In with HOW MOSCOW'S VINE IS FULL OF ABUSED PIG FARMERS
|# ¿ Aug 24, 2016 09:45|
|# ¿ Jan 17, 2022 17:30|
The Brothers Natalya (1300 words)
Sergei looked up from his work and saw Dmitry running across the field, his phone held out in front of him like a totem. He was trying to film the sky again. Almost none of that footage ever made it into his videos, but he refused to delete any of it. Sergei’s biggest fear was that his brother would trip over and drop his phone in the mud. He didn’t know what they’d do if they didn’t have that phone.
While his brother shot videos, Sergei got back to work. Their father had ordered that the new fence be finished by Friday, and it would be long hours more for Sergei to get it done. Not for the first time, he thought about asking his little brother to help, but what could the boy do? He had woman’s hands, the other farmers used to say. He had been ill when he was a baby, which made his limbs thin and brittle, but on top of that he was just useless with any kind of practical work. No, better to let him do his films. Their followers would be expecting a new upload.
Later, as the sun sank, the boys trudged home through the muddy field. Sergei made the fire and started cooking dinner, while Dmitry chopped the vegetables.
“Computer?” he said once he was done.
Sergei shook his head. “You know not yet, little man.”
Their father came home around eight, later than usual. He must have had a good run at poker. He sniffed Sergei’s broth with a scowl on his face.
“The fence is done?” he said.
Sergei’s heart fluttered. “It’ll be done by Friday, I promise.”
“It better be.”
He ate the soup and then took his vodka to the kitchen. He wouldn’t leave there again tonight, so Sergei gave Dmitry the nod.
They had inherited their home computer from an uncle who lived in Moscow. The machine was ancient, only a few years younger than Dmitry himself. The younger boy booted it up, plugged in his phone and began downloading the day’s footage.
The brothers worked in silence, Sergei patching their clothes, Dmitry making vines. His face, framed by a pair of oversized headphones, was bathed in garish pink and green light. The screen flickered with reflections of distorted culture-fragments from distant lands. American memes and movie clips passed like ghosts across Dmitry’s rural Russian landscapes. Ironies bled into sincerities.
When he had finished the clothes, Sergei looked up and saw his brother slumped over the desk asleep. Sergei lifted him up gently. The movement accidentally pulled out the headphone jack, releasing a Yugoslavian pop song to play over the computer’s tinny in-built speakers. Sergei muted it hastily.
There was a moment of silence, then the sound of heavy boots in the hall. Their father appeared in the doorway, squinting meanly.
“What’s this?” he grunted, looking at the screen.
“Nothing,” said Sergei, kicking out the plug from the power point. When the screen died it filled the room with darkness and turned his father’s face into an unreadable silhouette. They looked at each other for a long time. Finally his father grunted and stomped back to the kitchen.
In Sergei’s arms, Dmitry breathed slow and regular.
The next day they were up before dawn. It was an hour’s walk to the nearest internet connection, at the squat Soviet-era public library on the edge of the village. Each library member was granted 15 minutes a day, and there was always a long queue. Sergei and Dmitry got there third in line.
To maximise their efficiency, they planned out everything they were going to post before they began. Dmitry made the videos, Sergei wrote the text. It was all bundled together into a package and uploaded to their social networks with practised fluidity.
The library computer was like a window to another world, a world of colours and concepts spiralling away into the distance. Here in the real world they were pig farmers, just like all the other pig farmers for miles around. Online, though, they were Natalya, a 19-year-old student in Moscow, who ran the popular Facebook page ‘America Video’. They were friends with other alienated young women from all over the world: New Jersey, Manchester, Jamaica, the Philippines.
Dmitry had a special talent for mimicry. When he was a baby he used to imitate the voices of the presenters on TV. It was the same for American culture. Sergei doubted that he really understood the significance of most of the images he put into his videos, but the way he assembled them made it seem like he did, even to the foreigners whose culture he was repackaging.
They got to the front of the queue and Dmitry uploaded his videos. He made dozens of them, but there were only three today that he was willing to post. Then it was Sergei’s turn and he played the role of Natalya. He chatted with a young feminist in Venezuela. He daydreamed about what it would be like if she were his girlfriend.
Coming home, seeing from afar that their father’s truck was in the driveway, Sergei knew at once that something was wrong. Father should not be home at this time. He should be at the bar where he always was.
Sergei told Dmitry to wait outside and crept into the house. A chill entered his spine. The computer was gone. His father emerged from the kitchen, drunk already.
“Where is it?” Sergei asked.
His father gave a cruel smirk. “I sold it.”
“It wasn’t worth anything.”
“Somebody took it off my hands.”
“Who? I’ll buy it back. Please. Dmitry needs it.”
His father lunged at him, but drew back his hand at the last second. Satisfied with Sergei’s flinch, he stumbled out to the truck and drove away, leaving deep ruts in the mud.
Sergei stared at the pale patch on the desk where the computer had been. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of six-second videos on that hard drive. Hours and hours of Dmitry’s work. Not to mention all the raw footage—of skies, trees, roads, mundane things that Dmitry somehow made beautiful. He never threw any of it away.
Sergei remembered when Dmitry’s old SD card had died. He hadn’t eaten or slept for a week, hadn’t shot any more videos for a month. And that had only been 2 or 3gb of data. When he found out about this loss, it would destroy him.
“Sergei, can I come in?”
Sergei’s mind raced through possible avenues of escape. Try to get the computer back? No, his father would never tell him where it had gone, and whoever bought it was probably already tearing it apart for scrap. There was no way out of this. As soon as Dmitry saw that empty space on the desk it would all be over.
The only way out that he could think of was if Dmitry never saw the empty space at all.
“Stay outside, little man.” He grabbed Dmitry’s phone charger, some food from the pantry, and a few other things. Then he went outside and shut the door behind him.
“We’re leaving,” he said.
“When are we coming back?”
“Never. We’re going to Moscow.”
He took Dmitry by the hand. The sky ahead was thick with grey clouds. It was an hour’s walk to the village. Two hours to the next town. To Moscow, he didn’t even know.
“We can’t,” said Dmitry. “We don’t know anybody in the city. How will we live?”
“Natalya will take care of us,” said Sergei.
And as he said it he thought he could already see, far off, that glittering world from beyond the computer screen: a single clean point of light amidst the mud and the pig poo poo and the rain. And they began to walk.
|# ¿ Aug 27, 2016 08:44|
Oh yeah just reiterating my headline was: HOW MOSCOW'S VINE IS FULL OF ABUSED PIG FARMERS
Don't know if I'd get in trouble for editing my post to add that in
|# ¿ Aug 27, 2016 08:47|
In, please give me a -punk.
|# ¿ Aug 29, 2016 08:13|
quoting cuz im insecure. i wanted to sub this for my lw so help goons
I wrote some words for you, hopefully they help
|# ¿ Aug 31, 2016 11:30|
Left for Dead (1855 words)
The crooked streets of the Night City are almost empty. The last of the working-class ghosts left a few hours ago. Tonight the Pharaoh is making another run at paradise. If she manages to break through this time, then by tomorrow the city will be gone. Nefertiti built this place, and her protection is all that keeps it alive in the middle of the black desert.
I don’t have much time. When the Pharaoh sets sail, she’ll take her courtiers with her. Among them will be her Royal Treasurer, Khusebek.
And I’ll die again before I let that bastard get into heaven.
The only figures on the street now are the shabti. They’d leave too if they could, but the Pharaoh has commanded them to stay, and it’s in their nature to obey her commands. They were made from clay to serve her needs, and she’ll discard them like clay when they’re no longer necessary.
Medjet’s bar is full of them. They’re clustered around the tables, guzzling beer and playing senet. They’re waiting for their world to end, and they aren’t even allowed to complain about it.
I go to the bar and say: “Give me the finest wine in the desert.”
The bartender slides me a brass key. “Medjet is waiting for you in the back.”
Medjet is the only shabti I’ve met with a clearly defined gender. Whatever New Kingdom artisan sculpted her took the time to give her a rough hourglass figure and kohl strips around her eyes.
“I was beginning to worry you wouldn’t come,” she says.
“I had some trouble getting the money together. It’s sorted now.”
I open my briefcase and show her the cash. I don’t ask what an animated clay figurine is going to do with 3,000 dayside pounds in a city that’s about to disappear off the map. I’ve already decided I don’t want to know.
Medjet taps on the table. Another shabti comes in with another briefcase. Inside this one is a gun.
