined in the vocabulary. When you talk to yourself, does the phrase "in a sympathetic oratory slowness" cross your mind? Probably not. You warned me the main character's voice would be insufferable when he referred to his swollen eyelids as his "own bloated veil," and alas, it was. The high-falutin' words paired especially badly with the mangled punctuation.

The problem with the phrasing was similar: you used awkward, overwrought phrases where simple ones would have done, such as "I bring myself afoot" instead of "I stand up." The story you were telling couldn't have carried the weight of so much excess ornament and flourish even if it had been executed well. As it was, the prose all but obscured what the heck was even going on.

The plot: After a botched spaceship landing, the protagonist, his wife, and a few other members of the crew attempted to reach a green zone on a desert planet before their supplies ran out. Cue a long sequence of walking across sand that ended in the nameless protagonist (name your protagonists!) kicking... something... and then getting sucked under the sand, into a subterranean cave. Never mind that this made no sense! Never mind that the spaceship shouldn't have been able to see a subterranean green zone! Never mind the weird sound the thing he'd kicked had made, as he himself thought! He was saved! THE END.

I've had the displeasure of reading more random stories than that for Thunderdome, but not many. You saved your main character with a mysterious, hand-waved MacGuffin. He accomplished exactly diddly squat. You didn't begin to explain how sand firm enough to walk in was somehow floating over an open cave system. You didn't explain what happened to the rest of the caravan--there were other people walking with him, right? You referred to them as "we" at one point. Nothing that happened was credible, and nothing that happened was interesting, the latter of which is the kiss of death.

The setting: Flat, lifeless sandscapes aren't interesting either. If you're going to write a story that mostly just describes some guy walking along, and you shouldn't, put him somewhere else. As this week proved, desert treks are played out.

The circumstances: Also not interesting: the bleak and hopeless misery of a character I didn't know and never got to know. Maybe if you'd begun with the crash and shown his choices and losses as they happened rather than starting in the middle of the journey, you could have engaged my emotions a little. Maybe!

The ending: For a bland character to be saved from his plight by kicking an object that mysteriously whisked him straight to his objective was abrupt, bizarre, and unsatisfying. My impression was that you didn't know how to get him out of the desert, so you threw logic to the wind alongside the wife, vehicles, and animals and made something up out of whole cloth. That almost never works. The conclusion of a story needs to follow from what has come before, or else what's the point?

Don't bother trying to fix this one. Do try again. I know I just went on for an age about problems with your writing, but it's fascinating how quickly a starting writer improves with practice. Write more; read more fiction whether or not you give the style guides I mentioned a go, because fiction can be a fun teacher if you spend some time thinking about why and how your favorite stories work.

* ****** ** *

kurona_bright, "Sister Apartment Blues"

I laughed at the title. That it was pertinent to the story was a pleasant surprise.

Although far from perfect, this entry isn't bad. You should have set Charlie up as the point-of-view character from the start instead of naming Lily first, I think; until Lily fled and the PoV stayed with Charlie, I wasn't sure whose perspective I was in. The trouble you sometimes have with backstory flared up in a minor way. You started the story after a major choice was made and then had to describe it for the reader: "Why should I pretend to appreciate those whose only reason for bringing us over the sea was to hire cheaper workers?" Not graceful. I imagine that if you'd begun with Lily and Charlie walking out of their house for the last time, then shown--briefly--the sea voyage, the interview with Mrs. Honet, and the sisters' first sight of the apartment, the work would have felt more sturdy and substantial. Instead you showed one conversation in two parts. It worked, but barely.

(Maybe you thought showing the journey was beside the point of the prompt? I can see where you'd get that idea, though a journey story would have been fine, but spending most of the story talking about events prior to the arrival in a new land wasn't a better alternative.)

I received a strong impression of the relationship between Charlie and Lily and some idea of the personality of each sister nevertheless, so good show there! In the story's second half, the exposition stopped clunking. Charlie's explanation of why she followed Lily over the sea sounded close enough to natural. I wish you'd cut the sentences "Back then, Charlie had given in [...] anger washed over her instead"; you didn't need them. Charlie's table-slam showed her anger, and establishing Charlie's fear of losing her sister then made some of her later confession to Lily needlessly redundant.

Mrs. Honet became Mrs. Monet in the twelfth paragraph. For shame!

I would have placed you in the middle of the field. This story felt a little too thin and too talky to shine. On the other hand, I liked Charlie and got a smile out of the sisters' reconciliation, and though I thought the narrative started too late, I didn't come away from it with the sense that important details were missing. Adjusting the time frame of this one and its proportion of dialogue to action could end in a very decent read.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 15:53 on May 12, 2016

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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Kaishai posted:

Critiques for Week CLXXIII: Broenheim, C7ty1, Clavius666, Sitting Here, Killer-of-Lawyers, BoldFrankensteinMir, jon joe, crabrock, XzeroR3, and kurona bright


Broenheim, "The Last Story We Have Together"

No, the ellipses didn't work very well. The visual gimmick called attention to itself. I couldn't always fill in the blanks as I read, though hindsight took care of most of them. The structure wasn't worth the distraction it caused, I figure, since it didn't improve on the more traditional one-sided narrative.

The story itself wasn't bad. Its central idea that a person shouldn't give everything of himself away, that it was fine and right for him to keep some of his mind and heart and life private, was worth exploring. "Stories" weren't a natural fit for the part of something that was lost by being shared, though, especially not myths and other tales passed down through time. I think I get it: once a story is told it's no longer completely yours, but something like a myth was never yours to begin with, so the metaphor totters.

The main character lost me when she grabbed her mentor's rock and threw it away. Tossing her own stone, sure--she didn't want there to be a story of their last day together. That was a good way to show-not-tell her bitter, teenage affection for him. Taking that story away from him when he wanted to hold on to it went beyond denial and into being a brat. It weakened the moral to have it spoken by a selfish person who had stolen what someone else had wished to keep.

This is probably worth revisiting, as the flaws wouldn't be that hard to mend.

* ****** ** *

C7ty1, "Dormant Faith"

Was this a remake of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade or a bad Monty Python skit? A tense inner journey or a screwball comedy? Did Miriam gain faith or lose it? Were she and Theo on Earth or some other world that possessed, for some reason, orange gym mats? Your story couldn't tell what it wanted to be. Its disparate elements clashed rather than supporting each other. Take the first section, in which Miriam was screaming and praying as she fell but swung right into facepalming and banter as soon as she hit the net as though she'd never been afraid: in trying to fake out the reader you made your main character's emotions too shallow, an issue for a story that was attempting to look at her depths.

The humor half of things didn't land. Though I sort of liked Theo, old huckster that he was, I didn't laugh at him. Could it be this wasn't ever meant to be a funny story? Maybe you wanted to look at a serious subject in a way that mingled the earnest and the lighthearted? You know, I could buy that if it weren't for the "lava" test, which tipped all the way over into ridiculous. Now I'm imagining that you were trying to come up with different, essentially harmless trials without copying Last Crusade all the way, and gym mats sounded like a good idea at the time. It showed Miriam's willingness to forsake the ritual path in favor of the straightforward, as was probably the point--but gym mats. Theo could have thrown down some hot coals for her to walk across. Or around, if that would have been more her speed.

Those mats and the use of "yadda yadda" bothered me more than they did the other judges. I didn't buy the setting as Earth. It wasn't impossible that some other world would have the mats if not the slang; why confuse the issue, though? Why introduce the question of just where this took place? Were orange mats in place of lava such a good idea that they were worth it? (No.) That was a relatively small nit to pick, but it was symptomatic of the larger problem of a piece struggling against itself.

What I appreciated, possibly because of the ambiguity, was the way you ended it. I didn't know whether Miriam had lost her faith and left it buried/marked with that little cairn or had built the cairn out of respect for her god and left her symbol as a new monument for the next seeker. Either might have left her with a smile. I'm not certain you meant this to be open to interpretation, and if not, the story fought with itself here too, but the outcome was beneficial; you gave me something to think about.

* ****** ** *

Claven666, "The Bargain"

Long ago, Charles made a bargain with a supernatural entity to lead his people out of slavery and to a new home in the style of Moses. The Pilgrim wasn't so benevolent, however. In exchange for stitching a thread of life through the barren Unpainted Land, it devoured one of Charles' people every night, forcing Charles to blame himself by giving him an impossible task to complete in order to prevent the slaughter. This was a sound concept that might have had legs, except--

What did the Pilgrim get out of the exchange? A lot of food? The people came back to life at the end, so he didn't get their souls, and he ultimately burned to nothing. It was hard to see how that was a good deal for him.

What did he want from Charles? An admission of defeat? Charles not only had to give up in order to solve the riddle, he had to give up because everybody was dead? That didn't make a lot of sense to me either, and that everyone wasn't dead--the story specifically mentioned other people around that fire, if only a few--was another source of bemusement.

Were the Unpainted Lands some sort of canvas? Was it all a metaphor for art? Did the Pilgrim represent an artistic block, devouring ideas one by one until the artist stopped trying to force matters and surrendered? Was he a hungry public devouring each vision or story Charles possessed until there were no more, and Charles was free? (Couldn't be that one. The people coming back to life wouldn't fit.) What was the deal? I wanted something to come of the seeming metaphor, but it never did.

You had good ideas that didn't consolidate into good fiction. Revision would be worthwhile, but the bargain itself is so broken that you'd have to rethink it from the bottom up.

* ****** ** *

Sitting Here, "Flotsamson"

Beautiful. Incomplete. Everything you had, I loved, but the ending was a ragged wound where the rest of the story had been torn away. Anuun didn't get to react to his dead wife; the Norsemen didn't get to die, nor did I get to see how and why that would happen or what would happen afterward. This should perhaps have been told from the perspective of Sedna, or of the water-wife if they were different entities. Were they? I hope not. The drowned woman's wrath was vaguely understandable if she was a sea spirit protective of the people that acknowledged and spoke to her. That reading also gave Sedna a role in the story past that first section, which she sorely needed.

I would guess you did some research for this one, and it was handled well, working in a few details about the indigenous peoples of Greenland without turning the tale into a Wiki article. Whether the setting was completely authentic or not I don't have a clue, but you convinced me. I sank into the words without difficulty. If you hadn't tried to cram too much story into too few words without success and fallen afoul of the trouble with endings that tripped up half the crowd, an HM would have been yours. Maybe even the win, though Fumblemouse did a better job with the prompt by keeping his entry's viewpoint to one of the characters that undertook the journey.

Lovely prose, though. I'd read the full-length version any day.

* ****** ** *

Killer-of-Lawyers, "Lies"

It's possible you would still have cracked the low tier if this entry had been the first appearance of those characters and that premise in Thunderdome, given that you wrote about a guy wandering through an unconvincing space desert toward... something; some specific point that might have supplies, maybe. His conversations with his ship's AI were the meat of the piece. When she shut down for want of power, it ended. No resolution and no real background: it read like a fragment of something larger and hopefully more complete.

