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Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Saw the prompt. Hesitated. Drank some beers.

In.

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Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Second Chances (1000 words)

For the third time, Adam crossed off the twentieth of May. He opened a cupboard, fished around, and amidst dustballs his hand closed around a dented can.

He kicked a chair out from the metal table and sat down across from Mary. Her eyes scanned a dog-eared paperback. Creases worried down its spine as she turned pages.

Adam set down the spork with only two bent tines, struck a camp match and lit a black wick set in a wax nub. His chest swelled. He’d spent days scraping together candle shavings and squishing them around that bit of string.

“Honey, do you remember what day it is?”

Mary closed the book, laid it aside and scooted next to him, raccoon eyes glowing in the flickering light. She laid her head on his shoulder.

He pushed the can over. His hand hovered on the lid and she laid hers on top of it and squeezed, their rings clinking together. Adam unrolled his sleeves, trying to hide the knobby bones protruding from his arms.

“That’s sweet,” she said, “But I already ate this week.”

“It’s my gift.”

“Baby, you can’t keep doing this.” Her stomach growled, their eyes met. She popped the lid. “We’ll split it, okay?”

They traded the spork, feeding each other one bean at a time and taking turns sipping sweet tomato broth.

Mary wiped the can with a rag, handed the cloth to him and he sucked out the last drops of flavor.

She half-filled the tin with water, swilled it. “How many left?”

Adam pushed his finger up the bridge of his nose, staring into the candle. “None.”

“Well, we have some flour.”

“Not enough.”

“Your shoulder’s still bad. You can’t shoot.”

“Sweetie, it’s not gonna get better.” The claw scars down his back ached. He massaged his neck. “You take the gun.”

“I hate guns.”

He laughed. “My darling cougar hunter.” His smile faded. “Please, babe. We’ll be careful. More careful.”

Adam stood and wrapped his thin arms around her, rubbed her back. His fingers bumped along the xylophone of ribs beneath her thin wool sweater. She bit his collar and shuddered and pulled away, leaving two wet stains on his shoulder.

She wiped her eyes. “I’ll pack up.” She put a finger on his cracked lips. “My gift.”

#

They turned a rusted wheel and shoved. The blast door groaned aside, icy air roared in, and a cloud of dust whooshed out of the bunker. Adam doubled over, hacking and spitting, and Mary dragged him up the slope.

Daylight slanted through young pines and a bird circled above them, mountainside rolled away and down to a broad green plain. In the distance, shattered fingers of glass and steel sprouted from blackened earth like a dead hand rising from a grave.

Mary sucked in a breath, tugged him upright and pointed. Smoke curled above a little copse of trees on the riverbank.

They shared a smile, their hands flew around each other and they hopped up and down, giggling. Camping tins jangled on their backpacks and a canteen flew free, clattering down the slope.

Mary grabbed his scar-torn shoulder. “Careful this time, right? Don’t go far ahead.”

“We gotta stop and see Jeremiah on the way.”

“Honey, no.” She swallowed. “It’ll get dark soon.”

“We won’t be back this way. We can’t leave him without saying goodbye.”

A growl rumbled through the woods. A cougar crouched beneath a tree, slinking towards them. Icy sweat gushed down Adam’s back and he froze, eyes wide.

Mary shouldered the rifle, squeezed an eye shut, jerked the trigger.

Wood splintered next to the cat’s ear. It sprang into brush and retreated through rustling leaves.

Mary cycled the bolt and picked up the brass. She frowned at Adam.

“But, babe, he’s our son.”

She wilted, picked him up and kissed him on the forehead. “Just stay close.”

They hiked downhill arm-in-arm to a little thicket. Adam pulled some branches aside.

A tear rolled down Mary’s cheek and she grabbed his arm. “Don’t. I can’t.”

“I’ll be fast.” He hugged her and she relaxed. Adam ducked inside and knelt by a little flat stone.

Angel wings were drawn on it, two squiggles of smoke-stained plastic. Jeremiah Mulligan, 2015 - 2017 — the inscription he’d carved with a paint scraper and patience. He leaned down and kissed the rock. Goodnight, my son.

The bushes rustled.

“You can come in, honey, it’s okay.”

A scream pierced the woods. He sprang out of the clearing. “Mary?”

The cougar had his wife pinned, paws wrapped around waist, teeth shredding her collar, shaking her like a fish. He grabbed a stone, flung it at the cat. The rock smacked the cat’s snout, it jerked away, dropping her.

The beast padded towards Adam and yowled, spraying him with hot, rotten slobber. His knees quivered, the scars on his back ached, a warm stream trickled down his leg. He grit his teeth, raised his fists.

Mary rolled over. Their eyes met and he jabbed his chin at the gun lying half-buried in needles. Quick, babe!

With a snarl, the cougar sprang and bit into his arm. He shrieked and fell against a tree.

Mary leveled the gun, lips trembling.

Adam pounded his free fist on the animal’s face. “Shoot! Kill it!”

Jaws sliced through his elbow, nails raked his face and the world went flat. “Now!”

Peace cracked through the forest and Adam slid to the ground. Warmth soaked into him and he smiled at the shimmering sunlight dappling the pines. His head lolled. The cougar lay beside him, blood gushing from a hole in its back.

Long hair tickled his face and little water-drops speckled him. Arms gathered him up and pressed his face into fuzzy, soft darkness. Sweat and dirt and iron mingled with wool and warm bread. He licked his tin-soaked lips.

He reached up and stroked her cheek. Don’t worry babe, you’re safe now. You’ll be fine.

All fine.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Hey, this sounds like a fun prompt! Fewer dead babies this time, I promise. (Also, thanks for the feedback, Echo Cian & Cancercakes.)

In, as a Sagittarius.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


budgieinspector posted:

Has anyone else heard back from them?

I submitted on February 3rd and received a Bound Off rejection today; the same form-letter rejection as V for Vegas.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Under Pressure (1190 words)

Thirty-six hours after dying, Phil leaned his metal chair back on two legs, a butt in his mouth, scratching the stippled rash on his neck. Outside, a three-story tower of whirring steel shrieked with the agony of the Damned as it shoved a drill deep into the ground’s unmentionables, searching for fresh hellfire. A stream of numbers scrolled up a computer screen, unwatched.

The door to the FEMA-surplus trailer slammed open and Jed stalked in, his three creatine-bloated arms streaked with scars. He huffed like a steam engine. “What’s this poo poo about gas in the mud?”

Phil flicked his cigarette at the computer. “That’s what it says. Might be a kick.”

Jed’s nostrils flared. “How long were you drilling topside, new kid?”

“Four—“

“I’ve been in ectics since before your daddy slipped into the wrong hole and made you, and I say we don’t got a problem.”

Through a window, Phil scanned the worksite. Half a dozen men swarmed around the rust-pocked drilling rig, hauling cables and feeding pipes to the beast. Horace stood surveying the chaos, fists on hips, feet planted as wide as the brim of his Stetson. Phil slid a window open.

“Yo, Ace? Jed says we gotta keep going even though there’s a kick.”

Horace turned, rolled his eyes, and trudged around the side of the trailer, tilting his hat down over a fresh scab on his forehead.

“You deaf?” Jed slammed a sausage-finger into Phil’s chest. “There ain’t no kick.”

The door rattled shut. “You sayin’ my measuring kit’s gone bad, Jed?” Horace hooked a thumb into his overalls and ran the other along the fat white scar on his cheek. “You sayin’ I don’t run a tight ship?”

Phil glanced at the interstate of rusted pipes and coughing motors surrounding the wellhead. “Maybe someone gave you bad gear, Ace. You want to be the first guy to blow out this field?”

“This is bull-hockey!” Jed punched the wall, denting it. “We got a kitten scared of its own shadow for a toolpusher, with poo poo tools to boot. Listen, whore-rear end, this problem, and there ain’t a problem aside from you wastes of meat, it’s all downhole, so it’s my call.”

Horace glowed neon red. “That so, Jed?” The two men began throwing obscenities in each other’s faces, their foreheads inches apart.

Hands shivering, Phil pushed a new smoke between his lips, flicked the lighter three times, and sucked hard. Aside from freeze-drying his nuts each night in his rusted-out hatchback, North Dakota had a lot on Hell.

The computer chirped. Phil poked the keyboard and ran an eye over the stats. Dead flat, the drill wasn’t moving at all. He glanced outside. Men dumped pipe after pipe down the borehole. poo poo! He smacked a reset button and numbers surged across the screen - pressure falling, gas rising.

He pushed the two spittle-flecked men apart. “Dudes, we seriously got a blow-out coming!” He hovered a hand over the keyboard. “Gonna hit the shear rams. Cool?”

Jed seized his wrist, threw him against the door. “Like Hell! Close annulars and dump mud, but you’re not cutting my string.”

“But—“

“Shut up, and get off my site.” The company man drew a finger across his neck. “You’re done. You wanted a break, you got it. Don’t show your face ‘round here until I say so.”

#

Rust-brown dirt crunched beneath the pickup’s wheels, kicking up dust. Phil rolled up his window. “I appreciate the ride, man.”

Horace swung the steering wheel around, gunned the engine. “My pleasure. That guy’s a dickhead and if he keeps pushing, he’ll get what’s coming.” He pointed at a herd of bobbing steel rigs, their heads rising and falling like grazing cattle. “See those? I did all of ‘em. Didn’t blow a one, don’t intend to start now.”

“But the kick—“

“Kill mud’ll keep it down just dandy, and Jed ain’t dumb enough to flood the entire field.”

Phil scratched his rash. “Dude needs to see a doc or something about that third arm.”

“You get used to that.” Horace rubbed the scar on his cheek. “A little bugger they’ll cut off for free, so long as it’s just a knife and novocaine. The bigger stuff costs. Besides, some of it’s useful. Heard a story ‘bout a guy who happened to get a second one, you know, down there? Talk about popular. My Sally keeps tellin’ me I should go find a gusher. Bet she just wants another little Ace to play with.” He winked.

Phil leaned his head against the cool glass, staring out at the blasted hellscape and tuning out Horace’s ramblings. He looked forward to a hot shower, a cold beer and a night camping out in the Mitsubishi shitbox he’d run into the ground back in ’92. Turns out cars didn't go to heaven after all.

The pickup’s engine burped, sputtered and died. Horace slammed on the dash. “Can you believe this?”

“You need a better mechanic, dude.”

“Naw, I do my own work, can’t trust anyone else with a beaut like this.” The toolpusher wiggled the keys, the engine hiccuped. “drat it all. Must be the dust.”

Outside, sand scoured the open land. Phil stepped out and stretched in the lee of the pickup. Not a cloud dotted the pink sky. A dark wisp of mist moaned around his boots. Tiny faces swirled in foggy eddies, contorted in eternal torment and his neck itched.

Phil jumped back into the pickup, slammed the door. “Ace, we got seepage.”

Screaming clouds of souls enwrapped the car, wails rattling the windows. Horace swore and yanked on the clutch, stomped on the pedals. The truck snarled alive and he spun the wheel, gunned it back towards the derrick. The mist chased them, screams blotting out the engine’s roar.

“I thought they were killing the well!” Phil shouted.

“They are, and usin’ too much pressure!”

They burned up the road, past the trailers. Horace yanked the handbrake, skidded the truck next to the churning rig, and shot a look at Phil. “Well, what’re you waitin’ for?”

“You’re not getting out?”

“In that stuff?” He laughed. “Don’t forget to shut the door.”

Phil dove from the truck towards the massive steel girdle beneath the derrick. Soulfog closed in, boils erupted on his skin and he grabbed a big wheel and heaved. Open, drat you! Three enormous hands joined his, and the two men threw themselves leftwards.

The wheel spun and the rig ejaculated an infernal black jet into the sky. Phil’s stomach clenched, tumors boiled his skin, a tiny hand erupted from his neck. Jed crumpled, clutching his head and shouting.

The wailing cloud dispersed and fresh puddles of ectoplasm sparkled in the daylight.

Jed lay on the ground, face buried in his hands. “drat it all. That one’s lost.”

“Saved the field, though.” Phil flicked his new limb. “How much to get one of these cut?”

Chuckling, Jed raised his head. Seven inches of tumescent vein-streaked flesh spurted from between his brows, a phallic unicorn’s horn. “Welcome to the team, kid.”

###

A/T Thread: BF&C subforum, here, my posts here and here. Also used this related A/T thread. And a fair amount of Wikipedia.

Sagittarius Stuff:
The Internet sez: Sagittarius is a Fire sign, ruled by Jupiter, lord of the Ninth House and governed by the Mutable aspect.

The Ninth House is the house of philosophy, understanding and spirituality. Spirituality combined with Fire? Hell. I drew character flaws from the Fire sign, where an overabundance is characterized by pride (Horace), greed (Jed) and wrath (also Jed). Too-strong an influence of Jupiter is associated with sloth, which I assigned to Phil, but it doesn't come through too well. As for the Mutable aspect, well, one of the devices is mutations.

There's no rhyme or reason to picking the oil industry or oil drilling as the backdrop. I just browsed A/T and it looked interesting.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


In for this week.

Kaishai posted:

Erogenous Beef, "Under Pressure"

(an excellent crit)

Thanks, this is good stuff. I had some more bits about Hell and the wells, but they were either too long or felt tell-y and boring, so I cut them in favor of keeping the core character interactions. I also had "cute" "local" phrases like "newdead" sprinkled in there (in place of 'new kid'), but they made me throw up a little in my mouth on a re-read pass. I've been reading some utter crap lately, and wordplay like that makes me want to punch the author.

My alternate title was "This Is Not A Drill", but the Queen reference seemed superior.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


I had a similar take on Magical Realism to SurreptitiousMuffin. Welp.

Last Flight from Copenhagen (1404 words)

The first shudder roiled through the plane about a kilometer over the Øresund, flapping the wingtips just outside Marty’s window. The fasten-seatbelt light dinged on, buckles mated with latches in chorus and that’s when Marty realized he was going to die in that winter-chilled strait.

A speaker crackled to life. The pilot coughed something through a mouthful of potatoes, then repeated in English, “We’re hitting a bit of turbulence. If you’d keep to your seats, we’ll be back in clear skies shortly.”

Marty flicked free from his chair, popped open the overhead compartment, and rifled through his luggage. Shouldn’t’ve packed the drat thing so deep, but at least he’d put it in carry-on.

The fuselage shivered again, throwing him to the floor and dumping his bag on his head. A stewardess hauled him upright and shoved him back into his seat. He rooted through his scattered stuff, searching for the one thing he’d promised to do.

He fingers closed around a smooth metal tube. He pulled the pennywhistle free of his scattered stuff and pressed it between his lips.

#

They met at the bar after the concert. Marty offered her a beer and tried to talk about her performance, scheming to ask for lessons afterwards. She chugged the beer and the club’s pounding bass swallowed her name. A cloud passed over her face, she muttered something and bolted for the door. Marty plunged through the crowd after her, dropping his half-empty drink to the floor, and dove out onto Pusher Street.

In cold electric half-light, he skated on cobblestones slicked by spring rain, weaving down a street choked by tall, drunken Danes sharing hot words or spliffs, depending on mood. She turned into an alleyway, peeking over her shoulder as she retreated behind the building.

Marty turned the corner as the first convulsion tore her feet from the ground. He jumped and caught her head as she fell.

#

“I swear, Naekka, it’s just for work. Two weeks in Toronto. I’m back after New Year’s.” Marty sipped whiskey straight from the bottle, staring down at the girl sitting on the chunky black amp.

Naekka snorted, grabbed her Fender Jaguar, and plugged in. Her fingers massaged the dented neck, frets sagging, lacquer rubbed dark and matte. She strummed a solitary rolling chord. “I haven’t seen you practicing.” She plucked the strings, picking out a chilly dirge.

“The trip’s for my sales quota. That’s all.” He collapsed on a beanbag, and the bottle rolled away.

“You never wanted to learn to play. You just wanted to gently caress me.”

“No, I—“

“Where’s the flute?”

In my luggage. He said nothing, but she winced nonetheless and tossed out a stormy riff, her fingers rolling down the fretboard.

“When I get back—“

“You’re not coming back.” She launched into a furious solo, hunched over the guitar, hands flying, rocking the strings like windchimes in a hurricane.

#

The plane bounced, dropping through the air before being caught on invisible hands. An overhead bin sprang open, vomiting luggage on the floor. Marty burped, dropped the whistle, and grabbed an airsick bag.

Cheap eggs rode his bucking stomach like a cowboy. The next jolt spattered his Terminal 2 breakfast across waxed paper.

