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steeltoedsneakers
Jul 26, 2016







Exmond posted:

Exmond Vs Steak vs Blowout is on!

Ex-Anomalous Steak brawl

Listen you muppets, that signup process was shambolic. Let’s iron a few things out:

  1. You don’t flashrule. Because of that display, if you want flashrules mojo will provide hellrules on request.
  2. Exmond, that caveat in Blowout’s challenge stands. Spill blood in June or I call in the toxx.
  3. That date works so let’s run with it.

You’ve got until 26 May to slap together 1000 words of creeping horror. I don’t want a slasher from you, I want dread.

Your theme is “open up the pit”, cos y’all are up in here throwing elbows like hoons at their first hardcore gig.

Get lippy again and those hellrules won't wait for requests. Let me see those toxxes, AB and Steak.

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Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




:siren: AnomalousMuffin anti-brawl :siren:

I will judge whatever this is. I guess you're going to write a story together, and I'll tell you if it, erm, wins. Whatever, I'm sure it'll all make sense in the end.

Write me a story in which someone gets a pet griffin.

THEN

Record it. You must both do some voices. And there must be music.

Then post the link to the recording and the transcript.

You have a month and it can be as long as you like but if it's boring I won't listen to the end.

Go.


Chaos in the thread! Anti's prompt stands. But someone should do more dramatic readings bc they are funny and good

Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 07:59 on May 2, 2019

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

*


steeltoedsneakers posted:

Ex-Anomalous Steak brawl

Listen you muppets, that signup process was shambolic. Let’s iron a few things out:

  1. You don’t flashrule. Because of that display, if you want flashrules mojo will provide hellrules on request.
  2. Exmond, that caveat in Blowout’s challenge stands. Spill blood in June or I call in the toxx.
  3. That date works so let’s run with it.

You’ve got until 26 May to slap together 1000 words of creeping horror. I don’t want a slasher from you, I want dread.

Your theme is “open up the pit”, cos y’all are up in here throwing elbows like hoons at their first hardcore gig.

Get lippy again and those hellrules won’t wait for requests. Let me see those toxxes, AB and Steak.

:toxx:


Antivehicular posted:

BLOWMUFFIN BUDDIES LWARB

Write me a story about a neophyte trying to break into a challenging field. Bonus points if this field is not music, theater, the arts, or sports, unless it’s a real weird sport. Surprise me, basically.

5000 words.

End of May

:toxx:

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

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



You can and should also do Yoru's, btw

If you don't, I will buddy-write a story about petting a griffin with whoever wants to

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

*


Unfortunately as I am traveling mid-month until early June I can’t really commit to the audio bit. Absolutely slap me with that again later in the year tho.

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010


Antivehicular posted:

You can and should also do Yoru's, btw

If you don't, I will buddy-write a story about petting a griffin with whoever wants to
Has Yoru been telling random people in the 'dome how much she loves griffons because goddam

also :toxx:

(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Antivehicular posted:

You can and should also do Yoru's, btw

If you don't, I will buddy-write a story about petting a griffin with whoever wants to

Anti clearly you and I should do this

Captain_Person
Apr 7, 2013

WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?

sebmojo posted:

Cptns dr and person, after discussion you have until nz 9pm tomorrow on the dot to post your brawls or the :toxx: shaft will fly, steeltoedsneaks has picked up the judge hat

OhCaptainMyCaptain SteamFart Brawl Entry

The Path of Progress
636 words

Foolish men from across the world had called him mad, but Doctor Dieter Niklas von Kinzig knew that this day would prove them wrong.

“Attention!” he barked at the crew of lackeys assembled below the control module of his roving steam fortress. Countless so-called ‘heroes’, who had dared to challenge his cunning, slaved day and night to fuel the aetheric furnaces needed to power the gargantuan mechanical monstrosity of Kinzburg as it churned through the mud of Europe.

“Today is finally the day that the powers of the world bow down before my might! No more shall the mewling citizens of the world dare to deny the progress of science!!”

“Doctor, sir!” a lackey cried out as they stepped forward into a deep bow. “The Britannian colony has been sighted. We will be within range of the international peace conference in sixty seconds.”

“Hah!” the doctor spat with glee. “Excellent!! My foes, all gathered together in one place. Prepare the Stormfall Cannon!!”

As the foul crew ran about their tasks the many-legged fortress of Kinzburg shuddered, aetheric energy coursing through its arteries of brass and cogs. Von Kinzig turned to address the figure bound to the base of the Aetheric Savagery Sower.

“You see, my darling Countess Deskford, nothing can stop me now.” He advanced slowly on the helpless heroine, continuing his speech with a horrid grin. “Not the meddling of your so-called heroes, not the armies of the great powers of this nation, not even you or your interfering husband can deny me. It’s too late!!”

Countess Joanna Deskford, last hope of the nations of the earth, fighter of the tyranny of scientific facism, glared back at von Kinzig. “Too late for them, perhaps,” she said, “but not too late for me!”

In a flash she stood up, dropping the intricate handcuffs that had bound her to the ground. In one hand she held an ornately carved wristband adorned with jewels, opened to reveal a fully automated lockpick powered by coal dust hidden inside.

“You are a blind fool, von Kinzig,” the Countess continued, dropping into the stance of a seasoned brawler. “You have always ignored that beauty, and art, obsessing only over your science. But no more. Today, this finally ends.”

Doctor von Kinzig blinked and in that moment she was upon him, unleashing a flurry of blows that staggered him. He brought his cane up to block one punch, and another was already connecting with his face. Step by step, he was forced back by her righteous onslaught, right to the edge of the control module where he was swept to the floor by the countess.

The countess stood triumphantly over von Kinzig. On the ground he writhed and panted as he glared up at her.

“Your tricks… are no match for my hatred… or for LIGHTNING!!”

With a flourish he thrust his cane up at her, sending a bolt of lightning surging from within its brass spike to skewer her heart. Her screech rattled the windows around the command module as all of von Kinzig’s hatred, stored and transformed into lightning by the Aetheric Savagery Sower, overloaded her heart and set her blood ablaze, all in her final heartbeat. Her body beginning to smoke, she toppled back as the evil Doctor sprung to his feet.

“AT LAST!!” screamed von Kinzig as he stood over her smouldering corpse. “AT LAST THE DESKFORD’S ARE NO MORE, AND WITH IT YOUR HOPE DIES!!”

He spun to stare down the Britannian colony that seemed to cower before him, firing a few frantic bursts of lightning from his cane for good measure.

“DEATH TO COWARDICE! DEATH TO REASON! DEATH TO BEAUTY, AND ART, AND WEAK-MINDED FOOLS!!”

He thrust his cane towards his enemies, and proclaimed their doom.

“FIRE THE STORMFALL CANON AND DESTROY EVERYTHING YOU SEE!! AAHAHAHAHA!!!”

Mr. Steak
May 8, 2013

by Jeffrey of YOSPOS


steeltoedsneakers posted:

Ex-Anomalous Steak brawl

Listen you muppets, that signup process was shambolic. Let’s iron a few things out:

  1. You don’t flashrule. Because of that display, if you want flashrules mojo will provide hellrules on request.
  2. Exmond, that caveat in Blowout’s challenge stands. Spill blood in June or I call in the toxx.
  3. That date works so let’s run with it.

You’ve got until 26 May to slap together 1000 words of creeping horror. I don’t want a slasher from you, I want dread.

Your theme is “open up the pit”, cos y’all are up in here throwing elbows like hoons at their first hardcore gig.

Get lippy again and those hellrules won't wait for requests. Let me see those toxxes, AB and Steak.

toxx~

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Yoruichi posted:

:siren: AnomalousMuffin anti-brawl :siren:

I will judge whatever this is. I guess you're going to write a story together, and I'll tell you if it, erm, wins. Whatever, I'm sure it'll all make sense in the end.

Write me a story in which someone gets a pet griffin.

THEN

Record it. You must both do some voices. And there must be music.

Then post the link to the recording and the transcript.

You have a month and it can be as long as you like but if it's boring I won't listen to the end.

Go.


Chaos in the thread! Anti's prompt stands. But someone should do more dramatic readings bc they are funny and good

I will read both stories with music within one month of posting. :toxx:

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

hey weren't we meant to collab on something

can I anti-brawl

can I bet like "gently caress you coward write a story with me and somebody else will judge it"

is the 'dome too old for new toys

This sounds a lot like something that belongs in the Fiction Farm!

Maybe another collaborative team will step up to challenge you so it will belong in a competitive arena? Say, Yoru and somebody else who just effing loves some griffins?

Exmond
May 31, 2007

Writing is fun!

steeltoedsneakers posted:

Ex-Anomalous Steak brawl

Listen you muppets, that signup process was shambolic. Let’s iron a few things out:

  1. You don’t flashrule. Because of that display, if you want flashrules mojo will provide hellrules on request.
  2. Exmond, that caveat in Blowout’s challenge stands. Spill blood in June or I call in the toxx.
  3. That date works so let’s run with it.

You’ve got until 26 May to slap together 1000 words of creeping horror. I don’t want a slasher from you, I want dread.

Your theme is “open up the pit”, cos y’all are up in here throwing elbows like hoons at their first hardcore gig.

Get lippy again and those hellrules won't wait for requests. Let me see those toxxes, AB and Steak.

Judge, may I request some examples of CREEPING HORROR that you like?

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Kaishai posted:

This sounds a lot like something that belongs in the Fiction Farm!

Maybe another collaborative team will step up to challenge you so it will belong in a competitive arena? Say, Yoru and somebody else who just effing loves some griffins?

me

Lippincott
Jun 28, 2018

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

You must suffer.

A lot.


In this week with "Smiling Dalseo"

steeltoedsneakers
Jul 26, 2016







Exmond posted:

Judge, may I request some examples of CREEPING HORROR that you like?

