Fixed. Don't want my curiosity to come off as entitlement so edited that out.
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 08:02|
|# ? Dec 2, 2021 13:26|
Please do not write a bunch of "gosh humans are weird with their sugar spherules and radio-transmission color hypnosis" guys
think about the recap crew
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 08:20|
IN, , critter please
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 08:47|
weirder teh better imo make it about four dimensional insects with names that are sung in high pitched atonal staticbursts.
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 08:50|
In, with critter.
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 08:55|
IN, , critter please
You get the Leafy Seadragon!
In, with critter.
You get the Turritopsis dohrnii (immortal jellyfish)!
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 09:34|
Of course I'm loving in.
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 11:55|
Thank you for crits, thank you for critters.
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 12:12|
Thank you for crits, thank you for critters.
You get Armillaria solidipes (humongous fungus)!
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 15:31|
Uranium Phoenix, I read your story and it was legit awesome, and well deserving of the wIN!
I'll take a critter please.
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 18:14|
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 20:10|
I'll take a critter.
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 20:27|
yeah, im judge too
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 23:23 on Feb 14, 2017
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 23:20|
No Gravitas’s Two peas in a pod
Title capitalization, don’t break that rule without a good reason, or at least not without even a bad reason.
This is a lot of talk about the weather and not much action. At least there’s something of potential interest going on with regard to that weather, maybe. Still, lack of characters multiple paragraphs in is not a great sign.
Nameless characters, again, not a great sign. And after the exposition we get story told almost entirely in dialog. Which is almost certainly happening in someone’s second language, although there’s no sign of that.
I’m mostly interested in what you aren’t telling; the details of this alternate world war II, the lives of these characters before and after this mission.
Serious flaws. Wasn’t my least favorite story, but it was the only story on all three of our low lists. In a lot of weeks this could have slid by in the low middle or merely DMed with grumpy judges, but the overall quality this week was such no such thing could happen.
‘already’ is redundant with ‘as soon as’. Otherwise, strong opening, getting straight to characters and hinting at a conflict even.
The reversal of expectations is deftly executed, nice. Jay read the narrator and Susan as exes, but my own take was ‘lifelong tragic straight-girl crush’; in revision you may want to make whichever you’re intending more clear.
All in all a very strong piece. This was a serious win candidate
Twiggymouse’s You Can’t Learn That on Youtube
Reasonably strong opening, although I don’t like the fragmentary nature of the second sentence.
Really dumb hunter gets tables turned on him is an excessively easy story that the dome has done before a few times. This is a fairly harmless execution of that trope. Middle of the middle.
sparksbloom’s Back to the Earth
A little overwritten, a little over-abstracted in the opener here.
‘that attitude was her family didn’t want her’, missing a word here.
Overall, this story has a problem keeping things too abstract and undefined. There’s probably something that can be done with this, but you’re going to need to do a lot more to show what was going on in this commune, and how this testimony is going to help Duncan and/or his coconspirators.
Djeser’s Or Something Like It
Catchy opening. Interesting story. I like the concepts, but I think you’ve done one of the laziest possible plots with it. And whether Jennifer’s act is suicide or escape from a fate worse than death, you don’t really hit it with as much consequence as that moment needs.
Still, high middle, possible HM material
flerp’s Sand Caught in the Laughs
Powerful opening. Very nice, good capture of emotional state and good details. This was another contender (I’m not going to hold its vignette-nature against it) for the win this week for me.
Kenfucius’ The Concrete Divide
Strong and specific opening. I don’t like the head-hopping point of view, especially as it’s making all of these kids the same slightly over-analytical, over-self-aware personality. Another strong story. I think that Billy is a bit too absent through the middle, though, and should be at least mentioned in the third section to keep him part of the story. This was another win contender and probably my favorite going into judging (although it was a very close run between the top stories)
That’s probably a few too many moving parts for an opening hook. Does give character and image, though. Second line is also a bit much, but it’s doing something very intriguing.
I don’t like the tense shift at the end. And he’s kept hold of the tube the whole time? Middle this week.
Surreptitious Muffin’s the woman OR the fools who came to drink the dark
Very interesting. Still find lowercase titling annoying but in poetry it’s traditional I guess. My interpretation of the formatting is that this is a partial document, with words illegible or missing, implying a more traditional medusa verse that’s been subject to redaction (possibly with the one first person line scribbled in a different hand) to create a new one. But I’m not sure about that. Anyhow, very good, not a win candidate, but HM worthy.
a new study bible!’s The Sharing Economy
Okay, interesting high concept introduced with the opening. Worried a bit about conflict though. That comes soon enough, although in a way that sort of negates the premise. Question: if ‘Marlene’ is a stolen identity, is Tommy really bright enough to stick to using that name? Bigger question: if the account has been inactive for months, where did the money that’s being put on hold come from, and where would it go if the audit went the wrong way? I’m also not convinced that any government would allow this technology to be remotely legal, and suspect that if it were the company would want to secure the riders’ bodies during the trip, both for things like this and for general safety and liability. In this week’s fairly strong middle.
Uranium Phoenix’s The Arena
Powerful opening. Not sure a severed head would last long enough to feel burning, though. Ah. That gets explained, very late in.
“save you form that”, shame about that typing. And haven’t we already established that decapitation is exactly something the fires can bring her back from? That character doesn’t know she wants to keep from resurrecting that badly.
Another strong story, the one that had high marks from all three judges.
Hawklad’s God of War
Interesting opening. I’m not sure present tense was the best choice, but executed fairly well.
What keeps this in the strong middle of the week rather than somewhere higher is that it doesn’t quite do enough. I’m left wanting the narrator’s family to, through memory and flashback, be characters rather than just motivational hooks. And since this is a fairly well-trod literary area, I sort of want a bit more from it. The transition of the thing under the ice from Lovecraftian unknowable to traditional mythic and manipulable could have used more space as well.
Ironic Twist’s Crystallization
Probably should be question marks in the opener, no? The narrative style is a bold choice, but possibly a mistake. Because the one-sided conversation sets up some questions early on that just get dropped. You’ve got half of a framing sequence, essentially, and that imbalances the whole story. So the anecdote itself works, is well-written and interesting enough, but the reader is left wanting more resolution.
Middle, not as strong as some but not bad enough for a bad result by any means.
Chili’s Hard to Blame Eve
Another 1st/2nd hybrid narrator. Although the interlocutor vanishes midway through. Opening is okay. The transition between grounded character piece and absurdist satire is very abrupt.
This one seems rushed. There’s the potential for a good story with this idea, but it probably needs a second character in it at least and a lot more room. One of the weakest in this strong week.
Obliterati’s The Moon in Capricorn
An Aries, I think. Not a particularly promising start. After reading this multiple times I’m still not clear if this is a deliberate worldbuilding play on words or an author who thought that the astrological sign that sounds like that was the god of war rather than the ram.
Tagless dialog from characters who don’t distinguish themselves through their speech, another bad sign. Lampshading cliches is rarely a better choice than avoiding them in the first place. Not nearly enough time between ‘ten bucks plus expenses’s. Not buying the telegraph-speaking golem being able to function as a vigilante without either giving herself away, not just to the detective but to anyone else on the force or in general. Maybe by using mime only, but it looks like it’s only because it’s him there that she doesn’t speak.
In general, not good, a bit too pat and unsurprising. My personal least favorite story of the week, although after discussion with the other judges I’ve come to appreciate some of the energy and construction of it at least.
Metrofreak’s War Cry
Opening has me worried. Highly procedural, and for something this short...Sort of reads like a shaggy dog story, but without anything even resembling a punchline. The general laziness of this piece put it in my bottom group for the week.
Beef Supreme’s Backlash
Very dry opening. And a fairly dry and lifeless story, to be honest. Another with a single character with any kind of depth to them, and that one not given enough to breathe. Mostly it’s about a technology, and the most painfully obvious thing that can go wrong with it, and a punchline-y ending doesn’t help. Middle/Low Middle.
Bad Seafood’s Funerals Are for the Living
The opening hook works. Good dialog-based storytelling. Muffins, calling someone out there? Problem here is that this isn’t a story, isn’t even a vignette or character sketch. It’s a scene, a good scene, but in dire need of several more to even begin to be complete enough. No mention because I don’t want to encourage novel excerpts without some effort at a conclusion.
sebmojo’s Last Orders Please
Opening is promising something comic, let’s see if it delivers successfully.
Fourth paragraph an unappealing run-on mess. “Parthian shot” in probable secondary world without the antiquity that that references bothers me a bit. Sort of harmless. Doesn’t really deliver many laughs, depends too much on funny names. Middle pile.
The Cut of Your Jib’s Not Gone West
Going three paragraphs before introducing a character is rarely a good idea. They’re not bad paragraphs, but at that point you almost might want to go for a fully characterless story rather than try and drop one in that late. Or make the presence of a first person narrator clear from the beginning.
Ah, scarecrow narrating. Interesting. Two different long narrative essays, not as much so. Not a bad story, but wish you’d found a better way to tell it.
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 23:25|
Thanks for the crits.
|# ? Feb 14, 2017 23:53|
Let me in and give me a thing, please.
|# ? Feb 15, 2017 00:13|
|# ? Feb 15, 2017 00:54|
Uranium Phoenix, I read your story and it was legit awesome, and well deserving of the wIN!
TY and you get Axolotl!
You get tardigrade!
I'll take a critter.
Okay cool thanks.
yeah, im judge too
You get Slime mold!
Let me in and give me a thing, please.
|# ? Feb 15, 2017 01:26|
Thanks for the crits.
|# ? Feb 15, 2017 20:51|
I'm going to try my hand at the thunderdome for the very first time. Hopefully I get an avatar out of it.
In. Please give me a weird species.
|# ? Feb 15, 2017 22:47|
Week 232: The measure of your souls (Crits pt. 1)
Hey, sorry these crits are late (and incomplete), it's because im demonstrably a garbage person, like if you lit me on fire I'd burn funny colors and issue really gross-smelling smoke. Anyway I'm going to ramble about your stories and it may or may not be helpful so woo here we go.
I'll post the rest...soon. Along with my extremely late voidmart crits.