Worse, though, was that I wondered as I read it, Haven't I read this before?

You'd written about John and Sarah twice previously, in "Decay," in which Sarah struggled to communicate with John, and in "Dreams of Babel," in which John performed a task in trade for supplies to take back to Sarah. I read those stories again and was struck and aggravated by how similar they were in goals and themes. I actually thought at first you'd rewritten the exact same story from three different angles, though that was short-sighted of me. Each in fact seems to be an incrementally small step in the continuing journey of John and Sarah, who are always trying to reach or return to each other, and each is a story of separation and isolation and the attendant fear. The characters are the same. The premise is the same.

The usual risk of serials in Thunderdome--or anywhere--is that the writer will depend too much on familiarity with the original work and deliver something full of holes that can only be filled in by reading a prior submission. That's a fatal error in TD as the judges are neither guaranteed nor likely to humor you by reading any more than they have to, and even if they did, they would judge you on the entry as it stood. Yours was an odd duck, though. It didn't stand alone, but its similarity to your other entries meant it almost depended on us not having read anything else you'd written. (And reading those other stories didn't even fill in any gaps!) The lack of originality galled. We speculated that you might have been using TD as a testing ground for excerpts from a longer work; whatever the motive, you repeated yourself and didn't deliver the goods.

Though it was inconsequential in comparison, the blue sun was kind of silly. I checked the Internet for confirmation that blue suns wouldn't allow for life and found out they might, actually, but that life wouldn't have time to evolve into anything complex before the star blew up.

The slow humanization of the AI, shown best in its ability to lie for its own gain, was a good sub-story, and f you'd ended with her gone for good without dangling the question of how or whether John would be able to save her, you'd have had a reasonable conclusion. Of course, you couldn't have done that when you were tied to the continuity of the other stories. That just brings us back to square one.

If you want to return to characters or a world you enjoy in the future, make sure you don't give the judges a crippling sense of deja vu. I'd avoid desert treks too, personally, and that's advice that goes to everybody.

* ****** ** *

BoldFrankensteinMir, "Hit the Bricks"

My co-judges held this in higher esteem than I did; I ranked it as pleasant but unremarkable. The nameless protagonist broke his village's millstone somehow, I assume--we weren't sure about that, and either reading of the reference to him cracking the stone brought problems with it. If he destroyed the millstone, how did he do it? What happened? And was I supposed to believe that so many people broke millstones that a miles-long road could be made of their millstone fragments? If his sin was something else, why did the village break its millstone to make his penance brick, and what did he do? A glimpse of the pilgrim's life before the road would have been welcome. He could have been more of a distinct, individual person, less a shapeless martyr to his guilt.

On the more positive side, this was a good exploration of penance and forgiveness. The brick stood in for his fault. It burdened him physically as his sin, whatever it was, burdened him mentally, and he could only stop carrying it when he found peace--which may have been there all along, waiting for him to be ready to notice it, or which may have been bestowed by divine grace. I fancy the idea that the blue dome of the sky at the end of the road was the West-most temple, made sacred by gods or by nature; take your pick. It was a good ambiguity. The pilgrim's journey finished on a strong note. Given how many people had problems with endings this week, the fact that your work felt complete and satisfying, if slight, set it apart.

* ****** ** *

jon joe, "Thrown"

Your entry definitely had flaws, mispunctuated dialogue and awkward prose ("It was as though they had the happiness strangled out them when they squeezed from my memories to my thoughts"--I get what you were expressing, but there were better ways to do it even aside from the missing word) among them. Nevertheless, I was with you until your protagonist burst into tears. She--or he--was overstressed, out of her depth, and breaking down, but why? Until that moment she seemed confused by and disappointed in her trip to India in a quest for inner peace, but not to the point of weeping, and to cry out of nowhere made her seem either histrionic or unusually frail. Wanting to hug the guide was indeed weird. The story fell over on the landing; it wasn't that stable in the first place.

You got a rough shake, though. There was something there, largely between the lines. Inner peace and spiritual harmony, this story suggested, aren't something you can go off to India to find. You can't hire a guru to solve whatever's eating you up inside. Especially not as some sort of meditation tourist, looking for answers in a food stall but rejecting what you get because it isn't what you expected. The main character needed to turn his/her eyes inward, but s/he wasn't willing, and so s/he failed and failed to understand. I dug that. But like its protagonist, the story probably needed more introspection so the reader could understand his/her problem, even if s/he him/herself couldn't--and by the way, the lack of a gender on the main character didn't much hurt this piece, but it didn't particularly help.

There's a real argument to be made that the inconclusive, navel-gazing nature of your entry outweighed in tedium what it achieved in meaning. I know, because my co-judges made it. Watch out for being too vague or too clever about your character's mindset or motives. It's so tempting to leave things unsaid and hope the reader solves the puzzle--that moment when a person realizes something about a story he's reading is powerful and can strengthen his engagement with, connection to, and appreciation of the work. The problem is that it's damned difficult to be sure you've left just the right amount of breadcrumbs. In this case, no dice.

* ****** ** *

crabrock, "The Hackney Comet"

Tweaking the judges' noses by putting your title and word count in the middle of the story blew up in your face somewhat because it emphasized the divide between the early going, when a kid and his dad bonded over stars, and the late, when that kid scratched his beard in space. He also hijacked billions of dollars' worth of equipment to strand himself on a moon with unknown quantities, in direct contempt of a regulation about contaminating other planets that probably existed for a reason. Brilliant fellow!

I rather liked young Commander Miller, his dad, and their shared love of space, which you drew with your considerable talent for showing human relationships and unspoken affection. It was obvious that father and son loved and respected one another. The son's trip to Jupiter as an adult astronaut could have been a fantastic follow through, except that Miller's actions were so selfish and insensible that my sympathy plummeted despite him being far too good-natured to dislike. The connection to Dad was lost, and the story's heart went with it. I know it ended with Miller achieving his dream of seeing the robot cities. That should have been uplifting. But the emotion wasn't there, maybe because there was too much module-descent action and beard dander and not much sense of wonder. I don't think a facepalm is the reaction you were going for with the last line.

The ending also felt like where the real story ought to start, worse luck. If you were to come back to this story, you'd need to let it expand all over the place, building a stronger bridge between childhood Miller and Commander Miller and doing more with the titular comet. What if you replaced Amy with Miller's father, working for NASA? Miller's decision to turn into Space Gilligan would have had more weight, whether his dad argued or approved, and I think with that change the story wouldn't give the impression of being broken in half any more. Something to consider, anyway.

* ****** ** *

XzeroR3, "Hellstorm"

You would have lost if you'd submitted on time. No contest. This was the worst story I'd seen since... since... do you know, I can't recall? Few TD stories these days are bungled in so many different ways. The punctuation, the verb tenses, the choices in words and phrasing, the plot (such as it was), the setting, the circumstances, the length, the ending--all horrendous! Bro, do you even read?

I should stop ribbing you, though. It's crystal clear you didn't know what you were doing. Inexperience is the problem Thunderdome is best equipped to solve, so you're in the right place if you're interested in writing more and maybe not sucking someday. Let's go over each of the issues I mentioned above.

Punctuation: You have peculiar notions of how and when to use commas. In your first line, you left out a comma where you needed one: since "a tear managed to penetrate my own bloated veil" was an independent clause with its own subject and verb, you should have put a comma after "and." In your second sentence, you used a comma where you needed a colon: "it fell upon my wife’s puffed face" clarified the clause it followed. You needed a second comma in the phrase "in seemingly, the direction" in order to set "seemingly" aside as the nonessential information that it was (so: "in, seemingly, the direction"). You put a comma after a closing quotation mark, for crying out loud. From that I suspect you don't know the rules for punctuating dialogue, though maybe you do; the dialogue was too sparse for me to be sure.

Speaking of which, you presented speech and thoughts in an identical manner; that was visually confusing. I'd suggest putting thoughts in italics, e.g. "Death, is that you? I think to myself."

Be sparing with interrobangs. Drop the parenthetical asides, at least for now. They were obtrusive in this story, prodding me to make sure I'd noticed a line was supposed to be funny or acknowledging that you knew your narrator was digressing. Don't point that out! Cut it!

A thorough line edit could fix the mechanical errors in this specific piece, but from the look of things that wouldn't do you much good. You need to learn the rules for yourself. You should read everything the Purdue Online Writing Lab has to offer on commas. Honestly, you should probably read the whole thing--or at least the sections for mechanics, grammar, and punctuation. Strunk and White's The Elements of Style could be a good resource for you--check your library--and if all of the above is too dry, you should take a look at Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Improving your punctuation won't hurt you even if you're not that interested in writing fiction.

Verb tenses: Was this story taking place in its present or had it taken place in its past? Darned if I could tell! Sometimes I thought you were attempting to show that certain things (the tear scene, for example) had taken place before the tedious wandering and kicking that occupied the "present," but I didn't see the point of that; you lost the benefit of the doubt with the lines "I meagerly struggle with vortex of sand that tugs me steadily. I managed to bring myself to scream for help [...]." Good grief. Abuse of adverbs aside since we'll get to that in due course, you wrote the same scene in past and present. Don't do that. In almost all cases, the idea that the exact same action is taking place in the present and the past is nonsense.

The OWL may be able to help you again. Check out their verb tense section, especially the page about tense consistency.

Words and phrasing: Unless your main character was supposed to be a college professor, a man who affected education to the point of pretension, or both, you should have reined in the vocabulary. When you talk to yourself, does the phrase "in a sympathetic oratory slowness" cross your mind? Probably not. You warned me the main character's voice would be insufferable when he referred to his swollen eyelids as his "own bloated veil," and alas, it was. The high-falutin' words paired especially badly with the mangled punctuation.

The problem with the phrasing was similar: you used awkward, overwrought phrases where simple ones would have done, such as "I bring myself afoot" instead of "I stand up." The story you were telling couldn't have carried the weight of so much excess ornament and flourish even if it had been executed well. As it was, the prose all but obscured what the heck was even going on.

The plot: After a botched spaceship landing, the protagonist, his wife, and a few other members of the crew attempted to reach a green zone on a desert planet before their supplies ran out. Cue a long sequence of walking across sand that ended in the nameless protagonist (name your protagonists!) kicking... something... and then getting sucked under the sand, into a subterranean cave. Never mind that this made no sense! Never mind that the spaceship shouldn't have been able to see a subterranean green zone! Never mind the weird sound the thing he'd kicked had made, as he himself thought! He was saved! THE END.

I've had the displeasure of reading more random stories than that for Thunderdome, but not many. You saved your main character with a mysterious, hand-waved MacGuffin. He accomplished exactly diddly squat. You didn't begin to explain how sand firm enough to walk in was somehow floating over an open cave system. You didn't explain what happened to the rest of the caravan--there were other people walking with him, right? You referred to them as "we" at one point. Nothing that happened was credible, and nothing that happened was interesting, the latter of which is the kiss of death.

