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Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Djeser posted:

In with King Henry by Steeleye Span

I was a weird kid

While I killed my copy of Commoners Crown via overplaying on a crappy Walkman , I'll have to go IN with Welcome to the Machine by the Pink Floyd

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Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

prompt song: welcome to the machine - the pink floyd
wordcount:1160

The Edge of the Machine


A collection of boys in knee-shorts, half-fallen socks and goosebumps, stood in a circle and contemplated a nearby fence.

"That is the caretaker's house," said Mr Andersen. "Anything over that fence is out of bounds."

Dean turned to the boy next to him, a lad of near equal height with an unfashionable lack of a haircut, and said "trespassing punishable by death!"

The boy snorted a laugh. "If you're lucky," he said, shivering a little in the unseasonable southerly.

Mr Andersen ambled in another direction, calling the children to follow him. When he rounded a corner Dean tapped the other boy on the shoulder. "What's your name?"

"Simon."

"Watch this, Simon" said Dean. He opened his bag, took out an exercise book and scribbled on page. He then tore out the page, made it into a paper dart, and fired it over the fence. A gust of wind took it high and well into the garden on the other side.

They watched it land in a patch of dirt, then sprinted in the direction their cohort had gone. "What did it say?" asked Simon, breathless.

"Help, I am a prisoner of the State," said Dean. They both laughed as they ran.

***

Simon tapped away at the keyboard while Dean consulted their notes. "I think we're heading south from here", said Dean.

Simon tapped a few more times and a set of wavy lines appeared on the small screen. "Energy field and we're running short of dispels."

"Bugger - we must be close to the end, no point worrying about resources here. Cast it and be damned."

The PC buzzed the tinny music of magic, and the wavy lines became a door. A single keystroke and they were inside. The screen snapped into combat mode, showing all eight of their party and, to the south of them, the same eight icons repeated.

"What the everloving…?" said Dean

"Dude, it's us," said Simon.

"Mother of crap! We can't fight us. That's got to be be immoral."

"It's self abuse."

"Will the game make us lose an eighth?"

Simon gave Dean a sideways look. "For self-abuse? Bit late to be worrying about that now. Sheisen! Shepherd incoming."

"Shepherds are truly the stupidest of classes. Now hand me the spell list."

***

"So, what's the job like?" asked Dean, sipping at his beer.

"It's amazing." said Simon, then downed half his pint in one go, burped and continued. "I spent three hours replicating a screen using WordArt, and then someone showed me the screenshot button on the terminals." He lit up a cigarette, took a deep drag and exhaled a plume of smoke.

"Well, Fuckarooni Roo," said Dean. "On the job learnings. At least its money. I can barely afford to put beer on the table." Dean's eyes drooped as he wiped beer froth off his goatee then sucked at his fingers frugally.

Simon tapped at the table. "Yes, my friend. Your present circumstances are inauspicious. But for now you have me and my paycheck, and you will one day be a lawyer, whereas I will always and only be an arts graduate." He finished his beer in one gulp. "Another? My treat."

***

"Do you ever feel, like, you're just a cog?" asked Simon, swigging at the vodka bottle as other, more illegal chemicals blazed their way through his blood/brain barrier. "You know, there's six billion consciousnesses on the planet and they all think they are super important. I mean - they all are to themselves, but they all have jobs and do work that forms systems like machines made of people and what for? To what end? From a million feet up - it looks a single inescapable contraption. Is it inescapable?"

"Timeless questions, mate…," said Dean as the music flowed between his ears and massaged his cerebellum, "...for another time."

Simon took the hint and laid his head on the couch. "You know, I really like this reality interference zone," he said, then took another hefty swig of vodka.

"I feel you, brother," said Dean, watching his hand leave trails across his own currently displaying reality interference zone. "I will say this for the working life. You can afford a better class of drug, dontcha think?"

Simon snored in reply, deeply and loudly. Dean watched the wall behind him breath for a bit, then smiled an ancient smile of chemical satisfaction.

***

"I guess this means you won't be practicing law any more," said Simon after a long silence.

Dean rubbed the top of his left hand with his right. "Yeah - I would say that was a likely result. They tend to take a dim view of ex-cons." He looked up at Simon and frowned. Simon was passable enough for visiting hours, but Dean could smell the cigarettes and last night's booze sweat on him. "So maybe not the law. Maybe something law...adjacent."

A buzzer rang and nearby guard indicated that all non-prisoners should make toward the the exit in an orderly fashion. Couples clinched in final farewells. Simon stood up, and looked awkwardly at Dean. Dean wondered if he should say anything, but Simon got there first.

"Well, it's not for too long, at least. Just don't pick up the soap, or whatever. And find the biggest guy in the yard and punch him."

"See that fella over there," said Dean, pointing subtly. Simon followed his finger to a gigantic inmate, covered in tattoos with no hair but a full beard. "I think he's the biggest. Wanna punch him?"

"No."

"Me neither," said Dean, a smile twinkling.

***

"The wife is pretty angry with you at the moment," said Dean down the telephone. "You should probably cut back on the drinking. Maybe quit altogether."

"That's exactly what my court-mandated alcohol counsellor said after the DUI," said Simon. "You think maybe they have a point?"

***

"It's the funniest thing," said Simon, lifting his head from the hospital pillow.

"What's that, me old china plate?" Dean stopped stuffing flowers haphazardly into a vase and sat in the chair beside Simon's bed.

"I always figured I'd die after you."

"Yes. After all the smoking and boozing that is a completely rational assumption for you to have been making. I feel that very strongly."

"Hardly seems worth having given the stuff up." Simon indicated the machine he'd been hooked up to. "And what about this? With its constant beeping. This monstrosity will outlive us all!"

"Its music will last forever!" Dean began to sing along with the machine, eyes closed, setting a tune to its rhythm. "Bebeep beBeep bebeep beBeep bebeep beBeep beeeeeeeeeeeeeee...oh."

***

The day after the funeral Dean walked to work, tie flapping in the southerly breeze. The cold made him shiver as he walked and the buildings beside him changed from houses to office blocks. The city stretched up around him, surrounding him, and touching the empty sky.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

In with a to give it extra Welly.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

curlingiron posted:

Flatwoods Monster, please!

Curlingirons and Flatwoods - Count me in on this monstrous golf joke.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Seattle vs Wellington Brawl
Flatwoods Monster, Sparkle
Wordcount: 998

Second Childhood

Stanley had kept the cube hidden for sixty five years.

"It swooped at us with a piercing scream," said Stanley to the three people on today's tour. He indicated the nearby sculpture of a saucer-eyed, spade-headed alien with menacing talons, and saw the wall clock tick past six. Time to wrap things up.

"Eight foot tall and terrifying," he said, speaking a little faster. "So we ran. Honestly, we ran screaming through the forest, fast as we could go. A white mist rose up, making us gag and stumble every which way. We got separated and I remember thinking 'this is it, it's over'. But I finally escaped, and found myself alone. I tried to call to the others, but all I could do was cough blood and head towards home."

Stanley didn't mention the pull he'd felt, drawing him deeper into the night, keeping him moving, his breathing painful and loud. Nor did he mention stumbling over a tree root, falling flat and finding the cube, half-buried in the dirt.

He could sense it now, calling to him, locked in its high cupboard in the office of the Flatwoods Monster Museum. Its presence warmed him, a thread of continuity that reached down through the decades, a true thing amongst impressions, never far from his thoughts or himself.