Wake Up In The Morning Feelin' Like E. Tiddy
Your sins: I mean, the nature of your toxx meant you had to write this very quickly. Honestly, I would've preferred something more sincere but messy but this had it's good moments. Let's see, first off, the beginning is very different in tone than the rest of the story. I kind of expected a return to that narrative voice at the end of the story, like kind of a bookend. I wanted you to go full circle and explain how this girl was perhaps not so ordinary after all, or how her ordinariness gave her the ability to confront the extraordinary. Or something. IDK, you're the author, not me. It just felt like the beginning of a different story.
A lot of this story is like...I dunno, it's like watching TV with a guy who elbows me in the ribs any time he spots a clever reference. I mean, it's not like you wrote Ready Player One, but I'm worried that reading/blogging about it may have rubbed off on you a bit I know from experience that defeating monsters via pop culture doesn't always go over well, though you certainly did better than my lattecopters. In your case, it kind of makes sense because it's easy to imagine that whatever makes songs "catchy" to humans would induce insanity in aliens. I guess. I'm not a scientist, but it works in a soft, goofy scifi story.
The best part was definitely when Melissa was trapped and had to draw that weird S thing we all drew as kids. Even aliens can't resist the weird power of that stupid shape. It was a good and fun scene that both worked for the narrative and made me nostalgic.
By the end of the story, it's like, well of course Melissa heads off to more space adventures. Which is why I think, instead of resolving that in one line, it would've been nice if you'd returned to the storybook narrative voice from the very beginning. It would've fleshed out that final moment of decision a little better, rather than reducing it to one line, and given the beginning/end some parity.
Your sins: SKAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaa. Buddy. How are you? Good. Cool. Have a seat. So you did a space thing. That's great, really great. I enjoyed the first installment in this world of yours. The problem is, this iteration did very few of the things I liked about the original and a lot of new stuff that I didn't like. Like, in the first story about Thessalia and friends, there was a really obvious antagonist and I, as the reader, understood that antagonist's motivations. I liked how those motivations clashed with the motivations of our heroes.
In this case, you've got basically two sources of conflict. One is space itself, basically. They need to retrieve the Aegis, which means they need technology to do a thing. There is lots of, like, "Captain! technology can't do the thing!" "Do it anyway!" "okay the technology did the thing!" Admittedly, I am in fact watching Star Trek as I write this crit. I have a high threshold for plots that revolve around technology Doing The Thing. I love meaningless technobabble. But in this case, your technobabble is smeared across prose that is a bit overwrought to begin with. Here is what I mean by overwrought:
Pale greens and deep blues washed over the awed faces of her officers as the abstract numbers of registry numbers and their coordinates were given life as a hologram projected from the table.
This is just a random quote I grabbed after skimming for a few seconds. You've got colors, awed faces, and data, but the fact that all of this is coming from a holographic projector is the last piece of information given. It's important to feed information to the reader in the most logical order possible, usually. When I'm describing things, I try to start with the most concrete, essential part of the scene (in this case, the projector itself), then move on to the action/effect of that thing (the display/data). Finally, I give the color, sensation, and flavor (ie the colored light washing over the crew).
Say things in the plainest way possible first. Then build on that.
But back to plot-level things. So like, I was kind of excited when Admiral Ackerman showed up because I was really hoping for some sort of conflict between him and Maura. I expected her to be genuinely torn between loyalties, but Ackerman ended up being a kindly old space grandpa who just wanted to make sure Maura was doing what she believes is the right thing. I guess the whole reason that part exists is to set up the final scene, where Thessalia returns to the Leviathan and has to deduce whether the Drumheller is a threat or not. But of course it's not, and of course there's a relatively straightforward solution to the communications problem.
Side note, did you forget which ship Thessalia was on?
“Get on with it then,” Thessalia barked. “Tell the Aegis that we’re willing to stand down if they’ll escort us to dry dock for prisoner processing.”
Shouldn't she be telling the Leviathan she's willing to stand down?
I've complimented you on your character banter before, but I feel like literally every spoken sentence in this story is dripping with devil-may-care unflappability and I needed a break from that. I think, if you want to keep returning to these characters and this universe, you need to show them in different scenarios that don't necessarily involve pulling off the impossible in the 11th hour.
Oh yeah, and delete the goddamn crits from your story before you post!!!
The Fires Of Discontent:
Your sins: Oh hi Ska, didn't see you there. Anyway. I can't speak much to the screenplay format itself, because that's not my bag. So I'm just going to critique the story itself. I understand that when you write a screenplay, you're essentially creating a blueprint for a visual medium of storytelling. Maybe this would've been better if I could see the costumes, characters, and setting. I'm not sure. As it is, it's a lot of expository dialog about a vampire revolution, plus one vaguely ominous exchange with a boilerplate vampire villain.
Since the focus of this piece is virtually entirely on dialog, I'm going to point out a couple problems:
May the winds of change fan them into a conflagration which engulfs the dead wood of tradition in a conflagration of progress.
this basically boils down to "may the conflagration engulf [stuff] in a conflagration." A bit awkwardly repetitious, no?
I understand that a place where our lot drop eaves like filthy habits but I do think it's prudent that we schedule a time to discuss your propositions in detail.
The first part of this sentence doesn't make any sense! It seems like it should be easy enough to parse, even with the apparent missing words, but the more I think about it, the less I'm sure I know exactly what she's saying. Is their present location a place where people eavesdrop? Some other place? Is she referring to the specific room they're in, or the whole town/city? It's like you get caught up in all these little linguistic pirouettes. you need to put clarity/meaning first.
I’m curious. What odds to you give our fledgling movement.
'to', c'mon man you gotta proof a little better than that
This guy is sooo evillllll, I'm amazed he isn't twirling an evil mustache. All of the character dialog in this piece is basically, "HELLO THIS IS WHO I AM, THESE ARE MY MOTIVATIONS", but Dahl may as well be screaming HI I'M THE ANTAGONIST I DO MEAN STUFF AND LIKE IT >: D
Speaking more broadly, most of the dialog in this feels pretty stilted and robotic and there are a lot of missing commas. Oddly enough, I think Araspasia and Charlotte could be interesting characters to read about (or watch). You'd need to work on the dialog and make the conflict a lot more subtle, but I don't entirely hate the concept. Vampire media will probably be around forever, and your two strong, revolutionary female leads could be interesting. But man, having read your longer, "real" screenplay, I was stunned at how mechanical the dialog is in this piece. I know you can do way better.
Your sins: Well first of all
we are dead and this is hell
lol is this a preemptive "YOU JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND MY STORY"? Here's the thing. Personally, I'm okay with vignettes, poetic prose, and art pieces so long as they're stylistically consistent. They're not my favorite thing to read, since I tend to favor character changes that happen over a long narrative, probably because artsy or challenging reading is over my head. But in general, if a piece is what it's trying to be, I'll respect it.
So anyway, I actually liked this well enough. It's an effective portrait of contained suffering and how it diminishes the sufferer's world until it seems that only the pain exists. And if only pain exists, what even is pain? What is the self if your whole sense of being subsumed by pain? And once that happens, there really is no barrier between the pain inside of the sufferer and the outside world, as you illustrated in the final paragraph. Which I think was my favorite part. Especially:
One day, I will do something very impolite -- find words for my pain.
In terms of imagery, my only quibble is when the narrator talks about covering his "stomach" with a towel to cover up his ribs. The word stomach invokes the mental image of the midriff, I guess. Which would still leave plenty of ribs exposed. I understand what the imagery is supposed to evoke, but it gave me pause while I imagined exactly where this hypothetical towel would have to be to cover up ribs. It's a dumb and small nitpick, but since this piece is basically all metaphor, each image needs to be solid and not distracting.
Anyway yeah, this was p good and like, I felt as though it was written in the spirit of the prompt.
Outside a View
Your sins: Formatting issues aside, I thought this piece was another one that was really written in the spirit of the prompt. Which is to say, it expresses some artistic anxiety. Beyond that, I guess I don't get it. Like, I understand what is happening int he prose. A nameless, coddled young artist produces a piece of art that is palatably cliche. She seems to be afraid that giving her name to the media will reduce the art, even as it increases her "brand" or w/e. But it seems that her piece tapped into something bigger than human? Somehow, in assembling all those eyes, she created a window for another sort of eye to look back at the viewer? I'm not sure. I like the idea that something so cliche created by someone so privileged and boring could inadvertently become unknowably profound. I'm not sure if that's what this piece is doing, but if so, cool.
But yeah, formatting. We'll work on that. I tried my best to ignore it while reading, because the prose was mostly readable (barring a few typos here and there) and there were some interesting turns of phrase, but the weird line breaks certainly didn't do anything to help my brain parse the events in the story.
Soul, The Contents Emptied
Your sins: Nothing sinful about this. The imagery was visceral and distinct, in spite of the abstractness of the characters and setting. The scope was really big, but the focus was tightly on the conflict between this spiteful god and AnkhNet, letting the reader fill in the scale of these events for themselves (like the idea of Net living through all those lives, which is a little horrifying if i think about it too much). I like the idea that this god is essentially deciding the rules of reality, but somehow can't anticipate that prolonged subjugation would induce a kind of learned helplessness. There is no point in Net trying to better or alleviate his situation because literal god literally has created a reality where he suffers and this is Good and Just.
I guess the ending feels a tiny bit lumpy. I'm not really sure why the timeline reset. I mean, I can guess that the black pyramid somehow caused it why relinquishing its position on this metacosmic pressure point or w/e, but in that case, it seems weird to have a scene break there. And the very very end, where Ankhnet goes on to create other beings, isn't as poignant as it could be, since there were evidently humans in the version of the universe presided over by the rear end in a top hat pyramid. And the very last sentence makes less sense the more I think about it. It reads
For others warrant the harmony of being whole.
But I feel like it should be the other way around. "The harmony of being whole warrants others."
But yeah, no major complaints. Good story, grats.
Your sins: This is a story about the senseless death of a child. Additionally, it's about how the world is an unfair place full of senseless misfortune. Anyone who's been through serious misfortune knows that nothing happens for a reason and no amount of love can stave off the inevitable. It's all true, and you wrote about it well enough, and the narrative acknowledges it. It's hard to critique a story that seems to be doing exactly what it intends to do. Unfortunately, it's hard to like a story when the intention is the senselessness/pointlessness of its contents.
