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Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Alright, let's get this prompt a-rollin'.

THUNDERDOME WEEK CLXXIX: Strange Logs


I guess this picture is thematically appropriate, I dunno I'm tired of searching.

Since I guess everyone is now officially spending all of their waking hours playing Undertale or Angry Birds or whatever instead of writing, I've cooked up a little prompt that should prove both interesting and topical! This week I want you guys to head over to The Strange Log, a twitter compendium of video game bug fixes and patch notes that have their own bizarre, magical charm. Divorced from any context or logic, these little gems are the perfect seeds for some really compelling fiction. So pick a patch note, interpret it however you'd like, and give me your best shot!

A couple notes:

If you're struggling to pick, I'd recommend going with something that has some hint of conflict baked into it. A lot of people are going to be tempted to write conceptual pieces that don't actually have a narrative arc, and that would not be prudent.

You can choose to let me pick your prompt for you in exchange for 200 bonus words if nothing is grabbing you or if you don't trust yourself to edit a story under the wordcount or something.

You can also crit someone else's story from any previous week (please pick someone that is still active in the Dome, so that they might actually see it) for an additional 200 bonus words!

You can tell me your pick when you sign up or you can edit it in later, I don't care. As long as I know what it is when I'm reading the stories. You can pick the same one as someone else if you really want to.


Wordcount: 1200 words
Sign up by: Midnight EST on Friday, January 8th
Submissions Close: Midnight EST on Sunday, January 10th


Judges:
Grizzled Patriarch
SurreptitiousMuffin
???

Strange Loggers:

Mercedes - "Toilets are no longer death traps"
WeLandedOnTheMoon! - "error when a cult leader drinks laudanum and decides to leave their cult" (+200 words)
curlingiron - "if a player drank Whisky in their apartment until they passed out, this could cause a clone to appear who would then attack them." (+200 words)
Thranguy - "Doctor repeatedly tries and fails to suture wounds that have already healed" (+200 words)
Broenheim - "Snail freed from trailing-plant prison—now moves freely, incorporeally through all biological matter."
klapman - "Fort gets sieged by invisible friendly elf/human babies"
Sitting Here - "signs and books will destroy the world after a while. Don't use or have them." (+200 words)
Wangless Wonder - "Fixed burning players being unable to see themselves on fire"
unwantedplatypus - "It is no longer possible to ride a mount inside Bartleby and Daughters bank"
HellishWhiskers - "Listening to a sermon caused colonists’ bodies to explode" (+200 words)
C7ity1 -
kurona_bright - "The entrance elevator door has had a stern talking to, and should no longer lock people inside."
Bandiet - "Rabbit falls through snow layers and suffocates."
Killer-of-Lawyers - "Mick & Ralph's no longer store strange meat and strange meat pies in their fridges," (+200 words)
ghost crow - "Potions are tasting much better now, especially the harmful ones." (+200 words)
Djeser - "Adjusted value of bees"
Amused Frog - "The Grim Reaper will no longer be prevented from reaping souls due to band affiliation." (+200 words)
theblunderbuss - "Dead birds no longer continue to play bird sounds."
sebmojo - "Inanimate objects no longer write journal entries when they die"
Entenzahn - "New dwarves take impact damage on arrival. One died."
CaligulaKangaroo - "Colonists will occasionally turn into fishpeople and run into the sea" (+200 words)
Ironic Twist - "Merchants climb up tree and go insane" (+200 words)
RedTonic - "stopped vampires from pinning their crimes on babies and children" (+200 words)
Ceighk - "Ghost crabs have been moved from the crypt to the swamp"
FreudianSlippers - "Crops planted/tended by mad cultists will occasionally be Evil" (+200 words)
Pham Nuwen - "Wizards will now hear the pitter patter of their little feet"
Sixto Lezcano - "There is no warning when hitting floating eyes." (+200 words)
newtestleper - "Stopped zombies from interrupting your sleep to ask if they can help you with something" (+200 words)
Jeza - “Fix walkable area in subway so Dropsy can't walk beyond the darkness.”
Bleusman - "Now all giants, no matter how awkward, count for something." (+200 words)
Masonity - "Rain kills everything it lands on"

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at Jan 9, 2016 around 03:12

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Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




WeLandedOnTheMoon! posted:

Pick a glitch for me, old man.

"error when a cult leader drinks laudanum and decides to leave their cult"

curlingiron posted:

In with a for my last failure. GP, if you would do me the honor of assigning a bug fix, I would be much obliged.

