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  • Locked thread
Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.


Clue in the Camera
644 Words


"This camera is strange indeed. It's like nothing I've ever witnessed before.” Vicky poked it and frowned at it's inaction. She crouched on the dirt floor, the only light source cutting through the dusty air and illuminating the object of investigation.

Sitting in the darkness, his back against an exposed tree root, Kennedy hung his head low with the heels of his palms pressed against his eyes. "For God's sake, Vicky, please stop talking... please."

"Samuel, come and look." Vicky pointed at the camera's grip.

"Why do you keep calling me Samuel? It's me! We've known each other since grad school!" Kennedy said, revealing red rimmed eyes as he brought his hands down to chew on his earth encrusted fingernails.

"Don't be silly, Samuel.” Vicky shifted her position to observe from another angle. “Look at this. I think the viewing lens is where stores its mystical powers." Vicky paused, looking intently at the camera, and then glanced up at Kennedy. "Could this device be a portal into another dimension?"

"Just leave the drat thing alone? I'm begging you." Kennedy said. He peered into the dark, focusing past the floating motes in the sun light and onto the pile of human bones he and Vicky shoved in the corner.

"Oh Samuel, such a joker." She said, waving him over. "You must come here and see this. Bring the notepad with you, there are a few details I want to cross reference."

Kennedy groaned and watched her as he sat against the earth.

Vicky continued, oblivious to the fact that Kennedy ignored her command. "Take notice of this specific circular alloy on the top corner. It seems you can press on-"

With a pulse of power that vibrated deep in the chest, the camera ripped a smoky essence from Vicky's body. She lurched forward and sat motionless.

In the corner of the room, Kennedy clutched his mouth shut with his hands. His body shook as his tears cleaned lines of dirt from his face.

"This camera is strange indeed. It's like nothing I've ever witnessed before."

Kennedy shot to his feet, ran to the camera, picked it up, and threw it against the wall with a shout. The camera harmless bounced off the wall and landed on the ground. He yelled nonsense, finding no other way to express his frustration. Vicky crawled towards the camera and knelt in front of it like she had all the other times before.

"This camera is strange indeed. It's like nothing I've ever witnessed before."

Kennedy was in her face, his voice strained and slipped as he shouted. “Leave the camera alone for Christ's sake! Stop touching it and come back to me – we need to get out of here!"

"Samuel come look." She said, ignoring his presence.

Kennedy reached forward with quivering hands and hesitantly wrapped them around Vicky's neck. "I can't leave you like this... I love you so much baby." He kissed her on the forehead.

"Don't be silly child. Look at this." She pointed at the camera's lens again, completely oblivious to Kennedy's increasing pressure. "I believe I found the cause of this contraption's power." she said with her voice raspy - the pressure on Vicky's throat made it difficult to speak.

Kennedy let go and sagged in defeat. “I can't.. I just..” He grabbed the camera and set it on his lap with his finger lightly touching the circular alloy. He leaned forward and kissed Vicky on the lips one last time. “Baby, I'm sorry.”

He pressed the camera's button. Kennedy was pulled forward by an invisible force, his mind ripped out from his body and into the camera.

“This camera is strange indeed. It's like nothing I've ever witnessed before.” Vicky said.

“Quite right. I'd say it's from another dimension of some sort.” Kennedy said, an excited smile on his face.

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ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013


SCREAMING YES
MOTHERFUCKER
I AM GUILTY, I AM DEATH


Think I did better with the tenses this time, but I also may have gotten a bit ahead of myself. Definitely not writing to my strengths.

-------
High Stakes: Buried in Time --- 949 Words

A blazing middle-eastern sun glared down on the scene: A battered old humvee slowly sinking into an asphalt like, sticking out at an obtuse angle like a capsizing ship slowly turning belly-up. A miniature Titanic in a sea of tar.

The vehicle lurched, sinking another four inches into the tar with a thick, oily squelching sound as a methane bubble collapsed in the muck beneath it. Theo sighed and grabbed the ornament on the hood to steady himself.

"Ten minutes, you think?" He asked, looking over to where his companion perched on the fender, feet swinging over the edge. "Less." Garret replied, almost nonchalant.

"So, what is it you regret not doing?" Garret only grunted and shrugged his shoulders in response.

"Okay, who'll you miss most?"

"Dunno."

"Well, I'll miss my girlfriend. Wish I'd spent with more time with her. And played the lottery. Would've been nice to've won some money. But you know what's odd?"

Garret didn't bother answering and Theo didn't wait for him to do so. "What I really, really wish I'd done is ate one more hamburger before coming out here. No, a cheeseburger. A nice, thick American cheeseburger, with fries. How funny is that? About to die, all I can think about is eating."

"There's trailmix in the glove compartment. Climb down and get it."

He scowled at his companion's back. Christ, what an idiot. Better suited to be a Neanderthal than study them. It was him, his luck they were there, fate dragging down poor dumb Garret to join his ape brothers. Christ, he could almost hear them, the apes and the dinosaurs and the ugly half-fish things that crawled out of the sea all wriggling around in the the tar below. Laughing. Oh hardy har, now it was their turn to be buried alive, dragged down to the Mesozoic and Paleozoic until someone digs them up in a hundred years to stick little labels on their bones:

Specimens A & B: Tremendous Dipshits, Circa 2008

Theo stuck his tongue out at the lake, at the unfairness of it all. Beneath, another methane pocket collapsed and went rushing towards the surface in a dozen tiny bubbles, shifting the viscous tar in just the wrong way. The humvee slipped another few inches into the muck and tilted back, too far back, the weight of the front end suspended in the air pulling down and flipping the whole thing over.

Theo never saw it coming. His view spun between the black lake and the blue sky, and then heavy, choking blackness swallowed him up. He panicked and thrashed, but the tar's weight dragged at every movement, sucking him down towards the dinosaurs, the petrified bones of history. As his lungs began to ache and his mind drifted from escape to thinking of a good last prayer, his hand struck against something solid. Scrabbling his fingers over the smooth surface he found a handhold, then another, using them as an anchor to push himself up. With a desperate surge of strength he broke the surface and dragged himself onto the car's belly, gasping for breath.

When he'd smeared away enough of the tar to see, Garret was there, sitting with his arms wrapped around his knees like a child.

For a long time all Theo did was breathe and be thankful for it. By the time he did speak, an idea had formed.

"I think I know how one of us can get out."

Garret lifted his head, looking at him suspiciously. The same idea had clearly come to him.

"It's not far. If there was something to step on.."

"I'm not doing it. gently caress you, Theo."

"Rock paper scissors."

Garret blinked, eyelid sticking slightly with the residue of the tar. "What?" He asked, dumbly.

"Rock paper scissors, winner leaves, and the loser.."

Neither cared to finish that thought.

"Alright."

They shifted closer and raised their hands over their palms. Their eyes met, and Theo saw some of his own distaste for Garret echoed back. What had Garret been thinking all this time? Trying to find some way to dupe him, considering just throwing him off the edge? The bastard.

"Rock..."

Garret's face was hard to read. Not that he'd even now what to look. He'd only ever played when he was a child. But he was lucky, he remembered that. He'd won plenty of times.

"Paper..."

Theo remembered something he'd read somewhere: People usually choose scissors. Scissors, because that's the last word and the one they're thinking of. Garret would have to choose scissors. He was predictable like that. He'd never read about the psychology of children's games.

"Scissors!"

Theo's fist struck his palm and stayed there, curled into the shape of a rock. Garret's hand came down flat.


"Uh, best two out of three?"

------

As the ages old-tar pressed down on Theo and his lungs began to burn, he imagined he could see them; The fearsome velociraptor and the noble stegosaurus swimming through the tar, bones still clad in flesh and bright feathers, dreaming proudly of the world they used to rule. Mighty jungles sprung up in the dark, trees shaking to the beat of giant footsteps. A herd of pachycephalosaurus go running past as the footsteps grow closer. Over the ancient trees towers tyrannosaurus rex, king of them all.

The Lord of All Dinosaurs turned to look at Theo with fearsome yellow eyes, revealing a legion of teeth as it opens it's mouth.

"You too, huh?"

FouRPlaY
May 5, 2010


The Hidden Staircase - 1274 words

Great. The door was locked. Albert was trapped in the bathroom. He pounded on the door.

“Hello?” he called. “Please help me. I can’t be late for the treaty signing.”

He pressed his ear against the door, but couldn’t hear anything in the hallway. He banged again.

“I’m not one of the diplomats, but I put important work into the section on grain tariffs and I think I deserve to see the fruits of my labour.”

He twisted the door knob again and again. Nothing budged. It was a lovely door knob. It was the kind of craftsmanship you don’t see too much anymore. Albert had been glad to wander through the old manor house, it was a welcome change from his drab office, but he now saw the down side: old doors stick, old knobs break, old locks fall into place on their own.

Albert spied a loose thread sticking out from the cuff of his blue suit jacket. When he was rescued, it would not be proper to be in shambles. The thread slipped through his fingers as he tried to grab at it. Perhaps there were scissors in the medicine cabinet. He turned around, away from the door and saw the toilet was still running with water spilling over the rim.

