Over six hundred authors. Over six thousand stories. Over seven million words, all of them terrible.
Thunderdome 2012: FYI, I do take big dumps, holla.
Thunderdome 2013: If this were any other thread we'd all be banned by now
Thunderdome 2014teen: Stories from the Abonend Bunker
Thunderdome 2015teen: Weekly Stories with Positive People
Thunderdome 2016teen: Fast Writing, Bad Writing
Thunderdome 2017teen: Prose and Cons
Thunderdome 2018teen: Abonen Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here
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What are these bloodstained sands I see before me?
Welcome to Thunderdome, a vicious, bloody, no-holds-barred flash fiction contest with a new opportunity to eviscerate your opponents every week. The judges watch the spectacle from on high, and they condemn the weak while raising the worthy into glory. Barbed critiques will tear at your ego but leave you the stronger for it. This is an arena for people who want their words to suffer the cleansing fire.
If you'd rather have your posterior patted, Fanfiction.net is thataway.
Sounds great. How do I start murdering all of you with my writing?
Once you've posted the story, you're done. No edits. No fixes. Edited stories will disqualified. You have climbed aboard the fast train to Shametown, and only the strength of your skill and your effort can save you from permanent residence there.
The winner of the week ascends the Blood Throne and chooses the next prompt. He must find two souls willing to join him in his torment. This team of three will read the incoming entries and pass judgment upon them, and so ensure the cycle of futile suffering continues.
The loser gets a free avatar!
Snazzy, don't you think?
Oh, God, I've won. What now??
I recommend questioning your life decisions.
Thunderdome's cardinal rule is ius iudicis: judge’s right, judge’s responsibility, judge’s law. The lead judge is lord for the week, but with great power comes great responsibility to not gently caress everything up more than is inevitable. Your first step should be to read this page. Your second should be to post a prompt before the masses flood the thread with impatient, crappy .gifs.
A judge should be prepared to read around 15,000 to 30,000 words in the span between the deadline and Tuesday night. (Wednesday judgments happen, but they're an abomination. The week will have abominations enough without your help.) If you know you won't have time to do this, announce your abdication. Someone else is sure to leap at the chance to make goons' lives hell! A winner who hasn't shown her face by midweek is liable to forfeit the prompt.
About prompts: over time, Thunderdome has developed traditions. Paeans to Eurovision, Voidmart, sparkling mermen, and the contents of our own rectums in the form of rewrite weeks, although not guaranteed, are reasonably likely in a given year. The existence of recurring prompts doesn't mean your first impulse should be to copy what someone else has done! Come up with your own ideas, for the love of all things godawful--and if you've truly learned nothing from history, get the blessing of the original prompter before you repeat the past.
The other task of judging is to critique all the non-disqualified entries. Crits are the gears that keep Thunderdome turning and masochists coming back for more, so yes, you really ought to explain to that person with the new losertar just why his story sucks. The ideal crit will offer at least three points of feedback, but you do you.
Three shall be the number of judges, and the number of judges shall be three.
The triangulation of opinions and viewpoints works well and delivers more crits to the entrants besides, assuming the judges aren't lazy assholes. Do not judge alone if you can help it.
You plebians simply do not understand my literary greatness.
Keep telling yourself that, sunshine. If you want to discuss the hitherto unrecognized merits of your latest fecal vignette, head over to the Fiction Farm or, for more general questions, to Fiction Advice. This thread is for three things:
Nowhere on that list is "whining about stories" for the excellent reason that no one wants to wade through that sewage.
Is it true this show is run by a shadowy cabal?
No, because cabals are by definition secret.
Anyone who judges, crits, or writes contributes to Thunderdome's existence, but a circus of this size needs clown wranglers. Four individuals have stood up in the fray to claim that indescribably dubious honor.
sebmojo, mod and sheriff, bestows upon each the losertar according to his need. In his gentle way, he lets shitposters know when to shut the gently caress up.
Sitting Here, the original Blood Queen, first and current champion, hosts and posts the Thunderdome recaps and frequently runs our celebration prompts. Look upon her works, ye mighty, and despair.
Kaishai the Archivist preserves all works in the Thunderdome Archive, maintains the OP, keeps the thread rosters, oversees the IRC channel, writes the recap outlines, and can remember far too many of the horrible things you've done.
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We're Thunderdome's janitors, so to speak. Contact us if you have a problem in need of solving. In the arena, we rise or fall on our merit like everyone else--ask Sitting Here about lattecopters sometime!
What else can I do to piss you guys off for reasons whereof Reason knows nothing?
Oh, lots, but here are particular things to avoid:
Anything else I should know?
The word count is a hard maximum. The deadlines are absolute. Mercy is at the judges' discretion. Complain to mods about Thunderdome judgment at the peril of being derided for as long as goons remember that dumb thing you did, which is to say forever.
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Kaishai fucked around with this message at 04:38 on Jan 6, 2020
|# ¿ Jan 2, 2019 21:19|
|# ¿ Sep 27, 2023 10:00|
Assembled for Your Convenience: The Thunderdome Archive!
Once upon a time, two Thunderdome veterans who shared a love of statistics and a touch of OCD conceived of the greatest project ever imagined: the Thunderdome Archive, where everyone's literary shame could be displayed forever. crabrock bought a domain and coded his visions into reality. Kaishai assisted him by trawling the threads for prompts, stories, and relevant .gifs. To this day, they fight to preserve Thunderdome's coprophilic heritage.
The Archive's purpose is to store the millions of words written for TD to date. If you want to make use of it to the fullest degree (which includes reading the stories), you'll need an account, and you can request one through the link at the top left of the index. Note that accounts are open to participants only! If you're desperate to read about Vorpal Drones and vambraces at sea without searching the threads, you must first shed blood.
We have graphs!
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(Please read "Rural Rentboys," Thunderdome's most beloved classic, to understand 2019teen and to reach true spiritual enlightenment.)
And much, much more! Visit the Thunderdome Archive today!
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 21:23 on Jan 2, 2019
|# ¿ Jan 2, 2019 21:20|
Thunderbrawls of 2019
Thunderbrawl 276 by Yoruichi: ThirdEmperor vs. Sitting Here Round 1 ThirdEmperor Thunderbrawl 277 by Anomalous Blowout: Antivehicular vs. Solitair Round 1 Antivehicular Thunderbrawl 278 by Pham Nuwen: Flesnolk vs. SlipUp Round 1 Flesnolk Thunderbrawl 279 by sebmojo: derp vs. Mercedes Round 1 Mercedes (by default) Thunderbrawl 280 by steeltoedsneakers: apophenium vs. Saucy_Rodent Round 1 apophenium Thunderbrawl 281 by Chili: ThirdEmperor vs. SlipUp Round 1 ThirdEmperor Thunderbrawl 282 by Sitting Here: Sham bam bamina! vs. Simply Simon Round 1 Simply Simon Thunderbrawl 283 by Flesnolk: onsetOutsider vs. sebmojo Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 284 by Sitting Here: steeltoedsneakers vs. flerp Round 1 steeltoedsneakers Thunderbrawl 285 by Flesnolk: Bolt Lux vs. anatomi Round 1 anatomi Thunderbrawl 286 by ThirdEmperor: Lippincott vs. onsetOutsider Round 1 Lippincott Thunderbrawl 287 by sebmojo: SurreptitiousMuffin vs. Anomalous Blowout Round 1 SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl 288 by sebmojo: ThirdEmperor vs. Exmond Round 1 ThirdEmperor Thunderbrawl 289 by Sham bam bamina!: curlingiron vs. sebmojo Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 290 by ThirdEmperor: SlipUp vs. anatomi Round 1 anatomi Thunderbrawl 291 by flerp: Saucy_Rodent vs. Thranguy Round 1 Thranguy Thunderbrawl 292 by Obliterati: sebmojo vs. Sham bam bamina! Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 293 by SlipUp: ThirdEmperor vs. Fuschia tude Round 1 ThirdEmperor Thunderbrawl 294 by Antivehicular: anatomi vs. ThirdEmperor Round 1 ThirdEmperor Thunderbrawl 295 by Sitting Here: Saucy_Rodent vs. Simply Simon Round 1 Simply Simon Thunderbrawl 296 by ThirdEmperor: SlipUp vs. Solitair Round 1 Solitair Thunderbrawl 297 by flerp: ThirdEmperor vs. onsetOutsider Round 1 ThirdEmperor Thunderbrawl 298 by steeltoedsneakers: cptn_dr vs. Captain_Person Round 1 Captain_Person Thunderbrawl 299 by Whalley: sebmojo vs. ThirdEmperor Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 300 by Saucy_Rodent: steeltoedsneakers vs. Yoruichi Round 1 Yoruichi Thunderbrawl 301 by sebmojo: crabrock vs. Thranguy Round 1 Thranguy Thunderbrawl 302 by Anomalous Blowout: Sitting Here vs. sebmojo Round 1 Sitting Here Thunderbrawl 303 by steeltoedsneakers: Exmond vs. Anomalous Blowout vs. Mr. Steak Round 1 Anomalous Blowout Thunderbrawl 304 by Antivehicular: SurreptitiousMuffin and Anomalous Blowout vs. Yoruichi and crabrock Round 1 Yoruichi and crabrock (by default) Thunderbrawl 305 by sebmojo: crimea vs. Sitting Here vs. flerp Round 1 Sitting Here Thunderbrawl 306 by Getsuya: Saucy_Rodent vs. Mercedes Round 1 Saucy_Rodent Thunderbrawl 307 by flerp: Getsuya vs. Black Griffon Round 1 Getsuya Thunderbrawl 308 by Chili: Fleta Mcgurn vs. derp Round 1 Fleta Mcgurn Thunderbrawl 309 by flerp: Getsuya vs. Saucy_Rodent and Mercedes Round 1 Getsuya Thunderbrawl 310 by Saucy_Rodent: Siddhartha Glutamate vs. derp Round 1 derp Thunderbrawl 311 by Yoruichi: take the moon vs. Anomalous Blowout Round 1 Anomalous Blowout Thunderbrawl 312 by sebmojo: crimea vs. Sitting Here Round 1 Sitting Here Thunderbrawl 313 by sebmojo: steeltoedsneakers vs. SurreptitiousMuffin Round 1 SurreptitiousMuffin Thunderbrawl 314 by Flesnolk: SlipUp vs. Doctor Zero Round 1 Doctor Zero Thunderbrawl 315 by flerp: SlipUp vs. Anomalous Amalgam Round 1 SlipUp Thunderbrawl 316 by Antivehicular: Anomalous Amalgam vs. steeltoedsneakers Round 1 Anomalous Amalgam Thunderbrawl 317 by SlipUp: Chili vs. Jon Joe Round 1 Chili Thunderbrawl 318 by Chili: Anomalous Amalgam vs. sebmojo Round 1 sebmojo Thunderbrawl 319 by Simply Simon: Mercedes vs. Sitting Here Round 1 Sitting Here
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 04:11 on Jan 15, 2020
|# ¿ Jan 2, 2019 21:21|
Thunderdome Week CCCXXXV: Pictures Worth a Thousand Words
Judges: Kaishai, Anomalous Blowout, and curlingiron.
Happy New Year! We're going to celebrate the dawn of 2019 by sharing glimpses of our worlds with one another. To wit, your task is to take a photograph somewhere outside your home and write a story inspired by that picture. You'll ideally photograph a place, not an object, if only to prevent any lovingly zoomed-in images of dog feces. Your settings are not limited to these images. You don't need to write about the exact real, location unless you so choose. I want to see the influence of the picture in your entry, though, and I'll drub you with the Tripod of Disqualification if I can't.
Don't worry too much about the quality of your photos; I'm not holding you to National Geographic standards here. That said, you'd better believe all images must be safe for work. If you somehow cannot take a picture of your own, I'll take one for you at the cost of a 300-word penalty. Going this route rather defeats the point, so it should be a choice of last resort. You can enter in advance of posting your snapshot, but your photo must be in a Thunderdome thread before the sign-up deadline passes--editing it into your sign-up post is fine.