"...sure it wasn't an owl?" said one of the tour group, some hipster wearing a 'Make America Grunge Again' cap. "An owl flew at you one night when there was a meteorite?"

"A popular theory," said Stanley, as he ushered them towards the exit. "But I've seen enough owls in my time to know they don't grow to eight feet. I've seen meteorites too, but never another that sparkled across the night sky like that. Thanks for coming, folks - I'm sorry, but it's past closing time. An old man needs his rest."

"Can I just get one of the figurines?" said Ballcap. "So cute!"

Stanley sighed and rang it up with arthritic slowness.

Eventually Stanley had manoeuvred the trio outside, closed the curtains, and locked the door. He made his slow way toward the office, feeling the ache in his feet from standing too long. His joints complained as he lifted the nearby footstool over to the wall, climbed it a step at a time, then stretched up to unlock the high cupboard. The door squeaked open on its half-rusted hinge.

Inside lay the cube. Sparkling.

Stanley lifted it carefully, stepped slowly off the footstool, then set it onto the desk with practiced precision. He took his seat, let his shoulders settle, and watched the colours play against each other as his memories came alive -

Stanley was a younger man, travelling the world, watching its people in their endless activities. Stanley was a lumberjack, a volunteer fireman, a slam poet. Stanley lived in the greatest of cities and the smallest of shacks. Stanley was drunk in Paris, high in Bankok, stone cold sober in a Tibetan jail. Stanley heard buskers and operas and the entrance chime of the Museum's front door as if someone had opened it.

He tossed a nearby raincoat over the cube. "Who's there?" he called out, worrying he had forgotten to lock up.

"Hello, Stanley," said a voice of charcoal and honey from the other room.

Stanley stood up too quickly and felt familiar glass shards in his knees. "Do I know you?"

"We met. Briefly. In the woods."

"Oh," said Stanley. Glimmers of light flickered through the raincoat. Stupid to go and hide the thing now, he thought. "I tried to return it, you know."

"It has always wanted to be be returned," said the voice. "But I was not ready to be found. I am...sorry if I frightened you at the time. The situation was unexpected, as was your sensitivity to the device."

"You near killed me," said Stanley, an afterthought without rancour. "Afterwards, once the hubbub died down and I couldn't find you, I just left, following the pull of it. Left town, left my folks, just wandered the world like some guy in the movies. For years, until I couldn't really walk anymore. Until it led me back here."

"The device has back-up protocols in the event of isolation. Your sensitivity rendered you vulnerable. In as much as it can think, it recognises your contribution and is appreciative."

"Oh," said Stanley, again. "I guess I'm appreciative too. There's people round here haven't seen further than the county line." He reached towards the raincoat and saw his red, swollen fingers shaking. He uncovered the cube anyway. Its colours were piercing, stronger than he'd ever seen them. The office walls swirled in their glow. "So what happens now?"

"We have need of the device. But we cannot simply take it - it has meshed too deeply with you to easily extract. If you were to pass it to us freely, however, there are ways that we could find to repay you."

The cube flashed - Stanley was a younger, stronger man, walking the modern world freely and without pain.

He shook his head. "No. I've done all that. It's yours. It always was. Time to slow down. An old man needs his rest."

There was no reply. The cube faded until it was gone, its ever-present warmth gone cold. The dim office seemed unfamiliar, so he walked painfully toward the darkened museum, feeling dazed and lost, like a child whose hand has slipped from its mother's. The posters and figurines bewildered him. He wondered where he was, and where he might go.

A spade-headed giant, saucer-eyes glowing, reached toward him with cruel talons. Stanley froze in terror. When neither moved for a minute, Stanley touched the figure tentatively, felt smooth, cool plaster. Confused, he headed outside.

The front door was unlocked. The night air chilled him and strange shadows moved along the ground. Stanley looked up as a meteor streaked across the sky, sparkling like crystal. Another followed, then a third. Then a thousand.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer



The SaINt

Can I have one ordained for me?

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

prompt: St Agatha - bellmakers, bakers and nurses
wordcount: 994

The Bellmaker's Wife

Harrison Bellfounder hurried through the darkening streets of his village, bag clutched tight, not hearing the voices of his children. The bakery bell trilled "Farewell and Enjoy" to a departing customer, but he didn't stop to hear its cheer. The Strutting Peacock tolled "Round for the House" as some drunkard bought popularity but he passed it by. It took the striking of the hour and St Albertine sonorously reminding the village "Souls are Saved on Sundays" before he paid attention. Are they, he wondered, the memory of Catherine creeping back once again.

Harrison shook his head, picked up his pace and held his bag closer to him. Easter was close, and there was still a lot to accomplish. It would not do to be waylaid before Lord Edward's bell could be secured within its newly-built belfry.

"It must be big, this bell." Edward had said. "To properly show my devotion it must be bigger than St Albertine's. It must be perfectly shaped and it must ring like a Seraphim singing. There's a generous bonus if all this is done by Easter service."

"And if not?" Harrison had dared ask. He winced involuntarily, remembering the reply in its considerable detail, and his unbounded loathing for Edward washed over him. But still he had taken the job. A chance like this would not come again.

Harrison hurried beyond the edges of the village market, and made his way down the long lane that led to the foundry. Inside was a quiet bubble of activity, as Edward's bell mould case was raised up inside scaffolding by a crane that stood three times the size of a man. Harrison watched, fascinated, as the case breakers took their positions. To make a bell this size, he thought, was madness, hubris, the worst type of arrogance. His lips were dry but smiling. After two endless weeks of cooling, he thought, now he would discover if all his calculations had been correct.

Every man in the foundry knew that Harrison insisted on silence, lest the bell take on the wrong voice. Some even swore they'd heard it happen - bells had quacked like ducks. Not at Harrison Bellfounder's though, never there. The separated pieces of the mould fell away and were caught by waiting hands before they could clatter on the ground.

The revealed bell hung suspended in lamplight. Harrison moved like a shadow around it, his own lantern illuminating metal edges, looking for imperfections inside and out and finding nothing. Perfect. He took a single step backward and raised the lantern deliberately. Two men emerged from either side of the structure, attaching ropes to the crane that gently swung the bell upside down. They stuffed gigantic feather blankets inside, then wrapped it with a long, thick sheet, and finally bound them to the bell with silken ropes, soundproofing it. A whispered cheer went up from the men, and Harrison heard the foundry bell wish them "Safe Journey." They filed out, back to their homes or to the Strutting Peacock.

Harrison nodded to each one as they left, thanking them with smiles and glances. He waited until he was sure he the last man had shuffled down the dark lane then he opened his bag and brought out a wrap containing five tuning forks, shining and new - Edward had insisted that only the finest tools were used. Harrison laid them out one by one, inspecting them and finding them suitable. Then he reached into his bag again for the precious item he had brought from his home, a silver bell, inscribed with the word 'Catherine' in his own flowing calligraphy.

He maneuvered the crane over the tuning lathe, and carefully, carefully lowered the bell onto it. Just before it came to rest, he slit the silken cords and tore away the blankets, then inched the bell into the lathe's padded cradle. Time to teach the Seraphim to sing, he thought, pulling the starting lever.

The lathe turned and the carving bit lowered, close to touching. Catherine's bell sang out in Harrison's hand, in the silvery voice of an angel of the highest order, "My Name Is Catherine Bellfounder and I Love You, My Husband."