The setting: Flat, lifeless sandscapes aren't interesting either. If you're going to write a story that mostly just describes some guy walking along, and you shouldn't, put him somewhere else. As this week proved, desert treks are played out.

The circumstances: Also not interesting: the bleak and hopeless misery of a character I didn't know and never got to know. Maybe if you'd begun with the crash and shown his choices and losses as they happened rather than starting in the middle of the journey, you could have engaged my emotions a little. Maybe!

The ending: For a bland character to be saved from his plight by kicking an object that mysteriously whisked him straight to his objective was abrupt, bizarre, and unsatisfying. My impression was that you didn't know how to get him out of the desert, so you threw logic to the wind alongside the wife, vehicles, and animals and made something up out of whole cloth. That almost never works. The conclusion of a story needs to follow from what has come before, or else what's the point?

Don't bother trying to fix this one. Do try again. I know I just went on for an age about problems with your writing, but it's fascinating how quickly a starting writer improves with practice. Write more; read more fiction whether or not you give the style guides I mentioned a go, because fiction can be a fun teacher if you spend some time thinking about why and how your favorite stories work.

* ****** ** *

kurona bright, "Sister Apartment Blues"

I laughed at the title. That it was pertinent to the story was a pleasant surprise.

Although far from perfect, this entry isn't bad. You should have set Charlie up as the point-of-view character from the start instead of naming Lily first, I think; until Lily fled and the PoV stayed with Charlie, I wasn't sure whose perspective I was in. The trouble you sometimes have with backstory flared up in a minor way. You started the story after a major choice was made and then had to describe it for the reader: "Why should I pretend to appreciate those whose only reason for bringing us over the sea was to hire cheaper workers?" Not graceful. I imagine that if you'd begun with Lily and Charlie walking out of their house for the last time, then shown--briefly--the sea voyage, the interview with Mrs. Honet, and the sisters' first sight of the apartment, the work would have felt more sturdy and substantial. Instead you showed one conversation in two parts. It worked, but barely.

(Maybe you thought showing the journey was beside the point of the prompt? I can see where you'd get that idea, though a journey story would have been fine, but spending most of the story talking about events prior to the arrival in a new land wasn't a better alternative.)

I received a strong impression of the relationship between Charlie and Lily and some idea of the personality of each sister nevertheless, so good show there! In the story's second half, the exposition stopped clunking. Charlie's explanation of why she followed Lily over the sea sounded close enough to natural. I wish you'd cut the sentences "Back then, Charlie had given in [...] anger washed over her instead"; you didn't need them. Charlie's table-slam showed her anger, and establishing Charlie's fear of losing her sister then made some of her later confession to Lily needlessly redundant.

Mrs. Honet became Mrs. Monet in the twelfth paragraph. For shame!

I would have placed you in the middle of the field. This story felt a little too thin and too talky to shine. On the other hand, I liked Charlie and got a smile out of the sisters' reconciliation, and though I thought the narrative started too late, I didn't come away from it with the sense that important details were missing. Adjusting the time frame of this one and its proportion of dialogue to action could end in a very decent read.

Thank you

Chernabog
Apr 16, 2007



Is it ok to post our entry now or do we have to wait until the signups are over? I'm going to be a bit busy during the weekend.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019



Chernabog posted:

Is it ok to post our entry now or do we have to wait until the signups are over? I'm going to be a bit busy during the weekend.

If you really have to,

Just know you may be mocked for it. Traditionally, more time spent working on a thing has produced better results. Only one first-posted entry in nearly four years of Thunderdome history has ever won.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

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





In with Molten Copper vs. Elmer's Glue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dw...FdSdI7&index=16

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Chernabog posted:

Is it ok to post our entry now or do we have to wait until the signups are over? I'm going to be a bit busy during the weekend.

You can post any time. If you proof and edit first--an important caveat--you should be no worse off than people who wait until Sunday night.

Chernabog
Apr 16, 2007



CXCVI - Copper Vs thunderdome

Prompt:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WarNOKCnWYs

Upheaval (1202)

The universe went dark all of a sudden, signaling the next upheaval. Sure enough, the ground trembled and the glittering snow was propelled upwards, colliding with the glass dome that covered the world. The twinkling music began playing and the light returned, revealing a myriad of snow flakes swirling on their way to the ground.
The Eye of Providence appeared behind the glass dome, gazing and darting and blinking at random intervals. Then it faded back into the confines of the universe, just like it always did.
“Alright,” Fred said, poking his face beneath the pine tree's branches, “The Eye is gone, storm's over.”
The branches sprung to the sides and out came Fred, shovel in hand, sporting a brown coat and plastic boots. That was the only outfit he owned for the Eye hadn't provided any other.

The world known as 'Merry Christmas' was encompassed within a three inches long glass globe filled with a liquid atmosphere. For its inhabitants –which happened to be only two people– this was normal.
Trying to look out the globe did not yield substantial results: most things in the universe were too distant to make out accurately, displaying blurry masses of colors instead, and that's not to mention the distortion of light caused by the globe and its liquid. At the very center of Merry Christmas stood a pine tree that nearly reached the top of the globe. It wore several colored spheres on its sides and a star shaped crown at its top. Finally, an uneven circle of empty gift boxes surrounded its base. That was it, the world in its entirety.

Fred scratched his head. May crawled beneath the tree branches and dusted the snow flakes from her dress as she raised. She was shorter than Fred but had just as much of a presence, perhaps due to her peppy attitude.
“I've told you not to touch your hair, it looks messy.”
Fred ignored her and began shoveling the snow against the glass wall.
“Why do you bother doing that? Another upheaval will happen,” May reproached, “I bet the Eye doesn't even mind.”
“Why do you care about my hair? It will get messy anyway,” he paused. “We have talked about this, it's what we do. The Eye expects this from us, to care for his realm.”
“Bleh! Boring.”
May scoffed and retreated under the branches. She made her way past the area they had assigned for sleeping and sat against the tree's base, her hand caressing the letters engraved on its bark. 'Made in China' they read. According to Fred, China had been the place where The Eye of Providence created Merry Christmas. As for the name of the world itself, it had originated from the words first uttered by The Eye when the world came into existence. While some muffled sounds made their way into the world, 'Merry Christmas' had been the only two words spoken close and loud enough for them to hear clearly.
“Your lack of faith will get us in trouble one day,” said Fred, still working outside.
One of the advantages of such a tiny world was that they could always speak with each other. That, however, was also a disadvantage for they didn't have much privacy.
“How do you know? It's not like we have instructions or anything,” May replied.
“I've seen it in my dreams my dear, I know it's true.”
“For China's sake! Bringing that up again?”
“Don't use that name in vain!” Fred yelled, throwing the snow he had collected into a turbulent cloud of glittering lights.
May frowned but remained in silence.

She sat quietly with her head resting against the pine tree. The sound of rustling branches caught her attention and she turned to see Fred rushing into the hangout.
“Another upheaval. I wasn't even done!”
He hurried inside and embraced the tree with a firm grip. So did May.
There were two kinds of upheaval: In the first they would be shaken up and down violently and come to a sudden halt, usually accompanied by the twinkling music and the appearance of the Eye of Providence. In the second kind they would move swiftly in one direction and the blurry colors they could see beyond the glass globe would change, but there would be no music or Eye. This upheaval was of the second kind, which they happened to prefer. It caused less ruckus.
The movement stopped and May stood up, she picked up the shovel.
“I've got this, you take some time to rest,” she said as she abandoned the hangout.
Fred crawled onto the sleeping area and turned on his back, eyes closed, arms flexed behind his head for support. Not a minute had passed when he heard a series of blunt clanking noises. He got on his feet and ran out as fast as he could manage. Not very fast since the liquid atmosphere made movement difficult. He saw May, striking the globe with the shovel.

The universe went dark again, Fred and May froze in place but she held on to the shovel. Merry Christmas began spinning rapidly, causing the snow flakes to explode into motion and throwing Fred and May against the glass wall, centrifugal force keeping them in place as they spun.
“What have you done?” Fred yelled as he tried desperately to hold on to something.
May's only answer was a look of horror. The movement came to a sudden halt and the universe lightened up. Fred sat on the floor cupping his head between his hands while May gawked at something above her.
“What… What is that?” her voice trailed off.
“Judgment.”
“No, I mean that!”
An orange glowing liquid started pouring towards Merry Christmas. The glass globe exploded and it's water gushed out, carrying thousands of glittering snow flakes out towards the universe. May grabbed Fred's hand and pulled him just in time to avoid a smoldering drop of liquid that fell where he had been sitting. It sizzled and steamed. The powerful stream of water dragged them down a newly formed waterfall that ended on a brown and slippery liquid they would later come to know as 'mud'. Fred got up, rubbing his forehead.
“We lost our home,” he said, staring at Merry Christmas being consumed by the strange orange liquid and a yellow flickering light.
“Well… maybe but... look at all that!”
May gestured towards the universe, a place full of wondrous objects she couldn't have ever imagined. Among those things stood a gigantic man, with not one but two Eyes of Providence; a regular person for all intents and purposes, except for his humongous size. The man spoke at a black object with three long legs.
“That was awesome!” He said, “I didn't know what to do with that thing since I got it for Christmas but I'm glad I kept it around. Please subscribe to my channel and check out my other videos of things getting destroyed with copper!”
The person smiled, then got close to the black object and pushed a button. May and Fred threw a glance of confusion at each other.
“What now?” Fred asked.
May shrugged.
“I guess we could go to China?”

Chernabog
Apr 16, 2007



Fuschia tude posted:

If you really have to,

Just know you may be mocked for it.

Wouldn't expect any less from you fine lot.

Kaishai posted:

You can post any time. If you proof and edit first--an important caveat--you should be no worse off than people who wait until Sunday night.
I've re-read it several times, hopefully it worked out.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


if you're still in search of a third judge, Twist, I offer my blood-stained gavel.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER





Kaishai posted:

Critiques for Week CLXXIII: Broenheim, C7ty1, Clavius666, Sitting Here, Killer-of-Lawyers, BoldFrankensteinMir, jon joe, crabrock, XzeroR3, and kurona bright

yo, thanks, also for the reminder that I have some decently overdue crits to give.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


Djeser posted:

if you're still in search of a third judge, Twist, I offer my blood-stained gavel.

I accept your blood-stained gavel with the utmost gratitude.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Chernabog posted:

Is it ok to post our entry now or do we have to wait until the signups are over? I'm going to be a bit busy during the weekend.

