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Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


In.

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Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


sebmojo posted:

I am disappointed that no-one is willing to chance a hellrule, but I suppose there's no particular shame in being worthless.

alright, dry those tears, let's see what you got.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


The Onocentaur's Revenge

Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 17:56 on Jan 3, 2020

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


In and flash, please and thank you.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


The Swineherd Rebellion

Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 17:57 on Jan 3, 2020

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


sebmojo posted:

Crits are good.

I volunteer one in-depth linecrit for a prior TD entry, first come first served.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


A Critique of Lunch, by OnsetOutsider

Jelly spurted out the sides of Lillyís sandwich when she bit into it, staining her fingers and shirt an icky red.
There are a number of problems with your opening sentence.
  1. Lilly is your main character. Your first sentence is all-important in terms of establishing character and getting the ball rolling. The subject of this sentence is the jelly in Lilly's sandwich. Try restructuring this sentence with Lilly as the subject and see how that feels.
  2. Thereís a mix of timescales in the action thatís clumsy; spurting is instantaneous, but staining is a longer-term kind of affair. Try something that feels more immediate than staining.
  3. Icky is an adjective that is both weak and attention-drawing, which isnít a good combination. Furthermore, itís spoiling your punchline -- youíre broadcasting from the get-go that thereís something gross in Lillyís sandwich.


ďSee, I told you itíd be too much,Ē her father said, laughing.
With this sentence, it is established that Lillyís father is indulgent of Lillyís desires. Is it necessary, given the objective of the sentence, to reference an event that occurred before the beginning of the story?
ďHere, letís not waste any,Ē he said as he took a napkin and gently lifted a glob from Lillyís shirt up to her mouth.
The addition of the second line of dialogue is clunky, because itís adding a second dialogue attribution with no discernible action in between. Itís a missed opportunity for detail. Alternatively, consider what would happen if the dialogue werenít there -- what important building block of the story would be lost?
It was overwhelmingly sweet, but Lilly liked it.
Confusing, because weíre in Lillyís point of view, but I donít know many kids that toss around words like ďoverwhelminglyĒ. Also, she took a bite of sandwich made of the stuff, but the construction of the sentence implies that sheís tasting the jelly for the first time.
She gobbled down the rest of her juicy meal.
The action is muddled -- is she gobbling down the glob that her father lifted up? Is she finishing the rest of her sandwich? Has she somehow mastered the art of not spurting jelly all over the place when she eats? Next, letís talk about the adjective ďjuicyĒ. Whatís it adding, given that youíve already established that the sandwich is overstuffed with jelly that spurts out all over the place? It seems to me that youíre overplaying your hand, a little too eager to get to your punchline -- youíre spoiling the reveal.


ďCan I have more, Daddy?Ē she asked.
This is a flat line. Itís a snappy morsel of cannibal comedy and youíre coming up on the punch line. Give it some zip, some pizzazz. Make it over-the-top. Also, given that youíre working with a tight word budget, do you think you actually needed the dialogue attribution here, or do you think you might have been able to trust your reader to work out the details from the context?

ďOh... only for you,Ē he winked, exiting the room.
  1. ďWinkedĒ is not a dialogue attribution. You canít wink words.
  2. This dialogue only reinforces the fatherís character as indulgent, but youíve already established that. Deliberate repetition can be funny, of course, but this doesnít feel deliberate.
  3. An ellipsis in dialogue is generally best used to signify a lost train of thought, a trailing off; in this instance, an ordinary comma would work better.
  4. Resist the urge to combine separate actions in the context of a single sentence when they donít occur simultaneously. This sentence construction implies that Lillyís father is speaking, winking, and exiting the room simultaneously.
  5. ďExiting the roomĒ tells us nothing valuable about the room that Lilly and her father are in, nor does it reveal any interesting aspect of Lillyís fatherís character. Itís a squandered opportunity to reveal additional detail.


Walking into the nursery with purpose, Lillyís father already knew who he had in mind.
  1. Generally, in short fiction, itís regarded as good form to maintain a consistent point of view. Here weíve switched from Lillyís POV to Lillyís fatherís POV. Can you think of a way that you might have gotten to your punchline without a POV switch?
  2. ďWith purposeĒ. These are filler words. We already know that Lillyís father left to get Lilly more food -- his ďpurposeĒ is already established.
  3. ďAlready knew who he had in mindĒ. Youíre spoiling the punchline, again. You just had to play it cool for one more line, but you couldnít resist.

