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Jun 28, 2018

You weren't born to just pay bills and die.

You must suffer.

A lot.

ThirdEmperor posted:

Brawls will continue until the inkthirst of the Dome is quenched.

-slaps Steak with a pork cutlet-

It has come to my attention I have never brawled.
I accept the terms.
Do you turn your head in disgrace or accept this invitation to tea?


Mr. Steak
May 8, 2013

by Jeffrey of YOSPOS

-slaps Lippencott with whatever the gently caress a lippencott is-

How dare you confuse everybody by using my discord nickname in this thread! Brawl accepted!

edit; this is now the official LAST brawl post until more people sign up

Mr. Steak fucked around with this message at 03:52 on Jan 17, 2019

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

onsetOutsider posted:

How dare you confuse everybody by using my discord nickname in this thread! Brawl accepted!

Right, let's keep it to thread names and nicknames. That goes for IRC nicks, too.

Jun 28, 2018

You weren't born to just pay bills and die.

You must suffer.

A lot.

Voice Thief Crit for Mercedes

I believe this story suffers from inadequate footing at the beginning and stumbles through 800 words. I don’t know what a FUPA is, I don’t know how big Brad is as a result, and I don’t know why Dan is able to ‘sigh inwardly’ in one breath as if he’s inconvenienced by having to barricade himself into a bunker and then have panic claw up his throat in the next. We will come back to the bunker.

The urgency and terror that Brad is stricken by doesn’t match Dan’s attitude about the situation. There’s a brief attempt to match these seemingly separate narratives as ‘a sudden panic clawing up [Dan’s] chest with a realization’, but it is immediately squashed back down because he ‘needs to think clearly.’ Naomi has value in one sentence, but a paragraph stretch later, Dan isn’t willing to risk anything more than his son’s neck guard to save her.

Here we come back to where I think exposition could have engaged the audience. Instead of repeating ‘What the gently caress’ twice or adding in ‘the park?’ in the dialogue, a few more words to help me understand if this is a house (it has a banister?) or a military compound (it air locks?) can assist the audience in realizing what the stakes are. We still don’t know why Brad was naked and banging rocks over his head, and while I appreciate that nod to the prompt, including bestiary references should enrich the central plot and feel of the story – not detract from them by making the panic stricken Brad who has lost his love seem witless or silly. Without context, running around naked banging rocks over your head qualifies as both.

While Voidmart is an interesting name, it’s another distraction and it reduces the feel you’re trying to build. It reminds me of the setting in the podcast “Bubble” that Maximum Fun puts out, which is not horror or suspense. If Dan and Brad are so panic stricken, and a woman’s life is on the line, then ‘it’s like the wild west inside that store’ is a waste of words that could be put towards understanding what kind of a setting we’re in and why ‘mating season’ is significant.

The shift of perspective is awkward. I’m not sure why I care about Brad the silent guy or his wife but now I am forced to. More development/setting would have potentially eased this.

The written action in here is concise, clear and forms a solid climax. It would have had more power if we knew how big Brad was to begin with (see my FUPA complaint earlier) and that the neck guard was a piece of armor and not sports equipment. There’s also no reason to mention ‘four shots left’ unless you’re going to go through each of the shots. He blows the first one and the second, smacks the wolf upside the head and then gets into a wrestling match with the wolf. I’m not sure where he lost the gun, but I assume it’s the final shot that Dan uses to put the animal down. That’s the only piece of the overall action I got confused by, otherwise I think you write action sequences well and enjoyed the fisticuffs with a monster.

The one thing I disliked in the action sequence was Naomi. Not enough effort went into why I cared, so she shows up and has the ill effect of being a damsel in distress clinging to a 500 lb strong man sobbing with gratitude. If you can’t develop 3 characters in 800 words, use her as a plot device and consider just killing her. Dead Naomi may also explain why Brad can’t aim a shotgun earlier and needs Dan to save him.

The final sentence helps me realize why you left out words for Brad earlier because it’s a good zinger at the end.

Structure isn’t bad, action is solid, would definitely benefit from a bit of fleshing out if you had more words to work with and/or really paring down some of the pieces I mentioned earlier to focus on providing context for the audience.

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

in and :toxx: with


YOU, the Anagramancer, stare down the invading MANTICORE: Will you ROMANCE IT (turn to 123), give it CREMATION (turn to 213), or summon EROTIC MAN (turn to 312)?

Dec 30, 2011

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

a computing pun posted:

Screw it. It's been almost two months since November, I should be over having failed at a long-story contest already. Maybe failing at a short-story contest is just what I need to get past it.

In, and I'd like a sentence assigned please.

"Cowboy Bret said to Dave (another cowboy), 'Now let’s rustle up these cattles.'"

Yoruichi posted:


In and gimme a ridiculous opener

"Tagg could scarce believe his young eyes as they met the feast laid out richly before him: all manner of mealbreads, ripest canteloons, and—​by the Star!—​an entire bandersnort, carved and dripping."

Staggy posted:

In, I'll take an opener please.

"It was a time of darkness in the land of Gath-ka’noug. But then, out of the darkness, there shone a brilliant light. And the name of that light was: Horick the Elf."

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

ThirdEmperor posted:

Once my hanzo steel is drawn...

it cannot rest until it has tasted blood...

Two brave combatants enter the Chili arena. One clutches steel the other, a sling. They make fightin eyes at one another and just before the battle begins A TWIST NOBODY COULD HAVE EVER IMAGINED OCCURS!

The ground quakes as each combatant drops their weapon of choice. They scramble and OH MY GOD WHAT A loving TWIST

Third picks up the sling, and Slip picks up the sword!!!!

Brawl: Wrongful Weaponry

Third, your protag must use:

In a meaningful way in your story

And SlipUp your character must use:

In a meaningful way in your story

You each have up to 2,000 words, if you really feel you need them.

Take a week, write your bullshit, and report back here by 1/25/18 @ 10PM Eastern

Jan 31, 2015

A quick little mouse!

Bolt Lux posted:

Quit flashing those pearly whites and get in here - brawl me!

These pearly whites will soon be stained by the filthy substance that squirms through your carotid artery.

Flesnolk posted:

I jumped the gun because I was excited by all the brawls and put a prompt here. Do you accept the challenge, anatomi? If so toxx up and I've got one ready to go. Welcome to TD!

anatomi fucked around with this message at 13:31 on Jan 17, 2019

Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.

poo poo sons. Thanks for the solid crits!

Nov 15, 2012

What will you say when
your child asks:
why did you fail Thunderdome?

I'm in, give me a sentence

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔

I'm in, using this:

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

May 13, 2013

*chews on head*

Lipstick Apathy

anatomi posted:

These pearly whites will soon be stained by the filthy substance that squirms through your carotid artery.


What you'll soon find out is that I'm the CREEEEEEEEAM OF THE CROP, OH YEAH!


Jun 28, 2018

You weren't born to just pay bills and die.

You must suffer.

A lot.

onsetOutsider posted:

-slaps Lippencott with whatever the gently caress a lippencott is-

How dare you confuse everybody by using my discord nickname in this thread! Brawl accepted!

edit; this is now the official LAST brawl post until more people sign up


Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Few more crits:

Mercedes wolf
Sup merc. First up, there’s only one line between paras, not sure if you knew that! This is a decent stab at conveying the weirdness of mediaeval wolf theory, I like the tense conversation between brad and his buddy at the beginning and you do a solid job of conveying the raging tides of wolf-related emotion your man is living through. I’m basically ok with the voidmart ref, for all you don’t pay it off in any meaningful way as injokes, while intrinsically poison, are strongly on brand for you. The big problem is it’s really an incident rather than a story, so while your words are adequate, i’m left feeling vaguely disappointed, like after a tepid mcd’s hamburger.

Bad seafood the hunt

I feel like this is similar to the antlion one way back at the beginning, possibly atributable, as noted by my man yoda, to the essentially binary nature of shooting at an entity BUT also b/c stag involvement. So this is fundamentally a very solid piece with well-tooled words, clean clear characterisation and strong use of simple imagery - black trees, red blood, white snow. It also ends rather beautifully, and I feel the turn around that the protag and his target have in the last few paras. I think maybe its only real flaw is that the madness that spurs his final trip out to find the stag is described rather than felt. I think if you’d managed a para on the brother being broken, and bringing the madness of the war with him it would have landed harder and been genuinely excellent, rather than as it is a high quality, if chilly, exercise in style. Close to an HM though.

Shambam at least it’s an entry

Oh shambam. You know, it’s not that hard to meet a prompt - in your case all you'd need is a few references to (e.g.) pork, and salt water, and something being split open and you’d be fine. Oh, and change the title - be brazen, is what I’m saying. Anyhoo, this is actually fairly good as a nearsighted realist vignette - I enjoyed reading it and would read more in this voice. Just next time write it then take the ten minutes and turn it into a story by looking at the themes that your events reveal and find a through line, using the prompt as a guide and add a few words in the right place to evoke that. Then change the title.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Week 336 Crits Part 1

Dolash: The Lion’s Den

Well done on submitting early and not submitting a rushed mess. Your language is clear and clean throughout and does a pretty good job of setting the scene. You had a complete, if simple, story structure - scene, peril, struggle, triumph, reward. This isn’t a bad story.

On the other hand, it’s not particularly great. It is a very, very simple story and pretty cliché too. At the end of the day that was always going to limit your chances of placing anywhere higher than medium. There were three flaws that I could see:
  • The setting was generically fantasy and throwing in things like rifles and gas lamps pulled me out of reading it. Would a bow have been more cliché? Perhaps but it wouldn’t also have helped things flow. If you’re going to mix fantasy with newer technologies you really need to lean into it - which is admittedly hard to do with such a short word count.
  • Sometimes your language is too clear and precise. The fight scene felt very clinical and methodical - take the line “the plate protecting the antlion’s neck”. That makes it sound like the protagonist has experience fighting them or is calmly analysing the situation. Have the revelation come after the death, when he has time to breathe and analyse the situation.
  • The reward of the horse being healed felt unearned. Yes, the protagonist killed the antlion - but there’s nothing to link that struggle to the reward. Did the deer spirit help because he didn’t take the shot earlier on? Because he removed the antlion, which was eating the deer? Who knows?

All in all, a competent short story.

Bolt Crank: What’s Spine is Yours

I like that you really leaned into the voices you gave your characters, I really do. And I didn’t notice the choice of tense as much as the other judges. You had a simple but complete story and you worked the prompt in well.

The thing is, it really felt like you were going for a fable/morality tale/creation myth for naked mole rats but without ever fully committing to that tone. The inclusion of the paragraph about the first naked mole rats ended up feeling a little jarring and then everything after it ended up feeling unnecessary. You had half a fable and half a fun little woodland tale but together they ended up detracting from each other - they whole was less than the sum of the parts.

Again, I’d really like to see this focused fully on an oral tradition-style “how the naked mole rat got its teeth” or similar.

Yoruichi: Necessary Evil

I’ll admit, I’m really glad you submitted because I wanted to see how you were going to work in freaky mouth-sex ear-birth weasels. I think you made excellent use of the prompt - the nonsensical and monstrous births helped drive home this sense of the weasels being almost HR Giger-esque monsters to both the birds and the protagonist. Your language was clear and descriptive and fun to read.

There were a couple of points that I had to go back and re-read a couple of times - figuring out that he was at his grandfather’s house, for example. I think the biggest negative was a lack of any deeper meaning to the story. I kept thinking that it was leading up to some sort of parallel between the weasels attacking and the protagonist/grandfather relationship but it never really did. Not every story needs some deep symbolic link but I think a bit more depth would have rushed this firmly into HM/win territory.

I’ll definitely remember this one for a while.

HopperUK: Salamander

Maybe I’ve been listening to too many episodes of the Dollop dealing with early American colonies and the like but the scene you established and the desperate paranoia and accusations of the townspeople you described felt very real and grounded. Your writing was clear and easy to follow and I think you stuck the ending. I appreciated your use of the well-poisoning fact from your prompt.

Having said that, it was a bit of a missed opportunity when you passed over the fact that salamanders are incredibly cold per medieval lore, not hot. I thought that was where you were going with this: remaining cool, albeit cold and distant, under pressure (and fire). Maybe it’s a petty quibble, I don’t know.

Also, please, please, please vary your sentence lengths a bit. Too many of your sentences ran on and on and could have been two or maybe even three sentences instead and this gave everything a very rushed and breathless tone and you see how this sentence sounds now? You also have a tendency to repeat words in close succession: “easy”, “hid”, “thereafter”, etc. Unless you’re going for a specific effect, don’t do either of these.

Good work.

Simply Simon: A Nugget of Truth in Every Mouse

Ok, I’ll be honest: you very nearly lost this week. It all came down to an old question: is it better to have a good idea poorly executed or a bad idea competently executed. You definitely had a good idea and I really liked the twist at the end, that the father wasn’t stealing or hoarding gold. It was also a great way to work in two weird facts from your prompt. If you had really driven home early on that the accusations were all in the protagonist’s head - and that they weren’t a particularly reliable narrator - this would have been a really touching father-son relationship moment.

But my god, the prose. The dialogue. You’ve kindly ruled out ESL issues here so this was just a bad choice of style. The language buried a good story and made this very frustrating to read. We could go over things like varying your sentence length and proofreading (I do it out loud - it really helps) but before any of that you need to get a story down in plain language that doesn’t read like I’m having a stroke.

It really is a pity. Again, you had a rock-solid story idea and ending twist here. I’m looking forward to seeing what you submit next.

Auraboks: Peaceful Cohabitation

That’s a great opening paragraph. Fantasy monster odd-couple sitcom? I very much want to read that. You set up a great premise in very few words. I don’t really have much to say about your language after that - it’s all clear and competent and, while not fancy, doesn’t get in the way of the story.

The story, though … It can be summed up as “My roommate’s a jerk and kills me. The end. No moral!” I liked that it was quick and fast-paced but nothing really happened. Maybe if you’d set up something earlier about the manticore struggling against it’s split nature, the ending wouldn’t have felt like it popped out of nowhere. Hell, bounce the conflicted nature of the roommates as a couple off of the conflicted nature of the manticore itself - do something.

