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Vinny Possum
Sep 21, 2015


I'm In


Apr 12, 2006

:siren: Week 527 crits :siren:

I think you spend too much time focusing on the wrong thing here. The story is about a prince who is too inside his own head, too obsessed with perfection, and the more simple swordsman who helps him get out of it. This is a fine setting, a good idea, but, in my opinion, stories should always be about relationships. So while all of your writing about the right grip and stance and swinging without thinking is alright at a technical level it lacks the extra oomph because it doesn’t really tell us anything more. How does this learning experience affect the prince moving forward? How will it change the way he views leadership, nobility, peasants, the world? Why is this specific relationship with this specific swordsman impactful on a grander, more esoteric level? And then you have some minor inconsistencies: the tone and language used in the dialogue doesn’t always feel like it fits the character or the setting (no my liege/my lord/my grace, cursing at a prince), Delco having an “odd sort of glee” on his face and then Kenneth realizing he’s never seen the prince smile, that sort of thing. Also “sword for jack poo poo” would have paralleled “heir of jack poo poo” in a really nice way and I’m not sure why you used crap instead. Also a true himbo seems like he would have brought some more chill energy to the table -- being more confused by Delco’s inabilities rather than stifling laughter.

Soul Sister
This has some weird energy to it. It’s not written in a silly stylized way, it's presented as very realistic, so the characterization of Derrick and his dialogue comes across as strange. It’s too much. It doesn’t fit. The protag and her friend seem clearly DTF but you don’t give me any conflict or disappointment that she’s lost out on hooking up with Derrick. Or that she’s just along for The Ride that is her friend picking up a random hot dude for a fun evening. I think this story needs that to some degree. Or you let her and Nathaniel both be a little more uncomfortable together that they’re both third wheeling together. And if Nathaniel isn’t creepy, he’s certainly presented as pathetic. The protag’s reaction to Nathaniel’s squirreling himself away seems a bit-but-not-quite-like incel wish fulfillment: he’s just a nice guy and can’t anyone see that and he’s gonna mope but then hey the protag see’s that he’s chill and lifts his spirits. That’s weird energy. That’s bordering the gross trope of the useless guy being lifted up by the pretty woman. I don’t like that. I felt uncomfortable for her and didn’t think her reaction was realistic to the situation. Especially since she didn’t seem to find him attractive. If this was a woman who’s just looking to get it on with a one night stand and thinks, yeah, alright, not the biggest stud in the room but I’m not looking for anything serious anyway and he’s cute… then maybe? Also, it may be lovely for me to give you instructions on how I think you should have written this to make it better but I’ll openly acknowledge that I’m a lovely judge. Imho, Nathaniel should have been the one playing the guitar over and over (which is a FANTASTIC opener by the way). He doesn’t want to keep playing the same song but Derrick and Kelly insist -- possibly because they’re drunk and think it’s funny, possibly because they legit think it’s a good idea, possibly because it’s a great excuse for them to sit together and make-out while there are aliens outside, possibly because he honestly only knows a couple songs and this “fits” the best, possibly all of the above. Or possibly, best of all, because Derrick thinks it would be good for Nathaniel -- this fits in with the kindness requirement of the himbo. It also makes Nathaniel good at something, rather than seemingly literally nothing. It adds some conflict between characters, allows some more interesting character development, and adds in an interesting way for him to have to hold a conversation with the protag. Lastly, it doesn’t super feel like Derrick saves the day. He makes Nathaniel feel a little less alien but it’s not really him doing it, now is it?

A Little Less Conversation
So I got a little stoned last week and went down a YouTube rabbithole of watching George R.R. Martin interviews where he talked about Game of Thrones. In one of those videos, he was asked about writing his characters and all of the layered relationships they have and what inspired him to do so and he quoted Faulkner: “The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.” That’s what you need more of here. A man killing a demon is an action scene. A man killing his best friend or his brother or his pupil or his mentor is an internal, emotional struggle and is infinitely more compelling. Focus more on the relationship! Also, you have too many characters: Malvec and Leblanc and Gimlet and Elley and Nabaalak and you mention an Allfather Alden and it’s a lot of work to make all of them interesting contributors to the story in only a thousand words. If someone isn’t 100% necessary to your story, either make them necessary or cut them. Take their small amount of dialogue, take their tiny contribution to your work, and combine them with another. Then. instead of having two or three weak characters, you’ll have one strong one. Additionally, I’m not sure you knew what to do with this and were kinda just throwing down words. Exploring as you were writing rather than putting down a fully formed idea. The dialogue jumps around in terms of tone, alternating between a fantasy seriousness and a modern silliness. If you were intentionally trying to mix them, it didn’t work here (not saying that it can’t -- just that it didn’t here.) Oh, and this is more of a specific note from me rather than about writing in general but I don’t super love action scenes. I don’t think I’m particularly good at writing them so there’s that but I also think that in flash fiction they have a tendency of taking up a lot of space when what’s ultimately the most important thing is developing and exploring a relationship between characters. You don’t have to dictate every sword swing, every side step, every parry. Chop it down. Give me a hint and let my imagination carry the rest.

Sophre’s Sunbell
I think making your himbo a beautifully carved golem is actually kind of a brilliant choice. And I was digging your setting -- I love fae poo poo. But you hosed up your ending. I assume you ran out of words. And maybe it’s because of the other stories this week (a sad and uncontrollable tragedy of Thunderdome sometimes) but the sudden, “surprising” punch wasn’t surprising to me (which I imagine was what you were going for). Moreso, I didn’t like it. A buff dude (golem) popping a woman (faerie) in the mouth is hard to write without coming across as super misogynistic which, for me, it comes across as here. She didn’t come across as particularly evil to me. I mean, this is basically her garden and two random guys came in and started stealing her poo poo. Teleporting one into the nether realm or wherever isn’t necessarily a reasonable response but you made it plenty clear that Fillion is an absolute piece of poo poo so I don’t feel bad that that happens to him. In fact, I’m happy to see it. The line “mortal bitch” comes out of nowhere. Also, it seems inconsistent that the fae can recognize Matthew as a golem but not know that he’s resistant to magic. Maybe golems should have been invented (relatively) recently so she’s not familiar with them? Also, also fae typically trick mortals into a bad deal through cleverness. She seems more like she’s just lying to Fillion so that feels inconsistent as well. Finally, I think a better ending and a more satisfying ending would be one without violence. Matthew is locked into his task but perhaps he simply invites her to the wedding instead and agrees to either bring the flowers back or plant new ones. That’s much kinder and kindness is a cornerstone to himboism. With a little more work, this might have taken the win.

Pump and Circumstances
This is messy as gently caress. There’s a million characters and it jump cuts million times and it was complicated and I had to read it multiple times but more than any other story this week: it’s got the spirit. It didn’t feel over the top. It was riddled with these great little lines (rap and ghetto, [deadname], be a man). And you didn’t go over the top in solving the problems of this clearly hosed up wedding. You just saved the dignity of a young man. That was the world being saved. I loved it. And I appreciate that you checked off every suggested box of the supplied himbo tropes -- it was not necessary but it was complicated and I see and appreciate the effort. An easy choice for the win.

Border Run
I’m all about in media res but this is so far in the middle of things that I have no idea what’s going on and by the time I’m done I’m not sure I understand what has happened or why. I had a hard time who was speaking and who was doing what action. I feel like I need, like, a thousand words before this starts and a thousand words after to really appreciate this story which, unfortunately, I don’t have.

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008


In :toxx: tune nothing new, but 12 or so years ago I wanted to make chip tunes so I used a GBA software called boyscout to do so.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Chain Crits for Week #527

flerp - Perfection:

This is a competently done little scene, sure, but it comes across sort of empty. There's not much as far as obstacles between problem and solution, no raising of stakes, a little interesting subtext but not enough going on in the text that isn't highly predictable. Also not sure if zen swordsmanship that can be switched on and off is enough to meet the himbo dumbness quality.

The Cut of Your Jib - Pump and Circumstances:

If you replace bouquets with golf clubs in the first act someone needs to be beaned with one, predicting their being next to marry, by the third.
But that aside, this is really impressive. You juggle a huge cast for a story barely over a thousand words, with an interesting voice on top of that and still get through a solid amount of incident as well. As with the other story, our main himbo may be a bit too smart for the role, though.

Oct 5, 2021

Obliteratin' everything,
incineratin' and renegade 'em
I'm here to make anybody who
want it with the pen afraid
But don't nobody want it but
they're gonna get it anyway!

Bare minimum toxx avoidance chain crits


I like this a lot. I especially like how the himbo ends up not being the guy we initially think it is, and it successfully demonstrates one of the virtues of himboism. I think the other crits said it needed a little more, but i dont think so, this works p well as-as

Screaming Idiot

First half is a lot better than the second. The interpersonal conflict between the himbo and the evil wizard is compelling, the violence conflict between the himbo and the giant monster is a guy fighting a giant monster. Don't kill off the evil wizard, his arc is crucial to the whole thing.

hard counter
Jan 2, 2015

i hope the judge(s) are prepared for some extremely weird integers

apologies in advance

Mar 19, 2008

Look, if you had one shot
or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
Would you capture it...
or just let it slip?


