|# ¿ Jul 28, 2021 04:04|
Thunderbrawl 1 by sebmojo: Martello vs. twinkle cave Round 1 twinkle cave Round 2 Martello Round 3 Martello Thunderbrawl 2 by sebmojo: Etherwind vs. Symptomless Coma Prompt Symptomless Coma Thunderbrawl 3 by HiddenGecko: Noah vs. Benagain Round 1 Noah Round 2 Noah Thunderbrawl 4 by Fanky Malloons: Iroel vs. HiddenGecko Round 1 Draw Round 2 HiddenGecko (by default) Thunderbrawl 5 by sebmojo: SurreptitiousMuffin vs. budgieinspector Round 1 budgieinspector Round 2 budgieinspector Thunderbrawl 6 by sebmojo: Bad Seafood vs. toanoradian Prompt Bad Seafood Thunderbrawl 7 by Sitting Here & Nubile Hillock: Martello vs. hereticMIND Prompt Martello Thunderbrawl 8 by Martello: Noah vs. EchoCian Prompt Noah Thunderbrawl 9 by Noah: sebmojo vs Stuporstar Prompt sebmojo Thunderbrawl 10 by Jeza: Noah vs. Nubile Hillock Round 1 Noah Thunderbrawl 11 by Erogenous Beef: Sitting Here vs. Jeza Round 1 Sitting Here Thunderbrawl 12 by The Saddest Rhino: Noah vs. Nubile Hillock vs. sebmojo Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 13 by twinkle cave: Martello vs. Noah Round 1 Noah Thunderbrawl 14 by CancerCakes: sebmojo vs. Fumblemouse Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 15 by Fanky Malloons: Martello vs. Noah Round 1 Noah Thunderbrawl 16 by Martello: sebmojo vs. Erik Shawn-Bohner Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 17 by Black Griffon: CancerCakes vs. Jagermonster Round 1 CancerCakes Thunderbrawl 18 by sebmojo: Erik Shawn-Bohner vs. Martello Round 1 Erik Shawn-Bohner (by default) Thunderbrawl 19 by Martello: SurreptitiousMuffin vs. Erik Shawn-Bohner Round 1 Erik Shawn-Bohner Thunderbrawl 20 by Erik Shawn-Bohner: Martello vs. sebmojo Round 1 Martello Thunderbrawl 21 by Chairchucker: Erogenous Beef vs. Kaishai Round 1 Kaishai Thunderbrawl 22 by Erogenous Beef: The Saddest Rhino vs. SurreptitiousMuffin Round 1 The Saddest Rhino Thunderbrawl 23 by Symptomless Coma: sebmojo vs. twinkle cave Round 1 twinkle cave Thunderbrawl 24 by Kaishai: Nubile Hillock vs. JonasSalk Round 1 Nubile Hillock Thunderbrawl 25 by systran: Mercedes vs. captain platypus vs. Bad Seafood Round 1 captain platypus Thunderbrawl 26 by Martello: Nubile Hillock vs. Capntastic vs. Jagermonster Round 1 Capntastic Thunderbrawl 27 by Erogenous Beef: sebmojo vs. Fumblemouse Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 28 by sebmojo: crabrock vs. Chillmatic Round 1 crabrock Thunderbrawl 29 by Kaishai: CancerCakes vs. sebmojo Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 30 by sebmojo: Fumblemouse vs. crabrock vs. Nikaer Drekin Round 1 crabrock Thunderbrawl 31 by Dr. Kloctopussy, Bad Seafood, and Chairchucker: Sitting Here vs. sebmojo Round 1 sebmojo Round 2 Sitting Here Round 3 Sitting Here Thunderbrawl 32 by sebmojo: Jeza vs. Noah Round 1 Noah Thunderbrawl 33 by Nikaer Drekin: Mercedes vs. Fumblemouse Round 1 Fumblemouse Thunderbrawl 34 by Jeza: inthesto vs. CantDecideOnAName Round 1 CantDecideOnAName Thunderbrawl 35 by Kaishai: Mercedes vs. Bad Seafood Round 1 Bad Seafood Thunderbrawl 36 by sebmojo: Erogenous Beef vs. Sitting Here Round 1 Erogenous Beef Thunderbrawl 37 by Erogenous Beef: Fraction vs. Mercedes Round 1 Mercedes Thunderbrawl 38 by Dr. Kloctopussy: crabrock vs. SurreptitiousMuffin Round 1 SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl 39 by Bad Seafood: Quidnose vs. sebmojo Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 40 by Bitchtits McGee: sebmojo vs. Erogenous Beef Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 41 by Tyrannosaurus: Mercedes vs. Purple Prince Round 1 Mercedes Thunderbrawl 42 by sebmojo: Bitchtits McGee vs. Radioactive Bears Round 1 DOUBLE FORFEIT WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU Thunderbrawl 43 by Kaishai: DreamingofRoses vs. crabrock Round 1 crabrock Thunderbrawl 44 by Mercedes: No Longer Flaky vs. The Leper Colon V Round 1 No Longer Flaky Thunderbrawl 45 by Fumblemouse: No Longer Flaky vs. God Over Djinn Round 1 No Longer Flaky Thunderbrawl 46 by sebmojo: Mercedes vs. The Leper Colon V Round 1 The Leper Colon V Thunderbrawl 47 by crabrock: SurreptitiousMuffin vs. sebmojo Round 1 Draw Round 2 SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl 48 by The Saddest Rhino: magnificent7 vs. sebmojo vs. Mercedes vs. Meinberg Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 49 by sebmojo: Quidnose vs. The Saddest Rhino Round 1 Quidnose Thunderbrawl 50 by Martello: Echo Cian vs. Sitting Here Round 1 Echo Cian Thunderbrawl 51 by Mercedes: ThirdEmperor vs. magnificent7 Round 1 ThirdEmperor Thunderbrawl 52 by Kaishai: Sitting Here vs. SurreptitiousMuffin Round 1 SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl 53 by sebmojo: SurreptitiousMuffin vs. Erogenous Beef Round 1 Erogenous Beef Thunderbrawl 54 by Sitting Here: God Over Djinn vs. No Longer Flaky Round 1 God Over Djinn Thunderbrawl 55 by Erogenous Beef: Entenzahn vs. Mercedes Round 1 Mercedes Thunderbrawl 56 by sebmojo: Crab Destroyer vs. Mister Morn Round 1 Crab Destroyer Thunderbrawl 57 by Dr. Kloctopussy: SurreptitiousMuffin vs. Kaishai Round 1 SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl 58 by Erogenous Beef: sebmojo vs. God Over Djinn Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 59 by Fumblemouse: Lake Jucas vs. Starter Wiggin Round 1 Lake Jucas Thunderbrawl 60 by sebmojo: Djeser vs. Echo Cian Round 1 Djeser Thunderbrawl 61 by sebmojo: RunningIntoWalls vs. Pseudoscorpion Round 1 Pseudoscorpion Thunderbrawl 62 by Bad Seafood: Mercedes vs. Dr. Kloctopussy Round 1 Dr. Kloctopussy Thunderbrawl 63 by Tyrannosaurus: crabrock vs. Sitting Here Round 1 crabrock Thunderbrawl 64 by sebmojo: QuoProQuid vs. The News at 5 Round 1 The News at 5 Thunderbrawl 65 by sebmojo: Sitting Here vs. God Over Djinn Round 1 Sitting Here Thunderbrawl 66 by SurreptitiousMuffin: sebmojo vs. systran Round 1 systran Thunderbrawl 67 by God Over Djinn: Gau vs. Thalamas Round 1 Gau Thunderbrawl 68 by ReptileChillock: God Over Djinn vs. WeLandedOnTheMoon! vs. curlingiron Round 1 God Over Djinn Thunderbrawl 69 by SurreptitiousMuffin: RichardGamingo vs. leekster Round 1 leekster Thunderbrawl 70 by sebmojo: Sitting Here vs. Fumblemouse Round 1 Sitting Here Thunderbrawl 71 by SurreptitiousMuffin: Phobia vs. Meinberg Round 1 Meinberg Thunderbrawl 72 by SurreptitiousMuffin: Hocus Pocus vs. leekster Round 1 Hocus Pocus Thunderbrawl 73 by SurreptitiousMuffin: dmboogie vs. Pseudoscorpion Round 1 Pseudoscorpion Thunderbrawl 74 by crabrock: Starter Wiggin vs. Thalamas Round 1 Starter Wiggin Thunderbrawl 75 by sebmojo: crabrock vs. Some Guy TT Round 1 crabrock Thunderbrawl 76 by sebmojo: Entenzahn vs. Lake Jucas Round 1 Lake Jucas Thunderbrawl 77 by Erogenous Beef: Martello vs. Sitting Here Round 1 Martello Thunderbrawl 78 by Erogenous Beef: Tyrannosaurus vs. Thalamas Round 1 Tyrannosaurus Thunderbrawl 79 by Tyrannosaurus: Jeza vs. Meeple Round 1 Meeple (by default) Thunderbrawl 80 by sebmojo: Fanky Malloons vs. SurreptitiousMuffin Round 1 SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl 81 by SurreptitiousMuffin: Meinberg vs. Hocus Pocus vs. Pseudoscorpion Round 1 Meinberg Thunderbrawl 82 by SurreptitiousMuffin: Phobia vs. leekster vs. dmboogie Round 1 dmboogie Thunderbrawl 83 by Mercedes: Entenzahn vs. Djeser Round 1 Djeser Thunderbrawl 84 by Erogenous Beef: Entenzahn vs. God Over Djinn Round 1 God Over Djinn Thunderbrawl 85 by Sitting Here: PootieTang vs. CommissarMega Round 1 PootieTang Thunderbrawl 86 by sebmojo: Blade_of_tyshalle vs. Bad Seafood vs. dmboogie Round 1 Bad Seafood Thunderbrawl 87 by Bad Seafood: Cache Cab vs. Gau Round 1 Gau Thunderbrawl 88 by Tyrannosaurus: SurreptitiousMuffin vs. Bad Seafood Round 1 SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl 89 by God Over Djinn: Entenzahn and Meeple vs. docbeard and SurreptitiousMuffin Round 1 Entenzahn and Meeple Thunderbrawl 90 by Gau: WeLandedOnTheMoon! vs. Broenheim Round 1 WeLandedOnTheMoon! Thunderbrawl 91 by Mercedes: sebmojo vs. Djeser Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 92 by Bad Seafood: Mercedes vs. Nethilia Round 1 Nethilia Thunderbrawl 93 by Schneider Heim: Djeser vs. Gau vs. Phobia Round 1 Gau Thunderbrawl 94 by WeLandedOnTheMoon!: Gau vs. Sithsaber Round 1 Gau Thunderbrawl 95 by Entenzahn: PootieTang vs. Fuschia tude Round 1 PootieTang Thunderbrawl 96 by sebmojo: Mercedes vs. systran Round 1 Mercedes (by default) Thunderbrawl 97 by Entenzahn: DuckyB vs. Phobia Round 1 DOUBLE FORFEIT ARE YOU SERIOUS Thunderbrawl 98 by crabrock: Number 36 vs. Ironic Twist Round 1 Ironic Twist (by default) Thunderbrawl 99 by Entenzahn: Phobia vs. Djeser Round 1 Djeser (by default) Thunderbrawl 100 by Mercedes: Benny the Snake vs. sebmojo Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 101 by God Over Djinn: Oxxidation vs. sebmojo Round 1 Neither Thunderbrawl 102 by Sitting Here: SurreptitiousMuffin vs. sebmojo Round 1 SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl 103 by Martello: Benny the Snake vs. Sitting Here Round 1 Sitting Here Thunderbrawl 104 by Mercedes: Fuschia tude vs. Thalamas vs. PoshAlligator vs. Hammer Bro. Round 1 Hammer Bro. Thunderbrawl 105 by Mercedes: Benny the Snake vs. Schneider Heim vs. Walamor Round 1 Schneider Heim Thunderbrawl 106 by Anomalous Blowout: Broenheim vs. JuniperCake Round 1 Broenheim (by default) Thunderbrawl 107 by Bad Seafood: PootieTang vs. God Over Djinn Round 1 God Over Djinn Thunderbrawl 108 by Fanky Malloons: Benny the Snake vs. Benny the Snake Round 1 Benny the Snake Thunderbrawl 109 by sebmojo: Entenzahn vs. Martello Round 1 Entenzahn Thunderbrawl 110 by Mercedes: newtestleper vs. Phobia vs. docbeard Round 1 docbeard Thunderbrawl 111 by Mercedes: Cache Cab vs. the wildest turkey Round 1 Cache Cab Thunderbrawl 112 by Mercedes: Ironic Twist vs. thehomemaster vs. Grizzled Patriarch vs. Benny the Snake Round 1 Ironic Twist Thunderbrawl 113 by Mercedes: Djeser vs. N. Senada vs. Tyrannosaurus vs. Entenzahn Round 1 Djeser Thunderbrawl 114 by Sitting Here: Cache Cab vs. Broenheim vs. Entenzahn Round 1 Broenheim Thunderbrawl 115 by sebmojo: Your Sledgehammer vs. Mercedes Round 1 Mercedes Thunderbrawl 116 by Tyrannosaurus: Benny the Snake vs. Fumblemouse Round 1 Fumblemouse (by default) Thunderbrawl 117 by sebmojo: SurreptitiousMuffin vs. Martello Round 1 Martello Thunderbrawl 118 by Entenzahn: Gau vs. blue squares Round 1 blue squares (by default) Thunderbrawl 119 by Jitzu_the_Monk: Phobia vs. Benny the Snake Round 1 Phobia Thunderbrawl 120 by Mercedes: Sitting Here and sebmojo vs. N. Senada and Jitzu_the_Monk vs. Entenzahn and Obliterati Round 1 Sitting Here and sebmojo Thunderbrawl 121 by newtestleper: Broenheim vs. blue squares Round 1 blue squares Thunderbrawl 122 by Bad Seafood: Ironic Twist vs. SurreptitiousMuffin Round 1 Pending Thunderbrawl 123 by Phobia: Your Sledgehammer vs. Jitzu_the_Monk Round 1 Pending Thunderbrawl 124 by crabrock: Entenzahn vs. sebmojo Round 1 Pending
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 20:54 on Dec 28, 2014
|# ¿ Dec 31, 2013 07:57|
Critiques for Week LXXIII: Where'd I Put My Club?
