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Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Never done Thunderdome before, but there's a first time for everything. In.

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Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Solstice Fire
794 words
Prompt: Nine of Wands (Mary-El Tarot)

At the top of the Tower of the Reborn Sun, Hrasha sharpens her claws and waits for midnight. The rhythm of rasping each claw in turn against her file keeps her from pacing, restless and helpless. She is unaccustomed to the dead night sky beyond the windows, the chill stone of the floor. Only her dread is familiar.

Hrasha's charge sits in the single fireside chair, intent on her embroidery. In the three months Hrasha has known Althea, acolyte of the Reborn Sun, she's always had something in her hands: a needle, a whittling knife, a stone worn smooth. She burns with furious energy, the heat of high summer in a human shell. When midnight comes, it will all be forfeit to her wintry faith. Althea already bears the dark, incised scars of the earlier stations of her pilgrimage, and when the solstice begins, so do the final rituals of her initiation as an Oracle. Hrasha's seen Oracles of the Reborn Sun before: blinded, scarified, with arms ending in burnt stumps. By the solstice sunrise, it will be done.

Humans are apes in troops, marching to terrible fates on their elders’ command, and to be a bonded bodyguard is to lead them to their doom. A tiger who hopes for a tiger's bravery from apes will always be disappointed. Hrasha knows this, but knowledge is not the same as acceptance. Every charge who acquiesces to pointless war or dreaded marriage is a fresh wound in her flank. This one will hurt more than most -- this keen-witted girl, builder of fires, who laughs at Hrasha's clumsy jokes -- this temple-raised foundling, her fierce will shackled by years of training. Hrasha knows Althea will not be the first to save herself.

Hrasha's hope lingers. This restless spark deserves to see dawn.

There are footsteps on the stair, and Hrasha's ears perk up. She rises. Althea, she says through the mind-bond that connects her to her charge, your escort. Will you follow them?

Althea sets aside her embroidery on the table, and the thread catches the firelight: a spreading tree, emerald leaves gleaming. She picks up her whittling knife. I... I don't want to. Hrasha...

Don't be afraid, Hrasha says, and then there's a knock on the door. Althea, knife gripped in a pale-knuckled hand, steps towards it, and Hrasha flanks her. For the first time in years, her fur bristles.

Beyond the door are two priests, garbed in blue-black and stinking of youth. One stares openly, with the familiar eyes of an ape seeing his first tiger. The other speaks. "Milady, the stations of Sun's Descent are prepared. We will lead you."

"No," Althea says, and Hrasha knows her moment. She charges forward, knocking the priests into a sprawl on the broad staircase landing. They don’t struggle, and she's grateful for that; she has little desire to draw blood from these children, whose only crime is loyalty to a wretched troop. Beyond the landing, the steep stairs beckon.

Onto my back, says Hrasha, and Althea obeys, dropping her knife to throw her arms around Hrasha's neck. Hrasha takes the stairs in bounds, focused only on the descent. Only those two above, she tells herself. The rest below. All of them slow and weak. Just run.

The ground-floor landing opens on the main temple, awash with priests and acolytes, Oracles and their minders. Hrasha bursts into the crowd, hoping for a quick dash to the open doors, but Althea tugs on her fur to stop her. The crowd around them is frozen, staring up at a high balcony, at a priest in silver-studded robes and a crown of frosted crystal. "Acolyte," he calls. "It is not too late to reconsider. You may yet be made sacred in the Rituals of Sun's Descent."

Hrasha's heart lurches. She knows humans, knows the power of a leader's voice over the hearts of the young. Althea will acquiesce, and Hrasha will be sent slinking back to the marketplace, to find a new doomed charge, and to begin again. She rears up and roars in futile defiance, blind to the crowd scattering around her.

On her back, Althea sits up, one hand on Hrasha’s neck. She raises her free arm, and Hrasha feels the conjured fire before she sees it, a brilliant mote of summer reflected in the temple windows. “I don’t want to be sacred,” she says. "I want to be free."

Hrasha doesn't wait for the priest's answer. She charges again, through what remains of the crowd, and onto the fresh snow of the forest clearing outside the Temple. Althea's fire lights the way between the trees, and Hrasha follows her instincts, bounding into the dark forest. Winter cannot touch them, and they have hours to run before dawn.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Twenty Goddamn Years of This
242 words

The worst part is, Dave's always sorry afterwards.

Once everything's sinking in -- in the ER waiting room; twenty minutes into a silent drive home; in Joey's living room, with Joey curled up knees-to-chest on the couch, trying his level best not to cry -- Dave apologizes, every time, and he always means it. "It was a stupid idea, okay? I don't know what I was thinking." Or "look, I'll call Steph tomorrow, smooth this over. It's my fault. I'll make it right." Or just "I'm sorry. I'll make this up to you, buddy." Every drat time, and every time Dave does just enough to keep the wheels on Joey's lovely beater of a life, and then two weeks later Dave has another great idea and Joey tries again. And then the ER, or the silent car, or the living room and the stifled sobs.

All Joey needs is one moment of insincerity. One laugh from Dave, or one "gently caress you," or even one faked apology, and Joey could walk away. But Dave's always sorry, and he always means it, and Joey always remembers that day in the park: his flaming pants around his ankles, and Dave throwing himself on the fire, sobbing. His remorse was bone-deep, even once the doctor said the burns were superficial. "No harm, no foul," Joey had said.

When you forgive someone for lighting you on fire, it's hard to learn how to stop forgiving them for everything else.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


In. Pour some sugar on me

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Thanks for the crits, sparksbloom and Hawklad!

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Technically, You Would Only Need One Time Traveler Ice-Cream Social
1166 words
Prompt: Chunky Monkey

Removed from thread, available at the archive

Antivehicular fucked around with this message at Jan 1, 2018 around 02:10

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


I'm in and would like a flash rule, please!

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Thanks for the crits, folks! Appreciate it.

Also, if you still need a newbie-ish judge, Thranguy, I'm available.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


sebmojo posted:

Tell, don't ask, you goddam weeble.

Well, if you freakin' insist.

HEY CHUCKLEFUCKS, I'M JUDGING

BE FUNNY

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Jay W. Friks posted:

Interprompt: Lame puns and their consequences (100 words)

Faith and Proof

For the rest of his life, Michael would wonder why this was the moment God had intervened. After a lifetime of silence in the face of his terror and pain, God cared for him only when the Lord's own pride was on the line. In his later years, Michael began to falter in his faith in a loving God: not his faith in God's existence, but in God's love.

That was later. On the day of the command, Michael simply obeyed. He repainted and thinned no more.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Judge crits, post 1 of 2 because these got long!

"Hjalmar The Eternal, God Emperor of Play Time" - Mercedes

This piece is cute, droll, even heartwarming. but not quite funny to me. I get that you're going for an absurd sort of humor from Hjalmar's confusion about Poppy's games, and the juxtaposition of his apparent power and position with his lack of understanding about what he and Poppy are doing, but I feel that the absurdity would need to be cranked up to make this a really successful comedy piece.

I also think the POV of this piece works against it a bit in terms of creating comedy and absurdity. A tighter Hjalmar POV would give us more room for his weird perceptions of humans and Poppy's games (like the early bit about rock-eating animals, which is weird and funny); a more omniscient POV would let us get more gags about the entire scenario, which wasn't entirely clear to me. Hjalmar is some kind of powerful being who may seek world domination and doesn't know much about humans, but he's been placed as the guardian of a human girl, because of... well, we're not told, as far as I can tell. I'm really hesitant to recommend more exposition on a Thunderdome story, but an omniscient POV could probably spin some good gags out of Hjalmar's bizarre situation here.

