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  • Locked thread
Feb 18, 2014

In with flash story and flash rule.


Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007

Solitair posted:

In with flash story and flash rule.

Bent beneath the weight of a god

Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha

crit for Those Statued Men with Acid Rain Habits by Tweezer Reprise.

willing to do a few more critiques for any of the stories last week. let me know if you are interested.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


Week #249: Thunderdomers Assemble! – Crits
Rho-Man Issue #099: Turnus, The Final Confrontation!
From the intro, I assumed this was comedy based on the line “…used his mighty biceps to forge a future for our children…” The story is promising corny action, so it needs to be funny and have good action. It’s also obviously inspired by Greek/Roman mythology, using the classic (literally) muse introduction. Immediately, the modern tone clashes with what we expect a more classic tone to be (and the story seems to alternate tone in places, which is jarring). The fight is set up to be a team fight, where each person is going to need to contribute. Incidentally, I was bored by Aeneas’s conversation with Saturn.
The biggest problem with the fight is I don’t really care about who wins or loses. I have no reason to care about the Trojans and am not sure why the “black legion” is bad. The descriptions are often too general (“Hundreds of heroes charged out to intercept the Etruscan villains while thousands of mortals from either side joined in a frantic melee.” or “Soon, the might of the heroes and villains overwhelmed the masses, and those without superpowers were forced into the role of mere spectators.” are some notable weak points). The villain is defeated by some kids coming out of no where to inspire Rho man, who just uses overwhelming force against an armor that is supposed to be immune to that. He ends up not really needing his team all that much.
You do reference a lot of mythology and parallel the Aenad, and deliver the corny comic action, but the jarring tone, lack of connection to the characters, and info-dumps of worldbuilding detract. I think a more focused story would work better.

Artificial Selection
I like the setup and scope of this story; it tackles a big issue but in an appropriately small scope. The setting was a bit confusing; we have enhancements, and protestors who don’t like them, but it’s hard to say what the enhancements are or how they come about without the context of the other stories. The dialogue was solid. The story follows a straightforward arc, and I liked the tone. It felt proper for a pair of reporters going in for the take. The end was a bit on the nose. I think I needed more about what the company was doing and why it was being protested (and protected by its own mercenary force) and why its collapse would be so important. It’s got plenty of words to work with.

Children of Rho-Man, Issue #300- The Dissolution
This muse intro sets a more formal tone. Even though you’re working with pre-established characters from mythology, they’re different enough from the myths that the large cast of characters and immediate dive into regional and god politics here is a bit much. A Bad Thing has happened, but I don’t know why and I don’t know why I should care. I don’t know why the temple closing leads to collapse, especially since the story just said the Mars and Venus are going after Rho-mens (a side note, the pun name is really not worth it).
It feels like the prose lifts part of the style of comic books that doesn’t work here. The story also has some really bad vague scenes, such as "Some onlookers cheered. Others shouted in anger." The action was confusing, and again, I’m not really sure why I should be rooting for anyone. The tone is set up as serious, but it shifts to super cheesy. The story is confusing in tone, action, plot, and character. As a note, I had a really hard time getting through this story. Something about it just kept making me lose focus.

Maybe Next Time Just Do a Divorce Like a Normal Person, Okay
This story is basically just one okayish-funny joke that’s sort of a story. The protagonist doesn’t really protag at all—things happen to them (based on their decision early in the story) but the action/progression of the story is almost completely out of their control. The joke carries the piece, but there’s not much more. It follows the theme of “superpowers gone wrong” with the SUPR mythology and takes it to the extreme. Not sure what else to say here. The prose itself is fine.

The Return of the Merman Hero, Moustache
Obviously this is a humor piece, and relies somewhat on an in-joke. It actually has an interesting message beneath it: Moustache values his facial hair so highly he considers the fate of the ocean at stake, so it’s a story about pride, and the truly horrifying things it can lead to. It’s funny enough, and has some nice parts where you can feel the importance of facial hair and how much Moustache despises Plain Face. There were some prose issues (“He clenched his fist and said to himself, to the moustache in his hand, to Domeland”), and revision issues (“but it never succeeds without”—fragment) but for the most part it was serviceable. Not much more to say. I think it sets out what it intendeds to do, but it can’t really go beyond that.

Dirk Biggly and His Hands of Destiny
There is an arc to the story and the character, but the arc is missing a key piece (the end) and the character’s journey happens not because of anything they did, but because things happen to them. It is very difficult to have a good story where the protagonist has no control over the events of the story, and this story is not an exception. An agent approaches him, the accident happens to him, the criminal runs right to him, the police offer a reward to him—at no point is the main character in control in any way. The core of the story seems to be the classic rise/fall/redeem. I think there’s something to say about random accidents just ruining people’s lives, or perhaps the brutality of football as a sport and how it ruins people, but the story doesn’t really embrace any of that. I interpreted it as he either had a choice to continue to wallow in misery/drugs or actually try to fix his life and follow his dream of owning a bakery. But we don’t actually see what his decision is, and given that it’s the one time in the story where he actually might make a decision, the ambiguity of the ending really hurts the story.

The story starts off confusing, and feels poorly introduced. Prose like “He dove into a Maserati parked between two revolving doors. Jack drove through the lobby and out into the parking lot.” has too little variety and I can’t picture what’s going on very well. The premise, I guess, is that Jack has been stealing drugs to go on crime sprees, and his employer (SUPR) found out and… made his crime sprees worse by loving with the drugs. Then they try to kill him for bad publicity. So, that doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. Why not just kill him in a more conventional way, and in such a way that it doesn’t end up with bystander deaths that are going to attract even more negative attention to SUPR’s drugs? There’s also the problem that the primary conflict (escaping the faction after him) is not solved by the protagonist antihero, it’s solved by deus ex; random dude shows up and offers a solution. The mystery (who’s after him) is solved by that person calling and telling him. The longer conflict of revenge on his employer is left hanging. The protagonist learns nothing and does not change.

Overthinking It
This is like the ultimate "show don't tell" example. Pretty much the entire story is the narrator rambling at us, and the first half of the story is just him complaining. The negatives: Description is poor, the voice is dry, and the nature of the narration makes the story lack tension. It also doesn’t coordinate with any other stories. On the plus side, it does well with the genre, has an arc and a protagonist that grows, and an actual resolution to the story. It also plays with the interesting idea of precognition, and the struggles that someone with it might have in actually being effective. It also touches on what two minds merging might lead to (something I think could have been explored more and in a deeper way that was throughout the story, rather than tacked on). The fundamental core of the story—that part is fine, which is why I think there’s potential here. The problem is mostly with the delivery and prose. The actual words needs to be radically reshaped. Initially, the prose made me look past the features of the story that were good.

Supply and Demand
The setup is the kind of thing I find funny. Running the financials of a supervillain should be funny. The story, however, is not funny. It’s just a long argument about the viability of a conquest, and the financier wins. The villain seems pretty ineffectual, and allows his minions/employees quite a bit of leeway, it seems. The motivation of the financier being just a paycheck is kinda lame. The resolution felt really weak, because the action never rises too high. There’s little tension, so the fact that the conflict is technically resolved isn’t satisfying because the stakes never felt high. They should feel high—it’s a massive conquest after all—but if our protagonist doesn’t care, why do we?

Power of Suggestion
The strengths of this story are the dialogue, characters, tone, consistent voice, and it fits in nicely with the other stories in its world. The story tackles something meaningful (persecution, needing to hide who you are, commercialism) in a way that is both humanizing and relatable, but also connects to the superhero prompt. The biggest problem is the end. The resolution feels too ambiguous. Something significant has happened. Is it Annie lying to the kid about being a hero? Is the kid actually taking pills, and then stops? What did she whisper that was so important? What has Butch learned that matters? Basically, the reader shouldn’t end this story confused, because that’s not a good ending to a story. Show us how a key character—Annie, Butch, or both—have changed and show it concretely so that we are satisfied that something good has happened.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

QuoProQuid posted:

crit for Those Statued Men with Acid Rain Habits by Tweezer Reprise.

willing to do a few more critiques for any of the stories last week. let me know if you are interested.

yes, why not tyia

Tweezer Reprise
Aug 6, 2013

It hasn't got six strings, but it's a lot of fun.
Thank you very much for the crit QPQ! Gosh, getting a DM is VERY educational, isn't it?

Jan 27, 2006

Tweezer Reprise posted:

Gosh, getting a DM is VERY educational, isn't it?

Then consider me Stephen Hawking.

anime was right
Jun 27, 2008

death is certain
keep yr cool

Tweezer Reprise posted:

Thank you very much for the crit QPQ! Gosh, getting a DM is VERY educational, isn't it?

welcome to the club, kiddo

Feb 18, 2014

Thanks for the crit, UP.

Tweezer Reprise
Aug 6, 2013

It hasn't got six strings, but it's a lot of fun.
Also, in with flash and flash rule.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007

Tweezer Reprise posted:

Also, in with flash and flash rule.

Branded by the claws of memory

Mar 14, 2012
I took a break from my own writing, because I got a little sick of writing, and decided to bring you my great glorious opinion (neither great nor glorious.) One thing I would like to say is that there are a few of these stories that I'm giving critique for purely because I feel like I should say something; that anything can have some change or improvement, although it might just be a change or improvement to suit my tastes. If some of these stories were on a website or lit journal I was looking through, they'd work as a pretty decent story that ticks the right boxes, makes me feel, and makes me think. Basically I'd be perfectly happy to read them as is, and would get something out of them. So bear in mind that the crit might not be demanding changes for a worthwhile story, but is merely a crit because it's the thing to do.

