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Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.
Children of Rho-Man, Issue #300- The Dissolution
1599 words

O Muse,
Sing to me of when darkness fell
And ended the Age of Heroes
When the Children of Rho-man
Took flight, and melted away into the shadows
And Rome was left to burn

The Children of Rho-Man are scattered. Many have left the organization, believing Rome would soon fall. Some joined foreign pantheons as new avatars of long-dead gods, some struck out on their own, and others simply disappeared- including bright Apollo, leader of the Rho-Men. Mars, aided by his lover Venus, has sworn revenge on the Romans for their faithlessness.

Mercury smuggles fallen heroes out of the Empire, but for a heavy price- banishment, or complete surrender of their extraordinary powers.

The remaining Rho-Men, grey-eyed Minerva and keen Diana, must now decide whether to save themselves- or remain in Rome, and fight their betrayers.

“The Emperors have closed the Temple of Mars!”

Heads turned towards the crier. Minerva pulled her palla over her face and nudged Diana, who casually ate an apple as she watched.

That’s not going to complicate anything,” Diana muttered under her breath.

Some onlookers cheered. Others shouted in anger. Minerva grabbed Diana’s hand and pulled her into a nearby alleyway.

“Mars is unstable,” Minerva said urgently. “You know he’s going to take revenge for this. There’s no telling what destruction he and Venus will wreak. I can’t fight him by myself.”

“I’m sorry to say this, but I think it’s time we talk to Mercury.”

“No!’ Minerva set her jaw. “I won’t give up. We have a chance, and we’re going to take it.”

Diana sighed. “What’s your brilliant plan, then?”

“We’re going to strike a deal with the Egyptians.”

Diana dropped the apple core in disbelief. “You’re not serious.”

“Mars and Venus two are too strong for us on our own. Mars’s might, combined with Venus’s empathetic powers…they’d convince the citizens to tear us apart in a blood orgy, and then each other.” She ignored the disgust on Diana’s face. “But the Egyptian gods haven’t yet been displaced. They still reign. And Aset made the first overture.”

“The gods of Egypt won’t last much longer, themselves,” Diana argued.

“But this will give us a chance to regroup, to plan. Somewhere safe to hide, at least. Tonight is the deadline to contact the Egyptian intermediary.” Minerva swallowed and forced out the words: “After tonight, the other Old Gods withdraw from Rome, and we’re on our own.”

“No,” Diana reminded her, “We can still ask Mercury for help. He’s family. Can’t we trust him?”

“I don’t like the limitations of his offer,” Minerva said. She thought for a moment. “Let’s call on both of them.”

“Why would we do that?”

“We can consider each offer. The Egyptians first, and if we don’t like their deal…I suppose we’ll strike one with Mercury.”

Diana smiled grimly. “Either way, we’re leaving Rome tonight.”

Not if I can help it, Minerva thought to herself.

As the news about the Temple of Mars spread across the city, so did rioting and looting. Mars had been revered as the father of the Roman people; many resented the closure. Others were more than happy to attack those dissenters. Still more took advantage of the chaos to load their pockets. Far from the violence, in an anonymous neighborhood, Diana walked alone.

It was dark, and strangely quiet. Most residents had undoubtedly joined the looting. Diana’s ability to move silently had never been more useful- the slightest sound would have been jarring. As she made her way down the street, Diana had a strange feeling that monsters lay under the ground, waiting to reach up through the sewers and pull her down. One foot in front of the other, she imagined being flanked by the Rho-Men as in days past: Minerva next to her, then Venus, then Mercury and Mars, with Apollo just ahead. An impregnable flank. A family of heroes.

The dwelling was small, a hovel. One window held a dirty lamp, its oil spluttering in the wind. Diana rapped at the door.

The Egyptian envoy was a wizened old Greek woman, eyes milky and blind. She ushered Diana in and offered her nothing, just stared at her impertinently.

“Speak, crone!’ Diana eventually ordered.

The hag smiled, her teeth surprisingly good, and Diana suddenly had a flash of memory, of beauty and sun-kissed skin. “Cassandra,” she acknowledged.

The woman kept smiling, and said nothing.

“You’re not going to talk?” Before Cassandra could respond, Diana said quickly, “What color is the sky?”


Diana was immediately struck by a wave of disgust. “How dare you lie to a daughter of Jupiter?” she cried.

The old woman cackled. Diana remembered herself, and sat down. There was no way she could ask this woman any questions. “How can you possibly help me?” she cried. “I won’t believe anything you say.”

Cassandra arranged her clothes before perching across from Diana. “I sometimes avoid absolutes,” she said quietly, “and perhaps a wise woman would consider my thoughts before she dismisses them.”

“I’ll try,” Diana said. “Now. What does the goddess Aset promise us?”

“It seems this was written by Aset’s hand, so perhaps it will be easier to believe,” Cassandra said. She drew a folded papyrus from her chiton and handed it to Diana.

Diana skimmed the list. A promise of friendship, shared power, a place in the pantheon- not much more attractive than what Mercury offered, except without the caveat of banishment. Inwardly, she cursed- Minerva had seemed so confident in this plan. “This isn’t much better than Mercury’s deal,” she said dismissively. “What else can Aset give us?”

Cassandra shrugged. “I know well that your brothers cannot be trusted,” she said bitterly. “Aset is honest, and offers what you see. Anything more, you cannot trust me to explain. Either you place herself in her hands, or you don’t.” She laughed again. “It is good enough for me that you all leave. The gods of Rome should never rise again.”

Quietly, Diana stood and left, the creased paper still in her hand. Cassandra’s hateful laughter followed her out.

Minerva spat out the blood and thrust upwards with her shield, hoping to fend off her brother’s attack. Mars connected with such force the aegis buckled slightly, and Minerva screamed in rage. She kicked out, hitting his knee and dropping him to the ground, but a wave of his bloodlust hit her, clouding her mind. Dimly, summoning the last of her telepathic command, Minerva ordered one of her owls to find and alert Diana. Mars took advantage of her distraction and bashed her again.

“Good, keep going,” she heard Venus purr from her couch. Minerva winced as Mars bore down harder. Angrier than she was hurt, she pushed to her feet with all her might. The force sent Mars flying into a set of jars.

“Oof,” he grunted, struggling to his feet. “You bitch, you—“

“Quiet!” she ordered, readying herself for another blow. “Stand down, you mad-eyed fool! You’ll topple the whole Empire with these antics.”

“That’s the idea,” Mars said smugly.

Minerva braced herself. As Mars came towards her, roaring, Venus hit her with an unexpected blast of wind. Between the force of Mars’ blow and the whirlwind, Minerva flew clear through the wall and crashed into the garden, followed by a trail of cruel laughter.

The stars spun madly as she struggled to sit, then collapsed. She kept her energies quiet as she lay back. Despite the distant screams from Roman rioters and the stink of fire, it was, she thought foolishly, a beautiful night.

“I can’t feel her energies anymore!’ she heard Mars announce. “The stubborn cow is finally dead.”

“Of course she is, dearest.” Minerva could almost hear Venus rolling her eyes. She wanted to laugh.

“Mars is stupider than we thought, if he believes her,” Diana’s whisper came from the shadows.

Minerva felt her sister’s touch, and immediately the pain lessened. “By Jupiter,” she whispered, “Just in time.”

“Good hunting is mostly good timing,” Diana said automatically. It had been something of a catchphrase. She lugged Minerva to a sitting position, cradling her head. “Time to go,” she said.

“What happens when we leave?”

Diana thought, then said: “The people will find something else to save them. Or they won’t be saved. It’s not for us to try anymore.” She stood and helped Minerva to her feet. “The Rho-Men are finished, at least for now. Let Mars wear himself out. Venus will finish the job.”

Minerva could see a figure in the distance- a dog? A man?- flipping a coin, and seemingly waiting.

Grey-eyed Minerva stood and considered her sister. “You should go now,” she said quietly, picking up her shield.

“We’ll both go- to Alexandria,” Diana said.

Minerva nodded slowly. She readied the shield and stood as tall as she could. “I am of Rho-Man,” was all she said in response.

“Are you sure?”

Another nod.

Diana touched her sister’s cheek. “You won’t be forgotten.”

“We’ll make it, somehow,” Minerva replied. She picked up her helmet, gave Diana a final look, then turned and rushed back towards the Temple of Mars with a mighty roar.

Diana turned and fled to the jackal-man, who held the lead of a moon-white stag. She grabbed the rope from him and lightly hit the haunches of the deer. “Follow her, Actaeon!”

The Temple of Mars erupted in flame. “There is no time,” the Egyptian said. “We must leave now.”

“I’m ready!” Diana looked back at the conflagration. “Minerva…see you soon,” she whispered.



The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

Put it all together.
Solve the world.
One conversation at a time.

Maybe Next Time Just Do a Divorce Like a Normal Person, Okay
An extra story in Rho-Man Issue #298!
(<1500 words)

The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 02:23 on Dec 28, 2017

Feb 25, 2014
953 words

The Return of the Merman Hero, Moustache

Moustache, with his finely groomed upper lip hair, swam through the halls of Domeland’s maximum security prison. The water here was thicker, more sinister. He caught the glimpse of the countless foes that Moustache had faced: The Sinister Squid, The Ruthless Clam, Dave. He paid them no mind, even when they insulted his namesake.

He was here on a mission. To save Domeland. No, all of the ocean.

He stopped at the end of the hallway, in front of a massive slab of metal. It was where only the most hardened, most vile individuals were held. Plain Face. His oldest rival. His moustache shuddered at the thought of him. He could still feel the slide of the razor against his upper lip, could still still his awful nasally laugh as the strands of hair floated up in the water. Justice had prevailed, but it never succeeds without

And now, here he was, having to free his old rival.

He punched in the code into the terminal and the doors opened. Plain Face was strapped to a chair and he smiled when he noticed Moustache.

“Oh,” Plain Face said, “I see you grew back your moustache.” He smiled.

“I’m not here to talk,” Moustache said, swimming up to him. He unhooked one of Plain Face’s shackles. “I need your help?”

“And what do I get? Freedom? Fame?”

“Of course not. But you get dessert with your dinner from now on.”

Plain Face glared at him and said, “What kind?”

“Whatever you like. Cake, pudding, whatever.”

With his free hand, he stroked his disgustingly smooth chin. “I think we have a deal.”


“So then,” Plain Face said as they swam through the streets of Domeland, “What’s the big deal?” Plain Face’s pure black tail writhed in pleasure as he stared at all the innocent people. No doubt thinking of how great everyone would look without facial hair. The monster.