This has been heavy crit so far, so I should mention that I like the overall emotional arc that goes on here! Poppy realizing that she's frightened Hjalmar and the two of them coming to slightly more of an understanding is very sweet, and the ending is extremely good. The emotional core of this story is very solid for a story about a god-emperor koala-eyed superpowered magical whatsit. I think it could stand to be funnier, but if not judged strictly on comedy, there's some really good stuff here.

"The Archbishop Comes for Death," QuoProQuid

The title is really cute, and I'll even forgive that Death isn't really a part of this story. (From the title, and first few paragraphs, I assumed the Queen was actually dead and the Archbishop was going to have to enact some forbidden Anglican soul-binding rites to bring her back. I would have enjoyed that story! But I also enjoyed the one you told.) This story isn't really laugh-out-loud funny, but that doesn't work against it; humor here is bone-dry and sharp, with a good balance of gags and actual substance. The character voices are nicely constructed, too, and I appreciate that we get a feel for all the major players in this.

Overall, I'd say this is a successful piece, and there isn't a whole lot about it that doesn't work. I don't think you actually need the periods after your em dash for the sentences that end in em dashes, but that's such a minor nitpick I feel a little bit silly even pointing it out. Really nice work here.

"Earthquake Season 2: In Space" - sparksbloom

This story feels to me like the first draft of a much stronger work. The base concept is pretty funny, and there are some good passages and gags, but it feels like it needs strengthening and specificity, particularly as regards the characterization.

My major issue with this story is that the protagonist feels way too much like a generic Loser Stoner character from Central Casting. I get that the joke is that he's dedicated to doing the absolute minimum, but I would have appreciated a few more distinct character traits to differentiate him from the pack. Take this passage, for example, about his interview clothes:

I work the only clean clothes I had: a Third Eye Blind hoodie, a pair of jeans with a huge rip in the rear end, and some light-up shoes my cousin had given me as a novelty gift.

This reads like "the first three things the author thought would be funny to have someone wear to a job interview," and the image is worth a chuckle, but it'd be a good excuse to let the character show some personality beyond the already-obvious point that he's not making an effort. The recurring mention of the podcast is the same; maybe you just didn't want to spend words and page space on something that peripheral, but I feel like a little more specificity here would go worlds towards making this guy more sharp and interesting as a comedic character.

The angel and recruiter are similarly pretty stock characters, and I'd like to see more personality for them beyond fulfilling their roles in the plot. The concept that the recruiter is a guy who somehow recruits for Heaven, and knows the true nature of God Himself, but is still somehow dumb or thoughtless enough to spray sarin gas into an enclosed room -- that's funny and weird, and it'd be great if fleshed out! The angel is mostly just exposition, and I think you could make the back-and-forth with him and the protagonist about Marty more flavorful.

"Viewing single user's posts in topic: Need HELP with this girl!" - Sham bam bamina!

I don't want to turn this into a diss post, but when you post stuff like this into the IRC, you'd better be able to deliver:

[20:30:24] <Sham_bam_bamina> The extra words are really coming in handy with my story, actually.
[20:30:34] <Sham_bam_bamina> It's a real humdinger, I'll just say that.


You didn't deliver. This story is not a humdinger.

First of all, let's get to the elephant in the room: "awkward dweeb tries to pick up uninterested girl, gross dude gives him PUA advice, girl goes to authorities" is not an inherently funny scenario. Is the "punchline" that this woman feels harassed and stalked, or that Higurashi is too stupid to know he's stalked a woman? If the joke is on Higurashi, it needed to be more of a concrete joke, maybe a really outlandish way for him to humiliate himself. If the joke is on Mandy for attracting this doofus's attention... that's not remotely a joke, let alone a funny one.

The other big issue with this piece, beyond its troublesome premise, is that it never really does anything with it beyond the base level of Higurashi being an awkward dork. While this is a story based on forums culture, posting this on SA may actually hurt it as a piece, since practically everyone here has read real E/N threads like this a hundred times -- and they're usually funnier and more ridiculous. Hell, I'd venture to guess that plenty of people in TD have actually had this encounter, and that their experiences are funnier and more ridiculous than this pretty sad offering.

As for good things... well, your character voice for Higurashi is fairly consistent. It's not really an interesting character voice -- once again, for this to be funny, this dude needs to be way more out there, not just your average naive young dork -- but he's a believable young dork. He's a plausible character, but the problem with this story is that it's too plausible, which means it doesn't work as comedy and just works as a documentation of an unpleasant incident in Amanda Collins's life.

One other bit of praise: thank you for not linking to a real PUA site. That's all.

"The Man Who Liked Fish" - Crabrock

Opinions may differ, but to me, this piece is an artfully told shaggy dog story, with a little more framing device than its actual substance can support. The giant-quotation-marks conceit is kind of interesting, and a clever way of dodging having to use constant quotations for every paragraph of the internal story, but it wasn't completely clear to me; the first thing I wrote on my crit doc for this was "??? apostropes for quotes ???", and it took me until the end to realize what was going on there.

I appreciate that this piece has a moral, or appears to have one, even if the apparent moral of "embrace who you are even if it marks you as a weirdo" is immediately contradicted by Narrator Grandpa Fish Man telling his grandson not to be the "weird phone kid" -- then again, when have shaggy-dog-story-telling grandpas ever not been a little hypocritical? The framing device, on the whole, isn't bad, just attached to kind of a lightweight story.

"Delivery" - J.A.B.C.

This is another very lightweight piece, without a lot of ambition in terms of plot and concept, but I feel like it hit its target really nicely and isn't overburdened. I feel like we get a decent feel for the characters and their situation, and while this is more a piece about comedy than an active comedy itself, it's cheerful enough that I don't think it's off-prompt. I'm not sure what other crit to add; probably the major issue with the story is that there's just not much here? But there's also clearly not intended to be much, and what's here works.

"Death of a Story" - Exmond

I'm really of two minds about this story. On one hand, it continues to show a lot of improvement from you in terms of grammar and fundamentals. This is very readable, and as a comedy piece goes, there's even some good gags here! This is a meaningful improvement over your previous work.

On the other hand... look, the gimmick is audacious, but I don't think it works. Even on the level of being terminally inside-jokey (and I think Thranguy's prompt made it clear that this wasn't the week for inside jokes), this story reads bitter in a way that poisons the whole thing. Your avatar here is literally beating people to death for giving you IRC consolation, for God's sake. This is incredibly distasteful and frankly makes it uncomfortable to read, and on top of that, there's no way this would even stand up as a story to any audience not thoroughly familiar with IRC shenanigans.

Exmond, I'm going to be honest here: I think the major issue that stands in your way as an author at this point is self-absorption, living in your own head and not venturing outside it. There's nothing inherently wrong with the concept of using your own negative emotions for dark comedy, but it has to be passed through the filter of considering an outside audience, and right now I feel like Thunderdome needs to see something from you other than "I am angry about Thunderdome." This is a step forward in technical writing competence, but a huge step backwards in content compared to your previous work, which at least attempted some level of emotional authenticity. Please, please, return to that instead of continuing to write whatever this is.

"You'd make a good Man-Baby" - Jay W. Friks

This is another piece this week that feels like an extended joke-sketch, not quite so much a full story. We've got a pretty basic dystopia sort of thing, a pretty basic sad-lump protagonist, and an amusingly weird scenario that's just kind of put out there. There are a lot of amusing lines here -- "62.4 PERCENT MICHELIN MAN" is a gem -- but there's not a lot of substance, and the ending feels a little abrupt. Either don't talk about the guy's man-baby adventures at all, or go beyond a few sentences of quick allusion.

