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Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.

in, flash, :toxx:


Jan 12, 2012

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

In. Gimme a flash.

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013

Getsuya posted:

In flash

High Adventure - Swashbuckling! Romantic! Dauntless! High adventure in the 19th century is known for daring escapades in exotic locales, dashing heroes & heroines with devil-may-care attitudes, and a ton of racist stereotypes. You're going to avoid the latter, though.

High adventure differentiates itself from the dime novels and pulp tradition in that it isn't afraid to explore complex plots and deeper characters, so you can play around with antiheroes, selfish motivations, and some moral greyscale rather than purely heroic protagonists. Think The Count of Monte Cristo.

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013

Epistolary fiction - Epistolary novels have been common from the sixteenth century onwards, but I personally think it really hits its stride in the nineteenth century, with the (arguably) greatest piece of epistolary fiction ever written, Dracula, published in 1897.

You're going to write a piece that takes the form of letters, newspaper clippings, ship's logs, or any other form of document. The entire piece must be made up of these documents, rather than conventional narrative. It can be as many documents as you like, from as many authors as you like.

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013

QuoProQuid posted:

In. Gimme a flash.

Robisonade - This genre technically takes its name from Robinson Crusoe, an early eighteenth century novel. However, there were a vast amount of these written in the nineteenth century, including some of the best - The Island of Dr Moreau, The Swiss Family Robinson, and a ton of Jules Verne novels. This fiction sees a castaway or castaways stranded in an isolated location; they must learn to survive with the local flora and fauna, harness their understanding of construction and technology in order to thrive, and build a functioning way of life while they try to find their way home or seek rescue.

Encounters with native populations are common in these novels, but honestly I'd err on the side of caution and avoid that if I were you, unless you're confident you can make it work.

Embrace the mix of beauty and danger in nature, the spirit of teamwork, and the details of survival. Avoid mopey protagonists, meandering narrative, or unearned endings.

Apr 13, 2009

In, flash me

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013

apophenium posted:

In, flash me

Ghost story - Not much to say here. Make it spooky!

Feb 18, 2014

This statement is a lie!

In with a flash

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013

Solitair posted:

In with a flash

Penny dreadful - The penny dreadful had its roots in the serial magazines of the mid-nineteenth century, and typically featured the exciting and scandalous adventures of detectives, highwaymen, vampires, and all manner of other things. What makes a penny dreadful tick is what makes modern thrillers tick - page-turning excitement.

For your assignment, you are going to write a penny dreadful with a criminal protagonist. Whether you make them a right bad bastard who ends up on the gallows or a dashing rogue who evades capture is up to you, but they have to be a criminal.

Embrace electrifying action, pacy narrative, and dramatic stakes. Avoid introspection, deep character development, and naturalism.

Jun 1, 2011

Thus equipped by fortune, physique, and character, he was naturally indomitable, and subordinate to no one in the world.

In with a flash, please.

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013

Viscardus posted:

In with a flash, please.

Scientific romance - Scientific romance is basically the archaic term for sci-fi. The only difference with scientific romance is that its protagonists are often unnamed, powerless individuals who falter in the face of forces too powerful to understand or control (see The Time Machine), and that the genre as a whole tends to present a sombre view of the wondrous technology and discoveries of sci-fi. I'm not necessarily looking for depressing dystopias, but avoid intrepid individualism.

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo

Doctor Rope

gently caress it, I know I'm doing terrible, but I'm going to get the hang of it I swear it.

In with a flash please.

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013

Anomalous Amalgam posted:

gently caress it, I know I'm doing terrible, but I'm going to get the hang of it I swear it.

In with a flash please.

Vampire fiction - Again, this doesn't need too much explanation. You can go for Gothic horror, comic fantasy, or anything else you like! My only rule for this flash is that the protagonist is a vampire.

Mar 21, 2013


Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica

In flash

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013

Social comedy - The social comedy includes more specific genres such as the comedy of manners, which Victorian authors used to make fun of the twisted morality and hypocrisy of their society, usually poking fun at the upper class. Read some Oscar Wilde to get a sense for that, if you like. You don't have to focus there, though - feel free to take the piss out of any social structure or institution that existed at the time, in any society or nation. Don't punch down, though. I thought your Batman entry was pretty funny, so don't let me down!

Embrace satirising the social structure, cultures, and moralities of nineteenth century societies. Avoid dick jokes, sex jokes, and toilet jokes. Unless they're really funny and well camouflaged.

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

writing is for idiots and losers and i am both of those so i'll do it

Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012



Getsuya - FLASH (fit of laughter)
A Shepherd Confronts Two Wolves
Does it fit the prompt?
I like the twist on the usual character type that this provides - I feel like the stereotypical megachurch leader is presented as a slimy scumbag whereas here he’s a genuine believer being guided around by hucksters. I think you tell the story well though dialogue - there are a couple of clunky moments, but not bad overall. That said, I feel like the most interesting emotional moment, Saul’s reaction to his best friends selling him out, is something we miss out on. I feel like that could help us get even more invested in the story.

Saucy_Rodent - FLASH (life-changing secret)
Batman Died On My Birthday
Does it fit the prompt?
Yes to both, though it depends on how nice the Batman costume is.
I liked this overall. You find a solid sense of madcap unpredictability that makes the whole piece pretty engaging and amusing. However, I didn’t quite get Carol’s reason for wanting to keep the death a secret forever. What’s stopping them from waiting until after the party to call the cops? That note didn’t quite gel for me, and I think you needed to work a little harder to justify that within the story. However, +1 for comedic nudity and another +1 for shouting out Kevin Conroy, the best Batman.

Adam Vegas
A Forest
Does it fit the prompt?
Fairly well, though the cost of recreating a realistic forest setting may be a little prohibitive, but I’ll give it a pass because your approach is otherwise so grounded.
As you probably guessed since it won, I dug this piece, especially how it manages to be earnest and heartfelt without ever cloying. You really nailed the dialogue aspect of the prompt, giving us a sense of who these characters are even though we only have a relatively small window of time to get to know them. It might stretch the time limit a bit, considering that the two eat a picnic lunch in the middle, but it succeeds overall at achieving what a short play can - a richly textured story that works within the limitations of the form to give us a complete narrative. Maybe it could be trimmed here and there, but I liked the relaxed pace.

Simply Simon
The Golden Child
Does it fit the prompt?
Your storytelling is pretty solid, but the dialogue here leans much too heavily on exposition for it to succeed as well as it could, at least as a play. There’s so much you could have shown us about the relationship between Otto and the mother by, for instance, having them briefly argue on the phone, but instead we get a lengthy back-and-forth of exposition between the two brothers. It’s not really efficient or suitable for the medium. You effectively conveyed the clipped, posh voice you seemed to be going for, and the occasional stiltedness of it felt purposeful, though I don’t think it suited Otto’s character as well as it did Charles.

Does it fit the prompt?
Nope, this is sci-fi. More grounded sci-fi, maybe, but sci-fi.
You’re getting at something here, but the whole play is a jumble of tones, jolting from mood to mood in a very haphazard way. It seems to be going down a pulpy, satirical road at first, and then swerves hard right into a heartfelt conversation about family trauma. I feel like you’re trying to say something about the relationship between the two moods, the silliness and the seriousness, but there’s no sense of what that actually is. Also, a significant pause here and there is fine, but making an audience stare at two people in silver space suits sitting silently for a half-minute is more likely to elicit laughter than pensive reflection. Unless that’s what you’re going for?? Again, I can’t tell.

Thranguy - FLASH (hell-bent on revenge)
Night Shift!
Does It Fit The Prompt/Flash?
Yes to the flash, but the prompt is pushing it. You seem to be asking a lot of your set designers, considering that trapdoors come into play, and I seriously doubt that a play with three musical numbers could be easily crammed into ten minutes.
Okay, this whole piece is kind of an elaborate gag, but it’s a gag I enjoyed. I think you captured the jazz-hands showiness of Broadway stuff really well, and though it does tell a complete story it kind of feels like a chunk out of a larger show. The rhyme scheme of your lyrics gets a little wonky at times, but you managed to squeeze three distinct songs into a Thunderdome entry and I appreciate that. Would I pick it to win? No. Did I enjoy reading it? Yeah!

