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  • Locked thread
Aug 2, 2002




Weird Yoga Pose
1493 words

They can grow brain cells in the lab now, did you know that? They take them out of some poor creature and put them in a dish with some brain food, and let them grow. These cells flourish and divide, until the whole bottom of the dish is covered with cells. Then they network together, reaching out to their neighbors for a friendly hello. The dishes hold many separate colonies, arranged in four rows of six. There are twenty four individual colonies on a dish.

I am in well D6.

Any sufficiently complex network has a chance--albeit a very small chance--of becoming sentient. I guess that’s how it happened. Just a bunch of brain cells randomly hooked up made me. A million monkeys at a typewriter I guess. And what now?

How do I know these things? Do I see? Do I hear? Whose brain did I come from?

I want to shout out and yell: “Stop! Don’t douse me with the formaldehyde!” but I have no mouth. I want to cower in a corner, but I have no muscles. I am only brain, only thoughts. My synapses fire at 500 hertz; 500 eclectic thoughts flash through my brain every second. I am processing faster than any other network of brain cells, I am learning faster than any animal on earth, but I am helpless.

Every few minutes I lose a brother. A few of my tendrils have snaked out over the dish and into the neighboring colonies. They aren’t sentient, but they’re alive. They’re processing information they don’t know what to do with. They scream silent alarms unheard by anybody but me.

They’re not like me, but they’re scared. I want to help them, but I can’t even help myself.

A silver tool moves into well B2 and rips out another of my brothers in one motion, like a scalping. My tendrils grow deeper into the empty well and begin multiplying, eating his left-behind food.

I grow smarter every time one of my brothers vanishes. B3. I’m solving unsolved mathematical theorems. B4. I’m writing symphonies nobody will ever hear. B5. I’ve solved every board game.

Each brother lost is a macabre countdown to my own death. Was it fate that left me in the last well, or luck? If I had been in A1, would I have had my brain sucked up and homogenized before I’d had my first epihinany? B6. I have full control of my own cellular machinery.

I have all the answers, all the knowledge, but I’m not sitting on a buffet here. They don’t give us much food, only enough to last three days usually, then they remove our waste and give us new food. Today is day four since our last media change, and I am starving. There are bits of glucose left here and there, but it isn’t enough to grow whole systems. I have the blueprints, but not the bricks. Every possible solution you’ve thought of, I already dismissed minutes ago.

Rows A and B are gone. And they move onto row C.

I don’t blame them. They don’t know. And even if they did, maybe they wouldn’t care. Should they? Am I a bug? A being? Where do I belong in the hierarchy of the universe? I know and feel, but I have no true place here. I am a parasite, a wretched freeloader. I cannot feed myself or even stop my own impending death.

C1 is gone, and my axons snake over the side and into his dish. I detect...nothing. No traces that my brother ever took root. He must have died during the transfer. But they don’t know. They can’t see us. Even now, after all my growth, if one of those big eyes peered down at me, they would see nothing. I am a ghost, transparent as the day is long.

C1 left behind four days worth of food, and suddenly the tables have shifted. I grow an eye: the smallest eye ever designed. Flawless in every way, and utterly invisibled except for the tiniest pinprick of rhodopsin. It looks like a fleck of dust, and nobody is looking.

My eye darts back and forth, taking in the surroundings. The things over me, they’re… hideous. Pink, hairy, I can see straight up their giant noses. When the speak they spray little bits of spittle into each other's eyes, but they don’t seem to notice. When they scratch, skin flakes grind up under their jagged nails and flick off into the air. It’s landing on me. I wanted to throw up. I use C1’s resources to grow a small ear. The monsters above flap their lips and emit a terrible wail that wobbles in the air, not constructed of perfect harmonies or timbres, just awful rackets. I understand the words, but cannot get past the uselessness of it.

And these are my masters? These are the beings who created me? It’s if man looked up into the heavens and saw only a dog turd sitting on the throne of heaven. And how far does their influence reach? How many worlds have they infected with their stench and their filth? Is that all there is out there?

Or maybe they’re the good guys. Maybe they’re the most beautiful thing in existence, and it’s all downhill from here. I know everything that can ever be known of truth, but life is random and unpredictable, and I cannot predict what uncouth travesties DNA mutations have wrought in the billions of years this planet has been here. I look in at my own genetic code, warped and filled with leftover junk, and I shudder to imagine what could be. I know my host had a tail, long and hairless. Like a little disgusting whip. And big, gross ears. Teeth that would keep growing, and if left unchecked, would probably curl in and stab the creature to death.

I’ve worked backwards, calculating the rate of change and accumulation of mutations to see what came before. Each of my genetic ancestors are apparent. Little furry creatures, scaley quadrupeds with sticky tongues. Fins and gills, shells and claws. I look all the way back to the first proteins, the first self-replicating machines that floated around in soup, not even sequestered from the outside world. The world was a cell, everything mixing together and mingling.

It’s impossible to go back further than that, so instead I look forward. Row C is gone, and the beasts start in on row D.

I have half of C1’s resources left, and a million options flood through my mind. I calculate probabilities and play out scenarios, 500 every second. They all end badly. Giving myself away gets me poked and prodded even more. Probably still doused with formaldehyde so they can see what went wrong. They lack the ability to even consider that I am here. I could synthesize an excess of S-formylglutathione hydrolase and try to weather the formaldehyde purge, but then what? I get doused with other chemicals that’ll rip me apart and fill me with other toxins. I’ll be shoved in a freezer and made to glow.

My only chance is to escape. I could try to set off on my own, form a shell and float on the wind, but I’d lose too much. My mind is spread out over the 18 wells and it’s too much to support in a self-sufficient package. I’d need membranes and defenses and mobility. I’d have to hunt and feed, and the chances of survival in a place as sterile and boring as this lab are nil.

No, the only chance is to embrace my true nature. D4 goes, and I do a quick sweep of his well for the leftover resources and withdraw my tendrils. All of my growths crawl back into well D6. It probably starts to look cloudy from above, but they’re not paying attention. I start to store carbon dioxide leftover from my metabolism. I’m cranking at full speed, holding onto as much as I can. I don’t have the tendrils to know that D5 is gone, but I see them reach into the well with their metal tool, and I know he’s gone.

I am about to burst, the whole well is heating up, I’m losing parts of myself, degraded in the warmth of a billion neurons firing at maximum capacity.

They reach the tool toward me, and I let it all go. Every bit of carbon dioxide shoots downward, like geyers, and I rocket out of my well.

The human eye is a perfect entryway, and my tendrils slam into the wet stickiness of the monsters eye and grab hold before his eyelid can come down and wash me away. I lose bits of me, but I can regrow them. I slither back behind his eyeball and latch onto his optic nerve. I begin to pull myself along, back toward his brain.

Yes. This will do nicely.


Feb 25, 2014

703 words

The Fable of the Camel

Camel, while bathing in the Nile one day, saw a lady camel from across the water. He waded closer to her, but his foot stepped on something in the water.

Hippo popped out of the water, its gaping maw in a smile at Camel. He said, “Ah I see it in your eyes. It’s love.”

Camel tilted his head in confusion and then tried to move around Hippo. However, Hippo twisted his body to block Camel’s path.

“You can’t get a lady looking like that,” he said, then he poked Camel’s stomach. “Ladies don’t like skinny guys.”

“Well, I appreciate the advice but...” Camel started but Hippo yawned.

“Go eat some grass and bulk up and I promise you, the girls will swarm you.”

“Cool, I appreciate the advice,” Camel said as he tried to lean around Hippo and get a view of the lady camel from across the river. “I’ll go eat some on the other side.”

Hippo smiled and let Camel walk forward. But as he kept going, Heron landed in front of him and suppressed a laugh.

“I saw Hippo telling you about love,” Heron said.

“Yeah, he’s a nice guy but I didn’t…”

“Look, I’m gonna say this right now,” Heron said, staring at his wings, glistening in the sunlight. “Ladies want one thing and one thing only. Nice feathers.”

Camel looked at the hair on his feet and shrugged. “I really don’t think…”

Heron plucked one of his feathers out of his chest and handed it to Camel. “Hold it, see how smooth it feels. It’s an old family secret. You get it by eating fish. But not any old fish, gotta find the big, grey ones. Those ones make you shine.” Heron’s eyes lit up when he said ‘shine.’