“I need someone with your talents. Someone who embodies everything I am not.”

“And your first thought was of me? How sweet.” Plain Face flashed him a smile.

“Unfortunately,” Moustache said. Then, he stopped and pointed up towards the surface. Plain Face followed his gaze.

Hanging from the streetlamps was a banner saying Domeland’s Premiere Moustache Competition!

“I need to win,” Moustache said, gaze not looking away from the sign. His eyes were glaring, determined. “I have to.” Then he pulled out the photo of a very handsome merman. Glorious abs, shimmering scales, and one of the most powerful moustache ever to grace the ocean. He handed the photo to Plain Face and said, “You know what you have to do.”

“Really now?” Plain Face looked at Moustache and smiled wide. “I didn’t think you had it in you.”

“It’s the only way,” Moustache said as he swam away. “The prize is a lifetime supply of moustache wax.” Moustaches tears mingled with the water as he tried to compose himself. “As much as it pains me to destroy such a brilliant piece of hair.”

Plain Face put the photo into his pocket and pulled out his razor. “Well, old friend, I guess we get to have some more fun.”


They met behind the hairdresser’s. No one would expect Moustache to be so close to such a despicable place. He ran his fingers through his moustaches. It could be a betrayal. Plain Face could have hired goons to attack him or built a giant razor robot that would try to destroy or

He saw Plain Face stroll into the alley. Whistling. He tried to sense if there was any danger, any kind of changes in the water, but there was nothing. The only thing he noticed was that Plain Face held a scrap of something black in his hand.

“That was fun,” Plain Face said as he walked closer to him. “You should get me to do it more often.”

“It’s only for the greater good,” Moustache said, turning away from him. He couldn’t even look at his horribly blank visage. “For Domeland.”

“You just keep telling yourself that,” Plain Face said. Then, he handed Moustache the object. It was a bundle of hair. The moustache. Perhaps, the most perfect moustache that ever existed.

Moustache quickly snatched it away from his nemesis. The hair scratched against his fingers. Well maintained. Beautiful. Everything that could be wanted from facial hair.

“We must bury it.” Moustache tried his best to sound brave.

“Well, you go do that. I’m just gonna go back to prison and get my chocolate pudding,” Plain Face said, but Moustache didn’t hear him over the sound of his heart being ripped apart.

Did he make a mistake? He held one of the greatest pieces of history in his hands. Sure, it meant he was going to win all the moustache wax he could ever use, but was it worth it? It would ensure his powers would never run out. He could protect all of Domeland, ensure no one would go to harm.

Though, when he stared at the scraps of hair in his hands, he wasn’t so sure anymore.

He clenched his fist and said to himself, to the moustache in his hand, to Domeland, “I will grow the greatest piece of facial hair the world has ever seen. I promise everyone that.”

Moustache wiped the last bit of tears from his eye, but he wasn’t sure he got them all because he was underwater and everything. Then, he swam to the moustache competition. He would win. Not for himself. Not even for Domeland.

He would win so he could have the greatest moustache in the world. Like he promised his grandfather, so many years back.

May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


College Slice
Dirk Biggly and His Hands of Destiny
SUPR Comics Special #177

1465 words

The football hangs in the air like an ornament, lit by the Friday night lights, spiraling through the air towards him.

Dirk's legs pump like pistons, churning and chewing the turf. The ball, slow motion, in close focus. His steel gray eyes lock on and track the ball towards his hands.

His incredibly large and unusually soft hands.

With a satisfying thump the ball finds its home. He pulls it tight, then decides better and holds it high, spins around, and moon-walks into the end zone. Game over. And another State Championship for Claremont High in the books.

Dirk trots to the sideline. Cheers cascade down from the bleachers as his teammates surround him. The celebration continues into the locker room and it is several hours before Dirk emerges, equipment bag in hand, and heads towards the school parking lot.

A man in a dark suit and a fedora leans against the rear fender of Dirk's sixty-seven GTO coupe.

"Dirk Biggly?"

"Everyone calls me Mitts," Dirk replies.

"Yeah. We'll work on that." The man looks him in the eye. "Name's Frank. I'm from SUPR Corporation. We're starting our own league. For clients. For guys with special powers. Guys like you."

Dirk shakes his head. "I've already been recruited by the Bandits. I'm signing my contract tomorrow."

"You know their drug policy. They're not going to overlook those." Frank points at Dirk's prodigious paws.

"I don't need drugs to be the best." Dirk looks downward, and his voice goes low. "I can do it without them."

"SUPR's drugs got you this far. Don't give up now. Just think of how good you could be with our full backing. No limits."

"But the money—I've got a million-dollar signing bonus lined up," Dirk says. "I can't just walk away."

"Do you know how much money SUPR corporation makes? Besides, if you stop now, there's the side effects to consider."

"Side effects?"

"We can make sure you never have to worry."

Dirk swallows hard and looks down at his colossal, yet supple, hands. "Okay. I'm in. Where do I sign?"


Frank's prediction is right.

The SUPR-FL is an instant triumph, quickly eclipsing all other leagues in attendance and revenue, and Dirk—now christened 'The Homunculus'—becomes one of the league's biggest stars. With SUPR at his back Dirk gains incredible powers of speed, agility, and strength. And of course his signature hands, as large and pillow-soft as a microdactyl's wet dream, catch him year after year of league scoring titles and championships.

Dirk's charmed life is replete with money, fame, women, booze, and recreational drugs. He often thinks back to that night in the parking lot, with Frank, and thanks the Lord that he made the right decision.

Life was incredible.

Until it all came crashing down.


Fourth and goal. Coach sends in the play: a fake reverse designed to get 'The Homunculus' open in the back of the end zone.

The ball is snapped. It's a blitz, the opposing team moving impossibly fast, SUPR drugs coursing through them, superhuman against superhuman. Dirk jukes, and his defender slips and falls in the wet grass. His quarterback sees him and fires the football towards him.

Dirk never sees it coming. A hard impact sends his helmet and his body flying.

The world goes black before he even hits the turf.


"Sorry Dirk. They've got a new receiver, and I hear he's the quickest yet. They've got some new formula they're using on the young guys." Frank looks down at him and grimaces. He's wearing his trademark dark suit and fedora.

"I can come back from this. I've had much worse."

"Have you looked in a mirror?"

Dirk shifts uncomfortably in the hospital bed. A regular hospital, not SUPR labs. Now he begins to understand why.

"It's not that bad."

"Multiple skull fractures, severe bleeding in the brain, a punctured lung, and a shattered jaw. Christ, you were in a coma for two weeks. Even SUPR's not going to let you back out on the field after this one."

"Let them try to stop me."

"They did. As of nine this morning your contract is null and void. You're out of the league, Dirk."

"You've gotta be kidding me." Dirk looks around at the machinery, tubes, and wires all pumping life into him. "What about all this? Who's gonna pay?"

Frank shakes his head. "I hope you saved some of those millions. Or you'll have to figure something else out."


The next six months are a blur of drugs, cheap whiskey, homeless shelters, and pain. Always pain. Hospital bills and bad planning cost Dirk everything, and cut off from the supply of SUPR drugs the side-effects are crippling. His skin itches constantly and his brain is on fire. Nobody looks for him, nobody tries to find him, and that's just fine. No one should see what he's become, just another street junkie casting around for his next fix. A gutter homunculus, abject and invisible.

The needle dents the flesh, then slips beneath. Dirk sighs as the warmth spreads up his arm. Relief, for a few hours. Perhaps he might even get some sleep this night.

He pulls the cardboard box over himself and settles under his blanket. His hands have not shrunk, despite being cut off from the SUPR drugs. He flexes them, feels their weight. There's still power in them.

Useless power.

When he was young, before he discovered football, Dirk dreamed of owning a bakery. A bakery with a fire truck out back that he could hop in and race down the streets, sirens blazing, helping people, rescuing kittens, putting out fires. These hands would have helped if he'd pursued that dream. Big hands to match his big dreams. The drug must have reached his brain because he's not thinking clearly—he's in the bakery now, the shiny red fire engine parked right in the shop. He climbs aboard and turns on the siren. It's loud, piercing, and he realizes he's made a mistake and now he can't shut it off. It's getting louder and louder, panic starts to rise from inside. He's trapped in the fire truck, the siren wailing uncontrollably.

He jolts awake and he's in the alley, trapped under his blanket and cardboard box. He shoves them off in confusion and terror.

A black-clad figure sprints by. The blanket and cardboard trips him up. An old instinct awakens and Dirk leaps, tackling him to the asphalt turf.

Lightning bolts crackle from the figure as Dirk pounces, but his giant hands snuff them out and he's got the black-clad man by the neck, pinned, his grip strong, squeezing.

"Don't move!" a voice shouts behind him.

Dirk turns and sees two police officers outlined by the lights from their cruiser. The sound of the sirens drill tunnels of agony into his brain. They have guns drawn as they advance.

He welcomes their bullets. It will end his nightmare.

"Holy poo poo!" the cop says. "Do you know who that is?"

"It's that old football player...The Homunculus!" the other one says. "What are you doing out here?"

Dirk has no answer. He only looks at them, confused.

"Thanks for your help! We've been after this guy for weeks. Fistlord, he calls himself. Just another SUPR-ed up punk but he's been hard to catch."

Dirk looks down at his captive, helpless beneath the grip of his mighty hands.

"The commish is going to be really happy with you." The cop looks at the blanket and cardboard, the needles and empty bottles strewn about. "Looks like you could use the reward."

Dirk stands, swaying, mumbles something incoherent about fire trucks, and shoves Fistlord towards the cops.

Then he turns and stumbles away down the alley.


The parking lot is dark and the stands are empty. There's no crowds, no GTO, no fedora-clad man offering million dollar contracts. No Friday night lights.

Not now, not anymore. Not for him.

Dirk walks onto the deserted field and sits down on the fifty-yard line. The midpoint of the field, exactly halfway between opposing end zones. When he played he always knew which end zone was his target. The rules were clear, the game simple, and he was the best receiver in the game—thanks to SUPR corporation and their miracle drugs.

Now the end zone isn't so clear. He could walk just as easily in either direction. Two different stories with two different endings. There are no rules to follow, no coach and no quarterback to call the plays. It's up to him, and him alone.

He sits still for several hours, thinking. The sun begins to creep over the horizon and the city stirs around him.

