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The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Count me in.

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The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

It Belongs in a museum / space

Old Friends
1095 words

Captain Baran’s eyes fluttered open. He gasped desperately for oxygen but there was none. Years of training suppressed that instinctual panic and he assessed the situation.

Cryo-pod malfunction. Emergency release is just above my right hand.
He yanked the cable and the hatch opened with a hiss. Baran stumbled free from the pod and with a gulp of good air, his full faculties returned. The pod’s fuel cell read empty.

The nuclear pill would sustain suspended animation for 10,000 years. Is it possible?
But he couldn’t feel the familiar rumble of the Konstanin’s engines under his feet. Gravity was different too, a little lighter. He was on a foreign planet.

Baran surveyed the cavernous room. High windows allowed a decent amount of ambient light, but there was no power to the interior. “Hello,” he croaked, but the only answer was the faint reprise of his hoarse whisper.

He cautiously stepped over a velvet rope and out of the alcove that housed his cryo-pod. There were similar recesses circling the great hall. A mezzanine loomed directly overhead, but he could see balconied levels stacked to the high vaulted ceiling, twenty or more. A furrowed brow was the only indication of dismay as he attempted the indecipherable sign mounted on a short pedestal.

Frustration turned to anger as he realized: I’m an exhibit in some alien museum!

“Hello,” he shouted. “Is anyone here?”

No response.

“Hello-o,” he trailed off. He held his breath and strained to hear anything over the thump of his own heartbeat. A long moment passed as he listened, then he heard a beep . . . beep . . . beep.

He followed the noise past other displays, now tombs for long-expired exotic creatures, until he found the source –a cryo-pod shutting down, power expended.
Without hesitation, the captain rushed to the pod and struggled with the latch. He summoned all his strength and as the release started to move, he heard clacking from inside. He realized in his zeal to rescue the survivor, he hadn’t looked inside.
The occupant was not human.

As the hatch opened, a black blur darted past him. Baran spun and dropped into a defensive stance. The insectoid was twenty feet away, compound eyes staring back at him. Baran raised his hands in a gesture of peace hoping to ward off the ant-thing.
The creature tilted its head inquisitively and moved towards him, arthropodal legs clicking faintly as it approached and circled him. Feathered antennae tapped on the captain’s legs. Its head and thorax rose to a praying mantis posture and the delicate appendages felt their way up Baran’s chest to his face.

“Friendly little guy, aren’t you,” Baran said with a smirk as he brushed a feathery tendril away from his mouth. The creature’s mandibles clattered excitedly. “Alright then, let’s see if we can find any more friendly critters around.”

It backed away a step from Baran and rubbed its antennae together producing a mournful tone. “Not very hopeful, hmm? Song, clicks . . . alright, I’ll call you Sklyx. How ‘bout that?” Sklyx shrugged as best his insect body could accommodate.

They explored through a vestibule and ventured to the outside world. The sky was gray. Everything was gray. In the distance, great towers blended with the horizon. Suddenly, metal cylinders rose from the concrete forming a perimeter around the courtyard. The sides of the canisters receded with a pneumatic whoosh to reveal humanoid robots taller than any human.

“Sklyx, run!”

The captain’s companion didn’t need any encouragement and was sheltered at the museum’s vestibule before Baran was halfway. The security-bots lumbered from their platforms and tottered after him.

Sklyx followed Baran inside and with power restored, small educational holograms flitted about, bathing the displays in pale blue light. Baran recognized several icons on a floating directory and –

A laser beam whizzed past his ear, crackling with ozone as it melted a hole in the directory. Baran reflexively ducked and ran for the stairs. On the second floor a collection of weapons was housed in a glass case.

Baran ducked behind as he saw the top of the robot’s head in the stairwell, Sklyx
huddled beside him. As the robot made it through the doorway it opened fire, melting a wide swath of glass. Baran grabbed a newly freed laser pistol.
It was bulky in his hand, though familiar. “We’ll have to keep moving while this thing charges. No choice but to keep going up.”

The robot trudged forward, unrelenting. Baran made a break for it, Sklyx on his heels. Laser blasts slagged display after display as the duo weaved their way across the room. As they reached a second set of stairs, the pistol chimed.

Baran took aim and fired. A thin blue beam disintegrated the robot with a flash. Downstairs, more robots were swarming the stairs, so they continued their ascent.

Up and up they ran, until they reached the top floor. Baran stared in disbelief as he saw his very own ship, the Konstantin suspended from the ceiling. From the balcony, he saw the speck of his cryo-pod far below.

The clanking of metal feet echoed in the stairwell behind them. Sklyx scaled the wall and dropped easily onto the ship. Baran scouted for something to use to climb but another security-bot emerged from the stairs. He’d have to jump.

Baran took a running start and vaulted off the balcony railing as laser blasts erupted around him. He landed hard as one of the blasts hit a cable, tipping the ship and sending him careening. He hung by his fingertips as Sklyx rushed to help.

Baran gratefully clasped the hard-shelled forearm and pulled himself up. He tapped in the security code and a hatch opened. Sklyx dropped down in and Baran followed as the Konstantin swung like a pendulum across the great hall, laser blasts firing perilously close.

Under Baran’s deft fingers, the ship systems beeped online. Suddenly, the ship pitched forward and Baran’s stomach was in his throat. The robot had hit the final support cable. With a deep breath, he flipped the final lever and the engine roared to life.

The Konstantin hovered inches from the ground. Baran sighed with relief as he spun the ship’s cannon around and fired, blasting a clean escape route through the side of the building. He hit the accelerator and the ship cleared the building. They zipped up into the atmosphere.

The captain punched in a course towards Earth. “Well, Sklyx, I don’t look to bad for ten thousand and forty. Time to go home.”

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Thunderdome Week CCVII - Bottle Your Rage

Wordcount: 1200 words
Sign up by: Midnight EST on Friday, July 22
Submissions Close: Midnight EST on Sunday, July 24



Since shooty pew pew mans didn't catch everyone's fancy, let's slow it down this week with a classic bottle episode. Your entire story must take place in a single room (dining room, bank vault, mineshaft, SPACESHIP, submarine, automobile, etc.) over the span of one hour or less.

Bottle episodes are notoriously cheap, so if you include a gun it can only be fired once (or knife is only good for one stab, etc).

***Bonus flash rules by request***

-i help judge

crabrock
Jitzu_the_Monk


IN
sparksbloom
Thranguy protag overhears one side of a phone call or mishears an eavesdropped conversation
Surreptitious Muffin at least one character must be lying down for the duration
Carl Killer Miller
Chili
dmboogie
terre packet
Screaming Idiot

FAILED TO SUBMIT:

C7ty1 a character lost something (or someone) in your setting
Flesnolk Your protagonist cannot/will not leave your setting
starr literal bottle(s) must play an important part in your story
flerp
sebmojo
areyoucontagious
Jonked
FouRPlaY


e: I'm not trying to steer to one genre or time so if the rule mentions a calculator, it can be a computer, abacus, 2+2 scratched in the dirt with a stick, or a magic spell

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at Jul 25, 2016 around 13:56

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER


Does this also require a bonus flash rule?

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

OK, bonus rules by request.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Thranguy posted:

In and I'll take one of those flash rules.

protag overhears one side of a phone call or mishears an eavesdropped conversation

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

dmboogie posted:

In.

Also, a question: would the cab of a moving vehicle count as a single room?

Yes, but the focus should be what's going on inside the vehicle, and not about describing a Bullitt-style car chase.

e: On The Road or Fear and Loathing stuff or Duel even, but the novelization of Fury Road would probably not fit the challenge

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at Jul 19, 2016 around 20:55

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

gently caress around flash fiction: Trying to register at synirc.net but it gives me a Could not open socket error. Why am I such a dumb idiot? 800 words max

e:oh yeah, the whole point of that was to find another judge, so someone please step up.

(I'll judge any FAFF idiot submissions between now and Friday Noon EST and declare a winner)

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at Jul 20, 2016 around 07:47

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER


That worked, friend. Thank you.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

C7ty1 posted:

In and for my string of terrible failures, goddammit. Also will take a flash.

a character lost something (or someone) in your setting

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Flesnolk posted:

Flash rule?

Your protagonist cannot/will not leave your setting

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:


Also, In for this week. Flash rule me.

at least one character must be lying down for the duration

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

starr posted:

Late but thanks for the crits!

Also I'm in with a flash rule please.

literal bottle(s) must play an important part in your story

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Less than twelve hours until sign ups close. I still need a third judge, it's just me and crabrock so far.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Time has closed for submissions. Reminder that Sunday at MIDNIGHT EST is the close for final works. That's New York. USA. Best coast not the West Coast time. (it's actually Pittsburgh time also, so I am hopeless as a human being)

Specters wins the FAFF round by default, but I've been digesting the story all day and will receive a crit quite soon. I am sure it will solidify my place as an idiot.

e: I forgot what AM and PM mean

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at Jul 23, 2016 around 17:18

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Sunday at midnight Eastern Standard for the regular prompt submissions (bottle episode). There are some other events going on that have different deadlines.

But the AM/PM thing was entirely my mistake.

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at Jul 23, 2016 around 17:21

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

As in it's now Monday.
So still 26 hours before the deadline. Like usual or whatever. I just copied the stuff from the last prompt and changed the dates.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

spectres of autism posted:

Kaleidoscope
798 words

Interim prompt: Trying to register at synirc.net but it gives me a Could not open socket error . Why am I such a dumb idiot? 800 words max

Here is my Intro to Literary Analysis critique:

The journey towards the singularity is one of self-discovery, it seems. The central imagery evokes a strong recollection of 2001: A Space Odyssey with its perfect black monolith and the wormhole into infinite knowledge (or unified consciousness), and yet all that is seen through imperfect eyes.

The machine is anonymous, unforgiving, stark. The goggles are unwieldy and tinted like an old photograph. Should I be precious and nostalgic, or give in and accept what mystery lies in store? After all the violent hesitation, what’s really happening is just people communicating.

That seems like a good thing, and yet you discover that people are mostly bad at communicating. But here we are, trying. Attempting to curry favor with anonymous strangers instead of seeing actual human faces. That’s the beauty of using a kaleidoscope as a metaphor. It’s an ever changing pattern, but it’s always sliced and reflected, repeating. No new ideas, yadda, yadda. So as a metaphysical awakening, the whole thing is lovely.

It’s a little shaky when you think about Thunderdome. There’s confusion, but TD is trying to make order out of chaos. Put your thoughts out there and be judged. Poor structure will not be tolerated. I feel like I previously had kaleidoscope eyes and now I have a magnifying glass. With time, I’ll either sharpen focus or set myself on fire with it.

Then I think about IRC channels and being a little more relaxed, and it starts to make more sense as putting different facets of yourself out there (or using different software, as it were). After much pondering, however, I still don’t get the line about why I have to like the colours. I can be blown away by what I see, but no one’s obligated to be friends or even anything more than clinical and still participate. Despair and fear in one sentence soon turns to desperation to be liked and like in return.

All the self-doubt happens after a success. While it may have been a top of the garbage heap win to some, there’s no hinting at it prior, the longing excitement is the only characterization before. Winning was easy, but acceptance is hard. Maybe that’s a trite reading of the story, but nearly half is dedicated to doing something and succeeding, and it seems really easy. There’s no struggle in the assembly of the rig (original story) no hesitation and for all the doubt later, surely there must have been a long internal battle before working up the courage to post it in the first place.

There’s an epiphany there that ignores the plot problem of IRC but the resolution is a realization about humanity. Then it ends with joining the fractured collective. I had to take a couple passes at it to come up with a reading. I like it now, but maybe it’s a little too oblique. It starts with a roller coaster going up the hill, then it just floats away.

The piece starts out with a synesthesia sort of thing – feeling time and echoes and points of light vibrate in harmonics and thrum, but then that’s forgotten about by the end, and only the visual theme remains. It would have been nice to have that continue, or even have the senses scrambled once Jib gets jacked in, with a less descriptive monotone world at the start.

You also gave away the best realization about halfway through – it’s cool to stop.

B-

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

One half hour until the submission deadline.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Submissions for Week 207 now closed.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Week 207 - Bottle Your Rage [recap and head judge critiques]

Winner – ICU by SurreptitiousMuffin (crisp story about love and loss, nothing groundbreaking in terms of plot, but it’s a really good read.)

HM -- Old Truckers Never Die, They Just Drive Their Rigs Straight Up the Stairway to Heaven by dmboogie (A little opaque at first, and some clunky lines, but many interpretations when you dig in.)




DM -- His Same Story by Carl Killer Miller (big problems with your plot device, and clues are hidden from the audience. Entire middle is cut from the story leading to nonsensical resolution)

terre packet posted:

Parlour Delivery

LOSER -- Parlour Delivery by terre packet (Lame stakes, half-baked world, one dimensional characters, and paragraphs that introduce unresolved plot points)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
HEAD JUDGE CRITIQUES

terre packet
Parlour Delivery


This is kind of a jumbled mess that moves too fast. I sort of get the Harry Potter meets Brazil vibe going on, but the first thing I thought of is If tech is advanced enough that offices are flying around like cable cars, why don’t they have a paperless office? Even if you keep the paper environment, some clever ways to prevent messes in the galleys of ships have been used for hundreds of years. I guess it was just to get the Legolas moment of riding the wave of papers like a boss.

I think the office setting was vivid enough, but I’m really not clear on what this is all about. He sees a woman who looks like a giant version of his ex, but that’s only an off-hand comment that really doesn’t serve any purpose. Why was she there? Why does she look like the other woman? The ex- has unfortunate name of Erin so it must be the art snob from the other story. Courier got off easy on that account, at least.

The courier seems like a normal dude who’s in this fantasy world, so his sense of wonderment should have been more in the forefront. There’s a significant amount devoted to mundane delivery business and trying to poach a hotshot messenger, while weird stuff is left vague and ill-defined. The audience surrogate has blinders on, only concerned about the piece of paper and not about the nutso environment.

You cut off spider guy before he explains what the contract was even about. Is this a deal with the devil? The courier might lament that he was an unwitting pawn in some game. If it was mundane, the point of these flying offices is to inspire marketing, so a contract is the most boring thing about that world. A supernatural Don Draper wouldn’t be a bad thing.

I’m also not sure why the spider boss had to wrap up the messenger, surely there’s a way to get from office to office without having to get cocooned and dropped? The messenger made it up there in the first place. I read the title, and it would have been great to actually have the delivery guy fly to the office, but he’s actually released with a friendly goodbye, so the spider and the fly relationship doesn’t even fit. There’s no tension or sinister undertones that he’s in danger. He’s expected to return to his home base. Or was that a bad quip and the message is his dead body? It’s not clear, so the first thought after the conclusion is ‘huh?’ Bad way to end a story.