On the writing level, this is pretty good. There was exactly one paragraph where I actually felt the emotional gravity of the situation:
Esrela cried and held her love, held her everything. She clutched at her daughter’s soul. She howled at the faces across the veil that were grabbing at her daughter, and pulled with all her might. She pulled against the celestial God, pulled against the endless armies of angels and spirits, pulled against the might of death, screaming defiance. It took all the legions of heaven to pull that soul away from her, and it was a slow, torturous ripping. Then at last, she stood empty handed, feeling less.
I would actually ditch the first line. Otherwise, this is the kind of passion and imagery that could make a story about a senseless thing feel meaningful. Buuut then you immediately subvert the feeling you created with the next paragraph:
Of course, that never happened. She merely felt like it did, but it might was well have happened. So it did happen, after all.
This is unnecessary, and undermines the effectiveness of the previous paragraph. I think, given the grim reality of the plot and the fact that there is intentionally not a whole lot of development in the characters, transitioning from sparse, realistic prose to a more poetic narrative voice would've given the piece a feeling of movement (if you hadn't undermined it).
Before the Lion, he laid Bare
Your sins: You continue to have consistent branding with your titles. Nice. Otherwise. Um. This is one of those stories that's too smart for me. I mostly just like it. Partially because it had the potential to be very boring, but it wasn't! I am a fan of stories within stories. I actually went and read some of the other critiques of this story (I'm thinking of Newt's in particular) and I will say, I'm uncultured swine and am not really familiar with the works of Borges but that wasn't a hindrance. I will take Newt's word for it that this story is kind of just a recreation of Borges' style, but I think it was cleverly suited for the prompt. I asked for your soul, you gave me a story about a reader who more or less loses his sense of soul/self after reading about a character who loses (or realizes the absence of) his soul.
I gotta warn you though, you're dangerously close to discovering that you're actually just a character in my Thunderdome metafiction. Another layer in your own story.
The Cave Adventure.
Your sins: I'm of two very different minds on this story. It DMed for a reason (mechanics, pacing, punctuation, the "twist" at the end), but I'm sympathetic to what I think it's about. As I said in the judgment post, it seems to me these kids are being neglected, or at least disciplined too harshly, because they spilled some cereal. But, being kids, they kind of just adapt to it and accept it as normal. The fact that they have names for everything in the "cave" suggests that they're in there a lot, which is pretty sad.
Okay, so. You need to learn to punctuate dialogue. You wrote:
“I'm coming over” I responded.
It needs to read:
I'm coming over," I responded.
You will always put some kind of punctuation mark inside your quotation marks.
I don't like how the beginning of the story is in past-perfect tense. "It has been my brother's idea...", "I had not been in the mood...", and etc. You could've just started in regular past tense. Past-perfect tends to feel really lumpy and should be used sparingly IMO. It's best used for short (like a paragraph or less) flashbacks, or places where the narrative has to refer to something that happened prior to the "present" of the story.
While I did like the odd nature of the "cave", there was no real conflict or tension. It read like an exploration story for children, which isn't bad in and of itself, but my adult brain was wanting some kind of turn or change in the action, something new or odd to these children (ending aside). But of course, they know the cave well, and have names for all of its parts. So really, we're just taking a tour of these kids' imaginary environment. It's frustrating because I think you could've incorporated a little more info about these kids' IRL situation into their game of exploration.
Anyway, I'm not sure if you'll read this because you haven't been active in this thread since you posted, but I really like your other SA posts and i think you have a neat perspective, so I hope you do another round sometime.
Boring Words are Expendable
Your sins: I really liked this story. It's not so much that I relate to Sam personally as I've met some Sams in my time, I think. His internal monologue could've been tedious, but it wasn't. I think it's because you intersperse enough of Sam's thoughts/feelings about the external world. And the way that he mentally tinkers with phrases like "we need to talk" makes them kind of echo in my brain. I like that the reader is feeling the emotional gravity of the situation for Sam. He's not so much avoiding reality as he's just...completely up inside his own head. And when reality sucks, it's not like there's a whole lot of incentive to come out of his head. The "trying to figure out the name of the song" part of the plot added some movement and direction to it. It's a super small but relatable thing.
I liked the ending because it's pretty clear Sam isn't going to open up and say he got dumped. But it was only a matter of time before his friends found out, which is obvious to the reader, but not something Sam seems willing or able to address. I dunno, this is a really low key story but it does a lot of good stuff. I think it's my favorite story you've ever written and I'm really pleased you submitted it for this week.
Flush with Cash
Your sins: The first line is AMAZING. You, sir, are gifted at making an entrance. The first paragraph sets up an amusing problem and promises an entertaining read. One critique I have is that the writing sometimes seemed elaborate for elaborateness's sake. Like,
Mr. Whipple was a loan shark and the span of his patience was inversely proportional to the girth of his biceps.
This works because you're telling us two things about him in one line.
Mr. Whipple waved the razor menacingly, which is the only way a razor can be waved while adjacent to reproductive organs.
This one doesn't work because it's using a bunch of words to tell us what we already know. I ran into the same issue whenever the narrative talked about football and other expressions of masculinity and physical prowess.
By the end, I'd kinda lost sight of the main thrust of the story. You've got a rogue's gallery of quirky, grizzled characters, who are all kind of funny in concept, but they kind of just obscure the actual mission which...actually, I'm pretty confused by what Mr. Whipple wants. Like, i guess he could get some satisfaction out of killing Pepe an in ironic pun death, but that wouldn't help him get his money back. In fact, it's a lot of risk and labor to accomplish something with so little payoff. The climax is kind of funny on the surface, but I didn't feel like the buildup was adequate. I know anything involving bidets is going to be inherently funny, but this elaborate piss murder plot feels a little wacky for wacky's sake. Like, I think I'm supposed to feel like all these crazy plot threads are converging in this insane, brilliant, and disgusting grand finale, but the elaborate narrative doesn't convince me that it's plausible. I mean, don't get me wrong, it was amusing, but not amusing enough to distract me from my confusion and skepticism.
Now, my critique probably makes it seem like I enjoyed the story a lot less than I did. I had fun with this. I think one judge had it down for an HM. It was good on a first read, but now that I sit down to actually write a critique about it, I see some problems I didn't notice the first time around.
Your sins: So, I was okay with the dry, meticulous tone of the beginning of the story. But the prose needs to be as sharp and meticulous as Keith seems to think he is. In some places, there were some mechanical errors that hurt the tone:
The wordlessness had been tested over the years. He'd experimented with multiple combinations of tools, of expression, of posture over the years.
repetition of 'over the years' is awkward.
Keith had efficiently and brutally dealt to Sam’s front door, entered the small flat and tied Sam to a chair like a muscular whirlwind.
I don't like this sentence. "Dealt to Sam's front door" is weird.
Sam wasn’t quite sure he could piece together the choreography of the event if pressed, there was noise, there was force and there was now restraint.
Why are we in Sam's POV here, anyway? Most of this story is from Keith's perspective. Also, there should be a period or semicolon after "if pressed".
When Keith starts singing Dolly Parton as he's breaking kneecaps, it's evocative of like Reservoir Dogs or American Psycho. Only, you didn't push the rest of the story hard enough. None of it is absurd enough to give the scene that dark, giddy combination of humor and terror that you need to pull this kind of thing off. Keith needs traits stronger than "meticulous crime guy". If you're going to go inside Sam's head, you may as well give him more backstory, some desire that's more interesting than wanting to go back to drinking beer with his kneecaps intact. It would've been funnier if he had his own side story that is irrelevant to Keith but comes into play in IDK the climax. Or something.
All this stuff would've bothered me, but the ending was extra messy. As soon as Craig shows up (with no dialog attribution), the blocking goes all confusing. He couldn't have just called?? And why in the heck would you trust the guy who arranges your crime appointments with handling your mundane errands??? It's too dumb without any good reason. Oh, and speaking of the kids...they kind of just show up. One second, they're talking about Toby and the next he's in the room. Then, Keith makes the very confusing decision to kill his assistant, in front of a witness. Keith's only leverage over Sam is a threat. And at that point, I start wondering if Keith has got a little bit of the old Dunning-Kruger effect going on. He certainly isn't as smooth or competent as he wants the reader to believe he is, at any rate. Which would be fine, but I genuinely can't tell if that's the point of the story or not.
Your sins: I'm torn by this. I like a lot of the details. I'm a fan of suburban ennui as a concept, especially when it feels authentically personal. I think my critique is uuuuuuh. Okay. So like. The whole story kind of crescendos with the narrator's admission that he wants to be a blossom who can float away to somewhere meaningful. It's a nice image, but I don't have a clear understanding of how being a piece of plant matter would improve the narrator's existence. I understand it's a metaphor, but beyond some wistful notion about natural spaces being inherently more meaningful than suburban ones, the metaphor doesn't really connect to anything concrete.
And, actually, you shift away from the drifting flower metaphor at the end; your final image revolves around an actual almond, rather than an almond blossom or an almond tree. I think it diffuses the meaning a bit. A blossom on the wind is ephemeral, delicate, and will certainly fade away shortly after its flight. An actual almond evokes something different. It's a seed, which brings to mind new beginnings, birth, and growth. It's also edible, which implies something enriching or sustaining. I'm not really sure how the blossom/almond metaphors work together, or if they're even meant to. I'm also not sure how they relate to the narrator's feelings about Brentwood/Merced. I do think that, if you wanted, you could retool this and make your imagery/feelings stronger and more consistent.
Sorry, I'm Not Flying
Your sins: This was obviously the better entry of the two. It feels equally personal but more concrete. I like that you don't play coy about why grandpa is a bird; you get it right out in the open in the first line or two. Birds are fragile and strange, just like grandpas who get sick and are forever changed.
I want to talk about tenses, because while I am pretty sure you did it right, this part feels so awkward to me:
His chihuahua’s curled up in a ball on the couch, and he stares at the dog. Whenever he tried to flap over to her to pet her, she barked at him and ran away. He doesn’t try to get near the dog anymore. He just stays in his chair.
