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Jan 31, 2015

Spuds of Sorrow - 997 words. Lytton prompt.

A tear rolled down her face like a tractor. “David,” she said tearfully, “I don’t want to be a farmer no more.”

A pallid dusk shone dully behind Asta where she stood in the barn door. Her broad-shouldered silhouette obscured the eldritch canopy of the Place. A sky without sun or moon, without clouds or stars. But David could still picture the innumerable neon patterns, which in mathematical eruptions constantly materialized on the canopy. Involving figures that grew and shrank, fell in cascades into themsleves and each other. A cacophony of geometry that inscribed the infinite celadon ether. The Place floated through this kaleidoscope. David and Asta’s fragment of land. And the crops they dutifully had to grow.

The argument only had one resolution. David focused all his attention on tightening a loose bolt on the disc harrow.

David and Asta had refused to work the soil once, early on. They wouldn’t be able to suffer through the Landlords’ displeasure again. He replaced the ratchet spanner with an oil dipstick.

They’d been given a second chance. So they had to keep working, keep planting. Asta wasn’t stupid. Yet she insisted to brood on the matter.

David flinched involuntarily as Asta placed a warm hand on his back. “Please, David.”

He measured the tractor engine oil levels in close-bitten silence until the canopy’s feverish runes were revealed.


Asta called them spuds of sorrow. Though they weren’t tubers of any kind.

The black seeds were fetched from an ordinary blue plastic barrel, its supply never dwindling. They were pre-cultivated in the greenhouse and grew into leafless plants. They shimmered like fat coal as they twisted in constant peristaltic spasms. When they reached knee-height they were strong enough to be planted in the dark soil of the Place. When they were strong enough to repel the pests; pale and jellyfish-like lice that pulsed through the air. They were big as potatoes, but never attempted to assault anything but the crops.

No rain fell from the Place’s canopy. David and Asta watered the crops with a milky mist that they drew from the well.

In this manner they cared for the plants until fist-sized fruits began to sprout. A pus-like glow emanated from within the oily shrouds.

Mature fruits simply sank into the ether. Become soul food. Nourishment for horrible deeds. Some souls seemed more receptive than others. Wanted the sorrow, David thought. Longed for it.

When David walked the furrows he could sometimes sense the unique potential of each fruit. This one; someone cutting their lover. And that; someone torturing a puppy.

Someone laying down next to a child. Asta cut off the fruit of that one with her shears and David hit her for it.


Every season the yield increased. The principles were almost the same as before the Place and David used to be a good farmer. Still was. He felt this with a vocational objectiveness. It gave him the courage to experiment.

David culled weak individuals in the greenhouse as in the field, ensuring that promosing plants received more space and less competition. He had fewer plants, but the fruits were much richer. He’d never met the Landlords or spoken to them, but he could feel that they were pleased. Surprised at his skill.

David’s enthusiasm generated arguments. But a farmer was all he’d ever been. He couldn’t stop. Didn’t want to. And that was that.

It wasn’t so bad. The Place was even beautiful. The silence and the canopy’s strange shapes had become appealing to him, granted him a calm he’d never had before. Sometimes they sat together on the porch, admiring what had to suffice as a sunset. He became a better man in the Place. Less liable to lash out in anger. It should’ve been enough to make Asta happy.

He parsed Asta’s silence as acceptance. She was adapting. He didn’t notice that she was becoming weaker. Paler and more tired each passing day. Had trouble breathing.

He was working.


Tears mixed with snot as David held Asta in his arms out on the field. The plants crowded around them. Their dark fruits pulsed eagerly as Asta died. David wondered if her soul woult find its way out. He hoped so.

He was going to burn her body. Didn’t want to give her to the soil.


David kept on. Simply life on a farm. Wasn’t any use whining about it, you just had to keep going. The crops wouldn’t take care of themselves. The hard work and the beauty of the Place helped.

Then David began to wake up in the middle of the night. The sheets twisted into ropes from cold-sweated worry. The crops were dying. And he didn’t understand why. He watered with the mist as the always had. And the lice couldn’t penetrate the thick skin of the maturing plants.

The canopy didn’t suggest that the Landlords knew. Perhaps there was still time. David tried to estimate the loss. He walked in the furrows and realized that the entire generation of fruits had been deformed. Their colour was a sickly grey. Now and then they’d convulse pathetically.

Someone cutting the line. Someone being stingy with the coffee biscuits. Someone telling a mean-spirited joke. David shook his head. Nutrition-poor.

He turned one of the extinguished pods in his stained hands. It gave him an impression: Asta leaning over the well. Opening an artery on a scarred arm with her shears, emptying a portion of her life and a handful of good memories into the source. Poisoning it.

How long had it been going on?


David sat on the porch as the few pitiful remainders sank into the ether. On the rocking chair next to his he’d placed the Asta fruit. He wondered when the Landlords would discover the inadequate harvest.

He got his answer as the geometry began to convulse and change. He knew that the new configuration meant pain and ruin.


Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

The Silence of the Lawns
976 words

Her wit was sharp like a lawnmower blade—​it could cut you down to size (which she could adjust, like a lawnmower). Today she had it adjusted as low as it goes and set to mulch.

"So do you just look out the window at the lawn while you jerk off," she asked, "or sneak down and do it on the grass?"

"I just like keeping the yard nice," I said, raking the cut grass into a neat pile. "Dad always kept it up, but now that he's sick..."

Janet's face looked pained, like I'd stepped on her foot with an aerator shoe. Let her feel guilty over that, I thought, even if it's bullshit. Dad had only mowed every other week, and he made me take over as soon as I was old enough. When he got sick I just let it go to seed for a long time.

"Well, anyway, some of us are going to the late movie tonight," Janet said. "It's the new Freddy Krueger movie. You can come if you want."

"I already saw that one. Thanks, though." I didn't really want her pity-invitation, and I had plans for tonight.

"Oh. Ok. Have fun with your grass," she said, and walked away.

I finished gathering the trimmings and dumped them in the compost pile, then went back around to the front. I lay on the grass and listened.


I slipped into the back lot of Martinez Hardware around 11 that night. They kept the fertilizer in a shed, but the door just had a cheap padlock on it, the kind you can learn to pick online in a couple minutes. I'd been stealing a couple bags a week for months now and as far as I could tell, nobody had noticed.

I grabbed two bags of the good fertilizer, one under each arm and got out. Main Street looked quiet, with only the movie theater and Polomoni's bar still open that late. It didn't take long to carry the bag home, although I had to drop it and walk away a few times when I saw headlights coming. I slid the bag under the workbench in the garage, then shoved a few things in front of it. When I came back out there was a dark figure standing in the driveway, watching me.

"Christ!" I gasped. I stumbled backwards, reaching for the switch to turn on the garage floodlights.

It was Janet. She raised her hand against the light. "Turn those off!" she hissed. I did.

We both stood still as our eyes re-adjusted. "I saw you stealing from the hardware store. What was it?" she asked.

"I thought you were at the movie," I said. Fear gnawed me like a chafer grub on a root.

"It was dumb, so I left early. I saw you sneaking out with that bag. I was going to call the cops but I recognized your stupid t-shirt. So what did you take?"

"Fertilizer," I said. "Just some fertilizer."

"Fertilizer? Are you making bombs, psycho? No," she paused for a second. "It's for your grass, isn't it? That stupid grass you spend all your time on."

"Yes," I said quietly.

"I just don't get it," she said, "Why do you spend so much time taking care of the lawn?"

"You sound like my mom," I said. "I want you to try something. You might think I'm crazy. Maybe I am. Just try it, though."

I gestured for her to follow me. She came hesitantly around to the front of the house, onto the lawn. "Lay down and just listen," I said, and laid down on my back.

"Is this some stupid pickup--"

"Just do it."

She finally laid down too. The silence of the night was only broken by a few distant frogs and crickets. After a minute, the grass started to whisper.

"What the hell is that?" Janet asked, sitting up suddenly.

"Just lay back and listen," I said. I was relieved she had heard it--I thought I might just be going crazy.

We lay there and listened to the grass murmuring to itself contentedly, happy to be well-kept and well-fed and well-watered. Eventually I sat up again.

"It's only my grass," I said. "I've gone around at night and tried listening at other houses, but only this one does it."

She didn't say anything. She laid back down for a few moments to hear it again, then sat back up.

"It's late. You should get home, but if you come over tomorrow morning I'll show you something else."

"Maybe," she said.

Janet stood up, brushed herself off, and left. I smiled when I saw how gently she stepped on the grass now.


Janet did come over the next morning. I thought she might have written it all off as some sort of weird dream. We didn't say much; I just led her down the street and into the woods past the edge of town. When we came to the little clearing, I stopped.

"Here," I said, sitting on the little patch of transplanted grass. "Listen here. You don't even need to lay down." She sat next to me.

I had picked the spot because a little creek ran through it, figuring I could use it to water the grass until it got established. It took a minute to tune out the sound of the water, but before long I started to hear it, and I could tell by Janet's face that she heard it too.

The voice of the grass was there, a little wilder than it had sounded at home but obviously the same. There were other voices though. Sweet humming and trilling from the wildflowers. Energetic chattering whispers from the blackberry brambles on one side. Deep and slow rolling voices from the pines and birch trees. The woods spoke, and we listened.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Thranguy Sea Monsters
This is eerily similar to an early story by forums poster ‘sitting here’, which a dreaming lady is accosted by a talking animal in a natty coat and top hat and they have adventures on a boat fighting enormous dream monsters, but she advises that she does not intend to fight you for your plagiaristic antics this time so I’mma just take it on its own merits, which are reasonably significant - you do more than her, for instance, in tying the dreams to relevant reality, and your imagery is perhaps a little stronger. I like your duck guy, he’s cool, and their climactic fight is adequately conveyed, but it does end on a slightly cheesy ‘it was all a dream… bbbut was it?!’ in the midst of pointing to a hilariously literal actual dream top hat. All things considered it’s solid mid range.

Fuschia Tude You can taste it

I dug this a lot and would have liked to see it HM. There’s both a splendid assured richness to the descriptions of the island and its strange architecture, and a restraint in how you dripfeed the tale of what happened to these doomed blokes. I think there’s a nice subtlety to how you hint at the beast as perhaps a representation of their guilt but correctly don’t choose to make it explicit. Put with a slick, brutal, finisher this is strong work.

Chairchucker Back from the officially dead

There is a reasonably classic little bit you’re doing here like that scene in Brazil which was an excellent movie, but does fall prey to your occasional weakness of pointing the reader in the chest and repeating the joke with ever more exaggerate winks to make sure they got it. Still, a good slab of midrange chuckering until you decide to do a dumb fourth wall breaking last line, tsk tsk, deserved DM.