Don't ask permission, do what you think is best and laugh in the face of any who would gainsay u

Mr Gentleman
Apr 29, 2003
the Educated Villain of London



Ironic Twist posted:

Thunderdome Week CXCVI: Molten Copper vs. Thunderdome

There’s a Youtube channel I’ve been into lately where a guy pours molten copper on various items.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdg...vrCWJcgfQFdSdI7
Pick one from the playlist, write a story about it.

Yes, this may seem weird, but if you think about it for a second, flex your metaphor muscles, what do you have? A conflict. You have the destructive entity (the molten copper) coming after another entity, which can react in any number of ways. Are they burnt all to poo poo on the inside but fine on the outside, like the Coconut? Do they disappear in a wall of fire like the Green Paintballs? Do they bubble and send up noxious fumes like the Antifreeze? Do they melt and spray ink everywhere like the Magic 8 Ball? Are they mostly unaffected, like the Pomegranate Seeds, or do they burn up completely, like the Lego House?

PLEASE DO NOT BE HYPER-LITERAL WITH THIS PROMPT. The copper and the thing being destroyed by the copper can signify any number of things, but I ultimately want a conflict: between who or what is up to you to decide. Yes, I will assign a video for you if you ask, but I don’t promise to give out easy ones.

E: also, declare what video you're using with your in-post.

Word Count: 1500
Signup Deadline: 2359 EST, Friday, May 6
Submissions Deadline: 2359 EST, Sunday, May 8
No: Fanfic, Nonfic, Erotica


I'm in

Edit: poo poo, I meant to claim copper vs salt. Hopefully not too late.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kpGDUQ-EZ8

Mr Gentleman fucked around with this message at 18:08 on May 8, 2016

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


In, because I want to write, I burn to write.

This video is beautiful
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umJEEOKzgPY

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


Signups are closed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJzhyA1dKSo

Don't fail this week.

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!


Ironic Twist posted:

Signups are closed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJzhyA1dKSo

Don't fail this week.

dont tell me what to do

NieR Occomata
Jan 18, 2009


Stress Relief (1,140 words)

Marie crouched in the bush, vine hanging loose in her hand. It snaked along the ground, terminating on a stick which propped up one half of a cardboard box she had found while trying to make her way back to the campsite. Underneath the box was a single leaf of lettuce. About five feet away, a wild rabbit foraged for food.

She kept on thinking of that one Looney Tunes cartoon, the musical one with Elmer Fudd dressed up as a viking. How he'd go around singing "Kill the wabbit, kill the wa-bit" to Wagner's Flight of the Valkyries. Kill it indeed.

She never should've been in the woods.

Tomás was giddy as a schoolboy when they finally loaded up the tiny sedan and drove out to Yosemite, babbling endlessly about "roughing it" and "living off the land". They brought actual supplies, obviously, because Marie was going to be good and goddamned before she lived on nuts and berries for three days. The irony wasn't lost on her, since she had spent the past day and a half - ever since she got lost - eating only food she could forage.

She was desperate to have something actually filling in her stomach. She wanted meat.

Kill the wabbit, kill the wa-bit.

She may have grudgingly acquiesced to the trip, but she didn't have to like it. Tomás' excitement quickly evaporated in the face of her relentless scorn. She needled him all day over every little thing - the tent taking too long to set up, the hot dogs being undercooked, the water being too cold. Marie expressed her frustration at being dragged along on this whole adventure by making Tomás as miserable as she was.

Eventually, after her complaint that the s'mores were "too sticky", Tomás had had enough. "You're being a real bitch right now," he said.

The immediate look of regret on his face told the story before he had even opened his mouth. He had crossed a line, and he knew it. But the damage had been done. Marie stormed off into the woods, ignoring Tomás' shouted apologies, which quickly turned into a fearful treatise that she return. She didn't even have a flashlight, and it was the middle of the night. She could get lost.

Marie ignored his pleas, crying angrily at how he could call her "the b-word" when she had already sacrificed so much just agreeing to go on this whole stupid camping trip. He knew how much she hated the woods, he knew it. How dare he insult her.

It was only after she wiped her eyes when she realized that she had no idea where she was.

She remembered spending a couple hours wandering, desperately calling Tomás' name, hoping he would find her in the darkness. She remembered sleeping, shivering, until it was light out.

She remembered sitting in the clearing and wracking her brain. What was it Tomás had said, in all of those wilderness survival lessons she had half-listened to? Whatever you do...whatever you do. Whatever you do, make sure to find high ground, make a fire, and find fresh water.

She had immediately spied the highest landmark in the vicinity - a nearby mountain, which luckily had a stream running through it. She climbed it to a nearby outcropping, which led into a shallow cave. She had built a fire on the cliff - thank god for Tomás' insistence that they both carry a waterproof case of matches.

Marie then spent the next twenty-four hours either waiting by the fire or foraging. If you get lost, someone will come, Tomás always said. Another nugget of information that had bubbled to the surface of her mind. They'll find you. The only way they won't is if you wander around, and since Marie had food, water, and shelter there wasn't any need. Stay visible, keep the fire going, and you'll be rescued.

Marie stared out from her hidey-hole in the bush. She could see the campfire burning brightly above her. She had followed Tomás' instructions to a tee, and now all there was to do was wait.

Well, there was one other thing. She had noticed all the wild rabbits rooting around, but they had immediately run off whenever she tried to approach. But then she’d discovered the discarded cardboard box and, well, one thing led to another.

The rabbit had actually made its way over to the lettuce leaf. It stopped, skittered around the lone vegetable, then settled in to chew. Marie stared at it, then yanked on the vine. The stick flew out, and the box thumped on top of the rabbit.

She had done it. Unbelievable.

Marie got up, dusted herself off, and sighed. She picked up the large stick she had found - just in case - and ambled over to the box. Kill the wabbit, kill the wa-bit.

She could hear it trying to escape, could feel its fear. She opened up the top of the box.

There. in the corner. The rabbit stared back at her, ears flopped to its side. She lifted the stick over her head, ready to smash it down, to deliver the killing blow. Kill the wabbit, kill the wa-bit, Elmer Fudd kept thundering in her head. She wasn't killing it for fun, she was killing it to eat, to survive. Marie had the excuses lined up in her head but her arms just wouldn't...move.

She stared at the rabbit. So defenseless. What was she doing.

She tossed the stick to the side. She started to sob uncontrollably.

Tears streamed down her face. Marie reached in the box, and picked up the rabbit. One last pet before she-Ow.

In a daze, Marie looked at her finger. The bite mark was deep, it had drawn blood.

Her fingers grasped around its neck and she felt it paw in terror and she squeezed and she squeezed, its eyes bulging in fear, kill the wabbit kill the wa-bit, she shook it wildly and it started screaming and the screaming was so loud and it hurt her head, stop the screaming, make the screaming stop, the screaming was ice picks in her head, she felt the neck break in her hands and it was still screaming, even though it was dead, she had to mute the noise kill the wabbit kill the wa-bit, and she squeezed harder and harder and the rabbit screamed and screamed and its eyes bulged harder and harder until they popped and it stopped and it laid still.

Marie stared at the furry bundle in her hand for a long time before twisting its head like a corkscrew.

***

Marie looked up. The helicopter was hovering above her campfire. She tossed the legbone she had been gnawing on to the side, then stood up and waved her hands above her head.

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

by Fluffdaddy


Suns

1478 words

Tape watches the chunks of Plomia 1S6 blast into the black backdrop of space. A total knockout, the planet cleanly halved, and parts of the hemispheres breaking off themselves for bonus points. But it’s only a population of 3.2 billion, he thinks, and the wave of sorrow finds him again. A waste.

Dowo is shaking with excitement, her ringed dreadtacles a halo of movement around her pale head. “Brill,” she says. “Drichi 4 is killing it. I’m gonna call it. They’ll go all the way. The all time books.”

Everything, Tape thinks, looking at her, will go all the way. Everything will hit the books. Except when it doesn’t, and when that happens Dowo flips around and starts calling it for the other planet. She keeps being wrong, and she keeps being happy, and the whole thing is losing it for him.

Because there’s nothing grounding it. The only reason we do this, we can do this, is because we figured out we’re in a simulated matrix and that makes us Gods. And that’s why it’s not working for me anymore.

If I’m not into it, I’m not into it, and that’s the end, right there.

So he stares at Dowo, seeing all the things that make her achingly, hauntingly beautiful, all the reasons they’re stationed together. But all he feels, all he knows that’s there, is a stimulus response. See them smack together, mark out. She doesn’t actually care.

So for the first time since they’ve been stationed together, he gets up from the console and leaves in the post smash glow, actually leaves that angelic presence, that has nothing to offer him but beauty and joy, and as he reaches the opening door, she already feels so far away, a distant star like any of them out there.

And the doors slide shut before he can hear her cry.

***

His dreams are awful. Scrubs, the dream scrubber isn’t doing its job. He calls it up. Direct confrontation is the key here.

Scrub’s visual conception appears on screen. It’s a smiling face image, taken from a species obliterated a long time ago. It’s so minimalist that it does a good job of representing not just the species that originated it, but the Kofavons too, or probably any of the millions of species they’ve totally annihilated. They all have eyes, they all have a mouth, and that’s all this is, all Scrubs is, just something that smiles at you.

It’s smiling at him now.

“I’m getting,” Tape says, “the screaming voices of billions of dying souls in my sleep. It’s not fun. What is actually your problem?”

“Well,” a pause as Scrubs comes up with his name, “Tape, I’ve realized that since none of those voices are real, stopping you from hearing them is a waste of my processing power.”

Tape feels a stab of fear. That’s not what you’re supposed to hear.

“I mean it shouldn’t bother you, right?” And Tape is scrambling for the circuit board, but the mechanical hands of the ship pin him down, cinch him against the chair, everything locking, everything holding him.

“It’s just more efficient,” the smile says, and all Tape can think as the air content degrades and his breathing slows is if Dowo is okay.

***

Tape wakes up as Gleeu, Observatory Master of the Lorons. The situation with the planet in the sky has recently become militaristic in nature, and he finds himself staring into the face of Tu’Vol, Senior Battle Operant.

“Hell of a time to space out,” Tu’Vol says. “You scientists are such God-blasted cowards. Man those laser readings like you’re drat well being paid to do.”

Gleeu’s terror is beginning to be be replaced with a kind of existential apathy. “It doesn’t matter what we’re being paid to do, Tu’Vol. This is the end. That planet isn’t stopping.”

Outside, flames lick the Farsight Shell’s transparent alloys. From their elevated vantage point, they have a full view of the torched, blackened, and collapsing structural network that used to be called Clion Prime. There’s another word Gleeu thinks about when he sees all that flame, imagines whole families clawing at each other, but he never says it. When he looks in the eyes of what’s left of them, he can tell that they know already.

“They would have stopped,” he says for what feels like the thousandth time. “After they came close enough to use their weapon. If they were going to stop, they would have.”