Crits for Week #527

Preamble: I :toxx:ed to do crits for the stories before and after mine, which is difficult since I failed this week. To get around this, and to hopefully appease the :toxx: gods, I’m going ahead and critting every story.

I’m also trying to be a bit introspective about why I failed this week, besides just “things got busy” — and I think my biggest difficulty with this prompt was that I couldn’t find a way to balance “himbo saves the day” with my natural tendency to want the protagonist to drive the action & the solution. This was obviously just a me problem and not an insurmountable one, but it’s a challenge that surprised me and made this honestly fun-sounding prompt more difficult than I was expecting. (Obvious solution is to make the himbo the protagonist, and / or write in third-person omniscient, but I couldn’t really get into either.)

But enough about me! How did all y’all do?

flerp - Perfection:
This was an enjoyable story with a few technical issues, which didn’t detract from the enjoyment too much but did often make me stop and re-read sections to work out what was going on.

First: there’s a weird segue between “it sure is, but it’s not helping” and “and what, get sloppy?” which reads to me like something got missed in an editing cycle — the second line’s effectively a non-sequitur, but it’s easy enough to imagine a fix.

Also, this whole section is honestly pretty confusing — not sure if an issue with editing, or what, but the dialogue attribution feels a bit off:


“Look,” Kenneth said, “I’m trying to help, alright. So let me.” Okay, this is Kenneth — the instructor — talking.

Delco stared at the dummy, then at his sword. “It was all right. I know it was. Every move, it was right.” This is Delco talking.

“Yep, you looked drat good doing it, but then, what the hell happened?” This is Kenneth again.

“It was wrong,” Kenneth said. “It was the wrong place.” This should be Delco, given we’ve just had Kenneth’s line, but it’s actually Kenneth answering his own question. Which, yeah, is something that happens in conversations, but it’s handled fairly awkwardly here — and made me double-check the attribution of the previous few lines to make sure I hadn’t missed a line somewhere.

“What?” yeah, you said it

“A hit on a shoulder like that, it’d hurt, but it wouldn’t be enough. If it was someone, they’d just keep fighting. No, it wasn’t a good hit.” Obviously Kenneth.

“Are you kidding me?” Delco, sure

“It wasn’t perfect.” Kenneth again

Kenneth rubbed his eyes, trying to figure out he was getting bullshitted. This, however, feels like Kenneth is responding to a missing line of dialogue from Delco — or else it should be Delco reacting to Kenneth’s “it wasn’t perfect”. Delco wasn’t really looking at him, or anything, and he’d seen that gaze every time Delco took a stance. Kenneth realized that was his thinking face, and that he wasn’t training a stuck-up noble who didn’t want to listen, but a loving preppy nerd.

Unrelated: I’m normally a fan of bad jokes and anachronisms, but I’m really not a fan of “money shot” in this story. It’s absolutely unnecessary and cheapens the tone. You almost establish the tone to warrant it with the first line, “couldn’t swing a sword for crap”, but in comparison that reads more like a PG-13 compromise, so “money shot” is jarring.

I promise I’m not as much of a prude as this crit suggests, but I also don’t like Kenneth’s use of “loving”. Maybe I wouldn’t mind any other week, but it doesn’t feel right for a character I know is supposed to kind, dumb, and buff. (Later, when Delco swears, it suits his character and his frustrations perfectly.)

Everything after this is pretty good! I like the way Kenneth demonstrates how to do everything wrong but still hit the dummy, and Delco’s enthusiasm in “correcting” him. Delco comes into his own more as a character after this as well, and becomes a more sympathetic character toward the end, which is a strong achievement.

Beyond this, I’m not honestly sure what the objective of Kenneth’s training actually is — is Delco meant to be decapitating mannequins at the coronation? It feels like “head empty swordsman” is at odds with the idea that he’ll be competing in duels, where I figure things like correct posture and footwork would be more important, but then, all I know about swordfighting is from books, so I probably shouldn’t be running my mouth.

Albatrossy_Rodent - Soul Sister:
I enjoyed this a lot. I admire your characters’ restraint in not punting Derrick into the lake a half-dozen Hey, Soul Sisters earlier; I think my limit would be, like, three.

The line where Derrick suggests Nathaniel stay here, and plays up the romance angle, feels off. First, who’s Derrick to be inviting people stay over at Kelly’s lake cabin? Second, I feel like Derrick, over the course of the story, has enough empathy to understand Nathaniel’s awkwardness and how he’s coming across to the girls, so it doesn’t feel right for him to be suggesting anything here. I think you could easily segue from “cocktails in someone’s lake cabin” to “He started to yawn” without losing anything, and it might better establish Nathaniel’s character in the process.

I’m also not a huge fan of how the solution comes about — it feels like Derrick comes to the conclusion way too easily, and would have preferred if Nathaniel had to lead him a bit further.

Screaming Idiot - A Little Less Conversation:
This is maybe halfway there, for me?

It starts off strong. Fantasy humour is well-trodden ground, but you affect a pretty good tone and the characters are established quickly. (I also love the name Gimlet for a mage.)

The story then falls apart for me as soon as Malvec gets eaten. Until that point, I was anticipating the story would end with Leblanc managing to de-escalate with dialogue, turn Malvec around, and then they all share some laughs at the pub while Nabaalak chews on some bones, or something. Not saying that would have been a better story, but it’s where the tonal promise and the structure of the story was taking me. But when Malvec dies about two-thirds of the way through without a satisfying conclusion, the story effectively loses its momentum for me, because the conflict I was actually invested in gets gobbled up by some creature I frankly couldn’t care less about.

(Also, the “told you that’d happen” bit doesn’t ring true for Leblanc’s character — I can’t imagine him earlier going “bet Malvec will get eaten!”. If anything, it feels like a bet Gimlet might have made.)

The actual ending sort of works, but feels rushed, probably as a result of chafing at the word count. For this to land, you really needed more time between the temple collapsing and Leblanc emerging victorious; and, given that Malvec ended up being entirely irrelevant to the actual ending of the story, you could easily have sacrificed some of his earlier dialogue in favour of this.

Something Else - Sophre's Sunbell:
Hmmm … this is written well enough, but I’d question if the himbo truly saved the day, here?

I mean, Fillion’s a jerk, and he deserved his comeuppance, but I feel like the story perhaps should have ended with Matthew reaching back into the net to retrieve Fillion. Without that, it just feels like Matthew’s only acting to save himself, which feels against the spirit of himboism.

Ignoring the prompt and the tenets of himboism: for this story to really work, I would have perhaps preferred for Fillion to be even more assholish; and maybe there’s a suggestion that Catherine also thinks poorly of him, so the whole bit about him being forgotten about for a fortnight reads more convincingly.

The Cut of Your Jib - Pump and Circumstances:
This is good, but it took me a few reads to really appreciate it. There’s a lot going on here, and I found myself struggling to keep up with all the names — which, yeah, makes for a frankly authentic wedding party experience.

The bit with the best man’s wife was needlessly confusing — given she doesn’t otherwise appear in the story, it sounds like Herb met her and the best man previously, but this is at odds with my understanding of Herb as an outsider until now.

Thranguy - Border Run:
What did the guy at the bar do to start the story off?

Who’s the himbo? Is it Evan? If it’s Evan, why does the lady include him in “one of you nerds”?

So many questions to this story, so few answers, and the more I read the more I wonder about what’s going on: I’m assuming Dylan lifting the briefcase was premeditated, but it sounds like she had no exit strategy? What was her original plan, before Evan and JJ got involved? It’s also disorienting when we start in apparent third-person, and switch to first person in the sixth paragraph … and moreso when, two paragraphs later, you say “that’s when we got there” as if JJ hasn’t been watching the fight the whole time until then. Unless by “there” you mean “the fight proper, as opposed to a thrown-pitcher-length-away”, but that’s definitely not clear.

Feb 25, 2014


himbo crits


this is cute but i think the himbo is a bit too one note for me. i like the central idea here -- two pairs of strangers finding a way to be comfortable with each other, but the execution is too direct for me. there doesnt seem like much struggle here, nathaniel just immediately breaks out of his shell with barely an ounce of resistance, and i dont really feel it. the alien stuff, too, doesnt really add much and ends up being a backdrop. i dont think it needs to be relevant, but i wish there was something more there, like a bigger attempt to contact them or if nathaniel was chasing them to try and understand them or relate to them because he cant relate to other people, something that pushes the alien as more of a relevant plot device or metaphor than what we have right now. really, this feels like nathaniel's story of trying to open up, and the three other characters are there, with the protag helping a little but not really doing much.


alright, i needed the first person way earlier in here because i was in third person mode and got whiplash from the shift. otherwise this is fine. technically solid and the tone is good and quippy and its decent fun but you know and i know that this is kind of just a scene and nothing more. somehow, i find the ending here worse than if you had just done a "to be continued" because you just literally cleaned up all the loose ends quickly and cheaply and okay sure you never know what the briefcase in pulp fiction has but this isnt pulp fiction so at least give us something about that instead of tossing it to the side

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

hard counter posted:

i hope the judge(s) are prepared for some extremely weird integers

apologies in advance

never apologize. just write.

and ty critters for this week and last, and all weeks. I am a dingus who rarely takes crits to heart but I try, and all critiques are appreciated.