Onsetonsider Ape

The words in this are really very well put together, though you could afford to give it a snip with the thinning scissors in a couple of places: e.g. ‘huge mistake’, ‘incredibly poor decision’. That said, the premise is a little weak, for all you squeeze a tolerable story out of it. You’re asking us to accept the emotional weight of the toy ape, but without some reason why or connection to actual things that happened to your protag it rings hollow, you’re telling rather than showing. It’s not a fatal flaw because your line work is strong and I love your last line, but this sits in the midrange because of that.

M Propagandalf The Misanthrope of Bhopal

You’re rocking some kind of weird mishmash victorian steampunk nonsense here with its nightvision pince nez and two way radios that shouldn’t work as well as it does, but you present it with enough consequence that its brisk pacing moves us along towards the inevitable denouement. I do think you should look up the word ‘convalescence’ though, I’m p sure it doesn’t just mean ‘hang out’. The end is unfortunately weak, always avoid the temptation to end a story with a sequel hook - make them work in their own right, I’m glad these two characters are gonna have loads more badass adventures but I don’t get to read them so my interest is necessarily limited.

Beezus insidious

If you’re starting a story this short in media res i think it’s good to give us a mental image asap. E.g., if your story started in the v noir second para where the partner’s been shot by someone (is that ever even established?), would we actually miss anything? (the answer is no). Also, I’m not sure all the bits of this make that much sense - she’s not firing the gun because she can’t waste the bullets for some reason then she’s firing it through a window then she’s stopping for breath while musing that she can’t stop for any reason, then there’s a baddie who’s been eaten by some random snake fella bc who the hell knows and she’s being pursued by nameless foes then she’s not being pursued, I don’t know, it’s just sort of a mishmash. Words are middling rather than terrible but I must advise you, friend Beezus, that ‘it’s’ is only ever short for ‘it is’.

Kaishai the sun in chains

Some good imagery and your usual competent writing words in this but it didn’t do too much for me. I like your extremely strange culture of underground lizard guys and gals, but the mechanism of consuming the sun and releasing it one glance at a time feels a bit contrived? Neat, and potentially very flavoursome, but I’m not sure you do enough with it to warrant the scope of the idea. Plus, ending a story with ‘and then the real adventures started!’ is never a way to get a judgesmile.

Sep 30, 2006

stayin c o o l
See archive.

SlipUp fucked around with this message at 20:56 on Dec 30, 2019

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

The Tale of Horick the Elf
991 words

Read it in the archive.

Staggy fucked around with this message at 13:23 on Dec 30, 2019

Jun 28, 2018

You weren't born to just pay bills and die.

You must suffer.

A lot.

"'Crime,” declared the police captain, “'is everywhere, crime, crime!'"

Whenever the Captain talked about crime, she had to repeat the word thrice. The words were a familiar ‘caw’, like the ravens she resembled with her black shawl draped over her shoulders and dark eyes. Ignored in the corner of the room, she would resettle on her perch after a few raucous shouts and go back to staring out the window.

Today the rain pelted the windowpanes, the whole common room subdued by the grey light filtering in. The fluorescents hummed over our heads, one in the middle occasionally buzzing out of frequency with the rest of the accompaniment. I carefully aligned the checkers along the bicolor board in front of me, their familiar ‘clack’ distracting me from the unsynchronized background noise.

At the entry of the ward, a short bustle of activity drew my focus. Cowed by the white coats flanking him, the huge man hunched over a shortened stride and the jerking motion reminded me of a boar’s gait. He held in his hands a single pillow, so yellow and threadbare that it could no longer serve its intended purpose. The Boar clutched it close to his chest, as if squeezing comfort from what few feathers still remained. He sank onto the couch between the Captain and myself, ignoring my curious regard and the Captain’s intense stare.

I turned back to my checkers.

The light over our heads guttered a few times with a weak pop before the bulb went out. For a moment, the silence previously filled by the dysfunctional ballast’s hum sucked me in. I paused in setting down a checker, my hand shaking as my brain caught up with the new consistency of the room. I realized the Boar was watching me closely. I swallowed thick saliva and set down the checker. My shaking hand knocked it askew to the right of center. I adjusted the checker until it set perfectly centered in the white square. My exhale was slow and relieved, releasing the frustration of the previous moment in a grateful second of clarity. When I set down the next checker, my hand steadied enough to place it dead center on the first try.

“Are you playing checkers?”

I looked up. The Boar’s shadow loomed over my board, the pillow still clutched to his chest. His eyes were dark brown, set back in broad features and a strong jawline. I noticed his tusks were yellow as he tried to smile at me. I didn’t feel like smiling. I turned back to the board, and set down another checker. The table shifted as the Boar sat down across from me. The checkers shifted too, and all six twitched just a bit off center. I froze, staring down at my ruined hard work and feeling my chest constrict. I glanced up at the Boar and he noticed my glance, his smile broadening as his grip softened on his pillow.

“No thank you.” I managed to murmur weakly. I started to move the checkers back into their squares, but my hands were shaking again. It took twice as long to center one.

“What was that?” The Boar leaned in to hear me better. I could only hear the sound of my pulse in my ears. The table canted a bit more under his weight. The three checkers I had managed to place nudged just out of alignment.

“Please. Stop.” My voice strangled out as a whimper, but he was close enough I could smell old sweat on him. I know he could hear me, because his smile faltered, the tusks of his teeth disappearing. He grasped his pillow closer and leaned back, but he didn’t leave the table. Watching me silently, he dropped his eyes from my features to my hands as they moved to center the first checker in its square once more. I shrunk in on myself, shoulders curving around my work while my body hunched to guard it as a dog with an old bone.

No matter how I tried to center it though, I was shaking too much. I couldn’t get the smell of him out of my nose, the weight of his attention pinning me to my chair like tiny needles through a butterfly’s wings. I struggled through the shakes with breath tight and quick, focusing on making minute adjustments until I could finally lean back and regard my work with a deep sigh of satisfaction.

A massive hand appeared on the periphery of my vision, and I looked up to see the checker the Boar held out for me. His expression was apologetic, heavy brow knit in quiet concern, his other hand wrapped around the pillow he clutched to his chest like a shield. He bobbed the proffered checker in the air insistently, waiting until I reached out and carefully plucked it from his meaty grip by the very edges, to avoid touching him. When I set down this checker, my hands had steadied enough to center it within a few minute movements. Another appeared in front of my nose, and this one I took without looking up. The lights hummed quietly in the background as the familiar ‘clack’ of the checkers hitting the board fell into their usual rhythm.

The new checkers appeared underneath my nose and the Boar held them carefully pinched so I could pluck them without touching him. When I leaned back and regarded all 64 circles in their squares, I risked a glance up at the Boar. He was also staring at the board and smiling, the pillow fallen loose in his lap. I felt my lips quirk upwards, and bumped the table with my knee making him jump in surprise as the checkers bounced out of place and fell askew. He looked up at me with concern, but caught my eye and the smile. We both started laughing quietly as he reached to collect the checkers once more and hold one out to me.

Jul 4, 2010

I find dead men rout
more easily.
The Relic
999 words

General Clap did not understand the way of the ancient warrior. However, the Shadow Wolves did. And so the wolves followed the warrior, and the general followed the wolves, and with my lantern and my pack of food and bandages and coin, I followed the general.

Clap was a squat man with skin like crumpled paper, his body and mind scarred equally by glories long past. I don't remember when he first took it upon himself to fight the warrior, but as with all his passions, it was immediately and inescapably all-consuming.

"Look at this!" he would say, with every abandoned town we passed through. "More young lives wasted! And does anyone do anything? Not a soul!"

There were always bodies. Every time, some blacksmith or huntsman or idiot son trying to impress his parents would have stayed to face the warrior. We would find them strewn about the streets, limbs severed, tooth marks deep in any exposed skin.

"Carrion feeders," Clap would say as he scoured the area for any remaining wolves, and as I built pyres for as much of the dead as I could find. He never found any. I always did. "Vermin. But useful."

In this, he was right. The shadow wolves never struck first. But, it seemed, they had some preternatural sense of the warrior's journey. They would appear at night, flickering around the edges of firelight. They would howl, or gnash their teeth, or terrify the townsfolk into fleeing. But they never attacked. Not first.

Unerringly, days later, the warrior would pass through, and in her wake the wolves would feed. And so we followed them, hoping that eventually we might hear of their arrival early enough, and thus catch her.

"Grandfather, I have a question," I said one night, as we ate dinner by pyre light. In the early days I had been sickened by how the scent of burning flesh would make my mouth water. That had long since passed. "Why do --"

"What did I tell you, son?" Clap interrupted me. He was strict, but not unkind.

"Sorry, General," I said. "Why do you think you can kill the ancient warrior, when no one else can?"

He laughed, pleased with the question. "Well, son," he said, "the ancient warrior is a simple creature of base instinct. Whereas I," he tapped his temple, "am a creature of strategy."

He had forgotten that I had asked him the same question the week before, and the week before that. It always cheered him.

In truth, I hoped he would never catch her.


He did.

We caught up with the shadow wolves one day in winter, where a lone cottage sat precariously on a sloping riverbank. A witch lived here, the locals said. She was already gone, which pleased me. She had been smart enough to heed the wolves.

The sun was low, and the shadows long. As we approached, the wolves emerged to meet us, stalking back and forth where light met shade. We stopped beyond their reach, Clap with his sword drawn, and me with my lantern held just so, to ensure we cast no shadow strong enough for them to live in.

"Now, then," General Clap said, "fall in, son. We've work to do."

At his direction, I dug pits around the grounds. I felled trees and sharpened stakes for the traps, and covered them with branches and leaves. In the cottage I found a hoe, and with it I tilled the earth and scattered the detritus about until neither of us could tell by sight where our traps were.

"Strategy," Clap said, satisfied. "You see?"

We ate our dinner in the centre of this battleground by the light of my lantern. The wolves circled, waiting. On a whim, I tossed them a hunk of salt beef. They fought over it for a while.

That night, the ancient warrior walked into our light, and General Clap stood to face her.

She towered over him. Her skin was terracotta and her armour mostly rust, and her stone sword was longer than Clap was tall. She moved with singular, thoughtless purpose, I saw now. She had no face, but in the lanternlight I saw a hint of colour, as though one might once have been painted there.

Clap drew his sabre and waited for her by our first trap.

The warrior planted her foot on the flimsy tangle of branches covering the pit.

The branches held.

Surprised, Clap stepped in and swung at her.

His sabre shattered against her skin.

She raised her sword.

I was close enough to see Clap's confidence break. He turned and scrambled, and her sword cut the air behind him. He ducked past another trap, and she walked across that one as well.

"Hellfire!" he snarled. "Damnation!"

The wolves were agitated, angry. Their barking was a chorus.

The warrior swung again. Blood sprayed from Clap's leg, and he stumbled. She drew her arm back.

Frantic, I cast about for something to throw, and my fingers closed around my lantern. It shattered against her head in a flash of fire, and then the darkness rushed in, and the wolves with it.

They swarmed over us, fangs and claws sunk into our arms and legs. They dragged us past our pits, away from Clap's battleground. One leaped at the warrior, and she cut it in two. It fell to dust with a yelp. Another followed. She killed that one too.