The floor briefly became the ceiling, people screamed and yellow masks dropped from hidden compartments. Marty shoved the pennywhistle between his teeth and blew a single sonorous note. His fingers shivered up and down along the holes, trying to recall practices interrupted. She’d objected, pushed him to study, but, a few words later, they’d both found nicer things for lips to do.

The aisle pitched downwards, the plane nose-diving towards water. Marty chewed on the plastic mouthpiece, trying to dredge the tune from his whiskey-fouled bog of a memory.

#

Marty pushed a glove between her teeth as she lay in the alleyway, tremors snapping through her small body as though a finger were plucking her spine. She arched her back and gurgled, eyes rolling back. He checked his phone. What was the emergency number again?

He cupped his hands towards the street. “Can somebody help—“

Fingers brushed over his mouth. Through the shuddering, she grinned. “Y-you’ll do fine.”

“Huh?” Marty cradled her head in his lap, his legs absorbing her jerks and twists.

“You’ll get it, don’t w-worry. Just r-relax. Relax and r-remember how it goes.”

#

“Look, I’ve got my return ticket right here.” Marty waved the paper at her.

“You’re just going back to see her.” Naeka huddled over the guitar’s body, rubbing away a flake of peeling lacquer, sawing a sinking tune. She nudged the amp’s volume with her heel and musical brimstone roared through the tiny studio, its walls shuddering in sympathy. “One day, two weeks, forever, it doesn’t matter to me.”

Marty punched some cheap foam insulation. “We split up before I even came here!” He really should’ve deleted the nudes, but how could he have known she’d find them? This girl needed help operating a toaster.

“Too late. It’s done. We’re done.” She stared at him with hollow eyes, her hands churning the strings into a cloud of screeching smoke. “You’re done.”

#

Beyond the window, the clouds fell away, the strait rose up and Marty screwed his eyes shut, trying to ignore the inescapable. He had one job, one last thing to do before being smeared over ice-choked water.

Music rose in his mind, a fresh spring erupting from parched earth, and he played. His fingers were stiff at first, jerking too swiftly off the holes, but he warmed up and a springtime song spilled out.

The flute’s rough holes cut into his fingers and he bled the song she’d taught him, a light and lilting melody, trilling notes dancing up and down the scale like two lovers with their arms clasped around one another, waltzing amidst wildflowers in the bright far northern summer.

The plane slithered through the air, metal squealing as the fuselage shimmied and shivered, the aisles bending one way and then the other. Around him, others clenched their hands in silent or vocal prayer, but Marty played on.

#

Naeka tensed, arched her back and grinned up at the sky, bloodshot eyes peeled wide, and then she fell back against him. Marty picked her up, carried her into an empty cafe and spread her out on a bench. He bought a bottle of water and poured it over her lips.

She sputtered and sat up, smiling. “You did it.”

“Uh, yeah. Here.” He held out the water. “Are you okay?”

“Yes.” She gulped down a few mouthfuls. “I’m Naeka.”

“Marty. Hey, uh, maybe you should have some friends with you, if that happens often. Just saying, you know.”

“I knew I’d be fine.” Naeka studied him. “You wanted to learn music.”

“Yeah— wait, how’d you guess? Did I mention it?” He flushed.

“It’s written all over your face.” She held out a tin whistle with a plastic mouthpiece. “Here. I’ll teach you.”

Marty looked at the instrument, frowning. Peddlers in Christiania liked to screw with foreigners. “I’m not six.”

“Start small.” Naeka smiled and the world lit up around her. “Don’t you want to learn? All you have to do is promise me you’ll remember my favorite song.”

#

Tears streamed down her face as she played. Her fingers blurred into the strings, the whole Jaguar a shivering axe of resonant fury. Naeka played thunderclouds and tornadoes, hail and lightning, clenching the guitar closer and closer with each bar until blood spotted her pants.

Marty prostrated himself, deafening himself before the amp, begging for forgiveness. She remained unmoved, wracking the guitar with blow after blow. Down the scale she crawled, deep into the bass and beyond, each pluck vibrating in his bones, rattling the world apart.

The promise, he remembered the promise. He got his bag, worried out the cheap pennywhistle, and blew a note. He pecked out a tune, forcing air through his lips, his fingers ox-nimble on the holes. He chirped what he thought she wanted to hear.

“Stop.” Her hands fell away from the guitar and she clicked off the amp. She wiped away her tears, walked to the door, and glanced over her shoulder, smiling faintly. “Fly safe.”

#

Marty squeaked the last notes from the flute and tucked it away into his coat pocket. Outside, the ice fell away as the plane rose back towards the clouds.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Sure, let's do this. I'm in.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Off Base (970 words + 2 in the title)

Jimmy banged on the roof of the car, watched the MPs drive away and then marched towards his brother’s house, hiding a box wrapped in yesterday’s supermarket circular under his jacket. As he climbed onto the porch, Monica opened the door, frowned at him, and slammed it shut. Her voice pierced the wood.

“Howie, I don’t want a soulless killer in this house. He’s going to poison our son.”

“Sweetie, just go get ready, please.” Howard opened the door, smiling. “Hey, Jim.”

“She’s happy to see me, huh?” Jimmy hugged his brother.

“Ecstatic. Come on in.”

A blur in Superman pajamas collided with Jimmy’s legs. “Uncle J, uncle J!” The boy scrambled all over Jimmy like a dog chasing a cat up a tree. “Did you bring me something?”

“For God’s sake, Grady, say hello first.” Howard rolled his eyes. “Sorry, he’s at that age.”

“How’s it going, dude?” Jimmy knelt down, grinning. “You been good?”

Grady nodded. “I got all As in school and I won the science fair and mommy’s teaching me violin and—“

Jimmy ruffled the kid’s hair. “That’s real good, dude. Here.” He held out the wrapped box.

Grady squealed, grabbed it and sprinted away into the house.

Howard eyed Jimmy. “That better not be another shooter. You know Monica hates them.”

“Well, it can babysit as good as I can. Besides, if I’m gonna be here all night while you two make out, I gotta bring something I wanna play too.”

“Just the same, do me a favor and take it with you when you go?” Howard glanced towards the stairs. “Honey, are you gonna be a while?”

A shower hissed on upstairs and Howard rolled his eyes. “Drink?”

Jimmy nodded and followed his older brother into the study. Simulated gunfire rang out from the next room over. Howard shut the door, opened a cabinet lined with a dozen scotches and poured them each two fingers. They clinked glasses.

Jimmy sipped his whisky and walked over to a picture of a tall, silver-haired man in dress uniform. Rest in peace, Dad. He followed a line of portraits, men smiling in navy blues or olive drab before the flag. The photographs ran all the way down the wall and onto the next, first in color, then in silver and grey. Jimmy traced a finger back towards modern times, following a litany of countries: Germany, Korea, ‘Nam, Iraq, Poland, and, beneath Dad, Germany again.

Howard emptied his glass. “You’re gonna be up there one day.”

“You too.”

“You know I had to put these all back up last week? Monica replaced ‘em all with Desiderata and the Lord’s Prayer.”

“That bad?”

Howard winced and finished his second scotch. He studied the dregs. “You wouldn’t believe what it took just to get her to agree to let you babysit. You’ve been through the respawners?”

A wave of nausea knotted in Jimmy’s gut and he swallowed hard. “Only twice. Brazil ain’t as bad as the Baltic right now.”

“She keeps going on about how you lost your soul in the tubes.” Howard sighed. “She’s been watching those TV preachers—“

“Dude, gently caress those guys.”


“Jim…”

“Sorry.”

“Look, I say thank God for those tubes, or else Moscow’d have our rear end in a barrel. Pardon my French.” The shower upstairs cut off. Howard set the glass down and headed for the door. “Well, I’m glad you’re here. Just don’t let him stay up too late and take the game with you, okay? We’ll be back at eleven.”

Jimmy shrugged. “Your house, your rules.” He hid in the study until his brother’s car purred out of the driveway, then followed the roar of war down the hall to the den. “Hey man. How is it?”

“It’s the greatest, uncle J!” The boy sat transfixed before a wall-filling TV, strangling a plastic controller. On the screen, men in BDUs rushed around, shooting rockets and bullets at other, similarly-dressed men.

A cloud of dust rolled through the frame, obscuring the fight, and a twinge pinched Jimmy’s stomach. It was almost too real. “Can I join, dude?”

A smile flitted across the boy’s face and he handed over a second controller, switching the game to split-screen mode. His sister-in-law needed to join the modern world and buy another TV. Maybe as a Christmas gift…

An hour later, Jimmy laid down the plastic. “Well, I’m licked. How’d you get so good?”

“I play at Tommy’s house a lot ‘cuz Mom doesn’t want us playing cool games.” The kid pointed at the screen, face glowing. He launched into a lecture on game mechanics, describing the arcane machinery behind gore points, brutality streaks, head shots.

“Okay, dude, chill.” Jimmy hustled the blabbering kid away from the den. “Let’s get a Coke.”

“See, uncle J, you’re healing too much, your death count was really low and you gotta stop caring about that, you just gotta respawn—“

“Dude, what?” Jimmy frowned.

“Dying is faster than healing, Uncle J.”

Jimmy stopped dead, ears ringing. Bile rushed up his throat, he coughed and ducked into the bathroom.

“Are you feeling bad, uncle J?”

“I’m cool, dude. Just a sec.” He breathed slow, closed his eyes. He saw the inside of a tube, smooth glass beaded with sweat and blood, air thick with warm steam. He drank some water from the tap, wet his face, and slouched out into the hall.

“Do you wanna play some more?”

Jimmy checked his watch. “You ever been to the science museum?”

The boy’s eyes lit up, then he frowned. “But, curfew…”

“You leave that to me. Go on, get dressed.”

As Grady bounded up the stairs, Jimmy returned to the den. He shut off the television, slipped the game disc back into its case and hid it into his jacket.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


In.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Coup (967 words)

During the second hour of the national mourning procession, Vice Chancellor Milk arrived and assumed his reserved seat in the uniform-choked bandstand beside Harrison Glass, who murmured the required pleasantries and offered the appropriate frown. Milk’s lips trembled as his glazed eyes swept over the assembled crowd. He took out his forbidden smartphone and began playing a game, ignoring the passing Women’s Honor Guard as they stopped before a towering portrait and wept.

Harrison glanced back towards the deceased Dear Leader in whose immortalized shadow they sat. In the nosebleed seats beneath the portrait, Sherman stared down at them, flanked by other black-suited spooks. He grimaced, palmed a packet of menthols and nodded towards the stairs.

The justice minister and the secret cop met behind the bandstand and shared a silent smoke. Sherman took the last puff and ground the butt beneath his jackboot.

“A great loss for the revolution,” said Harrison.

“Not everyone seems to agree, Minister.”

“You’ll scrub that breach of etiquette from the telecast?”

Sherman waved a hand and plugged another cigarette into his lips. “Seen the toxicology report?”

Harrison nodded. “Sounds like an exotic cocktail. Who supplied it? The Americans?”

“Don’t know your own department, do you?” Sherman grinned. “We use the various bits for executions, abortions and anesthesia. It’s an inside job. Someone with access.”

Fire ignited in Harrison’s veins, his knuckles glowed white as he clenched his fists. “Someone highly placed.”

“The honorable V.C. will be at his summer home this afternoon. Registered yesterday. Off for a month.”

“I think he’d enjoy some visitors,” said Harrison.

The cop flicked his lighter shut. “We can take my car. Saturday?”

#

“The Dear Leader put me into law school,” said Harrison.

Sherman flicked a cigarette butt out the window, one hand on the wheel. “Yeah, you were working some veggie patch before?” He smirked. “I’ve read all of your dossiers. Spent yesterday nose-deep in Milk’s.”

Harrison’s jaw dropped open. “You worked through the Dear Leader’s Interment? His Will said—“

“Ease off, don’t be one of those guys.”

They emerged from thick evergreens into a clearing. Manicured grass surrounded a whitewashed two-story house with a squat black Mercedes in the driveway.

“What’s the official line on the Leader’s—“

“Cancer.”

Harrison eyed the bulges beneath Sherman’s coat. “Pity we didn’t catch the tumor earlier.”

The secret cop grinned and nodded towards the house. “Which floor do you want?”

“I’ll take the upstairs.”

They straightened their suits and approached the door. It swung open before they could knock, Chancellor Milk smiling mildly at them. He invited them inside, led them to an upholstered parlor, poured some cups of Darjeeling and toasted their health. Harrison faked a sip.

Sherman cleared his throat. “Mister Milk, where’s your toilet? Been a long drive.”

“Past the bedroom, up and to the left.”

Harrison sat upright in his chair as he waited for an opening, resisting the urge to shuffle his feet. Milk stared past him, sipping tea. Harrison followed his gaze. A rose garden sprawled across the back yard, multicolored blooms hanging from thorny stems hand-tied to individual trellises.

“Yours? They’re quite nice.”

Milk nodded and finished his tea. “I think I’ll have a stroll. You’re welcome to join.” He stood up and stepped out through a screen door.

Harrison checked his watch. Sherman was taking his sweet time pissing. He went to the carpeted stairwell and, above him, a toilet flushed. Sherman rounded the corner, wiping his hands on his pants, and nodded to Harrison as he descended.

“Find anything, Sherman?”

“In five minutes? Who am I, Sherlock Holmes?” He pushed past. “I took a quick look, nada. Your turn.”

Harrison walked into the master bedroom. It was maid-tidy, the sheets folded back on the bed like a hotel and a little bowl of potpourri resting on the nightstand next to a big red book with a well-cracked spine: the Leader’s classic Meditations on Unity, required reading for any citizen, as common as socks in bedrooms across the nation.

Precisely the sort of thing someone in counterintelligence might miss.

He drew a razor blade and straight-edge from within his jacket and set to work, cutting out a thumb-deep square in the middle of the book. He plugged a little glass vial of clear, lethal liquid into the new hole and closed the book.

Sherman and Milk reclined on chairs amidst the roses, laughing as Harrison approached. He caught Sherman’s eye and mouthed ‘book’ before smiling at Milk. “These roses are lovely, Chancellor.”

“Thank you.” The Chancellor motioned for him to sit. “The secret to a good garden, Minister, is good weeding.”

“Pardon, I need to take another whiz. drat tea.” The cop hurried towards the house.

Harrison turned to his doomed superior. “Speaking of, I could do with another. Would you like one?”

“Certainly. Cream and sugar, please.”

Inside, the Justice Minister waited by the tea service. Sherman returned a moment later, face flushed. “It’s the same stuff.” He slid a dense memo printed on official letterhead across the table. “Glad I came prepared. Just sign here.”

Harrison Glass inked his name beneath Sherman’s finger and the two men walked out into the roses, Sherman keeping one hand close to his chest.

“Mister Milk, I’m very sorry.” Sherman drew his pistol and glanced at Harrison. “He tried to hide it inside the Meditations.”

“I had dearly hoped the rumors weren’t true.” The Chancellor pressed his hands together, as if praying, and sighed. “Do you have papers?”

Harrison held out the memo. “It’s for the good of the nation, sir.”

“Indeed. And thank you for the signed confession.” Milk waved to Sherman.

The cop swung his gun to Harrison’s head. “Sorry, pal, but that was my book you cut up.” He fired.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


In.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Sitting Here posted:

SO IT SHALL BE

Now we just need a prompt and a judge. I nominate anyone but Bohner.

Well, I could use some practice doing crits.

THUNDERBRAWL: Sitting Here v. Jeza

Prompt: Write a fable. Your theme is "Noble blood is an accident of fortune; noble actions characterize the great." Either affirm or refute this theme.

Word count: 800 words or less.

Deadline: 03:59 GMT+0, Saturday. (23:59 Eastern/20:59 Pacific on Friday night.)

I shouldn't have to mention that showing > telling.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Jeza posted:

Posting this on my phone. I aint forgotten you SH. Got my TD and brawl entry done, be able to post them tomorrow. Sorry to keep you on tenterhooks.

It's cool, not like there was a deadline or nothing.

But resolving a Thunderbrawl by disqualification is pretty boring, so I'll wait.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Feh. Been wrapped up in work emergencies the past two days and I misread the deadline; thought I had until tomorrow. This hasn't been revised as much as I'd like.

Xlendi (441 words)

Maybe it was too much cheap Victoria wine at my bachelor party, the wedding gifts towering over me in the foyer, or the centuries-old fish stench seeping from the floorboards, but I packed my bag by moonlight the second I got home. I tiptoed down the hall with my guitar and suitcase in hand, past the grunts of my brothers creating new generations of Callejas, pausing only to listen for Father’s snore.