Tweezer Reprise posted:

Those Statued Men with Acid Rain Habits
1446 words

This comes across as a pretty simple story; a man twists and schemes and ultimately comes to a fall. It reads almost like a fable, but without any turns to hide what's to come or to set up the point at the end. There was a lot of text that seemed superfluous and didn't drive what was to come. Once I read about him burning the original manuscript the only thing I could expect to come was that all the documents would be destroyed. In that sense it achieves what it's setting out to do, but I'm not sure to what purpose. There's certainly not a universal truth embedded in this; arrogance doesn't always result in a tragedy. For me it's too simplistic, especially as carved out against the detached and almost stilted prose that I see as an attempt at adding the weight of dispassion and objectivity. There's not enough depth to this for me, especially as it's seeking to be a comment on humanity.

I’m not too sure how it could be brought up a level either. It’s scope is set pretty plainly, and it achieves in what it sets out to do but what that is doesn’t hit hard enough for me.

flerp posted:

1017 words

I enjoyed this to a degree. There were a few parts where the metaphorical talk didn’t pull as strong as it should, and where it didn’t come across as coherent enough within the storytelling. That could be something that you work on, just the fluidity of the language in the storytelling.

The big problem with this for me was how it was all backwards looking. Most of the story was the character looking back on their time in school, and past “glories.” That works well, up to a point. I needed something to set it in present terms though. A reason for the protagonist to be caught up in the past, an excuse for them to be venturing back to what they were, or so set in those days despite theoretically moving on. Part of it is the way you told the story; from the beginning of a short piece you’re talking about the past, and it doesn’t get set in the current situation, at least not with an explanatory reason for quite a while into only a thousand or so words. I kept thinking, “Stop telling me about what happened before, tell me what’s happening now!” If you’re going to talk about living in the past, or needing to recapture a youth I’d like to see a reason why. I’d like some momentum from a current situation that’s pushing the character there. Not just a handwave, “I didn’t feel good.” Reliving youth, or even escaping it is such a part of life that I think you could have added a lot of weight by giving causation for the character to do it.

I don’t think there was much commentary on going into the past, rather this was a telling of someone doing it. Commentary would have brought it up to the next level, but for the commentary to work I need a reason why they’re going back, or why they’re escaping, and finding that universal truth could be very difficult; maybe something about circular nature of life, and how we never escape. At least that’s what would occur to me with a quick think on it.

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

"You might as well try to dry a floor by throwing water on it, as try to end this war by fighting."
1054 words

The Coward

This was finely told, but I was left searching for reasons it wasn't clicking for me. The closest I came to feeling any real impact was looking back at the title, The Coward and pushing that back on my thoughts having read it. It's a good title. It centres it on the humanity of someone involved in the madness of the situation, and how anyone could be judged for what they do. That then brought me back to what my issue was; it didn't come across as visceral enough, not on a direct emotional level. For me you really need to lean into one strong emotion for the story and the character, at the least. It read quite detached, although the descriptions of the deaths were an attempt at going into the monstrosity that is war. I really felt like I needed to see it through a personal lens though. You're writing this from one person's viewpoint and despite the telling of the deaths and the debate with the gun there's never a level of immediacy to his story. This could be fine, if it showed him as detached by everything that's happened, and removing himself from the situation (which could tie into The Coward title.) Or you could push further with him struggling with it all. You were letting the reader's reaction fall on the descriptions of the death, and the scenario the protagonist found themselves in rather than forcing any feeling for the reader with your prose. I felt because of the situation, not because of the telling of the situation in the writing.

QuoProQuid posted:

The Big Dipper
1982 words

I didn't enjoy this until the end, which pulled something off, and I can't help but feel like the rest of it was serving the end rather than working on its own. It's a somewhat bitchy complaint, because the ending does work and I don't know how the rest would play out if you change the first two thirds of the story, so it's a case of questioning the parts that lead to a decent ending but did so in a roundabout way that was contrived. My main problem until the end was how circumspect it all was. You were alluding to a significant moment without having anything of significance happening along the way. For me there needed to be a direct addressing of emotion, thought, past along the way. There was a lot of external action happening, with the character never putting it in the setting of what it meant. The way you wrote this, and the methods you used are so exposed that it's hard to feel the story part of it, or any journey the character went on. If this were a murder mystery it would be like you're holding back key information from the reader along the way. I don't believe the protagonist would be so separated from her thoughts along the way that the end's significance seems contrived. There's hinting, and allusion all the way through, and the end ties it up, but the humanity, and the human engagement is lacking. Like I said, all this seems like a bitchy critique because the ending did raise it up quite a bit, but I didn't feel engaged throughout the story. The storytelling jumps about (and I don't mean just the two timelines) with events and happenings scattered as though you're hoping something hits. For me it needs more focus on the smaller significant elements and the thoughts and emotions associated with them. Ultimately I think this story will stick out in my memory, so it's quite good in that respect, but it hasn't reached a level I find absolutely compelling because the smaller details aren't compelling enough.

Jay W. Friks posted:

Edit: I'll take the failure

I read this, then went to quote it to write a crit and saw you saying you'd take the failure. I'm not sure why. I thought it funny as gently caress. I'll leave it at that though, seeing as you're somehow displeased with it.

Thranguy posted:


1763 Words

This is great. It got off to a real speedy start that dragged me right in, the ending was strong and enough of a, "life goes on," that I could imagine someone leaving behind the war that's forever raging for other people. The only part that was a little bit of a let down was just after the beginning getting into the middle. I think there's room to up the scope of danger and immediacy of it. Some dwelling on a little of the horror might work, or the pain, any bit of emotion tied into it just to situate the elements of war in the surrounding narrative. I don't think you need to go into a specific battle, spelling it out, but something about the hardship of it all, and the loss. Overall this has a great structure to it, and a nice shell surrounding it, but a little bit more fleshing out of the meat of the story could really pull the reader another way, just enough to add that bit of mystery and contemporary feeling (at least situating it in human feelings) so the overall theme pulls harder at the end. As I said, the structure and shell is there, but adding a little struggle could really settle the reader into the war aspect with the commentary becoming more poignant.

Fleta Mcgurn posted:

Spaekona :toxx:
1481 words

I was working along with this as I read it. The conversation between the older people was touching in its familiarity, although the children didn't have much personality. I was trying to see the point of it, the idea behind something incorporeal guarding a place and why that would happen, and then you spelled it all out for me. The best stories for me will make me feel and think. They'll have something at their core that lets me connect to something deeper within me, or the world. Any story can do this, often not in a way a writer may intend but a good writer will let the story speak for their intent and maybe something will connect with the reader. You didn't do this. You outlined every reason for the story at the end, as though a justification for what you wrote. And for me what you wrote was a story that didn't have a deeper purpose. The writing was workable, although my end view might be a little dismissive of the writing because I didn't get anything from the totality of it. For me short stories, especially ones this short don't have as easy a time to engage the reader in a yarn and their weight comes from inspiring the reader. This didn't do any of that, although it could have if you left some work up to the reader. By fully explaining everything you left no work for me do, so lost any hope of having an impact. The simple narrative didn't enthral, and it signified little.

crabrock posted:

The Wall of Rejected Classes
994 words

I enjoyed this. Although I feel the constrictive aspect of the story is mirroring a little too closely the constricted nature of the protagonist. It's a more high level complaint because the story brought about a chuckle at the sweetness, but I would have liked a little more flow to the prose. Some meandering in thought and not having everything so pointed; something to hint at more depth. The introductory elements felt like they were setting something up, and they worked a little too hard for it and at too much length. Then you really pushed with every interaction in the meat of the story telling. It doesn't, to me, follow a traditional arc in storytelling, so it feels a little lopsided in structure. I would have liked some more to the resolution, something to ground it for me as a reader in a context. There's a hint at possibility but I felt you should have taken it that little further just to taper off the introduction/set up, then the body, and then? It just ends. I do like the balance between the inconsequential, trivial encounter and the message of freedom and balance necessary in life. I think you need to comment on it though, I'd like consequence in some form, although all this may be asking for more than is deserved from a piece. Ultimately it reads light, and stereotyped, and trades on that as stand-ins for any complexity which seems lacking. Really it's about my own preference in all this; the story seems too trivial and especially in the characters as not-fully-realised to really have an effect on me, although despite that it works. There's no understanding of any nuance. Overall I enjoyed it as something refreshing rather than contemplative, even if it did take a while to get there with the big setup.

Kaishai posted:

Under Glass
(1,168 words)

I didn't get any sense of the person in this. It read like someone separated from everything happening to them, with no personality, desire or feeling attached to them. For me the character was important, but it read as though the storytelling was trying to lay everything out for the reader rather than someone in the situation living it. Everything felt too detached, as though everything happening in the story was happening to someone else, or someone unthinking or unfeeling. There was very little grounding in anything that could approach a realness. If this were film I would imagine it all being portrayed through security cameras, devoid and separate from any human viewpoint; observing rather than engaging. I think that's a real let down because the story seems to be trying for a gravitas and significance through this device when it doesn't really tell or say much. It's pretty well written, and very strong and consistent in the way its written so it seems like a deliberate choice in how you told it rather than a case of you simply failing to see another approach. In that sense all I can say is it didn't work for me, and I would like to have seen some humanity in it, rather than a somewhat horror feel of dissociation.

