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  • Locked thread
Oct 30, 2003

leekster posted:

One of my crits has been claimed by myself. There are two more. I go line by line, I'm not lazy with it.

Hey I don't have anything I'm busting to get critted at the moment, but when I'm in a critting mood I just read some recent stories from the archives until I find one I feel I have a useful perspective on. All stories are fair game, don't feel like people have to ask you for them.


Oct 30, 2003

Oct 30, 2003

Quidnose posted:


200 words about a diagnosis gone wrong.

I woke to white light and floating.

"Doctor, you might want to take a look at this"

Murky round silhouettes coalesced into the lovely round breasts of the nurse, too big to be hidden by her pale pink scrubs. Murky dreams of pain coalesced into the vivid image of my finger, the infected spider bite. I couldn't feel my arms or legs.

"gently caress he's awake. Check the propofol. Now please!"

I could just make out the mirrored ceiling past the glare of the surgical spotlight. My head was shaved, and a square of skull was hanging open like a trapdoor. My brain looked exactly like I expected, wrinkled and pale pink.

"Nurse can you double check his wrist-band?"

I couldn't summon the same sense of panic as the doctor, though I was aware that something was wrong. I wanted to look at my hand, see if the bite had got worse.

"John S. Smith"

"At we can sew this one's skull up. I don't think John J. Smith will be happy waking up with a tumour and without an arm."

Oct 30, 2003
Critical analysis of Coconut Shimmy by newbie TDer hotsoupdinner

Young buck Andre challenges the king of the huskers, Gabriel, to a husk-off.

I liked your writing style a lot. It was straightforward and direct and easy to read. On the other hand there were no bits that really stood out to me as particularly interesting prose, but anything more than you wrote may have got in the way of telling a nice simple story effectively. What I'm saying is the prose suited the characters, story and setting.

There were a few parts that were a bit off, and unfortunately one of these was your opening sentence: "Gabriel stood on top of his pile of coconuts like an ancient conquistador." I don't really think this works, and it has the potential to be a great opening image. What is an ancient conquistador? Like an 80 year old Spanish colonial soldier? Or is he thinking of Alexander the great in Spanish colonial terms?

Re-reading your story I keep thinking I'm finding places where the writing is clunky, but then I try to reformulate them and realize that you've made a conscious decision to keep your sentences short and declarative, and that it works.

I think there were a few places where you used some idioms that didn't exactly suit the tone. One example is "had money riding on" and another was "he reckoned". I think that these clashed with the simplicity of the language somewhat, and I would prefer to see them replaced with word choices more like the rest of the story.

I liked the character of Andre a lot, very driven but not arrogant, and a hard worker. I think he came through well. I would have like to see Gabriel developed slightly more, maybe the narrator could have given us more of Andre's perspective of him.

This brings me to a small issue- I think there is a bit of a perspective shift after the first two paragraphs. Gabriel looks set to be the main character until we see Andre watching him, and the story moves more into a close third person perspective from then on. I think that this shift is a bit jarring, and it would be good to have the first two paragraphs from his perspective too, condensed and combined with the next few. "Andre watched..." would be a great place to start I think.

I felt like the conclusion of this story was a bit of a bait and switch. You'd built up the titanic struggle of these two huskers really well, but then to not find out who won was disappointing. I do, however, think you needed to change it up from just "Andre/Gabriel wins, the end," but I don't think this was the right way to do it. I have a problem with sudden endings in this format so I sympathize.

I thought this was a great first dome entry, well done! It kept my attention the whole way through and there was nothing in it that enraged me. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, and was rooting for Andre until the slightly disappointing end. I hope you keep doming!

Oct 30, 2003


Oct 30, 2003

Hammer Bro. posted:

Benny the Snake brawl challenge

I will judge this if it is accepted.

Oct 30, 2003
Thunderbrawl CXXVII: Homage to Bleriot
Hammer Bro. vs Benny the Snake
Deadline: 22 January 9:30pm NZST
Wordcount: 1500
Toxx: You better believe it. There will be no mercy so get the timezone right.

Prompt:This is Homage to Bleriot by Robert Delaunay

I am rather fond of this painting and would like to read stories inspired by it in some way. I don't care what you take from the painting, be it style, setting, subject matter or anything else. I will be taking the use of the prompt seriously into account when judging. Googling Bleriot might give you something to work with.

Bonus Rule: There will be no characters named Rosa Flores or anything like it allowed from either entrant.

newtestleper fucked around with this message at 21:51 on Jan 14, 2015

Oct 30, 2003

Martello posted:

well I USED to like you

Sorry I'm not into Banksy and HR Geiger

Oct 30, 2003

Benny the Snake posted:

I think a full-grown ape would be a more badass hitman than a monkey

An ape is a kind of monkey, though.

Oct 30, 2003

Benny the Snake posted:

Wait, I thought it was one of those "all rectangles are squares, but not all squares are rectangles" thing

All rectangles are squares, but contrary to popular belief a square is a fruit not a vegetable. Tell that to your salad!

Oct 30, 2003

DreamingofRoses posted:

If it doesn't have a tail, it's not a monkey.

This isn't right. A gorilla is the only kind of monkey that can mate with a human.

Oct 30, 2003

Benny the Snake posted:

...something you wanna tell us, dude? :stare:

I want to tell you to spend twice as much effort on brawling about aeronautical orphism and this weeks TD entry, and not enter any more brawls simultaneously.

Oct 30, 2003
Revenge of the Crimson King
999 words

The cockfights had moved to a market in Ciliwung. After leaving Laos’ border casinos Maria had resorted to the back streets of Jakarta for her gambling fix. She was a good gambler and a better cheat, but not good enough to make up for her overconfidence. There was officially no legitimate casino in the world she was allowed into.

She’d followed the Crimson King, a beautiful rooster with perfect plumage that matched it’s unbeaten winning record. The most striking things about it were it’s neck, feathered in a red as deep as the blood of it’s rivals, and its uniquely intact wattle and comb. Most of the Jakarta birds were threadbare, fleabitten things. She’d stopped betting on it, the odds were too low to turn a decent profit, but still she watched every fight.