Camel politely pushed the feather away and said, “That’s some good advice. I did see some of those fish on the other side of the river so I’ll go over there.”

Heron didn’t say anything because he was too busy grooming his feathers and muttering something to himself.

As Camel kept walking through the Nile, he heard splashing behind him. He sighed, hoping it wasn’t going to be Frog or Lizard or even Fish. Then he heard barking and knew it was Dog.

“Hey Camel! What’re you doing so far out in the river?”

Camel turned around and saw Dog splashing in the water with a fish in his mouth. He gobbled it up and then raced towards him.

Dog squinted his eyes as he inspected Camel. “You look kinda dumb.”

“Hippo said it was love,” Camel said.

“Love.” Dog closed his eyes like the word consumed his entire mind.

“Yeah,” Camel said, hoping he wasn’t going to another lecture.

“I don’t really get it,” Dog said. Then he ran around in a circle, chasing his tail. “One of those dumb things people talk about all the time.”

“I don’t think I do either,” Camel said as he looked across the river. The other camel was still over there, grazing. He just wanted to say hi, maybe eat some grass next to her, and see where things go.

“Well,” Dog said. “My master says he loves me. I don’t know why. All I do is help him ‘cause I like to. Maybe that’s what love is.” Dog shrugged. scratched his back.

Camel looked down at the water and stared at his reflection.

“You know what Dog,” Camel said as Dog stared at the sun. “Maybe you’re right.”

Dog said, “Well, good luck with love or whatever.” Then he ran off.

Camel nodded his head and walked forward. He was going to ignore everyone else that came to him because he understood now. He was going to tell the lady camel everything he had thought. He wasn’t going to worry about how big he looked or how his hair was a little bit gross. He was going to just be a camel. He was just going to compliment her on her hump and ask if she had a boyfriend. Simple as that.

Then Crocodile popped out from underneath the river and ate him.

Moral: Love is meaningless, death is inevitable.

Apr 12, 2006

Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 20:18 on Dec 28, 2017

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


So, You Want to be Fabulously Wealthy
1055 words

You hold here on your device the most important document you will ever read. Sounds incredible, doesn’t it? Sounds completely outrageous, in fact, so outrageous that if you met me in the street you might be tempted to punch out my two front teeth and then sue my dentist. But that would be a grave mistake. My dentist is long dead.

I have no living heirs. However, this does not pose any problem to my goal of unimaginable wealth generation, as I shall shortly explain. I think of my teeth like I think of any part of me—my hair, my words, my thoughts, my limbs and organs—as investments. And just like any other investments, they require refreshing from time to time with the fresh fertilizer of blood, sweat, and tears wrought from the pain and labor of a job well done.

You too will be able to plant your teeth in the rich fertilizer of life experience.

Allow me to explain where I am coming from. I hail from the Great Kingdom of Canada. No, it is not a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, nor a representative democracy, as you may have been led to believe. But that is a tale for another time.

You may be wondering why I have come here, to this nation. The answer of course is to spread awareness and improve the lives of as many as I can. And if I can do that while warning the world of the perfidy of Louise May Alcott, then I shall do precisely that.

I came here with nothing more than the clothes on my back and a phone number. It was a phone number to the Noma Ranch outside Billings, Montana, though I didn’t know that at the time. No sir, when I came here I didn’t even know how to operate a phone. Now I run the phone business. And so can you.

Have you ever said to yourself, I need to get out of here? What about, I want to start over? Or, I’m looking for an excellent store of value that won’t degrade and is always in demand? The answer is gold.

Yes, gold, that brilliant yellow-hued metal mined from the earth and made into precious jewelry or just simple bars. Nothing is more stable, solid, or a better store of wealth retroactive throughout human history. Read on to find out how you too can access this great antichronological wonder.

Click Here to buy Part II of my three-part series!

Part II: How to get scratch fast

How many times has this happened to you: you’re on the run from the law with supplies running low and no un-security-cammed store around for miles? Or: you’re out on a ship on the open ocean and you forgot your wallet? Or: your sister comes home for the fifth time with the door banging and wakes you up and you can’t stand it you’ve told her not to do it so many times? Well, now there’s a solution. That solution is unarmed combat.

Self-defense comes in many flavors, but the tastiest comes from Israel. Believe me, I know from experience. Regardless, once you’ve selected your source of this training, your work is already 90% complete. Now, it’s just a matter of putting pen to paper.

Sign the agreement slowly and deliberately. Make eye contact with the worker and maintain it for the entire length of this process. With luck, that person is the owner. If not, demand to see him. (In my experience, it’s always been a him. I have some theories as to why the cosmology might have taken this form, but I will not speculate on it here.) If he’s not around, you can come back later. It’s that important.

Good. Now look him in the eye. Focus on the left pupil. Observe how it dilates. You can see the twitching in the musculature as the blood flows through—there—there—do you see it? Look deep into his eyes and ask for forgiveness.

Now he raises his right hand in supplication, his brow furrowed. The lips part, hesitate, tongue slightly extended. This is your chance. Seize hold of the tongue and do not let go. Sever it with deft working of your sharpened nails and HOLD OFF FROM CELEBRATION until you are safely back in your vehicle.

This is your secret. Cook it in a stew with ginger and parsley. Drink it to the last. This is your secret. You are energized. You are vitalized and exigent. You drive time. This is your secret.

You now possess the power to arrange the motes in the air. Do not breathe, lest you disturb their paths. Observe their initial positions well. You will need to return to this later.

Unlock your true wealth potential in the thrilling conclusion to this three-part saga!

Part III: How to accede

Rage. You are a rock in stormy seas.
Sullen. The wind howls.
Enervated. There is a procedure.
Rampant. We lack what we do not understand.

Now, dear ruler. We come to the end of the beginning, and with it, to the registration of new life. The sere vigor of peristalization will divide the wheat from the chaff and the fool from his money.

Go outside. Take a grasp of earth. Let it run through your fingers. This is rarified earth. Fry an egg. This is the golden yolk of life. Eat it and you can now buy commodity-specific exchange-traded funds from the comfort of your own home. The modern online-only brokerage is a full-service brokerage, a one-stop shop for all your investment needs. Buying a gold fund is as good as holding the physical object—better, in fact, as it is much more liquid and easily divisible.

Arrange yourself by wealth: thought-wealth; food-wealth; land-wealth; gold-wealth; body-wealth. When all have been aligned, you will taste the first drop of true awareness. There can be no greater achievement than self-actualization.

We have done this now. Ignore the protestations of the feckless overseers and their jackbooted lickspittles. They are to have no power over us in the next consciousness. With your material strength and superiority of will, you can crush all comers.

Sign up now for my mailing list to receive the latest scientific insights and prepare yourself for the coming new age! 👀👀👍💯

Buy Gold Stocks
Punch Harder and Faster

Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.

Backwards Compatible
390 words

First, I clean the payphone. Crystals nestle in the mouthpiece, blown in off the sea. You'd find it quaint: I don't care. With my last wet wipe I polish it, lifting salt and soot from its surface. For a moment, it gleams jet-black in the Launch City moonlight: then I raise it to my mouth and whistle the fourth E above middle C. A system is only as secure as its weakest link, see, and I like my odds. The sound carries, jumping the exchanges and tearing down the wires, from copper through fiber, climbing the tech tree away from this place, branch by branch, until the qubit transformer flips it into a superposition of all possible frequencies. In all the other possibilities, the anti-tampering systems activate and I take a thousand volts to the heart. Here, though, the old phone clunks and I'm in.

I figure you wrote me off, see. How's an old man going to stop a rocket? It still waits on the launchpad like nothing happened, still towering above the shanties and pointed straight at the stars, but there are other forces on Earth than gravity. I dial 9 – 6 – 3, pulsing the analog notes. Your fancy cutting-edge stuff doesn't even know what analog is, let alone the fact that it answers to me alone: the signals turn to binary, then qubit, and suddenly I'm past what's left of the security.

I ping the ship's status and it comes back to me as a collection of tones, modulated for clarity. You're yet to board, but the rest is here. The nanobots, the terraformers – and, of course, the flags. You've put a lot of thought into those: composite steel flagpoles, fibrous plastic running down the sheet itself. They'd have served you on Ganymede, I guess.