And with it Dirk Biggly stands and takes the first shaky steps into his new life.

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

Put it all together.
Solve the world.
One conversation at a time.

sebmojo posted:

I'll post crits of all stories by entry deadline this week or give myself a gigantically retarded av.

do both u failbot

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

The Saddest Rhino posted:

do both u failbot

Lol ok

E what should i change my av to, thunderdome

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 07:18 on May 15, 2017

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Got Out.
Grimey Drawer
Jack-in-the-box (1596) (collaborator)

“Stop that man!” echoed guards down the length of the White Mall lobby.

The man in question wore a plastic jester's mask and a coil embossed kevlar vest. He hummed obnoxiously while waving a Glock around as he sprinted towards the entrance. He dove into a Maserati parked between two revolving doors. Jack drove through the lobby and out into the parking lot.

Pedestrians cleared out of the alleyways behind White Mall except for a couple old ladies who met death via bumper. Sudden realization broke through the euphoric haze dominating Jack’s mind,
“I just killed those old women. This is too much. I have to stop. Why can’t I stop?”

He stopped the car and rubbed his aching neck.

The car roof buckled as something landed on top of it. Jack ducked at the impact. He grabbed his pistol from beneath his seat and got out. Kneeling on top of the car roof was a deformed hunchback. His body swelled and cracked as bones knitted and his muscles swelled and contorted.

“You got the wrong idea Notre Dame. I didn’t want to do this.”

Notre Dame peered threateningly at Jack from his swollen lids

Jack said, “If I shoot you in the brains, you can’t come back from that.”

The hunchback snorted. “You must think I’m some kind of novice if you think a little thing like a firearm is going to keep an old hero like me down.”

He tumbled behind the car. Jack ran into the overgrown bushes beyond the alleyway. Sirens echoed around him. Notre Dame trampled after him. Jack pulled the trigger and heard a click. His gun was unloaded.The hunchback burst through the blackberries and swatted the Glock from Jack’s hand.

He turned to flee but Notre grabbed him around the waist. Jack shook in his grasp as the deformed behemoth crushed him.

“Give it up Jack. I can take you in with a broken spine or I can take you in voluntarily.”

Jack coughed and said, “I can’t believe this. You know petty theft ain’t my thing Notre.”

“The only thing I know about you Jack is that you run a gang that does just that. Stealing.”

He punched the hunchback in the face and said, “Here’s something you don’t know about me.”

Jack hummed pop-goes-the-weasel. A ripple of sound emanated from inside his throat. The ripple projected out of his mask’s mouthpiece into a wave at Notre Dame. The SUPR serum had many odd powers to give. Such as humming a ditty which would affect others like a paralyzing agent. Jack’s power was one he used only at desperate times like this. He liked surprising the law.

Notre collapsed. Jack crawled out of his grasp and rolled backwards off of a ledge into the Lethe river. The police and SUPR SWAT found his mask and vest left on a bank washed clean of dna and fingerprints by the river water. It wasn’t a clean break for Lyle Barrett. He couldn’t go back to his hideout for awhile now that his alter-ego Jack was a public figure.

He had never been the type to show up and rob a bank like every other second-rate Villain. It was too dangerous and he preferred the long game. Something had been controlling him. For a few days he survived on what he could grab from his loft. He contacted his minions telling them to lay low.

Notre Dame would be obsessed till he had another villain to hunt. Three nights passed and his neck told him it was time for more serum.

He called the receptionist from his hideout.

“Hello. This is Lyle Barrett. Sorry about dropping off the radar I had a family emergency.”

The receptionist computer Mildred replied cheerily, “Of course Mister Barrett. Please hold on a moment. Miss Ambrosia wanted to speak to you personally.”

His forehead beaded with sweat at the mention of her name. SUPR serum had three divisions dedicated to different strains of steroids. His division was led by the scientist and daughter of the company founder “Miss Ambrosia.” The waiting music played while he put on a tie. He didn’t expect to get called in immediately but just in case he wanted to be ready.

He put a pen into his jacket pocket and cinched the tie with his free hand. A soft scratchy voice said,

“Hello Jack. How’s getting out of the box going?”

“What? How...?”

“How? I’m an informed person Lyle. I know that you steal from vat 33. I know you run a gang in the White Mall shopping district.”

His throat closed up. He couldn’t speak.

“I had you rob that store to get your garish alter-ego all over the news. It looks bad when people do something stupid with our product. I can’t abide my own employees doing such acts. We don’t need anymore bad publicity.”

Lyle’s neck muscles mimicked a tightening coiled rope.

“I’m going to hang up now Jack. Maybe in the next like you’ll pay attention to the drugs you’re stealing. After all, they might be spiked with something that makes you do stupid things.”


The shots he’d stolen from the company had never affected him this badly. Whatever he’d been shooting up was planted by the boss. There was a hidden drawer of small weaponry behind his tie rack. He reached into it and found a switchblade and pulled the pen from his jacket.

Little purple spots clouded his vision. He pulled the ink tube from the pen gratified that it was one of the empty ones he neglected to throw out. Making a cut in his windpipe he stuck the tube into his neck. He took long shrill breathes through the tube and waited. After a few minutes his windpipe relaxed.

He could breathe normally once more but his neck was in agony. He raced down the grassy slopes outside of White Mall. Lyle wondered where he could go. Miss Ambrosia’s private enforcers would find him eventually.

A week passed. He stole sandwiches from sidewalk cafes and lapped up water at coin fountains. More than once he had to abandon a quiet alley or warm dumpster to get away from a patrolling Hero or a pair of company goons. He mugged some hikers for their sleeping bag on their way to the Elysium reservation.

On a particularly fruitful day, he found a pizza box with cheese in it. Lyle peeled off the dried crusts as he checked himself in a lone motorcycle’s mirror. He thought he could pass for a vagrant now that he had some flannels and a scruffy beard.

“You look rough.” He spun around ready to stab. There was no one but trashcans and wide-eyed stray cats.

“Show yourself!” Lyle wheezed. He grabbed his throat in agony. Yelling was painful in his current state.

“Up here.” said a tired voice.

A metallic gargoyle with bored look sat on a window sill above.

“What the-” Lyle couldn’t speak.

“Metal is my portent, sentry and viewing lens into history. I saw your history as you were looking into that mirror.” The gargoyle pointed a clawed hand at the Harley. “That’s my bike.”

Lyle rubbed his vocal cords, “What do you want gargoyle?”

“Call me The Molybdomancer. I offer help to the needy.”

“Even someone like me?” Lyle cast a dismissive eye at the gargoyle, “If you know my history then you know I’m a criminal.”

The gargoyle shrugged, “Criminals are often the neediest.”

“How can you help me?”

“Underneath the Highway near the Librascope bookstore is a colony of vagrants I have contracted. Go there and you will be safe from Ambrosia.”

Lyle leaned on the bike,“And what will you get in return?”

The gargoyle snarled, “Don’t lean on my bike!”

Lyle flinched.

“Okay okay! I’m not touching it.”

“What I’ll get is you, Lyle. I need someone to keep an eye on my workers. The vagrants salvage metal from the junkyard nearby and I let them live there free from molestation. Make sure they’re not taking it for themselves or making hats out of it. Do this and you get a place to plan your next move.”

It was a tempting offer. Lyle stroked his patchy beard and thought about it. He needed to steal the source strain for vat 33. Not the watered down version the lab rat's got to play with but the stuff locked in the executive's private stills. It was the best chance at curbing his symptoms. For a robbery like that he needed time to plan.

“It’s a deal.”

“Excellent. I look forward to our partnership.” The gargoyle melted away into nothingness.

Lyle took a shortcut through the same street he lived on. Across the flat edge of Kent Street he saw the tuning fork-like needle of the Ambrosia head office. Maybe if Lyle used his time right he could turn the agony of his neck into a plan to kill Ambrosia.

Olympus City was about finding and falling from grace. This was a constant cycle for civilians, heroes, and villains. Only the SUPR purveyors of Silicon Valley rose above the cycle. That was why he’d aimed for the top. However, the Villain life was where he felt most alive. The surprise of a confrontation with Notre Dame during a heist always beat out a pay raise.

He found the encampment. Bustling and guarded by metal sheets it did appear safe. “Safe” meant time to plan. Time to slowly crank the unseen lever for Jack’s return.

Feb 18, 2014

Overthinking It (1441 words)

(Might rework and publish, so just in case)

Solitair fucked around with this message at 21:12 on Dec 28, 2017

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Supply and Demand (1,055 words)

Somehow or another, I ended up keeping the books for an evil organization. You know, like in the movies. Well, it’s not like I care who signs my paycheck. I’m not rich enough that I can afford convictions like only working places that recycle or respect animal rights.

“I don’t understand.”

The Iron Mandrill rarely does. He sits cross-legged, lounging, his many-ringed fingers unpacking a small candy taken from a glass bowl. His seventh in the last hour. I don’t think he knows.

“Well sir the existing timeframe established in your recent ultimatum to the mayor is simply incompatible with the current rate of production afforded by our black market factory operations, to speak nothing of the logistical challenges of keeping such an army of martial arts robots well-oiled, fueled, and fighting fit for the duration of a conflict set to far outstrip your projected window for victory by a week.”

The Mandrill rolls the little ball of chocolate between his fingers. I wish he wouldn’t. He’s going to touch everything, the paperwork, the doorknob. In the bottom drawer of my desk I keep a carton of cigarettes beneath a packet of sanitation wipes. I don’t smoke. Some days I just like to think about it.

The Mandrill leans forward.

“Now you listen here.” He points with a velvet glove perfectly coordinated with his feathered lapel, his tone like his face both stern and imperial. “I recorded that speech with the full assurance of my R&D team that we were set to march on the city this Tuesday while Captain Tomorrow is still in recovery. I’ve released the video on the Internet! Have you seen the views?” He produces his phone with a flick of the wrist.

“I’ve seen the views sir.”

He holds it up anyway.

“400,000 views! That’s a third of the city! Can the Iron Mandrill back down after such a proclamation has already been received by the people? Are you asking I rescind my call for conquest?”

“You’ll have to sir if you’d like to actually keep and consolidate your territorial gains in the wake of the merger.”

“I employ top men! And women!” he adds, as though I should be grateful. “Are you suggesting my loyal vassals have lied to me, withholding information vital to the implementation of my plans?”

“It’s a possibility sir.”