You threw in just enough details for me to feel let down when nothing is really explained or fleshed out, and the plot is the most mundane adventure of paperwork woes with unexplained stakes. If only there was one magic turn of phrase or some interesting discovery, you would have stayed out of the basement. Bummer.

dmboogie
Old Truckers Never Die, They Just Drive Their Rigs Straight Up the Stairway to Heaven


[After talking with Jitzu, I’ve reconsidered this one – some of my response I stand by, especially with clunkers like ‘vomit’ but I can see a couple different entry points for dream and sleep, or that the entire thing is one big waking dream and Molly never actually falls completely asleep and is hallucinating.

Another possible reading is where Molly is asleep at the wheel and thinks about future and past (or professional and private), then maybe scrapes some guiderails before waking up again and pulling in to an actual rest stop.

Or the GPS signal is Jesus and that’s when she actually went to heaven and the title is a big trick because she dead.

So this puppy is more complex than I first gave it credit for, but there might be some value in my initial comments. I’m leaving them, since I definitely thought it was messy on first read, and probably wouldn’t have read it a second time if not judging. It needs a little polish to help with accessibility or something.]

***** my initial reading impulses******

You pushed the pedal to the floor with the dream logic, but I don’t think I understand much of this. It’s so confused. Radio playing is an indicator of a dream state right off the bat, but it seems like she’s really awake and pulling in to the rest stop. PLEASE. ROAD STOP. That’s dream gibberish if I ever heard it.

I don’t fault a trucker for listening to smooth jazz, but even in a dream, what jazz DJ would say ‘swallow vomit?’ I kind of want to call in to Ira Glass just so he’ll read that line on the air. You echo (possibly accidentally) the vomitous laughter at the end, so is this Molly taking care of Brad by killing him?

I can’t figure out if the names are intentional or not, a woman named Molly that refuses to do drugs was a nice touch, but then the John who isn’t a john was a let down. Truckers and prostitutes are a symbiotic ecosystem all its own. Then Brad gets stabbed. So, uh, maybe?

Anyway, the thing about dream logic is that you should supply a key so the reader can work it all out. You have the cigarettes and they’re usually a symbol of death, but then you specifically call them vintage. He should have rummaged around and found an old forgotten pack in the glove box that only had a couple stale Marlboros inside. I don’t get why the pack is unopened. Molly should have said she quit a while back rather than that awful line about withdrawal.

So I take them as a symbol of the past, and this guy eats the past as he talks about Molly becoming obsolete. That makes sense to me, but it’s so straightforward. If she’s dreaming, then a little body horror about turning into a machine wouldn’t be out of place. The conversation is clear if a little heavy handed. If he’s supposed to be eating death, then I dunno, he’s an angel saving her?

Molly wakes up after this but it seems like it’s still a dream. The blocking is all a jumble. Brad’s in another truck, and John killed him because he was stalking Molly? But things bang on her truck and blood spatters on her windows, so she didn’t see Brad’s truck on the road?

A story about a trucker stalker would have been fine, or a conversation between a hitchhiker and a driver. There’s too much going on and it’s not explained well.
So confusion aside, the dialogue is pretty stilted. I guess a trucker might say ‘hon’ but that’s usually reserved for the sassy waitress at the diner, which she clearly is not. When someone wakes up with a stranger in the passenger seat, you sure as hell don’t start with “This ain’t a taxi, kid.” For sure that’s a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ scenario.

Easy to understand dimestore philosophy surrounded by some muddled dream scenes.

Screaming Idiot
Predator and prey


Welp. If you’re going to subvert vampire folklore, may as well toss it all in the garbage. This is fine, and the whole thing plays with it, but the simplest question is the one that gets Van Helsing in a tizzy. Of course the mindset of a predator helps you kill other people. There’s nothing supernatural in that. You specifically mention natural philosophy, so I read that as a nebbishy bookworm type who would be far more interested in the actual minutiae of how this zomb-pire works, not whether thinking like a serial killer helps you act like a serial killer.

Richard starts out reading the Bible, apparently for pleasure or comfort. Usually the scientist monster hunter isn’t also the religious zealot/priest. Then he adds in that he’s greedy, and sadistic, and prone to torturing someone. With every sentence about this guy he’s a different character, the whole monster hunting gang rolled into one. He’s a schizophrenic mishmash of characterization that literally rubs his hands together in anticipation while he . . . sighs happily?

Why does Howard, the self-aware monster who says outright ‘don’t believe old wives’ tales,’ live in a sarcophagus? The UK has extensive caves, and tons of abandoned structures. There’s no need to sleep in a tomb, especially considering this isn’t his grave – he evicted some old bones to take the spot.

So we’re subverting both vampire lore and who’s the real monster here? But the zomb-pire still quips as he kills rather than showing some remorse. If you wanted to really drive it home, then Howard should be sad but powerless to resist eating this douchebag.

Dialogue is overblown and melodramatic. It doesn’t help make a scene tense when sentences are silly. Just try saying “You're the one who's wanting to kill me when you're tired of making me squirm on your hook” out loud. It’s like you translated it from another language. Yikes. (Maybe you did? Hopefully you can use ESL as an excuse.) It’s all wordy for wordiness sake. Try imagining it as a movie and recite the dialogue. Schlock has a style and sadly, you nailed it.

Same deal with contradictory descriptions like ‘liquid ice.’ Can’t be both.

Surmise is used a couple times in rapid succession, and it really stuck out to me. It’s a word that always sounds like a hundred dollar word whether you’re using it correctly or not.

Some punctuation errors, but small potatoes compared to the rest.

Carl Killer Miller
His Same Story

It’s really hard to write good detective scenes, and you gave yourself a problem with this looping business. It’s not capitalized until it is, then isn’t again. You use ‘loop’ to mean actual loops of rope right at the beginning. After a little confusion, I get the premise. Now on to a game of cat and mouse. But cops don’t work this way, resetting an interrogation is bad because the main tool they have is time. Wear you down, get you to slip up or make a mistake. Say something you didn’t mean to say.

There’s no point in starting questioning from the beginning each time.
If this were action man and Mr. Assassin’s Creed was trying to stop this arsonist, that would be different. Your device hurts you. And since they apparently have to drug the detainee and disallow lawyers, I guess there’s no due process in this world, so why go through all the sci-fi effort? Just beat it out of him or judge him Dredd-style.

The crime details are super vague, and I get that you want to dole them out, but it still doesn’t make sense. A cigarette after filling up your lawn mower is dumb but it could happen. Unfortunately, that can easily be claimed an accident. Super flimsy to get a murder one charge. (I don’t understand the too much leaf bit, does he enjoy smoking stems and filler?)

I don’t know if you just trimmed the entire middle out for word count or what, because you fast-forwarded through these clues by skipping some time loops. Might have salvaged the story if we saw each loop and where the detective succeeded and failed. He was beaten at the start by a suspect yelling at him. If this guy isn’t ‘rookie on the first day’ then he’s the worst detective I’ve ever seen. He’s not green, he says exactly that, so he’s just a crap investigator, and I’m baffled as to why he’s the one chosen for this experiment.

You might have gone a different way with the old hat competing with a rookie who has new methods, and that might have been interesting. Or a detective who doesn’t even realize he’s part of an experiment and works it out somehow by talking to the suspect. There are a couple twists that could have been neat, and instead you chose the most clichéd one: the suspect was actually running the test. Honestly, I don’t even understand this – there’s a reveal that the detective is being sedated against his will. But he’s a willing participant even if he’s grumpy about it, so why is this genius? If it was necessary for the testing, the other scientist dude would have already known about it. Oh, I re-read, it’s methadone and mephedrone, but my point still stands and now I guarantee some lucky reader has tried this combo of street drugs and not had the same effects as the hapless detective. I guess short-term memory loss is listed as a side effect of methadone, but if you’re not big into drug culture, make up your own drug names for weird science.

Another tip I have is about the similarity between character names: Cardenas and Campos. If I’m just reading a novel for pleasure, I might skim a little or tune out when I’m reading a crime novel, and it gets confusing when I’m a little glassy-eyed. Give your characters distinctly different names. It’ll help 99% of your readers.

There’s some sloppiness, like typing out the word ‘quote’ and “We rewound you. Both of you and everything else.” Tense mismatches and other errors run through it, so it reads amateurish. Could have used another proofing pass or three.

Quip: The only loop I want right now is a noose.

Thranguy
When you Know The Price


Sometimes a guy can be too scummy, and the price too low. I think I would have walked on ten grand when that guy said “you’re my whore.” And if he’s Warren Buffett rich, then he’s a cheapskate of the highest order and I would have negotiated a much higher price before ever showing up.

If Terry knew about the Russian roulette side bets, then Anton’s henchmen definitely do. I’m actually surprised that there wasn’t a bodyguard stationed outside the room.
I guess you wanted to make Terry the brains by working out the hanging bit, but Anton was just punched in the face hard enough to break his neck, then smothered. I guess a shattered face and shooting a guy counts as sexual experimentation, but when a boss gets offed by a call girl, it’s never the end of the story. As Anton’s ‘cleaner,’ I’d be way suspicious. It would have made more sense to just stage a robbery and in Anton’s dying moment he shot his assailant. A more believable scenario that might satisfy a lieutenant. All this sexual stuff raises more questions.

You may want to hide the internal thoughts of a Terry character until the twist is revealed. I’m in her headspace and thinking about the cocktail sauce seemed really weird and I was focused on that paragraph for quite a while until I gave up and got to the double cross and went “oh, OK.” After Mitch comes in and she has the upper hand it would have been a good moment for her to notice her shirt on the room service tray. Same with the trigger discipline bit. Hinting that she’s cool and collected dissolves the tension.

Why do people always have to get joy out of killing an old friend? Mitch is pulling the old triple cross, but he could have just done it for the money. He didn’t have to leer at her while doing it. I mean he only signed up to prank the guy, yet he ends up willing to murder two high school chums for less than half a mil. I mean, what was their prank going to be? Also, you can’t sucker punch someone when they’re charging at you. I think even the class bully would show remorse over breaking a nerd’s spine. Even a misogynistic pig nerd, but they just carry on like they’re professional crooks. The two pranksters were too smooth when things went wrong.

So I dunno, I could follow this just fine and wasn’t confused by any of the prose, but the characters were just murder machines. Follow up should be Sarah playing Russian roulette by herself at the reunion.

Quip: Oh look, here’s my noose.

Chili
Think and Wish

So uh, I don’t really understand this research program – wouldn’t someone tracking ice thickness be interested in conservation? I get that this particular person might be a human calculator, but the mandate to not interfere doesn’t really make any sense. If there wasn’t that brief mention of the cub just before, I would have thought this was a Star Trek prime directive scenario, not a human scientist.

I feel like this ended where it should have started. Math geek who never had a pet now has to deal with nursing a wild, and potentially dangerous, animal back to health under the nose of a cranky boss and you could call it Pet Sounds since she has a polar bear hidden in her kitchen when the boss makes a surprise inspection.

You have conflicting thoughts and actions with your main character. Even though she’s apparently a loner, she smiles, listens to fun music, has a sense of humor, and yet is worried about having a flawless record of not helping injured animals in the environment she’s studying. She only cares about the data.

Even her supervisor greets her with a “hey, girl!” This is not the greeting of someone who would be upset about saving a baby animal. Oh, this is a corporation? I thought it was a PhD program? I guess a corporate researcher who prides herself on learning nothing new for four years can still be a PhD candidate. Either way, bosses don’t tell you to relax by saying your co-workers have all violated protocols way worse than you have, least of all corporate overlords.

Smith Power Researchers – this whole job, by which Ramona defines herself, is confusing. Why is she measuring the ice? The antagonist is just a face on the screen who isn’t even upset, really. She just shrugs.

It’s so weird to have someone be afraid of doing something that is objectively good (if naïve), and have all other characters be opposed to it in what is ostensibly our modern world (and I looked up the Sloop John B lyrics, and I don’t get what’s so funny – there’s the ’I want to go home’ bit, but Ramona is home, she’s eschewed normal life for her secluded existence).

We empathize with Ramona, but the whole scenario is unrealistically contrived such that the entire world is against our hero.

And when a character thinks she’s flawless, don’t have another character blurt it out. Yeesh. Eyeroll.

sparksbloom
Presence


This is a straightforward narrative. You open with a mention of a Rothko and it only gets worse from there. You could have played with form and constructed the narrative in some interesting way that would bring to mind abstract impressionism when reading. That might have made the subject matter more palatable.

Erin is totally unlikeable, and that makes the story a slog. The little girl doesn’t learn about ‘getting it’ before you embark on the snobbery game. She could have given a lesson to Holly about what art is supposed to do (that would have at least been interesting, especially when it’s a snooty hipster trying to relate to a kid), and instead it’s an introduction to being an rear end in a top hat.

It’s tough to talk about paintings without using pictures, but you could have at least given us more than a moment of blank peace. I don’t really want to go to a museum for the hope of getting zombified by the art. It should either challenge you, or make you marvel at the skill and craftsmanship. If you want bliss, the transcendent moment happens to a tertiary character, so we don’t get anything from the art you seem so in love with. Someone else does.

There are two scenes from movies that immediately spring to mind, that would work as a tight art-centered piece that you could have used as a template: When Cameron from Ferris Bueller sees the Seurat and gets drawn in realizing that the closer he gets to the painting, the emptier the faces become. The second is Godard’s Bande à Part where the kids run through the Louvre trying to break the record. One has deep meaning for the character; the other is an irreverent scene in a holy place. I would rather read about the stoner friends try to make meaning out of sloppily painted squares.

Near as I can tell, the arc is: snob takes kid to museum. Kid is bored. Snob doesn’t know how to explain art, but feeling superior is fun. Starts to worry that maybe people do get it, then at the last second: phew, I’m still better than these rubes. Rather than let Holly witness another kid experience something, the snob game overshadows it. It’s vile.

And the eyebrows – I guess that’s an Emelia Clarke reference? I’m not sure if she’s jealous or wants to pluck the kid, but it’s weird.

You avoided a DM by the skin of your teeth. I am told you were trying something here. Your prose wasn't confusing, but I hated every word of it. Maybe I even took away the opposite meaning that you intended, but I've read it a few times and there's no joy nor playfulness in the game.

Why would I want to read anything about a cynic in the traditional Greek sense that doesn’t teach me a drat thing about the subject and embraces the snobbery? I am angry that I had to read it, and not only do I hate Rothko even more, I hate squares and colors now, too.

SurreptitiousMuffin
ICU


I’m not much for Hallmark stories, but this is well constructed and clear. The sweet relief of going in to the light is something I’m dreaming about right now.
The little stream-of-consciousness interludes sound like actual thoughts. Becca and Annie are well defined and contrasted.

The Morse code tapper is a cheesy, but nice device and it helps fill in the detail of this friendship. What’s more, it actually gets used to add some characterization. If I were writing it, maybe the only thing I would have done differently was had the beeps of the monitor do the Morse code rather than pounding on the wall, but that’s really me just trying to find something to suggest.