As for twists... hmm. How about this? Entries should have a theme of resolution. The word has several meanings, and which to apply is up to you.
No erotica, fanfiction, nonfiction, poetry, political satire, political screeds, GoogleDocs, quote tags, or dick pics. Flash rules will be given exclusively as punishments. For anyone in need of an image host, Imgur should do the trick.
Sign-up deadline: Friday, January 4, 11:59pm USA Eastern
Submission deadline: Sunday, January 6, 11:59pm USA Eastern
Maximum word count: 1,000
Sitting Here: "The Turns of Edward Smith"
QuoProQuid: "A Natural Selection"
Pham Nuwen: "Hospitality"
Staggy: "Life in Stop Motion"
Exmond: "A Death's Purpose - Lullabies For The Soul"
apophenium: "In Lieu of Getting Out"
Yoruichi: "One Hour"
Antivehicular: "Swimming and Sinking"
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 05:59 on Jan 7, 2019
|# ¿ Jan 2, 2019 21:22|
The deadline is the deadline; no exceptions. Come back for a future week!
|# ¿ Jan 4, 2019 22:21|
Amateur photographers, you have one hour to join the first week of the new year and one hour to upload your pictures!
|# ¿ Jan 5, 2019 05:05|
Submissions for Week CCCXXXV are CLOSED! I'm going to chalk up your delinquency in posting a picture to weird kiwi time shenanigans, Yoruichi, but it had better be in the thread by the next time I check.
|# ¿ Jan 5, 2019 06:44|
Sitting Here vs. Yoruichi Thunderbrawl Crits
THE PROMPT: Write a break-up story with a happy ending. Inflatable cars and talking dogs had to be involved, so I don't know how high our expectations could have been, really.
MY VOTE WENT TO: Yoruichi and her touching tale of plastic friendship, but any more inflation scenes and I'll start calling her ZeBourgeoisie 2.0.
Sitting Here: "A Walk Around the Block"
I should possibly like this story better considering that I've more or less written it myself, but I admit, I keep flashing back to App Week and all those apps for talking to dead people. It's a concept that tastes unfortunately stale. Characters with enough personality to make their love come to life could have neutralized that problem; alas, Oliver is a paper doll you're putting through the motions of a ghost story. An uninspired ghost story, at that. The path it takes is familiar, and the treacle-sweet ending is straight from the Hallmark Channel. Those factors hurt you significantly after Yoruichi slapped a fresh premise with distinctive characters down on the table.
The grief of your main lady is affecting. She has some spark to her for all that she spells you with one letter in extremis. That u doesn't work for me, by the way, when followed by fuckass purgatory; your exposition is interfering with your natural-looking chatspeak, I think. But the lady's feelings of sorrow, panic, and love for her dog are all real and reasonably poignant. I like that bit where she tries to have petty, everyday conversations with Oliver to hold off the fact that he's dead, only for the facade to dissolve the moment he doesn't respond instantly. I wish she loved a person and not a flat grief object, because I imagine that then this might have been heartwrenching--the potential is there.
Another issue is the treatment of purgatory, which is just a grey space Oliver has to walk through for a while, I guess? Why? Why is it so easy to cross, and why is it there? One unremarkable and tedious presence in the story is enough.
Kudos for the take on your prompt, though: that's a clever interpretation of "dogs that speak," although it occurs to me as I type this that Boris should have a place in the conclusion, possibly at Oliver's side.
GRADE: A solid B. Technically proficient and thoroughly coherent, for all that it doesn't excel.
Yoruichi: "Inflated Dreams"
Soooooo you wrote inflatable car porn. That's a thing. I would personally have toned the bodice-ripper phrasing in the inflation scene down, but that's me. The innuendo was a little funny, but it set a toe over the line between amusing and gross, and I like the story rather better if I don't read that exchange as a sex scene. Doll and Car are charming little people who want different things out of their plastic lives, with Doll coming across as the more insightful and mature friend; she's the one who sacrifices, as Car doesn't have much choice once she pushes him into the stream. She's probably the one who will hurt a little more. This is a true amicable, loving parting of friends, and although I thought at first that they relinquished each other too quickly, Doll's vigorous waving shows her affection for Car in a beautifully understated manner. Car could stand to be more distraught. But you were out of words, and you pulled off the ending pretty well considering that.
The balance of the text may be a bit off. The story's first few paragraphs are heavy with description and explanation. It's good; many details shouldn't be cut since they suggest things about Doll and Car without saying them outright (e.g. the way he protects her home from the rain, the reasons he has to believe she would want to ride with him and see the sea). When you do exposit about their relationship, you weaken it, ironically, and if there's anywhere you could trim words it's probably Paragraph Four. The last three or four sentences there are where things get clumsy.
You played your prompt straight, which in this case I see as a good thing: the setting and the physics of crinkled eyes and such add a lot of life, and the story is determined by the prompt in a way that's delightful.
GRADE: A-. The implications are as graceful as the exposition is awkward, and its creativity and characters make up for weird doll/car sex. Mostly. Kind of. Just take your win and don't make me think about that anymore, all right?
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 03:54 on Jan 7, 2019
|# ¿ Jan 6, 2019 19:20|
Roughly one hour remains to submit!
|# ¿ Jan 7, 2019 05:08|
Submissions for Week CCCXXXV: Pictures Worth a Thousand Words are now CLOSED!
Although the failures of Your Sledgehammer and Djeser will haunt us all forever, we still achieved a roster of nine stories. Good show, Camera Club! Anomalous Blowout, curlingiron, and I will meet soon to decide who lives and who dies. In the meanwhile, enjoy the glow of resolution fulfilled.
|# ¿ Jan 7, 2019 06:30|
Results for Week CCCXXXV: Pictures Worth a Thousand Words
Considering that the winning story of Ghost Week involved photography, maybe it shouldn't surprise me that so many of your photograph stories, including the winner, involved ghosts. That makes me wonder what other prompts we could turn into ouroboroi. If someone ran poo poo Week, would everyone submit mysteries? A thought for the ages. But you aren't here for philosophical musings; you probably got enough of those in this week's entries anyway, so let's shake this post like a Polaroid picture and see what develops!
THE WINNER, by amicable consensus, is Staggy! Two judges found your ending unsatisfying, but what luck for you: almost everybody fell over at the finish line this week, and the rest of your story is surprisingly engaging for something trapped in one place. Congratulations on landing the first win of 2019!
An HONORABLE MENTION is hereby presented to Yoruichi for a story that both fought against and danced with the beauty of her photograph. Alas, none of us were happy with your ending either. David's struggles still earned enough sympathy that more of us liked his story than not.
THE LOSER--oh, this grieves me, QuoProQuid. You had a Jenga tower made of rhinocerotes! What happened? How did you go from that to a wanker in a Jeep firing a rifle by hugging it? I don't know, nor do I know what "corncob" even means, and for this uncertainty I shall never forgive you.
Thank you all for a mercifully atrocity-free start to the year. Critiques should be forthcoming. Good luck, Staggy--we'll staple your picture to the Winners' Wall while you start the next show!
|# ¿ Jan 8, 2019 05:29|
Short Crits for Week CCCXXXV: Thumbnail Previews
My horrifying critique backlog inspires me to take a page from my 2014 yearbook and post the notes I made as I read your entries. In an ideal world, you'll get full-form crits later. These are substantial enough to assuage my guilt in the meanwhile, though as they're based on initial reactions, it's possible I've missed nuances (or annoyances) that time and reflection may reveal.
Sitting Here, "The Turns of Edward Smith"
Picture Thoughts: The story this inspires could be about furniture, could be about a carousel, and hopefully won't be Something Wicked This Way Comes fanfiction. I'd guess there will be at least a touch of magical realism or surrealism.
Ghosts? Interesting! A sour old man? Potentially cliche. The two together? I worry this will end up in grumpy-old-man-learns-to-open-his-heart territory.
Aww, but he's hurting for his granddaughter more than himself. Maybe that's a lesson he doesn't need.
Is this one of those carousels with a brass ring, and could he grab it to escape? Asking for a ghost friend.
This carousel seems to be going a long time without repair or change.
I know the carousel-in-a-furniture-store is straight from the image (and I'm liking this illogical carousel in general), but I wouldn't mind some hint of what the heck it's doing there. That goes hand in hand with noticing the lack of age and wear on the ride. Either it's magic or SH is handwaving some details that could add to the story.
Huh. There's a bit of learning-to-open-his-heart after all, though it's slanted more toward learning-to-have-fun, and... I'm not convinced endless time on a carousel would teach that lesson, honestly. The plane solution is a little contrived since Edward hasn't made so much of a change that it makes sense he can suddenly escape. He never did seem that grumpy; his sourness was an informed attribute.
In the end I enjoyed reading this, I enjoy Edward, I enjoy the probably-magic carousel, but I don't think the progression from Point A to Point B is natural.
* ******************** *******************
Exmond, "A Death's Purpose - Lullabies For The Soul"
Picture Thoughts: A café or cafeteria, huh? We could be looking at a vignette if the entry takes place all in one room, and I hope it doesn't since talky diner pieces don't usually end well, but I'm immediately interested in where this might go. A lot of human drama can happen over a meal.
Good starter paragraph. I'm interested in where this is going. Then I hit the second paragraph and I'm interested in a less positive way: what looked like a human story is going to be about sheep-angels and comma splices, apparently.
Withholding information about something like the "cousins" doesn't make me want to learn more.
Subprompt: check, and well done.
Okay, so this ends up being a philosophical piece more than a story--a commentary on human nature and human demise with next to no plot and only one character worth knowing. The dead man and his regrets are pretty good, however, and the omniscient viewpoint adds something there. I like that Kim doesn't remember him; that's tragic (for him) and exceptionally human.
The weakness other than the lack of plot is the narrating creature(s) and their nature, which is never quite clear; nor is the cousins'. They're some sort of floaty voyeur spirit thing born out of and enthralled by human defiance of death, I reckon. One sort of floaty voyeur spirit becomes another by taking on negative human emotions. All right, but... I care more about the dead man than about these creatures or their musings.
Exmond's writing has improved quite a lot on the technical side, and stretches of the prose are rather good. This is by no means a disaster. The fluffy things are dull, though, unfortunately.
* ******************** *******************
Yoruichi, "One Hour"
Picture Thoughts: Yoruichi wins the Natural Beauty Sweepstakes. There's no question this is the most gorgeous image, but it could almost work against her depending on where she takes it. It's epic enough that of course a story could be set there, so if the entry has any weaknesses, the photo won't be to blame.
Oh, no, not more ghosts? Is everybody going to be dead this week?
Maybe he's not dead. It sounds like he's just sick. You have my attention, Yoruichi.
Augh! "Okay" has four letters! (Could be an NZ vs. American thing?) Pease is an amusing typo regardless of one's version of English.
Although I like David--who is convincingly sour--and what I can discern of Alice (who is less developed and more of a standard supportive GF so far, but she works), the trudging through exhaustion and despair is getting tedious... which, to be fair, is fairly meta. Oh, and good, it looks like we're here. Just in time!
This is a vignette, and David's emotional turnaround in the last section is too pat. It's the "Not if. When" that gets me--where did this confidence come from? But the last line is nice. The prompt and subprompt are both dealt with well, especially in the way that the piece denies and then embraces the photo's beauty. Possible HM, possible win.
* ******************** *******************
Staggy, "Life in Stop Motion"
Picture Thoughts: A clock on a castle! I've watched so much Inspector Lewis and Endeavour that I immediately think of Oxford. An Oxford story would be rad. The blurry car wouldn't catch my notice if the story title didn't make me think it may be more to the point than Castle Timepiece, but I imagine Staggy could do interesting things with it.
I want some more commas in this second paragraph.
More dead people? We're officially to the point where the week has A Theme. That's not good news. Stories following A Theme have to be all the stronger to stand out from a pack of similar ideas.
Fewer cows, dammit.
Spell out numbers below 100!