Edward's bell spun faster on the lathe and the bit hit the bell side, casting filings into the air. Harrison's heart felt the first silver words fill its cavernous centre. Using the forks, his ear and his gut, Harrison smoothed the bell's sides, his lathe shaping the sound from Hum to Octave, closer and closer to perfection and to truth. In time, the large bell reverberated in Catherine's own voice, and tears mixed with the pouring sweat of Harrison's labours.

***

Before Easter Service, Harrison sat alone in the front pew of the church within Lord Edward's splendid new castle on Swallows Hill. By his side lay an untouched easter bun, apparently made by Edward's own humble hand. The honored guests had yet to arrive, but Harrison had been here since the bell-wraps were removed and the pull ropes attached. Soon, he thought. Soon.

He did not wait long. Across the nearby village, over brooks and dales, fields and streams, Edward's great bell rang out clear and loud, in the voice of Harrison's lost beloved: "My name is Catherine Bellfounder, and I took my life in shame after Lord Edward savaged me. Pray for my immortal soul. My name is Catherine Bellfounder, and I took my life in shame after Lord Edward savaged me. Pray for my immortal soul. My name is Catherine Bellfounder, and I took my life in shame after Lord Edward savaged me. Pray for my immortal soul."

There was the sound of doors opening as Lord Edward entered the chapel. He sat behind Harrison, listening to the pealing echo around them. "Magnificent, Bellfounder," he said at last, touching Harrison's shoulder. "Truly it is the sound of an angel."

Harrison's shoulders shook as he prayed with all his might that it were so.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Poems are Dumb

So, Poems
What do you know, Poems?
Not a lot, that's what, Poems
That's why you are dumb

Hey, Poems
What do you say, Poems?
Not a word I've heard, Poems
That's why you are dumb

Or could it be
You're really just shy
Hiding in the pages of my notebook
Like teenage angst
Bleeding onto the page
Bleeding, Bleeding
Bleeeeeeeeeeeeding
Because it's the one thing you can do
Freely

Well, Poems
Just go to Hell, Poems!
Die by fire you liar, Poems
Because you are

Effulgent

--By Fumblemouse age 67 and a half

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Prompt up when I get home from pub quiz. Watch this space.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Thunderdome Week CCXCIV: Rush, Rush, Hurry Cybernetic Entity Enter me.

I don't think we've done one of these for a while, and I've certainly never run one, so what could possibly go wrong?

The aim of the game this week is to create an entry for an actual writing competition. The Competition is the James White Award - you can find out more here: http://www.jameswhiteaward.com/enter and here http://www.jameswhiteaward.com/rules and also here http://www.jameswhiteaward.com/advice. It has cash and publication in Interzone as a prize - plus no entry fee, you broke-arse writers, you. The organisers strongly recommend you read, in full, the rules before entering the competition. If you've already published more than 3 short stories or a novel, this comp isn't for you, but you can still enter Thunderdome this week.

The prompt for the competition is Science Fiction, and by the sounds of it, a fairly broad interpretation thereof. So we'll stick with that for Thunderdome: Prompt - SF, broadly.

The word count of the competition is 1-6 thousand words. I'm not, however, going to read that fracking much of your deathless prose because I want to live. For the purposes of this ThunderDome round the word count will be 2000 words - more than enough to enter the comp should you feel it sufficient to tell your tale, and enough to provide the bones of a story if you wish to expand later. This week in TD, however, what you provide must be satisfying unto itself.

Thunderdome will be judged, as normal. After the judgement, we'll set up a thread (mods willing) for entrants to crit, proof or otherwise assist each other. I have no idea how that will work, I'm just saying it seems like a good idea to me right now and I'm happy to spend time making it happen. There has, admittedly, been alcohol in my recent past.

Flash rules will be provided for those who want a kick-start. Just ask in-thread. They are likely to be pretty random, under the circumstances.

There's probably a whole bunch of stuff I haven't considered , and if I've missed something blatant I'll post as quickly as I can with updates. The rules don't seem to disallow what we do here [EDIT: This has been confirmed - stories posted here can be entered]. Stay tuned, and any questions can either come here or to my username at gmail.

One Final Thing: For the Thunderdome judging, I am not requiring a 'traditional' narrative arc (blame Muffin) . Sure, no erotica, nonfiction, poetry, quote tags or other horribleness, but if you want to play with the medium and think you can make it an enjoyable reading experience and win either competition, it won't be held against you. If you think you're skilled enough to ride without training wheels, go you! Just don't be wrong.

'Traditional' story? That's more than fine, too. It's the pleasure of reading your words that you'll be judged on.

Sign-up deadline: Friday, March 23, 11:59pm PST
Submission deadline: Sunday, March 25, 11:59pm PST
External Competition Submission Deadline: Midnight GMT Friday 27 April, 2018 - a whole month away - think of all the procrastination you can do!
Maximum word count: 2000

Judges:
Fimblesmoosh
SteeltoedSneakers
Flerp

Travelling Beyond Thunderdome:
Sebmojo
apophenium
Unfunny Poster
Jay W. Friks
Flesnolk
SurreptitiousMuffin
Benny Profane
ThirdEmperor
Djeser
Uranium Phoenix
Thranguy
Fuubi
Tyrannosaurus
Ironic Twist
cptn_dr
svenkatesh
Obliterati
Yoriuchi
Feedmyleg

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Mar 26, 2018 around 08:26

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

Jay W. Friks posted:

In with a flash rule please (EDIT: the HOW TO ENTER website says the contest closing date is January 2017. Did they just not update it?)

I'm guessing that they just missed that date at the bottom from last year - it's correct at the top.

flashrule:
"There a belief that wherever your Ancestors took shape from the sticks and stones that formed them, that's home. "
--Kate Wilhelm

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

Flesnolk posted:

In, flash rule I guess

"To light a candle is to cast a shadow"

-Ursula K LeGuin

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

update: The competition confirmed there's no problem with having posted a story here. Yay!

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

ThirdEmperor posted:

In flash rule me please.

“Were the seeds of next things always there, in the circle of the year, and was that how the world worked its miracles?”

--C J Cherryh

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

Uranium Phoenix posted:

gently caress it, in and flash rule

"Technology is Darwinian. It spreads. It evolves. It adapts. The most dangerous wipes out the less fit."
-- Nancy Kress

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Grimey Drawer

Thranguy posted:

In and flash.

“You funny thing! So selfish, so practical. Never mind. I will not ask you to kill me, for you would surely find it an annoying task.”

--Nisi Shawl

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Grimey Drawer

Fuubi posted:

It's been a while. In, and flash!


“When the reasoning mind is forced to confront the impossible again and again, it has no choice but to adapt.”
-- N K Jemisin

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Grimey Drawer

Tyrannosaurus posted:

In with a flash, please.

"Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos."
--Mary Shelly

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

cptn_dr posted:

In with a flash and a since I failed to write something last time.

“Scholars don't usually sit gasping and sobbing in corners of the library stacks.
But they should. They should.”
-- Joanna Russ


svenkatesh posted:

In + flash please

"Passing in any crowd are secret people whose hidden response to beauty is the desire to tear it into bleeding meat."
-- James Tiptree Jr.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

Still need one more judge for this week if anyone is keen. Fair warning: could be a lot of words to read, but ...oh, the taste of broken hearts is so much sweeter when they're served on silver platters to the judges' table.