She was ushered through a butcher’s shop past ripe, unrefrigerated cow carcasses and two Chinese guards in suits to an enclosed courtyard. A sour smell mixed unpleasantly with the metallic stink of the beef, telling her that at least one of the businesses was an illegal tofu factory. This was not a nice part of town.

She was always among the first to turn up, she liked to watch the owners tend to the birds, watch their preparations. Her studiousness afforded her a small edge so she won enough to pay her meagre living costs. She wasn’t a gambler just to barely put food on the table, though, she was watching for something in particular.

The fights started, punters waving their fists full of rupiah and american dollars. The markets moved fast, but the math came easy. The learning had been in the biology, the science of hollow bone and tough sinew that decided which bird would win and which would lose. The first match was easy to pick, with a young, strong and compact white bird outclassed by a stringy old thing with half it’s feathers missing. It was all in the reach, and the bad looks just served to increase the payout. Like any degenerate gambler the aesthetics of the fight were integral to the buzz that kept Maria coming back. The rush of the clash of talon and beak was better than a roulette wheel rattle or a strobing slot machine. It was nearly as good as the sound of a riffled stack of cash.

A few fights in she saw a couple of slick young Javanese come through the butcher’s door carrying a bamboo cage. The Crimson King was up against a bird from out of town. Maria stopped paying attention to the fight to watch them. The bird was large and black, respectable looking but nothing close to the King. She was more interested in watching the owners. The real edge in cock fights is when you can pick out the cheats, and the Crimson King was a prime target.

The King was fighting last, so Maria edged to the back to watch them get ready. Here is where the eye of a cheat really pays off, and all it took was a brief glance between the owners and she knew. The fix was on. Maria could no longer smell rancid meat and fermenting soy, just the clean, crisp scent of money.

She moved quick, making bets with all her regular bookies before selling action directly to some of the regulars. She had bet seven grand US, and half as much Rupiah, when the cages opened and the birds started circling each other.

The fix wasn’t a good one. The King had been doped too heavily, and it staggered like a drunken parody. It held it’s own for a minute or two, but when the new bird got a hold of the King’s beautiful red wattle the crowd knew what was up. Their favourite had been drugged, and they were angry. It was just seconds before the jeers progressed to violence, and someone had the King’s owner by the throat.

The fight should been stopped, without anyone to call time the King was getting savaged. Downy feathers were falling like snow and adhering to smears of blood on the floor of the ring. The king’s owner wrestled himself free and made a run for the door, only to be tackled by one of the Chinese guards.Amateurs, the cheats hadn't even paid off the owners.

The impact sent the owner through the ring fence. The bamboo cracked and splintered, and a geyser of blood erupted from his neck as it punctured. The audience, already riled, started to riot. Despite this Maria’s attention was on sad form of the once proud Crimson King, lying in the middle of the ring.

Maria thought she was imagining it, but the Crimson King twitched and then slowly jerked itself up. It was battered but gaining strength as it spun around to survey the room, fixing it’s eyes on it’s owner who writhed on the ground with an onlooker staunching the blood.

The King launched himself at the onlooker first, a flapping ball of bloody feathers and fury. He retreated, allowing the rooster to turn its attention to its immobilized owner. It quickly and methodically went at the most vulnerable parts of his face. First piercing his eye with a talon, then unleashing a flurry of pecking that left his upper lip hanging by a flap.

Maria found the gore fascinating. Between that and the surging crowd she had almost forgotten about her money sitting in the wallets of the bookies. The chances of her getting it back seemed slim, but slim wasn’t none, and she was a gambler after all. But then she looked back at the Crimson King, reveling in the blood of its enemy.

As it started on it’s owners earlobe she took the King by its legs and walked away, tearing off the remaining bit of ear held in the birds beak. Amid the chaos it was easy to slip out the door. Maybe they could make some money in Bali?

Oct 30, 2003

Oct 30, 2003

Screaming Idiot posted:

I did, but the part where you said "I want a real life god drat spaceship" muddied your intent. I'm asking for clarification so I don't get disqualified for not following the prompt -- better to ask and look the fool than to stay silent and become one.

Just interpret the prompt post to the best of your ability. I look forward to disqualifying you!

Oct 30, 2003

newtestleper posted:

Thunderbrawl CXXVII: Homage to Bleriot
Hammer Bro. vs Benny the Snake

17.5 hours left, fellas.

Oct 30, 2003

Hammer Bro. posted:

drive-by crits:

You're a hero.

Unless you fail me, then :byewhore: :10bux:

Oct 30, 2003

Hammer Bro. posted:

Arg I'm so confused. 17.5 hours from when you posted that would be ~2.5 hours from now. Right now it's ~7AM NZDT. Yet:

looks like I done hosed up. 12 hours 10 minutes from now. It seems I am no master of time. I am working out what to do to rectify the situation.

Oct 30, 2003

Hammer Bro. posted:

You let Benny have the ~12 hours, and you let me have a beer. Then, or maybe in the morning, you judge.

Seems reasonable!

Oct 30, 2003
Thunderbrawl CXXVII: Homage to Bleriot

Hammer Bro. vs Benny the Snake

I think this was a difficult prompt, particularly the way you two chose to interpret it. Taking inspiration from the aesthetics of a piece of abstract art, and we ended up with one noble failure and one piece of complete drivel. It was interesting that any of the problems I had with the stories were shared by both. I will talk about those mainly then sum up at the end.