He made a mad grab for the lid of the toilet tank. He pulled on it. He pushed on it. He lost his temper and started slapping it. It wouldn’t give. Albert felt around the back of the tank and twisted the water cut-off value. Finally, the water stopped. He sighed in triumph.

As he dropped his hand from the value, it brushed something on the wall that felt like a button. He pushed it. There was a loud click and a section of wall slid away, revealing a hidden staircase.

Albert didn’t know where the staircase lead, but they certainly lead out of a locked bathroom. He followed them down.

#

A door was at the end of an unremarkable hallway. Light came from underneath it. Albert put his ear against the door. He could hear voices. He grabbed the handle and quietly opened the door a crack. The voices were louder, but Albert couldn’t understand them. He opened the door and slid inside.

He was in large room, like a drawing room or library, but the walls had charts, maps, and pictures on them. Albert recognized some of the people in the pictures as diplomats and government officials he had seen around the grounds. There were couches and end tables in the room, but all had been haphazardly pushed to the sides to make space for a large conference table. There was another door on the far side of the room. Albert was left with a sinister feeling. He saw a group of four men around the conference table so he ducked behind the closest couch.

Albert crawled to the end of the couch and saw a bookshelf close by that had not been pushed all the way to the wall. He looked around the end of the couch to check if anyone had noticed him. They hadn’t looked up from their conversation.

“Is everyone ready?” asked one.

“Yes,” said a second.

“I want to make sure we’re all committed,” said the first. “I don’t want anyone backing out now. There’s too much at stake.”

Albert crawled as quickly as he could to the bookcase. The space to the wall was narrow, but it was enough for him to fit. He folded his shoulders in as much as possible and went behind the bookcase. He could still hear the conversation.

“No one is backing out,” said the second. “We’re going ahead with this. We just need to make sure we shoot him before anything is signed. That way…”

“The treaty will be cancelled,” finished the first, “and we can go ahead with the coup when we return to our country. Come gentleman. Let’s have a drink before we begin.”

Albert heard the scrapping of chairs and footsteps. Reaching the end of the bookcase, he looked towards the table. The conspirators were walking to a bar at the far end of the room. Albert was able to get a clear look at everyone’s face. He’d have to hurry to tell security about this plot. No time to hang around, someone’s life and the whole treaty were in jeopardy now, even the grain tariffs.

When the conspirators finally turned their backs, Albert made a break for the door. As quickly and as quietly as possible, he went into the hallway.

#

After a few wrong turns, Albert found his way back to the main state room, which was being used to sign the treaty. He hoped his lost wanderings hadn’t made him too late. He spotted a security guard sitting at a desk a few feet from the entrance.

“There’s a plan to assassinate one of the diplomats!” said Albert.

“What?” asked the security guard, “Which one?”

“I don’t know.”

“By who?”

“I don’t know.”

“How?”

“I don’t know.”

“Oh,” said the security guard, “okay. I’ll keep an eye out and will absolutely report this. Don’t you worry.”

The guard went back to his paper work. Albert felt defeated. If he couldn’t get the guards to help, what could he do? He’d have to do this himself. Albert went into make shift conference room.

There was a long table at the front of the room where the diplomats were seated. There were a few rows of chairs arranged facing the table. Sitting in the chairs were various reporters, military personnel, and government workers.

Albert spotted two men talking to each other and recognized them. They were the assassins. Albert quietly moved through the crowd and sat in an empty seat next to them.

Albert was not sure what to do next. He needed to disarm these men, somehow. He starred at them, trying to see any hidden weapons. But how could they have gotten any passed the guards? He was so preoccupied with his search that he didn't see one of the assassins staring back at him.

“Do you mind?” the assassin asked.

Albert froze in a mixture of terror and embarrassment. “I'm sorry,” said Albert. “I was curious about, uh, your watch.”

At the mention of the watch, the assassin's face went pale. He turned to the other assassin and said something that Albert couldn't hear. The second assassin's face went pale as well. They both looked at Albert. Albert smiled weakly back.

The assassins got up. The second assassin circled around the back of the rows of chairs, as the first slowly walked towards the front.
Now, Albert thought. They're doing it now.

But which one is going to take the shot? Or are they both?

The watch! The first one went pale when Albert mentioned the watch. It must be the key. Albert stood up and went after the first assassin.

An explosion went off in the far corner of the room, near the second assassin. Smoke was billowing everywhere and people panicked. Albert kept his attention on the first man. He was raising his watch arm and pointing it like a rifle towards a diplomat.

Albert leapt and tackled the assassin to the ground. As they fell, Albert heard a popping sound. He knelt on the assassin’s back pinning him and looked at the wall behind the diplomat. A few inches from the diplomat’s head was a hole.

The guards descend on both Albert and the thwarted assassin. Albert had a lot of explaining ahead of him, but the treaty and the grain tariffs were safe.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Twenty minutes to go before the deadline!

Walamor
Dec 31, 2006

Fork 'em Devils!


The Whispering Statue - 1097 Words

Another wasted day, thought Dario, as he waited for the last Seeker to be brought forth. He grimaced and adjusted his position in his chair, trying to find relief from the soreness that had developed over the long day. This chair was a lot more comfortable when I had more padding on my rear end.

The large white doors at the end of the hall creaked open and a young man stepped inside, flanked by the temple's ceremonial guards. The guards gave the man no time to gawk at the gilded ceiling or spectacular paintings, nudging him along with polite but insistent pushes with their mailed hands. In comparison to the soft sounds made by the man’s tattered leather sandals, the guard's armored footsteps echoed loudly on the marble floor as they approached Dario. As they reached Dario's podium, all three men knelt, the guards' white cloaks sweeping around their feet. "Questioner, we present Seeker Timaeus."

"Thank you. Seeker Timaeus, do you have your Question?" said Dario, looking down upon the still kneeling man.

"I do, Questioner," said Timaeus as he stood up.

"Present your token and your Question," said Dario. At Dario's nod, Timaeus took a step forward and held up a silver coin before dropping it into the golden chalice at Dario's feet.

"Questioner, my wife and son were taken by slavers not a week ago. My Question is the name of the man who leads them, so that I may track down the slavers and rescue my family, as well as any others they have taken."

"Denied," said Dario, who had already stood up and grabbed his cane to turn around.

"But, Questioner!" said Timaeus, his expression shocked and uncomprehending.

One of the guards clapped a hand to Timaeus' shoulder. "Your Question is denied, Seeker."

"drat you! You can save my family but instead you condemn them to a life of slavery! Who are you to decide their fate?" Timaeus was yelling, red faced and fists clenched, as the guards dragged him away.

Dario stood atop the podium, leaning on his cane, watching silently as they finished pulling the man out of the hall, enduring the man’s shouted curses and accusations. Only once the doors slammed shut did he let out a sigh and sagged on his cane.

"Are you okay, Questioner?" asked a guard, stepping forward from one of the marble columns behind Dario.

"Please, Nikolaos, no more of that today," said Dario.

"Of course, Dario," said Nikolaos.

"Walk with me," said Dario. "I'd like to visit her before dinner."

Nikolaos extended his arm and Dario grasped it, walking towards the golden door set further back in the hall. The cane tapped in counterpoint to Nikolaos' boots as they made their way through the marble columns.

"So many people and more come every day. I hate it," said Dario.

"From what I've heard from the Seekers, they imagine you have to answer a Question soon. You've never gone so long without answering one. It's been over a year now," said Nikolaos.

"415 days," said Dario, shaking his head. "Many are worthy Questions, and it pains me not to be able to answer them all, but this is the last Question. It’s my duty to ensure it's a worthy one."

They reached the golden door and Dario pushed the end of his cane against it, slowly forcing the door open. Nikolaos held his breath, as he always had the few times he had been allowed in this room. They admired the view quietly for a moment. The room had similar, but smaller, marble columns as the hall, forming a ring around a central pond. A path of white stones formed a walkway extending into the pool, leading to the statue rising out of the water. The statue itself was a work of beauty, done in the form of a woman lounging on a rock, a pensive look on her face as if she were deep in contemplation. Her mouth seemed closed from this distance, but Nikolaos knew that there was the barest amount of space between her lips.

"Hello, my lady," said Dario with a smile. "I'm sorry I haven't been to visit lately." He took a doddering step forward and Nikolaos supported him as he made his way towards the walkway through the water. Their footsteps followed them in the heavy layer of dust that lay on every surface.

"Ah, Nikolaos, you should have been here decades ago. I didn't even have to walk across, but could instead shout at her from here and hear her answers plain as day. Her voice rang loud and seemed to resound from every corner. Now I have to press my ear to her mouth to barely make out what she says," said Dario.

"It seems like they were wonderful days," said Nikolaos, trying to imagine what it would have been like to hear the voice of a goddess.

"Wonderful and terrible," said Dario. "I think back to all of the foolish Questions I asked and am ashamed. So much wasted knowledge."