Does it fit the prompt?
Yes, definitely.
I think what I liked most about this piece is that you address a difficult moment in a nuanced, genuine way and didn’t try to wring any extra drama out of it by making the mother a perfect storm of intolerance. I think you gave me a good portrait of these two characters, and I appreciate that. That said, in terms of the monologue… honestly, I don’t think you need it. It might even make the situation more engaging to not know what’s going through the mom’s head, because she wants to articulate her feelings but doesn’t quite know how to. As it stands, by the time she’s done giving her monologue, I had a solid idea of how the play would end, which turned out to be right. You make some good storytelling choices, but I’m not sure this is the best way to go about expressing the discomfort of the situation.

The Arid Heart
Does it fit the prompt?
Super no. More than 2 characters, more than 1 location, fantastical things happening. I think you actually ignored everything about the prompt exceps the word count. Did you even read the prompt?
The storytelling aspects of the play are a little obtuse, verging on pretentious, but at the same time you toy around with some really inventive and striking imagery here, especially all the stuff with the sandbags and the exploding vacuum cleaners. It may not gel in any logical way, but I think an inventive director would have a ball with it and create something that, at the very least, looks fantastic. Even if it befuddled the audience, which it probably would.

Anomalous Amalgam - FLASH (bittersweet parting)
Death & Honor
Does it fit the prompt/flash?
Yes to the flash, no to the prompt.
Technically, you adhered to the prompt more closely than sebmojo did, but your writing was less artful overall. You messed up some general play format stuff (spoken lines don’t need quotes around them, you don’t need to describe exactly how special effects should be done) but the real issue is that the story just doesn’t work theatrically. The exposition is laid on thick, as is the high-fantasy voice, and the characters spend the play talking about their feelings rather than expressing them naturally through conversation. The story didn’t even need to be fantasy in the first place, since nothing but the characters’ ages really diverges from reality! You start with an engaging scenario, but the execution just doesn’t deliver.

Does it fit the prompt?
I thought it did, but then I realized there have to be actual college students on-stage to look back at Peter, so NO!! So close, but no.
I think this is a decent piece, if under-explored. At the very least, I appreciate how much of the conflict (what I assume is Peter’s infidelity) you imply rather than state outright, keeping it underneath the surface. That said, you had a lot more room to work with, and I wish you’d given us an even more thorough picture of the state their marriage is in and how his cheating really affected her. It’s clearly a dick move on his part, but it could sting even more if you add further detail to their emotional lives.

Maigius (Disqualified)
A Week After The Ball
Does it fit the prompt?
NO!! Do you people not know what is and is not fantasy??
Anyway, even apart from the ironic fact that you submitted past the stroke of midnight, this doesn’t really put enough of a spin on the classic Cinderella story to make it feel engaging or new.The dialogue is fairly stiff, which makes a little sense given the bureaucratic context, but all the same it didn’t really draw me in. It’s an acceptable retelling of the fairy tale, but not much more than that. That said, I give you credit for at least submitting, which Fleta and Steak totally neglected to.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Toxx to do crits for duel week by weds next week, 2359 pst

Apr 12, 2006

:siren: war crits :siren:
part one of ??

Adam Vegas
Good economy of words when it comes to world building. You do a nice job mixing concepts/locales/idea that are familiar to your audience (such as Houston) with a certain 'otherness' to create a solid sense of separation from our world and the one you've created (the Houston Canals). Good foreshadowing and through line. The anger leading up to the bee line feels forced (though the description of the importance of bees to society and the punishment that comes from hurting one is dope) so you might want to work on that build up some more. When you say "I can grant mercy, but Ag will pursue her either way" you take a lot of character agency/conflict out of your story. Why wouldn't your MC shoot down the thief? It's clearly the logical thing to do. Which, of course, is pretty disparate from your audience's sensibilities. Perhaps a more interesting angle would have been an immediate, almost instinctual shooting followed by the MC then trying to justify to himself why he did the right thing but being haunted by it. Could tie in well with his aversion to eating bugs after having to see them in high def all day.

Killer Crane
Stick around. If you win, I'll buy you a new winner's avatar myself.

Conceptually speaking, I enjoy this. Your naming conventions are well thought out and internally consistent. The laws governing this settlement feel equally "real." My biggest issue here is that your descriptions and your blocking are overly convoluted. Every noun seems to carry an adverb and it gets tiresome. Read your opening paragraph again. Read your opening sentence. It takes a minute to figure out what you're trying to say. Simplify.

Anomalous Amalgam
I made a joke about this being bad because you used the phrase "supple bosom" but, truthfully, I was just kayfabing. While you linger a bit much on how sexy the MC is, I do understand that that's the point. She is supposed to be irresistible. The problem here is that there just isn't much of a plot. You've given me an assassination scene. Neat. Cool. Okay. I can dig a good assassination as much as the next judge. But there's nothing more here. The assassin isn't particularly interesting or well-developed. The action is well scripted but there are no stakes. What happens if she fails? Who cares if she fails? Who cares if this man dies? What's the point? I need a point. Give me something, someone, to identify with.

I'm actually curious how far you deviated from your prompt. Like, did you get inspired and your story just took off? Or did you write this earnestly believing it fulfilled the idea of "something that couldn't happen - though you often only wish that it could." Anyway, your dialogue is actually quite nice -- notwithstanding the strange choice to write in a German accent. Your story gets horrifying real quick there at the end, though you do a nice bit of foreshadowing with "birth" up at the start.

I like the story a lot. And I think you used second person quite effectively. I don't have a lot of crits. This was good and well-written. You address the complexities of this world (and our possible future) in an honest way. It's a shame so many of your teammates also wrote about consciousness being uploaded into cloud just before death. Makes it hard to stand out, ya know? This was probably the best of the bunch, though.

Fun fact, I always misspell your username the first time I try to type it out. I don't know why. Anyway, this feels... well-known. Like, I understand it and remember it the same way I do Cinderella or Pinocchio. It's very, very complete. You've done a rather remarkable job capturing the essence of a fairy tale. Nothing was really wasted. This was probably my vote for the winner had your side won the war.

God damnit this ended just as it started getting good. You needed about a thousand more words to spare so you could really stretch your legs here. Good stuff. But it's basically just a prologue for a bigger story.

You didn't exactly stun me with originality here but you also didn't have to. It was actually quite refreshing to read this. Nice little bit of empowerment. Nice little bit of discovering yourself. Easy plot. Solid conflict. Nice resolution. Checked all the boxes. Well done you.


This was weird and neat. This was good fantasy. It grabbed my imagination by the horns and still hasn't let go. Great visuals.

Apr 12, 2006

:toxx: to have war crits done by sunday at midnight est

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔

Thanks for the judgecrits!

Also, in flash

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013

Simply Simon posted:

Thanks for the judgecrits!

Also, in flash

Transcendentalism - A movement that started in the early nineteenth century among New England intellectuals, transcendentalist literature posits that humans are inherently good and pure, and that it is societal structures, technological advances, and cultural expectations that corrupt people and causes them to do evil. It is also very suspicious of organised religion.

Embrace the power of nature, the virtue of self-reliance, and the value of traditional community and family. Avoid glorifying institutions, money, or the allure of the big city.

Apr 22, 2010

In. Flash me, please!

Apr 12, 2006

:siren: war crits :siren:
part two of probably three

Mr. Steak
For this kinda just being "Yu-Gi-Oh but REAL" there is actually quite a bit of small things, little nice touches, that I really like and appreciate. For instance, the card game. I don't need to know the rules of this card game. No one needs to know the rules of this card game. Do you tell us the rules? No! Because its not important to the story you are telling. Some writers might have gotten themselves bogged down there but you (rightfully) used it as a way to demonstrate some character qualities, to drop a little foreshadowing, to begin some conflict, and to kick start your plot. Uhh... let's see... gently caress was another good one. Just overall solid word economy. Very little wasted space. I'm a big fan of the sleek. Your dialogue was a little off, didn't quite seem realistic in terms of how kids talk. Ending was hilarious.