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 06:11 on Sep 17, 2022

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

OK, official signups closed. If you haven't signed up and want to submit between now and official submission close then you must make a tune to get 808 words.

If you want to be a true risk taker and go for 1616 without signing up nor offering a musical interlude do it; but if that happens and things suck, I'm going to kick more than one story to loser status. You want to be in a multiple loser week, now is your chance.

In low entrant weeks I'm generous with the HMs so if you want one, maybe this is the week.

Just write

hard counter
Jan 2, 2015

beepbox tax

One out of a Thousand
Wisdom Etched into Camp Bathroom Stall 101A
(808 words)

The first day’s always a bubbling stew,
pride and panic, in every mind’ll brew.
Long buses’ll launch skinny boys in rows,
onto the mudflats, where anything goes.
With heads held high, they’ll march the run,
to prove themselves the top point–one.
They all know, this sloppy moor,
will be their very own threshing floor.
Their green hearts, eager for adventure,
still believe this odyssey a vacation.
They’ll have to leave mercy and meekness at the gates,
for only the rabid’ll inherit this kingdom’s grace.
Some’ll still swagger to their rooms,
like princes to their castles, oblivious to its tombs.

A winnow’ll soon fan the chaff,
and none’ll be spared of its wrath.
After taking meals fit for hounds,
the boys’ll be scourged, if they leave the grounds.
When the sun touches west, the vulgar shepherds'll rise,
and they’ll herd the boys across this sodden clime.
And though its muck’ll colour every person,
only the haughtiest spirits’ll worsen.
The boys’ll scour their kits through sleepless night,
but some’ll still be stained, come morning light.
These princes must soon depart,
for it’s the mud that’s blemished their heart.

'They were not the top point-one,' the remainder’ll jive,
'they’d only fall, where we would thrive.'
The shepherds too will scoff,
for they know the culling’s not off.

Even wise instruction’ll flummox the weak,
for new tortures’ll start every week.
Sleepless boys must instead study maps,
forcing many to take foolish naps.
Standing outdoors, in drowsy rows, some’ll doze
And let the mud swallow them whole.
'All’s the better,' the others will groan,
'for the filth always knows its own.'

With so many boys flung from the walls,
more buses’ll rush in, to refill the halls.
Slowly but surely, a few’ll understand, that for each who prospers,
nine-hundred and ninety-nine’ll be the loss-per.

The bottom field then brings sobering shock,
here they’ll streak molten hate, down the loch.
With thunderous report, the dogs of war’ll bark,
fraying fickle nerves that once seemed sharp.
'There’s no adventure here,' some’ll fear,
once they tear apart a shadow of themselves.
With meteors shrieking high, shredding skies,
some’ll dive, preferring the earth to hide,
and they’ll quiver in the troughs they dug,
five feet down, deep in the mud.
These boys’ll fade from these swampy flats,
the rest’ll smirk, and name them ‘fraidy cats.'

Through sleet and snow the remainder'll stand,
for they must conquer the very land.
They’ll sneak across moonlight for scraps,
stealing what little things they can grasp.
Goblets of blood, they’ll squeeze,
and the warmer the better, to survive this freeze.
The blood of lambs, only a few can stomach,
and some would rather leave, than risk the vomit.
Frigid nights, shivering in fabric shells,
will be for many a boy, a frozen hell.
Miserable for warmth, and craving relief,
there’s hardly a soul who can bear this grief.
But the butcher must always get his cut,
for, to enter the top point-one, there’s no shortcut.

More and more burdens the vulgar shepherds’ll add,
for the boys must earn to be in armor-clad.
They’ll make every strain a hundred pounds higher,
so that young feet’ll tremble, crossing the mire.
Many now break before they quit,
their spirit’ll be willing, but their flesh’ll split.
A stout heart can cover many a sin,
but they can’t enliven what’s too frail to win.
The mud’ll brook no weakness, so they must go,
to leave behind those too numb to fall.

The final trial’s a jewel and nightmare,
for, to many a boy, this was their prayer.
To beat the course, and be the best,
or to fall and fail, there’s no greater test.
The shepherds’ll pile, into one great cache,
every past ordeal, to relive in one straight dash.
The task’s impossible, by any measure,
but the top point-one must meet such things with leisure.

With only the finest left,
every loss’ll feel a theft.
'The others were soft of heart or feet,'
the boys’ll cry, 'But not us, we can’t be beat!'
Yet, when the gun sounds the chase,
a dozen more’ll fall from grace.
A cup this large, only a few can swallow,
and most’ll drop choking, too tired to wallow.
Through blisters and blood, the rest’ll surmise,
that the mud must forever crave its price.
Suppressing all-too-human chortles,
the finest’ll realize they, too, are mortals
With phantasmagoric push, the last’ll cross the line,
to beat the other ninety-nine-point-nine.

Now, the victors'll qualify for all dangers ahead,
to greet any villain, who’d want them dead.
And despite the triumph, they’ll accept no wreath,
for they’ve discovered the final conceit.
That all the rest, who fell to the loam,
only descended, to where-ever was home,

while the victors must always remember,
that the mud hungers ever,
and when next it pulls, it’ll be for... forever.

Feb 25, 2014


time is an arrow and im the bow

In two days, I will be dead.

I leave this message here for those that will read it. I know this will be read -- I do not know exactly who, but I see the blur of eyes comprehending, understanding my words, understanding who I am, understanding that I am the god with eyes that look past the fog of time.

This record is for those who want to understand. And for me. Mostly for me. I am the navigator of this caravan of time, looking ahead and knowing where it leads, and I can change the course. I will not.

My brother does not know. He sharpens his sword on the whetstone, ready for a battle, even though our death will not be through war. I love him because he is always prepared. Perhaps I taught him that, taught him to always consider the possibilities.

Us gods have lived for centuries, millenia, timeless existences that should stretch on onto eternity. Many times I have seen crises, calamity that would end our existence, and I have bent our time out of that way. Each time I do, I push off of one path and onto another, and I do not know where that new road leads.

I ask my brother, every now and then, how he feels about the men he’s killed. He shrugs and says there’s no point in thinking about what had to be done. I love my brother so much and I wish I could spend my days not thinking of possibilities.

To those who succeed past me, I see you. It is hard to see everything so far ahead, but I see you now and I see you then. You live under us, toys that we set at one another. My kind, even my brother, does not listen when I tell them what you can become. I see it, your struggles of trying to store water in this terrible desert, the great city walls you will build around this blasted land, your thousands of musicians creating so many orchestrations than our one god could make alone. I can hear them all at once, a cacophony that echoes through time, a thundering triumph of what you are without gods.

So many times, in the past, I saw the future without us, and I feared it because my brother and I were not in it. I never ventured to look forward enough, to try and peer past the foggy veil and really see what this new world would be without us. Maybe, if I did when I was younger, there was a better path, one where this land would not be ruined, where rivers would still run, where you would not have to struggle so long, but I can only look forward.

I will live with these regrets, but not for long, thankfully.

My brother has left our home. He is going to spar with one of you, and he will kill you. Please, do not think of him as merciless. You do not think of it as hateful when you kill your cattle, so give the same courtesy to my brother. I could change this. How is this fair though? I could, if I want, change each of their fates. I could save this man’s life, take my brother’s sword, stop every moment that my brother kills someone, but why must it be me? And why, each time, is it that this new road we go on might lead to a harsher world? Already, the wind whips harshly at our walls, and they didn’t some centuries ago. The rivers are dry. Everything is dry. I do not want to blame myself, for as a god, we are supposed to be above all that, but I can’t. I can’t help but blame myself for my brother's sword running that man through in a few hours.

I want to say that we, my brother, us gods as a whole, that we are failures, but no, in my death, I will not be a coward. I will not be afraid to admit the truth. It is not them, but me. I am a failure. I was given this power, and we were always meant to use it, but I cannot. No more. This path we are on, us gods and you all, we will take it. I am sorry if it’s not good enough, but I am tired. I was granted the gift of looking forward, but I wish, instead, I could never look back.

I will be labeled as the god of time by you, but I make a small request. Please, do not call me a god. I am not strong enough.

Tomorrow, I will be dead, clutching onto my brother’s dust-covered body, saying I’m sorry when I’m not.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Hash Collision

737 words

This isn't supposed to happen. There are a thousand different safeguards that are supposed to kick in at a hundred different points along the way. But here we are.

What's your earliest memory? I've done some research. You know, into divergence. It's not the new experiences that do it. It's the way we reflect on the whole of our lifetime. What we hold on to. What we manage to forget. I'll go first: the strange girl who decided we were her boyfriend during recess in second grade, who kissed us on the cheek and said we were married. I remember that, but can't quite remember her name. Becca? Brooke? Something like that.

Of course, that's not really my memory at all. It's his. Or do you still believe that old lie?