"if a player drank Whisky in their apartment until they passed out, this could cause a clone to appear who would then attack them."

Thranguy posted:

In, and I'll take an assigned glitch as well.

"Doctor repeatedly tries and fails to suture wounds that have already healed"

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Sitting Here posted:

in, glitch me please, GP

"signs and books will destroy the world after a while. Don't use or have them."

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




HellishWhiskers posted:

In, spin the glitch wheel for me.

"Listening to a sermon caused colonists’ bodies to explode"

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Killer-of-Lawyers posted:

Alright, GP. Hit me with a tweet when you got time. I'm in.

Mick & Ralph's no longer store strange meat and strange meat pies in their fridges,

ghost crow posted:

I'm in, I'll take a judge picked status

Potions are tasting much better now, especially the harmful ones.

Amused Frog posted:

I'm in.

Tweet (twot? twat?) me.

The Grim Reaper will no longer be prevented from reaping souls due to band affiliation.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




CaligulaKangaroo posted:

In!

Rolling for random glitch!

Colonists will occasionally turn into fishpeople and run into the sea

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Ironic Twist posted:

In.

You know me, you know what I do, gimme something.

Merchants climb up tree and go insane

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




RedTonic posted:

I'm in. Catch a bug for me, GP.

stopped vampires from pinning their crimes on babies and children

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




FreudianSlippers posted:

In.

Glitch me.

Crops planted/tended by mad cultists will occasionally be Evil

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Sixto Lezcano posted:

In. Glitch it to me, baby.

There is no warning when hitting floating eyes.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




newtestleper posted:

In, assign me a bug.

I would be grateful if it's not accounting software related.

Stopped zombies from interrupting your sleep to ask if they can help you with something

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Bleusman posted:

I'm in! I'll take a glitch.

Now all giants, no matter how awkward, count for something.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




2 hours left to sign up and subject me to the untold horrors of reading 30+ stories this weekend.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Sign-ups are closed!

If anyone else wants to judge, let me know here, or on IRC, or via PM.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Six hours left to get those stories in!

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




That's all, folks!

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




RESULTS!

This was a pretty middle-of-the-road week overall. There weren't a lot of stories that wowed us, but nothing was terribly offensive, either. Some of you took your prompt and did something really interesting with it, and even if it didn't always work, I definitely appreciated it. Well, let's get to the stuff everyone came here for.

Honorable Mentions for the week go to Sign Language by Sitting Here for an interesting concept that gets fleshed out with believable characters, a touching narrative arc, and some really neat imagery. CaligulaKangaroo also picks up an HM for The Ablution Feast, which delivers some really atmospheric, Lovecraftian storytelling with some strong prose and intriguing, sympathetic characters.

This week's Win goes to Ironic Twist for Iota, which is a very interesting, abstract, and beautifully written piece which takes some risks that really pay off.

Of course, with every spoonful of sugar comes the medicine.

Dishonorable Mention for this week goes to Pham Nuwen for Get off my magical lawn. This was a cutesy joke that went on for a bit too long - the setup takes too long, it relies way too hard on walls of dialogue, and the story itself is really predictable. This wasn't terrible, but the whole thing feels a bit affected and once it becomes clear where it's headed, the rest of the story is just going through the motions.

Which brings us to the unfortunate Loss for this week: Masonity takes the losertar for The Umbrella Man, a story that doesn't really have a narrative arc or any real characterization / motivations to speak of, and on top of that it's 90% dialogue in a grating cockney accent. This is another story that is leaning too hard on the idea that sparked it and forgets to make the reader care about what is happening. That said, there is the germ of a better story here, and I'm guessing you either ran out of time or just wanted to do a joke entry; I can at least appreciate that you decided to keep this brief instead of dragging it out and making it painful.

The throne is all yours, Twist!

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




In as hell.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Hell yeah this rules. In, with a for last week's shameful display.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Hidden camera footage from the Team Ock locker room:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sP8sbTpils

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Entenzahn posted:


i want the words


because lol if you think I care about the word count of a guy who's notorious for slapping a bunch of pretty words from his thesaurus together and going "eh gently caress it, good enough" 400 words into his worldbuilding exercise. Seriously, the only thing that's worse than waiting for GP to write a story with an ending is waiting for him to post a goddamn prompt. And here I thought old people were supposed to get up early.

