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Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Obliterati posted:

Thanks for the

More to come soon as I get home, also newbies and everyone if you want a crit then ask for it, with a link. Crits are good.


Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012


sebmojo posted:

Crits are good.

I volunteer one in-depth linecrit for a prior TD entry, first come first served.

Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica

Antivehicular posted:

Re: supporting the forums, I'm gonna quote this post of mine from a month or so back:

This offer still stands. I dunno if anyone's eligible to claim it, but if you are -- seriously, bug me about it. Or go fight for new avatars. All of my hard-earned fivers are on the line here, people!

I’ll trade my HM last week for a new avi.

Jan 31, 2015

A quick little mouse!

You there! Get back in line. Sort your papers and collect your crit rations for week 344.

The Sound of Hammers on Glass, Played in a Minor Key - Thranguy
In a week dominated by Assholes in Space it’s nice to read something that eschews science-fiction pomposity for something earthy and spiritual.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but I find the rhyming scheme slightly haphazard. A minor nitpick — I’m not going to fault you for taking a risk that (mostly) does a good job augmenting the metaphysical angle.

But what’s this? There’s no ending. No middle, even. Here I am, innocently reading your words, feeling intrigued by them, maybe even captivated — and then the story just ends. The text doesn’t read as something hastily and sloppily jotted-down, so what happened here exactly?

What’s there is good. But I’d like to read the rest of it.

Wormfood - sebmojo
Well-written, for the most part. Now and then I get caught on a strange line, like “The grass and trees were all gone now, and the children, well”. But then you turn some beautiful and evocative thing and all's forgotten.

I read and I wonder why Yarrow is or is going to be a problem, and it’s never really revealed. Because Teacher is losing control of the group? Show that then. Show the strained group dynamics. I would've liked some tension.

Exchanging the usual world-ending virus or radiation for worms isn’t interesting in itself. The worminess doesn’t modify the familiar premise in any meaningful way, so what’s the point?

The Swineherd Rebellion - Benny Profane
This was my losing pick. I had to slog through it.
It’s so goddamn wordy. In the first sentence we’re introduced to the following Things: the reign of Farmer Bosch, Minister for Cleanliness, the village of Varken, the town of Weesp, bla bla bla…

What makes a story? Words, right? So here you go, dear reader, have all of the words. This story reads like the output of a scat and fantasy-fed neural network with alzheimer's. I can’t track your rambling.

Technically speaking, there’s nothing wrong. You obviously have a good grasp of language in general. But your story is tiring. Maybe there’s the core of something interested buried in the mud here. I don’t know, because my brain smoothed out at the first paragraph.

Bardo 59° - Sitting Here
For some reason I hate the word “beatific”, and you use it twice. But I’m not gonna hold it against you.

I want to like this story more. But it’s too detached. The protagonist doesn't care, so I don’t either. What’s the purpose of the yogis? They don’t really test Terri’s resolve; she doesn’t give a poo poo about them, she’s mildly irritated at worst. There’s hardly any conflict here, within or without.

It’s a shame, because you’re working with some cool ideas here (middle-class hippies attempting to avoid the apocalypse via nirvana? Fun), and some of the language is really nice. Beatific, even.

UnOfficial Baby Rhinos: The African Kingdom Appreciation Group ➤ Admin Pinned Post - The Saddest Rhino
I don’t think protagonists have to be likeable, but they should be interesting. The OP is a shallow stereotype and I don’t care about them.

I think the story’s a fun facsimile. It’s a good capture. But an interesting structure doesn’t make a good story. There’s a drip-feed of an underlying plot, that amounts to what exactly?

I find myself wishing the OP was more upset at the new show. They’re ruining his world, right? His fury/despair would’ve resonated well with the literal razing. Maybe.

Blood Money - Baneling Butts
Political struggles are rarely resolved through dry debates. That’s just the surface work, you know? The stuff beneath all that, the behind-the-scenes machinations — blackmail, cloak-and-dagger operations, the deft vying for influence… That’s the good poo poo. That’s what I want to read.

What I’m trying to say is that I don’t find this story interesting. Most of it is a stale back and forth, and a waste of premium space. You’re doing some compelling world-building here, but it’s wasted in the unimaginative telling.

Long Live the King - Noah
Competently written, but ultimately forgettable. There’s nothing in your story that isn’t well-trodden territory (I know — there’s nothing new under the sun. But at least try).

The beginning threw me. I thought it indicated that the story would play at humor, which it didn’t. Maybe that would’ve set it apart from the other space operas this week.

The Moth - flerp
I’m a sucker for domestic dramas with a sinister edge.

I love the sparse language and the selective use of evocative imagery. Some criticism was raised that the story didn’t hit the theme hard enough. I don’t agree. I feel that the way the protagonist quietly pushes his worldview on their dying partner, while being unable to emphasize with their needs, is plenty authoritarian enough.

My pick for win this week.

The Notary - apophenium
This is an okay character study of a pathological narcissist. The Words are Good — the language is functional. It doesn’t stick out (for better or worse), but you still manage to write some great scenes.

I wish the story had delved into the flash rule more, because I think that expanding on John’s theoretical society would’ve given us a deeper exploration of his character. In contrast, OCD regarding stationary isn’t a shortcut to a compelling character.

Nitpick: why would the nanny just throw away a package like that?

Dear Leader - emgeejay
Fun. Wish I had more to say, but the story doesn’t either.

Huòluàn - Bad Seafood
I guess I like the idea of a cultural disease that offers the cure for a physical one. It’s a decent enough foundation for a story. But the telling of it is too emotionally detached.

The protagonist isn’t even a cliché — he’s empty. The hat at the end isn’t enough.

Being authoritarian doesn’t necessarily mean you’re devoid of internal conflict. The protagonist doesn’t waver when he sentences his grandchild to death. Give me a struggle, engage me.

And what’s the purpose of the phrases in (I assume) Mandarin? Is this some meta-level characterization to emphasize the protagonist’s opposition to the foreign influence, his dislike so strong that it spills over into the telling? Or is it simply to exotify? Either way, I didn’t like it.

Hands of Fate - Joda
There are a lot of perfunctory depictions in this story. “There was a thing. It looked like this. Then something happened. And then another thing happened.” It’s tedious. Pare down your descriptions, and try to have more fun. Imply more. Take some shortcuts.

I think you put the flash rule to good use. You build a pretty interesting world. Unfortunately, you puncture it at the end. I don’t buy the protagonist’s swift turn. It’s undeserved and unbelievable.

TULIP - Staggy
Like Blowout said, you nailed the flash. Structurally, this is the most story-ish story of the bunch, and it’s capably told to boot. It didn’t resonate as much with me as it did with the other judges. I don’t know why; maybe simple because of association to the Space Operatic Suite…

Destroyer of Worlds - SlipUp
The language is overwrought and kinda sloppy — but the way the protagonist drags you into his melodrama is colourful. I’d hesitate to call this a good story, but it’s entertaining. A huge improvement over your last entry.

The Madness that Defines Us - Simply Simon
You maxed out the word limit, but I don’t see why. You could’ve pruned some of the overly long and burdened sentences that ocassionally tangles the flow. Some points are needlessly hammered in (we all know what a gem looks like).

Echoing my criticism of the other space operas; the protagonist is a boring cliché.

There’s some dense world-building here that you hint at just enough. I’m intrigued.

I Have Seen the Light and It Is Beautiful - Viscardus
Felt like there was gonna be some significance to Fear and Hatred, but in the end I couldn’t really see a point to the electric naming.

If you’ve ever met a convert they’re usually not shy to extoll the virtues of their faith/whatever. But your protagonist just wants to die already, without expending the slightest effort to convince his old comrade of anything. A bit boring, especially considering the fascinating premise.

The Truth Shall Set You Free - Doctor Zero
I don’t feel like you incorporated authoritarianism into your story — which, by the way, is overly linear and stilted.

Don’t introduce gods if you’re not gonna do something exciting with them. If you remove the intro, would it detract from the story at all? I don’t think so.

Stars Are Right - crimea
This is the most accomplished entry in the Space Operatic Suite. I think the language is beautiful and a joy to read. You keep the the world-building reined in a nicely balanced suggestive mode.

But the narrator is just another cardboard cutout of an overbearing rear end in a top hat devoid of character. The stock is real high-quality though; got a nice gloss to it.

Talamar the Strong
Honestly my favorite of the Funny Ones. Hits its beats well and true. Made me laugh and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

It’s a breeze to read. It conveys its contents with a kind of effortlessness that I think belies the actual work behind it. I might be wrong. But I liked your story nonetheless.

anatomi fucked around with this message at 14:30 on Mar 13, 2019

Mr. Steak
May 8, 2013

by Jeffrey of YOSPOS

Barnaby Profane posted:

I volunteer one in-depth linecrit for a prior TD entry, first come first served.



Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012


A Critique of Lunch, by OnsetOutsider

Jelly spurted out the sides of Lilly’s sandwich when she bit into it, staining her fingers and shirt an icky red.
There are a number of problems with your opening sentence.
  1. Lilly is your main character. Your first sentence is all-important in terms of establishing character and getting the ball rolling. The subject of this sentence is the jelly in Lilly's sandwich. Try restructuring this sentence with Lilly as the subject and see how that feels.
  2. There’s a mix of timescales in the action that’s clumsy; spurting is instantaneous, but staining is a longer-term kind of affair. Try something that feels more immediate than staining.
  3. Icky is an adjective that is both weak and attention-drawing, which isn’t a good combination. Furthermore, it’s spoiling your punchline -- you’re broadcasting from the get-go that there’s something gross in Lilly’s sandwich.

“See, I told you it’d be too much,” her father said, laughing.
With this sentence, it is established that Lilly’s father is indulgent of Lilly’s desires. Is it necessary, given the objective of the sentence, to reference an event that occurred before the beginning of the story?
“Here, let’s not waste any,” he said as he took a napkin and gently lifted a glob from Lilly’s shirt up to her mouth.
The addition of the second line of dialogue is clunky, because it’s adding a second dialogue attribution with no discernible action in between. It’s a missed opportunity for detail. Alternatively, consider what would happen if the dialogue weren’t there -- what important building block of the story would be lost?
It was overwhelmingly sweet, but Lilly liked it.
Confusing, because we’re in Lilly’s point of view, but I don’t know many kids that toss around words like “overwhelmingly”. Also, she took a bite of sandwich made of the stuff, but the construction of the sentence implies that she’s tasting the jelly for the first time.
She gobbled down the rest of her juicy meal.
The action is muddled -- is she gobbling down the glob that her father lifted up? Is she finishing the rest of her sandwich? Has she somehow mastered the art of not spurting jelly all over the place when she eats? Next, let’s talk about the adjective “juicy”. What’s it adding, given that you’ve already established that the sandwich is overstuffed with jelly that spurts out all over the place? It seems to me that you’re overplaying your hand, a little too eager to get to your punchline -- you’re spoiling the reveal.

“Can I have more, Daddy?” she asked.
This is a flat line. It’s a snappy morsel of cannibal comedy and you’re coming up on the punch line. Give it some zip, some pizzazz. Make it over-the-top. Also, given that you’re working with a tight word budget, do you think you actually needed the dialogue attribution here, or do you think you might have been able to trust your reader to work out the details from the context?