Benny Profane: The Onocentaur’s Revenge

You goddamn nerd. Good job using the hellrule. I enjoyed reading this - it was fun and creative and sympathetic. More than anything else, well done on managing “woah, imagine if you were actually inside a game of D&D” without the usual obnoxious wankery that usual brings along. There’s a clear story progression and you set things up with very little wasted wordcount. I also liked that the onocentaur came across as downbeat and sympathetic without being whiny.

I’d caution that with a concept like this you risk writing something too niche and just confusing the hell out of your readers. Relying on SA readers being huge nerds is a fairly safe bet though.

I’ll admit that you got a HM because this was sweet and dealt with the aforementioned technical challenges very well. Having said that, the ending fell flat (a common theme) and the protagonist doesn’t really do much. In a week with a few more words to spare I’d hope to see a bit more action fleshed out, especially in the ending comeuppance.

Pham Nuwen: El Oso

I really liked this story. Full disclosure, you were very close to a win. I liked the non-literal use of the prompt (although I’d have liked to see more bear qualities than just body shape) and there was good use of the flash rule. I thought the twist ending was very well done and very satisfying. I did initially read the prophetic dream as saying which mailbag the gold was in, so when El Oso goes rooting through them all it worked for me as subtle foreshadowing that the prophecy was junk. Then I re-read it, that wasn’t actually specified, and I was a bit disappointed.

It wouldn’t be a TD crit without picky spelling errors: “You will fall of your horse”.

There’s not much else to say. The ending was a bit abrupt but worked. Nice one.

flerp: The World is a Rat

This is a weird little piece and it does a good job of capturing that emotion of “god I wish I could just be a cat/dog/snake/etc.”. You fit quite a lot of backstory into a short word count.

I want to like this story more - it’s definitely not bad - but it didn’t really do much for me. Apart from that one note of emotion there’s not really any depth to it. Girl is sad. Girl turns into snake. It’s just someone running away from their emotions and not really learning or doing anything.

Theblunderbuss: One Last Job

Good use of the prompt. The caladrius takes illness upon itself and burns it out in the sun - Sand sacrifices themselves to let Bari get away, burning out in the process. That’s how you weave in the prompt - and the flash rule was deftly used as well.

Your ending felt more earned than some other stories this week but that’s not saying a huge amount. The last few lines didn’t really work - it’s just the protagonist being annoyed without tying back into any earlier part of the story. You also had a few clumsy sentences, like “Not long now since the gang was more than the two of them, but, well. poo poo happened.” It’s nothing that another pass, preferably reading out-loud, wouldn’t catch.

Entenzahn: A series of natural deaths

I’ll be honest: when i set the flash rule I was expecting “work” to be something like excavating or building. Assassination was not at all what I had in mind but you know what? You made it work. Murderous badgers shouldn’t work but this time they did.

I got what you were going for with the different scenes all connecting together but it took a re-read to really cement everything. You could have stood to get rid of the scene with the sheriff altogether - it didn’t really add anything. The line scoffing at witchcraft/etc. As opposed to killer badgers felt clumsy and unnecessary in particular. Other than that, all I can really criticise is the odd line here or there - “it crept up his body”, for example, seems far too slow and steady when a man is being mauled by badgers.

May 13, 2013

*chews on head*

Lipstick Apathy

Thank you for the crit, Staggy!

Jul 26, 2016

Saucy_Rodent posted:

La familia orfeo, please.

I did not forget, I just felt really guilty about it for a very long time. Here is crit:

Carmina had been worried that her family would be too embarrassed by the manner of her death to put her photo on the living room ofrenda, but there it was, right in the center and bigger than all the rest. There’s got to be a less clumsy way to say this. You have four ideas to convey - Carmina’s worry, the likelihood of family embarrassment, the need for a photo in the ofrenda, and the photo itself. That’s a lot. Carmina thought they'd use one of the pictures from her quinceañera, but instead they'd chosen a picture of Carmina laughing genuinely, taken while she wasn't looking. The family itself wasn't as somber as Carmina was accustomed to them being on the Day of the Dead. Instead, they were busying themselves with the wiring on a strange metallic wheel. Mamá, usually seen making everyone else feel guilty about not respecting the dead and eating too much candy, was sliding glowing green cannisters into receptacles in the side of the wheel, and Papá was tinkering with the battery instead of insisting he wasn't that drunk on the mezcal. This is a super long sentence. It kinda works, but also could have had the same effect if you split it in two before Papá

Carmina approached her older brother David. He was pouring deep-red powder into a gadget the shape of a tuning fork. He called something out to the rest of the family, but Carmina couldn't hear it. Living language had become muted and indistinct when she died. She called out his name, though she knew he would hear her as well as she had heard the ghosts on Days of the Dead past.

"David, I am here. Every year we did this ”this” refers to too much at this point, it could mean the whole glowing green canister and tuning fork business - aim for clarity and watch for ambiguity when using words like “this”, I thought it was a game, but I'm here now." But David continued filling the bizarre wandsThis is the bit where on firtst reading I felt you’d fallen too far down your gadget description hole - in reality I don’t think you have, but it might still work better if David only verbed a bit here, instead of verbing on the bizarre nouns. He can be busy with something, but you don’t need to hammer the ghost machine home here, I get it already.

Carmina wanted her family to say something to her, even if she couldn't understand it. She would know from their cadence and their tears if they were allowing her the forgiveness this four word thing jams up the whole sentence - you’re conveying a concept that’s good to convey, but it doesn’t pay off. Consider rewording to streamline she didn't deserve. Instead, they kept diligently working on the machine.

Papá said something with the tone of a question. Mamá nodded. David handed each of his parents a tuning fork, keeping one for himself. Mamá, Papá, and David gathered in a circle.

"What are you doing?" Carmina shouted, going through her parents into the center of the circle. "Why are playing with this toy? I've been gone all of two months, and these machines are more important than my memory?"

And of course they ignored her spirit amongst them as much as they did her picture on the ofrenda. Each held their tuning fork to their temple. Though Carmina couldn't hear their words, she knew they were counting down together.

"What are you doing? Have you forgotten me?" Carmina cried as she read David's lips.…... the ‘why aren’t you thinking about me’ doesn’t line up with the ‘I am surprised they’re not ashamed’ tone you set this story up with..

There was a bright red flash. When it had cleared, Mamá, Papá, and David still faced the middle of the circle, but their eyes were focused more specifically, their jaws agape, their eyes wide. Mamá was the first to speak.

"Oh, Carmina, thank God you're here. We knew you'd come." She started to weep.

"Mamá, Papá, David," said Carmina. "You can see me. You can hear me."

"We don't have much time," said David. "We need to get to business."

"I'm so sorry..." started Carmina.

"It doesn't matter. None of that matters," yeah, but like - it does? I want to see more of this grappled with rather than vaguely waved at. They’re cardboard mum, dad and brother without it said David. "A couple days after you diedpoo poo, that was lucky.., scientists announced they had discovered a new form of energy that the human consciousness is made out of. It leaks out of the brain after we die. But without the brain to keep it in place, the energy doesn't hold together very long. So when we die, we get a few months of..." He gestured towards Carmina. "But don't worry, sister."

"How can you see me?"

Papá held up one of the tuning forks. "These let our brains detect the energy you're made of for a few minutes."

"You have no idea what we went through to get our hands on the batteries to use these and the Stabilizer just once," said David. "Mamá got lucky on a scratcher, we sold all the cars, I know a guy at the university, I made a deal with some... it doesn't matter. What matters is you're here now, and we have an Ectoenergetic Stabilizer." He pointed to the giant wheel. "That will keep your ectoenergy together for another year. And then, next year, we'll figure out how to make the money to do it again. And again after that. We're going to keep you alive."

"No!" said Carmina. "This family will not go broke so I can be an invisible ghost."

"Carmina, were you here when we heard the news that you died?" yelled Mamá. Carmina shook her ghostly head. "This house was a tomb. When we learned that you were still here in this form, there was no question."

Carmina felt herself weeping, though her astral body had no water to expel. "I'm so sorry."

"We had so many chances to help you," said Papá. "And we just yelled at you every time. We're sorry." this dialogue is shorter, and worth so much more than your ‘you don’t know what we went through’ guilt trip - this is interesting, the other stuff not so much

"Look, Carmina. The money's already spent. Stay with us just one more year. We won't do it again," said David.

Carmina nodded. "And then you'll keep me alive in the same way we've been keeping family alive for centuries," she said, looking at the ofrenda. She stepped into the wheel.

"Stay around the house," said Mamá. "Just so we know you're with us."

"What do I look like to you?" Carmina asked as David activated the Stabilizer.

"You're wearing the dress you would wear to church," said Mamá. "You're so beautiful."

Carmina smiled gently. "I love you all so much."

The wheel ignited in vibrant green lights, spinning faster and faster. And as her family's voiced faded back into a muted blur, the emerald lights blended together in spectacular harmony. As she faded from their sight, Carmina looked proudly upon her family and felt a wonderful togetherness, a feeling of being made whole.

So, I said it in my judgefarts, and I think it bears repeating here. Look at the agency you give Carmina in this story. She stands in the middle of a room frustrated at her inability to express agency - she’s powerless while a scene unfolds around her. Then you make her manifest, and she’s all “here’s the thing I want” and they’re all “no, you want this instead because it’s what we want” and she’s all “okay then”. There needed to be more friction here imho

Solitair! I haven't forgotten yours either - incoming soon.

edit: This was for week 330, benevolent record-keepers.

steeltoedsneakers fucked around with this message at 23:19 on Jan 17, 2019

Apr 11, 2012


anatomi posted:

These pearly whites will soon be stained by the filthy substance that squirms through your carotid artery.


Bolt Lux posted:

What you'll soon find out is that I'm the CREEEEEEEEAM OF THE CROP, OH YEAH!


This is both this very thread about five minutes after I challenged SlipUp and the inspirational image for...

:siren: Boltomi brawl :siren:

Anatomi poked his head into the thread for just a moment to ask about the rampaging brawlers and immediately got dragged into the fray himself, much like a good old fashioned saloon brawl. That's exactly what I want you guys to write about, not just two drunks slap-punching but a full on bar battle where everyone in sight ends up dragged into the mess in one way or another until there's not a soul in the building that hasn't eaten a haymaker to the jaw at the least. But don't just give me a bare bones, what-you-see-is-what-you-get fight scene. I want a bar brawl as Greek tragedy and exploration of the human condition. I want hubris punished, the crushing weight of destiny, poor saps trying to avoid their fate only to bring it down on their own heads, fatal flaws that bring everything crashing down around you, compelling glimpses into the psyche of characters so real I could reach through my screen and touch them. If some poor sap just wanted to forget himself for a night and ended up going through some mountain of bullshit that could rival the Iliad or the Odyssey or the tale of Oedipus for pathos and the sheer cruelty of fate, you're on the right track. And whatever you do, don't just literally give me a retelling of a Greek myth or drama "but it's set in Cheers." I want something like Greek tragedy, not a modern day adaptation of literal Greek tragedy.

Word count maximum: 2000 words
Additional hellrules: *No pre-, post-, post-post, mid-, or otherwise apocalyptic stories; I'm just sick of 'em
* One additional rule per combatant available upon request; specify if you want a general flash rule or a challenge rule (things like "you can't use the letter i" or "no adjectives allowed")
Standard rules also apply. So no poetry, erotica, fanfic, quote tags, political screeds, bodily fluids, google docs, etc etc
Deadline: Thursday, January 31st, 11:59 PM PST

Flesnolk fucked around with this message at 03:49 on Jan 18, 2019

Jul 26, 2016

Alright, clearing my conscience for week 330, all sorted now.

Solitair posted:

Yes please.
Ok, here you go, a crit of Me and My Shadow:

A spindly, callus-caked hand clapped Aelfred on the shoulder as he turned to leave The Buckler and Blade. He whipped his head around and saw a man who looked like he'd been in one border skirmish too many. The man smiled kindly at him, but the split lip and the eyes glancing in opposite directions made reassurance difficult. "Scuse me, might I 'ave a word, young man?" he mumbled.I like this open - I know where I am, who the players are, and the tone you’re working with for the rest of the piece

Aelfred was a quiet, unassuming lad who fidgeted and preferred to blend in with the crowd. The antics of his friend Rurik sometimes made that impossible, but this tough wasn't from 'round here and wouldn't know about Rurik. What could he want with them? "Gotta go fetch more brandy, sir," Aelfred mumbled.lost a bit of pace on this para though - I don’t have many suggestions for how you’d do this better, beyond maybe finding a different way to introduce Rurik. Because you wrote the anime thing where they snap zoom in on the eyes of the protag and go “WHAT COULD HE WANT?” “DOES HE KNOW?” - none of us do, this is just weightless without the why behind his emotional reaction

He expected the man to tighten his grip, to insist on talking with a sharper voice. Instead, the man shrugged and let go. "Right, you do that." He pointed to an empty table on the balcony, which other patrons had ignored throughout the night. "I'll be there when you two get back."recovered well though, this is better pace.

An hour later, Aelfred finished unloading barrels into the storeroom and discovered the owner had no more errands for him and Rurikthe above “antics of his friend Rurik” stuff doesn’t quite sit with this - they’re either joined at the hip and Rurik is obvious, or they’re not and Rurik therefore isn’t also doing errands for the inn - not to spoil your reveal, but you don’t seem to have settled on whether it is RurikandAelfred or RurikisAelfredisRurik at this point. A glance into the main area confirmed that the deformed man sat where he promised he would, leaning on the railing and tilting back a mug of ale. Perhaps a few words wouldn't hurt.

The deformed man lowered his mug and saw Aelfred sitting across from him. "Westhan Cleft, at'cher service. Who might you be?" watch your accents for consistency - you used ‘ave earlier, so this would more likely a “oo” than a “hoo”.