Anyway. I'm taking the words, not because I want to write more, gently caress no, I've already churned out so many precrits my keyboard is begging me to END IT ALREADY (its death will be in vain. we all know what we do with feedback in the 'dome ). I'm doing it because the judges deserve better. They deserve better words. They deserve 100 of them. And who will deliver them, if not me. You? Ha. Ha. Don't be ridiculous. I've read your draft. Unless you're on team mermen. They don't draft. They don't even have a coach, though I hear sh makes a fine babysitter when she's not busy aggressively procrastinating.

I understand why she does it. If I'd have to watch 1000+ words of sh-prose dance across the screen, every single week of my life... well, I'm just saying.

take my opponent's words

Here's a story for you: Entenzahn tries to take me on head-to-head.
Here's the ending: He loses.

You're a good kid, Ent. But this is the real world, and you've got to be realistic here. The thing is, I can crap out a first draft two hours before the deadline, forget to proofread it, or even finish it for that matter, and still proceed to wipe my rear end with the story you spent all weekend on.

I'm just going to go ahead and take those words back from you. For a second I considered being merciful and letting you keep them, because lord knows you're going to need every last one. But then my conscience stepped in - I don't think I could live with myself if I had the opportunity to save my pals Djinn and Bro from 100 bad words and didn't take it. But hey, maybe it's not too late to write a story about a dog riding a bicycle, see if a bit of pandering can at least carry you across the finish line after you poo poo your running shorts.

I know Djinn's little mathematical formula predicts that you're gonna win, but as Elvis Costello once said, my aim is true. And I never was much good at arithmetic.

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at Jan 24, 2016 around 02:52

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Grace Land
(1,167 words) (+33 gifted to Sitting Here)

*snip*

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at Dec 31, 2016 around 18:05

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Yeah alright, I'm In.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




The Little Bird Don't Sing No More
(925 words)

*snip*

See archive

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at Feb 20, 2016 around 17:29

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




In.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Crits for Strange Log Week, Part 1



klapman - The Fetal Fastness

This was a lot more poignant than I was expecting, given your prompt. You've got a good hook, and you keep introducing these new, interesting elements that make me want to keep reading. There's a neat balance of self-aware goofiness and a deeper, more meditative tone that I dig.

Mechanically, your prose has improved a lot. When you first started in the dome, you had some issues with purple prose / unclear imagery, but you've really pared it down. The imagery here is actually pretty strong; I really liked the bits with the invisible babies carrying away the swords / corpses and all of the soldiers seeing the funeral pyre. The whole thing is kinda surreal, but still internally consistent.

The only real issue I had here is that the first half is a lot stronger than the second; you start out with this strong sense of immediacy and these clear images, but then you get to the stuff with the narrator's son and the narrative eye sort of "zooms out," I guess is the best way to put it. The result is that a lot of action gets compressed and things inevitably become more tell than show, which makes it hard to get emotionally invested in what is meant to be a touching sequence. It almost feels like two different stories bolted together -- I see what you are going for, but you need more space to stretch your legs in the back half for it to be effective.

Not a bad way to start the week!

Amused Frog - Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers

Another good hook.

This is a fun idea that just doesn't quite land, for me. I think part of the issue is that you've got what Roger Ebert would call an "idiot plot" - a lot of the narrative arc depends on characters being dumb / making dumb decisions. This can work - for another film-related reference, the Coen brothers pull it off pretty well - but here there just isn't enough meat to make it satisfying. It's pretty obvious early on how this is going to play out, and expectations aren't subverted.

To be fair, part of this is the prompt's fault. You've got an interesting concept here, but when you're talking about death being eradicated, just having a band that doesn't die from random diseases or something feels like it isn't taking that concept to the most interesting place it could go. The image of the audience being all battered and scarred and pockmarked is pretty cool, but I think you should have taken it even further. This is an absurd premise, so go nuts with it.

Your prose is solid enough, and there weren't any issues with clarity. The dialogue didn't quite ring true to me, but I can't really put my finger on why.

Not a bad story, but it didn't do enough to stand out of the crowd this week.

CaligulaKangaroo - The Ablution Feast

Muffin really wanted this to HM, and it was an easy call to make. This was one of the best stories of the week in terms of evoking a strong mood / atmosphere, which really lends itself well to this kind of story. It wears its Lovecraft influence on its sleeve (which is pretty much a given with that prompt) but there's this quiet sense of building dread that I really liked.