We were on the ground, now, and she was walking past us. She wasn't looking at us. She had some other purpose in mind. The wolves scattered and faded away into the night.

I sat there, dazed. We were alive, Clap and I. Bloodied, but alive.

"Get back here!" Clap bellowed after her, trying to stand. "Coward! Fiend! You --"

I laid my hand on his shoulder, and he quietened. We should have heeded the wolves' warning, I realised now. We should have understood.

"Grandfather," I said, "it's time to go home."

QM Haversham
Nov 12, 2018

Postmodern Furniture Enjoyment Society: Where slow is the revolution and apathy is the fuel.
A Picnic with Daedalus
956 Words

"For centuries, man had watched the clouds; now, they were watching him," said Commodore Nest.

The dignitaries on board stared in silence. A few of the journalists took the chance to scribble notes as the pause lingered. Commodore Nest continued. Prime Minister Frent checked his pocket watch for the seventh time.

“Since the ill-fated sortie of Icarus and his father, the want of man to ascend to the heavens has only been a dream. Gratuitous dreams of artists, the scholars, and the like finally made real by the gumption and grit of our Kingdom’s engineering corps!”

The crowd applauded and rose to their feet as the Commodore stepped away from the lectern to shake hands with one of the men sitting behind him on the dais. Prime Minister Frent sees a chance.

“And the Kingdom of Nuvem now awards Captain Stoat and his team for their hard work and amazing achievement with the Star of the West and a lifetime of gratitude from the Highness and his people; the buffet is outside on deck.” Frent causally tossed the medal to Stoat just as Nest was about to return to his speech.


The decision to serve everyone outside was meant to impress. Eating on deck instead of inside the airship’s galley was a deliberate choice. “A grand picnic in the sky,” as one of the journalist from Nuvem’s official newspaper, Crown and Courage, said just before popping a grape into his mouth. Heskins considered reporting on the flock of gulls that have been following the airship since take off. Their occasional dives to snatch a biscuit off the table was amusing to him. He even noticed the more republican and daring gulls swooping at the silver plates held by the nobles. Not to mention the gusts of wind causing a tablecloth to billow, threatening to take plates of finger sandwiches over the side along with a unanchored servant.

But its not every day you get to eat this well. And by government invitation. Heskins helped himself to a cup of punch from the crystal bowl centered in the buffet table. He smiled noting there was nothing else floating in the bowl besides slices of grapefruit and bobbing blueberries.

“A grand picnic indeed,” Heskins said.

With cup in hand, Heskins made his way over to a crowd gathered around Captain Stoat, the man responsible. Stoat is a striking looking man with blue eyes in his early thirties. His dress uniform accentuating a broad chest and long legs. His cap was tucked under his arm, showing off a well-groomed shock of dark hair. He had a proud smile and a chest puffed out more than usual to show off his new medal. A daughter of one of the nobles teased that he was too old not to be married. A half hearted reprimand from her mother was met with polite laughs. With a loud slurp and AHH Heskins step forward.

“Captain Stoat; Enis Heskins of the People’s Bee, what was the most challenging aspect of building the airship?”

Stoat took his cap from under his arm and fitted back on. He placed his left hand on the hilt of his saber. “Taking full advantage of the lift,” he said.

“Lift?” Heskins asked.

There was small bit of laughter just as Stoat continued for Heskins’ sake and his audience.

“It was one thing to design a large hydrogen bladder capable of lifting objects off the ground. Even with proper mooring, a conventional ship just wouldn’t budge. My team had to rethink the whole concept of what a ‘ship’ could be. One sturdy but light enough to take a crew of men and necessary equipment into the sky itself.”

Stoat stomped on the wooden deck. “White cherrywood imported from Veado. It's light, flexible, and strong. It made the perfect material to build the airship. That was the key,” Stoat smiled and said.

Veado didn’t have much but white cherrywood Heskins thought to himself.

“And with the successful launch of the Daedalus – Commodore Nest picked the name, by the way – we are sure to need more,” Stoat said. Laughter again this time from the handful of officers present.

“Why not leave the cannons off then?” Heskins took a sip of his punch.

Stoat frowned. He looked at Heskins and the bright red punch stains at the corner of his mouth. It made for a unflattering mustache. There was a brief moment of silence before he spoke again.

“Those are mere three pound guns. Hardly even worth mentioning” Stoat said. “And this is a military venture, Mr. Heskins. Would you rather we stock the airship with free copies of the People’s Bee and litter the capital with reports on sheep futures from the air?” Again there was laughter.

Prime Minister Frent had made his way over next to Heskins the moment he heard Veado mentioned. Frent was quick to interject again.

“Mr. Heskins,” Frent said, “and other members of the free enterprise media must remember Nuvem has to meet the challenges of a modern world.”

Frent continued.

“With democratic rabble rousers in the colonies and our rivals rushing to finish their own airships, the King has prioritized protection. Defense, Mr. Heskins; that is why those cannons are on this ship.”

“And will the merchant guilds and universities have access to airships?” Heskins asked, “or will it be the exclusive domain of the military?”

“Save these questions for the press conference after we land. Not every journalist was fortunate to be invited on the maiden voyage of the Daedalus. Have some more punch, Mr. Heskins,” Frent said and smiled

There was more laughter at Heskins’ sake when a loud gulp came from Captain Stoat. He could hardly speak with a dry throat.


Apr 14, 2009
You Can Lead a Bird to Water...
800 words

"It looks like this continent is out of water," I said in Antarctica, as a rookery of penguins waddled thirstily by.

My research partner Desdemona didn't really go for dry humor. She gave me the silent treatment, then asked, "Any of them eating the snow?"

"Not so far." The thirsty waddlers were Huron's penguins. Native to Antarctica and in danger of going extinct. Huron's got all their water from the fish they ate. But said fish migrated away in the winter, leaving the poor penguins quite parched.

Smart penguins ate snow to get water. Huron's were not smart.

"Can I come in yet? It's cold out here." I snuggled into my observation tent. The cold was seeping through my thermal gear.

Another long pause. "Yeah, come on back. I've an idea."


Our base of operations wasn't much larger than my apartment back home. Living quarters, kitchen, and the hub room, which held all our equipment.

That's where I sat to thaw out. Desi had gotten some black tarps out of storage and was ripping them up with a small knife.

"Have you ever seen Airplane?" I asked. Desi rarely told me her plans, hoping instead that I'd ask. It was a sort of game for us to ignore what the other was doing. Desi didn't bite. "There's a joke about a guy having a drinking problem."

Desi stood up and gauged her work then looked at me. "I hated Airplane."

I scoffed and opened my laptop. I had just finished updating my field notes when Desi came back, kitted out in her cold gear. She held up the tarps and said, "Put this on me."

"Making a fashion statement?" I draped the tarps over her. She cinched them to her waist. "Ah. Now you just need a beak."

The black tarps and her white outerwear gave the appearance of a Huron's. She held an orange highlighter up to her nose. "Pretty good for a hackjob, huh?"

"Are you going out right now? I have to film this." She nodded so I shuffled back into my cold gear.


After windproofing Desi’s penguin suit we set out towards the rookery. I got some good footage of Desi practicing her penguin waddle. "Try to look thirstier," I said, easing into my role as director. "I don't want you to just fool the penguins. I want you to fool me." Desi waddled toward me. "Perfect," I said. She shouted and pecked at me with her highlighter. I hit the ground, laughing like a kid.

We got to the rookery when the sun had begun to set. I popped up my tent and set up the camera. Desi made her way into the mass of penguins. The Huron's welcomed her like a wayward child.

She bent forward to get some snow, but her knees slipped out from under her. The penguins flapped their wings in a panic. I had to put a gloved fist in my mouth to keep from exploding with laughter.

Desi got back up, made a better job of it the second time. The penguins watched her curiously. She did it again. Still the Huron’s just watched. Eventually Desi waddled out of the fold and to my tent.

“You still looked thirsty on the way back,” I chided. “I don’t think they’ll get it.”

“You know what? I bet they will. If they do I take lead author when we publish.” Desi spun around and started back to the base. “And I edit me falling out of the video,” she added over her shoulder.

“No! You can’t do that.” But she was out of earshot. I packed up my stuff and hurried after her.

“Desi, that video is going to get more views than our article. You have to let me put it out there.”

“Nuh uh. If they don’t start eating the snow by the end of our stay, then you can upload it.” She grinned. “My first lead author. I’m excited, Earl!”

I stared. “I’m going to bed. I’m hitting the tent bright and early tomorrow.”

I was fidgeting in the tent when I saw it happen. A youngish Huron’s slid down a hill with its dumb beak open and scooped up some snow. It got to the bottom of the hill and stopped, looked down and started peeping.

“Oh you’ve gotta be kidding me,” I said. The penguin was now scooting around on its belly hoovering up snow.


The penguin cajoled its friends into trying. Pretty soon the whole rookery were on their tummies. “Desi, get out here.”

Before she could gloat, I said, “This doesn’t count. It can’t. That penguin didn’t learn from you, it was pure accident.”

“A bet’s a bet, Earl! Aw, they look so cute.” She punched my shoulder. “Our beautiful dumb bird babies.”S

Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving And something has got to give

Crits for Week 332, Steering the Crap

Overall thoughts: a pretty good week overall, hence no loser, and I felt like most people were getting into the spirit of this writing-exercise prompt. My big recurring problem in judging was the temptation to treat stories as puzzle boxes -- "okay, what happened here?" -- which was easier at some times than others. This may just be me, though.


For a second Thunderdome entry, I think this is a nicely polished and generally well-done piece. My major concern about it is that it feels like every sentence is trying to be beautiful and poetic, which creates a sort of overwrought feeling; most of the images and phrases are good in a vacuum, but excessive use of elaborate metaphorical prose can dull the overall effect. I think this would have been a better piece with a bit more moderation, using more mundane imagery to let the important images shine. Still, it's a solid piece and I hope to see you write more for the Dome.

Yoruichi, "The Teetering City"

This prompt was largely about tone, and I think this story really nails it. There are a lot of well-chosen details here to build the sense of inevitable disaster on the way and to emphasize how unprepared the city and the characters we see are for it -- the rat-compromised emergency food (which can't be prepared without a gas cooker anyway), the questionable engineering, and the blithe certainty in routine all paint a picture of people who are about to be ruined, sooner rather than later. This really was the standout of the week.

Staggy, "Garage"

Yoru's was a standout, but this story really wasn't far behind. It also does an excellent job on tone and using specific details to good effect, this time evoking the comforts of home and familiarity. This sort of thing can get maudlin in a hurry, but there's a good balance of tone here, with things like the recumbent bike and filming scene suggesting the bittersweet edge of growing up and understanding your parents' frailties. I think my one issue here is that the proofreading slips a bit; there's at least one "it's/its" error, so make sure to be careful with that.