Dream Sequences
I hate dream sequences, so I was disappointed that both your stories included them. I guess that's my fault for choosing a psychedelic looking painting as a prompt.
Hammer Bro. your dream sequences were mercifully short, and there was a creepiness to them that I liked. The voice seemed to come from within Suzie but also was telling her to do things. This links into the theme of mental illness quite well. The stuff about aviatio in the first dream sequence was a complete red herring. I was hoping someone would use the prompt to write an aviation adventure which made the irrelevance of the first dream sequence sting all the more. The second one was creepier.
Benny your dream sequence comprised a full two thirds of your story, and didn't have any meaning that I could discern. The details like the ladder and him being naked had no relationship to the plot. The music in particular stuck out to me as something that made no sense and added nothing to anything. Making a story where the sole plot point is a dream could potentially work if there were deep layers of meaning written in beautiful prose. This was meaningless, and the prose was workmanlike at its best.

Both stories had accuracy issues with their word choice.
Hammer Bro. Your story wavered between well and chosen words. The opening paragraph set the scene well, especially the last sentence "The population of Greyton was adequately content." But there were also some weird words like "traipsed" and "comfortability" that didn't work. Some of the dialogue was a bit stilted, but in some ways that fitted the modern fairytale tone of the piece.
Benny the word "ephemeral" did not fit at all, so much that I wasn't sure if you knew what it meant. Your prose always has this quality to it like it's written by a child who has skipped ahead a whole lot of grades, and this was no exception. An example of this was the bit on the ladder "Right as he was about to touch the clouds, he heard a loud crack. He looked down and, to his absolute horror, he discovered that the ladder couldn’t support his weight any longer. He screamed as the ladder finally collapsed from underneath him.". It seems innocuous enough, but that was the third time you'd used the word finally in the exact same way, and instead of describing the ladder cracking you say that he discovered it cracking, which removes us from the action one step.

Hammer Bro Suzie was likeable enough, and I liked that she knew enough to keep her mouth closed about what was happening to her. She was really the only character who had any personality, but I liked her and cared about her and found her charming.
Benny you established the artist as an angry, tortured man at the start, and not in an interesting likeable way. In fact it was the only aspect to his character at all. In a story with such limited scope you can gain a lot of traction from an accurate and interesting psychological portrayal of a character. You did not do this.

Hammer Bro. I liked the story you tried to tell here, and I think there some interesting ideas underlying it. I think portraying a world that changes from black and white to colour for this girl was very difficult, and I think you didn't quite succeed, but you gave it a good enough try for me to at least understand what was happening.
Benny of all the things I didn't like about your story by far the worst thing was the plot. It was just terrible. Artist can't paint a good painting, artist has a weird dream, artist paints good painting. It's just a paper thin plot without the writing to prop it up.

Hammer Bro.
This wasn't that good, but it wasn't bad either. And it wasn't the boring, uninspired kind of not good, it was more like a noble attempt at doing something really great that you didn't pull off. I think it was an ambitious attempt and an interesting perspective on a difficult prompt. I think that my loving you over with regards to the deadline probably hurt it a lot, but I haven't taken that into account.

So I think I've read pretty much every story that you've written since I joined TD, and this was by far the worst, even worse than the stupid hummingbird story. The prompt was potentially a bit of a tricky one, but you somehow managed to use it in a way that was difficult, obvious, and stupid all at the same time. There were definitely straightforward takes on that prompt that didn't involve trying to describe the painting with words. I sound like I'm just being mean to you because you're Benny, but I'm honestly not. I read Hammer Bro's story and liked it well enough, but I thought that if you produced your best work you could potentially pull out the win. Believe it or not I expected a lot more from you than this unmitigated crap.

So the deserved winner is Hammer Bro.

Oct 30, 2003
King Goldenlocks

Oct 30, 2003
Judgeburps part the first
I will do some longer crits later of stories I feel I can offer the most insight on.

The stories mainly fell into three categories this week. There were ark stories which tended to be the worst of the lot, all exposition and not much else. Then there were some sci-fi action adventure stories which were mixed. Then there were high concept pieces which I generally found incomprehensible. My two favourite stories were notable exceptions to this.

JCDent - Two wolves yadayada
Liked the dilapidated spaceships, appreciated the attempts at humour but they mainly fell flat. Biggest problem was that the story took forever to happen, and there was so little plot to it. 732 words before anything happened, and only one thing happened in the whole story.

Schneiderheim - Let There Be Light
The concept of folding sickness was cool, but cool concepts were plentiful this week and there had to be excellent execution to stand out. The close was clunky in some places, but I think it was hurt more by a few places where the plot fell over a little. I thought this was very competent and made good use of the wordcount with its story arc.

tenniseveryone - The Last Man in Space
This fell somewhere between the space adventure and high concept camps. My main problem here was that the tone was really off, a really weird combination of hamfisted retro-nostalgia (hoverboards) and a sort of horror ghost story vibe. Also the prose was overwrought and you tried to fit way too much stuff into a small space.

leekster - Shifting Sand
I thought there was quite a lot of bad writing in it, I especially thought the first and third sentences both had clanging errors. I did like the setting and tone. The reunion was more interesting than some of the others here, and being a bit different is probably what saved you (barely) from a DM. One of my least favourite stories of the week.

Crab Destroyer - Seedship Stowaways
Stowaways on an ark ship could be interesting I guess, but the plot here was laughably bad. Like his parents I hated the protag he seemed like a loser. No wonder they didn't want him on their ship. Plot = Man looks for wife. He finds his parents. The end. What a load of crap. When I had finished reading this I had it down as a loss, though I changed my mind for reasons that will soon become clear.

Jitzu_the_Monk - The More Things Change
The spaceship wasn't very interesting, and neither was the relationship between the protag and the girl. I think there was a story in here about the protag realizing his sexuality, but I found it very confusing, and not in a good way. Whichever way you slice it his kissing the bully at the end was creepy, either he was pretending to be gay to creep him out (homophobic) or he was sexually harassing him. The end was rubbish here too, umbrella ex machina.

Benny the Snake
I was thankful that this was a lot better than your brawl entry. Guerrero's (terrible name) decision to go to war seemed like bull crap. The cheating seemed to come from nowhere. The c-section made no sense. I do feel like the prose was slightly less naive feeling than some of your other stuff, but only a little bit. This didn't hit the prompt either. There was a reunion but if there was a spaceship you could barely tell.