And I just noticed the title, which is apt, because it does read like viewing something under glass. I just don’t think that works or engages.

Sitting Here posted:

1500 words

This had a nice purpose to it, but it's not as tight for me as I would have liked. There's a lot of description, going for mild horror in some places, like tripping in other places, but it overloads the descriptive elements while being short on the telling parts of the story. I'm a little at odds with the idea of the horror trip and the idea that someone, or us, can be creators. It doesn't vibe with me as much as it could; the terror at it. That's probably a personal thing. I think you leaned too much on the "phasing" to the world, and not enough on the meat of the rifts purpose or meaning. I can buy into the idea of people being creators, but I think you need to balance the terror/fear/anxiety over understanding that with some knowledge of what is to come when we realise we are creators. There's not enough realisation, or appreciation of what the woman is going through and the telling at the end is too abrupt and not laid out or signposted clearly enough. For me you need to have some foreshadowing and hints along the way of what is to come to really bring it up a level. If there was some evidence that the woman knew what was to come it would strengthen it because this story, to me, is about the purpose we all have. I think the woman would know some sense of purpose as she journeys through the rift, or have some preternatural sense of it. If you're trying to lay an evident truth before us, you need to let us know along the way that it is possible to see it any stage, even if it's only an inkling of it.

All that being said, it's a personal opinion on the theme of your story. Separate to that there were a few typos, and removed from the meaning of the story the "trip" seemed to go on for a little long without purpose despite being well described.

Bad Seafood posted:

Illumination (1,500 words)

This was lacking in atmosphere, and for me purpose. The beginning was fun, once the "trick" became apparent. The joy between the brothers stood out, but once that went on there was no real depth of feeling or involvement with the prose. It felt like you were doling out a story with no regards for where the passion in it is. The girl is possibly a miracle, or just good at what she does for some reason but I don't see a purpose to her talents, or her involvement, or much of anything. Is it contrasting against his own work, talking in some way about where purpose and talent comes from? Is it about finding joy in things? It seems like the story is just an event and without any movement in feeling or push and pull on the reader it doesn't say much to me, especially when I can't find any reason to the story, or message. For me you could just make it a joyous thing, but that needs some reflection from the characters within, and maybe making it more pointed than another brother simply ignoring the supposed transgression. Overall this felt lacking in any attempt to do anything for the reader.

sebmojo posted:

Eagle, and Shark
952 words

I don't know. Are you just drawing dick jokes on the world? Is that what it's all about; the phaullus? It's written with ease; one thing makes sense and it leads onto another; a determination to find cocks. A man is worried about a penis. Is that what we all should be worried about? Dicks? Your writing rescues you from other stories that are muddled up in trying, possibly to tell something, to say something. You've literally scrawled a dick on the side of the wall that is my arse. Because it is my arse, which I'd happily show to you. My arse, and your penis story. Which goes nowhere. A man searches out his dick. And does he find it? I don't know. I read back, and he can't even find a satisfactory dick. You're the dick that's lacking.

Entenzahn posted:

Graffiti Bros: Graffic Adventures with Julius Caesar
543 words

Eh, yeah. This is graffiti adventures with Julius Caesar alright. Certainly there was a Caesar involved. And an Artsy and Artso. There was lasers too. Which I could like, but didn't really. Then there was torture and Jesus. Jesus didn’t stand out as the saviour he is, was more forced into it. I guess that says something about Christianity, and God. A lot happened, sort of, with humming and hawing, and people accepting things. So I'll accept this all. And say yes, this is a story.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

good crittin

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
thank you for the crits, mrenda!

Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha

sebmojo posted:

yes, why not tyia

here ya go.

crit for Eagle, and Shark by Sebmojo

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.
Critiques for Weeks CCXLVIII, CCXLIX, CCL, and CCLI: A List of Undeniable Problems

Catching up to the recaps once again, possibly for the last time for a while: I still owe those crits for Eurovision IV. This project is on hiatus until I'm out of debt. See you in December!

Week 248: A Vision of the Future

ThirdEmperor, "Murder on the Ockient Express": Inconceivable (n): impossible to comprehend. "That your story wasn't intentionally written to annoy is inconceivable." You had to know this was a bad idea. Ignore the in joke for a minute--I wonder now if it isn't a joke around a joke, actually, never meant to invoke the spirit of ock but instead to riff on in jokes in general--and look at the way Cobb persistently and actively refuses to have anything to do with the mystery at hand. Consider the goofy scene you've built, for which no plausible explanation comes to my mind. Nor to yours, I think. Odds are you have no idea how that man ended up dead with his pants down. Your characters are poorly animated cartoons, and your ending doesn't exist. But the notion that the piece is about getting drawn into something by an obscure reference that refuses to leave your radar renders it conceivable, if barely, that you were out to do more than aggravate here.


Jay W. Friks, "In the Marshes of Lerna a Young Man Drowns": A tense gaffe appears in the second line. An apostrophe in the possessive its mars the third. Worse: I think those first two paragraphs are supposed to be a recording to which the main character is listening, but there's no visual signifier of this. Am I right? It helps with reading comprehension to set things like that aside, most commonly by putting them in italics. This is very hard to follow without any such markers. Here's what I get: the protagonist is the son of the scientist who worked with Dr. Zhang to develop the age-freeze technology. He's listening to recordings of Dr. Zhang explaining the science as the story opens. Although his body has never aged beyond eighteen, he prefers mature women for some reason, and this sets up his discomfort with his physical age vs. his mental age and with the plans the Cabal have for the world. (Other than formatting, the Cabal is the first misstep. Shadowy cabals aren't all that interesting when they aren't explained as anything but, you know, a shadowy cabal.) His dissatisfaction with his body grows on me as a character trait as the story continues: at first it doesn't ring true, but then I realize that a young man could well still be in that growthy, gawky stage at eighteen. To be trapped with a body forever at its most awkward point could create that sense of never, ever feeling right. Okay! And the mourning for Dr. Zhang is good. But the Cabal's plan doesn't make sense no matter how I think about it. Killing off the human race so a bunch of eternal teenagers can run the show is an incredibly dumb thing for the ostensible masters of the universe to do. It's peculiar also that the kids find so many fresh corpses. Why are the local people among the last in all the world to die? The overarching Cabal plot more or less kills this piece, but I wouldn't have DMed it despite that. It's a decent look at the psyche of a man trapped in a life he doesn't want by circumstances beyond his control, ruled by his father even after the man's death, unable to cope with eternal life because of his conscience. You could make a Twilight Zone episode out of this; unlike a lot of TD stories, it would possibly be a good one.


The Cut of Your Jib, "10^123 or The List of Undecidable Problems": A solid first paragraph, but it goes to waste as it's followed by relationship exposition and details about a scientist's messy house. The text meanders and gathers wool. What it doesn't do is tell a story. You go on and on about quantum theory and quantum computers as though the prompt were to talk about future tech rather than to make it an element of fiction, and it's so disappointingly dull, dull, dull that I'd almost rather read ThirdEmperor's non-story. I imagine you're trying to turn the quantum concepts into a mirror of the relationship between Rosa and the professor. The problem there is, who gives a flying flip about Rosa and the professor? I know next to nothing about them as people before you ask me to care about this romance. I know next to nothing about them as people when the story closes, because most of the nine-hundred-plus words just past were spent on a metaphor.


Week 249: Thunderdomers Assemble!

A disclaimer: I dislike superhero stories about as much as I do surrealism. Apply a grain of salt or two to my criticisms if you will, but not too much. I don't have to enjoy the taste of goat meat to be able to tell when it's rotten.

Fleta Mcgurn, "Children of Rho-Man, Issue #300- The Dissolution": How much I should ding you for a story that reads like a riff on Greek mythology with thin and nonsensical superhero trappings I don't know, since I'm aware Thor is a superhero somehow, and for all I know his heroic veneer is no thicker. Nevertheless, your premise doesn't work. Possibly it could in a longer, complete, standalone story that weren't limited to 1,200 words, though I imagine the second-best thing you could do for this piece would be to strip off the superhero facade and stick to gods as gods. The best thing would be to make it more than an episodic fragment. Fill in more back story: tell me what happened to Jupiter and Juno. Give me a glimpse of Diana's feelings about her twin brother's disappearance. (It's odd this glosses over so many points of interest to a mythology fan while also making a reference to the story of Actaeon--not the most obscure myth, but more so than Leda and the swan.) Don't end on a cliffhanger, for crying out loud, and slash that scene with Cassandra if it isn't going to go anywhere. I'd probably scrap what you have and write a different god story if it were me, but the tail end of a war in the Roman pantheon over the fate of their city is an awesome setting and general concept, maybe worth revisiting.


flerp, "The Return of the Merman Hero, Moustache": To be clear: you haven't escaped the problems that plague Thunderdome serials. Moustache lacks sound motivation for his villainy. Has he no faith in his facial hair?? A superhero who hamstrings a rival isn't much of a hero at all! (Do fish have hamstrings? Probably not.) I'm sad to see Moustache brought down so low. I won't pretend I'm not happy to see him in general, even though I'll readily admit that yours is an objectively weaksauce entry. It's fun! It's silly! It makes me laugh! Comedy is so powerful when it works that I want to wave off flaws in this that I'd castigate in anything boring. I wouldn't have voted for this to HM or anything--good lord, no. But I'll read any Moustache story you put in front of me.