One last set of crits from me before the New Year, a new start, and a welcome bottle of champagne. Many of your Stone Age sci-fi entries were remarkable, for better or worse. Several contained no sci-fi. (Reading dense SF may occasionally feel like chewing stones, but that still doesn't count, The Leper Colon V.) One or two stories effectively or actually had no cavemen. Oh, Thunderdome! You never cease to amaze me.
SurreptitiousMuffin, "The Spinning Blade of Doom"
Starting us off on the right foot, we've got caveman sci-fi comedy in the vein of the comic you posted. I abjectly loathed the two occasions on which you failed to capitalize the first word of dialogue (what the hell), and that maelstrom the lawn mower fell from was the anal vortex. But you know? I didn't mind all that much. You can get away with a lot when you're amusing me. Unfortunately, the blue flowers weren't clear at all--my best guess was that they were sparks despite my never having seen a lawn mower throw off sparks. 'Course, I've never seen one revved by a caveman either.
Despite the errors driving me insane ('Narry,' Muffin? Narry?), this was in contention for my winning vote until sebmojo's story came in and trumped it for humor. It remained in my top three. The questions I couldn't shake--the flowers; how Bok lost his hand by getting too close to the back of the mower rather than the front--bothered me every time I went back to them, but I'm glad the story was here and glad that I read it.
Edit it, though, for the love all that's holy.
inthesto, "Master of Nature"
For the prompt 'stone age science fiction' you wrote a story that had no Stone Age, no cavemen, and no science fiction. Brilliant. You had my initial losing vote, second only to someone we'll get to shortly, not because the story was that bad--it's quite readable and somewhat interesting--but because you failed the prompt in every way. You didn't meet the challenge Seafood and crabrock set up. You dodged it entirely. For me, that's nearly as close as it gets to insta-loss. Flaky hosing half the prompt himself spared you.
Aside from the technicality question, you have a decent piece with a few flaws. The clause 'the weather was as clear as Petro's cowardice' makes my brow quirk because I haven't seen any particular cowardice from Petro. Caution and nervousness, sure, but those aren't the same, so it's like I'm being told something the text doesn't back up. '“He's lying!” The vibrations in the ground must have been stronger than Ivan realized, the way they reverberated all the way up to Petro's voice.' This is more confusing than it needs to be regarding who's speaking. You keep that detail a mystery until the end of a long sentence. I do like the way you let us know Petro's voice is shaking here, so I'd suggest a restructuring of the line rather than a replacement. 'Less than a minute had lapsed when Petro and his bodyguards found their spines' -- again, I never saw them lose their spines. Until the next sentences when they pale and run. But that's ostensibly after finding their backbones. So the paling and running is brave? You need to show Petro's cowardice in some effective way or else stop talking about it.
Roguelike, "The Gods Must Be Lonely"
This one's my favorite of the serious entries. Your time gate reminds me of the portal from Julian May's Saga of the Pliocene Exile without being a carbon copy of the concept. I gave more of a drat about Urga than any other character this week, and her morality is plausible and somewhat sympathetic; she beats a woman and child to death, but for her, at least, this is a religious rite and duty. The story ends on a turn that follows logically from her character and your premise.
The only quibbles I have are that 'Talltree,' 'Dogbreath,' and 'Urga' aren't exactly a matching set as names go--what's the deal with hers?--and that the chanting crowd brought to mind a Roman circus rather than cavemen. Regardless, it's a good, solid bit of fiction in only 500 words. Nice job.
The Leper Colon V, "The Sharp Rock"
Take a look at this story and reflect for a moment on the fact that it is a better and more worthy entry than yours.
You had no ambition in writing this that I can see. If you were going for comedy you missed the boat by a mile; 'this story is pointless, lol!' isn't a good punchline.
In addition to that, your telling of the joke is long and labored and doesn't hang together. 'Colv was not a very bright caveman. Oh, he thought he was, as the dim often do, but he most certainly was not.' Why tell us these things? You're about to show that Colv is dumb enough to chew on rocks, and his self-esteem isn't relevant. It's a poor opening. Your premise is that Colv's teeth can chew rock, but then they can't break a thin, narrow piece that ought to be more brittle. He dies, and the reader has not the least cause to care.
The core of Thunderdome is telling stories. Good ones, bad ones, but stories that have a reason to exist. All the smacktalk and kayfabe would be meaningless without performance. Turning in stuff that neither shows your mettle, rises to a challenge, provides a moral, shares an idea, entertains, nor anything else only wastes your time as well as ours. Here's the bright side: your story for your brawl with Mercedes is a story, so there may be hope for you if you do more of that and less of whatever this was supposed to be.
Purple Prince, "Timê"
While 'garbage' may be strong, I can't make heads or tails of your story, so I'll still be setting it out on the metaphorical curb come trash day. As far as I can tell, your religious caveman discovers that the altar to Rhea has cracked in two--or is a machine that has split in two, one or the other--and it now leaks a black, acidic substance that leaves him paralyzed by pain from a fingertip contact. He meets a space Viking with laser eyes. It speaks some characters I don't recognize, though maybe they're supposed to be 'Timê,' and then shoots him with his laser fist.
It doesn't make a lot of sense.
You were probably caught by the problems in trying to show everything from the caveman's point of view. Of course the caveman doesn't understand what's going on--but the reader still needs to, so you need to find a way to let us in on the secret. What is the black acid? What are the wings on the bearded man's head? I assume he's a man and not a robot since he has a beard. He sounds mechanical otherwise, so maybe it's the facial hair that needs explaining. I don't know what you were after with the odd characters; I missed the meaning entirely.
I'm skeptical too of cavemen with organized religion, even though I like the choice of Rhea, the Titan mother of Zeus and a fitting goddess for pre-history. The whole doesn't work for me, although at least it's clearly caveman sci-fi and clearly an attempt to tell a tale.
Obliterati, "Here Set Big Precedent"
I think you were trying for comedy too. You didn't get there. The corporate-engineer caveman is a character that could be used for humor, but he's not inherently funny to me, and I say this as someone who's read and laughed at a lot of Dilbert. Worse, I was seriously distracted by the question of what Bright Hots were (fire on a stick) and what they had to do with the animal stampede (he set the trees on fire, right? But what happened to the fire? Shouldn't the cavemen either be running or burning to death?). It feels like this situation could be comical; as it's written, it isn't. So you end up with a dull entry that doesn't have much to offer.
The switching between 'Brother Ag' and 'Mad Ag' bemuses me slightly. It would make sense if the protagonist thought of him as Brother Ag and Big Man addressed him as Mad Ag, but then he shouldn't be Mad Ag in the final line.
No Longer Flaky, "Grug's Harvest"
Strike one: you went over the word count with your initial entry. Strike two: you edited your initial entry. I'm inclined to cut some slack for this since that rule isn't in the OP of the thread in which it was entered, but not a lot. Strike three: the story is bad. You went the Flintstones route in terms of cavemen living modern life with a Stone Age twist, but you didn't bother to make the cameras anything other than actual cameras. Candid Camera is not science fiction, furthermore. Much as I disliked inthesto dodging the prompt as he did, writing this crit changed my mind about whose sins were worse.
That tiger isn't even a sabre-tooth. The Stone Age trappings really are paper thin. The ending is almost as much of a pratfall as the death in The Leper Colon V's story.
The writing's clumsy too. Look at this: 'Lank, on the other side of the bushes, said “I don’t know, she just mentioned it last night when we were watching Real Cavewives of the Chieftains,” Lank said.' Ignoring for a moment the missing comma after the first 'said,' you've got 'Lank said' twice in the same sentence. In the first paragraph, 'dying ululations' suggests death howls rather than sounds that are fading away. 'Grugs eyes' needs an apostrophe. In '“Come on Lank, it’s time to get going.” Grug said,' the period after 'going' should be a comma. That is an ongoing problem with your dialogue. 'They were heading eastward' is a lot more passive than 'They headed eastward' and burns a precious word beside. In the sentence containing 'Grug asked and he,' there should likely be a comma after 'asked,' as the clause that follows is independent. Etc.; you may want to ask the Farm for grammar pointers if these errors aren't a result of a last-minute rush job.
Keep competing. Your loss is fully deserved, but there's honor in it: you tried.
Tyrannosaurus, "The Old Ways are the Best Ways"
I started liking yours once I got past the first paragraph and its rampant invocation of skybeetles. It would help to cut the 'gently caress Tenfingers' sentiment, since that callous aspect of Crooknose's character doesn't have anything to do with anything or come into play again. You'd lose one of the mentions of skybeetles with it! Bonus!
It's a decent read, but I don't buy your cavemen at all thanks to the vocabulary you gave them. "I think we should investigate the skybeetle." "Will you jump, O Sacrifice? [...] Or must you be assisted?" This dialogue is quite articulate for Stone Age humanity. A lighter humorous story could pull off that kind of disconnect, but yours is more a serious story with streaks of black comedy. It doesn't work. I hope you meant to write a serious-with-black-humor-streaks piece rather than a full-blown comedy. I like the ending in which everyone dies, but it's not very funny--if you're out for nothing but laughs, you may need to reconsider it.
Fumblemouse, "The Ethical Caveman"
Your writing's solid and your premise isn't half bad. A shame you cluttered it up with ExcessivePortmanteaus. Mileage is going to vary on this one, but I didn't like them at all, and your first paragraph is rife with the things. I got sick of them fast--and since BluntSpear changes his name to Bluntspear midway through, maybe you did too. You do get points for trying to get into a caveman mindset and differentiate it from a modern human viewpoint; a few of the other competitors could take a cue.