Lifting the plumpest sleeping baby from its crib, he headed to the kitchen.
  1. As a punchline, this is functional in that it reveals the joke, but thatís about it. A good punchline adds a twist. Think about the standard dead-baby joke format -- the meat of the joke sets you up by getting you to picture something gross, and then the punchline twists your expectations while simultaneously jamming even grosser pictures into your brain.
  2. The punchline leaves a bunch of open questions. Where are all of these babies coming from? How many babies does it take to make a single jelly sandwich? Whatís for dinner? Any one of these questions could form the basis of a twist that would give your punchline some weight.

Overall Thoughts

This is somewhere between micro-horror-fiction and a Dead Baby joke, but rather than encompassing the entirety of its parts and becoming something greater, itís stuck in the divide and not doing a good job at being either.

In both horror and comedy, thereís a setup and thereís a punchline, and the goal of the setup is to build the readerís expectations so that when the punchline comes, itís surprising. If thereís one takeaway here, itís that good comedy/horror is a sleight of hand trick -- think carefully about how youíre choosing to manipulate the attention of your reader so that the punchline actually lands. You might be tempted to argue something along the lines of well what the hell do you expect with only 118 words?, but thatís bullshit -- you can do a lot with 118 words if you have to, and thereís a lot of flab on this story that could be cut out to make way for more functional language.

If youíre not already familiar, Vonnegut has a set of eight rather excellent rules for writers, and I would pay special attention to Rule 4: Every sentence must do one of two thingsóreveal character or advance the action. Especially in micro-fiction, where every word is precious, you want to aim for both.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Since that one was short: if anybody else would like throw a story on the slab for dissection, I'm putting another linecrit up for grabs.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


A Critique of Destroyer of Worlds, by SlipUp
666 words

I am Jordius Tactitus, Emperor of Roman-Terra, Commander of the Legions, and steward of dead men.
Decent opener, strikes a campy, imperious tone and gives your reader a good sense of what theyíre in for. The rhythm to it is fine, but I would suggest that ďstewardĒ feels like a bit of a downgrade after ďEmperorĒ and ďCommanderĒ -- try a punchier job description here.
I am abroad the Sol Galley ĎRegalusí, the solar winds power my sails, and through my viewport, the silhouette of Pluto is eclipsing the sun.
Youíve got a couple of typos here (ďabroadĒ instead of ďaboardĒ, and I assume you meant ďRegulusĒ rather than ďRegalusĒ), and thatís the sort of thing that colours a first impression, especially when it crops up in the second sentence. As a minor astronomical aside, you may want to look into just how small and dim the Sun appears at the distance of Plutoís orbit.
My army is there, amongst the ice.
ďAmongstĒ is a bad word choice here, because you canít really be ďamongĒ the ice. If it were something like ďMy army is there, amongst the carved pillars of ice extending from the planetoidís surfaceĒ or something, that would work, but even then, I would caution you that the whole haughty tone of the piece is starting to feel a bit much.

I smash my fist against the viewport. Rome is in need. Those men are hostages.
Hereís the first part where I start to get confused. I have no context for the emotion that Jordius is expressing here, and -- this is the important part -- because this story is presented in the first person, as though Jordius is telling us the story himself, itís breaking the illusion of storytelling, because only someone bad at telling stories would tell their story in this way. Now, I understand the motivation that got you here: youíre trying to create some suspense by painting out a bit of drama, and hoping that your reader is compelled to find out why it is that Jordius is so upset, but thatís not whatís actually happening here: rather than letting the reader in on whatís going on, so that they feel like theyíve got a privileged perspective on the fiction, it feels like youíre intentionally leaving them in the dark. Have a read of what Hitchcock says about the distinction between surprise and suspense.
All of that presupposes, of course, that we will eventually work out why Jordius is upset -- and having read this story a couple of times now, I donít feel like that clarity ever emerges from the fiction, and thatís less good. Even in the context of having read the story to completion, I donít understand why Jordius feels that Rome is in need, nor why he considers the men of his army to be hostages.

ďGive me back my legions!Ē I scream. The blackness in my stomach churns.
Hereís the other thing about telling stories in the first person present: itís difficult to present scenes in which the protagonist expresses strong emotions without it coming across as boasting or overly dramatic. If this story were being told in the limited third person, the ďscreamĒ dialogue attribution wouldnít snag as much.
Also, who is this scream directed at? Pluto? If Jordius sent his legions to the planetoid surface, then who exactly is keeping them from him?