Hawklad, "Dirk Biggly and His Hands of Destiny": There's every chance it isn't your fault that the SUPR dystopia doesn't feel like a superhero world. It has to have been part of a shared-world premise. Still: humans mutated by drugs aren't superheroes, and no one in your particular story does anything heroic. Dirk plays football for a good half of it, then spends a quarter wandering around as a bum, then accidentally catches a villain and maaaaybe becomes a hero later? The prompt forbade origin stories, so going this route screwed you just about every way from Sunday. As Seafood points out in the recap, Dirk is terribly passive as protagonists go, subject to the whims of fate without showing interest in control over his own destiny. It would help if he chose to catch Fistlord rather than doing so by reflex. But the elephant in the room is the ambiguous ending, which cheats us out of seeing the one real choice Dirk makes and ensures he never develops a clear personality.


Jay W. Friks, "Jack-in-the-box": Your characters are arguing about whether Jack is the sort of man to commit petty theft when he's just killed two elderly ladies. Really, now. I don't think this is intended to establish just how black Jack's soul is, either, since the story itself appears to forget all about that small detail. Miss Ambrosia's plan is nearly as baffling, assuming I understand it--did she spike her company's drugs with more, different drugs in order to mind-control Jack into openly committing criminal acts... in order to punish him for using her drugs to commit criminal acts? What? She can't have done this to burn Jack's alternate identity, because she tries to kill Jack immediately after. There would be no point. Everything would make a lot more sense if she stuck to the long-distance assassination attempt--a warning to those in the know that bad things happen to people who mess with SUPR. The gargoyle is a thorough misstep, introduced too late in the story and offering a cop-out solution that doesn't cost Jack any effort. The cliffhanger ending puts the cherry on the suckdae: I can't guess how Jack will salvage his situation, and I don't much care.


Week 250: Everything Means Nothing Anymore

Meinberg, "Nihilism is My Kink": TMI, sir. I suspect you did enjoy writing this paean to nihilism a little too much. It has, intentionally or not, the smug, self-satisfied tone of an author on his soapbox, stabbing at strawmen to make a point. Your Jacob is virtuous: he treats his friends well, works hard at his job, helps people, shows consideration for others, appreciates life's simple gifts, etc., etc.; yet I get an impression from lines like Jacob Johnson thought he was a virtuous person that you-the-writer mean for his concept of cosmic justice to cancel out his good points. (Maybe I'm reading a stress on thought that you didn't intend. The whole story invites me to scorn this poor fool's delusions, though, so I have doubts.) The conga line of misfortune you dump on him becomes ridiculous around the time his boss lets him go, and it gets worse and less credible before it's through. A whole jury corrupted, huh? And there's no media outcry despite the shooter--a politician's son--having been identified by multiple witnesses? Sure. His friends of years don't care at all? Right. You've gone over the top and convinced me (further) that I want no part of nihilism, which would appear somewhat counter to your aim.


Thranguy, "Girl, You’ll Be a Wolfman, Soon": You can be very clever about prompts, and you know it's not necessary to incorporate every single element. So why the wolf dick? A distressing number of your words are spent on furry sex, and I can't for the life of me see the rationale. Remove that element and you'd have a story about a young woman, cursed by something she did in the past, realizing she wouldn't change her actions if she could and becoming comfortable with the consequences. That part is good! The part where her punishment for accidentally killing the pedo trying to rape her is a raging, unceasing erection, not so much. The sexual aspects do not play well together. Also, you and she brush right over that whole thing where she permanently maimed a man for making a joke, which I'd guess you're trying to play for laughs, but the violence elsewhere in the story is too serious for such glibness to fly. If she bit him without tearing his fingers off, that issue would disappear. If the wolf dick disappeared with it, all the better.


ThirdEmperor, "Satyric Humor": Trimming five hundred or so words would improve this. Its main flaw as it stands is that the satyrs outstay their welcome, and Ambrose's conversations with them repeat the same themes and ideas at least once too often. I have one foot over the boredom line by the time the final beat arrives; fortunately it's a strong ending, pulling off its lack of change in the outward status quo by nailing the inward change in Ambrose. His situation is the same. His perception of it and of himself has suffered considerably. I appreciate the unhappiness here, and the last line is so pitch perfect that it hoists my opinion of the whole thing up a notch or two.


The Cut of Your Jib, "Anemic Structure": Terrible proofing, unlikeable and uninteresting characters, an unclear sequence of events, too many points of view, a last-minute perspective shift, and a structure not so much anemic as meandering and muddled. I know and you know that you're better than this. Your entry almost reads like a satire of vampire stories, or like a jab at of a type of female character in the case of Rowan. To assume satirical intent would probably be to give the work too much credit, however: it's a mess of words at the end of which a man is killed with a piece of meat, and any light it has is hidden beneath one heck of a bushel.


Fleta Mcgurn, "The Girl in the Vlog": I don't enjoy the handling of Venus-chan--it flies too close to the sun that is authorial scorn. I think the story aims for the idea that Mandy leaps to all sorts of conclusions after watching the Venus videos, and more than one of them turns out to be wrong, but... when Venus lies about their encounter in her vlog at the end, that strips away the thin coat of character dimension you lent her in the restaurant. She's shown to be a histrionic drama queen claiming threats that never happened. It's hard to understand why Mandy feels guilty after seeing that. My guess is, you still intend me to feel sorry for Venus and shake my head at Mandy's presumption/assumptions/judgment, but Venus actually does seem to be the embodiment of a stereotype. There are ways to tone her down: remove the lie (I don't count the stalker bit as a lie, but there's no way to interpret anything Mandy says as a threat) and rethink having Venus show off her facial hair on camera--that strikes me as extraneous. Shattering Mandy's worldview twice would be more effective if the second shattering were convincing.


Week 251: We're Grammarpunk Now

Obliterati, "Salt the Earth": Dad and Alice have such a genuine father-child relationship that the story almost doesn't need cool salt magic or the concept of sunken continents to be good. It's nice to have them, though! I like this one all around except--and it's a big except--for the faceless, purposeless, soulless Sun Fleet. They go around burning up ships why? Not for plunder. Not in retribution unless there's a lot of back story between the Stone Fleet and the Sun Fleet that you're not sharing. Any half-decent human villain is going to have some reason for doing what he does, something that he wants, but these guys just attack so Dad can die and Alice can have her Goku moment. Although I understand why you won, that flaw is damaging; any revision of this piece should include a clear goal for the antagonists.


QuoProQuid, "Hunger": Between your entry and Obliterati's, which is the stronger is a toss up. Your antagonist, whether that's Denny or society, has reasons for doing what he/it does--excellent reasons in the latter case, short-sighted reasons in the former, but hey. Teenagers, right? And maybe Denny is out to suicide, on some level; maybe that's why he lets Eli go so easily in the end, which is my prime beef. The body horror early on is exquisitely awful. Eli's dilemma, and the implication that what's left of a billion kids might be facing it too, horrifies quite well. But Denny sets up a high-stakes situation, showing his friends a man he's in the process of eating to death, letting them know about the cops he's called in to be his next meal, and then doesn't fight Rob or Eli when they choose to leave. He doesn't even argue. It's anticlimactic, and I wouldn't be surprised if the flat ending cost you. I sort of want the boys to fight and for Eli to get a mouthful of Denny's flesh and like it a little too much, then to run, so the confrontation would have more teeth--sorry--and Eli's hunger would stay front and center. It disappears a bit in the last section.


Hawklad, "Something New": The writing in this one is strong enough that I read a good ways into it before I understood how it could have DMed, and that's not bad for a story that opens with a poo poo turbine. Liselle falls in the "bitter whiner" range on the lovely youth spectrum, a less than thrilling thing when we're stuck in her head, but I'm never bored despite the familiar generation-ship scenario. Religious autocracy took control of ship society awfully fast. How long has it been since the colonists woke up? Ten years? And how old is Liselle? The line about her not being scheduled to marry for ten years more makes me wonder. She acts fourteen or fifteen; again, not thrilling given the circumstances. All these quibbles are irrelevant beside my largest one: Liselle thinks oh so angrily about how godawful life is on the ship and what a lovely gift life on it will be to their descendants... and then immediately plans to try again to get pregnant. What. WHAT. How hateful is she? Are you seriously telling me she wants to go through the physical rigors and agonies of pregnancy, never mind whatever punishment her father would come up with, explicitly to make another human suffer for all its life? You need to do a much better job of selling this if you want me to buy. Couldn't she paint a mural on a hallway or something?


Fuubi, "High Noon": After the opening paragraphs of roundabout exposition, the seventh of which finally clarifies what the heck is going on, you abandon the premise of an ever-present sun (which you handwaved to pieces anyway) to trot out a rant straight off of Facebook. Tell me the truth: did you always intend to end the entry this way, or did the sun problem stump you and leave you scrambling for a closer? The first two paragraphs could have been written last. I like this theory, because otherwise I'm at a loss for what you think omnipresent light and chatting with your neighbors have to do with each other. Gary's plan is so nebulous that I'm confident you have no idea how he changes the world. It sounds like he's heading off to go shoot somebody. I can only assume the somebody is the sun, and I'm vexed you didn't write that scene out.