I think it feels weird because the first line tells us what's happening in the 'present' of the story: bird grandpa is looking at his dog. So it feels like the next line should take place in the present, too. But you're referring to an event that happened before this moment where grandpa is looking at the dog. I think it would've been clearer if you'd started the past tense sentence with 'When grandpa first came home, he tried to flap over and pet her..." or something like that. Technically it's the correct use of past tense in a present tense story, but it's so easy for the past tense bits to read like a mistake rather than an intentional reference back to an earlier time.
I think I'm projecting BTW, b/c I'm writing a novel in the present tense and it feels super awkward any time the narrative switches to the past tense. Anyway. Yeah this was pretty good, any critiques I have about it are things that are more obvious in your other story, which is easily the weaker of the two.
Your sins: This was close to an HM for me because I thought this story had a sensitivity to it that not everyone can pull off. And that is vital when you're writing on the topic of identity. Your characters also immediately came off as good people, since they're volunteering their time for a difficult task. I liked when the "prank" calls started coming in because, on a second read, it's rather obvious what's happening, but on my first read-through I didn't put it together until Corinne's second call with "Brandon". Which IMO is a good thing. When I look closely at your wording, the revelation that Brandon is a remnant of Corinne's time as a male-bodied person (and, more importantly, a remnant of her doubt and fear) is actually pretty clear.
Something about the ending weakened the story for me. I'm not sure if it was how Leon was so persistent in helping (it ended up being a good thing, of course, but subverted the strong focus on boundaries in the beginning) even when Corinne shook him off. Maybe it was the implication that, without Leon, Corinne will answer that call from her dead name as soon as she's alone. Maybe it would've been better if she'd responded in some way to the slight transphobia/misgendering that she encounters on her way to the bus stop? I dunno. The very last para feels flimsy in a way I'm struggling to describe.
Anyway, I really liked this piece and good on your for writing it.
Your sins: Okay so I have an urge to nitpick your first paragraph so I'm going to do that. I've found that stuff that annoys me in the first paragraph tends to repeat itself throughout the piece.
Matthew sat in his booth at the diner, holding his ribcage closed,
Your first line would be pretty okay without the extra words (the ones I crossed out). It's weird that the stuff leaking out of his wound is "too dark to be blood", yet you describe his shirt as bloodsoaked in the next sentence. So that makes for confusing imagery. I don't like the phrasing of "between his fingers leaked thick fluid..." because it sounds pretty passive/weak. "Thick, dark fluid leaked through his fingers" (or something) would be stronger. I get what you're going for with the "imperial red sun" bit, but because your imagery is kind of inconsistent already, it just adds to the confusing. Especially because this is a metaphorical wound. You've got to be careful, doing metaphors within metaphors. Everything has to be crystal clear.
Okay, now onto the actual story content.
In theory, I kind of like this. But the metaphor becomes kind of repetitive after a while. Like, he's metaphorically bleeding at an increasing volume because his wife is obviously cheating on him. It would've been more effective if the metaphor had twisted or changed somehow. And because the metaphor felt repetitive, I hoped that Jessica herself would do something to shake up the obvious trajectory of the plot. Structurally, I think you had the right instinct; escalating and escalating your protagonist's pain until his only option is the unthinkable.
I have one slight problem with the ending, which is like...okay, so. Slowly and endlessly bleeding out because your heart is breaking is one thing. It fits. It's a metaphor for a real thing that happens in relationships. But taking his own heart out and discarding it...there is no comparable thing in reality. No one gets to just toss that kind of heartbreak away. Maybe you could've had him start to scoop out his heart in little chunks, or something. But I don't buy that he's going to carry on as a happy, heartless transient. I mean, the transient part is plausible, but not ditching his pain.
Anyway, not bad.
Not Quite Friends
Your sins: I really wanted to HM this, but we had so many already and the other judges weren't as hot on it as I was. I will try to suss out why that is in this crit so here we go!!
Okay, so my first thought is that Lark and Zhao feel like characters I would like to get to know over a longer period of time. The narrative doesn't really articulate why Lark is so hell-bent on being Zhao's friend. She's just watching him from a fence (side note, I think the beginning could flesh out the setting a bit more) and decides she's going to stubbornly stick by his side.
Actually, on the topic of the setting...I'm wondering if this is set in the world of the novels you've been working on? Or at least inspired by them? It's got the odor of world building about it. I started wondering about that when you mentioned "knight's village" (which I think should be capitalized?? but whatever). There's not a whooole lot of context for like, the social order these people live within, except what I can glean from the presence of knights and the nature of Zhao's discipline. But TBH that's not the issue here. I think the overall story is fine, even good.
I'm going to pick apart one of your paragraphs b/c I think the tarnish is all in the little details:
Lark walked towards the edge of the yard and unlocked the gate from the inside. She wasn’t sure whose yard it was, honestly. Just that the other kids had seen Zhao over here, struggling to hold up two buckets of water. She made her way closer to the center of knight’s village where she came towards a small house. It almost looked like a silo, it was round and made of brick the color of a calm gray sky. Small little vines had started creeping up the sides of it, but came just short of the simple wooden windows. Lark moved up to it, adjusted her shirt and fussed up her hair before she knocked on the door.
There's no real reason to specify that she unlocked the gate 'from inside', the fact that she's vaguely trespassing isn't really important considering she goes straight up to Telmorris's house to ask WTF. It's just extra words.
In the 4th sentence, Lark is making her way closer to the center of the village at the same time as she is coming toward a small house. It would read a lot smoother if you said "She made her way to the center of knight's village where she noticed a small house" or something like that.
The next sentence is a weird comma splice. Would read better if you just said "It was round, like a silo, and made of brick the color of a calm gray sky" or something like that.
"Small little vines" come on dude, if you're gonna use two adjectives in one breath they should at least do two different things.
Basically, you just need to tighten up your words. Extra words and awkward comma splices will make a good story seem rougher. My overall feelings toward this piece are positive, but the whole thing is riddled with these little errors that can possibly take the reader out of it. TBH I think you should read your stuff out loud to yourself more, because I think it would be a lot more obvious to the ear than the eye.
The Answers You Find and the Questions You Don't
Your sins: Well your major sin is being Entenzahn. I shouldn't really need to say anything else but I will try for the benefit of all the non-entenzahns who read this thread.
So, first impressions: I appreciate the punchy intro, but it's a lot of bodily descriptions and quippy narrative and not much context. I get that it's supposed to be in medias res, so your protag can't exactly stop to ruminate on what put him in this situation. But this goes on for quite a while, and there isn't much to glean. All the reader knows is some veguely wily dude has angered some crime guys and is in over his head. Oh, and he's looking for 'Hot-Dawg'. That's all we really know for a few hundred words. All of the quips and elaborate, darkly humorous descriptions of pain and violence start to feel a little tedious. I think I got to
It takes a moment to settle in because my body hurts so much I could swear time-defying phantom imprints of their kicks and punches are reverberating all the way from back in the past and are still knocking the living daylights out of me.
and was like, yeah I'm done with these wacky metaphors for how badly his rear end is being beat. I don't even care about the reveal that he jacked the crimedude's phone because I don't know what he wants to do with it. The only reason this story moves at all is because the reader is going to know all these tropes. We can kind of--kind of--surmise what this character is up to because we've all seen action movies and crime thrillers and dark crime comedies.
Oh, and if your character was brutalized even half as hard as the narrative would lead me to believe, he would've spent the rest of the story in the hospital. You don't spend that many words lovingly crafting all this hyperbolic violence and then tell me your character is capable of raiding a crimeguy's hideout. Oh, and then we finally find out the rationale behind his whole mission. He doesn't want to go to the cops about his friend's disappearance because he's afraid she'll get in trouble for drugs. Her life is probably in danger but, ya know, don't wanna get her in trouble. That could have longstanding ramifications, don't you know.
And to be honest I don’t know why I’m doing any of this. Maybe I just saw something that made sense, and nobody else saw it, and now maybe I feel like I can do this, and it’s the first time I ever felt like that. Maybe this is what I’m supposed to be: clever, but also kinda stupid. Or maybe I just feel sorry for Lena. Maybe I’ve read too many detective novels. Maybe I’m not doing anything. Maybe she hosed off to Paris and maybe nothing matters. Maybe everyone I know will remember me as the boy who died in the Heroin House. But I’ve got nothing else to do with my life. It might as well be this. At least this feels real.
When your character is hashing out their motivations like this, there's a good chance those motivations aren't very clear or cogent. Sometimes it's basically you, the writer, flailing around to figure out wtf you're doing. maybe that wasn't the case, but it reads like it! I did kind of laugh at the mental image of him shambling into this flophouse like a zombie, though.
There are moments toward the end where the manic voice of this story works better for me:
My heart skips a beat. This sounds cliché, but it really does. It just loving checks out for a second, does a double-take on the situation and finds that this is still reality, so it goes back to beating. A bit louder than I’d like. So’s the door. It squeaks, just a little, or maybe that’s just me imagining things because right now a thousand thoughts race through my head and all of them are “I’m about do loving die.” But there are no footsteps, and nobody is shooting at me. I go inside.
The protagonist's tough-guy monologue at the end doesn't really do it for me. He's spent the whole story flying by the seat of his pants and basically making poo poo work because the plot needed him to, so he didn't exactly earn his Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson moment. I was fine with the happy-ish ending, since this story was always going to have one. But the little rear end-pat from the police officer at the very end made me roll my eyes pretty hard.
|# ? Feb 15, 2017 22:51|
if you lit me on fire I'd burn funny colors and issue really gross-smelling smoke.
don't you issue really gross-smelling smoke already?
oh wait that's not smoke
|# ? Feb 15, 2017 23:06|
|# ? Feb 15, 2017 23:07|
don't you issue really gross-smelling smoke already?
|# ? Feb 15, 2017 23:08|
I'm going to try my hand at the thunderdome for the very first time. Hopefully I get an avatar out of it.
|# ? Feb 15, 2017 23:33|
plz don doxx me
|# ? Feb 15, 2017 23:44|
crit for Desperate Jasper, Julias' redemption from week 234 because why not:
When you do a redemption, you more or less have no time pressure on you. So certain typographical lapses are much less forgivable, such as spelling Jasper 'Jaspar' twice in one paragraph.
