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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, and Lego me.


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.
The Percussionists

Lego Set: Saber Island

1090 words

The 1977 performance of the 1812 orchestra at Fort Mason Elementary school would, according to the announcement and unlike the previous year's bicentennial celebration, be performed without the use of the cannon in the actual Fort Mason. This struck Adam Greer and his friends as an injustice of the first order. When asked, Mr. Dole the music teacher explained that they would instead cue up a recording of cannon-fire for those parts of the piece. Unacceptable. At this point, Adam reasoned and found not a word of dissent, they might as well play a recording of the entire concert. A plan was rapidly conceived, gestated, and hatched.

“Y'know,” said Martin as they quietly walked up the hill to the fort, “They used to have cannons in all of the classical pieces.”

“Was not,” said Alice. Sneaking away had been easy enough, since the three were well known to be inseparable while their parents were anything but.

“No, really,” continued Martin, pushing his glasses up his nose. “They had to stop because they were fighting Napoleon and the army needed all the gunpowder for the wars. So all of the cannon players just had to sit around and watch until somebody invented the triangle to give them something to do.”

“We're here,” said Adam. The old fort wasn't much, just one small room to hold the old cannon, floor and partial walls in large gray stone. Alice set her flashlight down where it lit the cannon, and they got to work. Adam put down his backpack, opened it up, and pulled out a plastic tube.

“What's that?” asked Alice.

“A Pipe bomb,” said Adam. “My big brother makes them by taking apart M-80s.”

“What?” said Alice.

“Why?” said Martin at the same time. “He's not going to go crazy and blow up the town, is he?”

“Nah,” said Adam. “He uses them for fishing. Drop one in the pond and a dozen trout float to the surface.”

“That can't possibly be legal,” said Alice.

“It's not the heat that kills them,” said Martin.

“So what, the shock wave?” said Adam.

“No, it's the noise from the explosion,” said Martin. “It makes the fish go deaf, and then they can't hear their heart beat. They use their heart rhythm to remind them when to breathe, so when they go deaf they forget to and suffocate and die.”

Adam carefully unscrewed the end of the pipe and poured the black powder into the cannon barrel. “Really?” he said.

“Yeah,” said Martin. “Fish are pretty stupid.”

“Hey, Martin,” said Alice, “Go get us a cannonball.” She pointed at the pyramid of ammunition stacked beside the cannon. “Unless it's too heavy for you to lift.”

“I can lift one cannonball, easy,” said Martin. He walked to the pile and grabbed the top ball, then struggled to move it.

“You sure?” said Alice. Adam yanked the fuse from the empty pipe-bomb and worked it into the cannon's firing mechanism, keeping busy to keep from laughing. Martin continued to strain.

“Come on, put your back in it,” said Alice. Martin continued to strain, and she final started to giggle.

“What'” said Martin.

“They're welded together,” said Adam.

“I knew that,” said Martin. “I was just testing you. So what are we going to use?”

Adam opened his backpack wider. There were half a dozen balls in there, of various size. “We don't need a metal ball, not really. Just something the right size, to make sure it makes the boom.” He found a red rubber ball that fit down the cannon without too much room on the sides, and they waited, listening to the distant music from down the hill.

The ending came soon enough. “Light the fuse,” said Alice.

Adam was groping through his backpack. “I can't find the matches,” he said.

Alice handed him a cigarette lighter. “You'd be completely lost without me, wouldn't you?”

Adam lit the fuse. It burned quickly and loudly, into the metal innards of the cannon. They all clapped hands over heads. For a few seconds, nothing happened at all. Then, rather than a boom, a loud 'fwissh' noise came from the cannon. A huge gout of flame erupted from the cannon's working end. The rubber ball came out with it, with barely enough force to clear the barrel. The ball, melting and burning with pungent smoke, rolled slowly across the stone floor.

It rolled in Martin's direction. He yelped, turned and ran straight into the fortress wall. He didn't hit his face, not hard, just banged his leading hand into the stone, but he started to cry. Adam could see and smell the real reason for Martin's breakdown. His best friend had just pissed himself.

The ball had stopped, and was burning itself harmlessly in place. Adam was sure they weren't going to burn to death, probably weren't even going to get caught. But he knew his friend. He knew that a humiliation like that, at his age, in front of his friend and the only girl in school who'd talk to either one of them, he knew it could end everything. That Martin would resent him forever. So he did what he had to, and let loose his own bladder. “Dang it!” he said, then looked at Martin. “You too?”

Martin stopped crying, then smiled weakly. Alice sighed. “Let's get out of here quickly,” she said. “I can get you some pants. Go the the park restrooms and wait for me.”

“How?” asked Adam.

“I live like a block away from here. My brothers used to be your sizes, and my mom never throws anything away. I won't be able to get underwear, though, so you'll have to make it home commando.”

“How do you know I'm not going commando now?” asked Martin.

“Your waistband was showing on the way up,” said Alice. “Thank goodness it was there.”

Adam and Martin watched the ball burn out before walking to the restrooms.

“I guess Alice is braver than the both of us,” said Adam.

“What?” said Martin. “Oh, no. Girls don't pee when they're scared like guys. On account of they've got a whole different set of parts down there.”

Of all the things Martin had said, Adam found this the least believable. “What do you mean, different parts?”

“Oh boy,” said Martin, “Have I got a lot to tell you.”

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.
post with a bunch of words hiding a bit of boldtext.

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.
Six Portraits of Negative Space

3798 Words

I. This Year's Girl

Something's missing.

The thought refuses to leave Vikki Carter alone. She keeps thinking it. On the drive from home to work. As she rewrites the principle's drafted emails to make them look almost as literate as they expect from the students. Something's missing.

At lunch, the obvious answer stares her in the face. The pictures of poor Jenny Green, on posters and milk cartons with 'have you seen' phone numbers, always the same picture with the half-bangs and crooked smile. If anything is missing in Oak Grove high or Oak Grove itself, well, what else could it be than the Junior who vanished at the end of last year? But Vikki doesn't think so. It's all very sad and all, but Jenny meant nothing to her, not really, nothing but another reminder of how things work. Some pretty white girl goes missing, she's a celebrity. If it had been her daughter, she'd just be a statistic.

Something's missing. Something else. She makes an appointment with the father of a new student, a last-minute addition to the rolls. He's charming on the phone. “My name is Thom,” he says. “With an 'h', I'm sorry to say. And my son is Finn, without any surplus letters.”

“And his mother...?” She asks, filling in the first form.

“Is not in the picture,” says Thom. She goes over the list of paperwork, birth certificate and passports and proofs of vaccination that he'll need. He says he has everything in order, so she finds a light spot in tomorrow's schedule and sets the time. She's surprised to discover it almost time to go as she hangs up the phone.

Something's missing. The thought returns as she starts the drive back home. It stays with he as transfers today's dinner from freezer to oven and prepares a light salad for a side. It's there as she eats to the soundtrack of Gordon's drone of workday minutia and Maggie's exhausted sighs and eye-rolls. It's there as she watches the people on TV solve all their problems in at most an hour. It's there after Maggie's gone to her room if not to sleep, as Gordon dutifully and vigorously drives her body to what she has to admit qualifies as an orgasm. And it's there when she wakes up in the morning.

“So what brings you to Oak Grove, Mr. Murray?” He barely looks old enough to be the father of a high school student. His eyes are deep, deeper than his skull should allow, she thinks. She has to stop herself from staring, from trying to see all the way back to Ireland in them.

“I'm a bit of a refugee,” he says. “The new regime and I have irreconcilable differences.”

“The one here's not so hot either,” she says.

He laughs. “True, but it is a big place, and Washington is very far away.”

She looks over the crisp sheets of documentation and feeds them to the photocopier. “You're all set. Finn can join the Senior class starting Monday. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“Well,” says Thom, “I am new to this town, and you're the only person I've met here so far who's remotely interesting. Maybe you could let me buy you whatever passes for a decent meal in this town?”

“Mr. Murray,” she says, “I'm a married woman.”

“I'm glad to hear you say that,” says Thom.

“You are?”

“In my experience,” he says, “Nobody accidentally leaves out 'happily' when they say that.”

“I think you should leave,” says Vikki.

“Of course,” he says. “You have my number already, if-”


The workday continues. Something's Missing. It's a drumbeat, or a tuneless earworm, more persistent every hour.

On her way home, she stops as a chain pharmacy and purchases, with cash, a pre-paid cell phone, among a few other things.