Without that oppressive drone guarding the stairs, my next test: the parlor bookcase, and its age-polished nook where a lockbox must be. The lockbox was Father’s treasure, and no child could peek inside. It vanished only when he fished or drank. My older brothers had wild, lascivious ideas of its contents, but it slept beside Yeats and Ginsberg; I had my own theory.

I crept past a table which no boy could leave without finishing his meal. On many mornings, I awoke beside last night’s cold, slimy wrasse and Father still made me choke it down for breakfast. Fish gives strength, he’d say, flexing his big salt-blackened hands. I shared neither his love for salmon nor his physique, though I carried his name.

In the parlor, the old bookcase lay bare. It was too late to fish. I was free.

I escaped to the backyard, circling around through an alley, avoiding the raucous pub where, no doubt, men toasted my health and happiness, both due tomorrow.

Father’s boat bobbed in the marsa alongside many multicolored cousins, a row of drunk old men teetering on the moonlit water. Rusty outboard motors clung to their keels, mere infants to the grandfather wood of their hulls.

I tugged boat-line loose from the mooring, dumped my things on the transom and yanked on the motor. It coughed and sputtered, then went back to sleep.

Big black hands closed on the starter cord. “I’ve raised a son who cannot get a motor running.” Water glimmered around the rims of his eyes.

I stood with my fists up. “I’m going to London.”

He stared at me, unsmiling, and took my suitcase and guitar. I jumped and grabbed his arm, tugging him as he made his way fore, but he was mountainous from years of net-hauling while I had wasted my nights with desks and barstools. He opened the wheelhouse and lashed my things in a cubby beneath the wheel.

Pictures covered every wall, glossy cutouts from magazines plastered over yellowed clippings. Hendrix, Cash. The lockbox lay open on the counter, brimming with vinyl.

His scratched his salted beard. “Mela. When do you fly from Luqa?”

“Four hours.”

“We’ll make it.”

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Sitting Here posted:

Jeza, you came back for me

Beef tell me if I need to tap into my booze and smokes fund to buy that av of shame

Nope.

Thunderbrawl Results: Sitting Here v. Jeza

So, I asked for two fables about nobility. I got Aesop drunkenly setting fire to Thucydides. Sitting Here rises from the ashes to reclaim her blood crown, perhaps somewhat tarnished from the scuffle.

Sitting Here, your piece attacked the prompt directly and came across quite well; you put forth a lilting, Aesop/Kipling voice that works well for what you're trying to accomplish. It's almost reminiscent of a Just So story, which I suppose is a compliment.

However, while it started off quite strong, but I started to feel it sagging towards the end, and I'm dissatisfied with the conclusion. There's some repetition that could have been edited out, and I would've liked to see some sort of foreshadowing, something demonstrating Mushroom's worth in a manner that Peacock could dismiss before the fire.

Overall, though, well done.

Jeza, you took a side alleyway to Mythology Street and I don't think it quite worked. You have a pretty good take on the mythological voice, but a number of irrelevant details distract from your premise, slow your plot and weaken your seeming affirmation of the theme. There was also a preponderance of telling, and you had a few passive-voice issues.

Now for the long-form crits, starting with Jeza. Edits in italics or strikeout, comments in bold.

--------------

A Noble Quest - Jeza

To kill a chimaera requires a man possessing all the qualities of the chimaera itself. A lion's strength, a serpent's speed (?), a goat's modesty. These, and certainly the blessing of Artemis, are necessary. Fair to say that a man possessed of all these is a true hero, fairer still to say that a vessel containing them is uncommon found.

Is this intro necessary? You're bashing the reader over the head. You could've just started with the second paragraph and gotten on with it.

Once, in the ancient kingdom of Corinth there lived two warriors of peerless skill named Ephyxas and Bellerophon. Ephyxas was a cobbler's son, with strength and hands unfit for the work of his father. The other, Bellerophon, was son of Corinth's king, He had all the grace and litheness of a panther. His neglect of his blood's calling caused his father many nights of lamentation, for Bellerophon was his only son.

Okay, this is a more classic mythological opener. Not the strongest, but passable. I'd say get rid of the last line, or move it into the next paragraph, where you're setting up Bellerophon's conflict with his father.

Both were born under a strange star and destiny had long twined their fates together. Move this first sentence to the previous paragraph. Also, eliminate the irrelevant detail. As children, they ignored the wonts of their parents and ran together into the mountains, to wrestle tigers and joust stags. There They had a bond of brothers, though one of them was common-born and the other of royal blood.

Okay, good set-up. The "bond of brothers" sentence is a bit of a tell. Could replace "wonts" with a more conventional word, it's a bit distracting as is.

As adults, the citizens of Corinth grumbled openly at their Bacchic antics. They complained that Bellerophon brazenly seduced their wives and that Ephyxas drank wine enough for ten men and wrought havoc. With a heavy heart, the king decided that the two of them could not stay. He devised a scheme that would both appease his subjects and offer redeem his son a chance to redeem himself.

Whoa, what? You set up a conflict with their men's parents, but then the inciting action is a complaint from the villagers? I think this could be eliminated. You mentioned the father's many nights of lamentation just two paragraphs ago; combined with your next paragraph, you've got all the inciting action you need. "Taming the wild son" is classic mythology.

Also, "bacchic", while valid, is another cute thesaurus word that you could probably revise out.


His friend, the king of Caria, wrote often about the woes he faced at that hands of a chimaera. It razed his crops and burned his villages. He wrote that even His finest soldiers could not hope to best it. Paragraph break? So he which he? summoned his son and Ephyxas and commanded them to slay the beast or be banished from Corinth. He warned them that without proof, they would not be allowed back into Corinth. We can merge these sentences. The king gave to Bellerophon his own father's slightly unclear - you mean Bellerophon's grandfather? blade, and the cobbler gave to Ephyxas his finest hobnail hammer.

Hobnail hammer? I'm picturing a tiny thing that the dude's going to pinch between thumb and forefinger. Can you revise that somehow?

The journey took many months, but when they arrived the king of Caria was overjoyed and hosted for them a feast. This seems irrelevant. The next day, They set off to search for the chimaera. It wasn't long before They found it, curled up and napping upon the charred embers of a house.

Eliminating some passivity. Also removing the journey and the feast - these don't seem to contribute to your plot. Is the timespan important?

They charged, but the chimaera had only been under the pretence of sleep. Telling, rewrite. Show that the chimaera was pretending to sleep. It swung its razor claws and they narrowly avoided injury. Seems stilted and weak. "narrowly avoided injury" stinks of telling. Stronger verbs, less adverbs, please. From there, they fought the beast for many hours without change. If this is relevant, move it to the start of the paragraph. Gloss over the boring "they fought from dusk 'til dawn" stuff, or eliminate it entirely. Keep the action moving. However, One of its paws caught a loose rock and slipped. Bellerophon leapt upon its back and brought his blade down hard into its neck. brought … down hard: eliminate "hard" and use a stronger verb.

In general, this is a pretty languid action paragraph. Punch it up with some comma splices or by shortening your sentences. Strengthen your verbs.

But to his horror, it was his blade that snapped. Passive, rewrite. The serpent's chimaera's serpentine tail of the chimaera hissed and struck him from behind. The tail hissed? Huh? Ephyxas roared and with his hammer crushed the paws of the beast with his hammer. Crushed its… paws? It collapsed from the blow, and. He picking picked up the broken blade, drove it into the chimaera's brain of the chimaera killing it instantly. We can assume that a sword to the brain will kill something.

This paragraph leaves me very . Tails hissing, paws being crushed. I ain't feeling it. Also, infinitive abuse. I try to eliminate "of the X" attributions, they're wordy and slow the paragraph down. Not good when you're writing action.

Bellerophon regained consciousness and seemed fine unafflicted. Telling. Rewrite or at least use dialogue. Eager to return home, They took pieces of the chimaera as proof: Bellerophon the lion's head and Ephyxas the serpent's tail. This could be strengthened with a stronger verb. "cut pieces from the chimaera" or something? They left only the carcass of a goat behind. Irrelevant.

Upon their return to Corinth, they were paraded around through the streets, for they had brought much glory to the kingdom. Necessary? The king and cobbler embraced their sons and a festival was called in their honour. "A festival was called" - weak. Why not have the King call a festival? At the festivities, the king took both Bellerophon and Ephyxas aside.

Also, repeating the word "festival" and "festivities". Could replace "festival" with "feast" or "celebration" or something.

“My son, you have done Corinth proud. I see it is you that carries the head of the beast – say it was you that slayed the beast and you shall have my blessing to become king.”

Why does the king take both Bellerophon and Ephyxas aside here, but then speak directly and seemingly secretively to Bellerophon?

Bellerophon hesitated.before saying “Yes, 'twas I that struck the mortal blow.”

Missing a comma, if you insist on using "saying" or "said".

Ephyxas smiled. and said “'Tis true, he saved me from the beast's jaws.”

You can eliminate "and said" here. Attribution is implied. Otherwise, add a comma.

The king wept with joy and announced to the festival that the one who had slain the chimaera would become their king. At the news, the people rejoiced.

Add a nice bit of tension to the preceding exchange by making this declaration before he pulls his son aside. "And the dude who killed the chimaera will be king! (aside) That was you, right, son? RIGHT?"

But that night, the chimaera's poison resurged in Bellerophon's veins. He Bellerophon grew pale, and writhed in his bed. Ephyxas stayed with him through the night, but by the dawn Bellerophon had succumbed. When the guards discovered the body what had occurred, they dragged Ephyxas was dragged before the king. Passive voice. Also, add a paragraph break? In a rage, the king ordered him executed for his traitorous act, accusing him of seeking to usurp the throne. Seeking that he suffer as his son did, the king ordered that he be pierced by fangs of the serpent head that had been brought back. It was done, but the poison had no effect. Cursing his noble heart, the king had Ephyxas banished, while he and his kingdom wallowed in their misery, soon falling into ruin.

Decent ending, the poison having no effect is a nice touch. Some wordiness to be eliminated, though. For example, you could merge the two sentences about the execution:

In a rage, the king accused him of seeking to usurp the throne and ordered that he be pierced by the chimaera's fangs.


-------

Peacock and the Fungus - Sitting Here

Once, not long ago, there was a fine estate with a lush garden. And in that garden lived Peacock, who, the other animals agreed, was the most regal and colorful of all the creatures that dwelled within the estate walls. He spent his days resting in the shade of the coral tree, his attendant peahens grooming each of his long tail feathers, or strutting through the garden looking for anything that might give offense.

Ok. Could trim the second sentence a bit, perhaps merge the regal/colorful descriptors into the actions in the third sentence.

One afternoon, a dove fluttered over to his patch of shade, breathless with excitement. "Peacock," it said. "You simply must come see, there's something new in the garden!"

Unnecessary 'said'. Save two words.

"Bah, you creatures and your idle fascinations," Peacock replied, but his curiosity was piqued. "What is this new thing?"

His curiosity being piqued is demonstrated in his reply. No need to mention it, I think.

"We were certain you would know, since you are the favored of the Caretaker," the smaller bird said.

Peacock ruffled his iridescent feathers. "Of course," he said gruffly. "Now lead me to this oddity. I could use a diversion."

Irrelevant adverb. You've already got a gruff tone with the dialogue as written.

Peacock couldn't be put upon to fly, of course, so by the time they arrived, there was a substantial crowd had gathered around the newcomer.

Can't be put upon to fly - Nice detail. I don't like the word 'substantial' here. It feels stuffy and businesslike.

"What's all this, then?" Peacock demanded of a bird-of-paradise.

I usually react poorly to dialogue verbs. It's clear that he's demanding something of the other bird by his words, so you could either attribute this with an action, or revert to 'said'.

"Oh, it's wonderful! It says it's here to help the garden. I don't know how, but it's a lovely thought, don't you think?" The bird said.

Hmm. Okay.

"Help? Help?" Peacock shoved his way into the crowd, and in moments a path was cleared for him. They were huddled around a patch of dirt beneath an orchid tree, which Peacock marched straight toward.

Eliminating a detail. Still, this section feels a bit clumsy. Why have Peacock stop, exchange dialog, then move again? You could tighten this up by moving the second sentence up to where Peacock arrives, like so:

Peacock couldn't be put upon to fly, of course, so by the time they arrived, a crowd had gathered around the newcomer, huddling around a patch of dirt beneath an orchid tree. (continue to dialogue as before, then on to Peacock shoving his way through)


"You blathering pigeons, there's noth--" suddenly he saw it. Or them, rather. Three slender stalks with fleshy brown caps stuck insolently from the earth at his feet. "State your business here," Peacock said. "You--you--"

The em-dash implies that this is sudden, so you can eliminate the "he saw it" part. If you prefer to keep that, you need to capitalize the 'S' in suddenly. Also, Peacock stuttering 'you' should be separated with commas, not em-dashes, I think. Might be wrong on that one though.

"Mushroom," the mushrooms said. "I'm here to help the garden."

"This garden doesn't need the help of a mud-dweller like you," Peacock said. "The Caretaker sees to all of our needs. And besides, you're quite ugly."

"And I suppose the garden does need you?"

Peacock drew himself up to glower down at Mushroom. "What is a crown without its jewel?"

"A bit less heavy, I would think."

This is all good. Clever dialogue. Mushroom's got an attitude. I like it.

"And what good are you, down there in the dirt?"

Mushroom smiled mysteriously. "What good are you, strutting around pecking at doves?"


These two lines basically repeat the previous two, challenging each other's roles in the garden. I'd advise eliminating them.

"Insolence! I'll see every one of you plucked and crushed to a pulp. Hrumph!" And with that, Peacock stalked away, tittering peahens trailing behind.

Okay, sparks are flying. Cool. Good.

Over the coming days, Peacock made good on his threat. From sunrise to sunset, he scratched, pecked, plucked at Mushroom wherever he poked one of his caps out of the dirt. he… he. Not liking that. This could be rephrased. Perhaps 'the bird scratched…' And yet for every cluster he destroyed, Peacock found three more lurking between tree roots or near piles of fertilizer.

One night, the Caretaker hosted a great number of other caretakers in the garden. Everything was resplendent in decorative torchlight, and Peacock's feathers shimmered flickering orange. He strutted in his element, sure at last that Mushroom would see how the Caretaker prized Peacock above all for his beauty and grace.

Minor edit. I don't think the flickering bit is necessary, you're already stating that the light is in motion by using "shimmered".

It was late in the evening and the caretakers were languid with drink, and so no one noticed the flames that leapt from torch to tree to tree until a full quarter of the garden was ablaze.

Minor edits again, eliminating some repetition and what I feel is a uselessly specific detail. The garden's on fire, that's what's important.

Men screamed. Animals screamed. The doves took flight, only to find themselves caught in the very net that protected them from Hawk and Eagle, and soon that too caught fire. Peacock ran here and there, honking and crying, until. An errant cinder caught the tip of his long tail, and then the jewel of the garden was burning.

Hmm. I would've liked the net mentioned earlier if it's important. Otherwise, eliminate it. I don't like the last clause of the last sentence; "was burning" leaves me cold. Might be better as "setting the jewel of the garden alight" or something similar.

Morning brought a soft rain that hissed where it fell on the night's last embers. Peacock pushed himself to his feet and shook ash from his feathers. The familiar weight on his backside was gone, tail burned down to his scraggly pink rump. But, he thought, surely Mushroom is dead and gone now.

Okay. The first sentence seems a bit clumsy, but I don't have a better suggestion right now. Also eliminating the last sentence, you're about to have a big reveal, don't spoil it.

When he looked out over the smoking ruin of the garden, however, all he could see was mushrooms.

Big reveal, okay, cool. I think this could be punchier, tighter. "Mushrooms, and only mushrooms, carpeted the smoking ruins." Or something similar.

"Not a very pretty crown jewel," Mushroom said. commented when he noticed Peacock was awake. "I suppose they'll prize you for your accomplishments, now?"

Since he's speaking to Peacock, we can assume Mushroom knows the bird's awake.

"And what do you have now, but worthless ash?" Peacock saidretorted.

This is evidently a retort from the dialogue, no need to use the word.

"The true garden was always beneath your feet, in my domain. Now it sleeps, but in high time I'll wake it to begin again," Mushroom said. "Sorry you can't say the same of your feathers, though."

Wait, the garden will regrow but feathers won't? Huh? This is where you started losing me.

Peacock ignored him and began to wail for the Caretaker, but the estate was dark and silent, its windows like eyeless sockets, and no one came or went.

They say you can still see where the old manor was by the impressive trees that sprung up around it after the fire. As for Peacock?

Well.

They don't remember.