"That was before you realized her mouth was closing, Dario. You cannot blame yourself for that," said Nikolaos, patting Dario's shoulder.

"I should have realized, I should have known. She refused to answer the philosophical Questions I asked, and still I persisted, hoping to find the right way to phrase it to get an answer. The only thing I accomplished was closing her mouth more and more, one poor Question at a time," said Dario. "Not to mention all of the self-serving Questions I allowed to be put before her. That is why this last Question, Nikolaos, this final Question, must be the best one yet."

"You dream too big, Dario. One Question can't change the world," said Nikolaos.

"Who says?" said Dario, pulling away from Nikolaos and pointing his cane at Nikolaos' chest. "I've waited this long, I'll wait forever if need be." Dario swayed and stumbled, barely caught by Nikolaos before he toppled to the floor.

"Be careful, old man," said Nikolaos with a small laugh. "You're the only one she talks to."

"Insolence is not a virtue," said Dario, giving Nikolaos an evil eye before breaking into a thin smile. "Help this old man to dinner, would you?"

As Nikolaos helped Dario walk to the door, Dario turned and gave the statue a salute with his cane. "I'll see you soon, my lady."

The golden door shut behind them and only ever opened one more time, years later, when Nikolaos returned to lay flowers from Dario’s grave at the feet of his lady.

Walamor fucked around with this message at Sep 30, 2013 around 03:54

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

I got it wrong. Look, I'm well aware I got it wrong and uh, I got it wrong.


You'll get proper crits when I get home from work, but I have one thing that needs letting out now:

JESUS CHRIST PEOPLE YOU CAN'T HANG A STORY ON DIALOGUE ALONE

All of you did this, except the one story that I actually liked.

Crabrock gets some credit for doing it as an experiment and thus at least trying to do something cool, but ultimately his too fell flat. The rest of you (except the one I liked), I don't even know. It's like every single story is taking place in a featureless white void. Description, description, description. Say it three times in the mirror every night until it is burned into your brain.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Submissions for Week LX are now CLOSED.

sebmojo, Lord Windy, DawnOfMinstrel, docbeard, JonasSalk and M. Propagandalf will all be main characters in The Case of the Cowardly Weenies and lead this week's failure parade. By sometime tomorrow we should know who will have the dubious pleasure of marching in their wake.

Non-submitters can regain a smidgeon of honor by posting their stories within twenty-four hours. Any who do will get at least one critique for their trouble.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at Sep 30, 2013 around 06:47

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

aka sticklegs



Grimey Drawer

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

You'll get proper crits when I get home from work, but I have one thing that needs letting out now:

JESUS CHRIST PEOPLE YOU CAN'T HANG A STORY ON DIALOGUE ALONE

All of you did this, except the one story that I actually liked.

Crabrock gets some credit for doing it as an experiment and thus at least trying to do something cool, but ultimately his too fell flat. The rest of you (except the one I liked), I don't even know. It's like every single story is taking place in a featureless white void. Description, description, description. Say it three times in the mirror every night until it is burned into your brain.

There is no :bow: emoticon, so I'll include the only one that has bow in it

Gygaxian
May 29, 2013


SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

You'll get proper crits when I get home from work, but I have one thing that needs letting out now:

JESUS CHRIST PEOPLE YOU CAN'T HANG A STORY ON DIALOGUE ALONE

All of you did this, except the one story that I actually liked.

Crabrock gets some credit for doing it as an experiment and thus at least trying to do something cool, but ultimately his too fell flat. The rest of you (except the one I liked), I don't even know. It's like every single story is taking place in a featureless white void. Description, description, description. Say it three times in the mirror every night until it is burned into your brain.

Honestly, I don't have that much experience writing, so I'm wary of too much description, since I don't want to be like the guy who wrote Eragon. Purple prose (what's the local name for that here on SA?) is not something I want to do, so I guess I err on the side of caution and underdescription.

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.


Alright you ungrateful fuckers. I finished the crits from last week. You can read them here.

dreadmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

Gygaxian posted:

Honestly, I don't have that much experience writing, so I'm wary of too much description, since I don't want to be like the guy who wrote Eragon. Purple prose (what's the local name for that here on SA?) is not something I want to do, so I guess I err on the side of caution and underdescription.

Don't respond to crits here, Fiction Farm is the place for that.

I'll be putting my story in in the graciously allowed 24h to save myself the Toxx. Lord Windy, me and Sitting Here gonna get a judgment?

Martello
Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW


Purple prose is called that here, TV Tropes didn't come up with the term you loving weirdo.

We also call it "stupid lovely fanfic writing."





tell us the winner so we can get a prompt, already in with a

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


THUNDERBRAWL: Sebmojo vs. Sitting Here - Round 2

Prompt
Your story must blend the mundane realism of slice-of-life style with speculative fiction. The ratio of ingredients is up to you. Anything from a woman makes a pot of tea and thinks she might see a ghost to a space trooper arguing with his girlfriend over who has to take out the recycling while they firebomb alien invaders. I don't care--as long as it is better than these examples. Please also have a plot, none of this slice-of-life with no conflict bullshit.

Sebmojo: your story must significantly involve a hotel.
Sitting Here: your story must significantly involve music.

deadline: Friday, Oct. 4, at 11:55pm PST

wordcount limit: 1000

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Week LX Results: The Case of the Regrettable Submissions

We've turned your entries over and over again in search of clues as to who most deserves the losertar. At last we think we've solved the Puzzle of the Underwhelming Prose, and I hereby present our findings:

THE WINNER: Erogenous Beef. You've written stories that were better than this week's offering in each of its individual aspects, but "Evil in Amsterdam: The Wrong Chemistry" balances plot, humor, character, and cleverness with a skill and cohesion that finally seats you on the Thunderthrone. Congratulations; this crown has been a long time coming.

HONORABLE MENTION goes to Fumblemouse for a story that had the best setting of the week and probably the best writing, but which left two of three judges unsatisfied.

THE LOSER: Helsing, your work also lacked a strong resolution, and it did you in: I don't know what Francis saw, I don't know what happened to him, I don't know the Secret of the Stars, and I have a feeling you don't, either.

Crits are forthcoming! Watch for mine today; my esteemed co-judges will offer theirs according to their mercy and leisure.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at Oct 21, 2013 around 22:37

Jeza
Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.


Crits for Thunderdome Week LX

The scores and opinions below are my own and don't represent the final say on your pieces in any way, or perfectly map onto the way the results have panned out. Judge discussion is compromise and irons out some the natural biases everybody displays in their fiction taste.


Chairchucker

I don’t have much to say CC. As usual you write an airy dialogue scene. You’re good at it, but this is not one of your best. The Nan as the straightwoman to the situation comedy that is dubstep/furries is a new spin on a classic option but only a couple of her lines made me crack a smile (“I dont know what that is.”). This kind of generation gap comedy can be done better, and what’s more I think you could do it better too. Plus, overall the scene is plotless and though I’m not one of those people who insists on conflict/resolution, this doesn’t even leave me with a taste in my mouth. Like eating a waffle made of nothing.

...that was my whole crit, but I don’t feel like I’ve even offered any advice. Hmm. Much of the dialogue seems to have no point whatsoever - neither in the mood setting or the comedy set-up. What’s up with the mumbling at the start for example? Or the reference to Tommy? Even the little description there is often seems meandering and adds nothing. Loads of weird off-putting lines that seem unlikely in a normal human parlance, too - ‘Yes, definitely a migraine. From this terrible music.’

I’m trying to put my finger on what’s really wrong with this piece as a whole, and I feel like the airiness of it is because of this weird narrative distance you seem to have from writing the character of the Nan. It all just feels a little bit...meta? Understanding ‘brb’ but being oblivious to other modern tropes, starting sentences with ‘Seriously,’ are oddly jarring, like some younger person was just puppeteering the Nan’s lifeless corpse the whole time. I can’t get a grip on how old she is. She’s meant to be a grandmother, but she seems to be acting like Drew’s mother - also since when do grandmother’s ever talk about their own mothers? Never, that’s when.

People are talking past each other a bunch, a whole bunch of needless cliches get thrown down and basically, whatever:

4.5/10 - Baby don’t hurt me.

Gygaxian


Hello, Wilkommen, Bienvenue a Thunderdome. Congrats on writing your first page length story. Your fundamentals are sound: I saw signs of vocabulary, spelling and grammar. All important things, to be sure (irish). Some bonus points I will also award for knowledge of world history.

Sadly, your story is retarded. I pray to the writing gods and sacrifice a hundred snow white lambs in the hope that you were well aware of that fact when you wrote it. It reads like a pastiche but deep down I know that it isn’t.
So we have time-travelling, dimension hopping space presidents, also cyborgs, who are fighting their way throughout the centuries. The tone is melodramatic, sliding down the dark and greasy path into grandiloquence. Use of language is often stilted and bizarre, as you manage to not quite effectively merge both the archaic with the fantastic.

