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CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


“It was a dark and stormy night.” Known as one of the cliché opening lines of our time, it's also the first line of the classic novel A Wrinkle in Time. It shows that you can take a bad opening line and still do great things with it.
Did any of you manage to even hint at great things with your humble offerings this week? Let's see. Here are your crits for last week, maggots. Line up.


Aesclepia: Brad Henessey

Initial impressions: Mini time travel via concentration. Someone wants him to knock it off. We never learn who or why. He can't sleep and doesn't know why? I'm not sure I'm fully getting what's going on, so my best guess is that someone implanted a timeskip thing in his head and doesn't want him to use it, and now something's wrong with him and he doesn't know what. He's also very nervous.

After thinking it over: One of the other judges thought the crux of the story was whether or not Brad had cancer. I thought it was that he was doing something he wasn't supposed to be doing. The other judge thought he was mentally ill and imagining everything. In short, your story was not clear on what it was doing. Ambiguity can be fine but I don't think it worked for you here.


Exmond: Vampires Night Out

Initial impressions: Vampires. Well, monsters. Overall you did okay with the first line because it's uttered by a melodramatic character but the story seems a little lacking. We don't know what kinds of monsters things are until the end. As someone who likes monsters to be unique, I felt it was a little lacking, but you didn't exactly have the words to expand on things so I'll let that slide. Daughter out of nowhere was meh.

After thinking it over: It's a very shallow story. The supernatural elements add absolutely nothing, which I thought was a shame.


Jay W. Friks: Letter from a concerned colleague

Initial impressions: First paragraph and everything is already a mess. Interesting story, but I liked the conclusion the most. Not sure how I feel about the story as a whole. It's not bad, but it's not great either.

After thinking it over: A day in the life of an MIB. The ending theory of something bringing fears into reality is the most memorable thing about the story. That core is good, but the execution was lackluster. You needed clarity for more oomph.


Tyrannosaurus: In the Blood

Initial impressions: This resonates with me, that you don't have to believe in religion to do good things and be a good person. That said, the first and last lines seem to be a little forced. I didn't understand what the blood had to do with anything. AIDS, okay, I guess?

After thinking it over: The blood thing doesn't bug me so much, because the core of the story is good enough. It's very believable that someone could lose faith because of someone falling off a pedestal.


apophenium: Gobolinks

Initial impressions: The first line lends itself to a broken mind well. The story is good, the voice(s) interesting. Something about it isn't quite clicking for me, though I'm not sure what.

After thinking it over: I just don't think you can keep blood that fresh red color. The self mutilation as control, okay. The outlet of art, okay. But I just don't know if “treated canvases” would be enough.


Yoruichi: Hope Springs Eternal

Initial impressions: I like it. Dreamy, good description, easily imagined. I relate to Ernest's frustration at being told to do something he doesn't understand. One of my top picks so far.

After thinking it over: I like the use of mundane magic. The Olympics are a good use of form over function, which Ernest has a hard time wrapping his head around. I've got a soft spot for magic and illusions, and you touched it just right. The only thing I don't like is the last line, because that implies he's not just hopeful but outright delusional, and that kinda kills the story.


flerp: Distance
Initial impressions: Crisp, clean. Good visuals. Can't decide if it's dull or quiet.

After thinking it over: Dull. The line “He wanted to feel something else-” is the best thing in it. This is a man who knows he is fearful and boring and wishes idly that he isn't. Unfortunately, the story isn't strong enough to keep that sentiment afloat.


Benny Profane: From Below

Initial impressions: Interesting. Feels kind of disconnected, like it's part of a larger piece.

After thinking about it: You included the flash rule well. It's a bit odd, but didn't completely pull me out of the story. It's well written but the danger rings hollow. Is Asa hoping to get close to her father, hoping he still might love her in some form, or view her as innocent, close enough that she can shank him? I don't believe it.


Thranguy: Beautiful and Terrible As the Dawn

Initial impressions: Off to an interesting start already. It's a confusing piece, but I enjoyed it. The names were very disorienting, and you didn't even have the excuse of being forced to use one by your first line. Which, by the way, made me think that this would be a piece about a newspaper writer or something and then veered off into god-knows-where territory.

After thinking about it: Your worldbuilding is a wreck, and it kills the story. I actually didn't mind the “we” perspective. I'm very forgiving with assuming an author will explain things, but the more I think about this story the less I like it because you take that goodwill and don't deliver.


The Saddest Rhino: “Waste”

Initial impressions: YOU THREW IN A LOSS REFERENCE. This entire piece was a bizarre homage to elisethegreat's placenta chili thread, which was like, okay, and then you threw in a loss reference. Bloody hell. Very meta. Not bad, but barely stands on its own two legs. I enjoyed it.