Edit: Flerp has kindly agreed to read your words and keep reading until the reading is done. Then the flensing may begin.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Mar 23, 2018 around 01:21

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

One hour until entries close. If this is your first time make sure you read the op

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

One other thing. We will be starting a thread after the td results are announced. Open to anygoon , the idea is to provide links to Google docs and allow comments from your peers to make your entry in the competition winning. Or less poo poo.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Grimey Drawer

No more entrants allowed. The time has been and gone for entrants.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Mar 24, 2018 around 20:10

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

Submissions are now closed.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
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Grimey Drawer

Results Week CCXCIV: Broadly, SF

You might think it's easy being a judge. Sitting at the high table, snorting pixie dust made from ground up pixies and devouring meaty tales with a side of word salad . The elevated levels of critique, the camaraderie, the bon mots. It seems fantastic. And it is, this is all very much the case.

But some weeks, the raw and fetid stench of those tales is enough to put you off your Chocolate Kitten Mousse and drive you howling into despair.

Thankfully, this was not one of those weeks. Those people that managed to submit an entry, more often than not, did themselves proud and covered themselves in glory. On the other hand, Sebmojo, apophenium, Unfunny Poster, Jay W. Friks, Flesnolk, Djeser, Fuubi and svenkatesh just did themselves a whoopsie and covered themselves in yet more of their own saliva.

Actual Judging Bits

On the top and the bottom of the list, the judges were basically in agreement, give or take a few minor bouts of fisticuffs over precise orderings. Let's start with the bottom and work our way up.

The Loss goes to: Cptn_dr - Solitude's not for everyone. I almost smiled after wading through to the end, but that's really like saying "if you cut me, do I not almost bleed?". The other judges were even less forgiving of this shaggy dog sans actual puppy, albeit more colorful in their turns of phrase.

A DM also to: Benny Profane - They Shoot Koalas Don't They. A potentially interesting set up that went no-where via a bunch of oddly constructed sentences and that just kind of hissed to an end like a slow fart.

On to happier topics. The top end was particularly weighty with high marks liberally distributed between the three contenders.

HMs to Thranguy- Agency and Tyrannosaurus - Brutus, thou sleep’st. Awake, and see thyself for clever topics and good writing that kept the attention from go to woah.

And the win this week: SurreptitiousMuffin - g = Gm/r^2 - for a story that had both Beauty about it and Meat on it.

Muffin - The throne is yours. Mind the discarded testicles.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Mar 26, 2018 around 21:13

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Grimey Drawer

I know it's totes gauche to comment on a crit, but the power of double entendre compels me...

Kaishai posted:

Barring a secret career as a wet nurse for Lord Edward, you've cheated in a frownworthy manner, as neither bellfounder nor baker nor nurse nor martyr nor natural disaster is he.

Before Easter Service, Harrison sat alone in the front pew of the church within Lord Edward's splendid new castle on Swallows Hill. By his side lay an untouched easter bun, apparently made by Edward's own humble hand.

Don't frown, Kaishai, just check out my buns!

(Thanks for the crit, too. Much appreciated.)

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Grimey Drawer

Crits for Broadly SF Week

We interrupt this lame session of people posting stories on time with some crits.

I've included a To improve: bit. Just my opinion, take with large grain o' salt. Stories are in order of how much I liked 'em.

Benny Profane - They shoot Koalas don't they

General Comment: I really didn't enjoy this one. The setting seemed plausible, which was a plus, but the biggest problem was that the story just kind of started with a scene of potential drama, and then moved on to a conversation that really didn't develop anything.

What I didn't like: A lot of the sentence construction was clunky. The very first sentence...what is the subject of that sentence? You're just waffling along in the hopes of hitting something worth talking about. This will not engage a reader.

Also you have two main characters - but which one is the protagonist? It should be Alice, but she does literally nothing.

What I did like: Plausible setting, believable dialog - only problem is, it didn't really say anything. It's a fairly by-the-numbers post-apocalyptic setting, but the setting isn't the problem, it could set up any number of interesting stories with an Australian flavour, but doesn't here.

To Improve: Set up something for the protagonist to do. Is hit her first time to shoot? How does that change her. Are the incoming people getting rarer and she contributing to Human extinction?


Cptn_dr - Solitude’s Not For Everyone

General Comment: My fellow judges hated this one slightly more than I did. I did get a slight rush of whatever chemical signifies 'humour' to my brain with the punchline, but even I could recognise that it came at the expense of an actual story.

What I didn't like: Well, the punchline. It's a shaggy dog story and the best they tend to engender is a groan. And the hair of the dog, as it were, does a lot of setting and worldbuilding but there's no dramatic force to it, no push for the character to be involved in anything so it becomes a chore for the reader to follow along with it.

Also, the science is pretty dodgy. If cosmic radiation hosed up electronics your average spaceship is kind of borked.

What I did Like: The writing was clear and set the scene visually very well, but just didn't describe anything particularly interesting

To improve: You could make the 'cosmic radiation' a more localised effect (mining stations near unobtanium deposits suffer from mysterious breakdowns that require delivery services - now you have both a reason to travel and mystery to solve.

Also, remove the drat joke. It's terrible and pretty much the whole reason you lost.


AreYouContagious - Echidna

General Comment: I thought this had a lot of potential. Clear situation, though perhaps too much jargon for a general audience. Pacing issues - it took a long time to get anywhere interesting. I suspect my main issue was the plot twist, however.

What I didn't Like: I found it very difficult to believe that sentient beings had been marked as property - it seemed to come out of nowhere. If there had been some earlier indication that the setting was that dark it might have been more believable. Also - there was too much time spent in flashbacks - time that might have been better spent with the children and giving us a reason to care about their fate. The backstory alone just wasn't sufficiently interesting to pull us into the story, and a character who hides in labs and has no other life also fails to intrigue.

What I did Like: I'm a huge fan of Nancy Kress's Beggars series, and this reminded me a lot of that, so I was hopeful. Your tech seemed to hold together under cursory (non-scientist) examination, so that's also a plus.

To Improve: If you can't be arsed describing what CRSPA does, then invent CRSPA++ and describe that. Give us more of the relationship between mother and children, and a reason to think these children are special and worth saving, or, failing that, more reason to fear for their alternative fate.


Feedmyleg - The God Hole

General Comment: The shock jock entry. The entire first part of this comes across as gratuitous and unnecessary. You'll gain a bit of TD notoriety for sheer chutzpah (not a bad thing) but it's a gimmick and it won't hold up past initial img macros. I'm grateful that the rest of the story wasn't awful, though, because it was shaping up as a shocker.

What I didn't Like: There's not a huge amount of difference between what the protag does and mere castration. We'll apply the general SF rule of allowing on flagrantly untrue thing to set the wheels in motion and we still have the fact that the ptrotag ends up contemplating what is essentially, and knowably, suicide for not particularly well-explained reason, and yet, strangely and irritatingly, the ending is entirely predictable from the moment the death is mentioned. This is not a good thing - it means you've gone too obvious in your choices.

What I did Like: The actual story structure is sound, coming out as a kind of body horror 'Tales of the Unexpected'. Once you get past the initial bollocks, there's the core of a good idea in 'anti-aging surgery disasters in near futuretimes'

To Improve: Strip the bollocks and make the tale more unexpected.