“Oh... only for you,” he winked, exiting the room.
  1. “Winked” is not a dialogue attribution. You can’t wink words.
  2. This dialogue only reinforces the father’s character as indulgent, but you’ve already established that. Deliberate repetition can be funny, of course, but this doesn’t feel deliberate.
  3. An ellipsis in dialogue is generally best used to signify a lost train of thought, a trailing off; in this instance, an ordinary comma would work better.
  4. Resist the urge to combine separate actions in the context of a single sentence when they don’t occur simultaneously. This sentence construction implies that Lilly’s father is speaking, winking, and exiting the room simultaneously.
  5. “Exiting the room” tells us nothing valuable about the room that Lilly and her father are in, nor does it reveal any interesting aspect of Lilly’s father’s character. It’s a squandered opportunity to reveal additional detail.

Walking into the nursery with purpose, Lilly’s father already knew who he had in mind.
  1. Generally, in short fiction, it’s regarded as good form to maintain a consistent point of view. Here we’ve switched from Lilly’s POV to Lilly’s father’s POV. Can you think of a way that you might have gotten to your punchline without a POV switch?
  2. “With purpose”. These are filler words. We already know that Lilly’s father left to get Lilly more food -- his “purpose” is already established.
  3. “Already knew who he had in mind”. You’re spoiling the punchline, again. You just had to play it cool for one more line, but you couldn’t resist.

Lifting the plumpest sleeping baby from its crib, he headed to the kitchen.
  1. As a punchline, this is functional in that it reveals the joke, but that’s about it. A good punchline adds a twist. Think about the standard dead-baby joke format -- the meat of the joke sets you up by getting you to picture something gross, and then the punchline twists your expectations while simultaneously jamming even grosser pictures into your brain.
  2. The punchline leaves a bunch of open questions. Where are all of these babies coming from? How many babies does it take to make a single jelly sandwich? What’s for dinner? Any one of these questions could form the basis of a twist that would give your punchline some weight.

Overall Thoughts

This is somewhere between micro-horror-fiction and a Dead Baby joke, but rather than encompassing the entirety of its parts and becoming something greater, it’s stuck in the divide and not doing a good job at being either.

In both horror and comedy, there’s a setup and there’s a punchline, and the goal of the setup is to build the reader’s expectations so that when the punchline comes, it’s surprising. If there’s one takeaway here, it’s that good comedy/horror is a sleight of hand trick -- think carefully about how you’re choosing to manipulate the attention of your reader so that the punchline actually lands. You might be tempted to argue something along the lines of well what the hell do you expect with only 118 words?, but that’s bullshit -- you can do a lot with 118 words if you have to, and there’s a lot of flab on this story that could be cut out to make way for more functional language.

If you’re not already familiar, Vonnegut has a set of eight rather excellent rules for writers, and I would pay special attention to Rule 4: Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action. Especially in micro-fiction, where every word is precious, you want to aim for both.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012


Since that one was short: if anybody else would like throw a story on the slab for dissection, I'm putting another linecrit up for grabs.

Sep 30, 2006

Barnaby Profane posted:

Since that one was short: if anybody else would like throw a story on the slab for dissection, I'm putting another linecrit up for grabs.

Hey that was really good! Can I get one?

My story is here.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔

Felt inspired to do another round of crits, so here you go. Preface: I didn't have time nor the muse to go super in-depth, so most of these are based on first impressions. In fact, if I did a re-read, it usually wasn't because I liked it so much, but rather because something confused me and I wanted to clarify. That is not good and your story is the Worst if I had to do that, because I am Very Smart and thus will get everything immediately unless it's badly written. Or maybe I'm a super inattentive reader because I didn't get the rhyming thing in Thranguy's which was later pointed out to me on Discord, and I also overlooked a few other things I sometimes caught, sometimes not after checking the stories again.

But mostly, you're all bad and it's definitely not me who is in fact bad this week. Enjoy my opinions (not facts)!

Thranguy - The Sounds of Hammers on Glass, Played in a Minor Key

I was taken aback a little by the style that seemed to want to emphasize the surreal idea behind the story, but often left me a little confused. It’s not bad, but maybe a little much in addition to what’s already going on. I’m think of sentences like “Before we understood the trouble about.”, or “Gospel testifies. Only guilt denies.” – of course, the Father is a weird dude anyway. Just a little much.

I had to look up “obdurate”, just fyi.

Apart from the style, I also feel like the story suffers from the idea being a little too out there without a little twist to it. You try to justify the hatred of clear things by having the Father give a very stretching explanation, and by having the narrator experience the devil-voices himself, but it’s so obviously idiotic that I can’t get into it. Also, mugs usually aren’t clear (I know there’s glass mugs, but that’s not the first thing you think of), and mirrors are also very much not see-through.

It also seems like the thing with the girl is going somewhere (apprentice getting doubts? What about her not quite virtuous mother?), but it really doesn’t. Overall, there’s no real story here, and the weird premise isn’t done well enough for me to enjoy it.

If I gave out a rating (I don’t because I don’t believe in quantifying enjoyment), I’d give you half a star extra for the title though, that’s a great one.

sebmojo – Wormfood

This was quite good, and hinted at exactly the right amount of backstory to intrigue me without boring me with worldbuilding details. One thing irked me, though: generally, I like your use of metaphors and similes (even though you probably enjoy using them a little too much), but the final one is a headscratcher. Do the clouds shimmer faintly of cellophane to emphasize a general mood (encased in plastic is bad), or is there something I’m not getting about the setting? Or is it just a “thing is like other thing”? If the latter, why use it as the final line, the punchline? Just leaves me unnecessarily confused.

Scratch that, I reread again more carefully and realized that the worms shimmer cellophane-colored. That’s…strange and I don’t quite see how it would actually look like, but I get what you mean now.

An issue with the story itself I have is that the Teacher fluctuates a little too much in my perception of him. It starts out as him having to do tough decisions and genuinely worrying for his children, veers into darkness with Yarrow’s injury he obviously inflicted on her, then goes back to him being a mentor as he lets himself get convinced to teach her – up until this moment, he might be too strict for our modern standards (after all, you don’t hit children!), but maybe the right amount of strict for a postapocalypse? And then he decides to kill Yarrow because she’s asking too many questions…but then why did he teach her about the clutch? And even smiled at her? His decision to kill her doesn’t gel with his previous actions.

I get that you’re probably hinting at him having killed the other children as well (“The grass and trees were all gone now, and the children, well.” is an absolutely terrific sentence, by the way), but I don’t completely buy it.

I’m also not super sure how good their chances were before he got kicked off the group (depends a little on how much the children’s numbers dwindling was due to the environment and how much due to him), but maybe they’re still very much hosed what with all food being wormy, nothing there at the moment, and them being currently very hungry. But that’s not the point of the story, I think.

Overall, enjoyable, painting an ugly but well-drawn picture (in many stated colors).

Benny Profane – The Swineherd Rebellion

This story went to disgusting places, but I liked it nonetheless (or because of it). The overall point, the cyclical nature of tyrannies and the inevitability of the rebel leaders becoming like the ones they set out to destroy, is finely worked out using the rather crude medium you chose.

It maybe is going a little over-the-top, but it does fit the tone you set initially, a little whimsy, but garnished with a slight edge sometimes, because after all, you are talking about dictators, their decrees, and a semi-violent revolution. It’s a well-done blend in the end.

The only thing I take issue with is the arc of farmer Bosch: he starts out as just some dude who catalyzes the revolution, then everyone follows his vague ideas, that become a “decree”, and eventually he is the leader of a new order…I guess? Despite you stating that he is an “inexperienced statesman”, he graduates from mob instigator to dictator without a motivation beyond the initial “gently caress those clean guys”. It makes no real sense to me that he would go there, and start living in a mansion, without getting just a tiny bit more of his character. The minister was way more fleshed out, and Bosch needs to mirror that, I think.

Because I pointed that out before: for your story, as well, I had to look up what “comity” means. Some incidental comments:
- I like how you connect sentences, at least at the start (it’s probably where most people focus their biggest attention, so that is a completely neutral statement). From ill-advised to the actual advisors’ advice of “don’t”, to the “but…could not be compelled”, it flows well. Incidentally, it’s how I also like to write ;).
- Your “pissed-in blanket” simile is a little too on the nose (heh) I think, because…well, it literally stinks like piss and worse, comparing it to that is almost too weak.
- “[He] received the odour as though delivered by a barroom pugilist, doubling over and retching.” – I was wondering how a retching pugilist smells until I got what you meant.

Overall, I liked it despite it leaving a bad smell in my nose.

Sitting Here – Bardo 59°

An intriguing tale, with a rather vague apocalyptic force to set the stage, and I like that it at the end gets a little more definition in conjunction with proving the authoritarian right – for all the good it does. So it’s a good ending, but I’m not a fan of the beginning – I think the density of metaphors is a little too much. Basically, I don’t like this sentence: “The end of the world approached at the speed of a growing fingernail, squeezing the last humans westward like so much toothpaste onto the bristles of the Pacific Ocean.” and the next few suffer in my mind because I’m still distracted by how little I like it.

It’s a combination of the pacific ocean not being bristly, fingernails not usually used to squeeze toothpaste, and the words generally being a little ugly. It doesn’t quite fit the dreamlike mood apart from being wonky.

That’s also why I initially had trouble connecting the first and third sections – the ones in the present, with the backstory in between – as I didn’t quite get why they ascended a watchtower in the first place. It makes sense on re-read (Mason and Terri are alone and none of the other yogis overhear them), but the story shouldn’t need a re-read. The backstory insert is a little awkward anyway, and I feel like the story could just be linear.

Another thing that took me a bit was that I have no idea what a “yogi” is – I have no connection whatsoever to “yoga culture”, so I guess it’s just random people who were instructed by Terri? As opposed to actual followers of a religion? So it’s purely Terri who inspires them to follow her specifically? Anyway, other words like “sangha” also leave me cold for the above reason. As I don’t have an understanding myself, I really don’t know if Terri is supposed to be just some random new age lady who read about all of this yoga stuff in a book and now “truly believes” in Buddhism, or if she ACTUALLY is a Buddhist who knows her poo poo and should be taken more seriously.

I like how she gets rid of Mason, a cruel manipulation, but I don’t like that this doesn’t lead to anything. I thought he’d come back, or she’d start using his noble sacrifice as another manipulation tool, but it just doesn’t happen. Instead, what she does to convince the other yogis is completely unrelated to Mason.

I’m also not quite sure what exactly happened, which isn’t helped by a really unfortunate typo – I suspect the sentence is supposed to read “You can’t go back because YOU don’t know where you are”? So…she just lead them into the wilderness and they all froze to death overnight? Only she survived out of sheer tenacity? But the others just dying doesn’t quite fit with her awakening “alone”. They wandered off, leaving her there? That’s weak.

Overall, I didn’t hate it, but it left me a little too confused and wanting for more at too many points.

The Saddest Rhino - UnOfficial Baby Rhinos: The African Kingdom Appreciation Group ➤ Admin Pinned Post

This is a fun parody. It does tell a bit of a story, and it is really clever that you use edits to mark the passage of time in what should be a static forums post, so that’s a plus. However, I do think you spent a little too much time in the Idiots on Social Media thread to research for this entry; while sadly a lot of people do actually post like that, I was taken out of your thing whenever a buzzword was used. “liEberal” is obvious, but also complaining about the “CalArts style” is VERY 2018-mad-internet-whitey and seems therefore extremely dates the post.

I enjoyed the completely absurd aside about the Admin being definitely a lawyer; that is the level of parody I was hoping for throughout, but too often you’re just quoting idiocy, almost. Like, you’re not adding anything. Another thing that was intriguing, but seemingly not going anywhere specific was the thing about the Swahili words in the intro.