After thinking about it: I don't hate it, but this is a very TD story. It literally won't work anywhere else. The voice is good, though. You took a weird opening and kept up the oddness.


Sham bam bamina!: Floodplain

Initial impressions: Second paragraph and you've already lost my interest by neglecting to proofread. I suppose you did as well as you could with one of the more convoluted sentences; you tried your best to keep the voice the same. The whole story was very quick, very self aware, and I'm not sure that was in its favor.

After thinking about it: It's not that well written. “...who first heeded aloud the water upon the grasses at our feet...”? Really? It feels like you're going for an archaic pattern of speaking and missing pretty badly. You're aiming for a man who has horrible revelation after horrible revelation about himself, but it all lands flat because it sounds like stuff he's known for years. There's no horror in him being lazy, it's just a shrug and “what can you do?” This man doesn't know how to do anything but gently caress up, and he just keeps loving up and loving up like he can't help it and can't be bothered to really try and do anything else.


sebmojo: In Veritas

Initial impressions: This was a good story with a good voice and one of my top picks. I caught one spelling error but it wasn't enough to kill the mood, which was very dreamy and magical-realism-folklore.

After thinking about it: The other judges brought to my attention the tonal inconsistencies. The child cries, then is suddenly very smart and philosophical, then throws a tantrum. Maybe I just like the dragon, who takes these demands and this hubris and literally reduces it all to ash.


Overall, I think more of you succeeded than failed. Good job, Thunderdome. Give yourself a big pat on the back.

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CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Exmond, you've been gettin' real cocky in IRC. You talk like you're hot poo poo, King of the Mountain, but you're just tepid diarrhea on the sidewalk. You think you're good? Prove it. Here's my glove; I'm gonna show you your place; hold still and let me slap that dumb grin off your face. Brawl me, you hot-air-balloon excuse for a bad writer.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Exmond posted:

You.. you think I'm good?

Take a number and post-pone to February? I'm already involved in a brawl this week.

Fine, stay as the bitch you are. Time waits for no man and neither do I.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


sebmojo posted:

I'll fight you.

.

Someone do the needful.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Sitting Here posted:

this is why interprompts were invented

interprompt:



200 words interprompt or shut up (unless you're saying thanks for the crits [and nothing else])

I am Crow. I like the skies. This is where humans put their eyes. They put one here! I take a peek. I wonder what it is they seek.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


A crit for Exmond's story, since we had discussed it briefly on IRC before he wrote it.

Canty: what kind of story do you want to tell?
Exmond_office: A melancholic one with people confronting things they would rather not, and resolving to be stronger
Exmond_office: like they hosed up but they are gonna get up again

Exmond_office: Yeah, I don't have much of an idea of why they are having a divorce
Canty: might want to figure that out
Exmond_office: I'll work on that
Canty: it'll change the story
Exmond_office: Only defense, It's not so much the point of the divorce, but I think you have a point

Canty: cause and effect
Canty: which, if I recall, is something you've had trouble with in the past

Exmond_office: I want both protagonists to be sympathetic


Relevant points from our conversation are above.

Okay, first point. You wanted to write a melancholy story. That's defined as being sad and thoughtful. So, overall, is your story sad and thoughtful?

Kinda? You clearly have someone facing a thing they don't want to: the woman and her divorce. So check that box off. Is it sad? Kinda. Is it thoughtful? I'm not sure. The entire thing feels shallow, and I think that relates to the second point on my list, which is the divorce. You didn't know what they were getting divorced over, and it shows. They're splitting up because, what, she almost hit their six-year-old? That seems very forced, like you were grasping at straws for the last point: how to make them both sympathetic.

Obviously it's hard to make a child abuser sympathetic, and that's why you pulled your punch. In the future, don't pull your punches. If you want to stay on the route of her beating their child (and believe me, there are a multitude of reasons available for divorce in this scenario, including cheating [like you initially suggested] or emotional distance due to work [if he works days and she works nights, they might never see each other]) then the obvious solution is that she believes in corporal punishment and he doesn't. She argues that it's a cruel world out there and wants to toughen up their kid, while he thinks it's an outdated and needlessly abusive practice. Maybe it's not great, but it's a more solid reason than the flimsy excuse you have here. The trick with sympathy is not that the character has to be a good person. One of the definitions for sympathy is “understanding between people; common feeling.” We don't necessarily need to agree with what she's saying as long as we understand where she's coming from. Beating your kid is abhorrent, but everyone can understand and relate to a desire to make sure your children can face the world on their own.

As always, proofread. I caught a lot of spelling and grammar mistakes. You've got a way to go but you're improving. The beats are all here even if the depth isn't, and this story doesn't have a bear in it.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


I wanna judge. I love reading stories like this.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Since results are up, here's my judging. You were all supposed to write about the vastness of time; some succeeded, some didn't. Think of these less as crits and more as short performance reviews.