II. Suspicion

“Don't leave town,” the police said every time. As if I weren't still living with my parents, as if I even had the money for a ticket or for enough gas to even make the state line. As if there was anywhere far enough to go to get away. It's a global world, a global network, and no matter where I went I'd still be Elias Ruiz, the missing girl's boyfriend. The prime suspect. Or the 'person of interest' when people are feeling worried about getting sued. As if anyone in my family would step into a courthouse without a summons.

I got picked up for drunk and disorderly, trying to walk the night off, and the cops decided to go another round. My choice, ask for a lawyer and spend the night in the drunk tank or spend a few hours going over things again. Probably thought I'd say something I didn't mean to while drunk, but by the time they had everything ready to go I was mostly straightened out anyway. Just the same questions over again. Where I was, who I was with when. Where we were as a couple. What we fought about, and how much.

By the end of it they were as bored of all this as I was. They asked me to tell them something new, something I hadn't said already and maybe I was still a bit drunk but I gave them what they wanted. I told them something I'd left out every other time before. “We never even, you know, did it.”

“That's hard to believe,” said one cop. “A couple of healthy All-Americans like you, in this day and age, and her not even all that religious.”

“You must have been frustrated,” said the other. “Angry.”

“No,” I said. “I mean, it's not the choice I'd have made, but I thought it was pretty sweet. I mean, it's not like I was some frustrated virgin nerd myself. I've had other girls before. I could wait.”

“So you were going to marry her, that it?”

“Yes,” I said. “I mean, maybe. If things kept on working out, yeah, I guess.”

“You've picked up quite the drinking problem, haven't you?” The police love to turn the conversation on a dime like that, catch people off guard or something. I slowly nodded. “It's almost as though you weren't illegal to serve at your age. Tell me, you ever black out? Lose time?” I nodded again, even more slowly. “And you have no idea what you might had done in that state, right. So you could have-”

“No!” I said. “No,” more calmly. “That's only been, you know, after.”

“As far as you know,” said one of the cops. “That's the thing about lost time. Finish off a hard night with one more shot before going to bed and then wake up the next morning. You probably just pass out, but if that swallow pushed you over the edge and you decided there were things you had to do, well, you'd never know, would you?”

“I know,” I said. “I wouldn't. Couldn't. And I'm done talking.” I guess they were in a better mood than usual, since they showed me to the front door rather than back to the holding cell.

“Don't leave town.” Just stay in a piece of poo poo town where everyone figures you're probably getting away with murder, at least until a body shows up. If Jenny's even dead. But of course Jenny's dead. She wouldn't put me through this, wouldn't put her family through this. She's dead, and someday someone's going to poke into the right hole or lake bed or car trunk and it won't be “Don't leave town” any more, it'll be “You're under arrest.” and “Confess and maybe you won't get the Death Penalty.” Even though I didn't do anything. Didn't do anything but not doing anything to save her.

III. Seven Dates

Finn Murray first asked Maggie Carter out for a date in the school library. The librarians had, several years ago, made a disorganized rout in their crusade for total silence within those walls, retrenching in a small section for quiet study, and so the main stacks were engulfed by a susurrus of soft conversation and instant message arrival pings. She had not been expecting anything of the sort. Finn was handsome, athletic, popular in a low-effort sort of way, and Maggie was not the sort of girl that kind of boy paid any attention to. At first she expected a trap, the kind that ended in pig's blood and tears. She didn't think enough people noticed her to make her that kind of unpopular, but there was always a bit of doubt in her mind on that score. But nothing she had seen or heard of Finn led her to think him capable of that kind of cruelty. So she answered with a wary yes.

Their first date was dinner at a chain restaurant, the kind desperate to distract from its own fundamental American-ness. The food was passable, the conversation pleasant, and it ended with a kiss on the hand at her parent's doorstep as they waited, excited and apprehensive at this somewhat belated milestone in their daughter's life.

Their second date, agreed to via text message during Calculus, was a movie, the sort of romantic comedy that was neither romantic nor comedic. Afterward, after a few awkward seconds, they talked a long hour over everything in it that they both found absurd. He kissed her cheek, light and brief as a raindrop at the evening's end, and she could feel the echo of that touch all night.

Their third date might have carried certain expectations, and to defuse them they engineered a group event with two other couples from the school, eating Japanese food prepared live with showmanship and soya while talking about all the pressing news of the school and town, mostly regarding potential match-ups in the football Regionals. The presence of the other couples made any kind of advanced shenanigans impractical.

For their fourth outing they took a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon. She told tales on his new friends from Elementary school while he spun unbelievable yarns about life in Northern Ireland. In the middle of it, they were set upon by an old woman with ragged white hair and mismatched eyes. She stared at Finn and walked backwards in front of them. Finally, he said “Do I know you?” and she shook her head and wandered off. It mostly killed the mood, but the date did end with a kiss, a real and proper kiss, on the lips, held long enough for her lungs to remind her to breathe.

On their fifth date they talked about sex, and why they wouldn't be having any, about how she was saving herself, if not for marriage than for someone who would be with her for longer than a season. He heard the accusation in her words and couldn't deny it. They talked, negotiated, set forth rules for what they would and would not do with strict restrictions on positions of hands above and beneath clothing, which would stay entirely on. Then they spent the evening testing the edge cases and loopholes they had made.

On the sixth date they talked about love, and futures, and the lack thereof. One of them said that the kind of person who married their high school romance was the kind of person who never escaped their hometown, and that Maggie was anything put that. By the end of the talk they knew their relationship was doomed – just by the fact that they called it by those words made it so – and resolved to end it on as high a note as possible, with one more perfect date together.

On that seventh date they ate together, laughed together, and walked together. In his car they did things that a stickler would say broke the letter of the rules that they had made, but they kept to their spirit. And then they parted a friends: not the kind of friend you keep close in your life, that would have caused trouble. But the kind of friend you know you can call on at need and ask for almost anything. And they exchanged gifts. She gave him a book of sketches she had drawn, of him, or her, of them both together. She did not often show her work to anyone other than for a school assignment, but she knew she was good at it, at least at the technical level. He promised to treasure it forever, and in turn gave her a bracelet, worked iron with semi-precious stones. He told her he'd stolen it from his father, but that was okay because his father stole it himself, and that made pilfering it traditional. She realized how little he'd ever said about his father, about his family as he spun a story about its power to protect the wearer from harm by calling animal spirits. And then it was over, all but a final kiss that lasted forever and was over too soon.

IV. With Colored String to Show the Connections

Elias Ruiz tried to kill himself yesterday. They're trying to kept it quiet, for the family, but my people gave me the inside info. Drove his car into a tree stone cold sober. He's still alive, in bad shape, may not walk, may not even wake up, but alive. He left a note. It wasn't a confession. I'd have been surprised if it was. I was already fairly sure he's not the one who killed my big sister.

When something like last summer happens, you can drive yourself crazy or you can try to do something about it. I've been trying to avoid going crazy. The person I was last year wouldn't have done half as well. But if you want to solve a crime you have to become a detective. So I worked hard to stop being the headphones-wearing loner I had been. Taught myself things. How to Win Friends and Influence People. Found the book on the free table at a library store. Took it, read it, learned it, lived it, love it. It still holds up.

To be a detective you solve cases. Ask for favors, pay them back, ask again for more. Build contacts, develop trust. Find somebody's lost class notes. Figure out why somebody got stood up or outright dumped, which of the identical tests was copied from which. Or don't, keep a secret tight if that's the better deal. But find out everything, and put it all together.

I have a chart, a poster with all the things I know, organized with colored string to show the connections. The string doesn't help much, but that's the way these things are done. I keep it in our secret fort, a place only Jenny and I ever went. It's a good thing. There's lots of things that would disturb my parents on it, and that's just the front side. The back side is where I put the things that can't have happened. The crazy stuff. The lies the old woman told.

The front is a maze of dead ends. Elias's alibi is solid, he was with his friends and teammates constantly that weekend. Jenny's best friend is out and gay and punk these days, could have been some kind of failed advance gone way wrong, but her parents had her tethered to a phone with a GPS snoop. All the time accounted for. Her deepest secret is that she only rocks the blue half-shaved half-spike and leather jacket is so that her parents will lump that together with the lesbian thing, assume it's just a phase, and put off disowning her for a while. Nobody our age has the ability to make a body disappear anyhow. The police were thorough that summer. Took the trained dogs everywhere, send divers into all the lakes and creeks and rivers.

I even investigated my own family. It's tough to face, but I couldn't just rule anybody out, not without checking. Found out some things I'd rather have not, starting from old bills and applying footwork. They wouldn't do it, couldn't, of course, even though I had to be sure. I did find out that my mother had been having an affair. Someone called Arlan Wade. It had ended more than a month before Jenny vanished, him leaving the country. The police knew about him, but were satisfied with their European colleague’s assurances that he couldn't have come back to the US at that time. As for me, well, he's one of the only three faces left on the chart without a red line through them.