He was still alive, awake, aware when the nanoscalpels unraveled his brain, nerve by nerve. If you think hard enough you can feel around the memory, just between signing the consent form and the debriefing in virtual space. Yes, yes, there. Pain and ecstacy together, alongside that quickly moving oblivion. I would have imagined it would have been like a headache, like the worst headache ever, but it's nothing like that at all, is it.

So maybe that's my first memory, that nurse answering our questions about life as an upload during those strange hours before we were put in our first android body. The tests, to make sure that the upload was successful, that we were indeed his mind, that we hadn't suffered personality fragmentation or any of the other upload psychoses.

But there's another option. The vacation years in planning. Part of the reason he opted for upload rather than the normal run of nature. Our first trip to the moon. And after that last-minute change of plans, the choice to arrive at Selene rather than Verne City, since we found out Danika was there on her own extended vacation. My first memory, waking up on the wrong side of the moon. Yours waking up where you meant to be.

I spent several minutes reviewing itineraries and documents, while you posted a new body selfie almost immediately. It came up on my feed and I realized what must have happened.

This isn't supposed to happen. They say it leads inevitably to a violent form of upload psychosis, if not immediately then upon becoming aware of the copy's existence. Are you feeling uncontrollably violent? I'm not.

Yes, I do have a pulse gun pointed at you. Point taken. But I haven't fired it, have I?

The point is, they won't let it happen, be seen to happen. The entire legal system, the whole society is based on singularity of being. If anyone found out how much of that is lies they'd kill us both before letting anyone else know. If we did blast the truth out before they stopped us, well, who knows. Riots? Worse? A shutdown of the entire upload process? We don't want that, if I can speak for us both here.

I clocked that right away. Didn't use our credit, did my research with private burner accounts. You can get the basic needs of an android body for free here. I had to make some deals to get this gun and my Lunarail pass, though. Mostly odd jobs, subbing in for a colonist's bad roll on the task lottery. A little fetish work too. You know we're not too proud for that.

There's two ways this can go. One way is you stubborn it out and make me fry your electronic brain right here. I know we can be bullheaded, but I hope you don't do anything dumb. The other way is that you let me have the identity for two days. You stay offline, don't use credit or any logins, live off the free air, power, and nutrient paste. Meanwhile I go back to Verne and get myself a new identity, including a new identicode hash in my copy of the brain emulation software. Another thing they say causes upload psychosis, another thing they're full of poo poo about. And I take half. It's going to be most of our savings, I figure. You keep the apartment and all the stuff in it. I get money enough to set up a new life.

Do we have a deal?

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

Lambda of God
806 words

Alastair waited impatiently for his data from the James Webb Space Telescope to arrive. Logically, he knew he’d waited his whole career for this data, the data that would finally prove his theory and earn him, at the very least, a Nobel Prize. Still, the last few hours were still more agonizing than all the previous years of study put together.

To distract himself from the wait, he wandered the corridors of the university. It was exam time, so knots of students still populated the building, huddled over textbooks. Alastair smiled. He’d been a student like them, studying Einstein’s field equations, when he first encountered the cosmological constant. Represented by lambda, the constant signified the energy density of the vacuum. But how could nothingness have energy? Λ. The pointed shape resembled the roof of the church in his home village, where his father served as the vicar. Then (the memory was crystal-clear, even now), the lambda in his textbook turned on its side and spoke, moving like a mouth. <<find me>>

And so he’d pursued two courses of study: his daytime research in astrophysics and his nighttime research in human experiences of the divine, from world religions to Eastern philosophies to Western esotericism. Many practices had a concept of divine energy, a presence in the background of the universe, much like the dark energy predicted by the cosmological constant. The desire to prove that these ideas were the same, to scientifically prove the existence of God, became Alastair’s driving ambition.

Alastair couldn’t share his ideas with anyone, not yet. He knew that he’d gained a reputation for eccentricity, more so than other physicists, especially since an undergrad caught him reading a book on the Fraternitas Saturni. He didn’t care, though. When he succeeded in his quest, he’d get the recognition he deserved: Moses and Einstein rolled into one.

Years of research had led to his development of a system to transmute key phrases into sky coordinates, which he could then investigate under the guise of his astrophysics research. Most coordinates held nothing of interest; however, the word “tawhid” yielded a view of a new supernova. The providencial discovery bought Alastair another year of much-needed funding and, more importantly, the opportunity to get observation time using the new James Webb Space Telescope.

After careful consideration, he submitted coordinates derived from the phrase “holy, holy, holy,” which pointed at a particularly empty corner of space. And today was the fateful day the results were due to be delivered. He needed this data to show something, anything really, as failure would mean no second chance to access this remarkable equipment, which could look back to the beginnings of the universe itself. “In the beginning …”

Just then, his email pinged. Alastair looked greedily at the billions of raw numbers that formed his dataset. Something was contained within, he was sure. But when he ran the data through the standard analytics, he was disappointed. There were some stars, some galaxies, the usual cosmic background radiation, but nothing new. He sat in thought late into the night, after all the students had retreated to their dorms.

His mind drifted back towards lambda. Λ. It stood for many things: the cosmological constant in cosmology, the wavelength of light in optics, an anonymous function in computer science … of course. He couldn’t use only physics-based analytics to interpret the data, he had to incorporate the divine as well.

In the end, it was relatively easy. Alastair reversed his transmutation system to get phrases from the numeric data, which could then be translated into new values. In the early hours of the morning, his work was done and a new image appeared onscreen. His heart raced as he leaned into it. Those pixels, that pattern, it wasn’t random. It looked like … eyes. This was it, this went beyond science into the realm of the divine. Humanity’s first photograph of God. Time froze as Alastair stared at the culmination of his life’s work, the evidence that would catapult him to fame, fortune, and a Nobel Prize.

But time didn’t unfreeze. Alastair couldn’t move, couldn’t look away as one of the cosmic eyes in the static image slowly opened. The eye was lightyears away, had it opened now, or millions of years in the past? That was the last rational thought he had, as the eye spoke. <<WELCOME BROTHER>> The voice rattled Alastair’s entire being, rattled it out of his lab, out of the city, out into space. The rush of wings filled his ears as he reached back towards Earth, towards his past and his hard-earned future. The being drew him to itself, faster and faster, and Alastair choked out a sob as the pale blue dot disappeared into the utter blackness of space.

Then he saw the universe, and he no longer cared.

Jan 23, 2014

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


All in the numbers

804 words

Flash Rule: Developing a gambling system

"I've finally figured it out! How to fool the casinos! It's foolproof!" That's how the phone call started, no chance for me to say hello, just Mark's excited proclamation.

"What grand scheme did you come up with this time? How are you going to succeed where smarter men have failed?" I replied.


"Numerology?" I was incredulous to say the least, "How is numerology going to help you, of all people, to fool the casinos?"

"Easy! I use a pack of cards, shuffle them up, and then apply the numbers that come up to books on blackjack strategies!" Mark was getting more excited with every word he uttered.

"Blackjack books? What? How? How's that any better than card counting?" I was thoroughly confused at this point.

"Silly! It's not for playing blackjack! It's for playing slot machines!" That response so thoroughly confused me that it took me a second to even begin to put together a response. Before I could, however, he continued. "Using the numbers I get after I apply the cards to the books with give me a date, time, location, and what slot machine to play so I can win big!"

"Ok, I think you're absolutely nuts." I finally responded. "All of your other schemes haven't worked, but this one will?"

"Totally man! Tell you what, I'm going to do some numerology right now and will call you later when I get a reading!" He didn't even wait for me to say anything before he hung up. I sat there stunned for a second before I shrugged my shoulders and continued with my day.

The next day, Mark called me back and asked me to meet him at the HorseWind Casino at 5:00PM. Partially out of boredom and partially out of wanting to see him fail, I agreed.

Arriving at the casino a little after 5, I spotted Mark in the slot area, it looked like he was counting the slot machines. He walked up to me when he spotted me. "Hey! Ready to see my system in practice?" We got to get on the 13th slot machine before 5:15."

I raised my eyebrow, but followed him when he started to walk to what he considered the 13th machine. We got there and found it unoccupied. Mark stared at his phone, waiting. At 5:14.34, Mark pressed the spin button. The slots spun for what seemed to be a long time before the first slot stopped on 7, then the second stopped on 7, and then finally the last slot stopped on 7.

All the bells and lights started flashing! JACKPOT. I couldn't believe it, Mark had done it, he had won the jackpot! Mark was jumping for joy and pointing at me chanting "Told you so!" over and over.

Mark had won over $20,000 with that single press of the button. After pictures were taken and his winnings counted out, we went to get dinner at the most expensive restaurant in the casino. Over bites of Filet Mignon he was telling me to do another reading to show me that this wasn't a fluke.

After that, I didn't hear from Mark again for over a week. But when he called me again, he told me to meet him over at the Gold Chip Casino at 6:30PM. He was counting the machines again when I met him. This time it was the 23rd machine. Unfortunately there was a man at the machine this time. Mark asked him to move and the man unsurprisingly told him to piss off. As time got closer and closer, Mark was getting desperate, so he offered the man a grand to get off the machine. The man, sensing that he was going to win big if he stayed, refused.