I'm more than a little confused by this story. The narrator is Dr. Silvai, who apparently has a biological child as well as some kind of foster child named Tennesy. Her mentioning that she could put him on the street (which comes off a bit more 'veiled threat' than I think fits the tone you're going for) probably rules out this being a blended family; her calling him just 'Tennesy' in narration pretty much rules out any other Tennesys in her life. And yet for some reason the ending hinges on her suddenly claiming membership in that family rather than the Silvais...if this is some strange dissociative break on her part it needs to be punctuated a lot more and made more of a focus...
Beyond that, the two parts of the story are reasonably well done, the family part being stronger than the professional part. Ronald's absence in both is strong enough to be felt but not developed enough to be interesting or lead anywhere, and the two plotlines don't fit together particuarly well other than in the confusing manner mentioned above.
|# ? Feb 16, 2017 04:59|
Thanks for the crit, sh.
|# ? Feb 16, 2017 15:00|
These are stories that have no end! Indeed, "stories" is kind, my friend! Some people started writing them, not knowing how to stop, and our surprise is none of them was judged the biggest flop! (Thanks to Shari Lewis for the memories!) From setting up a garage office to lying down in some Seine, we study the ways that the low entries of Week 234: Binging on Bad Words fail to satisfy, then round out the bad-word binge with dramatic readings of Venomous's "Ears" and Uranium Phoenix's "The Eyes of Eris."
Of course he wants to spend our last day in Paris gawking at bits of paper that some dead Italian fucks jizzed on like we don’t have a loving job to do.
Seven honorable mentions, a win, and a loss give the recap crew a lot to talk about when we turn our attention to Week 235: 21ST CENTURY MONOLOGUES FOR WOMEN. What subjects should such monologues address? What constitutes a female voice? None of us is qualified to answer either question, but we offer our opinions anyway. Four monologues are performed in full: Sitting Here reads Kenfucius's "Little Heart Attacks," I read Thranguy's "The Seventh Portrait," and Ironic Twist does double duty with newtestleper's "Admit that this problem can't be solved with a spreadsheet." and Uranium Phoenix's "Lovebugs."
Asses touching, eyes in opposite directions. Ain’t that loving a metaphor for something.
Episodes past can be found here!
|# ? Feb 16, 2017 20:20|
Critiques for Weeks IX, X, CCXXXV, and CCXXXVI: Everybody Look at Me 'Cause I'm Critting Monologues
Did you know most of the stories of Week 9 and the classic "The Drone of the Tower" only received one comment's worth of feedback? Those were dark days. These crits attempt to amend that to a degree, then address monologues and Magic: the Gathering with a similar deficiency of expertise in each.
Week 9: Old Sex/Lawn Sounds
Dr. Kloctopussy, "The Diplomat's Wife": Exposition-heavy at the start, but it picks up once Katherine starts acting against Mr. Nesbit. It's not that interesting on its own, though. The final beat is the revelation that Nesbit is indeed Up to No Good and Something Will Have to Be Done--and the story stops there, right when it's getting compelling! I get that the point is how awesome Katherine is, but she's not so very awesome that a few minutes of her doing spy stuff is enough for a satisfying read.
sebmojo, "Old Friends": Thank God you've since learned how to use a semicolon. There's a lot to like about Jack and Evangeline and their ruthlessness toward each other. I'm left with many questions, though--not about why Evangeline is after Jack; I figure he never admitted that the Russians got intel out of him, but someone found out and now his allies are against him. Works for me. But who is Hippo, why did he "die," how did he survive, what did his wife have to do with it, etc.? I don't need all those questions answered, but I sure would like to know the relationship between Hippo's life and Jack's long-ago betrayal. If Hippo spied for Russia, why would the Russians get him? If he spied for England, why did he need to be turned? Or is Evangeline working for Putin now? I get the general gist of the story but can't make out the larger picture in which it's set.
The Saddest Rhino, "Operation Barnes: Post-Mission Interview Transcript of Agent P. Wrayburn": I love the phrase "assumed him to be a dusk-skinned, tropical safe house of veiled maidens and moorish palaces." For the rest of the story I will picture Singh as looking something like this, except with more harem pants. Anyway, I have some trouble following this up until the point when it turns into CIA porn. The blocking with Singh, Wu, etc. is hard to picture. The humor of the piece is a slow burn, maybe too slow since the funny bits are the good bits and the first one to show up is the fight over the Dragon. The punchline gets a roll of the eyes and a wry grin at the same time. Was that joke worth so much set-up? Ehhhh. You could execute it better now than you could back then, but Fifty Shades jokes are no longer timely, and it may be kindest to leave this in peaceful retirement.
Bad Seafood, "The Birdhouse": A strong opening despite the inconsistent capitalization of God, but you squander it by shifting into a flashback without any visual signal. Italicizing that lengthy section would set it apart and ease the task of following your chronology. Aiyee, but here's another one! And another! You don't give me a chance to know these people, though that doesn't matter much in the end. They're only set pieces to be knocked down as each new shocking twist unfolds. When it's over, here's what I know: elderly espionage agents go on a mission; one of them has an affair with another; the leader of the group betrays them for... reasons; they turn on one another in suspicion and the guilty party is the one to survive. Almost all detail is absent. Some meat on this story's jumbled skeleton might make it worth reading, though at this point you'd do as well to start from scratch.
Week 10: THE DARK LORD'S CORNFLAKES
Wrageowrapper, "The Drone of the Tower":
Isn't it just. Some stories are terrible from every angle. The romance of Baz and the Vorpal Drone fails utterly as a serious piece, is too stupid in the wrong ways to be a humor piece, is weird enough for an absurdist piece but so frightfully proofread that I cannot trust your intentions, and includes the sentence "DoomCORP reigned down upon them." Yet. Yet. It has something, and I don't only mean in the way "Corn!" has something. The omnipresent so-bad-it's-good quality is complicated by fragments that approach beauty. That first line promises magic. (And the sentence "'I kills you', shouted something large and foreboding" delivers it, albeit not in the form one might have hoped.) The conquest of the tower strikes a wondrous balance between the dramatic and the inane. A song about cake defeats evil incarnate. It's almost too strange to dislike, and I could love it were it not for the punctuation, if only for Rhino's agony whenever I remind him it exists.
Week 235: 21ST CENTURY MONOLOGUES FOR WOMEN
Jay W. Friks, "Moonlight Goes Back Home": I'm not sympathetic to the humans-destroy-everything message this tries to deliver with heavy hands, but Tyrannosaurus called the real problem: it's boring. Moonlight's words are pure exposition, yet she doesn't address the interesting elements, such as where she's from or who her sister is or who her mother is or why she was on the moon. She's more than a little twee in her role of cutesy space pixie skipping along through the ruins of Earth, tra la la. I do think despite this that you could tell a good story about Moonlight and her people, if you wanted, and it's worth trying to do. Other readers will be more open to the message, and you'd probably deepen Moonlight's character as you put her through the events of a longer piece.
Kenfucius, "Little Heart Attacks": "I’d have jumped on his face and shouted giddy-up cowboy given half a chance." Dear God, do I feel pity for this woman's son. I mean, she was in the middle of business on the toilet and... this is an unpleasant conjunction of concepts, you get what I'm saying? I'm most of the way through the text and this woman's just obsessed with toilet functions, oral sex, and underwear. You've overdone it and lost the humor. That takes a toll on the ending, which is touching in theory and in practice still manages to make me like the story more for what it's trying to do. My distaste for this sort of comedy won't be shared by every reader, but I'd pull the jokes in a notch if I were you--get rid of the sitting-on-someone's-face-after-being-interrupted-mid-defecation bit if nothing else.
sparksbloom, "Social Studies": While this falls flat for me, I question how much or whether that's your fault at all. Your mechanics are sound, your writing is good, and the character's voice is what I think you intend it to be. Your character's incompetence just isn't funny. Spewing her insecurities all over her students? Putting the burden of teaching Civics to her on them? Since I'm distressed instead of amused there's nothing for me to enjoy. This depends on hitting the reader right, possibly an unavoidable weakness in such a short comedy piece.
Thranguy, "The Seventh Portrait": Some of these lines bobble the meter, especially early on. Some of the early phrasings are strained: "Nobody made the choice / To not pose without her for one this year" raises a grimace when I read this silently and again when I read it aloud. It's an unsteady opening to an uneven poem that nevertheless has an extremely strong, sharp core. The pentameter sings in the third stanza. The woman's mingled hope and dread cut deep. It has such beauty and power that it justifies your win all on its own, but the fourth stanza threatens ruin as the poem teeters on the verge of outstaying its welcome. The return to the hope theme at the end is clumsy and repetitive, the affair a bloating tangent--the faltering marriage is a nice touch, but I'd do away with the "fair man who filled a void" (especially as these lines ring false to me, too forced-poetic for the narrator's voice up to this point) and take a different path if you want to keep the breakup in. Maybe Frank could be the one seeing Jenny piecemeal? Maybe the narrator can't stand to hear him talk about it anymore? There are possibilities. I like the idea too of cutting the last four lines of Stanza Four and sticking them below Stanza Three as their own entity. The final stanza is stronger and a good close, other than the seeming-needless "Abducted by some micro-cult or fiend." In short: a potentially exquisite poem that deserves to be hammered on a while longer.
curlingiron, "Damsels & Diplomacy": Not my cup of tea. It's an unsubtle woe-is-women, men-are-idiots piece, and the light tone of the conversation doesn't make up for that. I've seen a similar take on the relationship between princess and dragon done better in Patricia Wrede's Dealing With Dragons, one of my childhood favorites; that may be why I fail to click with your version. The character's voice is a leeeetle cutesy for my taste too, but I think other readers will like it, and she delivers as much exposition as Jay W. Friks' heroine in a sufficiently engaging way that it more or less works.
Uranium Phoenix, "Who Holds the Walls of Byzantium?": Another exposition dump, but this one goes over better than those before it, perhaps because the Empress is openly addressing the audience. (Not sure where that Her comes from, though. Jesus, whom Judas betrayed, was distinctly not female, so it reads strangely even if I assume the Empress is determined to see God as a woman.) Your approach bemuses me. Is it alternate history? That would explain the female courtiers, female Jesus, and the Empress's bizarre horror that a general should be male. On the other hand, everything outside of Byzantium appears to map to real history. Either way it's more of the gender-conflict schtick that makes me a little sad, because women's monologues don't have to be about men, you know? I'd rather read or perform a speech about the work of running an empire, but that's in large part a question of personal preference.