I mean I think there was quite a bit that wasn't great about this, but apart from one thing it probably would have been a safe mid. That ending was loving horrendous. I've talked a bit about bad endings but this was the only one that made a lie out of the rest of your story. Telling us that the pilot is the daughter by mentioning her eyes and then pulling the rug out from under us by having it turn out she's not is not a plot twist. It's loving lying you bastard. When M Night Shmaylmanlan finds a backer for his fiftieth film he'll still be struggling to write a 'twist' this rubbish. The thing is I actually think you might have thought it was somehow clever. I hope this clears that up for you. I immediately had this as a DM but it festered in the back of my brain and ended up disgusting me so much I had no choice but to give it my vote for the loss.

ZeBourgeoisie - A Wizard in Space
I didn't like this because the spaceship wasn't neccesary to the story. The wizard could just have well been getting energy from Mount Doom or whatever. It wasn't A Wizard in Space it was a Wizard in Fantasyland with a space sticker.
Also this piece hinged on having amazing vivid descriptions of all the crazy energy poo poo. They were just boring. It was still a middle of the road effort, I liked his wizardfriends.

Entenzahn and Benny Profane
These stories both stood out to me, and I'm going to talk about them together.

They were both rollicking space adventures that made incredible use of the word-count. So much happened in both of them, they were both riveting. They also used the prompt extremely well, with both the reunion and spaceship aspects absolutely necessary to making them work. They both had good characterization and an interesting setting that we only saw glimpses of- there was no unwanted exposition.

The reason that BennyP got an HM and Entenzahn didn't was that Entenzahn's had quite a few writing inaccuracies, enough to take me out of the story. It was a very close thing though.

Oct 30, 2003
The Wild Man and the Scepter - 848 Words
King Goldenlocks

The house of the wild man is tall and ramshackle like his ageing frame. It is draped in vines that in spring flower white like his beard. I come to him when I need things. He stoops through the doorway with two cups, tea for me and hot water for him. He loves me because I freed him from my father. I am the hero of the town.

He looks at the floor with his little watery eyes. He can never meet my gaze.

“This time I cannot help you,” he says, “I do not have such a thing.”

I draw the knife he gave me. “You lie, wild man.”

He cringes. “Never, my sweet, not to you. I do not have it, but I know where it might be found.”

“The scepter grows colder every day. Soon its power will be gone and with it my Father’s. We need another. Tell me or I will send you back to him.”

The wild man sips from his water, hot with the power of the scepter.

“Before I tell,” he draws scissors from his rags and snaps them twice, schnick-schnick. “A lock of your golden hair?”

Though my hair is beautiful It is a price I pay gladly. He puts it on his mantelpiece next to my tooth that he pulled and one of my fingernails.

The scepter is west, under the mountain the priests speak of. We are not supposed to go there but I am the hero of the town. It is several days journey, even on my bicycle, and the going is tough. It is warded by spells inscribed in a hand known only to the priesthood. Some are chiseled in stone, others are made from metal or plastic or concrete. They become more frequent as I head west so I know I am getting closer. I feel tired.

The priests speak of three dangers. First are the cats. They come at me from the shadows, green tipped fur standing on end. Their claws are as sharp as the blade of the wild man. They are strong, but I am stronger. I cut them and they die. I run my hand through my sweat-shiny hair and it comes out in hanks. I have seen this in those whom tend the scepter.

Second are the flowers. They carpet the ground and move against the wind. I move through them and they open. Their pollen smells sweet like rotting fruit. The bile in my stomach rises and my skin itches. I breathe slowly and pedal hard, trying not to crush the flowers. I grip the handlebars tight and my fingernails loosen and some fall from my hand, lost among the blooms. I move quickly past the flowers.

At the base of the mountain is the third danger. A grey metal door, rustless and inlaid with silver filigree etching. Only the priests know the rites of entry, but my wild man has wisdom older than theirs. I wrap my hand in rubber and grit my teeth, then take the knife he gave me and press it hard into the etchings. There is light and pain like I have never felt, and the black rubber fuses into my palm. I open my mouth to scream and a tooth falls from my mouth. My heel crushes it to powder on the concrete. The door swings inward.

Inside it is bright and white and clean. There is no smell and no sound. Plastic panels glow like open windows so I cast no shadow. I crouch in the corner and pour the contents of my stomach on the floor. Black and acrid they shame me. They do not belong here and neither do I. I pedal for a long time, and as I go deeper it gets warmer. The final door is different from the others. It is decorated with skulls and crosses and a thousand other symbols I do not recognize. It is yellow and black and huge. It pushes open as if weightless.

Beyond the door are the scepters, not one but thousands of the dull grey metal cylinders. They are neatly stacked in long boxes, with rails running along the sides like coffins. It is hot in here, my skin is on fire, but I am the hero of the town. I have rope made of strong plastic. I tie the box to my bicycle and begin the walk home.

I wake in the house of the wild man. He is sitting opposite me, holding my knife.

“My beautiful hero boy,” he says with a warm smile. “You have done so, so well. Your Father has his scepter,” my eyes clear and I see my cage, “and you are my reward. Though perhaps you are not so beautiful any more?”

He holds the knife up to my cage. It is polished to a mirror. I see my face. My skull is smooth and hairless, my scalp blotched with red. I open my mouth and see only three teeth.

“Now let’s clean you up. The priests want some time with you.”

Oct 30, 2003
Big Business 195 Words

By the time people started cottoning on the garage the company started in was preserved as a museum and their campus in the States was the size of a city. We got an email. "Subject: Christchurch Layoffs". Janine and I, Janine's brother, her Mum. They employed drat near a third of the town.

There wasn't much bread left at the supermarket.

"They're moving South," said the kid packing our bananas and ham. "They said they just can't justify the risk of another quake. They own the insurance company and the underwriter, too. Better growth down there."

My phone rang. The company's logo embossed on the plastic as well as throbbing in the corner of the screen. Updates about the redundancies flashed on my screen for a fraction of a second before the auto-filters kicked in. It was my friend from the Council.