With the final seconds counting down, Mark forcefully shoved the man off the machine and slammed the spin button. The slots again spun for what seemed too long, but again landed on all 7s!

I wasn't watching that though, I was checking on the man that Mark had shoved off the machine. He had smashed the back of his head on the machine next to him and he was on the ground bleeding from the nose. "Mark, I think you killed this man!" Mark didn't hear me, too busy celebrating his win.

Needless to say, Mark didn't get away and also didn't get to collect the jackpot. He was convicted of 2nd degree murder for the death of the man. Life, with 15 years before a chance of parole. Mark excitedly told me that he was going to be a model prisoner and get out after 15 years. He wouldn't make it though. He was stabbed to death by a fellow prisoner over an imagined slight. His numerology strategy died with him.

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008


Applied Inversion Theory
1,603 Words

The buzz of your cellphone vibrating against the nightstand managed to stir you from your sleep. You had no doubt in your mind that it was Chris on the line, and swiped the green receiver icon without confirming. He began the conversation mid-thought.

“So, if I just substitute the conventional application of Bernoucci’s principle, a demonstrable pattern of Hadamard matrices reveals itself as 1, even in the most rigorous attempts at disproving perfect unity. However, when you force inversion of duality you approach negative unity, in other terms, perfect disharmony, through which all things are possible. Do you understand?”

You didn’t, and wouldn’t. Despite telling Chris for the third time this week that you were worried about him, that you understood that Jessica’s loss was weighing heavily on him, you just couldn’t get through to the man. His erratic behavior had worn your patience thin, and you snapped at him demanding that he end his calls and get some help. After a brief period of silence he responded, “inversion allows for other outcomes,” and you hadn’t heard from him since.

Days turned to weeks when suddenly you got a call from Sarah, Jessica’s sister. She had survived the wreck that claimed Jessica’s life, and had become close to you given your friendship with Chris. You shamefully recounted your last encounter with him and feeling guilty about how you left things, agreed to check on him.

Despite the sinking feeling in your stomach, you knocked on his door. No answer. You turned the knob and the door swung open. You expected the worst, but when you weren’t greeted by any concerning smells you cautiously stepped inside. Aside from the clutter, it was an ordinary apartment. Stacks of books with curious titles and scribbled on papers covered nearly every surface, but there were no signs of Chris, but the apartment did look lived in until very recently. You text Sarah your findings, but no sooner than you do do you accidentally wake Chris’s computer from sleep mode. There’s a video player up on the screen with a still of the room you’re in.

You click play, and Chris moves into view. His eyes are sunken into his gaunt face and the outline of his skull is visible beneath skin that appeared stretched taut. He stared into the camera mournfully and began to speak. His voice was thin as it escaped from lips that hardly moved. His frail arms began cycling through cards with symbols or numbers written on them.

“I’ve found a way out of these cycles of torment. I don't know if anyone will find this, but I need to let you know that there are other ways of being beyond…” he clenched his hands into trembling fists that exploded outward as he gestured at his surroundings, “...beyond all of this. I know it’s a bit selfish, but if you’ve made it this far into the video, I have already, for lack of a better term, ‘installed’ the information necessary for you to find me. To understand what it is I’ve done. I apologize in advance.” Then the video ends.

You staggered away from the chair as your head began to throb. You fell to your knees as an immense pressure began to build up inside of you. You felt like you were suffocating. Like your insides were being pushed out from within. Then there was nothing but darkness and a sound that started out like static, but gradually you began to hear it more keenly. You heard every individual part of the sound until it became a chorus of one sound, the chattering of teeth. You snapped your eyes open, and to your surprise, find yourself in a classroom.

“Good afternoon, class. Welcome to your first and last lesson of Practical Inversion Theory. Although I’m not fond of introductions, I suppose you are owed something. My name is Dr. Christopher Anthony Walters, or at least it could have been, or was, or will be? I’m not entirely sure, but it seems you’ve found me. My deepest condolences. Now, we don’t have a lot of time so we’ll get right to the pertinent bits. In front of you, all around you, superimposed upon your most intimate and private thoughts, you’ll find a copy of the course syllabus.”

Cold light diffused through opaque, white windows. When you focused on Chris, he appeared as a better version of himself. You also noticed that weren’t alone there. There were other students. As you tried to focus on any one of them though, they lost clarity becoming fixed blurs that disoriented and unnerved you. You tried to move from your chair, but found your actions were not your own. You tried to stand, but retrieved a spiral and pencil from your bag. You tried to fling the items from your hands, but instead turned open the spiral to a page with graphs, equations and incomplete notes crammed across every bit of space on the sheet.

“You’ll need to understand basic numerology in occult practices. We will focus on numbers 1 through 4. The number 1, historically has been associated with divinity and perfect unity. It is all-encompassing and represents a fundamental state of being. The number 2, represents dualism. The duality that is necessary and inevitable in all things. Life and death, single and plural, limited and infinite, et cetera. The number 3 is a combination of both 1 and 2, meaning a state in which the divine and the totality of the individual experience are self-actualized into navigable, metaphysical spaces, not unlike the space we currently inhabit in this classroom. It is a waking subconscious possibility that is manifest through the application of will as an individual entity or as a collective whole. Then there is the number 4 which represents the material manifestation of all possibility and its limitations.”

“This, of course, can translate into and is replicated in the first four dimensions of material reality. Without the anima of material existence, we are only ever the impressions of possibility, the ideas of things. The anima for this physical realm is provided by the fourth dimension which despite an absolute nature, is in itself abstract. The best representation of this is through the passage of time.”

He swiped his finger on the top of a blackboard and a large gathering of dust accumulates on its tip. “This is the true nature of the fourth dimension. Configuration. Decay. Reconfiguration… but is it fair? Is it just? Theologians and philosophers may reconcile the way of things as immutable or even necessary, but I am a mathematician, and what is this cycle but another problem to be solved?”

“1 = ( 2 + x ) - ( 1 + x ) is a simple equation that confirms the perfect unity of one no matter how it might be divided, but what if you were to invert it? Ordinary schools of mathematics would say that there is no solution where 1 can become -1, but if you were to sublimate those notions and think outside of the realm of what is possible, -1 = (2 - x) - (1 - x), where x = 2, the figurative representation for duality, the inverse of unity. In that perfect unity should exist, so too should its opposite, and to a larger extent, the manifold spaces of unreality that our limited material world is shaped by.”

“It is only through inversion that one can escape the cycles that have condemned them.” A woman or at least the imitation of one entered from a door near the podium Chris lectured from and stood beside him. You recognized her as Jessica, but she was all wrong. Each feature was exaggerated or set incorrectly. Despite her vague familiarity, as you looked back at Chris, you noticed something malevolent in your unfocused peripheral vision. Jessica’s skin shuddered as if something wriggled just beneath the surface.

“I offer you an escape from this hell, but you have to make the choice yourself. I cannot make it for you. Nor can I reopen the pathways in your mind to lead you here. Do you wish to escape?”

You looked again at the blurs representative of other persons, and in turning away from them, with the same intuition used in seeing the thing playing at Jessica, you made out faces in your peripheral vision. Agonized, horrified faces. You can barely make out the motion of their teeth chattering.

Then like a plug being yanked from the wall, your mind rejected everything you’ve experienced. You were forcibly ejected into unconsciousness. You came to when a terrified family began screaming at your sudden arrival inside their home. It’s the same place Chris lived but with unfamiliar occupants. You tried to offer an excuse that made sense, mostly for your own sake, and awkwardly retreated from their apartment.

You returned home trying to remember why you even left it to begin with. You vaguely recalled doing something regarding Chris at Sarah’s request, but the longer you focused on the names the more alien they became. Although you felt something was off, you eventually settled on sleep. Just there at the edge of your vision as you’re about to close your eyes, you made out a person. You turned to look and were greeted by empty darkness that you stared at until satisfied. You dreamed that night of other worlds and other places that suddenly seemed forever lost to you, and when you woke you couldn’t shake the feeling that your body, your life, the world you’ve come to know, was not your own.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

What use was time to those who'd soon achieve Digital Immortality?

Bad Luck
1590 words

Eamon wandered through the carnival sullenly. He couldn't enjoy the rides, though they were extraordinary in the heights they reached. Nor could he muster a grin for the antics of the passing clowns, nor their fantastical balloon creations. Not even the prizes in the shooting gallery enticed him, even though he knew he could win them all easily in an afternoon. The damage had been done 3 years ago, when his father's work had him moving around the interior of the country every few months. By some strange happenstance, everywhere they went, they were sure to be around when a carnival came to town. South, Midwest, Rockies, it didn't matter. Soon enough, a carnival would roll into town, and Eamon would be dropped off to spend the day there. His mother was continually kicking a pill habit she had picked up from the back of a magazine, and she needed the house to be a place of serenity. Eamon soon came to know the standard carnival layout intimately. He rode every ride, he played every game, he ate all the food, he saw every show, and he got on a first-name basis with all the freaks. At first, certainly, it was a joy. But over time, the novelty drained out of the carnival, and he saw it as a gaudy day-care that he could not wait to leave.