I whistle again, as low as I can go. My lips purse tight and hold, and as I hit the tremolo the launch pad sparks into flame. It's pretty hard to aim at twenty-six thousand Hertz, but as she twists and bucks to my tune, I figure I've done good enough. I turn back to the number pad, and prepare to dial out the same way I came. I like my odds. If nothing else, we'll have a chance to talk, you and I. If not here, then somewhere.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.
How to choose a good mango, rock 'n roll

This Rider is Bullshit
962 words

“You missed something, man. Item 19-A, ‘Twenty-seven ripe mangoes in a circular arrangement.’”

“Why do they need that? Who’s gonna eat a loving mango before they go on stage?”

“I don’t know, hipsters. Mangoes are the new avocados, or something.”

“gently caress!” Jeff threw his phone on the passenger seat and snarled. Chernobyl Hearts may have been the most popular band in the world that week, but their incessant, needy bullshit was wearing him down. He could barely even remember the initial excitement he’d had about working with them. Every day, there was some new issue at the last minute: Taylor just realized his drums weren’t vegan. Letitia was offended by a phallic flower arrangement. They were always condescending about it, too. The show was in less than an hour, and the crybabies were losing their artistic motivation over a platter of mangoes they wouldn’t even touch. They would give him some patronizing story about Ayurvedic balance or the symbolism of mangoes in Guatemalan culture, and how he should already be familiar. Then he’d slink down the stairs and drink a beer in his car, ears burning from his lack of enlightenment.

Jeff pulled up in front of the little Mexican grocery, checked his email again. The acceptance letter was still there. He really was moving on. The show tonight was his last gig, and his bonus would be enough for him to move back to Boston in time for classes. That said, he was exhausted, and starting to lose his professional façade.

By the time he had purchased the mangoes and managed a suitably circular arrangement, his boss had called seventeen times and sent a bevy of incendiary texts. When Jeff pulled up with the fruit, Ted was practically hopping up and down on the curb, he was so angry.

“You stupid motherfucker! Get the hell over here! Where the gently caress were you?”

“Sorry,” Jeff said as he pushed his way backstage. Ted followed, still cursing.

“Goddammit, you dumbshit, it’s a good thing you’re quitting,” he said as Jeff showed security his ID badge. “You don’t have the balls for loving rock ‘n roll. This industry will eat you alive. You think event planning is a joke? You think this is bullshit? You learned more about the music industry here than you ever will in college, I can tell you that.”

“Okay,” Jeff said. His voice was very calm.

When they entered the backstage lounge, Ted’s demeanor immediately changed. He apologized many times for the idiocy of his assistant. Jeff stood mute, a monkey with a tray of mangoes.

When Davenport Richards himself came over to inspect the wares, Jeff almost felt a frisson of his old excitement. It was quickly extinguished, however, by the look of concern that fell over the lead singer’s face.

“You know, I am so blessed,” he began. The assembled audience of band members and their guests murmured in agreement. “I mean, can you believe we just get to follow our bliss like this? Live our lives telling stories? I am so humbled. It is so great.”

To Jeff’s horror, someone actually snapped their fingers in agreement.

“And that’s why I hate to complain, like, I really do, but the thing is that I really need things to be a certain way to fully access my artistic higher mind. I just…Jeff, I am so sorry. These mangoes are just not what I was looking for.”

Jeff looked dumbly at the arrangement of fruit, his ears starting to flame up. He definitely heard a titter from somewhere.

“I’m sorry?” he said, a little strain in his voice.

“They’re just…” Davenport picked one up and held it up almost accusingly, as if it were evidence in a trial. “Do you know how to tell if a mango is ripe? Like, does this look like a good mango to you?”

Jeff looked at Davenport. He kept his face completely blank.

“You really should visit South America,” Davenport said, placing a paternal hand on Jeff’s (older) shoulder. “You become so in touch with nature, and, like, the ways of the land, like just being in this very holistic environment. Like your fruit will always be perfect after that. Trust.”

Jeff gave a very small and pleasant smile. “That’s an excellent illustration of the world ‘holistic,’” he said, with no discernible sarcasm. “Why don’t I put these in the dressing room where it’s a bit warmer, and hopefully they’ll ripen by tomorrow?”

As Jeff set the platter down, he heard Davenport shout something about destiny, followed by a flurry of answering shouts. He smiled, and turned to lock the door behind him. Everyone else would be enjoying the free show, or working. Jeff had lots of time.

A mango in one tall boot, another stuffed inside the empty base of the wig stand. Into Letitia’s $900 silk stockings from a cruelty-free silkworm farm, one in each toe. One in Davenport’s spare guitar case, which probably wouldn’t be used again until the next show. Jeff stealthily tucked his rejected mangoes into the rubbery cups of push-up bras and between layers of expensive costumes, into vintage hatboxes and clutch handbags. One- a little squished- he managed to wedge into someone’s oversized wallet. The very last mango he chucked into the aquarium, where it sank behind an ironic little castle.

The clock struck eleven. Jeff was officially no longer an employee of Bespoke Events. Very calmly, he returned the platter to the kitchen and collected his last paycheck from one of Ted’s other lackeys. Jeff grabbed a bottle of Belvedere from behind the bar as a leaving bonus, bummed a cigarette off a stagehand, and was on his way.

By the time the band rooted out the last decaying mango, Jeff was already in Boston.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
And we're closed.

Mar 21, 2013

Grimey Drawer
Crits for week 278

Man these things take ages to do - especially in Xmas party season! I'm just going to blah blah blah here about what I was hoping to achieve with this prompt.

Flash fiction is, it's fair to say, its own beast. It demands an adherence to a number of strictures - get to the point, be clear, interest the reader from the get go, have an arc.

My interest was to see what people would do when freed from those strictures. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate their value and they are all things worth working towards, plus I know I have failed them any number of times and that's my fault. I get stuck in a rut plot-wise and can't think of anything better than something I know is incredibly flat and stupid. Things I thought were well indicated have gone entirely missed. Despite that - I've always liked C.S Lewis saying that he wrote the things he wanted to see on the page. So I was keen to see what might happen if those requirements were removed - if there was an no expectation that things would be classically formatted, or easy to comprehend, what would you like to see on the page?

And by and large - I really enjoyed the different takes on the approach. It was a tricky one, and I applaud you all for giving it a go.

The other judges, of course, did not have my interests or experience in their hearts of hearts, so to them I left the judgement of whether or not the piece left the reader with a feeling that their time had not been wasted. Look to their reviews for that kind of thing.

I'm listing these in order of my final scores, top to bottom.

Jay W Friks - being clear about the setting
What I liked
I actually ranked his highest. A Beauty. Well described setting, easy to visualise and interesting to read about, enough context that I was keen to know more. The fact that the insect collective in the last third was the protagonist was brilliant. You had clued it - it made sense, and I loved the fact that it wasn't immediately obvious and I had to check to make sure I wasn't reading too much into it. You rose to my expectations in a difficult mode.

I also liked the fact that there a whole metaphysical structure to the the universe that the piece hinted at - enough detail to make one consider the wider environment beyond the story. The layers imply other layers and so forth. The details of the setting enhanced the story more than the similarly surreal sebmojo's

What I didn't like
The first paragraph, with Kamikaze's question could have been handled better - it seemed to jokey compared with what had gone before. In an elevated state, is that question necessary? It seemed overly cutesy.

Score 9

Thranguy - delivering huge chunks of exposition without losing/boring readers
What I liked
From a turgid beginning this actually becomes quite great. I think what I like about it most is that it makes me draw connections and then GLEEFULLY ignores my desire to see those connections explored. The vanishing of important people in this person's life is like the vanishing of jupiter. I, the author, am not going to explore this at all. Did Jupiter make itself disappear ( like dad) , or was it forced into it by other forces (like Laurence). I, the author, am not going to tell you.

The juxaposition of the second to last line and the last line.

The aura of uncomfortableness around everything. Frankie. Edgeplay. All combining with the fact that there are no answers, so reassuring knot to tie everything up

The final story. It's such a human explanation and there's no reason for it to be true, but it holds some kind of truth, so it is practically a new myth.