Much of this you can’t help. This is baby’s first steps and you’ll look back on this, should you choose to continue writing, in a matter of weeks and probably cringe. Not just at the storyline either, but at the style of writing.

I’m not just here to piss in your face and laugh about it, though I do enjoy that, so here are some pointers:

- Don’t ever torture me again with a simile like: “I felt tongue-tied in an astonished way, like a schoolboy being told that his favorite teacher had gone into the woods and been eaten by a bear.” ever again.

- For what is meant to be a character driven plot, your antagonist only appears (with his completely unnecessary son) in the last ⅓ of your story. Your wind up is achingly long.

In fact can you just take this to the Fiction Farm (snippets/critique thread in CC). Too much to cover just with generalisations here.

3.5/10 - Harsh but fair.

Erogenous Beef


I love it. The pace is electric, and falters only rarely. TD doesn’t get enough well-written comedy and on open prompts it really gets unfairly hammered by people that think tragedy is the be all and end all of good writing. The dialogue and internal monologues are the stand out parts of the story. Some of the scene setting could have been better done, and though you were constricted for space with the amount of plot occurring, I don’t think that is quite enough excuse.

Bad things: I didn’t see the point of Amsterdam. A confusing time-leap following the sentence starting “This morning, he’d found…” and I don’t reaaaally understand the need for Karen’s formula to be not working. I mean, I do from a writer’s perspective to set up the correction scene, but from a reader’s perspective it seems to make little sense if she is trying to stay undercover.

Examples of the not great description were Nefarious’ penthouse/ Evil’s vast, mechanical(?) space, the finding of the badge.

Overall, these are tiny quibbles.

8.5/10

crabrock


The format was quite refreshing. You didn’t take it seriously and I don’t think I need to crit it particularly seriously, so long as you as you enjoyed writing it. I was smiling through a lot of it, but the comedy wasn’t solid throughout. I preferred it when he was just an incompetent, I didn’t really dig the suddenly having a huff and being forced to act like a real lawyer and slamming the whole case like a pro. I would have just started as you meant to continue and have the case be resolved in some other entertaining manner. Not much else to say unless you want me too. Sometimes the time gaps between words could be a little erratic, feeling like maybe we miss some comments in between that would have kept it smoother.

A generous 7/10 revised to 6.5/10 to drag it more in line with my other scores. I’m not sorry.

docbeard

gently caress you

0/10

M. Propagandalf


Also gently caress you

0/10


Fumblemouse

This isn’t bad. Clearly you can write, but it really doesn’t do it for me. The disappointment is harsher because the technical skills are obvious. I love the idea of the Golden City reflected in the lake, and I can suspend my belief about it, but your story’s greatest failing is that you completely fail to evoke it. It isn’t like you do it badly, it’s more like you just don’t. You spend more time describing the scenery around the lake than you do for this amazing, mind boggling magical goddamn city that is the focus of your whole piece. Doesn’t that seem strange to you?

The character of Anthony is distinctly unlikeable. True, he is pining for his lost girlfriend (I assume) but he also just seems like a general jackass. Not that there is anything wrong with a jackass for a character, but I feel it detracts from the whole ‘lost-love’ element of your plot.

Other things bug me about this piece as well: The old man hoping for a mystery seems incredibly unfazed by his discovery of a freaking actual person in the reflected tower, and your descriptions, not just the lack of them, seem sadly humdrum and simplistic. Also ‘Friendly Tours’ is a dire name. Dire.

7/10 - I know I seemed wholly negative about this piece, but I can’t in good conscience give it anything less.

Helsing


Cool story concept. Effectively opened, continues well, begins to come to pieces a little bit, recovers, ends so badly. Why are we going through this whole journey of suspicion and discovery if in the end Francis looks through the goddamn telescope. I just don’t get it. The ending actually beggared belief a bit for me, I just couldn’t and can’t fathom why you wrote it like that but anyway.

I counted four pretty glaring errors in your story, though by your own admission you didn’t edit so I forgive you mostly. I’ll run through some of the problems I had: firstly, Francis’ perception of Simon isn’t consistent throughout the piece which is a symptom of having not properly proofed it, your dialogue felt weak on more than one occasion - specifically, being oddly blunt a lot of the time or plain unrealistic, for example when questioned Maya says “He showed me.” nobody would reply “Who showed you?” without first asking what was being shown in the first place, thirdly and finally, you bloat the piece with extraneous detail that ends up being useless.

I’m glad almost because you’ve been saying in the Farm and here that you can’t get down the whole flash fiction thing. This piece you already pushed to the word limit, but there were things you wrote in that never came to anything, or didn’t add anything. For example: the building of the telescope, the introduction of the clay disk and speculation that his Uncle’s death (which informs the reader but is meaningless to the protagonist), the stealing of the telescope which results in no reaction at all. You’ve already recouped a few hundred words to put to better use right there.

I wanted to like this more than I did, and I do think a proper editing pass would serve it well. The ending though, is weak weak weak.

6.5/10 - I couldn’t make Fumble’s lower, I can’t rate yours any higher.

NB: Pretty sure a stroke can be found by a post-mortem.

Mercedes

OK, so some elements of this aren’t written with the eloquence of the grand masters of times gone by. But the pacing is tight, the impact is solid, the characterisation is well played. I don’t even think you wavered too badly on the declaration of love (“Baby” is borderline for me though.) Much is left to the imagination. Fine, perfect - that is exactly what you want with showing and not telling. It all wraps up neatly and satisfying in less than sub 650 words.

Some demerits: Improper use of language - cf. “circular alloy”, “it’s inaction”. I don’t understand the point of the whole 'Samuel' thing. I think it distracts and adds nothing. Perhaps I’d like the see the final two dialogue attributions switched - I liked the repetition in the story, but three times from one character is overkill.

7.5/10 - Rough and ready, but steady.

ThirdEmperor


I don’t understand why you underline your italics buddy. I realise this is something that occurs in writing manuscript format, but the piece isn’t in that format anyhow so, eh? Your piece was more fuel for the comedy fire this week, but rather than being purest anthracite, was more like lignite. Or subbituminous. Pick your strained coal metaphor poison.

You join the club of entries with a mistake in your very first line. From there you establish a desert island scenario, except on a sinking humvee. The dialogue is OK, the two characters play off of each other somewhat, though the internal wry monologue is often weak. While the situation is comic and surreal, and often played that way, too often is there a switch towards making a tense and dramatic scene - which in my eyes drags the whole thing down like a humvee in tar (not asphalt btw, because that is manmade).

The plot itself culminating in the RPS scene is totally fine, and I think the pacing was without issue. The dinosaur fixation was a little strange too, but that could just be because every dinosaur was underlined and italicised, meaning I couldn’t take my eyes of the words. My verdict is that you should learn to juggle with two balls before you try and incorporate a third. Except in this case the balls represent genres, and instead of three, two.

5.5/10 - But if the T-Rex at the end had been holding up a tiny hand in the shape of scissors I would have given this piece at least another point.

FouRPlaY


I’m not sure how you’re going to take this comment, but I always give my bare-faced honest opinion when I judge writing. Your story reads like it was written by a child. It isn’t really bad per se, but it seems simplistic and...guileless? As a concluding note to a story, “X had a lot of explaining to do, but at least Y was safe after all.” is up there with “And they all lived happily ever after.” except without any possibility that it was used with irony.

For what it’s worth, you established the character of Albert as small-minded but good hearted quite well. My favourite part of the whole piece was the bizarre deadpan toilet dialogue at the very start. Given the decent quality of the prose, I thought I was in for some enjoyable tongue in cheek misadventure with this weirdo at the helm, but instead it quickly descended into penny dreadful mystery story in the vein of something I might have written as a kid in primary school, only with better understanding of grammar.

Honestly, there isn’t much I want to say about this piece. The reporting to security the assassination attempt is pretty trite and unrealistically blown off. The gun watch is pretty silly, the completely shallow nature of the antagonists, the quaint but boring ending. Is the cure to read more? I don’t know.

5/10 - Really I don’t know why I’m giving it this high. Maybe because it was one coherent piece and not just full of dumb errors.

Walamor


What’s this? A well formulated idea with gentle pacing in one normal package? God forbid. I found some errors in this piece, but by this point all errors are dead to me. I like the underlying story and the overlying writing is pretty good too. We get the crotchety old man and you dangle the red herring that he is heartless pretty well, but then resolve it in the piece’s exposition and conclusion.

It’s good as far as it goes, though the key here is how far it goes. I’m not sure how suitable this is for flash fiction. It feels far more like a window into a much larger story, which is a bit of a cruel tease. Really I feel a little at a loss to crit this, because it is solid other than a little wobble with the questionable line about rear end-padding and in my opinion the kind of foot-in-mouth fantasy cliche of poor man entering grand temple. The whole first third could do with some scrubbing up and made more interesting.

7.5/10 - If I was the Questioner, my only question would be whether Nikolaos has been french kissing the statue. Has he? HAS HE?



Rest of the non-submissions

Kill yourselves

0/10

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.