Your opener needs work. "They had just gotten back from Grandma’s funeral, an affair that was almost as exciting as the woman. A traveling carnival had shown up to honor her, and a trio of older gentlemen had gotten into a fist-fight over who could be called her lover." This is interesting and fun. Unfortunately, you spend way too much time focusing on some action that really could have been simplified down into about a single sentence. You talking about running three separate times. I don't care and it isn't important. Honestly... "A niece had decided to travel back in time to the reunion to meet her ancestors. When she popped up by the veranda and introductions were made, they decided it would make an excellent family tradition if every relative, past, present, and future, dropped by. The niece was confused since the tradition already existed in her time. Everyone involved decided it was best not to think too hard on the details and drink more champagne." You could have just started your story here. It's an interesting hook and you pretty much reintroduce all the important stuff again later in your story. Could also make for a sweeter reveal about the grandmother being dead. Other than that, this is a pretty good story. I would probably have done it in first person, though. Makes things more personal. You'll probably hm or win soon if you keep on trajectory.

My only (and I do mean only) criticism here is that the Nikki-Vicki is unrealistic for the world you've created. Kara called Nikki up on a video call. I have to assume Nikki's name has to be in some way attached to that otherwise how would Kara know who she was calling? You should have them either needed to bump into each other irl or change Vicki to Kisha or Keisha or something.

Fleta Mcgurn
This isn't really a story as much as it is a medieval psychonaut trip report. It is cool to read? Sure. But I don't really get anything out of it that I couldn't from reading r/LSD. "I drank from a tiny cup, eyeing the floating chunks of dried fungus. Crimson red, with purple veins. Like chunks of tissue." This is a dope phrase.

Nikaer Drekin
You really toed a dangerous line here. The entire time I was reading this I felt like it was going to go to poo poo, that I was going to be grossed out, that this was going to just be awful. But you kept it right at the knife's edge. And I love the ending. There is this hint of emerging sentience. "I know I shouldn’t question you. It’s not my place. But sometimes I look at you and I’m concerned by what I see." And it just gets wiped out. That's A+ horror right there. loving great.

I don't have a lot of crits for you because I think the biggest thing you need to work on is getting comfortable with a small word count. I loved your concept. I think you probably were just worried about cramming everything you wanted to say in 1000 words so you ended up telling a summary of a story rather than a real story. You'll do fine here.

Personally, I liked this story better than Mercedes'. But Seb felt very strongly the other way so here we are. You could probably cut the Jesus line at the end because the joke doesn't land (and it feels a bit out of place). "I’m not your brother anymore,” said Husk. “Just a husk." This made me cackle. You're a treasure.

I want to pat myself on the back again for loving nailing this match up. I don't have anything else to say about your story. You know what you did.

(it was make the judges laugh)

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

I just wrote my first story of the year. Thanks dome.

By contrast I wrote about 20 last year so, had a bit of a slump.

Feels good man

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013

Shotaro posted:

In. Flash me, please!

Sea story - Nautical fiction was at its most commonplace and its peak of popularity during the nineteenth century, with the first true sea novel (The Pilot) being written in 1824, and the later half of the century seeing works by Victor Hugo, Joseph Conrad, and of course Herman Melville. Melville wrote a ton of nautical novels beyond Moby Dick, but it is of course the white whale he is best remembered for. If you want to do some research, read Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series - they were written during the 20th century, but are set during the nineteenth and are staggeringly well-researched, so they make an excellent introduction into the world of nineteenth-century seafaring. Also, they're very good novels.

Your story must take place entirely on/in ships; apart from that the thrust of the narrative and style of writing is up to you.

Apr 12, 2006

:siren: war crits :siren:
part three of three

Sitting Here
It's interesting that several people on sci-fi went all memory transfer/the Giver with the prompt. I think you should have ended after "A response: Yes." Because that's rather chilling. Plus, your current ending is already implied. Or at least a version of it is. Leave it to the audience to determine how positive or negative this decision to meld will ultimately be.

You have a talent for striking visuals. Giant fiberglass chickens. I love that. Billboard slogan is a good tie-in to the story. And I love your opener. I'm immediately sucked in. Your ending is a little too cute for me, though. The last line especially. And I don't feel like you gave me enough lead up to justifying the "gently caress up" line. But maybe you just didn't have enough words to. It reminded me a little of the movie Creed which I just watched on a plane. Michael B. Jordan wants to stay in the ring to prove he's "not a mistake" and it's really poignant because it's the culmination of the whole movie. Your similar line here feels tacked on as an attempt at emotional register but it isn't earned.

Now, normally I don't particularly like things that are... uh... how do I put this... I don't like movies about people who make movies. Books by needy, self-conscious authors about needy, self-conscious authors writing books. That kind of poo poo. It how strikes me as rather uncreative and a little masturbatory. But you do a solid job of combining the writer's dream and writer's nightmare all in one story while nailing your prompt. There's a saying that goes something like... "Everyone wants to have written a novel. Nobody wants to write a novel." And here we have that. No effort. Books are written. They are your books. Excellent! However, you sign off on them and all of your words, all of your potential, all of what makes you you, now belongs to some vague corporate entity in perpetuity. Spooky, my dude. Spooky.

I'm not sure how much I would have understood your story if I hadn't just beaten Assassin's Creed: Origins like two months ago. If you're an AC fan, you should def hit this game up. Judging by your story, I think you'd dig it. Anyway, this is a solid little piece of writing. It is somewhat predictable but not in a bad way. The dialogue gets away from you a bit when she talks about drowning but it's not overly distracting. Probably in contention for the win had fantasy won.

This is publishable. I love that that's a real study, too. loving horrifying. Way to nail the prompt of "things that could happen but you wouldn't want them to."

You unnecessarily use pixie twice two sentences in a row which really dilutes the power of the word. Big fan of Peaseblossom Hall -- always love a good Midsummer/Shakespeare ref-- though you do switch from Peaseblossom to PeaseBlossom midstory. The class name is silly and fun. The dialogue with the crow is really fun. I think the biggest problem is that the "unthinkable" is pretty vague. As is what she seems to see in the future. It feels a bit like "i'm failing my class I'm going to kill myself" is the plot and I know this is deeper than that and more than that and better than that but... you know...

"If you must command the weather," he said, "Better to ask for what it is already inclined to do." That paragraph. It might be the best of writing I've had the pleasure of reading in TD. I dig your title. I dig the fact that is Lear and that you justify in story (because, I, was thinking why LEAR). You probably could have made the scale of this smaller, though. You went so sci-fi that it's almost a disservice to your writing because it takes away from what is really, really good. Or at least what I, personally, enjoy.

DARE meets Hogwarts. Concept is funny. Dialogue is funny. Characters are funny. But it's kind of... low stakes. And it isn't internally consistent or logical within the world you've created. Like, why do these boys randomly decide to take Howie under their wing? Do they normally just hang out in a dark alleyway waiting for some boy they can convince to do magic early. Is magic actually dangerous to use early? Idk.

Feb 16, 2011

On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.


Mar 21, 2010

Milk and Honey

Callum sat with his guts in his hands, surrounded by gold bricks, scorched turf and Prussian corpses. They’d been absolute bastards to the man—the remnants of Von Tempsky’s old unit, scalp-takers and cannibals all—but nobody deserved to die in loving Otago. Callum should’ve died in Scotland, like every man of his blood before him, but he’d cut the fuses half an inch too long. Timing wasn’t exactly an issue when you used the poo poo for mining: you made the fuses as long as possible, and if they took a long time to blow then you went out for a sandwich break with the lads. Half an inch of fuse, maybe ten seconds’ difference, and his belly was laid open on the turf. Half an inch, because it was cold and his hands were shaking and he barely had enough left to buy food, let alone gloves.

His skin was freezing cold, but his guts were burning hot. It was like all the heat in his body were pulling inwards, t’wards the heart, mounting a brave rearguard to keep the rest of his bits alive. It wasn’t working. He couldn’t feel his legs. He picked up a gold brick, and tapped it against his tooth. It went clink, like it should. The last shipment out of Otago before the mines closed, now spread out all across the highlands, mixed in with little bits of blast-grilled German savage; mercenaries, not paid nearly enough to find themselves spread out to the winds. They took scalps because they’d heard native folks did it. Wrong continent for that business entirely, but nobody felt the need to correct them.

Four hundred-thousand pounds worth of gold, destined for London, for the fingers and necks of lordly ladies. More money in one brick than Callum had seen in his lifetime. He spat, and it painted the turf red. The pain hollowed him out like rot inside a tooth. He panted and tried to stay conscious, but night was coming and there weren’t poo poo he could do about it. His da had come from the other highlands—the real highlands—after the clearances drove the family north, to Inverness. Otago wasn’t home, but it was close enough; the place was emptier than Am Fuckin Monadh Ruadh.