The major issue with this piece, I think, is that it doesn't feel fleshed out and polished. There are some basic errors that should have been caught with basic proofreading -- "the only human being you could talk too in the agency" and using commas before paragraph breaks in dialogue, "I was bullied me out of place" -- and there are a few awkward places where it feels like a rewrite would have solidified a half-considered joke or cut a redundant line. Was this a first draft?

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Crit post 2 of 2! Let's do this.

"Mein Zirkus" - Tyrannosaurus

This is a fairly good piece, but I feel like I'm missing something about it, like there's some bigger punchline that I'm supposed to be reading through the lines for. A lot of the basic scenarios are amusing, like the concept that the main character just completely ruins a date because of this Parent Trap scenario and the twins' mutual disavowing of Hitler (who I guess is maybe their biological father?), but the whole scenario feels slightly rushed and not quite fully comedic. More... absurd slice of life, I suppose?

Absurd slice of life isn't a bad thing, but I still feel like this story has a missing piece that would take it from "kind of amusing and absurd" to really funny/interesting. Is there a TD inside joke here? Something from Belgium week?

"Ab Urbe Caedita" - Deltasquid

Noir parodies are pretty old hat, even noir parodies in weird settings, but I feel like this story did a good job executing a fairly old trope well. It's brisk and eventful, and there's clearly a deft hand here in knowing when to undercut the noir and when to have some of the action played straight, or semi-straight. I can't really comment on the Roman content -- not my field of expertise -- but it feels more rooted in real history than the average Roman pastiche thing, which adds to the feeling that this is a solid piece of fiction in addition to a comedy. Very nice work.

"All Hail Grubscratch" - Djeser

This is a pretty good story, pretty roundly competent, that just doesn't really produce strong feelings in me. I think the tight Grubscratch POV does help the piece a lot, since it's the source of most of the comedy, and it's obvious enough to the reader what's going on once we clear up Grubscratch's initial sword confusion that I don't think the POV hurts it. If there's a weakness here... well, Grubscratch could probably use a touch more personality besides "canny kobold, lots of fears because kobold." Having a stronger and more unique central character could make this piece shine.

"Arthurian Commentary" - Fumblemouse

This piece feels really one-note and screedy to me, and I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be laughing at -- the ultraviolence, I guess? King Arthur ranting about the state of Britain in a way that the story never undermines or questions? It's all so one-sided that this honestly doesn't even feel like a humor piece, just a political rant with some jokes.

I realize that "King Arthur in the modern world" is a bit of a cliche, and having him be confused and frustrated by modern custom and made to look buffoonish is also pretty worn out, but going the other way and having him just be a big badass who's always right and can totally just slaughter guys isn't any funnier or more interesting. If you planned on revising this, I think you'd be best served trying to go for a completely novel spin on the concept, assuming that's even possible.

Also, why in the world does King Arthur use the word "puke" in the last sentence? I know you're going for a gag there, like his recognition of "geopolitical alignment," but frankly, it's jarring. It's a weird, unpleasant end to a story I found largely unpleasant overall.

"The Office of Animals" - Maigius

The major issue with this story is that the technicals are very weak. You've got a lot of one-off errors ("Cherubim" is plural) at least one big consistent one (no punctuation at the end of dialogue). The prose is mostly workmanlike, and the premise of "Australian animals are really weird!" is pretty tired. The jokes about it are solid jokes, but I don't feel like this story brings anything new to the table, besides maybe the concept that the fallen angels stole Heaven's nipple supply to pass as human. That was a bit funny.

My big piece of advice here is to work on your fundamentals. Do you have anyone else proofreading your work before you post it? Someone with good grammar fundamentals who can maybe help you tighten and strengthen your prose would go a long way.

"Transcript of Breakfast Show, 12 January 2005, 0503 – 0550" - Chairchucker

This was posted late, and it really reads like it was dashed off shortly before deadline, which is a shame. It's obvious there are some good comedy instincts here -- I like the bit with the old woman trying to relate gardening and kung fu films -- but this reads a lot like an improv piece where there's no clear arc and nobody quite has an ending in mind. Your jokes are good, but there needs to be more actual story in this story, and maybe a better idea of what's going on beyond "some dude and his dog has hijacked a radio DJ booth but everyone loves it?" It's funny, but it needs a plot.

"Moscow Misunderstanding" - BabyRyoga

The prompt specified that stories here should be actual stories, not just story-length jokes, and hoo boy does this fall flat by that standard. This is all the run-up to a fairly weak pun, with a lot of weird asides (does it add anything to mention that the aunt recently broke up with a woman?), a lot of proofreading errors, and phonetic accents in dialogue. (Please don't write out accents phonetically, even if it's just "haf.") The joke isn't quite sensible and certainly isn't worth the run-up to it.

This is just weak and disposable stuff. You really need to work on crafting substantial plots, not just light goofs, even for a comedy week.

"Piss" - sebmojo

This story would have been in contention for the win if it hadn't been DQed. It's a strong piece overall, with an adequately load-bearing plot and some nice characterization touches; I feel like an argument can be made that the consistent use of NZ dialect could make this a hard read for others, but it's such an obvious point of the story that I can't call it a real detriment. Good times.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


In.
I'll take South America, after 1900

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Marianismo
1242 words
Prompt: 1951 Argentinian Presidential Election

Soledad Espinoza designed for Eva Perón only once. That singular commission came in late May of 1952, as Soledad pinned a summer frock for a judge's daughter and, all around her, the Henriette fashion house workshop buzzed with life. Absorbed in work, she failed to notice Asunta Fernández, personal consultant to the First Lady, until Asunta cleared her throat to speak. It was a thick, near-choked sound. "Ah. Soledad?"

Soledad slid a pin into place and turned to meet Asunta's gaze. "Forgive me, Mrs. Fernández. I was at a delicate place. What brings you to the workshop?" Her curiosity was tinged with worry; Asunta was gray-clad and somber, and after months of silence from the First Lady, surely she could only mean to sever her relationship with Henriette entirely. What would that have to do with Soledad? She wasn't one of the endlessly hopeful young designers in the head office, developing collections for Evita's far-from-certain return. Soledad worked for those who wanted her.

"May I speak to you privately, Soledad? You and Elena Rivera. I'm told that you two would be ideal for a special commission."

Soledad furrowed her brow thoughtfully, trying not to betray her surprise. "Of course, Mrs. Fernández. Let me fetch Elena." She weaved across the busy room to the cutting table, where Elena Rivera cut a batch of blouse patterns with swift, sure hands. "Elena," she said, "can you come with me? Mrs. Fernández wishes to speak with us."

"Oh! Yes, yes. Let me finish this cut." Elena did so, in one smooth motion, and followed Soledad back to her dress form. Asunta, in turn, led them to an unoccupied side office, whose door she closed with ceremonial care.

"We have had a commission from the First Lady," Asunta began, voice taking on a thick and ragged edge. Had she been crying? "She is suffering from... ah, from a severe exhaustion, and she is concerned that she will not be able to accompany President Perón in the re-election parade. She wishes to have a support structure made that will allow her to greet her people properly. It must be sturdy, and it must be discreet. She is very concerned with her dignity."

Soledad, married to a doctor for 30 years, understood "exhaustion" and "discreet" and "dignity." They were the heralds of illness, decline, shame, and futility. Nonetheless, a commission was a commission. "Naturally. Of what form and materials?"

"A frame of chicken wire," said Asunta, near-choking. "And plaster. The supplies are in the back workroom. You have three days."