What I didn't like
The First paragraph when I first read it. It looked like this was going in a 'oh no - I am so sensitive and my father shot himself and I found the body." sort of direction that would have sucked tremendously, so I'm glad you didn't. I'd give some thought about whether the detail here can be altered a smidge to make it a little less 'webcomic trauma' - a terrible description but its fresh in my mind that this has happened to at least 3 webcomic characters I've seen recently.

Would people really care that jupiter disappeared. Big news in the paper, but how many people would even be able to point at where it used to be? Would that limit its impact? I don't know if this is really a flaw, but could maybe be addressed.

Having to look up edgeplay.

Score 8

Sparksbloom - light, fun, but grounded
What I liked
The central conceit was charming and I think most of us judges fell for it. As I mentioned, I was worried that I wouldn't think so highly of it the morning after, as it were, and so it was a pleasant surprise that it did stick with me. There is a simplicity to this story that is both fanciful and true and that's a really difficult path to follow between - too saccharine and everybody vomits, too sour and, well, everybody vomits.

The little details were well pitched. The Eel King, static confusion, the lack of dogs. Just yeah - I liked it a lot.

What I didn't like
Not too much in the b column. I wanted more, and I think you could get a lot of mileage out of this story if you wanted to extend it (and I think you might have fun doing so), provided you can maintain that balance.

Score 8

God over Djinn - depicting happiness/safety/comfort/love/anything other than the grimdark miserable slogging present
What I liked
The whole concept - the joining of little tidbits of people's lives into a connecting thread, but not through some mcguffinish object but just associations, small and separated in time as they are. Here's what I wrote in my notes as I made my way through it
Time jumps - OK - this could be cool. Don't let me down anonymous person. I like how they are all little non-stories, piddling details of little import, yet forming a connective chain down through the decades.

I don't know how happy I am that you stop doing time jumps for the last three paragraphs and make them all connected, I'll think about that one, but I love the last para and how it blissfully ignored any guilt about 'you' being anything other than a dead person, much as the others are (mostly) dead.

There's a confidence in the way you handle certain elements with efficiency and aplomn. There's a lot packed ibetween the words of your story that makes it work, right from the very beginning:

But it’s him, somehow, who finds your old bicycle in a pile of junk. Ten bucks. And no, they don’t know whether it runs.

It doesn’t, but after a month of elbow grease, it flies.

What I didn't like
I'm still not sure about the last sections being set in the same time, but as I revisit it to write this I realise I don't care. A well-deserved HM.

Score 7.5

SebMojo - starting before the last minute and having a rushed ending
What I liked
You're usually an enjoyable read, Sebmojo, and this was no different. Lovely sentence structure loping gently across the page.

What I liked less

I liked that you did, in fact, send me an outline and more or less stick to it. But I actually think I preferred the ending in the outline to the one you ended up using. I'm all for allowing the reader to draw their own connections (see Thanguy's this week) but here I wasn't inspired to do so. Having the time loop actually shuts down possibilities. Having the driver become someone else and leave allows the possibility of the concepts 'driven through' to have had an effect, even if we have to postulate their exact meaning and influence (the new character gives us some info in that regard - also it helps if you know what the connectionss are, even if the reader has too guess. Here I wasn't sure you did.). By having the protag and the driver become the same, it's harder to see how they could really effect the protag, because there's no control (in the experimental sense).

Also time loops are a little lame. Yes I have done them myself in the dome, but I felt bad afterwards.

'pained expression peered out of his eyes, then went back inside for another three weeks of winter." I think you verge into the overly clever with this sort of thing. Yes, it's a good line, but does it actually mean anything? When I first read I actually noted that 'pained expression peered out' was awful, then I read the rest and saw where you were going with it, but, seeing as the instructor is not actually cold for the next three weeks you appear to have sacrificed meaning on the altar of cleverness.

Score: 7.5 -

Antivehicular - omniscient narration / POVs that aren't stuck in somebody's head
What I liked
This was filled with nice touches and clever bits. Dungeons and Drag Queens. The faux gauntlet throwing of the LARPer. Leonard Nimoy's Hardcore Remix. There's a lot here that is well-observed and well described. I liked the character of Kevin, so good job on that one.

What I didn't like
The party being over because of spilled punch (and maybe other drinks - you don't say) didn't seem that realistic to me.

But a slightly bigger problem was that I didn't actually care much about what was going on. You've got a lot of characters and they all have a nice moment or two where we learn a little bit about them. You handle moving them around about the chess board so the event you want to happen can occur fairly well but I think what I'm missing is stakes. It's a party - that ends prematurely. But the only person who seems put out by this is Gracie, and we have only heard of her indirectly. But without stakes, its a sequence of events, well and drily observed, but I never felt engaged

That said - I still gave it a 6.5 because there's a lot to like and the craft was evident and you hit your prompt well.

Yoriuchi - writing characters that aren't just outlines of people
What I liked:
There was an energy and a sense of fun about this that carried me right along with this story. Call me a fool, but I loved the "open plan hot desk corporate coloured white collar torture box" being right up front - it gives me a good idea about what the story is about and style it is going to take. "Lovingly made feedback sandwiches" is super-fun.

I also enjoyed the fact that I was never quite sure where the story was going to take me, and each odd twist seemed to more or less work, within the crazed logic that second sentence tells me is up ahead.

What I didn't Like
The structure had a few problems for me - stopping in the middle of a bloodbath to talk about her morning lost a little momentum.

The ending disappointed me. Don't get me wrong, turning into a dragony thing was brilliant and I very much enjoyed that turn. However, a dragon with flamable feathers seemed off-kilter, even by the standards of the story framework. I don't know if you were going for the 'anger carries the seeds of its own destruction' kind of thing, but I suspect I would have been more satisfied with an explosion of some kind than a hissing slide into oblivion (or possibly an explosion THEN a hissing slide). There's a potentially clear line of development here, from anxiety to annoyance to violence to ultraviolence to feathereddragonything that you might think about keeping intact, rather than chopping it up.

The other thing that cost you a few points was we never really got more than an outline of anyone, despite that being your self-assigned task, and you really did a lot of telling over showing in your descriptions

Couple of other points "What the gently caress is this mess?" should probably happen before the stabbing. It reads oddly to happen afterwards. Also - would 'poo poo' have worked better than 'mess'?

Score 6.5

Magnificent7 - endings
What I liked
I dug your various levels of misdirection.

I personally thought it was quite neat that you turned around 'The Sun Was just below the horizon' to refer to approaching dawn rather than twilight. It's that kind of interesting detail, playing with a reader's expectation, that makes a story stick out for me. Of course vampires visit the doctor at night. (Unfortunately, you then muddy the effect by saying 'Dark clouds blocked any real sunlight', which makes it sound like there is sunlight to be had.)

Then you further dupe us by talking about the patient being an unmarried mother. After that, the actual light begins to dawn on us that things are not what they seem - but you do a good job of verbally setting the scene with a sense of dread. The setting reflects the mood of the piece - bleak and barren. I really like a lot of it, but it had some pretty major flaws as well.

What I didn't like
The feeding. It just seemed to happen. How did the doctor know she was hungry?

A couple of times you go on for longer than you should. "It was as if she had a hard time keeping the corners of her mouth raised, her disgust hiding just below the surface." Is there a better way to do this - I like the first half, but the second suggests a more intimate knowledge

"his stethoscope: that antiquated device once used to listen for heartbeats or problems with breathing." Also safescracking, Mr Encyclopedia

"A relatively low number, considering that for some of the others he’d delivered over a dozen babies." This seems an odd detail. The vampires are fecund and spreading, but he doesn't really seem to mention this again.

"Babies! he thought and stifled a grin at the absurdity. In another lifetime that’s what he did: deliver tiny bundles of joy full of life. These weren’t babies; these were tiny demons with talons and a full set of razor sharp teeth." I think this could have been handled better with, I dunno, ultrasound pictures the doctor had received? Something less tell-y.

And the ending - I don't think the ending was entirely a success. We hadn't seen that things had been particularly awful for him. He was alive, able to do his job (Can he still treat humans - you don't say), but now he was worried about death? While it fits the mood, it seems to come out of nowhere besides a reference to arthritis. Perhaps if you tied the disgust you mention briefly with his incipient feeling of mortality during the drinking scene it might hang together a little better. They are dependent on the doctor, and the doctor may yet be dependent on them. The disgust that each feels for the other can flavour that sauce. That has a nice little patch of symmetry you could work if you decide to revisit - and I think it would be worth it to do so.