Like the highlands back home, there was nothing left. Not a nugget of gold: not above-ground, not in the rivers, not anywhere you could reach with a practicable quantity of dynamite. Boys like Callum had flooded south with gold in their eyes, and come out with dust in their bellies. Thousands of them, tens of thousands, all for it to dry up in less than ten years. Up north they were so pressed for land they were killing brown men for it, but Otago had empty town after empty town stretched out across the hills like so many winter flowers. There was plenty of space—maybe they just liked killing brown men. Some of the gold would stay in-country: make its way to Wellington, fund more bullets to fight more Maori. There weren’t enough land, apparently. He’d heard that one back home, when they started dragging families out of the highlands, pushing them to Inverness and Aberdeen and Glasgow—they needed more space. Now there was nothing but space and silence. Silence in the Waikato, silence in Am Monadh Ruadh, silence across the Otago highlands—boundless, monstrous silence filled only by the dull clinking of gold.

Callum had nothing left to do but die, but instead he sang. It sent a shudder through him, from his balls to his tailbone and then off up his spine, but he sang. He didn’t know many songs that fit right: it was mostly miners’ and sailors’ stuff about girlies back home and how very well they filled out their clothes. There was one though, that da had sung sometimes. Burns? Probably Burns. It was always fuckin’ Burns. His tenor came out through blood and foaming spit, liquid and sloppy, tinged purple by the ache in his guts.

Farewell to the mountains, high-cover'd with snow,
Farewell to the straths and green vallies below;

The Company would find the gold. They had a system in place for this sort of thing. Half the plan was about keeping the damned cart in one piece so he could ride it away. Rocks fall in front of Germans, Germans come to a stop, threaten Germans with further demolition unless they leave the gold and gently caress off back to Dunedin. Best laid plans and all that. Callum didn’t know robbery: he knew mining. For a moment it had seemed like one could become the other but that moment had all gone up in cordite smoke. In the burning glare of hindsight, he knew it had never been a clever plan, but hell—when all you’ve got in dynamite, everybody looks like a goldmine.

It hadn’t blown when it was meant to of course, so he’d run—worthless fireheaded tin-cocked fool—to check on it. Saw the Germans actually moving through the pass un-stopped, run to check on the sticks, rounded the corner just in time to see the whole drat highlands come to pieces. The blast had taken out at least one of his eardrums, and sent a bullet-sized piece of rock into his stomach and out the other side. Shucked his belly like an old woman working wi’ peas, spilt him out over the stone. He was a dead man and he knew it—the message just hadn’t reached his heart yet.

With nothing better to do, in defiance of God and Country and the gold rush and the clearances and the bastard cannibal Germans and the Company, Callum sang while the light faded.

Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods,
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.
My heart’s in the highlands, my heart is not—

Mar 21, 2010

p ost dont wait until sunda y u cowards

Mar 21, 2010

waiting until last minute is for FOOLS

your mum probably looks at you like "what an absolute TIT I raised" and she's right loving post u coward

Sep 15, 2018



Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica

Agreed, muffin! gently caress writing on the weekend!

The Southern Ladies Tea-Sipping Competitions: A Brief History of Reconstruction Georgia’s Strangest Game

1500 words including title

Miss Jackson took her seat on the porch that had been made into the evening’s stage. Her gloves were the whitest white, her homemade sweet tea the tastiest brew south of Mason-Dixon. The crowd was different tonight. Normally people would be having picnics and enjoying the Georgia sunset. Tonight, though, the white folk in front were at a soldier’s attention, and the black folk in the back looked nervous. The white folk had come for one purpose: to see a white person be better at something, anything, than a Negro. And if a black woman was better at sipping sweet tea than a white lady, then it may just be that white folk weren’t better at anything at all.


The first Southern Ladies Tea-Sipping Competition came just a few years after Mr. Lee surrendered to Mr. Grant at Appomattox. The black folk of Georgia left their bondage as skilled planters, reapers, carpenters, and cooks, and were more than happy to start trading their skills for actual money. The rich white folk, meanwhile, found they weren’t very good at much at all, for they had spent their generations as slavers being both idle and rather proud of their idleness. They weren’t even good at shouting at Negroes, for they had outsourced that job to the Negroes. No, all the old plantation owners were good at was sipping sweet tea. Not making it, mind you, that was slave’s work. They only had practice drinking it. It was their only skill, and the white folk were hell-bent on taking pride in it.

The rules for Tea-Sipping competitions took shape fairly quickly. Long white gloves were crucial, and proper elegant fashion was included on the judging criteria. The ladies were to sit on rocking chairs, but rock only occasionally and subtly. They were to drink their tea consistently over a half hour, at no point chugging or nursing. And they were to gossip in such a way that the nastiness sounded polite. This was the most important and difficult aspect of Tea-Sipping.

The competitions started informally, but soon, crowds of white folk would show up to watch the only thing white folk were good at and be very proud of how good they were at it. They would cheer at the subtlety of the ladies’ barbs and discuss their Sipping techniques in invented technical terms. A “chapsip” was a pointed sip of tea directly following a particularly well-disguised insult. A “wayback”—a move in which a lady would lean back all the way in her chair as a way to signal she had something caustic to say—was considered a terribly risky but exciting play.

Miss Annabelle Blanche, daughter of the richest plantation owner in all of Peachswamp County, quickly became known as the lady to beat. Miss Blanche was already famous across Georgia for her beauty. She seemed to prefer the life of having many suitors to the idea of marriage. Her Sipping gossip often focused on white women rumored to be romantically involved with black men.

Sipping competitions were the most popular social activity for white Georgians during the summer of ‘73. By ‘74, the Southern Negresses Tea-Sipping League had formed. Its star was Ophelia Jackson. Jackson’s white gloves hid calloused hands, and her eyepatch hid some horror. There are a few different versions of the story of how she lost her eye, the most popular being it was plucked out as punishment for teaching herself how to read. She worked a day job, helping her brother Claudius Jackson on his farm on the outskirts of Atlanta. Her gossip often focused on the formerly slaveholding men rumored to have raped their property.

Here, the historical record becomes unclear. We have the judges’ tallies for most of the competitions played in the white ladies league and a fair number of the scores for the black ladies league. Very few black folk attended the white competitions, and even fewer white folks attended black ones. There are almost no surviving accounts from people who attended both. Almost.

Thurgood Henry, a black Baptist preacher and former slave, wrote “the white attendees of White Ladies Tea-Sipping spend an unusual amount of time watching the competitors drink, rock, and gossip, a dreadfully boring activity by any measure. We colored folk tend to pay only as much attention to the Sipping itself as to justify a warm evening spent with friends and good food.” His account does not mention the relative Sipping abilities of black and white Sippers. Phillip Johnston, a white Northern journalist who traveled to Georgia to document the phenomenon, wrote “In terms of the physical aspects of the sport—rocking and sipping, I dare say that the white and Negro women are equal. The white women are advantaged by prettier dresses. But to compare the gossiping abilities of the two leagues is to compare a master craftsman to a child. The white women are good at what they do, to be sure, but their considerable talents pale in comparison to the black ladies, whose gossip sounds twice as kind but whose meaning is thrice as vicious.”

It doesn’t take long to realize why the black ladies were superior. Most black Sippers grew up as household slaves. The white girls were taught politeness, but a missed sir or ma’am meant a beating to a black girl. Any negativity towards their masters had to be couched in the sweetest niceness. Polite gossip was a plantation heiress’ leisure and a slave girl’s survival.

The white Southerners were not pleased when they read Mr. Johnston’s article. Tea-Sipping was invented for the purpose of stoking white pride, and yet the whites were still being beaten by the Negroes. So the reigning white Sipping champion, the aforementioned Miss Annabelle Blanche, challenged the reigning black champion, Miss Ophelia Jackson. It was to be the only time a white Sipper was to share a porch with a black Sipper.


Contemporary sources estimate twelve hundred white folk and seven hundred black folk showed up to the Blanche-Jackson Sipping match at the Blanche plantation. It was the day after Independence Day, 1876. The weather varies by source.

Now, a few hundred potential lynchers is a lot to look out at while drinking sweet tea and gossiping. Miss Jackson had every reason to give the white folks what they wanted and throw the match. It would have been a little bit of glory in exchange for a lot of safety.