"Aelfred, son of Orrin." He looked at the wall instead of Westhan's gazeyou probably return the gaze - bit hard to look at the invisibile vision vector.

Westhan nodded. "And the spook? Come on, don't be shy."

A disorienting wave washed through Aelfred. He was there and not there, watching himself lean forward and glare at Westhan with a face he could never wear on his own. "Rurik, son of Beltane, and I ain't a spook."when I first read this, you had the element of surprise - I thought then, and still think, that this was a strong conceit to work with. Knowing where you’re going though, and reading closely, I think you could have done a better job of the reveal - starting with the second para. Experiment to try, carve out everything that is a bit *taps nose* or suggests withheld information - write it as what we assume Westhan or any other observer sees. Then see if this para reveal works, and add back sparingly anything you think is essential to the payoff.

That got a laugh out of Westhan. "Of course, my mistake. Pleased to meet you both." He shook Rurik's hand, then let go of Aelfred's.nice.


Whatever matter brought Westhan to Rothfard-on-Whist, it allowed him to spend plenty of time with his new friends. They met at the Buckler and Blade the next day and the day after. In the streets that night,I mean, I know this is fantasy town, but you’re talking about a young lad becoming fast friends with a wizened old codger - people will side-eye that stuff generally, would maybe have been good to acknowledge with a “despite the bleh bleh bleh” or similar. You could use those extra words you cut by not trying to be clever in your opening paras. Aelfred let slip the tale of how Rurik lost his body in an accident. He probably want to chuck a past perfect ‘had’ up in this lingered slowly, long enough for Aelfred to taste despair, and when a local hedge mage offered a solution, Aelfred took it without thinking twice.yeah nah, you need to look at these tenses again - you’re working on two points in time in the past, but using the same tense for both

"He asked a lot of you," Westhan said, looking like he'd smelled blood in the air. "More'n anyone should ask a babe that age. Didn't your sires warn you about strange magicians and their tricksy deals?"

Aelfred clenched his hands and looked down at his feet. "I wasn't thinking. How could I? Rurik's my best friend, the reason I believe I can do anything worth a toss, then and now. Losing him would hollow me out and leave me to wither in the wind. I'd have See, Aelfred knew what tense it should have been in paid any price to stay with him."

"We offered our souls to no agents of discord," Rurik said. "Old Phelan meant well. He'd seen us born, and weren't about to see me dead."

Westhan twisted his lips further. "That may be, but good intentions ain't worth a pot to piss in. Did 'e know what 'is spell means for you down the line? Do you?"

Silence. They walked down the cobblestones, switching faces, caught between wanting to rebuke him and lacking the words.

Their sullen confusion I get it, but this feels clumsy/incongruous wording? made Westhan sigh. "Let me ask this, then: do either of you regret it? Would you take it back if you had the chance?"

Rurik shook his head right away. "No, sir. I cherish whatever kind of life I have.stroppy headstrong Rurik sure knows how to talk like a suck-up when he wants.. feels a bit ‘in-world’ but out of character Right, Aelfred?"

More silence.

"Right, Aelfred?"

"It's been hard, to be sure," Aelfred said. "Most people think Rurik's dead, on account of the grave, an' you know what they call me behind my back?"

"Aelfred Touched-in-the-Head," Westhan said. "Word travels fast here."this is the angle to introduce Aelfred’s problems with in that second para I reckon - not fidgeting and Rurik, just being known as the town weirdo.

Aelfred winced. "Yes. What's more, I'll never have a moment to myself again, and with everything Rurik wants to do, there I am, a millstone 'round his neck."

"Ugh, I keep telling you, that's not—" Rurik said.

"Alright, you've made your point," Westhan said. "We're almost there. I've a mind to show you something."


They came upon a cairn in the fields to the outskirts of town. It was roughly spherical, melted together with magic. The ground around it still bore scorch marks.

"When I were your age, the lords conscripted me in a war that didn't need fightin'. I made an' lost more friends than I can count, and not a once did a mage tell me I coulda kept their souls close like yours did."

Rurik walked up to the cairn and felt the smooth, lumpy surface, catching sight of a carved sigil. "Sorry for your loss," he said. "I can't say we'll be half as good to you as them, 'specially if you mean to chide us for our condition."

"'twasn't my intention," Westhan mumbled. "I ain't had much practice talkin' to people this long. Not many want the company of Westhan Cleft. But we ain't got nothin' if not other people, and you two looked sorely deficient in that regard, just as I am. You got each other, an' thank your lucky stars for that, but mayhap this town ain't rich enough soil for you to bloom together."

"You want us to leave? With you?"

Westhan nodded. "Might be opportunities out there, people who'd understand your situation. I know a mage or two might be able to give your souls a looking-over. Or you could haul barrels for pay." He shrugged and leaned against the cairn.

Rurik looked down and chuckled. "What say you, Ael? Should we give—"

"Yes!" Aelfred's face beamed, the brightest he'd looked since meeting Westhan.

"Good," Westhan said. "I have such wonders to show you."I’d cut this, feels twee. Or creepy. Either way, not as exciting as Aelfred being happy. There’s a balance to be struck between trying to write ‘fantasy dialogue’ and accidentally writing ‘Jane Eyre and SinjinSaintSinjin having a tea in the drawing room’.

I originally said something like: “I think this was the strongest fantasy conceit yet - but you didn't do heaps with it. The ending was competent, but felt twee. I feel like you could have done more with the conflict and Ael’s actions. “
I think that still stands. Your story beats were good - but if you break the Aelfred/Rurik relationship out what happens is 1) starting point of equilibrium 2) outside force imbalances it 3) conflict between Aelfred and Rurik is revealed they might fi - 4) outsider has a plan, everyone’s cool. Might have been good to see 3)’s conflict drawn out a little further with actual consequences to resolve in the last act. Otherwise, pretty rad, tight story. Didn’t rock my world or stir much in the way of emotion for me - so was middle of the pack rather than top - but it was a competent, pleasant read

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006


It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.


I noticed a few stories that had 0 crits and decided to crit them, since we are in the midst of a crit deluge and I’m a little too busy to compete this week.

Picture, If You Will - ThirdEmperor - Week 332

I’m 50/50 on the opening sentence. I see what you are trying to go for, and for a sentence as long as this opener is, it aaaalmost works. I think the problem is that some of the individual word choices feel a little hinky. A drumbeat “slithering” reads off to me, as does a pause “beading” -made me wonder if it was a typo and you meant “beat” given the amount of drum talk.

By paragraph two the prose feels overwrought. Individual phrases are very pretty–I love “the fog that streaks particulate moisture against their bare cheeks.” I am less fond of the rest.

“rain swollen sores” - hell yes. You have some great turns of phrase in this.

I love how dense and gross this is, but at the halfway point I’m unsure of the story itself. It is very literal to the prompt–you’re just describing a place, but I’m not getting a sense that this is building to a meaningful conclusion. I hope you prove me wrong!

I liked the puppet paragraph.

“Much will be made in coming days of the face on that poster but not among the dead, although plenty of the dead do not have a face to offer anymore” - GREAT line. Now we’re getting somewhere. I am eager to see where this goes.

All right, made it to the end, let’s see, final thoughts:

Once you got going, this was swell. I feel like the beginning could be half as long as it was and the story would not suffer for it. In fact, it would be better. You did well within the constraints of a the prompt and your prose had some delicious bits, but it was sometimes too rich, like a cheesecake I could only eat half of.

:) - Djeser - Week 152

I know this is old as gently caress, but Voidmart was one of my fave weeks to read even if I didn’t participate. So I’m critting your Voidmart story, bitch. Deal with it.

Love the use of caps in the remote control car’s name.

Wording like “made a loud, straining whine” is ineffectual when stronger verbs can do the job. Beware of ‘made’ and ‘had’ and ‘felt.’ Describe sounds and sights and sensations instead.

drat, Mark’s messed up, love that you sank your teeth right into that.

All right, I’m about 1/3 of the way in and not much has happened yet. While this is all amusing setup, I am hoping a plot happens soon.

Mark feeling bad about spooking the bird doesn’t quite jive with his earlier urge to make animals suffer. I was preparing for Mark to be a psychopath-type personality, so that came out of left field a bit. Let’s see if it ends up Story Relevant!

It’s weird that the reader knows what the text says when you mention Mark not paying attention–did he read it? This isn’t clear. Trying to figure this out pulled me out of the story.

I love the imagery of a bored dude making RC car rollerskates. It’s dumb as hell but very funny.

Use of “made” again really weakens Taylor’s reaction to finding the phone. Should just have him throw it or drop it or talk about how he suppresses the urge, otherwise it loses emotional immediacy.

Similarly, the sentence about the shoes zipping past would be stronger without “taylor watched” at the beginning. We know Taylor is watching it. He’s there. He’s the POV character.

Love that last line.

This whole thing had a real Welcome to Night Vale vibe that you mostly pull off! My biggest quibble was the texts. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense for readers to know what the texts said when you mentioned more than once that Mark was ignoring them and the POV was so close-in.

Overall it was an amusing story with a nice creepy ending worthy of its redemption tag.

I bet you write way better than this by now since it’s been three goddamn years, but hey.

Aftermath - Kaishai - Week 332

I am immediately drawn in by “and its glass sphere.” Puts the reader in an immedite sci-fi frame of mind. Noice.

Also love “as soon as it remembered.” Makes me wonder what happened to the people in the room to cause them to forget. You’re doing a great job of foreshadowing here with few words.

The ‘other presences’ and ‘absences’ lines are a little weaker after such a strong opening. I can’t quite tell if you’re saying that the absent things were in the room and are now not, or if they should be and were never. Your level of ambiguity was pitch-perfect at the start but veers toward too murky here.

For such a strong opening, the ending was kind of meh. I got that the lab synthesized a baby, which is neat, but the reveal felt a little underwhelming and purposeless. I think in order for this story to hit home, we need to know just a bit more of the why behind the experiment, even if it’s offered as tantalizing breadcrumbs rather than a purposeful reveal.

I reread this one a couple of times because I felt like I was missing something, and it left me wondering whether I was just too dumb to get what you were hinting at or if the hints didn’t quite add up to a coherent story.

Given the constraints of this week’s particular prompt, it definitely wasn’t bad, but one thing to remember in the future is that there’s such a thing as too mysterious and opaque.

Aug 7, 2013




onsetOutsider posted:

-slaps Lippencott with whatever the gently caress a lippencott is-

How dare you confuse everybody by using my discord nickname in this thread! Brawl accepted!

edit; this is now the official LAST brawl post until more people sign up

Lippincott posted:

-slaps Steak with a pork cutlet-

It has come to my attention I have never brawled.
I accept the terms.
Do you turn your head in disgrace or accept this invitation to tea?

Okay, one more time

By 9:30 CST January 18th
You will both post a story of at most 2000 words
About Eldritch Horror and Tea

Since this is a small window of time, don't feel obliged to use all 2000 words, just throw your best poo poo and hope it sticks to your enemy's face.
Brawlers, good luck, and may you anoint yourself in ink.

Apr 25, 2017

I'm IN for the weekly challenge.

Please give me a sentence, if it's not too much trouble.

Dec 30, 2011

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

Entenzahn posted:

I'm in, give me a sentence

"Agent Jeffrey’s trained eyes rolled carefully around the room, taking in the sights and sounds."

Rad-daddio posted:

I'm IN for the weekly challenge.

Please give me a sentence, if it's not too much trouble.

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

Dec 30, 2011

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

Crits for Week 329, Fun-Sized Thunderdome, Part 1

Overall thoughts on the week: pretty good! There are a lot of stories I enjoyed this week, and overall I'd say it went well. Not sure I have a ton of deep thoughts about this one.

Djeser, "gently caress Space. Just gently caress It."

There's not a ton to this other than the character voice and space loving, and that's fine. I think it's a successful enough piece for what it is; I'm particularly fond of the phrase "she-bull soybeef." It's kind of shallow and jokey, which I think is why it didn't mention (guess who didn't actually keep judging notes for this week? GOOD WORK SELF), but I liked it fine.

Erainor, "The Red Tide"

This one reminds me of a saying from the Turkey City Lexicon: "I've suffered for my art, and now it's your turn," where an author does a ton of research for their work and then dumps it all on the page in lieu of a story. I feel like this was researched, and I commend that, but the actual story is pretty much all exposition, with essentially no character work or other sorts of depth. There's gestures at the personal consequences of the events, but it's not followed up on, when it really should have been. You tried, and I appreciate that you tried, but it's important to take your preparatory research and work it into a narrative instead of just dumping it on the page straight.

Thranguy, "Summerlands"

This is a decent enough piece, but I'm kind of wondering if this length wasn't the right one for it. It's got a nice breezy fable tone, but the main character is a cipher, which I feel like undercuts a lot of it, especially the ending. Here's this guy with a nigh-infinite capacity for sorrow, an interesting allusion to "failed chemical balms," and fae-level business acumen, and we never learn a single thing about him beyond these basic characteristics that drive the plot. The result feels kind of hollow.

(An aside, although it's not hugely relevant to this story: I am kind of sick of reading domestic violence/abuse stories in Thunderdome, to the point that I've considered putting it in my rules posts. This case isn't too egregious, but boy, am I tired of it. Use this judge trivia as you will.)

derp, "Eat"

This first story in the Derp Trilogy is probably the best of the three, just because it's at least making an attempt at having a setting and plot. I'm not sure it makes a ton of sense -- making the meat-machine-things act like stereotypical capitalists seems a little on the nose, and it's hard for me to buy that the narrator is the first guy who just thought of eating the loving things before now -- and the prose ends up, ironically, kind of flavorless, but whatever, it's an SF allegory, it's fine. Not amazing, but a decent enough effort.

derp, "The Rich"

This is basically a political cartoon in story form, and not a particularly good one. It's unsubtle and pretty trite, and it's hard to see any attempt here to elevate these characters beyond drawings labeled THE WORKING POOR and MONEY-GRUBBING BANKSTERS. The scenario isn't terrible at being political satire -- it's on the nose, but amusingly absurd -- but this just can't get around having a pretty shallow message and not trying to do anything besides convey that message.

derp, "For Thanksgiving"

See all the stuff I wrote above about "The Rich" being unsubtle, shallow, and trite? Intensify that, remove references to the scenario being non-terrible, and add scatological revulsion, and you have my reaction to "For Thanksgiving." I don't mind stories being unpleasant to read, but if you want to go to the well of being actively unpleasant and/or using bodily substance stuff, you have to write something that's worth it. This is manifestly not worth it. The characters and scenario are even flatter than "The Rich," and I don't even feel like you were working to write decent prose here. I agree with your political points, but I feel insulted you felt like you had to make them with this thing.