Sadly, that also was a little confusing, because why would the Admin suddenly defend that specific aspect of the new show, while hating every other tiny thing about it with determined morosity? An explanation I might have for both that and how it ends is that Admin is extremely sick of people relentlessly dunking on him and his mancave and would rather sooner than later see the topic just die down completely, and people bringing up the chant thing again and again prevents that.

If that was the intention, it might be better if it was a little clearer; after all, your piece isn’t exactly subtle. Embrace the Admin’s screeching descent into internet power trip a little more, and you have a winner; at the moment, it just feels a little too safe for all the fun possibilities the format has.

Baneling Butts – Blood Money

This one was hard to read, because your characters don’t have names, and their titles all end the same. I get that you don’t want to come up with nine names just for a short piece (or…five that actually do something?), but it’s simply confusing. It took me two re-reads to realize that the story is actually about Trade Master, who is the sole “good guy” at the start and gets worn down; the rest are dicks throughout.

This is also a horrible sentence: “One of Marazanvose’s leading weapon-crafters and her apprentices had publicly protested the city’s trade of these weapons, specifically to the city-state of Ferrath who had proceeded to wipe out their neighbor Polauve with them.”
Just too many names at once; you could have saved those for the characters! And Maran…etc. doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue either.

Your world-building is too sparse for me. I don’t like it when it’s excessive, but you hint at your setting, like, twice: with paper that is touch-activated and people that can just explode hearts. If the general tech level and setting were just a bit more explored, I wouldn’t wonder why the city-states are warring at all, if Marazanvose is maybe a particularly powerful one, if the bombs are a new invention or especially efficient, powerful…and so on.

Again, it took me a re-read just to get what you were going for, and then it wasn’t much: Trade Master tries to be less violent, but is too spineless to actually protest, then gives in, and in the end they all die – ironically, because they didn’t care about bomb regulations at the start. It’s not super interesting.

Noah – Long Live the King

I like this one, simply because I enjoy the themes it presents. The authoritarian planning grand dreams just to have them shattered by their protagonists appeals to me, and you deliver the moment of “nope” by Sarah pretty well.

I was left wanting by the end a little, because the Creeping Doom should still be on the screens, and Sarah doesn’t react to it at all. It feels like you could have done something with that, though I do understand that the focus of your story was how little she played along with Terrorstar’s plan.

Gotta admit I hate the evil guys’ names. I thought you were going for a bit of a parody first, but “Berenholdt” is so mundane in comparison…so mundane you misspell it halfway through.

Overall, your initial part when Terrorstar is still alive and the wrap-up after Sarah ices him don’t fit super well together, because the moment when he dies is already the pay-off you’ve built up to, and the rest doesn’t really do anything; see above for what I thought could have come there, but I’d have been happy with something else as well. Instead, it just ended.

flerp – The Moth

Really enjoyed this one. The interaction between the two protagonists reminded me of the big spoiler in Silent Hill 2, which is a pretty nerdy comparison, but hopefully you consider it praise (I don’t remember which of the TD regulars really like SH2, but I know it’s quite a few). After all, it’s considered to be one of the best written videogames ever made.

I think the line “Why can’t I be scared?” is the best line in this story, because it perfectly encapsulates why she pulls away more and more from her husband, and how his authoritarianism manifests in being controlling. To the point of telling her that her feelings are stupid, and she should really be working on Better Feelings. Maybe it also hits a bit close to home, because I have acted like that guy in the past before, fortunately got told off and hopefully learned my lesson.

It’s an important one, told well enough to not be a sledgehammer, and wrapped in a great story to boot. I could see this being made into a festival-winning short movie. My favorite so far!

apophenium – The Notary

It was a little funny, but didn’t grab me. I was a little confused by John’s actual job, because you put so much emphasis on the bible; I honestly thought for a while that the story was set in a fantasy setting, where Notary is a title held by church officials that have, you know, actual power. As you show at the end, John is a little cog in the system with delusions of his own importance, but I didn’t understand that at the start. Such a twist can be fine to make a re-read sweeter, but it wasn’t strong enough for that, I think.

Maybe I would have picked up on the realistic setting quicker if you didn’t start with a sentence containing a “messenger bag”, which doesn’t make me think of anything but “medieval courier rucksack”, and didn’t go on with a senator’s public suicide, which is just not something that happens very often. Unless, of course, your setting is in a different world from hours, where lives are cheaper.

I did enjoy the part where John internally monologues how perfectly he set up the forms to be signed, that was very American Psycho.

John’s “revenge” kinda sucked, sadly. I imagined something a little more unhinged or at least trying-to-be-subtle, like him actually pretending that some minor detail was wrong and loving over the tycoon by altering the forms to lose him money; he could have thought that that was SO CLEVER, but of course would be busted immediately. Him just screaming nonsense feels like a lame way for him to go down; it’s not ironic in the slightest, if you know what I mean? He just flips out, that has little to do with his beliefs. In fact, he very much betrays them by not doing his loving job like he’s supposed to.

Overall, the theme of a guy who has a relatively high profile job but not high profile enough to warrant his self-importance is good, but it lacked a little in execution.

Also, because I point that out for everyone this week (and it surprised me, the last few times I read all the entries I didn’t have to do that for any word?), I had to look up “cilice”.

engeejay – Dear Leader

This was hilarious, and I chuckled a few times when reading it. Especially the “Wow!” at the start is a powerful joke. I did also like how you climaxed (get it) towards the leader being actually quite desperate to Finally gently caress, though that was marred a little by the aside about him putting on music and changing into a nice outfit – that’s way too on the nose and took me out of the fun. Also, it breaks the smooth escalation to the leader’s blue ball reveal.

Similarly, the “CAKE form” thing tries to add an extra joke to something that is quite funny on its own already (the “oversized cake delivery” is perfect), and opens a completely different line of jokes – about bureaucracy – that doesn’t fit into the sexual framework, and is never explored again. Rightfully so, because this isn’t about worldbuilding the actual regime of the leader. Nix it!

I was also a little confused (again, taking me away from the pure fun of this ridiculous propaganda piece) by the fact that you name the Journal – something that doesn’t really add anything, except for the equally meaningless mention that Ms. Smyth was subscribed to it – but censor the war against X[…]X. It seems inconsistent somehow.

Overall, a little more focus and I’d have loved it unconditionally.

Bad Seafood – Huòluàn

This was pretty nuanced, and I liked how you handled that. I recently read The Windup Girl, and your story reminded me of that – a clash of cultures often told from a perspective unfamiliar to the Western one. But without a sadly typical “haha, those crazy Chinese and their belief in traditional medicine” tint.

I enjoyed how you were able to change my opinion about your protagonist a few times during the course of the story. He seemed way too strict, then made a good point about the English, then was willing to let a child die, then his motivations were explained by the example and the downfall of his father – due to the English opium. That was a very good flow for, again, a very nuanced and complex story.

And of course, while Chen Zi’s attitude towards the English is perfectly understandable and justified, he is still very much wrong to let a child die, and refuse treatment for his own illness – in my opinion at least – and I suspect yours as well, because the story probably doesn’t coincidentally end with a literal gutpunch against Chen Zi’s convictions. Very well done.

The only negative I have is a little stupidity on my own part: I was reading headsman instead of headman, and thought his “even the head(s)men!” line meant to impart disgust towards executioners, then was super confused when he was revealed as a headman himself. It’s just an unfamiliar word for me, and sadly quite similar to one I do know. Really not your fault, though!

Joda – Hands of fate

I’m not into this story. First of all, your prose is a little awkward – something that could be fixed with polish or practice, but it does stick out. For example, this is a terrible sentence: “In front of Leila in this moment, was a boy in his mid teens, who was not quite as comfortable with the fumes.” – it has a completely superfluous and also misplaced “in the moment”, the comma afterwards is wrong, the “not quite as” is clunky, and furthermore the lead into it from the previous sentence (which has a “the subject before her” in it) makes the “in front of” redundant.

Other examples:
“Our palms is their medium” – they ARE the medium
“The boy let out a blood curdling scream” – cliché, and should be blood-curdling
“his screaming witnessed to the fact” – wrong construction

This is all excusable and doesn’t make or break a story; however, the actual happenings in it are not very interesting to boot. You describe what the authoritarian does, then she discovers that she was wrong, and she despairs over that, trying to erase the wrongdoing. The latter two parts happen very quickly, and without any build-up in the “what she’s doing” part – at any point, she could have expressed regret about her “sadly necessary” actions, anything really to make her instant loss of faith a little more palatable, foreshadowed, but it’s just not there. It feels unearned and ultimately tepid; there’s tons of “this single moment of realization changes a character’s outlook completely” moments in fiction, but they’re all bad, this is not how humans work. Doubt needs to build up, especially for an authoritarian like her who has been doing this poo poo for probably years without any doubt in her mind.

In general, it seems like you stuck very hard and fast to the “palm reader” flash rule without a big passion for it, and just described hand-related things that would happen if a palm reader gained actual power, and tried to end it with a character moment that falls flat completely. I would offer advice for improvement, but I doubt that it would be useful; this doesn’t read like a story you love the concept of to me, and I certainly don’t, so just take encouragement in this way: I’m sure you can write something better if you find a theme that really grabs you. Yes, that was a hand metaphor.

Staggy – TULIP

Obviously, you took Stammetz’ name from Star Trek: Discovery’s character Stamets, and that annoys me.

Kidding aside, a great story, and definitely deserving of the win (editor’s note: I wanted to finish those before judging but drat was it fast and good this time, so here’s it violating my objectivity, haha). Your basic idea is very simple yet compelling – that the “chosen few” are taken following a Grand Plan that isn’t revealed to anybody. It’s like the Mormon (right?) creed but taken to a logical extreme: who says that God chooses the right people, or that you would even understand His plan?

In your limited canvas, you explore the ramifications of such a system quite well, in that people react understandably confused, hurt, and very human. The strength of the bit characters is what carries this, your protagonist is basically a completely blank slate, but for once it’s fine – they embody and explain a system that comes off as distinctly inhuman to the observer.

For me, the best part is the contrast between the two groups that want to be saved and think they deserve it, and the one that thinks other people should not be saved. The latter is a great example of crab bucket mentality, and it’s surely a coincidence but ready the “CRB” acronym in the next sentence as “CRAB” involuntarily made me smile because it shows the strength of your story making me think.

It’s also great that you present a third, less expected but also quite human viewpoint by expanding on it with the actual core of the story – the person who does not want to be saved, and not even for any particularly selfish reason. It makes perfect sense to give the most space to this most complex issue people might have with the CRB’s grand plan, and it’s pulled off quite well. Kudos!

SlipUp – Destroyer of Worlds

Before I even start writing this, I wonder if you specifically tried to make this 666 words and had to contort yourself for that.

ANYWAY, I liked it more than I hated it, but it took me until the end to flip my opinion. Let’s start with a throughout positive: I like your language. It’s grand-standing blathering, the monologue of a lunatic with delusions of grandeur he can actually back up, and I live for this kind of nonsense. You can keep this up forever, it warms my soul.

However, until he actually reached the part where he explained his plan and it dawned on me what he wanted to do, I didn’t get any of the story. Your language was a bit too flowery to convey what you meant, and too abstract to make me see what’s going on. It’s exemplified by this sentence:

“I held Marcus’s throat as he bled his fruits of conquest.”

You spent the last ten or so sentence to talk poo poo about some parasite (it was not clear at all at this point that you were talking about death itself), then about specific people, so when I reached Marcus, I thought “Jordius must have really hated this specific guy”, and “holding his throat” made me think of Darth Vader lifting up the rebel pilot, not “staunching a mortal wound”. “Bleeding fruits of conquest” makes no loving sense in any context, that doesn’t help at all.