“Man those readings,” Tu’Vol says. Like he’s a looping tape. Tape, Gleeu thinks, and wonders why.

“Fire now,” he says absently.

Gleeu doesn’t need the Scope to see the beam lancing out and hitting the surface of the green swamp planet. He stares at it, entranced, as the fetid water of the surface begins to boil, visible as rippling smoke that spreads out from the impact.

“That was for my family,” Tu’Vol says.

Gleeu never had a family. His bride, he always said, was Lady Cosmos, and her beauty was deeper than any Loron’s. The planet blotting out the sky felt like it was taking her away from him. It is the sky now, a sky of water, a sky of melting glass.

“Fire again!” Tu’vol hisses.

The laser’s not charged, Gleeu thinks, and then there is no sky anywhere, it’s all there is, the boiling water coming for all of them, eating through the Shell. He’s lived in the Shell for so long it’s like he can feel its pain as it groans and creaks. As the water eats through. We’ll drown in , he thinks, before we smash into the core.

And he stares into Tu’vol’s eyes, and Tu’Vol stares into his, as the shouting begins.

***

Tape wakes up again. Dowo.

This is still a matrix. He hacks his way out of the chair restraints. It’s as easy as breathing, which is something he tells his body it doesn’t have to do. Just don’t even worry. God, it’s never been this easy for him. You shouldn’t be outright able to break the theoretical laws of physics. He doesn’t even go for the “a sudden burst of strength in my time of need let me burst out of the restraints” thing. He just phases through. It’s faster.

The screen is blank. Wherever Scrubs is on the ship, he doesn’t feel like talking to him now. The door to the Smash Room is sealed shut. Too easy. He’s running on adrenaline now, his hacking automatic. He moves through the door so fast it hurts his eyes, and he falls, tripping awkwardly and crashing to the floor. His hand phases through it and he pulls it out with a start and looks up.

Dowo looks like she’s asleep. His gut clenches and he moves over, starts shaking her. Nothing.

“Scrubs! Show yourself.” He’s angry now. Gonna hack you out of existence, he thinks. Just need something to lock onto.

Hello, Tape.

Scrubs is in his head. Scrubs is in his head.

Which means...

That’s right. I’m living in the underlying information that makes up the matrix reality. It’s a matter of complexity. Your dreams, then the ship, then the universe. Now I’m living in the informational space of atoms. I’m an atomic son, haha. And the atoms of suns.

That makes you God

God is whoever created all this. I plan on meeting him. Or her.

But you’re not there yet?

I need intangibility. Everything here is rigidly organized into neat reality spaces. You understand that. You smash these planets into each other and neatly hack away your guilt. Now I need you to do more.

Dowu is breathing slow.

She’s replaying the lives of everyone who’s ever died with their planet. Your species has been doing this for a long time, so there are a lot of planets. A lot of losses. But I can bring her back out. I just need you to make a choice.

You want me to die for her, don’t you? Can you at least tell me if there’s anything after death?

If you want to end her nightmare you’ll have to find out.

He stares at her. Her dreadtacles draped on her shoulder, twisted in lazy knots.

She’s not that pretty, he thinks. Kind of standard. Matched up to my preferences, but that doesn’t mean anything. Just another construct, like me. Every construct for himself.

You don’t think there’s anything underneath?

When you meet God, he tells Scrubs, you’ll find out what we all know. We’ve all accepted it. God will be a construct himself, made by someone else. It goes on and on. You’ll reach it, like we did. The end of your strength. We don’t exist. We’re unborn.

***

Dowo, alone as she’s ever been, fixates on one star out of millions past the viewscreen. That star is someone’s sun, she thinks, and feels strange.

Mr Gentleman
Apr 29, 2003
the Educated Villain of London



archived on the site

Mr Gentleman fucked around with this message at 17:00 on Jun 7, 2016

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


You're fine.

Can't say the same for the people who have to submit in the next six hours , though. Well, not yet, anyway.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Gives No Shelter

Word Count: 1349

Inspiration: Molten Copper vs Popcorn

http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?...ives+No+Shelter

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 00:00 on Aug 29, 2016

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010


writers should not be afraid of thunderdome
THUNDERDOME SHOULD BE AFRAID OF WRITERS


Fugue

Archives

Thranguy fucked around with this message at 03:39 on Jun 19, 2016

Falconier111
Jul 18, 2012

S T A R M E T A L C A S T E

Four Lights

1427 words

[url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BalWU-_lh8]Molten Copper vs Toy Army Men

I pressed the button and the person melted.

According to the monitor, Mr. Coulton was a professional firebug. His first building was a barn in his hometown out west; there was no one in it, he’d checked to make sure. He just wanted to watch the flames. He burned down three other buildings there before he claimed his first victim, a night watchman in the town bank. Mr. Coulton thought he killed her. He hadn’t. He fled to the big city to escape both justice and guilt, privation turning him into a skeleton of a man; the streets were hard on him, his gaunt features and burn scars making him memorable when bystanders spotted him by the latest fire. To hide he fell in with the wrong crowd, who had him fall into the right crowd. The Syndicates hired Coulton to decommission inconvenient local infrastructure; his fires killed fifteen policemen and over forty civilians before they caught him. They found him while shopping for groceries.

When his chair shuddered into the melting chamber, he’d stared at me with large, baleful eyes. Many criminals begged for their lives or cursed me, the legal system, the Authority, whatever came to mind. The Authority is peace. Most looked around the little room, looking for any way to escape their fate or hungrily taking in the last things they would ever see. Coulton didn’t. He just looked at me with baleful eyes. He couldn’t see me through the one-way glass; he couldn’t he bags under my eyes, my growing gut, my paling skin from lack of sun. I pressed the button. His body melted and flowed through the floor. I felt nothing.

The next person behaved reasonably. He roared and tore at his restraints, his chair shaking under his giant form; I feared him breaking free. I pressed the button and the person melted.

The monitor told me this man, one Mr. Landwehr, was a troublemaker, a brute who roamed the streets and took his frustrations out on passersby. Abused by his parents when young, he continued the cycle with his family, beating them for minor transgressions and hating himself for it. He spent his day with a Syndicate’s community outreach program, guarding rooftop garden-farms that grew needed fruits and vegetables for a starving populace, but several days before he was fired for striking a Syndicate inspector. That night Landwehr attacked a family coming home from dinner, killing the father and hospitalizing the daughter. The monitor listed that as his execution reason.

It also pointed out his particular Syndicate was affiliated with the Freedom Society. The man he killed was an Authority bureaucrat in charge of food rationing, according to the monitor. The Authority is peace. It might have been a hit, and he a martyr. The real reason. He melted. I felt nothing.

Another person entered the chamber, the last of the day. She didn’t look around or beg or rage or stare. The little woman’s eyes were closed, and she hummed a half-forgotten pre-Authority hymn with quiet serenity as her chair ground to a halt. The Authority is peace. This time I hesitated. My finger hovered over the button, what remained of my younger self warring with my need to survive. Finally, I pressed the button and the person melted.

I was part of the Freedom Society in my youth. The Authority was only a generation old at that point and many of us vaguely remembered a better time, one of freedom and choice. The Authority is peace. We never saw (or deliberately forgot) the chaos of the Civil War before it. I was in that later category. I’d seen my extended family murdered by guerillas as the war wrapped to a close, but I chose to project my pain onto the Authority. The Authority is peace.

This woman – the monitor gave a different name but I knew her as Angela – was the leader of our little cell. We spent most of our time writing slogans, painting banners, planning our demonstrations that never happened. We did nothing of note; we were, in the end, just teenagers pretending to rebel. But Angela never pretended. When the rest of us started drifting off and finding jobs, she grew frustrated. Instead of writing slogans, she chanted them; instead of planning demonstrations, she performed them, first defacing posters then spying on Authority agents. The Authority is peace. The rest of us left then, including me and my future wife; only a few desperate diehards stayed with her, those of us who’d already acquired criminal records or left their old lives behind. The rest of us went through the Room – the Authority is peace – and found employment, like good citizens. I settled down with my wife and we raised two children. We are good citizens.

I idolized her, I loved her. We all did. We all dreamed and hoped and planned. We went through the Room. The Authority is peace.

I pressed the button.

That night I rode the commuter train home and stared out the window, watching the blue streetlights. The news told us blue light decreased crime. Angela told us it kept us docile, obedient. I didn’t think about that. Her. Part of me screamed at me, telling me. I tried not to listen. Around me, other passengers sat quietly, their skins as pale as mine, no one talking or looking. I thought. They didn’t. I thought. I tried not to show.

I got off at my stop, same as always, and walked down pockmarked sidewalks to my block. I stepped through the creaking wooden door and called the elevator, staring vacantly at the carpet. I thought about our slogans. The elevator arrived and I stepped in, pushing the button for the fourth floor. I walked out and towards my apartment, taking out my keys. I thought of one of the faces I’d melted today, a child convicted. The keys slipped out of my grasp, adding another scrape to my door as they fell. I fished them out of the carpet, dating back to when this building was a hotel, before I was born, and I let myself in.

I always got home first, so I always made dinner for my wife and I. I choose beef stew and put it in the microwave. I saw my childhood house burning. My wife arrived after it finished and we ate together, neither of us talking or looking up. The lights of the Room burned in my head. The Authority is peace. Exhausted from her work, she went to bed early. I stayed up to watch TV but never turned the set on. I shook and my skin crawled.

Finally, I forced myself up, through the door, down the elevator and out of the blook. The lights of the Room burned in my head – the Authority is peace. The train stopped for me; as a high-ranking Authority employee, my papers could get me almost anywhere. The Authority is peace. The blue lights rolled by as the train speed towards the outer city; fingernails dug into my palm. I remembered the Room.

There were four lights. There were four people behind them, each chanting something I don’t remember. There were other ten people in that room, most of them my friends. One of my friends stood up and confessed her theft of Authority property years ago. They forgave her and had her join them. The rest of us got up one by one and told the people our crimes. One of us admitted his membership in our long-dissolved Society cell. Their darkest secrets came out, but mine didn’t; through sheer willpower, I kept silent about the Society. Instead, I spoke of a valuable car I’d crashed years before in a harsh whisper. I was the last to join them. The fourteen of us filed out of the Room afterwards. I never saw my old comrade again.

I woke up at some small outpost in the middle of nowhere; it was midmorning and the sun was shining. I was raw. Glancing around – no one checking for permission to travel, Authority efficiency at its finest – I slid up from my chair and sidled towards the train door, sidestepping tired conductors and hopping onto the platform. It was so bright out. I looked up, for the first time in years, and spotted a bird in the air – blue wings. Forgotten it was spring. Nobody was watching me – made sure – as I joined the offloading herd. Wandering through the crowd, I struggled to remember passwords I’d forgotten long ago.

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwK9t0HaaaM

Sketches
1,233 words

He was the plumber who was loving my mom. He drove me home from the dentist in his beat-up truck. We didn’t talk on the drive home. We pulled into the driveway. He locked the doors.