The word choices still jarred me out of the story here and there. It looks like you tried to keep to vocabulary a caveman would reasonably understand in the portmanteaus and outside of them, but then I'd see a phrase like 'His own deflected force' and wonder if BluntSpear was a Neanderthal Einstein or what. Other offenders: 'reciprocate,' 'sprained wrist,' and most egregiously, 'ethical.' In the latter case he could be repeating what he was told, but it's an odd word for him to remember if he doesn't understand it. It all didn't quite fit, though I appreciate your effort.
It's an okay piece, safely in the upper middle, but it got soundly licked by an entry with stronger characterization.
JuniperCake, "Saving Utopia"
Okay, never in all my life have I seen a skinny person who looked like a worm. You outright mention the juts of bone! That's bizarre. Your entry improved from there, but that's damning with faint praise. Still, I didn't mind this one. The message is about as subtle as a brick to the face and about as fresh and original as that simile, but I liked the direction you took your ending.
Where's the science fiction, though? 'Human flesh is tasty' fulfills the 'a caveman discovers something new' option, but 'write it like a scifi novel' was part of that option, and you fell down there. You also ran into the same problem as Tyrannosaurus, in my opinion: I'm not buying 'Then that’s your own fault for submitting. Submitting to nature' as caveman dialogue or sentiment, and your story's serious, so you don't get humor's get-out-of-plausibility-free card. These people are too modern for their setting. See again my comment re: morals, bricks.
Sitting Here, "The Garden of Ego"
Hey, it's an episode of The Twilight Zone! I think I've seen this one! I kid, but only just. There's a very TZ feel to this piece, and in this case that's not so much of a compliment, because what you've written is only a step removed in concept from those hokey 'Adam and Eve were from space!!' scripts. On the plus side, you've made the idea less cheesy than TZ ever managed. The writing is good; the use of two different names/titles of God for your protagonist and antagonist got my attention straight away.
I ranked this about even with Tyrannosaurus's piece despite the superior writing because your shot landed to the left of the prompt. Cavemen discover knowledge of good and evil here, but that's not what the story's about. The Stone Age people are objects, not characters, in the argument between El and Adonai. A good read; an iffier entry.
sebmojo, "Hunter-Gatherer's Delight"
Drug stories are not to my taste; pot is not insta-funny to me; you managed to make me like this thing anyway. You're a wily one, sebmojo. To be fair, it's the cussing, cantankerous caveman and his color-naming ways that amused me most, and character and tone are where your magic lies here--and I still laughed when Boz's stick became the proto-bong.
Your story most of all illustrates how words like 'prognathous' and dubiously accurate Neanderthal dialogue such as 'loving stupid idiot fuckhead' can be as great in comedy as they are crippling in anything else. The contrast between the typical caveman speech and Boz calling his nephew a Neanderthal numbnuts is funny. In a humorous story that serves your purpose, gives it appeal, so it works.
This was my second choice for the win, but I have one complaint: the 'Danknug' pun doesn't work unless the K in Dan-Knug isn't silent. What's an illiterate society doing with silent letters anyway? Now I'm over-thinking it, and that can only lead to sorrow.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 04:40 on Jan 13, 2014
|# ¿ Jan 1, 2014 01:33|
|# ¿ Jan 3, 2014 17:22|
The edge of the bathroom counter dug into the flesh behind Eleanor's knees. She swung her legs around, dragging her feet across the sink, until she sat cross-legged on the laminate and faced the girl in the mirror. That girl had a sheepish look on her round face. She chewed her lip; she stared at Eleanor in the silence of the apartment.
"Hello, mirror-me," Eleanor said.
Then she changed her voice, made it lower, and spoke for her twin in the glass. "Hello, Eleanor."
In her normal tone she said, "I read a really good book this week." But of course the mirror girl's mouth moved too, ruining the illusion that she had anyone but herself to talk to, that she wasn't imagining a friend to keep her company until her father came home.
Maybe it would help if she looked away while speaking as herself. "This is silly," Eleanor mumbled.
"Yeah, well, you're silly," said her mirror image.
Eleanor grinned a little and crinkled her nose. "We're silly."
"Yup! We'll be hanging a spoon from our nose next."
Eleanor laughed, and the mirror girl laughed too. Eleanor thumped down from her perch and went to fetch the silverware.
Her father worked until dark most nights to keep them afloat, and he didn't have the money left over for an Internet connection--so he said. Between school hours and the turn of his key in the lock, Eleanor stayed in the apartment; even for a shy girl it could get lonely. She didn't feel as alone when she spoke to her reflected self. The girl in the mirror smiled at her, laughed with her. Over time it got easier to forget she was putting words in her twin's mouth, especially when her twin made comments she couldn't, wouldn't say. Such as, "The principal's a total bitch." Such as, "You are too mad at Daddy sometimes. Stop pretending."
The older Eleanor got, the less she appreciated that candor. More and more often she had no answer for the mirror. She wouldn't always look her image in the eye. After she made a few friends in middle school who didn't know her every thought, she stopped saying anything to her image in the glass; that was all right, because her mirror self looked like she had other places to be.
But increasingly as though those places were all-you-can-eat buffets.
Fifteen-year-old Eleanor grabbed at her belly and watched her image's flesh bulge through her fingers. Bile rose her throat. She prodded her soft cheeks and the flab under her arms. "You're fat," she snapped at her twin, the first time she'd spoken to the mirror in a year. The girl behind the glass scowled at her. "You can't argue, can you? Because it's true."
Eleanor pitched her voice lower and answered viciously: "You're right. We're disgusting."
Her reflection's lips didn't move. She was out of practice with pretending, and she must have thought the words without speaking them. Eleanor slapped her leg and watched it ripple under the denim of her jeans. Answer enough.
She came to the mirror whenever she felt hungry to squeeze whatever fat she could reach and shake it at her reflection like a weapon. Sometimes she stayed in the bathroom for all the time between waking up and running for the bus. Her father often fell asleep on the couch as soon as he came through the door, so she could get away with a dinner of Corn Flakes. And she did lose pounds--friends, too, as she ignored them--but there was always more pudge somewhere.
No matter how Eleanor sacrificed, no matter her weight, the girl in the mirror didn't smile anymore, not even when Eleanor breathed in deep and counted all her ribs. Eleanor met her image's dull eyes. She glanced down to the swell under her navel that wouldn't go away.
"You're starving us."
Eleanor's gaze snapped up.
The eyes in the mirror weren't dull anymore; they burned. "You're killing us," her reflection said. Eleanor touched her own unmoving mouth. Her twin copied the movement, and her dry lower lip cracked under the pressure of her nail.
Eleanor said, "We have to be thin." Blood beaded beside her image's finger, yet she tasted none.
Her reflection said, "We have to live."
Eleanor slapped her stomach and squeezed her eyes shut. Too big, still too big. How could she starve with so much fat?
"Look at me!" the girl in the mirror screamed, lunging forward, and the remaining flesh of her arms trembled as she punched the glass from the inside--the sight of it set off a hopeless, helpless rage in Eleanor. She beat at the mirror, shrieking.
The glass gave way.
A keyring jingled outside the apartment door: Eleanor's father was home. He brought a titanic carton of doughnuts into the living room. "Honey...."
His quiet, careful, hesitant opening trailed off as he took in the sight of her, wearing one of his turtlenecks--it hid the bruises and the cuts--and eating pizza out of an open delivery box. She swallowed a bite. "Do you mind, Dad? I got hungry."
"No. No. I don't mind one bit. I got you...." He looked at the doughnuts, then at her. "I've been worried, sweetheart."
She smiled at him, even though it reopened the crack in her lip. "I'll be fine now. I promise."
|# ¿ Jan 6, 2014 02:35|
The toy's robotic arm.
Yes. It's is only ever used for 'it is' or 'it has.' The possessive is its, no apostrophe. Here is a link discussing this in more detail.
|# ¿ Jan 7, 2014 18:44|
|# ¿ Jan 11, 2014 01:26|
Marian planted the morning glories around her brother's body herself. She arranged their tendrils to drape across his chest, cloaking the sunken cavity there. She twined thin vines around his shattered fingers. And as his eyes opened, pinprick pupils asking her all the unanswerable questions, she laid a band of green across his brow.
A tap sounded against a tree behind her.
Marian turned; Suriya stood on the edge of the clearing where Niall would possibly, improbably recover. The short, narrow woman met Marian's eyes and bent her neck to precisely the proper degree. Marian mirrored the nod automatically. "Come see him if you wish," she said, rising.
Suriya walked forward three steps. She stopped ten feet from Marian and Niall, the respectful distance. Surely she couldn't see him well from there. Marian nearly said it aloud. But she settled for inviting Suriya closer with a gesture that was, perhaps, more curt than politeness demanded.
"I mean no offense," Suriya said.
"No. I know you don't."
Niall's mouth twitched under their joined regards. Marian looked away, to Suriya, and considered the scars twisting her friend's visage: the thin, pale worm of tissue on her jaw, the cleft in her nostril that never had healed. Under her jacket would be worse. How many pins kept her arms together now? How many rods did she have in place of bone?
Meanwhile Suriya studied her too. Neither of them could bear to watch Niall breathe, it seemed. The other woman reached out, almost touching; Marian gave a tiny nod, and Suriya gripped her shoulder. Suriya said, "It could end here. Paul doesn't have a grudge against you--no one does."
Marian ran a hand down her face, forehead to chin, all of it as smooth as on the day of her birth. She kept her answer to herself. Suriya could guess it anyway.
What had happened to her brother was no proper ending.
Paul greeted her appearance at his door with claims of pleasure. He led her to an outside table, where they drank chilled cider without speaking until their cups were empty. "I don't want bad blood between us," Paul said then. "My conflict with Niall doesn't need to go any further."
"That's why I thought we should talk," Marian said.
"You're the most reasonable person I know."
At least he wasn't smiling. She breathed in the humid summer air and listened to the wind. "Why did you do that to him?"
Paul clasped his hands tightly enough to pale his knuckles, so the healing cuts across them stood out in lurid red; stitches tracked a black line along the one thumb he had left; his left arm was shorter than its partner by several inches. "Liss. Mostly Liss."
Marian remembered Paul's former lover, remembered the lesser fights over her; but Niall's relationship with Liss had ended two hundred years before.
"I've hated him since she left me for him. Year after year since, centuries of hearing him hum to himself when he's happy and seeing his smug loving smile when he looks at me. Protocol didn't help. I went too far." Paul poured himself more cider and took a long drink. "It happens. But I'm sorry I hurt you. What do you want from me to make things even?"
Marian settled for a lesser truth. "I could use help with his healing."
"His heart could beat again, someday," she said. "Maybe. He could be in less pain. Will you pay for that? I would bear you no ill will." She'd try to forget. She would try very hard.
She thought Paul might consent. He spread out his mangled hands and turned them over to look at whatever damage his angers had done to the palms. He looked at her, and his eyes were old.
But they narrowed. His lips thinned. Only for a moment; a moment was enough. "No ill will," he agreed, and she heard a polite lie.
Marian stood and seized her chair and smashed it into his head.
Paul thudded onto the grass. She brought the chair down again with the strength in her still-whole body, and the arm he raised to ward it off gave way. She bashed his hip, his ribs. All fragile. All mended too many times after fights. The chair broke eventually and drove splinters deep into her skin.
When he had paid in true kind for her brother, she stopped.
Suriya came to help her get Paul's body to the clearing, where they made a bed for him ten feet away from Niall--a respectful distance. Marian pulled the fragments of wood from her hands before she gathered new morning glories. Dots of her blood stained a few of the stems. There would, she supposed, be scars.
"He has family of his own," Suriya told her. "This won't be the end either."
Marian framed Paul's wild eyes with flowers. "Nothing ever is."
|# ¿ Jan 12, 2014 02:54|
Alright Sitting Here, I'm comin' for ya.