Try Junji Ito's The Enigma of Amigara Fault

Mr. Steak
May 8, 2013

by Jeffrey of YOSPOS


Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Sorry, lost track of these in the brawl brouhaha.

crimea posted:

In with Dream Hub Gunsan.

This one's already been taken, but you can choose another or I can give you one.

Noah posted:

In. Slogan please.

Osan Fresh Energy!

Saucy_Rodent posted:

In. Slogan plz

Happy Citizen, Proud Jeongeup

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

timeless Ned Flanders style


First of all, thanks to the judges for a quick resolution and their crits! Much appreciated!

Second of all:

In with "City of Masters, Anseong".

Thirdly:

Yoruichi posted:

But someone should do more dramatic readings bc they are funny and good
I agree and want to try my hand at one. If you want one of your stories read because you think it deserves it, tell me! If you want someone else's story read, I'm open for that as well. First come, first served. Fair warning: currently a bit stuffy because of cold and allergies, don't know how well that will clear up. No warning: excellent German accent.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Simply Simon posted:

If you want one of your stories read because you think it deserves it, tell me! If you want someone else's story read, I'm open for that as well. First come, first served. Fair warning: currently a bit stuffy because of cold and allergies, don't know how well that will clear up. No warning: excellent German accent.

Crabrock's helicopter snake story, obviously

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


Fleta Mcgurn posted:


This one's already been taken, but you can choose another or I can give you one.


E: Nevermind what I previously said, I don't think anyone had taken Dream Bay Masan

crimea fucked around with this message at 21:08 on May 2, 2019

steeltoedsneakers
Jul 26, 2016







ThirdEmperor posted:

Oh captain, my captain, I'm afraid this prompt is gonna be rough sailing.
Before the end of the month, PST, you two will have to deliver
A steampunk story, but not, and let me stress this, not garbage.
Gimme a tale about the people the industrial revolution swept aside, the anxiety of men forced to compete with machine, the runaway ambition of a capitalist clockwork.

Steampunk Brawl 2019 - "the one where a captain wins"

Cptn_Dr’s The Patriotic Exploits of Nathaniel Dorian, Gentleman Adventurer Of The Steam Age

Nathaniel Dorian was the greatest adventurer of the Modern Age and, just like everyone else who read the daily papers, he knew it.

“I am the greatest adventurer of the Modern Age!” he cried, punching the final sky pirate in the jaw as they brawled, balanced precariously atop the bright red envelope of his personal Godshawk P9000c airship. “Have at you, villain!”. Is this a thing you say before or after you punch a dude in the jaw? What i’m saying is this a pre-brawl rather than a mid-brawl invitation.

The pirate staggered back under the crushing onslaught of Justice and Nemesis (which is what Nathaniel Dorian called his fists), before he lost his footing and slipped from the airship, then plummeted to the ground far below. Nathaniel Dorian turned his attention to Captain Lazarus, his long-time foe, who was, at this very moment, preparing to detonate a powerful aetherium explosive device beneath the floating city of Neo Londinium. Is this steampunk or pulp scifi?

“Mr Kepnal! Take us in closer to Lazarus’s ship!” he shouted down to his co-pilot. A blast of steam answered him, as the airship accelerated towards his great enemy. They swooped down towards the undercarriage of the vast aerial metropolis, as Mr Kepnal got them as close to the site of Lazarus’s misdeeds as possible.

Nathaniel Dorian took a running leap, his Union Flag patterned greatcoat streaming behind him as he flew through the air, and crashed into the domed cabin where Lazarus was preparing to carry out his vile anarchist schemes.

“Surrender, or forfeit your life, you scum of the skies!” He drew his phlogiston powered steam-sword, and pressed the attack on his foe.

“You’re really going to keep doing this?” asked Lazarus, desperately blocking a vicious lunge from Nathaniel Dorian.

“Doing what? Good deeds and acts of derring-do?”

“Your whole ‘greatest adventurer’ thing.” Parry. “Flying around, murdering anyone who opposes the Empress and stomping on the necks of anyone trying to get by.” Dodge. “You’re the jackbooted thug of a genocidal and racist regime, and you’ve never done a good deed in your life.” Stab, twist, counter-thrust.

“Nonsense! I defend the empire and her interests! Don’t try and bring political matters into this.” you got a laugh

Nathaniel Dorian paused a moment. Was Lazarus correct? Was he complicit in the subjugation of indigenous peoples, in the repression of foreigners and the vast inequality between the social classes?

Nah. HA!Nathaniel Dorian brought his sword crashing down on Lazarus’s wrist, severing it messily. Lazarus hissed in pain, then gurgled wetly and collapsed as Nathaniel Dorian’s blade raked across his stomach and splattered blood across the small cabin.

“Take that, Evil-Doer! This age of Steam has no place for the likes of you!”



Captain_Person’s The Path of Progress

Foolish men from across the world had called him mad, but Doctor Dieter Niklas von Kinzig knew that this day would prove them wrong.

“Attention!” he barked at the crew of lackeys assembled below the control module of his roving steam fortress. Countless so-called usually i’d say this expression needs to be blasted off the surface of the planet, but i think it works here ‘heroes’, who had dared to challenge his cunning, slaved day and night to fuel the aetheric furnaces needed to power the gargantuan mechanical monstrosity of Kinzburg as it churned through the mud of Europe.

“Today is finally the day that the powers of the world bow down before my might! No more shall the mewling citizens of the world dare to deny the progress of science!!”

“Doctor, sir!” a lackey cried out as they stepped forward into a deep bow. “The Britannian colony has been sighted. We will be within range of the international peace conference in sixty seconds.”

“Hah!” the doctor spat with glee. “Excellent!! My foes, all gathered together in one place. Prepare the Stormfall Cannon!!” you’re really running with the double exclamations here, aren’t you?

As the foul crew are they actually foul? They seem ..err, conscripted? ran about their tasks the many-legged fortress of Kinzburg shuddered, aetheric energy coursing through its arteries of brass and cogs. Von Kinzig turned to address the figure bound to the base of the Aetheric Savagery Sower.

“You see, my darling Countess Deskford, nothing can stop me now.” He advanced slowly on the helpless heroine, continuing his speech with a horrid grin. “Not the meddling of your so-called ok now you’ve used it twice and I want it blasted again heroes, not the armies of the great powers of this nation what nation? It’s churning across Europe and Britannia is a colony in this, no? , not even you or your interfering husband can deny me. It’s too late!!”

Countess Joanna Deskford, last hope of the nations of the earth, fighter of the tyranny of scientific facism, glared back at von Kinzig. “Too late for them, perhaps,” she said, “but not too late for me!”

In a flash she stood up, dropping the intricate handcuffs that had bound her to the ground ground vs base of gave me some confusing mental re-blocking. In one hand she held an ornately carved wristband adorned with jewels, opened to reveal a fully automated lockpick powered by coal dust hidden inside.

“You are a blind fool, von Kinzig,” the Countess continued, dropping into the stance of a seasoned brawler. “You have always ignored that beauty, and art, obsessing only over your science. But no more. Today, this finally ends.”

Doctor von Kinzig blinked and in that moment she was upon him, unleashing a flurry of blows that staggered him. He brought his cane up to block one punch, and another was already connecting with his face. Step by step, he was forced back by her righteous onslaught, right to the edge of the control module where he was swept to the floor by the countess.

The countess stood triumphantly over von Kinzig. On the ground he writhed and panted as he glared up at her.

“Your tricks… are no match for my hatred… or for LIGHTNING!!”

With a flourish he thrust his cane up at her, sending a bolt of lightning surging from within its brass spike to skewer her heart. Her screech rattled the windows around the command module as all of von Kinzig’s hatred, stored and transformed into lightning by the Aetheric Savagery Sower, overloaded her heart and set her blood ablaze, all in her final heartbeat. Her body beginning to smoke, she toppled back as the evil Doctor sprung to his feet.

“AT LAST!!” screamed von Kinzig as he stood over her smouldering corpse. “AT LAST THE DESKFORD’S ARE NO MORE, AND WITH IT YOUR HOPE DIES!!”

He spun to stare down the Britannian colony that seemed to cower before him, firing a few frantic bursts of lightning from his cane for good measure.

“DEATH TO COWARDICE! DEATH TO REASON! waaait what underpins scientific facism then? DEATH TO BEAUTY, AND ART, AND WEAK-MINDED FOOLS!!”

He thrust his cane towards his enemies, and proclaimed their doom.

“FIRE THE STORMFALL CANON AND DESTROY EVERYTHING YOU SEE!! AAHAHAHAHA!!!”


Alright captains, that was wild. You're both loving nihilists, and ended up in the same facism triumphs over 'the good guys' place. Cptn_Dr, you managed to do that with more winking and nodding at the camera - and therefore the story came off maybe deliberately to communicate a more anti-facist message than Captain_Person's wild ride. Captain_Person, your ending went far more balls to the wall than then Dr's - and therefore nobody could mistake it as pro-bad guys, but good lord.

Ultimately, you both wrote goodbad pulp steampunk. You both also leaned into the 'steampunk is facism for nice people' angle rather than 'steampunk is goths in beige', but (while Cptn_Dr scratched it) neither of you showed the machinations of empire and colonialism - instead capturing one man's ambition at the speartip. Both stories needed to breath more and wrapped up too quickly, I don't know what your word limit was but these stories feel like they snuck in too far under.

:siren:The win goes to Captain_Person - but only because the conflict between Kinzing and Deskford had enough room to arc, rather than crash into resolution like Lazarus and Dorian. I thought Dr's humour was better, and world-building more concise/unlcuttered, but ultimately Person spun a better stunted story.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

timeless Ned Flanders style


Week 351 Crits


flerp – America’s Pastime

I have the opinion that stories can be an amazing vehicle to convey a message, allowing the writer to talk about their worldview, morals or just a singular life lesson they want to share. That’s why I loathe the Death of the Author concept so much.