Not 100% sure about the feathers thing, but this was otherwise solid.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Been away with guests and such over the Easter weekend, so I'm preemptively in for the next prompt.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Reiterating my inness, using The Harp as my image and caption.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Via The Harp.

Don't Skip To The End (863 words)
Yesterday, an attorney handed me a keyring and a typed memo from the best storyteller I ever knew, old Mr. Wilkins.

“He’s dead?”

The lawyer shrugged. “No one’s heard from him for ten years. He left very specific instructions. Liquidate the estate and distribute the proceeds to charity. The library is yours to keep.”

Eight hundred miles later, I opened the door on a domestic winterscape. Trackless white dust covered books, which in turn buried the few other things in the three-room bungalow.

When I was a boy, my classmates called Mr. Wilkins an old gypsy, claimed he stole things, and said if you talked to him you’d disappear forever. And, true, we had our fair share of folks disappearing, but who can say where they went? Grab a greyhound, find a new life in the city. It’s easy. Hell, that’s what I did when I went to college.

As for the thievery, the house held little else aside from the bare necessities and the books, hardly King Solomon’s hoard.

Amidst the neglect, one thing stood pristine: a metal desk choked with felt-backed manuscripts. I had seen these once before, when I was still a teenager. Though my elder siblings had long outgrown the ritual, Mr. Wilkins had come over to tell his Sunday stories. After exhausting his yarn, he handed me one of these self-bound, handwritten volumes to read while he took coffee with Dad.

Between its covers, I soared over the Alps on the back of an airborne camel and visited a king’s court in the old country. As the sun faded, I skimmed the pulpy, graphite-streaked pages, racing along through the tale. I needed to see how it ended.

When Mr. Wilkins caught me skipping ahead, he snatched the book away and gave me the only frown I’d ever seen on his lined face. The next morning, Mother’s prize harp had disappeared from the living room and Mr. Wilkins never came over or spoke to me again.

On the cluttered desk, one book lay open, pencil chicken-scratch filling half the paper. I bent over the read it, but the long drive and the dust were making me woozy and I couldn’t focus on the words. I dusted off a chair, then flipped back to the start.

The King’s Last Request, by A. Wilkins. Had I the time, I’d’ve put down roots in that chair, reading every manuscript in turn. As is, I had to finish off this depressing business and head home. I started boxing, but the open book had a hook in my cheek and I kept rushing over to the desk to read a few pages.

By sunup, I’d nearly finished dusting, cataloguing and packing the house’s meager contents. It was time to go, but I sat down one more time, my head spinning with exhaustion. I flipped through to the final written page, where I’d found the book open, but my vision swam and I couldn’t focus on the words. My eyelids dragged shut.

Birdcalls woke me. I stood from the chair, surrounded by thick leafy trees scurrying with wildlife. A stream ran through the clearing into a little pond, beside which sat a polished wood harp - my mother’s, right down to the scar on the base where I’d stuck gum when I was nine.

Mr. Wilkins sat next to the harp, idly strumming. “Couldn’t resist, hmm?”

“Sorry?”

“The end. You were trying to skip to it, weren’t you? Thought I’d taught you better.”

“Where— why is that here?” I pointed at the harp.

“Well, the best details always come from life, hmm? Places, characters, everything. But you’re not supposed to be among them.” Mr. Wilkins laughed. “I should’ve picked a less impatient child. Where’s my ending?”

“What?”

“You didn’t read my letter. This last volume isn’t finished.” He pointed down the stream, where the forest opened out onto utter blankness. “And I can’t end it myself, that’s suicide. But you were always good at finishing things. Do me the favor, hmm? Pick up a pencil and tie it all up.”

“Wait, does this mean we can go visit the king? See the old country?”

“No, you’ve got a job to do.” He crossed his arms. “I’ve been toodling around long enough.”

“But—“ I took a step forward and slipped on a rock, smacked my head on something hard.

Sunlight stroked my face and I sat up from the desk, sending the open book tumbling to the floor. I tossed it in my bag, drove the rest of the way home and phoned in a few days off.

Sitting in my flat with a pencil in hand, I opened the book to the right place. A half-blank page stared up at me, begging for an ending. All those places, all those people trapped between the pages. I was about to finish everything for all of them.

Forever.

I slammed the book shut and shoved it in a shoebox. I’ve not read a thing since.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


In with-- wait, what?

quote:

Judges: I'm forcefully electing SaddestRhino and Erogenous Beef to be my co-judges.



Buckle up - this week, the bloodvan is on a road trip. If I catch any of you thesaurusing-up your entries, I'll be flossing with your veins.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Fanky Malloons posted:

Maybe I'm dense, but I don't understand the title? It's decently written, but there's no clear motivation for why this character is leaving his wife at the altar. I feel like there's two stories going on here, the wedding thing, and the relationship with the father, and the piece is just too short to have both of them there at the same time. However, your story does stand as an example to Willy Style of the good way to write this type of scenario, so let's move on to that story, shall we?

Xlendi is a place, the setting for the story, actually. That's also where the words mela ("well...") and marsa ("harbor") come from.

The wedding was a vestige of an earlier version which should've gotten revised out, as you and the other (wonderful, well-appreciated) critics have pointed out. The real story was supposed to be about the father-son relationship, but there were probably too few words to establish enough context for this to be meaningful. Oh well.

Edit: And no, you weren't supposed to need to know what or where Xlendi was. It's just flavor that informed some of the details, such as the colored boats.

Erogenous Beef fucked around with this message at Apr 10, 2013 around 07:09

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart



FLASH RULE

Nubile Hillock, your source material took place in Shropshire, England. However, your version must involve the Russian peasantry, either as they were prior to the October Revolution or as they are in the post-Soviet Ukraine. Good luck.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Nubile Hillock posted:

edit: I will have to move the time frame up to at least 1992. It can't be post-Soviet and set in 1985, now can it?

It also couldn't be set prior to the October Revolution and in 1985, so yeah, set it whenever. Just give us some choice, succulent words. I'm talking literary tenderloin here.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


I'm going to try to crit these as well as I can. This was loving painful, as many of you picked horrific stories to revise. Do you fuckers realize we have to reread all of those, plus all the new sewage flowing into the judgement pond? Heading back over for the crit pass, this quote stuck out to me.

CantDecideOnAName posted:

I didn't say I was aiming for gold, but turning poo poo into tin seems a lot easier than turning bronze into platinum.

A recurring complaint I'm going to toss out revolves around this. A lot of folks took their source story and just did a line-level rewrite, without taking an axe to the story's theme, characters or structure - and often, if you look beyond the obvious grammar and spelling errors, that's where the majority of the flaws in the losing pieces lay. What's worse, the crits for said losing pieces often mentioned these very problems. Unhappy Beef!

Now on to the show. I probably won't get through all of you at once; anyone I'm missing tonight will get a crit tomorrow.

Some Crits For Thunderdome XXXVI

Feed The Eye That Bites by Magnificent7
Flash Rule by Sitting Here: Must take place in the Old West or in Sengoku-era Japan

Source Material: Don't Bite The Eye That Feeds by Sitting Here.

What makes this piece tick, and tick well, is the feeling of slow, creeping horror. Something off-kilter is shown to us immediately, and successively weirder things happen until the climax - and even then, the true depth of what happened is implied, so our fertile imaginations can fill it in with Things Man Should Not Know.

Your Remake:

The first thing that hit me was grammar errors. Sure, it's an easy thing to pick on, but it's also an easy thing to fix. Look here:

quote:

Mopping my soaked forehead, I said COMMA “make CAPITALIZE it fast as you can. The less time I’m in this desert, the better.”

You're missing a lot of COMMAS between dialogue and attribution. Your other problem is heavy-handed exposition. See here:

quote:

When we arrived, the sheriff was waiting for me at the station. His tall frame was dressed in clothes far too formal for the heat; sweat soaking into every crease of his shirt, vest, and hat.

You've already been going on and on about the heat. You should've described what he was wearing, and how he was reacting to it, as these show that he has some respect for the visitor. Hell, simply cutting out everything from "his tall frame" to the semicolon would be an improvement. (Hint: if you spot a semicolon in your prose, think long and hard before you leave it in.)

There's plenty more tightening up you could do, example:

quote:

BEFORE: Through the windows of each storefront, I could see a few faces watching us. I looked closer - every face was dingy and smudged with soot
AFTER: Dingy, soot-smudged faces pressed up against the storefront window, watching us.

Backing up to a more macro level, the main problem is that you've eliminated the creeping horror feel. Yeah, we have a city boy walking into a dingy shitbox of a town. (Cliche, but fine, whatever.) But until we get to the old woman, there really isn't a feeling of dread to the piece, the protagonist doesn't feel like he's in any danger and is plunging headlong towards his own oblivion because of his own personal flaws. Sitting Here's character was flawed by curiosity. Your guy seems to be just some mook sent by a rich dude who happens to get hosed over by a cult.

An Improvement? No, unfortunately.
Stands On Its Own? No, unfortunately.
On The Beef Scale: Haggis.

--

The Opera House by systran

Source Material: It Was All A (Teenage) Dream, from which Chairchucker got his ultraloser avatar.

A girl goes into a Katy Perry ("K Po") concert by accident. Tries to escape, fails, some absolutely random poo poo happens. Twist at the end: Katy Perry comes to perform for her in the hospital. gently caress you for making me re-read this.

Your Remake:

Oh boy. I had high hopes for this. Your first line has a good hook. I want to find out why this woman won't leave the building, what that building is, etc., etc. You could cut the bit about her husband in that first line to tighten it up, as it comes across to me as heavy-handed.

Also good: The KPÖ gimmick made me laugh when I got to it. It's cute. Probably too cute.

However, you've also done a few things that I can't understand and don't like. Why are you referring to your characters only by initial or by their relationship to other character's? Having to decode phrases like "her husband's colleague" repeatedly makes me want to drink. You have some pretty leaden exposition that needs to be shown instead of told:

quote:

V. imagined how things could have been were she not the seventh daughter and had she married into a good family, as her older sisters had done. Though her husband was allowing her to attend, he had stipulated that she must not allow the opera to, “Corrupt her with its bourgeois spirit.”

In the end, this seems like you got a cute idea - KPÖ - and then proceeded to do a line-level rewrite around it. The problem is, as I stated earlier, the source material is just too weak to support a line-level rewrite. You needed to dig into the core of the idea - the feeling of being trapped somewhere antithetical to your being - and deal with that struggle. And no, "running around looking for an exit" isn't all that interesting of a struggle. I need more hints earlier on that things are going to go bad wrong. I want a sense of dread, of "no, don't go in there, the monsters are in there" that the protagonist nonetheless cannot resist because it's a core part of her personality.

Alternately, you needed to go all the way into satire territory, and this wasn't funny enough for that.

Finally, you have a couple anachronisms that are jarring. Given the aristocratic tone, the operatic setting, I'm guessing this took place during the Belle Epoque, prior to WWI. However, Austria was not a part of the German Empire, ever - it was proudly part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until 1918. Also, Czechoslovakia didn't existing until after WWI.

An Improvement? Yes, but that's not saying a whole lot.
Stands On Its Own? No, sadly. You needed to rework the bones of this story.
On The Beef Scale: The week-old bratwurst I left in the bilgewater in the bottom of the fridge.

--

Yard Work 2: The Reworkening by crabrock
Source Material: Yardwork by sebmojo. A lovely piece that slowly horrifies the reader as the mystery of "what happened" slowly reveals a murder. Very tight, this will be hard to beat.

Your Remake:

You also decided on a line-level rewrite. You've added details, and, in doing so, you've purpled up sebmojo's crisp prose. You've also hit the piece's tension over the head with a shovel by tossing the murder up halfway through the piece, and you mention the grave long before you introduce any tension with Tracey's fear. The slow reveal on the murder was the absolute essence of sebmojo's story.

What you've added doesn't really contribute to the piece. I'm not particularly interested in the fight, you haven't had enough time to establish or hint at a motive. Hell, you don't even really give me an idea of why these men are fighting. Is the guy a drunk? Is he jealous? Was there an affair?

There's some issues with telling and exposition as well:

quote:

Behind me, I heard the screen door slam shut. "I heard". See my note, below. I didn’t need to look up; it could only be Tracey: my late neighbor’s wife. Thump. That's the sound of exposition hitting me in the face. I heard a rattlesnake in the distance, A DOG BARKED followed by her meek voice: “Dan, if we’re not going to talk now, when are we?” she pleaded.

I took a moment to turn around and look at her, "I took a moment"? Get rid of that. "I turned around and..." squinting as sweat beadinged into my eyes. Her golden locks were plastered to her forehead and I could tell she’d been crying. That bit I crossed out? Pure telling. Show me that she's crying, somehow. Mention her red, puffy eyes or tears on her cheeks or something.

If you ever see something like "I heard", "she saw", "he smelled" or similar sensing verbs in your prose, you should consider cutting them. You can strengthen the sentence or image by making it more directly relevant or simply saying that something happened. In the example above, "A screen door slammed shut". You could even trim the fact that it's a "screen" door, since that's irrelevant. "A door slammed shut". 4 words in the place of 9.

An Improvement? Resoundingly no.
Stands On Its Own? It's weak, but not entirely stillborn. With a lot of love, this could work.
On The Beef Scale: Last night's cold hamburger, but it's from McDonald's.

--

chips beer babies shirts blood by twinkle cave
Source: Something from martello, I have no idea. You have the distinction of being the one guy this week I'm judging solely on your own merit, or lack thereof.

Your Remake:

I'll be honest. I absolutely hate the first half of this. I had a hell of a time keeping your characters straight, and your chaotic prose doesn't help. You have dialogue+action from one character mixed with action from a second character:

quote:

"Isn't that your losertard friends," Seth chuckled. Kaitlyn repositioned herself in the truck seat. "Classic," Seth said, "roadshow head."

See that "Kaitlyn" bit in the middle? Either move it to its own paragraph or cut it. Is it important? I can't tell. Also, I have no idea why Seth's responding like that. What's classic? Am I just out of touch with what white trash are doing these days?

Also:

quote:

Courtney, hands on the wheel, stayed straight ahead while her sister Toby leaned forward to wave, "You slut, where's your panties. I could see the wobble from here Katie-O-Asses." PARAGRAPH BREAK Kaitlyn hated that name. Kids called her Kate or Katie. Said she was stuck up when she insisted on the full Kaitlin.

Again, multiple characters doing poo poo in one para. Fix that. Why is Courtney's reaction important? You've now got four characters flying around and all that's happened is some farting. Where's my loving tension? Also, you have a character referring to herself as both "Kaitlyn" and "Kaitlin". Fix.

It only gets harder to follow from there:

quote:

About five games in Seth was already cleaning them out. He kept up a smooth banter egging the amateurs deeper in the hole and then bluffing them out or dropping a mean hand depending. Most of them were having a good time, despite losing. Then Courtney arrived followed by a argument in the yard. "Who the gently caress is that guy?" one of the kids said over his cards redirecting annoyance of getting broker.

Clumsy. Rewrite this whole para, add some goddamn commas. Stop telling me that people are having a good time and show me that they are. Hell, is the card game even relevant?

Skipping ahead though, once you get to the scene with the two girls doing the abortion in the bedroom? I was riveted. Boom, finished the rest of the story without blinking. You've got an interesting core there, a tale of a bond of friendship and sisterhood between two girls, one of whom wants a kid and the other who wants an abortion. You can scrape out the fight scenes and all the other irrelevant bullshit, and you'll wind up with a nice silver nugget.

An Improvement? No idea.
Stands On Its Own? Sorta. Needs editing. Lots of grammar errors and run-on sentences.
On The Beef Scale: A turkey carcass that you shot in the backyard with a sawed-off while drunk, but it's still fresh and steaming.

--

Slave and Slaver, Weave and Waver by Dr. Kloctopussy
Source: The Lion and the Jackal by Bad Seafood.

A difficult stream-of-consciousness piece about an old slave in the desert, chained to a young one. The young one rebels, kills their captors and then the old slave is looked to as a leader after the young one runs away? And then collects his teeth, because he's a hard desert mercenary sort who's seen this poo poo before.

I get a strong "life goes on, seen everything, nothing changes" vibe from the source piece; that's the attitude I'd expect from an old slave, and his actions seem to bear it out.

Your Remake:

Okay, well, as Seafood noted, this is considerably improved simply by not being a Joycean brick of literary lead. You've added or clarified a few nice details, and I like how teeth are more central to the plot at the start. You've largely captured the tone of the original, as well; I can feel the struggle between the old man's cynicism and his hope.