But Miss Jackson played to win. You see, for her entire Sipping career, she had neglected to gossip about the most notorious slave rapist in Georgia. It is reported that when Ophelia started casually dropping references to one Mr. Atticus Blanche, the red of Annabelle’s cheeks was darker than the black of Miss Jackson’s. Miss Blanche even dropped her tea when Miss Jackson referenced Annabelle’s many black siblings.

The all-white judges declared Miss Blanche the winner. Of course they did. Miss Blanche being the official winner was never in doubt. But every person who attended that competition knew that Miss Blanche had been beaten. It wasn’t close. Miss Jackson had Sipped Miss Blanche up and down the porch.

Miss Jackson wasn’t lynched that night. The white folks left in a huff, but there was no fighting or violence.

A few months later, Annabelle Blanche accused Ophelia Jackson’s brother Claudius of raping her. It didn’t happen; Claudius’ friends confirmed he was playing poker with them on the evening in question. But telling a convincing lie wasn’t the point. Indeed, Miss Blanche’s point was to show the black woman who beat her that a white jury didn’t need a convincing story or a strong case so long as they got to kill a friend of the family. Claudius Jackson was convicted of rape and hanged in front of a crowd of white folks larger than the crowd at the Blanche-Jackson Sipping match. If you ever see an official count of lynchings, this one isn’t on there. They never do count the lynchings judges command.

Ophelia Jackson probably moved north sometime after that; the records don’t show where. Annabelle Blanche married Mr. Ashley Hampton the next year. Three separate Georgia governors are counted among their descendants. Tea-Sipping fell out of favor with white folk after the sport became dominated by black folk by the ‘80s. Instead, spelling bees became the state competition of Georgia. For obvious reasons, the literacy rate of whites was much higher than that of blacks, and that was unlikely to change since whites controlled the schools. White folk dominated the spelling bees and congratulated themselves on their obvious intellectual superiority.

And that’s the history of the South, folks. A few rich white people decided no one was better than them, but they weren’t good at much, so they made rising above mediocrity punishable by death. They’d spent a few hundred years learning nothing but how to gossip over sweet tea, and they weren’t even good at that.

Sep 15, 2018


Removed per publisher submission requirements.

WhoopieCat fucked around with this message at 02:27 on Jun 26, 2019

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013

Signup deadline is in 15 min!

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013

Signup deadline has now passed!

Write me some good stuff, now.

Feb 16, 2011

On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

The Rosebery Club Detective

995 words

Penderton rifled through the plush armchair once more.


He checked the end table to the side. It was just as empty as the first three times he checked.

He looked back at the bar where the new bartender Greggs was pouring a sherry for Lord Connors. He noticed Penderton and gave him a smile as per Rosebery Club policy. Penderton knew he had already asked two times but something might have changed in the last minute. He didn’t have any better ideas and he had to find the pocket-watch before-

He felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Lose something?”


The voice belonged to the seventh Earl of Fleming, the first head of the Rosebery Club detective agency, and the last person Penderton wanted to see: Charles Byck. Penderton turned to greet him.

“Hello Byck. It’s really nothing. I-”

Byck raised a hand dismissively. “Nonsense, Penderton. Nothing can be hidden from the deductive mind. You only need to look at the fact that you’re still here to know there’s something wrong. It’s 2:15 and you always leave at 1:45 to telegraph your business interests in Argentina. You’re absolutely frenetic and you keep digging your hand into your left pocket, subconciously hoping it will magically come out with-”, he paused for dramatic effect, “your pocket watch.”

Penderton sighed. It was his own fault really. He was the one who showed Byck those damned Sherlock Holmes stories in the first place. He thought it would do him good to read something current and popular that he could discuss with the other club members for a change, and he really did think Byck would enjoy them. He just didn’t think he would enjoy them this much.

The man was always so staid and conservative. He was one of the club’s founders. He had served in the House of Lords. And then a policeman returned him to the Rosebery one night, apparently he told the cops he lived here, holding the tiny sixty-two year old man by the collar and warning the confused doorman that if his grandfather was caught trespassing in a closed murder scene again he would be arrested, and Penderton realized he had made a huge mistake.

“I expect you’re wondering how I could deduce it was your pocket watch with so little to go on.”

“Well, go ahead, Byck. How?”

“To a man of reason, Penderton, all of life is but a jigsaw puzzle…”

Penderton listened with half-attention. The puzzle speech was one of his better ones but it did not get better the more you heard it. Still, as irritating as all of this was, he didn’t have any better ideas on how to find his pocket watch.

“And through logic’s guiding light, nothing can stop us from reaching the picture on the box!” Byck finished in dramatic triumph.

“Byck, you’ve convinced me. What would it take for you to consider taking on this case?’

“Please. I’m not greedy. True, a missing item case is a bit below my abilities but you are a friend. When did you last have the watch?”

"The last time I know I had it was when I came in at noon. I went to my chair, ordered a Gin and Tonic from Henderson when he came by with the sandwich cart, and worked on some Chess puzzles. Henderson took too long with my drink so I went to the bar to get Greggs to mix me one directly. I went back to my chair and when I went to check my watch to see if it was time to leave, I realized it was gone.”

“And you forgot to attach the chain?”

“The chain’s broken. Last Tuesday. I’ve been meaning to have it fixed but I haven’t had the time. I can’t figure out where it fell out of my pocket. Unless I went somewhere else and forgot.”

“Or”, said Byck pointedly “it didn’t fall out but was stolen.”

Penderton stared at Byck. Oh. That was what happened.

“You see, Penderton. It’s not a matter of the locations in your story. But the people. Henderson and Greggs. The first Henderson, a beloved butler of 20 years who would never- where is Henderson. Henderson!”

Byck stomped over to the bar and rang a bell. Henderson rolled his cart in from the kitchen.

“Yes, sir”

“I’m having a crime reveal and you’re missing it.”

“Oh.” Henderson sat in a chair sheepishly. He’d already been reprimanded for this once.

“Henderson”, Byck started again, “who would never risk his position with such criminal behavior, or Greggs.” Byck stalked towards the bar like a wolf towards sheep. “The new . bartender of two weeks. Unknown and incapable of making a proper Tom Collins.” Byck grabbed a piece of paper from behind the bar and held it up for his audience, “And with the May racetrack schedule hidden behind his bar.”

Byck thrust a hand suddenly into Gregg’s vest pocket and pulled out, holding aloft a glittering gold pocket-watch.

“Gambling is a nasty habit, but robbery is far worse. Henderson, eject this man from the Rosebery. Penderton, I believe this is yours.”

Penderton retrieved his watch, thanked Byck and left for the telegraph office. Half a block down the street, he saw Greggs who gave him a smile and a wave, which Penderton returned. No doubt he would see him behind the bar again in a few days, with a new name and Byck insisting he never saw him before. That is, if he wasn’t a ketchup-covered corpse this time, or a man who had just inherited a treasure map that only the famed “Rosebery Brain” could crack. He thought he knew Byck, but this was the first time he had used someone else’s property for a case.

I really need to find a new club, Penderton thought.

He reached the end of the block and turned left.

Especially since he’s such a hog about who gets to play detective, he added.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

War Crits vol the First

Yeah so this was a fun week to read. the winning side had higher highs by quite a margin, the losing one was consistently ok ish. Adam Vegas came within a micrometre of losing the war for his own side by editing his piece which is fairly funny and on-theme if you think about it.

Starting from the back bc my bros and sisters of the edge should get a bone from time to time

BRACKET 13 - this was a fairly easy victory to Thranguy, though I believe Trex liked its opponent more than me.


based on the title you're aiming for an ironic ONLY DOPES USE DOPE anti drug comedy bit, but this is fatally ploddy in its execution. maybe an afterschool very special episode where we actually saw the TERRIBLE CONSEQUENCES of using magic would have worked better idk, it's fine as a high concept idea but it straddles the stools of parody and making some kind of social Point about getting ahead in this crazy mixed up life, but your characters just kind of argle bargle about it then the story ends. It doesn't quite take itself seriously as a story, but it doesn't lean into being comedy or parody either.


art is giving people what they expect or what they don't expect, that's literally all of it, and sometimes the first is fine; viz your title, which sets out in precise detail what sort of tale we are in for. at that point it's all about execution. you also get points for getting canute right, it's the mytho-historical version of IT'S IS ONLY SHORT FOR IT IS, and it sits beautifully as a thematic core to the piece, a dynamic resignation to the obligations of fate. I'm honestly a little confused about who was where (Cordelia was on the spaceship with the projection of her dad?) but there's a pleasing rotundity to the conceit and the final para kicks. my favourite lear line, which could also have sat in for a title: we that are young shall never see so much, nor live so long.