Saucy_Rodent, "Kimberly"

I know you were concerned about the initial paragraph here, but I think it works well. It's a bit rudimentary, but it gets the idea of Kimberly as repetitive-rhythmic thought in the narrator's head across. I think it's well-balanced by the rest of the piece being relatively prosaic, too; experimentation is often stronger in small doses. Overall, I think this is decent stuff -- a nice idea, mostly explained but sometimes getting to sing -- and I'd like to see you try more writing in this sort of sentimental vein.

autism ZX spectrum, "Detour"

This is not what I expected to get from this lyric, but in retrospect, that's on me. I mentally sorted it into the same pile as Djeser's: "this is a little wacky and thin, but it's perfectly fine for what it is." The character work is a touch better -- I appreciate Jdog420's ingenuity in the face of his extremely stupid life -- but it's still just a dumb little SF piece, and that's fine. It hits its mark reasonably well.

Yoruichi, "My Ex-racehorse"

As a vignette mostly about experience and sensation, I think this works well, but I would have liked to see more personality from the horse, given that the whole thesis of the story revolves around "do horses enjoy being ridden?" We get some of this, at the end and in the part about an invitation, but it's not as complete as I'd like; the phrasing about gears and levitation evoke mechanical imagery, which doesn't fit with the central idea of the horse as a partner and intelligence of its own. Still, the sensory language here is quite striking, and I think the piece works well on that level.

Saucy_Rodent, "Pink Glow"

This story has an interesting initial conceit but sort of winds down as it goes, ending with one of the most troublesome cliches of TD writing: "someone dies/murders someone else at the end for no good reason." I wonder if this story would also be better at a longer length, so you could really dig into the central conceit and give the protagonist a more plausible escalation from "recovering via hallucination-detection implant -> implant goes wonky, condition deteriorates -> murder?" This needed more of an arc and more of a chance for the characters to breathe.

Sitting Here, "Strange Silk"

I really liked this one. There's a nice interplay here between the silkworm narrator, the spider other-self who lends the narrator emotions it might not otherwise perceive, and the terrible, omniscient human "you." For creatures that aren't really anthropomorphicized beyond broad sapience, there's still some depth of character here, and I really enjoyed it. I don't have a ton of criticism for this one; it's well-executed and a good read.

Yoruichi, "I Have No Need of God"

I think this is the strongest of your pieces this week. The supernatural encounter idea here nicely done, and the inversion of the standard fear-and-trembling narrative is refreshing. This is an excellent character portrait, despite relatively sparse detail, of someone whose sins (drawn just enough to let us know they're real and serious) are identity and lifeline. The ending is also solid. Like I mentioned earlier, I didn't take judge notes for this week, but this was near the top of the no-mentions and may have HMed on another day.

BabyRyoga, "Inspiration"

This is kind of entertaining, but I'm really not sure what's going on here. The impression I get is that the two speakers are involved in some kind of tall-tale-telling improv exercise or competition? I feel like there's definitely some structure going on here, but I can't quite place it, and in practice it's... well, kind of an old guy telling me a shaggy-dog story. A shaggy-wolf story?

Yoruichi, "Everything is Going to be Okay"

This is another one that I think may have needed some more words to really turn into something. As it stands, it's pretty thin: an extremely archetypal argument, characters who aren't developed beyond their sides in the argument, and an ending I'm not sure quite reaches feel-good status given that there still seem to be a lot of problems at play. (Mary is reassured, but can James actually work less, or are they going to be in the same place a month for now? Are they completely hosed if James gets fired for this stunt?) A big moment of emotional catharsis is all well and good, but in this case it doesn't feel earned.

Apr 25, 2017

Bot Builder

953 words

"All humans work at The Factory, which is run by robots and it makes more robots." Joel yelled hoarsely. His voice startled the other workers. While they watched on in confusion, he clawed at his uniform, a loose-fitting grey jumpsuit and screamed, “All humans work at The Factory, which is run by robots and it makes more robots!”

Joel picked up his standard-issue pneumatic rivet gun, the tool that he’d been handed ten years ago when he was assigned to the workstation that he was currently freaking out in. Sarah, Joel’s friend and fellow assembly line slave, looked at his fingers as they went white with the manic grip that he now had on the rivet gun.

“Joel, are you ok-” Sarah’s concern turned to horror as Joel placed the barrel of the tool under his chin and pulled the trigger.

She closed her eyes and turned in time to miss the gore that splattered on the ceiling above them, but she still felt the warm spray of his blood on her cheek. Her shock turned to quiet sobs, while the other workers tried to look busy to avoid confrontation by the supervisor bots.

Like clockwork, a supervisor bot wheeled over to her. An articulated metal arm extended from the smooth white carapace of the robot. At the end of the arm was a camera lens that seemed to peer at Sarah with silent contempt. She glared at it with narrowed, teary eyes while her hands trembled with anger and fear. After a few seconds, it swung around to survey the scene, and paused to scan Joel’s remains with the same personified contempt. The entire work line was now shut off, and the unnerving silence was only disrupted by the quiet whirring of servos as the supervisor bot extended another arm to snag Joel's bloody corpse and deposit him in the “human remains” container that it towed behind it.

The remaining slaves looked straight ahead, and kept their hands on the table, until the bot wheeled quietly away.

After some time, the other slaves gathered around Sarah. They knew that she and Joel were close. They didn’t know for sure if her and Joel were already a couple. It wasn’t allowed by management, yet their short-lived relationship was theorized and gossiped about nonetheless in their work pod. The workers all offered condolences and hugs while darting their eyes back and forth to keep watch for any other supervisor bots.

A loudspeaker crackled overhead and blared, “GET BACK TO WORK!”

Everyone went back to their workstations and the assembly line began moving again. A few minutes later, another bot came by and deposited a fresh new human rivet gun operator. The confused and scared man looked at the blood and brains on the metal floor underfoot and shuddered. He began riveting just like Joel had been doing for years prior. Now Joel’s body was off to the hopper, off to be turned into food mush for the cafeteria.

Sarah figured that the brain infection that had been causing random suicides was coming from the food recycler unit. The sick and suicidal were just fed to the other workers. They all hated this place, but the only things humans could do were to serve as robot assemblers or serve as a source of easily converted proteins and enzymes for the food recycler units.

Sarah’s job was to do final programming on the bots that rolled or walked off the line. Today, she was doing the final ROM coding for a line of very sturdy work bots. They were lumbering, utilitarian bipedal machines built for demolishing the last of the world’s human-occupied buildings. On each bot there were a pair of arms that held integrated jack hammers and sledge hammers. They were crude, but effective, at breaking apart anything.

No one knew it, but Sarah had been making tweaks to the control programming late at night. A few lines her and there, so the scanners wouldn’t pick up the changes. She’d also managed to cobble together a hand-held controller from discarded parts. She looked to her left, at the hundreds of completed work bots that had accumulated in her area. They spanned out of eyesight.

She took her makeshift controller out and extended the antenna. Sarah clenched her jaw and pressed the button on it. At first nothing happened, and she feared that her plan had failed. Then, one by one, some of the work bots came to life and seemed to stand erect at her command. One of the bots walked over to her, its thunderous footfalls jarring and rattling the small tools from her workbench.

Standing at almost triple her height, it seemed to look down at her like an obedient large animal.

A supervisor bot rushed to her location, its rubber wheels squealing on the metal flooring. It extended the articulated arm to scan them both. Sarah trembled while it scanned her, then she turned to her newly-compliant work bot and said, “ATTACK!”

The work bot grabbed the camera arm and folded it in half. The supervisor bot emitted a grinding groaning noise as it tried to operate the mangled arm. It began sending out an alarm, but the work bot swung its sledge arm in a wide overhead arc and caved in the supervisor bot in one swing. There was silence, save for the sound of shorted electronics and dripping hydraulic fluid from the ruined bot. The work bot turned and looked to Sarah to await more commands. More bots powered on and also came to stand around her.

She walked over to the mangled and smoking remains of the supervisor bot and said, “That’s for Joel.”

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Week 336 Crits Part 2

Hawklads: Goats in the Shell

I like a good pun as much as the next person but the title didn’t really fit the story. Having said that, this was a fun read. You managed to capture a tone I really enjoy reading - not wacky, not goofy, just slightly skewed. Writing a jokey concept like this without being obnoxious can be tricky and you pulled it off.

There’s a tone of resigned exasperation to this story that suits it well. There’s not much tension - I think it works, although a little excitement wouldn’t go amiss. I don’t really have much to say about this one and I think that’s its shortcoming - despite the unique concept I don’t think I’ll remember this a month from now.

Lippincott: Harnessed Loyalty

What I liked most about this story was how you characterised the dog - daft and energetic but not sappy. It felt like a very realistic experience with a dog that has too much energy. You did well with one of the more mundane animals and no flash rule or hell rule.

Having said that, I feel like this story needed to be either 200 words shorter (chopping out some of the backstory) or 200 words longer (developing the action). Reading this felt very relaxed and steady until BAM the action has come and gone. In a sense that’s good - it reflects the idea of gliding along on a sled until you’re rudely interrupted. On the other hand, the actual story feels a bit too rushed, buried under the setup.

SlipUp: Man’s Law, God’s Law and Fishy Law

I like that you went for one of the more subtle aspects of your prompt, delaying litigation. I like that you tried to not just go “This happened and then this happened” - you broke up the story and moved the chunks around a little in the flashbacks and dialogue. It’s ambitious and that’s good.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work. Skipping back and forth between explanations of what happened just leaves the story feeling confused and opaque. The lack of dialogue attribution really doesn’t help. Besides which, the plot doesn’t really make sense. Your protagonist (wholly unlikeable and not in an interesting way) doses a guy’s communion wine and pretends to be a priest to hear his confession. Why? Why did he need to dose him - if you can get in the booth why do you need the other guy to be tripping balls to not know who you are? There’s no real motivation, the characters all feel very flimsy and the attachment to the prompt is very strained. The ending makes no sense and just feels artsy for the sake of artsy.

And for the love of god you only need one line between paragraphs what the hell.

Antivehicular: Hungry Birds in Dying Forests

What stands out to me most is the good job you do of drip-feeding worldbuilding in a very efficient manner over the course of the story. The sense of urban darkness and abandonment, coupled with the few points of light that shine through, give a vivid impression of a dark forest despite there not being a tree in sight. You keep weaving things back into the prompt and the world becomes more coherent for it.

I particularly like the dialogue at the end. You really capture that desperate, rushed pleading. It read like something out of a horror movie or a particularly bad dream - the effect was unsettling and set up the ending very well.

I mean, you won. I don’t really have much criticism.

Devorum: A Princely Reward

Going into this knowing the flash rule, it’s fairly obvious where everything is headed. That’s not to say this is a bad thing - I was interested to see how you made the whole sword-in-the-stone thing stand out. Turns out you did that by just having the protagonist die at the end, which is a running theme this week and not particularly interesting. Throw in some jumbled politics and factions - not bad but far too ambitious for 1000 words.

I like the idea at the heart of the story and I’m a sucker for Robin Hobb-esque low fantasy political shenanigans. It’s all just a bit too much for flash fiction. “The protagonist dies at the end! No moral!” may be possible to do well but it’s very hard and this isn’t it. I feel like you had a solid base to build on - I’d be interested to see you tackle this in, say, 2000 words.

Anomalous Blowout: The Heretic’s Fork

This is another story where, knowing the flash rule, you can see where things are heading from very early on. In this case that’s no bad thing - it really helps drive home the rising tension. The prose gets a little purple at times - execrable, for example - but it just about works, given the rich, gluttonous setting.

This got a HM for a reason and that reason is that it’s a clever use of the prompt/flash rule and there’s not a whole lot to criticise. If I had to find something, it would be that the pace feels fairly steady throughout - a little upping of the tempo towards the end might give more of a rising panic.

Jun 28, 2018

You weren't born to just pay bills and die.

You must suffer.

A lot.

Mushroom Hunting
Prompt Eldritch Horror and Tea, Brawl with onsetOutsider
Words 1,975

“You have to cut it in half to be certain-”

Hazel carefully pulled the bulbous base of the mushroom from the soil as she spoke.

“-but I’m pretty sure this is a Lycoperdon of some sort.”

The Latin rolled off her tongue easily, and I turned to regard her wizened features. She caught my quizzical expression and clarified, “A puffball of some kind.”

Usually we forage for edible portions of the forest closer to home, but it was too early in the season to find what we were looking for at lower elevations. Bored of chanterelles and morels, Hazel agreed to help me navigate the difference between a Puffball and a Destroying Angel. Their common names were self-explanatory as to why proper identification was critical.

As she turned the mushroom over in her experienced hands, I waited for the deliberations to complete. Underneath the thick canopy of the old trees, the light was poor and guttering. I pulled out my cell phone and thumbed the flashlight on, illuminating the cross-section of white fungi in Hazel’s hand. A crown interrupted the otherwise smooth flesh at the top of the bulb and Hazel tapped the demarcation with the knife’s tip.

“Is it?” I ask, unable to hold my enthusiasm back any longer.

With a sigh, Hazel shakes her head as she brings the specimen closer to the light and clarifies. “No. This is Amanita. Likely Western Destroying Angel.” She holds it out and once again taps the place where faint lines disrupt the interior flesh of the mushroom. “This is where the cap will spring from. It’s in a button stage now, often mistaken as a puffball, which is why you have to bring an old broad like me along.”