ThirdEmperor - The Friendly Machine

General Comment - again, a story that basically went nowhere, an excess of worldbuilding with no real story behind it.

What I didn't Like: the opening goes on for three paragraphs describing the machine, but by the end of it I still have no idea what your story is about. Who is finding the machine 'glorious'? At the least I can tell what the machine does - and it is intriguing, but I don't know that it's three paragraphs interesting, especially as you story doesn't even really delve into the whole digital immortality side of things. The entire story was someone having doubts and then failing to do anything about them.

What I did Like: The descriptions, as out of place as they were, basically worked. I was intrigued by the machine and wanted to find out where you would go with the story. Unfortunately, you didn't go anywhere. I think I'm starting to repeat myself with these crits.

To Improve: Start with a perspective - let your protag see the machine and let it mean something to them from the get-go. The machine itself, nominally the title character, barely gets a look in (despite some nice descriptive work). It could be ripe for some kind of body horror as it smiles and chats like a barber as it dices you. Really, anything but the fizzle here.


Uranium Phoenix - The Wheel Turns

General Comment - A believable world and an almost believable and almost charmingly Eeyore-ish protagonist, quite acceptable in SF. This is the point where the stories really turn around and become worth reading in themselves, even if flawed.

What I didn't Like - The basis of the story, its action point, is just a conversation - a discussion that Admat-23 'wins', which isn't in itself intrinsically interesting

What I did Like - Despite what I wrote above, I think there is something to say for the 'little victory' that is won here. Not all SF needs to have a big action set-pieces, a walk alongside someone on part of a larger path could be quite satisfying and this was definitely worth the attempt. It just needs a little more meat on the bone. I also liked the fact that the ending quite sinister - I'll destroy you all, just as soon as I've finished filling these paperclips was one of the more memorable appraches to an end this week.

To Improve - Develop the character a little more - there's the beginning of an interesting character there, but you may need to contrast Admat with another interesting character to get him to shine, so that his victory feels like it's been won rather than explained.


Youriuchi - Braaains

General Comment - There's a lot to like here, in a breezy story with a fair few nice touches, but the ending just didn't quite gel.

What I didn't Like - The title was a bit of a turn off, to be honest, as the whole brains thing kind of gave away the ending, but overall the piece was pleasant and kept my attention. The relationship stuff was possibly a bit twee, but just avoided the mawkish so I wasn't overly concerned. I have no idea what 'Jared’s perpetual lackadaisicalness' refers to in that context - did something get cut? Also - the ending. It was foreshadowed by the smell, but I'm not really sure how it all worked.

What I did Like - Lots of character details being shown and not told, lacadaisicalness aside. This was enough for me to feel favourably disposed towards the characters (I have, in the past, enjoyed crappy soap operas of various types).

To Improve - I think the audience needed to be let in on a bit more what was happening in order for the final sacrifice to have punch. Was it something that came from within or without the environment?


Ironic Twist - Lovelybad

General Comment - I read this about five times, and didn't have a bad time, but I was disappointed that either it was too obscure for me (always a possibility) or there wasn't actually much there.

What I didn't Like - In the end,it just seemed too much style over substance, (though I did like that style). By the end I had no idea what the appearing image was all about, who had set it or what it really meant. "Lovelybad" itself just seemed an odd juxtapostion to use to carry any sort of meaning - it didn't fit with the style of the piece.

What I did Like - there is definitely something here, or I wouldn't have tried so hard to come to grips with it. It's enjoyable to actually, physically, read, it flows and has the skeleton of a story.

To Improve - I'm actually a bit torn on this. You could either provide just enough more detail for the penny to drop, or you could hack away at the skeleton so that it's more purely surreal. In some ways, I suspect you suffered from the judges because we wanted to engage with it and give the story the benefit of the doubt that it wasn't an obvious tale, but didn't feel rewarded by our efforts. So perhaps ask the question "what is the experience you want the reader to have had at the end of the story?" and push in that direction.


Obliterati - The Last Shot of the War

General Comment - I'm not a huge fan of war stuff, so to get a good score from me you had your work cut out for you. Thankfully, this story managed to engage me on a couple of levels.

What I didn't Like - It took me a long time to figure out who was who - perhaps some stronger identification would work - you refer to 'the lieutenant' twice before you actually use his name, for example. I also wasn't completely won over by the vengeance aspect. Assuming I've read this correctly and it was Jaito's murder that was being avenged at the end - we needed so reason to think the relationship was worth avenging (or an indication that Takamura needed to be removed for other, stronger reasons also than historical preservation). Also - I'm not entirely sure what protag is still doing there, to be honest. He stayed there even after the lieutenant left? Why?

What I did Like - I liked the whole concept of drones dredging up old munitions (just as the protag dredges up the past), and despite my later qualms about some of the circumstances and motivations, when I initially read it I enjoyed the flow of the story and the way the plot revealed itself. The ending felt almost earned, but still satisfying. And perhaps the strongest aspect of it was the evocation of the setting. Some good word choices put me there, which provided some realism that enabled me to slide over some of the oddness of the plotting.

To Improve - Strengthen Jaito/Protag relationship and perhaps define the protag more - with some insight into his motivations.



Tyrannosaurus - Brutus, thou sleep’st. Awake, and see thyself.

General Comment - Fun and occasionally funny Sci-Fi with a serious bent

What I didn't Like - The whole shakespeare quoting thing really rubbed me the wrong way, for some reason. It went on too long and veered into pretentiousness. Purely personnel reaction, admittedly. The father/mother thing didn't really seem to fit too well with Julius Caesar either. Also - if this pattern has been happening for quite a while, what is it that is different this time? Why is shakespeare such a factor at this point?

What I did Like - There's a feeling I get when I read a story that just has all its elements click into place at the end - this story had that - which is no mean feat when you've got multiple clones with different motivations and knowledge to wrap up a story in.There's a great deal of juggling and you don't drop anything in the process, which is no mean feat. Kudos.

To Improve: You could very easily expand this. There's a wealth of interesting character possibilities with your number brothers and their world. I note the world itself gets fairly short shrift - perhaps explore the environment they are in a little.


Thranguy - Agency

General Comment - I really enjoyed reading this one, more than the other judges, I think, but the exploration of philosophical themes in genre is the kind of stuff I dig. It is very much my Jam.

What I didn't Like - As others have noted - it wasn't super clear why the aliens would go ahead with this kind treatment. Clearly they have no choice, but why this method? Why the room set up like this and the armoured shell? Why one on one? This seems like an extended interview for 'uplift' but can one person make the decision for humanity, and if not - why are they doing this? What is the potential benefit, even if they lose/die?

What I did Like the overall conceit - to contrast the free will of the uncivilised with the strait-jacket of perfect morality. This is fertile ground and you should , um, plough it or something.

To Improve - I think you might be selling yourself a bit short with the setting. I get the whole noir aspect - a man, a desk, two chairs, a gun, a morally perfect alien - but you could have fun expanding that. What if prior aliens were Giant, or gaseous? How would their interrogations work? Or if you stick with the setting - what else can happen there. The russian roulette is good, but it may need something further - the flashbacks just aren't quite enough action to keep the attention of those not genetically predisposed to this sort of thing.


SurreptitiousMuffin - g = Gm/r2

General Comment - Something different, but nonetheless enjoyable, this had its own voice that was both poetic and narrativey, and entertained me enough to make me return to it to uncover more of its secrets. That return was rewarded with further understanding and appreciation.