Last week's prompt was totes fun. Thanks for that Kaishai. Now give us this week's prompt already, jack-rear end!

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013


SCREAMING YES
MOTHERFUCKER
I AM GUILTY, I AM DEATH


Welp. It's not the lowest score and I'm good with that.
Now hurry up with the next challenge!

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Critiques for Week LX: Hits and Misses


Most of the entries this week hovered in the middle range, not terrible, not outstanding; more good than bad, though dialogue often elbowed adventure and energy aside. Even the immortal eldritch/cyborg presidents sat and talked! What was up with that?

But none of you ended your stories with a tiny golden bean worth one million US dollars, and don't think I'm not grateful.



Chairchucker, "The Riddle of the Ruby Gazelle"

Your title has the potential for so many good things. Rubies! Riddles! Will it be a Maltese-Falcon-type deal? A sphinx carved out of jewels? Is the gazelle an artifact for adventurers to pursue? I can't wait to see what you do!

...Furries.

Darn it, Chairchucker.

It's going to take me a while to forgive you for opening the week with a fursuit. Although I still enjoyed the story in a light way, and a first entry that doesn't make me want to die is a treasure to be valued, so it more or less balances out. This is very weightless, ephemeral--no news to you--and unlikely to take the crown unless everybody else screws a pooch, but you wrote DubCon into a story as a dubstep convention and made me picture that warbling dubstep vampire from Eurovision (ah, memories!) doing his thing for a herd of otherkin, and it's so terrible it wraps around to fun. You can do better in terms of humor, depth, and both. But I'm less disappointed with the lack of literal rubies than I would have imagined.

(P.S. Nan + Drew = Well played, Mr. Chucker.)

*****

Gygaxian, "Murder on the Fourth of July"

You took your title down a crazy path of history, cyborgs, and eldritch horrors, gave it some character and a bit of emotion, and all in all made a good first showing in the 'Dome. I'm impressed by how ridiculous it isn't, considering your premise.

That said, I don't understand bringing John Quincy in as a robot child when that creates an unnecessary conflict with real history and would seem to undermine any notion that Jefferson and Adams have really been waging anime war on each other in the background of America. What happened to Abigail and Martha? Do they know? Are they cyborgs/liches too? I'm not entirely sold on Jefferson as an occultist, either; it doesn't seem like such a natural path for him that it needs no explanation. The Quincy problem is the largest one in that I could overlook the other things, but every time I look back over this story I wonder why John Quincy is present at all. What does he add to the story compared to what he removes in drama from this final meeting of two ancient foes?

I didn't see the end coming until Adams asked Jefferson to kill him, but that resolution is still a fairly worn one. I find myself wishing there had been some twist on the familiar pattern, but maybe a less peaceful conclusion on Adams' end would have changed the feel of the piece for the worse. As it is there's a wisp of gentle melancholy. The last line is a fine closer.

Your writing is generally sound, no serious errors beyond a failure to proofread enough to catch 'wrly'; in the first paragraph, 'History will say' should be 'History says' to match 'it is wrong.' Your prose does its job with just enough style to read well. I don't want to give you the impression that the story's objectively good, but I enjoyed it, and that's not a bad place to start.

*****

Erogenous Beef, "Evil in Amsterdam: The Wrong Chemistry"

I don't know how you managed to make a mad scientist PUA sympathetic. Naming him 'Dr. Evil' probably had something to do with it. I'm rather fond of this one despite needing to read it a couple of times to get straight the course of events that led to Nefarious being in jail. There's nothing completely serious here, yet you've tied your jokes to a decent plot and weirdly charming love story. (Always assuming Nefarious accepts the coffee date. That's up in the air.) You don't say exactly what the alien thing is that blooms in Evil's brain, which I like, because it was more satisfying to come to the conclusion myself. And my favorite element is the way you've interpreted your titles, turning 'Evil' into a person and so putting a whole new spin on the first.

Other things I liked: the reference to van der Waals forces, which I looked up and found were a thing; math graffiti in Supervillain Jail; the slam on Ancient Aliens. You laid on the humor thick, but not too thick.

Things not quite as successful: Karen was cardboard. I never did understand why she sat around in a T-shirt eating Hot Pockets. Since she's not much more than an object to Dr. Evil and the focus was on other characters, the former issue may have been unavoidable. Was the 'law firm' a reference that I missed?

You've done better in other, stronger rounds; I prefer Duke Guncock for humor, the Threedump for cleverness, your story for your brawl with Sitting Here for relationship dynamics, and your imaginary-books entry for weight and elegance, personally, but this week you balanced all those factors with the panache required to come out on top. Congratulations--now just make sure you check your celebratory beer for those Evil roofies.

*****

crabrock, "Track 2: Topless Hoes on a Cigarette Boat"

What in sweet tarnation does your title--the one you made up--have to do with anything? You know the difference between 'hos' and 'hoes,' right? I honest-to-God can't tell.

So, you know, I don't hate it. I kind of... like it. Except for the possibly-grammatically-correct-but-horrid-to-look-upon shortage of closing quotation marks, but I'm not certain you had a choice there. It's another light piece with no meat to it at all, a there-and-gone flash of fun, although experimenting with a narrative style like this gets you some sort of writerly bonus. You went meta with your Drew title, and I tip my hat to that.

Not that I'd call this good by any means--the narration may work intriguingly well, but what about the content? Not so much! You lay the monkeycheese on too thick with the list of 'awards' and probably with the 'thou hast,' with the latter especially undermining what's otherwise a strong turn: that the client may actually an innocent subject of brutality, a serious state of affairs despite his buffoonish defense. If Templeton's pants-on-head silliness had been a touch less extreme this could have been an honestly decent humor piece. It reminds me of John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey, if Rumpole were a cartoon. Templeton's arrest in the end completes the journey into the land of Taking It Too Far. He didn't even threaten the guy in the loo, he babbled like an idiot, and shouldn't this man's colleagues be used to that by now? Templeton getting in trouble for his antics is wholly believable, but I'm not buying the handcuffs.

You've still entertained me, and your weird world is coherent while it lasts. You've written the worst of the bunch as yet, but there's a chance you may sneak through. (Later note: If only predicting bad stories in TD were a more impressive psychic feat.)

*****

Fumblemouse, "The Secret of Mirror Bay"

What I see here is the premise for a much longer story. You had almost three hundred more words to use, so you could have gone somewhat further toward revealing the secret of Mirror Bay, and I wish you had--I thought I might be reading this week's winning piece until I glanced at my scroll bar and saw how little story was left at the point when Anthony saw the picture of Ella. Sure enough, the conclusion was abrupt and unsatisfying. The bit about aliens ruined the mood for me. I don't know whether you had no more time or what, but that's how it reads: like you hit a wall and had to finish with something.

Your premise is worth writing that longer story about, though. I don't think I want to know all the secrets of Mirror Bay. I'm intrigued by it as something that can't be explained. On the other hand, I want more than you give me. Is the Golden City a place of the dead? Is Ella real? Will Anthony meet her? What would happen if he did? Would that meeting be just the beginning? Why would Ella be there, and why is her face the one a tourist happens to see? Etc., etc.; there's plenty of fodder here for a longer piece, maybe even a short novel. I'd want to read it. But this entry is only a teaser.

You chose a dramatic title and you've played it fairly straight, which works for me: I would have been disappointed if there weren't at least one story of a strange situation in a strange locale. Another good touch is the Aurum Hotel. I'm confident you won't lose, but consider that longer rewrite, would you?

*****

Helsing, "The Secret in the Stars"

I love your title; I want to love your story too... man, though, you don't make it easy. Or even possible. I'd try to overlook the grammar errors (all eleventy billion of them) if your content were strong, but what the blazes is that ending supposed to be? I just got done telling Fumblemouse his conclusion was poor, and now I feel like I should go back and apologize. You two actually did almost the exact same thing. You set up a mystery and failed to resolve it. In his case, I did get to find out that the protagonist disappeared after confronting the inexplicable, but I have no idea what happened to Francis after he saw whatever-it-was.

Given the reference to Miskatonic, the Secret is probably a Lovecraftian horror--and as I type that I understand why you might have wanted to avoid showing the horror; Lovecraft himself usually let me down when he revealed the monster's face. He still had to do it, though. Else he would have cheated the reader. Same deal with Stephen King: the terrors of It, Duma Key, "The Langoliers," and I've forgotten how many of his other works lose a lot of power when he lets us see exactly what they are, but to leave them in shadow would be worse. There's also the possibility that you flat ran out of words. Mystery is hard to do within a Thunderdome word limit. I wouldn't recommend it; if it's any consolation, combatants have screwed up badly on this point before.