This is close to a vignette too, but the concept is interesting enough that I don't mind so much its musings on the human condition; they're presented through the lens of a feeling, frustrated, human narrator, which helps. But as with the first ghost story, I don't understand what brought the sudden change--from still motion to full motion, in this case. His daughter is getting married. That's lovely, but what about that allows him to see it? The story doesn't otherwise hint at the grace of God. I'm also left hanging regarding why the father is suddenly all right with missing his daughter's life, though I suspect the idea is that all that matters is that she's well and happy. Which is sweet in theory but a bit incredible in practice, and being okay with not knowing the details of her isn't exactly heartwarming.
I like this one as ghostly vignettes go, but it will probably fall in the middle of the pack. (Later note: for me, it did, but its position in the upper middle made it a viable consensus choice.) The technical errors are slightly distracting but not enough so to cause real damage.
* ******************** *******************
Picture Thoughts: I'm digging this strange plastic(-ish) fish skeleton hovering above the water. If it turns out to be a ghost fish, though, so help me--
Hmmmm. A ghost fish that isn't dead. All right, I can live with this. Not sure about the species/genus names, though, since xeno is distinctly Greek and pescium is closer to Latin. Strange purple death fish? I sort of doubt it, at least the purple part.
"Its bones we're gunmetal black." Oh, Thranguy.
Uh, okay. The ghost-alien-whatsis fish are fascinating, and the descriptions of them are beautiful. I would love to read a story about these creatures. Unfortunately, they're side dressing on the brief scrap of story Thranguy presents here: Jess and Colin's marital troubles get precious little of the word count but are apparently what the whole thing is more or less about. That's just odd, and the entry feels like it's either a badly made story centaur, a fragment of something much larger, or both.
The excellence of the fish ought to spare Thranguy any negative mention. The misapplied focus ought to prevent any positive. He should come back to the ghost fish, though. They're great.
* ******************** *******************
Pham Nuwen, "Hospitality"
Picture Thoughts: This is my actual favorite of all the pictures. Call it nostalgia for snow, call it a fondness for small-chain burger joints, but I want to read whatever story could happen at the Lotaburger. Don't let me down!
Lolaburger. That sound you hear is my silicon heart breaking just a little.
I hear Jay's Diner has staff so rad it's unholy. (RIP, Jay.)
too'," Pham says, and I die inside.
Is this a gang of Elvis impersonators? Is that what I am seeing here?
Oh God, it is.
ELVES IMPERSONATORS. I hate Pham Nuwen so much.
The song titles are just killing me in a way that rides the line between good and bad. Well done? I guess?
You know, if he'd left off the last bit and trusted me to spot the Elf/Elvis thing--which I drat well did--the ending and indeed the whole story would be better, since Earl's last spoken line reads too much like a punchline.
This is so goofy and stupid and yet kind of fun that I can't call for Pham's demise, but he's running a serious risk of being the weakest Elvis in the herd. The subprompt is subtle enough that I'm not convinced it's intentionally present--save in the sense that the story resolves, but really now?
* ******************** *******************
apophenium, "In Lieu of Getting Out"
Picture Thoughts: I thought for ten seconds about calling this out as too blurry to be a picture of anything, but that glimpse of a store(?) and streetlight(?) through rain is appealing to me. I want to see something cool done with it, though. A vague or halfhearted relationship to the picture would be especially displeasing.
This title isn't borrowed from Sitting Here's Week 333 effort, is it? I should hope not.
Mmm. Aliens. Potentially interesting and potentially disastrous.
apophenium's playing around with phrases, and some of them work okay: "His hangover was the word ‘regret,’" "transferred his body into." It's not that easy to come up with an unusual phrase that's easy to follow.
This therapy session is allowing him to exposit about Kelvin's psyche in a believable way, but I'd rather more were shown and less were told.
While I like the UFO support group, it barely goes anywhere and then the story's over. Too-easy acceptance and optimism are another Theme of the week. Kelvin's freedom from obsession is achieved in two words from a stranger, it seems, and though it's possible that could actually happen, it's awfully narratively convenient. In fact, that conclusion is so weak that it might edge out the Elvises. We'll see.
I will say that by making the focus Kelvin and his problems rather than the aliens, apophenium avoided disaster: there are some abduction tropes present, I suppose, but this isn't a same-old-same-old UFO story.
* ******************** *******************
QuoProQuid, "A Natural Selection"
Picture Thoughts: Anyone should be able to do something with rhinos stacked like Jenga blocks, but will it be good? The photo is unusual enough to lead to magic or to a tortured attempt at magic. It probably won't lead to J.C. Penney, to my eternal sorrow.
At first I thought this man was extremely self-centered to think comedians were laughing at him, but now I get that he's a celebrity. I'd rather read about a famous man than one with delusions of persecution; we're off to a good start.
What the eff does "corncob" even mean?
QPQ's capitalization could use some work.
Oh, so Francis is still extremely self-centered. I wish the late-night hosts had been wrong about him, although I imagine that would be difficult to balance with the rhino-poaching business.
"You don’t get to fun of me!" Oh, yes I do!
Are rifles that easy to fire? Did he have his finger on the trigger? Why?
The corncob thing goes unexplained. Alas, I may have my loss vote here. I liked reading this more than I did Exmond's, it holds together better than Thranguy's, there isn't an Elvis in sight, but Francis is a one-dimensional rear end and his ending hits me as improbable. "Self-centered corncob gets what he deserves, the short story" would be much more interesting if it involved a literal corncob.
* ******************** *******************
Antivehicular, "Swimming and Sinking"
Picture Thoughts: This photo has "omen of horrible death" scrawled on the back next to the date, and I don't know whether I hope Antivehicular goes that route or not. It would be a shame to waste a good murder site. On the other hand, anything dark has to be to some extent expected.
Uh-oh. There's no better portent of death to come than "X figured it was probably safe," other than buzzards. Also: swimming in purple-grey fizz? Egads.
Lay, not laid. I'll give AV a reluctant pass on "ok" in this context.
Okay, really? Swimming in sticky, staining liquid of that color? Really? Someone somewhere might want to do this, but Andi's so aware of the nastiness that I'm finding her willingness hard to believe.
She opened her eyes in it? These girls have cell phones. They have television. They have things to do that won't get their eyes eaten out by soda worms.
All right, so it's magic. I'm afraid AV held that card too close to her chest for too long. I'd bet I was meant to twig earlier that this was something other than industrial waste, but I didn't, so I've spent a few hundred words with my skin crawling.
This is a case of magical realism not working out. The casual dismissal of Kayla as "portal-mad" is awkward; portals needed to be a thing from the outset. Furthermore, Andi is not the character to whom a story happens. Kayla is the person who acts, Kayla's the one whose life leads her to make this choice, and Andi's life is not much affected. I do see why it's better to keep what's beyond the portal vague, but I think Andi should have been more active in the story--or else her friendship with Kayla should have been deepened. Stuff like the parents' bedtime ritual could have been cut to show more of Andi and Kayla together.
I would actually put this in the lower half of the week, but it should be safe.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 05:59 on Jan 8, 2019
|# ¿ Jan 8, 2019 05:39|
|# ¿ Jan 12, 2019 03:37|
The Sun in Chains
The Elder's eyes blazed light and heat upon the entire cavern, but Cille felt the focus of the burning glare on her hands and face. She hated to work near an Elder. Her skin crawled incessantly while she did, to the point that she preferred to weave mycelium threads and root strands into cloth in the pure, chill dark. The cold made her fingers clumsy, though, and her blind crafting had snags and holes where her illuminated work was flawless. So she endured the Elder's eyes, keeping her own fixed elsewhere.
At least that way she didn't have to look at the cage that held the Elder or at the cord that bound its mouth shut.
No one else seemed to care. All around, people ate, drank, did their chores, and hissed gossip and laughter without appearing to notice the old lizard at the center of the chamber. Sometimes a child would fling a rock at the cage, and the nearest adult would nip the youngling hard enough to draw blood, but otherwise the others went about as though the prisoner were no kin of theirs. "Ignore it, Cille," her mother had said.
"But won't that be you someday? And me?"
The bite she'd gotten in response had left a scar on her shoulder. Cille turned her head to lick the mark. The Elder's eyes followed her: she sensed it, knew it, and shivered even in the warmth. Once a lizard got old, truly old, its sight failed, and the colony would drive it up to the surface to face the sun and become it. Sunfire would kindle in its eyes, and an Elder's gaze held that fire for as long as it lived. Thus was light brought underground. It had to be so--
Cille stole a glance at the cord, the bars. She set her weaving down and skittered out of the chamber.
She returned late in the sleep cycle to retrieve the cloth; it was still there, but the room was empty of people other than herself and the Elder. It wasn't sleeping. Did it ever? Cille stepped past her work, approaching the ancient lizard.
It growled low in its throat. It wore a gorgeous robe stained blue with powders, but beneath the fine material, its skin hung loose and grey. Every claw had split. Cille wondered who fed it, and how often, and why she'd never thought to ask.
She darted a hand into the cage and hooked the cord binding the Elder's jaw. Her claws wouldn't tear it; she pulled it toward her teeth, though that brought the Elder's face too close. The old lizard had gone still. Cille bit through the cord until it fell away. The Elder opened its mouth wide, spilling out sour, rotten breath and a shuddering hiss. Its tongue was a ragged stump.
Together, Cille and the Elder chewed apart its cage and remaining bonds. When its hands were free, the Elder seized Cille's head and forced her to meet its stare. Light stabbed into her brain. She struggled, thrashed, and fell, curling in on herself. The Elder grabbed her by the neck and dragged her out of the cave and down rough corridors before it dropped her and hissed one thick, clotted word: "Run."
The Elder fled, too fast for Cille to follow in her daze. She burrowed into the dark, but not far enough. Her people found her, and bit her, and clawed out her eyes, and they carried her to a crack in the earth to face the sun.
When the light struck her, it surged into the hollows in her mind where sight had lived. Fire heated the marrow of her bones. And it stayed there: the ruined pits in her face were no fit home for sunfire. Light seethed in her body, hers alone--unless she set it free.
Cille unhinged her jaw and spat incandescence into the nearest faces, which shrieked and scrabbled for cover; she breathed heat over limbs that burned and shriveled. She darted, fast with the warmth in her blood, away and deep into the ground.
Though still blind, she could sense sparks of the sun in the distance: Elders. Cille changed her course to head for the nearest. She would learn to live without enslaved light, and so, she was determined, would her people.
|# ¿ Jan 14, 2019 06:01|
Furthermore, I'll do crits for Week 336 stories for anyone who requests one. These may be later than the deadline above, because I have like 40 crits to write, holy hell, but I'll do my best to be timely.
I'll take you up on this, thank you.
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2019 04:17|
Brawls will continue until the inkthirst of the Dome is quenched.
A brawl needs to be declared in the thread to be official. So I ain't adding this to the roster until a challenge is thrown down here.
|# ¿ Jan 17, 2019 03:11|
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.
|# ¿ Jan 17, 2019 05:02|
E: I already lost, enjoy this easier to read version.
Don't do this, please. The idea of the Archive is to preserve work as it originally appeared and was judged. There would be little point in it otherwise.
To clarify: if you need to edit a story out of the thread or otherwise want to change it after the fact, wait until it's been archived, which in the case of brawls can't happen before results are announced and may not happen immediately afterward.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 02:11 on Feb 17, 2019
|# ¿ Feb 17, 2019 02:05|
Many hours remain before the deadline. Try Option 3: Write something else?
|# ¿ Feb 17, 2019 17:46|
Cryptomnesia - ~1,300 words
You need to put your entry into the thread as words, anatomi. I've contacted you about this; it's been over twenty-four hours. Please post a script.
For everyone's future reference! The OP has been updated to include a requirement we somehow didn't realize was necessary until now! Thou shalt put words in the thread. If you must post an image because your formatting won't allow a text post, that's one thing, but anybody who looks in the thread must be able to see your words in it. So mote it be. (Strange exceptions like CYOA Week may occur at judges' discretion, but even then, the words were in the forums somewhere.)
This requirement applies to the current week insofar as the judges wish.
|# ¿ Feb 19, 2019 14:12|
Interprompts? Nah go nuts.