The prose is strong, and you know when details are important, and when holding back a little bit can be just as effective. There's some good characterization--the mother and father feel very human. The reverend is kinda leaning towards a caricature, but that Puritan, fire-and-brimstone type of character is one of the most difficult to write well, in my opinion.

The ending is great, too. Sweet, sad, and succinct.

theblunderbuss - Bliss

Your intro here is a little iffy. Since we don't know the bird is supposed to be dead right away, it takes a few paragraphs to get hooked. The mini weather report in the second paragraph doesn't help. In fact, Old Saul himself seems kind of unnecessary - you could have Ciara find the bird herself and it would basically play out the same without leaving the reader to wonder if this guy is ever going to show up again.

Once things pick up, it's a lot easier to get invested. There's some interesting stuff, you establish a strong conflict, and there's a satisfying / logical conclusion that is genuinely pretty creepy. The major issue here is a structural one - you are sort of playing coy with the reader the whole way through, which is a bit frustrating. It's obvious that Ciara knows what is going on and how to fix it, but you keep teasing the explanation out until the very end, which creates a sense of unearned tension. I think if you were just right out in the open with it, you could do some even more interesting stuff with the relationship between these two women. As it is, I just feel like I'm on the periphery the whole time, an outsider looking in.

Pham Nuwen - Get off my magical lawn

This story is just kind of silly in a way that doesn't end up being satisfying - what payoff there is is already heavily implied / pretty much explained early on, and it's just not a strong enough gag to hang a story on in the first place.

The biggest issue here is that the story is almost completely dialogue; it's a guy telling a story to another guy to explain an element of the story, which is almost never going to fly. Without some characterization, some sense of space / blocking / what these people are doing and thinking about, it's pretty much impossible to become invested in them or the situation. This is magnified by the fact that the most interesting characters in the story - the children and their father - are secondary to this very matter-of-fact explanation of what happened to them, to the point that it basically reads like a wikipedia article.

Basically, what you ended up doing was telling a story about telling a story. All of the important conflict and characterization is secondhand or off-screen, so there's not really anything for the reader to interact with.

Masonity - The Umbrella Man

Opening with dialogue is tricky, and it just doesn't work when you immediately break from that dialogue to create this sort of thin framing device. The entire story is dialogue except for those two framing lines, and as a result there isn't a way to visualize anything that is taking place. All I have is two talking heads, one of whom is talking in a grating, almost cartoonish cockney accent. There's no real conflict, no characterization aside from "this guy is a swindler," and no real narrative arc. Basically, it's not even a story at all. Nothing actually happens, and the entire thing culminates in what is essentially a throwaway gag.

I dunno, it's hard to give constructive feedback with this piece because I'm pretty confident that it was just a last-minute rush job. It pretty much breaks every rule of basic storytelling.

HellishWhiskers - The Universal Translator

This was an interesting story, and I'm still not totally sure how I feel about it. The story seems to be setting something up, and then it takes a hard right turn into something else, and it only partially works.

On a mechanical level, your prose is a little hit or miss - some of it feels overengineered, like your using larger, less precise synonyms that tend to break the flow of your lines and make them sound clunky. Sometimes this can work if you are doing it for a very specific effect - there's a David Foster Wallace story called Another Pioneer that does this - but here it doesn't quite seem deliberate. The dialogue doesn't really feel natural (it has a kind of self-conscious, weary-cynic feel), and the stutter is just not a good idea.

It's not irredeemable or anything; the idea is a neat one, and the sheer insanity of this "diplomat" that shows up is great. I think you went out on a limb here and I can appreciate / respect that even if it doesn't stick the landing. I also dig that final line, even if maybe it shouldn't technically work. I think it's like a one-line summary of the tonal whiplash that the story has got going on, and I like that.

Bleusman - A Fellow of Means

I liked this one. This is a good example of creating a narrative voice that contributes to the flavor of the story without feeling particularly intrusive. This is also a pretty good example of a story where the surreal elements feel natural because the characters' reactions to events remain consistent, even if they aren't "realistic."

The main issue here is that you've got these competing conflicts - the narrator's vs. the giant's - and the giant ends up being the more compelling character by quite a bit, which means that the story should have probably been told from his point of view. As it is, the reader ends up feeling like a spectator instead of being immersed in what is going on.