Once you do clarify that Jordius is on a mission to literally kill death as exemplified by a planet, the story clicked into place for me, and it’s loving metal is what it is. I love it! But I should have loved it from the start!

I think if you work on your clarity, keeping the general tone, you got a good framework for writing a Warhammer 40k novel right here. I haven’t read anything WH40K stuff myself, by the way, I only hear stories; but the stories by adoring fans sound like something you could write in that style, so it’s meant as an endorsement. Carry on!

Also, don’t think I didn’t catch that sick Teutoburger Wald reference. Yeah I use the German term because it was in Germania fite me.

Viscardus – I Have Seen the Light and It Is Beautiful

This seems like something I might write, but I’d probably choose another ending. Yes, this is probably scorching coming from this week’s loser, but that applies to any crit I gave.

What I like about it is the calmness of the protagonist; you’re not making him a fanatic convert. You are also giving the other characters fair grievances and problems with him and his choices, and I respect that up until the end, it’s not clear if there IS actually a True Light, or if he has simply been tricked into believing so. Or rather been literally mind-scorched by some sorcery. I think you could have hinted a little more at what She actually is and does; it would probably have tipped the scales a little more into the “he’s obviously still choosing wrong” direction, though. Because it’s quite hard to write about an absentee tyrant with three people in the room who have very legitimate issues with them and have the tyrant come off as a valid choice for the good person in the story.

So that’s a certain weakness. Another lies in the way you write; I feel like you give too much space to things that are ultimately extraneous – like the extended waking up in pain sequence at the start, and irrelevant information like “I surmise that it is night from the absence of light peeking through the cracks.”. Or the question of how and when the protagonist was taken. All of this doesn’t matter and weakens what you are going for, robbing you of the space to develop the relationship between him and his former acquaintance.

Ultimately, I don’t think it’s a bad story, but it leaves me wanting for a bit more substance; I’d love to hear more about the philosophy of Her – if the protag at least believes it to be convincing, maybe you should WRITE something about that. Yes, you do mention that he thinks it’s pointless to convince his former friend/lover (?). But that’s a cop-out, imho. Show at least something.

One final thing: I like this image a lot: “I open my eyes and the darkness pours in.” You interpreted “seeing the Light” extremely literally, which might be a bit lazy, but sentences like that redeem your choice.

Doctor Zero – The Truth Shall Set You Free

This is intriguing, though it seems like I’ve read it before. Usually, these stories have the artifact be cursed, though – and I’m not actually sure if you’re getting at that. In a meta way, your prompt is that your authoritarian believes that they can sense the lie – it doesn’t mean that it’s true. But this doubt is not actually in the story. I confess that the final line, which might be that doubt in the form of a twist, loses me. Why would she answer a god? What is the question? Does it mean that she answers TO a god? This is a bit of a sad end for an okay setup that could go both ways – because this way, it goes neither. And is therefore wasted.

In more particular critique, I like the first two parts, they don’t waste too many words but are ponderous enough to carry some gravity. I hate the next part, the dialogue with the maybe-or-not robber is extremely awkward, especially her discussion with him about his voice. I feel like you could have done that much better and more organically, as she discovers the power-or-illusion-of the sword gives her.

It's weird in the next part that she doesn’t recognize the fat man immediately as belonging to the faction that killed her family. After all, revenge is first and foremost on her mind. Also, this does not work as describing something that is not an action: “His long hair receded as his stomach expanded.” – I thought it was a demon transforming for a second.

I already complained about the last part. As I said, kind of a shame, the beginning was promising but it squandered my goodwill.

crimea – Stars Are Right

“What the gently caress is a caul”, I googled. My vocabulary is really getting tested and expanded this week. But enough of my own shortcomings; this was a beautiful story, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It doesn’t have an obvious message or theme, but it paints a picture I simply like looking at, and that is more than enough for me.

You choose some excellent, and very grand descriptions for how the Chosen One acts upon the universe and it acts upon him; and I think it’s very intriguing that he just cannot make any decision without being prompted by a sign from outside. I don’t even think that this is meant to be tragic or that he suffers much; he has thoroughly accepted from the moment of his birth that some higher power will guide his every move, and he lives without compromise following this principle. This is pretty alien, in that the mindset is completely incomprehensible to the average human, but you write it in an internally consistent and well-explained way, so it’s not offputting to me.

The antagonist serves well to illustrate how powerless the protagonist truly is without even realizing it; the actual tragedy in the story is that the antagonist still loses, almost incidentally, even though he would probably deserve to win against the terrible power of the star-child that is seemingly chosen by the universe to Never Do Wrong. It’s kind of terrifying, without being overtly presented as such. It makes me think grand thoughts, and I like those; my own story is similar. Again, I lost, but gently caress it – I also saw people complain on Discord about your story “not having a plot” or the characters being “underdeveloped”, but I feel like I see your point, and that we think alike about what we want to write about and also see written. I hope I’m correct and that you liked my story; if not, gently caress you.

Saucy_Rodent – Talamar the Strong

I, uh, didn’t like this at all. I think you were going for a bit of a parody of modern society or something, but the joke just fell completely flat for me. I did enjoy “The guy over there who looked pretty big”, that was a line that made me chuckle, but the “social media” mention and the dyed hair and painted nails mention just made me groan. Also, you have a typo in the first paragraph (sweat instead of sweated), which should really be the one you worked on the most, so…work harder on everything next time.

The “rocks fall, everyone dies” ending is also lame. You jab at Talamar’s toxic masculinity, and you know, I get it, but come on. Satire should be a little subtle.

You have at least some talent for funny writing (as I said, I enjoyed at least one line), so maybe with practice writing comedies, you will improve. At the moment, it doesn’t look great, though. Sorry!

Aug 7, 2013




SlipUp posted:

Hey that was really good! Can I get one?

My story is here.

Shoulda been DQ'd for fanfic.

This story is a monologue from a maniac as he prepares to push a button. I can't say I felt any suspense about whether he'd go through with it - once I even figured out what he was even doing. It was too much similar to a thousand other speeches for me to feel any connection to the character or his choices.

I get why you felt the faux-Roman stuff was necessary, to bridge Pluto the planetoid to the god of death, but the science fiction elements muddy the audiences ability to follow this logic of myth. Its not confusing so much as confused as to what it wants to be.

There's no real arc here, and it lacks the grasp of pacing and the clarity of voice needed to really build tension towards that final act of unimaginable hubris.

There could have been bridges built between the concepts of these senators and politicians as parasites on his empire, and death itself as a parasite. As it is the two are disconnected and the former takes up too much time.

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

Saucy_Rodent posted:

I’ll trade my HM last week for a new avi.

Gimme an email to send the cert to, and I'll take care of it once I get home from work.

Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica

Simply Simon posted:

Saucy_Rodent – Talamar the Strong
Also, you have a typo in the first paragraph (sweat instead of sweated), which should really be the one you worked on the most, so…work harder on everything next time.

Ya might wanna Google that one, son. BRAWL

(seriously, never heard anyone say “sweated” as a past tense of “sweat” in my life, is that like a UK thing or something?)

Antivehicular posted:

Gimme an email to send the cert to, and I'll take care of it once I get home from work.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔

Saucy_Rodent posted:

Ya might wanna Google that one, son. BRAWL

(seriously, never heard anyone say “sweated” as a past tense of “sweat” in my life, is that like a UK thing or something?)
I guess I learned something today, but you'll learn something too, because I'll loving school you. Let's throw down.

Sep 30, 2006

Somebody with a losertar come out here and brawl me.

One will rise.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007





Saucy_Rodent posted:

Ya might wanna Google that one, son. BRAWL

Simply Simon posted:

I guess I learned something today, but you'll learn something too, because I'll loving school you. Let's throw down.


Antivehicular posted:

Oh hey, apropos of nothing, now that I'm out of shutdown hell, I can offer my TD Avatar Good Words Bounty:

If you have a TD shametar (the losertar, or something more specialized, either way) and win a brawl or get a positive mention in a main week, I will buy you an avatar cert to use as you see fit, with two stipulations:

1) All brawl wins must demonstrate effort. You can win by default but you have to have tried.
2) Non-TD shametars are not eligible. If you get weird redtext in D&D or something, that's on you.

Go forth and write good words to take my money.

Right so what we're gonna have here is a brawl, and what the prize is gonna be is a new av for the winner.

Your prompt is Two characters enter. One character leaves. Neither character may die.

Word count: 1200
Deadline: 11:59:59 PM PST on March 27th

toxxes pls

I'm aware that Simon doesn't have a losertar yet because gently caress THE MODS

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Simply Simon posted:

I guess I learned something today, but you'll learn something too, because I'll loving school you. Let's throw down.

:siren: Saucy Simon Brawl :siren:

I will preside over the resolution of this debate (the correct answer is "sweated" by the way).

Write me a story in which the internet is wrong.

Bonus points will be awarded for disutopian settings because I like those.

1,000 words

Due Thursday 28 March at 8.00 pm NZ time.

Lol SH you are the speediest

Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 23:18 on Mar 13, 2019

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔

Sitting Here posted:

toxxes pls

I'm aware that Simon doesn't have a losertar yet because gently caress THE MODS

I'll just save seb some effort by winning, eh?

Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


Future Simon: “I sweated so hard and still lost because I’m a lame, presumably British nerd.”

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Simply Simon posted:


I'll just save seb some effort by winning, eh?

It's in the mail. Rest of the crits for curseweak

The Saddst Rhino, final transmission
It’s always tempting to do big stories in thunderdome, start with an earthquake and build to a climax, and the calm grandmotherly tone of this belies quite how apocalyptic the events it describes are. We’re talking slimepocalypse, followed by some sort of slimenaissance. A lot of slime, deployed in legitimately epic ways is what I’m saying. So I think the reason this doesn’t really grab me despite its extreme cleverness is the void at the heart, it’s basically someone talking to their favourite doll. The world is brilliantly insane, the stance of the narrator is complicated and intriguing, and the last paras are just on the good side of nakedly manipulative so I can see why my co-judges liked it, but I think it maybe falls foul of that classic tdome snare, the story that ends when it should be starting. What adventures will spacefaring slime dog have? We don’t know! Tune in never! But stylish, impressively controlled work nonetheless.

Bad seafood A gift as an apology
I FOUND A SIX WORD SENTENCE RETROSPECTIVELY DQ DM LOSS nah just kidding gj buddy. Hellrules are entertaining to write, and they work when you embed them in the dna of the story. I think you nearly managed that, there is a sense of short constrained breaths, of lives lived within an impossibly tight set of constraints. As such it works well when they’re talking to each other, rather less well when you go into retrospection or move your narrative camera outside describing them. I’m also a little puzzled by the satellite falling out of the sky – is that just it falling below the horizon, or does it crash? The ending is a sweet full stop, and you do a decent if over-literal job of conveying the prompt image. On balance this is ok, it doesn’t quite wrestle its way out of its insane Procrustes bed of a prompt, but I’m not sorry I read it. I don’t get the title though (unless it’s saying sorry to the earth by growing flowers? Yeah, that works).

Anom Blow a seeker in the soil
Wow that’s a lot of oranges. So this is obviously a v stylish bit of prose machinery, and it’s worth looking at how – I like, for instance, the varying paragraph lengths, rise and fall of tension and attention, as I do the easy precision of the images, dust, wind, grinding down. I’m less keen on the actual content, because if you strip out the immensely stylish scene setting and dustbowl kitchen sink stuff, all you have left is a premise – it’s the first chapter of an exciting fantasy novel about a dowsing superheroine or w/e and it stops roughly where it should start, you could have cut right from the excellent opening para to her cutting loose and not lost too much but left lots of room for actual story rather than beautifully crafted setup.