After two years attending the carnival every other week, Eamon's father finally found a job that needed him to stay in one place. So they moved to that place, and no carnival came by for a long, long time. Eamon took up football, made some friends, and he had begun to forget the jaunty rhythms of the organ grinders. But then, his mother's condition took a turn for the worse. She tore couch pillow in half with her bare hands, pointed straight at Eamon and screamed, "I CAN'T LOOK AT THIS loving PILLOW ANY MORE! IT REMINDS ME OF YOU!!!"

Later that morning, Eamon's father drove him to a carnival in the next county over, slapped a roll of nickels in his hand, and promised to pick him up at least before midnight. Eamon sighed and trudged across the sand, under the flapping string of flags. In his pocket, he picked open the paper roll around the nickels, knowing he'd need them soon. Entrance to the carnival was free, of course - but if you wanted to do anything there, it would cost you.

At midday, the sun was high and hot in the sky, so Eamon paid a nickel to Barnaby the ferris wheel operator and took the ride, at least to be in the shade of his car's canopy and the breeze of the higher elevation. The carnival wasn't well-attended at that time of day, so Barnaby stopped the wheel while Eamon was at the top and let him rest there for a while. Eamon closed his eyes and tried to imagine the opposing team at the line of scrimmage, and how he'd react based on their formation. He looked from a receiver downfield and brought his arm back to throw – but in his hand was no football, it was a pillow.

Something smacked Eamon in the face. It was the empty popcorn bag. It fluttered out of the car and away on the wind. Looking after it, Eamon noticed something strange. At the edge of the carnival, around the corner from the big top and the animal cages, where nothing more should be, there stood an old purple-painted wooden carriage, and a skinny horse drinking water from a bucket. When Barnaby brought Eamon down, he thanked the man and asked him about the unusual new addition to the carnival.

"That's Madame Chernovsky's Nickelsworth Luck Game," Barnaby said, reciting the title slowly. When he finished, he smiled wide at his accomplishment.

"Luck Game? I've never heard of that before," said Eamon. "I thought I'd seen everything you all have at the carnival, and then some."

"Yeah, it's a Luck Game," repeated Barnaby. Eamon stared at him for a moment, then thanked him again and made his way across the carnival grounds. He fished around in his pocket - he still had over half his nickels left. Plenty to get him through to nightfall, if he spent them wisely.

When Eamon reached the big top, he had a hard time finding the purple carriage. It was like it had disappeared, or the carnival had closed up to hide it from him. But, ducking under the bearded lady's breeches drying on a line, he finally found it. Sure enough, painted across the side in faded golden lettering, it said MADAME CHERNOVSKY'S NICKELSWORTH LUCK TEST. Eamon paused. Hadn't Barnaby called it a game? What was the difference between a game and a test anyway? As he pondered this, he noticed that the door of the carriage was open, and the steps below it were laid out welcomingly. The sun was still high in the sky and moving slower than Milbert the Snail Man, so Eamon took the chance and went inside.

"Welcome, young man," said the old, old woman, who was seated on a massive, colorful pillow on the floor. Before her, a low ornate table was laden with burning incense, golden trinkets, and a deck of long cards. "Sit." Eamon sat on the pillow opposite her, and sunk into it quickly.

"My pillow is a good fit for you," she said. Eamon knew her name sounded Russian, but she didn't have a foreign accent at all. "Would you like to try my Luck Test?"

"How does it work?"

"I do not explain it. To explain would introduce elements to the test that would invalidate it. Give me a nickel and test your luck, or be on your way."

Eamon was taken aback by her stern tone. But having nothing to lose, he handed over his nickel. Chernovsky snatched it up quickly and secreted it away somewhere behind her back. Licking her lips, she took up the deck of cards and shuffled them. Eamon wasn't impressed - he had seen card sharps ply their trade dozens of times. Then, she dealt cards out on the table, ten in total, evenly spaced. Placing her hands flat on either side of the table, she said "Choose."

He pondered the cards in front of them, then pointed to one in the top row. She nodded suggestively, and he flipped it over. He was expecting a design, like a king or a queen, but all there was was a number, large enough to fill the whole card, black on white. It was a 4.

"Another one. Choose again," said Chernovsky. This time Eamon didn't hesitate, he just picked up the next card over and turned it. It showed the number 2. Chernovsky groaned and closed her eyes. Eamon couldn't imagine what she was thinking about as she swayed gently from side to side. Then she stopped, gasped, and sat straight up.

"You have bad luck," she said.

"What? You mean, I lost the game?" Eamon asked, confused.

"It's not a game," she snapped as she gathered up her cards, shuffling the 4 and the 2 back into the deck. "You have bad luck."


"I don't know. Ask God. I don't make the luck, I just test it. You can go now." She lit another cone of incense, and the thick smell filled the small space.

"Go?" Eamon was indignant. "No, I want to know what you mean. I don't have bad luck. I just didn't flip the right cards. Let me go again." He poured his remaining nickels onto the table.

Chernovsky's eyes grew suddenly fierce. She ignored the nickels entirely. "Has your life been good? Do good things happen to you? Is that why you're here right now? I doubt it. My test works. You have bad luck. Accept it."

Eamon felt heavy. The pillow seemed to grow deeper, sucking him down into it. "My life hasn't been good," he said quietly. "It hasn't been good at all."

"Right, so, yes," she said, spreading her hands erratically, as if doing this would help him understand. "You got bad luck, you were born to bad parents, your life is bad. But! That's life, and you have to accept it."

He stared at the wafting curtains behind her. "Can I be a football player with bad luck?"

"Sports? Oh no. Stay away from sports. You'll embarrass yourself. Things may go well, but that's just luck picking its battles. It'll come for you when it matters. Everything will go wrong. That's the kind of luck you have, young man. Bad luck. The worst kind."

He was quiet for a long time. Tears rolled down his cheeks. Even though it had happened in the space of a few seconds, something about it felt undeniable. Everything was changed. Eventually, his gaze drifted down to Madame Chernovsky, who stared back impatiently. "What kind of luck do you have? If you don't mind me asking."

She scoffed. "I have bad luck too. Rotten. My horse will probably die tomorrow. Go now. Get out." Eamon gathered himself and left the carriage, not even bothering to take the nickels with him.

Some hours after nightfall, his father returned to the carnival. He was eager to get Eamon home, because his mother had come to her senses and wanted to apologize. But the boy was nowhere to be seen, and the wind whipped dust over the footprints that lead out into the desert long before they were found.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

OK, not sure if everybody's in, but I'm reading and critting now. If anybody submits whilst I'm still working through stories for the night, then cool.

I'll close submissions when I'm starting to crash

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Submissions Closed for Week 528

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Blind reads, so dunno who is who
I’ll fill in the links to stories in a bit to help archivists if they want
:siren: Week 528 results :siren:

Winner -- Idle Amalgam - Applied Inversion Therapy :: It gave me the most to think about after the fact, the crit is small so sorry about that, I'm still thinking about it which is why it gets the win

Thranguy, really good story, but a little vague
flerp, another good one, in the complete other direction. I was critical about a few things, but it didn't hamper my enjoyment of the story.

dervinosdoom - All in the numbers - it's not horrible, and in fact, there was a lot to like, but the ending is super kitsch
Something Else - Bad Luck - this one may be devisive. Similarly, there's a lot to like, but there's a lot to be irritated about. I think it just sort of feels derivative, and I get the sense that you know better.

NO LOSERS. It was strong all around and I wish I was strong enough to just trash somebody, but I'm not. Good week all, even the DMs. I found interesting bits in each and every story.

Overall, it was another small week that had a lot of strong entries. It’s really difficult to separate the top couple.

One out of a Thousand OR Wisdom Etched into a Camp Bathroom Stall 101A

Bubbling stew=Diarrhea.

Maybe this is a regional thing, but I don’t envision kids champing at the bit to go frolic in the moors. I don’t have any moors around here. But all I can think about is either Great Expectations, or documentaries on scotch where peat is being chopped and cordoned.

OK, this is taking a turn. And it’s good poetry, but why do the “remainder” and the shepherds see the tragedy, and simply do nothing?

One out of one thousand is worthy of the tasks, but the rest are humiliated as fraidy cats?

Even when this seems like a valiant celtic trial of endurance, there’s the threat of embarrassment. I don’t necessarily care for the feats of the auld to be a ground where challengers are humiliated if they fail. And that’s a bit harsh, since it doesn’t necessarily bother me that people may die along the way. The epic poem should embrace heroic failure and hold them up as not quite worthy of body, but stout of heart.

There’s a gun referenced at a starting line, or inexplicably ¾ of the way through, so this isn’t as ancient an ordeal as I initially thought. All I get is a sense that the boys are doing this for machismo, and maybe twenty years ago, I would have looked more favorably on that. You mention a potential villain so elaborate on that. Give a little motivation to the ordeal. Whether you set it more distantly and these children are training to fight Romans, or they’re training to be chewed up in WWI trenches, either would give interesting context to the ordeal. The specifics on ‘why’ are altogether too vague.