Yoruichi, "The Alchemist"

Another workshop story! This one is also good, but I think it pales against Staggy's a bit because we don't have quite as much successful evocation of character. The bit with the armchair and the Internet browser are good in that regard, but a lot of the other details here aren't quite specific enough to give a full idea of who the user of this workshop is. I think more distinct projects, maybe with one as a centerpiece might have helped? This isn't bad, though, and I think it's still a pretty nice answer to the prompt.

Sitting Here, "In Lieu Of (Again)"

I enjoyed this one, but I feel like it was ultimately a little sketchy about the event at play. I can surmise that this is the aftermath of a boys' sleepover, but at first, my assumption was that something had gone wrong/the sleepover guests had wandered off, but now I'm wondering if this is just a sleepover running long as a procrastination technique. This feels like it needs just a little more to really come into focus, although I love the phrasing: "the absence of tire sounds. The persistence of Mario sounds" is a particular favorite.

Solitair, "The Headmaster's Office"

This one left me a little cold. I feel like it's kind of too busy; while, obviously, this week focused a lot on details, and I can see you're trying to evoke a busy and powerful person with a lot of angles, there's just an inundation of "here are his notes on X, and here are his notes on Y, and here's his dossier on Z" that feels cluttered, like you're trying to hard to exposition about how the Headmaster (I assume) is a Powerful Man With Irons In The Fire. This could use some judicious editing to cut down to, maybe, a single theme or takeaway, and only the details that really fit that, instead of trying to work all the facets of a complicated person into one passage.

Chili, "Gambit"

This is kind of cute and kind of confusing. It strays a bit from the prompt, although I assume the intent is to show off Gambit's escape as the central off-camera event, but I feel like it does a better job evoking Gambit than her eventual escape. Not gonna lie: I am straight-up not sure what she did, and I'm not sure if the story would reveal it to me. Maybe I just don't know much about parrots? This just feels a bit like a puzzle box where I'm not sure there's a solution.

apophenium, "One Entrance, One Exit"

I low-key liked this one. It has kind of an interactive-fiction/adventure-game feeling to me, with a thoroughly dismantled claustrophobia-inducing space (I like the stomach-ache simile in particular) being thoroughly explored. The ending is a bit of a letdown, though; I think the idea is that it's supposed to make us question whether this room is a literal or just a psychological prison, but I'm not sure it quite lands? This is another one that's kind of puzzle-box-y for me, but I still enjoyed it reasonably well.

Thranguy, "The View from Hades"

This is almost certainly more a matter of my taste than the story's quality, but this one really didn't click with me. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for more of this sort of thing after Week 331, but I think this sort of cosmic-scale destruction SF is just hard for me to focus on without some kind of anchoring human element, and this all feels very dry and unpleasantly nihilistic. I don't quite know whether I don't get it or I just didn't like it.

Chairchucker, "In Absentia - In Morte"

This got DQed for not understanding the prompt, but I can see what you were doing here: trying to describe a character, as the title says, in absentia. The bigger problem with this piece is that it doesn't really add up to much besides a rather broad swashbuckling pastiche with bawdy jokes. It's well enough done for that -- probably a nice solid 0.9 Chairchuckers, very Chairchuckery -- but if you're going to do a story where people just tell us about a character, the character they're describing needs to be interesting, and this guy isn't.

Kaishai, "Aftermath"

Short, succinct, and sweet. I think this may have been a little too short to get much reaction during the judging period, but rereading it now, I like it, and I think the ending is good: contrasting the clean, inhuman conditions of artificial reproduction with human needs coming back to the fore once the child is born. This might be a little slight, but I enjoyed it.

ThirdEmperor, "Picture, If You Will"

"Picture a city a few minutes after storm" -- oof, proofreading problem in the first clause, not a great start. This gets better as it goes, though, although I'd offer the same caution I gave to LITERALLY A BIRD above: heavy ornamented language can get a little wearisome when it's not broken up by simpler stuff on occasion. Still, I think this works well at setting a sort of grim Victorian mood and establishing the event and its aftermath in an interesting way.

BeefSupreme, "Archival"

Another piece on a Dadspace, and this one is pretty solid too. I think I agree with Kaishai's crit that the narrator is doing more work here than the spaces described, so it's sort of an uneasy fit for the prompt, although I like the voice okay and its notes of exasperation. I realize the point of the story is the inability to totally understand your parents as people and the difficulty in sorting out what they leave behind, but even so, I still think the dad is a little too vague in focus for this week.

M. Propagandalf, "Becoming"

This one is skirting around the prompt a little, since we've basically got a narrative with its event cut out. I like the metaphor of the marred statue, unable to heal as long as whatever's going on here is going on, but it's still not entirely sure what actually is happening. I guess the idea is that Trayjav is offering ritual sacrifice to some monster, so the statue represents its refusal to fight back? But then we have a bit about "immortal, but a hero no longer," implying the sacrifice is to the corrupted hero, and this all starts to feel like it isn't quite gluing together. Maybe there are chunks of a story here, but I don't feel like this execution suits them well, and probably this prompt isn't the best fit for them.

sebmojo, "23"

The last of the stories for this week is, perhaps fittingly, the last of the puzzle-box stories, where I felt like I was spending more time figuring out what happened here than absorbing the atmosphere. Not to echo Kaishai again, but there's a little too much going on and it ends up slightly confusing. The descriptions of the spaces are good, but... okay, so we've got a car crash, probably some LSD, an interrupted tea session, but what does this add up to? I'm also not sure the precise descriptions of "a fifteen degree angle" and the like help; they certainly create more of the puzzle-boxy feeling, at least for me. Interesting, good sensory details, but slightly frustrating.

Jul 30, 2005

Thirty Million Credits.
998 Words

Braille haiku on the Gravestone served to excite some while sighted visitors needed only touch the smoothly polished shapes.

Of course, Aetertech didn’t call it that. Their official name was Norn, but the populace had quickly discarded the obscure reference to ancient myth in favor of the Gravestone. Every blind person who ran their fingers along it got a new haiku, and every sighted person had to choose between the three shapes crowing the nanomarble slab jutting from the floor: a manticore, a gorgon, and an oni. They would then be treated to a cryptic hologram only they could see. Rumor was, it was all keyed to the RFID tag in each person’s universal identification chip, but AeterTech had kept information tight.

They marketed it as a device to unlock your future. Most people treated it as a fancy fortune-telling device. A little more expensive than a fortune cookie, but infinitely more exotic. The only thing known for certain was that each person was only allowed one pass through the chamber. Retinal, RFID, and fingerprint scans, along with AeterSec, enforced this rule. Attempting a second pass could get you a few years mining asteroids for Aetertech, if you were lucky.

Kellen Wahyq was wondering which asteroid he’d end up on as he approached the entrance. AeterSec officers flanked the door, covered head to toe in the plasteel armor usually reserved for full-scale riot duty. He knew there were four more inside. They watched the people passing through the scanner array with a professional air of boredom. That did little to ease Kellen’s nervousness, but he could still feel his palms slick with sweat. He was next in line. He activated the spoofing suite he’d spent the last of his money on. “Money back if not satisfied!” the skimmer had promised, and Kellen had laughed. If he wasn’t satisfied, a guarantee would be the least of his problems. His time came, and he stepped through.

A single beep, and a green light. His knees went weak, and his vision blurred at the edges. It had worked! He imagined checking his account and finding the thirty million credits Gashrah Corp had promised him. Enough to-

“Proceed, sir,” the polite but firm voice of the officer brought him back. Her bored posture had disappeared.

“Of course,” Kellen said, ducking his head and moving forward. “Sorry. Been saving up for this. First time!” He finished lamely, aware he was drawing more attention to himself. He saw the officer whispering something into a mic, and cursed himself.

loving worthless Kellen. Can’t even walk through a drat doorway without loving it up.

Running a hand through his dark, thinning hair he keyed the spoofer off, it might interfere with the Gravestone he had been told, and switched the data collection array his handler had provided him on. He joined the line, willing it to move faster. He was a dozen people back. It had taken about a half a minute per person last time. AeterSec kept the line moving, reminding people they could review their future at their leisure and didn’t need to stay near the Gravestone. Six minutes. Then another five to exit. Eleven minutes and he’d be rich. No more wondering if he’d starve between jobs. The whole thing was bullshit, anyway. The first time he’d come through here, damned Norn hadn’t shown him eating freeze-dried insect protein in a ten-by-ten slum tenement, but here he was.

He was halfway to the Gravestone when he saw the officers watching him. A curious mix of fear and anger washed over him.

The bitch at the door must have told them to keep an eye on me. He pictured smashing her face in with the butt of her stun rifle. He began to sweat again, his eyes darting from officer to officer. He never dared look at one directly. That might make them more suspicious. He tried to appear calm. He tapped his foot and stared at the ceiling nonchalantly.

“Could this line move any slower?” He asked the small man in front of him with a nervous laugh. The man turned and looked at him in annoyance, then ignored him.

The officers did not. Speaking into their headsets, two of them moved toward him. They held portable EM scanners. They’d definitely find the collection array. Only the small man was left in front of Kellen. The man was reaching to touch the griffon.

I can still make this work. He pushed the man aside and slapped his own hand down on the oni.

The hologram never started.

Time slowed to a crawl.

Something slithered into Kellen’s mind. It spoke, its voice like bursts of static, filled with raw pain and anger.

[Again? No! They promised! ONLY ONCE! THEY PROMISED!]

Now the holograms began. A hologram over each person in the room, showing them cut and bleeding. A great pressure suffused Kellen’s body. The pain was enormous, but he could not react. Could not move. People were beginning to run, moving slowly as if passing through syrup. The AeterSec officers had dropped their scanners and were reaching for their stun rifles, shouting into their headsets.


Kellen fell to his knees screaming, and the pressure released. Time resumed its normal flow. The air filled with scintillating lashes of energy, cutting through flesh and plasteel with equal ease. The room was now filled with the dead and dying, their wounds matching the holograms that even now winked off as they were fulfilled.

Kellen stumbled to his feet and sprinted toward the exit. He passed two dead officers, their bodies lashed to ribbons. He ran on, heedless of the shouts of the people on the streets. Everywhere he looked, he saw death. A hundred holograms over a hundred people, each showing that person’s final moments. The voice still shrieked in his head. His UIC alerted him that thirty million credits had been transferred to his account.

May 13, 2013

*chews on head*
Lipstick Apathy
Put Your Heart Into It
1000 words

His dark heart pulsated with raw evil, as he pumped it, furiously. “C’mon, c’mon!” Kobar said. “Why isn’t it going faster?” The heart was pierced by a thin steel rod and suspended over a drinking glass. Kobar stopped pushing on the heart. A thick drop of evil hung off its apex, not quite willing to add to the meager accumulation at the bottom of the glass.

Next to the glass is a ceramic bowl containing a ragged piece of liver. Kobar growled, snatched up the liver, and began to crush the juice out of it when it shot from his hand like a bar of soap. He failed catch the liver but succeeded in knocking the bowl from the counter. A small white dog with a foot-long neck and muzzle split vertically, forming two mouths, pounced the liver and began eating it, unconcerned by the ceramic shards everywhere.