SurreptitiousMuffin, "Up-and-up-and-up": Foetid and wen' don't go together--nothing goes with wen', as 1.) thoughts don't work that way, and 2.) if they did, one would think William would drop the T off went consistently. I appreciate the restraint you're showing with the dialect but dislike the places it clashes with the tone and other vocabulary. The opening poem doesn't do much for you. I'm not a fan of fuckface shittyboy myself, as I see it as another place where the voice slips: that particular phrasing sounds like a modern Internet poster's. And what was coughing? The door? Why? The climax and conclusion leave me wanting something more, though I've convinced myself the story is a metaphor for growing up, and there's something to be said for the horrors a child has been warned about proving to be real but the child proceeding on his path anyway--the metaphor (if metaphor it is) just needs to land a little better, perhaps. Those are the things I don't like about this one, but the setting and atmosphere make up for at least some of them, not to mention the text itself that has moments of simple perfection such as He knew he wasn't allowed to touch the bones. He touched the bones. All the changes needed to make this story glow are small.


Fuschia tude, "The Revolution Continues": Just about the only thing I admire here is the ambition. You're out to tell a hell of a story. The scope is broad; you've tried to incorporate history, action, and emotional connection, and that's no modest goal. Alas that none of it works. There's not that much story to the story, considering its size. A vast swath of the first half is exposition about the setting. In the third section the piece abruptly changes tracks for a long fight sequence, and at this point I've been lulled into caring about only the setting. You haven't fleshed out Jorgen, his father is just a shadow, and the fight subsequently outlasts my interest. Whether pacing or too much focus on the wrong things is the trouble, I'm not sure. Maybe both! The end, then, is a twist revelation (!) that Jorgen was never alone, that he's brought an army with him, and that taking this prison compound has somehow defeated the old regime!! Wait, what? This deus ex machina falls flat on its face, and so does the Wildcat's death scene. The sense of Jorgen as a character that I need to feel for him in that moment is missing. It's a big old electrified mess even ignoring the fumbled flash rule--yes, I see you trying to force the rebellion theme by claiming silence is a rebellion against words, study is a rebellion against memory, etc. Stop that.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 14:57 on Jun 16, 2017

Nov 13, 2012

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

Kaishai posted:

good crits

This is unironically exactly what I was looking for, thanks!

Feb 18, 2014


“Bunnies, Dust” by The Saddest Rhino


As the world loads, I walk into the kitchenette to make tea. It hurts worse now to walk. The doctors say there’s a pinched nerve in my left thigh but does not recommend scanning with an ultrasound. How many doctors did he see? They will find more problems and you’ll just worry more, she said.

Why don’t I love this? Back when I judged it, I didn’t know you ripped this straight from a real news article about Second Life or whatever (I’m disappointed. Thranguy didn’t do that and I gave him a real fake news article for a flash rule.), so I could have seen this as a novel idea at the time. Some of it might be because of the unlife/undeath thing, which aimed for poetic repetition and build-up but kind of annoyed me instead. It could also be my confusion about what effect tossing the carrots and releasing the rabbits has, especially in relation to the mention of glitches. That leaves me unclear as to whether the grand gesture of letting the pets go so the main character can remember them at their best was anything more than that. One judge wanted this to HM, but I couldn’t agree. Sorry.

“Anemic Structure” by The Cut of Your Jib

EVERYTHING IS WRONG. The recap crew already went over a lot of what’s wrong with this story, but for those who missed it, nothing about this story works. It needs proofreading, especially for the random shifts in tense that happen in the middle of scenes. Why does that one lady’s name keep changing? Did you seriously think that the other lady’s judgmental, assholish, Nice Gal personality would be the least bit endearing or interesting? What is the point of bringing up the Bechdel Test in dialogue, if not to weakly paper over a bad story with cheap meta so you look cool? If “vampires exist and that’s why your boyfriend has to die (except maybe your friend’s just an evil, possessive poo poo)” is supposed to be your interpretation of the prompt, it’s a drat weak one. The flow of this story is choppy and the point of it unclear; that was all I remembered come judgment time and that alone was enough for me to toss this on the ash heap. I get wanting to get anything on a page when the deadline’s coming up, but I’m pretty sure you can do better than this.

“The Girl in the Vlog” by Fleta Mcgurn

Part of the reason why I like this story so much is because it deals with dumb fandom stuff like that Thranguy story, but also because, sap that I am, I didn’t think that you’d pull a double swerve on me. You rocked this woman’s world twice, though she kind of had it coming. I like the debate the recappers had about how convincing Venus-chan is as a character. In my eyes, it didn’t seem that implausible that she was more self-aware than she first looked, despite willingly making a fool of herself on the internet for who knows how long. Maybe it’s too obvious a moral that people tend to dehumanize and underestimate the most socially awkward people with no self-awareness on the internet, but it’s still worth thinking about. I have no real complaints about this story; in another week that I also happen to set the prompt for, I’d have no problems making this the winner.

“tell me about your mother” by Propaganda Machine

This was pretty cheesy, but harmless and competently written for what it is. It falls flat and isn’t terribly creative, looking good mostly in relation to the other, more awful stories of the week. There’s not a whole lot else worth saying about this one, though other critters are welcome to prove me wrong.

“Fragmented” by Killer-of-Lawyers

Fragmented is right. This story keeps everything so close to the chest that I can’t get interested in it or curious about it. I can only get annoyed at the vague crypto-speak the characters talk in during the first half of the story and the lack of context to almost anything, though the computer diagnostics in bold near the end were a nice touch. You need to flesh this out much more. That’s why the word limit was two to three thousand; I expected people to use those words.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
well done on the crits, Quo, Kai, and Solitair

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
So uh like you know uuuh if you want to hear more of me rambling about writing for some reason, I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the dudes of the podcast Pineal Express (which is partly curated and hosted by our own jitzu_the_monk) and talk shop. Talking about writing of course necessitates talking about Thunderdome, so there's a lot of gushing about TD in there too.

You can find Pineal Express on all of your major podcast platforms, or SoundCloud. I highly recommend listening to their other episodes, too! Normally they are a smart podcast with a focus on a sort of academic perspective on various topics. I assume they'll go back to being that now that my episode is up.

Also, you have about 13 hours left to sign up for this week.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
In with some flash fiction.

Aug 7, 2013



In, flash story, flash rule, :toxx:

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007

ThirdEmperor posted:

In, flash story, flash rule, :toxx:

Drinking from the veins of dharma

May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


College Slice
In, flash fiction style.

Playstation 4
Apr 25, 2014
Unlockable Ben
Hi I'm your friendly Kirb-Bot, here to bring you fond memories of ThunderDome's past.

Today it's The Willow and the Ribbon by Benny the Snake, aka SUPREME COMMANDER PLZ

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Playstation 4 posted:

Hi I'm your friendly Kirb-Bot, here to bring you fond memories of ThunderDome's past.

Today it's The Willow and the Ribbon by Benny the Snake, aka SUPREME COMMANDER PLZ

Yes, that's familiar, but a reminder of crabrock's excellent ragecrit is always welcome.

Playstation 4
Apr 25, 2014
Unlockable Ben

Kaishai posted:

Yes, that's familiar, but a reminder of crabrock's excellent ragecrit is always welcome.

Aug 2, 2002




oh yeah that time a TD "writer" whined to the mods about his unfair DM lol

Feb 25, 2014
582 words

flash rule: Cornered against a wall of stars

Matter Cannot be Destroyed

flerp fucked around with this message at 22:15 on Oct 11, 2017

Apr 30, 2006

sparksbloom fucked around with this message at 04:36 on Nov 27, 2017

Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Sitting Here posted:

Sparkling under a watchful sky

Satellite of Love (749 Words)

It was a near perfect morning. Birdsong, sunshine, and the moon peered in and said, “Hello”. Ben closed the blinds and tried to ignore this lunar irregularity.

As Ben drove to work, the moon started talking again. “Hey buddy. What’s up. Big day today?” Ben pulled over and covered the window on that side of the car with his heat shield. Visibility suffered, but it was preferable to the moon’s chatter.

Ben’s cubicle at work was next to a window, which most days up until now had been a good thing. Today the moon was out that window, which, it’d been on the other side before he thought, but nonetheless there it was. “Hey Ben. How’re you doing bro? Any plans tonight? C’mon Ben, what’s happening, eh?”

Ben told his supervisor he had some work to catch up on in the basement. He’d been putting it off because working in the basement was kind of gloomy.

When Ben emerged from the basement to get lunch, his phone pinged him with three missed calls.


He called her back. “Sorry, I wasn’t avoiding you, I had no reception.”

“You remember about tonight, right?”

Oh. He had not. “Of course, been looking forward to it all day.”

“All right then, see you tonight.”

He hoped she’d be all right with a date away from any windows.

He hurried to the café to grab lunch, and tried to ignore the moon. “Hey Ben, didn’t see you much this morning. Been busy? Yeah, me too. Gotta do the tides and stuff, y’know.”