The Senate calls me a tyrant. They are foolish old men, pissing into the wind and proclaiming prophecy upon its return.
ďPissing into the wind and proclaiming prophecy upon its returnĒ is a good line, but you donít do anything with it -- what do their false prophecies have to do with their labeling of Jordius as a tyrant? Also, given that the Senate is not given a chance within the context of the story to defend itself, Jordiusís line here has an element of sounding like the perfect comeback that comes to mind in the shower several hours too late to be of any use -- itís establishing Jordius as a loose cannon and a megalomaniac, but I think youíve already established that well enough. These words would be better spent getting deeper under Jordiusís skin and showing us more of whatís going on under the surface.

I bring glory. Terra was a planet of mud and poo poo when I took it. Iíve left it a world of marble and gold.
This feels like itís starting to ramble off-topic. Youíre playing with 666 words, and youíve got a lot of story to get through -- is this the most important information that you have to share with your reader at this point in the story? Also, given the planetary scale of this story, it seems like the implication is that Jordius took the entire surface of Earth/Terra and covered it in marble and gold, and -- because that seems like a bit of a stretch -- Iím now starting to question the reliability of this narrator, and Iím not sure that was the intent behind the fiction. Where did Jordius get the marble and gold? Presumably also from Terra?

What does this sordid underworld bring?
On my second read, I got what you were going for here, but not the first time through. Thereís no context to suggest that Jordiusís attention has returned from musing about his accomplishments on Terra to Pluto. I think youíre also being way too coy about establishing the direct link between Pluto the planetoid and Pluto as the Roman lord of the underworld -- that should have been established, ideally, in the opening paragraph.
This mad parasite is far worse than any Nova Martian or Saturnali rebel.
Again, too coy. Youíre talking about Death, so just say Death. You donít have enough words in this story to faff about with ďmad parasitesĒ, and I daresay youíve got more than enough world-building in this short story already without the garnishes of Nova Martians and Saturnali rebels.
It robs violently, indiscriminately, and prodigiously. It gnaws at the foundations of civilization and fouls menís ambitions. Yet people defend it as the natural way! People who sail the stars in their galleys. The natural way. They sit on the shoulders of gods and stare at their hands.
This is a lot of soap-boxing to be throwing down here, especially when itís not yet clear that this is about Jordius having declared literal war on the Underworld and Death itself. This would be more interesting if there were another character for Jordius to bounce off of, someone to provide some resistance to his bloviating. It would be interesting, for example, to see the leader of the Senate begging Jordius to return to his senses, to abandon his insane mission -- the push-pull is what generates interesting conflict.

Those legionaries did pledge their lives to me. The war eagle senators and the pacifist tribunes speculate with the benefit of hindsight and powers bordering the trivial. They are not leaders of men. Merely representatives. They've never had to take responsibility for the dead. They only have time for the gold of conquest, never the graves. Those, they alternate praise and mockery for as it suits their whims.
For a authoritarian tyrant, Jordius seems to care an awful lot about what these members of the Senate, with their trivial powers, think -- why? What does this have to do with Jordiusís war on Death? Ask yourself: is this the most efficient use of the words that I have available?

I am to be beholden to these people?
Is he? Given that heís the emperor on a spaceship declaring war on Death, it doesnít seem like heís particularly beholden to anyone. Also, it seems weird that heís all bent out of shape about what the Senate thinks, when just prior to all of this navel-gazing he was so very upset about his legions being held hostage on Plutoís surface. Unless the point is here that the Senate is somehow preventing Jordiusís legions from carrying out his will, in which case you need to make that a hell of a lot clearer.

I held Marcusís throat as he bled his fruits of conquest. They praise his sacrifice in the forum to the cameras and the mob but inwardly they praise fewer hands in the pot.
You are writing flash fiction. Every word counts. Ask yourself: are these words necessary? Are they advancing the plot? Are they establishing character? Or are they just getting in the way? Does your reader need to know this stuff in order to understand what happens next? Does it provide context for why Jordius is in this position?

Then they have the audacity to publicly oppose my war on death itself.
What are the consequences of that opposition? Does Jordius hold all of the cards or not?

Suddenly poor Marcusís death is no longer a tragedy at all. It is the way things are.
I only just found out about Marcus two lines ago. I have no idea why Marcusís death would be a tragedy. I donít know who killed him, or why. And I have no idea why this event would be the driving moment that made Jordius decide that it was time to sail his ship across the solar system to kill Death. Thatís a problem -- establishing Jordiusís motivation is much more important than letting him blow off a bunch of steam about how his parents in the Senate just donít understand him, like, at all.