“Dammit, Veero!” Kobar lifted Veero out of the mess with Veero holding tight to his liver prize.

“Everything okay in there, dear?” Kobar’s wife, Lecchen, entered the kitchen right as Kobar stepped on a bowl fragment.

“poo poo!” he swore, then used his free hand to pull the ceramic out of his bare foot. In his other hand Veero wagged his tail, happy to see Lecchen joining the excitement.

“Veero,” Lecchen cooed to the dog as she took him from Kobar, “did you make this mess? Dear, hold on and let me help you clean that up.”

“I don’t have anywhere near enough evil,” Kobar said as Lecchen swept the floor. “Metichorus is due to come by at any time for it. He’ll flay me for days if I don’t have it ready!”

“Haven’t you been working up evil these last few days?” Lecchen asked him as she dumped the mess down the floor pit. “I thought you were out torturing all yesterday.” Veero was at her feet, rolling the liver around on the floor. “Were you trying to water down your evil with liver juice? Metichorus would know in an instant!”

“I don’t have much of a choice,” Kobar said, putting his head down on the rough obsidian counter. “Veero has been screaming and tearing up things. I can’t torture when stressed, you know that!”

Lecchen thought he deserved a flaying, yet this would only worsen his mood. Flaying was accompanied with a pay dock, too, and she’d have to cut back on expenses like Veero’s expensive dog food; the cheap stuff made poor Veero’s eyes distend and puss. Veero would scream more often, further irritating Kobar, and making him even less productive. Lecchen was not going to let this vicious cycle pick up speed. “Give me your arm,” she told Kobar.

“I’ve already smeared blood on it,” he said, but held out his arm to Lecchen.

Lecchen used her sharp side teeth to tear open Kobar’s skin and yellow blood poured out. Lecchen positioned the bleeding arm above Kobar’s heart. “You can’t simply rub blood on it and expect to squeeze out evil. You have to feed it like your body does when you slowly pull out fingernails, when you get your blood flowing.” The valve on the top of Kobar’s heart flexed and sucked as his blood trickled into it. As his heart continued to feed, Lecchen traced a curving line on it with her finger, pushing down gently, following the same path over and over again. “And be gentle with it,” she said. “It’s your heart, yes, but you need to treat it right if you want it to work better.”

Sure enough, Kobar’s heart began to sweat concentrated evil, increasing as it continued to consume Kobar’s blood and Lecchen stroked it. “I’m sorry about freaking out, dear,” Kobar said with a sigh. “I’ve just been so stressed out lately.”

Lecchen leaned down and gave Kobar a kiss, leaving a smudge of yellow on his cheek. “It’s okay, dear,” she said. “We’re here to support each other.” Right then the doorbell rang, an ear-splitting bellow that caused loose stalactites in the house to quiver. “Go wash your arm,” Leccha whispered to Kobar, “and I’ll get the evil bottled up.”

Kobar swung open up the door and a massive head like a cracked, sun-bleached cow skull pushed its way through the door frame. “Kobar…” Metichorus rasps, deep, eternal. His nebulous eyes of molten gold look over Kobar, pausing when they see Kobar’s torn arm. “Last minute again…”

The evil was placed in a smokey glass vial etched in curses, which Kobar held out to Metichorus. The boney limb took the vial from Kobar with care, then poured it onto Metichorus’ skull. The evil oozed over the skull, covering it like a snakeskin, though only part of the skull was covered. “Not enough…” Metichorus breathed, and Kobar braced for the reprimand. “High quality… more next time…” Then Metichorus withdrew his head, dragging the boney limb out behind him, lacerating the ground. He was gone.

“Holy poo poo,” said Kobar, closing the door. He collapsed on the flesh-woven couch, exhausted. Veero jumped up on the couch as well, dropping the filthy remnant of Kobar’s liver into his lap, hoping Kobar would throw it for him to fetch.

“No, Veero,” Lecchen said. “Papa is tired and doesn’t want to play. He needs to rest.”

Kobar suddenly stands up. “Today was a close call, very close.” Kobar turns to Lecchen. “And what happens to me also affects you and Veero, which is unacceptable. I’m going to create evil right. No more shortcuts, no more liver dilutions, no more last-minute bloodletting.” Kobar marched into the kitchen, pulled open his chest, grabbed his heart, and shoved it back inside of him. “Veero!” he called. “Let’s go for a walk and cause some pain.”

“Are you sure you won’t be overdoing it?” Lecchen asked, worried.

“Honey,” Kobar said, “thank you for being there for me. I love you.” He heads out the front door with Veero, a spring in his step and a wicked smile on his face.

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe
Thanks for the crit, Antivehicular!

Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving And something has got to give

Crits for Week 333, A Sparkly Merman Holiday Special

Overall thoughts: do you ever just have a TD week where everything is... fine? That was this week for me. Everything ranged from "a little worse than okay" to "pretty decent," but not much really evoked strong feelings from me. I apologize in advance if these crits are a little anemic. (Also, I wrote literally 51 crits before this over the weekend, and I feel like I'm just writing the same drat thing over and over, so... apologies in advance.)

autism ZX spectrum, "Flare Up"

This is a fairly fun merman goof, although I get the feeling it was mostly just a goof. The prose has an unpolished feeling to it, mostly through a lot of comma splices. That said, the magnesium idea is clever, and I think as a light merman-y holiday fable, this is perfectly decent stuff.

Sitting Here, "Sun Below"

This one was my personal favorite of the week. A lot of merman-week entries end up being either goofy or not really about mermen, so I respect the fact that this is serious mer-wizard fantasy. The prose is lovely, as always, and I think this story really conveys the magnitude of the Sun's journey and what even the smallest romantic gesture towards his lover requires of him. It's weird to say this about a story about oceanic horrors, but this is authentically pretty touching.

Killer-of-Lawyers, "You and I"

This piece is kind of... half-formed, I feel like? We've got a generic sort of breakup story (although the first paragraph was making me assume it was going to be a dead-partner story, honestly) tacked to some transhuman/futuristic themes, but I'm not sure it adds up to much. The concept of the narrator being so distraught over the breakup that he goes transhuman to escape it, then finds some satisfaction in that form, is interesting, but I'm not sure it's really being told here, or that that angle adds anything to what would otherwise be "brokenhearted narrator talks to stranger at a bar." The prose being workmanlike also adds to the feeling that this is a sketch that could have been something more, but didn't get there. It's not terrible, but in an otherwise solid week it was kind of a natural loss pick.

cptn_dr, "Maui the Amazing Merman"

Christmas at the circus! This is a cute vignette and a pretty good use of your flash rule, but there's not a ton of plot here. I'm charmed by your cast, but I think their not really having much to do was what gave this story issues. My assumption was that the lack of plot was deliberate -- that these characters live lives where not much is happening, but they're still glad for what they have -- but I think some kind of twist or chain of events would have livened it up.

Kaishai, "Merry and Bright"

This is another fun, goofy merman romp (kind of a meta-merman story, even), but this one feels more polished and complete than the other entries that went the traditional mer-silliness route this time around. I really appreciate the detail that goes into the tacky undersea decorating theme and generally muscle-based merman society (nacre unguent!), and overall it just made me smile. I personally would have HMed this, I think -- I preferred SH's for the win, but this is really good fun.

Thranguy, "Five Christmases"

This one wasn't one of my personal favorites of the week, but it's pretty solid. My major issue is that I think I would have liked to see one extended scene, where the characters would get to interact and get fleshed out some, rather than the quicker collage of young-superhero problems we get, where the romance feels more like something we're being told than something we really experience as readers. That said, what we get is pretty nicely done and wraps up in a pretty satisfying way.

Flesnolk, "Uto"

This is restricted on the archive and, I believe, edited out of the thread, so I'll just have to crit based on my memories. (Seriously, man, stop doing this. I know it can be frustrating when a story doesn't get a positive mention, but throwing your work down the memory hole means you'll get less and worse crit.) The impression I got about this one was that there was a lot of ambition and insufficient time/words to deliver that ambitious story with polish. The themes were fine -- very Greek-tragedy, but people keep retelling the Greek tragedies for a reason -- but this desperately needed a scope-narrowing to readily fit within the production limitations of TD. Ambition is great, but knowing what you have the time and words for and focusing on executing that is an important part of writing.

Chairchucker, "Dazzling Dan"

My co-judges liked this one, but I confess, I was kind of eh on it. I think there's more substance and story here than you often deliver, without any attempt to cop out of what your story's about, and I appreciate that a lot; I guess I just still didn't think the execution was that strong, and it still feels just a little bit too twee for me. The villain's car obsession was funny, at least? I dunno. I think this is better than most of your stuff, but I still want to see you try for something more serious and sincere-feeling.

Sep 7, 2011

Seven for beauty that blossoms and dies

Thanks for the Mer-Crit, Antivehicular!

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Heavenly Bodies (920 words)

The cosmonauts were transfixed with wonderment as the sun set — over the Earth — there lucklessly, untethered Comrade Todd on fire.

"Incredible," said Milan. He held a single coin, a silver ruble, at eye level. He glanced from the coin to the burning ball of light. "To think it truly was that size."

"Is this what God sees every day?" asked Nikita.

"Holy loving poo poo," whispered Boris, "Holy gently caress."

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa," screamed Todd, engulfed in cosmic flame. He toppled to his knees and crumpled like burnt paper. Soon he wasn't even ash on the wind. The flag he’d carried was less than a memory.

Milan whistled. "Glad I didn't pull the short straw."

"We'll need to draw again."

"Are you guys loving seeing this? Todd is loving dead!"

The three reclined above the firmament in matching lawn chairs, red on yellow. Beneath them stretched the surface of the Earth. The bell jar of humanity and other, lesser insects. A petri dish capped by a thin glass dome - a thin glass dome they'd punctured with a rocket.

The sun dipped below the horizon and was gone. "We've got a few hours," said Nikita, "Before dawn."

Milan removed his fishbowl helmet and scratched his beard. If not for the air escaping the dome, such a gesture would be suicide. "I'll get the other flags."

Boris was hugging his knees. His eyes were wide and trembling and bloodshot. "What the gently caress," he repeated, "What the gently caress. What the gently caress." He rocked back and forth while the moon crept up beside.

"Boris, please," said Milan, "Where is your composure. We need you still, to fly us back."

"Todd is dead you gently caress! And back? What back!? All the oxygen's escaping!" He pointed to the hole where they'd punched through the dome.

"In a few hundred years," said Nikita with flat dismissal. Then she looked to the moon. Her eyes narrowed. “Milan."


"Milan, there’s no flag.”

“Wait, really? drat it. I was sure we had another.”

“No, you idiot, the American one.”

She pointed. Milan looked, and understood.