Two things irk me, one minor, one not. The minor one is in the second-to-last paragraph. I blundered over your first reference to "Torgoth", and the action that follows ("Torgoth is the whip now") is jarringly unclear compared to the rest of the story. Insert a mythical reference to Torgoth earlier, perhaps, or change your first reference to "Torgoth-the-boy" and change your third reference to merely "Torgoth".

The second thing is that the old man forgets the teeth that he lusted after to begin with! He decides to follow the boy, that's good, that's character development. I like it. But he's following the kid to "make a pretty penny" and forgets the teeth that would do so, which you mentioned early on! It's a dangling Chekhov's Gun. Sad Beef.

In general, I think this was pretty well done, and I'm rather happy with it.

An Improvement? Yes, definitely. For a line-level rewrite, you had one of the easier jobs, as you had a strong piece that just needed some polish.
Stands On Its Own? Yes, I'd say so. You could've settled for just clarifying Seafood's story, but I like the character development you added and the details.
On The Beef Scale: A t-bone with a little too much gristle on the trimmings.

--

More to come later, I need a break.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Thunderdome Week XXXVI - MORE CRITS because I haven't had enough pain yet tonight

--

Skin on Skin by Cancercakes

Source: Suit on Suit by SaviourX.

A plodding tale of murder in near-future space. Some guys are fighting over... something. In space. SPACE, DO YOU HEAR ME? SPACE!

Your Remake:

Let's start with the good. You've improved on the original by adding some character motivation, and you still have a sort of plot arc in there.

Your exposition is still a bit stilted, and you've tinged your prose with some odd distractions that don't seem to contribute anything to your story, like this:

quote:

I reach the skewed dish quickly and take the most expensive hand drill ever made out of my pocket. That doesn’t necessarily make it special - everything at the ISS is the most expensive of its kind, since it cost so much to get it here. But this is a beauty, with bronze casing glinting in the sun and capable of enough torque to start a tractor. A few adjustments and I’m ready to head back to safety.

You could dump the entire bit about the drill being expensive without losing a thing. You still need to introduce the drill, though, as you're relying on it later on!

I'm not entirely sold on your opener either. I want to see a hint that something's going wrong, or has already gone wrong, not "ho hum, another day in space". This is where you should be introducing us to some tension between Gurpreet and Trev, showing us that Trev resents Gurpreet or something.

I'm also not sold on Trev's dialogue. Astronauts are pretty highly educated people, so when Trev starts sounding like a street thug, it's jarring. That's not to say he should be using giant words, but maybe less profanity or something? Dunno.

The thing that really kills this is that your writing becomes quite muddy towards the end. I completely lost track of who was alive, who was dead, who was in space and who wasn't.

It seems like Trev came out on EVA and attacked Annie, and she kills him with the drill. The dude she hits with the drill goes still and silent. Then Trev starts talking over the intercom again, and seems to wake up again, only to die a second time. I still can't quite parse what's going on here. You basically need to clean up everything past the point where Trev starts slinging around accusations. (Of what, by the way? Your intro made it sound like a little fling. Make it more serious, so this has more impact, maybe.)

Also, the horror of the situation is that Annie is now trapped in space to die. End with that horrific realization. It's a good denouement.

An Improvement? Marginal, but yes, by dint of not being utter dross.
Stands On Its Own? No, I'd say not. This needs heavy editing, maybe a better intro and definitely more clarity.
On The Beef Scale: Lunchables. And you stole them off the class 'tard.

--

Ruble Rentboys by Nubile Hillock
Flash Rule from me: Must take place in either pre-Soviet or post-Soviet Ukraine and involve Russian peasants

Source: Rural Rentboys by Baudolino

First off, I hate you forever for making me reread Rural Rentboys closely to figure out a theme. It's about desperation in the face of poverty, and the shame of being different in a closed, rigid society. Also, funky buttsecks with a janitor.

Your Remake:

Your title is clever. Excessively so. I giggled.

Look, you've improved on the original simply by being a decent writer. Your images are evocative, and your dialogue is pretty good. However, on a macro scale, it feels unfocused. You seem to have three conflicting ideas.

You have the desperation and alienation; the need for work, the need to be accepted by society to get by. You've got the shame of homosexuality in a hostile culture, and the paranoia resulting from it.

You have the relationship between the two rentboys, but it seems undeveloped. Do they love each other? Is it a one-sided relationship? Things like this are confusing:

quote:

A place where he wouldn’t have to pretend, wouldn’t have to look for double meanings in men’s voices, where he could sit and drink and talk about yardwork and marriage

Wait, if he's gay, why does he want to talk about marriage? I went back over the piece, and I don't see any other tinges of regret that might indicate that he's just selling himself for money and secretly hates being some dude's asstoy.

And, finally, you have a story about bike repair. Which kills a dude, for some reason. I think this is the weakest part of the piece, to be honest. It violates the bleak, hopeless tone you've set. The moment the guy gets on the bike, you have a ray of hope, he's thinking of how much better life can be now that he has a bike.

I'd like to see that snatched away in a way that's more directly pertinent to the plot elements you've previously introduced, as opposed to having him hit a pothole and die. It's almost comical.

Also, you had a throwaway line about a car engine humming in the distance. Somewhere, a dog barked. Don't do that.

In the end, I came out a little disappointed, largely because I expected a tighter story from you. This is one of those places where sticking too closely to the source hurt the resulting rewrite. You left out the gay janitor though, thankfully.

An Improvement? Boy howdy.
Stands On Its Own? Sure does.
On The Beef Scale: All the bacon and eggs you have.

--

Sabotage by CantDecideOnAName
Took a losing story because "the only way to go is up"... right?

Source: S.O.S. by Voliun.

A meandering piece about an unwary reporter getting killed by a mad scientist, or something. Also, coats and plants and bookshelves. Did I mention coats?

Your Remake:

Dude, I'm sorry. You're the poster child for "what's wrong" this week. You took a bad story and did a line-level rewrite, when you really needed to look hard at the story, extract the good bits and throw away all the junk. And there was a hell of a lot of junk.

Your source piece was originally criticized for detail padding, but you left plenty in:

quote:

“Come on, come on.” You mean "come in"? Ashford led her into the dining room/kitchen room-slash-room? Clumsy and reads poorly, a small room with more skylight than ceiling how is the skylight important. On one wall there were rows of shelves passive voice that looked like weasel words, these weaken your sentencecolorful corals and fungi the shelves look like corals and fungi?, and in the center of the roomirrelevant was a circular irrelevant table with wooden stools instead of chairs. Don't note the absence of chairs unless it's really important Mandy waited for Ashford to pick up the pair of plates that were on the table before she sat down. Why? Why would she do this?

Rewritten:

quote:

"Come in, come in." Ashford led her into a small dining room and cleared two plates from the small table. Colorful corals and fungi stood on a shelf. PARAGRAPH BREAK

Mandy seated herself on a stool and SOMETHING IMPORTANT HERE

You've added technobabble, which is also not a good thing. It's basically irrelevant and looks like you poked around Wikipedia for a bit while writing. If you need a Macguffin, it needs to get introduced way earlier.

On a macro level, you've improved the ending by not making it horrifically confusing. I like how it ends on an ominous note. However, there's no introduction or plot development to speak of. You need to set up this twist better, give us some hints that poo poo AIN'T RIGHT from line one.

An Improvement? Marginally, yes.
Stands On Its Own? No. No no no. This needs a page one rewrite. Take the concept, a mad scientist murders people who come after him, and reapply them to a new, similar draft.
On The Beef Scale: A barrel full of rancid pinto beans that you're going to use in chili anyway because you hate people, specifically, me.

--

Pursuit of Honor by Jagermonster
Source: Vambraces at Sea by Kris Kruel, and some metal song

A story about a struggle for power between two siblings, about how the lust for worldly power destroys sibling bonds. Also, some of the most overwrought anime fight scenes I've had the displeasure of reading this week. Ugh, thanks for making me reread that.

Also, I don't like metal, so I skipped your song, sry bro.

Your Remake:

You have a plot arc, to start with, and that's good! Your source piece lacks that. You have characters with clear motivations, that's good, your source piece lacks that. On the level of pure mechanics, your prose isn't terribad. I'm not seeing many egregious spelling or grammar errors.

You have a few tense issues. You wrote the present in the present tense, and then mixed the past between the past and past perfect tense. Not ideal, but easily fixed. Using the third-person present is an odd choice, but more a matter of taste than a real error.

The problem is that you shoot a giant Viking-sized hole in your plot right at the outset. You present Olaf with a choice: battle or exile, presumably abdicating his throne. He chooses exile - why? It's unclear to me what he wants or seeks. Then Erik pursues him, even though he seems to have gotten what he wants.

I mean, if exile isn't what Erik wanted, why not just off Olaf right there? Why let him run to his ship? Argh.

You've removed the giant tedious fight scene, good. However, you replaced it with equally-tedious exposition:

quote:

Their father had kept Olaf close and relied on him for counsel. While Erik had proven himself on the battlefield, Olaf had planned those battles. Olaf was not only bigger and stronger than Erik, but more naturally adept with a blade. Olaf mastered fighting techniques in days that Erik spent weeks drilling. Olaf’s kindness and affection toward Erik had been the greatest insult of all. Erik saw it as more acts of mercy, further eroding his honor.

Jesus, just hit me over the head with your story, why don't you? You need to find a better way to show all this without just saying it outright.

This is terrible, never do this:

quote:

Olaf realizes there is no way out of this. His attempt at self-exile merely delayed the inevitable. Although Olaf doubts it will soften his brother’s rage or slow his desperate pursuit of honor, Olaf shouts back, “I merely wished to spare our people pain and turmoil, Erik. We both would have been fine leaders. That’s why I left. Neither of us need die.”

The first two sentences are, again, smacking the reader about the head with "HEY HERE IS THE IMPLICATION OF WHAT IS HAPPENING, DO YOU GET IT? HUH?" You're telling me stuff straight up. And your dialogue here is basically pointing out your giant plot hole. As far as I can tell from this, Erik is just some murderous rear end in a top hat.

This is frustrating because you could've had a neat story about sibling rivalry that ends with the exile-or-death choice, but you larded it up with belabored telling and your antagonist is terribly one-dimensional.

An Improvement? Kinda.
Stands On Its Own? No.
On The Beef Scale: Plokkfiskur.

--

Consequences by Fanky Malloons
Three-way minibrawl!

Source: The End by Jonas Salk.

A poorly-written stickup tale, which turns into Lovecraftian horror as otherworldly things consume the would-be robbers. Relies on a flashback sequence.

Your Remake:

This is competent, but flawed. You've got some decent characters, your pacing is pretty good, and there's only a few mechanical issues. I spotted a few places where you had your tenses mixed up.

The problem is, you've got a few issues where you're telling us stuff instead of showing it, and a few issues with passive voice. They're often linked together!

quote:

The robbery had not gone well.

quote:

Unnerved by the silence, Shep eyed the door, which was now directly in front of him.

quote:

One of the customers sitting near the door, old Mr. Atkins, who Shep had always assumed was as stupid as he was ancient, stood up and closed the door. The lock clicked loudly in the silent restaurant and Shep knew that things were going to end very, very badly.

Unhappy Beef.

quote:

“Oh, Shep,” said Barb, the shift manager,

Don't tell me she's the shift manager now. Tell me that earlier, or show it. Or eliminate it, because it hardly seems relevant.

quote:

Shep saw Barb’s skin start to peel back as her true form exploded out of her human body.

Never use the phrase "true form" ever again, unless you're writing Dragonball fanfiction.

The bigger issue I see is a sort of thematic schizophrenia. You're sort of going for Lovecraftian horror, but the vibe is ruined by the comical nature of the situation. Barb seems more funny than sinister, and the "arterial spray" bit is way over the top. At the same time, it's not funny enough on its own to be a comedy piece.

An Improvement? Oh yes, definitely.
Stands On Its Own? Eh, needs some work, but not a whole lot.
On The Beef Scale: Moons Over My Hammy. Or a bacon cheeseburger, but it's still coming from Denny's.

--

untitled by Voliun

Source: untitled by toanoradian.

Your source is a cute piece that's incredibly meta and toys with punctuation. It plays with the distinction between writer and character.

Your Remake:

A computer counts down your wordcount. I saw what you were doing with the numbers pretty fast, but, unlike the original, it didn't feel like it really tied into the story. Basically, you wrote some words counting down your own words.

High concept, not the best execution.

An Improvement? No.
Stands On Its Own? No.
On The Beef Scale: Soggy alphabet soup.

--

Enough for tonight, it's super late for me. More tomorrow.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


magnificent7 posted:

Aaaaaahhhk god dammit. How do you pull these strings of magical words out of your rear end in a brief write up? poo poo like that - I struggled with the words forever to make it something more than, "there was poo poo, and then there was creepy poo poo in there."

Thanks for the crit. I hate you for making it look so obvious.


It's actually a mechanical process. I didn't introduce any new words or concepts.

"I could see", "I saw", "I looked" - I mentioned this in another crit. If you are saying "this character <senses> this thing doing XYZ", then you really need to rewrite the sentence to be of the form "thing does XYZ".

"Each", "every", "some" can also often be eliminated.

"Of" is another word that tends to expand a sentence. "Through each window of every storefront", bam, you have three words right there that set off my editor filter. I just tried to eliminate those while preserving the things you mentioned: storefronts, glass, faces in windows, and the details about the faces.

There's actually details on this in a book I recently read, Ken Rand's "The 10% Solution". Go check your local library or hit up Amazon or something. He gives a list of keywords that he watches for when editing. All of the above are in there.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Okay, I have time for a few...

More Thunderdome Crits Week XXXVI

--

Terminus by Kaishai
Three-way minibrawl contender #2!

Source: The End by Jonas Salk.

As before, a poorly-written stickup tale, which turns into Lovecraftian horror as otherworldly things consume the would-be robbers. Relies on a flashback sequence.

Your Remake:

This is pretty good, so I'm going to start with the bad stuff. You have a few places where you're using sensing verbs unnecessarily, and a few bits where you're telling us stuff that could easily have been shown:

quote:

all he'd smelled for hours

quote:

Shep was very much aware of the Colt shoved through his belt

quote:

Shep heard the crickets again in his mind

This sort of thing is where the majority of your problems lie; if you can fix them up, you'll have a tighter, crisper piece without losing any action. See my post to magnificent7 above about sensing verbs.

On to the good! You've got the best pacing I've seen this week, your descriptions are rich and vivid, and your action sequence is short, shocking and to the point. I like the way you've ended it, it's far more elegant than the original, and you've captured the creeping horror very well - the slow reveal that starts with the metronomic synchronization of the staff and customers is ideal and very creepy.

So, in brief, this is a strong piece with a few stylistic or technical issues that can be easily fixed. Polish her up and you'll have something good here.

An Improvement? Most definitely.
Stands On Its Own? Yep, yep.
On The Beef Scale: A New York Strip that's a little too rare.

--

The Song by V for Vegas

Source: The Drone of the Tower by Wrageowrapper.

what the gently caress did i just read. No seriously, what?!

Your Remake:

Okay, this is competent, although I have some issues with your opener. You have a big brick of exposition, and your hooks are your second and third paragraphs. You could easily move those two to the top and merge the two "savior of the favela" bricks into one big third paragraph. Punch this up a bit somehow, give me an idea that things are off. You've got a good magical tone that develops later, so start leading into it!

The middle is the part I really take issue with. It's meandering. I think it's the saggiest part of the piece, and you're starting to talk more about the Vorpale. Thing is, you never develop the idea - it's a Chekhov's Gun that you've just left sitting on the mantlepiece. It needs to be either developed or cut. Since your ending is based around a song, I'd like to see the song developed more here, as well.

Your ending, however, is very strong. I love how the song plays into the piece, it's now integral to how the whole thing works as opposed to some weird Disney Musical Interlude. My only issue is how sudden it is; it feels like I skipped right over the climax and went into the denouement. Again, this is the fault of your second act.

I shouldn't even need to compare this to the original; it goes without saying that this is a massive improvement, probably one of this week's most-improved.

An Improvement? Yes, yes, yes, a thousand voices sing yes.
Stands On Its Own? Definitely.
On The Beef Scale: A hearty bowl of chili that's lacking one or two peppers.

--

The Shadow over Islamorada 2.0 also by Fanky Malloons

Source: The Shadow over Islamorada by Martello.

Future hit man meets future mer-thing, does job, gets future sex. In the future.

Your Remake:

Well, this is half an improvement and half not. It's a very very close rewrite, nearly identical to the original. The flirting is better, and I like your characterization of Bronco better than Martello's original. You've punched up the characters well, they're much clearer. The ending, therefore, makes more sense to me.