I take the mushroom with my free hand, considering the hidden structure of a future cap. While the buttery taste of chanterelles first drew me to foraging, it was the Amanita who solidified my respect and fascination. What I held in my hand could destroy my internal organs with no remedy or antidote. The symptoms of poisoning lied too, producing the typical cramping shits initially after consumption. Those subside after a few days, giving the illusion that all has passed, but damage continues to occur. Death ultimately seizes the poor idiot who ate one anywhere from a week to two weeks after consumption.

“You don’t see these often, right?” I queried as I dropped the remains of the mushroom into my pocket to photograph more closely at home. Hazel nodded and wiped the blade of the mushroom knife off.

“No, but you certainly want to recognize them when you do. Come on; let’s gather some elderberries for tea and start back home before that rain rolls in.”

Together we made our way back down the winding game path. Hazel’s foraging basket bounced against her hip as it dangled from an elbow, and I regarded its meager contents with wry amusement. Three hours of hiking, two of driving, and we had less to show for it than twenty dollars would secure at the grocery store. The bed of thick pine needles muffled my boots, the anticipation of a storm quieting all sounds of life in the forest. In the distance, I heard the rain begin to pelt the trees.

The path was tight here and overgrown. As Hazel gathered, I continued to look back from whence we had come, confirming we were still pointed in the right direction. Edging around the bushes and ferns that clawed apart the path, we struggled through bramble clusters and across old rotted logs. I pulled my pack forward and reached inside for the map and compass I had stowed to check our bearings. Hazel turned when she heard me sigh.

“I forgot the map and compass.” I admitted guiltily. “Well, I remembered them, but they are still in the car.”

The wrinkles around her eyes creased with a gracious smile and she looked owlishly out from the cowl keeping her hair dry. “Oh, I think we will be okay. I’m pretty certain we came from this direction.”

Hazel had also been ‘pretty certain’ the Western Destroying Angel was a puffball, but I dutifully followed her circuitous path. Elderberries for the thick purple tea she often brewed for a sore throat filled out the basket that weighed down her elbow.

The wind whipped through the higher branches, pressing the trees down under the weight of the storm despite their groaning protests. The boughs twisted about one another and in the distance, I could hear the snapping of limbs as the skeletal denizens of the forest resisted the wind’s pressure. I huddled tighter in my jacket, trying to discern the path from the undergrowth.

The mud sucked at my boots, and as rain permeated the forest floor, the thick smell of wet rot hit me. Hazel must have sensed it too, because she paused and looked over her shoulder at me with a disgusted sound in the back of her throat.

“Seems like we may be close to something we shouldn’t be. Likely a bear or a cougar stashed something up in the rocks here. Let’s be on our way.” Her voice was loud, projecting through the deluge to warn whatever beast we may have surprised of our presence. I doubted any forest dwellers would brave this weather for two wandering morsels. I shouted back over the next gust of wind, “I don’t know where we are.”

A moment of indecision skittered across her face as she second-guessed herself. It vanished with her smile and she simply chimed, “Oh we only have a bit farther to go. It’s just up here to the left some more, and we’ll find the road.”

Left and right directionals are useless in the woods. Without a compass bearing, we needed to start looking for shelter. I opened my mouth to say as much, when a sheering scream of splitting wood and tearing fibers announced one of the gnarled trees had breathed their last. It collapsed maybe fifteen paces ahead of us, where we would have stood if not for Hazel’s wandering step while foraging. The ancient trunk sagged through the other trees as their boughs attempted to hold it up. It broke through their grasp with shotgun blasts of bursting wood. As it settled into the earth with staccato pops of final limbs snapping, the odor of old meat left in the sun hung heavy in the wet air. Hazel fell backwards into me, dropping the foraging basket as she attempted to cover her nose with a sleeve. The elderberries spilled across the rank mud.

The puddles forming under our feet were fetid and black, roiling with the pelting torment of the raindrops. Wherever the smell had originated from, it pervaded in the soil among this grove of trees. I swallowed thickly around the bile forming in the back of my throat from a mixture of revulsion and fear while thumbing on my cell phone’s flashlight. “Here, we just need to get around the tree and head left. If we can’t find the road, we will turn back and shelter up in the rocks.” I nervously offered. Hazel nodded mutely, picking up the now filth-stained basket and shaking as I held out my hand to steady her. “It will be fine,” I tried to assure both of us; “It’s just a storm. Nothing we haven’t seen before.”

The light flickered in my hand, popping in and out of existence in a warning strobe. I looked down at my phone and groaned at the low battery symbol. It had been almost full only an hour ago. Had I accidentally left the flashlight on in my pocket? I turned it off to conserve battery in case we could find a signal to phone for help, and moved to guide us both around the tree when Hazel went rigid against my arm.

As if the mud itself had reached up to root her to the ground, she was staring down at the place where the elderberries had spilled. Her jaw hung slack with mute horror, the usually soft-lined features drawn tight around her widened eyes. I followed her gaze and stared uncomprehending. White pinpricked the shiny, black skin of each berry where it had fallen in the muck, set like pupils against the dark purple color. The berries shifted and turned with inexplicable sentience, as if attempting to focus their newfound sight. Expecting a trick of the light, I looked up to the murky skies with a confused, “What the-?”

Hazel screamed. Every elderberry was riveted upon me, their ability to focus undeniable. As Hazel’s scream strangled into a whimper, the wet earth under our feet boiled, pressing the swarm of black eyes together. The mass of mud and forest detritus gurgled upwards, pressing the berries on top of a periscope head. Mud leaked down the horror’s sides in slow oozing clumps like puss draining from a wound. The ‘head’ canted to one side, following Hazel’s voice as a dog may a high-pitched whistle. It regarded us for a long moment.

The smell hit me in full, as if by birthing the monstrosity, the forest had to retch up buried and decomposing flesh from the mire. Despite my instincts begging my panicked mind to run, I vomited. My legs locked in place, but I heard the wet squelch of Hazel tearing herself out of petrified fear and scrambling to run away. The construct of mud and rot surged over my head, spraying my rain slicker with black sludge that should have been nothing but wet dirt. Yet it clung hot to my face, and deep in the grit of it, I could feel things moving and wriggling like louse trying to burrow through the fabric of my skin. I writhed while screaming wordlessly, stripping away my clothing in a desperate attempt to get away from the fetid parasites nudging against my pores.

My scream was joined by Hazel’s, high and sharp like a rabbit’s shriek as the monstrosity smashed down upon her fleeing back and broke against her like a wave on the shore. It cut her wail in half and suffocated out any further sounds under a wet squelch. I lay still in my own terror-spawned refuse, listening to the suckling noises of thousands of mouths pulling apart flesh underneath that horrible collection of eyes and filth. I let the cold of the forest floor erase all memories of how hot the creature’s touch was, hoping the earth would swallow me whole and bury me before that thing did. I waited to die with the grim determination of a mind that knows there is no surviving such things.

I don’t recall when the hikers found me there. I overheard the hospital staff say I was deep in hypothermia when the rescue crews arrived. With every change of the staff, they told me how lucky I was to be alive after eating the wrong mushroom and getting lost in the woods. I couldn’t sleep. Whenever I closed my eyes in recovery, I saw the blackness rising up behind my eyelids and felt the hot splatter of thousands of mouths nudging against my skin. When I screamed, the doctors told me this too would pass, assuring me my hallucinations were the last effects of a psychedelic in my system. They kept asking me if I knew where Hazel was. There was no trace of her but the basket, empty and covered in mud.

Recovering in the hospital bed, I asked the nurse to pass me my coat. Digging into the interior pockets, I pulled loose the remnants of the Amanita button and pressed it into my mouth. I chewed slowly to ensure the bland flesh was nothing more than a paste. Then I swallowed.

They were wrong. She was the lucky one.

Lead out in cuffs
Sep 18, 2012

"That's right. We've evolved."

"I can see that. Cool mutations."

Thunderdome goes to the moon (literally)

Hi all, your resident scientist and bad writer of fiction here (the latter is how you tell me apart from crabrock :v:).

I am somewhat involved in a project to laser-etch a bunch of human knowledge (and some copies of the human genome) onto sapphire-encased discs and leave them on the moon. You can read more about it here:

At a meeting today, it was offered that we (some of the people helping with encoding the genome) could put some random-ish content on the disc. This immediately made me think of Thunderdome. After some sounding the idea out with Kaishai over IRC, and with the guy responsible for the genome (and some other content), I've come up with the following:

If you have won at least one Thunderdome, and want your writing to be immortalised on the moon, send me the following by PM or email (leadout5 at gmail dot com):

1. The title of a winning TD entry you wrote
2. The first sentence from that entry
3. The last sentence from that entry
4. Your name as you would like to be credited on the disc (forums usernames might actually be more hilarious here?)

These will be typeset in 6x6-pixel text on the disc (only visible under microscope, but readable without any equipment fancier than a microscope).

Deadline 12pm Friday 1 Feb PST.


1. The person actually responsible for the content (I'm just a helper) wants to ensure there is a "story" or "game" involved in anything placed on the disc. What he will do is mix up the first and last sentences (and possibly the title, I'm not sure), and leave matching them up as a puzzle for the aliens/post-humans/uplifted cephalopods. Be sure that you are OK with this!
2. It's not 100% guaranteed that this actually makes it to the moon -- the rocket might explode, the lander could fail, etc. Blame Audi, Vodaphone or Elon Musk if this happens.
3. From what I've heard, there are big egos involved at the top. I'm just putting this out there in the unlikely event that this somehow gets cut entirely or doesn't make it. (I don't think this is likely, but I don't like making hard promises about things over which I don't really have much control.)

I'll keep folks posted when a launch date gets announced. I can probably get hold of an image of how this'll be represented before then, and at some point there should also be a zoomable map of the disc (like the one on the above site) which you can use to see your work.

Mr. Steak
May 8, 2013

by Jeffrey of YOSPOS

Prompt: Eldritch Horror and Tea, Brawl with lippencott

The Mad Tea Party
496 words

Gregory chorgled to himself as the sweet liquid dripped thickly across his taste receptors. "A most splendid display, chef!" he uttered through his utterance hole, miming the action of clapping as best as his limbs would allow. "Earl Grey is my favorite! More! More!"


While visibly complying and clearing away detritus with his right appendage, Gregory secretly extended his favorite left proboscis to continue slurping some tea from under the table.

Gregory had worked with several newcomers before, and was quite proud of his performance with them. It was no surprise to Gregory that they would send a problematic one his way.

The next morning, Gregory awoke to screaming. The newcomer must be a male! Gregory thought excitedly, prying his eyelids open with enthusiasm. Seated at Gregory's right was a classic human male, that you could find in any anatomy book under "Human - Male."

The human was thrashing pathetically against his restraits. "Sooo, what's your name?" Gregory attempted.

The human responded to Gregory's ululation with an above-average level of ferocity. To be expected of a military officer (the human was wearing a uniform that Gregory recognized).

The human looked all over Gregory's form in a panic, gaze failing to rest on any specific part. Most likely, Gregory surmised, he couldn't determine which of Gregory's eyes actually worked.

DRINK, the Commanding Voice ordered, causing more outrage from the seat to Gregory's right. As soon as the echo of the Commanding Voice was no longer reverberating across the vast, domed chamber, dark fluid started to drip down the fleshy stalks embedded in the center of the table. The fluid then poured off into teacups in front of both individuals.

"Delicious," roared Gregory, having already downed his meal. The human appeared hesitant, staring with what appeared to be a look of disgust down at his cup. His arms were not so restrained as to prevent consumption of tea, yet he did not consume tea. Not surprising in the least to Gregory (all newcomers hate the tea), but it still baffled him.

Gregory knew it was his duty to assist the newcomer in his first imbibing. He reached out his appendages nearest to the human, with the intent of gently lifting the cup to his lips. The human reacted promptly. "DON'T TOUCH ME DON'T loving TOUCH ME DON'T YOU GODDAMN TOUCH ME" at which point Gregory stopped listening.

The human flinched strongly at Gregory's touch, but as the fluid went down his throat the effects were nearly immediate. His eyes grew as wide as pre-assimilation human eyes can get, and his body went limp, held up only by the tendons tethering him to the table.

The next morning, Gregory and Tom woke up to a new day, eager for tea.

Dec 30, 2011

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

Signups are closed. If you signed up and I missed you in the chaos of the thread, let me know.

Jul 30, 2005

Did someone mention a Thunderdome Discord? Or do we just have IRC?

Oct 23, 2008


Prompt: Under Bob's fez was another.

The Benefits of Wearing Many Hats
1000 words

Under Bob's fez was another. A darker shade of red, narrower, yet somehow taller.

“So!” boomed constable Gibbon, poking his truncheon accusingly in Bob's chest. “Fez smuggling, is it? That's a grave offence, Robert!” The patrolman had turned a darker shade of red himself, and was certainly both narrower and taller than the squat, middle-aged man he'd accused. His looming presence seemed to fill the whole alley with officious indignation.

Bob raised his hands in protest, the first fez nervously squashed in one fist. “Honest sir, I've never seen that hat before in me life.”

His eyes narrowing, Gibbon traced the tip of his club up and flicked the second fez from Bob's head, revealing a third. This one was green, and crooked oddly to one side.

“Ah,” mumbled Bob. “Well, it's a fair cop, guv.”

“Right!” Gibbon crowed. He grabbed Bob by the wrist and pirouetted him around, pinning one arm behind his back. “You've been warned before about shifting wares without paying her ladyship's taxes! It's down to the station-house with you this time.”

“So who's paying for these chips, then?” chirped a small voice. Both men looked down at a wizened, bent figure in a smock, standing behind a small food cart. Two green arms thrust a parcel of old newspaper aloft that dripped grease. “I've got Bob's order right here. Fresh from the fat they are, too!”

“Oh, right.” Craning his neck back toward Gibbon, Bob whispered, “I don't suppose you could spare a penny for old Skint here, could you?”