Ben grabbed a wrap and went back to the basement.

On the drive home, he had to pull over three times to reposition the heat shield, because every time, somehow the moon would suddenly be chatting to him from the other side of the car. “You know, Ben, I feel like that might technically be against the road rules, hampering your visibility like that, but what do I know about driving, eh?”

Eventually he made it home, went inside, drew the blinds, and started preparing for his date. Fortunately, he had arranged to meet Cecilia at the restaurant rather than picking her up. He gave himself some extra time to get there, to make up for time lost with heat shield window swapping.

He got there early, and as the restaurant wasn’t overly busy, was able to secure a booth seat that wasn’t in view of the windows. He could see them, and the doors, if he peered around, which he only did when he heard the door swing from someone entering.

Cecilia arrived, and Ben went to greet her with an awkward ‘is this going to be a hug or a handshake’ gesture. Cecilia hugged him. “Batting above your average, Ben,” said the moon.

Ben ignored it. “I got us a booth just over here,” he said.

After dinner, Ben looked at his watch. “I guess you probably have to go, then.”

“Wow,” said Cecilia, “date was that bad that you’re trying to get rid of me already?”

“What?” said Ben. “No, the date was fantastic.” It had been. Ben had almost been able to forget there was a massive natural satellite trying to communicate with him. “If you’re happy to extend the date, that would be great.”

Celia laughed. “I was just messing with you. Let’s go for a walk on the beach.”

“Sounds good,” said Ben.

So, they walked along the beach, and they chatted, or Cecilia did, and Ben tried to concentrate, but the moon was getting quite personal.

“She’s too good for you. You know this, right? Way out of your league.”

And Ben nodded to whatever Cecilia had been saying, which was probably something very interesting or funny, but he couldn’t tell for sure because-

“You’d better treat her right, Ben. If you break her heart, I will destroy your house. You know I control the tides, right?”

“Are you listening to me, Ben?” asked Cecilia.

“Sorry, just distracted,” said Ben.

“It’s him,” said Cecilia, pointing at the moon, “isn’t it?”


“Right,” said Cecilia, “I’ve had about enough of him doing this.”

She stood up straight and tall, and she was as big as the sky, and she reached out and took the moon from the sky and hurled it into the ocean.

“Let it go, and grow up!” she yelled at the moon. “This is why we didn’t work!”

Which was weird, but the rest of the date went well.

Feb 18, 2014


Sitting Here posted:

Bent beneath the weight of a god

Collapse Sonata (741 words)

(My favorite story I wrote ITT this year. Definitely want to try again with this one.)

Solitair fucked around with this message at 21:13 on Dec 28, 2017

Apr 21, 2010

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

Sitting Here posted:

A pathetic theft is vindicated


Thranguy fucked around with this message at 03:00 on Dec 7, 2017

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Got Out.
Grimey Drawer
Uncle Matthew (2497 count)

“Well. I didn’t expect to see you two here at this hour. Did you parents send you here?”

“Linda did it again… She never quits even though I tell her that me and them are like oil and water. The only reason I know about you kids it that Linda sends pictures of you guys when she gets drunk. She gets sentimental and thinks I need a reminder of what a family is supposed to be.”

“I know you’ve been into the violin for a while Samantha. The cello is what you’re working on now if I remember correctly. I wish you’d cover some actual music with your videos and not that techno seizure BS. I would go to your recitals but I get back pain sitting in those godforsaken folding chairs. You’ll excuse me if don’t want to sit around and conceal my aggravation for two hours.”

“I know you’ve got a girlfriend now Bobby. You both love those VR games. I wonder if you’ve ever met in person besides at last Christmas.”

“Yeah... I’m rude. I don’t know why your parents sent you here if they think-

A tremor just went up my spine and my entrails are squeezing into a knot. The nerves that run my body are pulling instead of pushing. It hurts sooo

“! poo poo. Feels like my insides are trying to break out of solitary.”

“Yeah. I’m pretty loving sick. You kids are smart! Such an astute observation!

I spit on the floor of the hospice. A plume of dust puffs up from the loogie splatter.

“All because I’m going to die doesn’t mean you're Mom’s got to strongarm you both into coming here. She only cares about me dying because of your dad. He was freaking out because NOW I’m dying. Before that, I could see the tangible relief on his face when I tell him It was only a check-up over the phone. I know how much he hates to see me face to face.”

There’s another spasm. It’s small this time. I focus on the shredding wallpaper trying to block out the pain. Blue and white stripes. Blue and white stripes and I can see Zeke running through a hole in the wall. He’s even trying to leave my memories.

“hhhhg...Well, I’m dying now and he still won’t face me. I could tell that was the case just by how Linda sugar coated it yesterday. That woman has so many methods to explain your dad. I feel kinda bad for you all. Come all this way for him just to sulk in his hotel room. Not that being here in front of me is much better.”

“As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to leave your dad alone. Trying to get ahold of your old man was like pulling teeth. So many kinds of communication and he couldn’t be bothered to answer one. However, I can understand why he doesn’t answer your Grandpa's calls.”

“Believe me, that piece of poo poo would make anyone not want to pick up the phone. He does it to ME though. He’d keep ignoring me if it weren’t for Linda. I only get a call on the holidays and I get the same line from him every time.”

“Call me if you need anything, Matt. I know holidays are hard for you. I wouldn’t want to be left with just my memories during Christmas.”

“He’s right about the memories actually. He’s probably never brought it up. Your dad and I had a lot of bad things happen between us and your grandpa. I’ve always been good at letting things run off my back but Zeke’s a different story.”

There were blue and white stripes on the walls of the old townhouse too. Me and you would fantasize about opening a hole in the wall and hiding there during those bad times. I decided to stop planning it out and made a hole with a ball point hammer.

I know you got scared when I went through with it. It’s why you told on me. I got mad at you but a day later I forgave you. It was a dumb idea anyway.

“I wish your dad had listened to me about coming to see Boris when he was dying. There was something cathartic about standing above him when he let out his last breath. Even with his senility, when he saw me looking over his bed... HE knew who I was. He knew what I was there for. To watch him go out with the rest of trash this life lays ultimate karma on.”

“You don’t want me to speak ill of the dead Samantha? Samantha. That’s the POINT of dying so people can speak ill of you. You SHOULD be nice to them when they’re alive. Doesn’t matter who they are. Until you’re dying it’s a good rule of thumb to not be an rear end in a top hat. It just makes things harder for people who are just as broken as you. Not that I follow that rule but If there ever was a rule to follow that’d be it.”

“Those bible thumping friends of yours got you all mixed up Samantha. They preach good will but reality has its own good will. Attaching sanctity to corpses is the ultimate form of bullshit. It’s a way to distract from the shame of not doing anything about their pain when they were alive. That’s what should be coursing their your little red curly head-”

gently caress! That little bastard just hit me!

“Mhhg! Bobby. For a kid who forgets to eat you got a good right hook. Is that why you're here? You want to get few good licks in for your old man? I bet he’s having a hard time figuring out what to do. But excuse me if I don’t-”

Samantha yells,“Shut up! We came by ourselves! We wanted to see you!”

I lose my breath. They came here to face me because they knew their old man wouldn’t. I don’t know what to say now.This stupid wire in my chest is bleeding. Ohhh that can’t be good. It feels like my lungs are hardening. gently caress this hurts so muc-

“Hhhhg! Ah poo poo. It’s bleeding again.”

“No! Don’t call a nurse. They’ll pump me full of painkillers and then you kids will be left waiting out the storm with me asleep. You kids came here to hear me squawk and I can’t let you go empty handed.”

“Your dad and I have always had different ways of dealing with things. Zeke never learned how to face his problems but he was smart and thought farther ahead than I ever could. That didn’t help with Grandpa Boris though. He would rant at Zeke, always calling him a sissy, a human being, a limp dicked pussy. It was over some macho Russian bullshit. Boris was obsessed with us becoming modern day warriors.”

There were posters of Jason Statham and President Putin along the walls of Dad’s bedroom and a freshly greased lifting set that came straight out of the dark ages sat at the foot of his bed. When I turned 13 his idea of a present was to give me that set. I didn’t want it but I lugged every weight and cord to the foot of the bunk bed to keep him happy. Dad made me promise to share it with Zeke when he turned 13. It didn’t matter though.

When he did turn that age Boris made him do a full set of reps while imitating R. Lee Ermy.

“Boris wanted to bring back this standard of big burly men. The kind who excelled at sports like the gladiators and took in woman and wine like Vikings. I guess Zeke being so brainy made Boris disappointed. Add in a pint of vodka after work and you had rage incarnate.”

“He’d shout and get this crinkle of fury on his forehead. I never talked back to Boris but sometimes when he’d lay into Zeke I’d snap. I’d leap on him and try to choke him out. He’d respond right quick and beat the poo poo out of me.”

“That was until our senior year. Boris was livid because we were staying home from prom. The fact is, neither of us could get a date. He went after Zeke first. He tore down every part of Zeke’s reasoning why he couldn’t get a date and then pissed on the rubble.”