However, you've retained some of the labored exposition:

quote:

Bronco tried not to look down, distracting himself with the fact that Serene Azure had once been Jeffrey Stoltz from Miami Beach.

Keep the gender-bender reveal for the middle bit, don't blow it with exposition at the start. You've retained some weird metaphors; I still don't get the one about "finishing school." I want you to go over this again and edit out every loving adverb. Strengthen your verbs and tighten your prose.

You also made a mistake or two when revising. At one point, you edited out a mention about a "yacht accident", but you retained the dialogue where Serene objects to being accused of causing a yacht accident. Fix that.

This is competent, both because of the rewrite and because the original was decent to begin with. However, it could still stand to get some love.

An Improvement? Fifty-fifty.
Stands On Its Own? Sure.
On The Beef Scale: Vat-grown geneloaf.

--

The Deviant Machine by Nikaer Drekin

Source: Control Within by Bodnoirbabe

"Being a demonic jaguar trans-gendered lesbian Otherkin who's married to Tifa from FFVII is who I am, so check your privilege!" ENOUGH SAID. gently caress YOU FOREVER FOR MAKING ME REREAD THIS.

Rhino and I both were wondering how the gently caress this didn't lose in the first place. I forget the answer. It's irrelevant and so is the source, which is an utter travesty of internet fanfic trash writing. No plot to speak of, bombastic gloating, cardboard characters, and videogame/anime references everywhere. Please go drink everything under your sink.

Your Remake:

This is really, really bad.

Your concept is "Man creates AI which will destroy him, fine, a staple scifi plot." We're starting with a cliche. This is bad.

Your first scene is a giant wad of plodding exposition that goes precisely nowhere. You're not setting up any tension, your characters are still cardboard cutouts, your relationships are hollow. I'm finding it really hard to find anything good to say about this.
You tried to be cute with the dialogue, by cutting up the machine's voice with dashes, presumably to imitate text-to-speech software. First, that doesn't exactly spell "genius super AI that's going to take over the world", that spells "MC Hawking". Second, it's incredibly irritating to read - this is a problem with any kind of patois. You should be using these tricks sparingly, not smacking me in the face every other sentence.

I also want you to lose the "click" device. I get that you're trying to show it, but I want you to describe how the AI sounds instead of just barfing up the word "click" twenty times.

Your second scene isn't a whole lot better. Your major problem is that you're lacking tension and a clearly defined plot arc. Here's what I want you to do next time: write down a one-sentence summary that encapsulates the core idea for your story, preferably one that clearly demonstrates two characters with sharply different goals. Then, write down a sentence that describes how the two characters' goals differ and how that will be resolved.

Now write three sentences.

The first sentence is a one-line summary of how your story begins, which means it has to mention both of those characters and set up their differing goals, preferably also hinting at your setting.

The second sentence is what one of your characters does in order to achieve their goal, and how the second character reacts.

The third sentence is how that reaction brings your story to its conclusion; one of the two characters has achieved their goal and defeated the other character (this doesn't necessarily mean combat! rookie mistake!).

Now go forth and rewrite your story around that three-sentence outline.

An Improvement? In name only.
Stands On Its Own? for(int i = 0; i < MAX_INT; i++) { printf ("NO! "); }
On the Beef Scale: A carton of pink slime I left out in the summer heat and now there's a dead raccoon collapsed on top of it. Or maybe it's Tifa. gently caress knows.

--

Enough for now, more later.

Erogenous Beef fucked around with this message at Apr 16, 2013 around 19:32

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Right, I have time for Another Crit Or Two From Thunderdome XXXVI:

--

Roadbumps

Source: Personal Conspiracy Theory by Omniphile.

A "slow reveal" story about a horrible, yet charismatic politician who turns out to be mind controlling people. The dialogue is notably tedious and there's a lot of telling.

Your Remake:

So, the problem I have here is that you're probably going for an irreverent comedy piece, but it's not especially funny. Without lots of funny, this turns into a leaden trudge towards your plot twist. Until Jamal shows up, your plot seems to basically be "today is awesome, everything is okay, man this guy is a jerk but also a cool dude".

Your first paragraph is a serviceable opener, you have a few plot hooks here. You should be elaborating on why this dude is so adored by the public, and why he's so confident about knocking out the other candidates. That's your opportunity to take this to dark (or hilarious) places.

The problem is, you then go into a boring back-and-forth with the guy's toady. I get that you're trying to establish that everyone wants to suck up to the dude, but can you do that while also revealing some interesting details, perhaps about where this guy's charisma comes from? Where his confidence comes from?

Jamal's entrance is abrupt this is where stuff really starts to get rough. You pull a gun and the dude gets shot, but it's okay, everyone loves him. I want you to show us this last bit, not tell us "it was all ok". Also, set up the gun earlier (literally a Chekhov's Gun opportunity here).

An Improvement? Yes.
Stands On Its Own? Not quite. This needs cleanup and plot surgery.
On The Beef Scale: Freedom fries.

--

Sudden Loss by Black Griffon

Source: Prowling of the Night Raider by kangaroojunk

It's a sonnet. About a dude who steals girls' panties. You are why I drink.

Your Remake:

The biggest thing that sticks out here is that you're very obviously hampered by a lack of wordcount. Your first scene is competent, not stellar, but competent. You have a few issues with sentence structure:

quote:

"Yes."

The cop nodded, and for a moment he looked down, didn't say a word.

Then he said, "I need you to understand that it's bad. They're doing the best they can, but it's bad."

You broke that across three paragraphs. It could easily be one:

quote:

"Yes." The cop nodded, and for a moment he looked down, didn't say a word. "I need you to understand that it's bad. They're doing the best they can, but it's bad."

The dialogue is a little bit stilted and cliche, but I can let it slide. I have an issue with one of your metaphors:

quote:

Police radios and angry voices receded to a dull rumble, the protagonist is distracted, this is good and for some reason, <-- NEVER DO THIS a washing machine still on spin cycle rushed like thunder though Marian's head. This is a metaphor I don't quite get. How does a washing machine rush like thunder? Clarify or rephrase.

Drowning until the cop opened the door.What? I don't even know what's happening here.

Your second two scenes are weaker, this is where the word count is murdering you. You have a crackhead antagonist who murdered a girl for her panties or something? I actually need more details here, more than just "well, he spazzed out and got caught in the clotheslines". The third scene is similarly too abrupt. You can do the capture in the second scene and eliminate the third, or eliminate the second scene and figure out how to make the reaction to the capture interesting.

An Improvement? Yes, sir, I do believe so.
Stands On Its Own? Almost. Almost.
On The Beef Scale: Pommes Frites.

--

Tagged For Love by Fumblemouse

Source: Tagged For Love by Capntastic.

Future ditz goes to future work, has future man save her from future rat. In the future. FUTURE. Over-specific details and leaden exposition issues, but I've seen lots of that already today.

Your Remake:

Eh. This is so-so. You're dropping in plenty of details that could be plot hooks and then not developing them. You started out pretty strong, this is a decent first paragraph. The leering coworker bit is good, but could be developed further. And then rats out of loving nowhere; that needs foreshadowing. Really, I'd rather there be some incident more related to either Attus, the dystopian setting or the stomach trouble you mention in the first line.

Here's the thing, though. You shot a giant hole in your foot with the ending. It seems to be "BUT IT WAS ALL A DREAM!" and this is a great example of why it doesn't work - you just invalidated the point of your entire story. Unless...

This could be a brilliant knockoff of the ending to Terry Gilliam's Brazil. The stomach trouble is from amnesiacs (or something), and the characters are doomed to an eternal recurrence - encounter each other as coworkers, fall in love, and then get memory-wiped, only to do it all again the next day. Forever. If you want to try to pull that kind of plot, though, you need the characters to discover their recurring fate, struggle against it and, ultimately, punch us in the gut by failing.

Since there really aren't any hints that lead me towards "Brazil" and away from "It Was All A Dream", I'm leaning towards "lovely cliche". If you added some kind of weirdness or uncertainty, I'd believe that this was a sort of repeating cycle of love thwarted.

An Improvement? Sorta, kinda, until "it was all a dream".
Stands On Its Own? Not quite.
On The Beef Scale: Tofurkey.

--

More later tonight.

Erogenous Beef fucked around with this message at Apr 16, 2013 around 22:36

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Marathon time. 9 pieces, two beers. I can do this.

Still Doing Crits for Thunderdome XXXVI

--

An object lesson in futility; Or how to gently caress poo poo up but be reassured by the fact you know nothing even matters by Jeza
Double Source Bonus Extravaganza!

Sources: In The Details by SaviourX and Walls by WHR 49.5. Have I mentioned how much I hate you for this?

In The Details: Future men resurrect the most boring devil ever, have a boring expository conversation and then throw him in the wastebasket, where this story also belongs. Ultimately, a tale about unwary creators recalling ultimate evil, but the creators are wary and the evil turns out to be pedestrian and powerless. Urf.

Source 2: A hypereuclidean wall grows itself and consumes everything. Ultimately a story about heedless creators bringing about their own futility/demise? Sorta.

Well, we actually do have a sorta-clear theme here.

Your Remake:

This starts off interesting; you've presented us with a mystery right off the bat, what's in the cube? What makes it tick? Is it a knowable thing, or something Beyond Mortal Comprehension?

When you start rewriting In The Details everything falls apart. You've set up a sense of wonder and mystery, and then suddenly we have irreverent aliens speaking with a reanimated micro-Satan. Worse, I don't see much tension between micro-Satan and the aliens. What are the aliens trying to gain? Why resurrect the Christian Devil? You've already stated that mortal science and religion have spent themselves against the hypercube walls thing. What does he have that they want, and that he doesn't want to give up?

If you want to go the comedy route, then go full retard with the silliness.

There's some weird phrases.

"like doctors attending to the birth of a child" - in context, this is a horrible simile. You're already showing them in a medical role, so you need some other way to show their concern. As is, it's a bit odd. It threw me for a bit.

quote:

“What trickery is this!” his voice squeaked rather than boomed.

You could just cut "rather than boomed". We expect Satan's voice to boom. If he squeaks, it's an interesting detail and makes me want to read more. "rather than", "instead of" or other contrasting clauses are things I try to avoid in expository text, because they usually mean that you can punch up the thing you're contrasting against.

Ultimately, who learns or changes during this piece? You've got enough words here. The other judges seem to have liked this more than I do, so maybe I'm just being harsh.

An Improvement? Yeah.
Stands On Its Own? Sorta. Kinda.
On The Beef Scale: Mystery meat. It tastes like chicken.

--

Close Door Button by perpetulance

Source: Close Door Button by dromer.

Guy gets harangued by a hippie for hitting the close door button. She annoys him enough that he does it again. Basically a lovely strawman argument in prose form.

Your Remake:

This isn't really an improvement. Purely from a mechanical perspective, the prose is fine, with minor exceptions. You have an issue where your commas are alternately inside the double-quotes (American style) and outside the double quotes (British style). Pick one and stick with it.

We get a creepy dude trying to pick up a chick in an elevator. This could potentially be interesting, except you decided to keep the preachy angle to the original, except you're showing it to us by having the guy be a giant tool.

You're missing a hook, and your missing hook turns into (almost) a missing plot. Something odd or unusual needs to happen during this elevator ride. Otherwise, this is a Seinfeld story: a story about nothing. Here's the problem: Seinfeld wasn't funny or interesting either.

An Improvement? We'll call it a draw.
Stands On Its Own? Nope.
On The Beef Scale: That little pad in a styrofoam container that goes under my beef to soak up the blood, except I left it out in the sun while away for the weekend and now my flat smells like dead rodents. I guess if I were vegan this wouldn't happen.

--

The End of Us by Canadian Surf Club
Three-way minibrawl entry #3!

Source: Jonas Salk's The End. See previous two crits for a link, gently caress you.

Your Remake:

This is halfway decent. I like your sci-fi take on the source; it diverges further from the Lovecraftian Horror than either of the other two entries.

There's some minor structural issues. For example, you could eliminate the middle scene change by merging the conversation-with-guide scene into the outside-the-bar scene. The travel time implied by the break doesn't seem to be narratively important. Also, maybe make the guide a bit more sinister. You should be showing me some hints that things are bad wrong by this point. You've got plenty of motivation for the heroes to press on, so go for it.

Once inside the restaurant, I think you went a little overboard with the creeping ooze blisters all over the waitstaff, but not so overboard that I can't suspend disbelief. You're kinda blowing your "creepy mystery" wad all at once though.

There's a few places where you're unnecessarily using sensing verbs, which I've already belabored today:

quote:

"Hey!" I leveled my atomizer at one just as I heard the sudden crack of bone.

I also don't like "just as" and other phrases that mean "suddenly". Think hard before including one, because they're giant signposts to the reader "HEY SOMETHING SURPRISING UP AHEAD! GET READY TO BE SURPRISED!" You can probably make this stronger by hiding the fact that it's a bone snapping and moving that reveal to the next line. Something snaps! What is it? Oh god, my buddy is being eaten alive by evil space ooze!

quote:

The atomizer took a good chunk out of her chest and thigh,

"A good chunk" is a weak phrase, and you're being inspecific. Also, "took .. out of" is a pretty weak verb phrase. The atomizer just kinda picks them up like a guy would take an orange out of the fridge? Use powerful verbs for powerful moments. Also, is the thigh part important? "The atomizer blasted a hole in her chest" would be decent, if a bit cliche. What you're trying to convey here is the uselessness of the weapon, so specifying where the damage is done is probably fine, as you want to make it sound like a mortal wound.

From a consistency perspective, I also don't get why there's dead people in the freezer. Those are dead people, right? If not, clarify it please. And if Legion uses them fresh as servants, why keep dead ones around? You may not have the wordcount to explain, so you could consider revising this into something that dovetails better with the details you've already included. Also, your first scene and ending don't match up all that nicely. Tighten that up, please.

An Improvement? Yes!
Stands On Its Own? Close to it, very close.
On The Beef Scale: The Space Special. Wait, no, I'll have the Space Soup.

--

Blue And Pink by Noah

Source: Blue And Pink by Jimson.

A woman tries to cure her alcoholic floozy of a sister of her evil ways by calling her own husband to break up a tryst, but because they're twins he mixes them up and gets shot or something. I think, Seriously, I am not reading this closer than I have to.

Your Remake:



Well, you improved on the source quite a bit! This is one of the bigger improvements this week, I think. You've got the essence of a good idea here, with some good plot twists. I didn't see the gender-bending bit coming, and it definitely makes the story. For a while I thought you were winding me up with irrelevant details about their upbringing, but that reveal brings it into sharp focus.

You've still got some problems though; more mechanical problems than thematic or plot. You've got an awkward mix of internal and spoken dialogue.

quote:

“I don’t know!” Lucy shouted, waving her arms. Darcy remembered Lucy was still holding the gun, and went back to pacing and smoking.

Don't do this! Lucy is waving her arms around, holding a gun. Show me Lucy waving the gun, don't have Darcy suddenly "remember" it. You made this mistake a couple times, and it weakens your writing. If something is happening, directly describe it, if at all possible. Don't have someone else "notice" or "recall" something that happens right in front of the reader's "camera".

quote:

Her eyes moved from the body to Lucy, wondering which one of them was her baby.

Huh? The pronouns here are confusing. Are you talking about Lucy and Darcy being their mother's baby, or about Lucy and the body being Darcy's baby? Neither of these makes sense in context. Unless Lucy shot a baby, which I didn't see anywhere else.

quote:

“And and I said no, but he took off my skirt, and, and,” Lucy said.

“And he found out.”

Ah ha! This is an excellent place for an em-dash! Lucy is being interrupted by Darcy, so replace that final comma with a "--".

quote:

“Was he right handed or left handed?” Darcy asked. Lucy’s face scrunched.

“Was he right handed or left handed!?”

Move Lucy's attribution onto the line with her dialogue on it.

If you fixed the mechanical issues, like the ones I've pointed out, you have the core of a decent story. You'll still need to work a bit on pacing and clarity, but otherwise, you'd have a good entry.

An Improvement? Definitely, definitely.
Stands On Its Own? With editing, yes.
On The Beef Scale? A hen fresh from the farm, unplucked and ungutted.

--

Requiescat by Sebmojo

Source: RIP my dog he died as things do by SurreptitiousMuffin

whoa. I like what Muffin did here, but that was like mainlining MDMA. Essentially a story about death and companionship, about a child feeling the emptiness and loneliness of the world for the first time as the dog is put to sleep? With a heady dose of apocalyptica thrown in for good measure.

Your Remake:

I'm torn as to whether this is better or not, which is probably a good thing. You've discarded the pulse-pounding themes of apocalypse and end-of-all-things, and focused more on the relationship between child and dog. This is good, it's strong, but I think you could easily do stronger.