Wrong. Please don't edit interprompts. They're archived, too.
|# ¿ Mar 5, 2019 02:18|
Don't worry about it. The hounds of hell will only disembowel you and devour your kidneys as you lie screaming if you edit your entries.
|# ¿ Mar 5, 2019 13:38|
Hi, Thunderdome! There's been some confusion about Archive accounts recently, so I want to remind combatants of a few things:
Thank you, and have a
|# ¿ Mar 11, 2019 00:47|
Jus judicis, judge decides. I would always count it as a fail though.
The Archive will too!
|# ¿ Mar 15, 2019 00:10|
In with "Octopus Woman Please Let Me Go."
|# ¿ Apr 27, 2019 03:10|
Song-Poem: "Octopus Woman Please Let Me Go."
I saw her alive on my way to work as a slim, dark shape on the edge of the bridge, an irregular figure topped with twisting tendrils. I recognized a human, a woman, as my car drew closer, and as I passed her it struck me that she had a reason for being where she was. Police surrounded her, their cars making walls of steel and blue light. I pulled over on the bridge's opposite shoulder, aware that it wasn't safe and that the cops wouldn't like it and not giving a drat.
I had to get out to see her clearly. She wore a black coat; its tails snapped at her legs. The tendrils were bronze hair; wind snarled them into gibberish script against the grey sky. She faced the police, and me, with her back to the long fall down to the river. One policeman held out his hand to her. The rest stayed their distance. His posture begged her to take his hand and come back into life, and I'm sure from the angle of her chin and eyes that she saw him. But she stood straight, her hands at her sides. Her face was slack. Calm. She never looked my way.
She stepped backward and was gone.
A news van already squatted at the site, and another arrived while I stared at the empty air. When a reporter waved a microphone in my face, time resumed, and I dove for my car and its illusion of the normal world. Inside that shell I made it to work safely. No one there brought up a jumper on the bridge, so I let her slip from my mind, too--or so I told myself. That evening I watched the local news, and I glimpsed a name I've since forgotten and heard a story I couldn't tell you now. Compared to the hair that reached out while she stayed so still, those things had no power to hold me.
My sleep that night was dreamless and broken. I woke with the sheet tangled around my ankle and knee, wrist and shoulder. I dragged it with me into the kitchen, through the ritual of brewing coffee. My tie choked me. I tore it off and left it with the sheet, in a flat, crumpled heap on the floor.
"Anthony?" Polly touched my shoulder with a pencil as I stood in the entrance to my cubicle, studying my calendar without seeing any meaning. "Are you sick? You look a little...." She waved the pencil about in a way that suggested nothing.
It took a moment, but I smiled the automatic smile that I always gave my supervisor. "I don't think I slept well," I said. "Too hot. Or too cold. I'm not sure what it was."
That didn't reassure her any. "You have plenty of sick leave to use if you need it."
"I'm just fine," I said. I was. Nothing had happened to me.
I should have been able to concentrate on my work.
I should have heard the conversations around me as words, not as nonsense.
I should have told my office friends about the woman over lunch, but I didn't. With a french fry I painted tendrils of ketchup across a napkin.
Nothing had happened to me. She was nothing to me. My life hadn't changed. And yet night after night I had no dreams but got no rest, because I woke up again and again in the dark. My open eyes saw bronze words against a grey sky, a flutter of black. I moved deliberately through my days as though I moved through water.
"Let go of me," I hissed, digging my thumbs into my eyes until spots spun behind the lids like a warped checkerboard. I couldn't see properly when I let my hands fall, but the spreadsheet on my computer screen made no sense to me anyway.
Polly cleared her throat behind me. "Anthony. Go home."
It doesn't matter, I said inside, where I wouldn't have to explain. Outwardly I nodded and signed out of the system.
Driving over the bridge, I watched the river--rippling bronze under the sun--instead of the road, until my tires scraped the barricade between lanes. I jerked the wheel to the right and hunched down in my seat. I didn't look at the water again; I saw it in my mind's eye, where a dark knot of tendrils scrawled words below the surface.
The underwater flashlight I ordered online arrived in three days.
I took it to the river. Not to the bridge. I parked in an overnight lot and walked to the riverbank, trusting the black of not-quite-midnight to cover me but not caring that much whether it did. On the shore, I stripped down to shirt and pants and life vest. Rocks cut into my feet as I shuffled down the steep slope to the river. Cold. The chill of the water slammed into my blood, and the sound I made was a strangled scream. I waded to a mooring that jabbed from the shallows and clipped one end of a hundred-foot rope to it, clipped the other end to myself.
Above and downstream, the bridge glowed with lights: green, blue, violet, pink. Easter colors, still. The river reflected them and gave up none of its secrets. Its currents wrapped themselves around me, pulling me from land. I dragged air into my lungs, switched on my flashlight, and dove.
I knew someone must have found her body. Or else it had drifted on, forever lost.
I knew she was there.
Green weeds slid over my face, caressed my legs and let me pass. I swung the light in slow, wobbling arcs. It caught no pale face or still hand. No bronze tangle that spelled my name. No eye to meet mine and call me home or set me free.
My lungs ached. I stopped struggling to go down and let the life vest carry me up. But a tendril as slim as wire wrapped around my foot, catching me so sharply that I dropped the light and it fell away.
All the world was darkness and the tendril that bound me. Another stroked my leg; a third traced my heel. They tugged me toward the river bottom, where I might just dream again.
My thrashing hand struck my rope, and I seized it, and I hauled myself toward air. The tendrils came with me, shaping their message against my calf. Right when my hand broke the surface they pulled me back below. I gripped the rope and lunged for the night and light and life and breath and fear and pain and--and--!
The first air I gulped left me in a sob. The bridge glowed overhead. I'd drifted to where she might have fallen, and I was alive. I threw myself onto my back and kicked up my snared leg, exposing whatever held me to the light.
The net of tendrils looked black in the soft pastel shine. And as I breathed, it released me, sliding back into the river. "Weeds," I panted. "Just weeds." The next noise I made was close to a laugh. I liked the sound so much that I tried another, and another, until I was half giggling and half howling under the glow.
At home in the shower I found that one strand remained knotted around my ankle. One soft, silken strand that, dry, might have been bronze.
I broke it with one gentle pull, and it slipped down the drain alone.
|# ¿ Apr 29, 2019 05:59|
In, give me a slogan. Also will do crits for my week by friday 2359 pst.
That's most noble of you, 'mojo, but isn't there another set you owe?
and since i failed as well, here's a to crit every story in each week that I fail in
I will forget this toxx when I forget that Muffin needs to come up with an archivable version of his Excel spreadsheet, which is to say NEVERRRRRRRRRRRRR.
|# ¿ Apr 30, 2019 23:13|
While I'm holding a seat in this distracted globe, what happened to this brawl? Is it a miserable pile of forfeits or what?
|# ¿ Apr 30, 2019 23:16|
hey weren't we meant to collab on something
This sounds a lot like something that belongs in the Fiction Farm!
Maybe another collaborative team will step up to challenge you so it will belong in a competitive arena? Say, Yoru and somebody else who just effing loves some griffins?
|# ¿ May 2, 2019 13:11|
In with Dès Vu.
|# ¿ May 10, 2019 20:54|
Choose, and Remember
(2,107 words--yes, I know.)
Sorrow: Dès Vu.
One of the gems in Danyar's forearm was ink-black, a blot on a limb that was otherwise fair but couldn't pass for human anymore. Memory-stones had risen on the palm of her left hand and on her right wrist this year, and even her father didn't wear gloves in the heat of summer; he'd never expect her to. He'd have been disappointed, though, to see her with her skirt hiked up so she could dangle her feet in the ink-black pool, baring the jewels in her calves to the world.
At that moment "the world" only meant Cardell anyway, so what was the harm?
Danyar bent forward to dip her fingers in the water. "I'll drown here someday, and nobody will find me for a week."
"Except that this is the first place I'd look," Cardell said, "considering how often you've said that. Maybe there's a cache of gold in there and you'll be the one to find it." He sat cross-legged beside her, braiding strands of grass.
"Why don't you scry it for me, wizard?"
"I'd keep it if I did," he told her. "What would that stone signify then? The site of your worst disappointment?"
Danyar shoved his shoulder, barely budging him. He'd grown all through spring. His legs and arms were longer than hers for the first time she could recall, and he was solid in the same disconcerting way of the other boys of their generation. His jaws had sprouted one terrible attempt at whiskers after another. If it weren't for those, Cardell might be decent looking as well as thoughtful and bright, and she could almost wish--but no. There was no point in that.
She got to her feet and stepped back into her shoes. The water showed her reflection: hair, blouse, skirt all reasonably neat. "It's nearly noon. Are you going to come and see them?"
Cardell shook his head and broke off more grass. "I'll do that soon enough. Tell me how it turns out."
"I'll show you, if I'm lucky," Danyar said, and she followed the path that led back to the road, then followed the road to town.
That day, four young wizards--four!--were due to arrive in Konnesvar to study with the most well-known master in town. One of them might possibly, finally, be Danyar's future husband. None of the local spellworkers had raised a memory-stone on her skin. None could be that important to her future, however she felt about them in the present.
She wanted love, and she wanted magic. She wouldn't settle for less.
There! Four figures in dark blue robes stood out against the dusty brown of the carriage that had brought them. Danyar studied the group from a distance. Three were boys--one a man, really--he could be five years her senior. His hair was the color of an ink-black pool, but the eyes that met and caught hers were blue, blue, blue.
The skin below her right shoulder tingled and ached with a forming memory. Danyar forced herself to walk, even stroll, toward the blue eyes and the slow smile that surely matched the one she felt on her lips. She held out her hand to him. "Welcome to Konnesvar," she said.
He clasped her hand. His eyes traced the jewel in her wrist, the jewels in her arms. "Thank you. Are you...?" The question trailed off. The other students stared at her outright.
Danyar asked, "Am I what?"
Her wizard considered her, then squeezed her fingers. "At liberty to show me around town?"
"Yes. I'm also Danyar."
"Ziovon," he said.
Her heart drummed like a smith's hammer as she led him, their fingers entwined, out of the town proper and to the stream that ran alongside; he didn't seem to mind in the least. Those blue eyes were clear and clever, more shrewd than other wizards', even Cardell's. Or was that only what she wanted to think?
They stopped under the boughs of a willow tree. Side-by-side, they leaned against the trunk. "Should I pretend not to be curious?" Ziovon murmured. "I think I've seen stones like those before."
"Many of them? So many the person didn't have any other skin?"
"'Person,'" Ziovon repeated. "I suppose. Kze-karhya are person-shaped, certainly."
Danyar repeated, "Person. My grandmother was a... what you said. She would say the word, but nobody else would."
"I didn't think they could breed. I doubt that was the original intention." Ziovon stopped and touched her hand. "Was that rude to say?"
"I know what she was," Danyar said. "Wizards made people like her to hold memories for them, because memories have power. She was sold by one wizard and bought by another. Her master loved her and married her. They had my father, and he loved and married my mother, and here I am." She turned her left palm up to show him the stone there. "I wasn't born with any jewels, but I've grown a few. They hold my memories."
Ziovon reached, paused, waited for her nod, then touched the gem so lightly that she shivered. "What is this one?"
Danyar closed her eyes, remembering. "A thunderstorm. Lightning hit the shield my grandfather put over our house before he died."
"Your grandmother must miss him."
"She didn't outlive him by a day. All her jewels turned grey when she went." That memory lived on Danyar's back, where she never had to see it. She was grateful.
Ziovon sensed her tension, she thought; he stopped asking about stones and told her about himself, about studying magic in a city, about how lovely her hair was and how he liked her smile. The touch of his lips to hers didn't raise a new jewel, which might have been why she left the willow after that one kiss. But the blue, blue stone under her shoulder felt warm to her hand.
Cardell sat--still? Again?--by the pool. "Well?"
She pulled down her sleeve so he could see the gem. Cardell looked at it for a long moment, then nodded. "Congratulations, I hope," he said. He flicked a crown of braided clover at her. "Did you tell him about those? The stones?"