"We're shutting down too. Get out while you can."

On our way out my gaze followed the asphalt seams in the chipseal, left from the quake repairs. The service covers were brand new and brightly painted, stamped with the company logo. I swerved and felt the tyres judder as we ran over them.

Oct 30, 2003
In. Hit me.

Oct 30, 2003
Spaceship Week Judgeburps part the second

Nethilia - Among The Stars
This immediately stood out as the kind of thing I like to read, as it was by far the most down to earth of the stories this week. The plot felt very inevitable right from the start, which I would normally say is a bad thing, but here the story hit me hard because of this, not in spite of it. I think there were sections that could have been cut down that wouldn't have hurt the plot, but I think that the story had the right pace to make me feel happy when the reunion finally happened. I originally wrote down that I would have liked to see some ambiguity as to whether the spaceship was real or not, but after having a while to think it over that was a terrible idea. The quality of the prose was excellent. A very deserving winner.

Tyrannosaurus - The Close Enounter
You have written many things that I have found funny, including your winner from surrealism week and your bus story from crisis week. This, however, cracked me up irl. I think that humour is very difficult, and I was very big on your story for that reason. I think it is hard to crit a story like this that is essentially a joke. It is easy to point out stereotyping and stupid plot holes and stuff, but I think that the central joke was so strong that to get hung up on those details is beside the point. I loved it, for me it only failed to HM based on missing some of crabrocks prompt and direction.

LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE - The Bureaucratic Minefield that is Spaceship Insurance Claims
Maybe this suffered a little from coming after such a strong funny piece, but nevertheless I liked your story. I liked the setting, and the naive sort of George Saundersy feel to the characters, shown in the dumb nicknames which I hated at first but then loved when I understood how they fit in. The major issue I had was that I think you had too much going on. I was really interested in one aspect of the character- that he was essentially reinventing crime in this new society. However the story I got was a lot less interesting- a guy who likes blowing stuff up. This is why I didn't like the ending at all, but well done. If I ever own a personal spaceship I will definitely call it 'Weird Taco'.

Sitting Here - The Threads Behind Everything
This story was the poster-child for one of the main story categories this week: High-concept stuff where I had no idea what was going on. I think a lot of the concepts you were trying needed more space to breathe, though I must qualify this by saying the actual visual description of the time travel was clear and good. Also spaceships were sort of an afterthought, not a necessary part of the story. The love connection didn't work for me either- the guy just seemed like a creepy time-stalker. I thought she made the wrong decision- wasn;t she supposed to stay with old chand? Definitely not one of my favourites.

Fumblemouse - The Sun and the Mirror
I thought that having sentient spacecraft was a very risky choice. I was expecting a story where that happened, and I was expecting to hate it. In this case the risk paid off because of excellent use of voice to convincingly portray these ships as just the right combination of naive and epic.
I liked the shift in perspective from the journalistic start to the spaceships' point of view. The prologue didn't feel expositiony as it was basically a bunch of plot. I understand that the mystery of heliod was important, but there was so much crazy poo poo going on that at times this strayed into the "high concept but I have no loving idea what's happening' group, though probably not enough to ruin it. I also had a problem with some tone issues- there were parts at the start eg "subsoap" where I thought this would have comic elements. I thought your use of visual language to describe the ships was a highlight that cut through the complexity a bit, and made it more palatable- there were certainly some striking images. Overall this had very strong strengths but also very glaring weaknesses for me.

Djeser - Space Isn’t So Scary
You did the honourable thing in sticking to your (essentially self imposed) flash rule. I think the most I can say about this is that it is definitely a story, and it is only 250 words long. I found it mildly diverting, and was somewhat impressed by the amount of story you managed to fit in. I think this was a good effort for what it was.

Your Sledgehammer - The Magic Screen
I liked the writing style of this, and I really loved the concept, but as a story it was dismal and boring and nothing happens. The 'reunion' with Pee Wee Herman was a highlight for me, it made sense with the rest of what you wrote. Having a story that is mainly about a man contemplating suicide needs to have a lot more than what you offered to bring it out of the middle of the pack, though. Characterization was decent, but needed to be outstanding to carry the rest.

Ironic Twist - Arithmetic
On first read I LOVED your story and my very strong gut reaction was to give it the win. In retrospect I glossed over some plot holes that lessened the impact of everything I loved about it. While your prose is clearly a highlight of everything you write, in this case I thought your plot (in macro) was incredibly smart. A sort of reverse alien colonial love story, with shades of captain kirk but also of pocahontas, really struck a chord with me. I've always though of the process of colonization as a literal alien invasion, but you put a great spin on it.
I was in two minds over the handling of the love affair. I feel with a piece as serious as this it would have been better to make it platonic and avoid raising difficult and yucky questions of anatomy. On the other hand for me it worked, and the reason it worked was because you gave us clear, believable characterization of the 33. Characterization was also good for Royal (love the name).
This brings me to the ending. The combination of the above made 33's 'cannibalism' seem not only understandable, but necessary. I felt little sympathy for Royal, and all the sympathy in the world for 33. I hope this was what was intended. Given my colonial reading of the story I did wince slightly at the cannibalism, but due to the sensitivity with which it was handled I think it holds up even if given a reading paying great attention to matters of race.
I still love this story, though I agreed in the end with crabrock's assessment of it's flaws. A very strong HM, and the story I connected with most this week.

Docbeard - land of the dead
This was one of the expositiony arc ship stories. The bit in the middle with the grandad talking was just a brutal piece of exposition. The action was pretty cool, but it was abandoned too soon for a very fuzzy bit where she somehow ejected them in some way that I didn't understand.
Characterization was good, prose was competent, and it ticked the boxes for the prompt. Just should have taken half as many words.