“This is a modified Colt semiautomatic. Six rounds, each coated with holy water from the Nestorian Empire. One of these in the head will send any ghost straight to the furthest bardo.” She pushes it over to me. “Keep it in the briefcase until you’re aboard the barque. Khusebek’s cabin is second on the left.”
I stand up. “Pleasure doing business with you.”
“Ali,” she says as I’m leaving, “we all remember what he did to you. We remember what he did to Ishan.”
I feel myself go very still. “And?”
“Well. Good luck out there.”
* * *
What he did to me. What he did to Ishan.
It’s been so long that it feels like another life. The three of us were partners—Ishan, Khusebek and I. Two ghosts and one living human. We robbed the abandoned tombs of the Outer Desert together. When we hit a big score, Khusebek decided one-third of the prize wasn’t enough for him. So he took our horses and left us for dead.
Ishan never stood a chance. The monsters of the underworld can smell ghostflesh a mile away. I still remember the sounds he made when the scarabs started tearing him apart. I was sure that was the worst thing I’d ever suffer: to see the man I loved die before my eyes. I was wrong.
I wasn’t a ghost, so the monsters weren’t interested in me. They left me for the heat and thirst. But a living person can’t die in the land of the dead. Out there in the sunless dunes I wandered the border between life and death. Dying of thirst, over and over again. It was a year before somebody found me.
I step out of Medjet’s bar and shift from nightside to dayside: from the land of the dead to the realm of the living. Luxor at noon hits me full in the face—the light, the heat, the crowds. The city has swelled in the past month. Nefertiti’s mining operation has stepped up, and the ectoplasm exports have doubled.
I hail an aircab to take me across town, though the sky isn’t much less crowded than the streets. Dozens of airships are coming and going from the skydocks at the Ibrahim Tower, whose enormous spire dominates the skyline. The cab driver drops me off between the Tower and the Old Palace. I tip him everything in my wallet.
I shift back to nightside and come out at the edge of the plasmine pit. Another block down the street and the transition would have put me above a hundred-foot drop. The mine is a tiered basin scooped out of the landscape, with the Night City surrounding it. The lowest levels are lit by the blue glow of ectoplasm seeping through the rocks. The pumps are still running hot, but at that depth it’s a process of diminishing returns. To break through the final layer they’ll need explosives.
I walk toward the Pharaoh’s Palace. On the dayside it’s a ruin, a historical curiosity. It’s guarded, but not well, and the crowds give me cover. I flit between the realms of life and death, moving from blind spot to blind spot. I’ve been preparing a long time for this. A few minutes and I’m over the wall.
In a way, Khusebek has created the weapon that’s now aimed at his heart. Lying in the desert of death for a year made me into what I am now: a medium, one who walks between the realms at will. There are others like me, but none of them are quite as good.
I crouch on the wall overlooking the palace courtyard. Nefertiti’s golden barque is parked there, surrounded by shabti preparing it for flight. I go dayside and make a break across the empty space. The heavy briefcase slows me down. A guard on the wall shouts and brings up his gun.
I go nightside. From the darkness, I know I’ve judged it right. I’m in the hold of the barque, surrounded by the smells of turmeric and myrhh.
I take a moment to catch my breath. I get the Colt out of the briefcase.
That’s when the barque starts rising into the air. The Pharaoh must have pushed forward the schedule. It doesn’t matter; I never expected to make it out of here alive.
I creep up the stairs and peek down the corridor. After a few seconds, someone steps out of a door in front of me. It’s Khusebek. I recognise him by the back of his head. The last time I saw it was ten years ago, as he rode away and left us to die.
I follow him silently. We go up the stairs and onto the deck. The night sky is sliding past as the barque crests the walls of the palace. Khusebek pauses to admire the view.
I put the gun against his neck.
“Ali.” He tries to sound calm. “You’ve come a long way from the desert.”
“So have you. Pharaoh’s Treasurer is a long way up from the humble merchant you used to be. But I guess it’s easier when you’re climbing over the bodies of friends you betrayed.”
“And now I suppose you think you’re going to escape to paradise with us?”
“No. I’m just going to make sure that you don’t.”
“Enough,” says a voice.
My finger’s on the trigger but it won’t move. My muscles have turned to stone. A woman walks into my field of vision with a face I’ve only seen on propaganda posters. None of them do her justice.
She snaps her fingers and I feel like I’ve been hit with a cattle prod. I go down and the gun goes flying. I’m not too surprised—there were always rumours about her powers, things they put into her when she was embalmed all those centuries ago. I never expected to see them up close, though.
The Pharaoh calls two shabti guards, who drag me to the prow. Other ancient Egyptians gather around to get a look at me.
“How did you get onto my ship?” Nefertiti demands. “Are there others?”
“He’s a medium, your eternal holiness,” says Khusebek. “He must have shifted in from the dayside.” He smirks. “He and I have a... history.”
Nefertiti’s icy grey eyes look at me, look through me. With that brief glance I feel she has learned everything about me, and found it uninteresting.
“Very well. You may dispose of him.”
“With pleasure,” says Khusebek.
The prow of the ship is tilting forward, aiming at its final destination. Khusebek beckons the guards to bring me to the railing. “I want you to see this, Ali.”
A servant on the barque fires a signal flare. Down in the plasmine shaft, the miners set off twenty tons of TNT. The substrate of the afterlife cracks open. Light spills through the portal, a light so bright that it turns the night into day. Nobody could doubt that that’s the light of paradise.
“Beautiful,” says Khusebek.
Then there’s a second explosion: a hollow concussion from the belly of the ship. Smoke is pouring out of a hole in the barque’s side. Something blew up in the hold, big enough to tear a chunk out of the ship’s engines.
The briefcase. I’d thought it felt too heavy for just a gun.
“Medjet,” I say.
The barque shudders and goes into a tailspin. The Egyptian courtiers are screaming, dried figs flying from their mouths. The shabti stumble and let go of me.
I scan the city for landmarks, trying to make out the places where Night City and Day City are aligned. If I judge wrong then I’m dead. I run across the deck and leap. The mineshaft yawns beneath me, ready to swallow me whole.
I’m dayside, flat on my face. I’m on the floor of a cafe on the 26th level of the Ibrahim Tower. An old English lady looks down at me, fans her face twice, and faints.
* * *
The next day I walk into Medjet’s bar again. The shabti aren’t allowed to celebrate openly, but I can tell that they’re jubilant. It’ll be months before Nefertiti has recovered from the injuries she sustained in the barque crash. Probably years before she’s ready to make another run at the mine, which is currently half full of stagnating ectoplasm.
Medjet buys me a carafe of wine.
“You did well,” she says. “Although there’s going to be a warrant out for your arrest in the next few days. We can put you on the next boat to Giza.”
“Come on, Medjet. I know what happened. I was just your delivery boy.”
“You got what you wanted, didn’t you? Khusebek is gone. Vaporised with all the other courtiers.”
“You would have blown me to bits with the rest of them.”
Medjet shrugs. “Oh well. No hard feelings? How about a toast?” She raises her glass. “To Ishan?”
I sigh. “To Ishan.”
|# ¿ Sep 4, 2016 10:26|
in jazz asia
|# ¿ Sep 7, 2016 07:11|
I already feel like I've made a horrible mistake
|# ¿ Sep 7, 2016 07:12|
Here are some crits for Punked Out. I was going to read all of them but eventually I got bored and skipped to the winner.
“metal massive face” is a really weird phrase.
But I like that you have a semi-plausible reason for the robot to have a human face.
I like ‘Palace Athena’ because I’m into dumb puns that make me feel intelligent.
“no less for wear” – you probably meant “no worse for wear” ?
OK, I enjoyed this just because it had the feeling of a mecha anime without being too silly. It ends really abruptly though. I know it’s hard to fit a full narrative arc into such a short space but you didn’t even try. You had another 800 words so you could have actually shown Noa trying to convince Devil Blue to help, which is where the story really starts.
My other complaint is that this didn’t feel very ‘punk’ to me. I know ‘punk’ is vaguely defined but on hearing ‘mechapunk’ I was expecting something that reexamined the tropes of the genre. This was basically just a straight mecha story. In particular, the fact that Noa had singlehandedly built the BEST MECHA EVER would be fine in a cartoon but seems implausible in this context.
One Hundred and Twenty One Again
My first impression is you have a weird fixation on describing your MC’s bodily activities. “The patient loudly snorted from the back of his nostrils, seemingly in frustration.” – This is a bizarre sentence.
Your dialogue is trying too hard to be funny. It seems like every character has to be spouting quips, even if they don’t make much sense.