I dunno, I don't have all that much to say about this piece. There isn't a super strong narrative arc, but it's still a charming little story with some strong imagery, a solid voice, and an interesting premise. Pretty good for a debut story!

Ceighk - To The Curious

Opening with character descriptions is kinda like opening with the weather, or a description of someone waking up. That said, you almost make it interesting enough to work here - it sets a tone, and there's a bit of characterization in it, so I can forgive it.

You spend almost half the story setting up backstory and banter in a hand-wavey way that makes it feel unnecessary, and it mostly is. You could get the same thing across in a low fewer words and get to the actual meat of the story earlier, which is important when you are trying to keep the reader's attention. You do a good job of establishing a paranoid atmosphere, though.

The ghost crabs are cool, and you do a pretty good job with the imagery there. Then we get to this portal, and everything is building up and...nothing happens. I guess you are going for a kind of joke ending here, subverting the whole "curious person finds much more than they bargained for" Lovecraftian trope, but the side effect is that you totally kill your story's momentum and basically deflate all of the tension / interest that has been building. It's a gag that could maybe work in a more visual medium, like a TV show, but as the climax of a piece of written fiction it just doesn't work. Instead of being funny, it comes across as the author being afraid to commit to the story they are setting up.

WeLandedOnTheMoon! - Bindings

I think I mentioned this in IRC, but when I started reading this, I was in judgemode and I thought that my lack of a "no erotica" disclaimer had finally come back to bite me. Once I got farther into the story though, I think that intro serves it well. The way it segues into the next few paragraphs paint a really great picture of the kind of relationship we're dealing with.

Your prose is really strong throughout, and you've got some impressive economy of prose. Lots of little bits of characterization, foreshadowing, etc.

The time jumps were a little disorienting on my first read-through, though maybe I was just tired, because the second time I didn't have any problem with it. There's a good narrative through-line here, though I kinda wish I had a bit more insight into the narrator's headspace. It's hard to tell exactly what his motivations / desires are, though I suppose that's understandable when you're dealing with someone that is confused and narcotized, just drifting through life. This story is dark - not quite nihilistic, but pretty grim, and all of the judges were a bit unsure how we felt when we finished reading it. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Definitely in the upper end of this week.


Alright, I've got to get up early tomorrow, so I'll post the rest of this week's crits tomorrow!

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Terra Infirma
(615 words)

*snip*

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at Dec 31, 2016 around 18:06

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Sitting Here posted:



You're on, old man

Time to stretch my legs a bit.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




In with 34) Gold mourning ring with a painted eye.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Painted Eyes
(860 words)
Gold mourning ring with a painted eye


The portrait appeared one morning in the second-floor gallery. The temporary placard read: Mariner with Gilded Brass Astrolabe, and below that: Artist Unknown.

I often visited the gallery to watch other people. Almost always I would stand near the top of the stairs or lean against the bannister—there was an obscene sort of thrill in seeing people down below, diminished. No one ever considered what they looked like from above. Never thought about bald spots or stains near their collars.

Sometimes I just sat on one of the benches and closed my eyes, straining to hear the whisper of the automatic doors or the chiming gift shop register above the thrum of mingled voices.

But the portrait bothered me. The subject was a young man, blue-eyed, with blonde hair cropped close along the sides of his skull. He was seated in front of a red velvet curtain with the astrolabe in his lap. It was the eyes that I didn’t like. Something about the eyes. I had always felt comfortable in the gallery, swallowed up in the crowd. Yet the painting’s gaze seemed to search me out.

I began to visit the gallery every afternoon. The woman at the turnstiles offered the same narcotized smile each time—I don’t believe she ever once recognized me. I would look at the painting for hours, standing there until my knees ached and my legs felt soft. Other people would float through the gallery in twos and threes, couples with children and couples without, very few alone. They passed around me like water. Rarely someone else would stop beside the portrait, regard it for a moment with a pinched, near-sighted grimace, and continue on.

After the third day, it struck me that no one else aside from the artist had spent so much time with the painting. I felt almost ashamed, standing there. But slowly, I had come to doubt myself. To be convinced, privately, in my soul, that the young man’s eyes had found me out, discovered some interior defect or fraudulence.

I realized, too, that I had been waiting for something to happen. Standing so close that I could make out each brushstroke, every pore in the canvas, in anticipation of some revelation, some revival. Roll away the stone.