There's some odd sentences whose meaning I'm still teasing out. "Jack the joke the lad the mad"? Is that just a playful way of referring to the dog and a dog's personality? Hard to say. Also, I don't get the significance of the "red trim jackets". Maybe that's just me, as this is a pretty dense piece. Good dense, though.

An Improvement? I... honestly have no idea. They're both very good in different ways.
Stands On Its Own? Easily.
On The Beef Scale: A well-marinated, properly-cooked whale steak. (Which is delicious and I've had several times. It's like having an entire cow compressed into eight ounces of purple goodness.)

--

Ten Seconds to Midnight by Bad Seafood

Source: Hard And Deep by HereticMIND.

Sorta stream-of-consciousness piece about a soldier running around and then getting nuked from orbit. Or maybe it's rods from god. Pretty much plotless though, could be a bad cutscene from a modern shooter game.

Your Remake:

gently caress it, I'm a nuclear history nerd and you dropped an Atomic Clock reference in your title. You get a line-by-line, Seafood. I do want to say that I'm marginally disappointed: I expected a highbrow concept out of you.

quote:

The world was drowned in sound and violence, but Brian for his part had never felt better. Strong opening, I like it.

“Sniper on the ledge! Two o’clock!” Raising the stakes. Good.

Brian turned sharp, his body on automatic. Cuttable. There framed in the window he saw only a face – a mask, not a man Eliminate the "not a man" clause, merge this with "a face": he saw only a face, a mask – and he emptied his clip. Good. What stood there URF. NO. FIX. exploded in a fine red mist. Fine. A bit cliche but fine. Brian chuckled to himself as he fetched a new clip. Is the new clip relevant? He's gloating over his victory, that's the point here Yes, yes, this was much more satisfying that tilling the farm. Waiting for harvest time. Waiting to die. Here he had felt that he finally belonged. Here he had purpose. Here he was free. Half good, half telling. I'll let it slide.

The smell of blood and sulfur hit him hard "hit him hard"? Stronger verb please. Might also rephrase "the smell of". as he stumbled out into the streets. Conrad stepped forward and cut out in front of him, eliminate "stepped forward", irrelevant, "cut out in front of him" tells us where he's going and was delivered salvation by a stray RPG purple and passive voice. Brian leapt back and let loose "let loose"? Stronger verb or phrase! a spray of bullets and profanities, a funeral dirge for the sake of his friend purple but I could let it pass, and a ticket to Hell for those who had killed him PERIOD. MISSING. A. PERIOD. Also a bit purple.

“gently caress you, all you motherfuckers!” Questionably necessary.

There was a tremor through the earth passive voice and the wall burst apart. ok, but... There in the wreckage rolled the form of a tank. Why draw this out? "a tank burst through the wall"

“S-poo poo!” Sure fine

It was a rundown old thing, both weary and weak, kinda tell-y, but passable yet enough that could kill him Huh? Unclear. yet enough what? Brian knew only too well Dislike "he knew" phrases. Telling.. He scrambled back across "behind", maybe the rubble and the smoke how do you scramble across smoke? as the turret turned slowly, fixed on his location. Could be improved. Turned slowly, stronger verb. Maybe just mention that the turret turned towards him or something? The tank belched fire and missed him by inches, mmm, ok, not amazing, but ok some dilapidated apartments taking the brunt of the damage. irrelevant. The problem with this sentence is that you used up a good opportunity for tension. Tank fires at a guy! How does he react? Stimulus-response.

There was a sound of rockets, ffffuuuuuuu- and the tank burst into flames. okay, cliche but okay Brian peered out from his hiding place and flipped them the bird. I like

Then he heard something he did not recognize. I do not like. Just describe a sound in general. A whistle? A roar? "Something roared in the sky." Or something.

He took off his helmet and looked to the heavens. TO THE HEAVENS! Fantasy-ism. Eliminate. "Up". "at the sky". Something. Hell, eliminate it. "He took off his helmet." Then the next sentence shows us what he sees. The sky was clear but there was no God. In his place sank a spear, a finger of light, that most terrible gift from mankind to himself. NUCFLASH: Bent Spear. This could be poetic, but you threw in so many clauses, it becomes purple. Trim a clause or two. What's the most important judgment you're throwing down here? Most terrible gift? Finger of light? There was no god?

Brian dropped to his knees. Have him do this when he takes off his helmet. Adds tension. "Brian took off his helmet and dropped to his knees." Why? because he obviously sees something horrible, oh god, what is it, I must read on!

The spear dropped down, and for the briefest of moments all life was illuminated. Then came calm. Then came silence. And the darkness thereafter. Poetic. Not quite purple. Fine with me, others might not like it.

“loving BULLSHIT,” Brian ripped his headset off and hurled it across the room. “Nobody told me there was a time limit!” BUT IT WAS ALL A DREAM! GOD drat IT.

I chuckled the first time I read the end, but I've soured on it since. If you're gonna pull the simulator/game thing, you need the character to learn something in the simulator. otherwise, this is all pointless.

Pulling back further, this is still close to the feeling of "video game cutscene". Brian never develops as a character. This piece needs that.

An Improvement? Yep, in the pure writing department. Still needs help plotwise.
Stands On Its Own? Eh. Close to it, but I don't like Brian enough to end up giving a poo poo. Also, IT WAS ALL A DREAM.
On The Beef Scale: Microwaved sausage.

--

And because I'm a nice guy, even though he was massively late:

Synchronicity by Martello

Source: This was late. I didn't read your source. I've already read enough awful source stories this week. Go gently caress yourself.

Your Remake:

Your opening sentence is interesting, but the rest of your first scene is weak and flabby. You're giving me a load of backstory and worldbuilding that I don't care about yet, because nothing has happened. 25% of your words gone before something happens, and that something is "chick tries virtual dating".

Given the weak opening, your next few scenes are still basically just plodding exposition. Girl is dissatisfied with herself and with virtual dating. Where's my conflict? Where's my interest being hooked?

Thing is, the whole piece is saved by your concluding scene. Yeah, I saw it coming a mile away. You're basically riffing on a porn version of A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer from Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age. I can dig that. I'd read that story. In fact, once I got to your last line I wanted to read more. I want to see how this virtual sex worker deals with conflicting interests. He can satisfy his customer, but, as he's noted, she's on there 24/7, so isn't that bad for her life and career? How does he react to that? Does he try to pierce the veil? How does she react to her "AI" being a real person? You have a lot of interesting fodder for a story here, but you instead gave me "the Erotic Adventures of Lily Fatpants".



An Improvement? gently caress knows.
Stands On Its Own? Not really. The seed of a good idea, but not a good story as is.
On The Beef Scale: A footlong hotdog. Except, as you look closer, it's actually a giant dick buried in mustard and onions. The onions are nice though.

--

DONE.

Erogenous Beef fucked around with this message at Apr 16, 2013 around 21:38

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Black Griffon posted:

I'm loving thirsting for a crit here. Also I'm in on whatever.

Oops, I forgot to add your name after your story's title when I wrote yours. Thissa post here, sah.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


And now I shall fail to practice what I've preached: In!

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Border Control (1186 words)

“You’re not keeping me here any longer, you bastards!” At the kiosk next to Howard’s, Officer Reggie vaulted his counter and sprinted for the entryway.

People parted and stormtroopers poured into the processing hall, rifles leveled. Gouts of lightning vaporized the runner and brimstone wafted through the air.

The gentleman standing at Howard’s kiosk coughed.

Howard had paused mid-stamp. Apologizing, he waved the man past the turnstile.

A security officer led a girl from Reggie’s queue over to Howard. “This man will take care of you, miss. Sorry for the delay.”

Howard’s eyes stayed fixed on the janitor sweeping away his colleague. “Papers, please.”

“Why did they…?”

“Staff aren’t allowed near the waking zone. Regulations. Your papers?” He glanced up, then squinted as pain crackled through his brow. The woman’s face swam as though submerged in water.

A passport slid across his desk. He opened it, hand hovering over the stamp: Alyssa Brady. The photo blurred and shifted, stabbing him in the eyes.

Howard flipped through ink-stained pages buried in stamps. “Your passport seems to be full. I’ll have to call security.”

“Hey, do I know you?” She frowned.

“I doubt it.” Howard’s finger hovered over the little security-call button beneath his desk, but he couldn’t push it.

“You sound just like—“

Something deep inside him slammed the stamp down and he shoved the passport away. “Next!”

#

Howard unlocked the door to his small shared room.

Sandman Sam lay on his bunk, nose buried in his laptop. “Darn shame about Reggie. Why’d he run?”

“Don’t ask me, man.” Howard shucked his tie and set down a manila folder. “I had a woman come through the line today.”

“You don’t say? Maybe a man too?”

“No, a new woman, but I don’t feel like she’s new. I know her, somehow.”

“Probably just someone you saw in Reggie’s line a few times.”

“I pulled her files on my way home.” Howard opened the folder and rustled the pages. “Her passport is full and she sleeps twenty hours a day. What do you make of that?”

“Ain’t my department, man.”

Howard opened the folder again, drawn to the name at the top. “Alyssa Brady. Sound familiar?”

Sam closed his laptop. “You’re way outside your jurisdiction. Are you even supposed to have that?”

“But—“

“Don’t bring contraband in here, okay?” He took the folder from Howard. “I’m gonna go incinerate this. Why don’t you get some rest?”

#

Sirens flashed in the night and Sam banged on the door. “Code yellow, yours!”

Howard yanked on his uniform and followed the sandman down to a dreamlock. Sam cranked open the lock.

Black mist poured across the floor and a red-eyed behemoth lunged through the fog towards them, knifelike arms outstretched.

Alyssa stared at them, ignoring the nightmare behind her. “Who—“

They pulled her through the lock and slammed it shut.

Alyssa blinked, then squinted. “Howard?”

Sam coughed. “This way, Mrs. Brady.” He led them to a small, shared office.

Howard’s desk sat behind a cubicle wall, separating him from the places where Sam and Reggie worked. As Sam looked on, he sat down and filled out the usual discharge forms. How the hell did she know his name? He couldn’t ask with the sandman around, or he’d end up in the brig with a light shining in his eyes and an angry man asking questions he couldn’t answer.

“Miss, you’ve overtime and spinning nightmares. We have to discharge you. Regulations.” Howard held up a pen. “Sign here, here, and initial here.”

“Maybe I like it here.” She signed.

“This way please.” Sam led them to the discharge chamber. A sign hung above the door: Hazard zone, dreamers only.

Howard swiped his badge and stepped aside. “Have a nice day.”

“Maybe I should take more pills next time.” Alyssa stepped over the threshold and vanished.

Howard returned to his desk, alone, and worked through the usual incident report. A note slipped out from between the forms.

“I forgive you, Howie.”

Howie? No one had called him that since… the memory refused to surface. He flipped back to her file photo.

It wavered, but clearer, sharper, as though it were rising through the water. He stared at it and a glowing headache blossomed between his eyes. The room around him shrank to a dark, distant point.

A knife. A man lying on the floor, throat filleted.

The world snapped back into place. Howard Brady bolted for the discharge chamber, swiped his badge and dove into the Waking World.

#

Howard forced his eyes open, sat up on a concrete balcony and raised a hand to block the sun. Ghostly shackles dangled from his wrists, a clock counting down on each, and a gold band glinted on his ring finger.

Inside his old apartment, take-out boxes and wine bottles buried the floor ankle-deep. Something snapped beneath Howard’s shoe. A glass syringe, the needle rusted and bent. Who the hell had wrecked his place?

Something stirred in his head.

Three bottles, empty. A thrown glass smashing against the wall. A hand pulling a knife from a drawer.

Somewhere down the hallway, a jar of marbles toppled to the floor. Howard hurried to the bedroom and sank to his knees.

Alyssa lay in bed, her sunken eyes shut. Greasy hair matted her forehead and scars ran up skeletal arms. Her hand rested inside a tipped jar, and hundreds of sleeping pills cascaded across the nightstand and floor.

Memories breached the surface of his mind.

A load of whisky, a knife in his hand, creeping to the bedroom, kicking the door in and pulling the cable guy off his wife, opening the man’s throat, tears, blood, she didn’t want him, nobody did, the world would be better off like this and then the knife twisting within his own chest.

“She’s already gone over.” Sam sat in the corner, arms crossed. “Howard, what the hell were you thinking? The dead don’t trouble the living.” He sighed and drew a pistol.

“She still forgave me, and she was gonna kill herself. Look how bad I hosed her up, Sam. Ease off.”

“You know what the rules say about runners.” He aimed.

“If you zap me, whatever happens to her is on you. Let me make this right.”

“I’m listening.”

Howard hovered over Alyssa, looking for a pulse or breath. Nothing. “She went over?”

Sam shrugged. “She’s in the system. I’d expect her to serve border control, after the usual processing.” He tapped his head.

“Then let me take her time.” Howard slapped his still-bleeding chest. “I’ve already done two years. What’s another…?”

“Five hundred years?”

“But she’d go free?”

Sam nodded.

“Okay.”

“You’re sure about this?”

“Do it.”

Sam holstered his pistol. “Show me your hands.”

Howard held up the ticking shackles.

Sam tapped his sickle-shaped badge to them and they fell away. He pulled reality aside like a drape, heavenly light poured through and he grinned at Howard. “Go on, champ. You earned it.”

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Hillock, I love the premise and the broness. But let me point a few things out here. You careen between British and American English like a drunk dude stumbling home after a bender.

Nubile Hillock posted:

Mark Zak: Douchebag Detective 1084 words

“gently caress? Another one? Hang tight bro, I’m on my way.” American. Or Canadian.

...

“And this is Detective Zak, Bromicide Specialist and Chief Facepunchologist COMMA” Said the older one with the serious Burt Reynolds ‘stache. The younger cop just nodded.

...

The dead guy was sprawled out on a Walmart rug, face up…or tits up, seeing as his face was a sunken cavity. British.

...

There was a bowl of KD on the living room table right next to an xbox controller and a six of Natty Ice. American.

His ‘roid-grown broceps twisted the knob right off the door. I just had to say that I love the word "broceps".

...

“Hey Carl you fat bastard! You wanna see some rippers? Lipstixxx in a half. No I don’t care you mum’s sick.” British. He neutral-bombed the truck into reverse, tore up a flowerbed and clipped a Neon before jamming the shifter to D. Car has freedomdrive? American.

...

“Bro, no way there’s a fucker who plays more CoD than you. This is like, what, your sixth month of EI? Canadian. All cos you hurt your rear end shovelling? British. I swear man, you’d have it made if you could just get bitches, ‘knowmsayin’?” American.


Reading this is like flipping between two TV channels, one showing the Jersey Shore and the other showing the Geordie Shore.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


In on this brawl action.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


systran posted:

Erogenous Beef vs. Kaishai
Something revolting/disgusting must happen during the course of your stories and it must advance the plot.

Because of the above, I gotta put a Not Mind Safe warning on this fucker. You brought this on yourself.

Hersteinnssaga (1594 words)

“Captain, there’s things in the woods!” Old Oddur trotted out from the tree-line towards a man unloading a rowboat. “Your sister caught one.”

Hersteinn Eíriksson splashed ashore. “And the men are gawking? There’s still plenty of work on the ship.” He buckled his scabbard and swung a sack over his shoulder. “Show me.”

They tromped through pouring rain to a boulder. Beneath an overhang, a small fire gnawed on green pinewood and twelve men stood huddled to the rear.

Dripping, Hersteinn dropped his bag of axes, adzes and shovels. “Resting time is over. There’s still salt to land before the squall hits.”

“The squall’s here, little brother. Or were you rowing through bathwater?” Thórdís wrung out her hair. “There’s no honor in a drowning death. While you toyed with oars, I had sword-work to do.”

Hersteinn pushed through the men. A scrawny, filthy child squatted beside Thórdís, its long black hair tangled and matted. Yellowed eyes peered out between dirt-blackened fingers.

“Stay back, brother. It bites.”

“One alone? A scout?”

“Two others. They tried to run when we saw them. Those fought. This one cowered.” Thórdís nodded to a tree. At its base, big Bjarni urinated on a tangled pile of limbs.

The skræling’s stomach growled.

“It’s hungry.” Hersteinn opened a barrel and dangled a piece of salt fish before the creature.

“Hauling tools and feeding beasts.” Thórdís folded her arms. “Sagas will sing your glories.”

The thing sat up on its haunches and snatched the food from Hersteinn’s fingers, hair falling away from two wrinkled teats as it reached up.