Chairchucker
Nothing in this Life that I've been Trying
Remembering past lives. I like it. Nice use of time.
3/5

Unfunny Poster
Choon-Hee & The Gwoemul
Footnotes instantly pull me out of the story as I scroll down to see what they are. Second and third ones did the same thing, and I've come to the conclusion that you shouldn't do that. Tabby is instantly obviously the tiger. As the story goes on the moral of “pay attention to your surroundings” becomes clearer and clearer.
2/5

Okua
An Attempt at Understanding
Vaguely Lovecraftian, what with the protagonist being seized by an inexplicable passion to dig deeper.
3/5

flerp
This is a holy place
Ghosts and regret and confusion.
4/5

Deltasquid
The Identities and Histories of The City's Statuary By Simeon of Nicaea
Nice use of time and loss of information.
3/5

Jay W. Friks
Nebula
Good passion. Despite the time travel-ish aspect, this still feels like a story more about the vastness of space than of time.
3/5

Crain
Sign Here, Initial There.
I love the idea of a company that has always existed. Illuminati style stuff. A little sloppy in execution and the ending is abrupt.
3.5/5

Antivehicular
Another Turn of the Wheel
Strange human non-humans and weird archeology.
4/5

Thranguy
Cenotaph
“after I died” Okay you've got my attention. Ships named after angels. Vastness of both time and space.
3/5

Fleta Mcgurn
Atrytone, Parthenos, Promachos
A girl playing pretend, or alternate personalities? Pretend. The impact of her father's death isn't there. I like that you switched names when the girl finally decided to face the facts.
2.5/5

Uranium Phoenix
Bridging the Gulf
After we nuke ourselves, cockroaches will inherit the earth. And act just like us, apparently. Well, the origin wasn't the same as I was thinking, but the sentiment remains.
2.5/5

HereComesEverybody
JX4068
I fail to see how this deals with the vastness of time.
1/5

Bad Seafood
Acceptance
So many different names. Who are these people? Once you realize there's a strand that the story is woven around it gets better, but the jump to the next person is always a little jarring. The ending redeems it all.
4/5

sandnavyguy
Fire Opal
Something's wrong with the ring, isn't it? I feel like I've read this story before about a nurse stealing a cursed ring from a dying patient. Tangential use of time. You get points for making me feel physically uneasy.
3/5

crabrock
The Men Who Lived Forever
Not a story so much about time between people as it is people between time. I like it.
4/5

RandomPauI
Letters of the Confessor of Schwerkraftfälle
Oh boy. You ran out of time, didn't you?
1/5

Fuzzy Mammal
An End to Global Warming
Suddenly magic. Not bad.
3/5

Sham bam bamina!
The Planet is Fine
At first I thought the horrifying injuries were normal for the train- the price for high speed. It wasn't until bombing was mentioned in the next paragraph that it hit me that might not be the norm.
3/5

sebmojo
Towerfall
A retelling of the Tower of Babel, fitting. (One of the other judges was confused by the ending, which made me think about it. What I'm getting is that humanity, with its constant communication, inadvertently creates a hivemind, which in turn sends ripples backwards in time to make people want to build the Tower of Babel and thus destroy our communication to kill itself before we can make it.)
4/5

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


cyberpunk indecision brawl entry (vs sebmojo)
Scissors
718 words

When I was a boy, just getting into coding and hardware, my older brother taught me how to play rock, paper, scissors.

“Niko, did you know that most people will throw rock?” he asked me, after beating me for the fifth time in a row. “People think the game is random but it isn't. There can be strategy to it. If I know that you will throw rock, what will I throw?”

“Paper?”

He grinned. “Now, what if we both know this strategy? If you think I'll throw rock, you'll pick paper, but what if I know that you'll throw paper because you're thinking I'll throw rock?”

“Then you'll do scissors, right?”

He nodded. “But! If you throw scissors but the other person doesn't know the different levels of thinking, then they'll throw rock and you'll lose. If they are on the third level of thinking, and so are you, then it becomes a game of chance again. It's all about knowing your opponent.”

I got pretty good at rock, paper, scissors after that.

*

“Niko,” Derek said, “I think they're onto us.”

I looked up from my rig at my bespectacled partner before glancing around the dark, screen-lit apartment, empty except for our computer equipment and the overflowing trash can. It wasn't as if cops or company security were about to pop out of the hazy half-shadows, but I couldn't squash the reaction. “What do you mean, they're onto us?”

“Caught some programs snooping around last night,” he said, not even looking up from his own computer screen. His voice was clipped and pitched slightly higher than usual with nerves. “Not Maxi's work. Didn't have any Yulo marks, but didn't look harmless either. Tried to trace. Dead end. Killed 'em.”