At last, for the first time that morning, Soledad understood why she and Elena had been chosen. Most of the Henriette dressmakers were city women, unaccustomed to work with things heavier than cloth; Soledad, though, had grown up on a ranch in La Pampa, and Elena on a Corrientes tobacco plantation. They were the shop's farm women, to be trusted with this strange work.

Soledad was glad it was Elena. Of all the young cutters, Elena was the brightest, with the surest hands. She almost looked eager.

"We will serve our country," Elena said, eyes bright. "We will serve Evita."

***

"She was so beautiful at the Cabildo," said Elena, as she twisted each of the chicken-wire joins together. The framework around the dress form was taking shape under Soledad's hands: a form molded to the First Lady's proportions, something between a corset and a cage, ending just below the underarm to allow mobility. Eva Perón must wave to her people, after all. "Were you there, Soledad?"

The answer was easy enough, reflexive, that Soledad didn't look up from her work. "I could not attend. My Beto was ill." No matter that Beto had been a sullen twelve-year-old with a sprained ankle, not a feverish infant; Peronists were happy to imagine what they liked.

"Oh, I'm sorry! Poor boy." Elena was undeterred. "It was beautiful, though, so beautiful. Luis and I had only been in Buenos Aires six months, and we'd never seen so many people at once! We were lost in the crowd, but we still had a fine view of the balcony. Oh, I wish she'd accepted!"

"She made her choice, dear," replied Soledad, not having the heart to say her choice was made for her. Elena would learn that soon enough: that in the world of husbands and children, the household and the Church, a woman's life would never be her own. Soledad's own career as a dressmaker might have ended in a moment if her Alejandro hadn't been content with four children and able to afford nannies. When Elena and Luis began a family, would he allow her a life beyond it? What freedoms could a steelworker's salary provide for his wife?

"Now," Soledad continued, "we ought to check the fit. Is the join secure?"

"All tight and clean! Let me fetch the coat." Elena set down her pliers and retrieved the model coat: an ankle-length mink, its irregular lining due for repair before the autumn season, but good enough for this strange work. Elena carried it reverently to the wire-scaffolded dress form and draped it over the shoulders before securing it with two quick pins. "How does it look?"

It was perfect, the picture of discretion. The glossy fur betrayed no trace of the wire beneath, and the First Lady's coat would be a thicker and more luxurious piece than this. There was still the plaster to add, and a sturdy layer of it at that, but a properly smooth finish would see to that. It would not be comfortable, but it would serve its purpose.

"Wonderful, dear," said Soledad. "Let's start the plastering."

***

The day after the parade, on her way to the Metro station after work, Soledad found Elena slumped on a bench. The girl's chest was heaving with barely-stifled sobs, and Soledad thought of Beto and his ankle, and of the desperate, self-absorbed pain of the young. She sat down at the bench and rested a hand gently on Elena's back.

Elena inhaled, let out one long unchoked sob, and tried again to speak. "I can't... I can't go back to the shop. I saw her at the parade. She was standing tall, but her face... she tried to smile, but in her eyes, the pain. The agony! God help us, we did that to her!"

"We did as she asked us," murmured Soledad, stroking Elena's back. "She chose it."

"But she was suffering so!"

"She is very brave." Only those with no choice can truly be brave. Soledad thinks, unbidden, of the Virgin Mary: her infinite courage, her infinite suffering, her fate chosen by the Lord of Man. She was silent, and she let Elena be silent, save for the sound of her breathing becoming more even. Once Elena had composed herself, Soledad spoke again. "Let's find you a taxi home. Do you live far?"

"I can take the Metro," said Elena, after another long inhalation. "Luis won't be home for a while. I'll have time to clean up, so he won't worry about me."

"Let him worry over you if you need it," said Soledad. "As long as it's over you and not over his supper or his shirts." She stood up, and Elena followed, dabbing at her face with a handkerchief. What tears she'd shed were already dry. There was bravery in her, Soledad knew, and she hoped it was more than Elena would ever truly need.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Thanks for the crits!

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


ohhhhh shiiii

In

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Cowardice
988 words
Prompt: Runes and A Trip to Mythmania

In his dreams, Gideon relives the moment of his downfall over and over: the burst of artillery, the brief flight from horseback, and the brutal impact of the dying horse upon him. He can still feel the crushing weight on his legs as he awakens, and the smells of human death around him convince him he's still trapped there, until he opens his eyes to a vista of canvas above. The medical tent. He's survived long enough to die slowly.

Gideon spends endless minutes attempting to sleep, always awoken by some cry of pain or new wretched smell, before a medic arrives at his bedside. She's a young woman, tanned and stocky, who's forgone the necklace of potpourri that most medics wear. A blunt woman, Gideon decides, and is grateful for it. "Lieutenant Arkwright," she says. "You're awake."

"Unfortunately."

"It's for the best. We're working against time. There's only four hours before the convoy leaves for Highcrown, and you've got a choice to make."

"What kind of choice?" says Gideon, trying to sit up and address this woman properly. He makes it an inch before fresh pain forces him back to his cot. "Die here or die there?"

"Be treated here, or undergo the Akaemon Procedure at Highcrown. The Akaemon may be your only hope."

The Akaemon Procedure. This isn't the first conversation Gideon's had about it; in the years since his wife died, several routine checkups have ended with an offer for it, as a "near-ideal candidate." Three hours in the magical surgery theaters of Highcrown, and aging cavalrymen emerge as vigorous half-horse monsters, custom-made shock troops for the Empire. He's seen them carousing outside their stable-barracks, loud and merry and brutal, with the harsh joy of men with nothing left to lose. No family. No retirement. Only battle, revelry, and inhumanity. Do they ever stop being disgusted by themselves? Or is that what the alcohol's for?

"The Akaemon," he says to the medic at last. "I've never..."

"I know, Lieutenant. Your records say you've refused it four times. But your legs are ruined, and there's damage to your spine and abdomen. We've stabilized you for now, but it's either the Akaemon Procedure or amputation and some attempts at internal reconstruction. The Akaemon offers a full cure, and the other approach -- well, there's not enough left for prosthetics. You could live a few years that way, or a few weeks. The Akaemon Procedure would give you twenty years."

"Mm. Twenty years as a centaur." They tell your family you're dead, he's heard, and send them the survivors' pay. He's only ever been a "near-ideal" candidate because of his children; the truly ideal have nobody left to tell or pay. "Have you met one, ma'am? Are they happy?"

"I haven't," she says. Her frown, Gideon realizes, is real and severe, not just the cultivated sad neutrality of a military medic. "It's your choice. We'll need it before morning."

"Give me two hours," says Gideon.

***

Gideon isn't used to spending two hours inside his own head. His time in the cavalry has been happily thoughtless, following orders or giving them, with the course of battle as predictable and comforting as the tide and stars. He's always slept well. Now, in the medical tent, his thoughts run in uneasy spiraling cycles.

Gideon thinks of his sons: their cramped city rooms, their young wives and babies. No place for a crippled grandfather there. His daughter Anna has a cottage with a garden. He can imagine himself spending his last few seasons in a chair in the sun, surrounded by Anna's wildflowers. She wouldn't resent him for it, not Anna, who nursed a succession of broken-winged birds at their old country house and still had fresh tears for every death. Gideon thinks of her face, earnest and pitying. Can he bear to be one of Anna's dying birds?

He remembers his wife on her deathbed: "don't you dare rush to meet me, Gideon." Surely she would forgive him for this? Surely this was better than greeting her in Heaven as a beast, a monster with her husband's face? (Do centaurs even have souls, he thinks, or will his soul depart for Heaven during the surgery, leaving his half-body behind for the wine and brawls and slaughter? Gideon's never thought about his soul before. He'd laugh if he could.)