Those painted eyes haunted me, even followed me home. I would collapse onto my bed at night, shake off my loafers, and the eyes would drift across my vision like motes. Even when I squeezed my own eyes shut, I could see them in a burst of red against the back of my eyelids, as if illuminated by lightning.

On the fifth day, I hid a boxcutter in my pocket. I climbed stiffly up the stairs, felt it cold against my thigh. I went into the bathroom and locked myself in a stall, extended and retracted the razor, weighed it in my palm. Scratched at week-old stubble.

The portrait’s installation had been completed overnight. Gone was the paper placard, replaced with handsome brass. Those painted eyes now stared from behind a quarter-inch sheet of clear acrylic.

I went home, defeated. I threw the boxcutter in the trash. The next morning I woke from a nightmare that I couldn’t recall, and my sheets were soaked with sweat.

After work, I went to the auto shop down the street and bought a quart of battery acid. I poured some into a mason jar and screwed the lid down tight.

There was a gap between the portrait and the acrylic—perhaps a few centimeters. I stood at the top of the stairs and let people jostle past me with their elbows and shoulders. My head felt empty. The mason jar tugged at my coatpocket, and cold fear seeped into my belly, as if the mariner’s eyes would betray my intentions to the other visitors. I pictured men in a dark room, glowing CCTV monitors.

I watched the acid, the arc of it, glittering under the soft gallery lights. Splashing above the frame and dripping behind the acrylic. For a moment I felt pinned in place, mesmerized by the red curtain running down in bloody rivulets, the terrible eyes turned to jelly.

I ran. I heard shouting behind me, the squeal of rubber soles on linoleum. Someone gasping, shouting, Stop. Through the turnstiles.

I stayed an entire day in my apartment with the lights off and the blinds drawn. I didn’t go near the window or make any calls.

I went to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror.

It was the mariner’s eyes that looked back at me, blue and depthless, gleaming like volcanic glass. They seemed to be swelling, growing larger as I looked on, as if they would swallow up the entire face.

The mason jar was a lump in my pocket. There was still a bit left. The eyes, spreading, like a shadow passing below calm waters. I tipped the jar toward my face, watched an oily yellow droplet tremble at its lip, fighting the almost unbearable urge to turn away. I told myself that it would all be over soon. One drop. Then another.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




In.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Strange Logs Crits Part 2/2


Thranguy - The Troll Surgeon

I like where you were going with this - it's got a kind of Catch-22 vibe with fantasy trappings, and it was a cool way to interpret the prompt.

The prose is solid, and it flows pretty well for the most part. There is a bit more telling vs. showing than I'd like, but it would be tough to convey everything organically within the wordcount, and since it wasn't in the form of pace-breaking exposition dumps, I can work with it.

The primary issue I had with this piece is that the conflict feels a bit low-stakes, and the solution isn't all that satisfying. The narrator mentions that he's risking a black mark on his career, but he comes across as kinda flippant about the whole thing, especially since you time jump past the bit where he's presumably stressing out and feeling the pressure over finding a realistic solution. Just having the trolls eat it works, I guess, but I don't really see the difference between that and just chucking it in a bonfire. Either way, it's fraudulent, but only if he gets caught. Still, it's got an arc, a likeable narrator, and a recognizable voice, so it's certainly not a bad piece overall.

Jeza - Filth

I liked that you went all in and actually incorporated the prompt itself into your story - I think you were the only person to do that this week, and in this case it worked.

It is a bit odd in the sense that I already know about the game / character Dropsy, so it was basically impossible not to picture him while reading this. I'm not sure if someone who wasn't familiar with it would be better off or not. The Dropsy in your story is sympathetic and compelling, but he does seem to set up as the very obvious victim from the beginning, which maybe undercuts the pathos a bit.

This whole piece has a really effective, sinister tone, thanks to your strong prose and your smart use of detail. You give us just enough to get a good sense of what is going on, while managing to keep the darkness at the end of the platform a mystery in a way that isn't disappointing. I believe this just narrowly missed HMing.

Ironic Twist - Iota

This was a really interesting piece. Strictly speaking, not a lot happens - it ends by teasing future narrative development, rather than actually going through it, but there's enough of an arc / characterization to make that work.

Your prose is unsurprisingly strong, though one of the judges cited some minor clarity issues. For me, the abstraction is effective - it does a good job of evoking the narrator's mood / thought process, and it takes a bigger risk than most of the stories this week, which is something I like to see. The only other quibble I have with it is that the narrator's motivation feels a little hollow - it sorta feels like a setup for a story instead of a natural chain of events, but on the other hand it works in the sort of mythic context you've established.