What I’m getting at is that your story has this air to me of wanting to convey a message, to share something. And this is why I think the rare second person format works excellently here, and it resonates with me. It hammers home what you want to say, and that’s not a bad thing. gently caress subtlety.

Of course, a story also needs to be a story, and in this case it’s a life’s story: you relate this man’s rise and fall, a journey to now, his lowest point. This is enough for me, and you get extra points for making me feel sympathy even though I couldn’t give a poo poo about baseball (hell, I don’t know the rules).

The strongest part of this story, for me, is that it could be incredibly bleak and just a loving downer, but it’s not, somehow. A lesson is learned, the character develops, and realizes something important. It’s clear from the start that this guy is going to die, but he still has a bit of life left, and in the end he decides to use the bit he has to take responsibility for his choices. I also like that you leave it unsaid if he actually calls his ex-wife or not.

You lost this week, which completely baffled me, because when I read it I thought this was a clear winning candidate and it’s by far my favorite story this week. It makes my job easier, however, because you got a lot of crits already telling you why the judges hated it and gave you the loss, so I don’t have to look for something bad to “balance it out” or make my crit more worthwhile than just “good job”. I think I’d even agree with most of what the judges said is in your story, I just liked all of that instead of hating it. Take that as you want.

And all of you guys get your butts checked out early enough.


QuoProQuid – Monsters

I’m not a fan of cliché horror movies, because I know how they will play out before even starting to watch them. The protagonists get introduced and then they die because of the monster of the movie, and in the end either some of them make it out horribly scarred, or the monster wins because bad ends are scary. It honestly doesn’t really matter at that point. There was never any real tension, because you know for all but the last scene that something horrible is going to happen. My biggest personal anxiety is that I’m not a big fan or gore and torture scenes, so I just keep hoping that I don’t have to see the deaths in too much and/or drawn-out detail. Yeah, I’m a softie like that.

Your story was pretty much a condensed cliché horror plot. It was incredibly obvious from the start that something horrible was going to happen, and then it did. My biggest relief was probably that you kept the death offscreen.

Because we’re in the movie metaphor (and, let’s face it, you invite that), let’s talk about positive examples. I like it when a movie surprises me by being clever, that’s why I used the word “cliché”. I can excuse a lot of things I would otherwise not like if it’s fresh and well-done. For example, I like a lot of Tarantino movies even though they’re full of gore and torture, because I never quite know if a scene will “go there” or not. That’s tense and keeps me interested. And Tarantino is exceptional at bringing the “correct” level of violence, if that makes sense – switching from gritty and grounded but somewhat subdued and mostly offscreen to over-the-top fountains of blood within a single movie to set different tones and play with who’s the victim.
Two other examples for more typical horror movies which I really like are Terminator and Alien, both the first parts. Both have incredibly obvious premises – a seemingly unstoppable antagonist coming for the good guys – but play around with it a lot.

Finally, key for me, especially the last two examples end well because good characters make smart choices. There’s a message there too and even though a lot of horrible, scarring poo poo happens, the movies are not negative at all. Your story is just “a terrible thing happens”. There’s nothing more to it.


Nikaer Drekin – One Odd Duck

I really liked the beginning of this, the budding romance of kids growing into adulthood. It built up extremely well to the climax of the almost-kiss, and then

that loving moron doesn’t do it

And it extremely lost me at this point and never regained even my passing interest. Everything in your story says that Ike wants to kiss her, desperately wants to kiss her, needs to kiss her, will kiss her, and then he doesn’t, with no explanation whatsoever.

I mean, I get it. Sometimes people make stupid decisions, don’t act when they should, that happened to all of use and we have made big choices we regret. But usually, even a terrible choice is made for a reason. And I see no reason given for why Ike commits a mistake that will, apparently, haunt him for the rest of his life and even end it, as a human at least. I guess you could say that the message is exactly that, that sometimes we self-destruct for no reason, but I’m not buying it. You set up something about Ike being a little sociopathic maybe because he takes the duck eggs for no reason, but that again isn’t something that should prevent him from kissing the girl. Maybe he deep down wants to protect her from getting with his lovely self, but that’s all conjecture! I get that it’s good if a story makes u think, but if I have to make up stuff wholesale, there’s just a hole in the plot in the most literal sense of the word.

It’s also extremely hilarious that life after this one bad choice just SHITS on Ike like the universe needs to inform him that he’s a ludicrous dumbass, his parents die, Kailey shows up with partner and baby and tells him first about it (implying that they stayed extremely good friends throughout? What about THAT relationship, did he spend every day palling around with her going “gently caress I should have kissed her but that was the only chance ever and I blew it, no way to recover, no sir”? If they however cut contact after their awkward not-kiss, why would she tell him of all people first???? Just because the universe hates hates hates Ike?), a parade of misery, it’s like I’m watching Spider-Man 2 with its unending parade of people just making Peter Parker’s life the blackest hell for the crime of being played by someone who does teary faces well.

Then you “bring it around full circle” by making Ike himself a duck like the ones he…hated…? No, mistreated for no reason…maybe that means, eventually Kailey’s kid will steal HIS eggs. That’ll show the stupid motherfucker.


Kaishai – Tendrils

This one made me yearn for a bit more. It had a lot of intriguing concepts – the guy witnessing a suicide, who then got obsessed with the dead lady, and he fully knows that he’s obsessed for no real reason and struggles with it – but it falls flat in some way that’s hard to define. Maybe him eventually just acting upon the obsession, and overcoming it that way, is a little too easy. It’s like saying to a kid “you’ll get over your fear of heights by jumping off the 5 m board in the swimming pool”, and then the kid does it, and loves it, and keeps jumping off high things with great joy. The end. But, you know, the opposite way. He knows he shouldn’t do something, but does it anyway, and learns the lesson that he really shouldn’t have done that but At Least I Lived Haha.

I think the strongest parts of this story were how the obsession was not just with the event, but with the symbols around it. Her hair, the shape of it, the silhouette, and so on – it makes his actions more varied than “keeps thinking ‘bout that jumper lady”, and makes for a strong “action” scene with those symbols literally attacking him. But, again, the message for me is lacking here, and in the end the character growth is a little tepid. In fact, he doesn’t really grow because he knows his idea to seek for her (body) is misguided from the start and that he should just let it go. That he does find a maybe-hair at the end is intriguing, but just emphasizes the “better let it go” aspect which he already realized halfway through.


Fleta Mcgurn – Tanya

This story left me completely cold for similar reasons than the three before (if you don’t want to read other people’s crits to fully understand what I mean, sorry! World’s sometimes lovely and friends might not be your friends). Your protagonist tries her best to regain Tanya’s friendship, but keeps failing, and it becomes exceedingly obvious that it was because she did something unforgivable that Tanya can’t keep getting over. It became more and more frustrating to me as the story went on that Tanya couldn’t just come out and say what it was OR tell protag to gently caress off forever in a more decisive way. And the thing is too, as they did keep talking relatively politely, what protag did couldn’t have been that bad, couldn’t have been the thing that hurt Tanya directly. So the eventual reveal that it was simply her inaction that hurt Tanya so was not much of one.

You can make this work, a kind of slow burn of dread leading to a revelation that isn’t one but at least gives everyone closure because they’re finally able to say what everybody knows, but this wasn’t a good enough story for this. Protag is completely and utterly clueless until the very end, making it seem like you intended it to be almost a twist, when I really don’t see it as one – it should have been at least a possibility in her mind from the beginning. Then you could have built up her mounting realization that it’s not about something she did, rather than what she didn’t, and have her grow more and more guilty, until Tanya’s confirmation that yes, that’s what her problem is, would crush her.

This would also necessitate changing the ending for the better: the end is now the realization itself, that Protag did in fact do something horrible by not doing something, but it could instead be that the confirmation by Tanya allows her to face that truth she didn’t want to admit to herself and GROW from the ”haha everything was fine I really don’t know what Tanya’s problem is” sphere of lies she had built around herself. But this kind of growth and development is not even hinted at, and that’s a real shame, because this could have had a moment of budding hope in a dreary loving week, but it was not, it was just another “yeah things are terrible aren’t they, haha”. Keep in mind that I interpret the loving “dies of cancer in three weeks, life wasted” story as ultimately uplifting, so the bar was really low to clear.


Antivehicular – Sometimes Too Late

Sadly, I had to re-read the beginning a little to understand your worldbuilding. This is not necessarily your fault, but you do use words in unexpected ways, and set up your atmosphere to support those subversions of my personal expectations. Basically, what I initially thought was that the Departure Lounge was for assisted suicide, and people who were “rejects” or felt like they were could depart their useless lives there. The government would make a token effort to make them reconsider (the décor, the computer messages), but not actually care. That’s an interesting premise…but not at all what you wrote.

How I finally think I understand it is as follows: everybody on an earth nobody wants or is encouraged to be on anymore gets periodic job offers to go to a number of off-planet jobs, ranging from menial labor on spaceships to gardener in utopian faraway planet. You can reject those job offers as often as you want, and you can always reconsider your rejection or wait for a new one to come in and take that, but you probably really should take one at some point. The problem is that everyone’s obsessed with genetics, and people who came out “worse” will only ever get lovely jobs offered, so they lounge away on earth forever with the desperate hope for a good job to come in that will never be offered to them in particular. Correct so far, I hope?

Anyway, that’s not actually what the story is about, right? It’s really about a woman who is in irrational love with a stupid loser and really needs to learn how to get over him, but needs the push of a REALLY good job to finally realize that he will always just drag her down. It might also be the exact other way: she has the eternal choice between job and relationship, and tries really hard to convince herself that job is the choice to make, because after all he doesn’t really love her, he’s probably got other girls, and she got SUCH a good life waiting for her.