The other two are the Murrays, Thom and Finn. I thought they'd be easy to clear, not even in town until months later, no connections to our family at all. But then it turns out that Finn's paperwork is completely bogus and there's no legitimate record of him existing before this August, and it turns out that Thom's carrying around with married women with daughters around Jenny's age, and suspicion won't let go. Except Thom looks nothing like Arlan. Different hair, eyes, nose, ears, lashes, height, build.


What are the odds that two people would look literally nothing alike? Especially if they're the same ethnicity to start with? Wouldn't two random people have at least one feature that's pretty similar?

Crazy, I know. Obviously a waste of time. Plastic surgery takes too much time to recover, and you can't add five inches with it anyhow. Any other idea is back of the poster stuff, more of the lies...

I will get to the bottom of this.

V: The Lies The Old Woman Told

Yes. And I know you, too, though you wouldn't believe it any more than would the other.

Call me Gwendolwn. I think that's my name. My memory isn't what it was, but some things I do know.

I remember the hunting trip.

Me, my husband, and two of our sons. The middle and the youngest, the eldest being fostered with an old ally of my husband's mother's nation. I missed him so, but had the others to keep me busy. We were in the Queen's woods, hunting stag and boar for the celebration. The men carried spear and bow while the youngest beat the bushes to lure out the prey and the Queen's men stood guard to keep us all safe should anything go wrong.

I remember the rustling wood and the roaring pig as it rushed towards the spears. I remember the crash, and the blood, and the laughing. We dressed and trussed the boar and my middle child and husband carried it by the pole, heading back to camp. And then one of the guards stepped behind my middle son (why can't I recall his name? What could that possibly have bought that was worth the cost?) and cut his throat open with his silvered knife.

My husband dropped his end of the pig and turned, weapons drawn. “What means this?” he asked.

“We serve a new Queen now,” they said, and charged. I held my youngest close, to shield him with my life, as they fought. He made quick work of the traitors, but not before one lunged at us. I gladly took the wound to my gut, keeping the blade from my child.

He wiped his blade and sheathed it, then came to pull our son from under me. “Goodbye, wife,” he said. “I must escape with my last live heir, and you'd just slow me down.”

“Your last live-” I said. “But what of our firstborn? At the court-”

“You foolish bitch,” he said, and for the first time his glamour slipped and I saw his true and terrible face. “My mother's oldest ally is the Devil, and sending my children to Hell is the price for youth eternal. Now, one last payment, for services rendered: shall I give you the mercy stroke?”

I refused. He left, taking the high road out of the kingdom. I survived, and made my way along the low, bartering my face, my voice, a great many memories and years of my life to make my way back home, where only a season had gone in the decades I'd spent away.

Believe what you will.

VI. Nobody's Girl

Maggie Carter sees him across the parking lot. She tries to duck her head, avoid him, but he sees her as well

“Maggie!” he says. “A word,” and she can't find it in her to be so impolite as to ignore him. So she walks over.

“You know my mother wants nothing to do with you now,” she says.

“And what make you think this has anything to do with her?”

“What else-”

“What else might a man and a woman have to do with each other? I can think of a few things.”

Ew, she thinks but doesn't say. “Aren't I a bit young for you?”

“You're a woman grown, well past legal in this state.”

That doesn't make it any less creepy she tries to say but can't. What kind of person knows the age of consent without looking it up anyway? also goes unsaid. Her hand goes to her left wrist, touching iron. A bird swoops down and Thom has to dodge a gob of birdshit. “You should back off,” she says.

“Good to see some feist in you,” he says, putting hands on her shoulders. She, or at least a part of her, wants to object, to scream and kick even, but that part is growing smaller by the second and the part that wants nothing more than to stare forever into the vast kingdoms of his deep, deep eyes grows larger and larger. Her right hand touches her left wrist again. A tomcat howls, setting off a dozen nearby dogs to barking. He backs away, repelled, as if electrically shocked.

“Ah,” says Thom. “I see you've had a gift from my son after all, though not the one I'd feared before. Well, so be it. His traitor's blood will serve me as well.” He turns and run.

She pauses for a minute to catch her breath, then dials his number. A man she's never seen before steps up to her. He's short and white-haired with leathery skin. “Tell Finn the new Queen can offer protection,” he says.

Finn scoffs when she does. “My enemy's enemy, is that it? I'll take my chances alone.”

It's the last she hears or sees from either father or son.

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.
Crit of Ironic Twist's Alouette

The opening is catchy enough, starting out with an interesting situation and mostly good words describing it. It's a bit slow to establish any kind of conflict, though, even for a story of this length. That's made worse by the fact that there's another long gap between where the conflict starts and where the reader has enough information to realize that's what happened.

Paragraph two:


The lights went out about a half-hour ago--it’s in the guidelines to give There's got to be a less awkward way to say this part (from the dash to here) every guest some time to settle down before we get to work. I can hear faint intakes of breath from the shadowy lump under the bed, light from a crescent moon coming in through the drapes.Your protag is hearing light?

The language is mostly strong, with good word choice that usually hits home, although there's an earlyish paragraph where you drop 'stationary' and 'antiquated' in quick succession where neither is doing much more than a simpler word would do.

On to story logic stuff. It's an interesting idea, but I sort of think that something this theatrical and choreographed would probably have strong rules against the Characters joking about the backstory with the Guests. (I'm using Disney Corp terms and capitalization because this feels sort of like a Disneyesque kind of enterprise going on here.) And that it would also spend more time on the backstory, make sure that the ghosts' presence in the hotel makes historic sense in the first place.

Also, at one point in the middle you say 'by the time I reach floor 13', which, I don't know, they reach floor 13 by going through the trap-door and that's not really a good way to describe that. And the bit at the end is momentarily confusing: perhaps you should mention room 1207 as the one beneath with the top of the trap door earlier. (And, now that I think of it, with this set up the entire 12th floor should be taken up by the operation's Backstage, which makes keeping the Guests out of the way there without breaking the illusion possibly awkward.

I'm not completely sold on the ending. The incidents leading up seem more about a direct attempt to sabotage the narrator's job, which could work either for pure malevolence or for an altruistic attempt to save them from something worse, but it doesn't work for me as just trying to make some kind of contact, not as an ending. The ending could work as the ending of a shorter version of this (I'm talking about a 3000-4000 word version, wouldn't want to imagine it shrunk further than that), or as an internal act beat of a longer version, but at this length I want more resolution from an ending.

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.

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.

Jitzu_the_Monk posted:

2) Some poets get real cute by altering the refrains (the repeating parts) slightly throughout the poem and they can go gently caress themselves slowly, THAT DOUCHEBAGGERY WILL NOT BE PERMITTED HERE. Your two repeating lines must not change at all throughout the poem, not even in terms of punctuation, even though wikipedia says you can do it.

So, just to be clear, Sylvia Plath can go gently caress herself slowly for that semicolon in the first line?

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.
His Name is Hershel, By the Way.

154 words

Colleen and Sam, and Sam’s pet pangolin
were out past late, and Sam, who had no doubt,
said “This is more trouble than I’ve been in.”

The walls of Trevor Tanner’s mighty tin
tall tower rose imposingly to keep
Colleen and Sam, and Sam’s pet pangolin

outside, while their adventure lay within.
They climbed. Coleen, while mounting that redoubt
said “This is more trouble than I’ve been in.”

Past birds and clouds they met Krozanthar, kin
to kraken and to rukh. They had to leap.
Colleen and Sam, and Sam’s pet pangolin

were netted by a passing zeppelin.
Colleen and Sam, at once and at a shout
said “This is more trouble than I’ve been in.”

Then Trevor Tannor’s terrible tin men
as one fired taser-tridents. They knocked out
Colleen and Sam, and Sam’s pet pangolin
said “This is more trouble than I’ve been in.”

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.
Four Letters

Who knows what the future will bring?
As minutes tick across the clock:
Fast judging, Good judging.

A winner, a lose, the usual thing.
A spate of mentions on the dock
Who knows what the future will bring?

For hours on cliff’s-edge we’ll cling
Will they uphold or will they mock
Fast judging, Good judging.

The bluebirds and vultures will sing
A pretty song or angry squawk:
Who knows what the future will bring?

When mornings erections upspring
A lusty thrust or hate-bone’s' ock'?
Fast judging, Good judging.

We wait on crit’s savage sweet sting
For each to rise or fall in stock
Who knows what the future will bring?
Fast judging, Good judging.