Uranium Phoenix, "Lovebugs": I thought you needed to drop a pound or two of gently caress until Twist read this aloud in fine belligerent-drunk fashion; now I know the cussing is spot on. The character voice built a mental image of a sullen forty-something man even before I heard a man perform it, though. Otherwise, it's a good thing you keep this short since I doubt the voice could hold its charm for much longer, but you make your point and exit stage left and leave an entertaining metaphor behind. It's fun to hear and ends on a note that leaves a thoughtful aftertaste.
GenJoe, "Casino": Good character voice. Whether Cheryl is in fact stalking Shannon or Shannon is paranoid about the way people see her isn't clear to me, and I like that: I imagine Shannon feels the same way sometimes. It leads me to think about her character in a way that gives her dimension. Her worries are cool for being worries I haven't seen that often in fiction. Of all the speakers so far, she's the one I'd read a book about if you wrote one. Since your entry doesn't have the beauty of Thranguy's at its best or that piece's emotional strength, I understand why you didn't win, but I have nothing negative to say about this. Nice work.
newtestleper, "Admit that this problem can't be solved with a spreadsheet.": Eeesh, NTL. I don't know. Your character voice is solid, the sins of the office entertaining--the calculation of professional typing rates maybe a bit low; sixty doesn't sound like anything to brag about. But why would even a spergy alcoholic do this? It's a contrived situation that raises too many questions and dulls the humor with alcohol math. She's using a syringe to spike her drink at work, for heaven's sake. I can't enjoy this to the utmost without turning off my brain, but if you wrote a version with less precise calculation of milliliters, I'd like to see it.
Week 236: Three-Card Combo
No Gravitas, "Two peas in a pod": Tense shifts in the first paragraph don't bode well; so much weather talk is arguably worse. Did I just read three paragraphs describing what the weather won't be like due to nuclear holocaust? Good grief. The level of exposition here is as toxic as the radiation. In the whole first section, the prose is deadly dull. In the second, I discover you aren't up on punctuating dialogue. I'm reluctant to discourage this banter when it has more vim than the infodumps that precede it, but that sadly isn't saying much, and your characters--nameless, faceless figures both--are talking heads in empty space. Would a Japanese soldier circa World War II say the phrase "get a second stab at the chick"? (Thunderdome's resident historian says no.) The conversation wears out my interest some time before it stops. Then... the pun contest. Dark humor can get old quickly, as it turns out. And all that nonsense ends in a twist, which retroactively improves the reincarnation talk a little but otherwise has me slamming my forehead against a wall--except for the Russian taking pleasure in his hair. That's a cute touch, though whether that's a good thing in a story about nuking millions of people is a question I leave to the philosophers.
Okua, "Change": This vignette makes good use of your cards and is otherwise all right, if sort of one-note: the nameless protagonist is infatuated with her friend's fiancee and unhappy about the forthcoming wedding. Lather, rinse, repeat. Thomas and Nameless are interesting enough that I'd like more of their story than that, both past and future. I wonder whether the protagonist's gender is meant to be a surprising twist, and I hope not, both because I figured her for a woman from the outset and because it would cheapen the work if it were written to blow our minds with the idea someone might be gay. I just can't figure out why else it would be structured as it is, with the protagonist's gender carefully avoided until that last line, and the last line treated like a mic drop even though nothing is resolved.
Djeser, "Or Something Like It": Decent bordering on good, though I thought Jennifer and Emma were sisters until the kiss. The romance seems forced at that point--I don't get a sense of chemistry--but it would be more accurate to say the whole ending feels forced. If Jennifer was given to the Flesh to save her life, that tether is like life support, right? She snaps her life support because her teenage girlfriend is mopey about what's necessary for her to survive. Really? I could be meant to infer that she prefers death to becoming an alien to the people she loves, but the bond between the girls isn't developed well enough for me to embrace this sudden drama. Maybe breaking that tether is instead a strictly temporary and futile act of rebellion to let Emma know she's still herself. While that remains drama out of nowhere, they're teenagers after all; I like that interpretation better, but Emma's thought about the lifeline makes me doubt it. More words and more romantic vibes before Jennifer breaks free would help this story rise to its potential.
flerp, "Sand Caught in the Laughs": "The waves lap at the sand like tongues, dragging a little bit of the world into it, piece by piece." I know it is the ocean, you know it's the ocean, but this sentence doesn't say it's the ocean, so I pause to fill in the blank. Not the best first impression. I like this anyway, vignette though it is. One reason I do is that the sister's a bit of a bitch, and her brother's feelings are presumably complicated--he misses her, but what he remembers is her trying to hoard the ocean and stomping on his tower. He recalls being called an idiot, and he didn't save her last voice mail. Yet he wants to hear her voice. I could interpret this relationship half a dozen ways, and maybe they'd all be right. It prods my mind into thinking about families and the illogic of love.
Kenfucius, "Concrete Divide": Wordy, but enjoyable and mostly good. I'm missing some of the context, I think: what the RUC is, why there are riots in the 1969 section. I'm also missing any mention of Billy there. Where is he? The Protestants don't have a representative in that one section of the four. I wonder why Kieran is so unforgiving when Mick's uncle is the one who was crippled. He and Mick appear to change roles after the first part, when Kieran is the more open-minded. That's credible enough but could do with a moment of exploration. It's slightly odd that the story ends with Mick's sad smile at Billy since Kieran is the main character; do you mean him to be? But on the whole your work is solid and deserves its honors.
SurreptitiousMuffin, "the woman OR the fools who came to drink the dark": What I see in terms of story is that the poet believes that Medusa was a monster until he learns the truth of Poseidon's rape from her, and the realization steals his righteous strength. Still the men kill her, but the poet's mind is reeling, until Poseidon either drowns them or steals--almost--their memories. I don't find this credible. The poet's attitude is that of a modern man, not a Greek hero. Odd as it is to say he's vastly overreacting to rape... for a mythic Greek, I think he is. Shock I would buy, but not the dissolution of his mind or the idea that Medusa must be killed because she knows the truth of Poseidon's behavior. That's like saying a man must die because he knows Bobby Fischer plays chess. I've warmed to the structureless structure more than I would have expected going in, but more as a storytelling technique than as a poem; as a poem it falters for me because the gaps create melodrama more than art. I don't quite like the whole (which you can blame on my distaste for free-form poetry as much as anything else), but the repetition of "and yet" is strong enough that I nearly want to.
Uranium Phoenix, "The Arena": This excellent story does a wondrous thing: it justifies its word count. The gladiator grafts are a cool idea that you use to tell a tale of faith, strength, inspiration, cruelty, mercy, and justice. I care about Caelia, I understand the world you've built, and I can clearly picture many of the moments you've described. In this case I can accept the differences from known Roman myths and history (regular female gladiators, the grafts). Your characters feel reasonably true to the very-similar-yet-distinct version of Rome you've created. This is also worthy of note: as good as the story is, I'm content with what I get and don't need to see what Caelia does next. You've written something that provides as much backstory and just as much hint of the future as it needs to in order to be complete unto itself.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 22:19 on Mar 15, 2017
|# ? Feb 17, 2017 02:45|
|# ? Feb 17, 2017 05:55|
|# ? Feb 17, 2017 18:18|
IN with a because apparently I suck at time management these days...
Also, critter me please.
|# ? Feb 17, 2017 21:40|
IN with a because apparently I suck at time management these days...
You get Eastern Emerald Elysia!
|# ? Feb 17, 2017 23:51|
Pro-Click, and thanks for the crits!
Edit: Also thanks to the person who got me the kickin-rad avatar!
Uranium Phoenix fucked around with this message at 00:08 on Feb 18, 2017
|# ? Feb 18, 2017 00:06|
Signups are closed, in case that's a thing I need to say.
|# ? Feb 18, 2017 16:55|
Monday, Day 16
Officially (In the lab, anyway. Outside of that it was “a chunk of space rock”), it was an extraterrestrial organism. Unofficially, it was a six foot long squid thing that had started as a baseball sized blob of pink goo before growing an arrowhead shaped top and mass of tentacles to make nightmares cry. It shimmered through a spectrum of metallic greens, reds, and yellows, barely moved outside of the pulsating which seemed to keep it off the ground, and never made any noise other than when the mass of tentacles rubbed together in its pulsations. The team named it Bob, after the reggae singer, and elected Garvey as head caretaker.
The question was not “what is Bob” but “what does Bob do”? Garvey’s interest was in the answer to the former but the powers that be said otherwise. Over the past sixteen days, they’d done just about everything they could think of short of sharp sticks and atom bombs, and none of it had mattered. Bob persisted. It’d stopped growing about three days in and not changed in any noticeable way since. The current test was audio-visual stimulation; something they’d done before in various configurations, but not with a film Garvey actually enjoyed. He watched Richard Dreyfuss make a mountain of potatoes behind Bob and smiled. “You were not what we expected,” he said, taking down another note that read “NO ACTIVITY/REACTION.”
The door opened behind Garvey. “Close Encounters?” Jusic mused, taking her seat next to Garvey. “Bob doesn’t look anything like the greys.”
“You got a better suggestion?”
Garvey shook his head. “Haven’t seen it.”
“Yeah, well, it’s about parasitic space worms, so be thankful, I guess.”
He chuckled, “No kidding.”
There was a pause as Jusic made a note. “Is Arrival out yet? That might work.”
Garvey shrugged. “Not sure. I picked this ‘cause I like it. Bob doesn’t care, either way.”
“Just because he doesn’t react, doesn’t mean he doesn’t care.”
“Anything happen over night?”
“Bautista’s looking over the tapes.”
The four person team worked 12 hour shifts, with Garvey and Jusic actively observing during the day and Bautista watching a recording of the 12 hours they weren’t there. Any notes went through Peng, who spent his days entering them into the database. The only change in the schedule came on the weekend, when Garvey and Jusic took alternating solo shifts.