I think both interpretations are intriguing, and you could make the story ambiguous in that way, but as it stands, there’s too many details dragging it in either direction to make it work as a whole. The society seems pretty dystopian, brave new world style, but she accepts it fully – should I, as a reader, think that this is automatically a bad choice because I agree with brave new world’s message? If it’s freedom that Hunter offers and wants, why does he even want to be free with her if he doesn’t love her? If he provides a “good choice”, then why is it written like he always kept her from reaching her potential? Overall, both characters don’t really seem to know what they want to me, and just let the system make their choices for them. That’s simple and easy for them, and facile for the story. I want more.


Mr. Steak – The Lonely Girl

This is a fun mixture between creepy and cute. It manages to seem like a bedtime story both in content and length (which means that the shortness is actually very fitting, and not, like some of your previous entries, an obvious “oh-poo poo-deadline-is-in-ten-minutes” sign). The only thing that is too short is how quick the progression from “hand” to “can’t do stuff with hand” to “let’s sing to the hand” to “oh it’s working how nice” is. Some more struggle here would have spiced it up as a key point and led to a more effective resolution and release of tension, I think.

Overall, though, nice mood and I accept the ambiguity fully.


crabrock – You didn’t see this coming

I guess I didn’t! I enjoyed reading this for the first half just for the sheer absurdity of it, though it maybe wasn’t quite absurd enough? It dragged a little until it reached the part where it just escalated in nonsense.

Then I didn’t get the end. gently caress my splattered balls. Maybe it’s because I can’t deal with criticism (?). Yeah, that’s probably it.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

timeless Ned Flanders style


Yoruichi posted:

Crabrock's helicopter snake story, obviously
That should make up for me not coming up with anything to crit about it. I'll get around to it either tomorrow evening or on the weekend!

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Crits for Wolfe Week. Though, as usual, I care little for detailed prompt adherence I've added a precisely objective assessment of the degree to which you embodied the style or essence of word-lich Gene W in your flailings

Going Up
I think this was better in your head than as the story it turned into, though it’s not without merit. You have a strong conceit with climbing magic realist stairs to an unknowable destination, but your assured control of interesting detail doesn’t make up for the essential dullness of the action described, and nor does the (decent, if predictable) end stinger. I was going to ping you on the title, but then I realised it could be read as ‘growing up’ too, which is actually very clever so if that wasn’t intended I’d keep quiet. I also liked the edible stars, though I don’t really get how they fit into the metaphor, and your cutesy stylistic repetition at the start of each para doesn’t really carry its weight.
How Wolfey? Moderately, the conceit is vaguely reminiscent of some of his stories but I think he would have made this more interesting and would have scorned the looney tunes wink/shrinking circle at the end.

The Wizard of the Skysword and other stories

I liked this a lot more than my judgepeers, possibly because it’s such a bold rip of one of Wolfe’s jokes (death of dr island, island of dr death, etc) but mainly because it’s intensely and beautifully vivid in its writing. There is verrry little actual incident in any of these, and at first I didn’t realise they were all linked, but of course they are and it works well, if not amounting to terribly much in the end. I loved the intense landscapes and evocation of colour though, and I think the idea of the sword being a progenitor of stories rather than one itself is fairly charming and effective. I also liked the subtle, efficient characterisation and world building – this is how you do good fantasy ppl, attend. Nice work.
How Wolfey? Goddam, super wolfey with a wolf on top and a still from that scene in ‘’what we do in the shadows’ projected over it. It’s not just the conceit, though, I liked the way you cast a story by what didn’t happen and thought it reminiscent of mr pringle.

Station of the Nail
I thoroughly didn’t like this and iirc got talked down from giving it a DM – which was the correct decision, there’s a great deal to like in it. The images in particular are arresting, the fat guy in the rubble holding a TV is incredible. I did also like the wildly bizarre world you allude to, though it does have a sort of grab bag quality that gets wearisome by the story’s end. My big problem is that there’s no real through line for the guy, though you mention he’s pilgriming, it’s not very convincing - he’s just sort of wandering around picking up some nosh, and none of the super weird background story elements really talk to each other. I can appreciate that’s a fair description of the book of the new sun so I’m not like mad mad at u, but it was bitsy enough to annoy me for all the quality of the writing.
How Wolfey? So so, I really got more of a Stanislaw Lem vibe with the clunky spaceship and tins of peaches, though I can see the similarities with Severian’s story I guess in the quasi random grotesqueries?

The Price of a Blade
This is smooth and competent fantasy with decent characters, a little action and a neat premise up till about three quarters of the way through. Then, when he steals his former companions face and takes on his life, is splendid and odd and unexpected. I also like the final image of the blade rusting away. This is a useful comparison with the station of the nail, where the images just sort of hang there – in this story each image has a place made for it in the story and it nestles there.
How Wolfey? Very Wolfey indeed, that weird late pivot is just the sort of granny knot he would tie in the story possibly while chuckling idk


The Weather in the Old Country

The trouble with this one is that the story keeps telling you it’s gonna arrive and then it never does. There’s a lady (guessing) who wants to talk to grandad, and she drives off to do it, then there’s some mist and some stuff and then she doesn’t then she goes home I mean toss me a bone (literally lol I would actually have liked this more if a bone was tossed). The words are all fine and competent, but the sentence in the middle ‘then nothing happened’ is basically a savage self own so props for that.
How Wolfey? Gene would spurn vaporous piffle like this, in his own genial way.

Mount and Rider
I wanted to like this a lot more than I did, the experience of goose-hiking your way round searching for a Portentously Capitalised Entity is very well and vividly presented, but I think it struggles to make the pursuit interesting because the Archon is a blank slate. It’s neat I guess that the story ends with the protagonist being absorbed into a hive mind or w/e but I don’t have any real emotional reaction to it, and the end of episode title card is essentially abdicating your role as an author, it’s ‘then they had a lot of adventures’ except not even that, it’s ‘then he turned into grey fog’. I think you were trying out some interesting stylistic tricks here and you shouldn’t take this as a reason to eschew such in the future, it just needs a bit more juice.
How Wolfey? Not very, bc 1. They’re geese and 2. That end card would make him rotate a single perfect 180 in his grave so we’re looking at his butt and that ain’t fly

Electronic Tigers

I was all prepped to like this story when I was reading the kid and his sister having realistic highjinks and I was all holy relateable wordman, that’s super relateable because my daughter is convinced going to sleep is wack business for squares. But! Then it brought in 19,000 (approx.) different electronic toys and they started wittering at each other and my interest fluttered off like a lonely sparrow. Buuut, on a re-read it’s actually pretty funny snappy dialogue so I’ll forgive you. What I won’t forgive is the essentially nothing nature of the story, for all it’s a pleasant enough way to spend a 1000 words.
How Wolfey? Not in the slightest. Little known fact, Gene Wolfe consulted on the first draft of Toy Story! Though tbf the reason it’s little known is it’s a filthy lie.

A Higher Need
This was a strong week and someone needed to lose so this picked up the poop glove, but it’s not really terrible just a bit mediocre. There’s a gross toy going round looking for help, and everyone thinks it’s a Mexican, then it gets the help and goes Hollywood, bam story. I think part of the trouble is you sort of repeat the same scene over and over, and it’s not interesting enough to warrant it. And lines like ‘you know there are additional resources to tap at the local level to help ease the transition’ need a verrry good reason to be in a piece of flash fiction. If you graphed this out it would he tried and he tried and he tried and he succeeded the end. A vague political sort of metaphor doesn’t really make up for the predictability of the arc. I liked the greased up slipnslide at the end though, that was funny.
How Wolfey? Zero wolfes out of a possible one. Gene would never go down your greased up slipnslide, he’s way too dignified, but he wouldn’t make you feel bad about it.


At Rainbow’s End
Hrmmmmm so this is super competent like wildly competent, it’s like one of those movie snipers with their gun just snip snapping the bits together and doming the vice president of Moldovia from 1k yards or whatever, but it really didn’t alight the enthusiasm of any of the judges and I’m slightly at a loss to explain why – probably because it feels like the story that it is is written at the beginning and then at the end and you know so exactly what you’re getting (with a garnish of weird-but-actually-just-like-u-and-I fishpeople)? Like that last line “You can fill in lakes and paste over gills, but that doesn’t make them gone.” Is both a perfectly good and solid line and also a big old HERE’S THE THEME PEEPS HOPE YER THEME RECEPTORS WERE PREPPED IF THEY WEREN’T JUST READ IT AGAIN. I think this needed an additional quarter turn to the left, some unusual element beyond the glistening eggs and flappy gills bc it tries so hard to show us that these fish weirdos are just regular folk that it doesn’t give us any actual reason for them to be fish people and not regular folk, at which point you have a rather dull city girl comes home to country town and leaves a tiny bit sadder/wiser yarn which the world probably currently has enough of on a per capita basis.
How Wolfey? Middling, Wolfe had gills, of course, but it is said they were in (weirdly) his feet, what's up with that

In the Tube

Much like the last but in reverse we all loved this story but I’m not really able to explain why so let’s ponder this. The moving parts of this story are few, and weird: corpses are getting burnt all over the place, then a, what coffin/tube for suspended animation? is invented which instantly captures the unified attention of the world and our protag, who eventually climbs into one, the end. THIS SHOULD NOT WORK. Nothing happens, there’s no conflict, there’s no plot to speak of. But, it’s weirdly delightful – I think because you never ever doubt the protag is being sincere, and you never explain a single thing more than you need to? There are tubes, they’re neat, everyone wants one. Hell, I want a tube it sounds great. Also, I think the interpersonal relationships are beautifully, economically sketched. I … guess it might be a metaphor for religion? Hmm.
How Wolfey? Ridiculously. This reads just like one of his shorts, which is super annoying because I’m 70-90% sure you’ve never read a word he’s written.

Calling the Meat
IIRC this did not win much favour from the other judges but it’s really fairly solid, and not far off an HM – your insane apocalyptic hellscape is witheringly well-described, and I like the circular structure you go with, it’s a nice way to frame what is (essentially) someone watching a single slightly flat action scene. I think the idea of tricking the god into thinking it has worhsippers is clever rather than genuinely effective, because done right it would be affecting and it’s not, particularly, but I like your words and it’s certainly fixable. A decent job.
How Wolfey? Not especially, though Gene has magical powers and can talk to all the gods so there’s a thematic connection I guess.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019



sebmojo posted:

Crits for Wolfe Week.