What I didn't Like - The endless-eyed dude. Who was that, exactly?

What I did Like - This succeeded in a lot of ways that other entries didn't. It had a dreamlike quality but the facts of the story were discoverable, it had a unique tone that was both poetic and readable, approachable and possessed of humour. It's hard to pull this kind of storytelling off without it descending into irritating wank but I thought you succeeded here, Delaney-ishly.

To Improve - some elements/orders of the timeline are buried, either a little deep for discovery, or because they weren't salient to the immediate plot, or you hadn't really thought about them. Bring them forth.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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CalvINo and Hobbes

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Mar 21, 2013


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sebmojo posted:

flash rule for fumblemouse: the years beneath our feet

"L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs", mon ami.

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Mar 21, 2013


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wordcount: 1340

The Truth of Hamaall

A city, so the sages say, is an idea built by accretion like a pearl is formed from a speck of sand. Layer by layer its walls are constructed, with each new partition a single argument in its ever-developing premise. Every barrier erected, separating the outside world from the city within, is distinct, unique, but a necessary part of the whole. Yet no matter how thick the barricade, each is translucent in an important way. No matter how distracting the new, no matter how bold the re-invention, there is always something of the old that can be seen beneath.

Thus, they tell us, a city is a trap for the mind and soul. A city built on the backs of slaves can never bring forth an enlightened being. Even the First Sage had to flee the palaces and slums of SinQual to sit alone atop a mountain until the gentle winds and summer rains of passing eons had reduced it to a valley. A city grown from a simple trading post can never give of its bounty freely, and so the dreamkind of Qma tell us their Solstice Father provides only for those children whose behavior on balance tilts toward goodness. A city whose streets ran with the blood of sacrifice can never truly divest itself of attentions ancient and dark, just as the contracts of F'lal's Dragon Bank carry their terms beyond this life and into the next.

What then are we to learn from a city like Hamaall? What is the idea to which it gives form? What is its truth?

The libraries of Iskander do not go back far enough to tell us of the circumstances of its birth. Dreamkind stories give us hints, whispers and allegations - but what are we to make of tales where it sprang, fully formed, from its own reflection in the Gate of Water, or how it passed from the bowels of Shazz after a meal of fallen empires. The judicious scholar must note these fanciful tales and move on, entertained, perhaps, but little the wiser. The question remains - how do we assign meaning to its architectural variety, to its haphazard yet delineated geography, to its sprawling mass of contradictions?

To answer this, I believe we must peel back the layers, and reveal the truth that lies within.

A visitor to Hamaall is confronted by two gates in the wall of Imaash. By day, the Gate of Light stands open like a gaping maw, inviting an endless stream of travellers and goods-laden carts to step inside and be consumed. Before the gate itself is a seething mass of humanity, a screeching, clawing mob trying to worm its way inside, kept from murder only by the judicious whips of the Light Guards. By night, the smaller Gate of Dark stands more even steadfastly watched, and through it run streams of intelligence. Runners and spies and errand-keepers of unknown masterage utter the night's password beneath their breath and are allowed on their way. But it is told there is a third gate, the Gate of Crystal, and that is for the Pontifex himself. It may not be seen unless his own illumination brings it to the eyes of lesser mortals. I have not seen it myself, though not for want of trying.

Once within the city walls, the casual wanderer is simply lost. Buildings have been built upon buildings, which are themselves stacked upon buildings, with no concern for safety or sense and preventing the view of landmarks and towers by which the neophyte might find their way. The air is filled with the cries of hawkers, the senses assaulted by perfumes and waste. If there is order in the chaos, it is unknown to me and all I have asked. Guides spring up like weeping sores upon the afflicted, who may help you or hinder you regardless of the coin you offer them. It is best to ignore their services and make your own way, for it matters not what path you take. If you follow the endless flow of people you will come, in time, to the Harrakian wall.

The guards stationed along this wall are of a different calibre to those who steer your entry to the city itself. They are quiet, and watchful, and it is said they know your thoughts before you do. Many is the traveller who came to their attention for no deed or word seen or heard by others - yet when they later appeared in Threnody Square, before the Headsman's Mask, it is all they can do to stop themselves from confessing to every crime yet unsolved...and more that they had planned deep within their hearts.

But say you pass the Harrakian wall unaccosted. Say the guards step back and let you enter through the polished ivory gates. The chaos of the plebeian is forgotten and you step into a garden of unparalleled vastness. Mile upon mile of scented bowers, streets and pathways paved and wide, all lined with trees that flourish in the eternal sunshine. The buildings are spread, a healthsome walk between each, and each is built in the style of its founder. Stone Dragon banks of F'lal, Columned Temples of Sin'Qual, Boutiques and Exotiqueries from Qma, all live in harmony with the manses and schools and manicured waterways of Inner Hamaall.

The paths themselves are like spokes upon a gigantic wheel that has gathered the moss of cultured greenery. To follow the spokes inward is to end, ultimately at the Gate of Water, the perilous moat that surrounds and protects the Crystal Palace of the Pontifex. To see the sublime construction of reflective yet unbreakable glass reaching to the very clouds is to feel the breath of life itself! To climb its minarets and look out upon the wider Hamaall is to see order spread into confusion, the forces of chaos held at bay by Harrakian and Imaash.

Or so one would imagine. The water gate remains as impenetrable as ever. The Palace of Crystal is inviolate and the Pontifex a creature of shadow and surmise, a being made of proclamations that appear unheralded and disperse to the far corners of the city. The chopping blocks of Threnody Square are rife with those who claim that they arrive from afar through the gate of Dark, and I most certainly would not make such a suggestion. And yet - the city flourishes. The gate of Light admits those that seek wealth, wisdom, and pleasure equally. That of Dark admits both secrets and lies. Yet the walls of Harridian and Imaash stand fast against the tides of increasing chaos that lie without.

And so we see that Hamaall makes liars of the sages. The pearl has surrounded itself with ever dirtier layers, its own surface as opaque as the libraries of Iskander tell us it has ever been, reflecting forever the selfsame waters that protect it, from which some say it sprang fully formed.

But the unhappy analogies of the sages are not truths. What, then, lies within the peeled back layers, from which we might learn. Is it the Palace of Crystal, emblem of the City, that truly shows us the meaning of Hamaall? I do not believe that truth would coat itself so prettily. Is it the Pontifex himself, unseen, yet felt everywhere, that is the deeper truth? There is an argument to be made for this, but still, I do not feel satisfied by it.

I sat outside the walls of Hamaall for many days, turning it over in my mind, hoping for insight and inspiration - a glimpse of the Crystal Gate - but found only my own questions. At last, I walked away, feeling only the city's years beneath my feet. And so - I believe the Truth of Hamaall is this. When we retreat inside ourselves to learn, we might penetrate beyond the putrefaction of our flesh, beyond the order of our bones, but when we arrive at our true center, what do we see peering out? Only a reflection of ourselves.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Prompt Now

Week CCCIII - Things Humanity Was Not Meant To Know

I wish to know them... through the power of not-crap flash fiction.

Humanity, right. It just sits there on its wee rock, peering into the universe with eyes and ears that barely register a miniscule fraction of the actual universe. What if those senses could be opened a little wider. What would they see or hear...or feel? Would it be wonderful or terrible, horrifying or boring in a surprisingly interesting way?