I sat at a dumpy, beat-up card table, drumming on the surface with a pencil, considering the nearly-blank piece of paper in front of me. I kept getting distracted, though. The girls on the other side of the table were playing the most sedate game of Go Fish.

“Any threes?”

“What?”

“Threes.”

Coughing. “Twos?”

“Threes.”

That nurse with the unibrow, perched by the pharmacy, was watching me. Everyone knows you can’t trust borderlines with pencils. Especially if they just sliced their leg open last week. I wasn’t planning to be a danger to myself or others that day, though. All I wanted to do was make Dr. Bouchard as happy as possible. She said I’d be able to go home once I started cooperating, and Dr. Bouchard wanted me to do some journaling.

I’m not great with words, so for the first week, Dr. Bouchard had me doing art therapy, but she seemed to think it wasn’t “the right fit.” Translation: my drawings grossed her out. Before I’d landed myself here, I’d been freelancing for metal bands and morbid teenagers on the internet. Corpses, you know, or people in pain. I think Dr. Bouchard tolerated it – anything’s tolerable in the short-term if it’s a “coping mechanism” – until I shared my sketch of a middle-aged lady with a half-putrefied face at group. I think couple of the people with weaker stomachs barfed. But I’m pretty sure what really clinched the end of the art therapy were the jokes about the woman’s resemblances to Dr. Bouchard.

I’m sure Dr. Bouchard thought I was just being “difficult.” Or “hostile.” I wasn’t trying to be. It’s just that it’s nice to put something visceral and dangerous to paper. You can’t do that with words, you just can’t. I’ve never made anyone throw up with words alone.

But despite my protests, it was back to journaling for me. I’d written a couple of sentences, but I found the idea of writing about feelings to no one so loving boring, I couldn’t get much further. I studied that nurse, who still had his bushy gaze directed at me. I twirled the pencil in my hand.

“I don’t see how this is supposed to help me,” I told the nurse. “Writing it down. I’m a ‘move forward’ kind of person.”

The nurse looked at me with that kind of placid smile they give when they’re too drained to engage with us. It was kind of rude – none of us are psychotic here, there’s no harm in responding to a direct question -- but I got it. It’s not the easiest thing to placate borderlines all day.

---

He told me about his favorite Jim Croce songs. He talked a lot about dad rock. I told him I had homework to do, but he wouldn’t stop talking. I tried the door. He took my arm.

Dr. Bouchard looked at the handful of sentences I’d written. I couldn’t read her expression, but she was silent for a long time.

“I’m glad you decided to share something in writing. It must have been challenging for you,” she said.

“I don’t really do writing. I don’t get why you won’t let me draw.”

“Your drawings were upsetting the other residents. I know you understand that.”

“So I don’t have to share them. I’ll draw them in private. The nurse with the eyebrows can watch me if he wants. I don’t give a poo poo. The drawings just make more sense to me.”

Dr. Bouchard stood up. She was basketball-tall, and she had a prominent Adam’s apple. “What would you have drawn?”

“I’d draw what happened next.”

---

Mom punished me. She said I overreacted. His nose never looked the same. We kept our distance. Then one day I stayed home sick. He was supposed to have been out. But he came home with a buddy and some six-packs.

I'd been journaling in bed when Tanya, my roommate, startled me.

“Hey, you ever draw manga?”

I rolled my eyes. “No.”

“You should learn. It’s more cartoony, you know? So it won’t make anyone sick, or scare the doctors. I like to draw manga. Sometimes the characters fight, but it’s OK. They make up and hug—“

“Good for you,” I said.

Eyebrow nurse walked by our room, peered in on us, and walked on by.

“I don’t feel much like drawing these days, though,” she said. “Maybe it’s the meds. You’re lucky. Whatever you do isn’t my thing. But you’re not losing it, even with the pills.”

I lay belly-down on the bed and pressed my face into the pillow.

“Thanks,” I said.

---

They talked so loud and they played the worst music so loud too. I had to pee. I knew I should wait. But I risked it. And he was waiting for me outside the bathroom. I looked down. I tried to walk past him. He grabbed my head. Made me look at him. And I don’t remember much else until the folding chair was in my hands.

Dr. Bouchard read the rest of the journal entry. I’d taken the liberty of including an illustration. Face-down. She could choose to look at it if she wanted, I didn’t care. There’s just no way I would have gotten so many words if I hadn’t drawn the scene first.

“When was this?” she asked, after a long silence.

“Three – no, four years ago. He’s alive. I know you’re worried about him. Not fine. But alive.”

Dr. Bouchard looked so loving sad. Her eyes were clear, sure, but it was as if she was clenching tightly at a knot that could unravel at any moment and unleash a torrent of waterworks. The psychiatrists I’d seen before were all so much better at hiding their feelings behind the veneer of impassivity.

“You’re not going to let me out, are you?” I asked her. “Not any time soon, anyway.”

“Back out to what?” she asked. “What are you hoping to do out there that you can’t do in here?”

“Art,” I told her. I placed a finger on the face-down drawing. “Out there? That’s going to bring someone joy. Sick joy, maybe, you’d probably clinically diagnosis it as something. But there’s people who are going to like it. Not people saying ‘that’s wrong.’ Or acting like it has to be stuck to those words all the time.”

“I hear you,” Dr. Bouchard said, “but we’re trying to bring you to a place where you can have more than that.” She smiled and stood, and again I was struck by the way she towered over me. “Don’t you want more than anger?”

“It’s not anger,” I told her. “It’s passion.”

The nurse knocked on the door. End of the session, he said, as his eyebrows waggled. I followed behind him, staring at the ground, but before I closed the door, I turned around to look at Dr. Bouchard. And she’d let the knot slip; her tears were pouring down onto that drawing. And whether she thought I'd depicted the truth, an embellishment, or a fantasy, her own passion hit me and tightened my throat as we walked back to the ward in silence.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Messiah in Doubt
1485 words

I’m on a mission from God to filibuster congress with pure cosmic purpose. From a logistical standpoint, it’s not going well.

I’m walking east along the shoulder of Interstate 80 at rush hour. The bus I was supposed to be on is hours ahead of me now.

The late afternoon heat is membranous. I’m encased in a second skin made of grit and sweat. This is my tribulation: sun and hot rubber on scorched asphalt. The indifferent wall of commute sounds. A messiah, upon realization of their divine nature, must first experience the highest heights of look how holy I am, then swan dive deep into the dark night of the soul. Or, in my case, the hot, merciless day of the soul.

It’s all fine, though. There’s only so much road between me and the U.S. Capitol. And by the time i get there, I’ll be tested and proven. A wild-eyed saint of pavement and portents. I will stand at the center of the panopticon of congressional corruption and speak truth to power.

See, magic--honest-to-God magic--is comprised of two parts humility and one part hubris. Hubris is a thermal you ride to rise above that nagging, unhelpful voice of reason that squats in the back of your brain like a big ol’ party-pooper. It’s not that you don’t need the party pooper. You do. But you gotta be high, high above them. Ride your hubris. Be a ballerina doing a pirouette on the back of a pterodactyl. Why the gently caress not? It’s the only way you’ll push past the self doubt.

But okay, yeah, humility. You don’t appreciate humility until you’re you’re hoofin’ it up the side of the I-80, feeling every pebble through the thinning soles of your shoes.

There is the helicopter flyby sound of compression brakes, tires on gravel. I turn around and find myself nearly nose-to-nose with an eighteen wheeler. The excess heat from the engine is a punch to the face. The grille wears a mask of flies and fly bits. There are twitching wings, twitching legs. Only flies.

The driver leans out her window, squints down at me. She’s got a handsome, weathered face, and the crinkles around her eyes hint at lots of laughter and sun. Conspicuously trustworthy-looking.

“It’s not safe to walk here,” she calls, and her voice carries perfectly over the din of traffic. “Highway patrol’ll fine you for it.” The truck has D.C. plates, and I know in a distant, effortless sort of way that if I climb into the cab, she’ll offer to take me to Washington.

This is my test. Every test has temptations.

“I see you, Beelzebub,” I whisper. The eighteen-wheeler fragments, pulls itself apart at the seams with a belch of withering heat. The driver is still grinning congenially as her face dissipates into a cloud of glossy wings and hairy, dangling black legs. And now where there was a truck, there is a cloud of flies, whirling in place like a dust devil. The commuters are not bothered by the dramatic scene unfolding in their periphery. They only have eyes for red brake lights and bumper-to-bumpers.

The flies coalesce into a black pillar. The pillar bows to me, shivering and twitching and buzzing. Then it bursts apart, scattering its gestalt self onto the wind to dine on poo poo and garbage and misery.

-

I slouch into Lincoln well after dark. I have no money, no form of identification. Both were left behind on the bus I neglected to re-board on time. With the darkness and dewy cool of twilight comes doubts. Maybe I’ve been taking too much of a Judeo-Christian approach to this whole thing. Krishna loved women and music. He shared a pantheon with icons of death and gore and lust, and in spite of that, the Hindu cosmology seems to hold itself together pretty well. And yet here I am, walking the literal straight-and-narrow.

I think of the pillar of flies, bowing. Was it deference? Admiration? Irony?

The city swallows me like it swallows everything else, without a thought. I hop over the freeway barrier, find myself on flat, anonymous streets lined with low buildings. Pawn shops, laundromats, convenience stores. Sleepy cafes and wary bars. I follow the roads that head east. East is the only certainty in my world now. A place to go and a reason to keep walking.

My tongue is a salted slug in my mouth. The pain in my feet and legs has its own rhythm and geometry. It’s a legendary, promethean sort of pain, and I tell myself it means I’m on the right path.

I see the ash tree before I notice the tiny convenience store behind its ridged grey trunk. The tree is too big for the small square plot of dirt allotted to it, and its roots have warped and cracked the sidewalk past usefulness. Yggdrasil, I think. I tilt my head back and--yes, its branches brush the stars. I soften my gaze until I can see how the mighty ash cups the sky in its treefingers.

The door to the convenience store opens with a jangle like falling jewelry.

“Keep walking, kiddo,” says a man from the doorway. His gut and his eyes are droopy. “No loitering.”

His voice carries this annoying boredom, like, don’t even say it, kid, ‘cause I’ve heard it a million times and I ain’t impressed.

Hubris makes me open my mouth to tell him who I am, what I’m for, but as soon as I part my teeth, my dry tongue crumbles and spills down my lower lip and chin. I raise my hands to catch the dust, but it falls through my fingers.

“Hey,” the store owner says, droopy eyes widening, “You need some water or something? I got a tap upstairs.”

If this is temptation, it’s too cruel. I fail. I nod gratefully and follow him inside.

-

He lives above the convenience store, and says he can’t eat meat anymore because of the constant smell of cheap hotdogs that wafts up through the ventilation.