Somewhere in the third cycle of thought, when he's about to return to the wildflowers, the pain in his legs begins to sharpen and flare. The pain-draughts are wearing off. He's never stopped feeling the phantom pressure, and yet now it draws into focus as fresh, concrete agony. A tiny voice deep in his brain grows louder and louder: Make this stop.

On the battlefield, in his last thoughts before slipping into the black, he'd hoped that the bluecoat infantry would reach him with a bayonet, finish what their artillery barrage started. Now, in the tent, the screaming animal of his hindbrain reasserts its fear. You don't have to die. You can't die. Live. Live. Live. It is the voice of cowardice, and yet it drowns out every abstract thought of family and soul. Live.

When the medic returns, Gideon is the one who speaks first. "Do it. Give me the Akaemon."

"Very well," says the medic. She doesn't sound satisfied about it, and Gideon's as grateful for that as he is for her bluntness. "Let's make sure you sleep through the convoy." She pulls a bottle from her belt holster, and Gideon manages to raise an arm to take it and pour it down his throat. The pain-draught numbs his throat all the way down, and when she offers a second bottle, he takes it.

"Goodnight, Lieutenant Arkwright," says the medic. "I'll see you in Highcrown."

Gideon nods, tucks his arm under the covers, and closes his eyes. Sleep comes quickly. His last night as a human being is dreamless.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


sebmojo posted:

inter prompt: never eat anything bigger than your head

Nougat Ambition

I unwrap another Three Musketeers bar and drop the wrapper on top of the silver mountain next to the table. With a precision born from long practice, I slowly flatten and roll the bar into a thin sheet, chocolate shell crumbling into a thin scattering atop the growing surface area of pure, soft nougat; when I press it to the surface of the sphere, it melts in, adding a few millimeters of diameter. The sphere wobbles on its pedestal. It's close to a softball now, but when I pick it up to gauge its mass, it feels like a bowling ball in my hand.

"Never eat anything bigger than your head," Mother always told me, but she never said anything about density.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Thanks for crits!

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


In!

I'm really bad at omniscient narration / POVs that aren't stuck in somebody's head. Let's fix that.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Psst, FM:

Fumblemouse posted:

The Brave and the Bolded (thing that they suck at)

Crabrock - giving physical descriptions of characters and setting
Jay W Friks - being clear about the setting
Flerp - making setting meaningful and impactful
Jay W. Friks - omniscient narration / POVs that aren't stuck in somebody's head
SebMojo - starting before the last minute and having a rushed ending
Fuubi - getting to the point
Electic Owl - coherent structure
Mercedes - endings
Sparksbloom - light, fun, but grounded
SteelToedSneakers - satisfactory endings
Thranguy - delivering huge chunks of exposition without losing/boring readers

I seem to have become that Friks clone there in the italics

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


The Trials of Kevin the Barbarian
995 words
Prompt: "I'm really bad at omniscient narration / POVs that aren't stuck in somebody's head."

8:15 PM

"Look," says Kevin the Barbarian, "it's nothing personal, okay? College policy. No prop weapons."

His opponent scowls and squares her shoulders, mostly to catch the slipping strap on her fur-lined bikini top. She clutches her plastic labrys in tape-wrapped hands. "It's like the key to my costume, though. Can you go ask Gracie?"

"You really don't want to talk to Gracie right now. Francis bolted and she's in full freak mode. So... trust me, axe or no axe, your costume's fine, okay? Half of these people aren't even dressed up."

"Fine." She drops her labrys outside the ballroom door, then steps inside to get lost in the dance-floor crowd. The room is packed with college kids -- in overachieving sword-and-sorcery costumes, in underachieving ones, and in street clothes and clubwear -- dancing shoulder to shoulder to a fast techno remix of "In the Hall of the Mountain King." Along the walls, little knots of partygoers drink, chat, and seduce. Above it all hangs a brightly-colored butcher-paper banner: ATHERTON QSU SPRING RAINBOW BALL / DUNGEONS AND DRAG QUEENS!

Kevin the Barbarian sulks by the door, casting hopeful glances at the dance floor, until at last Adrian makes his appearance: a long, lean swimmer in a pleather jerkin and silver chainmail-patterned hot pants. He rests a hand on Kevin's glistening mahogany bicep. "Crowd's slowing down. C'mon, dance with me?"

"Sure," says Kevin. He takes his boyfriend's hand and lets him lead him onto the floor, where they join together in a slow-dance pose and sway to a Dragonforce deep cut. Next to them, a teal-haired vaporwave pixie grinds against a bent-over Gryffindor girl, trailing House scarf bouncing to the beat. Kevin leans in close and closes his eyes.

Across the room, Ron Talbot takes a shot from his flask. His friends, all in their matching Physics Department t-shirts (black, "PHYSICISTS DO IT LIKE ISAAC NEWTON" across the front, "(we don't)" small and ashamed on the back), laugh and pass around bottles of spiked juice. Ron has been to 16 QSU meetings and spoken at two of them. He drinks again, steps towards the floor, stops, and slinks back to his cluster.

At the unattended doorway, a slim figure slips inside, clad all in gray: hoodie, weathered jeans, and two duct-tape-wrapped boffer swords on his hip. He is soon lost in the crowd.

9:47 PM

"I'm flattered," says Kevin the Barbarian, "but no, you may not pet my codpiece."

Ron nods six times, bracing himself against the wall with both hands. "I figured," he says, "but I had to ask. It looks really soft. And... nice. But, I mean, you probably have a boyfriend. I'm sorry. I should go home."

Kevin the Barbarian, legendary drunk-wrangler, takes a moment to think. "So, Ron. It's Ron, right? Why don't we go to the snack bar? You can have something to eat, and then you can see how you feel. How does that sound?"

"Sure. Okay. Let's do it."

"Great. One sec." Kevin pulls his phone out of his belt pouch and sends a text. A moment later, his boyfriend emerges from the crowd, sweating, jerkin unbuttoned. "Awesome," says Kevin, beaming. "Ron, have you met Adrian?"

"Uh. No. Hi." Ron staggers away from the wall and offers his hand, and Kevin and Adrian catch him in tandem before they start towards the door. In the hallway outside the ballroom, they brush past a heavyset boy in full LARP-wear, his black foam greatsword blending in with his costume. He steps into the ballroom, unseen, as Kevin and Adrian lead their drunken charge away.

10:35 PM

"Alexander!" calls the LARPer in the middle of the dance floor, drawing his greatsword. "Draw steel and face me!"

A gap starts to form in the crowd. Alexander emerges on the other side of it, a ghost in his grey hoodie, twin boffers wielded main-gauche. The only sound in the room is the incessant beat of "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins ~Hardcore Remix~." The LARPer charges.

Alexander moves to block with both swords, but the momentum is too much for him, and he's slammed back -- through the parting crowd and into a refreshments table. A half-full punch bowl goes flying, depositing its red-flavored payload over Alexander, the floor, the wall, and a few unlucky stragglers. Leonard Nimoy's voice and its backing beat cuts out.

"What. The. gently caress!"

Gracie Harmon vaults off of the DJ station and gallops through the frozen crowd, stripping off her empire-waisted periwinkle sorceress gown before she reaches the cherry catastrophe. She's down to a sports bra and boxers, not significantly underdressed for the room, by the time she finds Alexander climbing to his feet and laughing, coated in his artificially-sweetened "blood."

"Jesus Christ," bellows Gracie, "who let you chucklefucks in? Where the hell is Kevin? gently caress, gently caress, gently caress..."