Thank you!

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

*


I’m chugging through the crits I owe but wanted to drop a special crit for Calling the Meat by anatomi from Wolfe week because this story has popped into my mind randomly a few times over the course of the last week, which means there’s something special about it.

You do a deft job of telling readers just enough about this world to grasp the basics and nothing more. I don’t need explanations for the job titles of Washer and Meat-Caller because like everything else it’s cleverly revealed through context. Like sebmojo says in his crit, you picked a cool framing technique for the hunting scene that lends it a sense of epic scale–the sense of watching from so far back and still being wowed by the size of the leviathan and the number of pillars etc gives it a nice weight.

I really want to read more about this world, but I am disappointed by the glimpses we get into the Meat-Caller’s mind when he’s conversing with the leviathan. Those conversations reveal the (extremely clever and neato!!!) fishing technique he uses, but we’re left with little sense of the Meat-Caller as a person. Considering the story starts with him as a child, I’d have appreciated even a tiny glimpse of how he feels about his powers or whether he fought the people who taught him once he learned what he had to do. Was he upset or regretful at killing the leviathans, as he hints at being in a couple lines? Was he enthused about it? He’s just too dang detached as a narrator. If you want him to be a detached narrator, I think starting the piece off with a snippet of his childhood is a mistake because it hoodwinks the audience into thinking we’re getting a story about his personal growth.

There’s some fantastic material in this and if you ever expanded on it I’d be down to read more. The fantastical elements are deftly woven and hint at a sprawlingly cool world that I’d love to explore, it just didn’t quite hit any emotional note beyond a sort of vague melancholy. The Washer had more personality than your narrator solely through her dialogue.

Either way, the fact that I returned to this piece more than once while just going about my day says a lot about your ability to come up with unique poo poo.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Crits for Week 347

Several years ago I made a perma toxx to crit every story in each week in which I failed - I can recommend it, it makes it much harder to get into a cycle of failing over and over again.

Starting at the back on this fairly dreary week:

Bad Seafood, The Road to the Sea

there's an appealing formality to this tale, where the self-imposed strictures of the writing (short sentences, minimal punctuation, repetition, dovetail nicely with the dreary plodding progress. As such, though it yeeted the no death requirement right out the window and was therefore approprately dq'd, this is a strong entry. There are a few oddities and infelicities, e.g. I don't think birds have lips to lick and sometimes your portentous style is just plain clunky ('feeds his gullet', 'lies still for all time', 'softly sleeps beyond the stars') but overall this is a worthwhile and fairly effective experiment.

Thranguy, quickening

I had to go back to the judgepost to understand why this lost, it seemed pretty good if dreary, and I like the details you share with us about your slightly enervated and extremely pregnant protag. There's a whiff of this is the lovely world I'm bringing a new person into, maybe, but I confess I don't see much more tying it together which is maybe the problem? I will see if there's another that i think might have worn the loss crown better, acknowledging that these are all on a fairly dreary par.

Flerp it runs in the family


So the old two people talking story, I'm kind of a sucker for them and the trick is to get people who want something out of the conversation and you do that really well here. The character wants to know, we want to know, it's symmetrical. and the conversation plays like a fight scene, with advances, and testings, and possible retreats. you also, and this is important in a story like this about Issues and Serious Stuff, bring it home without making it maudlin or (amazing) dreary. Gj, and a clear winner.

Djeser Ib-Nebu

Oh hey this one isn't dreary either w00t you've got your rich colour palette and your slightly obscure but doubtless authentic ancient egypty stuff which I suspect you milk a little hard, but at least there's some colour in this dreariest of weeks. I think this achieves its modest goal, and i'm left with a series of potent sense impressions and a feeling that yes this protag is slightly and importantly different at the end of the story than she was at the beginning.

Salgal80 The undoing

By contrast this swings for teh dreary fences and hits it right out of the park, I think your diary format actively hinders you here and makes the story intensely bland . Dgmw I think you do a solid job of outlining relevant details, but I think if you're going ploddy in the format you want some discontinuities to work against that instead of a steady progress towards, idk doing something interesting. Words are fine, I miiiiight have plumped for this to lose rather than thrangles because that had a bit more interest in its events and wasn't tied down by the diary format.

Staggy death, of a sort

nerds being dreary filthy disgusting goony nerds is looked down on a bit here because it's like tracing off a mirror i guess, but this is reasonably well sketched and the psychology of the two friends is nicely outlined. I think it works, as with flerps, because there's a sense of conversation/social interaction as combat, with advances and retreats.

chili cutting

this is the flipside of goony nerds goooning, but it's similar in that it's rich rear end in a top hat richly assholing; i'd place it below staggy's as the turnaround is a little sketchy - he's like OMG I'M WASTIN' MY RICH rear end in a top hat LIFE and bam life changed, which i find somewhat unearned. why does that matter to him and his dyin mum doesn't? not dreary as such but it's a little underimagined for the reasons described.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







If you're looking to practice critting, here's the list of stories with no crits at all - it's quite short, so have at it.

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

Thanks for the crits seb! Very helpful, and I appreciate them!

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

*


First half of week 349 crits:

Ironic Twist - Thaw

I liked this one more upon second reading. The prose is tight. The sense of panic and urgency is definitely there. I like your narrator’s voice. The skips and jumpstarts in the narrative help keep that frenetic pace going, but I think they don’t quite reveal enough and I ended up feeling lost despite enjoying it. I kept expecting to stumble over a nugget of info somewhere that made me go ‘aha, I get it’ but it never came. I wondered if I just missed something, especially considering one of the other judges really really loved this one. I couldn’t figure out why Hoke was scared of the forest, why it was relevant, or what the twenty-nine buried things were. If they were bodies and people were after them because Hoke had killed all those people, why is it only now after he shot the most recent dude that people cared? The lack of info made me get distracted with my theorizing and detracted from my enjoyment of the story overall.

One thing to work on: Unless you’re deliberately writing a vague, open-ended ending, sometimes you have to drip-feed a little more to your audience. I don’t even know if any of my assumptions above are correct. I worried they were not and it meant I was interpreting the story wrong, which kept me from just enjoying the wonderful prose and voice.


Simply Simon - Your Auras Paint an Ugly Picture

This is one of my fave pieces from you. It exhibits a lot of growth compared to your recent DMs and stuff. Be proud! The prose is nicely gritty and gross–I get the sense that you were trying to pass on your protag’s disgust with the world and you succeeded in that nicely while also making the protagonist nicely loathsome. It reminded me a lot of SH’s story “Vulture” with that same sort of oily grotesqueness and that’s a compliment.

One thing to work on: This story starts slow. It takes a lot of time to build up to the part where it gets good. By the time we get to the part where the protag is talking about how he manipulates people into showing their true colours, I am all in! But that’s like halfway through the story. The setup at the beginning doesn’t need to be so long. This is a thing that happens frequently in TD stories, they often seem to find their pace about halfway through. But this is a big step forward for you so don’t take all my crit as just crit, I was genuinely impressed with your effort here.


Saucy_Rodent - Equal Opportunity Witchcraft

I will say the ending of this got a laugh out of me. We were kind of perplexed on whether to even crit this one since it’s so low-effort, but this is TD and crits must be critted. As far as being a little aesop’s fable sort of tale goes, it isn’t bad. It just lacks substance and any explanation for why we should care about the fact that this poor witch is being mistreated.

One thing to work on: Some effort next time would be nice. You can do better. I’ve seen it.


QuoProQuid - Homecoming

This story is gonna be a hard sell from the beginning because all the characters seem to be kind of stoically contemputuous of one another. I suppose that can work sometimes, but they all read as fairly similar and it makes it tough to develop any emotional investment in any of them. So Kamir is going to meet his fellow cultists, they are all elitist jerks except for the one he thinks is too dumb to be there. Protags don’t have to be sympathetic but this guy isn’t even enough of a jerk to enjoy hating. He’s just sort of presumptuously there. He finally has a bit of personality when he blurts out the fact that aliens are a lie etc. but you don’t do a great job of setting up why this matters.

Overall this was confusion and difficult to understand and none of the characters were likeable or sympathetic, but also they weren’t interesting enough jerks to appreciate them as jerks.

One thing to work on: If you’re going to write a story about a bunch of contemptible jackasses, I love those kinds of stories and absolutely go for it. But you have to make them different enough that they’re different shades of jackass.


flerp - The Legacy of the Stevens

I love the immediate sense of foreboding this piece starts off with. It’s a shame that it doesn’t quite go anywhere. Throwing bodies down a hole as a weird family ritual is a delightful setup and I was prepared to be spookied, but instead it just ends up kind of vaguely melancholic. Which is fine I guess, but there isn’t quite enough meat on the bones to turn it from an interesting vignette meditating on a sense of general grief and weirdness to an actual story where your protag makes important choices and drives the story. Stories about destiny are always tough because you don’t want your protags to come off as passively bound to fate. You do all right with that, but it’s just a little underwhelming.

One thing to work on: I think this story needs a big conflict for your protag that isn’t just “sits around exploring internally how he feels about things.” For such a big, scary concept with such cool imagery, not a lot actually happens. If he’d tried to escape his destiny and then calmly settled in to face it–or tried to escape it and succeeded and been haunted by the pit afterwards–it would have given this story a bit of oomph. I’m not saying either of those are the only options, but your protag seems like he’s setting himself up to rage against his destiny and then just kinda sputters at it instead.


Tyrannosaurus - somewhere, sometime, a garden

I liked this more than the other judges so my crit of it will probably be shorter. It would have been my choice for win in a weaker week. The prose is gorgeous. The setup is deft. The execution is nicely handled. The action is crisp. The narrator’s voice is particularly well-woven and really hits that note of ‘an actual person is telling you a story’ which is a weakness of mine. One of the other judges wasn’t sold on the ending but I liked it a lot. It does end a little abruptly, but not in a way I disliked?