“Damnation!” He settles back into his chair, a hand to his chin. I notice the ball of chocolate’s gone missing. In my mind I’ve already removed my jacket, rolled up my sleeves, and started looking for it. The Mandrill goes on like I’m not even there. “How could they do this to me?” He crosses his arms, his legs. “Me! The Iron Mandrill!”

“It might boost corporate relations sir if you didn’t threaten your employees with termination over perceived setbacks.”

“Fear breeds obedience, Kaufman! I’m not running a daycare center; I’m trying to conquer the Western seaboard!”

I glance at the clock. There’s a sale on fresh vegetables down the street at the farmer’s market. I should pick up some tomatoes. After I find the chocolate. Before it melts.

The Mandrill sighs, eyes shut, his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose.

“What…what do I need to do to make this all work?”

“I’m afraid there’s little we can do sir, at least at this juncture. For future projects of this scale I’d advise rebalancing the budget in advance. You’ve a number of unnecessary expenditures that might be better served cut as well.”

The Mandrill looks up at me perplexed, disbelieving. “Nonsense. All three of our Swiss bank accounts are at my disposal. All is distributed in keeping with my will.”

If I find the ball quickly, if there are no lines, I should be able to make 6:50. I click my pen and circle a number of items in the ledger.

“Be that as it may sir the funds you’ve diverted to maintaining your wardrobe, your employees’ uniforms, and the projected expenditures of dressing up your robot army in costume all constitute a considerable bite of the financial pie.”

“Have you ever seen a mandrill? They are creatures both beautiful and strong! The males especially! How do you expect me to birth a new order both beautiful and strong with plainly-presented minions?”

“Presumably sir by leaning harder on the ‘Strong’ part before easing into the ‘Beautiful’ bit once you’ve consolidated the power of your brand.”

“Bah!” The Mandrill takes another candy. His eighth. “You understand nothing. This pageantry is what sets us apart from the riff-raff, the common criminals! Would you have me stand atop humanity in suit comprised of brown paper sewn with twine, my robot army standing lock-step in donation-bin hoodies?

I snap the ledger shut.

“I admit sir that the finer details of your adherence to an operatic through line are indeed lost on me, but neither are they my concern. My continued contributions to this outfit begin and end with my ability to evaluate and keep your operation financially stable and possibly profitable. How you bring humanity to heel is your priority sir, but how you pay for it is mine. Now you can slash the costume budget or extended the deadline for the mayor to respond to your demands. The decision is yours sir, but those are your options.”

The Mandrill taps the unwrapped candy on my desk, his expression pained and solemn. I perform a discrete sweep of the floor beneath my desk with my feet and feel something roll out from under. Well, at least that’s one problem solved.

The Mandrill sighs. He combs back his hair with his fingers.

“Very well, very well. I’ll release a second video extending the deadline. Another week won’t kill us.”

“Two would be better sir.”

“I’ll have to think how to couch it.”

“You could stage it as an appeal to the people sir, encouraging the populace to pressure the mayor into responding while demonstrating your own capacity for mercy.”

The Mandrill scratches his chin. He nods, slowly. “That’s not a half-bad idea, I must say.”

The Mandrill is gone by 6 o’ clock. Getting up out of my chair, I stretch my arms above my head. I step around the desk to collect the chocolate. I toss it in the trash.

Tonight I’m thinking soup and salad.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Power of Suggestion
1431 Words

Red Ivan stared down Independence Annie with the calm squint of a hardened gunslinger. He allowed himself the slightest crack of a smile as his goons came from everywhere and nowhere and lined up in the empty stretch between them. Worried townsfolk peeked from drawn curtains up and down Main Street, USA, and the goons filled the silence with the echoing cracks of their practiced knuckles.

“Looks like this is the end,” said Red Ivan, then he laughed.

Independence Annie remained composed, fists resting on her hips. She pulled a small vial from her Statue of Liberty-themed utility belt, popped the cap, and swigged it down. “There’s only room in my town for one criminal,” she said. “And that’s the price of the new SUPR One Shots by Ambrosia. A boost right when I need it.”

She leapt towards the mass of henchmen and ducked the wild swings of their oversized weapons. A flurry of punches to the breadbasket of Goon #1. An uppercut that backflipped Goon #2 into the crash mat. A perfectly choreographed leg sweep dropped the rest.

“CUT! Take five then reset to one. Effects? Kid Chyron,” the director shouted. “You missed your cue.” Under his breath he added, “This was supposed to be cheaper than doing it in post.”

Barbara Billings was beside herself. “I’m so sorry, this will never happen again. He had an, uh, emergency.” But that was a lie. Barbara Billings did not know where her son, Butch, aka Kid Chyron, was.

Butch was, in fact, hiding from her. He sat in a patch of warm sun behind the makeup trailer, fussing with the buttons on his jacket. They’d all be angry with him.

Independence Annie came around the corner, and lit a cigarette. She sighed as she exhaled and watched the cloud billow into the column of light between trailers. Then she leaned against the trailer to finish her secret smoke, unaware that a boy of ten was sitting not two meters away.

She adjusted her stance, putting one foot against the corrugated metal with a clunk. She saw it floating at knee level. The word CLUNK hung midair, like a newsprint clipping defying the breeze. The cigarette fell from her hand.

“Jeez, kid. You scared me,” she said as she bent to pick it up, her hand passed through the projection easily as the air.

“Can’t help it. It just sort of happens.”

“You like comic books, huh, kid? Must be fun. You can ZAP and THWAK your way through your own adventures.”

Butch brightened up. “Are you a hero? For real?”

Annie shook her head. “Nah. that SUPR poo poo’ll kill you.” A word bubble with $#!% appeared over her mouth. “Sorry, stuff. That stuff’ll kill you.” She took a last drag and flicked the butt over the chain-link fence. “It’s just a gig, kid.”

“I would be, if I could.”

“Well, you already have the super-name. Kid Chyron. Who came up with that?”

“Some lady at the agency. It’s good for marketing.”

“It’s good for marketing. Jeez, kid, they really have you on a leash, huh? You know, what I would give to have my mom get me into commercials when I was your age.” Annie always wanted to act, serious acting, but commercials paid the bills. After this campaign, she’d have enough to move down to Olympus City and maybe find some work on the stage, audition for some movies. She wasn’t exactly happy about being the face of a sketchy corporation, but people made their own choices, right? Nobody was forced to buy SUPR.

They heard Butch’s mother shouting in sing-song, “Oh, Butch, Butch honey. It’s time for your pills.”

“Well, Kid Chyron, maybe we should get back to work, hmm?”

Butch shrugged, but then he stood.and the pair left the safety of their hiding place.

Barbara Billings raced to her son from across the lot. “Butch, there you are. What were you doing? You know we can’t upset the director. Now, here, take your pills.”

She placed them in his hand and Butch put them in his mouth. Barbara held the juice box as Butch sipped from the tiny straw. “Good boy. Now let’s go apologize to Mr. Hanes.”

Butch headed off towards where the director and a few crew were discussing a stunt, but Annie stopped his mother before she could follow.

“Hey, why are you giving your kid that stuff? Don’t you know how dangerous it is?”

“You’re the one shilling it,” she retorted.

“Come on,” said Annie. “He’s just a kid.”

Barbara’s brow furrowed. Then she leaned close to Annie. Annie twitched, instinctively wanting to retreat, but Barbara waggled her fingers, summoning her ear for some piece of secret news.

“OK, OK,” Barbara whispered. “Look, you have to swear that you’ll never breathe a word of this.”


“Butch’s Dad was hooked on SUPR. That’s true. Ran afoul of the law right after Butch was born. That’s why we left Olympus City. But, um, here’s the thing. The pills?” Barbara lips were nearly touching Annie’s ear by this point, and she dropped a few more decibels from her voice, until the next words were little more than the breath that transferred them. “The pills. They’re fake. If they ever found out, who knows what they’d do. Cut him apart to find out why. Butch’s powers are real. Natural.”

“What? You gotta get him out of here. They’ll figure it out.”

Barbara raised her eyebrows as she tilted her head. “They haven’t yet. Hiding right under their noses. I really think it’s the safest. No schools or other kids to cause trouble, and as long as he does his job, no one thinks twice about him. Best of all, they’re paying us.”

Annie saw Butch make his apologies to the director, who waved him off, more concerned with the new stunt he was concocting with the others. Butch just stood there, watching, a small, rather pathetic, lump of a boy.

“But look at what you’re doing to him. That’s no way to grow up.” Annie felt her blood pressure rise. Was she being hypocritical? Just a minute ago, she wished she had a showbiz childhood.

Then, the First AD was on the bullhorn, shouting that the break was over and calling for places, and Barbara said, “Not a word,” before she turned and met up with Butch.

The rest of the shoot went off without a hitch. Kid Chyron hit all his cues, The WHAMs and POWs and BOFFOs were crisp explosions of color, take after take, perfectly timed to the stunt punches and flips and kicks.

And when Annie was so exhausted that she, for a second, considered taking one of the SUPR One Shots for real, the director called a wrap. Barbara took her son by the shoulders, and began leading him back to his trailer, when Annie called to him.

Butch slipped from his mother’s firm grip and walked to Annie. Barbara started to protest, but Mr. Hanes and the corporate reps were closeby.

“Hey, Butch, can I tell you a secret?” Annie knelt down beside him. “Independence Annie isn’t my real name, you know. I really am a superhero. Cross your heart you won’t tell anybody?”

Butch nodded eagerly. “I have a secret identity. It’s. . . “ She whispered the last part in Butch’s ear. A safe flickered into life over his head. Its door slammed shut and the tumblers spun. It was dim and colorless and the edges bled, like the CLUNK when Annie first caught him behind the makeup trailer.

Annie looked to the projection, then to Barbara, who folded her arms across her chest. “Butch,” said Barbara. “Come. Now. It’s time for your pills.”

Butch rose and his mother performed the routine, gave him the pills and held his juice box for him. “Now let’s thank the director.” She led Butch past Annie who was still kneeling. Barbara thanked Hanes and the corporate reps for the opportunity and gushed about how professional it all was, and how she was looking forward to future endeavors. She ran on until Hanes dismissed her with a, “Sure, call my assistant.”

As they passed Annie on the way back to their trailer, Butch brushed his hand over Annie’s shoulder, and two pills rolled down the front of her outfit until she caught them.

She rolled them in her hand as Butch said, “poo poo’ll kill you.”