I think you didn’t spend very much time thinking about your setting and just made it up as you went along. Like, if the robot’s plan is completely implausible, maybe think of a plausible plan rather than just having the characters point out that it’s implausible.
I’m not sure what you intended from the ending but I got a “lol stupid lefties” vibe from it. Are you voting for Trump by any chance?
The first two sentences immediately confused me because I was trying to picture him playing the harp while holding the cigarette and the fountain pen.
OK, I’m really digging the idea of the quantum concert. You could probably have led with that, it’s more interesting than “a guy sat in a room”.
The paragraph that starts with “the wires inside him...” – I really don’t think it needs to be one big run-on sentence. You can capture the intensity of the moment without that.
Halfway through the story I was thinking that I loved how you had given us a ‘punk’ story from the point of view of the upper classes. My favourite lines were when he was rationalising the exclusivity of his music. You lost that in the last few paragraphs. I would have enjoyed it more if you stayed in the musician’s POV for the whole thing. I still liked the ending though.
With a prompt like this there is a fine line between telling too much, and not telling enough. I think you told too much. You could have shown us how the world worked rather than just flatly explaining it. (An example of where you did this well: you never clearly stated what you meant by ‘Ones’ and ‘Twos’ but I still understood it just fine.)
I don’t understand how or why the bar band had learned to play his music perfectly. I guess it was to lure him into a trap? But that doesn’t make much sense, since all the other copies of him were kidnapped wherever he was.
Also, about 3 minutes after finishing the story I am wondering how they coordinated kidnapping him if the whole point was that they needed to use him to coordinate themselves.
“trenches were grown like crops” – I don’t like this simile. I think you just wanted a simile in there so it would sound poetic but you couldn’t think of an actually good simile. (I think this because I often make the same mistake!)
You have a problem with redundant words e.g. “I close the book shut” or “complete, pure white”
OK actually you just have a problem with not editing. “I’m not a hero and I look back at my apartment build.” Did you really look at this sentence and say “Yep, nothing to fix here” ?
You had a pretty good concept here—“graffiti artist takes on decopunk dystopia” is cool. You totally failed to bring that concept to fruition. Your main character, by his own admission, has no motivation other than to be an rear end in a top hat. We never get any indication of why he feels so angry at the city, except that it’s too much gold apparently? He comes off like a whiny teen.
“despairing blue vanishing light” – please don’t chain this many adjectives together unless you have a really good reason.
“She doesn’t remember her birth” – no poo poo??
I am confused about what’s happening in the first scene with her father. Is he trying to kill and eat Nuliayuk? Or her mother? “Her hair drapes around the blade at her neck. Nuliayuk watches it strain against the edge, split as the axe trembles.” These lines in particular just really had me scratching my head.
Is Uki trying to offer her a raw fish? Wouldn’t he at least cook it first?
Right so she turned into a seal at the end. I could have guessed that from the title.
I have no idea what happened in this story, except in the very broad strokes of “woman has a lovely life, eventually escapes by turning into a seal”. What is her dad doing in the boat at the end? Your descriptions of things are vivid, but far too long and flowery, and when you are describing important events you write them so poetically that I don’t actually know what’s going on.
Also this is a nitpick but I feel like life isn’t actually so difficult for Inuits, like they have lived in the Arctic for like thousands of years, surely they know how to live there. Your characters (apart from Uki) seem to be really undone by simple problems like “it is snowing” and “we need food”.
First paragraph is immediately engaging.
The little detail about the dude being fat is good. So far your tidbits of worldbuilding are just the right mix of interesting and mysterious.
Your descriptions of Rourke’s reactions are a bit too over-dramatic. Generally I cringe whenever a character “exhales” or some oddly specific action like that.
The bit about the photograph is great. Totally crushing.
I was disappointed by the ending. Clearly you were up against the word count but I wish there was more resolution. I literally scrolled down the page because I assumed there was more. It didn’t come off as an ambiguous ending, it just stopped. I think you should have trimmed some of the earlier scenes to give yourself more room at the end. I still really liked this one though.
Ghosts in a Churchyard
At the bottom of the first page you mention that ‘Wright’ is dead. There was no mention of him beforehand and I had assumed Kane was alone.
I don’t really understand the thing about them switching between the real world and virtual chess reality. But I like the way they teleport around. You could probably have thought through this combat system a bit more and made it more interesting.
I found the story very lopsided. The first passage is just Kane walking around thinking about stuff, and the way it’s described makes it seem like he’s alone and aimless. Then suddenly there’s a big fight and then it’s over. I don’t think you elaborated enough on the mechanics of combat, or on the concept of designated battlefields, or on Bischoff’s relationship to Kane. Or anything really. This definitely fell into the “not enough explanation” camp for me.
Carter’s Lucky Streak
Sometimes your Guy Ritchie-style voice works and sometimes it goes too far. “if you will recall Lt. Nickel’s brief but severely pissed expression, it was a permanent resident of Sinetti’s face” – this is an example of a phrase that didn’t work for me. It’s trying too hard.
“the other mob bosses would never let him hear the end of it, and possibly also kill him” – this is an example of a line that actually made me laugh.
Everything in this story was done pretty well but overall I just wasn’t feeling it. I’m not sure why. I think maybe I couldn’t get attached to the main character because I didn’t know if he really had just gotten lucky. Obviously that mystery was at the heart of the whole story, but it also meant that I didn’t really know what kind of character Carter was until the very end. Those kinds of stories are very hard to pull off I think.
How I Got My Dad To Stop Worrying And Love Tolerate Rugby
I don’t know if this will be resolved later but in the first paragraph I am thinking “Why is Megan tackling her if they are on the same team?” Otherwise decent start.
“He took up most of everything from the center console left.” I guess I understand what you were trying to say here but it’s a really difficult sentence to parse.
Your prose is okay but I think it could benefit from having someone edit it line-by-line to show you how it could improve. There are just a few words that feel like they don’t need to be there, or are awkwardly phrased. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific.
There was nothing terrible about this story but I didn’t feel much about it. Possibly just because I don’t often care about sports. I guess the conflict between the two characters was a bit too subdued to get me engaged. They were too accommodating towards each other. I didn’t get any sense of Amy’s hurt at potentially being kept from doing something she loves. Nor much of her father’s suffering from sci-fi racism.
I had to google two words in your first sentence, and I still couldn’t figure out what ‘pom’ means in this context. I actually don’t mind having to google words but it’s a bit heavy going in the first sentence. (Although maybe ‘barrette’ is less obscure in America?)
First paragraph is a good bit of characterisation.
“A hush descended, then dropped to cold silence.” This is an overly flowery way of describing something simple. Also it doesn’t make that much sense, I think people would start screaming if they saw the queen get assassinated.
I don’t believe it would be that easy for her to escape the throne room.
There are quite a few grammatical errors or just badly phrased things that irk me. “Merritt barreled over the farmhand” – you can’t say “the farmhand” if you haven’t mentioned the farmhand previously.
“She kept moving, no time to apologize” – No poo poo? I don’t think she would even be thinking about apologising, so it’s a bit jarring.
OK so my story this week was a little bit guilty of the same thing, but I find it completely implausible that she could escape the whole castle and all the guards that easily, and it just makes it more ridiculous when she is finally defeated by falling off a cart.
Oh ok so she didn’t know it was going to kill the queen. I think you should have made that clear earlier.
The skeleton key is cool.
Do not use these words: thwunked, lunked.
It’s weird that she shoots a guy in the shoulder and then immediately after says “OK, fine, I’ll surrender.”
Killing the dude with the metal powder is cool.
“The thugs fled, unnoticed.” Why??
Then it just ends without any resolution. And you even hosed up the ‘ambiguous ending’ thing because you ended it with her running after some irrelevant character who just appeared in the last scene. Would have been much, much more powerful if she at least came to a decision about what she wanted.
This felt like the first third of a longer story. The plot was meandering and the main character lacked drive. However, you do have a decent grasp of pulp action, and the story flowed along well enough that I never got bored.
Going to be honest that I’m coming into this story already prejudiced against it based on the prompt and title.
Stop switching tenses god dammit.
“users possibly not even in the same continent” – wow, tell me more about this strange new technology called ‘the internet’ ??
I’m at the end of the first scene and nothing has happened apart from the protagonist looking at various memes.
So now the main character got beaten up and thrown in a bin but we didn’t see that happen? I’m confused.
OK yeah I have no idea what the gently caress you’re talking about.
Right, I get it, they turn their avatars into memes to communicate. This isn’t clever.