One thing to work on: This story needs a bit more breathing room. I’m not sure I could give you much to work on in a TD sense as I thought it was well executed in almost every way. But if you rewrote it, I think the ending definitely needs a bit more breathing room.


Lippincott - Dusty Holes

This story is perfectly competent. The characters are believable. The setup is believable. The action is believable. It just didn’t grab me, for some reason I am finding it difficult to articulate. I guess possibly because it reads like an environmental disaster story I’ve read a bunch of times before without any new ground explored. I grew up in the desert and read a lot of nonfiction and fiction set in the drought-stricken southwest so perhaps it’s just my own reading history unfairly colouring your tale here.

One thing to work on: I didn’t really get a sense of either of your two protags as unique people. We care about them because the story is from their POV, but that wasn’t quite enough for me. Even just a glimpse into what their relationship is like when not under this immense stress might have helped a lot with that. It just felt to me like there was nothing differentiating them from the other people in the queue–which is I suppose a point you could have been making on purpose, but it meant they came off as kind of generic.


Uranium Phoenix - A Flash of Color

I liked this a lot! The imagery was solid. The setting is cool. Like Chili, my brain immediately went “aww, it’s human Wall-E!” but not in a bad way. I enjoy the way your characters interact, the sort of slow-creeping getting to know one another. It suits the world and feels very natural. Overall this story is nicely atmospheric, but I am noticing that a lot of stories this week suffer from a similar issue in that the protag is just kind of There to carry the story and we don’t learn a whole lot about them or get much of an emotional arc out of them.

One thing to work on: I would have liked to know more about how all these events emotionally affected your protag beyond simply traumatising her by virtue of having seen them. I get that you were trying to write her as sort of truamatised and distant/flat-effect due to that, but unfortunately the risk of writing protags like that is tht they can seem just plain flat. I would have liked a deeper glimpse into her head and how she was feeling about all these interactions. That would have bumped this one up to HM level for me.


Antivehicular - Dismantling Father

This is another one that I liked more than the other two judges, ha. I don’t know why, it’s just a nice little slice of family drama and I liked the use of literally dismantling the furniture and sorting through possessions as a framing device for getting over loss. Everyone has good characterization and this is a nice peek into their lives, which seem bigger than what we get on-screen, so to speak. That’s always a good sign.

One thing to work on: It isn’t quite a complete story. It’s a nice vignette. I feel like it needed another scene or two of closure or more set-up toward a vague ending. As of now it just sorta feels half-finished despite being overall very good. I’d read this as a longer piece.


curlingiron - Hunter of Monsters

This was, like Uranium Phoenix and Lippincott’s pieces, a perfectly competent tale that had a beginning and middle and end. It has all the pieces and all the flow of a good story and I enjoyed the action, but the protag’s voice was very distant and removed. I get that they’re a monster so perhaps you were trying to go for an alien/inhuman/unfamiliar sort of voice, but it came off distant enough that I never fully engaged with the story.

One thing to work on: Same issue as with UP and Lippincott. The protag needed to have a little emotional life breathed into them–was she killing these people because she was mad? Vengeful? Traumatised? As of now she just kinda performs it like a duty and describes extremely visceral murders in a really robotic way. I’d really like to see the feelings that drove her to it, and how she actually feels after.


SurreptitiousMuffin - Untitled

I liked this, for all the divided opinions it caused. My only real complaint is that it was very short even after you’d explored and read everything. I think you were limited by the medium you chose, which is a risk I know you knowingly took. So congrats for taking that risk even if it didn’t quite 100% work as a winning story. I think it works as a story full-stop and that was an achievement.


Sitting Here - Vulture

I liked this one and championed it getting the HM because of how viscerally gross it was. Oftentimes your stories have that emotional distance to them that I have really railed against this week, but this piece definitely does not. Every character and every sentence drips with loathing. It reminds me of a story I read as a kid by Fritz Lieber which was just fantastically gross, about a ghost made of soot that left sticky gross trails on everything it touched as it lurched slowly closer and closer to its target. This story had a similar sort of momentum, all that gross build-up carried forward to a confrontation that seemed inevitable but was not made any less effective for its inevitability.

One thing to work on: I honestly loved this as a self-contained piece and don’t have many complaints at all. If you wanted to rewrite this to shop it around, I’d suggest perhaps touching a little on what your protag and her mother’s relationship is like without the father, but as a trim little TD entry it doesn’t need that and works fine as-is.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


I’ll claim New hope Dangjin

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.


Sign-ups are now closed. I'll update the OP when I get home.

This is going to be a great week! Good luck to everyone.
화이팅!!!!

Saucy_Rodent
Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica


The System Knows I’m Grateful

I took the bus to my starting point and turned on my StaffSync. Then my mind slept dreamlessly as my body did whatever labor it had been rented out for. I came to eight hours later a couple hundred thousand won richer, and, for the first time, with a big bandage on my arm.

...

I could tell from his eyes’ inactive stare and his nothing smile that his StaffSync was turned on. I would be filing my complaint with the Algorithm today.

“Hello, Mr...” The Algorithm took a second to look me up in the facial recognition cloud. “...Song. How are you feeling today? Are you enjoying your leisure?”

“I am.” I had spent most of my last waking hours watching TV and eating potato chips.

“That’s wonderful to hear. I see you recently watched Downtown Friends on Netflix. Did you enjoy it?”

The Algorithm, of course, can see from my star rating that I think the show is just okay. I’m always amazed how much more meaningless small talk we’ve had to deal with since they learned to automate us.

“I enjoyed the show very much,” I said.

“Good to hear. What can I help you with today?”

“Yesterday, I had my StaffSync turned on from nine to five. During that time I sustained a small injury.” I rolled up my sleeves to show him the pretty big cut. “I understand that I am not normally entitled to know what is done with my body during the StaffSync. However, in the case of injury, I am allowed to ask what organization rented my body out for the workday.”

“We are sorry to hear about your injury, Mr. Song. Are you aware that workplace injuries have gone down 85% since the implementation of StaffSync?”

“I am.”

“Your injury may have been much more severe had you been controlling your own body during the incident. Are you grateful for the implementation of StaffSync during this ordeal?”

“I am.”

“Mr. Song, your facial expression indicates that you are not, in fact, grateful. Please answer the question more truthfully. Are you grateful for StaffSync?”

I smiled. “I am grateful for StaffSync.”

“Thank you. We have you down as ‘grateful for StaffSync’ in our records. The organization that rented your body yesterday was...” The pause was longer than normal. “LustStars, Inc.”

“And what was LustStars, Inc. doing with my body?”

“Your body took the position of...actor.”

Great, I’m getting laid and I don’t even know it. I suppose I should take it as a compliment that LustStars, Inc. thought me handsome enough to cast me in a porno. I wondered if the casting directors were still human or if they let the Algorithm do that too.

“Please speak to LustStars representatives for future inquiries,” he said, and dismissed me from the office.

...

I didn’t need to speak with LustStars about my injury. All I had to do was look myself up on a porn site. I was only in a few; they weren’t renting me out every day. Every one I was in had an oddly complicated plot. The girls were cute; if only I were awake for my time with them.

They’d cut around the injury itself. One shot I had a clean arm, the next I had a bandage. It was a vanilla scene; I can’t imagine how I got the cut. I considered the possibility that the pretty woman I was with woke up during the scene, freaked out, and scratched me, but the cut looked more like a knife than fingernails.

If I could’ve afforded a lawyer, if I hadn’t spent my StaffSync earnings paying Synced waiters and tipping Synced bartenders, I could probably get a settlement from LustStars. I can’t, though; lawyers are expensive now that they’re all Synced to the entire history of legal precedent.

I considered opting out of porn jobs with the StaffSync app, but that would decrease my wages by five hundred won an hour. It wouldn’t be worth it.

...

I got in the elevator to meet my friends at the rooftop bar. I heard a woman’s voice ask to hold the door, so I did. In stepped my partner from the porno where I got my cut. She didn’t seem to recognize me. I knew from the PornHub keywords her name was Jang-mi.

“Hey. Jang,” I said. “Sorry about what happened with the...”

“Hello, Mr....Song,” she said back to me. “I am capable of many different scenarios. Casual hookup, girlfriend, rape victim...I can be any of these with you tonight. Flat fee for the evening, six hundred thousand won.”

“Can I talk to the real Jang?” I said.

“Flat fee, six hundred thousand won.”

It was a lot of money. I passed on the offer.

...

Everything we do nowadays, everything that we remember at least, is leisure and fun. We eat out. We watch TV. We go to parks, and we go to zoos to watch Synced animals do tricks beyond the imagination of beasts. We make art sometimes, but lately, the Algorithm has been doing it better. We don’t want for anything and we don’t ask questions.

Who knows how many times I’ve waited tables or tended bar or flipped burgers? Or been a lawyer or a schoolteacher or a yoga instructor? Been a janitor or a welder? A porn star or a whore?

We’re happy. The work gets done, and we don’t have to do it. The Algorithm takes care of it, and workplace injuries are down 85%.

The records show that I’m grateful. We all are.

crimea
Nov 16, 2012


I Close My Eyes and I Drift Away
1187 words



I am the imp sat curtly on your chest as you sleep.

Henry caught me in a painting, and I begged him to be generous. I asked very nicely indeed, but that liar had me as I was, and then had me for a fool. He did not paint the blood rushing to your head. And the horse head wasn’t even there that night.

You’re sleeping now, though. You’re dreaming about your teeth falling out – it’s a classic, to be sure, but please leave some for me. I don’t know what’s got you so nervous, and some nights I worry about you ‘cause you grind those pearly whites together like a lunatic.