Never has a party on the Atherton College campus been so definitely over as this party is now. The dancers jostle their way towards the door, and Gracie grabs her phone to start texting as she makes her way to the custodial closet. By the time she returns with mop, bucket, and cleaner, Kevin the Barbarian stands sheepishly in the center of the empty dance floor, Adrian holding his hand. Next to them stands Ron, mostly sober, profoundly ashamed.

"I got your text," says Kevin the Barbarian, still in harness and loincloth but draped in a windbreaker. "I'm sorry. I guess I didn't keep a great watch on the door, and I was out helping with --"

"It's my fault," Ron says. "They were helping me. Let me take care of it."

Gracie looks at Kevin, then at Adrian, and hands Ron the mop. "Fine, whatever. I gotta get started on the women's bathroom. Kevin, Adrian, you do the men's?"

Kevin the Barbarian sighs, and Adrian squeezes his hand. Together, they embark on the final trial of the night. Behind them, Ron begins to mop the punch-stained floor, whistling Dragonforce.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Thanks for the crit!

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


I really shouldn't be in this week, but gently caress it, this prompt is brilliant. In.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Thanks for the crit! I'm loving these graphs.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


The Candymonger's Tale
1486 words
Prompt: How to Protect Cattle from Rustlers and How to Make Kit Kat Lasagna

Edited out of thread; available on the archive

Antivehicular fucked around with this message at Jan 1, 2018 around 02:11

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Crits for Week 280

Overall, this was an interesting week to judge, and overall I feel like it was pretty solid. The most common mistake this week, in my eyes, was using either way too much or way too little of your video-game prompt; I know strict prompt compliance isn't a major Thunderdome value, but some of these either felt fanfiction-y or really made me squint for prompt compliance, which doesn't help with getting absorbed in your story. With that in mind, here are my thoughts.

Freakie, "Ashes"

First off: I can really see effort here to work on the stuff pointed out in your crits for last week's story, so good work there. This piece definitely feels more complete than that one, and there's definitely more happening. Good bulking up!

Overall, I think this is a pretty adequate version of a not terribly interesting story. A lot of it feels kind of mechanical, and I wish there was more emotion here; the biggest offender here is Carrie's chain of thoughts about the hellhounds and imps, which sound like how you'd think about video game enemies ("dumb, move in patrols") and not how someone actually in Carrie's situation would feel. I feel like this story wants to be about hope and perseverence in the face of terror, but there's just not enough terror here, not enough genuine emotion about her hometown turning into a hellhole. Really playing up how recent the event was and the horrific changes to Carrie's familiar hometown would have been more effective, and I wish you'd done more than just gesture at it. More emotion would also have rounded out the characters some, which I think would have helped; we never quite get a feeling for these people besides fairly stock characters in their situation.

Thranguy, "Time Flies Like a Bullet"

A nice dirty little crime drama, with the weird-drug and revenge elements from Max Payne, along with the overall tone. I confess that I'm not insanely fond of the "while I'm about to die, let me exposit the whole plot to this point!" device, but the weird drug in question makes it plausible enough.

My main issue is that I'm mostly puzzling over some elements of the plot. What I'm gleaning from this story is that the narrator actually did get married/buy life insurance/hire the killer/etc. and just forgot about this, but how does that work? Did he lose time somewhere? It seems confusing that that'd happen given that Slowdown seems to do the opposite; is there a memory effect here? I feel like I'm missing a piece of the plot here. Overall, it's an effective story, but that's bugging me.

Fumblemouse, "Indistinguishable"

So... basically Space Station 13 with wizards, is what I'm getting out of this. It's reasonably clever, but it doesn't really feel like it goes anywhere or does anything meaningful, and I think it's kind of too long for its jokes and too self-consciously clever. (The adaptive name thing is cute, for example, but kind of overlabored.) I know the clown actually has a very slight plot role to play, but the clown being there is way too on the nose as an SS13 thing, in my opinion. This is competent enough, but I feel like I wasted my time.

apophenium, "The Effects of Stressors on the Creativity Displayed in Simple Logic Problems"

I'm very ambivalent on this story. On one hand, I feel like its core message is a brilliant riff on the act of playing puzzle games: the tension between simply performing the (usually very simple) task at hand versus doing it as well as possible, and the desire for the game to judge you clever for mastering it. Taken as an allegory about that process, this story is really good. On the other hand, taken as a surface-level narrative, it's pretty unsatisfying. The main character is a cipher -- I guess they're supposed to be an alcoholic in dire straits, hence the whiskey musings and indifference to their puzzle-solving conditions? (Or is that a metaphor for game addiction/poopsocking?) The experiment doesn't make a ton of sense and is hard to suspend disbelief about. There's no real progression of plot, almost no character beats, and the prose is workmanlike. Not really a fun or satisfying read.

BabyRyoga, "The Rightful Heir"

Like Fumblemouse's Space Station 13 story, this one feels too on the nose with its game references, and to a much greater degree than FM's. See, it's Pokemon, but as some kind of military project, and before the Pokemon battle starts one Pokemon kills the kid! (This isn't really funny, incidentally, even as black humor. That sort of thing needs a deft hand, and that hand isn't there.) There's also a major focus on telling over showing, like in the first paragraph:

Briggs, a ranked official who wore a uniform, emblazoned with various ribbons and medals

If you just describe Briggs as wearing a medal-emblazoned military uniform, they'll get that he's a high-ranking officer without you having to tell it. I'll reiterate something you got in a recent crit: trust your readers. (The ending has a similar issue -- you're telling us about how things fell out and the moral, not just describing the fallout and letting them make their own conclusions.)

big scary monsters, "Call of Duty"

I enjoyed this piece overall, but it feels like it has the opposite problem from BabyRyoga and Fumblemouse's pieces: the video-game influence feels vestigial and not really important, almost distracting. Why is Aslak driving a truck here? It must be part of his getaway plan, but it's also just a commercial truck... really, it feels like he's only driving the truck because you had to work Big Rigs into a story idea you already had, and it kind of muddles things. Honestly, the plot and situation here feel overly obfuscated as a setup to your twist. It's a decent twist, but the desire to obscure it from the reader makes the leadup more confusing than it should be.

Otherwise, pretty successful. I will say that I generally don't like untranslated dialogue, like you do with Aslak's speech, but that may be my own quibbles.

Kaishai, "Phoenix Sonata"

This is one of my favorite stories of the week, and I honestly don't have a lot of crit about it. This feels like a well-formed fantasy piece, with good solid worldbuilding for its wordcount and a complete arc. The Hatoful Boyfriend content is a little bit subtle, but I think it's there; you've got avians, ghosts, love, and grief, and that's Hatoful enough for me.

Obliterati, "CONSEQUENCES"

This is another good one, albeit one that took me a little while to get the video-game influences from... but we've got a woman held captive in a castle, which is probably Super Mario Brothers enough. The story itself is good solid SF, evocative and sensible without doing a ton of worldbuilding, and I liked it. My only complaint is that the ending is slightly difficult to figure out; it took me a really careful re-read to figure out Andrea's motivations in freeing herself and then staying captive. Still, really good work.

The Saddest Rhino, "Rage Quit, Restart"

The major problem with this story is that it is way, way too Bad Rats, which I know is also the point. I feel like there's a core concept here, about meaningless "holy" wars against pointless targets and the cycle of death (although using the suicide-bomber rat for it is maybe a little on the nose), but... this is just Bad Rats. Actual Bad Rats is being played here.

I want to like it. I really do. It's reasonably thoughtful and clever about Bad Rats and its core idea re: Bad Rats. But it just can't get past being Bad Rats.