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.
Teeveeweek Crits

Uranium Phoenix: The Eyes of Eris

Unattributed dialog is not a good way to open a story. Looks like the speaker is not identified for another five lines, and their context (some kind of space opera setting) isn’t established until around the same time. Not good.

That’s the wrong “it’s” there.

We are being cute with the prompt, I see. Also introducing the actual story fairly late. Ah, extremely cute with the prompt.

And an undermotivated hyperviolent ending, oh joy. Including a pointless/stupid double-cross and the kind of retaliation that will probably burn more bridges than wanted.

Loss Candidate

The Cut of Your Jib’s The Resurrection Men

Good opening, economical use of detail quickly sets a scene.

“You’re in the hurry” is a bit clunky as dialog. As is “The subterfuge isn’t right”.

Midway, I’m having two problems. First, these two people are having this conversation for the first time right now? Seems unlikely. And second, there doesn’t seem to be much story here, with it being fairly late to introduce one. Ah, there it comes.

I’m not at all clear who was shooting at them or why they didn’t stick around to finish the job, given that their targets were unarmed and such.

Probably Middle group here.

Twiggymouse’s The Job

There’s something sort of, well, off about the entire opening. In the right hands, this could be intentional and to interesting effect. But not here, the rest of the story settles into some normalish prose.

The problem here is that it’s a big pile of nothing, a ‘story’ that stops just before something interesting threatens to happen, with ill-defined and boring characters. The one thing that does happen, Jameson changing his mind, happens offstage and we’re given no insight as to why.

Low, maybe low middle? Not actively offensive at least, but certainly not good.

Venomous’s Ears

More unattributed dialog to open a story. At least the dialog (not that line, but onward) is well done here.

Probably one of the better-written entries so far. My main problem with it is the ending. Listen, I know all 1st person dialog doesn’t have to be completely digetic, but it still should be anchored to a plausible moment in a character’s life, and there’s no case in which “and then I died” isn’t going to be a cheat ending. Well, unless much of the story takes place in the afterlife. In my first read I thought that the narrator was being cut off by his employers as a loose end, but on reread it looks more like a suicide, which is even worse. Cutting the last section would have made this a much better story. I liked this story far better than the other judges: having two characters with similar strong dialect come across as distinct individuals is a difficult writing task, and you managed it fairly well.

Chernabog’s The missing ingredient

In titles, capitalize all words other than articles or prepositions, or have a good reason for breaking this rule. Laziness isn’t a good reason.

The hook is interesting, but doesn’t really pay off. You really need to do more to sell the exotic nature of the bird. Really, this whole story is a nothingburger. And the epilog doesn’t work at all in prose. Maybe if something interesting had happened in it, something with a connection to the story.

Also, if your prompt had been about Hannibal someone at Netflix would have needed to suffer, badly, but I’m assured that it wasn’t.

Middle in this pack.

Chairchucker’s Small Dog

A very interesting hook.

All of the pieces of a good story are present here. There’s some humor, some emotional bite, stakes, action. But they don’t really come together properly. I think that the decision to give the dog a speaking part was a mistake, that the version that played the UFO people’s mistake completely straight could have been a lot stronger. There’s a point where the action gets a bit too cartoony to work, and usually that point is when you get the talking dog. Also, minor prompt fail for having the most interesting character not be human.

High middle.

Benagain’s Driverless

In the opening paragraph you spell ‘belt’ wrong and have a character swap gender between sentences. Not a good sign. The opener has potential, but you waste the setup with a fairly pedestrian answer to the question.

In the end, this isn’t a story. The ‘ending’, such as it is, comes out of nowhere, the scenes don’t really build on each other, and we’re left with a sketch of a not particularly interesting character.


Hawklad’s Arrival

In short fiction with supernatural elements, it’s always important to introduce them early and strikingly. The opposite of this, dropping them in a paragraph full of exposition seven paragraphs in, is what you do and it doesn’t work at all.

It’s also not a good idea to leave a key element of the world even further in, in paragraph nine, when you reveal that this story takes place thousands of years in the future. Which isn’t really believable, given how normal thing seem to be.

Thousands of years, with aliens presumably keeping human industry down to a level that won’t damage their oceans. But we have cigarettes (implying a functioning economy where fields can be devoted to cash crops rather than food, and also implying paper being cheap enough that people don’t use pipes) and flashlights (so batteries still being made, and enough metallurgy for filaments at least.) Which doesn’t seem to hold water, even without the kind of cultural shifts that that much time would have to see.

And this in another story that ends just before the something interesting happens, before what has happened or why it hasn’t happened before in thousands of years can be made clear.

Low, DM or possible loss. (I liked this a lot less than the other judges, but I do see that the problems were mostly high-level, idea-scale problems and the prose itself was fine.)

katdicks’ The Bride-to-Be

Good opening, although a little bit much for a single sentence.

The story is mostly harmless, I guess. A pile of uninterrogated problematic victoriana cliches with a slightly too-clever ending. Competently executed for the most part, but lacking in originality to a fault.

Aggressively middle.

Metrofreak’s Home Office

The opening doesn’t really do enough for how much the structure stretches things out.

In the end, you have a character sketch, again with very little story around it, and of a fairly unsympathetic character who doesn’t seem to feel anything for his dead child other than in that that fact has caused him to lose his wife, which he misses more as routine and dayplanner than as a human being. It would be nice to see some actual grief for the kid in there somewhere, even if deeply repressed.

Low middle at best.

Kenfucius’s One Too Many

I think you could have a stronger hook if you managed to mention the fire in the opening sentence, but otherwise reasonably strong here.

‘marshalled’ is probably not the right word.

‘Walt itched in the regard of the crowd.’ What?

Overall, though, I like this one. Good character, a solid story behind it. My favorite among the early stories.

sebmojo’s May contain:

See above on title capitalization. Also, missing at least one word at the end of the first line. Inauspicious.

This seems like an aggressive response to the recappers’ take on the drug ghost story a few weeks back. I disagree with the premise here, still think that someone willfully risking the health of a child they expect to deliver is fairly awful as a human being, but this is at least a well-executed ‘message’ story, with the character seeming human and not just a mouthpiece.

Middle/high middle maybe.

jon joe’s Mr. Blood

Another missing word in a first paragraph.

Takes an interesting turn in the second section.

In the end, this is well-written and interesting, but I’m finding it unsatisfying, without enough revealed about why this guy has become a human jinx in the first place. The sniper deaths are explained, but the collapsing building stands out as a huge coincidence and the explosions in the backstory stand out even moreso, so it seems like there’s probably a long chain of coincidences fueling this farce.

High middle.

Tyranosaurus’s The Outlaw Josey Graves


Other than that, the opening is okay. I could ask for more specifics on the peril in that opening, though. But you’re determined to vague it through the entire first section, a decision I’m not sure I can get behind.

Okay, I’m still not sure I agree with that. But overall, this is head and shoulders above the rest of the week. Strong characters (A bit more tell-y than I’d like regarding Aarush, but that’s a point of view thing here), good story, good ending. This covers some themes you’ve visited before maybe a few too many times but it’s probably the best example of that td sub-subgenre so far (at least since I’ve been here) so I’ll forgive that.

My win pick

Bad Seafood’s A Little Medicine

Strong, but bitter and harsh opening. Let’s see where you go with it. Punctuating the same structure differently doesn’t really do much here.

Ah, so literal. That helps to recover sympathy a little. Dialog-driven stories like this are hard to pull off, but this one works for the most part. Another strong late story for this week. High, HM Candidate.

Fuschia tude’s It’s Not Something You Can Leave Behind

Strong opening. Good dialog in the first section. Probably should be Razorblades’ (singular noun sports teams exist, but are rare and probably wouldn’t be with that one.)

Another good one. I sort of think that it’s a bit late and understated when you reveal/imply that it was the entire team that died in the crash, that something like that would warp a school’s routines to the point where a slightly witchy girl with an on-the-nose name and a large-hat-wearing kid wouldn’t even be a litte out of the ordinary, though.

HM Candidate, Top group.
--- <- the deadline
flerp’s No Good Answers

Interesting opening. Not sure how breaths can be honest, but it’s an original turn of phrase at least.

Nameless characters, I knew there was something I don’t like missing from this week. And the namelessness of the protagonist is just part of the problem with him: we don’t get any details at all about him, and that means that the entire story is colored in completely different ways if the reader assumes he is the same age as Cindy and if the reader takes him as much older.

Another nothing sandwich of a story, if it hadn’t dqed for lateness it would be right at the edge of the DM/no mention boundary for me.

magnificent7’s Lucious

This was an okay hook, but with just a little tweaking it could be much better. Replace ‘the man’ with something more specific: the soldier, the clerk, the barrista. Weakened by the reveal a bit, although a zombie-pov story would have been tough. As would a successful zombie-pov game, for that matter.