The situation of him pretending to be part of the gang is actually one that has potential. But it doesn’t work because I’ve got no clue what’s going on or who the MC is or what they’re trying to do.
I’m skim reading bits of this. Your prose isn’t actually terrible on a technical level, but it’s just so overloaded with technical terms and names of characters who don’t matter. Also the talking cat’s pseudo-philosophy is loving annoying as hell.
Yeah so unsurprisingly I have no idea what happened in that story.
Look, making ‘memepunk’ into a not-annoying idea was a tall order, but you chose it. You shouldn’t have picked it if you weren’t up to the task.
The Legend of Makoa Kalawai’a, Daughter of the Ocean, She of Oahu
This was great.
The only thing I found to criticise was the shifting between past and present tense. I guess you must have done it on purpose, but I don’t see what it adds to the story.
|# ¿ Sep 8, 2016 02:16|
Dixieland / North Korea
The Student (1520 words)
A few hoarse, wet notes slithered out of the trumpet. Jong-un’s face was red with exertion. In the vast space of his studio, the music sounded tiny and weak. With difficulty, he worked his way through ‘My Old Kentucky Home’, then leaned back gasping for breath.
“How was it?” he said.
The music tutor bowed deeply. “I am humbled by the perfection of your artistry. Your playing would put any Western musician to shame. I could not presume to teach you, for you are already far above my level.”
“No, no! You’re useless. Get out!” Jong-un flung his trumpet at the teacher. It flew over the man’s head and bounced off a marble statue. The man fled.
“General!” Jong-un shouted at the antechamber. “Send in the next tutor. And get me a new trumpet.”
General Jang appeared in the doorway. “Supreme Leader, it is with deep regret that I must inform you there are no more music tutors. Shall I fetch more? I could arrange to kidnap some from Japan.”
“Don’t bother. They’ll all just tell me I’m perfect already.”
“Supreme Leader, I am uninformed about jazz music, but might I venture that if so many masters say it, then perhaps it is true?”
“You get out too,” said Jong-un.
When he was alone in the studio, Jong-un turned on his sound system and let the music of Louis Armstrong flood through the room. The studio was littered with his previous artistic endeavours: his abstract statues that had been praised by dozens of critics; his shelf of novels that had each sold millions of copies; his trophies from dozens of sporting competitions. All of it seemed pale and empty in comparison to jazz. No matter what his subordinates told him, he knew he couldn’t play as well as Louis. It made him feel something he had not felt in a long time: he wanted to be better.
If the hired tutors couldn’t help him, he’d have to resort to a different measure. The note from the Chief of Secret Police was on his desk: just an address on the outskirts of the city, and a password. He slipped it into his pocket and went out.
The man on the door looked like he could just be loitering there alone. When Jong-un came up to him he just tapped his cigarette and said: “Yeah?”
“I’m here for the show,” said Jong-un. “Duke sent me.”
The doorman nodded and pulled the door open. “Third floor, second door on the left.”
Jong-un glanced back at the street before he went in. It was an old neighbourhood, abandoned after the closure of some factory or other. All the way there through the darkening streets, he had felt watched by the statues and murals of his father and grandfather. If they knew what he was doing tonight they’d turn over in their graves.
He was more worried about the eyes of those statues than any real people who might recognise him. He’d gone incognito a few times before. The image of his face was burned into his citizens’ retinas, but it was all about context. Put the same face under a beanie, and replace the military uniform with a hoodie, and he was a completely different person.
He went up the empty stairwell, down the corridor and into the room. It must have once been an apartment, but all the furniture and appliances had been stripped out long ago. The room was packed with people, pressing their backs to the walls to make more space for the performers.
The five-piece band set up and began to play. Jong-un had seen festival concerts that cost millions of dollars to produce, but he had never seen anything like this. They played in the kitchen, underneath a flourescent light. The saxophonist’s spittle flew out onto the crowd as they snapped their fingers and tapped their toes.
To import American music was a crime against the state. It was unimaginable that these people had not only heard it, but learned to play it themselves. Jong-un had thought his secret police were doing a good job of keeping the populace ideologically pure. He should have been disgusted by this display of license, but instead he felt his feet tapping along as well.
The trumpeter was a shaggy-haired old man, wearing clothes not much more formal than pyjamas. He didn’t move much or dance around like the others, but there was a quiet energy that flowed through every note he played. Jong-un was hypnotised. He knew this was the man he needed to be his teacher.
When the show was over, the trumpeter slipped outside immediately for a cigarette. Jong-un followed him down the stairs.
“You!” he said—then, remembering he was in disguise, tried to be less commanding. “Ah, your playing was magnificent.”
The trumpeter shrugged.
“Could you teach me to play like that?”
The man took Jong-un’s wrist and looked at his hand. “Doubt it,” he said. “No calluses.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Jazz is about discipline. If you want to be good, you’ve got to play till your fingers bleed. You need to be obsessed with it. I don’t think you’re obsessed.”
Jong-un’s face flushed. “I could be.”
“Trust me, kid. Go find a hobby that won’t get you sent to a reeducation camp.”
Jong-un tried to think of something to say: that he was a genius, not someone to be dismissed; that his father had written 1,500 books of ideology, and his grandfather had driven the Japanese out of the country.
Before he could speak, two gunshots rang out from the apartment above. Then dozens of screams and thumping feet.
“poo poo!” said the trumpeter. “Get out of here, go!”
He ran, and Jong-un ran after him. A black car pulled up at the end of the block and three secret police officers stepped out. The old man dodged sideways into an alley and Jong-un followed.
For a moment he wanted to turn back and command the secret police to stop. But would they really recognise him as their beloved leader? And even if they did, how would he explain this to his generals?
At the far end of the alley, a red pickup truck screeched to a halt. “Moon-soo, in here!” the driver shouted. The trumpeter leapt into the back of the truck. Jong-un scrambled up after him and they sped away into the night.
Jong-un and Moon-soo clung to the bed of the truck, receiving a new bruise with each turn. The police sirens rose and fell in the distance. At last the truck slowed down and pulled over. Jong-un climbed out. They were on a dirt road in a forest somewhere.
“We’re in deep poo poo, kid,” said Moon-soo. “They’ve seen our faces, they probably know our names. I can’t go home now.”
“Moon-soo,” said the truck driver. “You know my cousin has a boat. He can take you to the South. But it’s going to cost.”
Moon-soo laughed hoarsely. “I’m a musician, and I didn’t even get to bring my instrument with me. What kind of cash do you think I have?”
The driver shrugged. “To me, you’re a legend, man. I’d take you for free, but it isn’t up to me.”
“How much does he want?” said Jong-un.
“Six, seven million won.”
Jong-un reached into his pocket. “How much in U.S. Dollars?”
He pulled out a thick roll of bills that he had grabbed from his studio drawer before he left. The truck driver let out a low whistle.
Jong-un turned to Moon-soo. “If I take you to the South with me, will you teach me to play jazz like you?”
They lay low through the next day, and drove down to the coast after night had fallen again. The truck pulled up in a secluded inlet where an old fishing boat was waiting.
“You sure about this, kid?” said Moon-soo. “Crossing the border is dangerous, and you might be fine if you just go home.”
Jong-un hesitated. He’d made his offer to Moon-soo on impulse, and he’d half expected to give up on it after a night’s sleep. But in the morning he’d woken more convinced than ever.
“No, I’m going,” he said. “Jazz is my passion, and I can never pursue it here.”
Moon-soo nodded. “Maybe you’ll play good trumpet after all.”
They hurried down the beach to the boat. The fisherman took Jong-un’s money, then hid them at the back of the galley behind a false wall. The boat began to move beneath them.
In the cramped darkness, Jong-un whispered: “Teacher, every day I have listened to the music of Louis Armstrong. Tell me, how long will I have to practice until I can play as well as him? A few weeks? A few months?”
“Uh,” said Moon-soo, “Armstrong was a once-in-a-generation genius. You can probably never play as well as him, no matter how hard you work.”
“Oh,” said Jong-un.
|# ¿ Sep 12, 2016 05:41|
random crits of music + country stories
A Time to Sing, a Time to Talk, a Time to Dance
I admire the way you use the third-person narrative voice in this story. You manage to move it along through a long period of time without getting bogged down, yet you still give some images and details to spice it up. There were a few passages where I felt like it was a little bit too much “tell” and not enough “show”.
You did a good job of making the culture feel real and vivid. I don’t know much about Moroccan culture so I don’t know how “authentic” it really was, but you wrote about it with a sense of authority. The only thing it was lacking was that I couldn’t tell when the story was meant to take place.