Applewhite, dancing lights
One of the more important things in flash fiction is deciding the size of the story you’re going to tell. It’s wildly tempting to tell the beginning of a story and end with a TO B CONTINUED but that’s bad, yes it is. Unlike Blowout I don’t think you do that here, possibly because the implied post story adventure aren’t more exciting than the story adventures. Where this works brilliantly is to ground an intensely limited, literally one dimensional set of actions in a nicely rich array of sense impressions, and a really well characterised set of will o wisp dickholes. I mean that’s what they are, aren’t they, little floating bobbing glimmering dickholes. I do wonder that she never had the forehead slappingly obvious idea of using string to get out before, but still a strong piece that sets a good target and hits it with clarity and precision.

Slipup dragonstorm
You got some grief for how obvious your use of the prompt pic was and yeah true you can do better but that’s not actually the issue here (and nor is your failure to capitalise Earth in your first para). The big issue is, well, this story is a dog. It’s a dog sniffing butts. It sniffs a butt it likes and then it runs over and sniffs another butt then it runs around for a bit then IT! SNIFFS! ANOTHER! BUTT! What I’m saying with this extended metaphor is that your story is just a bunch of stuff that happens, like a kid reciting their dreams. Your low affect protags are having sanity shattering poo poo happening to them and they’re all LOL LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR which is not intrinsically bad you need to recognise it in the story you tell. Your next was a lot better, though, so that’s good. Oh and the next time you decide to put in a para of random alliteration a propos gently caress nothing, plz hit yourself sharply in the throat until you have another idea tyvmia.

Thrangles wake up
This has some nice words in it but fails to land the punch it wants to, I particularly liked the brief disquisition on how hard it is to catch a sheep, I’ve never thought about it but I’m p sure you’re right. So why doesn’t it work? It’s not the language, because you have your usual facility in that respect (though ‘tried a spell’ is bad and vague, what the hell does that look like?); I thought it might be that the relationships are too schematic, but I guess you do an adequate job of that as well with your Spirograph of teen hormones at the beginning. I think it’s mainly that your ending is vague – there’s a Bad way that Things Are, which is also a nothing since it’s everything which is also nothing, and there’s one of the characters who’s been transmogrified into a bunch of sheep which means….???? The upshot of the story is basically nothing, which means all the reasonably nice details are for naught.

Sep 30, 2006

Here's a requested crit. Probably some more general ones tomorrow.

Simply Simon posted:

The Madness that Defines Us
1100/1100 words

With the power given to me by the Souls, I have brought humanity into an unprecedented golden age. As a young rebel, I had toppled a despot, my mentor for fledgling Soul abilities. I was thrust into responsibility as his successor far too early, but I stepped up to the unwanted task. I struggled, learned, grew, tried, failed, and then died. My soul diffused into the vast lifeforce surrounding us, the melting pot of all Souls that ever lived, and I surrendered.

I like your first line. This first paragraph establishes an interesting character and a decent background. It is overly formal. I made some suggestions on this paragraph as an example. I don't intend to do this the whole time, maybe here and there.

Instead, they spoke to me, made me understand the power I had only used like a flailing child before, and told me what I needed to do.

’flailing child' is overused. Here’s a chance to really make us realize how dumb we are.

Our chaotic race was squandering its potential. Unlimited creativity, wasted on petty squabbles. We could be arbiters of the entire universe, but we were like children throwing tantrums. The Souls had taken a chance on my mentor and me, liked what I did with their gift much more, but it wasn’t close to enough.

Too literal. I feel like some of this falls under telling instead of showing. ‘Unlimited creativity, wasted on petty squabbles.’ Who’s creativity, on what? It’s not a wrong sentence but tell me about Archimedes getting stabbed in the back because he was too busy with a math problem to give his own name, Hemingway serving in a war, etc. An example that we can derived the statement ‘Unlimited creativity, wasted on petty squabbles.’ on our own so we get to feel really clever about the whole thing. Kinda reusing the child metaphor as well. You definitely don’t want to be all over the place with unconnected metaphors, but instead of never straying, try building. Maybe humans are the unsophisticated children, and those two are petulant teenagers. Different metaphors, but connected.

So I was reborn in an immortal body brimming with Soul energy. I took the reins the humans desperately needed. I eradicated war, I abolished money, eliminated sickness, and gave every man the tools to rise to enlightenment.

’Brimming’ could be something like ‘twisting’ or ‘blazing’ which are way cooler words imo, just saying. Don’t be afraid to get a little crazy with it. Like what you do with the last line! I did some edits here. “Brevity is wit.”

It’s been millenia - and I haven’t succeeded yet. Sometimes, as I behold the gleaming cities from high up, so perfectly in balance with nature, I wonder if my task is by its very nature even possible. We have always defined ourselves by dissatisfaction. We reshaped the very world, even ourselves, to suit what we thought we wanted. We laughed in the face of evolution for being slow. How can I hope to conclude a process defined by a desire that can never be fulfilled? How can I guide what is informed by irrational passion?

Ok, #1.

This is a good paragraph.


With the change I made.

The Souls want me to take the raw stone of that passion and cut it into a gem, its facets highly ordered, a beautiful and shining arbiter, an example for all other races. But human nature stubbornly refuses to be shaped like this.

I feel like this is kind of repetitive. The only thing I learn here is. That they want a gem. I knew this other stuff already.

We claim to want stability and safety, but I provided that. We get bored in safety, and boredom leads to unrest, and unrest leads to our particular brand of impetuous madness. A madness I sense boiling in the mind of my latest apprentice as he makes his way up to the place I decided to manifest in. I can be wherever I want in the world with a thought. But I’m expecting him here and now, so this anachronistic penthouse office it is.

I knew a lot of this stuff in the first two lines too. What’s anachronistic about this penthouse?

The door bursts open, and the madness bursts out. “Silas! Your death grip on humanity ends today!”

’Madness bursting out’ yes, that’s what I’ve been looking for. I have a picture of. This disheveled guy in a robe falling into the room. More of that. But don’t oversaturate.

“You have one last chance to cease this mad rebellion, Raleigh.”

“I am not afraid, master”, he lies as if I couldn’t see the inside of his brain. I could flip a chemical switch and calm him, disable him or kill him. But that would be the actions of the kind of man I’ve never been, and hope to never become.

Your dialogue needs work. The flat descriptors and neutral tone leave it feeling very sterile.

I failed to make him see my ideals. I need to bloody my own damned hands. I draw the sword, badge of my position, and Raleigh’s follows suit. Soul power flows through us both, allowing us to overcome the limits of physical reality.

I guess I would equate this to being described an event by someone who wants to be overly precise about every detail. “Gary wanted to fight. I was not able to convince him otherwise. I yelling, so he yelled back. We were so angry, we freaked out.” Be more emotive: “Gary was adamant. I tried reason. Reason didn’t answer my call, so I put Gary’s head through the loving door to see if the bitch was home.”

We fight. A dance that leads its own steps. On the table, on the ceiling, in our minds. In the air as I toss Raleigh through the window, then back inside, the shards new weapons for both of us to wield, daggers slicing through the places our bodies did or might occupy.

Good sentence length variation. This is like the shaky cam of literary fight scenes though. Need more specifics if you want to build tension and danger.

Throughout, he pleads against my wall of silence.
“You keep us from what we could be!”
I sidestep a thrust.
“If you gave us freedom, we would have conquered space by now!”
My counter opens skin.
“Why would you unite us without leading us to more?”
He feints in his mind, and attacks in actuality. Clever - yet I still evade.
“Answer me, Silas! What is your plan for humanity? Do you even have one, or do you intend to just let us stagnate forever?”

I like the attempts to reason.

Why am I even sparring with him? I could end him with a thought.

Good point! Thanks for making it for me!

Maybe I think he deserves answers? I start talking.

But he has heard my arguments countless times before; why would they start working now? His mind is set, and he will die in his madness like any human who senselessly challenges what might as well be a God.

Which is exactly how this entire mess started. When I got the mad idea to end my own master’s reign.

I receive the first genuine wound of the fight. Why is his madness worse than mine was? Just because he has no way of succeeding?

And then, finally, almost too late I realize what he is doing. He keeps me musing to prolong the fight, gaining time to spin a web of Souls around me. In just a few seconds, it will close, and my powers will be cut off for just the moment he needs.

He almost made it. But this is where it ends for him, and I will continue to reign and guide humanity towards…

So ultimately the pen is mightier than the sword, right? Words bring down the tyrants guard?

The web closes, my sword falters, and my body becomes a physical necessity. He takes my head off, and I actually die from that.

Anticlimactic. Tone shift. Not a good paragraph. He’s a being brimming with energy right, that’s the most interesting visual thing about him. This guy needs a highlander style head decapitation explosion. Or maybe something poetic, under the cherry blossoms. Or tragically relives all his failures at his moment of death.

I do like ‘my body becomes a physical necessity’. Good descriptor.

About half a century later, the true me gains consciousness in a body where I lived a life from birth to now in ignorant innocence. I remember growing up as Raleigh became more radical. I saw his adepts march the streets to stomp dissenters who were happier with Silas. I was drafted into a new military for eventual space warfare. My mad ploy for sabotage makes me smile. My wife and kids they took make me shed a tear. They will join the vast parade of loved ones lost so far.

’Ignorant innocence’ is not good. ‘Ignorance’ would be fine. Starting to get a little confusing. Major plot points are coming every sentence.

I awakened on the cusp of my execution; instead, Raleigh’s death squad got destroyed by Soul power. And now, I fear, I’ll have to knock on his door, and make good the mistake I made by letting him kill me.

I was rolling with it. I was hanging in there. Souls. Sure. There’s an underlying logic to it. It works. Fine. You can’t call it soul power though. It comes across funny.

But what a wonderful bout of madness that was! It’s been long since I felt so connected to my own humanity. I hope they will forgive me for allowing decades of oppression; but at least it wasn’t me, this time. Though I do wonder, did I make them forget that there are other ways but having a single strong leader? Can I ever truly leave them to their own devices again?

After all - this isn’t the first time this scenario unfolded.

I like how you wrote your ending. Not so much the ending itself.

big takeaways

There’s a big theme of infinite cycles. Time as a flat circle and all that. It is well-trodden territory sadly. I would have broken the cycle, it’s a more dramatic moment to write about. Subversion can help you rehash popular themes. Your characters are your strong points. I like these doomed despots. The word choice I would say is your biggest weakness. Pick more dramatic words. ‘Brimming' makes me think he can be defeated with a straw, ya know? The good news is, I see some good stuff here. Keep pushing. Try to write sentences no one in the history of English has wrote before, ya?

SlipUp fucked around with this message at 03:39 on Mar 14, 2019

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔

Thanks for the special crit, really appreciate it :)

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

I'm in this week to make up for my airport-layover-at-5-in-the-morning story from last week. No flash though.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012


A Critique of Destroyer of Worlds, by SlipUp
666 words

I am Jordius Tactitus, Emperor of Roman-Terra, Commander of the Legions, and steward of dead men.
Decent opener, strikes a campy, imperious tone and gives your reader a good sense of what they’re in for. The rhythm to it is fine, but I would suggest that “steward” feels like a bit of a downgrade after “Emperor” and “Commander” -- try a punchier job description here.
I am abroad the Sol Galley ‘Regalus’, the solar winds power my sails, and through my viewport, the silhouette of Pluto is eclipsing the sun.
You’ve got a couple of typos here (“abroad” instead of “aboard”, and I assume you meant “Regulus” rather than “Regalus”), and that’s the sort of thing that colours a first impression, especially when it crops up in the second sentence. As a minor astronomical aside, you may want to look into just how small and dim the Sun appears at the distance of Pluto’s orbit.
My army is there, amongst the ice.
“Amongst” is a bad word choice here, because you can’t really be “among” the ice. If it were something like “My army is there, amongst the carved pillars of ice extending from the planetoid’s surface” or something, that would work, but even then, I would caution you that the whole haughty tone of the piece is starting to feel a bit much.