Something about the question--or his tone--made her scowl. "Why not? Everyone knows. You know." And she stomped away.
Her father might have asked the same thing if she'd shown him her new memory, but she didn't, and they ate dinner in silence as they often did with the candlelight reflecting off the jewels in his cheekbones. The rest were hidden under long sleeves and a high collar. When Danyar had been tiny, her father would let her see and touch the shining jewels over his heart. That one's when I first saw your mother, he'd say. That one's when I first saw you. She'd searched for her mother's face in rose-gold crystal. Perhaps she would have found it in the other stone, the chunk of tombstone-granite buried in his throat, but he never let her try.
"I'm not ashamed of what I am," Danyar told Ziovon.
"Why should you be?" he said.
She told him many other things over the next few weeks. They spent hours together beneath the willow tree. She thought he might ask her to marry him, but he didn't; he kissed her but never pressed for more. He would rather talk about her heritage, and she gave him all the family stories that she knew.
One day, though, her wizard didn't meet her. Nor could she find him anywhere.
But when she saw her father lying on the bloodstained floor of their home, Danyar knew where Ziovon had been.
Red and angry sockets wept on her father's throat, his shoulder, his chest, his stomach, his legs--every stone, every stone was gone, scooped out and stolen. Yet he breathed. His hand trembled in Danyar's. And the new stone over her gut blazed like fire.
"Cardell!" she screamed as she ran for his house.
He met her halfway up the path, caught her in his arms. "Danyar--"
"Help him! Help Father!"
She knelt in the blood beside Cardell as he pressed his hands to her father's chest. Light flowed from his fingers over and into the wounds, but though the bleeding stopped and her father's breathing eased, the holes wouldn't close. "He can't heal from this," Cardell said softly. "I don't know how he's hanging on, to be honest."
"We have to get his memories back."
"Right," Cardell said. "They're part of him. I can use his blood to scry for them."
Cardell set his hand, fingers splayed, in the pool; the congealing liquid rippled, then darkened. A sheen formed on the surface. Slowly, it resolved itself into shapes: Ziovon crouched over a pile of stones, sorting through them with shrewd, clever eyes.
The image vanished. Cardell clenched his bloody fingers. "All right. I don't know where he is, but the blood will lead us there."
Danyar grabbed his shoulder, holding it tight. Then they were off again, riding double on her father's plowhorse that ran as though to get away from the blood-smell that they carried with them. "I have a knife," Danyar panted as the fields flashed by. "If you distract him, maybe I can stab him."
"I will," Cardell said, but she shivered in fear for them both.
They drew to a sharp stop a hundred yards from a derelict cottage, and Cardell looped the plowhorse's reins around the branch of a wild apple tree. Danyar reached the cottage first. Its windows were shuttered, but a flash of orange light broke through a gap in the wood. The words What's he doing? stuck in her throat. She threw Cardell a frightened glance. He took a breath, stood up tall--and kicked the door of the cottage in.
Danyar dove in after him, on the tail of a roar of words, his and Ziovon's--fire rushed toward the black-haired wizard, but Ziovon waved it aside--he had a tombstone-grey jewel ready in his hands, and it flared with a spell that struck Cardell and sent him crashing to his knees, screaming in blind heartbreak.
Ziovon turned to Danyar. "For what it's worth, I wish it weren't necessary for your father to stay alive. Maybe it isn't, but I can't chance it. Otherwise I wouldn't have left him for you to find."
The blue, blue eyes were clear and bright and far colder than stone. Danyar clenched her hands; her fingers dug into the stone on her palm, and she remembered lightning and willed, with hopeless hate, for it to come and strike Ziovon dead dead dead.
And it did.
The bolt surged from the ground beneath him and sky above him, outlining him in blinding white fire that lasted longer than any lightning strike had a right to--or that could have been her stunned perception of an end that only took a second in fact. She would never remember clearly despite the brilliant jewel that flashed into being on her cheek, beneath her eye, in the path of a tear. But it happened. Then it was done. Then there was a smoking corpse, a pile of untouched stones, and Cardell's final howl of grief fading into silence.
Danyar collected her father's jewels and her partner and got both back on the horse, somehow. Ziovon, she left behind.
As soon as her father touched each gem, it sank into his skin and reappeared in its proper place. He touched the shining stones over his heart to reassure himself they were there. He touched the tombstone-grey gem and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he smiled, and Danyar kissed his brow.
"Come with me to the pool," she whispered to Cardell once her father had fallen asleep.
He did, and she hiked up her skirt, dipping her feet into the water. He sat cross-legged beside her. The ink-black water reflected their faces: hers hollow-eyed, his exhausted, both so familiar that one memory blurred into another.
Danyar turned and kissed him, and she kept kissing him until his arms were around her and hers were around him and the world was warm and safe again--if only for a moment. Probably a jewel rose on her skin, but she didn't notice.
"Do you still have to drown here, wizard?" Cardell murmured when they broke apart.
Danyar tucked her head into the hollow of his shoulder. "I'm shaped by my memories, I know. But I can shape them too, and I'd rather be with you."
She remembered his answering hug for the rest of her days.
|# ¿ May 13, 2019 08:05|
|# ¿ May 18, 2019 05:30|
The fourth time Alistair drove off the edge of the road, he shoved the gearshift into park and killed his engine right there on the shoulder. He slid out onto the asphalt with a whiskey bottle in his hand and with a vague sense of loss. Of his car? Of Susan? Of himself? The road ahead vanished when he switched off his lights. He stood alone in the night, blind.
To either side were trees. Alistair wove to the right with his hand outstretched, toward smells of dead leaves and faded musk strong enough to break through the fumes of alcohol. His steps sank an inch into the rich, crumbling loam, soft as a bed. If he could just find a tree to lean against, to drink against until the bottle was as empty as he felt--his palm slapped bark that dissolved at his touch, staining his skin with rot. A thousand legs skittered over his fingers. "Jesus drat poo poo!" He whipped them away.
A woman laughed.
In darkness made darker by the tangled boughs above, Alistair couldn't see her. He swung around, falling against the corpse of the tree as his balance failed, and he scrabbled in his pocket for the tiny flashlight he kept on his key ring. Its beam caught a pair of human eyes. A glint of hair. Then they were gone, their owner reduced to the sound of running feet.
"Susan?" Alistair called. "Susan?" His mind filled in the blanks. Red hair. Blue eyes. The smile that had toppled him into love, that she hadn't shown him in months, that she'd given to another. "Susan!"
He ran after her, clutching the light and the whiskey as though they were life. Again and again he hit decaying trees, tripped by roots that slithered under his boots. Mushrooms exploded between him and the rot-soft trunks, choking him with their spores. But he ran. Branches tore his sleeves and his face. But he ran.
She waited for him in a clearing. The light showed her face, a beautiful face, with a hundred leaves in short-cropped hair that might have been red. The whiskey said it was. "Don't leave me again," Alistair whispered.
The woman stepped up to him, took the light away from him. "No," she whispered back. Her lips touched his. They tasted like the forest, like damned and decomposing things. Her arms wound around him, holding him tight, and he dropped the bottle. The last sound Alistair ever heard was breaking glass.
She pressed him into her, through skin as giving as loam, as bark, as death, and she changed around him until wood closed him in and he couldn't move except as she moved him: in toward the heart of her, a hollow place just the size of a man--almost. The bones of her last lover cracked and his dried flesh broke as Alistair was pinned against them so tightly that he couldn't scream even before her bitter sap poured into his throat.
In the clearing, a tree stretched its arms up into the night air. Each bore new and tender growths, proof of a living heart. The scent of whiskey drifted from those leaves toward the dead trees all around, that sighed as one in envy and waited for their turns.
|# ¿ May 20, 2019 02:31|
Critiques for Week CCC: Everybody Wants to Ruin the Void, Specifically Mrenda, Yoruichi, Benny Profane, Schneider Heim, Okua, Solitair, sparksbloom, Uranium Phoenix, Jagermonster, Antivehicular, and Jon Joe
Sweet off-brand clearance hellfire, this week. This insufferable week. Of twenty-two entries only five came within screaming distance of "not awful," and one of those was eight hours late. I've dreaded returning to Voidmart so thoroughly that every potentially productive task in my cybernetic life has taken priority over these crits, but honor and our Customer Satisfaction Guarantee demand them, so here you go: ten pounds of bile in a two-ounce bag. Here at Voidmart, we stock our disappointment in bulk!
What made this round such a crapfest? The prompt? Not with two eminently more successful Voidmart weeks on record, no. A lack of fun? In part, but that isn't your fault. Serious takes were legitimate. I assume you didn't conspire to bore us to death with this parade of bland oddity. Shoddy proofreading? Hell yes, and most of you should be ashamed. Dull, uninspired ideas? Lackluster plots when plots existed? Character behavior that made no sense? A striking dearth of effort? Yes and yes and yes and yes and yes, always, forever.
Seriously now: I don't know why, but far too many of these stories read as though their writers were flopping some words out there without much concern for whether they added up to anything good. Maybe everyone tried hard--work doesn't always show--but the poor proofing gave us too much room to doubt that. Presentation matters. Someday the follies on display here may come back to haunt you.
The only way I can get through this mess is by stealing a page from Rhino's book and asking a critical question: would each story be improved by being set in a corn maze? In your hearts, you know the answer.
Get out those Voidmart Plus cards, because here we go.
Mrenda, "A Better Place"
So right in the first line, we have mismatched quotation marks (‘Aisle 792: Kitsch Homeware,”), verb-number disagreement (dusting is a duty, singular), oddball phrasing (I can suss out that Voidmart Provides is what the plaque says, but what a weird way to get that idea across), and the introduction of a running gag that will burn a good many words without ever being funny or meaningful. I look at this single sentence and realize that I am witnessing a trainwreck of a distressingly tepid kind. The train has not and will not leap the tracks, plowing into a cliff face in a glorious burst of flame or into a herd of cows for maximum viscera. No. It has hit a pile of sandbags at low speed, and it is destined to grind to a stop without getting anywhere or providing any spectacle in its failure.
What I'm saying with this questionable metaphor is that yours is a bland, slow, awkward story with considerable design problems. That Voidmart sells entire homes and employs families to live in them is a neatly weird conceit, but you push it into a religious realm that doesn't make enough sense to hold together. Marsha and her kin view Voidmart as a god figure? Okay, I'm with you there. Marsha is still a child at twenty-seven, beholden to the manager for a future? There's no place for her in Voidmart without a manager? What was the manager going to do for her, and why, and why would she have no place rather than having a place she doesn't want (i.e. head of her own show family)? My suspicion is that this is its own questionable metaphor, possibly for life in a religious community, with Voidmart stapled crookedly onto it. Marsha ends the story faced with a choice between action and inaction, one of which will take her out of her weird world and one of which will leave her there. The idea might be that Voidmart helps those that help themselves, or that Marsha is torn on how to show faith in Voidmart (by pushing? By not pushing?), or....
See, the problem is that I don't care. Marsha has been an entirely passive protagonist. The manager is dead weight, literally. No other character has any color. The scenario is half incoherent. Voidmart is forced onto this story in the form of endless aisles and numbers, which give the piece a streak of absurdity that suits the prompt but becomes tiresome to read before the end. That end is a dud, as Martha neither does nor decides nor realizes anything of note. Her story just stops with some vague questions hanging in the air, each no more than a suggestion. I'm not even sure the large-scale questions I can imagine about faith are the ones you've meant to raise.
The prose doesn't help you either, because you consistently word things in unnecessarily roundabout ways. Here's an example: "'Spend some time with your education, first,' her mother said, dabbing at her lipstick. In receiving the answer to her question, 'look nice for the shoppers,' Marsha realised the manager’s death meant any promise of a future was now as stained as her mother’s red, blotted tissue." What? Let's try rephrasing that. "Remember your education," her mother said, dabbing at her lipstick. Marsha recalled the Voidmart commandment: look nice for the shoppers. (I don't know how to rephrase the rest because I have no idea how Point A is connected to Point B.) This may not be the best option, but it's comparably straightforward. Clarity is good. Obfuscating your meaning is usually bad. It's bad in this case, because doing so serves no purpose beyond making the sentence a chore to read.