Could these things be learned from a visitor, an overdue library book, or a grain of sand? And why isn't Humanity supposed to know them anyway? Who the hell says not?

You have a thousand words to answer these or similar questions. No erotica, google docs or other badnesses. I'm not a stickler on genre, cosmic horror through to drawing room comedy could all work. Surprise me!

You may ask for a flash-of-insight rule, but it may not be what you thought you wanted as it will come with a SAN check either extra or fewer words

Sign-ups close 11:59pm Friday PST
Submissions close 11:59pm Sunday PST

Judges: Fumblemouse, SebMojo, TBA

Arcane Unearthers:
Thranguy - 960
Meinberg - 1240
Sitting Here
Djeser
Yoriuchi
Sham bam bamina
Flerp
apophenium - 1100
Skylight - 600
Sandnavyguy - 1111
Hug in a can - 1169
Hawklad

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at May 28, 2018 around 07:41

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Thranguy posted:

insight rule me.
Hindsight is Twenty Twenty - but you haven't checked what's following you. Minus 40 words


Meinberg posted:

In and hit me up with some of that good, good mad man's knowledge

Abdul Alhazred died in 731 of being tortured, blinded, and having his tongue severed for speaking secrets, according to August Derleth who died in 1971. The difference is 1240, your new wordcount.

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Mar 21, 2013


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apophenium posted:

In, , and insight rule please

Your own avatar suggests you know that what is behind a face is not always what you might expect. This wisdom gifts you 100 extra words.

Skylight posted:

In, and insight rule me, please and thank you.

"All in the valley of death rode the six hundred". Poetry buries many secrets, and you have only 600 words to unearth them. If you choose, some of them may rhyme.

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Mar 21, 2013


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sandnavyguy posted:

I'm alive and In, flash me a fun one.

"A picture is worth a thousand words, but this picture is worth one thousand, one hundred and eleven."

"But it's blank..."

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Mar 21, 2013


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Hug in a Can posted:

I'm in again this week.
May I please have a flash prompt?

Why yes, you may have a question answered with a question.

Which is worse? To have the gods laugh at you, or to have them ignore you?

You may also have an extra 169 words to explore your hurt.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Just in case any of you wily writers were thinking about it....

Judgepandering by voting for Speedball (#44) in the Something Awful Best Cat Competition Finals will do you no good whatsoever , but also no bad, so feel free to give it a try.

Fellow TDer Chile's Butterscotch (#17) made the finals too (and is kicking rear end) so check out some fine SA catte goodness over in that and related threads. Vote early and often - even if the field is currently dominated by an actual feline/scrotum hybrid.

/endpoorlydisguisedshillingandbloodthroneabuse

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Mar 21, 2013


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Sign ups are now over.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Closing this up. Sham bam bamina - you have violated the no editing rule. What will happen to you next is also something mankind was not meant to know!

Judging will be posted when the judging is done.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Week CCCIII Results

This week - Eleven stories that ran the gauntlet of hidden knowledge from pearls of great price to something nasty behind the bikeshed.

We had two disqualifications. Hawklad came in many hours late and a couple of bucks short, and Sham bam bamina for editing after posting. Just say no, kids!

However - one secret truth of the universe is that Mercy is Infinite - so we'll let both stories in.

Another secret truth of the universe is that the Judges are bastards, so Sham bam bamina takes the loss for Wasted, which broke new ground in appropriate titles, wasting both Space and Time on a story about someone getting drunk and vomiting.

A DM also to Sandnavyguy for In the Eye of the Beholder who imagined "what if 'The Hellbound Heart' only with most of the good bits missing?"

Richer pickings were to be had down the other end of the field.

HMs to Sitting Here for StewardSong and Yoriuchi for What We Are Capable Of - two pleasantly different takes on the prompt which both focused on hope, however small, over horror.

But there is one secret we can keep no longer - the well deserved winner was Djeser, whose Epitaph of the Utnapishtim gave us pleasing cosmic knowledge both profound and plausible.

Djeser - thanks for the tale. The Blood Throne is yours.

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Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


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Crits for Round 303 - Things Humanity was not meant to know

General thoughts

All in all there was a pretty much straight road from bottom to top. The bottom seemed to hang around in the horror angle and the top seemed more interested in veering away from the obvious horror tropes. Make of that what you will.


Refusal To Fade- Meinberg

To be honest, I liked this a little bit more when I returned to it. There's some good stuff buried in it - but it's unnecessarily padded. Kill the first paragraph, your story starts with the second. Avoid as much of the background as you can - are paragraphs 3-5 really necessary or can you add that as detail to what is actually happening without vanishing into a less exciting not-even-a-flashback

The underlying issue the brother has with Felicia is underwhelming as a reveal. He's been supportive of her work but now he's bitter. Or maybe she's seeing her own guilt personified. Neither possibility was gripping to me. Perhaps because I never went through the choice she made with her - you tell me a lot about her feeling guilt, but we never see it or its effects..

Another problem here, I suspect, is that we are seeing the consequences of actions (or, really, inaction - of different choices made some time ago), but no real actions themselves. Felicia observes, cowers, apologises but never really reacts. The timing also seems off. He spent years dying, then she spent an additional two years owning the house but not doing anything with it (missed opportunity for dusty spooky house scene setting). You say she visits occasionally but, not, presumably, when he was sick. Why was that - it seems criminally unmentioned, especially as he'd been so supportive previously.

The guilt personified angle doesn't really seem to hang together either - based on what we see of the tech working the device works as advertised, unless the final knob twiddle did something different. If the point is that ghosts are still affected by our guilt (which only just occured to me) that didn't come through strongly enough, mostly because "This is your deserving, this is you and the shadow you’ve carried with you" is such an odd thing to say. Perhaps it would have worked better if the physical horror was just there, and we got more of a sense of the ghosts suffering because of her guilt through a more chillingly reasonable conversation. Assuming that's what you were intending.

What I was not meant to know: Ghosts are loving petty.


Within the stars - apophenium

A good opening - it has a nice balance of plausible and yet deniable. I'm less sure about the skull writing - that's a hell of a lot of information to be putting on a skull. Did he write it on the back of the skull too, too, perhaps using a mirror?

What might work a bit better is if something was actually contained there - as if he was using his skin to hide actual notes, or an object with the paper inside...or even just the co-ordinates of the constellation. The magic of remembering it all exactly seems out of place, unless it's supposed to indicate the child shares the father's madness, which is not a bad line, but there's no real indication of it there.

Speaking of which, the name Telescopium for the constellation is too on the nose and detracts from the piece.

And so to the ending. It's an odd one. The blocking for what happens is just weird and not quite as powerful as one might hope. The significance of the space window isn't clear to me, especially as the last line seems to indicate it's actually nothing. Are we then supposed to discount it as grief and bloodloss addling? So he's not quite as mad as his father? I was foncused about the meaning of it all.

What I was not meant to know: We are all books of blood, when we're opened, we're read. Some books are a bit non-sequiturish, though.


In the Eye of the beholder - Sandnavyguy

First off - Borderline Hellraiser Fanfiction - we have such X to show you! Ouch!

Second -You can pretty much remove the first three paragraphs. Is there anything in there that isn't revealed by people actually doing things in the later story? I don't think so.