It’s a nice little piece, and like a friendly ghost or an old trucker, it gets to go to heaven.


Week 207 Winner – ICU by SurreptitiousMuffin

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at Jul 25, 2016 around 20:46

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

IN:
https://twitter.com/MagicRealismBot...546691046219776
There is a lighthouse in St Petersburg that is infinitely large.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

There is a lighthouse in St Petersburg that is infinitely large.

The Lighthouse
996 Words


The onion-domes of the cathedrals gleamed with all the joy of the confectioner’s shop window, jars filled with swirling sweets every color of the rainbow, paralyzing in their enticement, each crying out to be the one that finally pries that acrid kopek from sweaty clutches. The monolith loomed over all, a licorice whip that rose beyond the clouds, a gap in the smile of the heavens.

Vasily Veronin selection was made long ago. For him, choice was an illusion, a distraction. It was only a matter of waiting until he was old enough to appreciate the pungency of the aniseed. Now, it was time.

Never before had he been this close. As a child, it was always on the horizon, just out of reach. Here he stood, staring at a sable sky, the tower stretching beyond sight in all directions, a void that might be the edge of the world. With a determined breath, he stepped through.

Within arms reach dangled a rope, its strands spiraling upward until it faded from vision. He spun around, but the rope was always in front of him, waiting, beckoning. Beyond it and below him was darkness.

He climbed. The rope creaked as though it moored the last vessel in the harbor awaiting its turn in drydock. High above, a single pinprick of light betrayed the umbra of this obelisk, a camera obscura that might reveal the face of God.

Hours melted away as he shimmied ever upward. When he felt his consciousness abandon him, he locked his arms and legs around the rope and slept.

Drip, drip, drip. Droplets of water bounced off the top of his head. He brushed them away. Drip, drip, drip, they continued. The annoyance startled him into wakefulness and he snatched at the droplets only to catch something more corporeal, a hand, outstretched finger tapping on his head.

There was a quiet yelp above him as the hand was yanked away, and he looked up to stare into human eyes only inches away from his own. The woman was upside down, as though she had abseiled face-first from heaven. Both clung tightly to the rope, postures reflected like the polished surface of a placid pool.

She spoke, her utterances sharp and foreign. English, he thought. He shrugged and shook his head. “Do you speak Russian,” he asked, and she too shook her head.

Vasily pointed toward the light in the distance past her feet. She looked in the direction of his gesture, at the warm pinpoint, then gestured past his feet in turn. Far below, a tiny glow flickered like a faraway star, same as the one he climbed towards. Impossible. He knew where he came from, and the start was dark.

His face snapped back to hers, and she met his panicked gaze with a thin smile. “I’m Molly Mitchell,” she whispered, and from somewhere deep inside, Vasily understood.

“Ever since I was small,” he said, “I’ve been drawn to this place. Why? Do you know what it is?”

Molly pursed her lips. “Slow down. What’s your name?”

“Vasily Veronin.”

“We seem to be at an impasse, Vasily Veronin. You’re in my way, and I’m in yours.”

“You could climb down over me.”

“If I fell, would you catch me? I might pull you off the rope.”

His gaze flicked down to catch a glimpse of the abyss. “What if I’m going the wrong way? Perhaps I need to climb down with you.”

“I’m climbing up,” she said.

Vasily pressed his forehead against the rope, eyes clenched..

Molly asked, “What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know,” he huffed. The coarse weave bit into his palms and fingertips. He tried to calm his quickened breath.

Molly’s voice was cool as she reminisced, “I’ve always seen this lighthouse. So bright it used to keep me up at night, sometimes. And when I’d ask about it, my mother would say that’s the sun, or that’s the moon. Eventually, I realized that they couldn’t see it. No one could. But there it was, always on the coast. Always lighting the harbor.”

“But it’s black, a giant shadow, a great nothingness,” Vasily interrupted.

“Not to me.”

He looked up. Her face softened, and crinkles formed at the corners of her pale eyes as she smiled. For a moment, she looked very old.

Vasily’s throat caught, and tears welled. Soon they were flowing freely, warm streams trickling up his forehead, through a few soft curls of shaggy hair, droplets forming before splashing up on to Molly’s kind face.

He struggled with the words, “I’m the one who’s upside-down.”

“It doesn’t matter.” She smirked a little. “You don’t need to hold the rope so tightly.”

He laughed as he snuffled, brushing the tears away with his sleeve. “I’m glad to know you, Molly Mitchell.”

“You too, Vasily Veronin.” Her eyes were steady as he let go of the rope.

The light that was so distant only a moment ago converged upon him in a torrent of lemon drops and peppermint starlights, popping candy crackling, swirls and sparkles and haloes rippling around him. He stretched and twisted to boardwalk taffy.

The world was at once clear and brittle, snapping cinnamon hard-crack, and thick, malleable caramel. It was all the same, just a little nudge here and there and transformation. Something new, ready to be put on display in a fresh glass jar, some spangly treat to sate the appetite or whet it for more.

He saw potentials, bubbling and boiling syrup waiting to be molded to his whims and flights of fancy. It could be anything, and his giddiness was on the cusp of overwhelming. As illuminated possibilities folded in and enveloped him, Vasily Veronin knew one thing for certain, he was done with licorice.

Through it all, he saw a gleaming smile, rays reflecting and refracting through him. Molly Mitchell let go of the rope, arms outstretched, satisfied. She had found the lighthouse and made it even brighter.


***I'll be without internet until August 3rd, CarlKillerMiller will post my next prompt, in the unlikely event that I win the throne. If the winner wants a cake/birthday themed prompt, contact him. Winner is free to modify it.***

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

kuribo posted:

I want someone to tell me the story of a WAITER who wants to JOIN THE CIRCUS

Sitting Here posted:

I have two flashrules for the first two goons who are brave enough to quote this post

In *gulp*

a CHEESEMONGER wants to ELIMINATE THEIR RIVAL

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

a WAITER who wants to JOIN THE CIRCUS vs A DOG who wants to BE A MAN

Cirque du Jour
1636 Words

“Order up!” Ding, ding. Katie slides entree after entree onto the serving tray as fast as Buck can slam the slopped together plates up on the pass. She loads up a second. The thin layer of cork that lined the trays when Katie first started is long gone, only a few shredded patches still stuck to the brown plastic. Heave one. Left arm up. Heave two, and off we go. A half-pirouette and out the saloon doors butt first, eight-top in one trip.

She revels in the tightrope act, following the worn line in the cheap tile through the densely packed dining room, edge of each tray leveled on a shoulder. Table four slides a chair out suddenly; she shifts her balance and hefts a tray high over the diner’s head, dancing and sliding her way to the big corner booth.

Katie delivers the meals like a thousand times before, matching plate with consumer without a conscious thought. Two adults, six kids. That’ll be fun come tip time. But it is what it is. She stacks the trays with a quick “Can I get you anything else?” and an “Enjoy your meal,” then surveys the dining room. Everyone is digging in, waters and Cokes don’t need refills, time to take five.

The alley behind Buck’s is a thin trench of pocked asphalt. An aurora of water-stains patterns the old brick building; and under peeled and cracked caulking, moldy green mortar peeks through. A concrete dividing wall stretches parallel down the entire block, separating the dingy urban ravine from a similarly dismal parking lot. Without a second glance behind her, Katie hops up on the row of galvanized garbage cans and vaults to the top of the wall.

Arms stretched to her maximum wingspan, she toes out a tentative step, then another. She picks up speed, every footfall more secure and steady. She trots with unwavering balance and at the end of the block where the ravine opens to the sidewalk running along Fourth Avenue, Katie pivots and takes the towel from the pocket in her apron. It smells of bleach as she ties the makeshift blindfold.

The big finale. Muscle memory takes over and she glides along the top of the wall, feet finding the sure path before she can even think about what might go wrong. Forty-three steps, then thirty, ten, one, done. Katie bows left, to the right, and then faces the backside of Buck’s and takes her deepest bow, arms sweeping low.

Something catches her right wrist. She recoils but can’t hold her footing. She drops off the wall, arms pinwheeling. The garbage cans clang as they break her fall; one collapses like a crushed soda can, and the other topples, lid rolling down the alley. She sits for a stunned second on the rolled-steel throne before a whiff of stale garbage water brings back her senses.

Katie tears off the blindfold. The boss’s son looms, hands planted on his narrow hips, stick-arms akimbo.

“Jesus, Gordie, you could’ve killed me.”

“Your break is over,” says the little poo poo through chapped lips. “And it’s Gordon. No, Mr. Parker to you.”

Katie extracts herself from the ruined garbage can, brow furrowing ever deeper, and brushes herself off for what little good it will do. Doesn’t feel like any damage. “Mr. Parker,” she scoffs, futilely shaking one damp slip-on.

“Won’t be long now,” he waxes, pimpled face lost in his fantasy. “I’m practically running the place now. There’s gonna be big changes.”

Buck is still ornery as ever, plenty of good years before he retires, Katie thinks. Hopes. Sure he’s gruff, but he’s all bark and no bite. His little yippie dog of a son, though . . . she imagines Gordie snapping and nipping at her ankles. It’s too real a possibility, and she shudders back to reality.

He’s still droning on, “. . . by that time I expect I’ll have a Michelin star -”

”You don’t even cook, Gordie.”

“I have some ideas. Once the dining room is remodeled, I’ll be able to get a good chef in here. And new uniforms. You’d look pretty good if you ever cleaned yourself up.”

“That’s enough. Get outta my way.” Katie shoulder-checks past him and Gordie presses a sweaty hand against the brick to catch himself as she stomps through the kitchen entrance.

“Back to work,” he shouts at her back as the door slams.

Katie kicks the garbage shoe off into the broom closet. It bounces with a squish and drops into the utility sink as she swallows the lump in her throat. Not much of a choice, she slips her other shoe off and slides into the old galoshes under the sink.

She avoids eye contact though the kitchen, passes the ringmaster at the grill, and marches through the swinging doors a little harder than she should. It’s after hours at the circus, the fat dancing bears are finished stuffing their faces, bellies bloated and pressing on the bottoms of the tables. The side show is sipping their coffees, one playing with the curled tips of his moustache, and another idly slipping a pinky through a tire rim for an earring.

The corner booth is empty, and through the glass front she sees them loading into their tiny clown car, curly orange heads garish under the sodium streetlight. They never got a check! Katie pulls the pad from her apron pocket as she races to the booth. A crumpled pile of bills is on the table. She does a quick tally, two bucks short, forget about a tip.

But it’s too late, and the clown car is backfiring down the street. Goddammit, Gordie.
Katie sleepwalks through the rest of her shift. The diners gone, she hears the dishwashers finish stacking the freshly washed pans and the back door echo as they leave for the night. She feels Buck’s bass rumble and hears Gordie’s pitchy, yapping replies. She’s never been this slow wiping down the tables and turning the chairs, but maybe she’ll have something go her way today and Gordie won’t stick around.

No such luck. The saloon doors swing open and Gordie bobs through, over to the register and counts the till. “I’m closing up tonight, Dad left me in charge,” he says with a smirk. As though an afterthought, he adds, “You’re going to have to pay for the trash cans. But it can come out of your paycheck.”

Katie slow mopping circles stop. She glares at him, but Gordie never looks up from the cash drawer. Her tone is harsh, “You know what, Gordie?”

Now he meets her gaze, eyes wide, thumb frozen on his pink tongue. Finally she smiles. “Why don’cha sit down? I’m mean, you’re the boss, right? I’ll finish with that.” His cheeks flush a little, unable to disguise his pride, misinterpreting Katie’s conniving as flirtation.

The thin stack of cash slides out of his loose grip to the counter. He stammers, but can’t complete a word. Gordie sidles into a rickety padded chair facing the storefront, hands folded in his lap.

“I’ve been thinking about your big plans,” she says, “I have a family recipe you might like. I’m French, you know.” His blush spreads to his forehead. “Just sit tight and I’ll make it for you. Won’t take long.” He’s powerless.

Katie grabs the barbecue tongs on the way to the utility sink and fishes out her ruined shoe. Carefully, she places it in a wide-brimmed soup bowl and lovingly ladles some leftover french onion inside, watching it drizzle past the tongue and down the insole to ooze out the cloth uppers and settle in the bottom of the bowl.

The soup of the day spins in the microwave, round and round, until rubber and a hint of sour garbage wafts her way. Katie takes a deep breath through her mouth and holds it as she pops open the microwave door and gently slides her revenge out and onto a tray. She tongs the shoe into the tureen for Gordie to find later, then sprinkles some pepper and parmesan over the brown broth. Soup spoon, a couple croutons garnish and that ought to do it.

Back through the saloon doors, and Gordie is still sitting quietly, an obedient lap dog for once. Katie rests the bowl in front of him and places the spoon in his hand. “Voila, eau du chaussure. Bon appetit!” Her accent is straight from a cartoon.

Gordie sniffs it and crinkles his nose, but Katie chimes in before he can object, “Note the full bodied, earthy aroma. It’s traditional rustic cuisine. Go on.”
Gordie takes a spoonful, blows on it, then slurps it down. “This, um-”

“I know, right? It takes a refined palate to really appreciate true French flavors.”

“Oh, right, yes.” Gordie takes another hesitant spoonful, and he tries to smile at her but it’s more of a grimace.

“That’s it,” Katie sing-songs as she backs to the check-out counter, pockets two twenties to cover her lost tips and ruined shoes, then unties her faded apron. She places it on the table next to Gordie, and he watches her flip the cracked rubber boots off.

“I . . .” he trails off, scooting his chair away from her.

Katie looks down at him and shakes her head. “You’ve got the wrong idea, little man. I quit.”

Gordie hops out of his chair, but he’s already watching her push the front door open. “Wha?” but Gordie’s stomach interrupts him with a gurgle and a stabbing cramp.

He’s doubled over when she turns and says, “You might want to make some fresh soup for tomorrow, Gordie -- sorry, Mr. Parker -- I’m off to join the circus.”

“Ding, ding,” says the bell as the heavy glass door closes and Katie skips barefoot down the warm sidewalk, a fresh night breeze on her face.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

IN

I have no outstanding crits of my own, so here's my offering to the crit-gods:

Week #191 - We Talk Good

Incentive - Kaishai


I chose this one as a contrast to Muffin’s ICU from week #207. I’m not really a sucker for ghost stories or anything, but the ‘talking to someone in a coma’ scenario can lead to interesting things. ICU was clearly a goodbye, and yours is someone trying to hang on.

With a couple edits, you could have made the entire thing ambiguous – and the reader could interpret it easily as a traditional spirit communication, or as the entire thing taking place in the Jackie’s head. Your driving character is the conscious one, so I’m in her head rather than Sam’s throughout. Sure, she should believe she’s actually communicating (unless you have a twist at the end where it’s clear she’s manipulating the Ouija board as a goodbye/what might have been) but maybe leave it to the reader to decide what's really going on.