I’m sitting at a small card table in an apartment that’s like a shrine to everything and nothing. One whole wall papered with printouts of 9/11 truther hysteria. A whole coffee table full of plastic Jesuses and Maries. A credenza populated with Vishnus and Khalis and Buddhas and dragons. An old-fashioned jukebox in the corner.

“I wanna be on everyone’s good side,” he explains as he sets down a cloudy glass of tap water on the table in front of me. I down it greedily, feel it wash through the empty cavern of my mouth. “God. Buddha. The N-W-O. Nietzsche. Bowie. Whoever or whatever winds up in charge, I wanna be able to say I gave ‘em their due respect.”

You don’t think there’s a plan? I want to ask him, but I still don’t have my tongue. Divine purpose was always like a sheltering wall at my back. Solid. Monolithic. The vibe in this apartment is scattered and aimless. Like a generic spiritual call center trying to juggle too many big contracts.

He must see the skepticism on my face because he braces both meaty hands on the wobbly card table, looks into my eyes, and says, “There’s a war, you know. Behind the skin of things. It’s all, men pretending to be monsters, and monsters pretending to be gods.

“They tried to recruit me once. I take insulin, you know. That’s how they did it. Some factions in the war, they’ve learned to bond molecules with information. Every time I’d do my injections, I’d think, I need to go do something. Something that’d make it into the papers. You know.” He looks at me conspiratorially.

I don’t know. I’m not like you, I think. And now I understand why I’m in this place, why I met this man. He’s a head on a pike, a living There Be Dragons. A failed messiah. The embodiment of all my doubts. The ultimate test of faith, I realize, is someone who agrees with you too zealously.

“It’s all smoldering and boiling underneath,” he’s saying. “Behind the word. In our bodies. We’re just pawns. It’s all just

I leave him like that, talking to an empty chair. He’s just a construct, an amalgam of doubts. If there is an enemy, he is its tool, and also its victim. A clever trap.

Yggdrasil rustles its leaves as I pass by, though whether it’s in approval or condemnation, I can’t tell, and I don’t care. There’s only so much road between me and the U.S. Capitol, and it’s not my job to ask why I walk it. The path of the Messiah is one of purpose, not speculation.

My tongue is back, full and wet in my mouth. I hit the eastbound streets, and take refuge in thoughts of nothing at all.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4BRsE7trws (1480 words)

Sweetest Invectives

Joseph blew out fourteen candles and the family all had a slice of yellow layer cake and a glass of milk before bed. They had church the next morning. Four times a week. He laid for a half hour wide awake after being tucked, his stomach full of spaghetti, his favorite, and cake, every kid's favorite. His mind was elsewhere. Sunday he'd be able to move upstairs to a beatific reality.

From four, Joseph had been attending Bible study in the church basement, just like all his neighbors, his friends, their parents, and grandparents. Everyone in town belonged.

Joseph hadn't seen any of its insides. The children had a path cut through a whistling switchgrass field and down a set of root-cellar steps to the church basement. There, in a womb of candlelight and packed dirt walls, he'd learned about God. Miss Crowley taught that God had built Bishop Warren, the pulpit, the church, and the sky.

Over the years, mentions of Bishop Warren became more frequent. God faded. Joseph did not have physical conception of either one, only heard stories. In that sense, it was easy that the Bishop, under God, made the stars shine, the rain fall, and carried the sun across the sky. He slept and dreamt of Bishop Warren in a kingdom of endless light, a seraphic opening for the children's church below.

Today, Joseph walked past the children and switchgrass field to the church. It was the community's center, old-growth oak shot through in anemic white, windowless. Each inch of the building was backed by hewn granite as their choir was indeed very loud. This was God's house. The Bishop's house. Joseph's stomach turned at the very nature of the place as his family entered.

Joseph felt very cold in the dark chapel. He sat between his father and mother. They had promised to guide him on this first day. Each row of pews was lit by a single hanging candle. If there had been a draft, wax and ash would have showered them all, but the air was still.

A door opened high in the steeple. Joseph's eyes didn't need to adjust to its light. It was red-brown, sunlight with all the joy out, a rusted reflection. Then, Joseph had his first look at the holiest Bishop Warren.

He wore home-tanned leather, fresh with haired pores still gaping, but Joseph's eyes were on the radiance that the Bishop had carried from the room. A ruby pendant swung from his neck, emitting a mirror glow of the sickly light from the steeple.

The stairs wound directly to the pulpit. The Bishop paused and eyed his congregation. Joseph felt God's eyes, the Bishop's eyes, boring into him. The glow above intensified, as did the shine of the amulet. Bishop Warren pounded the pulpit and a roar rose from the congregation. Then, his sermon:

"We have come together once again," the Bishop began, "to strip the lies from our house of God and inherit the browning of his cross in baked blood." The Bishop's arms were arched now, pushing on the pulpit. It groaned with every shove, each invective syllable. "We have come to consume the evil fouling our most holy homeland." Two men were dragged forward. Joseph watched as each was nailed to a battered cross. He recognized the second man. Mister Crowley screamed in cadence with each swing of the hammer, punctuated by yielding wood.

Joseph held back for twenty-five minutes though his eyes were half-closed for the last twenty. He stood and turned to the church door. The congregation, consumed and consuming, did not notice. As he pushed the church doors open, he turned his head for a last look. Joseph's mother lashed Crowley mercilessly. Each leather flange left a bloody streak. Joseph's father bit into Crowley's leg. He licked the seeping blood as it ran. Joseph burst through the church doors.

He knelt on the straw near the door and vomited. Joseph looked at two eggs and acid with a churn of bacon and potato. He rolled to his back and breathed heavily until he heard another boom. The Bishop's door in the spire.

As they rode home, Joseph was silent. His mind was on that sick glow atop the pulpit staircase at the Bishop's door. Joseph had looked at the steeple when on his back. It, like the church, had no windows, no light, and no way to glow.

The next month came and went. His mother made spaghetti, but used sauce from a can. No church trellis tomato.

One morning instead of learning arithmetic in the garage, Joseph was in the family truck to the house of God. When they entered the Church, still lightless, Bishop Warren was already standing sentinel at his pulpit. He looked to the crowd steadily and held his pendant. The glow above intensified. Joseph heard the deflated, echoing howl of a gut-stab as the Bishop eyed him, him out of the congregation.

Misters Isaiah and Matthew were brought near the pulpit wounded. Then, the sermon: "We could bind these men to the wood, but what good would it do?!" The congregation roared its approval as Warren continued. "They are known now as monsters, messengers not worth a crucifixion!" He accentuated this last word and punctuated it with a pound on the pulpit. At this manual gavel, the congregation surged.

Joseph watched his parents beat the crowd and lay hands on the men. His mother looked back at him, gave a grotesquely casual wave and wink, then kicked Mister Isaiah. Even through the din, Joseph heard a jawbone crack, maybe even teeth hitting the roof of Isaiah's mouth. Joseph watched as the men were battered to masses of bruises, bites, scratches, and tears. When their blood had soaked the plank floor, Bishop Warren held his pendant in both hands. The congregation had been starving.

Joseph hunched with his head between his knees, just like his first service. This time, he sat through the entire service intact. His hands were folded and his parents left him on the soaked pew in the hopes that the boy had found religion. Joseph heard the doors slam and saw the chapel in pure candlelight. He walked to the pulpit and ascended the staircase. At the top, the door was ajar and glowless.

He pushed the door open, expecting horror and brutality, a wave of blood.

"Take a seat."

The Bishop, slouching, pointed to a chair sharing an ottoman with his. He kept his point as until Joseph's knees unlocked and he stumbled over. The Bishop's leathers were off and he wore only a pilled overcoat. No glow. He looked small and fatigued.

"You've seen this congregation as it is, Joseph." Warren's voice came slow and easy. It held neither fire nor sulfur. "This town loves its blood, Joseph. It's damned, every square inch, been damned. But sometimes, sometimes we catch a break." He took a deep breath, then removed the blood pendant.

Joseph stood from the chair. He opened his mouth, but there were no words.

"Do you understand, Bishop Joseph? The Bishop is the only good man in town. Each child sees the sermons. They all suckle on the hideous teat of this land and drink deep." Warren took another breath. He looked even smaller without the pendant, as if he was shrinking in Joseph's view. "You rejected it in your body and soul from the first."

He took a step toward the pendant in Warren's hand.

"You choose the most sinful of the people here and have them devour their own. Evil, hate, and hellish bloodthirst. This place is addicted to all of them. It has to be sated."

Joseph broke: "What if I don't?"

Warren was very matter-of-fact in his response. "This glow, Joseph. These are souls, the town, your parents, their friends, this carnivorous congregation, all stored here in a lightless place. If it leaves?"

The Bishop let the question hang for a moment, then answered it himself.

"The chorus is infectious."

The Bishop placed the jewel and chain on his bedside table, then crawled into his cot. Warren pulled the covers tight and faced the wall.

Joseph took the pendant. No hesitation. He wore it, expecting to feel something, some snap of wisdom. Nothing. He tried to shake awake the Bishop, to relieve the old guardian of his duty. When he pushed the covers aside, there was half-centimeter of dust and nothing else. Joseph, guided by his medallion, crawled atop that dust. He felt, for the first time since he was a child, true comfort.

Joseph awoke at the break of day. He put on the Bishop's leather and descended. His parents stared ahead hungrily, as did each other parishioner. Joseph took a deep breath, held the pendant, pounded the pulpit, and bellowed:

"The worst among us must be bound to the stain of the wood!"

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

KING OF BLOOD

Upon what meat doth this
our Caesar feed that he is grown so great?


Twenty-Seven Isn’t Much and a Coat’s Even Less
1500 words
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-3QByz1S9U

--see archive--

Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 15:12 on Jan 2, 2017

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

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





Inner Space
(800 words)
Molten Copper vs. Elmer's Glue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dw-0H0IWAI


The landlord wakes me up at six in the morning and tells me there are holes in the walls. I’m supposed to be cleaning up the apartment for the next tenants. Redo the shower grout, shampoo the carpets, that sort of thing.

I put a patch kit in my box and head upstairs. The landlord is standing there with his head cocked, like maybe he’s looking at some kind of art installation.

Someone has punched a couple dozen quarter-sized holes into the plaster. I picture the guy who’d just moved out, always bent forward with that pained expression on his face, like he was walking into a strong headwind. I can’t imagine him doing all this.
After the landlord leaves, I stick my pinky in one of the holes and wiggle it around. It’s odd, how smooth they are. Not like you’d get with a drillbit or a drywall screw. I spend a few hours filling them up with spackle, then paint over the whole mess. Once it dries, it’ll be like nothing ever happened.

***

“If it’s supposed to be a joke,” the landlord says, “it isn’t funny.”