This is a meaningless war they say. It will cost many denarii to finance, and not be a profitable venture in return. A man can not change the nature of death itself.
Curious as to why theyíre saying this in the present tense, like the moneyís not already spent -- Jordius is in proximity to Pluto, his armies are on the surface. Presumably the denarii are spent at this point. Next, the fact that theyíre worrying about whether the war on death itself will be profitable seems ridiculous, and that makes me suspect that Jordius is not accurately representing the concerns of the Senate. But the reader never gets the other side, which makes the setup feel incomplete.

In my clemency, I lash them. I will win this war. The one who sits on the throne is not a man, but a god. They forgot.
Is ďclemencyĒ really the word you want here? Also, whatís with the sudden switch to past tense? Especially with your next line, ďThey forgetĒ would keep the flow much more effectively.

Pluto will not.
Weíre past the halfway point, and nothing has happened yet. Everything thatís happened up to this point could have been condensed down to an opening paragraph, which is what this feels like so far. Weíve been stuck in Jordiusís brain, listening to him rant about a bunch of old dudes with no power a long way away, and thereís no clarity yet on where this is all going.

The telepathic node within my mind reverberates. I consent to the connection.
What is the function of the line ďI consent to the connectionĒ? What does it accomplish for the story?

My scouts return. They could not find the valley that highlights the moon Styx as it moves across the sky; nor the crater Avernus. The surface is barren and empty.
These are all sentences that sound superficially fancy, but they fall apart under inspection. What does it mean for a valley to highlight a moon? What does the crater Avernus have to do with that valley? What kind of scouts are these that canít find a crater? Given that the surface of the planetoid is barren and empty, are we supposed to be questioning whether or not Pluto really is the underworld?

Phobos comes into sight as we orbit above the underworld. The sun breaks over the icy horizon.
Phobos, as in the moon of Mars? Also, again, Iíd urge you to look into just how small the Sun appears to be from Pluto.

ďLaunch the Sword of Damocles,Ē I command the node.
OK, Iím a little torn here. Half of me says, ďthis is getting a bit much, isnít it?Ē and the other half says ďReally? In a story about Space Romans declaring war on the barren planetoid Pluto that may or may not also be literal Death itself, this is where you draw the line?Ē And I think that the answer here is that youíre not pushing the accelerator down hard enough -- this is a batshit crazy setup, so commit to it instead of getting wrapped around the axle of all the bullshit pretense. Give us Fury Road instead of Book of Eli. You can totally have a world-ending missile called the Sword of Damocles in this story, but you have to work for it.

The node protests. The human in the command center desperately blathers about antimatter and planetary debris.
What about all of those legions that Jordius was so upset about a scant few hundred words ago? If the plan was always to sashay up to Pluto and drop a big old nugget of Doom in its upper deck, what was the point of the army in the first place? Also, what kind of human in the command center goes on a joy ride across the solar system to kill Death and then pulls up at the last second to say ďhey now, letís be reasonable hereĒ?

ďWeíre too close,Ē it protested. It doesnít matter. They do not believe.
Watch your tense shifts.

ďOn my command,Ē I say.
Iíll point out that he already issued the command to launch the missile -- this would make more sense if his prior command had been to ready the Sword for launch.

The node fades into dread comprehension.
File under Sounds Fancy, Doesnít Stand to Scrutiny

ďProceed.Ē

There is no dramatics as it departs. A cold casket silently spinning through the void. Like Marcus.
I still donít care about Marcus, or have any idea why Jordius cares.

Impact.

The dark side of hell is illuminated by a halo of oblivion. The ice dwarf melts; it transforms into a bright glorious ocean world that boils, vaporizes, and splits apart. Angry clouds of micrometeoroids stab into the Regalus. An asteroid from the dismembered corpse of Pluto crashes into the starboard side, disabling the ship, and sending us cascading outward into deep space.
OK, this is your big moment in the story, and as payoff, it should work just fine. But for a payoff to be successful, it needs to be set up by an appropriate and matched sense of suspense and conflict, and thatís whatís missing here. For reference, think about the classic version of planetary explosion in Star Wars -- Darth Vader uses the threat of planetary annihilation to get Leia to give him what he wants, Leia buckles under the threat, and then Vader blows it up anyway. Itís over-the-top space opera bullshit, but it works because the payoff of the explosion serves as an appropriate resolution to the conflict between Leia and Vader, and also builds their respective characters through the resolution of that conflict -- it changes how the audience perceives both. As it stands, because thereís no conflict or real suspense in this story, the explosion of Pluto works as spectacle, but it fails as a payoff because thereís nothing preceding it to be paid off.