I exhaled through my teeth, making a hissing noise that sounded like a steam release valve or bad hydraulics. “You think anyone'll miss 'em?”

“Dunno if they were orphans or not,” came the response. “If they weren't we're hosed, Niko, we're hosed. Gotta call it off. Can't risk losing Maxi.”

Maxine was our inside man. It'd taken months to get her into a place where she could help take down Yulo R&D internal security. We'd been planning this day for a year, and if we didn't do it now I wasn't sure we'd get the chance again. I wasn't willing to let this haul go without a fight.

“Wait,” I said.

Derek's head finally snapped up, and he fixed me with goggly, angry eyes. One of them whirred and I saw the pupil dilate from across the room, the aperture opening and closing like a mouth that couldn't find any words.

“We can't risk Maxi,” he repeated.

“We got three hours before it's go time, right?”

Derek nodded, thin lips pressed together tightly. I could tell he was struggling not to call me a dumbass.

“Two hours before she goes dark,” I muttered. “We contact her now, we might be able to get a reply. See what she thinks. I dunno if we're gonna get this chance again, Dee.” When I said go dark, I meant it. We wouldn't be able to contact her at all while she was doing the dirty work.

“No,” Derek snapped. “She doesn't get to decide. Too risky. Contact her, tell her to get out.”

“We gave her a USB,” I pointed out. “She can make a hotspot on the local network if they disconnect it. Come on, man, we already talked about this with her. She knows what she's doing.”

“And if they detect it and trace her?” he asked. I hesitated, and he pounced on that. “She won't have time to spoof her location.” He was talking about making a computer report that it was a different computer, an act of technological ventriloquism. It was easy enough, but time consuming, and I said as much.

“If we tell her now, she'll have the time to do it,” I added.

He glared at me, thinking, and the silence was filled with the ever present humming of computer fans. I didn't say anything else. I couldn't, really. He knew the stakes as well as I and, like me, he also knew that if we were prepared we could handle this.

“Fine,” he finally said. “But if we all die, I blame you.”

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


for seattle

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Here you go, assholes.

sandnavyguy: Tense
Sentence fragments. Story fragments. Parentheticals about memory and loss of control. Not sure what colors symbolize other than red (death, violence, blood) and water and water-related seem to be tagged green (sickness, toxicity?) and I guess gray (vagueness, stupor). Obvious call to house of leaves. Typical story. I liked the loss of time but that's the only thing I really enjoyed.
2/5

Crain: CASE No. 67-042, Exhibit 03, A-E
Interesting format. The story is typical but the presentation creates a sense of dread early on, and the final letter is written so differently (Karla being capitalized, different paper, different way of speaking, words not crossed out, signature wrong) that you don't even have to spell out what happened.
4/5

SurreptitiousMuffin: When it broke, all the color ran out
Like synesthesia. Oh, it is. That and childish innocence and death.
3/5

anime was right: The Two-Door Machine
The Fly-ish. Typoes. A new person like a child or an amalgamation like a 3D collage? Must be the latter.
3/5

Jay W. Friks: Let Us In
There is a story here. Thing is in, thing is warned about the voices, thing is suddenly out and wants back in, thing turns into voices, cyclical.
3/5

spectres of autism: I'm Kin
Not sure what breaking is or why shadows matter. And then suddenly we are the other person. And talking to Geometria breaks minds and people.
2.5/5

Nethilia: BFF
Warning level: 0%. 80%. Not an original story but an original format.
4/5

Antivehicular: Call and Response
Fun with formatting and fonts! Fascinating story, gut punch of a punchline.
4/5

Thranguy: Haunted by Numbers
Slowly going backwards in time to reveal the interesting thing (Will is Marty's uncle?), but there's more weird stuff in the background you don't touch on. Why Brevards?
3/5

Maigius: After the Crash
Huh. I enjoy the twist that it's not a car the narrator was driving. Second person didn't bother me, well used.
3/5

Solitair: Six Questions About the Death of Greta Mandelbrot
You give me a glimpse of a magical world. Magical conflict. Sadly, “his face tearing at my fingers” and disconnected, disjointed storytelling. Things don't feel connected to the world, everything is happening in a white bleh.
2.5/5

Fuzzy Mammal: Spiral
It's rude not to post a transcript when you play with legibility. I know you offered one but I don't want to have to beg in order to read a goddamn story. MSPaint saved your sorry rear end and let me appreciate how the story both is and tells a downward spiral. You're still getting docked a point for being rude.
2/5

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Seattle vs Wellington Megabrawl
CantDecideOnAName vs Morningbell
Loch Ness Monster/Spirit

Where do monsters go when we stop believing in them?
708 words

The Loch Ness Monster is a fairy.