I smash my fist against the viewport. Rome is in need. Those men are hostages.
Here’s the first part where I start to get confused. I have no context for the emotion that Jordius is expressing here, and -- this is the important part -- because this story is presented in the first person, as though Jordius is telling us the story himself, it’s breaking the illusion of storytelling, because only someone bad at telling stories would tell their story in this way. Now, I understand the motivation that got you here: you’re trying to create some suspense by painting out a bit of drama, and hoping that your reader is compelled to find out why it is that Jordius is so upset, but that’s not what’s actually happening here: rather than letting the reader in on what’s going on, so that they feel like they’ve got a privileged perspective on the fiction, it feels like you’re intentionally leaving them in the dark. Have a read of what Hitchcock says about the distinction between surprise and suspense.
All of that presupposes, of course, that we will eventually work out why Jordius is upset -- and having read this story a couple of times now, I don’t feel like that clarity ever emerges from the fiction, and that’s less good. Even in the context of having read the story to completion, I don’t understand why Jordius feels that Rome is in need, nor why he considers the men of his army to be hostages.

“Give me back my legions!” I scream. The blackness in my stomach churns.
Here’s the other thing about telling stories in the first person present: it’s difficult to present scenes in which the protagonist expresses strong emotions without it coming across as boasting or overly dramatic. If this story were being told in the limited third person, the “scream” dialogue attribution wouldn’t snag as much.
Also, who is this scream directed at? Pluto? If Jordius sent his legions to the planetoid surface, then who exactly is keeping them from him?

The Senate calls me a tyrant. They are foolish old men, pissing into the wind and proclaiming prophecy upon its return.
“Pissing into the wind and proclaiming prophecy upon its return” is a good line, but you don’t do anything with it -- what do their false prophecies have to do with their labeling of Jordius as a tyrant? Also, given that the Senate is not given a chance within the context of the story to defend itself, Jordius’s line here has an element of sounding like the perfect comeback that comes to mind in the shower several hours too late to be of any use -- it’s establishing Jordius as a loose cannon and a megalomaniac, but I think you’ve already established that well enough. These words would be better spent getting deeper under Jordius’s skin and showing us more of what’s going on under the surface.

I bring glory. Terra was a planet of mud and poo poo when I took it. I’ve left it a world of marble and gold.
This feels like it’s starting to ramble off-topic. You’re playing with 666 words, and you’ve got a lot of story to get through -- is this the most important information that you have to share with your reader at this point in the story? Also, given the planetary scale of this story, it seems like the implication is that Jordius took the entire surface of Earth/Terra and covered it in marble and gold, and -- because that seems like a bit of a stretch -- I’m now starting to question the reliability of this narrator, and I’m not sure that was the intent behind the fiction. Where did Jordius get the marble and gold? Presumably also from Terra?

What does this sordid underworld bring?
On my second read, I got what you were going for here, but not the first time through. There’s no context to suggest that Jordius’s attention has returned from musing about his accomplishments on Terra to Pluto. I think you’re also being way too coy about establishing the direct link between Pluto the planetoid and Pluto as the Roman lord of the underworld -- that should have been established, ideally, in the opening paragraph.
This mad parasite is far worse than any Nova Martian or Saturnali rebel.
Again, too coy. You’re talking about Death, so just say Death. You don’t have enough words in this story to faff about with “mad parasites”, and I daresay you’ve got more than enough world-building in this short story already without the garnishes of Nova Martians and Saturnali rebels.
It robs violently, indiscriminately, and prodigiously. It gnaws at the foundations of civilization and fouls men’s ambitions. Yet people defend it as the natural way! People who sail the stars in their galleys. The natural way. They sit on the shoulders of gods and stare at their hands.
This is a lot of soap-boxing to be throwing down here, especially when it’s not yet clear that this is about Jordius having declared literal war on the Underworld and Death itself. This would be more interesting if there were another character for Jordius to bounce off of, someone to provide some resistance to his bloviating. It would be interesting, for example, to see the leader of the Senate begging Jordius to return to his senses, to abandon his insane mission -- the push-pull is what generates interesting conflict.

Those legionaries did pledge their lives to me. The war eagle senators and the pacifist tribunes speculate with the benefit of hindsight and powers bordering the trivial. They are not leaders of men. Merely representatives. They've never had to take responsibility for the dead. They only have time for the gold of conquest, never the graves. Those, they alternate praise and mockery for as it suits their whims.
For a authoritarian tyrant, Jordius seems to care an awful lot about what these members of the Senate, with their trivial powers, think -- why? What does this have to do with Jordius’s war on Death? Ask yourself: is this the most efficient use of the words that I have available?

I am to be beholden to these people?
Is he? Given that he’s the emperor on a spaceship declaring war on Death, it doesn’t seem like he’s particularly beholden to anyone. Also, it seems weird that he’s all bent out of shape about what the Senate thinks, when just prior to all of this navel-gazing he was so very upset about his legions being held hostage on Pluto’s surface. Unless the point is here that the Senate is somehow preventing Jordius’s legions from carrying out his will, in which case you need to make that a hell of a lot clearer.

I held Marcus’s throat as he bled his fruits of conquest. They praise his sacrifice in the forum to the cameras and the mob but inwardly they praise fewer hands in the pot.
You are writing flash fiction. Every word counts. Ask yourself: are these words necessary? Are they advancing the plot? Are they establishing character? Or are they just getting in the way? Does your reader need to know this stuff in order to understand what happens next? Does it provide context for why Jordius is in this position?

Then they have the audacity to publicly oppose my war on death itself.
What are the consequences of that opposition? Does Jordius hold all of the cards or not?

Suddenly poor Marcus’s death is no longer a tragedy at all. It is the way things are.
I only just found out about Marcus two lines ago. I have no idea why Marcus’s death would be a tragedy. I don’t know who killed him, or why. And I have no idea why this event would be the driving moment that made Jordius decide that it was time to sail his ship across the solar system to kill Death. That’s a problem -- establishing Jordius’s motivation is much more important than letting him blow off a bunch of steam about how his parents in the Senate just don’t understand him, like, at all.

This is a meaningless war they say. It will cost many denarii to finance, and not be a profitable venture in return. A man can not change the nature of death itself.
Curious as to why they’re saying this in the present tense, like the money’s not already spent -- Jordius is in proximity to Pluto, his armies are on the surface. Presumably the denarii are spent at this point. Next, the fact that they’re worrying about whether the war on death itself will be profitable seems ridiculous, and that makes me suspect that Jordius is not accurately representing the concerns of the Senate. But the reader never gets the other side, which makes the setup feel incomplete.

In my clemency, I lash them. I will win this war. The one who sits on the throne is not a man, but a god. They forgot.
Is “clemency” really the word you want here? Also, what’s with the sudden switch to past tense? Especially with your next line, “They forget” would keep the flow much more effectively.

Pluto will not.
We’re past the halfway point, and nothing has happened yet. Everything that’s happened up to this point could have been condensed down to an opening paragraph, which is what this feels like so far. We’ve been stuck in Jordius’s brain, listening to him rant about a bunch of old dudes with no power a long way away, and there’s no clarity yet on where this is all going.

The telepathic node within my mind reverberates. I consent to the connection.
What is the function of the line “I consent to the connection”? What does it accomplish for the story?

My scouts return. They could not find the valley that highlights the moon Styx as it moves across the sky; nor the crater Avernus. The surface is barren and empty.
These are all sentences that sound superficially fancy, but they fall apart under inspection. What does it mean for a valley to highlight a moon? What does the crater Avernus have to do with that valley? What kind of scouts are these that can’t find a crater? Given that the surface of the planetoid is barren and empty, are we supposed to be questioning whether or not Pluto really is the underworld?

Phobos comes into sight as we orbit above the underworld. The sun breaks over the icy horizon.
Phobos, as in the moon of Mars? Also, again, I’d urge you to look into just how small the Sun appears to be from Pluto.

“Launch the Sword of Damocles,” I command the node.
OK, I’m a little torn here. Half of me says, “this is getting a bit much, isn’t it?” and the other half says “Really? In a story about Space Romans declaring war on the barren planetoid Pluto that may or may not also be literal Death itself, this is where you draw the line?” And I think that the answer here is that you’re not pushing the accelerator down hard enough -- this is a batshit crazy setup, so commit to it instead of getting wrapped around the axle of all the bullshit pretense. Give us Fury Road instead of Book of Eli. You can totally have a world-ending missile called the Sword of Damocles in this story, but you have to work for it.

The node protests. The human in the command center desperately blathers about antimatter and planetary debris.
What about all of those legions that Jordius was so upset about a scant few hundred words ago? If the plan was always to sashay up to Pluto and drop a big old nugget of Doom in its upper deck, what was the point of the army in the first place? Also, what kind of human in the command center goes on a joy ride across the solar system to kill Death and then pulls up at the last second to say “hey now, let’s be reasonable here”?

“We’re too close,” it protested. It doesn’t matter. They do not believe.
Watch your tense shifts.

“On my command,” I say.
I’ll point out that he already issued the command to launch the missile -- this would make more sense if his prior command had been to ready the Sword for launch.

The node fades into dread comprehension.
File under Sounds Fancy, Doesn’t Stand to Scrutiny


There is no dramatics as it departs. A cold casket silently spinning through the void. Like Marcus.
I still don’t care about Marcus, or have any idea why Jordius cares.


The dark side of hell is illuminated by a halo of oblivion. The ice dwarf melts; it transforms into a bright glorious ocean world that boils, vaporizes, and splits apart. Angry clouds of micrometeoroids stab into the Regalus. An asteroid from the dismembered corpse of Pluto crashes into the starboard side, disabling the ship, and sending us cascading outward into deep space.
OK, this is your big moment in the story, and as payoff, it should work just fine. But for a payoff to be successful, it needs to be set up by an appropriate and matched sense of suspense and conflict, and that’s what’s missing here. For reference, think about the classic version of planetary explosion in Star Wars -- Darth Vader uses the threat of planetary annihilation to get Leia to give him what he wants, Leia buckles under the threat, and then Vader blows it up anyway. It’s over-the-top space opera bullshit, but it works because the payoff of the explosion serves as an appropriate resolution to the conflict between Leia and Vader, and also builds their respective characters through the resolution of that conflict -- it changes how the audience perceives both. As it stands, because there’s no conflict or real suspense in this story, the explosion of Pluto works as spectacle, but it fails as a payoff because there’s nothing preceding it to be paid off.

A micrometeoroid punches through my left eye, another through my liver. Debris from the ship tears my scalp into a bloody laurel wreath. Pressure equalizes with the infinite void. There is no air. There is no warmth. Gravity fails. I rise.
Do you think that having debris tear Jordius’s scalp into a bloody laurel wreath might be just a tad on the nose?

My laughter fills the node. Giddy and exuberant. The others join me in a cacophony, their vestiges visible through telepathy, ghastly and bestial, marred by the conflagration. Marcus and my legions have joined me too, skeletal and deformed, all laughing.