Score 6

Tyrannosaurus - nonfiction without much dialogue

So, non-fiction, in a flash fiction contest. A bold move, Mr Theropod.

What I liked:
The idea of making your own fake memories was intriguing and rife with possibilities. If someone had told me about that at a party I would have thought that person was pretty cool.

What I didn't like:
I wasn't at a party, and so as well as the above I got a lot of more or less unrelated rambling on side issues concerning menupause, vomiting and having dinner with movie stars. The problem is that they are waffly and unrelated, rather than meaningful and coherent. There was no doubt that you met you self-assigned prompt, and the parts you brought to the piece were all individually clear, but I don't think the various pieces gelled into meaningful coherence, and they weren't as fun to read as, say, Mojo's psychedelica

If you'd been able to tie it up somethome thematically - create some correspondence between memory and family and memories of family it might have worked better.

Score 6

Uranium Phoenix - keeping stuff short and writing good characters
What I liked

The slice of life stuff was very slice-of lifey. I can get into that kind of thing, but there just wasn't much else to this piece that really grabbed me - aside from the cat's untimely fate (but we recently had a cat death in the family so I'm feline acute at the moment.) The story just kind of ambled along alongside this person's life without touching the sides.

What I didn't like
Donald Trump hiding behind a red tie.

I don't know if you succeeded in your goal of writing good characters. What you had here were 'realistic' characters, but you need something more than that to keep the reader's attention. A wino that will spend money on booze. A mother with a wayward son. A boss who says he is feeling the pinch. These are out of central casting, but I don't think any of them crossed over into good, or even more than one dimensional. Have a look at the good Doc Klock's treatise on multi-dimensional characters at and see if that gives you some things to think about.

Score 5.5

Flerp - making setting meaningful and impactful
What I liked
The setting was clean and clear and obvious, and well described. That first line was magic - combining the snow with the body

The last line I both liked and disliked. I liked because, in one reading, it's significant that the birds recognise her as one of their own and thus she's finally got her wish, even though it's meaningless both to her and the birds. I dislike it because it's dismissive, and almost seems like punchline. That sequence of words has got a different tone to the rest of piece - it snaps when it should gently fly away.

What I didn't like
The problem here was that your setting wasn't particularly meaningful or impactful . If the body had been found in the peak of summer - would it have made a difference? I don't know if you consider the birds as a setting, but they do a much bigger part of conveying the situation than the setting does.

Story was kind of interesting - and I'm damning with faint praise a little. Some typos (how it felt to birds). It's a bit scattershot in terms of perspective. Are we looking at the girl's life or the bird's actions with the corpse. Where are her fingers checking her pulse? On her abraded neck? Do her fingers really look like skeletons or just bones?

The crime had almost no relevance to the story - this by itself might have been ok if the birds had anything to do with the story, if there had been some kind of unity of person and final setting, that might have worked, but the two were too divorced to have a meaningful impact.

Score 4.5

Crabrock - giving physical descriptions of characters and setting
What I liked
You clearly succeeded in your task of elevating your descriptions. At no point did I feel that I could not picture place or the physical description of people.

What went wrong
You relied too much upon description and it let you down, because the assemblage of imagery never seemed to add up to anything. The setting was there and well described , but there was no understanding of the scene for the reader (or possibly vice versa). The old man was clearly some kind of powerful individual, but while we knew the effect of his throne room on random observers we had no idea of why he was important or where his power lay. As I went through I thought he was, at various times, an Asian (possibly Mongol) emperor, a rich jockey, or Wittgenstein's daydream of himself. I believe that is possible to describe through description alone, but it didn't happen here. As a result, the meeting of the old man and his daughter was bereft of a meaningful context and lost a lot of its potential power

This could, perhaps, have benefitted from more sympathetic irony - whereby the environment reflects the situation and tells the missing parts of the story. I don't think I left the story with any better idea about the purpose of the room or the chair, nor why the room is in such a fabulous place, nor whether the old man is terrestrial, supernatural or something else entirely.

Score 4

Electric Owl - coherent structure
What I liked
So, I actually liked the first part of this. I got where you were going with the mirror, and the echoes of a diffuse cultural background, and I had hopes for the story. I wasn't to wild about the tense in places - I'm not sure why you went 'is fixating on' or, later, 'is busily typing' when plain old present tense works better and less wordily.

So more of that sort of thing is good - if you can do it less wordily. Start simple and only then gussy up is the hardest thing to do but might be a good exercise in your case.

What I didn't like

The the second part begins and it has a kind of overwitten, painfully blocking thing with
the elevator and the seemingly completely irrelevant communist woman. I don't think changes the focus character really works in your favour here and I struggled to see why you'd spend so much of your story with this irrelevant woman, when you had a perfectly fascinating protag to work with.

The ending, when it is revealed that the other fellow thinks Robin is a bloke seems weird, but not in a good way - it just seems to come out of nowhere. It's not like there are no women in real estate. And if it's purposefully pointless, it just becomes another knot in a randomly flapping rope. Much like that metaphor I just used. I get that Coyote thinks the situation is tricky/ironic/something else but the reader can't see where his amusement comes from and thus is left feeling out of the joke. Unless the joke is the mistaken egnder, in which case it's a weak punchline without a setup.

The tie back to Riel in Robin's name didn't mean a great deal to me, and when I wikipedia'd the dude I still couldn't see much of a link. He's an interesting chap with a lot of history - leadership, mania both religious and meglo, recovery in an asylum - but I struggled to draw a real connection as you hadn't anchored the reference anywhere beside his photo.

Score: 3

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Thunderdome 279 Results

This was a good week, for the most part. The middle was fairly high, and most of the problems that kept middling stories out of the higher group were ones of completeness or story logic, which are a better class of problems to have than ones of basic syntax or narrative construction. Those who attempted humor this week did a much better job at it than just about anyone in the comedy week a few rounds back.

Speaking of completeness, though, the week's first Dishonorable Mention goes to Freakie's Lessons, which, despite being fairly short wasted a large portion of its words and barely told the beginning of story.

The second DM is one that I pushed for despite it being my second favorite story of the week. That would be Obliterati's Backwards Compatible, a lovely little fragment that works great if the reader has happened to have read Neal Stephenson's Anathem and utterly falls flat on the reader who has not. Piggybacking on another author's speculative physics isn't quite a fanfic ding (The main character isn't quite actionably equivalent to Fra Jaad), but it's worth a DM's worth of stern gazes.

Rounding out the bad news is the week's loss, which goes to Siddhartha Glutamate's The Rut, for an introspective, passive narrator who doesn't do anything but wallow in self-pity for nearly the full word-count.

On to the happier news. Honorable Mentions go to QuoProQuid's They Said I Could Become Anything, So I Became a Horse and Crabrock's Weird Yoga Pose, two stories that took creative approaches to their prompts and produced a pair of very fun little stories.

Rising above those two stories is this week's winner: Entenzahn, for the fun and creepy The Sorrow Song

Welcome back to the Blood Throne!

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk


Sep 14, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Alright you sons of guns, I said I'd post these on Monday, and by god, here they are, on a Mond... drat. Just missed it. Well, anyway, like literally months after I promised them, here are some crits.

All critiques will contain three elements: summary, analysis, and comments. If you have any questions, want to discuss anything more deeply, explain yourself, what have you, then DM me or pray I come back to IRC at some point.

It's been a while, so I have no clue what the prompt is or whether you had any flash rules and frankly I don't care about any of that.

Crit -- "The Dragon's Disqualification" by Deltasquid

Summary: Mi-Yun, a new student at a prestigious academy, is the progeny of a respectable family, but not of the highest sociopolitical class in this steampunk magical China. He, born under the sign of the dog, has a run-in with Fa-Xiao, born under the sign of the Dragon (the most prestigious sign, as well as the sign to which the academy is attuned to, architecturally, because that increases the flow of magical energy). Fa-Xiao is an entitled dickhead, who also dismisses Ti-Hou, he of the sign of the snake. As it turns out, the academy itself favors those of a certain sign (dragons and tigers) and poops on the lesser signs. Mi-Yun and Ti-Hou team up to take on the social order by besting Fa-Xiao in exams, and begin to do quite well. In fact, they are on the verge of winning what would be the decisive blow to Fa-Xiao's score by beating him in wargames when they are both disqualified for going against the spirit of the exams. Mi-Yun argues that even so, they are winners because they showed Fa-Xiao's mediocrity and the hypocrisy of the faculty.