The moon hung low in the divine amphitheater, its pock-marked face shimmering like bone. Its surface turned unmarred by that symbol of greed, the American flag; the red, white, and blue. Milan did a double take, pleased by its absence, and yet…

“If they weren’t up here,” he said, “What are we doing up here?”

“I knew it was a studio lot,” said Nikita, her brow furrowed in irritation. “I knew it, I knew it. How would they even get picture that clear?”

“So Todd died for gently caress-all,” said Boris. His cracked lips trembled in the presence of the sphere.

The American moon landing had broken across their shores like a tidal wave. They couldn’t believe it, they wouldn’t believe it, but inklings of doubt slunk in through the cracks. “If they can put a man on the moon,” said Brezhnev, shoe in hand, “Then we shall put a man on the sun!”

“We should fake it,” advised Stalin’s brain in a jar. “Like with Yuri Gagarin.”

“We’ll do it for real!”

So it was the children of men broke through the glass ceiling to stare in awe at stars hung on strings.

The night stretched on as the cosmonauts quarreled. Milan went back to the ship for more flags. He returned a little loopy from the excess oxygen. Nikita took one and jammed it in the moon. The tiny rock’s orbit sunk a few inches. The waves far below encroached a few miles.

Boris was on his hands and knees, staring at his homeland through the glass between his fingers. His lips and eyes and throat were dry. He saw the rise of the sun in the East, on the far side of the antarctic wall, and shuddered.

“Guess that’s it,” said Milan. He lit a cigarette. “You got the straws Nikita? Time for round two.”

“I already planted our flag on the moon. Let the Americans do it on the sun.”

“The mission was to claim to sun. We’ll claim both and return as heroes.”

Boris began screaming. He leapt to his feet and punched Milan straight in the fishbowl helmet. Milan fell backwards, scattering the flags. Boris grabbed one and charged for the sun. As he drew close, his suit began to smoke and tear. He burst into flames. He pushed on through.

He collapsed on all fours, breathless and burning. He could hear his blood cooking in the presence of the star. He winced up at that diminutive ball of fire. He raised the flag and flung it like a spear. The shaft flew true with its blood red cape. It pierced the sun and sank into the plasma.

Boris slumped down, disintegrated, and ceased.

Milan and Nikita stood there in awe-struck wonder. At last they saluted, Nikita with a nod.

“Rest in peace, you glorious bastard,” said Milan. “I suppose with that done, we can finally go.”

“Should we tell them?” asked Nikita. “About the shape of the world.”

“Eh.” He shrugged. “Not my job to report.”

Packing up the lawn chairs, they returned to the rocket. It was only then that an errant thought wormed its way into Milan’s skull.

“Say, Comrade Nikita.”


“Wasn’t Boris the one who knew how to fly?”

The rising sun cast the whole world in gold, the glory of Communism plain to all.

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.

746 words

“Murder is the most terrible crime of them all,” the police commissioner thought to himself as he loitered purpousfully near the deli counter. At least he's thinking in words. It puts him a couple steps above most of the customers. The next two guys behind him just have cartoons and emoji in their heads, turkeys and sausage links and drooling mouths and empty stomachs. There's a creep further back with nothing but images of everyone else here naked, the women with gravity-defying breasts, the men with sagging guts censoring over their crotches. A typical crowd.

“Your usual, Commissioner?” I said. He nodded. I got to work,slicing bread and stacking pastrami, tomato, and aged Swiss cheese, applying a thin layer of mustard directly to the meat, and wrapping it all in wax paper, trying to make my mind as empty as everyone else around me. It worked, for a while. I made sandwiches for the commissioner, for the non-verbal thinkers behind him, for a woman letting the summer's mindless pop anthem wash directly from phone to speakers to mind, unfiltered and uncommented and leaving barely enough attention to mutter a menu number.

“I'm going to kill you,” thought the woman in thick glasses and long black hair. I reacted, just for a second. She adjusted those coke-bottle lenses down her small sharp nose, focused on my name tag. “Yes, you, Terrence.” Aloud: “Number 6, no mayo.” I made the sandwich, trying to give no further sign.

She nibbled at the sandwich until closing time, nursing a single cup of clove tea along with it. I wasn't on cleanup that night. When my shift ended I walked over to the table. She swallowed the remnants of her meal in quick bites and smiled. “Most people would try to run. Sneak out the back and leave town.”

“Would that have done any good?”

“Do you want to die?” she asked back. “Not one bit,” crossed her mind unsaid.

“No,” I said. It's more complicated than that. I have a very healthy will to live. Natural selection. You don't survive high school as a telepathic without one. But I understand why she'd want to kill me. I agree. I'm an intolerable intrusion, just by existing. Anyone with any secret, personal or business or government, anyone who thinks people should be able to have secrets can't abide a world where I'm alive.

“Why work there?” she asked. We were walking to the parking lot, a sea of people trying to remember where they parked closely enough that the beep from their key fob won't be embarrassingly distant.

“Nobody thinks too hard,” I said. “When-”

“Eventually. Could be years down the line if you-” A thought, distant but intense, interrupted. The back of my head, seen through a rifle scope. I dropped, falling forward and rolling under a car. I heard the shot and the bullet striking pavement. I saw her on her knees, bracing her arm and returning fire with a revolver that seemed ludicrously huge in her small hand.

“We need to go, now,” she said. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a key. She pressed the unlock button and every headlight for a dozen yards around flashed. I got to my feet.

We got into the stolen car and she drove, fast and reckless and precise, daring the traffic police to give chase. As she drove she talked. She gave a name, “Stella.” Her real name was Victoria. She was some kind of spy, and I was going to be one too, or else die sooner than later. Not for our country or any other, though. “We're the good guys,” she said. She believed it.

She outlined my future as she drifted across lanes of traffic into the freeway, losing our pursuers. A bomb in the back of my neck that needs a periodic signal from a device linked to her heartbeat. I tried to stay worried, or scared, or angry, tried to regret not just having cleaned up at professional poker or hacking banker's debit cards and hiding on a beach alone with my conscience. I couldn't.

Adrenaline turned all those worries to joy, and a life, maybe short, in contrast to the transparent gauzey grey I'd trapped myself in was irresistible, even with the cost, even with the sure knowledge I'd be victim and perpetrator of crimes more terrible than murder, beyond the police commissioner's limited imagination. I was in, all in.

Sham bam bamina!
Nov 6, 2012

ƨtupid cat
456 words

Leon fell out of the goat. Again. I push him in he slides back. The carcass reeks like the air burns but I have to get him in. Dammit he fell out. It's hopeless but it's less hopeless than leaving him out for the moths or something. I push again I push again. Goddamn he fell out.

We don't belong here. Maybe this goat with all his legs and tits didn't either if he's dead but at least he's big. Not pitifully vulnerable. I need to get Leon in there. Worst-case scenario there's enough goat meat I hope to distract. Of course whatever sliced it open didn't even take a bite who even knows. Leon fell out of the goat again.

The moths were all over him. I tried to beat them away they didn't even bother flying. Just mashed them up yellow red right on Leon. He was barely breathing I had to get him away. Couldn't pick him up but dragged as far as I could under the white sky it won't shut up. drat moth is biting my shoulder I mash it and push again.

I hit my head it still hurts. We don't belong here how did I find him? I dragged him as far as I could. The air burns so bad. Moth is biting me I see a crow man past the goat. I can't stop pushing but he'll see if I don't. The crow man's legs are broken but he's walking fine. I don't push again. The goat has a broken rib that I pull away.

The sky is quieter I'm going deaf. Crow man still doesn't see me or Leon behind the goat with all his legs and tits his goat dick. I push again there's a flutter. God drat. I'm holding the rib now and don't even hit the moth. He's coming toward us can I hurt him?

Whack hard with the rib he falls. Swings back up he sees Leon now and I hit again. He doesn't make a noise or I'm deaf and he takes a nice big peck out of Leon he's screaming and I can't hear. The air burns so bad we don't belong here. I hit again and again crack the bird's head like his legs. The crow man doesn't stop and Leon's screaming. The crow man doesn't stop but Leon does. loving kill that thing. I smash hard crack the beak off and it grabs the wet rib. We pull and pull and I slip it takes a swing.

I'm walking through badlands under a shrieking white sky. The air burns in my lungs, and I still pant for thirst. I think I've hit my head. It hurts like hell.

Sham bam bamina! fucked around with this message at 09:22 on Jan 21, 2019

Sham bam bamina!
Nov 6, 2012

ƨtupid cat
gently caress it.

Mr. Steak
May 9, 2013

by Jeffrey of YOSPOS
Here's something I tried to write
949 words

Anthony’s eyes bulged as we all watched, with languid, infinite slowness, his skull float across the cockpit. In that moment between a breath and a heartbeat when all of us should have physically been dead, we stood for an eternity. None of us could speak about the incident later without becoming ill, or in Maya's case breaking into uncontrolable laughter, so perhaps it would be easiest to start with the official report, written by the AIs that conduct everyone's reintake interviews.

"Unit {Laura Connor} injured with 75% probability of survival.
Unit {Tony Fei} injured with 12% probability of survival.
Unit {Maya Heartfield} injured with 98% probability of survival.
Unit {Anthony Langley} MIA, presumed dead.
Unit {Lawrence Price} injured with 49% probability of survival.

Incident report;
Hostiles encountered in ruins of Gamma Base;
//conflicting accounts// Units {Tony Fei, Maya Heartfield} compromised;
Units {Laura Connor, Anthony Langley, Lawrence Price} aggressed by hostile forces;
//conflicting accounts// Unit {Anthony Langley} last seen in cockpit of S.S.Gloria;
//data missing//
//data missing//
Units {Tony Fei, Maya Heartfield} placed in captivity onboard S.S.Gloria."

Lieutenant Heartfield was strict with us. For good reason, but we still hated her for it. In the thirty-five days we were stuck with her on that ship, I can remember as many as twenty different in-jokes that developed at her expense, probably, if I cared to recall those now-bittersweet memories.

More pertinent to the purposes of this document is how Maya acted after we arrived at base, and found it destroyed. Exploded, actually, would be a better word. Maya was inconsolable. Apparently, she'd had some sort of connection to the place. Anyway, it was bewilderingly unprofessional coming from the lieutenant we'd spent all month mocking for her emotionless behavior.

Maya was having none of our concerned pleas, however, instead whipping around from her position huddled on the floor to bark orders at us, red in the face. None of us were quite in the mood to question her return to form. We put on our suits and left. We'd touched down just outside what used to be the front entrance.

Base Gamma, I mention only for the sake of completionism and not to avoid any topics, was built as a bunker and research facility between the oil mining compound at Arabia Terra and the anamalous region across the Argyre Basin and encompassing the entire Southern Highlands. Until recent events obviously threw a wrench into everything, the base mainly existed to perform tests on the nature of time within the region to the south, as well as to protect the expensive oil rigs from any harmful side effects of proximity to it.