No, seriously, hear me out on this. No, not Tinkerbell, I'm talking old-school fairies. The hardcore kind. The kind of fairy that mothers would tell their kids about to keep them from leaving the path in the woods and getting lost and dying. The scary kind that you keep away with salt and iron. Yeah, salt. It's something to do with purity. Yeah, the Japanese are pretty big into it for that, purifies the ground or something, they throw salt in the ring before sumo matches and stuff like that, I think. Here, hold my fishing pole a sec and I'll grab you a beer.

Anyway, think about it. Where is Loch Ness? Scotland. Scotland has a ton of fairy stuff. No, leprechauns are Irish. Like kelpies, man. Kelpies? They're water spirits that take the shapes of horses and trick you into riding them, then they jump back into the water and eat you. I don't know why they look like horses. Look, shut up.

Running water protects people- yeah, that doesn't work on river stuff, does it? Like the Rhine Maidens? If you're gonna come back at me with folklore then at least pretend you did more research than basic entry-level sunlight-kills-Dracula poo poo- which it doesn't, by the way, he's just stuck in one form and weaker when it's daylight, he can still move around-

Look, you're getting me off topic. There's some account of a river monster in the River Ness in, like, 500 AD or something. Some saint warded it off and everyone was like, oh it's a miracle. No, not Saint Patrick, that was Ireland and that was snakes. No, I don't remember his name. I mean, it's kind of a bastardization of pagan and Christian beliefs colliding and one superseding the other that meant saints could get rid of fairies but that's not the point, the point is that if that was Nessie then the Loch Ness Monster being shooed off by some saint means that it could be a fairy.

I'm serious! Look. There are these rocks in Iceland- there's a point, I swear there's a point, just shut up and let me get to it- rocks in Iceland that the locals say belong to the fairies or have fairies living in them. They can't move them without pissing off the fairies, so they build around them. Now, if you cut open one of those rocks I really don't think you'd find a tiny fairy city or something. It's like a doorway into another world, like Fairyland. Okay, yeah, sure, that might be where Tinkerbell lives but we're not talking about Tinkerbell, are we? It's another dimension. It's where they live, and time works differently and you don't eat the food there or you get stuck like Persephone. Persephone? How do you know about running water and not Persephone? poo poo, man, why am I even talking to you when you don't know basic stuff like this? I can get mad if I want, you ask me my theory about Nessie and then act like an rear end while I'm stuck in this boat with you-

I'm not sulking.

...fine. But stop interrupting me, okay?

So fairies can go invisible, right? Well, what if water spirits can too and that's why you never see stuff like mermaids swimming around in rivers?

I told you to stop interrupting me.

Okay. Yeah, sure, Nessie has a cloaking device, whatever. That's not the point. The point is that no one can find it because it keeps going invisible or going back to Fairyland. Or turning into other things, that's something they do too. Like, kelpies don't always look like horses. So that's why no one can agree on how it looks, right? It turns into an otter or a log or whatever. Uses glamour. That's, like, a magical disguise. Of course, that implies that Nessie is smart enough to realize it's being watched, or it's just messing with people or whatever, which isn't really a thing that monsters do but it's totally something that fairies do, which is another point in favor of Nessie being a fairy.

What? No. It's just a thought experiment. What, do you think it's real?

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Screw it. I'm in.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Of Eluse, before the lightning
869 words

There were two ways into Eluse: either come down the Ox River from Sela hundreds of miles to the north, or join a trader’s caravan and travel through the desert from either Buma in the east or Yix in the south. Eluse’s location made it a good stopping point through the arid scablands of the Masgal subcontinent, with locals who were only too glad to entertain and trade with travelers. It was a budding town poised to rival Buma, a jewel in the desert where the weary could recover and restock.

Eluse sat at the mouth of a canyon where the wide Ox River had carved through a mesa to expose steep cliffs of white and tan sandstone. Uncut desert willow trailed long branches into the swift green-brown water while tall cottonwoods reached upwards toward the broad blue sky; tall grasses disguised sudden silty drops into water, and provided cover for snakes, turtles, frogs, and fish. Cacti with flat, prickly leaves could be found here as well as in the desert proper, encroaching on civilization wherever they could, and chirping birds hunted brightly colored lizards no longer than a hand’s length around rocks and bushes. Herds of big horned goats and sheep bleated and brayed, attended to by a watchful goatherd. Terraced gardens had been dug out of the cliffs and a spring flowing down to the river had been diverted for natural irrigation.