The ending was... ok, but not too satisfying. I wasn’t sure if she was committing suicide or just leaving, until I went and googled “can you swim from Morocco to Spain” and it seems you can. So I guess it just meant that she was unhappy with her marriage so she left? I didn’t get a clear idea of why she was unhappy.
Actually, now I think about it, I didn’t get much idea of any of her feelings. I don’t know why she wanted to marry him and I don’t know why she wanted to leave him.
An Aquarian Expedition
I was momentarily confused by the line “One line in a Rolling Stone writeup eight years ago that the man's been nursing ever since.” Before that, I had assumed we were in third person. That, combined with the change in tense, made it a little jarring. It made sense eventually but it could have been smoother.
After that I didn’t really find anything else to criticise. I really like the laid-back pace of the story, and the way you incorporated exposition into the dialogue.
Jean and Milan
– The first few paragraphs are too heavily loaded with exposition.
– “It will be an honour to meet him and bribe him” is a bizarre phrase that seems to reflect a bizarre plot point. I guess it’s fine if Jean is just crazy but I’m finding it hard to believe the narrator would go along with him.
– “I make a noise. I think you could call it a whimper. He does it again. That time I make a yelp.” You should cut sentences like these.
OK, so I was wondering why you were so keen on this dumb idea that they would bribe him with coke, and sure enough it turned out to be the lynchpin of your dumb ending. Sorry, it’s just not in any way believable that Milan couldn’t very easily get cocaine for himself.
That said, I did quite enjoy Jean as a character and he kept me more or less engaged until the end.
I didn’t find even a trace of rap opera in this. Maybe there was some very clever reference to it that went over my head?
I didn’t understand what the narrator was doing with Ye Aung’s body.
I didn’t understand what the characters’ situation was exactly. I guess they were on the losing side of the battle so they were just waiting to be killed? But then I don’t understand why they said “even if it’s our own side, they’ll shoot us to be safe”.
Basically there was a lot going on that I couldn’t understand. But your writing is so vivid and atmospheric that I still found the story a pleasure to read. I wasn’t thinking “ugh, what the gently caress is that supposed to mean?” it was more like “oh, that’s weird, whatever”. I think it worked because you had a good handle on the characters’ relationships and their situation and you wrote them very confidently, so the plot holes just seemed like minor details.
“Liberian Police Used Deadly Force on Peaceful Protest, Acquitted”
– There’s a few obvious errors here, e.g. “All the neural connections are are firing as expected”. I know you got in just before the deadline though so whatever.
– “Forcibly manipulated the air” – so he has psychic powers as well as kung fu? That came out of nowhere.
– This action sequence is long and not that interesting to me because your protagonist is an invincible ninja. It would have been more interesting if he still had elite skills but he had to work around the limitations of using an old man’s body.
The ending didn’t work for me and just came off as silly. A homeless man from Liberia is obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons? Yeah right. Also the phrase “27th edition” sounds like something out of Douglas Adams and doesn’t jive with the relatively realistic tone of the rest of the piece.
I didn’t really understand how their plan was supposed to work. Seven cyber ninjas killing a bunch of corrupt cops is good, I guess, but I don’t see how it would ensure a fair election. It feels like you just threw that bit in there to assure us that these were the ‘good guys’ even though it didn’t make much sense.
Last but not least... as a fan of vapourwave I was disappointed to find none of it in your story. Actually I barely found anything of ‘Liberia’ either. You might as well have not been writing to a prompt at all.
Time Writes No Wrinkles On The Bay
This was nice. I’m really impressed with how you managed to fit a complete story into such a small space. The concept wasn’t particularly original (I was immediately reminded of The Enigma of Amigara Fault) but it was executed well. The line about the ribcage was my favourite.
I’m going to start sounding like a broken record with these crits but where was the nintendocore? I just didn’t see it (unless maybe the Sea Brain was meant to be a very oblique reference to Metroid?). I’m still new to thunderdome so maybe there is an unwritten rule that it’s okay to interpret the prompts very loosely. But from my perspective y’all are cheating.
|# ¿ Sep 14, 2016 10:16|
In with Australian Gothic.
|# ¿ Oct 13, 2016 03:36|
The Forbidden Room
Australian Gothic, 1440 words
“I miss you is all,” said Susan. “It’s going to blow over soon, right?”
“Sooner or later, sure. Just can’t say how long it’s going to take.” Don’s voice on the Skype call was splintered by rural internet speeds. “Listen, I’ve asked mum to come down there in a few days’ time. Think you can keep yourself busy until then?”
She nodded. “I love you.”
“You too honey.”
She did miss him, though not as much as she’d expected to. Mostly she missed Queensland, and the sun that would be shining there at this time of year. She Skyped her girlfriends back home, but it was clear they would rather be out on the beach instead of sitting inside, squinting at her tiny pixelated face.
She wished she had gone with Don to Melbourne. When he left he’d said it would only be an overnight trip—but that was before they’d known the full scope of the incident. Now the days dragged on one after another, while the endless rain swept in from the sea. Winter was clinging on far longer than it had any right to. All down the South Gippsland coastline, the other holiday houses remained empty. One day she had put on her raincoat and walked down the beach for miles without seeing anyone. This was her honeymoon—an empty mansion overlooking a grey sea.
She was almost glad when she noticed the dark stains at the back of the laundry closet. It gave her something to do at least. She had always prided herself on keeping her own home clean, even though she could afford to hire someone. Scrubbing out every last trace of the mould killed a good few hours. She had a glass of wine as a reward, and then it was back to the waiting.
On the TV that evening, the news was still running with the story. Another one of the asylum seekers had died in hospital that day. Someone in the Senate was calling for an inquiry.
“Honestly I recommend you don’t even watch that poo poo,” Don told her. “It’s their job to blow hot air, that’s all. Journos and politicians both.”
“I know. It’s still scary.” She hesitated. “If there was an investigation, it couldn’t come back to you, could it?”
“No chance. It’s all on the local contractors. Our company can’t be held liable.”
A heavy silence. Then he said: “Alright. I’ve got to go.”
“Wait—I couldn’t find the paperwork for the apartment in Brisbane. It isn’t in your study, is it?”
“Honey, you know there’s no reason for you to go in my study.”
“Your little man cave, you mean,” she teased.
“I know, I know. I won’t go in there.”
The study thing was just a little quirk of his, that was all. It really wasn’t a study at all—just a concrete room at the back of the carport on the ground floor. He didn’t do his work in there. In fact he rarely went there at all. He said he just needed to have some space that was private from everybody. Everybody included his wife.
He’d first told her about the room last year, when he’d brought her down from Brisbane to meet his family. At first Susan had thought he was joking. Then she’d teased him for it, which he had taken good-naturedly. At last she’d realised he was completely serious, and after a little while she’d accepted it. It really was just a little thing. She hadn’t bothered to mentioned it to her friends back home.
She’d been sure she had gotten all of the mould, but the next morning she could smell it in the air—not just in the laundry but the kitchen as well. It triggered her asthma and she had to have a double helping of Ventolin before breakfast.
“Well then,” she said to herself, pulling on rubber gloves. “Today we’re going to do it right.”
The house was less than three years old—a showpiece of sleek Modernism, towering over the headland, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the Bass Strait. It seemed like the clean lines of such a building would leave nowhere for mould to hide, but once she set to work she found it everywhere. It had crept in behind every piece of furniture and at back of every drawer. It had even grown back in the laundry, where she had scrubbed the day before. She gave a little hysterical laugh when she saw that—it was almost too ridiculous to be funny.
She’d been running the central heating day and night to keep the unseasonal cold at bay. She guessed that this, combined with rising damp, had created the problem. She scoured each room from top to bottom and aired them out afterwards. The only room she left alone was Don’s man cave.
Exhausted but satisfied, she sat down for their nightly Skype call. Instead she got a single text: ‘Held up at meetings tonight. Will call soon. Mum will be there tomorrow morning. Don x’.
She laughed to herself. She must be getting lonely if even her mother-in-law seemed like a good prospect for company. She poured one glass, two glasses, and went to bed.
When she woke her skin was crawling with dread and at first she couldn’t tell why. A wild storm was howling outside, but the air indoors was uncomfortably warm and cloying. It was dark and she couldn’t breathe. There was a thick smell of damp in the air.
She found her inhaler and sucked on it until her lungs were working properly again. Then she got up and walked through the house in her nightdress. It was 3am. The windows were black and rippling with constant rain. The choking smell led her toward the carport stairs.