“Butch!” Barbara Billings ranted on about soap and mouths as they walked away. Annie saw no $#!% or pop into existence, and the lack thereof said all she needed to hear.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Submissions are now closed.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

sebmojo posted:

Lol ok

E what should i change my av to, thunderdome

fixed link. still no av suggestions :choco:

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.

sebmojo posted:

fixed link. still no av suggestions :choco:

Your comments were really awesome, so I suggest a butt, but a NICE butt, like maybe wearing a Philip Treacy hat and white gloves.

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Got Out.
Grimey Drawer

sebmojo posted:

fixed link. still no av suggestions :choco:

Thank you Seb. Your comments mean alot to me.

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

Put it all together.
Solve the world.
One conversation at a time.

sebmojo posted:

fixed link. still no av suggestions :choco:


also here

e: alternatively

The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 03:11 on May 16, 2017

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Judgment for Week 249

This was, alas, not a particularly good week. The best stories all had some fairly serious flaws to them. Much like, say, a classic Silver Age Marvel Superhero.

Two stories get honorable mentions: The Saddest Rhino's Maybe Next Time Just Get a Divorce, Okay, an overly violent one-joke story that was nonetheless funny, and The Cut of Your Jib's Power of Suggestion, a cute story that, like many stories this week, sort of fell apart at the ending.

Most of the stories were fairly bad. But a few stood out in their badness. Dishonorable mentions go to Fleta McGurn's Children of Rho-Man #300 - The Dissolution for being a general muddle and Hawklad's Dirk Biggly and his Hands of Destiny, for being a parituclar offender in the ending problems category and suspicion of being an origin story in some interpretations of that non-ending.

This week's loss goes to Jay W. Friks Jack-in-the-box, for, yes, again, problems with the ending, as well as several gaping plot holes throughout.

Which leaves us with this week's winner. With a story who's greatest weakness was a very slow opening, the prose went through a heroic arc over the course of the text and transformed itself into something with compelling action, actually interesting characters, a kinetic plot that was in keeping with the week's genre/setting and an ending that was neither predictable nor unearned.

Welcome to the blood throne, just in time for the exciting week 250 Solitar, for Overthinking It

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe
grats prompt

Chili fucked around with this message at 03:47 on May 16, 2017

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.
Critiques for Week CCXLI: Words Beyond Redemption

Honestly, this wasn't a terrible round. The worst fault of the entries was that they failed to distinguish themselves. Several did load themselves down with heavy weights of backstory, some to the point of forgetting to have a current story. Why are your characters talking about that time they watched anime instead of interacting with the guy whose face one of them set on fire? Seriously. It's not always a good idea to spend thousands of words hashing over the past but have little happen in the present, as more than one of you proved, and the hazards of leaning too much on dialogue became apparent a few times over.

Chairchucker, "Is a Mushroom a Thallic Symbol?"

“A bit anticlimactic, as battles go” would sum the whole thing up if there were real rising action or build up to even an anticlimax. Your lighter writing is like soda: refreshing and crisp and bubbly when the humor zings and the energy is there, or flat, tepid, and prone to getting stuffed back in the fridge when the jokes are weak and the story weaker. This is a Chairchucker story of the latter variety. I smiled once or twice during the fungal dithering, but these conversations aren't your strongest dialogue work, and the piece doesn't offer a whole lot else.

** *********** **

Mrenda, "Who Suffers Their Penance"

It interests me that this story shows signs of possibly having been adjusted in a late editing pass to address concerns raised in crits of your other stories. The first paragraph doesn't name the protagonist, but she does get a name midway through the second. The middle of the story hints at a past tragedy, cagey about details--but Aoife's letter has already spelled out the situation for the police and for the reader, so all that hinting no longer seems coy. Promising! However, if that is what happened, the revisions were handled somewhat clumsily. Aoife's name should be right up front. Why delay it? Of more import, the conversation with the elderly man is made partially redundant by the letter. There isn't so much narrative need for him and Aoife to dance around her past. I say so much because the later steps of the dance tell me that this man is not only willing to accept the fiction that excuses Aoife but also eager for her to know it, which ties in to the heart of the story: these people's determination to cover up the past and deny Aoife healing by doing so. Rather than cutting the conversation, then, I'd suggest slimming it down. Cut the part where Aoife is hedging about the house she's renting, maybe. Isn't she trying to be open about the whole mess?

Clarity's an issue. I'm guessing the godparents and the aunt and uncle are the same people, but the story doesn't say so. I don't have a clue why the uncle would have made her hit her brother and have no idea in this world why everyone so enthusiastically forgives her for beating her brother to death to the point that they engage in widespread conspiracy to keep her from punishment. Does this have something to do with the Christian Brothers group? You haven't provided enough context for me to understand. What happened to the godparents? Aoife's family and this incident are the crux of the tale. Without understanding them, I can't understand the rest. I'm left confused about the moving of bodies, the splashing of petrol, and what stops Aoife from lighting the match.

Why the town should suffer for looking the other way must be clear for this story to hit. So must why they did look the other way and why they continue to do so no matter what Aoife does. Explain those elements better if you revise. I don't enjoy this as it stands; it's too muddled. There's meat on the bones, though, even if the cooking is still uneven.

** *********** **

flerp, "Something in the Blood"

For a moment, seeing the first line, I think how awesome it would be if this were a story about a vampire bat mourning his wife. I'm sad that iffy sentence construction is more likely.

The bat is a metaphor for Daniel's grief, I presume--its eyes probably aren't the same color as Mary's by coincidence. Metaphor or not, Daniel's remarkably blase about it. Where is the story set? Mexico? Maybe it should be set there, if only so the vampire bat is less WTF. You could be going for a touch of surreality here, but the bat is only a step removed from Poe's raven, not strange enough to be surreal and too strange for such a non-reaction.

Daniel hasn't done anything that requires redemption, but he believes he has. He's mad at himself and eating himself alive with guilt over having been angry and upset at his wife's dying. As I see it, he wishes now he'd been perfectly patient and loving--never mind whether that's a reasonable thing to expect of a man. I think the picture chewing is a symbol of how he's allowing his grief and her illness and everything the bat represents to destroy his positive memories of Mary: he's letting them take her away from him. He would rather deny the final picture, but it's Mary, too, a fact he accepts n the end. I wouldn't say he finds peace, but he can face what happened. The grief-bat bites less deeply.

Although the business with the bat could be less murky, this is a fair story of grief, or would be with some tinkering. Redemption? It isn't about that in any significant way: Daniel's acceptance doesn't redeem the emotions that were never a sin.

** *********** **

sparksbloom, "Steamed"

As a character sketch, I dig this somewhat despite the moments when Nicole's actions cross the kingdom of rear end in a top hat and toe the border of Nonsense. It's a nice touch when she snaps at the kid not to take his poo poo out on other people even though he's doing nothing of the sort: she's projecting hard right then. She persists in buying a chai after he says he doesn't want one because she either won't let herself escape penance or won't let him stop her from balancing the scales. It's odd she still goes with chai instead of trying a different drink, but this would be a different story if she had any social awareness. All of this works.

Calling it bullshit that he'd assume she didn't buy a soy chai? Not so much. Honestly, all this chai stuff is going over my head. I don't drink it, I have no idea what's in it, I don't know why she'd assume a random kid would want one, etc., which makes the exchange tedious. Around here is when things start to feel forced, with Nicole pushing the drink on the kid (why?) and then pouring boiling liquid over herself in solidarity. Her problems seem deeper than impulse control and anger management. The ending is likewise too heavy-handed: handcuffs? She's being arrested for what, a coffee accident? End on the police coming to investigate--without the sirens, because really now--and I'll buy it, maybe, but I balk at the cuffs.

As a story, the piece is lacking. I can sum it up as "A woman is trying to be less of an rear end in a top hat and failing miserably," which isn't much of a plot, and though you sketch vague outlines of Nicole's larger tale, there are too many holes on one hand and irrelevant details on the other. David confused one of the other judges; I'm guessing he's the kid's john/Craigslist hook-up, but I'm unclear on what that adds to the story even if I'm right. Jamie's important to Nicole, ostensibly, but you provide zero detail about him, to the point that he's less of a character than that businessman with his spreadsheet and his flowers. Words are spent on the wrong things and scanted where they shouldn't be.

I ranked this fairly high for the writing, the characterization, and the failed redemption that put a good spin on the prompt, but it needs to be longer--and it could have been. The extra-large word allowance this week leaves me scratching my head over its shortcomings.

** *********** **

Thranguy, "Suffer"

One of those stories that doesn't hold together when I think about what it's trying to sell. An old god coming into a bar to deliver justice to guilty souls is a solid concept, sure--in theory. You don't do much to establish or explain your mythology. Either you're referencing something with which I'm not familiar, or--and I lean toward this since Google isn't helpful either--you've made it up, which sits poorly in an Earth setting. Not one of your characters wonders who or what the Griga are. They should. They should be rather less blase about the whole experience! This guy comes in and shoves a finger through a local hero, murdering him, and no one screams? The protagonist asks who Va is with no sign of emotion. He spends more thought on Moggi and the Elizabethan court gossip that he just "knows" has to be true. How, exactly? Everyone in the bar takes burning an alleged pedophile so completely in stride that it doesn't occur to any one of them that it might perhaps have been a sin. I don't buy this. No, sir, I don't. The entire piece seems less well thought out the longer it continues.

Moggi presents a couple of large problems. First, the poison. How long has she been serving it? Is it slow-acting, in which case Va neutralizing one dose probably wouldn't accomplish much, or did she just so happen to choose tonight to murder everybody? Isn't that conveeeenient, to quote Dana Carvey. Then there's the ending, and this is probably what cost you a mention: your vengeful, poisoning witch goes to suffer eternal torments to save the people she hates because her friend has turned out to be as guilty as they. This doesn't compute. Even if you did more to establish Moggi and Ray's friendship, it would be a challenge to present this as a credible thing for the character to do. Strengthening that bond and giving it more life and depth than a few sentences of reference to late-night talks allow is your only hope of pulling off the conclusion. If it were me I'd rethink it, point blank, maybe in favor of Moggi and the townsmen somehow defeating Va--holding him in place long enough his prison to reclaim him?--and Moggi then leaving, never to be seen again, allowing the townsmen to live but not sacrificing herself on their behalf. That's a league too far for the character as shown.

I'm not sure either that it would be possible to pick locks with spines, bendy things that they are. Maybe mouse femurs would be more appropriate.