El Diabolico - untitled
Honestly why would you even bother submitting this? Was it just designed to troll people for writing science fiction? Giving this an HM or Loss would only take away from someone who would actually care.
I mean even if this were worthy of consideration for some low word count family drama vignette dialogue prompt this is just trite bollocks. Congratulations for wasting your time and all the judges time. I hope you feel happy. Actually I hope you spent hours and hours slaving over something that actually attempted the prompt that you abandoned in a fit of pique before submitting this poo poo. That way you would have wasted more time than the judges, and also suffered from more emotional distress.
(just cut and pasted from judge doc can't be hosed wasting any more time on it)

Oh jesus this was a lot of stories. I will post a part the third by the end of the weekend.

Oct 30, 2003
But wait, there's more!
954 words

Chet wiped his sweaty brow with his shirtsleeve, saw the orange tanning lotion mark, and hit himself gently in the temple with the heel of his palm. Stupid, stupid.

He was waiting for an elevator to take him to the eighteenth floor of the EMC Insurance Building, the seventh tallest in Des Moines. The plaque for the office read “Bryson and Carr.” It was newer than the rest, in a classy black serif type with no logo. It was Carr that had called the office.

“The Donut Magic isn’t for sale,” he’d replied, “It’s doing very well.”

“I don’t know about a magic anything, Mr Morton. My client is interested in D676846.”

The patent was for an oddly shaped piece of metal that moved the lever that flipped the donuts so they’d cook evenly. Finally allowed the busy housewives of America could make Donuts without utilizing six different kitchen appliances.

“You didn’t see me on TV?

“Your name and details were supplied by the patent office upon our filing the requisite forms.” He sounded too young to have his own firm. Everyone sounded young.

“Are you sure? I’m on a lot. In the small hours.”

“We want an exclusive license. Our offer is 4 cents per unit.”

Chet laughed at the idea. Donut Magic sold for twelve payments of $19.99. A full nine of those payments were pure profit.

Carr didn’t seem to care. “We expect to sell thirty seven million units in the first year.”

The final offer was in his briefcase along with a cheque for the last 3 months rent. His office was above a chain gym in a strip mall off Hartford Ave, cheap enough to make up for the clang of dumbbells coming through the floor. Most of their business came at night, when Darla worked her magic.

“Oh honey, don’t worry about the payments. Tell me more about that cat of yours.”

Darla was his first hire since he’d had the revelation that turned his business around. It wasn’t the machine- the Donut Magic was probably the worst of his four useless inventions- he’d finally understood the customers. Darla’s face had been screwed up in concentration as he’d given her his shpiel.

“There was this ad in the back of one of my comic books for this set of subscription encyclopaedias for kids. I didn’t really care about the books but the first issue came with these free binoculars. I wanted them bad, and the best thing was they were free! So I told my Dad how much I wanted those books. I was either lying to him or lying to myself, but when he wrote me that cheque to send away I was so happy. That’s the happiness we’re selling. Make them feel good.”

So the customers called and Darla would throw in a juicer or whatever was lying around in back. It made them happy and it worked. Money was tight, but Chet was paying back his Mom and even making rent. The best thing was he was paying Darla an actual wage, on the books and everything. It wasn’t much over minimum but it was more than the salary he was drawing. He even got her insurance. She was the first person he had ever employed full time.

She’d wished him luck on his way out the door. He hadn’t told her they’d have to stop making the machine. The sum written on the signed contract was $0.073. Two million guaranteed in the first year.

On his way up he straightened his tie in the mirror. It was the same mediocre suit he’d worn when filming the infomercial. A kid had recognized him outside the office, and tugged on his Mom’s sleeve with wide eyes. The commercial ran in a few spots before the morning cartoons.

The elevator seemed to take forever. The climb to his own office was only a few seconds, when he bounded up the stairs two at a time. He spent the time thinking about what he’d do with the money. The cars parked in the city were clean and shiny. That would be nice. His Mom would like a good meal, and he could get gifts for the office girls, too. He didn’t have any ideas for new products.

The Attorney’s office was fitted out entirely in gloss, even the receptionist’s makeup looked slippery. He could see her bra straps through gaps on the side of her top.

“I’m Chet. I’m here to see Mr Carr.” He waited a few seconds. Nothing. “Chet Morton”

“Take a Seat.”

His bum slid forward when he slumped against the back of the gleaming chair. He could see his reflection in every surface. His buttons strained when he sat.

“You can go in now.” She didn’t look up.

Carr was as young as he sounded, but his movements stiff and deliberate like someone much older. He shook Chet’s hand.

“This is Frank Bascom from Samsung.”

Bascom had a goatee and wore glasses with narrow rectangular lenses. Both men were wearing black suits that fitted well. He looked at Chet and grinned with too many teeth. When he spoke Chet felt like a child.

“You stumbled on a real nice piece of engineering, there. We’re putting it in every microwave. You’re going to make a lot of money.”

Chet paused for a second and looked at the men’s perfect frozen faces. He wished he was in a studio surrounded by nodding non-union extras.

“I thought I’d better come in, since you went to so much trouble.”

The men’s faces didn’t change.

“I’ve decided to keep going with the Donuts. It’s mine. I like it.”

He couldn’t wait to get back to the office.

Oct 30, 2003

contagonist posted:

ok what's the deal with :toxx:

Oct 30, 2003

Oct 30, 2003

Thanks guys!

Oct 30, 2003
Dirty Lucre
469 words

The cop was a silhouette in his high beams as he walked past the bed of my truck. It was filled with thick yellow plastic bags labelled RIFIUTI SANITARI PERICOLOSI in red. Medical waste from Naples. I put my hands on the steering wheel and kicked a half full pepsi bottle that I’d topped up with cheap red under the seat with my heel. He tapped on the window.

Buonasera Signor. The landfill is back that way.”

Both of us knew it was no mistake. I’d passed the dump half an hour back. It was full of imported Milanese trash. It had looked hygienic and expensive, lit by a bruised silver moon like a dirty euro coin.

“Save your breath, Sbirro.” I swore, no patience left for formalities of corruption. If he even gave me a ticket he’d be fired or worse.

He was young and blonde. His freckles were disappearing into his flushing face.

Capo said you have something for me.”