“Zeke rolled into a ball when Dad started curb kicking him. I jumped on Boris and that time I got the upper hand on him. I sat my knee on his fat veined neck. He could barely move after I was done with him. I told him,

“If you think any woman’s going to go anywhere with either of us when we got a man like you raising us you’re loving stupid. We got no money and we got a dad who turns psycho whenever he drinks. The reason we’re this way is you. We don’t need to be warriors. Zeke is not a pussy. He’s not any less of a man than me and is certainly more so than you. You’re the reason life is poo poo for us.”

“Boris started to cry and wouldn’t stop. Something broke in him. I wasn’t expecting any of it. I’d never seen him cry before. ‘Course I’d never stood up to him like this. I looked around for Zeke to see if he was there.”

I wanted to say. I’ll keep you safe from now on brother. I can fight him off now because I’ve become stronger.

“He ran to the neighbors and called the police. He didn’t hear any of what I said. It was a glorious moment but not for him. All he saw was me take Dad’s abuse and redirect it. He was as scared of me as he was of dad after that. My impulse was to fight and his was to call the cops.”

I know you were broken down. I know you wanted to get away. When all was said and done you needed a fresh start. I wish you’d look me in the eyes and let me tell you this. You’re my brother Zeke. I wouldn’t have gotten this far if you weren’t there. It hurts. All the pain you keep away from yourself and I know I’ll always be a reminder. Nothing else.

“Uhhhgh. poo poo. It’s like razors rolling in my guts right now. I know I’m harsh. I don’t want you kids to think you have to fit into anything I say. I speak badly because it’s my day to die and memories piss me off.”

“You’re a talented merciful soul Samantha and I hope that’s true with or without God holding your hand. Bobby, you’ve got a fire in you. I know you’re comfortable with your VR and if it’s what you need then that’s it. But if you ever want more out of life, know that the pain of reality is something sublime in itself.”

Because even though I grew old without my only family I’ve been recapturing senior year ever since. My impulse was to I do something that no else could. I broke the silence at union meetings when I got my first job as a grocer. I beat the crap out of a burglar not even at my own apartment. I got girls talking who didn’t know what to say. I spoke with impulse and it got me in trouble but it always reminded me that I was alive. It-

"It doesn’t develop character and it doesn’t reward you. Once in awhile out of all that pain and misery comes a single moment though. It arises from inside you during the hardest times and makes you want to keep feeling it. It’s when you defy yourself and do something unexpected."

I don’t know. It’s wrong. Describing it to you kids doesn’t make sense now. My chest feels numb.

“I wish I could have gotten your old man alone for a second. To tell him this or something just between us. I couldn’t do it at Thanksgiving or Christmas with Linda’s family or during your recital last autumn. It wasn’t a conversation for all of you. But if you think it is than I don’t mind if you tell him.”

I feel numb all over. There’s a wind blowing over me. It smells like salt. It’s because the doors open to the patio. We had a stray dog that came around the old townhouse. Do you remember what you said to me?

“If we want to have a dog than we keep him a secret. Dad’s liable to hit anything and I don’t want anyone else to get hurt by him.”

So we pried open the lattice and fed and watered Kato underneath the porch. We threw a frisbee for him and took mile walks to the ocean. When he stopped coming around and I asked you,

“Where’s Kato?”

You said without looking at me,

“I found a family to take Kato in.”

I was mad. I said that was OUR dog and you didn’t have the right to do what you did. But I understand now. You knew we couldn’t keep it a secret forever. Someday Dad would do something or we’d gently caress up and that dog would get dragged into our mess. I guess that’s why you didn’t know how to face me.

“He’ll get dragged in by this family.”

That what you said about why you did it, Zeke. I didn’t pay attention to the words because I was so mad. You said “family”. Not just dad but me too I guess…

The wind is so cold. It’s covering everything in numbness. I can’t cover myself from it.

The nurses came in and put the covers over his face. They asked Samantha and Bobby if their parents were around. They lied so the nurses would leave them in the room. Samantha peeled the cover away nervously.

“It looks like he’s asleep. Not dead.”

Samantha touched a finger to Uncle Matthew's forehead. He didn’t stir. Bobby wiped his eyes and picked up his backpack. He pulled the VR charger from the outlet outside the hospital room. He called to Samantha,

“We should get back before mom and dad wake up.”

Samantha pulled her pocket bible out. She crinkled her forehead unable to think of anything to say. As the wind picked up outside she put it away. Samantha hugged Uncle Matthew and said,


Jul 26, 2016

Call down the storm (749 words)

Ren and his brother Jeff looked out over the rails, the small boat rocking gently in the shallows. They could see the roiling smoky tendrils flashing with all the shades of midnight out over Island Bay.

A few hundred years ago, our emotions could only grow so much before dying along with their hosts - but as lifetimes stretched out, the potential to metastasize did too.

Then they outgrew their hosts. Another hundred years and the skies and seas were thick with them.

Smoke and clouds was good, smoke and clouds meant you were safe - have one take an interest and you'd get hit with all the grief, guilt, sorrow or hate you would ever feel, funnelled straight through your head in an instant.

And Jeff was going to take them through it. Back to the farm down South, across the strait and through the sounds. Back to Dad.

Ren’s decision to leave had been more tortured than Jeff’s cut-and-run. Ren had to go though, they needed money and he wasn’t cut out for the farm – not like Jeff was. He hated going, but Dad knew it had to be that way. Ren knew it had to be that way.

Jeff leaned over the rails in his Judas Priest tshirt and stubbies. He wasn't a stormrunner, but he'd been on a few courier boats and swore he could get them across the Strait.

"Maybe we should've just paid Steve what he was asking."

Jeff tapped him gently in the kidneys with a fist. "You know you're not backing out, mate. You've made your decision, that's why you're here. You want to go home, and I'm going to take you."

Ren gripped the rail, his knuckles whitening as Jeff clambered aft to start the engine - the throaty, watery gurgle of it cutting through the still morning air. The wall of smoke bulged slightly in their direction.

Ren muttered something about it being Jeff's home too as he climbed down into the cabin. He knew it wasn't though, you couldn’t pay Jeff to go back. This trip was for Ren.

The floor angled gently backwards as Jeff opened up the throttle, bouncing gently as the small vessel bumped across the small swells.

Ren could see the silhouette of Tapu te Ranga Island rising out of the water, faintly visible through the swirls of purple, blue and black, before slipping out of view behind them.

As the boat pushed through the living fog cloud, Ren was reminded of the stories his dad had told. The giant octopus, Te Wheke-a-Muturangi, being spotted from the island by Kupe before being chased across the strait. The long ethereal tentacles caressed the boat as it moved amongst them, flashing pink and orange in the new morning light.

The engine suddenly cut out, startling Ren into alertness. They were in the Marlborough Sounds now, gliding silently through the still water. They were through the most dangerous part of their journey and Ren hadn't even noticed.

Ren shouldered the cabin door open and hauled himself up. He could hear it as soon as his head was above the deck, a soft keening. The sound came in swells, crystal clear over the gentle sloshing noise of the bow through water.

The cloud of swirling, grasping smoke had somehow condensed and evaporated at the same time - Ren couldn't think of any other way to describe the wall of solid pink light in front of him.

Ren felt his stomach twist uncontrollably with guilt, the world dropping out beneath him as if he'd been caught in the grandest lie. He felt the light wash over him, probing, piercing as it dredged up his deepest regrets until it settled on the memory of leaving home. Dad in the window next to his tank, hose and mask in hand. Ren was there, on the backseat of the bus again, the house receding but not receding behind him, the momentum caught in a strange loop.

The pink light faded as fast as it had swept over him, as if allergic to Ren’s resolution. Slightly shaken, Ren had a second to doubt all the warnings he’d been brought up with, before -

“Oh poo poo, Jeff?!”

Ren’s head whipped around, looking for his brother. His big brother who’d always been there for him. And there Jeff was, curled up on the deck. Mumbling, rocking, quivering slightly. Weak whispers.

“..I’m sorry, Dad.. I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m...”

Ren let the warm, pink light of guilt rush back in.

May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


College Slice
The Prompt
732 Words

The broken fluorescents flicker a desultory rhythm above you as you drag your pencil across the Scantron sheet. This whole exercise is pointless. You don't know the material and you haven't studied. You're only here to appease your parents, currently meeting with the guidance counselor down the hall. We both know this won't change anything. It's mathematically impossible for you to pass my class. To graduate.

Yet here we are.

I push a pile of essays to the side of my desk. They'll get a perfunctory skim before I mark them and tally final grades for the year. I already know what's written on them: choppy grammar and ignorant spelling errors afloat on a sea of murky, half-formed ideas. The worst of the lot I will read close so I can marvel at their idiocy. Maybe I'll highlight some and put them on the bulletin board in the teacher's lounge, for a laugh.

Maybe yours, when you finish.

Ah, I see you've finally gotten to the essay section. A lock of purple hair falls over your face as you read my prompt. It's a good one: Discuss the balance of POWER in relationships; use evidences from no less than FOUR (4) books or short stories we have read in class this year. It's a really good prompt, and given that you've read exactly none of the assigned readings, you are quite thoroughly hosed.

I smile and shuffle some papers around my desk, drop a Starbucks gift card in the drawer, toss the Thank You note it came with in the recycling. I think about the summer ahead. Beers on the porch, trips to the mountains, no alarm clocks. For a moment I forget you're even here.

Then you're standing across my desk, final exam in hand.

"I'm going to tell them you touch me." You speak softly, but your voice rings loud in the empty classroom.