This DMed at least partly because it was such a direct steal. And where it wasn't, it wasn't very interesting. You have a society wife and a drunkard, clod husband and...what? The husband is a boor and, it is implied, gets his just desserts. The wife likes art, is married to a boor, and wants the boor dead after she disembowels herself and makes a big mess. The stakes here are too low. Hubby is unappreciative and therefore will blow his brains out? There's not enough reason to see why the wife is tempted at all to go through with this gore - the punishment here seems absurdly disproportionate and therefore unwarranted and hard to take seriously. For this to work, we'd need higher stakes and at the very least we'd need to see the temptation of the wife beyond a few glib comments.

If you'd removed all the guff in the first three paragraphs, you would have given this story a bit more room to actually be about something other than cardboard cliches.

What I was not meant to know: There are wondrous, curious, hidden things that want me to disembowel myself


Stewardsong - Sitting Here

I have to admit, I loved the opening line. It got me in the mood for something a little different than the faux horror thus far. Gil and Morgan, though? What are you trying to imply?

And then invasive emotions. Hmm, I thought. Our protagonist is already in thrall to emotions that are beyond her control, and now that gives her some kind of defense against not being in control of her own emotions. I don't think that quite gelled with me. Same with the first "this is fair, this is earned" motif. It's hard to tell if it's her own pain that is earned, or Gil's (which seems harsh), or the profound satisfaction that is the subject of the sentence. Also, you use that motif twice and I was hanging out for a third time for some reason, perhaps a variation just before or instead of the last line which came across a little twee.

That said, I liked the ending on a hopeful note. A nice change. And the action the protagonist takes - rescuing a bird, is small and yet meaningful, even before being imbued with a sense of the interconnectedness of all things.

What I was not meant to know: The whales from Star Trek 4 are coming, and this time, they're psychic!


The Leering Man - Thranguy

The theory as story. Reminds me a bit of an old Sapphire and Steel episode, only more hosed up, which is a good thing. I think that was the one where they had a terrifying flashlight beam coming down some stairs, but it was definitely the one where they trapped evil faceless photo dude in a kaleidoscope and urged the kiddies to burn their photographs.

The theory holds up as I read it - multiple pasts - that's clever, which is nice - I liked the explanation, intellectually.

I wasn't convinced by the ending though - you abstract the personal and apply it to the reader but there's no real rationale behind it. You need something more than just the theory and 'But it's true!). In particular, I was confused as to why burning photographs would be a good idea. His presence in them after the fact seems, on the one hand, a cool use of your nifty multiple worlds hypothesis - those pasts might shift and merge and this is why our memories may not be trustworthy - but it doesn't tie into the present or create a convincing threat for the future that seems to justify taking any action. I may not have read closely enough...but that's what I walked away from the story with. If he's there in the photos - isn't it already too late? And the photos only represent the past - they aren't embodiments of it - if the foamy, leery dude crosses over photos will tell us, but they're not how he does it (I assume) only rcords that he has.

That said - if I haven't mentioned how much I liked the multiple pasts potentially seeping into one another idea, let me do so again. Great stuff - do more with it!.

What I was not meant to know: The Urban Legend is real! Just like in that movie, Urban Legend.


Epitaph of the Utnapishtim - Djeser

I really liked this one - simple but strong and memorable. When judging I like to see which tale stays with me, and this one won by a country mile.

This was a simple epistolary tale, well told. The constant love mentions didn't seem mawkish, especially because they actually resolved into a meaningful part of the situation as described. For that reason I think I liked this one better than Sitting Here's in the final analysis - Love wasn't the answer, it was part of the environment, which I found all the more satisfying. Even moving. (there, I admitted it :-p )

I really don't have much to criticise about this. Even though the writer was (spoiler) alien, we could identify because we could see ourselves in exactly that situation … a touch I thought was deftly handled

What I was not meant to know: We're all totally alone, unless we make our own company.


A moment - flerp

This one, unlike Epitaph , passed straight through and into the old memory hole. It really doesn't have a great deal to recommend it, but there's nothing downright awful about it. Man takes drugs, sees God, ignores God and recaptures a small part of his missing adolescence. There's some pretty words at the beginning and at the end, but there's no knot in the bow - there's nothing to really hang your hat on and say 'this is what the story is about'. There's not really a change to status quo. It's all a bit slight. God is a caricature - his faux wisdom comes out of a sub-twitter length fortune cookie, which makes the protag's rejection of it even less meaningful. Because his vision says nothing to us, and nothing to the character, there's not a lot to really care about in the telling.

Also mushrooms take much longer than that to kick in. Just sayin'

What I was not meant to know: God has a Yoda Complex


What we are capable of - Yoruichi

I think this is the basic plot of Trillions, one of those creepy childhood books I only vaguely remember and would probably hate to reread as it'd be silly. But seeing as almost every entry this week reminded of something else, overtly or otherwise, I'll let it slide.

There's some winning turns of phrase here (I had never thought myself capable of having an affair, and now I was incapable of ending it - bonus points for using it in your returning capable motif), but they're matched with some clunky bits. The marbles are like crabs twice, for example, and there's a couple of times when you get a perfectly adequate writerly expression (I could feel its icy fingers caressing my mind) and it seems just a little overwrought, good words for a writer but not necessarily for a character.

On the structure - there's a tendency in flash fiction for people to set the scene for an opening and then go wandering off into the backstory for a couple of paragraphs then meander back to what's actually going on. A few entries this week did it, including yours, and I don't think you really needed to. Wouldn't it be more involving if the protag was getting kicked out by her husband when we meet her, then trudging through the streets actually seeing people being affected by the marbles, then seeing her lover entwined elsewhere and then resisting the miasma and doing her thing? No need to vanish for a bit of backstory, really and it keeps it all upfront and immediate. Just a thought.

What I was not meant to know: Buried under drifts of evil there's always a bit of futile makework to cling to.


Wasted - Sham bam bamina!

You reference Slaughterhouse 5 but really you're riffing on Donny Darko - but where that had the sense of a cohesive mystery to be unravelled (admittedly a very silly one once finally revealed), here you're just doing it for shits and giggles, and ending up with more of the former and less of the latter. It's like the story itself didn't know which way it wanted to go and so wandered, peering, into the doorways of possibility only to stop for a snooze. Where were the shenanigans we were promised? How would buying 100 lottery tickets actually help - if he could see the future, surely he'd only need one? Why are we only being introduced to the existence of the ex at the end - if he'd been drinking to forget, that might at least have tied the piece up a little bit more.

On the plus side, using spelling mistakes to indicate drunkenness is a novel approach to typography. I don't know if it worked, exactly, but it does show some creativity rattling around there.

What I was not meant to know: The point of this story


Push - Hawklad

This was actually a strong entry, so nice job - just work on your timing.

A simple style that worked with the content. I felt the plot was a little on the cliched side, the stinky little intelligent humans doing over the noble, nature-attuned savages, but for all that it hung together with a few little stylistic flourishes to sweeten the pot (the sun blinks twice as they cross the threshold - had to think about this one, but when i got it I liked it). I also like that the violence was largely offstage, a decision I think worked in the story's favour.

I wasn't quite so clear on the provenance of the Shame/Remorse/Revenge bit. Was this being sensed by the shaman? How did revenge come into it? This felt like there was a prt of the story that was missing, and I'm actually a bit intrigued to learn what it was. As its stands, though, it lost some impact through that lack of clarity.

What I was not meant to know: The hope of the world is an utter bastard

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