She turned on the light in the stairwell and stifled a scream. Long moist fingers of blackness were crawling up the walls. They clung to the corners as though afraid of the light.
Covering her face with her sleeve, she descended into the carport. The air down there was even more humid than upstairs, and the floor was covered by a few centimetres of water. Mould coated the walls, radiating out from the door of the forbidden room.
Water seeped through her slippers as she went forward.
When she opened the door, a breath of pungent air swept out and the fluorescent light of the carport swept in. Through streaming eyes, Susan saw a dark, swollen shape, encrusted all over with black mould. It had the rubbery stiffness of a newborn child, but it was huge, swelling against the corners of the room. She could hear its laboured breathing. It was in pain.
She turned and fled, but her own lungs were betraying her. White spots flickered at the corners of her vision. She made it halfway up the stairs before she passed out.
She woke to sunlight and fresh air. She was lying in her bed again. In the next room there were footsteps and a faint, intermittent hiss—the sound of somebody spraying something.
After a few minutes the door opened and Don’s mother Anne stepped in.
“You’re awake,” she said. “Do you remember what happened to you?”
“Anne,” said Susan. “Listen, there’s something in that room downstairs. It’s something—horrible—”
Anne’s expression did not change. “Come now, Susan. Don’s been very open with you about what he has to keep in that room. I was there when he showed it to you last summer, just before he proposed. Remember?”
“You said you were fine with it, but you preferred not to know.”
There was a long pause, then Susan nodded dully. “Yes. I remember.”
“Well, it’s being taken care of now. We won’t let it grow that big again.”
There was a knock at the door. A man came in wearing tradesmen’s overalls and some kind of spray-tank on his back.
“We should be finished in about an hour,” he told Anne. “Dr. Anderson just wants to know if he needs to hang around any longer.”
He and Anne both looked at Susan.
“Susan?” said Anne. “It’s been almost a year since the last time. How do you feel about it now? Would you prefer to forget again?”
Susan looked out the window at the beach. The sky and the sea were mirror images of blue. It was a gorgeous spring day at last.
“Yes,” she said. “As soon as possible, please.”
|# ¿ Oct 16, 2016 11:29|
OK. Surely someone else can put in more crits than this.
Time Just Got Away from Me
I enjoyed this. You managed to evoke a feeling of nostalgia that I connected with. The terse style worked well, except when it was too terse and I couldn’t tell what was going on. That was worst in the paragraph that starts ‘Niko smelled like old stage make-up...’
I didn’t really ‘get’ the ending though. I went back over the story trying to figure out what it was ‘really’ about but I came up with nothing. You are probably overestimating how much your readers can read into your story (or I’m just dense.)
99 Songs Of Revolution
It’s hard to say much of anything about this, and that isn’t a good thing. I think if you are going to go for the super-short word count then you really need to have something with punch. This is just so vague that I feel like I’ve got nothing to hang onto. It would have been much better with more specificity. There are plenty of ways in a short epistolary story that you can imply things about the wider setting of the story—by making references to people, events, etc that aren’t explained in detail.
I don’t know what the title is a reference to and I’m not going to google it because a story should stand on its own.
Flying with the Turkeys
This is kind of nitpicky but I find it weird that he’s writing “hope you’re well” in what appears to be a diary entry, not a letter. And as I read on... yeah, it feels like the ‘epistolary’ part of the story is extremely tacked on to fit the prompt. If you just took out the headings and the few references to writing, then this would be a regular first-person narrative and would make a lot more sense.
The story arc of ‘descent into madness’ is pretty cliched but it was executed well at least. I liked how the narrator justified picking up the gun, for example. But I think there is a bit of a ceiling on how good this kind of story can be, because it always ends with just a bunch of weird poo poo happening, and it’s difficult to connect with as a reader.
The depiction of what I guess you would call ‘hillbilly life’ felt very stereotypical to me. Moonshine, guns, turkeys, jerky, etc. I live in Australia and don’t know anything about hillbillies other than what I’ve seen in TV and movies, but I got the impression that you were just drawing on the same sources that I would have. This is boring to me. When I read a story about someone very different to me, I want to get details that I didn’t know before, that make me look at them in a different and more human way.
My Old Friend Needs A Hand
Like ‘99 Songs of Revolution’, this story suffers from being too vague. At least you got pretty specific by the end of it, but I still felt like there wasn’t enough texture and detail to the story’s world. Like, there’s just a guy, he has all the generic attributes of a guy (job, wife, kids) and then there’s a generic button... I get that you were probably trying to make it feel universal but it just came off as lazy. At first I thought it was going to be some kind of metaphysical button like in that short story ‘Button, Button’. Then once you started getting specific I found it very hard to visualise. I don’t think that nuclear weapons actually have a literal button that fires them, and if they do then you need to sell it to me more.
In fact, there was a LOT in this story that just sounds too obviously made up. Does one random guy (a Captain at that) really have sole control over firing a bunch of nuclear warheads? Why wouldn’t someone try to stop him or at least question him a bit more forcefully? How does a Captain outrank an Admiral? Would an assistant really comply with a request to “go get me my gun so I can shoot myself”? And so on. Sometimes there can be a bit of leeway for a non-naturalistic style, but here it just feels like you couldn’t be bothered to think through the situation or do any research.
Then my next big question is... why will launching all these nukes bring an end to this vague “war” or “turmoil” that the narrator wants to stop? This is his suicide note, so there is plenty of room for him to go on a rant justifying his actions. But you gave us basically nothing.
The bit at the end where he says “tell my kids x... or tell them y, it’s up to you” was a little bit interesting. I would have liked to see this expanded upon to give the different perspectives on why he should or shouldn’t have pushed the button.
Protect the Future
“Character checking their mail” has to come close behind “Character wakes up in their bed” in the ranking of Most Boring Story Openings. By the time you get to the flash drive I’m more interested, but that first paragraph is a real snoozer.
The part where the letter is describing the alien planet feels very clunky and exposition-y to me. The epistolary format isn’t an excuse to drop huge chunks of worldbuilding on us, especially when you are just using the same generic narrator voice that you would if you were describing this planet in the third person. If you’re not going to invest the narrator’s voice with any unique qualities then what’s the point of it being told through a letter at all?
And then it just ends with no resolution. Were you trying to imply that Charlie would maybe throw away or destroy the flash drive without looking at it? Because that could have been interesting but would need to be developed more.
As it stands, you could delete all the ‘Charlie’ sections of the story and not really lose any information, since all of Charlie’s reactions can be inferred from the text of the letter. Which is a shame because the structure of using both the letter and a third-person frame narrative is not a bad idea (though perhaps a bit unwieldy with such a low word count.)
Sailor Viy fucked around with this message at 08:51 on Nov 15, 2016
|# ¿ Nov 15, 2016 08:19|
In with a Bison.
|# ¿ Nov 16, 2016 05:37|
Sailor Viy fucked around with this message at 03:49 on Dec 15, 2016
|# ¿ Nov 20, 2016 09:50|
Week 225: Pick A Century
This week we will be writing stories with a historical setting. When you sign up, choose which century your story will take place in. You may not choose a century later than the 20th, and you may not choose the same century as anybody else - it's first come, first served.
Stories can be any genre but should have some relevance to the historical period (please don't write a story that is set in the 3rd century BC in the Andromeda galaxy.)
Signups close midnight Friday AEDT.
Submissions close 4pm Monday AEDT.
1800 words max.
ENTRANTS (in chronological order)
70,000 BP: Sitting Here
12,000 BC: Hawklad
23rd century BC: flerp
21st century BC: Baleful Osmium Sea
5th century BC: Thranguy
1st century: The Cut of Your Jib
3rd century: sebmojo
4th century: GenJoe
7th century: Beige
9th century: Okua
11th century: Farchanter
12th century: Fleta Mcgurn
13th century: BeefSupreme
15th century: Fuubi
16th century: Guiness13
17th century: hotsoupdinner
18th century: Erogenous Beef
19th century: Jeza
20th century: sparksbloom
Sailor Viy fucked around with this message at 22:21 on Nov 25, 2016
|# ¿ Nov 22, 2016 12:25|
Still looking for 2 judges for this week.
|# ¿ Nov 23, 2016 07:14|
I'm game if you're down.
|# ¿ Nov 24, 2016 06:56|
Whoops! Signups are closed.
GenJoe, lucky for you I was sick and forgot to close the signups last night.