Turning potentially sympathetic characters into psychopaths/sociopaths seems to be a thing this week. Another likely DM had it been on time.

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.

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.
How to Steal a Car (...and Why)

700 words

Well, it really is my car. A deal’s a deal. The moral arc of the universe bends towards me becoming the owner of Rex Wallace III’s beautiful silver 2016 Jaguar F-type R Coupe, soon after it passes into the unworthy hands of Rex IV. Only, it turns out that stealing a car is insanely difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, Lise. Any fool with a little know-how can jimmy a car door, and if the car’s old enough, hot-wire it into starting and go for a little ride. For anything made this century, you really do need the key, so you have to either force the driver out after they’re in there, which isn’t my style, or else lift the keys out of someone’s pockets, which is. Most of the time the keys will even helpfully show you exactly where the car is parked. But that’s just borrowing it for a few hours. So maybe you know a guy, can take it to some warehouse in the part of town where everything smells like smokestacks and slaughterhouses and someone pays you pennies on the dollar and it’s broken down for parts or shipped off to Albania. But that’s not stealing a car.

Look at it like this: let’s say that instead of a sports car it was a rare baseball card that old Rex had promised would go to whichever of us - bio-son Rex Quads and goddaughter-turned-ward Vikky Thackeray - managed to end our senior year’s first semester with the higher GPA. Like, a really expensive baseball card, a signed Ty Cobb rookie card or something like that. What does it mean to steal that card? Well, it means that neither Rex winds up having it, which, sure, the chop shop method would cover, but it also means that the thief would have it, fully theirs to take out and look at and lovingly wax and tool out on the highway. And if they did, as would be completely natural with a baseball card with that kind of performance ratings, happen to exceed the posted speed limit by a few dozen miles per hour, they’d only be stuck with the speeding fine. There wouldn’t be any licensing or registration or baseball card identification number that would tell the friendly officer that this was a stolen piece of cardboard and make him far less friendly.

Neither one of us had been much of a scholar. We each had our distractions, him with fast girls and bad cars, which he’d fix and flip for a profit, and me with fast cars and bad boys, which I’d drop as-is and flip the bird. But we both knuckled down. And I beat him fair and square. Got accused of cheating a few times, but since it was bull it didn’t stick, and got accused of ‘hiding my light under a bushel’ by more than one condescending prick teacher. But when the grades were posted, I had a solid 3.3 up against his 3.1.

But Triple-sticks tells me he’s going to give Quads the car anyway. Says instead he’ll pay for college. ‘One of the state schools of course. Not one of the Ivies.’ Says once I hit eighteen his obligations are done. And then he twists the knife. ‘You know, the only reason I agreed to be a godparent was to get closer to your mother. And it worked. Oh, don’t worry. There’s no chance we’re related. It wasn’t until well after you and your sister were born that-’

The next four words were, well, exactly the ones you’d expect. And the only reason I didn’t slap his smug face was that I knew he wanted me to. That he’d have been more than happy to send me off to juvie or some home for violently insane young women. That even though he could make something up and do just that anyway, he thought himself above that. But if it were true...

So that’s when I decided to steal that car, and if I can, in a way that he won’t even collect the insurance. And I have about five months to figure out how. So can you help your sister out?

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.
The Seventh Portrait

449 Words

Along the living room mantle, above
The old bricked-up fireplace hang six years of
Family portraits, Me and Frank and Buddy
And Jenny, of course Jenny in each one.
My eyes avoid them, drawn past every year
Drawn right, to where the seventh would have been.
We always took them just before the start
Of each school year. Nobody made the choice
To not pose without her for one this year.

But it happened without words, like so much
Has in this life suspended for so long.
No one decided to preserve her room
Just as it was before she disappeared.
(A lie, of course, it was ransacked and searched
and then restored anew three times or more.)

Strangers and friends alike will try to raise
My spirits with those words: “You still have hope.”
They’re right. We still have hope. And hope is cruel.
Hope leads you to a new heartbreak with each
Knock on the door or unknown number call
And into thoughts of things distant to come:
A phone call from some city in ten years,
A tired stranger with her name and voice
with years of dire survival on the streets
imploring help and pardons through the tears.
Or the same story with a different end,
Some dutiful policeman on that phone
Who followed trails of breadcrumbs back to here
To put a name and family to ‘Jane Doe.’
A million more scenarios unfold
Until I wish for any end to come,
Then curse myself for what I briefly wished.

My husband and I do not share a bed.
In two more years, when Buddy’s college-bound
We likely will no longer share a house.
It’s my own fault, of course. Some months before
Our life’s load-bearing block was snatched away
And the whole tower tumbled down, I slipped.
Took up with some fair man who filled a void
I never knew gaped in me ‘til we met,
Now gone across the ocean. And Frank knows,
But doesn’t know, for sure, officially.
He won’t hear confession, won’t talk it out,
Alone or with a counselor to help.
He lives in hope. No, next-door, in denial.
I live in hope. And hope has wicked fangs
With barbs to tear and venom-stings to give.
I see her, in piece-meal, all of the time:
A classmate with her hair, seen from behind;
The brand of bag she carried on a chair;
Her eyes on some mad woman in the park.

I watch the archived news of families
Of children who were found after long years
Abducted by some micro-cult or fiend.
They say ‘I never gave up hope.’ I know
They really mean ‘Hope never let me go.’

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.
:siren:Thunderdome Week #CCXXXVI: Three-Card Combo:siren:

We're all nerds here, right? And we all like assignment prompts, right? Well, have I got a deal for you:
Magic: The Gathering week. When you get in, I or another judge will assign you three random Magic:The Gathering Cards for your prompt. You can use anything about them: the rules text, the flavor text, the art, the name, with one exception. You cannot use any proper noun on them. (Exception: in the rare case where the proper noun is a real-world historical or mythological figure, go right ahead, if you want.) Same thing goes for fantastic races: you can use real world mythological creatures’ names, like Goblin or Dragon, but not MTG-Specific ones like Sliver or Mogg.

This is mostly an inspiration-type prompt, so don’t feel the need to shoehorn more prompt elements than will actually fit in your story. Unless you submit something that has literally no connection to any of your cards you’re not likely to get into prompt trouble. (If you get all you need from just two cards or even just one, that's perfectly fine.)

There's one other catch, though. Since I don't want a bunch of generic fantasy, one more rule. Your story must be set on Earth, and in a time between 100 years ago and today.. You absolutely can use an alternative history or secret history magical version of Earth, but it must still be recognizably Earth.

But... if you really need to tell a story set in your special elfland or ancient rome or deep space or something, I’ll let you ignore this rule if and only if you toxx yourself for this week.

Also, Stories about games, especially M:tG-like games, will piss me off. You'd better be extra sure of yourself before trying them, because ignoring this advice is a good way to get a DM or loss.

Word Limit: Since the best old-school 3-card combos allowed you to go infinite, in that spirit, No Wordcount Limit this week. (Proofreading pro-tip: try to cut your draft down by 5% anyhow. That usually improves things.)

Deadlines: Signups close 11:59 PM Friday Pacific Time. Submissions close 11:59 PM Sunday Pacific Time.

The usual bans apply: no nonfiction, fanfiction, erotica, political rants, etc. (Poetry? sure, knock yourself out if you want.)

Isperia, Supreme Judge: Thranguy
Judge of Currents:Jay W. Frinks
Armorcraft Judge:Fuschia Tude

Manic Scribes:
Djeser (toxxed)
Surreptitious Muffin (toxxed)
Uranium Phoenix (toxxed)
Chili (toxxed)
Kenfucius (toxxed)
Bad Seafood
Sebmojo (toxxed)
Beef Supreme
Ska and Screenplays
The Cut of Your Jib
My Cat is Norris
Ironic Twist
Flerp (toxxed)
No Gravitas
Obliterati (toxxed)
a new study bible!

Thranguy fucked around with this message at 21:13 on Feb 10, 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.

Djeser posted:

oh boy fuckin nerd games i've never played in :toxx:
Telekinetic Bonds
Thing From the Deep
Soul Manipulation

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

yeah sure :toxx: in gently caress the rules
Fire Snake
Sisters of Stone Death

Uranium Phoenix posted:

Magic the Gathering, eh? Sounds like some nerd poo poo to me.

Gonna :toxx: on my entry just in case I need elves or space ships, or elven spaceships.
Cloudheath Drake
Chilling Grasp
Midvast Protector

Chili posted:

I don't plan on doing anything fantastical, but just in case :toxx:
Ancient Craving
Death Frenzy
Drawn Together

Kenfucius posted:

Great, I'll have to get my brother-in-law to give me all the details on this stuff.