Sitting Here vs. SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl: John William Waterhouse
Each of you can craft beautiful imagery; I want to see what you do with beautiful imagery as your starting point. John Waterhouse is one of my favorite artists, not least because he draws so often from literature, poetry, and myth. I don't want you to consider the source when you write about the women in these paintings, however. Come up with something entirely new.
Sitting Here: The Shrine
Turn the picture you've been given into a story of no more than 1,000 words by Saturday, January 25, 11:59pm US Eastern.
|# ¿ Jan 14, 2014 06:42|
He is the dark of night; she is the sun; the first light of dawn is a rent in him, torn by her sword. She ignites his feet with a touch, and the fickle stars flee. Yet he fights. He chokes her with cloudstuff: its tears slow her burning. He freezes her in winter: she struggles, chilled and wan. But in his age he dies to her youth, whether the end comes fast or slow, and she dances on his corpse in the break of day.
Come his hour of rebirth, all the weeping will be hers.
|# ¿ Jan 14, 2014 17:19|
Rhino's crit is much appreciated, and I am interested in further thoughts.
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2014 02:17|
Thanks for the critiques, Rhino, crabrock, and sebmojo. Everyone else who crit something this week: you're awesome too.
|# ¿ Jan 18, 2014 02:03|
The Song of My Mother
"Are you after something particular?"
I looked up from the sheet music and into the curious eyes of the lady who would have liked to sell it to me. I slid the thin, brown-edged pages back into their plastic envelope, the envelope back into her box of songs for sale, and I told her, "I'm afraid so."
She shifted her weight on her metal folding chair. "What, darlin'? I've got a few more pieces in the house. Might be something I could part with."
One of the baby's heels pushed hard at my abdomen. I put a hand on my belly, tapping it twice: settle down, you. "I don't know exactly. It's something my mother used to play when I was little." I took as deep a breath as I could manage and sang, "The road is golden and full of bends that lead to Forever, where Time itself ends. Life takes us far, but this is still true: more than my life is how much I love you."
After twenty-three years I didn't even have the full tune anymore, just that chorus and the memory of pressing close to my mother's side on the piano bench. Her long hair had tickled my face; we'd laughed together.
The woman shook her head. "I've never heard that before, hon. I'm sorry."
"Me, too," I said. I bought a bag of Michener paperbacks from her and left, telling myself as I pulled out of the drive not to bother searching at any more yard sales. Knowing full well that I would.
Whenever I talked to Ken about the song, he was infuriatingly reasonable. "I can't be ready without it!" I would say.
He always had the same answer: "We are ready. As ready as we're going to get." He'd take my hand and lead me to the nursery to point out the cheerful yellow walls, the waiting crib, as though I hadn't helped build and paint them. But his calmness soothed me, so it was all right.
Not that time. I came home from the latest failed hunt and sank deep into our recliner, ignoring his attempts to coax me up, humming the scrap of melody until it must have driven him half insane. I'd been five when my mother had died, and her song was the only thing of hers I had to share with my child. No quantity of diapers purchased or mobiles hung would make me prepared for his birth while this one, critical thing was missing.
Ken broke my fugue by waving a phone in front of my face. "It's Ruth," he said.
My great-great-aunt Ruth had the thin, reedy voice of an eighty-year-old woman, which was impressive given she was ninety-seven. "Deborah, my grandsons have been going through my things," she said when I took the handset. "They found Billy's old home videos in the attic. I forgot all about those, but your daddy says you've been asking questions about your ma and would probably like to see them."
"Oh--" My breath caught. "Aunt Ruth! Yes!"
"Bring your daddy when you come by. You can watch them on my TV, and you can all sort out who gets to keep them after I'm gone."
So my father and I made the long trip to Aunt Ruth's farmhouse, with Dad holding my hand some of the way. Sometimes, it was me holding his.
We sat on Aunt Ruth's battered couch and started the first tape. A family Christmas. As soon as my mother appeared on the screen, I forgot about songs. She had the long hair of my memory. She sat on the edge of the celebration, quiet, mostly, except when the camera caught her stuffing fruitcake in Dad's mouth. Beside me, he laughed at that. Her smiles had an edge I hadn't recognized as a little girl, which went away when they were turned on him. That sharpness had softened, faded almost to nothing on the third tape, when she had a baby in her arms.
I hugged my middle; my father put his arm around my shoulders.
During a video of one of Aunt Ruth's birthday parties, the cameraman abandoned the crowded dining room. He stood behind the screen door leading out to the porch, where my mother sat with me, singing. I turned the volume up.
"The road isn't lonely, and it never ends. Love is forever, and time always mends. Life's full of lies, but this one is true: more than the world is how much I love you."
Her song. But not as I'd remembered it.
"I thought it had different words," I said softly. "Those are so... cynical. Sad."
"She could be both. She'd be glad you don't remember her that way, honey. I think--" My father searched for the right words. "Whatever she sang, it was a happy song when it was for you."
He got up and took the tape from the VCR. He held it out to me. "I'll square this with Ruth. It's yours."
I bought an old VCR of my own at Goodwill on the way home. Ken sat with me as I watched the tape the second time. I glanced at him at one point and saw he held a pen and paper, was writing the lyrics down for me. I caught his hand and held it still.
When the tape ran out, I sang to my husband and child. My mother's song, but my variation, born out of remembered love and the happy life she had given me. I believe she would have heard the truth in it.
|# ¿ Jan 20, 2014 00:56|
Sitting Here vs. SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl: John William Waterhouse
On request, I'm extending the deadline for this to Wednesday, January 29, 11:59pm US Eastern.
|# ¿ Jan 24, 2014 18:26|
|# ¿ Jan 25, 2014 02:37|
Une Mémoire des Rêves et de la Pierre
Wikipedia link: Ferdinand Cheval.
Notes: The inscription attributed to Cheval is a translation of a genuine inscription, found here. The poet is John Ashbery; his quotation is taken from this article.
In his dream, Ferdinand Cheval shaped rock with a thought and a touch. A pale chunk became a dog's head, smiling, when he traced his finger along where the mouth should be and then was. He made of stone a bare-branched tree, an Egyptian camel, a tribal chieftain. He set them all in the walls of a palace with a thousand faces, a fit home for no man unless he, too, was dreaming.
Cheval's eyes opened. No such palace existed in the waking world. He listened to his wife breathe in the dark room as he pulled on his postman's uniform by feel and long familiarity. Light had come by the time he started his route through Hautrives, the people's letters weighing down his bag. He walked the paths he had walked for uncounted days, and he walked them again over weeks that slid into months and years.
Were there times when he recalled the vision? When he flipped through Mme Roberge's issues of Le Magazin Pittoresque, did he touch the photographs? Yes, but they never changed. The Muslim mosque, the Swiss chalet remained as they were, the dreams of other men.
His eyes were on the Taj Mahal when he stumbled. Cheval dropped the magazine. He stooped to pick up the rock that had tripped him. Sandstone, he decided, rubbing his thumb over a turret that water and Nature had made. He put it in his pocket, brought it home, looked at it that night by candlelight. It was a strange castle in itself, he thought--and he remembered.
His touch alone couldn't change the form of rock, so he turned to will and a chisel.
Cheval brought stones from his route home by the pocketful, the basketful, the barrow full, bought the makings of cement with the money he could spare, scavenged bits of wire. He carved the grinning dogs of his dream and set them to guard rough limestone twists, and in memory of Vercingetorix and Caesar and Archimedes, he built those three men bodies much larger than his own.
How the village laughed at him. They mocked the sorry state of a mind that filled its garden with rock. They could not dream his dreams. For he dwelled inside his doorless palace while he slept, and he woke with new ideas of what he could achieve. He raised a monument to rival the tombs in pictures of the Valley of the Kings. Its surface had knobs by the dozen, as uneven as the rolls of an incompetent baker. His hands shaped palm trees and pilgrims and towers. He was still only a postman, and no doubt he would die a postman, but nothing about that stood between him and his Palais idéal.
For thirty-three years his oil lamp gave shadows to his Eden of animals even at night; flamingos, elephants, dogs, and their shadow-selves danced around him as he cut words into his castle's face: With the moments of leisure my occupation gave me, I built this Arabian nights' palace where my memory is engraved.
He knew it was finished when he rose from bed with no fresh vision, no need for more, only the deepest sense of peace.
Long after his death, when a poet saw the turrets like coral rising ten meters tall, the serpents and giants, the temple and chalet side by side: all the strangeness one man could create, he said, "It is a memory which is also a dream."
Cheval's ghost whispered in his ear, You have the truth of it.
|# ¿ Jan 27, 2014 03:40|
You guys are rigth , my grammar is ungood. I will buy a grammar book and try to improve. It`s been a long time since high school and I have forgotten quite a lot.
Hi there, Baudolino. I wasn't a judge for the last round, but I'm going to do a line-by-line of your piece in hopes it will help. My suggested changes and comments are in bold.
Weird prompt. 759 word.
My overall impression: this is infinitely stronger than "Rural Rentboys" in nearly every respect, including grammar. You've improved a lot! Or stopped using that bizarre, virus-ridden version of WordPad. Whichever, it's nice to see.
But your ambition outstrips your execution. I think you were aiming for a play on the Möbius strip with your story that never ends and loops back around to its beginning after several twists, and it's kind of fascinating, honestly, but it's a gimmick that doesn't quite justify itself because the story you're telling isn't worthy of it. It could be, but the real meat of the piece--which for me would be how she transitions from one point of her life to another--is all in the gaps. How'd she find her husband? How did she get a job? What changed? What did she do? Do you see what I mean? Too much is left out. There's still some sound emotion to it, but it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. It doesn't reward the reader enough for following the shifting narrative.
Aside from Dr. McWikiquote, you did a good job with both halves of the prompt, in my opinion. Your writing is rough. It's not unsalvageable. Neither is this story.
If you're serious about buying a grammar book, Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves is a lighthearted, popular favorite. You can find a lot of information on the Internet for free, though. The Purdue Online Writing Lab is a great resource for grammar lessons, and The Grammar Girl offers many useful tips.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 01:58 on Jan 29, 2014
|# ¿ Jan 28, 2014 04:01|
Thunderbrawl Results for Sitting Here vs. SurreptitiousMuffin: John Williams Waterhouse
THE PROMPT: Write a story inspired by a Waterhouse painting. Sitting Here was given The Shrine to work with; SurreptitiousMuffin received Boreas.
THE WINNER: SurreptitiousMuffin by a slender margin--each was good in its way.
Sitting Here, your painting became a scene from a story of otherworldly magic, lush and dreamlike. The not-quite-finished feel of your otherwise beautiful entry kept it from outshining Muffin's work.
SurreptitiousMuffin, you had polish on your side. Your interpretation of Boreas is more compact, less literal; those qualities aren't inherently superior in my book, but you've made them work and delivered poignancy and beauty both. Though I found the choice not to give your characters genders--or in the case of the love interest, much of anything else--unfortunate, you deserve this win.
Sitting Here, "Of Roses"
Your story is a direct translation of your image into a narrative. Other than the vial around her neck, every element is straight from the painting: the terrace, the stairs, her skirts, the moss, the vases, and the roses. This isn't a bad thing; you've provided one explanation for what, exactly, the girl is doing, and possibly even for why the scene would be called The Shrine. The worshipful attitude of the boy both invokes that title and underlines the otherworldliness of your main character. The piece has the real/not real atmosphere of a dream, a sort of lushness in its imagery, and a very lovely turn in the final line that makes me want to know the mother's story. She has loved two people of the roses, and their thorns draw red blooms from her skin.
The raw material of your piece is more to my taste, strictly speaking. Muffin invoked a myth, but you come closer to having written one. Some of your ideas here are gorgeous. I enjoy the ambiguity up until the end as to whether the girl is deluded about her father and herself, though when I think about it I wonder why the father wasn't covered with roses when he died--was he, and the mother lied about it?