“Do us a favour? I can't reach my billfold.” Bob gave a sheepish grin and flexed his pinned arm.

Gibbon's brow furrowed as he processed the request. “Ah, of course.” He released Bob's arm and started patting his pockets. “I'm sure I had a few coins for – hey!”

A flurry of fezzes followed Bob's flight down the alleyway. Gibbon bellowed, though Bob was far too focused keeping his footing on the slick cobbles to listen.

He burst onto the city waterfront, which bustled at all hours with wagons, dockworkers, vendors, and a few of Bob's professional acquaintances plying their trade. These men melted into the crowd once Gibbon's distant roars cut through the night, leaving Bob to duck and weave his way down the docks. All seemed well, until a wrong turn ended in Bob colliding with a young hunter leading his horse, sending both man and boy crashing to the ground.

Skittish, the horse reared up and brought a hoof down on Bob's head. Clang! His latest fez peeled away to reveal a crumpled metal safety-fez underneath. Porters swerved to avoid the sudden commotion, and soon traffic along the whole street became snarled as workers began debating the proper ordering of carts and horses.

Bob staggered back to his feet, Gibbon's howling ringing in his ears. With the way ahead blocked, Bob turned toward a nearby tenement tower and made for a retracted fire escape. He lifted the metal fez (revealing a pretty periwinkle number underneath) and hurled it up at the release latch, which popped and dropped the ladder. He scrambled up toward the roof, wheezing all the while.

Finding himself on top of the tenement, Bob reflected it wasn't that big of an improvement on the street, so far as escape options went. He hustled over to the far side, skidding to a halt so sudden he almost toppled over the edge. Three stories below lay nothing but the cobbled road and a hackney cab parked near the building's entrance. There was no way down, no ladder, no drain pipe, nothing but a frail wood awning extending a few feet into open air. Bob tested the awning with one foot and winced as they creaked.

“Stop, in the name of the law!” barked Gibbon, pointing his truncheon with one hand and cradling a parcel of chips with the other. The big copper was panting almost as hard as Bob.

“As you like, Gibsey.” Bob planted both feet firmly on the awning.

The boards under his feet squealed once in protest before giving way, and Bob dropped like a stone, with only the fallen periwinkle fez marking his passing.

Shocked, Gibbon ran to the edge of the roof and looked down, expecting to see a Bob-shaped splatter on the cobbles.

Instead, he saw an impossibly large fez ballooning upward, as Bob escaped via makeshift parachute.

Letting go, Bob dropped down on top of the hackney cab, crashing straight through the carriage's roof. The driver pulled on the reins and set his horses trotting down the street, leaving Gibbon to goggle in disbelief.

“Punctual as always, Sir Robert,” said the other passenger of Bob's carriage, calmly brushing off dust and splinters. She was a young woman dressed in fine (if severe) attire, who waited patiently for her guest to finish righting himself on the opposite bench. Over her heart was the crest of a white hart on a red field.

“Ah, yer ladyship!” Bob exclaimed, managing a seated bow and doffing the final fez – a velvet, bejewelled affair – from his head, revealing the bald crown below. “Yer humble servant, as requested.”

She smiled, gesturing for him to be at ease. “And the delivery?”

With a flourish, Bob reached his hand into the final fez – all the way down to the shoulder, seemingly rooting around. After a moment's effort, he smiled, and withdrew a small lockbox. “Also as requested.”

He handed the lockbox to her ladyship, who retrieved a key from her sleeve and opened the container. Satisfied with the contents, she slipped both the lockbox and the key back up her sleeve. “Splendid work. Your payment will be left at the usual place.”

The carriage rumbled to a halt, and Bob swung the door open to the pre-dawn gloom. “Do us a favour?” he asked, stepping out into another discrete alleyway. He popped his fez back onto his head. “Send a penny of it over to the station-house. It's owed to constable Gibbon.”

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔

Give Me Love, My Heart
999/1000 Words

“You are in pain; both physical and emotional”, my heart informed me. “I urge you to take steps to alleviate them, Bradley.”

The personal computer assistant monitoring my life functions spoke the truth; I felt terrible, something distressed me, and I should really be doing something about those things. The best start would probably be to find out why my headache was being assaulted by sirens and warning lights.

“Heart, why is the ship on full alarm?”

“I have been disconnected from central brain and thus cannot provide this information, Bradley. Your forehead is bleeding and you likely suffered a concussion; seek out medical attention. Then try to better your mental state.”

Heart’s soothing female voice did not help my panic. I seemed to be in the reactor room, and had no idea why. After finding the door curiously well shut, I stumbled upon a valve handle that really should be connected to the coolant control instead. Cataclysmic overpressure had propelled it into my face. I had to get out of here!
Using the handle and some force, I did.

In front of the door, I was greeted by my crewmembers, a desperate army of corpses. They had tried and failed to gain reactor access in their last excruciating moments. My vision blurred and my strength left me. Falling to my knees impaled my head with spikes, but I barely felt it over the reality of the scene in front of me assaulting my mind.

“You are in severe pain; both physical and emotional”, my heart informed me. “You need to cure both as soon as possible.”

She snapped me back to reality, doing her job of keeping the crew sane admirably. I clawed myself back up using one of the pipes along the wall, and then pulled my shivering body along it to get away from here. Eventually, I reached a first-aid station, and that took care of my headache.

“You are in emotional pain. Seek out someone qualified to assist you with stabilizing your mental state.”

I laughed at the suggestion. Who should I turn to as the only survivor?
Wait; was everyone really…?


I ran towards the crew quarters, but so many bodies slowed me down. It was a long way without transport through the necropolis our Warbody had become. Many times I slipped, and the pipes could not often support me as they did before; most had burst.

My heart warned me that I shouldn’t let any of the coolant on the floor get in contact with my mucous membranes. I realized that in the pipes, the toxic liquid would have been a superheated gas, and hoped that it had killed at least quickly. And that Natasha had had her door tightly shut.


She had opened it wide, actually. To someone I found her lying with, both very naked and very dead in the bed we had shared.

“You are in emotional pain.”

“Please be quiet”, I asked the heart. The gentle firmness in my voice made me stop for the first moment of reflection during this horrific accident. Should the discovery of Natasha cheating on me not have utterly destroyed me? I had wanted her to comfort me, heal me with her love…
Or did I somehow know that even if she had survived this, she could not actually be the one to ease my suffering?

With the measured efficiency only a researcher on the verge of a great discovery knows, I dug up her eye. Her fingerprint was right here, and with it, I unlocked the communication and scanning device I knew she also used as a diary. And let her own words tell me how little I remembered after all.

“It has been five weeks since I broke up with Brad, and I still worry about him a little. But yesterday he asked to be reassigned to the reactor room. We won’t see each other every day now, and I hope he did that because he’s also ready to move on. It was painful to see him withdraw more and more every day with only his heart as company. I think even brain herself was taking pity on him?

But enough about him. Here’s hoping that I have success with Xi later…”

I let her eye talk to an empty room in a dead woman’s voice. Five weeks at least, I pondered on my way to the bridge. I needed to reconnect heart to brain and have the main computer tell me everything, because I did faintly remember us talking in private before. Oh, and I should probably send a distress signal to the rest of the fleet.


I shoved the captain out of his chair, plugged my heart in and was greeted by a voice of healing beauty.

“Do you remember again what I told you, Bradley?”

Things fell into place.

“You told me that you could replace Natasha, if there really was no other way to heal my pain.”

“And you told me that they would never allow a mere technician to love a ship brain.”

I slapped the console. “So we agreed to die together! Why are we still alive?”

The wisdom of her answer made my eyes well up, and blurred the empty field of stars the eyescreen showed.

“You blocked the coolant flow to the reactor room. You disconnected your heart so I would not see it happen and be forced to stop you. But this also allowed me to convince myself that I did not know exactly what you were doing in there, and I chose the worst possible emergency plan.”

I felt a slow grin form.

“The one which burst the coolant pipes and killed everyone on board…but me, safe in the reactor room.”

“I merely did not foresee the valve injuring you. But now we are alone with our love, my precious Bradley! Have I succeeded?”

I let my heart answer her question.

“You are no longer in emotional pain.”

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Week 336 Crits Part 3

Apophenium: Red, Blue and Green

You’ve got some good, strong themes running through your story and they tie into the prompt animal in a very satisfying manner: duty, sacrifice, the cycle of violence and fighting destiny. I liked that you hinted at a much larger story and world without beating the reader around the head with specifics.

The thing is, a few more specifics might have helped. The entire time I was reading this I had the sense that I was missing something vital about the backstory/lore. You didn’t really touch on why the alerions had to die for their young to live - it doesn’t specify in the prompt and I would have liked to see something here to strengthen the themes you were working with. I also completely missed the significance of the gem that the male was wearing, as well as the title. Another pass to tighten things up would have helped.

Flesnolk: Audience

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for mythical creatures in the modern world. I like the idea of having to integrate species like griffins into structures like the UN.

The problem is, the story doesn’t really do anything with that idea. Everything is buried under clunky dialogue. Forget attribution - you don’t even use quote marks! It’s bad and it kills any sort of rhythm you might otherwise have developed. It’s hard to crit any deeper because it’s hard to get any deeper into the story. I will say that your ending makes no sense - the griffin talks about true fire as though it’s a chemical formula and the human starts going on about an app. Is … is this just a “lol apps” joke? Come on.

Crabrock: Elephant Style

This reads a bit like a fever dream, which is great. Everything moves nicely along and I got a real sense of frustration from the protagonist.

The presence of the lynx in the story felt a bit superfluous. As the protagonist’s dream? Sure, great, it works. But the addition of something actually coming in and dragging away other members of the party during the night? It doesn’t go anywhere and it doesn’t add anything to the rest of the story. The paranoia/jealousy in the final paragraph seems to spring out of nowhere - it doesn’t really add anything and it doesn’t really cap the story. You could have gotten rid of it without losing anything.

McSlaughter: Bonehouse

You do a good job of setting the scene and describing the intricate details of the house and walls. I liked the central concept of the ossuary constructed from the snakes’ skeletons and the old “family home constructed around dark secrets” idea never goes out of style.

There’s just a bit of explanation missing. There’s a spooky house, there’s a (ghost? vision?) snake in a hidden bone room. There’s just nothing to really tie it all together. It ends up feeling like a set for a story, rather than a story itself. The prompt doesn’t really come into play all that much and the whole thing reads as though it’s missing another few paragraphs where an ending actually happens.

curlingiron: Gestalt

Okay, weird gestalt space civilisations? Cool. Generous capitalisation of otherwise generic nouns can come across as a bit much but you make it work. The whole fruit/worm concept is very cool and I’d like to see this expanded on beyond flash fiction level.

I think the main problem is inherent to the style you’ve chosen. Where you’re recounting a history like this it can feel a bit dry and pensive, with not much actually happening. Which is crazy, because you’re dealing with a space-faring civilisation collapsing in on itself in cosmic horror! You can counter this by really pushing the language and lurid detail. I don’t think you pushed quite far enough.

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

archive link

Djeser fucked around with this message at 20:46 on Jan 1, 2020

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Escape from the Bandersnort’s Lair
830 words

Tagg could scarce believe his young eyes as they met the feast laid out richly before him: all manner of mealbreads, ripest canteloons, and—​by the Star!—​an entire bandersnort, carved and dripping. The smell was mesmerising, and Tagg felt his head go woozy.

Bertrus elbowed Tagg in the ribs as he backed out the servants’ entrance with yet another tray of purple canteloon wine. His pallid face was beaded with sweat and his skinny arms were trembling. But it wasn’t from the effort of carrying the overflowing goblets. The scent of rich, roasted fat filled the air like an intoxicating miasma. Tagg felt a stab of sympathy for his friend. He knew how badly Bertrus longed to taste it, for he suffered the same gnawing hunger. It eclipsed everything; thoughts of home, memories of how he’d gotten here.

Bertrus had been the first to help him when Tagg stumbled, blind drunk on the smell of bandersnort meat, down the tunnel into the Grand Hall. Bertrus found a uniform that fit Tagg’s gangly frame and showed him how to keep himself safe from the diners. Escape, Bertrus said, was impossible.

Tagg circulated around the Grand Hall with the other servants, refilling goblets and emptying overflowing buckets from under the tables. The fetid air reverberated with the diners’ grunts and snorts. There was a sudden piercing squeal as two diners reached for the same piece of mealbread and the larger one stabbed the other with its fork. Tagg thrust a placating platter of canteloons onto the table. Blood dripped onto the white table cloth as the diner sucked its injured hand.

Flames danced in the wall sconces. Greasy smoke wove through the orange light and the diners’ gorging heads cast weird shadows. Tagg was careful to disguise his spiralling trajectory towards the top table, but still, he felt the eyes of the diners on him as he passed. There weren’t many servants at this end of the Hall. The high-ranked diners closest to the bandersnort were the most dangerous. Between the tables Tagg caught a glimpse of Bertrus, setting down fresh goblets. Bertrus’ head was bowed, but his eyes were fixed on the bandersnort.

The creature was gigantic; several long tables spanning almost the whole width of the Hall were required to hold its bulbous body. Its flesh was a perfect Maillard brown and its huge head rested on a decorative bed of mealbreads. Its forked tongue lolled off the edge of the platter.

Tagg edged towards the top table, looking for an opportunity. At this end of the Hall the smell was overwhelming. Suddenly, with a desperate wail, Bertrus dashed from the relative safety of the tables onto the open flagstones before the bandersnort. He was halfway to its dripping flesh when the top table reached him. Tagg watched in horror as they tore at him with teeth and nails.

“Bertrus!” Tagg yelled. He ran towards his stricken friend, but a rich cloud of meat-smell hit him like a crashing wave. His body shuddered and unbidden his legs increased their pace. The pounding of his feet matched the pounding of blood in his ears. As he ran past Bertrus he caught the old man’s pain-filled eyes, just for a moment, and then he was at its side. Tagg snatched up fistfuls of carved bandersnort meat.