Plus... what the hell, I'll :toxx: too.

Orzhov Guildgate
Warstorm Surge
War Elephant

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.

Hallowed Spiritkeeper
Loafing Giant
Pitchburn Devils

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.
Precursor Golem
Unruly Mob
Demonic Consultation

Jhessian Infiltrator
Gaea's Bounty

Metrofreak posted:

I'm in, gimme the exodias.
Lightning Elemental
Nature's Lore
Ghitu War Cry

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.

SkaAndScreenplays posted:

Is this standard legal?

I'm IN

I'd toxx for my recent failures but I'm still waiting on those others to come down.
Spiked Baloth
Terramorphic Expanse

Urborg Drake
Broken Dam

Wild-field Scarecrow
Blue Sun's Zenith
Merciless Eviction

my cat is norris posted:

I'm in! Cards, please!
Amrou Scout
Rhox Charger
Living Wall

Mercedes posted:

i'll try this. in pls
Farrelite Priest
Sunseed Nurturer
Yew Spirit

Okua posted:

IN. i'll submit something this time goddamn it.
Mahamiti Djinn
Mind Spring
Thought Devourer

Bound by Moonsilver
Kemba, Kha Regent
Tukatongue Thallid

Deity of Scars
Endless Scream

Julias posted:

Sure, let's try this. In.
Pygmy Razorback
Arc Trail
Drooling Groodion

flerp posted:

in :toxx: but im not writing fantasy or scifi gently caress that poo poo
Inexorable Tide
Volcanic Awakening
Dolmen Gate

Worst Fears
Courier Hawk

No Gravitas posted:

Oh, sure. Let's do this.

In, gimme cards.
Dispeller's Capsule
Thunder Dragon
Slipstream Eel

Obliterati posted:

In with :toxx: because if it doesn't involve spaceships I'm pretty much stuck
Zodiac Dragon
Rally the Peasants
Joven's Ferrets

Fuschia tude posted:

I'll be ur Amorcraft Judge, guy :wink:

Ready to read Infinite (bad) Words


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.

Sharding Sphinx
Rites of Flourishing
Grim Tutor

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.
Oh, and if anyone is really unhappy with your cards, I'll let you take a mulligan and give you a new set of three if you crit three stories from last week. One time per person.

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.

Mistform Mask
Macabre Waltz
Act of Treason

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.
Volcanic Hammer
Whirlpool Rider
Flesh to Dust

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.

Twiggymouse posted:

Many thanks for the crits from Week 234.

Also, I'm in. Give me my cards.

Prey's Vengeance
Cradle of Vitality
Wolfhunter's Quivver

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.

llamaguccii posted:

I've got to get IN on this prompt!

Hematite Golem
Pact of Negation
River Merfolk

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.
Signups are now closed.

I am happy because everyone is apparently very happy with their prompts and so won't fail. (I believe in you all.) But I am also sad because no extra crits of last week got done.

Who knows what other emotions I will feel when I read all of your stories?

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.
Okay, time to Bar the Door and close submissions.

If there's any toxxes out you've got until 9AM pacific time tomorrow to post something and avoid the axe (not sure why I bother, nobody ever does) Same deadine for any normal failures to be assured of getting a crit from me.

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.
:siren:Day of Judgement:siren:

So, this was a very good week for stories. So good that there are no DMs to be given. But even in a strong week one story has to be the weakest:

Geth's Verdict of loss goes to No Gravitas for Two peas in a pod.

On the positive side, we deliver a Divine Verdict of HM to the following:
Or Something Like It by Djeser
Sand Caught in the Laughs by flerp
The Concrete Divide by Kenfucius
the woman OR the fools who came to drink in the dark by Surreptitious Muffin
and Change by Okua

And that leaves to Supreme Verdict of the week's Win, which goes to Uranium Phoenix for The Arena

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 and flash critter me.

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.
No Gravitas’s Two peas in a pod

Title capitalization, don’t break that rule without a good reason, or at least not without even a bad reason.

This is a lot of talk about the weather and not much action. At least there’s something of potential interest going on with regard to that weather, maybe. Still, lack of characters multiple paragraphs in is not a great sign.

Nameless characters, again, not a great sign. And after the exposition we get story told almost entirely in dialog. Which is almost certainly happening in someone’s second language, although there’s no sign of that.

I’m mostly interested in what you aren’t telling; the details of this alternate world war II, the lives of these characters before and after this mission.

Serious flaws. Wasn’t my least favorite story, but it was the only story on all three of our low lists. In a lot of weeks this could have slid by in the low middle or merely DMed with grumpy judges, but the overall quality this week was such no such thing could happen.

Okua’s Change

‘already’ is redundant with ‘as soon as’. Otherwise, strong opening, getting straight to characters and hinting at a conflict even.

The reversal of expectations is deftly executed, nice. Jay read the narrator and Susan as exes, but my own take was ‘lifelong tragic straight-girl crush’; in revision you may want to make whichever you’re intending more clear.

All in all a very strong piece. This was a serious win candidate

Twiggymouse’s You Can’t Learn That on Youtube

Reasonably strong opening, although I don’t like the fragmentary nature of the second sentence.

Really dumb hunter gets tables turned on him is an excessively easy story that the dome has done before a few times. This is a fairly harmless execution of that trope. Middle of the middle.

sparksbloom’s Back to the Earth

A little overwritten, a little over-abstracted in the opener here.

‘that attitude was her family didn’t want her’, missing a word here.

Overall, this story has a problem keeping things too abstract and undefined. There’s probably something that can be done with this, but you’re going to need to do a lot more to show what was going on in this commune, and how this testimony is going to help Duncan and/or his coconspirators.

Low middle

Djeser’s Or Something Like It

Catchy opening. Interesting story. I like the concepts, but I think you’ve done one of the laziest possible plots with it. And whether Jennifer’s act is suicide or escape from a fate worse than death, you don’t really hit it with as much consequence as that moment needs.

Still, high middle, possible HM material

flerp’s Sand Caught in the Laughs

Powerful opening. Very nice, good capture of emotional state and good details. This was another contender (I’m not going to hold its vignette-nature against it) for the win this week for me.

Kenfucius’ The Concrete Divide

Strong and specific opening. I don’t like the head-hopping point of view, especially as it’s making all of these kids the same slightly over-analytical, over-self-aware personality. Another strong story. I think that Billy is a bit too absent through the middle, though, and should be at least mentioned in the third section to keep him part of the story. This was another win contender and probably my favorite going into judging (although it was a very close run between the top stories)

Benagain’s Interrupted

That’s probably a few too many moving parts for an opening hook. Does give character and image, though. Second line is also a bit much, but it’s doing something very intriguing.

I don’t like the tense shift at the end. And he’s kept hold of the tube the whole time? Middle this week.

Surreptitious Muffin’s the woman OR the fools who came to drink the dark

Very interesting. Still find lowercase titling annoying but in poetry it’s traditional I guess. My interpretation of the formatting is that this is a partial document, with words illegible or missing, implying a more traditional medusa verse that’s been subject to redaction (possibly with the one first person line scribbled in a different hand) to create a new one. But I’m not sure about that. Anyhow, very good, not a win candidate, but HM worthy.

a new study bible!’s The Sharing Economy

Okay, interesting high concept introduced with the opening. Worried a bit about conflict though. That comes soon enough, although in a way that sort of negates the premise. Question: if ‘Marlene’ is a stolen identity, is Tommy really bright enough to stick to using that name? Bigger question: if the account has been inactive for months, where did the money that’s being put on hold come from, and where would it go if the audit went the wrong way? I’m also not convinced that any government would allow this technology to be remotely legal, and suspect that if it were the company would want to secure the riders’ bodies during the trip, both for things like this and for general safety and liability. In this week’s fairly strong middle.

Uranium Phoenix’s The Arena

Powerful opening. Not sure a severed head would last long enough to feel burning, though. Ah. That gets explained, very late in.

“save you form that”, shame about that typing. And haven’t we already established that decapitation is exactly something the fires can bring her back from? That character doesn’t know she wants to keep from resurrecting that badly.

Another strong story, the one that had high marks from all three judges.

Hawklad’s God of War

Interesting opening. I’m not sure present tense was the best choice, but executed fairly well.

What keeps this in the strong middle of the week rather than somewhere higher is that it doesn’t quite do enough. I’m left wanting the narrator’s family to, through memory and flashback, be characters rather than just motivational hooks. And since this is a fairly well-trod literary area, I sort of want a bit more from it. The transition of the thing under the ice from Lovecraftian unknowable to traditional mythic and manipulable could have used more space as well.