This doesn't have the polish of Muffin's work, though. It doesn't read like a final draft, although it's close. You repeat 'roses' so often that I started wincing whenever I saw the word. The period is missing from your final sentence. Referring to her stepfather as 'Mother's husband' after she's dead, when the story is no longer in her perspective, doesn't work--if you'd made him 'her mother's husband' at that point I think that would have been enough to shift the narrative view. Most problematic on the story level is that I have no idea why the chemist's son gave her poison for her suicide. He worships her; he's willing to do strange things for her; that's what I decided on my first read. But if he worships her, why would he help her kill herself? He knows that's what he's doing, right? He has to.
You needed another draft to make this all it could be, and that's probably not news. 'Terrible' is still ridiculous. Its rough edges tipped the balance in Muffin's favor, sure, but I'd consider sending this one out someday, after more polishing, were I you.
SurreptitiousMuffin, "The Vigilant"
The beauty of this piece is undeniable. In the second half especially, after the love interest's death, you braid lovely emotion with exquisite imagery and turns of phrase. Your theme of lighting the way home--and one could read home as either Heaven or Earth in the case of the firework sparks--is so poignant that it makes the story for me, though the invocation of Orpheus and Eurydice (especially this description of him: 'whose statue in the hall of heroes is made of cardboard and gaffer tape') is also well done.
The trick of making characters' genders ambiguous is one I don't much like outside of Choose Your Own Adventures or other second-person fiction, and it did nothing for me here other than make the love interest a total blank. No kidding, I kept picturing the protagonist running naked out of a field with his/her arm around a department store mannequin, one of those faceless, vaguely shaped white ones that may or may not have hands. It would have helped if s/he'd had any personality at all beyond always rushing forward and wanting to be shot from a cannon. Why should I care about the death of such a cypher? I do anyway because you show me the protagonist's depth of feeling--I care that s/he is bereft, if not that the mannequin is dead. I feel like the emotional punch could have been stronger with a glimpse of the lover's love for the protagonist.
Assuming there was any. Is that meant to be ambiguous too? Is the protagonist's faith the more tragic because s/he should doubt? Hmm. I would prefer this as a two-sided love story, I think. But that sort of ambiguity does add something: an alternate interpretation that sort of fits in with your story theme. If I doubt the characters' love, I get the reading of the story that's entirely tragic. If I have faith it was real, there's sweet with the bitter. And I'm officially overthinking this.
Your incorporation of your picture is the next best thing to perfect. I see visual links in the yellow flowers, the evening mist (her shawl), the meadow, and the night sky through which those sparks trailed (her dress--this one may be a stretch, but you get credit for every link I perceive whether you meant it or not). The woman of the painting could well be waiting for someone. The color palette is melancholy. You've put the colors, the feelings, and the details all to work.
Your prose is technically sound, but two things stand out for me in a bad way: you overuse colons: you have a colon within a phrase introduced by a colon, for Heaven's sake. You also use commas to join clauses even when the second one isn't independent, such as in 'They stole the sky for you, and lit the way home.' That may be a style choice on your part, but the look/sound isn't working for me. I 'hear' an awkward pause there; it throws me off.
The featureless love interest gave me pause in naming you the winner, but your story is still polished, skilled, intricate, emotional, lovely, and on time. Maybe it's not your best, but that's only because you're so strong in the first place, you jerk.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 08:53 on Oct 18, 2014
|# ¿ Jan 31, 2014 20:27|
In with the 1980s.
|# ¿ Feb 1, 2014 01:57|
Read it in the archive.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 23:42 on Jan 1, 2015
|# ¿ Feb 3, 2014 01:54|
Thunderdome Week LXXIX: Periodic Stories of the Elements
Judges: Kaishai, Sitting Here, and sebmojo.
If you've ever taken a class in chemistry or listened to the discography of Tom Lehrer, you're familiar with the Periodic Table of the Elements. This week I want you to choose an element from the table when you sign up and use it as inspiration for your story. To make this more challenging and avoid three dozen stories set in The Future, speculative science fiction is not allowed. You may write about scientists doing science, but your setting had better be no farther in space than the moon and no later than the present. Fantasy and other genres are fine.
Also note the element doesn't have to be physically central to your piece. A Neon story set in a seedy bar would do the job, as would a Silver story about the stars. We need to be able to see your element in the story, though, so keep that in mind.
Elements are first come, first serve, and entrants may change their elements until sign-ups close. Can't decide? Then ask for an element to be given to you! Caveat: your likelihood of receiving seaborgium or yttrium will go way, way up.
Sign-up deadline: Friday, February 7, 11:59 pm USA Eastern
Submission deadline: Sunday, February 9, 11:59 pm USA Eastern
Maximum word count: 1,200
WeLandedOnTheMoon! (Phosphorus): "Matchstick"
El Diabolico (Lead): "Drain pipe"
inthesto (Aluminum; Flash rule: Cultural differences between America and England must play a part in your story.)
God Over Djinn (Helium): "Fruits of Her Labors"
Nikaer Drekin (Tungsten): "Jude Sherman's Squeeze"
DreamingofRoses (Carbon; Flash rule: Your story must revolve around someone who isn't comfortable in their own skin): "Precious Gems"
QuoProQuid (Hydrogen): "Self-Fulfilling Prophecy"
Anathema Device (Iron; Flash rule: You must use a verse from Rudyard Kipling's "Cold Iron" as additional inspiration.)
Jonked (Unbihexium): "Theoretically Hopeful"
Whalley (Antimony): "Medicines and Poisons"
Little Mac (Oxygen): "Room to Breathe"
Chairchucker (Arsenic): "Out of Love"
Entenzahn (Uranium): "A Matter of Energy"
Quidnose (Yttrium; Flash rule: Your story must revolve around taking that which is out of place and making it commonplace): "Rabbits"
No Longer Flaky (Francium): "Alley Deals"
Meinberg (Xenon; Flash rule: Your protagonist must journey into the depths of darkness): "Hazard Pay"
Nettle Soup (Copper): "As Good as Gold"
Djeser (Iodine): "The Sky"
docbeard (Lutetium; Flash rule: You must incorporate a lute-like instrument into your piece): "Miss Annabel Yoder Finishes Her Quilt"
Jagermonster (Sulfur): "Toil and Tenure"
Seldom Posts (Thulium): "Ultima Thule"
Noah (Bismuth): "The Crawling Statue"
Schneider Heim (Lithium): "The Lightest Metal"
Mr_Wolf (Cobalt; Flash rule: Someone or something in your story must be fragile): "Dust to Dust"
Martello (Nitrogen): "LOGPAC"
Lake Jucas (Chlorine; Flash rule: Your story contains a swimming pool. No character gets wet): "American Werewolf in America"
Benny the Snake (Silver): "The Oracle"
Fumblemouse (Seaborgium; Flash rules: Moustaches; someone must be concerned about what is real): "Quiz Night"
Black Griffon (Tellurium; Flash rule: Your main character must suffer from an extremely low abundance of something other than money): "Enforcer"
JuniperCake (Mercury): "Empathy"
Jay O (Tin): "Salvage"
curlingiron (Rubidium; Flash rule: Your story must include an auction): "No Time Like the Present"
Tyrannosaurus (Calcium): "Because He Was"
elfdude (Caesium; Flash rule: Your main character must get into trouble by overlooking an important detail): "Modern Magic"
Paladinus (Palladium; Flash rule: Your protagonist must try to overcome a loss): "Of Little Faith."
crabrock (Silicon): "Growing Cold Together"
Baudolino (Polonium): "Clouds of poison."
Lead out in cuffs (Osmium): "Heavy Metal Roses"
Jeep (Neon): "Little Things"
Mercedes (Gold): "The Need"
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 05:20 on Feb 10, 2014
|# ¿ Feb 4, 2014 03:24|
In! Assign me an element, and a flash rule.
My esteemed co-judge Sitting Here will get first crack at your flash rule, but here's your element: yttrium. Don't say I didn't warn you!
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 16:19 on Feb 4, 2014
|# ¿ Feb 4, 2014 07:22|
I am in.
You will be working with Thulium.
|# ¿ Feb 4, 2014 16:18|
In with Cobalt.
Cobalt-based pigments see a lot of use in beautiful glassware. Your Flash Rule is that someone or something in your story must be fragile; interpret that as you will.
Though I already have my element (Lutetium), I would like a flash rule.
Though I know and you know lutetium has nothing to do with lutes, your Flash Rule says you must incorporate a lute-like instrument into your piece anyway.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 19:23 on Feb 4, 2014
|# ¿ Feb 4, 2014 19:12|
So incredibly confident am I that I will take whatever element and flash-rule you throw at me. Bring it.
Too quick by half, Mr. Mojo.
Seaborgium it is, but you get an additional Flash Rule: One of your characters should be concerned about what is real.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 23:09 on Feb 4, 2014
|# ¿ Feb 4, 2014 22:52|
I signed up with iron. Flash rule me.
Your Flash Rule is that you must use this verse from Rudyard Kipling's poem "Cold Iron" as additional inspiration:
"Tears are for the craven. Prayers are for the clown.
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.
As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small,
For iron, cold iron, must be master of men all."
|# ¿ Feb 4, 2014 23:24|
And since we're leaping headfirst into danger: element and flash rule please.
Your element is tellurium. Your Flash Rule is that your main character must suffer from an extremely low abundance of something other than money.
|# ¿ Feb 5, 2014 04:55|
Okay, let's do it.
Your element is rubidium. Your Flash Rule is that your story must include an auction.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 01:48 on Feb 6, 2014
|# ¿ Feb 6, 2014 01:39|
I'm in, I'd like carbon.
Carbon's already taken. Check the prompt post to see what's no longer available and pick again.
Whichever you choose, your Flash Rule is that your main character must get into trouble by overlooking an important detail.
|# ¿ Feb 6, 2014 06:31|
My bad, can I have cesium?
You can and do!
For the record, I didn't want to miss that week, but it seems like the elements that I know something about are taken and I'm blank on all the fancy ones. I'd really appreciate it if somebody could hit me with a reasonable element and a flash rule.
Palladium is a precious metal with quite a few interesting applications, so it should give you something with which to work.
Your Flash Rule is that your protagonist must try to overcome a loss. What type of loss it is and whether s/he succeeds are up to you.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 15:15 on Feb 6, 2014
|# ¿ Feb 6, 2014 15:13|
Somebody slap me upside the head with a flash rule.
The Flash Rule the judges will hold you to is this: Cultural differences between America and England must play a part in your story. Fulfilling Martello's rule may be worth bonus points, but only if you do it well. Choose wisely.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 17:34 on Feb 6, 2014
|# ¿ Feb 6, 2014 17:29|
Twenty-four hours remain for anyone still considering sitting at the periodic table.
Among the great elements that haven't yet been claimed: platinum, neon, titanium, potassium, nickel, chromium, radon, zirconium, and iridium.
|# ¿ Feb 7, 2014 05:18|
I'm a basic baby bitch and I need to drop. Again. Someone, do better with my element of Gold than I would have.
If you discover a compulsion to finish something you start, we'll accept an entry from you, but gold is now free for anyone to choose.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 19:01 on Feb 7, 2014
|# ¿ Feb 7, 2014 18:57|
Sign-ups for Week LXXIX are CLOSED. The next forty-eight hours should see some fascinating chemical experiments.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 07:09 on Feb 8, 2014
|# ¿ Feb 8, 2014 05:33|
Lest I forget: Meinberg, Djeser, Jay O, curlingiron, and Black Griffon, your are noted. We'll be watching.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 07:10 on Feb 8, 2014
|# ¿ Feb 8, 2014 07:07|
With just under two hours to go, we are still awaiting the presentations of fourteen chemists, three of whom have sworn to throw themselves into toxic waste should they not deliver.
|# ¿ Feb 10, 2014 03:05|
Submissions for Week LXXIX: Periodic Stories of the Elements are now CLOSED!
It looks like all the toxxers managed to slide under the wire, so good on you, even if you've deprived the rest of us of our schadenfreude. The chemical experiments of The Leper Colon V, inthesto, Anathema Device, and Max22 have led to naught but empty air. We wish them the best in their future endeavors.