Effort? I see a good bit of effort to wedge Voidmart into a story about... whatever exactly this is about. Voidmart doesn't feel like an organic presence, and I think the attempt ruined you insofar as you couldn't, or didn't, make the cosmic store concept and the take-control-of-your-destiny-maybe-I-dunno concept march together. Still, you tried, and I think you went outside your comfort zone in the trying. I respect that even as I dislike the result.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? Marsha wandering aimlessly through corn would be just as dull, sadly.
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Yoruichi, "You’ll Be Back, Derek, No One Escapes the Void"
Derek Derek Derek Derek Derek Derek derekderekderek DEREK!!! I swear the torturous repetitions of that name are half of what got you a DM, since otherwise this bad story isn't so much worse than the multitude of bad stories brought to you by Week 300 and the letter Y-God-Y. It's still a trainwreck of another flavor, with more tedious aisle jokes (if one can call them jokes) greasing the tracks and an illogical, strangely impotent Voidmart wearing the engineer's cap. I prefer your disaster to Mrenda's as it's at least more lively, but you've nevertheless turned a cosmic horror-mart into a petulant five-year-old willing to sacrifice a lot of toys to get a toy that might be maybe as good someday, maybe! Cripes. What five-year-old would be that stupid?
Aside from the repetition that we shall do our wholehearted best to ignore from this point forward, this suffers terribly from the lack of reason in Voidmart's actions. Why does it want He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-Again so much? He's a potential Manager, Voidmart says. So what? Voidmart has plenty of those, and it's throwing them into a meat grinder to get at Derek. That makes no sense at all. Voidmart is destroying its own aisles to get at this one man. It's screaming the rafters down. Why? There's nothing whatsoever about Derek that should make him worth such effort. My guess: your Voidmart finds any defiance insufferable and irresistable, which could work as a motivation, but which is still not that interesting while Derek himself is so flat.
I don't like the characterization of Voidmart at all. It's so ineffectual! So amateur! The resistance Derek meets never significantly stalls him. He gets out without injury, and Voidmart can only wail as its staff proves powerless in the face of a random guy with a spade. This weakens Voidmart as a force and a villain, leaving the impression at the end that Derek was never in much danger and the whole thing was a bit of a farce really.
Maybe a farce was what you intended? Some flavor of comedy almost certainly was. I hope it was, since the alternative would drive me into despair. This piece is far too fluffy to be horror, but none of the humor lands even a little bit, so the reader is left with nothing but DEREK DEREK DEREK ringing in her anguished ears.
Effort? There's a coherent and complete story here, or at least a coherent and complete action sequence, and you've slathered on a campy Voidmart flavor. It doesn't work for reasons unrelated to how hard you tried.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? Assuming the maze had some guy with a shotgun waiting for Derek at the end, absolutely.
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Benny Profane, "The Voidmart (REACTION!!!!) Record: A Scholarly Analysis"
At the time of judging, I had not spent several recent weeks reading scholarly articles. Now I have. I'm no longer of the opinion that this is an authetic spoof of a paper, since its citations are extremely sloppy and it only quotes four exterior sources, WTF. That isn't nearly circle-jerky enough. On the plus side, looking at it makes me want to die less than I do when I read the real thing, so... way to go?
Format gimmickry is always risky business. Your choice of gimmick here is baffling insofar as you're emulating a writing style best known for putting students to sleep. I'm thinking you meant for the wackiness of the subject matter to contrast with the dry presentation in a clever, amusing way, and there are moments when it works--poor Carl's quest for bean dip is so down-to-earth that he's immediately sympathetic--but the academic conceit just keeps going and going until all the fun is as dead as a virgin with corn cobs through his eyes. It's an unfortunate misjudgment. You embraced Voidmart and "Corn!"; I want to enjoy what you've made of them, yet by the time I reach the end my eyes have glazed over.
Truth be told, you probably cling to "Corn!" too tightly. What appeal this has is grounded in how it spins that story; it doesn't stand alone. A celebration week is the best time for this sort of goofy pastiche, so I don't hold it too much against you, but being so dependent on another story would have dragged this one down even if its narration weren't lifeless.
One more thing, a matter of taste: I was disappointed in the minotaur as a boss encounter when a horde of Carls wielding corn was right there! Couldn't he at least have been a Minocarl?
Effort? I'm skeptical that you went all out on the citations and footnotes, but making those even more turgid wouldn't really have helped you. Otherwise there's effort all over the place: you worked to mimic a style, worked to incorporate your flash rule, and apparently put a lot of thought into the formatting.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? I fear that a research report could make even The Great Vermont Corn Maze boring.
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Schneider Heim, "Saleslady of War"
I wouldn't personally have opened with selling a katana to a king named Richard as an example of the best sword ever--it's a bit, shall we say, weeaboo. That said, the first real misstep is Lillia even knowing about this guy, assuming you don't want Erika to come off as creepy. There's nothing even slightly personal about Erika and Richard's interactions, so for Lillia to ask when he's going to move in... uh, what has Erika been telling her child? Poor Richard. I've a sneaking hunch that I'm not supposed to be pitying him, but yikes.
I stop pitying him around the time when he turns into a bumbling cartoon. The scene between Richard, Erika, and Saladin can't decide whether it wants to be slapstick or anime. The physical blocking is less than stellar, what with a sword just appearing in Erika's hand, and what did Richard do to send his crown a-rolling out into the aisle? It's an odd sequence. I'm glad you didn't give a blow-by-blow account of the fight, but what you do have is pretty limp fare.
Then... what is that ending? Just as Richard starts to return Erika's interest, she brushes him off to ogle the latest hotness? Creepy and fickle! Granted, she seemed to write him off after the tussle with Saladin, though I'm not sure why. Possibly she, too, sees him as a cartoon after that display, whereas she is a warrior maiden and too good for him? Ugh redux. I ranked this on the positive side of middling on my first read, but it gets worse the more I think about it, though it's still nowhere near the DM tier for my money.
Effort? This isn't stitched together well, which could be a symptom of carelessness. There's a lot with which I'm evidently supposed to go along even though you haven't set it up. Still, I see good intentions between the lines. You tried to tell a fun little story that fell flat.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? Would Erika duel Saladin with a corn katana, Y/N?
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Okua, "New Employees and Other Troubles"
The laying vs. lying quandary strikes again. The best trick I have for remembering which of the lie/lay twins to use is to ask myself whether an object is involved. Is Jimmy laying bricks on that beach? No, so you want lying. I think the proper term is also Floridian, though I will defer to our local Florida Men on that point. Surperior is an embarrassment to you, your story, and the smug Pokémon alike.
Looking past the technical errors, I confront a tale of Voidmart sewer alligators and the maintenance men who briefly inconvenience them. I'm not quite buying pink stains from wine that broke six years ago. Shouldn't most or all of the liquid have evaporated? Maybe I don't know my alcohol facts, but I'm not sure you do, either; phrases like "for some reason" don't fill me with a lot of confidence on that score. The boozy bears are contrived as the dickens, and for what? To be that little bit more weird? But why, though? And since when does vodka smell like anything? I dug around a bit and found that cheap vodka might have a scent of raw alcohol, but I'd think you'd lose that under long-soured wine. Anyone who wants to prove me wrong is encouraged to soak Teddy Ruxpin in Smirnoff and Manischewitz for six years and report back.
This seeming carelessness with your ideas is in the service of a prelude rather than a story. Jimmy and the narrator don't accomplish anything here; they find a problem, run away from it, and then get told to go clean it up, dammit. Now, there is a bit of an arc in the narrator's relationship to Jimmy: he (she?) gains respect for the newbie and starts acting like a good boss. You could sort of call that a story, but there's so little introspection or depth or meat beneath the very fast turnaround that I for one won't. It's a bit of benign but tepid fluff.
Effort? Not much that shows. You made sloppy mistakes, strung coincidences together for the hell of it, kept to stock characters--the protagonist doesn't even have a name--and ducked out of a plot. Every story before this one was arguably worse, but the week's real problems first appeared here.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? Not unless the plushie were replaced by corn cobs. Merlot coating optional.
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Solitair, "A Little God in My Hands"
If I believe that Maxine squawking like a constipated swan is the extent of your incorporation of BabyRyoga's work, then I'll have to swear vengeance on your soul for all eternity because what the hell. You got a story that for all its many, many faults is anything but boring and turned it into a droning yarn of middle management? My God. Maybe... maybe that isn't all, though. Maybe Nick is the devil swan who sees and knows all of his cultist's transgressions. (They're Voidmart's cultists, properly speaking, but he does strike me as a possessive sort of guy.) Maybe his pencil is the dagger and/or swan fang. Maybe the memo he writes is beckoned from deep within his bowels. Although I'm joking a little, some of those parallels really are plausible, and that lets me dislike your entry slightly less than I did back in April, 2018.
This is very boring. Given the subject matter, that's no surprise. Your choice to write about the minutiae of petty office bureaucracy was just about the equivalent of hara kiri--engaging characters could possibly have made it work, but yours are not that. Nick's a middle-management jerkweasel, Maxine's characterization is limited to her tendency to SCRAWWWWWW, Jerome's barely more than a name, the stranger isn't even that, and Steve is what Nick will be in another year or so. To be fair, Nick's perspective accounts for some of this inasmuch as he clearly doesn't care about these people; however, you needed to make me care about them at least a little.
These cardboard figures grind through twelve hundred words that could be summed up by the sentence Employees try to unionize, and a bitter middle manager is pissed about it. The story ends before there are any consequences either for Nick or for the victims of his wrath. That's some bad pacing, meaning as it does that a lead-up to action is all we ever get--you could have sliced five hundred words of Nick's introspection off easily and used them to make something happen.
Effort? I think so? It's a bit half baked in the sense that it's half a story at best, but it reads as though you meant it to work as a complete piece. Bad choices, not low intentions, did you in.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? I would read about the petty office politics of corn maze janitors. Bonus points if giant crows swooped in to vomit on everybody.
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sparksbloom, "Inch by Inch"
Wonderful concept, strange and dark but with the right matter-of-fact tone for everyone's favorite eldritch value store. But... Evelyn has a life outside of Voidmart, and maybe that's why it feels so off for her to be blase about the murder and dismemberment of children. (Obligatory joke: teaching kids explains why she welcomes their horrible deaths! Except it really doesn't.) If dark humor was your intention, it didn't manifest. Instead your protagonist comes off as a sociopath.
Management is terribly sloppy about its primary method of corpse disposal, but maybe I shouldn't be surprised by capricious chaos from Voidmart. Even so, Evelyn ought to be better equipped to contain these ghosts if that's her whole job. I never get a sense of danger despite the woodchippers and lawnmowers--Evelyn's tone doesn't change no matter what she's doing--and Orin's response to Kimberly's rather reasonable question makes zero sense. I wish his freedom and friendship with Evelyn were touching, but it isn't, not a bit. drat. This is such a waste of a great premise.
Effort? Tough call. All the characters are so lifeless that I wonder how much you put into them, considering that I've seen you do much better character work, but my theory is that you did try--to write a humorous story that unfortunately wasn't funny. A lot of the flatness in this piece could be overlooked if it were entertaining. Morbid humor (as this would have to be given the whole dismemberment-of-children thing) is a hard path to travel, and falling over on a rough road doesn't signify a lack of ambition.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? If every character were a ghost haunting it, sure. Even Evelyn. It would explain her lack of feeling! What if she'd died on a school field trip to Voidmart's vast ethanol aisles?
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Uranium Phoenix, "Living Paths"
"An employee, trim goatee and polished black shoes, approached." Thank you for this mental image of an ambulatory beard. Unlike fulfil a couple of paragraphs down, it amuses me enough that I don't want to hit your hands with a ruler.