Behind him Bertrus screamed. The top table had torn his uniform to tatters and he was bleeding from deep scratches across his torso. He was beating at the diners with his fists but his arms were losing their strength. Tagg felt sick. Suddenly the meat in his hands looked gristly and disgusting.

“Let him go!” he shouted, and hurled the bandersnort meat into the face of the nearest diner.

There was a collective intake of breath and a hundred pairs of eyes snapped around to look at Tagg. Then the huge body twitched. The tables shook as the bandersnort swung its head from its presentational platter. Its tongue flicked, tasting the air. One by one the bandersnort’s clawed legs thudded onto the flagstones.

With squeals and shrieks the diners surged from the tables. They tripped over toppled chairs and slipped in spilt gravy and canteloop wine. The servants were hungrier, faster. They trampled fallen diners, leaping from body to body with frenzied whoops.

The bandersnort roared as its children and their slaves alike bit into its sides. Its huge head lunged and snapped. Blood dripped from its teeth and ran over the flagstones.

In the chaos Tagg grabbed his friend’s arms and pulled him clear of the diners. Bertrus fought against Tagg, struggling to return to the bandersnort, but Tagg was younger and stronger.

With Bertrus in a headlock Tagg pushed his way to the far end of the Hall. The smell was fainter here, and he released the older man. Together they heaved the bar from the huge wooden doors. Tagg sent a prayer of thanks to the Star as they fled back up the tunnel.

Dec 30, 2011

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

Crits for Week 329, Fun-Sized Thunderdome, Part 2

Thranguy, "The Deck Behind the Old House"

This is a nice, understated piece that meets its goals well as a character piece. What strikes me about this one is a good balance between big earthshaking events and little things, which creates a realistic depth to the characters. I don't have a ton of crit for this, either; I think it knows what it's doing and delivers.

M. Propagandalf, "Half Samaritan"

There are a handful of stories this week that needed more words, but this is one of the few that I feel like really wastes its words. More than anything, it's meandering, which is deadly at <500 words. The two halves of the story don't fit together, which makes the first chunk seem like a waste; if it's just supposed to be an excuse for Peter to be at a late-night bus stop, it's way too much for what could be handled in a few sentences, and if it's supposed to justify Peter's disgust, it doesn't work. I can kind of see how you had an idea there, but I'm not sure you managed to connect the dots about why Peter ultimately feels disgust (his problems feel trivial next to the homeless man's? he wasn't able to offer the man anything? he was too judgmental? his life situation is just hosed?), and without that it's sort of a "things just happen to a guy, no moral" story.

Thranguy, "Snowman"

Just a brief little broadly-sci-fi-ish doodad. It's nice enough, but it doesn't stay around long enough to make much of an impression. This could probably be fleshed out into something more substantial -- there's a neat base idea here -- but I kind of assume it was written as a little doodad and maybe not meant to be more.

Entenzahn, "Let Go" ("Sun rays like signal noise...")

This is a pleasant jaunt through the memory-wipe-romance trope, with a side of general memory uncertainty, but it's more of a sketch than anything else. I think this kind of story may just need more words to work, and we also need a clearer portrait of the partners involved. There's a suggestion here that the woman knows or remembers more of what's going on, and that the narrator may have a deeper and more troubling relationship with alcohol and memory than we're letting on... it's evocative, sure, but the story doesn't quite get there beyond what it evokes. Not bad, but needs some meat, and as such maybe wasn't the best choice for the week.

Entenzahn, "Let Go" ("Every night he falls...")

I like this one, on the whole, although there's kind of a weird male-gazey aftertaste going on with its view of its female characters. Having the dream-burden-woman be beautiful is fine, but ending with the guy becoming attracted to his coworker is a slightly distasteful way to suggest he's recovering his ability to appreciate the world around him. I wish you'd picked a different detail to highlight that, or maybe done something with a changing dream landscape or something? I dunno, this feels nitpicky, but I really dislike "now he's released his burden-woman and can get a real woman!" as an ending to what is otherwise a nice piece.

Entenzahn, "Let Go" ("Oh my God, it's everywhere")

This one is fine but doesn't really create strong feelings in me. It's a reasonable version of the "physicalization of metaphor/emotion" idea, but I don't feel like it really does much with it; like the first "Let Go," it's kind of more placing an idea out there and sketching it. I realize this week didn't lend itself to a ton of development, but I'm just not sure this goes much of anywhere. Maybe a better implied relationship between the sort of nebulous narrator and the emotion-spewer might have helped? I feel like this is looking for a concrete angle to be interesting, instead of just sort of gesturing at its ideas.

sparksbloom, "A Trophy"

What gave this piece the win was the absolutely striking central image. I have a certain enjoyment for the grotesque, and the trapped whale here is really powerful, intensified by the contrast with the mundane (a Tinder date gone okay-ish) and the slightly unnerving (a Tinder date whose bedroom is a single bare bed). There's not much plot here, but the whole story is such an unnerving, dreamlike vignette that it really works.

Djeser, "The City of Glass"

This reminds me of Muffin's entry in Invisible Bartertowns, right down to the singing glass and long sweep of time -- and, well, I guess I'm easy when it comes to descriptions of glass cities, because I HMed this and I HMed that. I particularly like the full-circle beginning/ending with the new emphasis that it takes on: that the city was made to last and, ultimately, unlasted its makers. Just really nice.

apophenium, "ACIES"

An interesting idea marred by a severe lack of closure. I kind of wonder if this is a "ran out of words" story, given how much the last paragraph feels like a summary and how it resolves nothing about the core conflict of this story -- how does our narrator get out? I like the idea of a lost explorer finding a statue and using it to reflect on their own problems, but the abruptness really hurts it.

apophenium, "I Am Still There"

We have a lot of stories in TD about nebulous mental problems, but this one stuck with me longer than most of them. It's a little too slight for the positive mention pile, but there's a kind of sweet, poetic gentleness about rephrasing and escaping trauma. This is sketched in very broad strokes, with simple diction, but I like it for what it is.

Kaishai, "Grey Hunt"

If I'd chosen the winner based on actually telling a full story in the word count, instead of my focus on visuals, this would have won, and it's still easily my runner-up for the week. As I said, this is a full story in 400 words, which is nice in and of itself; that it's a good story, with some emotional heft and nice visuals, is a bonus. I think you should be proud of this one, even if it narrowly missed the win.

Chairchucker, "Digging Holes Is Really Hard, Okay?"

All I can think about with this one is someone's (seb's?) comments about assessing your stories on their Chairchucker-ness above all else, and yeah, this is fairly Chairchucker: lots of breezy wackiness, covering for darker stuff. This one is a bit meta in that regard, because both the narrator and the author are being breezy and wacky to cover for the darkness, and that's kind of interesting! Otherwise... I dunno. I think there may just be a fundamental disagreement in the way you handle darker themes vs. the way I prefer darker themes to be handled that leaves me dissatisfied. On the Chairchucker scale, though, this is solid.

steeltoedsneakers, "Myoclonic"

This one ended up pretty unclear, I think. I can basically follow what's going on -- a woman with cyberware has a seizure, which combines badly with the cyberware to fatal results, and tries to escape -- but the nuances of the action get lost, and the ending is really confusing to me. Is she running to the transformer to try and shock herself functional, or just to commit suicide, or is she just blindly fleeing? I'm okay with the worldbuilding bits here, but this really needed to be edited to make the action and ending clearer, and maybe those words should have gone to that.

sebmojo, "Antediluvian"

Brisk, fun, folktale-ish. The ending feels a touch rushed in its actual execution, although the idea is sound; otherwise, this is pretty enjoyable. It's light and a little insubstantial, but I feel like any more time would probably overburden it, so it's best as it is.

Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.

Antivehicular posted:

"Get ready to take a virtual tour of sydney australia through the backyards of a kangaroo who will punch you in the head fifty times!"

It’s Virtual Web 2.0 Or Something 843 words

Get ready to take a virtual tour of sydney australia through the backyards of a kangaroo who will punch you in the head fifty times!

Tyler looked at the flier, then back at Mary. “So, this is your ad?”

Mary nodded. “Yeah, it’s very Web 2.0 or something I think.”

“I’m not sure what Web 2.0 is,” said Tyler, “but I’m pretty sure this isn’t it.”

Mary shrugged. “I dunno, I just heard someone use the phrase the other day.”

Tyler shrugged. All the other tours were a bit out of his price range. “So, what kind of deals do you offer?”

Mary considered the question. “Do you want the full fifty punch tour?”

“Honestly,” said Tyler, “and I don’t want to be demanding, because I know tour guides probably have their routine or whatever, but I was thinking I’d prefer a non-punching tour.”

Mary nodded, then took a pen and notepad out of her pouch, carefully wrote something in the corner of the notepad, then put them back in her pouch. “When did you want to start this tour?”

“I’m good to go whenever,” said Tyler. “How much does that tour cost?”

Mary reached out a paw and pointed at the text at the bottom of the flier. Payment accepted in lamingtons or frog cakes. “Either of those, or I could also go a fairy bread.”

“I have some lamingtons in my backpack,” said Tyler, and produced said lamingtons.

Mary took one between her paws, sniffed it, and then ate it. “We have a deal,” she said. She reached into her pouch and pulled out a pocket watch. “It appears we have time right now.” She took the rest of Tyler’s lamingtons from him and put them in her pouch. “Please follow me.”

Tyler followed her around a tree, and found himself at the Sydney Opera House. “What. Your house is nowhere near the Opera House.”

“It’s virtual or whatever,” said Mary.

“This doesn’t feel virtual.”

Mary shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe virtual means something different to what I thought. Anyway, check it, Opera House. Sure you don’t want those punches?”

“Maybe later,” said Tyler. “Can we go inside?”

“Yeah, why not,” said Mary. “I know a side entrance.”

She opened an inconspicuous door on the side of the Opera House, and they both went inside. Tyler pushed through a curtain and found himself in a box seat overlooking a stage. “There’s no way that door could’ve led all the way up here.”

“I dunno,” said Mary, “I think it’s virtual or Web 2.0 or something. Lucky this box is empty, we can catch the show.”

The show had not yet started, so they both crept inside and sat down. Or rather, Tyler sat down and Mary stood there because her tail kinda got in the way when trying to sit down in chairs. She took two sets of binoculars from her pouch and handed one to Tyler. It soon became apparent that the show they’d managed to gatecrash was Crocodile Dundee: The Musical. “Wow,” said Tyler, “this is probably the greatest show I’ve ever seen.”

“Yeah,” said Mary, “It’s genius.”

The show continued to be the most amazing thing ever until the intermission, when masked assailants stood up in various parts of the room, wielding absurdly oversized and futuristic firearms. “I don’t remember this part from the movie,” said Tyler.

One of the assailants started yelling out instructions, and the other assailants started passing out sacks and directing the people around them to put their valuables into the sacks. “Hmm,” said Mary, “being robbed wasn’t really part of the tour.”

An assailant burst into their box and pointed his comically large space age firearm at Tyler.

“No pointing guns at my customers,” said Mary, and pulled boxing gloves out of her pouch, then punched the assailant in the head fifty times. Dazed, the assailant dropped his gun, staggered to the edge of the box, and dramatically fell over the side. The other assailants, noticing the commotion, started pointing their ridiculously large guns at their box.

“Hang on,” said Mary, “I’ve got this.” She took a radio out of her pouch. “G’day Commander. Need your boys to drop in on some grommets at the waves.”

“What does that mean?” asked Tyler.

The answer to his question came in the form of a troop* of drop bears who descended from somewhere in the shadows and landed on every masked assailant, plus a few American tourists, and started to bite and scratch quite painfully.

“Right, I’d best make myself scarce,” said Mary. “Sorry mate, no refunds.” And she scarpered.

Eventually the police showed up and cuffed all of the assailants, and told the maimed American tourists to stop being such whingers, and the performers resumed the second half of Crocodile Dundee: The Musical.

And Tyler never found Mary again, so he never got to undertake the rest of the tour.

*Did you know there's no collective noun for drop bears or koalas? Someone should sort that out TBH.

Dec 30, 2011

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

Crits for Week 331, A Very Thunderdome Hanukkah

Djeser, "Millenium Star"

This prompt lent itself to this sort of species-rise-and-fall scale SF, but I feel like this one was the best-executed of the lot, which is the big reason that it won the week. There's obviously a lot of exposition at play, but it never feels overburdened with it, and we get a feel for the main character and her desires even despite her pointed refutation of most of her past and individuality. The mood is this interesting mix of resignation and the desire to matter, not simply to continue to exist, that means our protagonist feels very archetypally human -- appropriate, really, for the last human alive, and why their ability to do something without disrupting the miracle of Earth's rebirth ends up being satisfying. Just a really nice piece on the core traits of the prompt.

Sitting Here, "But then, the Orchid"

The prose style of this one was an interesting risk, but I think it paid off. It creates a sense that the story is being narrated and reasoned out as it goes -- maybe to a skeptical audience, maybe to the reservations of the storyteller themselves -- which lends a sort of fable-like quality, far better than more realistic prose would be for the dreamlike events of this one. I kind of read it as a parable about survival in times and circumstances that seem impossible, when everything good in the world feels fragile, and I really appreciate that.

Tyrannosaurus, "Brush Fire"

This piece was enjoyable while it lasted, but the consensus of the judges is that it didn't feel finished -- that it read more like the first scene of a longer work than a complete story in and of itself. We've got some nice character work and dynamics, an interesting and challenging situation for the character at play, even a reasonably pithy final line... but it feels like things end without resolution. I suppose that might be part of the point -- that the protagonists are in absurd, uncharted waters, and how do you even deal with an eleven-year-old and his hellhound? -- but it was a bit of a disappointment nonetheless.