Note: This is a lie. We wish instead for their grant money to be revoked and their tenure denied forever and ever. I'll write a crit for them if they post within 24 hours anyway, as is my wont.
As for the rest of you, the judges are reading as fast as they can and will aim to have results out on schedule.
|# ¿ Feb 10, 2014 05:13|
Week LXXIX Results: Periodic Stories of the Elements
Two contenders for the loss stepped forward this week and wrestled as hard as they could for the losertar's embrace. The brawl for the win was a far messier affair, vicious and protracted, leaving no one unscathed--but here in the Thunderdome we do like our unrestrained bloodshed. Though it took some time for the judges to determine which front-runner knocked out the most teeth, we have witnessed the mettle of all, and we are pleased.
THE WINNER: God Over Djinn. Your writing was beautiful, elegant, and professional, your use of your element flawless. You handled your flashbacks with admirable grace. Two judges agreed that Margaret's story would have been better told in chronological order, however. This nearly cost you, but in the end your skill could not be denied.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: crabrock, you came a very close second due to the emotional power in your entry and your mastery of saying things between the lines. If your writing had been less ragged around the edges, you might be sitting on the Thunderthrone now, so please think hard before you put your first paragraph in the present tense and the rest of the story in the past again.
curlingiron, your entry didn't match the technical merit of Djinn's or the subtlety of crabrock's, but there's nothing about it I didn't enjoy. It was fun, it was charming, and it hit the prompt and your flash rule dead center.
Chairchucker, I like your funny entries best as a rule, but your interpretation of arsenic was indirect, simple, and elegant. This experiment with format and narration paid off for you.
Fumblemouse, you did good work with a difficult element and handled your flash rules with aplomb.
THE LOSER: El Diabolico. It took some doing to be the worst in this round, but by God you managed it. Your story isn't only deadly dull, it isn't only badly written, it not only makes little sense, but it doesn't have a conclusion. What were you thinking? The world may never know.
DISHONORABLE MENTION: elfdude, I know you must have wanted this loss rather badly, but you made the mistake of including a resolution. I'm sorry.
DISHONORABLE DISQUALIFICATIONS: Do you know what to steer clear of when the prompt says no speculative science fiction? If you are Meinberg, Quidnose, or Seldom Posts, apparently you do not.
Thanks to all our chemists for a strong round with strong work for the judges to argue about. My crits will be a few days delayed due to the number of entries; my co-judges will let you know their thoughts as spite and spirit move them.
|# ¿ Feb 11, 2014 07:15|
|# ¿ Feb 15, 2014 02:20|
|# ¿ Jul 28, 2021 04:04|
Critiques for Week LXXIX: Mercedes, elfdude, Mr_Wolf, Whalley, Baudolino, Nikaer Drekin, Chairchucker, El Diabolico, Entenzahn, Meinberg, DreamingofRoses, Quidnose, God Over Djinn, Jagermonster, Benny the Snake, Tyrannosaurus, and Fumblemouse
Sorry to be so late with these, but I ended up having a lot to say--not a huge surprise considering last week had the highest combined word count to date. The highs were very high, the lows were very low, and I learned many things about the periodic table in the course of judging. When I wasn't wishing for sweet, sweet death, I enjoyed my scientific adventure! Now it's time for the lab report. I have a feeling this will take more than one post. If you don't see your name in this batch, stay tuned.
Note that I'll be using 'grammar' throughout as a catch-all term for matters of punctuation, verb tense, subject-verb agreement, etc.
Mercedes, "The Need"
Poetry in a prose round. I'd blame myself for 'story' not being a clear enough instruction, but one, that would be stupid, and two, the last time I distinctly specified prose I got a poem anyway. I'd blame you for taking a great element like gold and burning it on an entry that can't win, but at least you wrote something.
Your use of gold is nothing special. This element is rich in symbolism and meaning; you went the simplest possible route. That counts, mind you, but you're not astounding me with your creativity. The story your verses tell is cliche as all sin, especially the "Escapee Mental Patient" thing that's straight out of a kid's campfire horror story. The presentation does elevate it a bit by making it more interesting to read.
How is it as poetry? Not good. You have a rhyme scheme but no consistent meter. Your rhymes work, more or less, but you've strained sense more than once to get a word you wanted. How do trembles dull a hand? Why the hell would it take a sleuth to identify a golden tooth? Why would any headline use 'Escapee' instead of 'Escaped' in that context? The lack of punctuation and proper capitals drives me bugscrew too, though that's legitimate in free verse.
I consulted SurreptitiousMuffin to make sure I wasn't completely off my head in my judgment. According to our local poetry guru: "AABB endrhymes and poorly pulled-off ones at that. One stanza in and it's clear the dude hasn't written much poetry in his life. It really needs a meter (DON'T WRITE FREE VERSE IF YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND METER). However, there's some nice use of enjambment, which is really underused by novice poets. It creates a feeling of hesitancy, which really helps in setting the scene for us. The story itself is dumb."
So there you go. What he means by 'enjambment' is the way you break some of your phrases before their end, such as 'with slight // trembles' or 'clap // with glee.' I agree the effect is nice even if I still don't like the trembles line.
The upshot is that I like that you attempted something so different from your other submissions. Stretching your wings is good. Your imagery in the final stanza--headline aside--wasn't bad, either. The whole still comes off as half-baked at best, yet I have a sneaking feeling something worse will come along.
elfdude, "Modern Magic"
Right on cue. Rough mechanics, redundant exposition, scrambled chronology, a difficult premise to follow, flat characters, tired plot twists, and an infodump that spoils what had been a clever treatment of your element: this story has a lot of problems. The gist I get is that Debiles was once imprisoned, possibly within earshot of a clock, until he went mad. His sister rescued him and then trained him to be a facade for her: he thought he was learning magic, but he was actually being taught to go through the right motions at the right time to cover for Fortis's actions. Through him, she disintegrates a minister and gains an empire, I guess. Then they go off to kill an archmage, their father. Debiles' sister betrays both men and then explains her plan for the benefit of the reader.
I can see the bones of an ambitious idea in there, but oy, it's a mess. The best way to address it may be point by point.
Rough mechanics: The errors start right in the first sentence, where you join two independent clauses with a comma and nothing else. A period, a semicolon, or certain prepositions (for, because) would be in order there. You don't want the comma in 'You, will never become the Archmage.' If you mean to say the Archmage spits the words at Debiles, the period after 'Archmage' should be a comma, and 'his' should not be capitalized afterward. (If the minister is literally spitting on Debiles, it's fine as it is.) The sentence 'His quarry spat at him, even as his body was slowly being pulled apart atom by atom' is too vague for my taste on who's who: whose body is pulled apart--cut 'being,' it's needlessly passive--atom by atom? The way you've written it, you could mean Debiles. Sure, logic tells me you don't, but I had to pause a millisecond to parse it, and that creates an awareness of the prose that drops me out of the story--exactly the sort of thing good grammar and mechanics are meant to prevent. This is just the first paragraph; the problems continue, but explaining them all would take hours.
Comma usage looks to be your biggest issue, so these pages may help. Your errors generally aren't so major that your sentences can't be parsed, but they add up fast. You should ask the Fiction Farm for a line by line.
Redundant exposition: Just look at this. 'The green glow of his watches’ backlight was the only light in the cavern but Debiles needed no light to see by. The magic that infused his body allowed him to see through the darkness. The radiation that permeated all things was more than enough for his eyes to see by but he still enjoyed his watch.' You've now told me three times that Debiles can see in the dark. Three times! When you were scraping the word limit so hard that you were worried about a missing 'of'! (Plus, how does this work when he doesn't actually have magic? Did his sister enchant him?) You could condense this. 'The green glow of his watch was the only light in the cavern, but the magic that infused his body allowed him to see the radiation that permeated all things.' That's not the only way you could do it, but it's one example. Not sure why that minister was hanging out in a cavern, though.
There are other places you could trim your word count. The entire first scene could probably go, but I'll get to that soon enough.
Scrambled chronology, difficult premise to follow: Putting Debiles' imprisonment in the middle of the story hasn't done you any favors. Time jumps make a plot harder to follow, and your idea is already complex. Things like 'he hadn’t scheduled an opportunity for her to speak' didn't make sense the first time I saw them--not inherently a problem; I think you're trying to intrigue me, but concepts the reader will have to figure out later + backward time jumps + plot twists galore adds up to a lot of work for the reader. What with the problems I've already noticed, you haven't given me much incentive to play along, and the conclusion doesn't reward the effort. The more I think about your story, the more it falls apart. Why would Fortis go to all this trouble instead of fighting in her own name?
That first scene is more confusion than it's worth. If you had begun with Debiles in his prison, you could have moved forward through time, ideally showing more of his sister--more on that shortly--and maybe ditching the reference to an empire that ultimately didn't go anywhere. You would have needed to work some of the exposition in elsewhere, but there were ways. What if you'd shown Fortis giving Debiles the watch?
Flat characters: Debiles isn't bad, actually. You don't tell or show me much about him other than his madness, but I find I'm all right with that. His insanity makes him interesting, and his exploitation makes him sympathetic. Fair enough! But Fortis has no characterization to speak of, other than 'the sort of person who would do to her brother and father.' I don't care about her. Or about the Archmage, who's a shallow stereotype of a mage and nothing else.
Tired plot twists: I groaned so hard in my head when the Archmage turned out to be their father. One sibling backstabbing another isn't novel, either. Fortis using Debiles for a long con is more fresh and much more interesting; if you'd focused more on her and the relationship between the two of them, that part could have worked.
An infodump that spoils what had been a clever treatment of your element: 'The clock in his watch was based on the electronic transitions of the hyperfine ground states of Cesium-133.' That reads like you copied it from Wikipedia. Given that Wiki's article on caesium includes the phrase 'Caesium-based atomic clocks observe electromagnetic transitions in the hyperfine structure of caesium-133 atoms,' you may have done just that. You didn't need to! Your story is centered on very precise timekeeping; caesium is used in atomic clocks; it's a clever way to incorporate your element, and the mention of radiation was a decent additional touch. Drawing such a heavy underline under what you were doing spoils the effect. More than that, it sticks out like a sore thumb. I'm willing to buy a mad, empire-conquering wizard with a glowing timepiece, but a mad, empire-conquering wizard telling me about the hyperfine ground states of caesium-133? No.
Your flash rule was that your protagonist should get in trouble by overlooking an important detail. I don't know whether overlooking is the word, since if Debiles is mad I'm not sure he had any chance to notice the truth about his sister--but he sure did miss important facts and it sure did get him in trouble, so I call that met.
You would have lost this round were it not for the delights your competition had in store. Do better next time. I've probably TL;DRed you to death, but I wouldn't have gone on so long with this crit if I didn't want to see you continue and improve.
Mr_Wolf, "Dust to Dust"
Maybe it's the contrast to that last entry, but I found your opening kind of charming. Dean's nervousness is a cool interpretation of your flash rule. Possibly not the one you intended, as it turns out, but perhaps you did mean to layer the fragilities of Dean's nerves, the cobalt bowl, and his connection with Hannah, the latter shattered quite thoroughly by the act of putting her mom in his pocket. That's good stuff, and while you're only a little more subtle than elfdude in pointing out how you used cobalt, you worked the cobalt/cobbles gaffe into Dean's characterization. Nice touch.
I didn't keep that initial goodwill through the whole thing. Dean came off as a dick once it was clear he only cared about sex. Hiding Hannah's mother's ashes would be funny-horrible and sympathetic if he did it because oh god he just broke a lady all over the floor, but oh god he might not get laid may be the least compassionate reason to pocket a dead woman I've ever seen. Not that there's much competition there, I'll grant you. Since I didn't like Dean much, the charm faded and the humor didn't fly. It's funny how that works; I know I'd grin at some of your lines if I were in Dean's corner. 'Oh my God. Act normal. I have a dead woman in my pockets but Christ I need to act normal.' That would be great if the guy weren't an rear end in a top hat!