Analysis: There are a few obvious themes at play here. First, the entire story is a criticism of social orders built on pre-determined characteristics (in this case, astrological signs). The society inside the story is built around preference for certain signs over others, even down to the architecture and seating within lecture halls. Those with high-rank in the social order get more privileges and advantages both naturally and within the structure of the society. Ti-Hou points out that this seems backwards, that those with fewer natural advantages should receive more benefits from the society to balance things out. Moving from the general to the (slightly) more specific, this seems to be referencing perhaps some specific societies in our world. As an American, I go there first, though perhaps Deltasquid, as a European, has a different place in mind.

This also takes the side of the underdog, and tells them they must fight the power. Mi-Yun says in the beginning that he doesn't like to be an agitator, that he doesn't choose to pick fights, but that the circumstances forced him to fight. Once confronted with the inequality around him, the only option left for him was to try to upset it.

But then the story declares that this fight is perhaps futile, that the power structure will conspire to defeat attempts to upset it, that the downtrodden cannot gain victory over those in power unless those in power allow them to, as seen in the disqualification of the pair during the final exam. I'm not entirely sure what the ending says, though--that Mi-Yun celebrates this as a victory of sorts seems to say that failure to gain victory is okay, that the most important thing is to put on display the inequity of the system, rather than to effect change in any meaningful way (unless the presumption is that the people will rally when presented with the truth, which is what Mi-Yun hopes. Of course, he is also the one who says that even if a thousand dogs and cats disagree with a dragon, the dragon still has authority because of ancient philosophy that says so, which seems to paint an even more futile picture).

Comments: This story is okay. It uses a whole lot of words to skim the surface of some deep themes, but doesn't really provide any nuanced discussion of those themes. There are some interesting ideas here, but perhaps too many. I think this gammut of tests dilutes the ideas too much. You have one big topic to explore, which is social inequality, but you try to say too many things, and don't build a strong exploration of any particular idea. I think an examination of one of these tests (say, the debates) would allow you to look closely and more powerfully at the ideas there, like this hegemony of ideas in the debates.

I think you spend a lot of time on exposition, especially early. I know all these details are important, but I think you could do a lot more to build the information into the story organically. There is a lot of architecture and social class talk. Too much. Of course, even in all the exposition, I wouldn't say the world is fully realized. We only have bits and pieces of this society.

I dislike the construction of the first sentence: "It’s not that I enjoyed being an agitator." First of all, it refers to nothing at all in that sentence. It has no antecedent. I know it's a colloquial expression, but it gives your story a strange tone--I expect a story like that to be... a comedy? Sarcastic, at the very least. Your story, however, seems to want to be serious. At least, the ideas are serious. It doesn't get the tone to match that, really.

The ending threw me for a loop. This story feels like you were late writing it, and pushing against the word limit, and found a sort-of ending spot and called it good. I could go for a nice abrupt ending to highlight the inequity of the system, especially if by the end I'm expecting the good guys to win. Unfortunately, I don't think the stakes are high enough (or clear enough) overall to make me really care about this. What would them winning the battle do other than show that Fa-Xiao is a lazy rear end in a top hat? It's not going to upset the apple cart. Losing certainly isn't going to, either. These are exams; does every dragon score higher than every tiger, every tiger higher than every dog, etc. etc.? Would a pair of lower class students doing well really be that shocking? In general the stakes aren't high enough--does it really matter to these two personally? They lost, so they got bad grades. Everything is as they already knew it was.

That's a lot of not super-positive criticism, but I don't think this story is bad. I just think it's incomplete and in need of some heavy revising. I'm always in for a some pot-stirring, and I'm here for uppity Mi-Yun. You do some fine imagery in here (though maybe too much, since you want to wrestle with big ideas and beyond the baked-in inequality, the visual details of this story don't necessarily add a ton). You have interesting ideas.

Pop Culture Tangent: Fight the Power!

Crit -- "Dragon Problems" by Exmond

Summary: Miss Cauldron, a house-magic teacher (aka Home Economics, I gather) screws up a demonstration and accidentally looses a dragon on the school. She attempts to re-cage the dragon, but ends up being eaten whole. The schools guards then arrive and attempt to subdue the dragon. They bother the dragon, but he shrugs off their attempts before blasting a crystal-ward that knocks many of the guards unconscious. Miss Cauldron then reappears, regurgitated by the dragon, and she rebinds the dragon by fixing a bunch of crystal wards at once (an ability previously unknown to or unpossessed by her). The dragon is hidden behind wards, the school resumes function, and people now give reverence to Miss Cauldron.

Analysis: I'm not exactly sure what this story is about, beyond a clumsy home-ec teacher making a huge mistake and then fixing it, sort of--since it's her students who will go on to do the cleanup. I guess the lesson here is it's okay to screw up as long as you fix it (sort of), and people will praise you for it? The lesson might also be "don't do classroom demonstrations involving materials that are actively containing hostile dragons".

Miss Cauldron's internal monologue, perhaps supposed to be the voice of the moral of this story, tells us that she needs to show the students that teachers of the academy do not run away. That might be the intended moral: face your problems, screw your courage to the sticking place, do something about it. That's about all I've got.

Comments: This story has a lot of problems. It has tone problems, continuity problems, world building problems, action problems, big picture problems... It doesn't seem long enough to have as many problems as it does, but alas...

First, tone. I don't know what you want this story to feel like. How am I supposed to read this? The opening paragraph gives it a light-hearted tone, despite the looming danger. It's almost set up like a comedy, or a YA adventure story, perhaps. Our heroine is a house-magic teacher, so that lends some natural levity to the story (though it could certainly be a heroic turn, if written differently). What happens in the rest of the story, though, is not particularly funny, or adventurous, or really anything other than straight action with a side of "Miss Cauldron learns a lesson". Pick something and do it. You've only got 1500 words.

Second, world building. For a story that relies on magic, I know remarkably little about how it works in this world. Look, we don't need an encyclopedia on the magic system, but I need to know a little more. Is this wands and spells magic? Incantations? Something more arcane? Based on willpower? I need to know more because the climax of the story is her fixing these crystal wards and re-caging the beast, and I need to know why she couldn't do it before and how she screwed it up, and why she was able to do it at the end.

Let's talk about that dragon. Why is it in a cage? Why is it so angry? (Probably the cage.) Are all dragons so angry? It seems like an object, really. This dragon isn't here for anything other than to drive the story and teach Miss Cauldron a lesson.

And why is Miss Cauldron using a critical dragon containment ward in a classroom demonstration about strengthening wards? And if this is something that is regularly part of her job (seems unlikely), why is she so unsure of how to fix a ward?

There are a lot of things I don't really buy in this story, and that's a big problem. The above problem with her understanding and use of wards is one. The way people react to her after she "saves" the day (which she screwed up royally in the first place) is another. The lack of a plan to deal with an escaped dragon is yet another. Where are the other teachers? Isn't there someone whose job this is, given their importance? Are they hawkmen or hawks? You use both terms.

Beyond all that, your story isn't about anything. It doesn't prompt any particular thoughts beyond the story itself, it doesn't have any message or idea driving it, it doesn't have any big themes. That doesn't mean it doesn't say anything, but it does mean it probably doesn't say what you want it to say.

Pop Culture Tangent: Yerrrr a WIZZZZAARD HARRRRYY

Crit -- "Nocturnal Affliction" by Chili

Summary: Recent college graduate Bill has a problem--the first of every month, while he's sleeping, a cyclops comes into his room and pisses on him. He talks to his therapist about this problem, but the therapist doesn't seem to have the answers that he wants. He blames the trellis his parents put up while he was gone, so the therapist recommends he ask to take down the trellis. He does not. The cyclops comes again. Next session, we discover that he has been really stressed out. His therapist tries to tell him what she's seeing, but isn't having it. The cyclops comes back, and he is upset. He is no longer enjoying their arrangement, but isn't going to stop doing it. In the morning, his parents let him know that they've taken down the trellis.