There's a bit of Voidmart sure is weird! cruft that you could have chiseled off to make room for words about other things, such as why Voidmart's soul should matter to David or--better yet!--why Nikita should waste a bullet on him. What about a better bridge between the moment when David picks up the crowbar and the ending in which he doesn't use it for traditional battle, thus deflating the tension you'd built? The very base of your story seems to be that a man defined by his ennui discovers agency within himself (and not out of a package); you need an inciting incident to trigger David's epiphany, but Nikita and the war take up too much space and raise questions that you don't answer. Maybe the intention is to suggest a larger world. It feels so thin, though, that all I see is the writer at work.
Character motivation and general coherence are the core problems, but I want to pick on a couple of other things, namely dialogue and flash rules. Wow, am I ever not buying anything David says as natural. His speech is a delivery device for The Moral of the Story <tm> and nothing else. Nikita's, ditto. Meanwhile, Voidmart itself does fulfull your first flash rule, albeit in the least interesting way possible in this context--Voidmart tends toward liveliness in many stories--but where is the P.R.O.T.E.I.N.?
Effort? I don't know, UP. I'm inclined to doubt it. I've read other stories of yours in which the dialogue was a bit on the nose, but it's ridiculous here. Nothing hangs together well, none of the characters are people, and a flash rule is flat missing. I would assume failed effort from a less talented writer, but you? Either you skated or you were having a very bad week.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? I do like speculating on what David would do if he got caught up in the battle of the Carls.
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Jagermonster, "Howl at the Void"
Frank likes to fantasize about being a real man, a wolf man, a hunter in the forests of the world rather than a suburban dad buying his son a video game, but when Voidmart gives him the chance to live out his dream, he finds that it isn't to his taste. All right. You know what? I like this story more than I did initially, when I dismissed it as something weird happening at Voidmart, the end. My notes tell me that I found the throat-tearing business kind of sudden--and it is. You escalate Frank's primal passions too quickly and with little impetus; this works better if I assume he's a little bit nuts from the start. I don't think some mood music explains tooth murder. No, not even Voidmart mood music. Not even IVAN. But Frank's fantasies and frustrations do create a throughline, and they foreshadow what will happen well enough that I'd now call yours the best entry up to this point. (Profane's might challenge it for a reader who doesn't look at that style and long for oblivion's sweet embrace.)
One other small point: The references to Fortnite may not age well and take up more than their share of real estate. A charitable reading of them is that they're meant to indicate that Frank isn't very well connected to Brandon or his interests, but that idea never comes up again.
Effort? Sure. It's not perfect, but it's a solid middle entry with obscuring it's size as its only terrible flaw.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? Naked corn holograms. Moldova, are you listening?
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Antivehicular, "A Trolley Problem"
You aren't the first Thunderdome writer to rip off Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. You aren't even the second. I've seen someone do it while using a major Asimov character name before, too. And now, as then, I frown in intense disapproval. The Laws aren't yours to use without acknowledgment of the person who created them! With that said, there are a few points in your favor here. First, while your Point One is phrased in a manner much too close to the First Law for it to be coincidence, your other two Points are more or less your own, so that only the number of them is Asimovian. Even I won't hold that similarity against you. Second, Asimov was pretty okay with other writers using the Laws during his lifetime, which could lead one to reasonably conclude that he wouldn't mind a use like this. Third, your use of Dr. Calvin's name--and this was the case in the other Laws-using story that put a Calvin in it too, I think--could be intended as a tip of the hat, a gesture of respect toward Asimov that will be recognized by those in the know.
But here's the rub: back when SF was lifting the Laws left and right, it was a smaller field, and the idea that anyone seeing the Three Laws in a story would know the real source held some water. Now? We aren't all SF readers. There are people, even goons, who won't know Asimov from Adam's off ox. They could look at your story and not realize that you're lifting words and concepts from someone else; as far as those readers are concerned, everything is yours. And that's not right. Parody and homage and everything based off someone else's work should give credit to the source. So give Asimov a nod next time, hey? A quick line under your title would do, or a note after the story.
All right, enough said on that--the borrowing wasn't a major issue with your piece. Which I rather like! You've laid the Voidmart-merchandise details on a little thick, but the deluge of <tm>s falls on the right side of the amusing/annoying boundary. I feel the spirit of the store in this piece as I don't in too many others: this isn't a story with Voidmart slapped on like a decal, it's a Voidmart story. McClusky's an amiable sort of hero, and if I could do with a little less thirst introspection, you still handled both flash rules well. The title makes me smile. I could have gone with an HM for this, though I expect it benefits from standing in a slurry pit; I don't quite feel you were robbed of one. It's just a fun little story of which you can be proud.
Please tell me though that you didn't lift Comed-Tea from "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" while you were at it, because Jesus.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? Yes, but keep the weird clearance kitsch. Maybe Robert could send the trolley sailing through a bunch of these?
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Jon Joe, "Orphans!"
Oh, lord. Jon Joe, if there's one thing I've learned from this entry and from your entry in Week 174, it's that nonsense isn't your forte. Your entry this week starts off strong with a decent level of absurdity in Mr. Marky Mark--I realize this isn't his name, but I'm doomed to picture him forever as the leader of the Funky Bunch--and a very good question! Why does Voidmart market itself as an eldritch abomination? I want to know the answer, and failing that, I want to see what happens when Marky Mark tries to change it. The screaming walls are a little dumb, but as they aren't screaming MARK MARK MARKY MARK in all caps I can forgive them.
The unfortunate spiral down into monkeycheese starts early in the second section. Is your stray customer six? Why are all the customers laughing at nothing but a sign? Why do they want orphans? Why are they rioting over orphans? Why are they coming to a university to buy orphans?????? Do you notice that these questions are all about the behavior of the customers and not of Voidmart? Voidmart is weird and eldritch and maybe evil, and you can get away with some incomprehensible features of the store; I can believe they sell orphans, no problem. The customers, though, don't have a clear reason to be bugscrew insane other than that you maybe think it's funny. This turns your entire story into hammy nonsense and is therefore a problem.
Oh, but there's worse. That last paragraph. That last friggin' paragraph. I don't know whether it's more atrocious if you're actually trying to make a political statement this way or if you aren't--no, wait, I do know! Adding cackhanded preaching to a dumpster fire does not improve it! If somehow it was meant to be a joke instead, then I just feel sorry for you.
That's actually a thing about this one. I don't like it, but I feel sympathy and pity for you as much as ire over everything but the Moral of the Story, which can die in an orphan avalanche--I'd swear you were honest-to-goodness trying to make us laugh, so it's hard to find joy in the DM. Even so, you earned it.
P.S. Do I need to go into how much you let me down by neglecting your flash rule? You could have replaced orphans with hot Moldovan singers! The option was right in front of you!
Effort? See above; you tried, but you didn't or couldn't fulfill the promise of your premise.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? I mean, if the orphans all went after each other with improvised corn weapons....
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 16:32 on Jun 21, 2019
|# ¿ May 29, 2019 07:01|
Critiques for Week CCC: Everybody Wants to Ruin the Void, Specifically Ironic Twist, Thranguy, The Saddest Rhino, Killer-of-Lawyers, Noah, curlingiron, Armack, sebmojo, Hawklad and Bad Seafood
Ironic Twist, "The Vacuum Aisle"
It's your style to use blank space as a section divider, if I remember right, but I wish you'd reconsider. My eye immediately interprets that as a formatting error--too many people mess something up in C&Ping their entries and get extra blank lines everywhere. It's not as clear as a dividing line or symbol such as --- or ###. Still, this method isn't wrong. Take or leave my pained look as you will.
Okay, so. Voidmart--and Levi, by extension--needs to consume consumers in order to survive. That's good and clear (and "vacuum aisle," ugh, you punny bastard), but you've broken the story into too many pieces with too many characters whose personal stories are only fragments. To really feel the deaths of Victor, Faith, and Chase, I'd need to have a better sense of them as people. It wouldn't hurt if I gave a darn about Levi one way or the other, either.
Fleshing out four characters in 1,200 words would be difficult even without the need to show their horrible deaths (I can get behind those; the descriptive details are one of the story's strong points, and you tie each manner of death to the little I do know about a given person). What I think you should have done is cut the number of victims to two, or even one--one, probably Victor, would be the easiest path to pull off since you could devote many more words to filling him in, but that would make the story fairly simple and possibly a little cliché. Keep a second victim and you could contrast their deaths and maintain the "everyone is different" angle. Levi is okay as an enigma; he could be more intense, though. I wonder if you had something in mind with his touchy-feeliness that didn't make it through. There's a parallel between his fingers and the fingers that haunt Victor, but his need to touch things only shows up with Chase and Faith, where it's only weird. Maybe the idea is that he's eaten Victor already? The jumps between perspectives obscure the order of things. If it were me I would have Levi do something--touch something, say something--that pre-echoes the victims' deaths in a way that makes them uneasy in the moment and that amplifies the horror in hindsight.
Effort? No doubt. The structure you attempted is anything but lazy, whether or not one thinks it succeeded.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? Imagine this: Victor, Faith, and Chase are in fact Karl, Carol, and Carl, and Levi... oh, dammit, I just saw his name as the anagram it is. TWIST! Give him a shot gun or something, I don't know anymore, just get out of my sight.
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Jay W. Friks, "Jack Schnaff is (still) missing"
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Thranguy, "The Three Doors to the Void"
More backstory than story, more exposition than action despite a healthy helping of the latter, featuring a cliché punk haircut on the sci-fi lesbian, and kneecapped by a twist ending that might as well have a sign on it reading The Real Story Is Somewhere Else--this is a quick read and a better one than most of what came before (until the end, at least), but it's little but a glimpse of the edges of a story you try and fail to sum up in two paragraphs. You don't have enough space for your setting. You definitely don't have enough for what happens to Melissa in the gap between Then-Present and Future-Present. It's admirable that you manage to fit in as much character as you do, though I could wish Melissa weren't so defined by her sexuality; she's okay, even so, and Calla's interesting when she isn't infodumping all over the place.
She's usually infodumping all over the place. That may have been necessary to deliver all your worldbuilding while still developing Melissa and Calla enough to let their love story fly, but a better answer would have been to simplify: slim down the worldbuilding, or cut some of the action, or drop the time travel, or... something. You didn't squeeze all of this into a satisfying shape. I wonder at the end what Voidmart gave to Calla. The final line has good resonance; I don't love the time-travel element and don't especially love the trope of the present self glimpsing her future self, but you handle it well enough.
The cherries get much more page space than you could afford, but I can't fault you for the use of either flash rule!
Effort? Yes. Despite the janky pacing, I believe you planned this story out and tried to make it go.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? Nothing says there isn't a corn maze on the other side of Calla and Melissa's door, full of teenage monsters.
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The Saddest Rhino, "Elegy"
Oooof. Some clarity issues muddle this entry in its early midstretch. The "other [Charlotte]" on VoidFlix foreshadows the final revelation, but I don't understand what's going on in-universe. Is it a thing for people to watch alternate versions of their own lives? Or is it a function of the glasses? Is the line about Hindsight Reading Glasses a joke? That entire section is intriguing but confusing. Everything else is intriguing and bewildering up until the end, which brings it all together and reveals its terrible sense in a flash of epiphany that most of us only wish we could pull off. Bravo, Rhino! You gave us emotional depth, horror, and tension, and you paid off the time I spent reading your work threefold. This was an easy, unanimous winner.
I'm going to tsk at you anyway, because flich is not a word. The text has rough edges in a few other spots, i.e. boxes that states--boxes is plural, so they should state, no second S--and for someone to wear a keychain around her neck is odd. Is this a necklace, a keychain, or a lanyard? The tiny burrs in the prose don't come close to ruining the story. Just keep being careful. (I think you meant feigns where you wrote feints, too.)
The relationship (sexual!) to "Madam Charlotte" is on the thin side, but your Charlotte is certainly an aberrant girl. She holds onto my sympathy despite what she's done, and that's a testimony to how well you've drawn her.
Effort? Yes. Almost all of the errors are ESL issues, except for flich--tsk!
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? I'm laughing way too much at the morbid picture of Charlotte's mother's truck going up in a corn field and setting all the corn to popping. Whether that's a yes or a no I leave for you to decide.