(Bad Rats Bad Rats Bad Rats are we all semantically satiated yet?)

flerp, "Same"

This feels... nice, but insubstantial to me. I'm not totally sure what concept's being taken from Minesweeper here -- I guess the idea that minesweeping is a death-wish sort of activity, tying into the concept of suicidal urges? It's all right, but it feels like a sketch, not quite fully realized. I'm not totally sure why the second-person narrator, either; it's not bad, but it doesn't lend a ton.

Uranium Phoenix, "The Die Is Cast"

What I'm getting out of this is "what if Overwatch were real-world bread and circuses for a corrupt elite, instead of virtual bread and circuses for guys on Twitch?" That's a solid enough concept, but I feel like the real issue here is that the characters don't click. Okay, so Cleopatra wants a revolution, and then her friend(?)/comrade(?) gets for-real killed, and this... doesn't seem to have meaningfully changed her plans at all, except to affirm that it's pretty lovely being a cyborg gladiator? Barca's motivations are more plausible, but it seems weird that we focus on Cleopatra's experiences when she doesn't actually change because of them. This might be a better story from Barca's perspective, and it could also stand to be less dry. Give these characters backstories (unless the point is that cyborg gladiators are vat-grown or whatever and don't have mundane histories, in which case, show us why Barca cares about mundane human casualties) and more flavorful personalities.

sebmojo, "Infinite spin"

Another one with very subtle use of its video-game elements, but I see what's going on here with the geometry of movement around the party in space -- pretty clever. I confess I sort of wish that this wasn't another party story so recently after your last one; it feels a little one-note and stale. I appreciate the concept that this is sort of a magical-realism thing, with Barry summoning parties in order to "win" them, but there isn't a lot of substance here or reason to care about anyone involved (the previous party story was better about this). Pretty good, deft and fun, but insubstantial.

Dr. Kloctopussy, "Brothers and Sisters"

I enjoyed this story overall, but I confess I was a little thrown by the introduction of the mythical Baba Yaga into a dystopian SF setting. Is this actually the far future of mythic Russia, or did she just wander here? I realize the viewpoint character wouldn't acknowledge this as an issue, but as a reader, I would have appreciated at least a little explanation.

The other issue I had with the story is that it felt a bit rushed, especially towards the end. There's a lot of great ideas here (I love your interpretation of Tetris), and there's some real ambition, but I got the feeling time got away from you? This could be expanded and polished into a stronger story.

Bad Seafood, "Opuntia"

I get that this story is supposed to be sparse prose about opaque characters, but I think you go too far on both the sparseness and the opacity. The major thing is that spare prose needs to be highly polished, and this isn't polished nearly enough; there's a "your/you're" error ("if your thirsty") that becomes even more glaring for being in such a short paragraph. As for the characters... well, I assume the point here is to leave the reader wondering, but this story leaves so much opaque that it's kind of frustrating. The woman's waited for the man for 11 years, then doesn't recognize him -- why not? The man knows her and clearly has fond memories of her, but he doesn't say a thing and rides off again. Once again, why not? You don't have to spell the answers out explicitly, but it would be nice to have some sort of clue in the story.

On the positive side, the setting descriptions here are really quite beautiful. This story paints a vivid scene of its wasteland setting, and I enjoyed that element a lot. I just wish there'd been more to the rest of it.

Siddhartha Glutamate, "For All The Cows"

I suspect this story is one that will either really work or really fail for a reader, and for me, I'm afraid it mostly failed. The absurdity of the cow metaphor turned this into nonsense for me, and it took me several reads to try and glean some kind of intention from it. (I think the idea is that the cows represent society's underclass, with the father's violin playing representing someone disadvantaged by society reaching for art ahd beauty they've always been considered to be incapable of?) But, um, it's still cows. All I could picture was the Far Side.

There's a decent core of emotion here, although it's pretty familiar territory: the beleaguered patriach, the son ashamed of his father's weakness and low status, and the shadow of the dead mother. It's a well-done version of the basic tropes, though, just... with cows. I just keep running into the silliness of that metaphor, and it gives me a lot of trouble appreciating this story, even though I suspect there's a good core here.

Chairchucker, "Codenames"

Like sebmojo's piece, this story gives me the feeling of a Dome veteran treading familiar ground; unlike sebmojo's piece, I don't feel like this is successful even divorced from the author's history. There are some very droll moments here -- the concept of very self-important burglars committing very pedestrian crimes is worth a chuckle, and I liked "no heavy sighing" as the punchline to Kayla's preadolescent angst moment -- but it doesn't really add up to much. Here's this family; they commit an easy crime, with no conflict or danger; a few minor conflicts arise, all of which are dismissed without meaningful incident. There's just not really anything here, unfortunately, besides a few cute jokes.

Fuubi, "No Reason to Try"

Uh, yeah, so you posted this! It's good to post TD stories. It's better to post TD stories that have endings and go somewhere. I get the impression this is just the fragment you could produce before deadline (well, slightly after deadline, but whatever), and I'm not sure there's enough here to meaningfully crit. Honestly, in this case, it'd probably have been better to fail and post a redemption once you had a complete story.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


In, with this little mutant:

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


In search of a delicious word bounty, I've been reading through Week 268, the profoundly undercritted NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERDS! week. It's been slow going; a lot of the stories are effectively nailed by the general judge crit from the results post about over-reliance on exposition. One story has caught my eye, though:

Xelkelvos, "Thought Gorger"

This piece is ambitious, clearly thoroughly-considered, but I think it has three major flaws that make it a failure overall.

The first flaw, and probably the biggest flaw about this story, is the tight use of Harris's POV. I assume the intent here is to emphasize the powerlessness and disordered thoughts, but that content isn't nearly interesting enough to justify what it does to the narrative. The big thing is that it turns the doctor and nurse into talking heads, disembodied dialogue that's almost entirely exposition; even a little sensory detail from Harris, however confused, would have really helped the floating-head-dialogue feeling here. The second side effect is that it means that we get almost no idea of the actual parasite, which is the crux of a parasite-horror story. We get the expository dialogue describing black fluid and a broad overview of a brain worm, and, okay, that's creepy in the way to the degree that the concept of a brain worm is incredibly creepy, but it loses any visceral impact that a good description of the creature or its extraction would have had. This is a brain-worm story where the brain worm could have readily been any brain injury or illness, and that means it sort of doesn't work.

The second flaw is tied into this: this story is way too dry, with very little visceral impact. It's possible to do horror in a dry, clinical tone, but that horror generally involves the reader's dawning awareness of a deeply, deeply hosed up scenario; in this case, that scenario is a brain worm epidemic, which... okay? Kind of potentially scary? Still not really scarier than a regular ol' meningitis epidemic, though. Nothing being described by the doctor, or being done by the doctor, is particularly interesting or even abnormal. "Brain worm that causes kind of generic brain-damage symptoms" is an extremely basic, almost trite horror concept, and if it's going to work, there really has to be either an unusual angle on the brain worm or good visceral description to evoke horror and disgust in the reader. This story has neither.

(A caveat here: I have a neuroscience background and have read quite a bit about brain injuries and brain surgeries, so it may be that this angle is especially boring for me. Maybe it's scary or weird to people who don't have that background? But... yes, they're doing conscious brain surgery, because that's how brain surgery is generally done. The symptoms of the brain worm could be symptoms of any number of neurological illnesses. Nothing is surprising.)