You might not have lost if your ending weren't such a dud. But there are plenty of other problems. Take your first paragraph: 'Francis didn’t know why he refused to look. At first he thought it was a joke. Later it seemed like Simon had simply lost it. No one carries a joke that far.' Three, three, three tenses in one! Most of it should probably have been past perfect, like this: 'Francis didn't know why he had refused to look. At first he'd thought it was a joke. Later, it had seemed like Simon had simply lost it. No one carried a joke that far.' (The last sentence could be in past or present conditional, 'No one would carry a joke that far.' You could make an argument for the present tense being grammatically acceptable, but IMO it reads terribly with the rest of the paragraph.) You ought to use past perfect more consistently than you do. You've got a dangling participle with Francis's mind drinking a beer in your second paragraph. 'Maya was luckier Lisa' is missing a word. Etc. Some or all of that may be a consequence of not having more time to edit.

It was difficult for me to remember that I was supposed to be in Francis's head, not Simon's. You open too many sections with Simon's name or Simon speaking; Francis is a nonentity in comparison. You have a lot of characters, and most of them are no more than names on a screen. I'd probably chop the section with Francis and his father talking in the attic if I were you. The 'astrological tablet' was a distraction, and Phil's unnatural death was a needless complication. The repetition of 'Have you seen it' and 'the secret in the stars' gives every scene with Simon a broken-record feel.

So, yeah, I'm not a fan of this piece, but don't let that discourage you too much. Not from writing, anyway; if you want to let it discourage you from ending future stories without concluding them, that would be okay.

*****

Mercedes, "Clue in the Camera"

Not a fan of this one either. It took me too many iterations to work out what went on here; in other circumstances that might be fairly blamed on me being a moron, but in this case I think your narrative gets the honors. On my first couple of reads, this is what I got: Vicky and Samuel/Kennedy of the Unnecessarily Complicated Name are archaeologists examining a camera; Vicky cares about it, but Samuel/Kennedy is busy being emo for some reason. Then the camera sucks out Vicky's soul. Without a soul, her body repeats its last few actions on autopilot. At one point she calls Samuel/Kennedy 'child' instead of saying her original line: significant? Apparently not. Samuel/Kennedy takes up the camera and lets it suck his own soul in to join hers in what's presumably another dimension, where they continue the fascinating and much-repeated camera argument. I didn't like it! What was the point of the whole thing if they ended up in a completely undescribed alternate Earth?

Only it turns out they didn't--it's the bodies speaking at the end, which is reasonable in retrospect. I'm not sure even now why Kennedy's body is smiling and jovial instead of repeating his final motions; that may be why it took me a while to twig to what had happened. After this epiphany I could see the tragedy in, and point of, the story, and that was enough to raise my opinion to 'enh, s'all right.'

Samuel/Kennedy's name remains Unnecessarily Complicated. And his frustration in the beginning remains confusing. I thought at one point that maybe Vicky's soul was already gone when the story started, but you show the camera sucking 'a smoky essence from Vicky's body, so that can't be the explanation, can it? Something's awry here. But the more times I look at this thing, the more I think it has good bones. It could even be your strongest TD entry to date if it were fixed up.

*****

ThirdEmperor, "High Stakes: Buried in Time"

You have gawky lines, grammatical errors, a context that's at best breezed over, and an ending that's almost clever but lands to the left of the bullseye--but your content interested me enough that I wanted to play along, a major difference between this and the losing piece. Your interpretation of 'buried in time' gets a thumbs up. I care about Theo as he tries to whistle in the dark. Most of all, up until the T. Rex appears, his ending is evocative. Don't get me wrong: it's not Theo's descent into a world of tar that I mind, and I like the idea that the dinosaur lost his own RPS hand once upon a time. Only, is that the impression I was supposed to get? I'm not sure. It's too murky; the last line falls flat and queers your pitch.

Underlining and italicizing words at the same time was an odd formatting choice. Just one will suffice, and italics usually look better. The dinosaur species didn't need special formatting: aside from Tyrannosaurus Rex, you aren't using the full scientific names anyway. The story's salted with technical mistakes, no single one so bad as to ruin it, all of them together giving it a very rough look. 'Asphalt like' instead of 'asphalt lake'; 'he' shouldn't be capitalized in '"Ten minutes, you think?" He asked'; only one person should speak in a given paragraph, but Theo and Garret both speak in your third; 'to've' is not a legitimate contraction and looks awful even in dialogue; in the paragraph starting with 'He scowled at his companion's back,' it's hard to keep straight whether Theo is talking about himself or Garret; in the last paragraph, the semicolon after 'them' should be a colon. Etc. This would be a good one to take to the Farm for proofreading if you didn't see these errors yourself.

You didn't need a ton of establishing information, but I'm left with no idea what these guys are doing in a car in a tar pit. They would seem to be archaeologists. Shouldn't they know better than to drive into one of these things? What are they to each other? The set-up is too undefined for my liking.

I nevertheless enjoyed certain lines (particularly 'Specimens A & B: Tremendous Dipshits, Circa 2008'), Theo, the tension between the characters, the resolution to their situation, and the slip into another world in your finale; I enjoyed them enough, in fact, that the story would probably have made my top three if the technical aspects were better. That isn't saying a ton this week, but it's still a step in the right direction for someone coming off a loss. Keep working and polishing your prose.

*****

FouRPlaY, "The Hidden Staircase"

Expository dialogue probably isn't the besetting sin of this story, but it's the thing that bugged me most. It sort of works to have Albert calling out his grain tariff credentials from the bathroom, because that establishes him as someone who imagines any random passer-by would care. There's no such justification for the evil conspirator telling his cohorts things they already know ('The treaty will be cancelled,' 'we can go ahead with the coup when we return to our country') for the sake of informing Albert and the reader. That doesn't sound natural or credible to me--but it does sound hammy, like something out of a bad pulp thriller, and it drags your premise down.

The sequence of events when Albert is in the bathroom is surreal. He spies a loose thread on his cuff, so he tries to get it and fails; so he turns to look for scissors; so he sees the toilet is spilling water all over the floor. Is this the Rube-Goldberg method of secret door detection? I like the bits around it where he tries the doorknob and fumbles with the tank, but you've got at least three irrelevant steps. Have him turn around at the sound of water on the floor and you get the same result with less faffing about. The later coincidence of the watch is very coincidental, and maybe the words you'd have saved by nixing some of the bathroom scene would have given you room to make it less so. Maybe. (I appreciate that you kept the plot moving and brought it to a solid end, so I can stand a little coincidence if that's what it takes.)

I spotted some places where proofreading failed you: 'value' in place of 'valve' most notably, 'passed' in place of 'past,' 'lead' in place of 'led,' and the sudden appearance of the present tense in your last line. Watch for that! That type of error is relatively minor but can still throw the reader if he or she notices.

But! There are aspects I liked. You sent your main character on an adventure. He did things! The pulpy feel the story has is appropriate to your title, so I'm not opposed to it except when it goes that step too far. Albert's conversation with the guard is rather better than the conspirators conspiring: it's borderline funny and shows through the guard's word choices and actions that he's not convinced by Albert's accusations. That Albert's last thought in the narrative is of his grain tariffs is amusing and appropriate.

*****

Walamor, "The Whispering Statue"

Is Timaeus's name an intentional reference to Plato? I know just enough about Plato's works to recognize it, not enough to understand what it would signify, and a quick check of Wiki doesn't help much on that front. I'd maybe change the name if it's not a reference, since it's distracting.

This is good. I don't have many complaints about it. The pacing is perhaps a bit off, with the scene with Timaeus occupying almost half the text and the end beat abrupt by comparison. You sidled up to the electric fence of unsatisfying conclusions but stayed that critical distance away. I wonder why Dario didn't visit the statue more often without any questions, since she's dear to him, but your final line works; if anything, I'd suggest trimming the Timaeus scene down a bit (you could probably lose Dario thinking about his rear end easily enough) and keeping the ending as it is.

(One other thing: don't start a sentence with numerals. The number '415' should be spelled out.)

I appreciate the feel of a larger story of Dario and the goddess surrounding and infusing this smaller story of the question. Comparing it to your Oscar Wilde piece, I'd say you've come a long way.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at Oct 1, 2013 around 04:46

V for Vegas
Aug 31, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Jeebus wept, I go away for a few months and this is the tripe getting served up in the Dome? Don't think I ever seen so many losertars in one place at one time.

Prompt time Beef - time to show these candyshriekers what domin' is all about.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Thunderdome LXI - Twisted Traditions

The times, they are a-changin', and nowhere is this more evident than in our dearest and most closely-held traditions. Cats are living with dogs, Santa's in jail for trespass, and they're serving vegan sausage at Oktoberfest.

Center your story around a tradition (real or imagined) that's been altered or fractured somehow, and that change reflects the world the characters inhabit. The rub? The judges are tired of Geriatric Sadness. Even if your story goes dark places, even if blood flows, the story should posit hope for the future.

Words: 1,200 or less.