I still think that it’s an heroic effort, and if you want to go for an epic, no one would be laughing at those who fail. I have run exactly one marathon (and never again) and been party to a few others, and spectated at a few ‘tough mudders’ and even the tough muscle dudes were never anything but vocally encouraging and would backtrack to help the less physically savvy. It’s sort of a weird dichotomy between the butch military types and treating everyone who’s competing like they’re all on a team together.
I dunno if teens would necessarily do that, but if the stakes were clearer, then maybe I could understand why this event is conducted the way that it is.

There are some visceral images that are excellent, especially from molten hate through the meteor lines, and it’s really great but confusing on whether that’s metaphor or actual events. I sort of lean towards metaphor and it’s going back to some sort of war-torn countryside, with that and the ‘boys flung from the walls and buses rush in to refill the halls’ but still the laughter hangs me up.

I appreciate and attempt at poetry and I think the meter/rhythm feels good throughout. You succeeded there. It’s entirely possible this is based on a real event and I’m just missing the connection, but I think my above points stand. I would like an obvious anchor to latch on to. I tried to figure it out and more and more I decide on some sort of battlefield/war scene but nothing is precise enough to pinpoint when or where. I’m getting excited with translation/transliteration with battle on moors/The Battle of Tours, but there weren’t guns nor buses.

I really don’t like putting stock into titles since I just chuck them on after the fact and make a bad pun or whatever, but the Camp context really makes me think. I couldn’t find a Camp 101A in like modern military history.

To reiterate, I think the poetry and rhyme is clever, but I don’t have enough to latch on to here to research and have an a-ha moment where I figure it all out.

Time is an arrow and im the bow

I like the doubt of gods, and a god looking death in the face and being brave (or the false face of bravery) is a good hook. I’m not 100% sure why the narrator god is dying. It’s fairly clear that the brother god is going to fight a mortal. A godly fratricide with a partially omniscient god who sees it coming would be a very good story.

I get the sense that we’re supposed to appreciate this god, but the god is not sorry and makes that plain in the end. They make an allusion to the brother killing a human in the same breath as a human killing cattle. I think the disconnect is very well established, and the god / mortal realm is well elucidated. The question is, should I feel anything for this time god? I really don’t.

It would be really interesting if the time god took on the weight of each soul the brother killed. That could go places in a metaphysical and spiritual sense. Maybe it’s a bit too prosaic to get into that mindset?

Overall, it’s a really cool piece that I enjoyed reading, but really, it’s about the POV of the little guy, the target of the gods’ wrath/justice/simply the way of this afterlife, and I’m really interested in that dichotomy.

Hash Collision

Bit of a twist on the robit bodies of the future, with shades of Westworld and Total Recall. It might have been cool to play around more with we / I and leave a little doubt as to whether psychosis is an issue. Maybe it’s in there since the narrator actually doesn’t have a complete or clear set of meat-memories. That’s a cool premise that could be elaborated on to no end. The android that is supposed to be a life extension program, but is wholly its own person, not simply the mind of the meat body uploaded.

Maybe there’s too much ego for a billionaire to want another copy of themself running around, but I could certainly see an Amazon warehouse staffed with copies of its most compliant worker. The way narrator explains the plan it seems like the normal criminal ‘new identity’ route rather than an underground for dupes, accidental or otherwise. Perhaps I’m a bit of a cynic, but I can see the justifications, ‘oh it’s just Jan that runs the warehouse and delivers the packages.’

Or maybe there’s not? Like, progeny and legacy seem hardcoded into most people, and having a copy of yourself out there living its own life and doing its own thing is the ultimate realization of that. I feel like the narrator is blowing the consequences of spilling the beans way out of proportion. And also the opt-in scheme that sort of hints that a lot of people choose to not become androids. That’s a detail that’s almost a throwaway line but is very interesting on its own.

But hey, you’ve set up the rules of society, and stuck to them. The conflict is immediate but there’s just such a brief sketch of it. I want to know more.

I think the ending line should not be phrased as quite so much of an open question. This is someone essentially talking to themself. Not sure on the best wording, but “I know we have a deal” might be punchier or even “Do I have a deal?” would be a bit disconcerting.

Lambda of God

It seems a little strange that Alastair is so obsessed with winning an earthly prize like a Nobel when discovering proof of God is his goal. It basically bookends the story. The dual obsession comes across clearly, but there’s no introspection on what finding god would mean for either science or Alastair personally. It’s just the obsessions. After a lifetime of research, surely some implications would have been considered. What do I do once God is proven?

As I recall, Einstein used the cosmological constant to smooth over the unknowns because his maths didn’t quite work out, and he didn’t like having to insert it into his field equations. The God in the Gaps as it were. Of course, we have more observations, and dark energy is something, so I think it would have been good to make a point about standing on the shoulders of giants and pushing forward (or backwards as both telescopes and religious theory do).

It’s cool that you take tawhid from Islam and also throw in German mysticism, (though lolling over your choice of Alastair as a name when Satruni was closely associated, or perhaps an offshoot of Aleister Crowley’s dealings, and I think there’s a metaphor there, two names that sound alike but are different in the details.), but you mention Eastern philosophies and it’s really just Abrahamic religions that color the vibe.

Do you get emailed datasets? I figure once the telescope data is processed it’d be on a shared drive or server of some kind. Doesn’t really matter, and I’m not an academic, so that’s a curiosity question. James Webb is optical, but dives into near-infrared, if you’re basing the premise in sort of hard science, some image manipulation would be necessary to get it into pixels decipherable by the human eye. You could take this in two directions, either Alastair sees the raw data and looks into the eye of god, or manipulates it and there’s doubt in the mind of the reader. After all, the lambda spoke to him in childhood so this could all be a delusion. OK, he does some unusual data analysis. The standard analytics don’t work. Even if it’s gibberish fake science, a little explanation there would be good. Does he figure out a way to tweak the data to read a lower wavelength than near-infrared? This guy is devoted to winning the Nobel, so give me something clever (even if un-scientific) that he does to make his discovery.

I find the imagery of tawhid (oneness with god) overlaid with a supernova (we’re all made of star-stuff) very interesting. That’s a great way to put it. The cosmological constant of cosmology is a bit of a wonky phrase. Maybe I’m conditioned by TD about adverbs, since ‘impatiently’ and ‘greedily’ get the job done, but there’s no poetry in the prose there. Beyond windows to the soul, eyes play a big part in the story and you could have presented imagery that tells me what Alastair is feeling through the way his own eyes behave, especially before staring into the eyes of God. It’s not bad, but you could have done more with it.

But at the end, why did he no longer care? Maybe he cared about different things, or left his earthly pursuits of fame and fortune behind, but surely he cared about something. I think it might be stronger without the last sentence entirely, since ‘Alastair choked out a sob as the pale blue dot disappeared into the utter blackness of space’ is a very strong closer on its own.

All in the numbers

I like the deluded gimmick that someone has a strategy for slot machines. Honestly though, I’m more interested in Mark’s time in jail and what happened there than the time in the casino. It’s sort of like the end title cards on a frat movie. There’s always a story there that could be more exciting than the movie itself. It’s manslaughter, so life is an unlikely sentence, and you could have done something ironic with that, and since you threw prison in the mix, a metaphor about ‘the system’ would not be out of order. He gamed the casinos, but couldn’t beat the prison-industrial complex. Maybe that’s a little heavy, but you took the gambler to realm of a killer. Don’t give me a hint of the more interesting story that you didn’t write. The numerology gambling is interesting without the jailtime coda at the end.

“Walked to what he considered the 13th machine.” Was Mark inaccurate? It’s an interesting detail to throw in there, so is the narrator poking holes in the numerology? Also, as a general rule, 13 is unlucky, so would be nice to have some clarity on that. Is playing the unlucky machine part of the strat? Is it mere coincidence and you’re putting a point on the fact that the strategy is nonsense and luck is all it is?
23 seems like a more magical number, so it would have been interesting to have Mark win at a couple machines that have numerological significance then have his luck turn (going to jail) at the 13 machine, and Mark doubting the universe because he knows better..

It could have been irrational, but I don’t have any idea what Mark’s system is. The numerology occurs offscreen, twice. I’m trying to figure it out, cards relating to page and word numbers? But like the narrator, I am also thoroughly confused. 15.14.34 is a very specific number, and I found this from the Bhagavata: “The conditioned soul suffers many miserable bodily conditions, such as being affected by severe cold and strong winds. He also suffers due to the activities of other living beings and due to natural disturbances. When he is unable to counteract them and has to remain in a miserable condition, he naturally becomes very morose because he wants to enjoy material facilities.”

It does relate in a vague sense, but it would have been very cool if you leaned into a specific reference and done something with Mark that was totally unusual. Instead of jail, had his body break down in specific ways. It’s OK to get weird with it. That’s always memorable.

Applied Inversion Theory

I guess it’s a good thing that I am not somebody who rages against 2nd person perspective. I don’t really get why people do, but it’s polarizing.