Finally, we get to one of the great banes of Thunderdome: a twist ending! The problems with this one are twofold. First is the problem mentioned above; "patient recovers from brain worm and doesn't remember his wife" isn't a shocking or horrific moment, it's just a tragic but mundane symptom of brain damage. There are many real clinical cases that are much freakier than this, and honestly, if you want to write neurological/psychological horror, I'd recommend reading real-world case studies for a better grounding in how bizarre these things can get. The other problem with this is that it's presented pretty poorly. We have a bunch of expository nurse dialogue, the nurse says Harris has a wife, and then Harris says he doesn't have a wife, the end! I know the implication of Harris's scattered memories of driving someone to the hospital and "I had a wedding" is that the nurse is correct and he did have a wife, but written this way, the reveal of his memory loss goes over like a wet fart. At bare minimum, we should have some firm corroborating evidence that Mrs. Harris exists/existed/is probably dead, and we should also get Harris's internal reaction. Why is he so quick to say he never had a wife? Is he confused, or has his brain rationalized it? Has the brain worm eaten all memory of her, or is it just a brain-damage symptom? (I take it from the title that the brain worm is definitely supposed to be eating thoughts/memories, but hoo boy is that not really conveyed in the text.)

My closing thoughts: parasites are still potentially rich ground for horror, but they're also very common, and this is a very generic parasite story that does nothing interesting. If you want to do parasites, get weird, and get descriptive. Same for brain damage, especially the "getting weird" part, and think beyond memory. This is the second story this week with an unreliable narrator with memory difficulties, and I'm only 11 stories in. If you have to do it, you have to do it well and have something fresh to say, and this story is 100% stale.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Kaishai posted:

You have approximately five hours to let a merman swim into your heart.

see our ad in Prevention for a full side-effect profile on cardiac merman treatment

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


How to Die in the Arms of a Merman
1658 words
Prompt:

Edited out of thread; available on the archive

Antivehicular fucked around with this message at Jan 1, 2018 around 02:12

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Thunderdome Week CCLXXXII: A Lyttony of Sorrows



As we all wake up from our sparkly holiday hangovers, it's time to start thinking about the new year and new beginnings. Many of us have all agonized over the perfect first sentence to our next works of staggering genius, so as a New Year's gift, I'm going to be giving you the first sentences of your story! But, y'know, we live in the darkest timeline, and that means you don't get good first sentences. Your task will be to create good prose from sublimely bad starts.

When you sign up for this week, pick a basic fiction genre (SF, Fantasy, Mystery/Crime, etc.), or "non-genre" if you're feeling indecisive and want something with no implied genre. I'll assign you a sentence or short passage from the Lyttle Lytton contest, a contest that collects attempts to write the worst possible opening to an imaginary novel. You must begin your story with the Lyttle Lytton entry I assign, and you must somehow go on to make a non-lovely story out of it. You're not required to completely copy the writing style of your start (because that would lead to be a pretty crap story), or write exactly the story your start implies, but it needs to be a real part of your narrative -- no cutesy "meta" copouts like having the line be from a bad novel your main character is reading, for example. Embrace the garbage and make something brilliant, or at least less garbage.

If you , I'll give you two Lyttle Lytton entries to choose from to start your story. The one you don't choose will apply as a flash rule that should factor into your story in some way, but doesn't need to be literally quoted.

Also, in the spirit of the holidays, I will extend Kaishai's word count bounty for crits for this week. Write a crit for a 2017 story you haven't critted before, get +200 bonus words to deal with your godless hell-prompt!

Standard TDome rules apply: no fanfic, erotica, political screeds, nonfiction, quote tags, Google Docs, or hand-written entries about masturbation. Have fun!

Sign-up deadline: Friday, December 29, 11:59 PM Pacific time
Submission deadline: Monday, January 1, 11:59 PM Pacific time
Maximum word count: 1300 words (1500 with crit bounty)

Judges:
Antivehicular
Solitair
CantDecideOnAName

Dark and Stormy Domers:
1. ThirdEmperor
2. Thranguy
3. Sham bam bamina!
4. Jay W. Friks
5. Freakie
6. The Saddest Rhino
7. Bad Seafood
8. Exmond
9. Yoruichi
10. Tyrannosaurus
11. sebmojo
12. Entenzahn
13. flerp
14. SurreptitiousMuffin
15. apophenium
16. Benny Profane
17. Aesclepia

Antivehicular fucked around with this message at Dec 29, 2017 around 12:27

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


ThirdEmperor posted:

Pfft. In. As if it could be worse than my own bad words.

"Because they had not repented, the angel stabbed the unrepentant couple thirteen times, with its sword."

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


FYI: People who don't give me a genre are just getting whatever comes to mind. Caveat signupor.

Thranguy posted:

in, science fiction.

"We write the year 2347, a world abound with nuclear alacrity, when suddenly Frank enters with a smile."

Sham bam bamina! posted:

In in in in in in in in IN

"The town was built in the lowlands, risking flood, as if the founders dared the mighty mountains surrounding the town by asking for giant rivulets of detritus, saying 'Give me them' to the mountains."

and

"'You are in pain; both physical and emotional,' my heart informed me."

Jay W. Friks posted:

In with Horror

"The meteor formed a crater, vampires crawling out of the crater."

Freakie posted:

In, give me a genre.

"Before I got hit by that ole bus, I never used to think much, but now I think PLENTY."


"Ben slams the packet down by the Officer. 'These are my kids don’t you see?' His own dear flesh, his dear old blood."


"All humans work at The Factory, which is run by robots and it makes more robots."

Exmond posted:

In with urban fantasy!

"No one could love a dark-past’d vampire like me."

Yoruichi posted:

Things I dislike about Thunderdome:
- How obsessed I’ve become with trying to win Thunderdome.

So, in, again, I guess. Sigh.

"'I hope I win,' thought Ernest, blinking laboriously; he was proud to represent his country in the Olympics, but 'What did it all mean?'"

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give



"The nights were getting longer and the days were getting shorter, and on the plane, there was a bomb!"


"'You are the greatest human in the world,' the dragon told the boy who desperately wanted to be a dragon, too."


"gently caress. I scream and pound my monitor so hard it stops functioning for four minutes, but I’m not using it anyway. I’m crying."

flerp posted:

in no genre

"'How did you do that?' gasped Danielle in astonishment as Eric ran up and down the hill with astonishing speed."

AND

"For many, surfing can be a pleasant and enjoyable pastime, if you like surfing, but not Peter."

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

In with a sort of mushing together of horror with some sort of other genre fiction

"Anthony’s eyes bulged as we all watched, with languid, infinite slowness, his skull float across the cockpit."

apophenium posted:

In, Horror

"The blood that was dripping onto the parched floor resembled a Rorschach ink-blot test, invented in 1921 by Hermann Rorschach."

Solitair posted:

I also want to help judge this week if it's not full up already.

Welcome to the Lyttondome! We still have one judge slot open.

Also, thirty-two hours or so remain to sign up. Dehumanize yourself and face to bad sentences. (Ideally not horror sentences, because the pickings are getting pretty drat thin there. Future horror requesters may have to receive sentences from the actual Bulwer-Lytton contest, which are much longer and, somehow, infinitely worse.)

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Benny Profane posted:

In, no genre, for double fun.

"This is the story of your mom's life."

AND

"Mongoose-to-cobra, two serpentine forms, he was my rival; are we fighting in these holes, or are we really making love?"

CantDecideOnAName posted:

The cards have told me that I should judge this week, so I will.

Let it be written, let it be done. Judge slots are closed.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Aesclepia posted:

You're not wrong! I'm IN with sci-fi plz and thx

"I have the ability to go through time, he suddenly remembered while at a bus stop near a tree."

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Signups close in two hours! move move move move

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Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Signups are closed. Technically signups have been closed for hours, but I was asleep.

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