Rather than have the planchette skitter away from Jackie, it could just lead to the handwritten note on the board, “I’m the one moving this thing around.” That deserves to be printed on every Ouija board, honestly. Otherwise, it’s unclear what extra letters and punctuation were written on the board. A colon, I guess?

Either way, it would be a sweet touch if either subconsciously or knowingly moved it to something that is a big character trait for Sam – someone Sharpie-ing that phrase on a Ouija board tells a ton about that person in a very economical way – sense of humor, isn’t really into supernatural stuff, but is willing to play along, especially since it’s his board.

Same goes with the candles – hospital staff would be more upset about flame candles than Mom, plus they make LED ones that would be fine to use and a supernatural flicker of electronic candles would be an indicator of Sam’s presence. Similarly, if the whole point was that Mom is not a spiritualist and the entire Ouija contact is a secret thing they do together, then that would add more character. I’m not sure if Jackie sneaked the board out from Sam’s room or something under his mother’s nose. Making that clear would build more backstory about their relationship (Ouija boards have a history like being debunked by Houdini, even, so a skeptic like me will always assume it’s just in her head. If you really want supernatural, then choose a different device for their conversation).

So, if you stick with actual supernatural communication, then when you divorce the dialogue from the context, it reads just about like any romantic comedy ‘love was right beside me the entire time’ sort of situation. Sam is a quip machine and Jackie is pretty stiff and formal until the dialogue loosens up and gets a lot more simple and human right after you say “grammatically correct.” I don’t know if that was intentional or not, but it happened, so if you revisit this story, I’d capitalize on that as they start talking about the date. I might even rearrange that a little so the entire date question is after the toad exchange and you’ve got Sam’s quips and Jackie’s formality out of the way -- make the way they speak unify by the end with each personality coming from a different side of the spectrum.

It may not be everyone’s first question, but a "How are you talking to me?" should come up if communication is that clear and there doesn’t seem to be any time limit on how long they can keep the spirit telephone working. The answer can still be I don’t know, but I’d want to see it addressed somehow.

Speaking of ‘toad,’ I don’t know if that’s the best insult choice for someone who got squashed by a truck, unless your characters comment on it. You drop a Diablo Cody-style “nerdiest nerd to ever nerd” which is not to everyone’s taste on the whole, but it’s also a little inconsistent with Sam’s other dialogue. Embrace it and punch up Sam, or scrap it and make him more milquetoast as the best friend who missed his chance (maybe).

Aunt Denise wants you to take your bra off is going to elicit a laugh (or chuckle) from your readers. But neither character laughs. One whispers it like a wistful memory, and then the other calls it creepy. I think it’s a good indicator of sexual tension between two people who are afraid to say it out loud, but you kill that feeling immediately. I’d let it breathe a little, with a physical reaction like at least a smile, and ditch the creepy. It could still flow into Sam calling himself a ‘toad’ with comment about toads and trucks.

Even the Latin name is dropped without comment. It sounds in my head like “buff-o Sam-o” like she either enjoys or is poking fun at his physique. I had to think about that one for a long while before figuring it out and verifying that that was the actual taxonomic reference and not just a straight up joke like most people do with fake Latin names.

You call back to toad at the end, but then finish with a Thank God. I don’t usually associate Ouija spirituality stuff with a capital ’g’ God, so it seems out of place. You have occult beliefs and scientific medicine as the two main components (though there’s no real conflict between the two) so ending with a third possibility about the afterlife adds confusion.

Five hundred words is tough to make work, and you did an decent job (and I realize this is like twice the length you had to work with). With a little refinement and maybe a little rearranging, it could be a tight character piece.

e: added url to title

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at Aug 12, 2016 around 15:18

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Week 210 Submission

Single Celled
1000 Words


Two winos brawled over who was taking the extra roll of TP and showered Intake Two with a rain of each others’ blood and fleas. So now they got everybody packed in this ten by twenty, double-stuffed in a sardine can while they hose Eye Two—and them—down. The cee-ohs trying to play Tetris here with monopole magnets. Everyone’s trying to avoid touching anybody else, but there’s barely room to inhale. Whole block stinks of bleach.

Dopesick gets the only wide berth. He’s curled fetal, bubbleguts finally set in. You have to straddle him to take a piss. He only moves twice an hour for emergency shits. He apologized the first couple times, but now it takes too much energy to speak. Fentanyl crashes you like a tidal wave, ain’t no lazy river. It’s a hundred horsepower even after it’s been stomped on. Sympathy runs deep; at least half the guys are surfing down off something.

Walsh is laying on the floor as best he can, right foot tucked under the knee of his bandaged left leg, hands cradling his head. The syllable is a long exhale, “gently caress.” His forehead creases as he looks through his eyebrows at the domino sitting lotus on the long, steel bench bolted to the subway-tiled walls. “Whud you do, oldhead?”

He looks down at Walsh, a crazy-rear end silver goatee masking his turkey neck. Ol’ Don Quickoats doesn’t say anything.

“You ain’t a molester, huh, oldhead?” Then Walsh sits up, wide-eyed with recognition, “Aw, poo poo, I know who you are. This guy’s nuts. Whaddid you get, like eight DUIs in one month? Yeah, it was all over the news. This fuckin’ guy goes out and gets busted every other night, crashes like a Porche an’ a Ferrari or some poo poo, and the cops just keep lettin‘im go. So he rolls up on 76 drunk as a skunk, but this time he don’t stop.”

Walsh carries on, chuckling, “He’s in his loving Escalade this time and there’s twenny cop cars chasing him, but he just keeps on goin’. Makes it the whole way to the bridge, but the Jersey cops got it blocked off on ‘eir side, so he throws it in reverse and smashes a cop car out of the way, but the goddamn toll gate got spikes and pops all the tires, and he does fuckin’ donuts before hittin’ the guardrail. You’re lucky they didn’t shoot your rear end. They ain’t lettin’ya go this time, that’s for drat sure.”

The top half of Don Quickoats’s face tries to slide below the horizon line of his cartoon-clock moustache. He’s saved further shame as Kino pipes up from the corner, “poo poo man, I was in this hotel. Dipping PCP. Fucks you up. I was in this hotel, and we’re Getting. It. On. I got my wife and one of her girlfriends there and it’s awww . . .” he kisses his fingertips then flicks his hand open, savoring the memory.

His hand drifts back to his lap as he serves up the entree. “I go hit the vending machine and I’m just wearing a towel. No shoes or anything. So, I come back to the room and the door is locked. I’m poundin’ and poundin’ and nothing. I go down to the front desk to get a key and the po-po is in the lobby.

“So I freak—they must be after me—and start running; I bolt down the hallway and outside and I’m looking behind me, and fwoomp, I go right in the pool. I swim across but the towel comes off in the pool. I just keep going. Hop the fence and in the parking lot. I sneak around and I can see them standing outside. And I’m buck naked ducking between these cars, and they’re walking to their prowler so I take off.

“I dive into this hedge by the freeway and I’m peeking on them and they pull out of the hotel and drive away. So I’m catching my breath and all a sudden they squak and the lights are flashing behind me. I’m in these bushes looking at the hotel, but my bare rear end is hanging out the other side!”

Savoy’s bright pink gums are clamped on his index knuckle, front teeth busted out years ago. There’s a round of damns and oh, shits.

“I’m tangled up in these shrubs and trying to get away, but they just taze me right in the rear end. I just drop and I’m flopping on the sidewalk, and I start pissing like a fountain. Just spraying all over, can’t hold it in, can’t stop. So they fuckin’ taze me again. That’s some poo poo.”

Kino’s about to pass the baton when he’s interrupted by the cell door. In shuffles one of the homeless brawlers, damp but clean. He’s got a mesh laundry sack slung over one shoulder, rolls of toilet paper bouncing inside, some spoils of war stuffed up each nostril. “Gen pop is all fulled up,” he says, perturbed, “Shoe, too. Stuck here til they freebird somebody. Got people sleeping on the floor in plastic Christmas sleds, four to a cell, honest to god.” He slumps to the floor, leaning against the door, sack behind his neck as a pillow.

“poo poo,” says Savoy, “It’s Hollywood. Ain’t seen you in a stretch.”

The moniker only has a veneer of irony; his first campsite was Reagan’s star on the Walk of Fame. But he’ll never tell you what brought him back east. It’s easy enough to catch a vagrancy beef when the weather turns. A roof and a few squares behind bars beats being popsicled on a park bench. The old vet hasn’t had four walls of his own in years.

You never expect to have a story. It’s a wake-up call for most. But for some the stories just keep piling up. It’s a family reunion, cramped quarters, fights, and all. A vacation from the real world. It's safer in here. For some, it’s home.

“Don’t mind me,” says Hollywood. “Who’s next?”

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

IN

sebmojo posted:


E: have a reading of sittinghere's orchid



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVGSv-rshew

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Submission - Week #211 - Next-Best Friend Week


Last Light
1458 Words


It was the first day of spring. Maggie’s face was buried in her pillow, damp angel-wing stains slowly fading. She was mostly quiet now, only the occasional sniffle interrupted the dawn chorus. Her father sat down on the foot of the bed and placed a gentle hand on her ankle. “It’s time,” he said.

At first, she refused to move. When he touched the wooden box tucked under her arm, Maggie clutched it to her chest, forming a question mark around it as she rolled to face the wall. The box had been sanded until the fragrant wood felt soft to the touch. The filigree inset on the lid was invisible unless it caught the light just so; then the blossoms and branches of silver thread gleamed.

“One more snuffle, then.” Maggie opened one eye to glare, but her father was ready with his handkerchief. He grabbed her nose and wiggled it as he wiped. She tried to resist, but the sniffle happened. “There we go,” he said. Maggie felt the hum of his baritone through the mattress more than she heard the words. She sat up.

The sun parted ways with the bristled crown of the tallest tree as they reached the grove. Maggie hugged the box as she stood in the shadow of that tree, alone. She looked back towards her father. The amber light caught his eyes as he nodded.

Maggie opened the box and tipped it, scattering the ashes among the roots. She placed the box in a hollow then turned and ran to her father. He swept up his daughter held her until the sunlight kissed their toes.

Rays burrowed down through the tangled bramble; Maggie watched as the filigree amplified the scattered beams, burning away the shade. Leaves grew from tiny buds and the tree was verdant.

Blooms unfurled and expanded, translucent as rice-paper lanterns. Inside each was an egg. The ova were swirls of color, lit from within as though luminescent jellyfish inside flirted with the surface of oil-slicked waters. The branches sagged low under the fullness, strained to reach Maggie. She plucked one with shaky hands and cupped it. Her blood glowed through her skin.

The egg trembled and a tiny beak emerged. Feeble wings stretched as the shell dissipated in a flurry of sparks. “Fen,” she said.

It was the first day of summer. Maggie slacked the line and the box-kite dipped. Fen swirled and swooped around it, an iridescent cyclone, tail feathers streamed behind longer than the kite’s. She ran as fast as she could down the packed-dirt path; the kite trailed low behind her and Fen glided alongside.

Exhausted, she collapsed against a mossy embankment while the kite fluttered aimlessly to the ground. Fen lit beside her. They rested until Maggie caught her breath then went in search of water.

Small farmsteads dotted the rolling hills where they roamed, and soon they found an unattended handpump. Maggie lapped at the sweet water while Fen soaked in the midday sun. Fen leapt to attention, hackles raised.

“What is it, Fen?”

She heard the cracking of the rough-hewn fence. Before she could turn, the pig charged. It crashed into the pits of her knees, upending Maggie. The pig reoriented. The swirling whorls on Fen’s feathers resolved to a singular, glowing amaranth. The air around Fen miraged and the grass withered in the haze. Fen faced it down.

The pig bolted for the treeline. Maggie’s sense returned as she massaged the back of her head. She saw eyes peering through parted curtains in a window of the farmhouse. She waved, and the eyes disappeared as the curtain dropped.

She marched up and pounded on the door. It opened just a crack and she saw the face of a boy her own age. “Hey,” she said. “We’ve lost your pig.”

The door opened the rest of the way, and the boy stepped out. “Mum’s not going to like that.” The boy examined the fence and shimmed the slat back into the post. He scooped some feed into a worn burlap pouch and trudged after the pig.

“Wait up.” Maggie skipped along a few steps until she matched his stride. “What’s your name?”

“Gideon.”

“We’ll help you catch it,” Maggie said. Fen took flight and circled around them as they walked, darting off occasionally as a butterfly or bee caught interest. When they reached the edge of the forest, Gideon shushed her and scattered a few kernels on the ground.

He put two fingers in his mouth and loosed a high, clear whistle. Almost instantly, the brush rustled and the pig burst forth. It rutted the ground at Gideon’s feet, eager for the morsels. Adversaries forgotten, the pig followed trail of food Gideon doled out, and was soon returned to the pen.

Gideon sat on the porch while Maggie laid in the grass beside, idly flipping a heel. “I didn’t need your help,” he finally said.

“I know,” she replied. “But it’s more fun this way.”

It was the first day of fall. Gideon was in the field, stacking chaffs of wheat. Magdalena watched him through the kitchen window as she kneaded, the same window through which Gideon first spied on her. The old curtains were drawn up. Gideon’s mother had sewn them just before he was born.

He knocked his dusty boots on the door jamb as she took the loaves from the oven. They ate their simple meal, then retired. She wasn’t sure if he was asleep or not, but she whispered into the mattress hoping he would feel it. “Gideon, we’re having a baby.”

Little Dalia crawled in the yard. Magdalena watched through the kitchen window as she made dinner for her husband and daughter. Fen was fully grown now, larger than any of the livestock. With the last moulting, the shifting eddies of color on Fen’s feathers gave way to a permanent scarlet resplendence.

Little Dalia screamed. Fen towered over the baby. Magdalena raced outside, the bread pan clattering to the floor. She snatched up her child. Dalia’s hands were scalded. Fen charred grass with each footfall, unable to control the ferocity of his power.

There was no malice in Fen, but the danger was real. There was just a look between them—Maggie and Fen—before Fen took to the sky. Magdalena carried her baby to the old pump and let the cool water bring relief.

Gideon had put the cart in the barn and was walking back to the house when he saw Fen fly overhead and out of sight.

It was the first day of winter. Gideon was never much for conversation, but each harvest took more out of him. He was only a little gray at the temples, but his eyes were tired. Magdalena and Gideon sat outside and watched the sun dip below the trees. Their pinkies intertwined as they rocked on the swing. The rusty chains echoed the last locusts—and Gideon’s faint snore.

A light appeared at the horizon as though the sun reversed course. For a moment, Magdalena thought she, too, had fallen asleep. The comet bore down the small farm, and as it shot past, she made out a familiar outline.

“Fen?”