“It’s a woman, sister, not a beast.” He offered another slice. “We’ll need water and forage before long. If you hadn’t leapt to swords, we could learn much from her.”

Perhaps they’d fell trees in trade for salt and metal. If not as friends, as slaves. With their timber, Hersteinn would make a dozen longships and sail the precious wood home to Eíriksfjord. A glorious fleet.

Thórdís threw up her hands. “First you feed it, now you want its help?” She turned to the gathered men. “Did we come here for glory, or to succor skrælingjar? We should be hunting for its camp.”

The other men murmured agreements, dark eyes glanced from captive to captain.

“Feed it, then follow it home.” Hersteinn glanced at the pissing man. “Bjarni! Put away your dick and burn those things.”

Bjarni snorted. “In this rain?”

“Wrap them together with stones.” Hersteinn ground his teeth. “The sea will take them.”

“I wouldn’t row out again, captain. I’ve seen clouds this dark once before.” Oddur stared into the fire. “The Wild Hunt rides them.”

Hersteinn turned towards his boat. A hundred paces out, their longship bucked upon the sea like an unbroken stallion, fading from view as the storm strengthened. Without salt and food, winter would starve them back to his father’s hall, with neither glory nor wooden wealth. “Warriors who fear water. Are you men or housecats?”

Thórdís shoved him. “Go on, brother, show us how to conquer waves.”

Bjarni delivered a bloody, weighted bundle and Hersteinn dragged it to the rowboat with cruel, mutinous laughter at his back. Out at the longship, he dumped the bodies into the thrashing sea, lade the rowboat until waves lapped its rim and shoved off towards the rain-obscured shore.

Lightning silhouetted huge riders smashing through the squall, pounding hooves cracked the storm-stained sky. A wave swelled and dashed Hersteinn overboard. He fought the sea, but his furs dragged him down.

A horn-helmed giant on an eight-legged steed burst through the rain and halted. Odin plunged his hand into the waves and pulled up the bloody bundle, grimaced and turned his crackling stare to Hersteinn.

You befouled warriors destined for my Valhalla, but your time is not yet come. Son of Eírik, mend your men and manners. Sail away from this poisoned forest, for it holds no glory or wealth - only death. Or else run before the Hunt as our dog, your muzzle forever pressed into the filth of the world.

Hersteinn spat out saltwater, pointed to his ship. Odin struck the sea, spurred Sleipnir and the riders vanished into the sky.

A wave scooped Hersteinn ashore. Hands closed over Hersteinn’s shoulders, pulled him to the rock, laid him by the fire.

A cup doused his lips with water and Oddur pushed a fur under his head. “Rest, captain. Bjarni will take first watch.”

#

A boot prodded Hersteinn’s ribs. “They’re gone, captain.” Oddur stooped over, offered a hand.

“Who?” He jumped up. “Thórdís?”

“Bjarni and your skræling vanished before dawn.” The old man coughed. “Your sister took the rest to hunt them.”

Hersteinn buckled on his sword. “Why didn’t you wake me?”

“I like my throat uncut.”

The hunting party’s muddy bootprints wound between tall pines still dripping with last night’s rainwater. Thick morning fog wafted between the branches.

The trail encircled a giant fir. Behind it lay a bulging, fleshy sac. A severed tube trailed from it and shredded purple flesh lay beside the chewed-off end. Boot-shod feet stuck out from an orifice. Bjarni’s.

Hersteinn choked back bile. “What is that? Is he dead?”

“I’ve seen something like it, when birthing calves.” Oddur knelt beside the protruding feet and grasped an ankle. “He’s alive.”

Bjarni wriggled inside his prison. Hersteinn drew his sword and sliced the sac open. Covered in slime, the scout clawed free and gasped for air.

Hersteinn wiped the man’s face clean, poured water on his lips. “What happened here?”

Bjarni hissed, opened yellow, reptilian eyes and lunged for Hersteinn’s throat. Oddur slammed a stick into the scout’s chin, knocked him away. Bjarni landed on all fours, snarled and scampered into the forest.

Hersteinn rolled upright and ran. “After him!”

The scout paused on a knoll and wailed, then vanished into the fog.

Oddur stopped and frowned. “This trip is disastrous. Captain, I've known your father since boyhood. Even he would retreat.”

“No!” Hersteinn punched a tree. “I sail with a dozen men and return with one? Who would follow me after that? We return with men and wealth, or not at all.”

Another scream pierced the fog, long and high, and Hersteinn shivered. Monsters emerged from the mist, men’s bodies twisted with diverse heads and limbs. They encircled the pair, roared, clacked mandibles, hissed.

A shriek from above. A nine-armed insect dropped from the trees, smothering them in web.

#

Entombed in silk, Hersteinn counted paces, but who knew how many legs his bearer possessed? Around him, feet crunched needles, then grass and the cocoon grew brighter, warmer.

A strange-voiced cacophony buzzed outside and the ground slammed into his back. He lay in his prison for a long while, limbs cramping.

Footsteps halted near him, hands pulled him upright and tore away silk.

A crude cage enclosed him, bones lashed together with sinew. Stitched-hide tents stubbled an evergreen-encircled meadow, not-men stumbled between them, some naked, others wearing patchwork fur or woven grass.

Thórdís stood before him, unchanged, smirking. “I was afraid we lost you to the woods, brother.”

“We?” Hersteinn struggled to free his arms, in vain.

“These skrælingjar are predators, like me. And, like predators, I needed only to spill some blood to lead their pack.” She knelt down, tearing away more silk. “Like them, you will serve me. You will go back to Eíriksfjord with your ship’s belly full of my people. Burn the houses and bring us their ships and swords. Leave no one alive to warn others of the blood queen’s coming.”

Hersteinn rolled onto his back, arms free and shoved himself against the bone wall. “You cannot make me sail.”

Thórdís’ eyes flicked aside.

Oddur knelt in a neighboring cage, hands and legs trussed. Outside the bars sat a bony skræling woman, taller and broader than the one they’d captured.

Thórdís ululated. The woman unfolded her lanky limbs and strode into the cage. She tied a cloth over Oddur’s face, pressed it between her legs. He pulled away, but she grabbed his hair.
Her vulva unhinged like a snake’s jaw, engulfed the man’s head, shoulders, body. Only feet dangled between her crotch. She rolled onto her back, swollen womb rising high above, and she squeezed her legs together, trapping the squirming man.

Hersteinn doubled over, retching.

“That is the skrælingjar gift, their pride and strength. The others have already been touched.” Thórdís grinned. “It’s your choice. Sail as a man, or I call another mother and pray this gift does not destroy your wits.”

The captain stood, clutched the bars and stared at the camp. How many were there? How many warriors would he need to expunge this evil? He could raise fifty, perhaps. Not enough.

Dark, wild clouds thundered in the sky.

Hersteinn smiled, turned to Thórdís, opened his arms. “Your brother serves, blood queen.”

She embraced him and he crushed her neck into his shoulder. “But I do not serve you.”

He squeezed out her breath and dumped the body on the floor. He tore off his pants, took a dagger from her belt and carved runes into his penis: Odin.

Unmen rushed to the cage, rattled the bars, brayed steaming hatred at him.

He knelt and thrust in his bloody tumescence. Come, Hunt, see the depravity we’ve wrought. Come and cleanse this wretched earth.

The bars broke. As claws dug into his eyes, hooves flashed over the horizon.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Chairchucker posted:

I just realised I wasted a perfect opportunity to call one of my characters Major Tom, curses!

I dunno, Captain Jack was good, if underutilized.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Tentatively in, pending actually having time this weekend. I'll be writing for Brosef Stalin's Yankee Yarns.

Founded in 1981 after the Kent State Revolution by an alcoholic Turk with money from the Moldovan Mafia as a midwestern Gosizdata firm, tragedy struck BSYY after its editorial board were discovered dead beneath an avalanche of Ayn Rand fanfiction in '92. Sold to the lowest bidder, the mag was "reinvented" by the world-famous fanzine authors the Hoopblatt brothers, fraternal Siamese twins from Rolla, MN with a penchant for Wild Turkey and shooting competing editors in the buttocks. The current editor-in-chief is Happy Boy, a badger with heart arrhythmia, who has guided the rag to dominance in the field of hard-boiled post-bropocalyptic action.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Erogenous Beef posted:

I'll be writing for Brosef Stalin's Yankee Yarns.

Founded in 1981 after the Kent State Revolution by an alcoholic Turk with money from the Moldovan Mafia as a midwestern Gosizdata firm, tragedy struck BSYY after its editorial board were discovered dead beneath an avalanche of Ayn Rand fanfiction in '92. Sold to the lowest bidder, the mag was "reinvented" by the world-famous fanzine authors the Hoopblatt brothers, fraternal Siamese twins from Rolla, MN with a penchant for Wild Turkey and shooting competing editors in the buttocks. The current editor-in-chief is Happy Boy, a badger with heart arrhythmia, who has guided the rag to dominance in the field of hard-boiled post-bropocalyptic action.

Submitted for your approval:

Duke Guncock versus The Man With No Balls (Words: 1196)

The breaching charge blew and Duke Guncock burst through the wall, fists swinging. He obliterated two balaclavaed men, pivoted, slammed a third man into the concrete.

From the corner, Doctor Lucy Freedom shrieked, knife at her throat, a lone anarchist behind her.

Duke advanced, knuckles cracking. “Leave off, or I’ll kick your face into next Tuesday!”

The anarchist pulled the shapely doctor through an open window, tossed a canister behind him. Benjamins clouded the room, slicing into Duke’s bronzed muscles. The greenbacks were burning acid on his skin.

Outside, the huge tires of a monster-Prius chewed dirt and sped emissionlessly out into the suburban wastes, leaving behind nothing but patchouli-tainted dust.

Duke grunted, turned to the now-demolished room. Two bodies lay beneath toxic paper; Duke swept aside the poison and searched them, finding only a half-eaten carrot. He sat down on a bench, face in hands, thick pectorals wriggling with fury. Who would dare abduct the Brain of Brocialism from his own frat-house?

A labkini hung on the wall, limp, unstretched by the Doctor’s Ph.Double-Ds. Only one man would be flamboyant enough to abduct the Doctor and forget her favorite attire.

Duke raced to the motor pool.

A metal man with a gleaming bald chrome head, pointed wire-beard and mini-fridge torso stood over a lifted hood of the house’s communal ride: a cherry-red 1965 Mustang. He wiped grease from mechanical hands.

“Robot Lenin!” Duke high-fived him. “The Man With No Balls is back, he took Doc Freedom.”

Lenin whirred. “History has now confronted us with an immediate task which is the most revolutionary of all the immediate tasks confronting the broletariat.”

“Right on, let’s round up the posse.” Duke popped his four collars and invoked sacred words: “Road trip!”

#

The Mustang roared downhill towards a lone green patch amidst grey, cracking suburban wasteland. Pooling their labor with the Doctor’s brains, Duke and Lenin had revived a few blocks of houses, watering the thirsty earth, repairing precious internet lines rotted by the long, sober ages following Peak Beer. One day, they would re-establish a Broviet state, a paradise of bottomless, shared kegs.

Dilapidated houses slouched between overgrown yards, red cups and brown bottles everywhere. Not a single man lay passed out on the steps, and no drunkenly-unbolted toilets decorated the roofs.

“I don’t like this, Robot Lenin. Where is everyone?”

“It is impossible to predict the time and progress of revolution.”

The frathouse was as abandoned as the street. Halo discs still rested in Xbox trays and dozens of cold, unopened beers were in the fridges. Not a single barf-stain wetted the worn carpets. Robot Lenin brushed aside empty bottles, revealing a CD player. He turned it on.

“Money, money changes everything…”

Duke sprinted across the room, punted the device into the wall. It disintegrated.

“They’ve run off, and they’re playing counter-revolutionary music.” He clenched a tattooed fist, knuckles popping. “Robot Lenin, our bros have forsaken us.”

“Victory will belong only to those who have faith in the people.”

“That disc came from somewhere. One woman has our answers.” Duke stomped on a shard of iridescent plastic. “Cyber Lauper. I had hoped never to see her again.”

“The feeling’s mutual, honey.” A woman stood in the door, hair piled to the ceiling and festooned with fluorescent clothespins, ripped acid-wash jeans hanging to her knees, neon-blue augments glowing in her eye sockets. She slunk into the den. “Don’t blame me for your stupid politics. These boys just want to have fun.”

Duke clenched his quadriceps, choking back raw hatred. “What happened here?”

“Sorry, honey, that’s not how this works.”

Robot Lenin rubbed forefinger to mechanical thumb. Duke nodded. “There’s cash at our house. Thousands.”

“Why, that does change everything, Duke.” The singer pointed.

Beyond the window, a dark bulk squatted on the horizon, shimmering amidst the haze and heat. The accursed Cibola, seven suburbs engulfed by a single enormous mall, before the bombs fell and the beer dried up. A monument to the failure of free trade, a place where no brocialist dare set foot.

Cyber Lauper brushed her enormous locks against Duke’s shaved pate. “You’ll have to drive all night. Need a map?”

#

The mall’s parking lot was a vast desert of crumbling concrete and age-eaten mom-mobiles. Duke rolled between wrecks, searching for a way in. Robot Lenin grabbed his shoulder, pointed.

A huge, muscled man slumped against the wall, sun-leathered face hanging between his knees, crushed Bud Lights scattered nearby.

Duke jumped out of the car. “Robot Lenin, find the doctor!” He bent over the man. “You good, bro?” No answer. He lifted the man’s chin: Chunk, from Tri-Lambda, eyes rolled back. Duke took a sharpie from his pocket, drew a Hitler ‘stache on Chunk’s lip and ‘douche’ on his forehead. “Rest in peace, man.”

A thin, reedy laugh erupted behind him. “Ever the barbarian, hmm?”

Duke turned, squinted.

The Man With No Balls stood sunrise-silhouetted, flanked by bulky, rifle-toting men. “The Free Market enlightened me, Duke, unshackled me from meat and brocialism.” He crossed himself, the sign of the F. “Your flock has heard my gospel and abandoned you.”

Duke shielded his eyes from the sun, fell to his knees, manly tears bulleting down his cheeks. The bros-no-more wore billowing, colorful t-shirts adorned with prancing, colorful horses.

The Man cackled. “Brony Capitalism hums through Cibola’s halls. When the good Doctor finishes her work, I will bring balance to Supply and Demand, and lead the Seven Cities of the Gold Standard to glory anew!”

“You’ll have to go through me first.” Duke raised his tattooed fists. Liberté shone on one, Égalité on the other. Fraternité was downstairs, shared only with the ladies. “Come at me.”

The Man sneered. “No, I don’t think so.” He snapped thin, effeminate fingers and rifles raised, aimed.

An engine roared. The Steel Stallion of the Working Class surfed the Mustang’s hood. “No revolution is worth anything unless it can defend itself!” Robot Lenin pitched a pill towards Duke.

Duke caught it between his teeth, the rifles burped forth fiery death and he gulped down the creatine.

His shirt exploded off his magnificent, sculpted chest. Bullets pancaked against chiseled pecs, each bulging muscle an iron curtain, united with its brother against free-market firepower.

Howling, he launched into the air, slammed his leg into The Man With No Balls. Sparkling teeth flew and the Man vanished in an electric blue blaze, booted long past next Tuesday.

Swole and twitching, he turned to the cowering ex-bros, but Robot Lenin grabbed his arm. “The broletarian revolution is impossible without the sympathy and support of the overwhelming majority of the working people.”

“Duke!” Doc Freedom bounced out of the car, hugged him.

“Good to see you, Doc. Can you help these boys?”

“Nothing a few beer bongs won’t fix.”

“And Chad—“ He caught himself. “I mean, The Man. How long until…?”

She retrieved a calculator from her breasts. “Based on the Cherenkov radiation, five years.”

Duke nodded, wrapped an arm around her waist. “Robot Lenin, we’ll need a plan.”

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


We're expecting some goddamn creativity from you fuckers, so don't just pick a video with busty Bulgarians warbling about love. As the resident Eurogoon, allow me to present a few older entries as examples.

Head for eastern Europe if you want some serious weird.

Russia 2012 - Russian grandmothers having a party and baking cookies.
Ukraine 2007 - Disco crossdressing army dudes.
Ireland 2011 - Ambiguously gay twins with insane hair and shoulderpads having a man crush or something JESUS WHY DID I WATCH THIS AGAIN

You get the idea.

Erogenous Beef fucked around with this message at May 8, 2013 around 23:51

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Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


If you're confused and don't know what to pick, you can always ask the judges to pick one for you. We reserve the right to flash-rule you, though.

And you may not like what we pick...

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