** *********** **

Deltasquid, "The Hanged Men"

That "I can't say I blame them" line is a misstep when it comes on the heels of the revelation that the deserters were a local menace, and it's worse when Dieter holds his sympathy for the deserters through being told of their pillaging and rape. I somehow doubt you mean to paint Dieter as a man who would shrug that off or do it himself if given the chance. He's later shown to be a man sympathetic to a desperate probable-widow. He's lived through the horrors of war, witnessed them, failed to stop them, but they don't mean nothing to him. Though it isn't the first war-is-hell story to cross my path in Thunderdome, I like this one, largely because of Dieter and his complex and uncertain road toward redemption. To atone for horrors, he commits more horrors. He keeps another's promise and breaks his own.

What does he do instead of going home? That point could be more clear: whether he's going north to loot, to help, or to do something else I (and possibly he) can't imagine. But that uncertainty bothers me less than how little plot and how very much dialogue you've delivered. The conversations wear out their welcome. Dieter kills a man and it's over in a blink, but his talk, talk, talk with Sebastian goes on forever. You could easily boil hundreds of words of dialogue off this story, and you should, because the subject of your characters' discussion is interesting but the discussion itself is largely tepid.

** *********** **

Solitair, "Lessons"

I'd rather see what Owen and his fire hands did to Bobby Kimball and why than get it half revealed to me through expository dialogue, but more than that, I'd rather this story were about Owen and Bobby Kimball--you know, the guy whose face he melted? The victim of the sin in need of redemption?--than Owen and the aggravating Millie, who when talking to a man who has melted someone's face recently makes his angst all about her and her animes. Owen should redeem himself by treating her better! Because sitting with your friend while she watches cartoons isn't enough; no, you have to watch them too. Because being preoccupied with your own problems when those problems involve a loss of livelihood is just terrible when you have a friend in romantic distress. Lord. Owen's sculpture at the end would be a touching tribute to friendship if this were a friendship worth celebrating. And have I mentioned that Owen melted someone's face? Because that seems important. To me, anyway, though apparently not to the story.

Another judge pointed out to me that this is a sequel to your submission the previous week. That's interesting. I wouldn't have guessed it was one in a series, which means it more or less does what any good serial entry should do: it stands alone. So in one sense its sequel nature shouldn't matter. However, just about everything rotten about this story was born in that other one. If this were a completely new piece we might not have to endure Millie and her bloody animes! Perhaps the excellent way you convey Owen's power and fold it into the setting without excess exposition would come to something. The piece is so misfocused in its current form that I almost dislike it more for its strengths. With a solid main character possessed of an intriguing power and in need of redemption after a truly horrible act, this should be better than it is. I wouldn't be unhappy to read more about Owen someday. But leave Millie and her self-absorption at the door.

** *********** **

sebmojo, "Metamorphic"

The voice in the front half is so great that it almost carries you over the hurdles you've thrown in your own path with the too-convenient-to-be-true action figure and the ability of a fat dude who just fell down a cliff, slamming his knee, to pick up a child and haul him right up that same cliff on his back with barely a pause. I'm so with you until Buzz Lightyear shows up. Your protagonist is an angry douche, but in a sadly believable manner: he's rather the sort of angry douche who might just tumble tail-over-topper down a cliffside. Then, though, contrivance strikes in the form of just the right toy in just the right place at just the right time, somehow identifiable from ten meters away. And as incredible as the physical aspects of the ending are, the emotional aspects aren't much better. From suicidal to climbing toward the light in three hundred words is a difficult sell.

There's a chance this is less sloppy than it looks. It came up in judgechat that the boy is the protagonist's mirror, and in saving the kid, he saves himself, to the extent that the entire piece is more metaphor than a literal accounting of events. It's a compelling theory. Maybe the symbolic cliff was never as high as the protagonist believed, and having discovered that, he can pick himself up and recover from injuries that were always of mind more than body. The idea could be that he's reconnecting with who he was and the bright points of his past, carrying them with him as he surmounts the obstacles of the present. Yet it remains the case that details of this story don't make sense in a physical world, and there isn't enough suggestion of magical realism, surreality, or another sidestep away from the real to render the issue unimportant. If I'm shaking my head as your guy climbs up the cliff, I'm not feeling what you want me to feel.

I couldn't vote for your work to win over Uranium Phoenix's with its second half full of logic holes, but I enjoyed it most. Take the same concept and either heighten the not-quite-real elements and/or expand the whole thing, maybe?

** *********** **

Metrofreak, "Oasis"

I made it through my first read of this without stopping to write notes, which says something for your setting, plot, and writing in general. Your hook is standard gamer-story fare, but the Blightlands' combination of desert survival and PvP interests me. I'm curious about the Well Watcher, though I'd appreciate slightly less detail about Wilbur's play hours and his grinding of experience. The story never quite becomes boring despite the MMO minutiae. Also in your favor is that although Wilbur is a deeply dedicated gamer, he isn't shown as an obese, Cheeto-huffing man-child; that puts you a step ahead of way too many Thunderdome writers.

What does Wilbur eat, though? When does he sleep? When does he use the plumbing facilities? What does he do in the majority of his day that can't be spent online? You can't think about this at all before the plot holes gape wide and swallow logic whole. Nothing Wilbur does, even murdering the Well Watcher, comes off as an act in need of redemption, possibly because the Watcher resumes her coded spiel almost immediately after asking for mercy. She doesn't become a person rather than a game construct. When Wilbur dismisses the whole thing and turns off the game, he's echoing my feeling to some degree. Unfortunately, he's also underlining how low the stakes have been throughout the story and how nothing that has happened has mattered in the wider world--or, ultimately, to Wilbur.

Going back to the plot holes for a second, why do the game devs sit on their hands and allow their game to bleed users for weeks or months? This makes no sense! Maybe the game is magical rather than human-created? Maybe you should convey that better if so.

One more thing I like in theory is the take on redemption: whether Wilbur is offered redemption for a real sin and refuses it or an outside power tries to force Wilbur into a redemption he doesn't need and he resists, it's interesting, and despite what I said above about the stakes, I'm happy he turned off the game rather than being trapped eternally in a Twilight Zone-style nightmare. The hollowness of Wilbur's world and of Wilbur himself lets you down.

** *********** **

Uranium Phoenix, "Pale Stars and Bones"

The down sides, to get them out of the way: you've written a fairly standard, good-but-not-outstanding fantasy story that doesn't show the same level of creativity as your previous winning piece. It isn't stock, exactly, but it doesn't break ground. The line "Tell me what you know of the Witch Queen" is such a dead giveaway that it stops me in my tracks, and though Ekun does pick up on Nebet's identity, he does so more slowly than I would like considering how early I can guess it. Possibly he's not slow at all and is drawing her out? I doubt this when he says, “So who taught you your necromancy? A magi? The Witch-Queen herself?” If you took out the final question, whether he realizes who she is at that point would be more ambiguous, and I think this would be a good thing.

The balance between Stuff Happening and exposition is out of whack. I'd consider putting at least some of the storytelling before Nebet finishes healing the sick, and spending more time on that part of the story.

The up sides: your entry is the most complete package by far. It is a story, with interesting characters acting--or at least having acted--in an interesting world. The redemption theme comes through loud and clear; Nebet's redemption is still in progress when the piece ends, but that's fine. The point is that her journey to balance her scales will be a long one. Even though you end with Ekun joining her in her future travels, I don't get that sense of To be continued or an incomplete adventure that some such endings give me, probably because the history is the real tale here. Congratulations on having pulled that choice off. I might like a higher proportion of story to back story, but the entry is self-contained and satisfying.

** *********** **

Sitting Here, "Effigy"

Several things about this one aggravate the bejayzus out of me. Hunter's probably the worst. His purpose would seem to be to serve as your mouthpiece, delivering the Moral of the Story without any subtlety. After a while I feel like I'm getting a sermon on what I'm supposed to think about Ethan, Olivia, love, personal growth, etc. every time he opens his mouth. I doubt I would enjoy that if I agreed with him, but it makes it rather worse that I don't. Ethan is a jerk about Olivia's choice to dump him, yes. He should let her go. But he didn't gently caress her over any more than she hosed herself over by getting too drunk to drive in public and then begging him to take her home. Hunter denies her agency and her responsibility when he puts the blame on Ethan, and with Ethan thinking about how gosh-darn right Hunter is later, you-the-writer are effectively doing the same thing.

The second issue is bloat. The story meanders. It vaguely resembles a pair of twins conjoined at a foot: Ethan's story and Hunter's story, linked together but not integral to each other. Ethan's half of things addresses the prompt, but otherwise it's the weaker side as Ethan pursues no goal and is more or less hustled forward both physically and emotionally by Hunter. Hunter's search for shrine-guardian components involves more motion and less preaching, but it's a diversion from the redemption tale, and I can't be enthused about anything that drags out the interaction of these characters. That's a third point, come to think of it. Hunter and Ethan don't have good banter chemistry. I'm not even sure why they're friends. That's important and unfortunate when most of the piece is dialogue between them.

Would it be a better story if Hunter were the main character and the shrine remained in center stage, with the Ethan-and-Olivia drama as the subplot? Hunter could well be a more appealing character when seen from the inside, even if his lines were exactly the same. Is there a reason he doesn't blame Olivia for anything that happened? Is he sweet on her himself? Why does he want to room with Ethan? Now I'm curious.

** *********** **

The Cut of Your Jib, "Sitting Back and Doing Nothing Works Sometimes"

And sometimes, as in this case, it doesn't. There's a strange charm to Rich, obliviously meditating on his dad bod, and his relationship with the "Dr. Party" that he married; I figure this is what spared you my loss vote, since a mismatched polyamorous couple has enough novelty to be interesting when contrasted with another MMO story. Small details such as Rich's remodeling hobby build up some investment in his character. I care about whether he and Sue find happiness. Considering that sitting back and doing nothing is indeed Rich's entire playbook, that's impressive! It may not surprise you though that the ending deflates the rest. I want something more from Rich, some action to win Sue's affection. I wouldn't mind something more from Sue to show what he's ever seen in her. For Rich to have a happy ending with his wife despite or rather because of not doing anything to earn it is clearly your intention, the title being what it is, but what's the idea there? Is it a subversion of the happy ending in that neither party is likely to be happy for long, as Rich still has a wife who's at best settling for time with him and Sue has still made a fool of herself? All right, but why? It all feels pointless once it's over.