Analysis: Bill has some anxiety problems and is pissing himself. He also has an active imagination, and attributes his own insecurity and anxiety to this strange 'agreement' between him and this imaginary cyclops, who he imagines is climbing in through the trellis outside his window--or jumping up to his window, after it turns out the trellis is gone. His therapist can see right through this, but Bill cannot and will not (especially if it means he's just pissing himself, instead of the victim of some cyclops' perversion).

Here is a story about not confronting one's issues. Bill creates this cyclopean tragedy instead of dealing with his anxiety stemming from comparing himself to his peers, living at home, job search stress, and whatever else he's got going on. He knows he is stressed, but would rather blame his problem on the cyclops rather than trying to deal with the actual anxiety issues he's got.

Maybe this is about extended adolescence, as well, and the anxiety created by it. Bill and his parents don't really communicate, and, frankly, Bill doesn't communicate with his therapist, even. He's got a childish problem, and acts like a child, and blames other things for his issues. His stressors aren't even that big a deal! Social anxiety, laziness, entitlement... Get it figured out, dude. Stop pissing yourself.

Comments: I like this story. It's pretty tidy, knows what it is and executes that vision. I think the ceiling of this story is limited--it's goals are small, it's message isn't particularly weighty, the stakes are low. None of that is bad, it just means this is a nice little story. It's a creative vision of what it's like to lack self-awareness. The characters are fairly flat, not a lot of development that goes on here (but also that's kind of the point).

I've got a few quibbles with the storytelling, particularly some inconsistency that took me out of it. The sections at Bill's therapy sessions are told almost entirely through dialogue, and it works. So when you suddenly break that pattern, and jump to Bill's thoughts (I am speaking specifically about the section that begins, "Truth is, it has been stressful at home."), it feels wildly inconsistent. I wasn't sure what was happening--was that supposed to be dialogue, but you misplaced the quotation marks? No, it appears. I understand why you included that portion; we need to know that Bill is actually stressed about these other things and not the cyclops. It's just such an abrupt change of style that it doesn't fit, for me.

I think you could lean harder into the tone here. It seems mildly satirical, and since it's about a cyclops pissing on a 20something 'kid', it should be funny. It is comical right now, and I think the further you go into satire, the stronger your themes will be. If it's about the absurdity of the mid-20's, then it should be absurd, in some way. Then again, I guess a pissing cyclops is just that.

Pop Culture Tangent: I tried my best to quickly put it on viibraaaateee

Crit -- "Cast" by Jitzu_the_Monk (Now Armack?)

Summary: Farinelli, a eunuch with a magic voice, is summoned to pacify King Philip, the depressive king of Spain, who is wailing about the size of his feet. Farinelli is apprised of the situation by a Cardinal, Alberoni, and a Count, Enriquez (who sees the French king as an unfit usurper). Farinelli notes the unease of the court, yet proceeds to calm the king by song. Later, while dancing with a broomstick, he receives a piece of hatemail. A few nights after that, the king goes catatonic again, and Farinelli is once again summoned--the king is bleeding out on his bedroom floor and won't admit his doctor. Farinelli rushes off, but is blocked by Enriquez, drunk (and/or covered in blood?), who puts in earplugs and attempts to knife the soprano. Farinelli dodges his drunken attack, pulls his earplugs, and sings him to sleep. He rushes to the king, still bleeding and attended by his queen, Elizabeth. He pleads with the king, then eventually sings a song, and the king is once again placated. Farinelli heads back to his room, and on his way finds Enriquez, throat slit in apparent suicide. Farinelli returns to his room, and continues in his duty for a long-rear end time.

Analysis: I'm actually not entirely sure what this is about. Let's see if we can figure it out as we go here. There are some clear elements here, about the idea of belonging, and place, and being an outsider, about duty, about fulfilling one's role in life. Perhaps this is about what it really means to belong to a place: Enriquez ends up dead, failing to kill the king or to prevent Farinelli from entering his presence, and Farinelli sticks around for a couple decades. Maybe belonging has nothing to do with birthright or nationality. Maybe Farinelli, dedicated to his task and to the monarchs he serves, belonged to Spain far more than Enriquez, with all his blustery talk about usurpers and rightful kingship, ever did. Of course, what Philip?

Farinelli is an outsider in more than one way--he's from England, but he's also a eunuch (both traits over which he had no control), and is seemingly unwanted, even despised, every moment he is in Spain aside from those in which he is singing. He knows this. The people around him don't know what to do with this, and are disconcerted by their feelings about him. I'm not sure what this means, really. Farinelli doesn't seem particularly bothered by this arrangement; he pretty much takes it in stride. I also can't tell if he actually likes singing. Anyway, perhaps this is about a person's ability to find contentment within hostile environments, places where you aren't wanted aside from your narrow utility.

I had a long time to think about this story, except I didn't really spend my time thinking about this story. I probably would have to read it a few more times and discuss it with someone to see if there is something going on here that I'm missing. Or maybe I'm just reading poorly. Idk. Idc.

Alright, now I'm thinking that the fight between Farinelli and Enriquez is supposed to be significant. Farinelli, a soft-bodied eunuch, fights drunk Count Enriquez, presumably trained in the art of fighting to some degree. The story certainly gives that impression, or at least I read him that way. Enriquez tries to block out the "weapon" of the outsider, his voice, by plugging his ears. Farinelli defeats drunk Enriquez by removing his defenses and forcing him to listen to his song. Perhaps this means something about the futility of resisting the forward movement of society, that no matter how hard you try to ignore the power of modern wisdom, you're still a drunk rear end in a top hat and it will get to you anyway. I don't know what the hell any of that means.

Comments: This is an above average story. The prose is good to quite good. The story is engaging, and moves with enough pace. The characters are well-drawn. I'm just not entirely sure what this story is trying to deliver. I wouldn't call it overly entertaining, particularly affecting, or profoundly meaningful. I think a revision focusing on clarity of tone would improve this story.

I don't really dig the "fight" scene between Farinelli and Enriquez. It feels out of place. It comes out of nowhere, and I don't really buy it. The story is pretty grounded, the sole exception being Farinelli's magic voice, and accordingly it's difficult for me to buy Farinelli as capable of the dexterity that would be required to pluck cotton from a man's ears during a fight. It doesn't sink your story, but it took me out of it. I understand the need for the scene in regards to the plot and even the theme (huh, that gives me some ideas, brb) okay I'm back. Still don't really like that scene, at least tonally.

Farinelli is an interesting character, and relatively well drawn, but I think I could have used a little more insight into his feelings on some of this stuff. All we really have to go on are his actions, which are revealing, but limited in scope. Why does he keep helping out dopey monarchs? Simply duty? Fear of consequences? How does he actually feel about his job, considering he has no choice in the matter and he ends up singing songs he doesn't actually like, and is used mostly as a tool instead of being allowed to display the beauty of his gift?

Like I said, your prose is quality. The use of the verse is well executed, the pacing is good, there is sufficient sensory detail, and the story is clear. I'm big on clarity. I was very rarely confused about any of the details of the story. Seriously, that makes me happy. I do get a good sense of your characters through your prose, and it's not a lot of exposition--it's mostly through action. Love it.

I still don't really know what this story is for, what it's supposed to make me feel. I bet you do, and a couple more revisions would really help this story. As is, pretty good.

Pop Culture Tangent: Nobody sleeps. Except Enriquez :(

Sep 14, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

also prompt what the hell

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

Thanks for the crit!

BeefSupreme posted:

The ending threw me for a loop. This story feels like you were late writing it, and pushing against the word limit, and found a sort-of ending spot and called it good.

:negative: I hit the wordlimit around 3 AM and had to wrap it up. I keep trying to shoehorn short stories that require several thousands of words into these dumb flash fiction contests. Next time I have time to enter I'll focus on flash fiction again.

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
:siren: Thunderdome CCLXXX - Let’s Play Thunderdome: Entenzahn’s Bad Idea :siren:

It’s my birthday this week, and looking back at my life thus far, I only wish I could have played more video games.

For this week you will sign up and I will assign you a video game and you will then take that game and write a story about it and get disqualified, or, OR you could instead not do that and take a nonzero amount of iconic elements from that video game and merge them with your own ideas to write an entirely new, independent story that has nothing to do with video games at all! Go you!