BRACKET 12 - also an easy victory, this was actually my initial win pick though I immediately agreed to change it to Nikaer when Trex suggested it


I confess to not being a huge fan of your twee register, which this fits within, though I think you do hit the tone you're aiming for (harry potter via midsummer nights dream). The trouble is that while you lay the table for a nice little story of quotidian elfy school drama you then serve cosmic goulash with a side of cancer bile. they're both actually well done, and I like your second half a lot more on a careful read for all it's kind of obscure, but it is such a graunching gear shift from your initial tone of oh pootles professor snurble will be late for the fairy picnic that the eye rather slides off it. but there's a strong dark core to this that I do like a lot and maybe if you'd led with that it woudl have been a closer fight. pedantic note: the plural of vortexes is vortices if you want to be fancy which I'm sure you do.


you've got this perfect, conversational prose rhythm in this that almost completely gets out of the way of the reader, but also knows when to step back in for a pungent metaphor - laughing dishwasher, the timpani of a monstrous heart. the overall effect is a kind of dagger of focused outrage stabbing deep into the heart of the point of the story that is effective even though the events described are imaginary (which counts as a neat trick). I particularly like the impersonality of the villain - it's just how things are, despite the intensely and vividly described grand guignol nature of the consequences. Pedantic note: you italicise case names.

BRACKET 11 - i actually gave this to djeser on points, because I'm a sucker for his egyptpunk stylings, but didn't need too much convincing to flip over to staggy on the basis that it has more overall thematic juice.


I normally ping people for saying what they don't do, but I guess you found the exception that proves that rule in your first para, where you use it to say a lot about a relationship in a nicely economical way then do a solid call back at the end. I think I was prejudiced against this because Writers writing about Writing is normally appalling, but i guess you basically get away with it here. it's high concept, and i think it probably missed an hm because it's so high concept and the words are a bit too visibly just there to mark out those beats - guy has sick dad and no money, gives up writing to get money, feels sad. But there's a nice rhyme in that concept to the essential problem of art vs capitalism that fleshes out that structure more than anything in the actual story does.


The words in this are extremely elegant, and as a mood piece it hits the target it was aiming for with precision. I like the body of weird egyptiana you're building up through your dome work, hopefully you'll do something longer with it some day. If it falls down it's that it's a little 'so what', and maybe that's because we don't really know anything about the oarsman? Not a problem that would be easy or perhaps even necessary to solve, but the net result is that the solution is maybe a little easy for our protagonist, but I'd hesitate to call it a significant flaw. Nice work.

BRACKET 10 - Trex patted hisself on the back for his bracket matchups, and I have to agree he nailed them all - this in particular, though the result was reasonably clear in this case it was essentially a mirror match - both of you are extremely strong writers but not always at your best in brawls.


So my problem with this is not the words, which are fine, but what actually happens - guy finds out he's magic, people offscreen are all eh, he finds out he's magic (which he already knew) people will presumably not be eh but we don't know. there's some good tornado magic porn action if that's your jam but there is a fatal so what at the heart of this, which isn't helped by the on the nose nature of the billboard your protag is working on.

sitting here

nice sci-fi words here though it's a rather well-worn if not cliche furrow you're ploughing (tbf thrangles did something similar). this succeeds partly because of its competent emotional core (there' nothing especially new or interesting about old mentor/young gun but it's well executed) but because of the strong tinge of horror in the ending. The characters face something new and irrevocable that was the result of the irrefutable combination of the two characters and the demands of their circumstances. Normally I don't like 'then their real adventures began' but this has a nice gnarly compactness that leaves a satisfying seed of what might come next in the mind.

BRACKET 9 - This bracket initially went the other way but was close enough that I was able to argue Merc for the win.


Do love ur panache. There's a point where panache can start to grate and it's possible you got to that point for T rex when you literally wrote: record scratch but i was on the merc train by that point and, andandand, i think you have enough well-managed complexity in the points of view you actually get away with it. I lolled for e.g. at the transition into HEADLESS MEAT MUPPET. Also at: The Fuckbringer. and at: the instant mannification of killian, and also at the utter certainty of his death shortly after the story. taking a step back you need to dance fast with this kind of story, and you do just that, then end it at the right moment (better than, say, having him lying back down on the ground with his latest master dead).

saucy rodent

ok so the bit you're doing is just as clear as merc's, but there's a heaviness to your footwork. That's the point, of course, it's extruded sci-fi product replete with partially hydrogenated apostrophes, but it still has to be fun to read otherwise one starts to skim. e.g: your first para is a star wars ref, the seond para is complicated backstory, the third is declared motivation, the fourth is someone agreeing that a declared motivation exists, the fifth is them continuing to do the thing they were implicitly doing the whole time, the fifth through seventh is more backstory. then they walk, and look at stuff, then there's a (fairly good) twist on the old kirk vs computer trope. I could go on, but this is more an idea of a funny story than one that actually makes me chuckle, plus it doesn't actually work as a potboilin' page turner - I care nothing for these characters or their deliberately contrived dilemmas, while Merc's infinitely self-deluding pornsword had me cheering as i winced.

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 23:31 on Jun 15, 2019


Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006


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


Line crits of the WRESTLEBRAWL I judged a while back.

Chapfallen by Sitting Here
~2K words

Two men circled each other in the ring down by the river, both sweating dark patches in to their garish costumes. The midday sun pressed down on the match like a flatiron, a more vicious opponent than either of the combatants. That second sentence is a doozy. Noice. An acrid, muddy smell wafted up from the river, hung in the humid air like a specter of dead fish and decaying logs.

Charlie ‘Longshot’ Johnson waited until his backside was angled away from the sparse gaggle of spectators, then hitched up his sagging orange leggings. His opponent— one George ‘The Masher’ Marston—used the opening to go in for a lackadaisical grab. Not part of the script, but Longshot sidestepped it easily enough. The Masher never was much use in the heat, and moved like a submerged drunk. I can tell you’ve brought your a-game for this piece because these are some great similes. You’ve done a good job establishing the scene and the setup is tidy.

“The girls are sick and tired of you peeping in their trailers at night,” Longshot said, pitching his voice for the benefit of the audience.

Masher’s retort was half-hearted. “They sure do leave their doors open wide, for ladies worried about onlookers.”

Longshot scowled at other man’s delivery. Masher sounded like a schoolboy reciting his figures, not the womanizing rival to Longshot’s hapless hero.

“A woman has the right to enjoy a cool breeze without worrying about a peeping tom!” Longshot glanced at the audience—two dozen in all, half of them bored carnies—to see if his heroics were having the intended effect. The spectators looked how Longshot felt: sodden, heat-drunk, and miserable. Hahaha. Yeah, I like this already.

It was time to wrap up this farce, drat the script.

Longshot closed the distance between himself and Masher, feinted to one side, then danced around behind the bigger man, going for the choke hold. Masher grunted surprise, briefly pawing at the arm around his neck, and there was a tense moment where Longshot was afraid he’d inadvertently won the fight.

Things seemed to finally click for Masher, though; the big man heaved himself onto his back, pinning Longshot under his bulk. Longshot’s oof wasn’t theatrical; the maneuver hit like a truck no matter how many times they practiced it.

Masher rolled onto all fours, pressed his forearm down on Longshot’s neck, and said, “I’ll tell the girls what a gentleman you are when I visit their trailers tonight.”

The barker was in the ring before Longshot signaled submission. “What a match, ladies and gentlemen! I did not not see that coming, folks! Better luck next time for those with money on our hero…”

Longshot lay flat on his back in the ring, waiting for the carnies to come haul off his apparently unconscious form. There would be a rematch the next day, of course, and invariably the marks would bet on The Masher, thinking he was easy money.

Longshot would win that fight, because the script said so, and Ackworth’s Traveling Funfair would be a little richer.

Thus far I’m reminded a lot of Big Fish and other suchlike films, which is a good thing. You’ve captured the downtrodden, sullen carnival atmosphere really well. My only real concern is that apart from establishing setting this first scene doesn’t do a whole lot. I’m still not sure who the main character actually IS at this point and that left me a little “huh.”