Every day has its dog, and when the sun comes up you start to crawl out of bed and start stomping around like you owe it something. Why bother? Until you have coffee you’re three steps behind yourself. Why bother? The bed’s so inviting. I should know – I’m under there right now. Why bother?

You know those dreams where you’re falling and falling and then you wake up? I hate those. I want to know what happens when you hit the ground!

Tonight you’re driving around a nonsense city that look like every other city and you’re looking for a place to park. Motorways aren’t meant to be this steep, I guess. When you’re awake you can’t drive but that’s ok. It’s easier here. If you adjust your rear view mirror, you’d see me in the backseat. Please don’t ask me for directions. You wouldn’t like where I’d take you.

This is your dad’s car isn’t it? And a wrongly-remembered childhood holiday? Paging Doctor Freud!

I’m only joking, of course. All dreamers are equally insane.

Usually I am fond of you because you are not placid and peaceful, and you go many different places, and you do not ask stupid questions like “Why do we dream?” “Do dreams have meaning?” How dare you? When your ancestors slept beneath the stars they knew better than to wonder, and their dreams went down further underground as a sign of appreciation.

Usually I am fond of you. But when the sun was out you got it in your mind to dream lucidly. You got a little journal and you got your grounding symbol. It’s a postcard with a little blue biplane on it. Before I know it the biplane is flying around your head every night and you’re so much more solid than usual. It makes me sick. I want to open the windows and let the postcard flutter away, and we can get back to the good old days of trawling your night-thoughts without the kid gloves.

It’s taking a few nights for me to get an opportunity. Just now you’re dreaming about who you’re sweet on. You couldn’t wait to see your darling in the day, so your darling visited early. It’s not going very well though, and you wish you could just get darling’s attention one second. The biplane’s making a racket on take-off.

You wake up sour and spend the day indoors, not seeing your darling again. You don’t write that one down in your little journal.

It’s in the waning seconds after escaping that slasher movie castle, those few moments where dream and reality overlap like seismic plates, it’s then I swipe the postcard. It’s then I catch the blue buzzard. You go on like it’s nothing as eyes adjust and edges come back and I go down below, to someplace your dreams always (cannot) go.

Collective unconscious is not the right term for it. It’s a collected unconscious. A tangled web of dreams, spinning from the dark into right here into the dark again. It’s the underside entrance to the iceberg. All the refuse that washes up, from you. Or from us – it doesn’t matter much. Things live here, and places too.

“Have you dreamt this man?” Yes, you most certainly have, but he usually stays out of frame, in tricks of perspective and the like. I can’t blame him for slipping up and wandering into view a fraction of the time, but I’d rather see him less anyhow. In this place now he’s idly leaning into a wrong angle picking at something between his teeth. I pass him without speaking on my way to someplace to launch this plane from. I’m on the hill of haunted houses right now, and a throng of wronged lovers rattle their chains in exaltation. Nearby, a parked UFO shelters the aliens from the abduction dreams while they play tarot cards with each other.

What happens to all the dreams that die? This place is from all of you so there’s less of it when there’s less of you. I miss the ziggurat that was never here.

Instead there’s an ornate marble bridge over the carnal pits, generated from the human realisation of burgeoning desire. Out of all those lifetimes it usually manifests as sexy teachers for some reason. Ten thousand years of “You’ve been a naughty boy.” I’ve been very well behaved, thank you very much.

I have to jostle past all the shadowmen whose job it is to keep the Red King topped off with enough tranquilisers to keep him snoozing forever by Masan bay.

I reach the highest point, and here even my memory starts to fade. Even as I’m standing here now, I think it’s a bell tower of dusty sandstone, but maybe it’s upside-down. I take out the postcard, and I let it go. There’s no breeze down here, but it starts drifting towards the stars anyway. The stars they used to dream under. The bi-plane whirrs angrily as it begins to lose definition, and the noise keeps going for a little even when it’s gone.

After you lost your grounding your sleep has only been getting worse. You’re having more nightmares. You’re taking medicine. I feel heavier on your chest. I’m sorry about what I did to you but I can’t let you be lucid. You can’t control a dream on my watch. When you wake up feeling weird and kind of empty, that’s when you’re at your best. What’s the point of a dream if it’s fulfilled? Why bother?

***

During this troubled time, I was sat on your bed with the sheets around me pretending I was a ghost. You had left to wherever you go when the sun is out, and I am just minding my own business until what do I begin hear out of the window but an awfully familiar buzzing. I crane my neck and watch with dismay as that horrid little bi-plane comes gliding through the window, the postcard of itself folded in the cockpit.

It was at that moment you open the door, and you see me. In the sun. You’re not supposed to see me. I am crouched on the bed and you are screaming and the plane is whizzing around and the horse head popped has in from behind the curtain that hadn’t been there before. There’s no horse body hidden behind the curtain. The curtain is part of the horse.

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

timeless Ned Flanders style


Yoruichi posted:

Crabrock's helicopter snake story, obviously
Alright

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






week 350 crits

note: I challenged myself to summarize each story in three sentences or fewer. I have no idea if that is helpful or interesting to you, but it was fun for me, even if on some occasions it was a real stretch!


Chili

A nephew pursues his uncle’s legacy, which takes the form of a seemingly endless climb up a spiraling ramp. When the nephew reaches the top and finds his uncle, there are no answers, no explanation for the climb—only one devastating question: What now?

I enjoyed what I understand to be the theme of this piece. As we mature, there is perhaps an expectation that we are moving toward some all-satisfying answer, or that our ‘climb’ has a meaningful ending. As someone who’s constantly re-realizing that life is all climb and no destination, my interpretation of this story hit home.

The repetition mostly works, although it did make this story feel a little bit longer than necessary. Some of the whimsical elements (eating stars and such) were neat, but almost bumped this story into too-dreamy territory. Like, the climb as a literal expression of an abstract life experience is the most important part of this story, so you don’t want the reader to question the reality or literalness of it. Having your character reach into the sky and grab a fistful of star fruit snacks is possibly a hair too surreal—even though I really do enjoy the imagery.


Djeser

A swordwizard crafts a skysword—a sword meant to be so beautiful no one would ever want to raise it in battle—and gives it to a skywizard. The skysword is stolen from the skywizard by her over-ambitious apprentice, who, in the wake of his crime, seeks to live out of sight of the sky. Years later, a warrior and his men come to seize the sword from the former apprentice, who gives it up willingly, leaving the warrior to plan battles to come.

I think Sebmojo was right to HM this, though I didn’t have it on my list personally. I gather it’s a riff on some Gene Wolfe title silliness, and a well-done one at that. The writing is vivid and gorgeous, a real treat for the brain-eyes. Perhaps if I were a little more familiar with Wolfe’s material, I would’ve liked it even more.

As it is, this is the story of a sword intended to be so glorious as to overcome the worst parts of human nature and…well, it just doesn’t do that. People predictably wanna get their grubby little paws on it, and there’s very little time for anything in the way of introspection on the part of your characters. I’m not sure I would tell you to do anything differently, though; I feel like you accomplished what you set out to do, but a reader looking for something conceptual or character-driven won’t find a whole lot here. Oddly enough, your entry has notes of the winning entry this week, but Thranguy managed to eek out just a little bit more room for characterization, which is what gave his piece the edge in my consideration of the week.



Crimea

A space pilgrim is on a space pilgrimage to see ‘Our Mother.’ The dubious and often contradictory route leads him to a small moon inhabited by a crash-landed pilot who appears to have fallen in love with his ship’s busted computer, as well as an abattoir planet whose butchers seem to sell human or human-like livestock.

I was basically interested in every individual thing that happened in this piece, but none of it resolved into a satisfying story. Our pilgrim buddy is sort of a harried and disgruntled camera moving us through your crazy setting, revealing one strange detail after another. If you strip away the vat-grown harelip guy and the piles of burning skulls and the BLOOD SUN surrounded by meat planets, you basically have a story about a guy who needs food, gets some, needs food again, and gets some again. His character never changes pitch, never does anything dynamic, never interacts with the setting in a way that could alter either himself or the setting. We’re basically riding along with a guy having a fairly normal experience in what happens to be a fairly extraordinary world.

That all sounds fairly negative, but I did find the setting fun, and that goes a long way for me in genrefic.


Thranguy

Three dubious allies set out to catch one of the lethal falling ‘skyswords’ in hopes of defeating the conqueror, Dragon. Only the wickedest of the three, Mathas, survives the endeavor, and assumes the identity of his (more noble) deceased rival/comrade. In the course of defeating Dragon, Mathas becomes the thing he is pretending to be, and while his new self thinks the whole ordeal was worthwhile, he no longer knows what his previous self would’ve thought.

Hmm this is basically pretty great. It squeezes into the wordcount pretty tightly, but you still managed to tick the boxes of character, setting, and plot. You use a lot of—for lack of a better word—shorthand; Iseki and Sima get one RPG character trait a piece, for example, but in this case it works because the real meat of this piece is in the motherfucking swords falling out of the sky, and Mathas’s transition from ‘the wicked’ into a more moderate, bastardized version of Iskebi.

Full disclosure, I’m not especially familiar with Gene Wolfe’s work because I’m filthy swine, but this seems like a solid homage to the author. Even I was able to smile knowingly at ‘Urthas’.


Obliterati

The narrator is from a family possessed of fae-like powers. When the narrator’s dad apparently departs the world of the living, the narrator is shrouded in a persistent ball of mist, and is forced to go seek mystical aid at their grandfather’s grave. After some awkward attempts at enlisting grandpa’s magical aid from beyond the grave, the narrator is flung from their misty prison by a powerful, preternatural guest of wind, and is left to muse on their father, grandfather, and city.