I dunno, not a whole lot else to say about this, really. A strong, neat take on a prompt that would have been really easy to mess up.

Sitting Here - Sign Language

This was one of my favorite prompt interpretations this week, just because it went in a direction that I probably never would have considered.

This was also a really tricky approach to take, because it kinda requires a lot of psuedo-worldbuilding / exposition to frame the action and establish the story's logic. For the most part, you pull it off admirably - you've got this confident, casual narrative tone that turns what could have been really dry and info-dumpy into something genuinely engaging. There are a few places where you teeter on the edge of telling vs. showing; it takes until a third of the way through the story to really form a connection to the characters and their motivations, which is definitely a bit later than you'd ideally want. But to your credit, I didn't want to stop reading before that point, and once you get into the meat of it, it more than makes up for that initial sluggishness. This was a really close contender for the win.

Broenheim - Snail

The tone in this piece is pretty neat - it's got this weird mix of nostalgic innocence and sadness that play very well off of each other.

The prose here is very utilitarian and the cadence is pretty choppy. I'm pretty sure this was intentional, because it gives it a sort of children's book feel that meshes with the characters / plot / tone, but it's not a whole lot of fun to read. I feel bad saying that, because you pulled off what you were going for pretty well, and that's quite possibly just the fault of my personal taste.

It's a really sweet story, and writing from the POV of a snail is great. There just isn't a whole lot of meat on the narrative bones - the arc is predictable, and we don't really get into the snail's headspace enough to make it really connect on a deeply emotional level.

Chairchucker - The Fin on the Back is Part of the Deal

First of all, good on you for snapping up someone else's failed prompt and running with it.

This was a really fun little piece, and it made me smile. You actually did a pretty impressive job of compressing an entire narrative arc into such a tiny space - there's a conflict established right away, a buildup, the climax, and denouement, all in less than 400 words. It's nothing profound, but it isn't pretending to be. Nice prose, nice use of voice, and a genuinely funny bit of action.

FreudianSlippers - Blood and Soil

Solid hook, makes me want to see what is going to happen next.

Your prose isn't bad, but there are quite a few proofreading errors - mostly missing punctuation and some clunky lines that need to be combined or split up. There's bits of characterization here and there, but a lot of the action here feels a little disconnected, because character motivations are either unclear or just kinda presented in the form of exposition, which makes it hard to relate to them. The narrative arc itself is solid enough - it doesn't fall into the obvious cliches that "evil plants" usually leads to. The ending works, though there are some issues with pacing / clarity towards the end. Overall, this was a solidly middle-of-the-pack story this week, which is not bad at all for a first effort!

Wangless Wonder - Play Him Off

I liked this one quite a bit - the setup initially seems absurd, and there are these establishing bits of setting / characterization that bounce between comical and sad in a way that works surprisingly well.

The prose is pretty good throughout - everything is clear and concise, and there are some nice little subtle details that give this piece texture and make it feel real and human, which is important when it comes to empathizing with characters. I will say that the wife feels a bit left out - she comes across more as a sounding board for the plot beats than as a living, breathing character. There's just enough there to keep her from being totally one-dimensional, but there's also room to make her decision to leave more impactful.

The ending works well, and it feels natural. It's maybe not all that satisfying, but that's thematically appropriate, I think.

Entenzahn - Bedrock Bottom

This was an entertaining story - one of the other judges said it feels like a Dwarf Fortress scenario, and it definitely does have that tone and general narrative structure, which isn't a bad thing.

Your prose is solid, and the little bombastic flourishes work well, though the voice is maybe a little weaker than your usual stuff. There's a strong narrative arc, multiple conflicts with clear motivation, characters that behave in a believable way, etc. - the issue I had is that it all feels like it's sorta taking a paint-by-numbers approach to it all; everything that happens makes sense and drives the plot forward, but none of it feels particularly compelling / stimulating, as a reader. Things happen, and it's compelling enough on a basic dramatic level to keep me reading, but afterward I just don't really end up very invested in it. That's a common problem this week, though, and there's enough good stuff here to put it in the upper half of the week, in my book.

curlingiron - Darkest Desires

This was one of the trickier prompts this week, I feel, but you handled it well.