Judges: Myself, Dr. Kloctopussy, and The Saddest of Rhinos

Lines of Deadening:

Signups @ 23:59 Pacific (GMT+7), 4th October (Friday)
Submissions @ 23:59 Pacific (GMT+7), 6th October (Sunday)

Revelers

Martello
V for Vegas
crabrock
Fumblemouse
FouRPlaY
Gygaxian
CantDecideOnAName
Chairchucker
Helsing
Kaishai
ThirdEmperor

Erogenous Beef fucked around with this message at Oct 5, 2013 around 16:38

V for Vegas
Aug 31, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Let's do this.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

aka sticklegs



Grimey Drawer

I wish to alter my tradition of writing lovely stories and write something good, bringing hope to all the wonderful boys and girls of thunderdome.

in.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

I, too, wish to alter my tradition of amiably ambling around an idea waiting for a plot to occur to me until it's too late and I just write any old poo poo at the last minute.

But if wishes were horses, beggars would eat.

I'm in, anyway, to steal Crabrock's hope before the poxy, ungrateful boys and girls of ThunderDome get their frozen mittens on it and waste it by sticking it in their disgusting eyes.

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

I got it wrong. Look, I'm well aware I got it wrong and uh, I got it wrong.


WEEK LX CRITS



THE GREAT

Fumblemouse, you were my pick for winner. There were other stories here that were not bad, but yours was the only one I actually liked. It's punchy, it's sad, it takes a very big idea and crams it into the world of some small people in a fantastic way. My only issue is the same one Jeza had: you had some spare words floating around, and we needed to spend some more time with Ela for the ending to have any real kick.


THE ACCEPTABLE

Gygagaxian, I actually had you picked for second, although that's partly because I knew Jeza had you picked for last and I didn't think you deserved it. To me, this feel like an excellent start for a novel, but incomplete and unsatisfying as a short story. The ending is too sudden and quiet. Unless you're intentionally going for a flat/'death is silence' Emily Dickinson thing, you needed to spend a little more time with it, and less time with rear end in a top hat Quincy.

Walamor, once upon a time, your writing was like eating drywall. Now, it's like eating bread with discount-brand supermarket spread. Go forth my child, and my proud.

FouRPLAY, the whole discovery of the machine was incredibly cheesy, the dialogue was flat and unconvincing, the watch thing was contrived and the ending was flat. Why then, wasn't this my loser? I'm not entirely sure, but after I'd finished reading I had a big dumb smile on, so it gets saved the axe. I also like that you've managed to get in Albert's head a little re descriptions: we wouldn't notice the doorknob like that, but I totally buy that he would. It's an important skill of perspective writing that many of us miss.


THE IMPRESSIVELY MEDIOCRE

Mercedes and ThirdEmperor, I read your stories but I cannot remember a single drat thing about them. I went back to read them again and my eyes kind of just skittered off the page. You both receive the 'Livingston in a tearoom drinking milky tea' award for being aggressively beige.


THE BAD BOYS' CORNER WITH A POINTY HAT ON

Crabrock, it was a brave experiment, but it burnt your drat eyebrows off. You are the top of the bad entries, for effort and innovation even though neither of them amounted to much. Now stop experimenting and get back to writing about your giant turtle dammit.

ErogenousBeef, MONKEY CHEESE SPOON TOO MUCH DIALOGUE WACKY WACKY WACKY MUGGING FURIOUSLY AT HOW FUNNY IT IS YOU'RE A MUCH BETTER WRITER THAN THIS.

Chairchucker, man this almost got graded better because it truly was a piece of grade-a vintage Chairchucker crap. You've improved immeasurably over the last two threads, and it's nice to see how far you've come. This, this is the baseline. 'Fursuit' is not a punchline, especially if it takes half the drat story to deliver. Also, too much dialogue.

Helsing, I get what you're going for with the Lovecrafty "it's better to show nothing at all" approach to cosmic horror, but you've approached it with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The secret in the stars, The secret in the stars, The secret in the stars, The secret in the stars, The secret in the stars oh I'll let your IMAGINATION figure out what it was. Even if what you describe is that it's indescribably (Lovecraft did this a lot), you have to give us something. Personally, I'm imagining that bit from one of the Tintin comics where he looks through a telescope and screams, because there's a spider of the end of the telescope and he thinks the giant space spider is going to eat him. That's the secret of the stars: a spider on the end of the telescope. For now and forever.

FouRPlaY
May 5, 2010


Thanks for critiques everyone.

I'm in for the next round.

Gygaxian
May 29, 2013


I'm in for the next round, and thanks to the judges for the critique. Looking back, I know I needed it. Not trying to brownnose or anything, just learning to tell when my writing is crap.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


I'm in. Let's see if I can come up with something better than the chucklefucks from last week.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:


'Fursuit' is not a punchline,

No. It actually wasn't.

I'm in I guess.

Helsing
Aug 23, 2003

I'M ESCAPING TO THE ONE PLACE THAT HASN'T BEEN CORRUPTED BY CAPITALISM...

SPACE!


Lots of helpful criticism, sad to say it but writing a really bad story probably taught me more about writing than producing a winning entry would have. The only thing I'll say in my defence is that I'm a bit dyslexic so the awful grammar mistakes were hard to avoid - often I literally don't see them - but of course that isn't really an excuse, just a reason that I need to spend more time editing my entries.

Also, sign me up for next week.

Gygaxian
May 29, 2013


Actually, never mind. I have a midterm coming up in 2 days, so I won't have time, judging from how slow I was in coming up with an idea for the last Thunderdome round. Count me out.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Gygaxian posted:

Actually, never mind. I have a midterm coming up in 2 days, so I won't have time, judging from how slow I was in coming up with an idea for the last Thunderdome round. Count me out.

No one gets to back out of the Dome. The only way out is through.

Also, I totally forgot to include deadlines. Standard ones applied and edited into the prompt-post.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

In!

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

Requesting a brawl extension until tomorrow due to today being my birthday! A neat present would be to not get DQed due to me being a drunk and an ingrate

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


Sitting Here posted:

Requesting a brawl extension until tomorrow due to today being my birthday! A neat present would be to not get DQed due to me being a drunk and an ingrate

Granted! Happy birthday!

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013


SCREAMING YES
MOTHERFUCKER
I AM GUILTY, I AM DEATH


Oh, hell. In.

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o'clock in the morning


I look forward to reading not-terrible stories, ha ha!

Do not spoil my weekend you revelers.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Right, you've all got just under 40 hours to go. Needless to say, signups are very closed.

Martello
Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW


A Mere Girl

1150 words

Swanhild ven Tostell stood before the Grand Master’s chair in the great hall of the Order of the Blood Shed by Saint Hilda. The Grand Master himself sat silent while the Arms Marshall questioned her.

“A Blood Knight? You want to be one of us?” Hrothlind’s laughter was easy, genuine, pleasant. Other Knights laughed too, not as pleasantly. Swanhild’s face went hot, and she clenched her fists.

“Why not?” She held a up a hand. “The only militant order founded in honor of a female saint, and you won’t accept a woman applicant?”

Hrothlind crossed his arms. “What would a militant order do with a mere girl?”

“Saint Hilda the Bloody was a ‘mere woman.’ ” Swanhild glanced at the Grand Master, his granite face betraying nothing. She clenched her teeth and glared at Hrothlind.

“But she was a tall brawny woman, bigger than some men. You’re a full foot shorter than I.” Hrothlind stepped close and put a hand on her shoulder. “Those wide hips were made for bearing children, those strong arms for carrying them. Not for swinging a sword.” The Arms Marshall’s eyes were kind as he looked down at Swanhild. “Go back to your lord uncle’s castle and let him find you a good husband.”

Swanhild grunted. Then she struck like a hound at a deer. She seized Hrothlind’s wrist with one hand, his elbow with another, and turned her hips while yanking on his arm. Hrothlind went over her shoulder and landed on his back. A collective gasp went up from the assembled Blood Knights.

Swanhild held his arm straight up, wrist and elbow locked. She smiled down at Hrothlind. “A mere girl just put you on your back, sir Knight.” Swanhild released his arm and helped him up.

Hrothlind dusted himself off. “Where did you learn to do that?” His lips twitched, trying to hold back a smile.

“After my father fell in battle and my mother donned the black frock, I was sent to my distaff uncle’s lands in Berona. An Anathian wrestling woman at his court taught me her arts.”

Hrothlind shook his head. “I haven’t been put down like that in years, girl.” He looked at Gram, standing silently a few feet away. “You do vouch for your sister, Brother Gram?”

“Indeed,” Gram said. “She can do more than wrestle; we sparred with practice swords as children, and she hasn’t stopped training.”

The Arms Marshall turned to the Grand Master. “My lord, her application has much in her favor.” He counted on his fingers. “Brother Gram vouches for her character and skill at arms, her mother is a Widow of Mercy, and she swears she has never lain with a man nor touched smoke or strong drink.” He smiled. “And we all know now how she can wrestle. The only issue is her sex.”

Varen Badenhather, Grand Master of the Order, nodded his bearded chin. “No woman ever wore the red cloak of our Order. But no woman has ever applied. The girl has a point - our order was founded in honor of a warrior woman. Why should we not take her as a novice?”

The Quartermaster stepped forward. “My lord, it’s our tradition.”

Varen held up his right hand, the first two fingers missing at the knuckle. “A tradition, but not a law. You saw how she threw the Arms Marshall. And if Brother Gram vouches for her sword skill, I believe him.”