She hadn’t thought of Fen in many years. Dalia was grown and married. Magdalena stood as her old companion circled wide around the farm before finally settling down near the pen. Fen shone like firelight, but she felt no heat as she approached. She cautiously reached up to stroke Fen’s beak and smiled when they met. The warmth was gentle and soothing. Where Fen stepped, the first frost melted away, but the grass remained green.

“Gideon, Fen’s back!” The gray of his temples had spread and he sported a shock of unruly white hair that sparkled in Fen’s light. She went to wake him and saw that it was frost.

Magdalena stood in the shadow of the tallest tree in the grove, Dalia beside her. She held a rough-hewn box in her hands. There was a shim in one of the joints. She placed the box in a hollow and they stepped away. Folded inside was Gideon’s curtain.

The light was not the morning sun, but Fen’s radiance warming Magdalena and her daughter. Maggie’s friend roosted in the top brambles of the old tree, shining like a beacon. Magdalena could always find her way back to the grove, but the tree never bloomed again.

It was the first day of spring. Dalia sat in the old farmhouse. She embroidered a curtain as she looked out the kitchen window, while her husband mended the fence. Near the edge of the woods, just below the setting sun, she saw the last light of the day reflecting off the gravestones of her parents.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Lazy Beggar posted:

Chasing That
787 words
I was listening to the recent IDEOTV podcast about symbolism in the Dan Brownian mindset.

You identified a lot of symbols, but you made absolutely no effort to figure anything out. So, crit for tat, you're lucky that I also said, "ah gently caress it," and decided to really delve into this one.

Your little creature behaves like the dumb, baby ghost thing in the Hulu stoner show Deadbeat or maybe the cartoon version of Slimer. It could have been cute, but you're dealing with addiction (and criminal impulses) so you can't just take your story at face-value as a kiddie adventure. Right out of the gate you drop a c-bomb; so you're inviting, if not a grown-up reading, at least an adolescent one.

It might just be me, and sometimes a man stroking his one-eyed whale is just a man stroking his one-eyed whale. Then again, it might not.

So please enjoy my thoughts along with loads of out-of-context quotes from the er, seminal masterpiece Moby-Dick (and a few Moby lyrics).

Herman Melville posted:

What the white whale was to Ahab, has been hinted; what, at times, he was to me, as yet remains unsaid.

Lazy Beggar posted:

My mind wasn’t what it used to be. I had been a scientist.

Melville posted:

is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows- a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink?
Real smart kid. I read rather than watched. Science is observation? Even engineering and maths are applied science, which means doing something with the knowledge. So, TV BAD I guess Had friends, knew people when I walked down the street. Now I just tried to stay clean. The council of what? helped me. Well they created something to help. First time I saw it, I thought I was high. if mad science in this world is used as government sanctioned rehabilitation surely your character would know about it. If it's magic, then why did they summon some demon/angel for this moronic reason? Waste of magic It’s about as long as my bony forearm. It has the body of a whale, The baculum of a dwarf sperm whale is about the size and shape of a human ulna but with just one enormous eye covering most of its head. Mike Wazowski, Mike Wazowski, Mike Wazowski No mouth and a pair of feathered wings.

“What is that?” I said. I might have peppered my question with some profanities. You don’t forget them. you did, apparently
“Your new best friend,” said some double-glazing time to make the donuts stinkyhole from the council. Reference to the sacred feminine. lol, j/k more like Georgia O'Queef, amirite?

Melville posted:

Still, she was tolerably tight, and but little more than the ordinary pumping of a morning served to keep her free.
EAye, but he was right. This little monster was my guardian angel. I didn’t want one. Who wants an eye on them all the time? This entire dynamic makes no sense. Is this thing a scarlet letter, or a parole officer looking over your shoulder, or a counselor to help you kick addiction? This eyeball whale is created to do something—but it's never clear what exactly. So it must be a metaphor. I see

I got used to that eye.

Melville posted:

It was not an eye like Harry's tho' Harry's was large and womanly. It shone with a soft and spiritual radiance, like a moist star in a tropic sky;
Had to name it. My parole officer supervisory agent right here, critter not needed suggested Moby.

Melville posted:

In the fishery, they usually go by the generic name of Gay-Headers.
Moby seemed to like it. Sorted. When I watched TV he would land on my lap and lie there all night. He would get frightened when I watched sports. Couldn’t help myself. Something about an athlete messing up gets me going. Help, I watched sports-man knock the bar down with his peen and I don't understand these feelings I'm having I would apologise and he would come back, mollified for a while. Until the next mistake made me boil. I stopped watching sport. Wasn’t fair on Moby.

Melville posted:

He would hum over his old rigadig tunes while flank and flank with the most exasperated monster.
Moby’s back felt horrible to stroke, but his wings were pleasant to touch. It wasn’t long until I was stroking those wings compulsively while my ego was replaced with that craving. OK, I'm working out those feelings, one stroke at a time One time when I almost gave in to it, Moby, flew at me and my poison,

Melville posted:

“Squeeze! Squeeze! Squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me,"
knocking it on the floor. I cursed. I swiped at him. you're such a naughty boy Still regret that.

But before I could get on my knees,

Herman Melville posted:

that-every time my heels went up and my head went down
he had knocked over an open bottle of beer.

Melville posted:

As for the taste of it, I can only describe it as answering to the name itself; which is certainly significant of something vile. But it is drunk in large quantities by the poor people about Liverpool, which, perhaps, in some degree, accounts for their poverty.
No chance of a high now. I had a good greet. oi guv, let's pop down to the pub and get high on a few pints, wot? It took a while before I could talk to him again. When I did, I apologised. And thanked him. He came back to my lap.

Melville posted:

To do her a good, I had periled myself. So down, down, Aleema.

go down in the dark.

Melville quoting Dryden posted:

And give no chance, but swallow in the fry,
Which through their gaping jaws mistake the way."

I worked at a local college in the evenings. Sweeping and the like. Sometimes I would linger at the door of at teaching room when there was a night class on. how do you like them apples? Didn’t take long before I felt like an idiot.

Melville posted:

one of those natures, anomalously vicious, which would almost tempt a metaphysical lover of our species to doubt whether the human form be, in all cases, conclusive evidence of humanity,
Especially with Moby about. People knew what he meant. A fall from grace. I guess your character is the only person in the world with DWIs or something? There should be a slew of flying monsters around I tried not to resent him for what others thought. But I did. I also knew he was the only thing stopping me from falling further. how? Aside from allowing you some frenzied wing-stroking it doesn't do anything to help He could tell when I was upset with him. I tried to console him, but he would be sad for days. ♫ Why does my heart feel so bad? ♫ This is a bad guardian angel (or whatever it is)

I walked to work. I wasn’t permitted to drive with my record. No harm. One evening, I walked past a group of dolled up girls.

Melville posted:

No wonder that in old times sperm was such a favorite cosmetic. Such a clearer! such a sweetener! such a softener; such a delicious mollifier!

Upon the whole, aided by the resources of the toilet, her appearance at distance was such, that some might have thought her, if anything, rather beautiful, though of a style of beauty rather peculiar and cactus-like.
I avoided looking at them. I didn’t want to cause offence, and didn’t like the thoughts in my head when I looked. But they saw me.

Melville posted:

all you had to do was to go up and kill them: they were too frightened to resist.
“Disgusting. Why are they allowed to be out alone?”
“If only he was alone! People are grossed out by the familiar and not the character, so what is the point? That slimy gremlin is an abomination.”
so you added some extra description here. Lesse: bony forearm, whale body, one eye, no mouth, feathered wings for a sportsdude to stroke, moby, slimy, gremlin



That ought to do it

Melville posted:

a being from some other sphere. His tastes were our abominations;
“Tell me about it. I feel sick.” qft
I marched past them as quickly as possible. Moby wasn’t for it though.

Melville posted:

Rely upon it, he will fight you to the hilt, for his bony blade has never a scabbard.
He stayed behind. He swooped about their faces and tangled himself in one of their nests of hair. She screamed.

Melville posted:

the scene which had just occurred admonished me of the danger of trifling with the wayward and passionate spirits against whom it was vain to struggle, and might even be fatal to do go.
The other two laughed, keeping their distance. Moby struggled to free himself, but couldn’t. The girl slapped at him.

Melville posted:

had a strange way of touching, as by accident, the arm or hand of comely young men, and seemed to reap a secret delight from it,
No luck freeing him either. I ran back with a belly full of crushing sickness.

Melville posted:

Beat thy belly, then, and wag thy ears. Jig it, men, I say;
I didn’t need any more reminding that I was a low life sack of poo poo.

Melville quoting Plutarch posted:

down it goes all incontinently
I set about freeing Moby from his hirsute prison. hair jail=hair gel= you get the idea

Melville posted:

Her hair was of a deep, rich chestnut, but worn in close, short curls all round her head. Her Indian figure was not without its impairing effect on her bust, while her mouth would have been pretty but for a trace of moustache.
It didn’t take long. I swear this never happens
“Don’t touch me! Ugh. Get away from me!”
I apologised and fled the scene. Who knows what sort of trouble I’d get into if I lingered.

Melville posted:

She was almost mortally stabbed;

and, after vaguely lingering a while, with another shower of incomprehensible compliments and apologies, tripped like a fairy from the chamber.
I was furious with Moby. Isn't your flying eyeball supposed to be keeping a literal eye on your character, keeping him out of trouble? Why is it assaulting people, anyway?
“It's quite cute actually,” one of the laughing girls said before I escaped. “Abnormal? Yeah, but still cute.”

Melville posted:

It was an aromatic sword; like the ancient caliph's, giving out a peculiar musky odor by friction.
I turned around, and she smiled. At me. I know it didn’t mean much to her. But god, it meant a lot to me. Probably smiled at Moby actually. Either way it reminded me of kindness. I didn’t fall in love with her or anything. But it felt like it. I made a mess in a streetwalker's hair and mistook her pity for validation

Melville posted:

And love, which in the eye of its object ever seeks to invest itself with some rare superiority, love, sometimes induced me to prop my failing divinity; though it was I myself who had undermined it.
EAye, and I remembered those highs too. Those scummy episodes forever intertwined with happiness. I forgot my anger for Moby. I felt lucky for the first time in a long time. You just have to remember it isn’t all poo poo, all the time.

Melville posted:

Dunderfunk is made of hard biscuit, hashed and pounded, mixed with beef fat, molasses, and water, and baked brown in a pan.
I wonder if Moby was upset that they thought I was disgusting or he was an abomination? Probably a bit of both. He can be quite sensitive. refractory period And protective.

Melville posted:

assisted by two allies, heavily backs the grandissimus, as the mariners call it,

The mincer now stands before you invested in the full canonicals of his calling. Immemorial to all his order, this investiture alone will adequately protect him,

Melville posted:

For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity.

And always remember:

Melville posted:

he who declared he loved a good hater was but a respectable sort of Hottentot

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In with Find Out What Went On When We Were Undercover for 48 Hours in Ukraine

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Week 212 Submission
Headline: Find Out What Went On When We Were Undercover for 48 Hours in Ukraine

Man-Made Elements
1495 Words


There’s always a tightening in your chest when they look at your documents. When you’re backed by the good ol’ US government, the forgeries are top notch. But there’s that slight worry in the back of your mind: did they change some form, or update some protocol that Intel missed? Communication can be spotty. Someone misses a dead drop with the latest passcode and your goose is cooked. Or it’s straight up intercepted and this whole thing’s a trap.

You think, oh, they’re just bureaucrats. This is routine and they’re working the rubber stamp until quitting time. But things are different over here. There’s a sense of duty beyond obligation or a paycheck, more than saluting the flag and feeling patriotic. There’s something else. They’re always on edge, looking up at the sky as though the B-52s will zoom over the horizon at any moment to bomb them back to the stone age.

Best way to overcome it is to detach. Stay mechanical and rote, remind yourself of the hundreds of times you’ve slid through a checkpoint without incident. Just feel yourself lift out of your body and watch things unfold at a distance, like it’s on TV. Then comes the sense of relief as you snap back into your head; papers in order and you escape the steely gaze of the customs officer.

The apartments are austere; so different from the old metros like Leningrad or Moscow, where the baubles of aristocracy and the church still pepper the cityscape. The modern currency is concrete, sturdy and efficient. Brutalist boxes of black and grey.

My bunkmate is unpacking when I get to the room. “Leonid Tartarov,” he says with a thrust of his hand.

“Nikolai Amelin,” I reply as we shake. Of course, that’s a lie. “Niko.” The best way to avoid suspicion is to breed familiarity.

He shows off a new, laminate identification card. It’s the highest scientific clearance. “I just received my promotion,” he says, brimming with excitement.

“Congratulations.” I smile and pull my own from the pocket of my suitcase. It’s the same top secret clearance, but it’s been artificially aged with scuffs and a yellowing of the plastic. “We should celebrate.”

The stereotype about Russians and their vodka is essentially true. Thing is, Gorbachev’s priced it out of the common man’s pocket, so any alcohol is hard to come by. Fortunately, I’m prepared. I dump the contents of my suitcase on the bunk. Nothing special, clothes, work boots, toiletries.

The lining unzips fully from the case; it’s pillowed like an inflated raft. I nod toward the water glasses on the sink and Leonid arches an eyebrow as he brings them over. Every spy has a goodie bag. Chocolate bars and booze are the quickest ways to make friends when you don’t have feminine wiles.

A twist breaks the seal at the top of a pouch and I pour a double vodka into each glass. Leonid sniffs at his and his eyes grow wide. “Nastrovia,” he says in thanks.

“Za zadrovye,” I return. To your health. We down the shots and I pour a second round. The scientists and engineers are all from Russia, and I speak it with a light Moscow accent. It lends authority anywhere in the Union. Civilians of a certain age only speak Ukrainian here, and I know it well enough. The pogroms hit virtually all areas of the USSR, and well-educated Jews that escaped to America were recruited to teach many local dialects.

“Let’s go up to the roof,” he suggests. I sweep my glass towards the door and out he goes.

We lean against the cement balustrade looking out as the sun begins to set, arms and drinks dangling over the edge, sixteen storeys above the town. It’s curious; there’s a hammer and sickle emblem painted up here on the roof, but it’s impossible to see from the ground. A taunt for the eyes in the sky, it seems, and I’m sure Washington is watching.

“When I was a boy,” Leonid starts, “I never dreamed of anything like this. My parents farmed. Peasants, I suppose. I’d work from sun up to sun down, then study by the fire. We didn’t even have electricity.” He laughs and takes a swig. “But somehow, my talents were discovered and when I was sixteen, I was sent to Volgograd to study. Now, here I am. I’m working to light the entire nation.” He’s flush with drink and pride.

My cover story is well rehearsed. Good family from just outside Moscow, mid-level party officials, not high-ranking enough to bring attention. Was always expected to go to university and make something of myself. The obligated achiever is common here. But Leonid’s background is strikingly similar to my own. The CIA has a knack for finding the brightest minds early and plucking them in the name of democracy and national security.