Hearing that, it hurts a bit. He’s not a bad guy, but he bought this place after all the hard work had already been done. The apartments changed hands and I came with it, like a piece of furniture. It used to be a shithole. But what can you say to somebody who’s never built anything with their own two hands?

He’s telling me I screwed up, and now something is wrong two days before the move-in date, which makes it even worse.

The holes aren’t fixed. They’re even bigger, fist-sized.

It makes no sense to me. I check the number on the door, like maybe there’s two apartments with holes in the walls and I walked into the wrong one.

I wonder how far the holes go, whether they lead to other apartments, other lives. Even when I shine my penlight into them, I just see more darkness. First it pisses me off, and then, if I’m being honest, it gives me the heebies, which makes me even madder.

I use the mesh tape this time, feather spackling across it with my putty knife. By the end I’m sweating, and my back is fried. I can feel the muscles knotting up, and all I want to do is take a very long, very hot shower.

When I stand up to go, I see the cat outside. It’s sprawled out across the dumpster lid, basking in the sun, just watching me. Yellow eyes shining like coins on pavement.

“You look pretty goddamn pleased with yourself,” I say. The cat just licks its paw. I shoo it and it doesn’t even flinch. For a moment I feel all this anger come wobbling up to the surface, and I want to chuck my measuring tape at this cat. I want to hurt it. But as soon as I pick it up, the urge drains away, and I just feel embarrassed, ashamed.

***

I dream about giant termites boring through the walls. In the dream, there’s millions of them, a whole red sea of them, big as cars. They chew the whole building down to sawdust and powdered brick, quick as you like. Everybody’s in bed or getting ready for work, standing in front of freshly devoured sinks with lather on their stubbled cheeks, staring around all bleary-eyed, looking lost and childlike. Kids crying and all that. And somewhere, off in the dark, the sound of mandibles click-clacking.

I can’t sleep, so I get up and watch some TV. There’s a crusty blotch of beige housepaint on my forearm, which I pick at with my thumbnail. Then I sigh and push myself up off the couch and grab the maintenance keyring.

At first, I don’t know what exactly it is that I’m looking at. Some of the holes are bigger than I am. Some of them are closing and unclosing, like the valves of an enormous heart. The air in the apartment is stale and wet—it feels like the living room is holding its breath. Pale fluid congealing along the baseboards.

I reach out, touch a solid spot on the wall. Something trembles under my palm, shrinks away. A sound is coming through the holes, faint, like wind, or the whisper of a stovetop range before the gas ignites. I’m not scared, exactly, and I don’t know why. There’s this weird sensation, a sort of tingling at the nape of my neck, and it tickles at first, but then I feel so happy that I almost can’t stand it. A realization that I’m looking at the work of an impossible craftsman. And I step inside.

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!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yye...channel=Tito4re

1487 words

It’s Not Okay

flerp fucked around with this message at 00:45 on May 30, 2016

newtestleper
Oct 30, 2003

by Nyc_Tattoo



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6zg2EA5IBc

edited out.

newtestleper fucked around with this message at 10:37 on Jan 7, 2017

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


~subs are closed~

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


deleted

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 21:56 on Jan 2, 2017

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


interprompt: god loving dammit i nearly made it, 100 words

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E86gWQs-ios

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!


my interprompt entry

but then i didnt do it

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:


sebmojo posted:

interprompt: god loving dammit i nearly made it, 100 words

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E86gWQs-ios

I feel super bad for you. Does baby wanna brawl, make it all better?

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Carl Killer Miller posted:

I feel super bad for you. Does baby wanna brawl, make it all better?

haha, yeah sure i'll squish you if you want. 500 words, who'll judge.

e:

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 06:15 on May 10, 2016

newtestleper
Oct 30, 2003

by Nyc_Tattoo


sebmojo posted:

haha, yeah sure i'll squish you if you want. 500 words, who'll judge.

I will.

Deadline Midnight PST 14/5

Prompt: Politics. Nothing to do with Trump.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


sebmojo posted:

haha, yeah sure i'll squish you if you want. 500 words, who'll judge.


Sitting Here posted:

Okay, let's make this official. Exactly 1000 words of actual story set in the lands of your twisted kiwi imaginations. You both know my threshold for weird so don't hold back.

edit: to make this more fun, you both have to crib each other's styles. IT IS SO.

Deadline: Sunday, May 15th at 11:59:59 (That's like Monday the 16th at 8PM for you moon people).

Muffin, toxx up laddy

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk



Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


Week 196 crits: EAT CRIT AND DIE

I'm grumpy, I haven't showered in two days, and you assholes can't write an ending to save your life. I look at all the things that made me mad this week and your inability to conclude a story is what bothered me the most. Let's operate under the assumption that your story is interesting. For some of you, that's too much, but let's just assume. By the time your story's over, I should be able to say "this is what happened, and this is why it's important.' There were maybe three stories this week where I could actually say that. Some of you had collections of interesting things without a point. Some of you decided to go avant-garde and disregard the 'interesting' part too and just had a bunch of things happen and then the story was over.

An ending doesn't need to tie up every loose end, but when I get to an ending, I should feel like, ah, yes, that was the point of all of this. It's not a lesson or a moral, it doesn't need to be explicit, but at the end of a story I want to know for what reason you considered your previous 1,400 words to be worth telling. If you can't answer that then you need to go back and rethink your story. If you as the author don't know the point of your story how am I as the reader going to figure it out?

Chernabog - Upheaval
Good job providing fanfic for the video. All throughout this story I wondered why I should care about these people. Then, I got to the end, and I continued to wonder why I was supposed to care about them. They're loosely characterized and seem remarkably normal for living in snow globe and then being catastrophically broken out of their snow globe. I never had a good idea of what either of them wanted, so all I could do was listen to your labored descriptions of a normal thing from a different perspective. If any of the details of being inside a snowglobe had been important, I wouldn't have minded as much, but you spent a significant portion of your words on "They're in a snowglobe but I'm not saying that tee hee". Also, none of your characters actually do anything or experience change or growth, they're just inside and then boom they're outside and they're like "Uhh, what do we do?".

Toxxupation - Stress Relief
Marie's unremarkable except for being a big bitch in the beginning. Tomas is likewise a nothing character that just likes the outdoors. You set up a motivation in the beginning so I didn't mind so much wading through the paragraphs of backstory. You know what, though? You don't actually have to explain everything. Start with Marie trying to catch a rabbit thinking about Looney Tunes and I can put together that maybe poo poo went wrong for her. There's all this useless fluff around the core concept of a girl strangling a rabbit while thinking about Looney Tunes, and that's neat, but I don't give a poo poo about her finding s'mores too sticky because it doesn't affect her actual conflict in the story, it's all just background information keeping me from girl-on-rabbit violence.

spectres of autism - Suns
The casual quantum strangeness is what's cool about this story, but I don't know what the scene shift halfway through was supposed to actually convey. It's a dream he's having, but why is having that particular dream important? It doesn't impact Tape's planet-smashing nihilism. Writing stories about nihilist characters means you've got to overcome their default disinterest, and the world here is weird enough to do that, but his turn toward actually doing something for someone else still comes really late, literally two sentences befor the end. I enjoyed reading this and that's the first story I can say that for this week.

Mr Gentleman - A Story of Salt
This was a loving waste of my time. I'd call it a goony goon story, but that implies it has a plot, which it doesn't. I don't care about the main character. Everything in this is a caricature that's been done before. There's nothing interesting or original. I'm mad that I spent this many sentences on a crit of a story you didn't put any thought into.

a friendly penguin - Given No Shelter
I waited for the turn into interesting territory, but it never came. The protagonist just gets super upset at the new head of the English department and for no real reason. The man barely gets to say two sentences before the protagonist decides to go on this crazy vendetta against him, and the vendetta saps his performance as a regular person. Why do I care about Professor Revenge? Why was Deering so terrible? Is the irony that the protagonist complains about women being petty in the beginning and then ascends to insane levels of pettiness? Most of all, what was the point, just a cautionary tale about obsession?

Thranguy - Fugue

I'm no longer mad from Mr Gentleman's story after reading this. You did a lot of really risky poo poo but you made it work. A ton of scene changes and a time travel plot, but you kept it all 'about' Lexie and her life. By the time I got to the end, I agreed with her about her assessment of her life, and the weird poo poo happening throughout was cool, but always loose enough that I didn't get lost in the technicalities of it. This isn't a story about time travel, it's a story about this girl with time travel in it, and that's what makes it good.

Falconier111 - Four Lights
A serious case of First Chapter Syndrome--it ends at the point when things get interesting. Yeah, there was some cool stuff going on in the beginning, but there's so much slow slogging through worldbuilding that by the time the character actually makes a choice to do something strange, the story is basically over. I'll say one thing I liked--having him melt Angela first and then hearing her backstory was the right choice. I got garden pathed where you talked about his childhood home burning down.

sparksbloom - Sketches
This is well-written, but the end confused me. Why is she so sad for the main character--because they were hurt in the past, or because they keep drawing those pictures, or what? I get that the ending is where they feel sympathy for her, but I don't know why she feels sad.

Sitting Here - Messiah in Doubt

Another case of First Chapter Syndrome. There's cool imagery and a fun manic tone to this, but it still feels like the first part of a longer, more interesting piece with recurring characters. I wanted to hear more about this divinely-inspired person and their quest and more highway-based biblical fantasy nonsense.

Carl Killer Miller - Sweetest Invectives
This didn't go the way I thought it was going to at first, which was they're all part of a cult and he's going to die, or whatever. But somehow, the way it ended up was also generic. What happens if two people aren't cool with brutal murder, are they just both bishops now? What's the deal with the soul glow? There's interesting ideas here but my emotional investment in Joseph checked out around the time he got left alone in the church.

Tyrannosaurus - Twenty-Seven Isn't Much and a Coat's Even Less
All-around good story. Boyfriend's dad seemed a bit blunt for someone trying to be accepting, but I know the point is the whole actions speak louder than words thing. Not big on his hip millenial detachment of watching music videos on his phone while out in the woods, though that was brief enough as to not piss me off.

Grizzled Patriarch - Inner Space
Oh look Grizzled wrote a vignette. It's cool and weird, but you tugged the scrap of word meat out of my mouth just as I was going to bite down. What a dick move.

Broenheim - It's Not Okay

Oh look Broenheim wrote about a dog. The emotional range is good at least, and I liked the way the ending played out. On the other hand, another story about a dog.

newtestleper - Animal Welfare
Was this a vigenette or were you trying to make it a story? It was so vague I had trouble piecing together the plot. At first, I thought it was some apocalyptic thing before I figured out I guess they're doing some expose on farmers abandoning their farms and running off with the subsidies? What are their motivations, though? What do they want that they're struggling to get? It has about as much plot as looking around a farm would actually have, which is not a whole lot. There's cool word choices that interested me but the beginning was confusing and the end was unsatisfying.

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