“I’m willing to train her,” Hrothlind said. “The Crusades are turning many of our would-be applicants to the Templars or the Knights of the Staff. Nobles still clash Marsend, creatures of darkness still stalk the night. New blades are needed.”

The Grand Master nodded. “Then let her be trained.”

#

“Your guard is too high,” Hrothlind barked.

Swanhild grunted as her brother thumped her ribs with his practice sword. Gram stepped back, sword again held low in Plow stance, pointed towards her throat.

“Yes, Marshall.” Swanhild raised her blade into Roof stance again, this time not quite so high. Gram took a step and, this time, swung overhand. Swanhild snapped her left arm back and up, changing to Ox stance, her sword tip aimed at Gram’s face. His blade glanced off hers, and she stepped forward, smacked him on the neck with a diagonal downswing.

“A deathblow!” Hrothlind shouted. He clapped his hands. “Very well done, Sister novice.”

Swanhild smiled and ducked her head. Gram rubbed the welt already rising on his neck. “Soon enough, you’ll be ready to put the Marshall down again, this time with a sword.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Hrothlind said. He patted the pommel of his sword and squinted at Swanhild. “When we go blade-to-blade, I’ll be expecting it. Not like that sneaky throw on your application day.”

Swanhild met Hrothlind’s eyes. “When?”

“When you’re ready.”

#

Swanhild never beat Hrothlind on the practice grounds, but she fought well enough to take the cloak. A year and a month after Varen Badenhather accepted her application, Swanhild knelt before him in the chapel. Her brown novice’s surcoat had been replaced by a pure white robe. Her long dark hair hung brushed and unbound. Gram stood on one side of the altar, the Grand Master on the other. Swanhild bowed her head as Friar Oswin prayed over her ordination, asking God and his son Antidis to bless her sword and make her arms strong for war. Swanhild lifted her eyes just enough to look at the two wooden statues behind the altar.

Antidis the Scion hung on the Holy Lixa, his upper arms impaled on the U-shaped prongs of the ancient Anathian gibbet. To his right and on a lower pedestal was Saint Hilda. The renowned leader and warrior woman was clad in mail and surcoat, a heavy single-edged langsax in her hand. Her left hand rose towards Antidis, pinky and forefinger extended in the sign of the lixa. Her eyes looked down towards the altar, and Swanhild imagined that she looked down on her now from Heaven.

“Novice Swanhild ven Tostell,” the Grand Master said. “Do you swear on the name of the Holy Scion and the blood shed by the blessed hands of Saint Hilda, that you will defend Marsend from her own nobles, and fight the spawn of darkness, your blade in your hand until you die?”

Audra raised her right hand in the sign of the lixa. “I do.”
Gram stepped behind her and hung a crimson cloak around her shoulders. He pinned it at Swanhild’s throat, squeezed one shoulder, and stepped back to the altar.

The Grand Master spoke again. “Rise, Sister Swanhild, Knight of the Order of the Blood Shed by Saint Hilda.”

Saint Hilda had no daughters, only seven sons. Swanhild would be that daughter, in spirit and in blood shed by her sword.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


No Time for Virgins (590 words)

“No.”

“What do you mean, no?” Brother Edward stared at Brother Joe. “Did you get the virgin or not?”

Joe glared back, stuffing his hands into the sleeves of his voluminous robe. “There are no virgins, Eddy.”

“Don’t call me Eddy.”

Joe plowed on stubbornly. “An innocent girl unsullied by the touch of man? We’d have better luck finding a black Klansman, in this day and age. The only virgins I could guarantee are all men—”

“We can’t use a male!” Edward threw his hands in the air.

“I know that,” Joe snapped.

“Tradition dictates—”

“I know what tradition dictates,” Joe grumbled, but Edward talked straight over him, turning and pacing away, his gold medallions shining in the florescent light.

“Tradition dictates that the sacrifice must be female, a virgin, preferably blonde or brunette, fifteen years old and up! And before you even say it, child sacrifices are only in the summer and you know that.” He turned around, trying to look menacing, but the modern lighting and trappings of his updated office spoiled the effect. “We must have a virgin, a female virgin, and we’re not going to break tradition for some greasy, unwashed man who lives in his mother’s basement.”

Joe sighed. “Look, Eddy—”

“Don’t call me Eddy.”

“—deadline’s coming up. Either we compromise, or we don’t do it.”

Edward recoiled visibly. “Not do it?! You want to break twenty years of tradition just because you’re too lazy to find a girl?”

“You want one so badly? You try looking,” Joe snapped. “I’ve been scouting for months and I couldn’t find anything but guys. Either we switch over to non-virgins, men, or we don’t do it. It’s your call, Eddy.”

There was a long silence.

“I know about the whole ‘untapped potential sexual power’ of a virgin, so don’t lecture me on that again,” Joe said. “But you could argue that the power of a tapped, uh,” he cleared his throat, “nymphomaniac is greater, because of the potential for further use. Besides, it’s not like anyone can tell the difference. No one would know.”

“I would know,” Edward countered.

“And does it have to be female? We could just find a really effeminate guy and pretend. Why would a male virgin be any different?”

Edward scoffed. “I might be out of touch, but I know what boys do the instant they hit puberty.”
“Masturbation doesn’t count!” Joe clenched his fists, hidden in his sleeves. “Who knows how many of those girls touched themselves before—”

“Stop right there, Joseph.”

“Fine. But you can’t deny that a male virgin would work with the ceremony.”

“It’s a matter of aesthetics,” Edward sighed. “And you know it would only start fights among the members of the chapter.”

“What about a gay guy, or a lesbian? Or a drag queen? Transgender?” Joe shrugged, unclenching his fists. It was time for his trump card. “It’s the twenty-first century. If you’re not willing to be that progressive, then I do have a couple of black girls lined up.”

Another long silence. The clock on Edward’s entertainment center ticked over one minute, two minutes, three minutes.

“Preferably blonde or brunette,” Edward muttered. “It’s a hell of a technicality, Joseph.”

“Skin color wasn’t mentioned, was it? I mean, it might have been at first,” Joe amended, “but we did have that Asian girl with the bleached hair a couple of years ago and everyone was fine with that, so they don’t have to be Caucasian.”

Edward sighed. “Do you have any Mexicans?”

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dreadmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

Sitting Here/Sebmojo Ultrabrawl

We are all secret agents, undercover within our own lives

646 words


I was here, at the Freystadt Hotel, just after the war. Fifty two years ago to the day. I was here by accident; a missed connection and a couple of wrong turns. The details would be as tedious to recount as they are painful to remember: suffice it to say I had not planned to stay here that night.

I dropped my battered briefcase on the tiles and rang the bell. The counter was undamaged and inlaid with a mazelike pattern and I traced it with my finger as I waited. No-one came. The lobby was quiet apart from the twittering of the sparrows’ evening argument in the larches outside. I confess to waiting only a few minutes before deciding to investigate the tardiness of the staff. I was less patient in those days.

The little cramped office smelt of old paper and neglect. A black phone in the corner, a few manila folders sprawled across the cluttered desk. I leafed through a folder, picked up the phone. There was no dial tone, only a susurrus of rising and falling static, like surf breaking upon a beach.

My profession at the time, you see, was clandestine. I was, in vulgar parlance, a spy: a mode of employment that rewarded the incidental gathering of information. And as I put the heavy receiver back in its cradle, I was rewarded. A brightly coloured scrap of paper with a picture and a date lying where it had fallen under the desk. The picture was of a beach, the most beautiful beach that I think I will ever see. The date was in the future.

I spoke of fancies before, and as I looked at that fragment, I was seized by the fancy that it came from the future. I began a methodical search of the room. Ridiculous, of course. Doubtless a product of my exhaustion and the terrible things I had seen in the previous few months.

Having ransacked the office and found nothing. I began with the rooms. I quickly discovered the hotel had been deserted. I saw no-one as I lurched, shaking with fatigue and a kind of fever, from room to room. Most bore the signs of habitation, a discarded chemise, a cold half-drunk cup of coffee.

I had climbed to the third floor, when I saw her. A woman, her hair was yellow in the dim light. She saw me too. I called out to her in German, then English. She stepped into one of the rooms. I ran to the doorway of Room 34, shouting something. I can't remember what.

I saw her step through a hole, a barely visible shimmering portal of hot air. Beyond it I could see the waves of the sea, and bright sunlight. As the hole closed her face had an expression that I have always told myself was regret.

I slept, eventually, on the floor of room 34. I had to leave after a week, but I have always... I will...

Forgive me. Old men and their stories. But ever since that day I have felt my everyday self to be an impostor, hiding another, truer self. This world we see is not the real one, you see. There are those that walk beneath and beyond it. My yearning to walk with them has only grown since that cold evening fifty two years ago.

And so I sit here, an old man tidewracked upon the shore of the world, awaiting the great wave that will wash him out to sea.

dreadmojo fucked around with this message at Nov 10, 2013 around 09:46

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