He points out some landmarks. “They’ve built a pool, and the library is astounding. Basketball courts. And of course, that.” It’s impossible to miss—the Ferris wheel nearly as tall as the buildings that encircle it, golden gondolas catch the fading light. “This is home, Niko.”

The concrete monstrosities surround a community. It looks friendly from up here. These apartments are a far cry from a three-bedroom ranch with a picket fence, but families do live here. There’s room for more life than just work and sleep.

“To home,” I say and clink my glass on his. Pripyat looks different from the inside.

The morning brings even more color. The forest glows brown and green in the sunlight. Maybe I refused to see it before. The spring doesn’t care which side you’re on. Leonid and I walk around the town. He’s only been here for a few months, but he talks like he’s been here his entire life. Knows every alleyway and monument. We sit outside and eat a simple lunch under the shadow of the Ferris wheel. The entire amusement park will open in a few days. I get a sudden pang that I won’t be able to ride the wheel with Leonid. No, bury that. Deep. It’s an excuse to head back the apartments and get some rest before the shift tonight. Maybe another drink.

It’s a short ride on the shuttle bus to the plant. Leonid sits beside me quietly. I’m grateful for that. I can’t let him distract me.

Orientation is compartmentalized, but I’m exactly where I need to be: Coolant Systems. Leonid’s in Core Control. Not everyone here is as enthusiastic as Leonid. That’s exactly what I want. Exploit the boredom of routine. Tests have been going on all day, by the book. I’m just hanging back and observing. Watching people watch gauges.

Finally, it’s time. An engineer gets antsy. No problem, I’ll cover things while you relieve yourself. I sit at his console. Just a steady turn of the dial and the coolant pressure decreases. It doesn’t take much for an alarm state, the rods to be doused and then ruined.

Two days work, one twist of a knob, and I’ve set the Russian nuclear program back a year or more. Maybe take all four reactors offline while they figure out what happened. Halt new construction.

Klaxons blare. Leonid is on the intercom, “This is Core Control, we’ve lost coolant pressure. Bring it up immediately.”

My reply is terse. “Systems malfunction. Initiate emergency shutdown.”

“Inserting control rods. Get coolant online now!”

The needles on my panel redline. I open all the coolant valves. But it’s too late.

The core rages out of control.

I scream into the intercom, “Evacuate. Evacuate. Core temperature critical.” Before I can repeat the command, an explosion shakes the facility.

Steam erupts from pipes all around. A panicked runner is vaporised. Geiger counters click so fast it’s one long tone, cicadas heralding the plague.

The intercom crackles. “Coolant, respond.”

“Leonid,” I shout, “You have to get out.”

“Niko?”

“This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

There’s nothing I can do but run. There are a few people lying outside. I feel sick. More explosions as I collapse, a geyser of flame shoots high in the sky.

Leonid finally emerges from the building. His ID badge is a blackened lump fused to his shirt. I can see his skin blistering. He drops down beside me. He sobs, but he’s unable to form tears. “I did everything I could, Niko.”

I can barely turn my head. “My name’s Daniel. Nearly yours backwards. We’re opposites.”

“What?”

“Nevermind. I’m sorry, Leo. You never got a chance to ride the Ferris wheel.”

“Niko. . . .” It’s the last thing he says.

We lay there, the two of us. Leo closes his eyes, and it’s my fault. One last look at Leo’s face. He’s almost unrecognizable, but I see him in there. I hear his ragged breath. I die a Russian. Deniability stateside. The headlines will blame Leo. My civic duty done, my comrade betrayed. The forest around us glows red and amber.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

IN with CLOCKPUNK

fjgj. Thanks all for the crits, too. Good points.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Week 213 Submission

Playthings Outgrown
1855 Words

Punk genre: Clockpunk

As Merritt Hawthorne bowed to the queen, her pom of barrette-tipped braids clattered. A courtier behind her cleared his throat and muttered, “Curtsey. . .” Merritt tried to adjust, but only succeeded in twisting her legs in an ungainly pose. The queen smiled. She was only a year or two older. Merritt had never been to court.

It was coronation day; the regency ended, princess now of age. Each year on the princess’s birthday Merritt’s father personally gifted a music box. He designed and built the mechanisms that made ballerinas twirl, horses prance and jump, or boats raise their sails and race around the harbor. This was the most elaborate construction he had devised. He worked in secret for the entire year, but her father was too ill to travel now, and so the honor fell to her.

Merritt presented the ornate box to the queen. The queen undid the delicate silver ribbon and lifted the lid. The trill of a snare drum echoed through the chamber. The queen didn’t know what to make of it. Rather than the usual whimsy, soldiers stood at attention on a lap-sized battlefield.

Drummers and fifers lined up and began to play the national anthem. There was a murmur of approval from the crowd and the light patter of polite clapping.

The soldiers moved to mock battle stations, firing toy springbows. As the anthem finished, the soldiers returned to precise lines and saluted. They raised their tiny weapons. The queen gasped as a shower of shining confetti burst from each of the tiny soldiers.

The room cheered at the unexpected surprise.

As the shimmering cloud settled, confusion rose. A sparkling patina coated her face and regalia like the starscape, then grim, crimson coronas blossomed. Her head dipped and her crown rolled to the floor. A hush descended, then dropped to cold silence.

Merritt heard the swish of gears in the music box. As the queen’s ermine mantle absorbed her lifeblood like a watercolor brush to paper, the cylinders spun and began to play a different song—a funeral dirge.

Hands rushed to the queen. The chamberlain slammed the music box shut. Guardsmen with ceremonial polearms barred the entrance to the great hall. Merritt fled past the bedlam at the throne and into the guts of the castle.

Her heart pounded as she wound her way down a tight spiral staircase and through the kitchens past chefs stuffing geese and rolling pastry. Onward, through the scullery, as the jangle of the guards reverberated on the staircase. Thirty paces ahead, a slab door creaked inward. Daylight from outside filled the hallway.

Merritt barreled over the farmhand, his bushel basket flipped into the alley as he sprawled. She kept moving, no time to apologize, out into the dank air of the city. She hopped up into the unattended farm cart as shouts came from the parapets. Merritt shook the old mare’s reins as hard as she could and the cart lurched forward. She glanced behind only to catch the spray as a springbow bolt from above thwunked into an overripe melon.

Bolts rained down, and the mare galloped as fast as her rickety legs would allow, across the wide boulevard where the honor guard in their finery waited to parade. She was over the bridge and into Old Town by the time soldiers emerged from the castle portcullis and word spread.

The street narrowed to a ramshackle ravine, a cat’s cradle of clotheslines crisscrossed from unglassed windows, five storeys above. Without warning, the cart caught the old stone walls on both sides and Merritt pitched forward. She slammed into the paving stones. She tried to right herself, but her head swam. She felt the rhythmic rumble of the horses in the stones under her ear as she blacked out.

——-

“Merritt. Merritt.”

She heard her name being called from afar, then closer, louder. Consciousness whooshed back and she bolted upright, still ready for flight. The bright blur dimmed into something manageable and she recognized a familiar face beside the bed.

“Bailey John? What’s happening?”

He was in the late stages of middle age, same as her ailing father. “I have to admit, I’m impressed. I didn’t think you’d make it out of the castle, let alone to Wicker Street. We’ll have to work on your horsemanship; if that mare wasn’t driving, you might have escaped completely.”

“What? The queen—I think she’s dead.”

“Well done on that front, my dear. We’re so very proud.” Bailey John’s face creased into an odd smile.

Merritt gingerly touched the poultice on her forehead. Surely this was a nightmarish hallucination from the head injury. “Proud? You, you meant for that to happen? Where’s my father? I have to see him.”

“Steady, my dear. There will be long days ahead.”

She heard raucous voices from downstairs. She must be in a room above Bailey John’s pub. He gestured to a plate of bread and cheese as he stood. “I’ll leave you to your rest,” he said. As he pulled the door shut behind him, he added, “Welcome to the revolution.”

Merritt bounded to the door and yanked, but the lock held. She could, at least, overcome this obstacle. She unclipped a dozen barrettes from her hair and set them out on the bed. They were more than just baubles. Each one was part of a mechanical device. With a practiced hand, she clicked the piece together into a skeleton key.

She inserted the thin blade into the lock and twisted the key-bow several times around like a wind-up toy. It hopped in the lock as the pins set in the tumbler, then clicked as it wound down. With a sure turn, she unlocked the door and was out.

Merritt slunk down the hallway to the window above the stairs. The noise from below drowned out the creaky hinges as she opened it and climbed to the sill. With a deep breath, she leapt across and caught the gutter.

The tin bent under her weight and old rivets popped one by one from the eave. She swung like a pendulum and was unceremoniously tossed into a refuse pile. Merritt had no time to thank the stars, as pub patrons gawked through the dingy windows at the girl who dropped from the rooftops.

At least she knew where she was, home wasn’t far. She started around the corner of The Thistle Pig only to be stopped dead in her tracks by the sight of Bailey John assisting her own father into a carriage.

She couldn’t hold it back, “Father!”

He glanced over the carriage door at her, handkerchief at his mouth; and without a word, closed it. The carriage drove off. Bailey John trundled towards her. She summoned whatever strength she had remaining and sprinted towards home.

Through the tenement blocks she raced, hopping fences and breezing through open windows alike, reaching home ahead of Bailey John. All her father’s tools and projects were gone. She scaled the ladder to her loft. Her meager possessions were still intact.

She rummaged through a duffel filled with odds and ends and found the pistol-sized springbow she had been tinkering with. It was loaded with two barbed harpoons, each the size of a finger. It would have to be a perfect shot to be lethal, but regardless would certainly hurt. She dug for anything that might be of use, when she noticed a pouch that didn’t belong.

Carefully, she loosed the leather strap and opened it. Even in the dim loft, the metal shavings and diamond dust sparkled—the same razor-sharp shrapnel that comprised the music box’s deadly payload.

She slouched on her cot, thoughts spinning with her father’s betrayal and abandonment. Why? How could he? Before she could ponder any more, Bailey John clomped into the workshop, two thugs in tow.

“Merritt. I know you’re here. Come out and talk. I’ll explain everything.”

She answered with a harpoon that lunked into support beam, dangerously close to Bailey John’s ear.

“You’re testing my patience, girl. I promised your father I wouldn’t hurt you, but accidents do happen.”

“Stay where you are,” said Merritt. Bailey John saw the tip of the small springbow peek from the edge of the loft.

He raised his hands, fingers splayed. “Steady on, girl. You’re old enough to understand. Look around at this hovel, at the shanties around you. The aristocracy does not care about us. They waste your father’s talent on what? Toys? Playthings for the rich. All it took was a man of action, me, to shape his genius into something that matters. Something to change the world.”

“Weapons? He - I - killed the queen.”

“You’re holding a weapon right now. Likely crafted by your own hand.”

He was right. Merritt’s father had taught her how to build and fire the springbow. Was he really inciting a revolution? She was just a pawn. . . .

One of the goons was on the ladder to the loft, emboldened by her hesitation. She fired and the bolt burrowed into the top of his shoulder. He dropped from the ladder.

“You’re shooting at the wrong people. But see how easy that was?” Bailey John leaned against the timber column, grasping the embedded springbow bolt for balance.

He would, at least, lead her to her father. “OK, I’m coming down.” Merritt climbed down, away from the two goons.

Without warning, Bailey John wrenched the harpoon bolt from the beam and lunged at her, snatching her arm in his huge hand. “I think your father will be very motivated by a martyr.”

He raised the makeshift dagger to strike. Merritt flicked the lockpick device behind him and it rattled to life. The distraction loosened his grip and Merritt squirmed free.

Bailey John turned, and Merritt smashed the pouch of razor dust into his face. He hacked, but it was too late. He inhaled and dust shredded him from the inside. He dropped to the floor. Bailey John was nothing more than a bad memory.

The thugs fled, unnoticed. Merritt gathered up the last of her worldly goods and packed them in the duffelbag. She sat on the small stoop and finally allowed tears to roll down her face.

A boy, not more than five, approached with hands cupped. Merritt nodded indoors. “Take whatever you find,” she told him. He rushed in, unphased by the dead man and immediately grabbed her lockpick device.

“Hey, not that,” she shouted, but the boy was already halfway down the street.

Maybe the city was ready for a sea change; but her father was a murderer, not a hero. Maybe she was, too. He forced the city into chaos and she was an unwilling accomplice. She could track him down; but she wasn’t sure if she could ever forgive him, or ever really understand. She could escape, make it over the border to the south.

As she wiped the tears from her eyes, she realized maybe she understood a little. She hopped off the stoop, adjusted her duffelbag, and sprinted after the little boy. She didn’t have a grand plan like her father; but she would reclaim what was hers.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Thanks all for judgment and quick crits.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

I will jam with you as a judge.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Phew, you dinguses almost broke my brain. My crits are writ, but judges meeting has yet to be convened and my thoughts relayed to head judge Rhino. Maybe not settled until this time tomorrow so have this to chew on:

INTERPROMPT
400 Words

give me a little taste about a bribe, payola, graft, palm-greasing, *ahem* you know, nothing that will call unnecessary attention

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Jib's Crit Recap for Week 214 - THUNDERDOME ALL-STAR TRIBUTE

I read in judgemode, so anonymous crits. These are ranked in my preferred order, which wasn't much of an issue this week, at least for the top and bottom entries. Good, mid, and bad were pretty clearly stratified. I wrote a summary sentence or two about each one to give to the other judges and my rankings for Rhino to consider. That's provided, then the reading crit follows for each.

TOP LOOKS

1 PALE SPECTRES - "Out of Memory"

I can tell right away this was written in Spectre-vision. I feel like I’m watching an old 3D movie without wearing the paper glasses. Your style is unique and often inscrutable without having a decoder ring, but I like trying to puzzle it out even if I’m not part of your club. Some people probably hate that though, so who knows where this will rank when all is said and done. I think T-Rex has the win probably, but I’d give you two HMs [ed. you won and it wasn't a fight]
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So Xuan is 26, so this is taking place in 2009? It’s written in super cyberpunk future language (which I dig) but I also remember people still listening to chiptune stuff, and I recall going to some shows in the 2006-2009 years so it wouldn’t be that dead of a scene. I guess maybe under the Tokyo lights. . . . Oh, this is a slice of spooky action at a distance since Tokyo and her father is on the other side of the ocean. It took me until second reading and I looked up Dirty War to realize this wasn’t in Japan somewhere, even with the Fred/Gazoo contrast mentioned.

The quantum business is a little fuzzy, since there’s other meaning outside the uncertainty principle which you reference, like a photon referred to as a quantum of light, and you refer to the fake blood causing an explosion of light from her eyes, which I guess allows the word to pull double duty, but also muddies things up a bit.

I was really imagining the dance floor like a Pac-Man board and the dancer all power pellets and ghosts, but then the fake blood is everywhere and I don’t get it. Circe the temptress with the cup and food I understand, and fake blood/’fake’ soylent connection, but I can’t tell if the over arching comparison is between meat and digital space and that’s what the blood represents. So hmm.