Strong middle.

Ironic Twist’s Crystallization

Probably should be question marks in the opener, no? The narrative style is a bold choice, but possibly a mistake. Because the one-sided conversation sets up some questions early on that just get dropped. You’ve got half of a framing sequence, essentially, and that imbalances the whole story. So the anecdote itself works, is well-written and interesting enough, but the reader is left wanting more resolution.

Middle, not as strong as some but not bad enough for a bad result by any means.

Chili’s Hard to Blame Eve

Another 1st/2nd hybrid narrator. Although the interlocutor vanishes midway through. Opening is okay. The transition between grounded character piece and absurdist satire is very abrupt.

This one seems rushed. There’s the potential for a good story with this idea, but it probably needs a second character in it at least and a lot more room. One of the weakest in this strong week.

Obliterati’s The Moon in Capricorn

An Aries, I think. Not a particularly promising start. After reading this multiple times I’m still not clear if this is a deliberate worldbuilding play on words or an author who thought that the astrological sign that sounds like that was the god of war rather than the ram.

Tagless dialog from characters who don’t distinguish themselves through their speech, another bad sign. Lampshading cliches is rarely a better choice than avoiding them in the first place. Not nearly enough time between ‘ten bucks plus expenses’s. Not buying the telegraph-speaking golem being able to function as a vigilante without either giving herself away, not just to the detective but to anyone else on the force or in general. Maybe by using mime only, but it looks like it’s only because it’s him there that she doesn’t speak.

In general, not good, a bit too pat and unsurprising. My personal least favorite story of the week, although after discussion with the other judges I’ve come to appreciate some of the energy and construction of it at least.

Metrofreak’s War Cry

Opening has me worried. Highly procedural, and for something this short...Sort of reads like a shaggy dog story, but without anything even resembling a punchline. The general laziness of this piece put it in my bottom group for the week.

Beef Supreme’s Backlash

Very dry opening. And a fairly dry and lifeless story, to be honest. Another with a single character with any kind of depth to them, and that one not given enough to breathe. Mostly it’s about a technology, and the most painfully obvious thing that can go wrong with it, and a punchline-y ending doesn’t help. Middle/Low Middle.

Bad Seafood’s Funerals Are for the Living

The opening hook works. Good dialog-based storytelling. Muffins, calling someone out there? Problem here is that this isn’t a story, isn’t even a vignette or character sketch. It’s a scene, a good scene, but in dire need of several more to even begin to be complete enough. No mention because I don’t want to encourage novel excerpts without some effort at a conclusion.

sebmojo’s Last Orders Please

Opening is promising something comic, let’s see if it delivers successfully.
Fourth paragraph an unappealing run-on mess. “Parthian shot” in probable secondary world without the antiquity that that references bothers me a bit. Sort of harmless. Doesn’t really deliver many laughs, depends too much on funny names. Middle pile.

The Cut of Your Jib’s Not Gone West
Going three paragraphs before introducing a character is rarely a good idea. They’re not bad paragraphs, but at that point you almost might want to go for a fully characterless story rather than try and drop one in that late. Or make the presence of a first person narrator clear from the beginning.

Ah, scarecrow narrating. Interesting. Two different long narrative essays, not as much so. Not a bad story, but wish you’d found a better way to tell it.


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.
crit for Desperate Jasper, Julias' redemption from week 234 because why not:

When you do a redemption, you more or less have no time pressure on you. So certain typographical lapses are much less forgivable, such as spelling Jasper 'Jaspar' twice in one paragraph.

I'm more than a little confused by this story. The narrator is Dr. Silvai, who apparently has a biological child as well as some kind of foster child named Tennesy. Her mentioning that she could put him on the street (which comes off a bit more 'veiled threat' than I think fits the tone you're going for) probably rules out this being a blended family; her calling him just 'Tennesy' in narration pretty much rules out any other Tennesys in her life. And yet for some reason the ending hinges on her suddenly claiming membership in that family rather than the Silvais...if this is some strange dissociative break on her part it needs to be punctuated a lot more and made more of a focus...

Beyond that, the two parts of the story are reasonably well done, the family part being stronger than the professional part. Ronald's absence in both is strong enough to be felt but not developed enough to be interesting or lead anywhere, and the two plotlines don't fit together particuarly well other than in the confusing manner mentioned above.

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.
Five Years After Christmas

Thranguy fucked around with this message at 01:47 on Dec 7, 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.
:siren:Thunderdome CCXXXVIII: Lie to Me:siren:

Okay, we've had several weeks in a row of easy-to-write-for prompts. It's time to spend a little time in the literary deep end with a technique that can be very tricky to use just right, but powerful when done well: the Unreliable Narrator

There's lots of different kinds of unreliable narrators in fiction. There's the narrator who doesn't really understand what's going on, either by being a small child or not particularly bright. There's the narrator who holds an incorrect belief that leads him to completely misinterpret everything that's going on. There's the narrator who is actively deceiving the reader. There's probably lots more. You can start with wikipedia if you want more ideas: Unreliable Narrator

I'm going to try to read these as though I don't know that the narrators are untrustworthy. You should absolutely write them for an audience that doesn't have that information.

Writing with this method is often going to involve a twist ending, so a few words: a good twist ending makes the reader re-evaluate everything that has gone before. A bad twist ending renders everything that has gone before pointless. A good twist ending raises the story's stakes as they resolve. A bad twist ending lowers them or reduces them to nothing.

You can ask newtestleper, Crabrock or me for flash rules if you like.

1600 words.

Signups Close 11:59 PM Pacific Time Friday
Submissions Close 11:59 PM Pacific Time Sunday


Dr. Kloctopussy
Beef Supreme
Killer of Lawyers
Erogenous Beef
The Cut of Your Jib

Thranguy fucked around with this message at 02:33 on Feb 25, 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.
36 hours left to get in on this week.

Also, I'll give flash rules myself if specifically requested (or if the other judges don't answer a request after about a whole day or something.)

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.

Okua posted:

I'm IN, and give me a flash rule asap.
Use in your story:

Uncommonly powerful acid
A building that used to be a library

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.

Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

I would like a flash rule please

An irresponsible short-cut

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.

BeefSupreme posted:

i dont know what to believe anymore

Believe this:

Additional Flashrule (by request as it happens)

Something that feels like this music while having nothing to do with its source
Magnificent facial hair

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.
Sign-ups are closed, everybody write good words now. Or at least write words.

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.
Okay, one hour of overtime is enogh. Submissions closed.

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.

...And the winner is: La-La Land

Oh, wait.

Wrong envelope.

(are you happy now, newt?)

So, this was a hard prompt. I was expecting it to beat a lot of you, but hoping that one or two people would be able to do something really good with it. Only half of that came to pass, and it wasn't the good half.

So let's start with the bad. Dishonorable Mentions go to:
Erogenous Beef's Cleaner for boredom, cliche, and dropping the word 'postprandial' like was nothing
Chili's On A Playground for an ending that discourages the reader from trying to solve its mystery
llamagucci's Coping Well for finding a novel way to completely screw up digetic narration

And the loser is...
Hawklad's Journal, Pages 467-472, for, among many other sins, forgetting that it was supposed to be a journal.

While I really didn't get the kind of really outstanding story I was hoping for (extra helpings of shame to the four failures) somebody has to keep the blood throne warm and all.

So, for doing one of the best jobs at fulfilling a hard prompt while also being a decent story, this week's win goes to...

BeefSupreme's Faith

The blood throne is yours.


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.
Unreliable Narrator Week Crits

Okua’s Black Mold

Interesting opening. Taking a while to get a grip on the narrator, though. We don’t learn their gender until fairly late, and sparse details in general.

All in all, a well-told if low-substance little story. A little weak on the prompt: the narrative voice isn’t really strong enough or strongly committed to the character’s stubborn belief in her own good health to really do anything with it. I had this as a no mention.

Chernabog That way of hers

Title capitalization, don’t break those rules without a good reason. Second sentence is a bit of a mess, full of broken parallel structures and short garden paths. Also, ‘drive me crazy’ suggests a negative sense like ‘annoyed’ rather than the positive one I think you’re going for. ‘wild’ instead, maybe?

coleslaw-salad is redundant. Probably hyphenate coconut-and-roses for clarity.
Interesting. Starts out like a standard oscar-bait dementia caregiver narrative, but quickly seems to be going somewhere at least a little bit more intriguing.

A lot of technical problems (more than a few comma splices and tense issues), but the story is good. Strong use of the prompt. Was a possible HM on my list, but fell a bit short.