Possibly your writing would have gotten you through unscathed (although possibly not; this DM is the only mention on which the judges were unanimous) if your entry's connection to the prompt were visible to the naked eye. No one is redeemed here. Considering that Rich and Sue both agreed to this oddball relationship, I can't argue that anyone has done anything in need of redemption no matter how distasteful I find Sue's behavior.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 04:24 on Jul 12, 2017

Oct 9, 2011

inspired by but legally distinct from CATS (2019)


Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.
Critiques for Weeks CCXLII, CCXLIII, CCXLIV, CCXLV, CCXLVI, and CCXLVII: Dancing With the Demons in Our Minds

Crits for Eurovision IV are forthcoming, I promise! In the meanwhile I've had some thoughts about the stories covered in recent recaps.

Week 242: Resonance of Words

Chairchucker, "Did he who Made the Lamb Make Thee?": Scanning the story again, I wonder if I'm supposed to read more into Khuram's social clumsiness than I do. He's a tiger and Lakshmi's an elephant, which is a level of difference not all that comparable to human genders and races, you know? His inability to tell elephants apart is just mildly funny. Maybe that's all it's meant to be, but I'm looking for something here that will support the final line by making me see Khuram as a loser before he tries to gnaw Lakshmi out of nowhere. A possibility exists that the whole thing was spun off the top of your head without much worrying on your part about whether it held together. From you I could buy either not-quite-successful satire or lackadaisical carelessness. Anyway, it's so benign that I'm sorry to see it lose, but the path of the benign nothing should be a risky one.


sebmojo, "Shredding": The weird evangelical lion falls just on the right side of the divide between ridiculous premises I can go along with for the sake of the story and ridiculous premises I resent having to turn my brain off to get through. It's a truly close thing, because of course the rock-star lion is absurd to the extreme, but--why not? Why not. Only then he moves from sharing the Word to reminding his audience, frequently, that he could eat him, ha ha, any minute now! Yes. Believe or a lion will chew your head off. Or not, since he's content to leave that poor man there with his pants pissed but his head intact and his beliefs uncertain. The musical metaphors for faith from a rock-star lion are the right sort of strange, but man, that threat shows up early and keeps getting dropped like a dubstep wub, and I like both the lion and the story a bit less every time it appears. I would have put this on the high end of the scale nonetheless, which goes to show the value humor can add when it lands and subtract when it fails.


Jay W. Friks, "अतीत से (Out of the Past)": The old man is the traveler spirit, isn't he, who doesn't tell stories because his stories have become lies? That's a nice if unsurprising turn for the story to take, though you do rely absolutely on the reader making that logical jump. You could justify that move more readily if, while making the old man's identity so obvious the reader should be able to guess, you didn't also claim an ancient lady has lived around the temple and the guru for innumerable years without coming near the truth. Her dislike of him is strange and childish when I consider her age. It appears to be there because you need it for the story's relatively minor conflict. There's nothing wrong with building conflict through character traits or story elements (how else would you do it?), but in this case, it doesn't make much sense to me in-world, so my sense of you-the-author at work is intruding on my immersion in the story. I would like to know why the old man did eventually settle, but that part of his history is a blank. What if you dropped the frame story entirely and focused on the core? Show Krelta and the traveler's tale; forget the songstress and the guru. You could end up with something neat.


Week 244: Unspecified Word Disorder

Jay W. Friks, "Aurumvorax": Your formatting is getting better. You still have work to do when it comes to punctuation, though. Check out the ugly comma splice in the last line of your first paragraph. If you want to vary the rhythm of your sentences--a good idea in many cases!--there are better ways to do it, and in this instance I'd suggest combining the third sentence with the first half of the fourth: "He coughed and spit into his palm, then rubbed the saliva onto a long iron poker with a little lead bead welded to the end." Or if you desperately desire a splice: "He coughed and spit into his palm, rubbed the saliva" etc. You have, horror of horrors, several instances of two people talking in the same paragraph, and I can't possibly say DON'T DO THAT!! with enough emphasis. Moving on! There isn't much story to this story: Lorenzo enacts his diagnosis, and that's all. Many of the details end up superfluous, never coming to anything and not adding enough depth, characterization, or interest to earn their inclusion. A goldsmith fighting with or embracing PICA is a fine idea; spin it into a plot and you'll approach being in business.


ThirdEmperor, "Future Not Included": Other entries of yours have had problems with clarity, but this one takes the cherry-red cake. You're going out of your way here to not say outright what is going on, calling a video game(?) a "wild spill of light" and driving "painting his wheels." Jack's on LSD, so maybe you're out to put us in his mindspace with this impression of a jumbled world, but your approach banks on the reader persevering through nonsense like "ached in the cold of his pillow"--a risky gamble at best. If I do understand your premise correctly, I don't buy it: the sort of sensory-overload ad you describe can't work in a world where humans still drive their own cars. A war-type ad would so obviously trigger PTSD that I'm having a hard time believing in it either. The gist appears to be that Jack tries to treat his problem with ads by taking LSD and playing video games, but his therapist disapproves, so he drives down the highway, finds a wreck, and helps pull a guy out; the real blood doesn't faze him. Finis. Okay, but so what? Rather like Jay W. Friks, you've written a vignette about your diagnosis rather than pulling a story out of it, and though you've put more effort into your worldbuilding, I prefer his bland prose to your contorted muddle. Side note: knowing you have to post on your phone explains the formatting, but it still looks bad. Read this post if you haven't already.


Uranium Phoenix, "Floodgates": Maybe the infodump Jacob's father lays down at the outset is more plausible than I think. The mania certainly comes through, but almost too clearly. The first section points so emphatically to The Problems of Being Bipolar (or of having a dad who is, anyway) that the exposition swamps the little bits of characterization floating in it. Worse: so many words are spent on Dad, and his disorder isn't the crux of the story. I enjoy the more subtle treatment of Jacob's diagnosis. (Though trying to avoid the karaoke party came across less as a social disorder and more as good sense.) It meshes well with his father's, in theory. If only something were done with that! For Jacob to connect instead to Nancy through a conversation that rushes into Nancy's tragic past then skips gleefully over Jacob's catharsis is disappointing on at least a couple of levels. The pacing and ending are both flawed to an unfortunate degree.


crabrock, "Hook, Line, and Sinker": That's a great opening, especially the first line. It's a shame about everything else! Nah, there are other things to enjoy here: the protagonist's unabashed glee in her diagnosis is fun, light, and refreshing when put up against the grimmer material. But you know darned well this is as thin as that lady's sundress. It's one more example of a character going through the motions of her disorder, this time with an ending that calls for a wa-wa trumpet. An entry centered on frottage could have been much worse, but it could have been a story, too.


RandomPauI, "Mental Illness in a World of Magic": The formatting guide may be of use to you as well. That said: what the hell? This is a cascade of exposition in the service of absolutely nothing. Tim's conversation with Janet goes nowhere because you hit the brakes before you get near an ending, the switch from hint hint kleptomania hint! to dealing with grief is so abrupt I think it's given me whiplash, you can't spell through, and there's nothing like a resolution. How something else lost will mystify me unto my death. Keep submitting, but write a conclusion next time.


Week 245: it's all about me, fuckers

Mrenda, "The Pride of Your Own": I feel like there's a decent story buried somewhere in here, but I can only make out some of it through the obscuring fog of clunky, meandering exposition. Look at the second paragraph. Why is it so convoluted? Try something like this: Turning the bend to home, she cursed the bus driver who hadn't bent the rules for her. Drivers could be replaced by a few cameras and a processor--her AI-researcher father had taught her that almost from the cradle. But this man held onto his job, and he'd scowled at her with pride in his place. He could keep her from her father's death bed for want of a travel voucher. And so he had, gleefully, surely knowing that her father could afford to run a fleet of buses for a year. That might not be your style; you'd want to phrase things differently, but do you see how my example puts the facts on the table in an easy-to-follow sequence? I didn't bring up his pride until I explained what he had to be proud about. I put the episode in the past perfect, so it's clear this is something that happened before the story began. The whole piece unspools backstory slowly. Grace, her apples, and her relationship with her father interest me enough to keep my attention, but I'm aware as I read of how little has happened: at the halfway point Grace is still delivering exposition with her thoughts but not doing much else. Her life situation isn't that compelling. Then... do I understand correctly that Grace's one action in this story (other than plucking a slug) is to refuse a ride to her father's bedside that would cost no one anything? Yowza. What a prideful bitch. And this is the point, I think, that for all her contempt for other people's pride, she has plenty of her own and then some; but "people are hypocrites" isn't a fresh or powerful moral, and I'm not happy that's all Grace's tale appears to amount to.


Uranium Phoenix, "A Part of Her": So why would anyone whose head wasn't cracked open get this symbiote? What does it do for humans? Everyone but Evelyn talks and acts exactly like a person of today, with a few forced nods to the near future like "I can give you an eBook on the subject.” Pshhh. (Why call them eBooks and not books if they're the norm, and if they aren't the norm, why put that in this story?) There's too much extraneous material here that never makes it beyond fluff, since it never becomes relevant to the central analogy Evelyn : Evelyn's mother :: Coralline : Evelyn. Some of it seems designed to pander harder to SH, but this backfires by drawing attention to itself without offering a payoff. See: those fungal symbiotes other people had for... some reason. If you held more tightly to the thread of Evelyn, Coralline, and the dreams, the piece would be better for it.


BeefSupreme, "The Ideal Husband": Dani's a bit unreasonable in holding Johnathan's use of her full name against him if she's never mentioned it. Then she's more unreasonable in holding what he is against him. Then she's ridiculous for killing him. Is that the point? A portrayal of someone we should all be thankful is paired to a robot instead of a real person, since her abusive impulses only kill a machine? Except I feel more for Johnathan than I do for her, machine or no. This is a Twilight Zone episode, and a bad one in that it doesn't make a point or entertain despite writing that's more than serviceable. I wish Johnathan had caught her hand and kept her from killing him, and that she'd had to deal in a less spoiled-toddler way with the relationship she created. That would be pretty TZ too if you played it for horror, but at least the less interesting character wouldn't be the one left standing.


Week 246: You Need Satan More Than He Needs You

Radical and BADical!, "The Devil Fell Down in Georgia": Good hook, decent prose--though you should take care with semicolons--tedious protagonist, unfortunate premise. Roz taking everything in stride and sassing Donnelly throughout doesn't do wonders for any sense of threat or tension here. But that's complaining about a mouse in the room and ignoring the elephant, isn't it? Your plot requires that Roz lie back and be raped in order to defeat the antagonist. You wrote that action into the story. The only reason for it to be there is as a "clever" solution to Roz's injuries, except it isn't clever; it isn't titillating (not that you mean it to be, thank God); it isn't horrifying either. I still never get an impression that Roz is in danger. So it's an egregious, unpleasant tidbit followed by egregious, unpleasant dick squick. The tone is a shoddy knock-off of Buffy, right down to a Hell Mouth. The obnoxious all-caps names end up being the least of your problems. Roziel's a cliche and a half as protagonists in urban fantasy go, more's the bloody pity: sassy, selfish, oh-so-tough, and empowered by some guy's dick.