I might try to dissect this point some more in the future, but I will say that Xuan meaning ‘choice’ in Japanese but John in Spanish is interesting. You might have made the gender and preference of the main character vague or fluid to match. Or a straight up change between when Xuan is in Argentina vs. Tokyo.
Doesn’t seem like there’s much consideration of a choice between Circe and Alec for Xuan, so there’s a chance to mine that, too.

Your saving grace is that you pack so much imagery into this that practically anyone who thinks about it metaphorically AT ALL will be able to get something interesting out of it. I really can’t tell if this is meticulously plotted metaphor or your brain just works like this naturally, because some things feel like happenstance, but I keep finding things to ponder, so it’s fascinating. Anyone who reads it as purely literal will think it’s dumb

It just gave me so much to think about and connecting the dots is cool if you like the trippiness of overlaying real science on the story and just seeing so many patterns. I think I'm turning into Nicolas Cage. (help)

Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Music OK, location wasn’t clear from context without specific knowledge about the Dirty War, but doesn’t really impact the story since it’s mostly in da club
*****

2 Tyrannosaurus - "Wolf Honeymoon"

Can’t figure out where Rap Opera fits in, but it’s a solid story. I was prepped for bad with the first use of the dead body as a pillow, then soon realized what was going on and it was good. Like, this is a crystal clear story about a fever dream, whereas Spectres wrote a fever dream seen through a prism. So toss up on which I like better, they’re both so different. I think this will probably win since it could probably be published in a small magazine as is, rap opera be damned. But we were hoping for this as subtext: http://www.somethingawful.com/your-...notes-kellys-2/
--
Would you like to join me in using our compatriot’s dead body as a pillow? In my version that should come after the first scene change. One little section of war normalcy so the surprise of odd behavior and madness hits harder, or maybe something less squicky as the first sign.

I like this story. Aside from the music theme being completely obtuse or unused (the structure with the chanting?), the traditional superstitions and such were clear from context clues and unlike a few, I didn’t feel like I had to read a cultural primer to understand the story.

Making an eyepatch for the corpse and tying it to the tree to protect it from floodwaters are good details and I can rationalize doing it myself when trapped with a dead so-and-so I know. It sounds grim and a little crazy, but realistic. I’ve seen the slyly eating a beetle then looking around in some movie or several, but for the overall theme of PTSD in a warzone, this is a good piece. One of the best of the week. I need to watch that Daniel Radcliffe fart movie soon.

Setting fine, still unclear about how the rap opera is included.
*****

3 CaligulaKangaroo "Jean and Milan"

This has some proofing and grammar issues that keep it from being a winner (and maybe even drop it out of HM contention), but it was the one I enjoyed the most. Good character voice especially when discussing Tyler. Definitely the most fun use of the music genre out of all the entries.
--
Loads of energy and a good sense of humor. A few typos and awkward wordings that a little polish would fix, but it was fun to read. Maybe one too many uses of ‘lunatic.’ Paragraph explaining your narrator’s background with the drug lords and getting beaten for asking for decent food is especially sloppy. We all run in to time constraints, but proofread, goddammit. There are missing words that jar the reader right out of the story. That alone can drop you into DM range, regardless of any redeeming qualities. A fun mess is better than a polished turd, but why make us choose?

Some situational problems. It’s rather unbelievable that a star of Tyler loving Milan’s stature can’t get coke. A guy like this would have an entourage far beyond some local cops. I think your heroes would end up smashing a bodyguard or manager. Now that could work if you knock out a manager and then the pop idol wants to get score some drugs.

I think the ending fell too far into cliche from the temptation to have a zippy last line with a turn. The clean cut Disney star wanting drugs and being a bit of a bad boy is something that has not only happened for real, it’s been parodied many times.

But I like Jean and the narrator’s relationship and Jean talking about Tyler is done right. I’d like the continuing adventures of these two. "I am overwhelmed with emotions," while glomping onto a pop idol in a fur coat just tickled me.

Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Seychelles, sure. Weirdo busting out of prison to stalk his pop idol is the cleverest use of the genre
*****

MID/NO COMMENT

4 Thranguy - "An Aquarian Expedition"

Felt like two stories mashed together, not bad but not great in any way. Skips over fleshing out the love triangle/quadrangle to get to Lovecraft monsters without any real horror.
--
So that took a turn. The dynamic of an aging band is always ripe for exploration, and the beginning is decent. Nice touches with recalling an old Rolling Stone article and the long-winded hippie relationship explanation. Believable scenario. I even thought the first mention of “misunderstood beings” was more drug-fueled and less literal than it turned out to be.

Clarence’s dismissal really didn’t mean much in the end. You still had them cart the drums and set them up, anyway. And wouldn’t it look more odd having an empty kit while a drum machine plays? It was all done just to get a seat for the Lovecraft monster. In the spirit of communion or whatever, it would have been nicer for Clarence to have a change of “beating heart” and willingly give up his stool to the alien.

Narrator says that all this emotional support is exhausting, but that’s all there is. Tell but no show.
Exposition dump in dialogue with the driver that I don’t really care about. Should have been a more natural discussion between bandmates. Even some of that is too vague, and assumes that you know something about the Lovecraft story to make sense of it.

More to the point, are they really that dangerous? Narrator claims an acid trip is more trippy than these creatures that supposedly cause madness. I mean at worst, viewers will think it’s a well produced music video, right? Or hologram or something.

And what are the Norwegians trying to get out of this? They’re broadcasting this but don’t want creatures on camera, but they clearly want White Ship to play there. Kjell draws blood after the show, and I honestly have no idea why.

At the end, the narrator seems surprised that he isn’t the center of the band, even though the argument was with Clarence at the beginning. Should have shown a little bit of self-centeredness there so his surprise at being unneeded in the bedroom was more evident. Though there’s an undertone of melodrama and world-ending madness, the whole thing was so light that I expected a Shoggoth to pop out at the end with a towel around its waist, glasses askew only to be yanked back inside the room by the two sexpots.

So the band stuff could make a fine story on its own, and you seem dismissive of all the Lovecraft stuff, so why bother with it? A world peace concert from a hippie band in Antarctica staged by a promoter who wants to profit from it would have been perfectly fine without the supernatural inclusions, and would have given room to expand the characters on their month-long journey.

Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Antarctica, sure. Went a little too literal with the weird though.
*****

5 Djeser - "Time Writes No Wrinkles On The Bay"

Cool premise, but not much to it. Did not like seeing a comment in IRC about throwing something together just to avoid toxxing. That makes a judge sad even when it might be a joke. Still, ranked closer to the top then the bottom during this week, so. . . .
--
The tone is a little sedate for someone who just had the entire team meld into a coral. It’s clear from the question at the end of the first paragraph that this already occurred and the rest is reflection on what’s happened. It might be OK if this was a break-up and the narrator was detached, but something other-worldly has happened. So when it’s revealed that there is more of a relationship than just co-workers and the narrator is desperately trying to make contact the tone is doubly odd.

I also wonder about what is calling the scientists to the sea brain and why the narrator doesn’t feel the same call. Eventually, even the narrator’s partner walks into the sea to join the conglomerate; but after two weeks, the narrator is still sitting on the dock.

I went through this a couple times looking for some tricks with pronouns, especially where you, we, and I were used, but I couldn’t find any slickness there. It would have been cool to discover something about when each was used — especially since this is about a colony/hive mind.

I don’t understand why you call it a “non-living” intelligence. I don’t get a sense that the sea brain is anything but a weird coral. Moreover, I think it’s a little far-fetched that a scientist would identify some undiscovered intelligence and not attempt communication.

The other sentence that really sticks out is “Is it like I've been gone for only a moment, or is it like I've been gone for an eternity?” It’s a little unwieldy to project that onto the person who, from the narrator’s point of view, is the one who disappeared. I think trying to delve into how an immortal intelligence with no true sense of time (if that’s even possible) is something you could spend pages dissecting, so the one-liner feels out of place.

But anyway, on the surface, I liked reading it. If this was expanded in the same style I would read another thousand words. Just make sure you steer clear of Michael Crichton.

Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Not specifically, but the throughline about listening and communication was effective. I suppose you used the chiptune part of Nintendocore but I was hoping for the dueling metal guitars since I put on my Mini-bosses t-shirt just to read this.
*****

6 QuoProQuid - "Maybe It Was Fate (or Sita Sings Bluegrass)"

Attempt at POV shift on a traditional religious tale, not enough changed in the retelling to make it special, second person narrative a little odd for the subject matter.
--
I like the retelling of a legend from a different perspective, but there’s not much of a twist here. You have Sita run away rather than be kidnapped, and that could be an interesting spin, but the motivations aren’t explained very well. I guess it’s all a meditation on fate, because none of the action changes anything.

I think it would have been better to present this from Ravana’s point of view, to show more specifically that the Rakshasa aren’t so bloodthirsty as they’re made out to be. You touch on that ever so slightly, but what compels Sita to write to Ravana in the first place? How does she know that Ravana’s not as bad as Rama paints him?

I mean his goal is to defeat a demon-king which will bring eleven thousand years of prosperity. I don’t think a boring marriage would compel someone to romance the devil.

I guess the initial frustration is really just boredom, but Sita seems to have some celestial responsibilities in the form of a crop/harvest goddess, so she’s not solely a bored housewife who has a distant husband. The golden deer hunt is part of the traditional telling, so why is Rama suspicious there? On second read, I wish you had included a few bits of Sita doing things differently so Rama could sense fate-quakes or whatever when things are being changed.

The first section isn’t bad on its own. Some pretty good internal monologuing. But the second opens with no hint of how Rama discovers where Sita is. It appears that he immediately knows Sita is in Lanka and wages war to recover her. And it’s never stated that Rama understands she ran away rather than being kidnapped, so there’s no resolution on that front.

Sita runs from one place where a man protects her, right to a different man who protects her, then back to the first one. Her relationship with Ravana isn’t explored aside from a quick mention of Ravana smiling. And Rama shows a moment of pity, but still demands that Sita make a sacrifice (of her autonomy) just so Ravana isn’t smeared by the post-war propaganda.
The second and third sections are pretty boring even though there’s a war with demons and monkey kings going on.

She’s not intimidated by Rama, but Rama never changes, Sita is right back where she started, and we never see Ravana’s ‘intelligence, courage, and endless kindness.’ Ravana says he won’t abandon Sita, but then she ditches him when she’s sure he’s going to lose the battle. So what does she think about herself? I think I have a lesser view of Sita at the end than I did at the beginning. I don’t think that was what you were going for.

Even though it’s second person, it has kind of a mythic quality to the writing. I’m not sure it’s the best choice though, since it’s impossible to see myself as a character that may as well be a historical figure. If this was a wholly unique work it might have been easier to inhabit Sita’s headspace.

Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Lanka is pretty clearly used. Prog Bluegrass? Covering a traditional folk song, maybe? I definitely think of coalmines and trailer parks when I think about bluegrass, and a story about gods and demon wars is pretty far from the pedestrian concerns that the genre usually tackles.
*****

7 Mercedes - "Liberian Police Used Deadly Force on Peaceful Protest, Acquitted"

Practically all cliches, but action was good and cyber-y
--
Matrix meets Manchurian Candidate meets Deus Ex with a dash of Ghost in the Shell. I mean the steak scene is lifted straight out of The Matrix. You hit a ton of sci fi action cliches in this, from downloading martial arts to throwing the empty pistol at an enemy to cheeseball nicknames. The action sequence is pretty clear, though nothing really new or exciting happens in it.

As far as I understand it, Liberia is working on reforms and cleaning up after civil war/unrest now. Maybe it’s still a hotbed of corruption, but I find it hard to believe that these guys are going to clean it all up on their own with a few assassins. Even tougher to believe that free elections haven’t happened before D&D 27th edition.
So maybe it’s a semi-current revolution, then future instability, then your robo-hobos are tackling a new despotic government. In the end, I suppose that doesn’t matter too much for the story. It’s just a fancy future political thriller with the focus on the thrills and not so much on the politics.

The D&D reference at the end was super cornball though, and in keeping with the cyber-flavor it might have been better to say Dragon Age 27 or Final Fantasy 50 or something like that to ground it in the future of this timeline.

Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Location used superficially, but at least a little effort to tie real world politics to it, and I think the genre was supposed to be vaporwave (which would have produced something completely different), rather than vaporware (which is what we got), but oh well.
*****

8 Sailor Viy - "The Student"

Kim Jung-Un fanfic. Mostly cliche, with a slight twist on the ending, but the prose is clean and clear.
--
Anyway, seems impossible that Jong-Un would have US currency. I might accept that he has a drawer of South Korean won, or even yen (since the Japanese are mentioned). But it’s most likely that he doesn’t have any physical money at all, since when would he personally ever need it?

This story didn’t need to have glorious leader be the protagonist to work, and it might even work against itself, since you don’t really deal with any hypocrisy that he’s practicing jazz at home and sneaking to concerts while sending the secret police to stamp it out.

Musically speaking, a trumpeter would talk about lips bleeding way before fingers. I think you’d be doing something wrong if your fingers bled from playing a trumpet. Same goes for sax spittle. I suppose it’s possible, but you’d be playing poorly. Minor issue on both counts.

This is decently told but relies on the stale trope of the king’s sycophants not telling him the truth and him being self-aware about it, then going out in disguise to find a mentor among the commoners. I like the twist of him just abandoning his kingdom and then being told he’ll never achieve his dream.

Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Yes and yes, though a little forced.
*****

THE BAD - be OK with DMing any of these, really

9 Paladinus - "Homeland"

All setup to a lame punchline. So much you could have done with the prompt combo. Best of the worst, though.
--
Wait, what? The things I know off the top of my head about Pitcairn Island are the Mutiny on the Bounty and the sexual abuse and child pornography trials, so the joke feels a little uncouth, especially when you mention the auction house is a Virgin auction house. I realize that’s probably meant to be the Branson company, but I still connected those unfortunate dots. You got a bit of a bum deal (oh, ho ho) with your genre and location, at least to write a story with the tone you chose.

How did Suezan do that much research about a very tiny island and not encounter the scandal (or the mutiny history)? Seems convenient. I’ve seen some episodes of Who Do You Think You Are?, and someone with great pride in their heritage discovering a dark secret in their lineage is always interesting. I wish this wasn’t a jokey piece where the auction is attended by aristocrats with monocles.

You have to attend this auction in person where the auctioneer is a computer? That seems weird. And there’s no indication of how much inflation has happened between now and then. If we just take your figures to mean today-dollars, no matter how not-at-all-meagre my salary I would not be laughing at a $800K wasted on an Anal Inspectors CD.