Rudi—no moniker needed—was a ruthless old hooker, the real bread and butter of Ackworth’s. After sundown, when the mosquitoes were thick and crickets chorused from the muddy shores of the river, the ring was his domain. Gorgeous prose.

He’d face all comers, whether they be career strongmen or young locals with something to prove. Didn’t matter which part of the country the funfair trundled through; no one wanted to bet against the hometown muscle, which was just fine with the bookies of Ackworth’s. Every town had their brawler, their cock of the walk, their headstrong stud looking to make a name for himself, and Rudi patiently dispatched them all, pulling no punches.

No scripts. No narratives. Just honest fighting.

Charlie didn’t bother watching the evening’s bouts He knew Rudi’s moves inside and out, could play them over and over inside his head like a silent film. While the crowd was clustered around the ring watching their local hero get manhandled, Charlie grappled, eyes closed, with the Rudi in his mind. He did this ensconced secretively in the shadows between trailers, where few were likely to venture, except—

“By god, you’re at it again,” drawled The Masher, now dressed simply as George. He stood at the mouth of the alley formed by the two trailers, cigar in hand, little more than a silhouette against the midway lights. “We’ve all done our time in the ring with Rudi, boy. Not one of us walked away with our pride intact.”

“I don’t have any drat pride,” Charlie snapped. “I play a cheesy face for small change.”

“Nothing ‘small change’ about a roof over your head, food in your belly.” George took a deep drag off the cigar. “Besides, you get hurt, I become a one-man act.”

“You were rolling marks before I joined up, you’ll be rolling marks long after I’ve moved on,” Charlie said. He stooped to brush dirt from the knees of his trousers. “I want a fight, not a fiction.”

Aha, here’s the plot! All right, consider my earlier worries null and void. This establishes the rest of the story nicely.


Charlie ‘Longshot’ Johnson challenged Rudi once, twice, three times in three days, and lost.

With each bout fought, the movie in his head grew more precise, and he found himself dreaming in sequences of hooks and pins, matches of mythological proportions where Rudi presided over the ring like a gilt god.

With the fourth day came a fourth challenge. Longshot stalked clockwise around the ring, mirroring the older fighter, feeling out the timbre of the fight. Rudi wasn’t the heaviest hooker in the game, but there was a density to him, as though the world bowed slightly beneath the weight of his presence. Everything beyond the ring fell away from Longshot; there was only Rudi—the whipcord muscle, the keen ice-chip eyes, the placid confidence of a champion.

But this time, there was something perfunctory in the way Rudi moved. Something absent.

The fight lasted no longer than seventy-five seconds, with Longshot dancing around the ring with the deftness of a spider in its web while Rudi fought like a fly who’d accepted its own ensnarement—a token resistance at best. Longshot felt the belly-fire go out of the older man during the final pin, felt the moment of irrefutable mutiny in Rudi’s lean, taut body.

Rudi pounded his hand on the ring floor once, signalling submission, and then lapsed into unconsciousness.

For the first time in Longshot’s time with the funfair, the barker was speechless, his expression slack and disbelieving, like a local who’d just watch the town hero get pummeled.

“Call it,” Longshot said, his voice barely audible over the songful crickets.

Afterward, George clapped him on the shoulder, grinning around his cigar, and said, “Boy you just made me a rich man.”

This rings nicely hollow. I feel like this whole story just aches in a way that’s pleasant to read. It feels foreboding yet I can’t even say what it feels like it’s foreboding toward other than the rest of these characters’ lives, I guess.


Soon, it was time for Ackworth’s to move on from Valewood in search of greener pastures and fuller pockets. Rudi stayed behind, citing Valewood as a good a place to get old as any. I want a bit more about Rudi here. I get that the whole thing is that Charlie has built him up in his head so much that the real Rudi scarcely matters, but I still feel like he’s a big part of the story and we could use a little more glimpse into his actual character.

Charlie was a man spread across two lives. In the first life, his old life, he’d been a daytime conman, a charlatan in orange leggings. In this new life, he was a warrior; some challenged him, while others courted his affection. All comers, regardless of their intent, treated him with deference.

The funfair trundled on across the heartland, burning through brave young locals like wildfire through brush.

In Charlie’s sleep, though, there was only one opponent: Rudi, still standing tall and golden like a man from a different age, an immutable god of the ring, who, by virtue of having been defeated, was free from his mortal shell. Every strongman, every hayseed, every tough customer who entered the ring was little more than a transparent vessel carrying the undefeatable spirit of Rudi. Digging this a lot.

Charlie fought that ghost for a decade, undefeated yet never truly victorious. His trailer was opulent, the women who visited it clean and affectionate. George ‘The Masher’ Marston dropped his moniker and became simply George Marston, manager of the indomitable Longshot, and the closest thing Charlie had to a friend.

One night, after a lucrative day of meaningless bouts, Charlie found himself in George’s trailer, saying the unthinkable.

“It’s time, George. I’ve done my tour of duty. I’m not waiting for some hotshot to catch me on an off-day. I want to quit while I’m strong, be remembered as strong.”

George chewed his cigar with browned teeth, shuffled a thick stack of bills between his hands. “Now what I’m hearing here is, my bread and butter telling me he doesn’t wanna butter bread anymore. That right?”

Charlie spread his hands. “I’ve given you a decade. A guy’s got a right to rest.”

George gave Charlie a long, hard look, then laughed and shook his head. “I know what you’re playing at, boy. Don’t think it’s escaped my notice what town we’re in.”

“That’s got nothing to do with it,” Charlie mumbled, but he found himself unable to meet George’s incisive look. “Rudi’s probly long past dead now, anyway. There was nothing left in him that day. I could feel it.”

“You’d be surprised,” George grunted. Sighing, he split the stack of cash, shoved the more generous portion across his desk. “Go on then. Don’t say I never show you any gratitude—but once you realize you’re not gonna find what you’re looking for, you come on back to me.”

Hm. Not sure how I feel about the lack of conflict on Charlie’s exit. It feels like you’re setting up a conflict between Charlie and George, then that just sorta… doesn’t happen. Maybe I was reading too much into things.


Valewood, as Rudi had said, was a good a place to get old as anywhere.

Charlie turned his stack of cash into a house, a car, and a respectable bank balance. His neighbors at first treated him with furtive curiosity, then tentative friendship, finally welcoming him as one of their own when he made a wife out of the mayor’s daughter.

No one spoke of an aged fighter from long ago. No one remembered the bout that had dethroned the greatest hooker of his time. Charlie told himself Rudi had simply moved on; there was no applicable headstone in the cemetery, no obituary in the newspaper archives. Maybe, Charlie mused, the old man had hopped a train, headed west to gentler, dryer climes.

And yet Charlie would still dream of him—that golden giant of the ring, the force of nature, the pale-eyed god of unattainable victory. The dreams produced in Charlie a restlessness that saw him trundling around town in his flashy Chrysler, windows down, smiling and waving to folks in a neighborly fashion even as he hunted that which haunted him.

There was an old, run-down panhandler who liked to sit on the corner by the barber’s, beneath the cheerfully spinning red-white-and-blue pole. Charlie saw him without seeing him, as though he was a tattered, bearded piece of scenery.

Then, on one of Charlie’s long, aimless drives through town, he passed the corner and the barbershop and the patch of scenery who happened to be a derelict old man. An abrupt breeze tugged at the panhandler’s hat, then lifted it off his head and flicked it down the sidewalk. The old man watched the hat go with a sort of wan curiosity before heaving himself to his feet to retrieve it.

The Chrysler came to a dead stop in the middle of the road. Charlie had only caught the barest glimpse of the old tramp’s unshaded features, but it was enough: that face, or a version of it, had been etched into the stuff of his dreams for over a decade. You telegraph this well but the moment still feels nice when it arrives!

He watched Rudi amble after his hat, corner it against the side of a shop, then jam it firmly onto his balding pate. There was a moment when the old man turned, when his eyes passed over Charlie, when the lances of their respective gazes seemed to intersect—

Rudi turned and went back to his chair, settling down once more with his grubby paper cup and cardboard sign.