Jusic looked over at the whiteboard. Garvey had scribbled “Close Encounters”, “Music (Marley)”, “Artichokes”, “Poke”, and “LLS”. Jusic clucked, “‘Artichokes’?”
Garvey shrugged. “Why not?”
The team had been there since the start. Garvey, a biologist, had been called in to deal with the physical side of Bob and Jusic, a psychologist, had been brought in to deal with the mental side of Bob. Unfortunately, neither side had shown much activity.
Jusic yawned and leaned on her elbows.
“Long night?” Garvey asked.
“Not really. Got held up coming in.”
“How’re you sleeping Garv? Good?”
“Sure, I guess.”
“I had this weird dream about Bob, last night. Or, well, not about him, I guess, but he was there. Just kind of… floating,” she waved her hand. “In the background.”
Garvey chuckled, “Well, I haven’t seen Bob in any dreams that I can remember, but if I do, you’ll be the first to know.”
Harvey and Junic spent the rest of the day trying to find new things to talk about while Bob persisted in doing nothing. Before long, Peng and Bautista came in. The usual bickering about how nothing happened happened, and then they were swapping what few stories they hadn’t yet and laughing about what ridiculous thing Bob would do when it finally did something. Bautista was determined it would just keel over with zero fanfare, and Peng fought the notion furiously.
“I refuse to accept that something capable of surviving interstellar travel would arrive only to do nothing but die after a few weeks.”
Bautista scoffed. “Just because you don’t want it to happen doesn’t mean poo poo. What’s to say it’s even alive?”
“It shows all the classic signs!”
“Now hold on a sec,” Garvey put in. “While it’s true that it exhibits most of the characteristics we associate with living organisms, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it is alive. We-we don’t even know where it’s from. Let alone if what passes for signs of life there are even close to what we use, here. We’re looking at it from a human perspective, and mankind has always assumed that they were the pinnacle of design. Even our interpretations of ‘God' are grounded in our understandings of ourselves. But this isn’t human. It’s not even from Earth. We have no grounding in what to look for, here. We assume it’s alive based on the fact that it appears to respirate, but it doesn’t respond to any stimulus that we’ve seen, it hasn’t reproduced, and it hasn’t consumed anything. For all we know, this could be the ‘fingertip of God’, or-or even ‘God’, itself.” Everybody looked over at Bob.
“The point is, we don’t know anything about it. And until we do, we just keep doing what we’re doing. Sooner or later, something’s got to give, right?”
Peng nodded. “Sooner or later.”
That night, Garvey’s wife called to remind him about their daughter’s softball game on Sunday. He assured her that he’d be home on Saturday and wouldn’t have to leave until well after the game. He asked how work had been for her, and she talked about the usual problems with parents and kids and the district not giving her any funding, and then they said their good-byes and Garvey started to close up for the day.
What Peng had said about Bob showing “the classic signs” had struck a chord. Bob definitely moved, though not very much, it clearly grew from the tiny pink blob into the multi-colored squid, and it had shown signs of respiration based on the chemical composition of the room they kept it in. It seemed to maintain itself pretty well, so homeostasis seemed likely, but they hadn’t seen it reproduce (unless it was actually a unicellular colony, which was a possibility), and it hadn’t responded to any stimulus, at all. Whatever Bob was, it didn’t fit neatly into the old textbooks. Garvey was of the opinion that “life” was more of a scale than a binary, but he was having a hard time putting Bob anywhere on that scale.
And they were no closer to figuring out what, if anything, Bob did. He understood the need for the government to know if it was a communication array, or a weapon, or a visitor, but he was starting to wonder if Bob would or even could do anything. He felt himself starting to drift off to sleep, and wondered if Jusic was the only one who’d seen Bob outside of the lab.
Wednesday, Day 18
“So, you asked me to let you know if I had any dreams about Bob? It showed up last night.”
Jusic raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“Yeah. It was just sort of there in the background. But I definitely saw Bob.”
Jusic shrugged. “There’s a pretty good chance that’s just because I told you I saw him in mine. If he starts talking or something like that, let me know. Or if he keeps showing up.”
Garvey returned the shrug. “Will do.”
Bob had continued to not respond to anything for the past few days. They’d managed to get copies of Arrival and Slither, both, and Garvey was happy that Bob hadn’t seemed to respond to Slither. He’d added a fresh slew of “NO REACTION/ACTIVITY” to his notes, and learned that Jusic didn’t have much of an interest in music.
They were running a test involving various numbers of differently sized and shaped objects being shown to Bob when Jusic clicked her tongue and turned to Garvey. “Why do you always call Bob ‘it’?”
Garvey blinked a few times. “Um, well, I don’t presume to know Bob’s gender, or if it even has one. I feel like calling Bob ‘him’ sets a certain expectation. And even if it has a binary male-female sex, we can’t say what it is or what it would represent itself as, right? Short answer, I’m just trying to go in as open minded as I can.”
Jusic seemed to run the idea around in her head for a bit, then nodded. “That makes sense, I suppose. I mean, Bob is kind of an ‘it’, after all.”
Garvey chuckled, “That’s the whole reason we’re here.”
Saturday, Day 21
“Had another dream about Bob, last night,” Garvey said as Jusic came in.
“Oh, yeah? Just in the background, again?”
“No. This time it… it actually spoke.”
“Yeah. It said, uh, ‘Soon. It’s going to be soon.’”
“Huh. Anything else?”
“Nope. That was about it. I mean, I’m not the psychologist, but it seems like poo poo to me. It had a Jamaican accent. I mean, technically, it said ‘Soon. I’s gunna be soon, mon.’”
Jusic laughed. “Really? I’m not sure if I should be offended, or not.”
Garvey gave a half-hearted shrug.
“But I would be inclined to agree with you. The fact that he spoke probably just comes from my telling you to expect that, the ‘it’ in ‘it’s going to be soon’ is probably just your inherent desire to see something happen, and the terrible accent is probably just because we named him ‘Bob’ after the singer.” She smiled and patted him on the shoulder. “I wouldn’t worry about it, Garv.”
Garvey did his best to smile back and turned back to Bob. The dream had inspired him to play The Harder They Come, so at least he was watching a movie he enjoyed, again.
Garvey was heading home for the weekend. He was starting to feel like he needed the time away from the lab. His daughter had a game, tomorrow, and he was excited to get to see her play again. Not to mention seeing his wife and son.
The helicopter ride was boring and uneventful, but his son was three, so he made sure to tell him how exciting it all was. The drive home was spent talking about how things were with them, and the kids got to bed as soon as they were there. Garvey enjoyed a beer and spent some time catching up with his wife.
“It’s good to have you back,” she said.
“It’s good to be back.” He couldn’t help but notice how the thick ringlets of her hair hung a bit like tentacles.
Sunday, Day 22
Garvey pushed his glasses up and rubbed his eyes. It was a beautiful day for a softball game, and he and the family were sitting in the bleachers waiting for his daughter to come out and start pitching. She’d done great last season, ending with the second lowest ERA in the league and tieing for the third most strikeouts. This was the first game of the season, but Garvey’s wife had said she’d looked even better during practice.
Garvey fixed his glasses and watched the sides change. Bob came up to bat against Bob and watched a pitch go by before knocking the second one over to Bob at first base for an easy out. He shook his head and blinked. His daughter stood on the mound, facing off against the next batter. He blinked again, and Bob threw a pitch. Another blink showed his daughter winding up for another pitch.
He got up and hurried off to the concession stand. He got himself a glass of water and chugged it down. He was asking for his third when his wife caught up to him.
“Are you okay? You just took off, back there.”
Garvey swallowed. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just been working too hard.”
“Can you ask them for a week off, or something? You look really pale.”
Garvey nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll ask.”
His wife put her hand on his cheek. “You’ve got to take care of yourself, first.” She lead him back over to the bleachers and Bob stayed out of the rest of the game.
When they got home, Garvey’s son asked when he had to go back to the helicopter. His wife replied, “Soon. It’s going to be soon.”
Monday, Day 23
Back at work, Garvey told the team what had happened. Bautista shook his head. “That doesn’t sound good, man. I understand you’ve been here since the beginning, but that doesn’t seem healthy, you know?”
Peng nodded agreement. “Perhaps you should take some time off?”
Garvey shrugged. “That’s what I was thinking.”
Jusic stayed quiet.
“Jusic?” Garvey asked.
“Maybe you shouldn’t.”
“Maybe this is what Bob does. Maybe it’s some kind of psychological warfare. Like an invasion tactic. You get used to seeing Bob all over the place, you think it’s just in your head when they actually are all over the place. Or everyone just assumes you’re suffering from dementia. Either way, it makes it easy for them to start moving in.”
“You’re assuming Bob is an invading organism. My guess is I’m just exhausted and need to take a break from seeing it everyday.”
“Until we know what it does, we can’t make any assumptions.”
“We don’t know that it does anything! For all we know, Bob is a highly advanced lava-lamp. This over insistence on determining what it is that Bob does when we don’t even know what it is is ridiculous. We have no way of knowing for sure what it is or what it does until it decides to show us. Now, you and I have done just about everything we can think of short of nuking it, and we haven’t seen anything change. What’s to say it even has a purpose? What’s to say it does anything? What’s to say it is anything? And if it is some kind of psychological warfare, how come it hasn’t affected you?”
Jusic shook her head. “I don’t know, Garv, but this is the first time we’ve seen Bob do anything other than just float around in his cage.”
Bautista spoke up, “Now, wait a minute. You said you’d seen him in your dreams, before, right? How is this any different? It’s just a day-dream, right? You haven’t actually interacted with it or anything, have you Garvey?”
“Okay. Then we assume it’s just exhaustion. If we’re running an experiment, we need a control, right? Take a week off, hell, take three weeks off, and if you’re still seeing Bob outside the lab, after that, we’ll worry about it then.”
Jusic shook her head. “I disagree-”
Bautista cut her off, “Noted. Peng?”
Peng looked from Jusic to Garvey. “I’m with Bautista, on this one. We can’t be sure it’s something Bob’s done unless we remove Bob, right? Garvey should take a few weeks off, and come back rested. If the hallucinations don’t go away, he knows how to get in touch, and he’s not stupid enough to try and hide it.”
Garvey nodded. “Right.”