Your technical errors are galling because some are so basic it looks like you didn't proofread at all. 'Back in hall i notice a small area behind the stairs.' Look at that, Mr_Wolf. Look at it. You don't always capitalize what you should; you leave periods off sentences; you omit spaces... good God, man! You also have funny ideas about when to use a hyphen, but that's more understandable. Neither 'bow tie' nor 'hair dryer' nor 'living room' needs one. Always spell out a number when it begins a sentence. Check out those comma-usage links I gave elfdude; they may be helpful to you, too.
Whalley, "Medicines and Poisons"
Your research got the better of you. I started out impressed: the connection to antimony was clear, blended into the story in a natural, graceful way. You set the piece in the world's largest antimony mine; Lao Qiu's vomit pointed to its toxicity. Nice! You got more blunt with it when Zhou told Lao Qiu what he should have already known (he even points out this was covered in training), but since you went somewhere with the different types of damage, that worked out. Lao Qiu's thoughts about arsenic symptoms, less so. When he named a medicine in both Chinese and English, I got a distinct feeling you wanted to show how much you'd read about the subject. Same deal with the mushrooms: some of the exposition helped, but some had nothing to do with the story. 'Lao Qiu found himself laughing; the lingzhi was normally a simple bracket fungus you could find in most forests.' This is relevant how? When I notice you're trying to teach me about Chinese homeopathic medicine, that means the information isn't integrated well enough into the narrative.
I'm nonplussed that there's no answer to what the mushrooms were doing down there. The best I can gather is that they're magical, spiritual mushrooms that just happened to be there and just happened not to be noticed by the miners. They seem to be real and not a hallucination. It's a whole lot of coincidence even before the conveniently timed cave-in. Even magic mushrooms ought to make some kind of sense!
Technicalities: your prose is competent. Thank you for that. You do sometimes use semicolons where you ought to use commas (for example, in 'Selling traditional medicines back in Changsha had been rewarding; had promised a long life of happiness') and sometimes use commas where there should be no punctuation at all (as in 'His find wouldn’t just heal his cures, but could kick-start an entirely new medicine store'--the second clause has no subject of its own and therefore isn't independent). These are relative nitpicks, though, and your writing is sound on the sentence level.
This is the best of the lot so far, but it leaves a lot of room for another story to take its place.
Baudolino, "Clouds of poison."
This is less a story than an infodump with a thin fictional gilding. It's the same problem Whalley had regarding exposition, taken to greater heights. The whole middle of your story is a recitation of facts about polonium. To your credit, you've made the exposition a credible part of the plot, and you haven't forgotten that your characters are people talking to one another--the egregious data point that polonium is named after Poland is the only one I'm having trouble buying as part of this scene. It still reads too much like a science and history lecture for too much of its length.
Also, it feels like you miss something in that lecture. Your story is set in 1969; Wiki tells me that in 1964, an article was published in Nature about the presence of polonium in cigarettes. So the premise that tobacco groups would kill to keep it secret five years later doesn't fly that well.
Your grammar's a wreck. Missing periods, missing commas, spaces between dialogue and its closing quotation marks, punctuation outside the quotation marks (oy to the vey), formatting that's hard to read, words capitalized that shouldn't be, 'ever' when you want 'every,' 'are' when you want 'is,' no italics for the title of a newspaper, no hyphen in 'Pulitzer-grade.' It's still not as bad as "Rural Rentboys," but you submitted a whole day early, and you're capable of better than this. So many slipshod errors give me the impression you just didn't give a drat. So why should I?
You were on an upward trend, but this is a step back. The little touches of history and character--Jack's thoughts about the bar, for instance, establish your time period--and the clear use of your element are glimmers of light in an otherwise dubious entry.
Nikaer Drekin, "Jude Sherman's Squeeze"
Hmm! Tungsten's application in lighting is one of the many things about it with story potential. Did you know the Axis and the Allies alike put pressure on Portugal in World War II because of that country's deposits of tungsten ore? Or that General Electric tried to patent tungsten? Cool stuff. It's also a source of filaments in incandescent bulbs, and that's how you've used it here, in a story that isn't about tungsten but is still influenced by the element. You don't infodump or provide more explanation of the light bulbs than the story needs. It's a good approach, very near ideal.
The story's good too. Oh, sure, Jude Sherman is a jerkweed and nothing else. His behavior's a little hard to believe. I do not credit that a film star would neg a starry-eyed fan to get her into his trailer; why would he need to? But you captured that horrible-funny feeling that Mr_Wolf didn't quite land, maybe because Sarah is a sympathetic figure despite her misplaced affection for a douche. When she started nodding despite herself, I cringed for her. That moment could have shot the humor dead, but she didn't follow through, and the balance between light and dark was retained.
'He patted her breast like it was a little yappy dog.' I laughed, then winced, then laughed again. The line encapsulates the mixed moods you have going.
You could have been more careful at the sentence level. Your writing is solid, but the goofs I notice shouldn't have gotten past you: one line broken too soon, a blank line missing between two paragraphs, the wrong count of dots in your ellipses (use three between words, as in 'M... Milkweed,' and four to end a sentence, as in 'lunch, Miss....'), and whatever you call 'from ‘I’ll tell you what, Maggie”.' Ugh. The final quotation mark should have been a single, and the period should have been inside it. These are tiny, avoidable errors! That's what makes them so vexing! They may not spoil the prose, but they're vexing all the same!
No doubt you're benefiting some from most of the stories before yours being lackluster, but I would like this regardless. Fun, well-written entries that do a good job on the prompt are always welcome, and if it's relatively light and familiar in its theme, there are far worse things to be.
Chairchucker, "Out of Love"
Oh, hey, an unusual format and narrative style that's still easy to parse and tells a story. Your interpretation of arsenic is both intuitive and subtle. At least as I read it: the protagonist is as toxic as your element. As your element can, she poisons over time and through prolonged exposure. Nice. It's the sort of take I was hoping to see, though more straightforward interpretations are equally legitimate.
You did a great job with the protagonist's voice and with illustrating her unwavering self-righteousness through her complaints, always in the same tone even when the angle changes, always finding fault and never extending grace. She has opportunities to help Carly if that's her real concern. She cheerfully, smugly bypasses every one. It's credible, which is what makes it as dark as it is; your callback to the title hits just the right note to make me cringe and bring it home.
Your humor work will always be my favorite stuff in your catalog, but this is a strong show of range and a good story in its own right. I don't have any complaints about it, and if the week weren't so strong, you'd be in contention for the win.
El Diabolico, "Drain pipe"
Okay, I'll just get this out of the way. There's nothing about this story that's decent or salvageable. Almost everything that could be wrong is wrong.
Here is what happens, as best I can tell. A plumber named Phoebe in the suspiciously SF-sounding city of Polaris goes to repair a sluice gate deep underground. She does so. She drops her wrench. You spent half your story getting to this point. She falls through a grate into a pool that transports her to a cave of MONSTERS!, only a lady with horns clubs it upside the head and tells Phoebe to follow her. They run away for a while; the demon woman namedrops the MONSTERS!; a rope appears, and the demon tells Phoebe they should climb. THE END.
You see the problem with that conclusion, right? Namely that it concludes nothing? You don't resolve your story, you don't end your story, you just stop it, so there's no story here at all. It's a sequence of events that swings from the intently boring to the random, then we're done.
I'm getting ahead of myself: if I'm going to unpack the problems with this entry, I have to start with the most basic and pervasive, and that's the grammar. Worst of the week. The difficulties start in the first sentence when you capitalize a word that isn't a pronoun ('Plumbers') and shift from past tense to present. Verb tense consistency is an ongoing problem; 'after living here so long the only thing she has seen was nothing but rats' is a terrible, terrible clause, going from present to past before the reader can blink. 'As she stood back up she hear a strange sound' may be a tense shift or may be a typo, but either is obnoxious for the reader.
You have major issues with punctuation. 'Having completed her job. Phoebe, began to attempt a final test of the sluice gate' is just one painful example. The period after 'job' should be a comma; there should be no comma after 'Phoebe.' You leave only too many commas out when you need them (such as in 'Phoebe pulled herself out of the water exhausted and still in a state of shock'; you need a comma after 'water'). This page about commas is getting a lot of mileage this week, but you should check it out. You put the punctuation of your dialogue outside the quotation marks when it belongs inside them, in one case putting a period outside and inside for reasons whereof Reason knows nothing.
Your capitalization is all over the place. 'Seeing as the Wrench didn’t fall far, Phoebe placed her lamp on the outcropping and she Inspected the grate.' No and no. Why would you do this? You don't capitalize 'wrench' elsewhere (as indeed you should not), nor random verbs. Meanwhile you neglect capitals altogether in 'the leaden pipes slithered from the ceiling to it. she climbed up the steps set aside the lamp and the tool box.' Why would you think a reader wouldn't notice or care?
I could go on. You need a line edit in the worst way, and I seriously suggest finding a proofreader. The mechanics of writing are sufficiently mangled here that the entry is unpleasant to look at before one even considers the content.
The next level is the prose, its delivery and flow. You describe actions step by tiny step, dragging out Phoebe's sewer grate repair with unnecessary and boring detail. I do not care exactly what Phoebe has to do to get the valve to turn! And this is your early material, the stuff that ought to catch the reader's interest so he or she will want to keep reading! By the time half your story is gone, all that's happened is that Phoebe has repaired a grate and dropped her wrench. Or 'wrence,' as the case may be. I guarantee you there was a way to show this in fewer than 534 words. Good God, that's one word short of the length of Chairchucker's whole entry.
You're trying to work some characterization for Phoebe and foreshadowing of the cave of MONSTERS! into this section, and that's not a bad idea. Here too, though, you go into needless detail. Her poverty doesn't matter in the story. Her father's maxim fits in, but then I think about it and wonder why a plumber would need an inner reminder to use a wrench. All I get out of this that's sort of interesting is that Phoebe works hard and her wrench has sentimental value. Okay, that works (even if the first part is ultimately irrelevant too)--but you didn't need the play-by-play with the wrench to tell me so, especially as you've emphasized it as an easy job.
The transition from the sewer to the MONSTERS! is abrupt and makes as much sense as a weak Twilight Zone premise. Whoosh, she's suddenly somewhere else. Why? I don't know. If you do, you don't bother giving me a hint. The scene with the MONSTER! doesn't last long before the demon woman steps in to save the day. I'm not afraid for Phoebe during this scene--the whole thing makes no drat sense, so at this point I'm just reading to see what the heck you're going to do next.
I just noticed that Phoebe has next to no agency, meaning she doesn't make things happen; things happen to her. This can be a problem if it equates to a bland, limp protagonist, and it certainly isn't helping in this case.
I touched on your ending before, but it's the crux of all your problems above the sentence level: your foreshadowing is pointless because whatever part of the story would make it relevant happens after the story stops. Everything that happens is pointless because whatever it's leading up to happens after the story stops. I don't know who the demon is; I'm not given a chance to care; her importance and nature and character presumably become clear after the story stops. If this had been perfectly written in every way, it would still be a very bad story for ending where it does. For all its faults, elfdude's story had a conclusion, and that made the choice for the loss only too easy.
I said this was unsalvageable, and that's true: everything I've told you will ideally serve you in writing better stories going forward. Throw this one on a bonfire and be reborn from its ashes.
Entenzahn, "A Matter of Energy"
Don't think I don't see you skirting the bounds of the 'no SF' rule. I'd be more impressed if you'd stayed away from robots altogether, especially as you spent your cool idea of a robot vs. golem dichotomy on jerks playing Battlebots. The stake in your story is one man's career in an entertainment industry, and that man isn't particularly likable, so your finale reads as overkill rather than as any kind of satisfying triumph.
Part of the issue here is that I can't tell whether Jyllo destroyed a few golems (and bombarded everyone on the scene with radiation, good going!), changing the face of his sport but little else, or permanently removed the wizards' powers. Do these wizards use their abilities for more than robot sports? Either way I have to figure that uncovering a way to disrupt magic is going to make a huge and horrible difference in this world, and he's smirking about it because he won an argument? Man, I hate this guy.