They do not stop when I do.
OK, let’s chat about vague and poetic language here. The Romans were generally noted for not beating about the bush and for making their points clearly, which is why all this flowery crap rings a bit false. My takeaway from this ending, given that Jordius has been reunited with his best bud Marcus and his legions as spooky skeletons, is that Jordius has failed to defeat Death, and has found himself in the underworld, hoisted on his own petard, so to speak. Oopsies, I guess. It wasn’t immediately clear to me that that was what was going on, and it took a second read to catch that meaning underneath, and here’s the big takeaway: if I have to work to uncover meaning, I feel entitled to something especially interesting. It is generally safer to say what you mean, as clearly as possible. I'm going to plug Kurt's Rules again, and suggest that special attention be paid to Rule 8.

This is very ambitious for a piece of short fiction -- you’ve got 666 words (hail Satan), and in that space you need to establish a world in which there are Space Romans who are mad at Death who is (maybe?) also the planetoid Pluto. Anything this high concept is a tightrope walk, where you have to be fighting the suspension of disbelief at all points, and your audience is mostly here to see whether you fall. You’re making a pact with your reader: you promise you’re going to show them a good time, as long as they don’t ask too many questions. And that means your action has to be tight and snappy, and you need to carry momentum through the fiction so that your reader doesn’t have any time for rubbernecking.

You can probably see where I’m going with this: the momentum in this story takes way too long to get going, and when it does, it’s over too quickly. There are too many opportunities for the reader to get confused and to start asking questions, and that’s when things start to unravel. If you want to pull this sort of thing off, you’ve got to put on a sparkly jumpsuit and Evel Knievel the poo poo out of it -- this is not the place for plodding portentous prose.

Now, I saw that ThirdEmperor read you for fan fiction. I have no idea to what extent that criticism is valid -- if there is already an established fiction world about spacefaring Romans, I’m not familiar with it. Some folks will call you for fan fiction when what they really mean is stealing; stealing is a time-honoured tradition, and the name of the game is Don’t Get Caught. If you got caught stealing, that doesn’t mean you wrote fan fiction, that just means you need to get better at stealing. On the other hand, if you’re reading this critique and thinking, “Well, the reason you don’t get why Marcus is so important is because you’re not familiar with the extended universe of SpaceRome and blah blah blah”, then it’s fan fiction and you should indeed feel bad. Only you can decide where you think this story falls.

Apr 24, 2010

When I'm off, I just like to really let go and have fun, y'know?

Fun Shoe

I've been booked completely the rest of the week, so I'll have to fluke. For future reference, is it preferred to give a notice, or is it better to just not poo poo up the thread and fail quietly?

Sep 30, 2006

Hey Solitair, only one of us can be #1.


Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Joda posted:

I've been booked completely the rest of the week, so I'll have to fluke. For future reference, is it preferred to give a notice, or is it better to just not poo poo up the thread and fail quietly?

No-one cares about your reasons for being a failure, but you should put a toxx on your next entry.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

You don't get recorded as failing if you un-enter yourself before sign ups close though, right?

Jul 26, 2016

I'd assume that's a failure; I generally know by the Thursday that I don't have time to write over the weekend - I just don't clutter up the thread with "sorry I won't be able to this week".

Source: I fail lots.

Is it the head judge, the throne or the archives that have jurisdiction there? Either way I'd say IRC is the place to hash out a toxx dodge, rather than the thread..

Ideally we'd all be less impulsive and consider whether we have time vs is the theme cool. Lookin at you Cyberpunk week.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Jus judicis, judge decides. I would always count it as a fail though.

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

sebmojo posted:

Jus judicis, judge decides. I would always count it as a fail though.

The Archive will too!

Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica

A crit of Destroyer of Worlds
666 words

I am Jordius Tactitus, Emperor of Roman-Terra, Commander of the Legions, and steward of dead men.

I usually prefer if this sort of information like character names are inserted naturally into the story, but what do I know. One of the greatest novels in English literature, Hermann Melville's Voyage of the Whalefuckers, starts with the protagonist stating his name. Anyways, Space Rome is a cool concept, and I hope you return to it.

I am abroad the Sol Galley ‘Regalus’, the solar winds power my sails, and through my viewport, the silhouette of Pluto is eclipsing the sun. My army is there, amongst the ice.

I smash my fist against the viewport. Rome is in need. Those men are hostages.

“Give me back my legions!” I scream. The blackness in my stomach churns.

The Senate calls me a tyrant. They are foolish old men, pissing into the wind and proclaiming prophecy upon its return.

I bring glory. Terra was a planet of mud and poo poo when I took it. I’ve left it a world of marble and gold.

Okay, this is a confusing story, and this is where the confusion starts.

You don't have to tell me the entire history of Space Rome. It's, above all, an aesthetic. I can make assumptions. Maybe humanity eventually returned to the style of Rome. Maybe this is an alternate history where Rome never fell and advanced to the space age. But now your protag took Earth? Is he an alien? Did Space Rome originate as a colony that eventually took the homeworld? Is the Senate headquartered on Earth or on a faraway star?

A lot of world building is letting us imply things, but this is muddled.

What does this sordid underworld bring? At no point do you clarify what "underworld" you are referring to? Other critics have taken it as a reference to Pluto itself, but "underworld" implies a criminal community, a black market, or a counterculture. If you mean Pluto, "planet" is a clearer word. And yes, I get the pun. But make sure we have a solid grasp on what's happening here before getting clever. This mad parasite is far worse than any Nova Martian or Saturnali rebel Again, are these humans or do Mars and Saturn each have their own native race? "Saturnali" is a cool word to refer to residents of Saturn, though.. It robs violently, indiscriminately, and prodigiously. It gnaws at the foundations of civilization and fouls men’s ambitions. Yet people defend it as the natural way! People who sail the stars in their galleys. The natural way. I'd say only use incomplete sentences in dialogue or as the answers to questions. The cadence feels off here. They sit on the shoulders of gods and stare at their hands.

Those legionaries did pledge their lives to me. The war eagle senators and the pacifist tribunes speculate with the benefit of hindsight and powers bordering the trivial. They are not leaders of men. Merely representatives. They've never had to take responsibility for the dead. They only have time for the gold of conquest, never the graves. Those, they alternate praise and mockery for as it suits their whims.

I am to be beholden to these people?

I held Marcus’s throat as he bled his fruits of conquest. They praise his sacrifice in the forum to the cameras and the mob but inwardly they praise fewer hands in the pot.

Then they have the audacity to publicly oppose my war on death itself.

Suddenly poor Marcus’s death is no longer a tragedy at all. It is the way things are.

the gently caress is Marcus?

I think I see what you're trying to do. You're trying to do a Taashi Station. That is, introducing something in your universe that isn't fully explained so we know that there's more going on in your world than what's on the page. Unfortunately, this Marcus person seems too important to your story to let him go unexplained.

This is a meaningless war they say. It will cost many denarii to finance, and not be a profitable venture in return. A man can not change the nature of death itself.

In my clemency, I lash them. I will win this war. The one who sits on the throne is not a man, but a god. They forgot. Who are you talking about here? Space Caesar? Does Space Caesar approve?

Pluto will not.

Okay, do you watch BoJack Horseman? In the second episode, Mr. Peanutbutter is filming a new show called "Peanutbutter and Jelly" despite the fact that no one named Jelly is involved. When Bojack asks him why, Peanutbutter says it's a pun, and Bojack reminds him that a pun needs to work two ways.

The same with metaphors. Your story works as a metaphor, but not in terms of what is literally happening in the universe you've created. The story of a man waging war on death itself is good. The story of a crazy person destroying a planet for no reason is utterly insane. Make a coherent narrative before applying the metaphors. Maybe Pluto is literally spreading death because it's the home a deadly space plague or something. What if going too close to Pluto makes you crazy like the mirror in Oculus? Make Pluto a threat! Without that, Jordius is an utter loon! The old man yelling at the proverbial cloud!

The telepathic node within my mind reverberates. I consent to the connection.

My scouts return. They could not find the valley that highlights the moon Styx as it moves across the sky; nor the crater Avernus. The surface is barren and empty.

At no point in your story do you explain why this is relevant information.

Phobos comes into sight as we orbit above the underworld. The sun breaks over the icy horizon.

“Launch the Sword of Damocles,” I command the node. Dope.

The node protests. The human in the command center desperately blathers about antimatter and planetary debris. So they are humans?

“We’re too close,” it protested. It doesn’t matter. They do not believe. Or is the dude in the command center a human and your protagonist is an alien? You use "protest" twice too close together here.

“On my command,” I say.

The node fades into dread comprehension.

“Proceed.” Who says this, Jordius or the node? Jordius makes most sense in context, but your sentence structures here imply the node.

There is no dramatics as it departs.This sentence is clunky A cold casket silently spinning through the void. Like Marcus. More incomplete sentences that would make more sense as a single complete sentence.

Impact.This is a better use of an incomplete sentence.

The dark side of hell is illuminated by a halo of oblivion. The ice dwarf melts; it transforms into a bright glorious ocean world that boils, vaporizes, and splits apart. Angry clouds of micrometeoroids stab into the Regalus. An asteroid from the dismembered corpse of Pluto crashes into the starboard side, disabling the ship, and sending us cascading outward into deep space.

This is well written, but I still don't understand the chain of events leading us here. Why did he kill all his own men? To destroy an empty planet, all for reasons that make sense as a metaphor in our world but don't make sense on any level in his?

A micrometeoroid punches through my left eye, another through my liver. Debris from the ship tears my scalp into a bloody laurel wreath. Pressure equalizes with the infinite void. There is no air. There is no warmth. Gravity fails. I rise.

My laughter fills the node. Giddy and exuberant. The others join me in a cacophony, their vestiges visible through telepathy, ghastly and bestial, marred by the conflagration. Marcus and my legions have joined me too, skeletal and deformed, all laughing. Also dope.

They do not stop when I do.

Okay, this story is nonsense. At no point could I grasp what was literally happening and why. The tone is good, and your universe has a lot of potential. Return to it, but make it a straight action-adventure tale. This one is weighed down by its own pretensions.

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Feb 18, 2014

This statement is a lie!

SlipUp posted:

Hey Solitair, only one of us can be #1.


whatever you say, #2

(this is me accepting the brawl challenge obviously)

Aug 7, 2013




By Midnight, March 21st
You two brawlboys are going to write me
A spectacular punch.
The story must end when the punch does.
I'm not really concerned with world limits here just go for it.

Solitair posted:

whatever you say, #2

(this is me accepting the brawl challenge obviously)

SlipUp posted:

Hey Solitair, only one of us can be #1.


Sep 30, 2006

Thanks barnaby! That was truely insightful. Here's a crit in return.

Barnaby Profane posted:

The Swineherd Rebellion
1307 words

The reign of Farmer Bosch began in late summer, when the then-powerful Minister for Cleanliness had arrived in the shanty-town village of Varken, just outside the town walls of Weesp, to deliver an ill-advised address in support of goodwill and comity among the swineherds.

Clean, crisp, and descriptive of the world it has built. Sets the plot in motion. Doesn't really have a dramatic hook but maybe it's not that kind of story.

Now, I say ill-advised, but in truth most of the Minister’s advisors, at the time, provided rather sound advice, to the approximate tune of don’t. But the Minister could not be compelled to ignore these stirrings of discontent in the filthier districts. As a benevolent leader of all people, he could not shirk his responsibilities to go down among the Dirty Folk and deliver a message of unity.