Buildings made from wood and mud clustered around the base of the cliffs. Three sides of each building were closed against the dry desert winds, but the fourth was open and draped with cloth for privacy. Black, white, red, and yellow were predominant, cheap colors for people who couldn’t afford the more expensive dyed cloth. Specialized craftsmen were rare in Eluse, but here and there was the clack of a small loom or the chatter of basketweavers and potters as they worked at their crafts. Fishermen repaired their nets alongside butchers knapping their stone knives. Music drifted through the air from men and women singing, busking and practicing their skills.

Over the course of generations caves had been dug out of the cliffs, an elaborate system of hallways, large and small chambers, and vents that brought fresh air even to the deepest, coldest rooms. Stonemasons had smoothed the fine siltstone and incised elaborate carvings and bas relief murals into the walls; life-sized carvings of trees, birds, and animals decorated antechambers and geometric patterns covered in paint gave hallways a strange and muted beauty. A small part of the Ox River had been diverted to flow through lower chambers to create private bathing areas, the water warm from the sun beating down on it.

Wide windows with balconies had been hewn from the rock to let natural light and fresh air into living quarters, and the curtains hung for privacy were in brighter colors than those of the mud huts; spots of red, yellow, green, and blue popped against the stone like gems set against the fair skin of a foreign visitor.

The richest apartments were highest up, providing both security and beautiful views of river and desert alike. Boldly patterned carpets covered the floors, and in the uppermost common room was a long low table made of rare wood. Here was where moneyed locals would entertain family, friends, and esteemed guests, sitting on the covered floors and leaning back against piles of embroidered pillows and blankets and eating bowls of savory marinated meat, candied fruit, and cloyingly sweet date wine, while a dancing girl spun and swayed to the strains of a stringed instrument. Charcoal braziers burned scented wood and kept the chill out during the nights these gatherings would occur. Guards bristling with weapons lurked in doorways to keep any unruly visitors from ruining the festivities.

Then the Cataclysm happened.

Vicious electrical storms formed in the desert almost overnight, heavy black clouds so thick as to block out the sun so that when viewed from afar the landscape would seem to vanish into an endless void where the only light was from lightning that raced through the clouds like the swirling sash of a dancing girl or struck the ground in strobing flashes of white. No caravan would brave such a storm without grave consequences. Ships could still come down from Sela if they dared, but the effort required to row back up against the current meant there had never been much trade between the two places to begin with, and it was easy for Sela to cease trade entirely.

The wealthy were trapped. From their high apartments they saw unrest grow as things that were taken for granted before were now uncertain. They tried to plan their escapes, hoarding food from the communal gardens and hiding behind their merrily patterned curtains. The dusty air that whispered past the light fabric now held an ominous tang of ozone, lightning without the rain. Their guards grew restless, unsure if their pay was still worth anything within Eluse, and gangs began to form among the common folk as those with ambition plotted to oust the frightened rich and install themselves instead.

Cut off from the other cities, the jewel of the scablands was tarnished and forgotten.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


i am birb

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


I am a crow and I am going sledding : )
414 words

Today my mate and I have decided to go sledding. : ) There's a good building nearby where we live that gets decent snow coverage and doesn't have many hawks around. : ))) The hawks are rude and I don't like them. There's also this guy who doesn't like us hanging around but he never does anything more than yell at us. We yell back for a bit sometimes but it's never worth the effort. : \ Until he tries to run us off we're just going to ignore him.

There is also a nice lady around here who has gray hair and old bones. She doesn't seem to mind us and gives us bread when she refills the birdfeeders for the little songbirds that stick around and don't travel in the winter and also the ones that come up here for the winter too. She says things to us but I can never quite catch what she's saying. She mumbles. I think she might have some goodies for us today if she sees us, but if she doesn't then that's okay too. : )

My mate has found a stick that he thinks will be fun. It is smooth and straight, and I agree that it is a good stick. : ) He holds it in his beak as we fly over to the building.

There are a few inches of snow on the smooth rooftop, not super fresh but recent enough to provide a good surface. My mate goes first, rolling onto his back and holding the stick in his feet. He slides down for a couple of feet until he comes to a stop, leaving a groove in the snow.
I wait until he flies back up to me before I go for my turn.

: DDD

It's like I'm flying but I'm not, because I'm sliding down on my back and using my wings like a sled instead of flapping or gliding. The sensation is weird but I like it. It's different. It feels smooth, hard but with just enough give that it's not like sliding down a rock. I've done that before too. It's not as fun. Rocks are rougher than snow and scrape up my feathers and then I have to spend hours preening to get things back to normal. : ( Snow still requires cleanup but not nearly as much.

We glide and slide! Tomorrow I will commute to the city again and so will my mate but today we are having fun. <3

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


cptn_dr posted:

Entries closed.

If anyone's interested in judging, I still need a co-judge or two.