Man, this is one of those stories that bounces off my brain. I understood the basic progression of events (I think), but I don’t understand the cause-effect relationship between anything. I’m confused about the protagonist’s dad; did he die? Did he depart the world in some other way? Why did that cause infinite coffee and a personal cloud of mist around the narrator? I can understand going and seeing a dearly departed magical grandparent when magical bullshit was afoot, but I don’t know the rules of this particular sort of magic, so I have no idea what “should” work, or why. I think I understand the ending; the narrator invoked grandpa’s ire at the dad by crumbling the stolen bird’s egg on the grave, and that ire was enough to summon a great, magical gust of wind.

Bottom line, this story has some good-natured charm, but it was too much folk magic with too little context for what the magic is supposed to be doing.



Curlingiron

The Rider is a non-corporeal being able to take over the bodies of humans and animals. Using the body of a goose, he pursues one of the inscrutable Archons—vast, non-corporeal hiveminds who seem to suck in the riders like a psychic vortex. The Rider seems to believe his encounters with the human mind has prepared him to take over an Archon, but when the opportunity comes, The Rider is overwhlemed and absorbed.

I wanted to like this story because we should all be so lucky as to be absorbed into a hive mind. However, the why of this piece is so faint as to hardly be there. I think the deal is that the rider (I wouldn’t have capitalized it tbh) was fascinated with humans, but couldn’t quite integrate completely into a human mind like he could with animals. By taking over the more powerful Archon, he thought he could, I dunno, Katamari people up? I’m a little fuzzy on why exactly he chose to pursue the Archon.

I think you wasted a bit of your word count on the other riders. This could’ve been one rider’s solo journey and the effect would be exactly the same. I wanted to know more about his interactions with humans as well as like, the riders’ relationship to the Archons. Finally, I didn’t get much in the way of personality from the rider; the narrative tells us what he’s doing, but as a character he exudes little more than hubris. Hubris is a tragic and powerful motivator, so it’s not a bad place to start! However, I wanted more emotion, more of what it’s like to be this non-corporeal being with the power to inhabit the bodies of others.

I think it sounds like I’m coming down on this pretty hard; this was actually on the higher end of the week, which is why the parts that didn’t work as well were frustrating!



Ironic Twist

An older sister is trying to get her little brother to stop staying up playing his iPad. To accomplish this, she tells him that electronic tigers need to sleep on the tablet’s screen or they’ll get angry. After the little brother goes to bed, the titular electronic tigers come out and proceed to bicker with each other, the night light, and an assortment of abandoned electronics and toys.

The idea of literal motherfuckin’ ‘electronic tigers’ is really unique and whimsical. The problem is that this story isn’t really about the tigers, it’s about a whole Toy Story-esque band of misfit toys. Also, I didn’t enjoy how much all the characters disliked each other. The banter wasn’t quite engaging enough to offset the tepid animosity between the various bedroom objects. And at a certain point, the story tapers down to only dialog, ending on a faintly amusing bit by the nightlight. If you want to do a big cast of characters, they need to bounce off each other in meaningful ways. If you want to do witty banter, you need fewer characters or a bigger word count. If you want to write about electronic tigers, write about those motherfuckin’ electronic tigers and forget everything else.


Fuschia_tude

A calamitous event forces a bunch of living toys out of their secret, hidden mountain dome. One of them, a teddy bear-like creature named Teddie, ventures into human society to ask for aid and asylum, and is shuffled from organization to organization until the local mayor offers her city’s help, mistakenly assuming that Teddie is a human in a costume. The toys descend on the city, thinking they’ve been accepted, but are met with horror and sensationalism as the human residents realize that these are, in fact, actual living toys and not people in costumes.

This is a tragic case of ending a story where it should’ve started. Show us the city of Anchorage in the process of adapting to these toys (and the influx of tourism that follows). Teddie going from place to place, only to find bemusement and confusion in the people he encounters, gets fairly repetitive. Especially when it’s apparent from the beginning that this city is about to get its mind blown by the revelation of for-real actual living toys.

Teddie is described in a way that made me imagine him looking exactly like the image you were assigned for the prompt. As such, I assumed he was pretty small—how exactly would he be mistaken for a costumed person?

The end of the story is a bit of a wet fart of a denouement. Teddie is the closest thing we get to a relatable character and he unceremoniously transforms into a selfish dick by the end of the story, which is a reasonable enough thing to have happen, I suppose, except it’s utterly uninteresting as an ending because we don’t get to see what exactly caused him to undergo that change in character.

Not the worst loser I’ve read in TD, not by a long shot—you just chose the wrong part of your story to tell.


Anomalous Blowout

Our narrator comes from a family of gilled humanoids whose origins are in an old artificial lake in a lackluster tourist town. The narrator is returning home from being away at Dartmouth to mourn the passing of their cool uncle, which entails an encounter with their somewhat estranged father; this is an especially big deal because the narrator has had their gills cosmetically altered to be less apparent. Dad can’t wrap his head around why the narrator would do such a thing (which ultimately affirms their decision to get out of dodge), so the narrator pays their respects to their uncle, then takes one last swim in their birth waters, resolving to laugh then leave.

Hmm okay that was probably my clumsiest three sentence summary yet. This piece didn’t make it easy!

I think this is pretty good, neeeeearly an HM from me. Here’s the problem: as a reader, you’re going to have to sell me pretty hard on the idea that anyone would want to get rid of gills. Breathing underwater? Cool colorful fronds on my neck? Yes please! I get that for the narrator, minimizing their gills is symbolic, a way to truly escape a home they left long ago. The problem is that everything that might’ve pushed them to the point of surgical alteration happened prior to the story; nothing that appears on the page sells me on the idea that a person would willingly give up the ability to breathe underwater. Not even if their dad is a dick, not even if their hometown sucks, not even if their cool gay uncle is dead (RIP).

I could do a little headcanon and imagine some reasons. Dysmorphia is a hell of a thing—maybe the narrator struggles with it. Maybe the social stigma of being weird gilled lake people is so strong that there’s a huge cultural incentive to look “normal”. Maybe the gills make it uncomfortable to exist away from the lake (edit: after I wrote this crit, I saw you mention something along these lines in chat, so you can probably ignore my headcanoning). I dunno, but I needed something a little more defined. This story leads us through some pretty familiar plot beats, which means your amphibious rebel and their unwanted gills are really the centerpiece.

I think if there’d been just a little bit more connective tissue between the narrator’s past and present, this story could’ve been a contender for the win.


Crabrock

Wow, I can do this summary in one sentence: Crabrock pooped into his hands and smeared it on the thread.

In a bleak, dystopian world wherein the only certainties are that everyone dies and everyone burns, a man called Oscar claims to have invented something called the ‘tube,’ which will purportedly end death and negate the need to burn bodies. Oscar supplants basically all world powers and establishes a new social order around the tubes: old people get priority access to the tubes, and murderers get moved to the back of the line, thereby reducing the chance that they’ll ever make it into one of the tubes. The narrator watches this massive cultural shift and finds in themselves a passionate allegiance to Oscar’s cause; in the end, we see them finally lowered into a “tube” of their own, ecstatic for Oscar’s promise that everything will finally be perfect forever.

GJ confusing the simpleton judges into giving you an HM, assnuts. I’m gonna go out on a limb in my assessment and possibly do some headcanon. I think this story is about what would happen to society if we actually started living like there was a permanent “afterlife”. In a world where everyone dies and everyone burns (presumably because this is a near-apocalyptic hellscape and there’s no room for corpses? IDK, headcanon), the promise of any sort of permanence at the time of death would be subversive and highly appealing.

The tubes are nicely ambiguous—they could be advanced technology, or they could be literal coffins. Considering the narrator is lowered fully conscious into one at the end of the story, I was slightly less inclined to think they were traditional coffins, but I’m skeptical that the tubes actually represent any sort of permanent post-life state. What the tubes do accomplish, more or less, is creating a kind of heaven on earth; everyone lives their best life because they know for a fact there is something waiting for them at the end.

This piece is light on character—our protagonist is more a camera through which we view the situation. And, as with a lot of sci-fi with a point or conceit, I think you make a pretty sizeable leap when you tell us about the big societal changes. I’m not sure I believe that one thing, even something profound as the mysterious tubes, would instigate the sort of social reorganizing illustrated in this piece. That said, I’m fine with both of those things because this is clearly thinky scifi that’s more about an idea than a character or adherence to strict realism.


Anatomi

To survive on the apocalyptic Bleak, tribes must rely on “meat-callers” to bring down leviathans (who are in fact gods) from the sky; this is accomplished by means of the skill called syncretosis, which allows the meat-callers to lure the god-like leviathans with false worship. One such god is brought down at great cost to the hunters, but its body represents food and shelter for the tribe for a long time to come, so the sacrifice of both god and man is worthwhile. At the end of the piece, the meat-caller encounters a little girl with an imaginative disposition—a necessary trait for syncretosis—and we’re left to assume he will train her in the art of felling gods.

Okay you’ve got a lot of crits on this piece that make some very good points. I loving love this. I love the visuals, I love the confusion and betrayal felt by the god, I loved the implied pathos of the meat-caller. I want this to be 5K words long, in Clarkesworld. In fact, go read some Clarkesworld and then write me a 5K version of this.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Thanks to everyone who posted early. For the rest of you lummoxes, I know you wanna swamp the judges at the last minute so you can spend all day Monday angrily mashing fjgj and fogging up your monitors with Cheeto vapor, but how about not?

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

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



Okay, so, this came up in chat and I figured I'd make it official:

Antivehicular posted:

BLOWMUFFIN BUDDIES LWARB

Write me a story about a neophyte trying to break into a challenging field. Bonus points if this field is not music, theater, the arts, or sports, unless it's a real weird sport. Surprise me, basically.

5000 words.

End of May

This is becoming an actual brawl, with teams of Anomalous Blowout/SurreptitiousMuffin vs. Yoruichi/Crabrock. The prompt/word count/deadline are as stated. Both teams are welcome to include as many or as few griffins as they see fit.

Could I get some toxxes from Team Yorurock, please?

Antivehicular fucked around with this message at 08:46 on May 5, 2019

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


:toxx:

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Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




:toxx:

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