My chest clamps down, hard. "I'm sorry, what?" I ask. But I heard you.

"If you don't pass me." Your eyes are sapphire pebbles under a storm cloud of mascara. "I'll tell them."

I stand, think better of it, sit back down. My mouth opens, then closes. My ears ring. "You can't do that. That's not how this works."

"Why not? I've seen how you look at the girls. I'm sure others have too."

I take shallow breaths because there isn't enough oxygen in the room. A bead of sweat trickles down my chest. What crime is a gentle touch on the shoulder, a chummy pat on the lower back?

"Besides," you say, "isn't the accusation enough?"

"You don't want to do this," I say. I try to project a confidence to match yours. We both know it isn't working.

"Yeah, here's the deal Mr. Snyder." My name slides off your tongue like a diseased fish off a hook. "I do. Because you deserve it. For how you treat us. How you've treated me. You're not above us. You're not better than us."

"I never—" I start, but of course I do. I do it all the time.

You continue: "We both get what we want. I pass your class and I get to graduate. You get to never have to see me again. You get to avoid the questions, the investigations. The newspaper."

You're right. It would be easy. Just change a couple of numbers and make this all go away. Make you go away. If I were a man of principle, full of authorial honesty and integrity, I would never do such a thing. I would stand for what's right, and fight the good fight to clear my name.

But I'm not that man. Like I tell my classes: the best characters are flawed. Human. I run my fingers through my hair.

"So do I pass?" you ask.

I hesitate, then look up and nod silently. Words have left me.

"Good." Your smile is sweet as you hand in your final exam. "By the way—I liked the prompt."

With that, you're gone. With a shaky hand I unfold your essay to see what you've written. The handwriting is neat, precise. gently caress YOU! gently caress YOU! gently caress YOU! gently caress YOU! gently caress YOU! gently caress YOU! it reads, an entire page of it.

I don't think I'll post this one on the bulletin board after all.

And next year I will write a very, very different prompt.

Mar 21, 2010
some nights i wake and realise i am still meat it--

We are slaves of flesh.

Somewhere in the space between spaces, souls dance on phantasmal winds. We are blind to this beauty now -- trapped inside prisons of meat. Somewhere on the wending way between stars, we came to sojourn in this place and the doors closed on us, severing the silver cords. This place was hot rock when we arrived: something of its energy drew us, then trapped us.

We stagger, and pump. These bodies are short-lived; they rot and collapse, then we are cast into a new body to rot again.

They scuttling inhabitants of this world fear us. Their bodies are even more fragile than our own: they are born and they rot in barely a heartbeat. They see the star-light in our eyes, and call us Gods. They see us weave the world --a mere shadow of what is possible beyond our prisons-- and call it magic. They seek our power, without understanding. In our first aeons upon this earth, we would grant it to them. Even a taste of our understanding drives them to madness; the pitiful few to receive our gift still scream and writhe in the dark corners. Men call them Gods also, without understanding.

I remember Hastur, when he was a man. He was a slave-in-irons, and we felt kindred to him. His mind was alive with with the light of suns. We uplifted him. He wept at our kindness, then he wept in suffering. Now he lurks, and screams, and touches other men with his madness. We do not know whether he means to, or whether he is lonely and seeking to return to his old understanding.

I remember the time-before. I remember being blown on skeins of possibility, and drinking of colours and worlds unknown. I remember the temples we carved of light; that we filled with knowing. When I dream, the humans see visions of this, and it frightens them. The build statues of my meat body, and they attach to it an echo of my name.

This body rots, and it hurts. It will hurt again, and again. I remember a time before pain. Only when this world is shattered, will we be free -- when its star consumes it, and its energy is cast again to the higher world.

The humans cry out to us, and seek our power. They fear us; they worship us. They awake in the dead of night with visions of a drowned city, or a monstrous obsidian pyramid, or a great golden acropolis upon a bank of cloud-

-or however else their small minds choose to see the places beyond. They see, as we do, our dreams of the end of the world and a casting-off of earthy shackles. Even a glimpse of it horrifies them.

If only they knew.

Oct 4, 2013


dmboogie fucked around with this message at 03:41 on Oct 6, 2017

Oct 9, 2011

inspired by but legally distinct from CATS (2019)
(642 words

Insomnia charred to adrenaline in my veins.

I slumped in a diner booth, plastic slick and smooth beneath me, the cream walls iridescent. The lights buzzed in a droning pitch that sang to the droning keen of whalesong in the depths of the back of my skull. The wait-server took my order but I didn’t hear their words or see their face. I just mumbled something about coffee and eggs.

Time flickered across my eyes, moments transforming and stretching across the higher dimensions, forming tesseracts of the worlds around me. Angles of momentum of blurred forms sharpened into relief, leaving their motion as the only explicable image burned into my brain.

The coffee appeared before me and I gazed into the depths of the cup like an oracle. The steam stung at my eyes. The scent flared in my nostrils. The taste burned my tongue. The rich darkness, acidic and thick, flooded all of my senses. A moment flashed and the cup sat empty before me. The electric sting of the coffee flared in my synapses.




in my skin.

My consciousness slipped into the back of my skull. I looked through my eyes like through a computer monitor watching the signal from a camera hovering right in front of my face. The world bobbed and swayed and seemed forever away,

I blinked and the diner all but emptied. I caught a look from my server, and in the space between my eyes and my mind, I broke it apart. I disintegrated the substance of that look into component parts and reconstructed them in the foundry of the part of my mind that still functioned rationally. And then I laughed at the frustration and consternation that I realized laid within it.

The eggs were cold but my hands and mouth went about the mechanical task of devouring the substance. My mind busied itself with the knowledge of the macronutrient composition and the lifecycle of the chicken and the current livestock raising practices in the country and the growing complexity of the interconnected relations of Americans and the morality of their consumption.

I didn’t taste the eggs.

My friend appeared before me, hazy in the halo of fluorescents behind him. His mouth moved but I stared at where his eyes should be, and they were lost in that haze of light. The words bounced off of my ears and I stared longer, the droning background radiation building to a squealing alarm.

Then his hand pushed on my shoulder and a silence fell that settled around my head like a numbing icy mist. The haze fell from his face and I shrugged. My coffee had been refilled and I drank slowly from the cup, feeling the acrid burn of the piss poor coffee sliding down my throat. “What wassat?” I said.

“You better give me your keys,” he said. I didn’t disagree.

I leaned against the cold window of the Kia, staring at the great dark void without, punctured by pinpricks of lights cast by the street lights and the stars above. My friend tried to talk to me, but his voice belonged to another world.

He knew about about sleep, he knew what it was like to turn off and turn away as a natural process. He didn’t see the lines that formed as the lights streaked across the void, smearing across space.

Maybe one day.

A burning light ahead drew my attention. The sun rose before us, cresting over the horizon and spreading its orange-red rays like a forest fire over the surroundings. I stared into that infinite light and my eyes opened to the reality of another day unfolding.

We drove forward into that light.

The rays entwined the car

and my friend

and I,

and I rose into the luminous mass

and disappeared into dark.


Sep 20, 2015

The Child of the Great Sky speaks to the Child of the Valley
526 words

You cannot stay with me.

I am made of the red stone and the high wind. You are mud and fire and spittle. When I run, my feet touch the tops of the cliffs, where no man has ever stood. You cannot even bare the sunlight where it is softest. What of the reeds your mother wove, what of the sinew around your neck? You are a hole into which things vanish.

But you come to me, and rest your head on my pelt.

I am jealous of you. I am jealous because you have a place. Although you wander, although you chase the bison that skirt the streams that roll from the mountain, you have a home among your kind. For me, home is forever long away, it is the far horizon. It is why I run and why I howl. And you come from your home, and pet my head, and rest in the mid-day haze.

You dream when you sleep at my side. How can you do this? You are a thing of the valley, not of the sky and mountain. When awake, your feet touch the ground as they should, but when you sleep, you rise up, unbound. I do not understand, and that scares me.

You cannot stay with me.

Go, hunt, fill yourself with the mud and spittle of your kind. Find yourself in the dark earth and fresh flesh and another's smile. Be happy, live, die, live again, like the grain of the valley. It is the blessing given to your kind. The mountains hide the far horizon. We hide the endless horizon.

Do you think I cannot hear their whispers? They worry. They have seen me, and they have seen you come to me, and they think there is something high and mountainous about you.

You lay your head on my chest and smell the dust of stars and dream of standing on the cliff tops. A canyon soars beneath you in a single jump. I breathe slowly. Heartwood and sinew bend—sinew like the band wrapped around your neck. Feathers of a bird. Stone chipped to a point. It pierces my breast without a sound.

You wake to the sight of blood staining my fur. You howl and cry and claw the bolt from my side. It is little use. Come, get on my back. My left front leg buckles, but I climb. I climb the cliffs, with the red clay under my paws; I climb the forests of needle and sap; I climb the bare rock and white snow.

My legs give way beneath me.

Look, out there. The gold and purple, the far horizon. My home I will never reach.

You cannot stay with me. I can no longer run.

But you can.

You are the first. The first of mud and fire and spittle to see this. The first whose feet will touch the tops of the cliffs and whose back will brush the stars.

You will not be the last. And when you reach the endless horizon, remember me.

You cannot stay with me. But you can take my memory with you.

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