Anyway, this is all sort of a setup for a lame punchline and the real Pitcairn history ignored.
*****

10 Fuschia tude - "Stretching Silver"

Straightforward pulpy sea adventure with some hideous Fantasy Island accent work. Camino de Santiago connection requires a leap in logic and outside research to see.
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De plane, de plane! More broken English. I could live with the bad accents if the two brothers had a good conversation in perfect English at the end and that was all just a con on Craig.

I don’t really get why the brothers are protecting sunken treasure, it sounds like they’re guarding some sacred relics or something rather than trying to make a maneuver to excavate the site themselves. I was expecting a double-cross from Regine and the captain pulls out one of those new-fangled Blackberrys to take her call. So, yeah, are they protecting something bigger than just loot?
Turns out they are. One legend about Camino de Santiago, which is actually a pilgrimage route on the Iberian:
“After [St.] James's death, his disciples shipped his body to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried in what is now Santiago. Off the coast of Spain, a heavy storm hit the ship, and the body was lost to the ocean. After some time, however, it washed ashore undamaged, covered in scallops.”

So the body is still at the bottom of the ocean in your version, I guess? That’s what it seems like, but the change in legend isn’t made clear from your story, and without knowing your prompt, the connection would never be made, so a vital detail to the meaning is missing if this were in a publication elsewhere.

Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Music shoehorned in, setting tangentially used.
*****

11 a friendly penguin - "A Time to Sing, a Time to Talk, a Time to Dance"

Opposite tone to the music prompt, so that’s weird. Religious differences are superficial to the point of just talking about the hijab, really. But the paragraph about the miscarriage drags this to the bottom of the bad entries.
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I don’t know Spanish so I had to look up the untranslated quotes. I sort of see the theme you’re going for with grace and power; but you messed up somewhere because this is weak and inelegant. At least the Spanish language portions weren’t important plot wise for the story, just added some flavor, but you have one in there that’s isolated and italicized. If I didn’t have Google translate, this is where I’d put the story down until I could look it up since that seems very important.

I don’t know much about Berber Jews, and even going from the very basic Wikipedia article, I find it hard to believe that Kenza’s family would have no issues with her marrying a Muslim. I think you threw that in because your setting is Morocco, but it seems like there are very few Berber Jews left there, so she would be something unique. Maybe I misread my research, but the point stands that the religious divide is glossed over except in the most cursory manner.

I don’t even think Sayeed would participate in co-ed swimming so it starts off implausibly. Since they pursued no common amusements, swimming is not amusing, I guess. Strolling is not really something one does in the swimming pool. I get your meaning, but it’s a poor choice. I don’t know if a swim/pool-related phrase would be better, but things like this stick out and it’s right at the beginning of your piece.

So Sayeed seems like a friendly and fairly open minded kind of guy, and even though he doesn’t understand dancing, he’s great at it. They get married and buzz around all the colorful parts of town, and it’s only later that we’re told his family doesn’t approve and that he wants to make Kenza wear a hijab and only leave the house with an escort.

But also I guess the family DOES approve, since they dance around aunts and cousins? (Oh, I get it now, they’re not yet married when you first say “They married.”) But anyway, is it really finding grace to switch religions because of her husband’s “power”?

So then he tells her to get to work, and by that he means get pregnant, so she does. I guess she’s sad because her TWO SERVANTS don’t help much, but she’s still cheerful enough to sing with silent passion.

Then the baby has receded and been expelled. These are bad sentences.
I really don’t understand what Sayeed’s problem is with going to Spain. It’ll make what look worse? His power for not having strong enough seed? I’ve heard things like that before, but you don’t explore it at all.

I really don’t understand what you’re trying to say with this. Two diametrically opposed people meet and fall in love. Then it turns out he’s a jerk, she miscarries, then jumps into the ocean presumably to never be seen again. Strait of Gibraltar is a very difficult open-water swim, and while possible, an untrained housewife would probably not make it.

And when she’s giving up and going to swim, why did she put on her dress and hijab only to strip it off at the beach? I think you could have made a stronger point here.

Finally, I’m the worst at trying to come up with story titles, but how can you include all that in your title and not have a swimming reference?

Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Morocco was explored enough that I was satisfied with the setting. The relationship was really the important part of the story, anyway. The music, lessee:

Zar·zue·la: a Spanish traditional form of musical comedy. THIS WAS A COMEDY???????
*****

THE REALLY BAD - DM for sure, Loss candidates

12 Schneider Heim - "Soul/Off"

The resentful father/daughter relationship and finding the hippie father in a primitive-living commune had potential; but their dialogue is bad, motivations end up being selfish and unappealing, and the magic sax battle was really bad.
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Hold up, a kid is starstruck by her father after watching him perform countless times? Unlikely. And then a chord on a sax? Impossible. Also fumble with sax holes? Are you sure you’re thinking of a saxophone? This is another one of those music things - the keys on the sax are pretty easy to handle to play a simple note - it’s the reed and your breath that’s the tough part. But whatever.

Funky stinks. The music battle was kind of lame, and takes the psychedelic part a little too literally. Joleen stinks even worse. He says she grew up just fine while she’s threatening to walk an entire village off a cliff?

The little action with saving the kid is unclear too. I guess Funky threw the kid before falling off the cliff? (And unless it’s a soprano, saxophones have a strap that goes around your neck to hold them, kind of like a guitar strap). So anyway, Joleen was the one trying to get people to fall, so her statement “are you gonna push me off the cliff instead?” doesn’t make much sense here, but that doesn’t really matter much because the entire thing doesn’t make much sense.

Magical pied piper wants to get her estranged dad to reform their old band, but he’s happy with his polygamist village cult in the Andes because he hates evil consumerism and doesn’t understand how money works and she can’t move past her mother’s death.

Just let Funky live his life, geez Joleen.

Did it incorporate your music genre and location? I don’t know if I’d consider this pychedelic soul, there’s nothing really trippy about it. It’s pretty straightforward silliness. Location, sure.
*****

13 Daeres - "Intense Heat"

So many words to say so little. Nothing intense about any of the action, it’s a 16-bit RPG random encounter battle when I’m trying to avoid chump enemies to get to the boss without wasting time and HP. The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy just doesn’t fit at all into your setting.
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Hooboy. This is a hell of a lot of words to say a fire mage beat up some mannequins and melted a rock.

There’s very little characterization other than profession for Itinga. And looking up Waipoua, it’s basically another forest. So, even her wonderment at the beginning is lessened by coming from a similar environment. As a fire wizard, why not have her be from a desert or something so the rainforest can be an unfamiliar environment?

This is a world in which The Nutcracker exists and yet there are lots of magical creatures around. None of that is explained. Is this a secret magical world like Harry Potter, or is magic commonplace? Don’t have to go into great detail about any of this, but a line about what the world is like would be nice. Seems to be some sort of mage-for-hire, but who knows?

Is she human? This isn’t really clear, but her disdain for humans is. The magic rock at the end doesn’t indicate human activity, or at least it isn’t explained that humans are involved. I think you have a world developed in your head canon, but it doesn’t come across here at all.

I thought at first this was like a forest sprite, and the creatures she was going to encounter were like loggers with chainsaws and earthmovers, or something. That sort of thing can be good when human activity is seen through foreign eyes. But alas.

There’s a lot of passive voice here. Example: “the creature had still managed to bruise her left arm” to “the creature bruised her left arm”. Four words chopped out like a wood golem’s heart and no information lost. It was a slog reading this since there are so many unnecessary words. You made your action boring.

Do people go around trying to get magical creatures to appreciate Tchaikovsky? It’s such an odd choice to have The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy be your touchstone of human activity. No magical creature would ever be interested in ballet. Stranger still, DotSPF is associated with the celesta, a musical instrument that sounds like bells and is meant to evoke dripping water of a fountain, so why does the rain start after the music is destroyed?


Why is she apologetic for stopping the Samoans’ problem and saving the island? That’s silly and makes her weak. There’s no why or how, just someone beating up wooden dummies in the forest. Your last paragraph starts with “She needed to figure out who had set all this in motion.” That’s where your story should have started.

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy had finally died. Me, too. Me, too.

Did it incorporate your music genre and location? Samoa vaguely. Ballet? Much to my chagrin.
*****

14 Llamaguccii - "God's Window"

Overblown prose and really bad characters, insulting attitude towards indigenous populations, bad accents, but fortunately there’s little of it. Insulting to Lego. Real toss up between these bottom three on who loses, but I think this single sentence settles my vote for worst:

"Until they reached the peak of their excursion they encountered a few other “minor” scares (“Go slow. Leopard, maybe.”) and one intense moment in which Cisco, for all his enthusiasm and impatience, insisted on scaling the limbs of a river bush willow to determine how near they were to their destination only to accomplish seeing a fine array of leaves, which upon his intention to part, caused the branch to snap, lending the Italian to fall through the various levels of wooden discomfort until he was finally pitied by an outstretched arm of the tree and saved from plummeting to his death."
--
Can they really be considered con artists for exploiting a “primitive society?” I guess they’re going to build a hotel or something? I think the government would probably be involved rather than dealing solely with a local tribal leader. Anyway, the specifics of the con are the least of the problems here.

The naive primitive native, dark of complexion speaking in broken English (“Italian.”) is worrisome. Marqi is played off as a jungle rube, and why would he be desperate for the friendship of these two idiots who nearly fall to their death by climbing a tree and falling through 27 branches before stopping like a cartoon? The dialogue is ridiculous and all the book-saidisms are just as bad. The prose is so overwrought that Marqi should have translated each paragraph-long sentence.

I’m not sure if this is a troll or not. The punctuation and spelling looks polished, but it makes every “rookie mistake,” so I dunno.

I hope they get dysentery from drinking water out of the stream without boiling it first.

Did it incorporate your music genre and location? God’s Window, sure. Disco? Seductively.

ed: typo

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at Sep 26, 2016 around 09:54

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

IN
Capricho No. 53: ¡Que pico de oro! (What a golden beak!)

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The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Week 215 Submission
The Speaker
1066 Words

Antonio and Jorge stood on a small finger of beach that jutted out into the ocean. As the sun rose, they made a final attempt. Together, they held a long bamboo pole, the far end carved to a slim key. They stretched it over the water and fitted the taper in the lock, then twisted and shook their makeshift key until the dawn threatened to expose them.

The pair held nightly forays, looking for a way past the fine, gilded bars that caged the island. After weeks of cataloging the coastline, they found the door, but no amount of effort could break the hinges, and they were thus far unsuccessful with the lock.

The elders claimed the door opened once when they were small children; they remembered fondly the arrival of The Speaker. Antonio held the paunch of middle age, and the story was already as good as legend when he was a tyke. In turn, he told the bedtime story to Jorge.

It might have been a child’s exaggerated memories, but Antonio thought he recalled waking up and collecting the seeds and hard loaves of bread that littered the village each morning. If it was more than fanciful imagination bringing tall tales to life, the daily bounty stopped soon after. They cultivated seeds and made bread for themselves and The Speaker now. If there was a god above that once provided, He had forgotten them.

Life in the village was simple and quiet. Antonio and his wife lived a happy little life and raised a son. But Jorge was not a simple, quiet boy. After years of questions, Jorge wore his father down. Now, Antonio was just as curious as his son about what was beyond the island.

“Jorge, it’s time to call it a night.”

“Just one more go, Dad. I have a good feeling about this one.”

They gave the bamboo pole a final twist, but the effort was too much and the bamboo key cracked. A long blade sheared off the pole, stuck firmly in the lock. Antonio looked back towards the village. They would be waking soon and their adventure discovered.

“We should just leave it and return,” said Antonio. “We’re cutting it close.”

But the younger one was undeterred. Against his father’s protests, Jorge took a running start and leapt with all his might from the water’s edge. He caught the bars and pried the splinter of bamboo loose. “See?” he said. “No problem.”

Those words sealed Jorge’s fate. He dropped off the bars with a splash. The calm surface hid a riptide created by the sandbar, and Jorge was dragged under. Antonio reached for his son, but it was too late. He could only watch through clear waters as Jorge was pulled down and away, and finally, out of sight.

Antonio laid on the sand, one arm outstretched in the water. He heard the stirring of activity from the village. The shard of bamboo popped to the surface, a gently bobbing marker.

He didn’t remember returning to the village. He heard only a high-pitched buzz, but he saw his wife drop to her knees, saw her crying. Soon, there was a crowd around them, and before long, the elders hobbled from The Speaker’s hut. Everyone talked at once, it seemed, but Antonio only heard the ringing in his ears.

He offered no resistance as the old men lead him to meet The Speaker. He had never been inside the hut before. Only the elders were permitted entry, and The Speaker’s direct wisdom hadn’t been needed in Antonio’s lifetime.

The hut was dimly lit, and the thatching smelled of lingering must. Antonio was lead through the antechamber and waited as an elder produced a golden key and unlocked the central room. He was sat beside a wicker judge’s bench and waited as the elders gathered and eased themselves to the packed dirt floor.

The High Elder sat behind the pulpit, motionless, his face creased and shriveled. The other elders were withered, but Antonio was unsure the man behind the high desk was even alive, he might have been a grotesque statue propped into position by sycophantic hands.

Then one of the old men began with an unexpectedly clear voice: “Oh, how the wise benevolence of The Speaker shines down upon us like the sun, melting away the shadows of ignorance. Long may he grant us his wisdom and guide us through this unjust world. Oh, what a golden beak!”

“What a golden beak; what a golden beak.” The elders lifted their shaky heads and hands in reverence as they chanted the mantra, over and over, until the words blended to a low hum.

From the shadows behind the High Elder, The Speaker emerged. It appeared wooden and lifeless, perhaps a carved talisman from a seafaring vessel rather than a living bird. But it wobbled forward and perched on the edge of the bench, just above the heads of the kneeling elders.

The buzz in Antonio’s ears gave way to the thump of his heart. The elders fell silent and creaked forward on brittle bones to hear The Speaker render judgment. For a hundred heartbeats they waited, grotesque statues all. Then The Speaker raised its right foot, talons outstretched.

“Guilty.” The elders chanted the verdict in the same reverent tone, “Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.”
As The Speaker turned and slowly wobbled away to disappear in the darkness, the elders broke into their refrain, “What a golden beak; what a golden beak!”

Antonio gave no testimony, presented no case. Jorge was gone. The elders gradually got to their feet and filed out of the chamber, chanting all the while. The door closed and the lock clicked.

As Antonio’s eyes adjusted, he saw the high elder was still behind the desk. Antonio reached over and prodded the old man. He was most certainly dead.

“Hello? Benevolent Speaker?” There was no reply.

Then the high elder’s robe quivered, and Antonio thought he might not be dead after all. He gave him a shake, and the worn cloth of the robe fell open. Antonio saw the bones of his ribcage. Inside the cavity of the old man’s chest, The Speaker pecked the last of the desiccated flesh from the pocked and scratched ribs.

The Speaker twisted its head around and rolled that black eye to stare at Antonio. The Speaker hadn’t uttered a word in years.

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