Sign me up.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


Week 310 crits

So this week there was a rash of sudden murders, ghostly encounters, gristly violence, and proofreading errors. It wasn't a bad week and I had a lot of fun judging it, although perhaps some of these stories should've been thrown back into the swamp to cook a little longer. Also, I didn't listen to any of the flash rule songs so if you were hoping your flash rule would carry your story to victory, think again.

Light of My Life:
Overall impression: It's a decent snapshot, although the murder comes out of nowhere and doesn't really feel earned.
The good: The characters were good, and the voice was southern. I think you hinted that the narrator killed Charlie's daddy in order to protect him, but...
The bad: ...but it's not very clear. It's a single throwaway line: “I tried to protect him best I could.” Without that hint, the murder-suicide comes out of left field. Actually, on second look, my initial impression might have been correct; that she only protected him, which really does make the deaths come out of nowhere.
The gothic: Poverty, death, murder, family, and betrayal. It feels dilapidated, and there's a sense of things that were good gone to seed. The world is changing, but in that one place there's someone doing their best to keep it from doing so.
2.5/5

The Ghost of Blackford Manor
Overall impression: Ghosts, obviously. Murder. Gambling I'll count as the same vein as alcohol. The devil. It starts off with a humorous tone but gets pretty dark pretty quick.
The good: A ghost butler that feeds off people, gained via a pact with the devil, is very creative and I like it. I like the ending where the narrator gains control of the butler, although with how much she hates it I'm not sure if she would embrace the one soul a year thing.
The bad: The tone kinda flips back and forth between modern day and pre-WW2. I could easily imagine this being in a setting where people refer to the War of Southern Treason and so the van and the car kinda stick out.
The gothic: The setting, the ghost, the hateful marriage, the spite. It's all very gothic in tone. The execution is a little silly, though.
3/5

Revolver
Overall impression: Southwest gothic? It starts off kinda Old West, but then you mention a highway and a bar...you're kinda jumping back and forth. You're leaning towards the Old West, which I must admit I like a lot more than a more contemporary setting.
The good: The reveal that James is hoping to become a restless ghost is strange and wonderful.
The bad: You use weird metaphors. A door vomits. A gun is tickled. They stand out and not really in a good way.
The gothic: Death, ghosts, family, murder. Things feel dusty and empty, very evocative of the West. It's quiet and grim, and almost hopeful that things will be terrible.
3.5/5

Homebound
Overall impression: By your second paragraph you've sunk the story deep into pitiless, petty cruelty and family secrets. It's all very close, very intimate, very real.
The good: You dip back and forth between the present and the past in a way that works. The stinger at the end, that he can still hold a lamp, is very good and very horrifying.
The bad: I'm hard pressed to find anything bad about this. It's very well written.
The gothic: Family, poverty, betrayal, murder. More than that, you have this simmering hate and undercurrent of violent history, and that more than anything else makes it gothic to me.
4.5/5

The Piano
Overall impression: Southern, definitely. The kudzu was a good touch. From the instant you mention the pond I knew someone was going in it, either to be eaten or drowned. I like that you didn't do it as a kid.
The good: When he throws her bike in is worthy of a shudder.
The bad: The parts where she falls in and sinks, both as adult and child, could be better written. They and the ending are too abrupt, without any time to let the fear form before it's over. The motivation for keeping the secret at the end is lackluster but I suppose understandable.
The gothic: The ending is pretty horrifying. There's betrayal and lost love and death.
3.5/5

A Drop of Venom

Overall impression: Strange, disgusting, possibly vampires.
The good: Visceral. The description of the interior of the container is just detailed enough to let the mind visualize really horrible things.
The bad: Confusing. Things don't make a lot of sense- is she a serial killer? A literal monster? Is she feeding a monster- or feeding off it? Too many questions and not enough answers, and not really in a good way.
The gothic: Poverty, death, murder. I'm not really feeling it.
2/5

Jeffrey's Girl Secondhand Things
Overall impression: Dingy, sweaty, dusty. There's a curse. Something in the blood that beckons, that calls home.
The good: Slave magic is an interesting aspect.
The bad: That ending is too “happily ever after”. It's enough to knock you off half a point.
The gothic: Poverty, betrayal, family, race?
2.5/5

Sundown
Overall impression: There's very much a racial feel to this, even if it's not an actual black-versus-white sort of one. A “your kind best watch out here at this time of night, 'cuz if they catch you they're gonna kill you” feel.
The good: A unique setting, with a character who knows the strangeness. I would've liked to see more of that strangeness but this is a good start.
The bad: You do a movie-style cut where he goes from dead end to rooftop. Takes a bit of the tension out.
The gothic: Deals with the devil, race, religion, death, crime. Reads a little brighter than expected.
3/5

Tender Prey
Overall impression: Feline gothic. This story was kind of hard to read, seeing as I like cats quite a bit.
The good: The descriptions are very good. It's gruesome.
The bad: I don't think the grossness is doing you any favors. The narrator is too willing to murder.
The gothic: There's poverty, murder, and lost love, but I'm not getting the gothic so much here. I guess the cats are kinda creepy.
2/5

Jumpers
Overall impression: This is from one of the kiwis. I guess castles are gothic?
The good: I like that ending. I like the storm.
The bad: It's well written but it doesn't feel particularly gothic to me.
The gothic: Poverty. Family.
N/A

CantDecideOnAName fucked around with this message at Jul 17, 2018 around 03:49

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


magnificent7 posted:

gently caress YES I MIDDLED THE poo poo OUT OF MY STORY.