The Chrylser peeled out, did a hard burn to the edge of town. Charlie wasn’t cognizant of where he was going until he arrived: a trampled fairground down by the river, empty now but still bearing the scars of tents pitched and trailers parked. The smell was the same as it’d been that day a decade before: a swampy miasma that saturated the air with intimations of death. Charlie sank to his knees and closed his eyes, breathing in the noisome perfume, all at once longing for the days when he had something to strive for, someone to conquer.

But now there was nothing to prove, and no one against whom he might prove himself. He could all but smell George’s cigar smoke, hear his voice rasping, I told you so.

Charlie dreaded the night, feared what images his mind conjure in place of his golden giant, but when he did at last sink into bed next to his wife, sleep claimed him quickly, and he dreamed of nothing at all.

This was a sweet ending and I like the way this wrapped up. This story, despite being about wrestlers, doesn’t have a whole lot of actual character-to-character conflict, but it’s a rare tale that I think works just fine without it. The true conflict is Charlie versus the visions in his head, the legend he’s built around Rudi rather than Rudi himself, and you pull it off pretty well.

I admit these sort of swampy, haunted-feeling-yet-not-actually-supernatural Americana type stories are a weakness of mine, so you really played to the judge’s preferences here whether you knew it or not.

I really enjoyed this one and you should be proud of it. Good poo poo.

Decimation by Sebmojo
1250 words

There’s a big clock on the wall of Johnson’s house and the time is three minutes to twelve and I’m looking at it with eyes that have a black fringe around them like a portrait at a funeral, an oxygen-starved darkness creeping inwards from the rim. The second hand kicks once, twice, moving with vegetable slowness. The arm bar around my neck is making breathing harder than it should be so I slide my left leg back, feeling it slip on Johnson’s fancy rug and drop, letting my weight pull me down, waiting for him to shift his own balance to compensate. I twist out of his hold and hit the floor, rolling through broken glass from the window I smashed on the way in, sucking in a grateful helping of air as the splinters trace pain across my back. I tense for the slam of his body on mine but it doesn’t come so I keep the movement going, bring me bleeding feet under me and pull myself up, hands outstretched. I can see the age on them, written on the gnarled spotted skin of them, framing Johnson’s tanned angry face. This is a hell of an opening paragraph. I like the immediacy of it and the run-on sentences. You give the protag an immediate voice and it does a great job of pulling a reader in.

“This is dumb, Rudi,” Johnson’s yelling, but the words are just babble like the crowd noise when you’re on the torn and restitched canvas of the ring. He’s bleeding too, a part of me notes without any particular emotion. I took a chunk of his ear off just now, like in the rough and tumble gouge-happy days. His eyes, those deep-set handsome eyes the girls used to like so much, dart towards the front door and I step to the right to cover it off, but then I see them settle back on me and I know we will see this thing out. There are kids playing ball out in the street, a boy’s voice is setting out some unfairness in specific high pitched detail. Very tight, concise prose, no words wasted here.

I’m wondering, as we circle around the smashed glass and rumpled mat in the middle of Johnson’s room, when I lost the ability to care. Not sure I dig this bit considering there’s a sense of emotion in the first two paragraphs. They don’t quite feel robotic and detached enough to be from someone who doesn’t care. But it’s early on in the piece, so we’ll see!

I used to have it, I used to care so much. I would care about slights and tiny victories and who said what about me, and winning. Always winning. I wanted to win like there was nothing else in the world. There was nothing else in the world, just the ring and whatever jumped up sack of muscles and hot jism thought he could take me. And then, and then: nothing.

I could pinpoint the moment in my mind, I’d put my hand on the rope to pull myself into the ring, I was fighting some skinny young tattooed rear end in a top hat with a beard and the fear already slumbering behind his eyes ready for me to awaken with a double hammerlock. The morning sun was hot on my bare shoulders, and I looked up to see it coming through the leaves of the trees around the clearing and a bird called out, squawk, then just like that the ability to care wafted up and out of me and was gone. Hah, okay, the not-caring has turned out to be pretty good so far. I see more what you’re getting at now.

You can win if you don’t care but it’s not easy any more. Tattoos went down easily enough but the next was harder and the one after that was harder still. My strength was a cup, not a fountain, draining a little more with each sip.

The Romans knew what was what. When an army stopped caring enough, when it didn’t want to win they would line them up and make them draw straws. One in ten of the straws would be short, and those men would be beaten to death by their comrades, smashed with rocks and fists and feet until they didn’t move any more. The simple brilliance of that was breathtaking. I like this but I feel like it wasn’t quite utilised as well as it should because I can’t quite see why Rudi dwells on it so apart from “we’re fighting and they fought.” It feels like I’m missing something and that feeling pulled me out of the prose.

Johnson moved, scuttling left like a crab then grabbing for me, slow, too slow, but of course it’s a feint. The real move was the right leg coming from below to take advantage of my distraction. Johnson was always sly, little bastard. I hop back and go for his wrist, to pull him forward and down onto the broken glass, but he’s too quick and snatches it back. He’s still off balance from the leg though. I bring my left up, tightened like an old tree root, and smack him in the nose with a soft crunch like stepping on a twig.

“Ow,” he says. His face is reddening, I think he’s angry now and I nod, that will make this easier. “I used to hate feeling sorry for you, Rudi.” Tacking on this line of dialogue here felt a little awkward–I know it’s Charlie speaking because obviously he’s saying Rudi’s name, but I think the dialogue coming right after “That will make this easier” preps the brain for a line from Rudi, so I stumbled.

I nod, slowly. I’d seen him a few times, before. There was a corner I liked to sit with my hat and my sign, it caught the morning sun, had good foot traffic and missed the worst of the winds. He’d driven past once and I’d seen him look out the window, double take - is that…? Then a week later he’d dropped some coins in the hat and walked on, but I knew. That’s when I decided what I was going to do, and that’s why I was here. You do a great job of explaining Rudi’s motivations in a way that feel chaotically sensible. It’s deranged but deranged in a way that makes total sense for his character.

There’s a moment in every fight when it gets decided, but it’s not when one of the fighters taps out and grunts uncle, it’s not even a move really. It happens in the eyes which is why you need to watch them. I see it in his eyes and know it’s mine and lunge. Teetering on the cliche but if you can pull it off I’ll allow it. :P

I take him in the belly, which is softer than it ever was when we fought riverside, and carry him backwards into the wall. A framed picture crashes down on the floor, scattering more glass but we’re past that and through the open door that was beside it, spinning round and slamming down on the floor with a brutal impact that takes the air out of him. He’s got my wrist in his hand and he’s scrabbling for a finger lock but his fingers are too slick with my blood to get a purchase. Arrrgh.

I’m grunting, panting, I can feel the number of breaths I have left ticking down as I lift up his head and push it down on the wooden floor. He’s too strong though. I can’t do this, it occurs to me. I grope for his arm to lock it but he’s twisted round and he’s on top of me, straddling me, eyes, staring into mine. He has my hand in his and gets the fingerlock.

“Give up Rudi. We can make it work. For old times.” I don’t quite get this dialogue. Make it work?

I stare at him, and I don’t know what’s in my eyes because I’m not sure there’s anything else in the world but me, looking at him. He tightens the lock. My left ring finger is a bar of pain, but I’m looking at him and I can’t, I won’t say it.

The house is quiet. The boys have gone away. The clock in the front room ticks, midday.

“loving hell Rudi,” he says and snaps my finger. Great line.

The pain is like an old friend and I gasp as it rushes in, the old familiar wash of nausea and adrenaline, taking up residence in my belly. I look in his eyes and wait for the change, the realisation that I have this, his answering understanding that I have him, to arrive.

It doesn’t come. There’s nothing there. I’m lying on the floor of a suburban house with a broken finger and there’s a man on top of me and there’s no way, none, that I will ever win again. You barrel-rolled away from cliche town and landed on your feet. Good poo poo.

The tears come, and I let them fall. Bah, what the hell is this? That’s a cop-out ending after an extremely well-written scene with a lot of good plot behind it.

Overall this was visceral and great and some of the best fight writing I’ve seen on TD in a while. You do a good job of peppering in enough detail that a plot emerges but the ending just doesn’t work. It’s a sensible place to end the story, but we need more meat on the bones after all the mythos you’ve built up between these two characters. I get that Rudi isn’t getting his closure, and that’s all well and good, but the reader needs a bit more closure than the characters do.

Overall the ending and the more complete-ness of her story is why SH got the win but there’s still a lot of decent words here and it was an enjoyable read.


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