Inside the glove box was a pistol for rival Camorra and an envelope for his Captain. It was stuffed thick and sealed with red wax. I held it out the window. He reached half-way then stopped. His hand was shaking.

“What’s in the envelope?”

His voice was quiet and hesitant, he was even younger than I thought. Stupider too. Could have been his first day.

Lucre. Just take it.”

Welcome to the force kid, now go take a bribe from a half drunk gangster trucker.

“I want to know. I’m from Nola. My mother died last year. Cancro.” He was breathing quickly.

“Join the club, kid.”

We normally dumped the waste between Nola and my home town, Acerra. Under bridges, by the road, we didn’t care. Cancer rates had tripled. I’d started driving when we were trying for a baby, we needed the money. The gynaecologist had found the tumour. The Camorra, the police, myself, we were all complicit in the slow death of a generation on the lava plains of Vesuvius. More dignified to burn like the Romans.

His hand still wasn’t moving, and I could see tears in his eyes. I wished he’d arrest me. We’d both be dead long before I could testify, but I should have offed myself years ago anyway. At least I’d go with hope. He took the envelope.

Per mama.” I spat on the ground at his feet.

His fist clenched, creasing the envelope. I’d never thought about what it looks like, the moment a cop goes bent. As he walked away I took the pistol and trained it on the back of his head. I pictured his skull exploding like a volcano. Maybe if he died something would be done. Ridiculous idea. I put the gun away and turned the ignition. Best he die slow with the rest of us.

Oct 30, 2003
You can see her in the eddies of dust disturbed by the last breath of a child, and in the cold ash of an empty hearth in winter. When the libations are gone it is she who sits to hear prayers to the gods who left you. When you rest your head for the last time it is Dulme the Forgotten who tucks you in and sings you to sleep.

Oct 30, 2003
Yes please leekster.

Oct 30, 2003

Benny the Snake posted:

I'd love to use your God, NH, but there doesn't seem to be a name. What's your God's name?

Does a god need a name?

Oct 30, 2003
Here's a list of the gods people have posted.

Post a comment if I'm missing any

Oct 30, 2003
Spaceship week Judgeburps part 2.9

Linecrit for Grizzled Patriarch - Love is Another Kind of Loneliness

Disaster Assessment calls at 6:22 a.m., and afterward Haru turns on the rainforest module again. I can hear it through the acoustic blankets: the low gutterball rumble of rolling thunder, the doleful howling of monkeys.
I love the italicized line, because while on one level it functions as a neat detail it is also symbolic of what is going on in Haru's head. I think this paragraph could have been constructed so this sentence was first

They establish coms from Earth three times per week. Mandatory counseling, though I suspect that it’s mostly an excuse to keep an eye on him. It will be a month before the next cargo vessel from L5 arrives. In the meantime, if Haru behaves strangely, I am supposed to file an immediate report. What qualifies as strangely is left to my own discretion.
This sentence has an important function in the story establishing that Haru is potentially dangerous. The last two sentences are cool, and remind me of Donal Barthelme. The first part of this paragraph is workmanlike scene setting and not amazing

I check the logs. He has watched recordings of his son’s video calls three dozen times in two weeks. Some mornings, he will use the exercise bike until he can’t breathe. Sometimes I hear sobbing from his crew cabin at night, although I pretend that I don’t.

Haru doesn’t notice when I step inside his cabin. He’s sitting on his cot, watching my high-definition rainforest simulation play out across all four walls. Rain is tapping on waxy, two-dimensional leaves. His attention is held by a camouflaged walking stick picking its way across a vine.
I don't understand this last sentence. I don't think you establish the protagonist strongly enough as a simulation programmer, and this paragraph is why.

“I’ve updated it with a day-night cycle,” I say.

Haru jumps a little. “Disengage.”

There is a downpitched whine from the ship’s bowels as the rainforest melts back into the paneled walls, replaced with featureless white.
Weird word choice. Is it a word?

I ask him if there’s any news from Disaster Assessment. Haru rubs the stubble on his chin and shakes his head.

“Still claiming it was a ventilation vale rupture during re-entry, but they don’t know how it happened.”
not sure if this is necessary. I think the tragedy is established well enough without it.

Haru keeps an artificial philodendron in the recess above his cot. Beside it is a picture of his son in his elementary school days. In the photo, he’s maybe nine or ten years old, a boy with a solemn smile and his hair cut straight across his forehead. I wonder if Haru has watched the footage, his son and the other payload specialists laid out on foil tarps while support crew attempt resuscitation. I don’t ask, of course. But I wonder.
I'm not sure if that comma is correct. Otherwise I like the way this paragraph establishes what is wrong with Haru. It is fine to wait this long when we already now he is troubled by something

“If you need anything, I’m here,” I say.

He forces an apologetic half-smile. “I know.”

But I’m not the one he wants to talk to.
This line is a little strange to me. Seems a bit of a leap for the narrator to come to so specific a conclusion. I would prefer to be shown Haru talking to the picture of his son or something.


After the last round of routine maintenance I return to my cabin. Usually I read, or check messages from my father. Now he’s got an apartment in Fukui, closer to work. He sends me pictures of the lake, the iris garden. I hear the hum from Haru’s cabin as the simulation fires up. I leave my door open so I can hear the rain.

It doesn’t take very long – an hour in front of the blue glow of my laptop. A simple program to compile and scrape the video logs, run them through a contextual chatbot.

Haru’s cabin is dark, but I can see his outline on the cot. “Lights.”

He turns over and blinks up at me.

I run the new simulation, and Haru’s son settles into focus against the opposite wall. The image is noisy, low-res, pulled from the logs and stretched out until he’s life-sized. With his flight suit and scruffy cheeks, he looks nothing like the boy in the photo.

Haru takes a long, ragged breath through his nose. “Jesus,” he says, staring into the wall. “Can he hear me?”

When his son speaks, the words are clipped, stitched together from years’ worth of videos. “Hi papa. I know it’s been a little while.”