I didn't notice Tony run off, but it must have happened a little before Maya came out after us. She was yelling for us to split up and look for him, but stopped cold when apparently she sensed a presence because she cut herself off mid-order to shout "Who's there?"

What stepped out of the shadows then was human in shape, but quite evidently not in nature. It wore a sort of blue robe with a cowl shading most of its face, which almost resembled that of an aging man, if not for the inhuman way its chin moved from side to side and its raspy breathing. Most likely contributing to the image was the thin, tangled length of white hair bursting out from the cowl like some sickly beard.

He raised up a twig-like hand, in which was gripped a twig-like length of wood. Without any other motion, somehow that caused Maya to wordlessly run towards the man-thing, emptying bullets into it as she ran, which seemed to have no effect. Then, as she recieved a painful-sounding attack, she managed to order us all back inside the ship to begin preparations for immediate evacuation.

As we all know though, that's when the real attack started. After removing our suits, we clustered in the cockpit to man all of our stations. Langley started heating up the engines, Price handled the navigation systems, and I froze. No, not literally frozen by the time wizard outside, but frozen with anxiety and fear. Time wizards were only a myth, but now we were being attacked by one. It was the next moment that we were literally frozen in the cockpit by the time wizard outside. Though "frozen in time," we horrifically learned, does not exactly mean frozen in space. It felt infinitely slow, but at the same time much too fast. All the processes in our bodies had ceased functioning, but since it was only for an infinitely temporary moment, we didn't die. We couldn't die. I don't know how long my brain thinks we were in there, but at one point maybe a couple days into that surreal torture, Langley's skull kind of slipped out of his skin. Right out of it, in front of all of us. We didn't blame him since we were all just trying to hold our insides together so that we might survive once our hearts started beating and our cells started metabolising again.

I'm getting sick to my stomach thinking about it, so long story short, Maya overcame the mental attacks placed on her and sliced up the wizard with her bayonet, which nullified the attack on us as well, and then by the time she charged into the ship we were all either coughing up blood like no tomorrow or extremely dead. She flew us home and that's that. The end. Now let me go home.

Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving And something has got to give

Submissions are closed.

Per judge discussion on IRC: crabrock, we're extending toxx clemency until judging. Post before then if you value your :10bux:.

Aug 2, 2002




crabrock posted:

"Hugo kissed Rachel like no man had ever kissed a woman; he put his nose deep in her mouth and exhaled."

and :toxx:in'

Antivehicular posted:

Submissions are closed.

Per judge discussion on IRC: crabrock, we're extending toxx clemency until judging. Post before then if you value your :10bux:.

This is dumb
875 words

Hugo kissed Rachel like no man had ever kissed a woman; he put his nose deep in her mouth and exhaled. The seal was tight, and his lungs full. He kept blowing out his nose as she filled up with air.

Her eyes widened as her clothes tightened. She grew bigger and rounder, lighter and buoyant until she floated into the air. She desperately wiggled her toes as if they could somehow stick to the ground and pull her back down. Even then Hugo had not stopped blowing, and soon Rachel was upside down, floating in the air, tethered only to the ground by her strange kiss.

Hugo stopped, and as if he suddenly bored, shrugged and walked away.

Rachel, now wholly unanchored, floated up to the two-story ceiling of the mall and lazily bounced between the rafters. People walked under her, unaware or uncaring, until she floated over the mall’s indoor playground.

A little girl lying on the ground pointed up at Rachel and squirmed. “Look, Mommy! A balloon!”

“That’s nice, Ali,” said her mother without looking up from her book. “Just leave it be, it’s not yours.”

The little girl stood and jumped in the air with her arms outstretched, but the few inches she gained were not enough to cover the twenty-foot gap between her and Rachel. Ali raced to the slide and climbed up the ladder. She stood at the very top and reached up toward the balloon lady, but still she was not close enough.

“I can’t reach you,” said Ali.

Rachel laughed as she spun over the little girl, hopelessly out of reach. “That’s ok, somebody will be along soon with a broom or something to knock me down.”

“Are you an astronaut?” asked Ali.

“I don’t think this counts.”

“How did you get up there then?”

Rachel shrugged and smeared across a skylight. “This is why I don’t like blind dates.”

“Cause you turn into a balloon?”

“Well, no, this is the first time this has happened, though after one date every time I talked my voice sounded like a train whistle.”

Ali giggled. “That sounds silly.”

“You’ll understand when you’re older. What’s your name?”

“Ali. I’m six. What does it feel like to be a balloon?”

“Quite embarrassing to be honest.”

Ali beamed up at her. “I think you look neat! But I am afraid what if you go outside and fly into the sky and then a bird eats you? My teacher said we shouldn’t let balloons go because birds can eat them and die.”

“Hm, I hadn’t thought of that,” said Rachel, who silently updated her list of anxieties to include airplanes and large birds. “Say, do you think you could find a rope or something? Maybe you could toss it up and I could catch it.”

Ali looked around the playground, which to comply with reasonable liability concerns, was woefully bereft of rope. She slid down the slide and scooped up an armful of balls from the ball pit and followed Rachel, throwing balls at her. “I can’t throw them high enough.”

“That’s ok, I don’t think it would work anyhow.” Rachel unclipped one side of her purse’s straps and dangled it down, but she had neglected to buy a 16-foot purse strap on account of not knowing she would turn into a balloon. “Shucks.”

Ali followed Rachel around as they brainstormed ideas, but after half an hour they still had not come up with anything.

Ali’s mom called for her. “Time to go pick up your brother!”

“But mom, I want to help the balloon get down!”

“We don’t have time for you to collect somebody elses trash. I’ll buy you a new one.”

“But I like this balloon, she’s special.”

But Ali’s mom picked up up and carried her away, even as she cried and insisted she needed the balloon from the ceiling.

Rachel frowned. “Typical,” she said. She floated on the ceiling trying to get somebody’s attention, but everybody looked down, not up, and she bobbed through the cobwebs.

When she’d all but given up any hope of ever being rescued, she saw Hugo down below.

“Uh, hey,” he said.

“Oh. Hi Hugo.”

“Are you mad at me?”

“Well you did leave me floating around up here.”

Hugo blushed. “Oh yes, sorry about that. I went to go get something. I didn’t know you’d be mad.”

“You can’t just leave women floating on the ceiling Hugo.”

“Sorry, I am not very good with women.”

“I can see that.”

“Can I have a second chance?”

Rachel looked down at him with pity. It’s not like the date had been unpleasant before. She had voluntarily kissed him after the movie, and he had come back, unlike the train whistle guy. “Depends,” she said. “What did you bring?”

Hugo fished a telescoping straw out of his pocket. He stuck one end in his mouth and started elongating it, hand over hand, until it swayed in the air like a drunken sailor.

Rachel reach out and caught it. “How does it work?”

“Put the straw in your mouth.”

Then Hugo took Rachel’s breath away like no man had before; he puckered up at the other end of the 20-foot straw and inhaled.

Sep 30, 2006

stayin c o o l

Chili posted:

Take a week, write your bullshit, and report back here by 1/25/18 @ 10PM Eastern

Ya, I'm gonna need another year. Plus a day if possible.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

:siren: Interprompt :siren: I know this looks bad but I can explain 350 words

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

sebmojo posted:

:siren: Interprompt :siren: I know this looks bad but I can explain 350 words

don't preface your stories!

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

SlipUp posted:

Ya, I'm gonna need another year. Plus a day if possible.

doubleposting to give a reminder that you and Flesnolk are in another brawl due Wednesday night:

Pham Nuwen posted:


Slipnolk Brawl

In 1200 words or less, tell me a story about what the dead are taking/extracting from the living. You'll be disqualified if it is literal coins from a literal human butt. No erotica, no google docs, blah blah.

Deadline is 11:59 MST, January 23, 2019.

Sep 30, 2006

stayin c o o l
Thanks! I toxx'd that one too iirc. 1st draft done.

Sep 30, 2006

stayin c o o l

sebmojo posted:

:siren: Interprompt :siren: I know this looks bad but I can explain 350 words

492 words. oh well.

“Sir, if you could just submit your W2s from your previous employer we could resolve the 152 year tax backlog. Hm. There must be some mistake. Let me check my calendar.” Said Jeff, the IRS accountant.

“I don’t have any.” Said Gaz’zhul

“Have you been self employed this whole time? Sir, are you aware tax evasion is a serious crime? I’m gonna have to dig up some 1040 personal tax forms here.”

“I know it looks bad but I can explain.” Said Gaz’zhul, “I’m a practitioner of the dark arts, of the forbidden magics of necromancy. I toil in secret to raise the dead from the cold earth to the warmth of life.”

“Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.” Said Jeff as he nodded along and jotted some notes. “Do these dead constitute a labour pool? Are they paid minimum wage?”

“What? No! They are but husks! I have yet to perfect the method of true resurrection.”

“So no patent then?” Asked Jeff.

“No.” Said Gaz’zhul.

“Well in that case it doesn’t seem like you operate a business or have taxable income. Technically you don’t have anything of value.” Said Jeff. Gaz’zhul bristled at this.

“Alright then.” Said Jeff. “Your tax issues have been resolved. Here are some forms, you qualify for welfare!”

“Welfare! How dare you!” Said Gaz’zhul.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of sir. You just fill out some words here and there…” Said Jeff.

“Like a spell?” Said Gaz’zhul.

“Sure, abracadabra and help arrives. You got it. Cheque comes in the mail. You’ll have to give us updates.”

“I would never share the secrets of the arcane arts with you!”

“No no, on the job hunt. Do up a resume and some cover letters that sort of thing.”


“Have an excellent day Mr. uuhhh Bohner!”

“Never call me that again!”


The next day…

“So Mr. Smith, you are here for welfare benefits. You haven’t filed your taxes for a number of years and hold on here… Our database claims you died in 2016. I apologize profusely sir, there has been some kind of grevious mistake.” Said Tina.

“Uuuuhhhh… Brains…” Said a horribly decayed Mr. Smith.

“We'll get this sorted out straight away. It is obvious you need help.” Said Tina.


The next year.

“My fellow Americans.” Said President Ronald Rump. “Our nations has been beset by a plague. A horrible plague that returns the dead to life and qualifies them for welfare! We need a plan of action to combat this undead menace, that’s why I’m getting congress to make a heck of a deal, it’s a very good deal really it is, to put these lazy undead people back to work! If they want to qualify for it, they should have to pay for it!”


The next year.

“Hello, my name is Jeff. I’m a former IRS employee and I’m applying for welfare. I have all my appropriate forms here Mr. Uhhhh. Smith?…”

“Uuuuhhhh… Brains…”

“Oh, Mr. Brains.”

SlipUp fucked around with this message at 03:45 on Jan 22, 2019

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


flerp posted:

week 336 crits

ive written too many words on too few stories but i dont want them to go to waste. i will probably, eventually, write crits of more stories this week and they will probably, unfortunately, be as in-depth


Ok, let’s talk about something called “active voice.” Let’s look at this sentence and I’ll explain why it’s bad


The words of Peter's sister still rang in his ears as he dug through the dirt, seeking some trace of the buck's passing.