Chili, are you still good to be my 3rd judge?
|# ¿ Nov 25, 2016 22:10|
I don't know if I can get on IRC at a convenient time if you're in the US. You can email me if you like? wjbroom700 at gmail.
|# ¿ Nov 26, 2016 12:38|
Submissions are closed.
|# ¿ Nov 28, 2016 05:11|
WEEK 225 RESULTS
Judging this week was pretty easy, because we had a small number of entrants and because none of the stories were egregiously bad. I had hoped to get a some vivid worldbuilding in a range of historical periods, and I wasn't disappointed. A lot of stories, even many of the no mentions, did a great job of drawing me into their world without sacrificing their narrative backbone, so well done.
Our winner for this week is Okua, offering an original perspective on the well-trodden setting of Viking-era Scandinavia. HMs go to Sitting Here and sebmojo, with very different but equally well-written stories.
We were disappointed with the senseless violence of Guiness13's Colonial horror story, and, conversely, with the essential dullness of Fleta Mcgurn's attempt at Medieval England. These were our DMs for the week. The loss goes to GenJoe, whose Roman prison drama was muddled and unsatisfying.
GenJoe, I feel a bit bad for hitting you with a loss on your very first entry, and I do encourage you to try again. If you put your story in a Google doc and link it here, then I'll give you a line-by-line crit.
Sailor Viy fucked around with this message at 22:53 on Nov 28, 2016
|# ¿ Nov 28, 2016 22:43|
WEEK 225 CRITS
First sentence is too long.
At first I thought the protag was an orphan living in an abbey based on the word “ward” but apparently not? (After reading the whole piece, I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume this fostering arrangement is a real thing. But it did confuse me at the start.)
Would like to know more about what Catherine wants out of her marriage.
OK, I’d have liked to enter the story after she gets given the choice. That’s when the real story begins.
I feel like the whole meat of the story took place in the one paragraph where she thinks about it and decides. Stories that revolve around a decision like this are deceptively hard to pull off and this one mostly fell flat. You need to find a way to dramatise the protagonist’s internal struggle rather than just telling us “She thought about it, and then she decided.”
Maybe I just have a distaste for Medieval Europe because it’s been done so many times, but the worldbuilding in this felt pretty perfunctory. Basically you created the same world that appears in my head when I think “Medieval England”, you didn’t present me with anything new or make me look at it in a new way, and that’s bad.
The interspersing of little flashback sentences is good but you went a little too hard on it and it became a bit jarring.
Overall, great. Loved the little details of Norse culture and myth—you clearly did your homework. Asa gives a very original perspective on the culture.
Spirits in the Forest
You are mucking up the tense a bit, e.g. “He had felt their presence in the heat of the summer... He has felt their power, despite what his mother has told him.” These two sentences so close together look messy.
Try to make your sentences shorter by breaking them up. For example, “He could go there and seek help and come back with the strong men who lived in the town who father had gotten to help raise the house and the small barn when they had first come.” It’s far too long because you have tried to jam a bit of backstory in at the end of it.
I like the bit about him pouring hot water onto the soil. Is this a real thing?
OK, where you write “...even at his young age” – that was where I first realised that he is meant to be a kid. Would be much better if you made that clear from the start.
The ending felt flat. After reading it again, I guess the idea is that he abandonded Christ and worshipped the native spirits and because of that, the wolves left him alone? I think there is the germ of a good conflict in there but you should have introduced the main danger (the wolves) sooner, and also played up his guilt about believing in the forest spirits. As it is, I didn’t really understand what you were going for until after the story was over.
The Warrior and the Beast
“He wasn't the first Warrior, but Kuruk was sure that he'd be the last.” – Um, so he’s already assuming that he will fail? I guess this makes sense in a doomed hero sort of way but the way you’ve presented it sounds weird to me.
I really like that the blowhole smells like farts—that’s a detail that I’ve never heard before but sounds perfectly plausible.
The ending was a bit of a letdown. I was getting real amped for a showdown between ice barbarian and killer whale. But I guess the whale was just curious about him? LAME. Would have been very pleased to see him ride to the new world on a decaying whale carcass. Missed opportunity. Still a fairly enjoyable piece of writing.
Squaring the Circle
This is a fairly rich depiction of a time and place, which is what I was hoping to see. There’s not much drive to the narrative and the protagonist doesn’t have much agency, although I suppose that’s the point.
This might actually have been better without the bit at the end about him being exiled, since then you could have focused more on the struggle of whether to recant his beliefs in order to be free. But there is a lot of stuff here that’s underdeveloped, especially the politics between Athens, Sparta and Persia, which I more or less understood but didn’t understand why it was relevant to anything else.
Overall feels like a Thunderdome veteran crapping something out at the last minute.
This story gets the prize for most polarizing – I had it as a no mention, while another judge wanted it to lose and the third was suggesting it for the win.
All The Men Merely Players
First impressions: feels like walking through the town in an Assassin’s Creed game. Enjoying all the little cultural details, but still waiting for the story to start.
Later impression: OK, you were actually setting everything up the whole time. I’m liking it...
Oh dear. You ran out of words, didn’t you? I was really enjoying this up to the last paragraph. Your decision to turn a heartwarming sports story into a grim massacre is questionable, but it could have worked if you’d had more time to sell it. As it stands, it just feels like a “haha, syke!” with a middle finger to any reader who thought a story about race relations could ever end well.
So far you are doing well making me interested in a story about a basically unlikeable character. Good job.
OK, I liked the ending. It was a bit of a shaggy dog story but not in a bad way. I think you could have made the comedy work better if the conflicting motives were spelled out more clearly. I understood that the magistrate wanted to have sex with the woman, but it didn’t feel concrete enough, even though you spelled it out pretty clearly. I guess I wasn’t quite convinced that killing her boyfriend would really get him any closer to getting in her pants. Because of this, I spent a lot of the story wondering “where is this going?” which actually works against you because you really want the reader to think “aha, I know where this is going” until the twist comes in.
Listen To Me, Not The Flames
I can tell you had big ideas for this story but you didn’t execute them well or convey them to me appropriately. It just felt like a big jumbled mess of narratives and meta-narratives piled on top of each other. I really can’t tell how the fable is supposed to relate to the frame narrative, and unfortunately I don’t care all that much. The fable does kind of read like an ancient myth, but not one of the good ones, just one of the lame ones that makes no sense and resolves in an arbitrary nonsensical fashion.
As for the frame narrative, I was just left wondering why the hell the father wanted to tell this story to his kid instead of letting him run away? If you’re starting with a conceit like that then you need to actually justify it by the end of the story. If I was that kid I’d be like, “gently caress you dad, stop telling me this nonsensical story and let me go!”
First impressions: Confusion. I’ve read the first sentence three times and I have no clue what’s going on.
There are a lot of very strange sentences here. “The old man shot his eyes to the floor.” What?
Please give your characters names so you don’t have to refer to them by contrived titles such as “the rat-holder”.
After “He came to” I got really lost trying to figure out if it was present day or flashback. I guess you’re trying to say they are delivering bread to the prisoners inside a ‘hulk of iron’? That seems bizarre to me.
Your use of phonetic speech is really irritating.
Why does Zander have a name but not the protagonist?
The thing about him wanting to shave is kinda cute, but it’s like, a little bit of character-building detail, not something you can build your whole story around.
I have no idea what the last line is supposed to mean.
Overall—this story is a headache to read and doesn’t offer any reward when you get through it. Basically, nothing happens. I guess you were going for “a small accomplishment against the backdrop of larger events”, but even by the standards of small accomplishments, getting to shave his face seems completely trivial.
One and Another
I was looking forward to a Toba Catastrophe story and you gave it to me. Your prose is tight and your story beats come in at a good pace.
I guess if anything I felt like this was a little too by-the-book. I was waiting for something to surprise me. Your description of the ash and the sky were excellent, but they weren’t really anything that didn’t already exist in the vague platonic Toba Catastrophe story in my head.
The one thing that really stood out to me was the stuff about oneness and otherness (I guess it did to you too since you put it in the title). The ending felt a little flat to me because the guy dying was like a random encounter in an RPG. Despite your efforts to characterise him, I felt like he was interchangeable with any other man, so his death didn’t give the ending the punch that it needed. If you wanted to improve this one, I’d suggest bringing in more stuff about ‘oneness’ at the end to give it a sense of closure. Maybe the mother and daughter resolve to be a hermetic unit even after they’ve joined this new tribe?
Where late the sweet birds sang
Love the voice and the historical details here.
The ending was so implausible that I felt certain at once that it was true. After a bit of googling it seems like it’s about this guy? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximinus_Thrax The name is slightly different and he doesn’t appear to have been killed by an elephant, but the other details seem to match up.