Thanks for taking the time to read and reflect on my horribly hobbled story - taking 2500 words down to 1500 words sucks balls and at least this time it wasn't the worst of the worst.

Don't get too cocky. The only thing that saved it from DM was that it had a coherent plotline.

CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


I will also judge, if you'll allow me on your panel.

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CantDecideOnAName
Jan 1, 2012

And I understand if you ask
Was this life,
was this all?


There was a transformation sequence here, with lots of sparkles and flashes of colored light, and I am no longer Cantdecideonaname. I am now Canty! Prepare to be judged!

The ZIA Squad Episode ###: The Curator
Soda. Madison. Shiiba't the animal sidekick with a stupid name. Springfield. Old man disguise. Usagi namedrop (presumably on her ascention towards Queen). Okay, now it's the Avengers. Unicorns out of nowhere. Last minute redemption of the villain. Technically everything's there, and a bit more besides, but it was mainly the trappings and none of the heart.
2/5

Pretty Corp
Mysterious rich/military figures. A solitary professor with world changing technology. There's a comedic twist here with them questioning the tropes of the magical girl that I rather enjoy, and then a further twist with them ultimately agreeing. It's not about magical girls, but they are a key component of the story.
3.5/5

Transformation
Cynicism. You start with a good hook, and the transition into middle aged magical girl is smooth. The classism and racism is a bit much- but wait, it's just a cover for some real hosed up and unmentioned body horror. I'm thinking werewolves. The twist is unexpected, although when I reread I can see it was there all along. Interesting. Ultimately closer to a monster story than a magical girl one, though.
3.5/5

Riding the River
Starting off with sexual assault is a bold move. Continuing it is bolder. Ultimately this reminds me more of a witch and her kelpie than it does a magical girl, so even though it's well written I'm docking you points for that.
2/5

Aeternum Vale
After a few paragraphs, I realize that there's no way there isn't a tragic and horrifying twist to bringing things back to life, so now I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop... and there it is, with the possibility of her mother being trapped in a coffin when she comes back to life. Unsatisfying and I don't see how it has anything to do with magical girls at all.
1/5

Macaulay Dred Met With The Dean That Morning

Part magical girl, part superhero, almost entirely incomprehensible.
1/5

A Living War Machine! Weaponized Innocence
This is the kind of darkness I was hoping for. There's the power of the magical girl, love, talking cats who are not as they seem, a tiny character arc for both Shiro and the Champion who turns out to be surprisingly aware.
4/5

Ex-Sanguine
Post-apocalyptic, a struggle, scars, a pact. Interesting. It definitely hints at a magical girl.
2.5/5

A Thing With Feathers
Insects. Birds. Bloodlines. A hereditary magical girl. Japanese names. A girl finally finds her power and saves the day, as it were.
3/5

Ghost Stories
So far it's more family drama than magical girl, with only a passing mention of ghosts and a talking cat. You hint again with the clock, although that still feels more like a magician than a magical girl. It's an interesting story, but it doesn't quite hit the mark.
2.5/5

Better Than Crystal
Tragedy but hope, darkness and light, splashes of history, a twist, a turn.
4/5

She's a Natural
Fascinating. Definitely a magical girl with all the trappings.
4/5

The Genesis of DELTA
An itty-bitty origin story. It fits the mold well enough, even if it was a little lackluster.
3/5

Old Guard
Another old magical girl. A wonderful entrance, a cool design, a story with heart.
4/5

Firebirds
It starts out interesting, and then you introduce Rasputin and all I can think about is the movie where he's an undead sorcerer with an albino bat for a sidekick. It's a real drat shame that you had to make them Rasputin and Anastasia, because otherwise the story is pretty cool. The line “Strike now, while you can still kill a sorcerer. Soon you will only have the blood of a man.” is a good one.
3.5/5

Monster of the week
I'm reminded of a fanfic I started reading, many years ago, where Constantine is given a magical locket by Sailor Saturn. It must not have been terribly engaging, because I stopped after the first chapter. This is much better. World weariness without cynicism. A well written transformation sequence. An origin story worthy of an anime opening, just before the music starts.
4/5

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