So, when you read this sentence, the first noun is “words” and our brains go ok that’s the subject of the sentence. BUT! That’s actually not the true subject, because the actual subject, the person doing things in the sentence, is Peter. This is why the sentence is passive -- the object of the sentence comes first, and then the subject comes later. The sentence would be better as


Peter heard his sister’s voice in his head as he dug through the dirt, seeking some trace of the buck’s passing.

Notice two things. First, The action is immediate. Peter is hearing something immediately and gives the protagonist more agency. In the first sentence, it’s like something is happening to Peter. In the second, Peter is now doing something, even if it’s just hearing. Subtle, but it makes the sentence more engaging. The second thing is that it cuts down word count. It’s two words less, which might not seem like a lot, but flash fiction is all about doing as much as possible in as little space as possible, so cutting down two words while making the sentence stronger gives you two more words to work with later on in the story.

Besides passive voice problem throughout,

Uhhhhhh that ain't passive voice. Not only does the verb "to be" (in any conjugation) not appear, there's not even a single past participle.

Avoiding passive voice tends to be overemphasized in writing advice out of proportion to the problem, much like the advice to never use an adverb; bad writing often has too much passive voice or too many adverbs, so grammar mavens tell you to never use either, as if that will fix your writing problems. In both cases, robotically following that advice can do more harm than good. There are certain cases when it's most concise, or even most correct, to use the passive voice. Generally, when the passive voice in a work is a problem, it's a symptom of something else; as you point out, the real problem with this sentence is not that its subject is an intangible object (which has nothing to do with passive voice, anyway), but that the subject shifts over the course of the sentence. Such a subject change is basically always an error, and it causes a disorienting garden-path feeling in the reader. The worst thing is it's hard to detect, because it often happens while you're inattentively revising a sentence and either incompletely combine two thoughts or don't finish converting from one to the other.

sebmojo posted:

Fuschia Tude You can taste it[/b]

Thanks, seb!

Sham bam bamina!
Nov 6, 2012

ƨtupid cat

flerp posted:

So, when you read this sentence, the first noun is “words” and our brains go ok that’s the subject of the sentence. BUT! That’s actually not the true subject, because the actual subject, the person doing things in the sentence, is Peter. This is why the sentence is passive -- the object of the sentence comes first, and then the subject comes later.
I didn't read this before, but I'm screaming uncontrollably now.

Edit: Brawl.

Sham bam bamina! fucked around with this message at 10:19 on Jan 22, 2019

Feb 25, 2014
ok whatever its not technically active voice but it still sucks and is a problem and yes sometimes active voice is overemphasized (which is also why i critiqued other parts of the story) but in an action story having weird sentences that are close to passive makes action feel stilted and bad and now your actions story’s action feels bad. i also explain why it’s bad, it’s not like i only say “this is not active so it’s bad” but whatever go off i guess

im not brawling over dumb pedantic poo poo like “this isnt technically this phrase” when i describe why it’s bad to begin with

flerp fucked around with this message at 16:38 on Jan 22, 2019

Apr 25, 2017
I get what flerp was saying in the crit.

Brawl me instead.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

steeltoedsneakers posted:

What is going on today? Lotta fightin' words.

I didn't even notice this because of the rest of the challenges being chucked about - so that's what you're gonna write about.

I want interpersonal conflict at the heart of a raging hurricane. I want two people at loggerheads amidst a rolling tavern brawl.

But like, not literally unless that's what you want - it's more of a metaphor.

I want you to write about a conflict between two central characters that unfolds amidst - and for them, overshadows - a broader conflict/event/chaotic upheaval.

Give it to me fast and dirty, 800 words. 1 week 2 weeks from today (let's call it 4.30pm Wednesday, New Zealand Time) - or not if you cats have entered this week, I'm not going to check. I'll tsk and extend it to two weeks if you were foolhardy enough to throw down for a brawl as well as a dome entry.

Saucy_Rodent is currently probated, so he emailed me his story for this brawl.

Waka Waka Waka Waka
(by Saucy_Rodent)
704 words

The church had been abandoned long before Pac-Man appeared on the telescopes, before the existence of the old Gods had been devoured entirely. Like everyone else who’d kept their sanity, I kept my eyes towards the ground as I approached the old wooden door.

Mary was standing between the front pews when I entered. She came here to pray, I imagine, but prayer is fragile for anyone who’s seen the night skies.

“You know if they’ve got any of the old communion wine?” I said.

Mary groaned. “Ugh, you’re here,” she said. She wasn’t crying, but her makeup stains indicated she recently had.

“Yeah,” I said. “I don’t want to be alone when Pac-Man bites.” I tried to grasp her hand, but she pulled away.

“Seriously, Paul?” Mary snapped. She jumped up onto the stage. “You don’t want to be alone? So then why did you gently caress every pretty girl you could as soon as Pac-Man appeared on the news?” She put air-quotes around ‘Pac-Man,’ a nickname she had always found ridiculous.

“I’m sorry, Mary. You know I’m sorry,” I said, taking a seat in the pews.

She laughed. “Yeah, Paul. You’re sorry. You’re so sorry you slept with four different girls as soon as you had a good excuse. You were only so—”

“An excuse?” I said. “The world— ”

“Don’t interrupt me!” shouted Mary, taking the podium. “You were only sorry when I found out! You would have kept doing it!”

“The world is ending!” I yelled.

“I know, jackass. And I wanted to spend the world’s last moments with you, because I loved you. I wanted to hold your hand and watch the galaxy get eaten together, and I thought you did too. But you…you wanted to get high and gently caress.”

I always hated how she could act as mad as she felt while we were fighting while it was my job just to listen and nod. “You’re right. Of course you’re right. But that shouldn’t matter now.”

I ducked the Bible that she chucked at me from the podium. “Don’t you dare tell me should and shouldn’t matter. Look at the sky! Nothing matters! The universe is getting eaten, galaxy by galaxy. So I wanted to pretend to die happy with you, Paul, to pretend that love, of all things, might mean something in a world being devoured by—ugh—Pac-Man. And maybe I could convince myself it did. But you, Paul, so desperate not to die alone, you don’t actually believe in it. You don’t believe in love. Because as soon as you knew about that thing was out there, you abandoned it. And you would’ve done it—”


“Don’t interrupt me! You would’ve done it eventually, even there weren’t a loving Pac-Man. Probably not soon, but you would’ve found an excuse to cheat on me, to do it and still be able to tell yourself you’re a good person.”

I sighed. I disagreed, but digging in my heels meant we’d be stuck arguing until Pac-Man bit. “You’re right, Mary. I’m an rear end in a top hat. I will die an rear end in a top hat. But do you really want this to be the way are when we go? Heartbroken and miserable?”

“I’ll be that way regardless if I stay or if I go,” said Mary. She walked away from the podium and sat down on the edge of the stage. “I can’t pretend to love you anymore. I can’t pretend to believe in God and come to a church and pray. I’ve tried to do both, but in the end, I’d rather spend the end of the world alone than stoking the ego of some selfish, insecure prick who doesn’t give a poo poo about me.”

We were silent for a while. I hung my head. Then she came down off the stage and made her way down the aisle. I stayed in the pew as I watched her leave. She held her head high as she walked out the door, and I briefly saw the night sky before the door swung closed. The sky was without blank space, consumed by the roof of Pac-Man’s mouth. The rows and rows of hundreds of millions of faintly glowing teeth waited behind the stars to bite down.

Sham bam bamina!
Nov 6, 2012

ƨtupid cat

flerp posted:

ok whatever its not technically active voice but it still sucks and is a problem and yes sometimes active voice is overemphasized (which is also why i critiqued other parts of the story) but in an action story having weird sentences that are close to passive makes action feel stilted and bad and now your actions story’s action feels bad. i also explain why it’s bad, it’s not like i only say “this is not active so it’s bad” but whatever go off i guess

im not brawling over dumb pedantic poo poo like “this isnt technically this phrase” when i describe why it’s bad to begin with
You keep saying "technically", like Fuchsia and I are some kind of grammar Datas, but every single thing you said about that sentence was outright misinformation (and here, too; it's not even "close to passive"). You explained why it was bad in a way that actively undermines understanding not only the problem at hand but some of the most basic concepts in language (like the difference between a subject and an object). It was some of the worst advice anyone could have given. Fuchsia was completely right, I have every right to "go off" on something so flamingly bad in a thread for improving people's writing, and you're a chickenshit for trying to blow it off.

Rad-daddio posted:

I get what flerp was saying in the crit.

Brawl me instead.
gently caress up comparably, and I'll think about it.

Sham bam bamina! fucked around with this message at 18:35 on Jan 22, 2019

Feb 25, 2014
im willing to have this discussion somewhere else because i dont think the thread is a good place for it and kayfabe is going to get in the way and also its just making GBS threads up the thread more. i shouldve said this to begin with rather than reply as i did (or ignored it) but what’s done is done. if you want, you can bring this into FA if you rly wanna have a larger talk about it, or ill try to be in IRC tonight if you want. but this thread isnt the place for it

Oct 23, 2008


I wasn't going to comment since people don't usually reply to crits, but yeah, thanks for clarifying the critique about that line. I could recognize it was a bit weak on review but it didn't seem like passive voice to me.

What would be a better rewrite of the sentence to fix the shifting subject? flerp's suggestion is "Peter heard his sister’s voice in his head as he dug through the dirt", though I liked the use of ringing and ears over heard and head to emphasize the I-Told-You-So tone. Would maybe "Peter's sister's voice still rang in his ears as he dug through the dirt" introduce Peter as the subject correctly?

Edit: Oh, sorry, didn't know we shouldn't continue the discussion. I'll ask in Fiction Advice.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

sebmojo posted:

:siren: Interprompt :siren: I know this looks bad but I can explain 350 words


It is important to note that, while it looks bad, an explanation is available. See, a ringing in the ears was heard, causing a distraction at a critical juncture in the creative process of the author. This meant that when said author, our subject, undertook the action of penning their poop words, the object, so distracting was the ringing in their ears that it felt as if the poop words just produced themselves with no action from our dear subject whatsoever!

"Oh! What are these terrible poop words!" was cried by the author. "Poop words have been written on the pages before me! By the gods, shall I post them?" But it was too late, because the poop words had already been posted.

It was said that passive constructions had been overused, but it was difficult to verify the accusation that was made because a person who possesed both understanding and the ability to articulate what the difference is between passive and active voice could not be found, though one was searched for high and low.

"But oh the ringing in my ears!" was cried. "Let fighting take place! For it is the only way peace can be regained!"

"Yeah nah," it was answered.

Apr 12, 2006
uhhhhh where the gently caress is the prompt

Apr 12, 2006
slow judging worst judging


Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Tyrannosaurus posted:

slow judging worst judging

yes it's like an ocean but instead of water it's bad judging and instead of whales it has poop

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