So I didn't dig the story much, but the writing's not bad. You have sentence-level errors, though nothing that major, and your first paragraph's a little clumsy--'Force feedback from the metal he had formed was minimal; it would have been worse if he had animated the thing' doesn't make any sense at this point in the story, and it's less intriguing than you might hope. But really, not bad: your prose is competent and doesn't need much in the way of tweaking.
Your use of uranium was creative and put an appreciated twist on an element that could have led to cliches very easily. I rather enjoyed the section in which Jyllo communed with the elements. The descriptions and the impression of the soul of uranium made for good reading even if it was hard to reconcile the latter with Jyllo's choice to unleash 'Radnite' in a petty game.
Meinberg, "Hazard Pay"
No science fiction means no science fiction. DISQUALIFIED.
Your entry is the most bemusing DQ of all. All three were unquestionably SF, but Quidnose and Seldom Posts did keep to the 'not in the future, no further away than the moon' part of the prompt. I can at least imagine how they thought they'd get away with it. But you! Datapads, interstellar rebellions, nebular cruises. You submitted exactly what I said I didn't want. Exactly. At the same time, you hit the elemental requirement and put too much effort into the story to be taking the piss, so what the hell?
Oh, well. I grudgingly appreciate that you made the effort to write a thing, so I'll tell you what I think. There's nothing particularly new or innovative here; it's a familiar tale of bureaucratic corruption in a stock sci-fi setting. I don't give a hoot about the characters, and what really happens? An agent takes a bribe to cover for theft. That isn't much of a story. It's no wonder you didn't hook my interest. The use of xenon, though, is a grace note, what with Cooper's inability to lie to himself under the uncompromising clarity of the xenon light. There's something cool too about all of this taking place under a false noon: lies and more lies, in layers.
Your prose isn't flawless ('The manifest of the crate’s software synched with it’s peer'--oh, Meinberg) or shining, but it wouldn't take a lot of work to bring it up to snuff. You'd have been in the middle of the pack if this were anything but science fiction, which is good news for your future prospects if you just learn to read.
DreamingofRoses, "Precious Gems"
Your use of carbon is absolutely top notch, going beyond diamonds--which would have been a fine interpretation on their own--to bring carbonized remains into play as well in the twisted actions of a twisted woman. I like this one! Your diary format is solid. You unfold the story behind this woman's diamonds piece by piece, leaving out as much exposition as you can. Good call, since that makes it more realistic as a journal. The simple, casual voice was the right choice.
You addressed your flash rule, but I thought this was a little shakier. For most of the story your main character is perfectly comfortable with who she is and what she's doing. Creepily comfortable, even. The one scene in which she's uneasy in her skin is a significant one, so you didn't shoehorn the rule in and run, but I would have liked to see it matter even more. Thinking about that, I realize the protagonist is in the same mental and emotional place when the story starts and when it ends. She just keeps happily murdering people and wearing them around her neck. It's all sufficiently fun to read that I don't need a lot more, but it's hard not to notice that there isn't much story here once you go looking for it; not much even happens to your lead besides the lull in her career.
About that lull. 'I haven’t gotten a contract in four years. Two years.' That's just terrible. Make up your mind!
Although this couldn't prevail against the stronger entries in this round, it's a good piece of which you can be proud.
DISQUALIFIED. Instantaneous mass-cloning machines are science fiction no matter when or where they take place.
Meinberg's was the most bemusing DQ; yours is the most disappointing. You wouldn't have won or likely have gotten an honorable mention regardless, but you've employed a great comic voice. Some of my favorite lines: 'If such a gene existed, it must have been recessive because these rabbits clearly did not know what the gently caress.' '“Where the hell did you get plutonium?” “Craigslist isn’t super regulated.”' It's that Thunderdome rarity, successful humor, and I enjoy it as a thing to read even as I hate it as an entry.
You still weren't robbed or anything, because when I look beyond the funny lines I see a whole lot of not much. Absolutely nothing changes or is accomplished or happens to these characters. The rabbit cloning is as random as it gets. Frank even admits there's no reason for it. Entertainment is enough reason for a story to exist, sure, but I like funny entries more in the context of TD when they are stories rather than protracted jokes.
Your use of yttrium is as fluffy and handwaved as your science. It works, but it's not great.
That all said, it's cute and fun, so it's okay if you like it despite its DM status. I kind of like it too.
God Over Djinn, "Fruits of Her Labors"
After the bottom two entries, this is the story I spent the most time thinking about this week. It's beautifully done. You've polished it, shaped it with an eye for the elegance of prose and pride in your work. No uneven mechanics for you. No mistakes that never should have made it past the post preview. You draw a lovely picture of this old woman floating slowly through the air, free at last of all care, light as the helium balloons she once created. The magical realism is adeptly handled--only now, on my who-knows-how-many-it's-been-nowth reading, does it occur to me that maybe Margaret is dead. I choose to believe not, that her floating is literal, physical. I can imagine this in a magazine right now, just as it is.
I wish I loved it more. For all its merit and gorgeousness, I never connected with Margaret. After chewing on the matter at length I have theories as to why. The core of it is that Margie is, was, and will to all appearances remain passive. She floats through her life accepting what comes: less than she wants and less than she deserves. For her then to float away is no transformation. I can feel sorry for her, but she's hollow and light for me, too much so to pull at my heart. And if that was intentional, it may be your only misstep in the treatment of your element. (Opinions would vary on whether it's a misstep at all.) Lightness invokes helium, but there's no satisfaction in it to keep her story with me after this week is done.
The other possible cause is the flashback device, which is so skillfully handled. I noticed what you did with that last flash to the past, telling me with Margie's name that you had stepped out of sequence. But skillful or not, was it a good idea? That last flashback in particular I think may be in the wrong place. I wish you'd shown Margie's love of creation sooner; the earlier flashback skims over the top of the idea but doesn't bring it home in the same way. If you had told the story in linear order I think some of the elegance of writing would be lost, but the story would be stronger.
You won because despite not hitting me in the heart, yours was a good story, a pleasure to read and worth the telling; adding those qualities to the way you told it, any other choice became too difficult to justify. Congratulations on a deserved crown.
Jagermonster, "Toil and Tenure"
The trick of taming the land through boiling eggs in volcanic springs is too much of a logic leap, and that's the biggest (but not the only) problem with your entry. It reads as you trying to do something creative with sulfur rather than as something that makes sense within the story. You needed to ground it better; maybe then I wouldn't have been shaking my head at the end, bemused that cooking a few eggs was the spiritual equivalent of seasons of agriculture.
In his dialogue Budi sounds like an academic on expedition, which doesn't do much to build tension or any sense of danger. 'There is unnatural heat and twisted bone-like formations, but there is also soil and water.' Seriously? Who is he, the Egon Spengler of his time? Almost half the story is clinical, sometimes clunky description of their situation and their setting, and a lot of that is delivered through dialogue. When Budi finally took off on his mission, I was only mildly curious about what he would do. Though that does mean my emotions were just as engaged as the characters' seemed to be.
I'm not entirely sure the mountain spirits were meant to be sulfur fumes given life, but I like the idea. It would have been a cool way to bring your element in. The more I look at it, the more I doubt, which leaves the volcanic setting and the hot springs to show the influence of sulfur. Okay. It's light; a couple of mentions of stench are the only clues I have that sulfur is present. You don't describe the smell or the acridity of the smoke, which feels like a missed opportunity with this element.
This is leagues above the truly bad stories this week, but it's far below the best. You can do better.
Benny the Snake, "The Oracle"
There's one thing about this entry I like. The use of silver is not bad. You've put it in more as a color than a metal, but that does the job, and this take on the element is valid without being obvious or expected.
Otherwise, it's a wreck. Very little happens in it. Ninety-five percent of the story is a guy wanting to see the oracle, going to see the oracle, and receiving a prophecy, and you drag 'wanting to see the oracle' in particular out as long as you can. 'I once had my future told by an oracle.' 'I decided to have my fate revealed to me by the oracle at the temple.' '“I wish to see the oracle,” I told him.' '“Oh great oracle, I have come to seek my destiny.”' Over and over and over again, you tell me the same thing: he wants to see the oracle. Condense it and move on! The repetitions aren't only annoying to read, they're wasted words and wasted time. I know nothing about your protagonist other than that he wants to have his fortune told. You could have spent some of your text giving him a personality.
The final five percent is the protagonist doing exactly what the oracle said he would. Why? No idea. There's no dramatic shock to this, you know. Without a sense of who the protagonist is or why he does what he does, all tragedy and frankly all interest is missing from your final revelation. Nor does the story say anything profound about fate, if that was your intention. You toss out some platitudes and then have the protagonist fulfill the prophecy as though that proves something. It doesn't.
Grammatically... actually, your grammar's not all that bad. Your basic mechanical errors are small and few: 'become' when the traditional phrase is 'come of age,' 'God' capitalized when the context says it should be in lowercase, two different people speaking in your second-to-last paragraph--okay, that's not a small error. That's abominable. But you mostly did fine on the technical front. Your prose, though, is bland to a fault. Simple prose isn't always bad, but you've partnered it here with a scenario familiar enough to be a fantasy/myth cliche, and the result is literary whey.
You should focus on plot and characterization as you keep writing and competing; you gave me neither here, and that just won't do.
Tyrannosaurus, "Because He Was"
Cute, sweet, and very predictable. Opie's osteoarthritis is a good application of calcium, and your writing is generally good, although 'Opie did understood pain' had me shaking my fist at you. Some stuff that isn't technically correct can be handwaved because of the viewpoint. It's easy to believe a dog would think in run-on sentences. There's nothing much wrong with this, other than that we've probably all read the gist of it before.
As such, I don't have much to say about it. It tugs the heartstrings in a gentle and familiar way, and the final line is a perfect cap. For what it is, it's quite good, but against the more original works it never stood a chance.
Fumblemouse, "Quiz Night"
Your entry this week read so much like a sebmojo story that it disconcerted me. I thought I was imagining things, but then Sitting Here saw it too. Weird.
Putting that aside, you took the difficult element you were handed and spun it around the dance floor in a waltz that put a lot of your competitors to shame. Your first two references to it weren't that hot: the guys using the half-life of seaborgium-271 as a time frame felt like a significant stretch to me, though one I could excuse since it was still plausible and 'plausible' is about all one could ask for with Sg. Then it paid off in your ultimate application, when Simon envisioned a bombardment of hate transforming his heart to metal. Seaborgium. That was grand. Because the characters had been discussing the element, Simon's thoughts made perfect sense within the context. ('Seaborgium 271 is a trans-uranic isotope that only exists in laboratories after bombarding Californium with Oxygen ions. It decays into Rutherfordium after only a couple of minutes' is still a total Wikidump, though.)
The ways you addressed your flash rules were more straightforward at first blush, and they worked a treat. I see a second answer to the rule regarding concern about reality in Simon's questions to himself. Was his love real? Was his indifference? I love layered interpretations, and this was quite well done.
I have two significant problems with the story. One feeds the other. First: Emily and Joan were nonentities, Emily especially. I couldn't even tell whether she was Simon's wife or his girlfriend. The only reason she had to exist in the story was to make it more credible that Simon would hang out with Tim and Joan. Joan wasn't much of a character either, more of a MacGuffin to drive the story along. Simon's affection for a cardboard cutout wasn't as engaging as it could have been had she been something more. Second: the women didn't react much at all to the revelation of Simon's feelings. They were more concerned about the quiz. That wasn't believable. It took the whole thing into some realm of the absurd, so it ended up feeling like a sitcom episode, and that cheapened Simon's otherwise great introspection. Instead of thoughtful bordering on dark, the piece turned into a bit of fluff; the atrocious last line only highlighted that.
Ultimately the entry landed to the left of the target, but I've got a heck of a lot of respect for what you did with what you were given.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 09:16 on Oct 18, 2014
|# ¿ Feb 16, 2014 07:04|