Thranguy, "The Rebel's Part": Not one of your best. Not good, point blank. I enjoy the Dragon Age II-style frame less than the judges did and would rather see it cut altogether. What's the angel of loyalty doing in that bathroom, whether it's in Hell or on Earth? I'm unclear on that point. Lemuel sounds distinctly angelic/demonic, and other people are acting as though Jalthrak is a familiar figure, but seriously now. Why would there be toilets in Hell? Why would Malfunctioning Toilets be a domain, other than to let you riff on (to put it kindly) another Thunderdome writer's work? Yes, I'm questioning a piece that can't be meant to be much more than a joke. That means it isn't entertaining me enough. I expect you mean well even in the play on the Toilet Dimension--you aren't hiding what you're doing in the least, and for all I know the original writer gave you his blessing. But in the words of Shania Twain, that don't impress me much. Most of what this has going for it is a little life in the banter and an attempt to corral the jokes into a story shape.


Week 247: Crimes Against Literature

Fleta Mcgurn, "Journey to Zion": There's this thing called a hook that it's generally recommended that stories possess. Details about who sits where in the family sedan do not constitute one. I see what you're aiming for by opening with the multiple mothers, instantly suggesting Mormonism, but the religion isn't riveting on its own, and you dive head-first into stereotypes from there. The cooing. The patriarch. "He was fat, white, and mean, like every rural cop." FFS, it's like you're taking the lazy road on purpose and announcing it to the world lest we give you benefit of the doubt. To my astonishment, I come to the end and find there's nothing here except the stereotypes, not one hint of plot or climax or surprise or complexity or subtlety or particular skill in characterization. The writer of "Kotjebi" can do a drat sight better than this. Don't count on anyone enjoying your work because it slams an "acceptable" target: most of us want more from our reading experiences.


flerp, "The Memory Thief": We're off to a rocky start with the wrong tense (was diagnosed instead of had been diagnosed) and then a subject/verb disagreement (each is singular: use was, not were) in the second sentence. I don't even know what to say about A shook roared through my body. Or Walls were started to form. Somehow I get the feeling that if I point to every broken sentence, I'll be here all night. The technical errors definitely glare enough to hurt you, and it's depressing that they aren't the worst of your problems, but alas--your guy isn't a thief, he's a contracted worker. His memory-edit isn't presented as a crime. I can't figure out what Marleen will gain by forgetting her husband when she's soon to die, either. At first I thought Fred must be dead since what point would there be in forgetting him otherwise? She'll just meet him again when he visits her next. But if Fred's already gone, then erasing his memory still seems pointless and petty to boot, though there's some pathos in it. The marriage is effectively tragic. I realize when I think about it that Marleen must know (or believe) Fred would do anything for her, has loved her always, because the Fred we see is Fred as she remembers him. She knows this, but she wants him gone. That's sad from any angle. You could probably get somewhere by giving her feelings about Fred a less shallow treatment. What you couldn't get without a bottom-to-top rewrite is a crime story, so it's no wonder you ended up where you did.


Jay W. Friks, "The Blue Colby": Oh, Jay. This reminds me too much of Manos: the Hands of Fate for me to hate it, what with the sinister house and the strange man who takes care of the place while the master is away. Yet like Manos, it's too goofy and cheesy to pull off the moments where it tries to get serious. Maggie's relationship to the dumb-but-loving Colby is great, and his death is poignant right up until you think about the fact that he's dying because some random god/devil/Master likes to put cursed gems inside a sealed vault as bait for burglars and then leaves the now-giant gems around to be found and sold by whomever. What? Who does this? What's with the nitride cord? Why does the house disappear? I have so many questions. Exposition bogs the story down in the scene with Maggie and Lenore. Now let's take a step back and look at the formatting and prose--did you notice I didn't start the crit that way for once? You've definitely improved. But there are still problems, among them your dialogue attributions. You're using phrases like He waved it off and He yanked his right ear as attributions, following them with a comma and then speech, but they can't work that way: the verb of a dialogue tag must have something to do with speaking. So He said is fine; She laughs is arguable; He yanked his ear won't do because you can say words and you can laugh words, but you can't yank your ear words. I noticed too that your characters do a bunch of little actions only to break up the dialogue, like Colby inhaling or Lenore getting a cigarette from her purse. This sort of thing is fine if done sparingly. The trouble is you've done it often enough here that it starts catching my eye and drawing my attention. Even your characters' little actions should count toward telling you something about them or their world. If you're afraid you have so much exposition that you need to break it up before the reader gets bored, you probably do, but meaningless motions aren't the answer.


Uranium Phoenix, "Even the Gods Get Lost Here": Bloat is the main thing holding this otherwise solid, deserving winner back. That whole first section with Havil? You could cut it and have the same story. Sinjana's corpse-disposal business is a cool enough use of her mushroom powers, but the way your story stands now, Havil's betrayal is an extremely short-lived plot point that doesn't come up again, and his connection to Sinjana doesn't matter for much. Rather than see that intro go, though, I'd rather you made use of the Havil-Sinjana history by not having Havil get killed like a chump before the story's half over. You could combine his character with Sakris's, making him the ultimate betrayer with an axe to grind against Sinjana, or with Malek's, forcing the issue of whether Sinjana can trust him despite what he's done after Sakris betrays them both. Those are only two of several ways you could go! Right now your characters are too interchangeable, little more than powers and roles. Pacing is a factor again: the conversation with the Archivist drags out the ending and focuses on a subplot (Sinjana's backstory) that has gotten too little attention throughout the rest of the story to matter to me. The spotlight has been on the heist, and all my investment is in the heist's outcome, so that the book is immediately taken away and Sinjana has accomplished nothing beyond meeting Malek is something of an anticlimax. Tighten this up and spend more time on Sinjana's history if you want anyone to care about that in the end. You've got the action, the energy, the complications, and the heist tropes that will please many readers; now make sure your characters carry their weight.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 01:41 on Jun 1, 2017

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


Dang fine crits, ty.

Sep 14, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

those are some tasty crits. a real nice appetizer for a P R O M P T

Apr 11, 2012
No prompts, no masters. Down with the bloodgeoise.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

Good crits, much thank.

Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


prompt imo

Feb 18, 2014

Thunderdome Week 250: Everything Means Nothing Anymore

I never thought for one moment that I would actually win Thunderdome last week. It just goes to show that sometimes all of the assumptions one makes about the world can reflect nothing about the way it actually works. We cling to flawed beliefs, warped by confirmation bias, until something comes along that shatters everything we ever thought possible. For me, reality got redefined in my favor, but most people aren't so lucky.

This week, I want reflections of a universe in flux, bursting the fragile soap bubbles of people's worldviews in the dumbest way possible. I want to laugh at other people's hangups and nothing making sense to them, the poor deluded fools. Dignity is for poo poo, and the emperor has no clothes.

That said, the rules of grammar and poo poo nobody wants to read still apply, even if the rules of sanity do not. If I see fanfic, porn, or a comma splice, I will end your rear end, unless there's seriously nothing better going on this week and I'm forced to pass the crown of "good enough, I guess" to my heir apparent.

Word count: 2000 words (+500 for a :toxx:, +500 for a flash rule)

Signups due Saturday 3 AM Eastern Time

Submissions due Monday 3 AM Eastern Time

Arbiters of Chaos:

Fools of Fate:
Jay W. Friks
Fleta McGurn
Tweezer Reprise
The Saddest Rhino
Propaganda Machine
The Cut of Your Jib

Solitair fucked around with this message at 17:54 on May 20, 2017

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Got Out.
Grimey Drawer
In with a flashrule

Feb 18, 2014


Jay W. Friks posted:

In with a flashrule

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
In, with a flash.

Feb 18, 2014


Thranguy posted:

In, with a flash.

Oct 9, 2011

inspired by but legally distinct from CATS (2019)

Feb 25, 2014

Mar 21, 2010

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.
:siren: Attention, all TD combatants desiring Thunderdome Archive accounts (yes, you there, the one with an outstanding request, I mean you): :siren:

If you don't have plat, don't sign on to IRC, and don't e-mail crabrock, we have no way of getting your password to you. Nor any way of telling you what the problem is short of posting about it here, alas. Follow the directions and drop crabrock a line if you choose Method 2! If you do that and he doesn't answer within a few days, he didn't get your e-mail, so either try again or visit IRC long enough for one of us to help.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.
I guess I'm in.

Tweezer Reprise
Aug 6, 2013

It hasn't got six strings, but it's a lot of fun.

e: with a flashrule, please.

Tweezer Reprise fucked around with this message at 04:13 on May 17, 2017

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

Put it all together.
Solve the world.
One conversation at a time.

k in i guess

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.
:siren: Thunderdome Recaps! :siren:

Recapping Week 244: Unspecified Word Disorder and Week 245: it's all about me, fuckers proves a trial as Ironic Twist, Sitting Here, and I diagnose both rounds with acute tedium. I'm just saying: when the featherweight story about a lady who lives for frottage is the most enjoyable thing we cover, it's a recipe for existential despair. crabrock's "Hook, Line, and Sinker" accordingly serves as dramatic-reading material.

She’s an idiot, for sure, looking at the tank like it’s some magic eye that will suddenly pop out if she stares at it hard enough.

A man of wealth and taste joins the crew in proposing sentences for Week 246: You Need Satan More Than He Needs You and Week 247: Crimes Against Literature: Bad Seafood, erstwhile King of Anime and well equipped as such to comment on creepy underaged marriages. Crystal curses and toilet travel? Yes, those too. This time around we read Jay W. Friks' "The Blue Colby", and we can but wonder whether the Master would approve.

Roz reached down between her legs and ripped Donnelly's manhood clean off his body before stuffing it into his mouth.

Episodes past can be found here!

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 03:50 on May 17, 2017

Feb 18, 2014


Tweezer Reprise posted:


e: with a flashrule, please.


Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.
Solitair, I didn't ask for a flash before, but can I have one? Also, :toxx: what the hell

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