The clarification is a good transition here. I feel like I don't have too much to add, structure or plot wise. The pacing is a little slow but we're just getting started. I feel like some of that is down to excessive wordiness. It sets a nice tone but it really bogs stuff down. After much deliberation I've decided to strike the weasel words out to see how you feel about it afterword. We don't see these ministers later. gently caress 'em. You have a sound motif going, ('tune'.) I would have tied that in place of 'stirrings' to describe the discontent. 'Stirrings' is kind of a weak word. Chords maybe? Echoes?

It was a hot, humid day, and the air hung low and thick like a pissed-in blanket over Varken. The stench was one deeply familiar to anyone who has spent even a modicum of time in the vicinity of a pig farm, but a stench to which one rarely ever finds themselves truly accustomed. The Minister for Cleanliness, opening the door to his carriage and setting foot in the swineherds’ shanty-town for the first time, received the odour as though delivered by a barroom pugilist, doubling over and retching. Calloused amusement wafted through the assembly.

Good atmosphere. Spending a lot of time on it.

The Minister did not retreat in the face of his initial defeat. Recovering some fraction of his dignity, he approached the podium that had been set out for him, and began his fateful speech.

No comma after him. This one might be controversial.

In fairness, it was a fine speech. The Minister’s rise to power had been buoyed by a natural eloquence and a consistency of rhetoric, and there was a serpentine ease with which he had been able to establish the prospect of cleanliness as a core societal value, rigorously upheld to the extent that those in the dirtier professions were no longer welcome within the town walls. Naturally, speaking now to that group of citizens who had been rendered non grata by his policies, the obstacle to his argument had more inertia, but he gamely orated on the unfortunate necessity of the swineherds’ current societal standing, assuring them that this was only a temporary inconvenience while the standards of the industry were brought into compliance with current guidelines for Cleanliness.

I've given it some time and I think it's game to say, your paragraph variance is loving terrible. Currently powering up to assault the next block. Wish me luck.

Right up to the point where Farmer Bosch, then an ordinary swineherd, bent down in the square, there was no guarantee that this speech by the Minister for Cleanliness would be a critical one. Surely there were murmurs among the populace, and a general state of unrest had been remarked upon in a distant sense in the spotless salons along the town canals -- things were coming to a head, and that some unpleasantness would surely result -- but the swineherds were so reputably docile that few expected a true rebellion to flourish that day in the square.

Cut this entire paragraph and what is lost? We know farmer bosch does something already. We know there are murmurs. Feels more like a review than building tension. Try adding to the stakes. Holy gently caress another block incoming.

The Minister for Cleanliness was building to a crescendo, weaving a cloth of appreciation for the sacrifices that all of these noble gathered swineherds were making to secure a Clean way of life for those within the walls, how their efforts were widely appreciated, and how soon -- not now, but soon -- the gates would open and the swineherds would be welcomed with open arms, when it happened.

So many blocks of "it's about to happen! It's gonna happen!"

Farmer Bosch bent down in the square. When he stood back up again, he held a thick, wet, and heavy clod of pig poo poo in his hand.

Blessed respite.

On occasion, a series of small events coalesce in a manner so perfect as to suggest a grander meaning, a supernatural portent, an emergent profundity. I hold that one such moment occurred in Varken, on that hot late summer afternoon, as that glistening black clod of pig poo poo arced so elegantly through that humid atmosphere, a trajectory both graceful and inexorable.

You can decribe someone hurling a clod of poo poo very eloquently. I like it. I had to slog to get here. Speaking of which.

I was there, of course, in the Minister’s entourage, and insofar it was my duty to observe the Minister’s actions with unquenchable interest and dutifully applaud at appropriate moments, I was privileged to observe directly the precise moment when the Minister understood his reign to be at an end. For there was a moment, while that missile of excrement loomed, when the Minister could perhaps have avoided the outcome that sailed towards him, but I think that he too was mesmerized, perhaps, by the perfect profundity of that moment, and, like a man standing atop the gallows, who puffs his chest one final time, he accepted his fate.

I get that this is your cow and you want to milk it, but everything but the last few words of the last sentence, not even the whole thing, is not worth the time. I think a better way to milk to the situation would be to spend these words describing the pandemonium that erupts.

If the walls of Weesp served as a dam holding back a tide of filth, the clod of pig poo poo that spattered across the Minister for Cleanliness was the sprung leak, the point of fragility from which the complete collapse and inundation inevitably followed. Farmer Bosch led the charge through the streets of Weesp, splashing filth across the pristine walls and cobblestoned streets, striding with purpose, chanting In Filth We Are Equal.

loving A COTTON

There were some who were unprepared for this abrupt change in the status quo, those for whom the doctrine of Cleanliness had resonated on a level deeper than the superficial, those who attempted to halt the turning tides, to repel the advancing swineherds, and these individuals, sadly, were turned out from their homes and chased out from the city gates, pelted with excrement. It was a shame to see them trampled under the trotters of progress, but such will be the way of things.

ah what? I already feel like all the drama has dissipated. The energy is gone. The action is still going but the heart just isn't in it. I think this is where your wordiness really kicked you in the pants.

The more politically canny among us, having the good sense to exercise flexibility during times of change, latched onto this new movement.

What fun it was! By decree of Bosch, we smeared the stained glass windows, festooned the statues, piled high the park benches, and frolicked through the streets tossing clods of filth like children flinging snowballs in early winter.

There were some who needed more, shall we say, encouragement than others, but in the history of revolutions that have rolled through the city, this was among the least bloody, all told.

Once every surface had been made filthy, and the pigs roamed freely through the streets of the city, it is true that, for a time, a sense of easy harmony flourished. Everyone was dirty. Everyone lay their head down on filthy pillows at night.

Much better. You had my energy there for a second but it wavered in the section before this one. I'd just cut it to make this stuff stand out. This is great.

But soon it was not enough to be merely filthy. The owners of the canal houses began importing exotic filth and excrement from far off lands with which to decorate their homes, and the men and women of stature would step out into the streets in conduct of their social business with elaborately piled head ornaments, their slow slide and decomposition leaving a trail of civet droppings and the grassy compactions of hippopotamuses.

The merchantmen, by their nature attuned to the shifting of markets, no longer arrived with barges laden with perfumed soaps and badger-hair cleaning brushes, exchanging these outmoded instruments of Cleanliness with the pungent burlap sacks of the New Filth.

Groups of young nobles, eager to demonstrate their worth, formed groups who would patrol the streets at night, resplendent in their soiled foppery, keeping a keen eye out for any cleanly degenerates skulking within the walls.

Earned a solid laugh from me here. That is a hard thing to do in prose. Good job. Block forgiven. But seriously this one could be broken up into three blocks. In fact, gently caress it, just give it a taste. That was one paragraph before. Look how much better your words are!

Farmer Bosch, by nature an inexperienced statesman, did not flourish under the scrutiny of the public eye. The simplicity of his vision, such as it was, was surely getting away from under him, and when he would stroll through the town streets at the head of his procession of pigs, the enthusiasm with which he was pelted with excrement from the high windows did not always fill him with the joy of his own creation.

I'm a sucker for a morality tale. Sort of a retelling of stones in glass houses but rather poo poo in a sty as it were.

Farmer Bosch began to spend more and more time within his Mansion, emerging onto his balcony only to scowl and shake his head at the degenerates.

Meanwhile, some of us in the noble classes, meeting in the salons of the wealthy to pack our pipes with the foulest smelling imported leaf, began to discuss the murmurs of discontent rising from among the florists.

Oh god drat it, there ya go. 'Murmurs' is much better than 'stirrings'. I like these last bits as funny, but they weren't laugh out loud funny to me. You could push it a bit more to get the laugh, but humour is always scattershot depending on who's reading so who knows.

big takeaway

Tell the same story at half the words and you have something really good, great even. Non-stop giant blocks of build feel like this:

SlipUp fucked around with this message at 03:04 on Mar 15, 2019

Apr 11, 2012


Haven't written a word in months and starting to worry about what little skill I have atrophying into nothing. In, flash.-

Aug 7, 2013




Flesnolk posted:

Haven't written a word in months and starting to worry about what little skill I have atrophying into nothing. In, flash.-


How about, for your flash

The first day of your next life.

Aug 7, 2013




crimea posted:

Stars Are Right

Boy there was something in the water this week.

Let me tell you, I love the opening. This mix of grotesquerie, the numbing scale of science fiction, and mumbling superstition as star-sailors buy his caul as a charm against the suffocating void of space, this is where I tuck in my bib and sit down to dig in. This is my jam.

This really shoulda been my jam.

But this is a story that lives and dies on quality of voice, right, letting us see what warped lens of madness makes a man suited to rule a bleak and bizarre universe. Well that voice falters and breaks on paragraph two. It's not bad that it's briefly dealt with, this aside of, 'oh I sailed the stars, ended a rebellion, kicked my superior officer into a black hole.' - The issue is it's such an impersonal retelling. It gives us nothing in terms of insight to the character, and remember, this is paragraph two, where we're still on shaky footing, getting acquainted with the logic of this story.

I've chosen not to speculate whether the 'magic' and visions are real.

The bit with the seers, the grand nepotism of seeing himself reflected in the cosmos, that got me hoping again. I'll say this I was hoping this story would turn itself around right to the very end. The potential is there. There's some bits of craft in this paragraph especially, but also some letdowns. Let me just...


When I saw the living ocean of Iyth III was the exact, the exact shade of blue as my eyes, I wept for days.

Fantastic. :discourse:


They huddled around me, wide smiles on each of the faces of those ancient crones

And in the same paragraph you're telling me the best you've got for a smile that's centuries old is 'wide'? Tighten this poo poo up. You've got a great overall vibe and when your story permits a casual sweeping grandeur you do well portraying this world, this sense of place, but gently caress, with a few exceptions you stumble every time you bring us in to a single detail.

Boy howdy does that ever come back to gently caress you hard past that little row of asterisks.


I love this image you paint at first of the opposing rebels, of a savage orator caked in blood. Is it even meant to be the same man as the golden-haired, rocket-booted Hero McProtagonist, who you could have plucked off any backworlds farm where callow youths dreaming of the horizon grow?

If this story is parody, hmm, I'mma recommend you read Gormenghast. Its a good example of how to mix a bleak world, self-serious points of view, and a dry humor that creeps in.

Safe to say I'm disappointed you dumped Flash Gordon into this story. Look back to the first paragraph. Look at the viewpoint not even of the protagonist, but of the terrified sailors relying on trinkets to keep them safe through the void. This world you've shown me has a mood amd Flash Gordon does not fit.

There's a thread you dropped here. This idea that the people of this empire have come to internalize their ruler's madness. That's a drat intriguing thought. A better draft of this story, I think, would have followed up on this, either by developing it or at least letting the narrator properly react to it.

But we get Flash. I get it. He's supposed to be a breath of air into this stuffy, fate-bound world. You miss the mark by about a mile. He seems utterly alien to the rest of this mess in a bad way, a break me out of the story way, not a captivating way.

God you've got these two foes eye to eye and there's no banter till the guy's already dying. Maybe that's a mercy, the dialogue is weak, weak, weak. The resolution is too, a half-measure that postpones all the interesting stuff till long after the story is over. No true confrontation, no reaction from the revived Flash Gordon-esque, no change from the ruler of the stars.

I think the last bit is supposed to be him resolved to his fate, accepting the lack of portents without resentments. That the encounter has somehow invigorated him? I think but its a muddle by this point and it certainly doesn't resonate much.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012


SlipUp posted:

Here's a crit in return.

Thank you, SlipUp, much appreciated! And while I'm at it, thanks to Simply Simon and anatomi for their crits!


Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

sebmojo posted:

The combatants have agreed to move the deadline for this to 14 March, same time

because of assorted nazi mass murder related poo poo I'm going to bump this by 48 hours.

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