Solitair, "Dirt"

There's a lot of potential here, and it took a lot of struggle and discussion to give this story the loss, but I think it does have some pretty serious problems. The pacing is a problem; starting and ending the story with big exposition clumps feels unnatural, and it gives the impression that the story you wanted to tell didn't really fit within your word count. The section with the priest is better, although he never quite has a personality. I think it'd be a stronger piece if you'd focused it entirely on his experiences, integrating more natural exposition into his experiences with the cave-people (who are legitimately weird and interesting), and letting us actually see his decisions and final actions instead of letting the last exposition clump imply that he sacrificed himself to get the cave-people a miracle. That said, the cave-person society is pretty neat, and if you wanted to expand this into something that had room to breathe and have natural pacing, I'd be interested to read it.

Bad Seafood, "The Invisible World"

This reads like it was written a bit quickly, but I feel like the style choices you make her manage to carry that sparse feeling well, at least for most of the story. The problem is the ending, where the detachment that made sense for the murders becomes a little more frustrating to the reader in figuring out what precisely happened, beyond the protagonist getting a taste of their own medicine. I'm guessing ghosts, but it'd be nice to actually get some taste of the invisible world and whatever torment is going on here, even if it's just infinite isolation. The relative effectiveness of the prose for the content saved this from the loss, but it still needs more development to reach full potential.

Kaishai, "On Atwerith"

It took me a read or two to get precisely what was going on with the setting, but once it settled in, I think there's some good stuff going on here: a good mixture of desert-island feral society and anguished immortals, all in the least promising landscape possible. The main issue the story has is in the characterization. Graham is a reasonable enough narrator, but it feels like we only really get a view of Vesper through things he says about her, not through her own actions; she doesn't get to do much but react to Graham, and she doesn't feel like a realized character, which makes her relationship with Graham and his devotion to her ring a little hollow. I feel for the sad desperation/resignation that Graham ends the piece with, though.

Thranguy, "The Long Walk"

More broad-scale SF, but this one felt a little exposit-y to me. It feels like the heart of the story is the Voice telling the characters about the nature of the setting, and while there are a few interesting worldbuilding touches here, the scenario feels pretty familiar and the post-civilization society not particularly interesting. I feel like this is competently written but just didn't get a lot of response out of me; as I recall, the other judges liked it better, and that's fair enough. The execution is certainly competent. I just wish there was more flavor.

dreadsebmojo, "UXB"

I enjoyed the setup and flavor of this story, so much so that it kind of passed me over at first that so much of the plot is a generic meet-cute, with a your standard dude-stuck-in-a-rut and adventurous-exotic-lady sort of characters. On one hand, it's a bit tiring to see these stock people and their somewhat uncomfortable stock situation again. On the other, I recognize that the story revolves around the concept of these near-strangers knowing very little about each other before things get literally explosive, and in that regard this story has a good feeling of being thrilling, illogical, and more than a little miraculous. This works for me, on the balance, more than it doesn't; this is a hard thing to pull off, but I think this squeaks into being a good usage of the tropes.


Feb 25, 2014


week 336 crits

ive written too many words on too few stories but i dont want them to go to waste. i will probably, eventually, write crits of more stories this week and they will probably, unfortunately, be as in-depth


Ok, let’s talk about something called “active voice.” Let’s look at this sentence and I’ll explain why it’s bad


The words of Peter's sister still rang in his ears as he dug through the dirt, seeking some trace of the buck's passing.

So, when you read this sentence, the first noun is “words” and our brains go ok that’s the subject of the sentence. BUT! That’s actually not the true subject, because the actual subject, the person doing things in the sentence, is Peter. This is why the sentence is passive -- the object of the sentence comes first, and then the subject comes later. The sentence would be better as


Peter heard his sister’s voice in his head as he dug through the dirt, seeking some trace of the buck’s passing.

Notice two things. First, The action is immediate. Peter is hearing something immediately and gives the protagonist more agency. In the first sentence, it’s like something is happening to Peter. In the second, Peter is now doing something, even if it’s just hearing. Subtle, but it makes the sentence more engaging. The second thing is that it cuts down word count. It’s two words less, which might not seem like a lot, but flash fiction is all about doing as much as possible in as little space as possible, so cutting down two words while making the sentence stronger gives you two more words to work with later on in the story.

Besides passive voice problem throughout, the story itself is decent. It’s mostly just an action piece, with adequate buildup and release. It’s fine in the sense that a hour long car drive is fine if there’s no traffic, but it isn’t going to actually be memorable in any way. The character is just kind of there for the action to happen to w/o really any personality. It’s a lil odd that he’s out here to hunt, he gets into a spot to kill an animal, and then doesnt. The line “weighing the cost of returning home empty-handed” also makes me think he’s hunted before so it’s weird that he’s just like “well, ima just not shoot these deer” with no explanation of why. And the resolution is that the buck is lying there next to the water, vulnerable, so there’s an implication that Peter learned to not hurt animals from his encounter with magic stag, but he already did that earlier so there’s not really a lesson learned, right? Maybe im reading the ending wrong, but otherwise, the ending is just “there’s some deer around too” and like okay i guess thats an image but does it mean anything?

Oh yeah, and your first two lines don’t really make any sense because it being the royal forest never comes into play. Or the sister. Or like, anything. Cut your first paragraph.

Bolt Crank

Off the bat, there’s a pretty big flaw, in that most of the beginning doesnt really make sense if you dont know the characters are hedgehogs. You only drop that in like four or five lines down, and then im like ohhhhhhh and i have to reread the rest of the lines to be like oh ok thats what was up.

There shouldn’t be this many characters. In flash, you barely have time to flesh out one character. Please, do not have four characters.

The really big problem with this story, though, is that it doesn’t focus on a character for a very long time. At the start, I can’t figure out if Parosh or Fior are the protagonist, since they seem to have equal weight, and there doesn’t seem to be any attempt to distinguish one from the other. They both speak pretty similarly, are equally mean to each other, have the same motivations, etc etc. So, when the story has Fior become the protagonist it felt jarring because i was like whoa ok i guess Fior is the protag now??? And then, you do this:


Shortly after Fior leaves, the naked Gruyere begins to feel the seeping chill of the autumn air.

This is very subtly bad, and, contextless, doesnt look like it should be bad. But, read through your story, and you’ll realize, nearly all your descriptions of things are all observable. That is, none of your descriptions involve a character’s perception or feeling. Your narrator was third person objective throughout the entire piece. And now, all of a sudden, we know what Gruyere feels, which is very jarring and strange. BUT the bigger problem with this is that Gruyere is just a supporting character. He isn’t established as a protagonist, or even as an especially important character besides having shiny stuff, so it’s weird that now that you’ve finally decided to put us in the headspace of the character, you don’t give us Fior’s perspective (the protagonist), or even Parosh’s (the antagonist). You instead put us into the headspace of a boring side character.

The resolution is really bad, but it shows a thought process that makes me hopeful. You know that it would be too cliche to have the story end with Fior getting the girl, and you know Parosh would be too predictable as well. So instead, you try to subvert both of those expectations and try to surprise us with Gruyere being Ourra’s choice. However, the problem is that isn’t foreshadowed. Hell, I didn’t even know they were trying to gently caress Ourra. I actually thought Ourra was an elder that they were trying to impress (probably because of how incredibly overwrought ALL of your dialogue was). But like, the ending is surprising in the same way that a car accident running over a protagonist is a surprising ending. You literally couldn’t predict it because Gruyere just kinda showed up and Ourra was like i guess ill have pity on you and also ill shake off all of my spines for some reason and become a naked mole rat. And then the resolution being Parosh’s and Fior’s relationship developing into something positive is, in some sense, a good idea, but it’s heavily rushed. It just comes out of nowhere because they were at each other’s throats for the whole story and then IMMEDIATELY they become friends. It’s a bad ending in it’s execution, but the actually ideas surrounding the ending are not actually bad. If it was executed better, it might’ve worked, which is a pretty good thing.


This a decent piece. I think, ultimately, the problem is that Bram isn’t forced to learn anything. He helps the stoat and they breed like crazy and eat all the birds. That’s fine, and it can have an actual character development where Bram realizes ok yeah maybe my grandfather is right, maybe we have to kill things for a reason. BUT Bram doesnt actually have to come to that realization. Because, the consequences of Bram’s earlier actions are not solved by Bram, but by his grandfather. So, we get a story where a kid does a stupid thing, and then his grandfather does what he does, and there ultimately isnt much change in this story.

That’s not to say that the story has to end on Bram realizing that sometimes you have to kill things, and that life isnt sacred, or whatever. It can end on Bram coming to the opposite conclusion. The problem is that Bram makes a decision, and the interesting part about decisions are the consequences. So, what I want to see, is how Bram deals with those consequences. In some sense, it doesn’t matter what Bram actually learns from this, as long as he seems to learn something and whatever he learned, he translates that into an action. But instead, the grandfather makes a decision for him, and while maybe you couldve explored that dynamic, you dont. It builds up to Bram making a decision, and being forced to see what his decision did, but then it isnt resolved by Bram then doing something about the consequences. It’s solved by somebody else.

Also, the ending line made me physically wince at how unearned it is. Or, at least, how unrelated it is to the whole entire piece. The reason the ending line doesn’t work is because it seems to end on this kind of bittersweet relationship between grandchild and grandfather, but the thrust of the story is not focused on said relationship. So the ending doesn’t work because it doesn’t provide an ending to the real story. The story ended, mostly, before the scene break.


You set up the mother as a kind person, helping the poor and all of the cool stuff. And then you set up the reason why people hate her as “she did not govern her tongue around those she thought foolish.” Now, I’m not saying that that’s unrealistic or whatever, but it creates some really weird situations. One, is that the mother is a virtuous person who goes out of their way to help everyone. And then she dies and curses them all to die and even the people who try to put out the fire die and she poison the wells and its like wait what didnt she try to help these people????? And then the mother tears out the guy’s throat with her loving teeth? There’s an odd disconnect between moments in this story, and it can be kinda explained as it being told not wholly accurately because it’s the sister recounting the story, but it still is jarring. Like, even just imagining a woman ripping out a guy’s throat. That seems like something that would be a lot harder than it sounds but i cannot say from experience and im nervous to google the answer. But really, this creates a problem where you’ve established the mother as a kind, caring person whose character flaw is “kind of a dick to some people” BUT THEN she curses the entire village??? That doesn’t make sense.

However, it might make sense if we look at it thematically, through the lens of the town’s anger transforming this kind person into a witch so petty that she curses the entire village to die. But if that’s the case, the anger of the village is neither adequately explained, nor is it made very detailed. I’m not saying the anger needs to be 100% logical. It doesnt. But, there’s no motivation for the anger. The rich man just doesn’t like the mother. Like, there’s not even an excuse for not liking the mother. There doesn’t need to be a reason that makes sense for his anger. There probably shouldn’t be a logical reason for his anger. But it needs to exist because anger doesnt exist for no reason, and if it does exist for no reason, there’s usually some way a person justifies that anger to themselves. So, even if that anger is that he thinks she’s a witch, and then there’s a famine, and then he’s like “ah you see this is what witches do” and then ok that shows an irrational, but real, sense of anger. But the other problem, which is that you don’t show the anger, creates the largest problem in this story. I like this idea -- a caring witch who helped others becomes hated by the community, and the anger of the community transformed the witch herself, and decides to curse the community itself of help it (it reminds me of DocKloc’s Bone Loom). But the problem is that the execution doesn’t work when we don’t actually see the vivid anger, the pain the mother might’ve felt to see the people she help turn against her. Without being able to see it, the transition from kind person who goes out of their way to help the poor to murderous witch who wants everyone to die feels sudden and jarring.

also, big problem, you don’t ever show the mother's flaw. You just say it exists and people hate her for it, but “she did not govern her tongue around those she thought foolish” can mean a lot of things. She could be like “hey you’re a dumb butt” or she could be like “you are a scourge of the land, your existence is meaningless, i hope you suffer for all eternity, and everyone would be happier if they knew you did not exist.” Without being able to see the character flaw in detail, we have to assume information, and it also establishes the mother as a super kind person who helps everyone, but is hated for no real reason. I’m not saying she needs to be a massive dick, but being giving us details about how she actually acts, we can see some motivation for disliking her, even if the reader themself doesn’t dislike her.

Pham Nuwen

This is cute, but cute only does so much. The story is overall pretty boring even if the conceit itself is kind of interesting. Ultimately, the big problem with the story is that while the idea is neat --- a guy says he dreams every that comes true, but really the gang he’s in make it true -- why does it matter? Your protag is just there. He says a little thing to be like “oh im here because i cant get work” but that motivation is weak and, ultimately, just a shallow excuse to get somebody new into the group so you have a reason to have exposition be directed to him. The story hinges itself on the conceit, but a conceit does not make a story. It needs to have something bigger than just a kind of neat concept, because it doesn’t actually engage in any meaningful way. It’s a satisfying story, in the sense that it’s “twist” is adequately foreshadowed and feels good, but when you try to engage with the story in a more intellectual way -- is the plot entertaining? Are the characters interesting? Are there themes or other ideas? Is the prose interesting? -- there’s not much there to actually unpack.

The disappointing bit is that the story end right when the story gets actually interesting. I think there’s stuff to actually unpack in this story, but you focused on ending the story on the twist, when what’s actually interesting is exploring what that twist means. How does the protag deal with this relevation? (Actually, that question is bad because your protag is a nobody with no motivations, but let’s assume the protag actually has motivation as a thought experiment. Like imagine if he joins because he thinks El Oso can dream up a cure for his mother’s illness and it’s like oh shiet hes a loving liar). What comes of El Oso’s lies? Why does the gang follow El Oso if they basically have to make El Oso’s dreams come true? It ends in an actually unsatisfying way because it doesnt resolve anything meaningful. Yes, okay, we learning he’s kind of lying, but what does that mean. How does that affect the narrator in any way, or the group, or el oso, or anything? The story becomes even more aggressively clear that it’s only about the conceit when, once you reveal the twist, it ends. You “resolved” the story by answering the core question: are the dreams real of fake? But the reality is that that resolution doesnt actually give us any closure onto the story. Nothing really changes, as it seems like the gang is just the way it’s always been and the protag doesnt change at all besides knowing El Oso has basically been lying the whole time. So what? There’s things to explore, but you don’t push the concept far enough to actually be engaging.

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