Haru lets out a little choked sound, and I see the tears coming. He’s watching a son from three months ago, one who doesn’t know what’s going to happen, what did happen.

His son grins. “I finally got a job,” he says. “Mom’s happy, but she says we better not maroon her on L5.”

Haru laughs, rocks forward on his cot. “I’m proud of you,” he says.

“It’s like you said. You grow up when you’re ready to grow up.”

I back out into the corridor, and as I do I see Haru reach forward, like he’s going to touch him, like he’s forgotten that there’s nothing there to touch, and he says yes, that’s true, that really is true.
So I like the ending a lot, and what I get from it is really a question as to whether this act was a kindly act of mercy, or a cruel act of self preservation. I'm not sure there is enough of the latter in the text, and I would have liked a bit of a creepier vibe from Haru, or maybe bring the fears of the narrator into the story a bit more. This stuff is alluded to in the second paragraph, but not filled out enough. I had this story as an HM candidate.

Oct 30, 2003
When Gods Forget
(882 words)
Feat: Dulme, The Lawbringer, The Monkey, The Blind God, Anathot, Alothaa, and many more!

“The world can be owned only by the gods,” Ranulph said while Hanna strapped his grandfather’s cuirass to his back, “We pay our lease in blood.”

“Don’t say those things. They hear you.”

She closed her eyes and rested her forehead on the nape of his neck. His presence overwhelmed her, the smell of talc and fresh linseed clearing her mind. The snap of a whip and a frightened whinny came through the window. She tasted the salt on her lips.

“Once more before you go.”

I watched him turned to face her, then pick her up so their eyes were level. She felt his warmth through the leather. Outside the others were daubing their armour with the Lawbringer’s white. He drew the curtains.

* * *

“Hush my child and I’ll sing to thee,
For Vorun’s silent in the sea,
Down with the green, the black, and the blue,
The shining whale has pearls for you.”

* * *

Hanna slung her bag of hare over her shoulder, did a little twirl, then waggled her eyebrows at Abi.

“So how do I look?” Hanna had taken in a pair of Ranulph’s trousers. “A bit too baggy?”

Abi leaned on her scythe and laughed. “You’ll need the room soon,” she said, placing her palm on her friend’s swollen belly. “Though I’m not sure about the haircut.”

“It’s better short, it was catching in the woods.” The skills they had learned since the men left had not come easily. Her face darkened. “There’s no one to look at it anyway.”

Abi rubbed her hands together and wedged them tight in her armpits. “The days are too long for this cold.”

Hanna looked up at the grey skies over the fields. I watched her kneel, place a hare on the ground, and scatter dirt on the carcass.

“For the Monkey,” she said, “may his arms stay the blind one yet a while.”

* * *

“The monkey brings us apples and pears,
The blind one brings us cold and fears,
But don’t you cry you’re here with me,
Where air’s as sweet as Nemete.”

* * *

Abi reached into a ceramic jar and peeled off a thick cap of fat.

“There aren’t many left,” she said, sliding the confit hare out into a little skillet pot heating over the fire.

Hanna winced and turned onto her side. The last few weeks of pregnancy had been hard. In the corner of the room incense burned in a small shrine, marked in ash with the sign of the book.

“Read to me. I want to hear his words.” she said, the words hurried out between sharp breaths.

There were letters beside the bed, dictated by Ranulph but written in an exotic angular hand. The caravans had stopped coming for winter, but Hanna still prayed to Anathot the scribe that more would arrive. Abi sat down and took the pile of letters. She learned to read when she lived in the city as a child.

“The most recent one.”

Abi shuffled a letter, edges dirty with thumbprints, to the top of the pile. She closed her eyes for a second, and opened them wet with tears. She spoke in a monotone, her eyes resting in the gloom beyond the paper.

“My dearest Hanna…”

I read the letter over her shoulder, silently, like I had done before. The words weren’t Abi’s: “I have bad news of Ranulph...” it began.

* * *

“As Naven for The Thunderer,
And Toron for Jayhopa,
My love for you will never bend,
Inanis lied, it has no end.”

* * *

“The bronze lion will see you dead before you leave the village, betrayer,” Hanna whispered. Her son slept in her arms, ignorant and warm.

“The gods won’t stop us from starving, I’d rather try the road. Better to rely on their neglect.” Abi drew the string on the canvas rucksack she’d filled from the larder. “I’ve left you some.”

Snow blew in when she opened the door. She didn’t look back. The baby woke, startled by the cold. Hanna fastened him to her breast.

“Don’t listen to her, my love. It is in times like this that Alothaa watches over us.”

Hanna’s lips moved in silent prayer to the mother of hope, in rhythm with the feeding of her child. I listened to her words settle on the ground outside with the snow.

* * *

“Though Spirum’s jewels I cannot give,
Nor buried gold that Felix hid,
Censiron sees what you receive,
Food and warmth and family.”

* * *

Tiny clouds of vapour rise from the mouths of mother and babe both, and dissipate like the legacy of mortals. They grow slower. Neither reacts to creak of the larder door swinging with the draft from under the door. The watery light of the moon breathes too, brighter and dimmer with the passing of clouds.

Baby wakes. He’ll have to content himself with a lullaby, she has no milk to give. Mother’s voice is soft and sweet, and catches in her throat like burnt honey. She stops short, she never could remember the end.

I sit with them as their eyes close and their breathing shallows further. I hold their hands while I sing them their final verse.

“When Menora’s moonlight starts to fade,
and heavens offer no more aid,
When there’s nothing left to do but weep,
Dulme’s mercy soothes our sleep.”

Oct 30, 2003

Screaming Idiot posted:

I'll offer line-by-line critiques of the next three people who ask for them.

I would love one for this weeks story, thanks. I'll pass it on and do an in depth crit for one of the newbies. If none of them ask I'll just choose one at random.

Oct 30, 2003

Screaming Idiot posted:

I wrote something, I swear! I really did! HOW DARE YOU INSINUATE OTHERWISE?


Oct 30, 2003

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