Jusic threw her hands up. “Fine. We’ll do it your way. But don’t blame me when Garvey ends up paving the way for the reggae squid invasion.”
Garvey found himself sitting across a desk from a smartly dressed man who looked far too young to be in charge of man’s first contact. Garvey had explained the situation and the young man was typing something into his computer. After a moment, he looked up.
“So, what you’re telling me,” he started, “is that you need some time off because your duties are negatively impacting your ability to provide clear and concise information or observations. Is that correct?”
“More or less, yeah.”
“And you don’t feel that you’ve been able to complete the assignment, that is, determining the purpose or function of the extraterrestrial object, at this time?”
“Not really. I would argue that we don’t really know our purpose, either, so unless the, uh, ‘extraterrestrial object’ is some sort of tool, we likely won’t have that answer, anytime soon.”
“The commentary is unnecessary, Mr. Garvey, however, your statement will be taken into consideration.” He turned back to the computer and typed something in.
“Mr. Garvey, I’m going to assign you three weeks of leave. If at any time during those three weeks you should see or encounter the extraterrestrial object outside of the laboratory, you are to report it immediately. In addition, you will be required to provide daily check-ins to update us of your condition. If we feel you are fit to return to your duties before the expiration of your period of leave, you will be asked to return. Is that understood?”
Garvey shrugged. “Yeah.”
The young man stamped a paper and passed it across the desk. “Get some rest, Mr. Garvey. We’ll see you in three weeks.”
Garvey packed his things and made his way out to the helicopter. He turned around and frowned at the facility. As he climbed aboard, he began to think maybe three weeks wasn't quite long enough. He watched Bob give a thumbs up, and they lifted off.
|# ? Feb 19, 2017 23:36|
I was working at my usual joint when a garcon from Le Bon Vivant asked whether anyone could fill in for a waiter who’d had an emergency. The request was sudden, he admitted, but any help would be greatly appreciated and paid overtime. I knew my temp agency worked with Le Bon Vivant, and I figured I could use the extra cash, so I stepped up, hoping that I could perhaps even impress the maître d’hôtel enough to be permanently transferred to the upscale rotating restaurant.
The waiter smiled gracefully and offered to lead the way, as if anybody living on Epsilon Station were unaware that Le Bon Vivant occupied the entire top floor by itself. While pacing through the halls, I casually asked what had happened to the garcon I’d be filling in for.
“Oh, he just became unwell.”
“He got ill?”
“No, not ill. Just… Unwell.”
And that was all the conversation I could get out of him.
Like the rest of the station, the restaurant’s inside was spacious, sleek and clean. Nonetheless, the burgundy velvet on the walls and the mahogany touches on the furniture gave Le Bon Vivant an old-world feel, despite their specialty ostensibly being alien cuisine. Only the fact that Jupiter and its moon Europa were visible through the windows on the far side of the restaurant suggested that we were in space.
All the other waiters had dark, parted hair, and most had a pencil-thin mustache. To make me blend in at least a little bit, the head waiter handed me the red and white uniform with matching waistcoat. I quickly changed in the lavatories and returned to the kitchen, where I was briefly introduced to the staff.
The kitchen was positively massive. At any given time, a dozen chefs were tirelessly charging from one end of the room to the other, juggling a wide variety of appetizers, starters, main courses and desserts, all of them containing at least one extraterrestrial ingredient, which was the main draw of Le Bon Vivant. Usually, it was some sort of alien seasoning, but the restaurant was famous for its five-course menu called “The five stages of life,” which used one or other alien fish and its roe as base ingredients.
On the far end of the kitchen was a large aquarium holding at least twenty such fish, which lazily floated at the bottom. Somewhat clashing with the general aesthetic of the place, the side panels of the aquarium were held together with industrial-looking metal plates and bolts, and a conspicuous, tubular canister was fitted underneath it, humming obnoxiously. It also had a side compartment, which could be sealed from the main tank.
“Is this fish tank under a lot of pressure?” I asked one of the chefs. He looked up from a dish he was garnishing as if I had just inquired whether bears relieved themselves in woods.
“Those are klopoh fish, which live kilometers under the ice of Europa. At surface pressure, they distend and die.”
“And that thing on the side?”
“We goad a klopoh in there there for our signature dish. Reduce the pressure at just the right speed, and they turn inside-out. Here, this tray’s for table six.”
I pictured the process and wished they could just serve lobster instead.
I brought starters to a table which had chosen the five-stages menu. It was a sort of vitello tonnato: thin slices of veal marinated in a klopoh cream, served with capers and bread. The company of four were having a discussion about the many wonders our solar system held, which we could admire since recreational interplanetary travel had become affordable.
There are a lot of terrors out there, too.
The table was taken aback, and it took me a few seconds to realize I’d just said something.
“How so?” a heavy-set man with thick glasses, apparently the oldest person at the table, asked.
“I mean, you know. Some of the aliens out there defy the mind.” I was sweating bullets. “Like those nightmare-inducing creatures on Venus?”
The man nodded.
“Right, I see what you mean. Nasty critters, those were.” He turned to enlighten his dining partners. “Some sort of endolith that fed on dreams and induced nightmares. Mostly affected children, which is why it took so long for the colonists to figure out what was happening. But the endoliths were eradicated soon after.”
“Good riddance, too. I can’t stand the thought of some xeno feeding on our children’s dreams,” a woman with mink coat added.
Back in the kitchens, I closed my eyes and massaged my temples. I was so very certain I hadn’t wanted to speak back there, and yet words I had not even thought had come out of my mouth. On top of that, a nasty headache was setting in.
I sighed and rolled my shoulders in an attempt to regain my composure, whereupon I noticed all the klopoh in the fish tank were lurking on the side of the aquarium closest to me.
“Are you feeling well?”
The head waiter put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a concerned look.
“I’m fine, just… overworked. It’s been a long day.” Sheepishly, I added: “I feel like the klopoh keep glaring at me.”
The head waiter studied the tank with a raised eyebrow.
“They’re fish. How could they glare?” Then, with a hint of exasperation, he said: “Just bring these plates to table seventeen.”
Over the course of the evening, I got worse and worse. I progressed from merely tired to nauseous and, for the first time since moving to Epsilon Station, claustrophobic. I tried to power through, at least until the end of this shift, but worried I wouldn’t make it. In desperate need of a break and a cigarette, I hastily distributed the last plates from my tray.
“Enjoy your meal,” pricks.
The table had gone silent.
“I beg your pardon?”
I was too light-headed to see who had asked. I tried to come up with an explanation, an excuse, anything, and when I failed, I simply turned and fled. Crossing me on the way to the kitchens was the head waiter, taking long strides in panicked damage control mode.
I barged into the kitchens. The sous-chef jolted and nearly dropped a moelleux on the floor. “What is wrong with you?”
Are you afraid of captivity?
I shoved him out of the way, saw those goddamned fish turn in sync to follow me around the room, and reached for a pan hanging above the furnace. I couldn’t think, needed fresh air, direly. A nearly irresistible urge told me to just bolt into the restaurant and smash a window and get the gently caress out of here.
The sous-chef, recognizing my ill-advised intentions, intercepted me on my way out and tried to claw the pan out of my hands. “It’s happening again! Another one is feeling unwell!”
Everybody in the kitchen dropped what they were doing and dogpiled me. Somebody pressed the back of my knees to force me on the ground, and a hand on the back of my head pinned me against the cold kitchen tiles. I struggled and screamed.
“It’s the fish! It’s those loving fish, they’re getting under my skin!”
From the corner of my eye, I saw the klopoh glowering smugly.
Needless to say, I became unemployable at Epsilon Station. I did find work on Earth, eventually, but kept up with the news from Epsilon. Two more incidents took place before Le Bon Vivant closed its doors for good, although the official statement implied the rotating of the restaurant caused the nausea amongst its staff.
I don’t know how true that is.
But I do know the last waiter who became unwell has smashed the aquarium.
|# ? Feb 20, 2017 01:41|
Five Years After Christmas
Thranguy fucked around with this message at 01:47 on Dec 7, 2017
|# ? Feb 20, 2017 02:04|
|# ? Dec 2, 2021 13:26|
The old weeds grasp, the old vines grow;
such things, to all, are known-as-known.
When the world broke, it cast us off in all directions -- scattered us as spores in the wind. When we are few, we are stupid; we must multiply. There are no nutrients in void, nor anywhere for mycelium to grow. Void is anathema – we grow where we can, in the crevices of meteors. We lose thousands of children in their fiery tails, but we persist.
Perhaps one in ten thousand great stone fists make landfall, and fewer still will crash brutish down onto any sort of fecund soil. It matters now; it takes only a single survivor of the old weeds to reach down through the earth, spread mycelia, and grow. We drink deep of the loam, to heal that which was broken. Other plants provide rare nutrients -- there is no joy in consumption, but it is necessary: we persist.
This world, this – it shows promise. True, there is hard stone, and salt-water -- such things hold little interest. In and upon the soil, there are plants great and small. We consume only what we must, though it makes them writhe, and shriek. It shatters them, as we were shattered. They burn us with chemicals. They have strange spore-caps; covered in multicoloured mycelium, and each cap supported by a lattice of calcium. Upon each cap are two jellied orbs to process light -- they become wet when we grow upon them. The new plants live in tall stone beds, where they are hard to reach. They make the soil sick, and it kills many of our children. It pains us, but we have lost more for less – we persist.
This world is not void – it is fertile. We were few, and now we are many. The new plants do not need meteors: they move from planet to planet in great cold hulks made of deep-earth mineral-metal. At first we ate of them too fast, and the ships became more meteors – crashing down where they would, into lifeless soil. In time, we saw the new plants had a rare and special gift: direction. The new plants flee, and we follow – one spore is all it takes. The lone spore sleeps until it can no-longer feel the void, then awakens. Rooted in strange new soil, it feeds and feeds until there is no food left. There is no joy in it, but it must be done. We persist.
We eat so we are many; when we are many, we are strong. There must be an end, when we are whole again -- un-scattered. Until then, we eat, and grow, and ride the void on the backs of any plant that will give us passage.
Once, we were broken, scattered and few --
now, we are many.
|# ? Feb 20, 2017 02:18|