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Killer-of-Lawyers, "Filling Voids"
It's been a while since I last had an excuse to link to this site! Everyone should check it out. Punctuating dialogue isn't as consistently a problem in TD as it used to be, but issues with it still crop up sometimes, as here. Soul-sucking and latte-sipping should be hyphenated, too, so have another link. This is more of a style quibble than an error, but your line breaks are out of control; this piece would be a smoother read if you combined some of its paragraphs. I think you wrote plumb when you wanted plum, since I'm not sure plumbs have a standard size. Capitalize brand names such as Snickers. Suit's needs an apostrophe when it's possessive. Etc. And why does Reggie call himself the mistress supreme?
Technical problems aside, this is a well-intentioned story, but an empty one. It tries to entertain with its banter, and it attempts--probably--to say something about dreams, or retail, or power fantasies, or something. The message isn't too coherent. Does the dolor from working in retail make Reggie (but not Daphne?) particularly vulnerable to the lure of dreams? Is it the spirit-deadening nature of the job that leads to Reggie and Daphne stomping all of those dreams into dust? Were the dreams good or bad? Your depiction of Reggie's suggests the latter, but that doesn't jive with the anti-retail sentiment you're trying to sell at the end. Won't Reggie and Daphne be devoured alive by Voidmart for destroying the merchandise they were told to stock? So many questions, so few answers, and there's just not enough meat here to drive a point home or enough humor to make the work memorable.
Side note: I get the reference in Daphne being arboreal, or I think I do, but I don't see any other parallel to her mythical counterpart. It's odd to allude to a myth and then do nothing with it.
Effort? In the content, probably, but the mechanics are worse than I've seen from you before. This is slipshod work from a technical standpoint.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? If you did want to play with myth, you could do some great things with corn. Aztecs and Voidmart would go together like retail and ennui.
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Noah, "Reserve America"
My take: Bilfred snags a rare job as a Voidmart Ranger, using his Swifter Sweeper to travel through time and so expedite the process of finding people--or cleaning up corpses, as the case may be, and the latter is always the case at Voidmart. He enjoys the leisure that time-jumping gives him. He spends his extra hours reading Melville and becoming an expert in various subjects. However, upon finding a candy bar wrapper that reminds him of his childhood and his daughter, he becomes frantic in searching for the person who left it there. Who did leave it there? A dead woman. His daughter? Probably not since he doesn't recognize her name. But the birth year on her driver's license tells him that he's been working in Voidmart for... well, a long time (his crumbling into dust--spoilers--would suggest centuries, but there are still recognizable driver's licenses?), surely outliving his daughter and everyone he knew, and so he goes back to the beginning and hands his younger self the Sweeper and then meets his dusty demise.
This is very confusing! Does the Sweeper not take Bilfred back in time? If it does, why has he lost so many years? Why does he never, ever check in with the family you specifically mention he's feeding? Does the Sweeper instead dilate time so that a few months of Bilfred's life have become decades in the real world, and if so, what practical purpose does that serve? I think, stress think, that I've detangled the plot and perhaps even the message and meaning (Bilfred got so caught up in himself and his present that he forgot to look out for others and their future; he dawdled his way through what he thought was immortality and paid a price in life wasted), but the situation you present makes little in-universe sense. It's also a Twilight Zone-level cliché.
In the interest, perhaps, of surprising us with a twist ending, you've filled the story with details that don't matter--and some of these I can't explain or excuse, like Bear Ears National Park or Zion. One might think the Zion pricks are going to be relevant in some way, but no. One would certainly think that Bilfred's daughter and the candy bar will be relevant. You wouldn't spend so many words on them otherwise, would you? Apparently you would, because since the woman Bilfred finds isn't his daughter, all of this comes to nothing. You'd achieve the same story by having him turn up the driver's license of any random corpse. By the way, how long has he been doing this job? The whole dry-up-and-blow-away thing suggests centuries. However, I wonder at him finding either a familiar candy bar brand or a recognizable driver's license after so long. What I'm saying is that this doesn't hold up to thought at all. Even if Bilfred finding the body of his grown-up and/or old daughter would have been more predictable, it could have made sense and packed an emotional punch that the story as it is does not.
Effort? I don't know. I remember criticizing rough edges on your prose before. Maybe you're rusty? It happens. Your premise is so worn where it isn't nonsensical, though--that's where I might fault your effort, because I believe you can be more creative and a whole lot more coherent.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? Some things are beyond the power of either corn or time travel to fix.
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curlingiron, "The Void Also Gazes Into You"
Three doors you asked for, and three you were given. We chose a song, a story, and a sentence that we thought fit well together in a gesture of misplaced mercy. Our reward was to watch you waste the gift so you could instead present us with a servant of Voidmart saying things manically to the most bland and passive of women. Don't write stories that are 80% dialogue didn't stop being good advice all of a sudden! And turning gorgeously awful skeleton limericks--the one flash rule you clearly used--into a premise as overdone as charred prime rib, goodness gracious me, it's like you wanted me to crack out a thousand smilies of disappointment.
Okay, look. It's not that bad. It's not much of anything; that's the trouble. It's super easy to see where this is going as soon as Nina says she's lost. Most of your words are expository banter between a dull character and a tiresome one. There's no conflict of which to speak. Any resolution is hazy. My judge notes said this had "the least excuse of any to be such a nothingburger," and I stand by that. I called it "the saddest no mention of them all," too, but I wish a bit now that I'd voted for a DM, even though this is ultimately benign--it isn't annoying to read any more than lukewarm water is annoying to drink. Which is to say it would be a little vexing if it weren't surrounded by prune juice and La Croix.
There's one thing I appreciate: Danny's joviality is too much and too forced, but that fits his source material. He's a credible less-horny cousin of Mr. Dry Boners. I think you could have folded him into a story that incorporated your other doors just as much. To be fair, if I squint very hard, I can see a vague outline of your TDbot quote; it's not beyond the pale that Voidmart could substitute for God in this setting. I don't really see Azerbaijan, though. Danny is Voidmart's skeleton, I suppose? And it tricks Nina, I guess? Except she doesn't seem to me to be tricked or deceived. There was so much you could have done with what you were given, and how little you did do in terms of character or plot grates hard.
Effort? Also misplaced. You proofread and polished your words, but what work you put into your story doesn't show.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? Not if Danny and Nina still stood around talking about it!
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Armack, "Leaving New York., Part II of III: Void Where Prohibited"
That's one murky opener. It bobbles to the wrong side of the line between confusing and intriguing, so that you would have done better to be more straightforward: In his illness, M. Septus Aemilius said an unwise thing--a thing so unwise that it might see him exiled from Rome. He fled the Curia afterward, mortified. Or something like. (Did the Romans use first initials like that? I've never seen it before, but my Classical education isn't exactly deep. I'm suspicious it's meant to be another parallel to Em, in which case you should have dropped it, because here I am wondering whether it's an anachronism rather than getting into the story.) It looks like you're aiming for a more antiquated/formal style, and that's fine--if questionably authentic--as long as the reader can follow you.
I dig your fusion of ancient Rome and ageless Voidmart, buuuuut you wedged your flash rule in hard at the eleventh hour and in such an awkward way that I can't decide whether it's a punchline or you hit a wall or what. Em and Voidmart falling in love is hilarious and all, but why isn't that your story then?? Why the unrelated build up? Were you maybe more interested in writing about Voidmart meeting Rome, only you had to get that flash rule in there somehow? That's the explanation that rings the most true. On the one hand I couldn't blame you since Roman Voidmart is a great idea, but you asked for a door; it should have been more than a footnote. And Em meeting Voidmart would be a good story, so the ending shouts of missed opportunities to boot.
Yours is still one of the more charming entries, and I might have rethought my vote against any HMs if its storylines had been fused with more grace or better pacing.
Effort: Yes and/or no, depending on how much you meant the jump from one setting to another to be so abrupt.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? Carlo delenda est!
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sebmojo, "The Roots of Desire"
Although this is the sort of intentional weird that I'm probably not meant to question, I'm going to, because 1.) That's what I do, and 2.) Your story isn't so beautiful nor so striking nor so profound that it transcends the need to make sense. I glimpse untold stories around and beneath this one, that might themselves be more interesting; that's a good trick of worldbuilding that doesn't quite serve you because it makes the tale at hand feel all the more insubstantial. I wonder what happened to Wendell's grandfather. I wonder why Wendell's family is there. I don't particularly wonder or care whether Wendell will find his sister, and that's a bit of a shame when that's the story you're telling me, isn't it? None of the ideas or images quite cohere into an engaging whole.
Let's consider "Utopian Land" for a minute. No jiggling manmaries are in evidence here. Believe it or not, I'm fine with that. I think the Utopian Land is the place in which Elarif is stranded, to which Wendell ascends all too easily. Maybe Wendell and Elarif's refusal to stay where they are reflects a translated verse, "We didn't settle in this world." Maybe Elarif's holding pattern in not-Paradise echoes the line,"We're waiting for AirBahal for two hours." I sort of doubt it, but as it's you I could believe it. Either way, the unsettling and metaphorical slow jog toward an imagined perfect world meets the flash rule with the bonus that Wendell wears a shirt the whole time. I think. Do me a favor and don't correct me on this point.
Effort? Yes; it's scattered in a very deliberate way.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? That's what the Ultimate Floor is, clearly.
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Hawklad, "Take Your Child to Work Day"
Six extra hours for this?
I could end the crit there and deliver all the feedback this deserves. You went six hours over the deadline and gave us three fragments of story, one a horror cliché, one from the point of view of a brat, and one that nonsensically binds the two for no drat good reason but that you'd never failed and you wanted to turn in something and you had the sense to slap words on the chimera you'd spent six hours creating----that distantly, vaguely, remotely resembled an ending. Thank divine providence for that impulse, Hawklad. That tiny scrap of resolution saved you.
Seriously now: your first section could have worked. The second just doesn't; your flash-ruled toy comes out of nowhere, I don't know what's talking to Chucky, his perspective is unpleasant, and so on. The last is cold garbage even aside from the apostrophe in the possessive its. You do a terrible job of connecting these ideas together. But you know that, don't you? Please tell me you do. Tell me that you know that by all rights you should have lost. Otherwise I'll have to believe this makes some kind of sense in your head, and then I will weep for you, Hawklad; I will weep for you, and for myself, and for this world we live in that is cruel beyond our imaginings.
Effort? Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaa NO.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? Yeah, sure, why not, existence is futile and life is suffering, LET ME TELL YOU HOW MUCH I'VE COME TO HATE YOUR WORDS SINCE I BEGAN TO LIVE
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Bad Seafood, "Pomp and Circumstance"
The devil drat thee black, thou cream-faced doof! Where got'st thou that perfectly decent story eight hours late? (Thanks, Shakespeare!) Bruce's response to the initial question may be ungrammatical, and the shampoo action may be tough to follow, and you may have misspelled pedal, and maybe the Pompeii gel should have looked more like lava--mileage may vary there--but it's fun and delightful and makes the right call in leaving the shape of the clowns' balloons so terrifyingly vague. It probably helps that I recognize Bruce from stories past, but I don't think that's actually necessary. All one needs to know is that he's a man with a pompadour. In Voidmart. The rest flows from there. I do wish that the pompadours that appeared on the sharks that ate Dougan were explicit rather than implicit, but otherwise I can't complain.
Though I curse your name, I must praise it too, because this is just what a super-late entry should be: polished and complete. You cost yourself an HM by waiting so long, but you ended a bad week on a good note. God bless.
Would this be better if it were set in a corn maze? You know what? This is exactly where it needs to be.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 05:39 on Jun 1, 2019
|# ¿ May 29, 2019 07:02|
It looks like it's time for another reminder: Don't put your prompts or flash rules behind spoiler tags! What, do you think you're a bunch of Frenchmen eating Ortolan buntings over here? Neither napkin nor black bar could suffice to hide your shame from God.
|# ¿ Jul 29, 2019 03:56|
|# ¿ Sep 27, 2023 10:00|
Word count: UNLIMITED! BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T POST A WORD COUNT LIMIT, SPARKSBLOOM! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!... but 924.
Max words: 800
|# ¿ Aug 5, 2019 05:35|