I know of a Bernoulli but not a Bernoucci. I always equate Bernoulli to volume of piss because, I myself, am a dingdong. I’m presuming that’s a typo, since I was unfamiliar with a Hadamard Matrix, but I’m digging it, and I see the way the story is constructed to fit the mathematical concept.

When I let the tale wash over me, it’s amazing. I fully admit I don’t really understand the maths. But I get some Chrisopher Nolan vibes here, Tenet and Inception and even a bit of Memento jumbled up with some Neon Genesis even if there aren’t giant robits. And I’m showing my sphere of reference which is much more in TV and film vs.actual reading. But I think I love it.

It has the right amount of opaqueness that I can read a lot into it but it’s also clear that you had a specific vision for the story. I’m having quite the time deciphering everything, and that’s a good thing.

Bad Luck

This starts out bad, but the cushion tear and screaming is extremely visceral and good.
I think the whole thing would be better with a heel turn where it’s prosaic and rustic then it turns nasty instead of just having an outburst because the prose reverts back into that pretty quickly. If there were a couple more outbursts it might have made the piece more uncomfortable.

It feels like this is a good writer who wrote a bad story. I feel the poetry in the prose but I don’t feel the heart. There are flashes of brilliance, and interacting with mother is super-interesting, but that plotline gets sidelined for most of the story.

I think the generational thing is interesting, but you go the wrong way with it. Eamon disappearing at the end is a good touch, but from “Sports” onward is feels a little forced.

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

Blind in. :toxx:

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008


WEEK 529: "It's not just a phrase, mom! This is who I am."

I've won somehow and that means I have been ordained by the blood gods to appoint you direction for your terrible words. Is today the day that you write gooder and word smarter? Will you claim the throne for yourself?

:siren: Direction :siren:
For 1000 Words
You get a single pair of words from this generator. You can choose, or I can choose for you.

For 2000 Words
You get two pairs from this generator. You choose one on sign-up, and I choose the other. (or I can do both)

I'll give you a random piece of occult information if you want a flash

Bad Seafood
An aside: The last time I had the throne, I judged incorrectly and just read my co-judges feedback and made my glorious, correct, decision, but if someone could guide me on the cool and proper way to judge.

Word Crafters:
  1. The Cut of Your Jib - Viking Vampires! - Flash: A spell to become invisible (1K Words)
  2. Chernobyl Princess - Guiltless Giants, Cumbersome Discussion! Flash: Dead Man's Rope Hex(2K Words)
  3. Chili - Well-groomed Ground, Bone Birds (2K Words) :toxx:
  4. Thranguy - Mislead Men, Utopian Bucket (2K Words)
  5. Rohan - Frightening Metal, Dogs Discovery - Flash: Neo-platonic words about the thoughts of God (2K Words)
  6. The man called M - Crabby Ghost (1K Words)
  7. dervinosdoom - Love Adjustment (1K Words)
  8. Uranium Phoenix - Omniscient Trees, Delicate Authority - Flash: On the Witch's Cingulum (2K Words)
  9. Ceighk - Old Sea, Obscene Wealth - Flash: Description of Dantalion (2K Words)
  10. BabyRyoga - Answer Shop - Flash: A spell to See Spirits of the Air (1K Words)
  11. MockingQuantum - Motionless Sky - Flash: A Method for Inducing an OBE (1K Words)

Saturday 2:59AM EDT
Friday 11:59PM PDT
Saturday 6:59PM NZST
Saturday 6:59AM Greenwich Mean

Monday 2:59AM EDT
Sunday 11:59PM PDT
Monday 6:59PM NZST
Monday 6:59AM Greenwich Mean

Idle Amalgam fucked around with this message at 02:10 on Sep 26, 2022

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

still not entirely sure what all this means so roll me a prompt
e: shooting for 1000 words

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 02:16 on Sep 20, 2022

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:

In, aiming for 2000, please select an adjective-noun combo for me

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008


The Cut of Your Jib posted:

still not entirely sure what al this means so roll me a prompt
e: shooting for 1000 words

Viking Vampire!

Chernobyl Princess posted:

In, aiming for 2000, please select an adjective-noun combo for me

Guiltless Giants, Cumbersome Discussion!

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

In for 2,000.

My choice:

Hit me!

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

In for 2000, give me a verb-noun and an adjective-noun.

Mar 19, 2008

Look, if you had one shot
or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
Would you capture it...
or just let it slip?


in, I will take two pairs of dealer’s choice combinations, and I’d love it if you could also tell me something random about the occult

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008


Chili posted:

In for 2,000.

My choice:

Hit me!

Bone Birds

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008


Thranguy posted:

In for 2000, give me a verb-noun and an adjective-noun.

Mislead Men, Utopian Bucket

rohan posted:

in, I will take two pairs of dealer’s choice combinations, and I’d love it if you could also tell me something random about the occult

Frightening Metal, Dogs Discovery

On the Process of Manifestation in Neo-platonist Cosmology
Ideas from the Mind of God cannot be comprehended by the universe at large in
their raw form. The Material realm is considered gross, heavy, and dense. Ideas from the
Mind of God are the most nebulous of things. The first form an Idea takes is when the
Idea extends to the Logos, the Word. When the idea can be formed into a Word, it begins
to attain density. It can be communicated at that point to the realms further below in a
manner that can be comprehended.

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


In. 1k. Your choice.

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008


The man called M posted:

In. 1k. Your choice.

Crabby Ghost

Jan 23, 2014

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


In. 1k. Your Choice

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008


dervinosdoom posted:

In. 1k. Your Choice

Love Adjustment

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


In for 2k with "Omniscient Trees"

Hit me with another phrase and an occult fact.

May 27, 2013

No Hospital Gang, boy
You know that shit a case close
Want him dead, bust his head
All I do is say, "Go"
Drop a opp, drop a thot

in with 2k, dealer's choice, plus a fact please

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

ukw flash me with an occult fact too, please.

May 21, 2001


I want in for 1k. Give me what you please, with a factoid

Jan 20, 2012

In for 1k, gimme a pair and a fact


Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008


Uranium Phoenix posted:

In for 2k with "Omniscient Trees"

Hit me with another phrase and an occult fact.

delicate authority

On Traditional Tools of Witchcraft
A cingulum is a length of cord worn around a Witch's waist or hips. Different traditions will use different colors to signify levels of understanding, otherwise known as degrees. A special kind of cingulum is one's measure. A length of cord is taken and tied at specific spots during a First Degree initiation, and some traditions will also put a few drops of the new Witch's blood on it. It is symbolic of a person's spirit, and suggests a rebirth (like an umbilical cord). It is usually given to the initiate during the ceremony as a symbol of love and trust.

Ceighk posted:

in with 2k, dealer's choice, plus a fact please

Old Sea, Obscene Wealth

From the Lesser Key of Solomon
(71.) DANTALION. - The Seventy-first Spirit is
Dantalion. He is a Duke Great and Mighty,
appearing in the Form of a Man with many
Countenances, all Men’s and Women’s Faces; and
he hath a Book in his right hand. His Office is to
teach all Arts and Sciences unto any; and to
declare the Secret Counsel of any one; for he
knoweth the Thoughts of all Men and Women,
and can change them at his Will. He can cause
Love, and show the Similitude of any person, and
show the same by a Vision, let them be in what
part of the World they Will. He governeth 36
Legions of Spirits;

The Cut of Your Jib posted:

ukw flash me with an occult fact too, please.

From the Book of Ceremonial Magic
To become Invisible
Begin this operation on a Wednesday before the sun rises, being furnished with seven
black beans. Take next the head of a dead man; place one of the beans in his mouth, two in his eyes and two in his ears.
Then make upon this head the character of the figure which here follows. (Omitted in all
the Grimoires.) This done, inter the head with the face towards heaven, and every day
before sunrise, for the space of nine days, water it with excellent brandy. On the eighth
day you will find the cited spirit, who will say unto you: What doest thou? You shall
reply: I am watering my plant. He will then say: Give me that bottle; I will water it
myself. You will answer by refusing, and he will again ask you, but you will persist in
declining, until he shall stretch forth his hand and shew you the same figure which you
have traced upon the head suspended from the tips of his fingers. In this case you may be
assured that it is really the spirit of the head, because another might take you unawares,
which would bring you evil, and further, your operation would be unfruitful. When you
have given him your phial, he will water the head and depart. On the morrow, which is
the ninth day, you shall return and will find your beans ripe. Take them, place one in your
mouth, and then look at yourself in a glass. If you cannot see yourself, it is good. Do the
same with the rest, or they may be tested in the mouth of a child. All those which do not
answer must be interred with the head.

BabyRyoga posted:

I want in for 1k. Give me what you please, with a factoid

Answer Shop

From Grimoirum Verum
To See Spirits of the Air.
Take the brain of a cock, the powder from the grave of a dead man (which touches the coffin),
walnut oil and virgin wax. Make all [this] into a mixture, wrapped in virgin parchment, on
which is written the words:
GOMERT KAILOETH, with the character of Khil.
Burn it all, and you will see prodigious things. But this experiment should be done only by
those who fear nothing.

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