Good hook, and a strong voice right out of the gate. There are a few "as you know..." moments in the beginning, but you break out of it pretty quickly. The prose is solid, with a few really nice turns of phrase sprinkled throughout. Enough to give it flavor without becoming a distraction.

Eustace feels like a real person, or at least like a few of the alcoholics I've known; he's mean, and angry, but there's still something there that makes you sympathize, or at least acknowledge that he's hurting. The double itself is interesting. There's the obvious thematic stuff there - a manifestation of subconscious thoughts and misplaced aggression, etc. Then it seems to take on a more sinister aspect, and the bit where Eustace is just totally powerless to do anything is pretty creepy. The dialogue is a bit on the nose - parts of it work, but other parts feel artificial, like something a person in a B-movie would say. The cap locks + exclamation combo sticks out, especially - honestly, it's almost never a good idea to use either, let alone both.

I'm still not totally sure how I feel about the ending. It's bleak as hell, and although Eustace seems to be stuck in a rut / having doubts about the course his life has taken, it doesn't seem like his subconscious would literally want to murder them. It's just such a brutal resolution that it's hard to even process it any farther than the surface level. On the one hand, I think most of the alternatives would be cliche, but on the other, it feels a bit out of character / proportion. I'll be curious to see what the other judges think about this.

kurona bright - Locked Elevator Puzzle

I like the premise here - I guess it's maybe not the most original idea, but you do enough with the tone and voice to make me not care.

The dialogue is nice - it feels like a realistic progression for someone trying to bargain their way out of a frustrating, mundane situation, and you do a good job with the tonal shift about halfway through as it starts to feel more panicked. It's tough to write a scene like this, where on the surface not a whole lot is happening, but you pull it off by creating dramatic tension.

The ending, though, is kind of a disappointment. It feels like you weren't quite sure where to go with it, or that a more naturalistic ending would likely be anticlimactic / unsatisfying, which is definitely a risk. But here, you just give us some eldritch abomination out of left field, and it doesn't feel earned. Then you undercut that moment by making it sort of slapstick - the guy sees this monster, then gets shot with a dart, and slumps to the ground while he formulates a parting quip. It just takes that tone you've been working with and pushes it a bit too far over the edge into the farcical. As a result, it feels like you pull back at the last minute instead of committing to the set-up.

Bandiet - Rabbit and Turtle

I'm guessing this was written in a last-minute rush, because it feels very incomplete.

Your prose isn't bad at all on a mechanical level, which is always impressive for a first-timer. You spend maybe a bit too much time in the beginning before you actually establish the conflict / motivations, but I'm still not entirely clear on the what or why. It's a shack full of weapons, I guess? And they are going to steal them for some reason? Are they gonna pawn them, keep them, start a revolution, what?

You've got some nice banter going between them - the bit with the nerves in the turtle shell is a nice example of working characterization in through dialogue. But then they start walking toward this shack, and a guy falls through a hole in the snow, or through some ice? "They" dug it out - who is they? As far as I can tell, these guys were going to steal the guns hidden in an old shack, but the owners got there first and carried them all away and left some kind of pit trap? So they both fall in, and scream, and the story ends, right as you are getting to the actual action. What happens to them? Are they dead? Do they sit in a hole and freeze to death, or do the owners come back? You had a ton of words left to go somewhere with it, and what you actually have is a promising set-up, so it was a shame it ended right as it was really beginning.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




A Moment of Your Time
(1,375 words)
The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army

edit: snip

Archive Link: http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?...nt+of+Your+Time

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at Feb 28, 2016 around 06:51

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Yeah I'm in.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Home Economics
(800 words)
PHYSICS: Louis Kervran of France, ardent admirer of alchemy, for his conclusion that the calcium in chickens' eggshells is created by a process of cold fusion. REFERENCE: "Biological Transmutations and their applications in: Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Ecology, Medicine, Nutrition, Agronomy, Geology"]


*snip*

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at Dec 31, 2016 around 18:06

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Brawl Entry


Like Water
(1900 words)

*snip*

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at Dec 31, 2016 around 18:07

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




In with "tingo."

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




The Kindness of Strangers
(1,180 words)
Tingo (Gradually stealing your neighbor's possessions by borrowing and not returning them.)


*snip*

Archive Link: http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?...ss+of+Strangers

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at Mar 15, 2016 around 06:01

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




In

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Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




You Could Be a Winner
(1,240 Words)


*snip*

Archive Link: http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?...uld+Be+a+Winner

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at Mar 15, 2016 around 06:02

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