Not much to criticise here—if you wanted to tighten it up you could maybe drop a few of the Latin words, which occasionally felt a bit contrived. Do you really need to say ‘pilum’ rather than just ‘spear’?
So far you are just showing me a bunch of people being killed, none of whom have been developed beforehand, so I don’t really care about them.
“Hector’s face was gone. His eyes stared out from barren bone. His jaw opened, and he gurgled before falling to his knees.” Overall, I find this endless violence pretty boring, but this one image I have to admit is metal as gently caress.
This story is like a horror movie with all the character development and rising tension cut out, leaving just a bunch of people dying. It isn’t interesting. Also the monsters themselves are pretty dull; it’s usually scarier if there’s at least a chance of escaping the monsters, rather than just an inevitable slaughterfest.
You could have done better by cutting out most of the deaths and spending more time on the setup. I guess I basically understood that a white man had killed a Croatoan for some reason and that was why they were being punished, but it was presented so perfunctorily. Having the monsters come to avenge a wrong is a classic horror trope and it can be good, but you have to actually set up what the wrong is—not just tell us, make us feel it.
|# ¿ Nov 28, 2016 22:50|
In. Give me some of that sweet Viking wisdom.
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2016 21:44|
|# ¿ Jan 17, 2022 17:30|
The Guest at the Feast (1350 words)
I liked to follow groups of backpackers around, especially the ones who had lots of sex. I had wandered all over Southeast Asia like that, from Goa to Phuket, until I latched onto Francine and her friends. Francine was just your typical Euro rave girl, but Lily and Wally were deep into the psychedelic occult scene. They were on a pilgrimage to that Mecca of tropical raves: the Full Moon Party on Ko Pha Ngan. There was sex, drugs, booze, dancing—everything I liked. Everything I couldn’t have.
I’d sit with them in the beach bars and laugh along with their jokes. I’d stand in the middle of the crowd on the dancefloor and feel their sweaty bodies moving around me, moving through me. I could hear the music, but I couldn’t feel the vibrations any more.
Before I died, I’d wanted to live forever. Now, I just wanted to be alive again.
It was a few hours before sunrise in their hotel room in Haad Rin. Francine was reclining on a beanbag, two pills deep; Wally was cutting up weed and his girlfriend Lily was talking a hundred miles an hour about esotericism.
“I’m bored,” said Francine.
“You know what we should do?” said Lily. “Let’s perform a summoning.”
“What the hell are you talking about Lily?” said Francine.
Lily rifled through her stuff and came out with an Aleister Crowley book. “Summoning a spirit.”
My ears pricked up—or they would have done, if I’d had any kind of corporeal form.
“How would you like to go on the ultimate trip, Francine? Being possessed by a spirit from beyond.”
“You’re tripping, baby.”
“Nah,” said Wally, rolling his joint. “We saw someone do it, back in London.”
“You scared, Feefee?” said Lily. “I thought you said you’d try anything once.”
Francine sat up. The look in her eyes sent a thrill through me.
Twenty minutes later she was sitting in a pentagram drawn on the floor with mayonnaise. Lily was chanting in a monotone, pausing occasionally when Wally passed her the joint.
As the ritual reached its climax, the whole world started to look like a whirlpool with Francine at the bottom of it. I could have tried to swim away, but instead I dove right into her. Feelings rushed through me—breath, sweat, guts processing food. I opened my eyes.
“Oh my god,” I said in Francine’s voice. “It worked. I’m alive!” I grabbed Lily and kissed her on the lips.
“I want drugs,” I said. “I want drugs and then I want to dance and then I want sex, sex, sex.” I was understandably excited, and the molly wasn’t doing anything to calm me down.
Who are you? Came a voice from the back of my head. What are you?
Francine? I said. Listen, you don’t need to be afraid. I’m just a lonely ghost. All I want is to ride your body for a day or two and then I’ll leave.
Wow! said Francine. I can hardly believe this is happening.
Lily and Wally were whispering to each other. They stopped and looked at me. Then Wally jumped on me and held me down on the ground. Lily flipped through the book until she found another ritual and began reciting it.
Holy poo poo! Francine cried.
This ritual was a lot shorter. At the end of it I felt a sharp constriction close around my soul.
This is bad, I told Francine. I think they just trapped me inside your body.
“We did it!” Wally shouted. “We caught an actual spirit!”
Lily leaned over my prostrate body and kissed him. “We’re gonna be bloody rich, man.”
I always knew you were loving creeps! Francine shouted, unheard.
Fortunately, her body was stronger than it looked. I got one arm free and grabbed the nearest heavy object, which happened to be Wally’s bong, and smashed it over his head. He went out like a light. I threw him off me and stood up.
“You loving bitch!” Lily shouted, but she was a coward at heart. She ran out the door screaming for help.
This is bad, I said. I could get into a lot of trouble for this.
Trouble? With who?
I picked up the Crowley book and flipped through it, looking for a way to reverse the ritual, but it was all gibberish to me.
I ran to the hotel window and looked down. We were five stories up, overlooking a dirty concrete pavement.
Oh no, said Francine. Oh please not that, man. I didn’t know any of this was going to happen.
I swallowed. She was right. Killing this body would be the easiest way to get out of it, but I couldn’t do that to Francine. She was an innocent bystander, and besides, when you’ve secretly watched someone have sex a bunch of times you grow to like them.
Instead I turned to the glass table strewn with drugs and paraphernalia.
That’s it! I said. Maybe some combination of drugs can knock me loose without harming you.
OK. OK, try looking in Wally’s fanny pack, Francine told me.
I tore the pack open and tipped it out: weed, acid, ketamine... “Come on Wally,” I muttered. “You kept telling everyone how your uncle was cured of cancer by a shaman in Brazil. You must have some DMT lying around here somewhere.”
At last I happened upon a bag of crushed crystals that looked about right.
Is this DMT? I asked Francine.
She gave the psychic equivalent of a shrug. Either that or really dirty crack.
It’ll have to do.
I loaded a huge hit into a glass pipe and started searching for a lighter. Suddenly, meaty hands grabbed me from behind. Wally hadn’t been out as cold as I’d thought. We toppled through the glass table, cutting ourselves. Lily burst in the door with five or six tanned shirtless dudes behind her.
I kicked Wally in the balls and grabbed the lighter I had just seen lying on the carpet beside me. As quick as I could I put the flame to the pipe and sucked hard.
I found myself floating in an infinite spiral of darkness, facing towards a wall of kaleidoscopic light. A face made of glowing fractals emerged from the wall and regarded me with five thousand eyes.
//YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE YET//, it said. //AND NEITHER ARE YOU//
I realised that Francine was floating beside me. I’d sent both of us way too far—all the way to the farthest edge of reality.
Holy poo poo, she said.
//WANDERING-EGO, YOU HAVE A THOUSAND MORE YEARS ON EARTH BEFORE YOU CAN PASS ON//, the infinite face told me. //EGO-NAMED-FRANCINE-ROUX, YOU MUST RETURN TO YOUR PHYSICAL BODY//
Wait, I said. I’m really sorry about this, but I got trapped inside her body with her. See, there was this ritual, and—
The face emitted a massive crystalline tone that sent ripples through the cosmos. Yeah, I was in big trouble.
Listen, couldn’t you just send me back as a ghost again?
//WE CANNOT INTERFERE WITH EVENTS INSIDE THE HOLOGRAM UNIVERSE//
Then what am I supposed to do? I think they’re going to force me to reveal the secrets of the afterlife.
The face vanished. The wall transformed into a fourth-dimensional solid, then back again.
//A SOLUTION HAS BEEN FOUND. THE PHYSICAL BODY OF EGO-NAMED-FRANCINE-ROUX CONTAINS A BODY THAT IS AS YET UNOCCUPIED // WANDERING-EGO, YOU MUST ENTER INTO THIS BODY BEFORE IT REACHES MATURATION//
Wait, what? said Francine. Are you saying what I think you’re saying?
//RETURN NOW TO THE HOLOGRAM//
We were sucked back into the spiral universe, two glowing souls plummeting through endless darkness. I reached out and grabbed Francine’s hand.
Please tell me you won’t abort me, I said.
I won’t abort you, wandering soul.
And no more drugs and alcohol until I’m born.
Francine’s spirit was awkwardly silent.
At least cut back on it a little?
Um, yeah. Yeah, I promise.
Together, we plunged back into our bodies and the world.
|# ¿ Dec 4, 2016 08:07|