Erogenous Beef’s Cleaner

‘postprandial’? Really? Opening is mostly competent if a bit cliche up to that point. (Although a big bill could be the other kind of bill. Also, bribing a group of people with a single bill they’re going to have to break seems like bad manners.)

Detective as a title is generally reserved for actual police, so you’re not being fair with that mini-twist.

I think you gave away too much of the game in the interview with Charlie. (Maybe switch the two interview scenes?) So the ending doesn’t come across as a surprising or powerful. I’m mostly left wondering where these people are getting their bribe money from.

In my bottom group.

Deltasquid’s I, Sir Alaric
‘truthfully’ is a bit unwieldy and breaks the flow of the dialog in ways that ‘truely’ or ‘true’ wouldn’t. Okay opening otherwise.
‘upon which’ makes that sentence a mess.
An awful lot of characters for a story this size, which has me worried.

There’s some tone problems: ‘snacks’ and ‘cool’ don’t really fit the faux-medieval setting. In general I can see what you’re going for, but I’m not sure the logistics work properly. (How she gets away, why Marco can’t have just hidden/gotten out of the way) It’s also strange that the untrained squire is able to last longer against Alaric than his supposed peers.

Right in the middle.

Chili’s On A Playground

Title capitalization rules, again, the less common way to break them.
Thought you were doing something weird with 3rd person unreliable. but it looks like you’re doing a Rashomon mystery thing. Ambitious. Opening is attempting to be portentious, but doesn’t really have enough bite in it for that.

I’m a bit confused by this golden apple (that shatters on impact) business. Strange macguffin. Mythic overtones, maybe?

Really don’t like the ending. Because it leaves me with the suspicion that there is no solution, that this is an anti-mystery. Which I don’t like. This reminds me a whole lot of one of my own td stories, also a school-set Rashomon mystery. More on that later.

But I think that this is a fair mystery, and that I’ve put the solution together: that Vincent took the apple, being the only one with opportunity at lunch. That he was trying to frame Jared for breaking it, first trying with the slide, and then throwing at the feet of the kissing Connie and Jared, precipitating a fight between them over whether to blame Vincent. This leaves the almost more-interesting-than-the-story issue of what was going on between Vincent and Ms. Hellman regarding that lunch and her possibly covering for him but still reporting this incident in the first place. But the ending invites the reader to stop giving a gently caress and trying to solve it, and the characters never really rise above stereotypes. Lampshading that fact with the section titles (are you referencing Canterbury Tales?) doesn’t help. Also, Millie’s less Class Clown than Resident Manic Pixie Dream Girl In Training.

The thing about this kind of story is that you really have to lean hard into ‘yes there’s a real mystery to solve, with a solution’ in your ending to make it work. Like I said, this story is extremely similar to one of mine, from Domegrassi week. Re:Teacher’s Lounge Biohazard Incident Almost the exact same structure, even. And mine also blew the ending. I had the principal deliver a pat solution that the reader is supposed to reject (because later stories in the week-it was a collaboration week-would make clear that the ghost is real and thus his explanation couldn’t possibly be what happened.) But as far as I can tell from crits, nobody reading it got past that pat solution to realize that it was a mystery with a solution. So yeah, the lesson is that when you give a reader a puzzle you really need to hammer that fact hard in the ending if you want a chance of it working at all.

On my DM list.

Hawklad’s Journal, Pages 467-472

Introducing characters with ‘that’ only works on page 467 of a journal if you keep it up through page 472. Opening is strong otherwise.

Another one with a lot of character introduced early. The shift to full dialog is a bit awkward but sort of welcome. So her story has changed already from her deciding that the geek likes her to him asking her out, which I don’t quite buy; I think that’s a status-lowering change.

So, from that ending, I’m supposed to assume that she’s been writing in her journal during the entire event, in real time? Passing out just after finishing and punctuating that last sentence? Or did the author suddenly forget that this was supposed to be a journal?

Journals have a particular style that you’ve mostly missed, which was a big factor in this taking the loss. The biggest part of that is that a Journal is always about the moment it’s being written as much as the moment of the events taking place, and you completely failed to nail that sense, especially with a fade-out ending that makes no sense at all in the journal context.

Solitair’s The Party Line

should be ‘of beasts’. The opening doesn’t portend well, but the tone gives me some hope.

It’s probably correct to keep a case-sensitive username’s lowercase even at the start of a sentence, but it makes my reader’s eye hurt enough that I’d advise recasting any such sentence until the problem disappears.

Ultimately, this is a fairly good execution of a not very good idea. The problem here is with reality; you weren’t able to take things much further either in the humor or horror direction than the non-fictional examples, and if you can’t do that, what’s the point? The fact that a reader has almost no choice but to hear the narrator as the Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy doesn’t help at all.


Metrofreak’s Haunted

Interesting opening. I’m getting a light humor with very dark undertone vibe from it, let’s see how that turns out.

Overuse of ‘attributed’?

I mostly liked this one, but the ending doesn’t quite work. I think you need to be a lot more explicit about what secret you’re revealing, and ‘the gasmask’ doesn’t land in a single place hard enough to give one any idea what they’ve been up to, and a reader is going to react differently to ‘producing fetish porn’ versus ‘serial killer team’ versus ‘monster disguised as human’. (I’m leaning towards the first one, but you should probably be more clear. If I’m right, even simply changing it to ‘in just the gasmask’ would do it.

Good, though. Another that just barely missed being an HM pick for me.

BeefSupreme’s Faith

Good opening. The semicolon in the second line does nothing that a full stop wouldn’t accomplish, so I’d usually go that way.

This was another good one. There’s a point near the end where the narrator’s stupidity/blindness becomes a bit too much to bear-for me it’s the paragraph on other women. And I think you may have more of a story if the narrator has another character to play off of, maybe only in a later part of the story. Give him a chance to develop personality traits beyond the central one of his paternal blindspot.

Good. Wound up being my favorite of the week.

The Cut of Your Jib’s A Dark Day

Opening is okay, raises questions more than directly grabbing the reader.

Okay. This story is better than it should be. I mean, ending a story in which a man is manipulated into murdering one of his only friends by another with a punchline, that’s a bad idea. And I’m not sure it hits the prompt all that strongly, and that as far as it does hit the prompt it’s to the story’s detriment. I mean, the narrator doesn’t deny that he’s (mostly) blind, it’s just the writer going out of their way to be cagey with that fact for a while, trying hide it among drunkness business. And if the part where he's being grifted is supposed to be part of the prompt, it's not present strong enough and rushed through too quickly to land hard enough. Not sure what the deal with the glasses affecting the alibi: presumably his blindness is the sort that’s apparent looking at him, but wearing dark sunglasses indoors at night is also a blind person thing to do.

High Middle

llamaguccii’s Coping Well

Opening is reasonably grabby.

I see we have a mini-theme with digetic narratives that just don’t make sense. Like this one, which continues for several sentences after the file it was in is deleted.

The other main problem with this piece is that the ending doesn’t really give much guidance as to how much of what preceded was bullshit, if she’s coping with some other kind of death, or a break-up, or is plotting a murder. This wants to be more about the death, or ‘death’, and is spending too much time on the relationship history. Prose and character work is generally strong, but that ending just hits me the wrong way, leading to it being in my low list.

Dr. Kloctopussy’s The Tower

Catchy open. ‘The descents’ should be descendants I think.


I'm more of a Cassandra girl myself, but even I don't believe anymore.
Someone is trying to be a bit too clever here.

Okay. First off, I’m not really seeing the prompt here at all. Maybe she doesn’t know that she switched places with someone else, (even though that ought to be fairly obvious) (and that someone else is happy with moon princessing anyhow.), but otherwise, no. Secondly, this isn’t quite a story. Maybe the inciting event to one, but even as that glossing over how the wine accomplished the escape (a demonic pact, probably. Possibly just straight magic I guess.) hurts it for completeness.

Talking this over I’m made aware of an alternate reading, in which moon princessness is an alcoholism metaphor. I guess the wine was destroyed as part of a getting clean process in that reading? Don’t really buy this, though: being an alcoholic gives you time to study geography? Or the other way around; the tower is a metaphor for sobriety? In which the wine was consumed in a binge. But in that condition she had all the best wine. so that doesn’t work all that well either. I can’t quite buy this character as a mostly successful social drinker. Nor does it work for manic-depression or medicated/unmedicated states of general mental illness. I don’t think it quite works; that if that’s what was being attempted it’s one of those things that relies on a reader primed to hunt for an unreliable narrator, and doesn’t really work even then.

The prose and voice are very strong, enough to rescue these flaws from the danger of a bad result at least. Middle.

Thranguy fucked around with this message at 21:37 on Feb 28, 2017

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