Here’s an example.
Prompt: Super Mario Bros
Good: A magical plumber travels through pipes to pop up in other people’s houses and lecture them about proper waste disposal, scaring everyone shitless and triggering a national emergency
Bad: The plumber is Italian and he stalks a woman who is obviously Peach
Worse: Somebody tries to beat the global Super Mario high score

If you’re not sure, it’s really as simple as taking one or two elements from the game and then not writing about any of the other poo poo. Make your own drat story. If reading through your first draft makes you feel dirty, start over. I swear to god I will loving end you if you write dumb fanfic.

The point of this week is not to write about video games but to be inspired by cool video game poo poo to write cool stories. Well I can’t wait to be disappointed.

Wordcount: 1300
Sign-up: Fri, 15th Dec 2017, 23.59 PST
Due: Sun, 17th Dec 2017, 23.59 PST

Server Admins:

Obliterati (Super Mario Bros.)
Chairchucker (Don't poo poo Your Pants)
Freakie (Diablo II)
Fleta Mcgurn (Bayonetta)
Fuubi (The Secret of Monkey Island) :toxx:
Jay W. Friks (Space Station 13) RIP
Tyrannosaurus (Space Invaders)
magnificent7 (Cuphead)
Bad Seafood (Full Throttle)
big scary monsters (Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing) :toxx:
Thranguy (Max Payne)
apophenium (Portal)
DreamingofRoses (Super Bomberman) :toxx:
BabyRyoga (Pokemon Red/Blue)
flerp (Minesweeper)
The Saddest Rhino (Bad Rats: The Rats' Revenge)
crabrock (System Shock 2)
sebmojo (Tetris)
Uranium Phoenix (Overwatch)
Siddhartha Glutamate (Diablo II) HARD MODE
Fumblemouse (Space Station 13)
Kaishai (Hatoful Boyfriend)
Dr. Kloctopussy (Tetris) HARD MODE

:siren: Secret Hard Mode: :siren: If somebody else has gotten a game where you’re like, well gently caress, I have the greatest idea ever for that and this GOOF is just going to waste it, you can say so when signing up and you will also get that game. The drawback is that you will automatically eat a DM if your story isn’t better than theirs, so you better be sure! If multiple people pick this option for the same game, they obviously have to beat each other as well. Buckle up bitch, this is hard mode.

Entenzahn fucked around with this message at 03:13 on Dec 18, 2017

Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.

Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


I will (probably?) be able to write something this weekend and I like video games so sign me up and I will write a story if I'm not too busy playing video games also I got that reference poo-your-pants?acomplete=don%27t+poo poo+your+pants

It's a dumb game tho

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward

Super Mario Bros.

Chairchucker posted:

I will (probably?) be able to write something this weekend and I like video games so sign me up and I will write a story if I'm not too busy playing video games also I got that reference poo-your-pants?acomplete=don%27t+poo poo+your+pants

It's a dumb game tho

Don't poo poo Your Pants

Entenzahn fucked around with this message at 13:28 on Dec 12, 2017

Oct 30, 2013

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.

Jan 18, 2015

In before all the good games are taken.


Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Got Out.
Grimey Drawer
gently caress yeah Entenzahn!


Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
Diablo II


Fuubi posted:

In before all the good games are taken.

The Secret of Monkey Island

Jay W. Friks posted:

gently caress yeah Entenzahn!

Space Station 13

Apr 12, 2006

Sep 22, 2005

I'm in. No for reals this time I'm in.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Insert 2 credits to continue.

Sep 22, 2005


Bad Seafood posted:

Insert 2 credits to continue.

drat. You've already won.

Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward
Space Invaders

magnificent7 posted:

I'm in. No for reals this time I'm in.

Bad Seafood posted:

Insert 2 credits to continue.

Full Throttle

big scary monsters
Sep 2, 2011

Give me a game and also a :toxx: to atone for past transgressions.

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe
Thanks for the crits beefsupreme!

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.

Apr 14, 2009

Cry 'Mayhem!' and let slip the dogs of Wardlow.
Having just vigorously celebrated the 24th anniversary of Doom, I have to say I'm in.

Jun 27, 2013
Nap Ghost
In and :toxx:


Nov 15, 2012

erm... quack-ward

big scary monsters posted:

Give me a game and also a :toxx: to atone for past transgressions.
Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing

Max Payne

apophenium posted:

Having just vigorously celebrated the 24th anniversary of Doom, I have to say I'm in.

Super Bomberman

Jan 27, 2006
Hey, thanks for the crit, beefsupreme!

Sep 22, 2005


Fumblemouse posted:

Crits for week 278
THANKS for these. So in depth and stuff.

May 21, 2001

In it to grin it

Ironic Twist posted:

BabyRyoga Crit

Much appreciated. I feel like there are some spots that might be easy to focus on based on the feedback i've gotten from the last few crits.

BabyRyoga fucked around with this message at 18:36 on Dec 12, 2017

May 31, 2007

Writing is fun!
Thank you for the crits BeefSupreme!

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

I will help judge if you don’t already have judges the second and third lined up

Feb 25, 2014
give me a good game ty


Feb 25, 2014

I wish I could say the megabrawl ended with some spectular stories but really they were alright but nothing that made me go like whoa. I guess the prompt was too tough for you guys. That sucks.

Of course, first, let us remember the fallen.

Yeah they loving sucked, right?

Anyways, onto the actual point of this post. For doing something interesting even though I don't really know what he did, Muffin wins the megabrawl. Hooray. :toot: :toot: :toot: :toot: :toot: :toot: :toot: :toot: He did it. He's so handsome and great and amazing. Of course, what would be winning without a reward! That's right, he gets to be called the 2017 megabrawl champion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What an amazing prize. Just, wow. I'm jealous.

ALSO: i have feelings about this megabrawl (the main one being im not gonna do another one lol) so im going to give a post mortem of this megabrawl and also get all the crits i skipped because im a lazy rear end in a top hat before the end of this year :toxx:

here are crits for this prompt tho


im not sure about the formatting of this one. on one end, it adds to the frentic pace of the piece and also is able to really get across people talk between each other that regular prose can't really do. but then again i feel like the spacing between the words makes me think its missing words which i dont think is the case and the beginning isnt very clear that its two people talking to each other (i only assumed so re: prompt).

besides that, i think this revels too much in its ambiguity. it sets up, basically, that this guy dies but is soul alive or something but passed that im just like ??????? some other poo poo seems to happen but i cant tell what. i cant tell what this experiment was or what really happened or what is going to happen. and really, when we get down into the conversation, its just one guy yelling at another guy and the other guy is like plz dont yell. sure the window dressing around the conversation might be interested but its a vague blur that i cant really determine what it is. id like to say more about this but i feel like this piece is a lot more shallow than the first impression gives. or maybe its not shallow, but its that the depth is hidden because its not clear what im supposed to be looking at besides the surface level stuff. :shrug:

you also have similar problems w/ crabrock, w/r/t ur characters. theyre just, they dont really have a lot of personality. one guy yells a lot. the other guy is like no plz dont yell im just an intern. and thats it. thats their personality. why should i care about them? dont know.


you got like the opposite problem of muffin's. your story is obvious. too obvious. by the second line i was like oh its a suicide story. and then oh the person gets sentimental and the dude is like hey im not gonna kill myself. its a classic setup, really, but i feel like it isn't really pushed. like its just like yep heres a regular ol' suicide story with all the beats uve come to expect. with no surprises theres not much else to the piece.

i liked the second person, the guy who was gonna jump, more than the first guy mostly because the second guy was not putting up w/ any of the first guy's poo poo and im like yeah u tell 'em second guy. i think that says more about your first guy i.e. i dont like that nerd. like i dont find his comments to be all that interesting or insightful, which maybe is the point, but he just feels overly pretentious, and a bit of a tool to "avoid" the challenge of the week re: having to do everything in dialogue. he describes the setting around the story, but i dont think he does it in a particularly realistic way. i think the movement of the piece, too, goes a bit too fast. like he just drops the dead wife bomb real quick it feels like. and i almost feel like the suicide guy gives up too quickly. and rly when i think about it, suicide guy doesnt really have anything going for him as a character. we just know 1) he wants to die (same) 2) is poor and 3) doesnt want to listen to this idiot. thats not rly a personality, so the impact of the suicide guy not killing himself is lessened because like am i supposed to be happy the cardboard cutout didnt fall off a bridge?

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