A micrometeoroid punches through my left eye, another through my liver. Debris from the ship tears my scalp into a bloody laurel wreath. Pressure equalizes with the infinite void. There is no air. There is no warmth. Gravity fails. I rise.
Do you think that having debris tear Jordiusís scalp into a bloody laurel wreath might be just a tad on the nose?

My laughter fills the node. Giddy and exuberant. The others join me in a cacophony, their vestiges visible through telepathy, ghastly and bestial, marred by the conflagration. Marcus and my legions have joined me too, skeletal and deformed, all laughing.

They do not stop when I do.
OK, letís chat about vague and poetic language here. The Romans were generally noted for not beating about the bush and for making their points clearly, which is why all this flowery crap rings a bit false. My takeaway from this ending, given that Jordius has been reunited with his best bud Marcus and his legions as spooky skeletons, is that Jordius has failed to defeat Death, and has found himself in the underworld, hoisted on his own petard, so to speak. Oopsies, I guess. It wasnít immediately clear to me that that was what was going on, and it took a second read to catch that meaning underneath, and hereís the big takeaway: if I have to work to uncover meaning, I feel entitled to something especially interesting. It is generally safer to say what you mean, as clearly as possible. I'm going to plug Kurt's Rules again, and suggest that special attention be paid to Rule 8.


OVERALL COMMENTS
This is very ambitious for a piece of short fiction -- youíve got 666 words (hail Satan), and in that space you need to establish a world in which there are Space Romans who are mad at Death who is (maybe?) also the planetoid Pluto. Anything this high concept is a tightrope walk, where you have to be fighting the suspension of disbelief at all points, and your audience is mostly here to see whether you fall. Youíre making a pact with your reader: you promise youíre going to show them a good time, as long as they donít ask too many questions. And that means your action has to be tight and snappy, and you need to carry momentum through the fiction so that your reader doesnít have any time for rubbernecking.


You can probably see where Iím going with this: the momentum in this story takes way too long to get going, and when it does, itís over too quickly. There are too many opportunities for the reader to get confused and to start asking questions, and thatís when things start to unravel. If you want to pull this sort of thing off, youíve got to put on a sparkly jumpsuit and Evel Knievel the poo poo out of it -- this is not the place for plodding portentous prose.

Now, I saw that ThirdEmperor read you for fan fiction. I have no idea to what extent that criticism is valid -- if there is already an established fiction world about spacefaring Romans, Iím not familiar with it. Some folks will call you for fan fiction when what they really mean is stealing; stealing is a time-honoured tradition, and the name of the game is Donít Get Caught. If you got caught stealing, that doesnít mean you wrote fan fiction, that just means you need to get better at stealing. On the other hand, if youíre reading this critique and thinking, ďWell, the reason you donít get why Marcus is so important is because youíre not familiar with the extended universe of SpaceRome and blah blah blahĒ, then itís fan fiction and you should indeed feel bad. Only you can decide where you think this story falls.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


SlipUp posted:

Here's a crit in return.

Thank you, SlipUp, much appreciated! And while I'm at it, thanks to Simply Simon and anatomi for their crits!

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


In, flash.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Flowers for Sylvester

Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 17:58 on Jan 3, 2020

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


In, flash.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Exuviae

Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 17:59 on Jan 3, 2020

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


TD361 Judgecrits
I read all of these in judgemode; generally the quality was decent across the board. The lows were not abysmal, the highs were content to coast at cruising altitude rather than really gunning for the stars.

:siren: // Oorah, by Chairchucker
/ synopsis
Wargames of some sort are being played. Protagonist seems generally disengaged from what is happening, for reasons that are not explored, and is frustrated by the behavior of teammates. Protagonist ends up sort of saving the day, but in a fairly minimal and not at all exciting sort of way. In the end, everyone goes home.

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
The significance of this history in the protagonistís life is not communicated; it does not feel at all like this is an inflection point in the protagonistís life.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
There are multiple places where I had thought that there were going to be some speculative elements introduced, but ultimately story elected not to include any. Not necessary, but given the deficiencies of the story, a little spice would have possibly helped, but flaws are more central than that.

/ general storycraft
Characterization is loose -- suffers from having too many characters spread too thin.

Plotting is murky, and thread of narrative peters out at the end -- itís a bunch of stuff that happens, but itís not immediately obvious why this is a story worth telling, unless you happen to specifically interested in wargames.

Conflict and stakes seem very limited.

Engagement of protagonist is low; they seem fundamentally uninterested in whatís happening around them, which raises the obvious question of why the reader should be interested.

/ final thoughts
Bit of a whiff -- feels like a thing that did happen, but it fails to be an interesting story.


:siren: // Sorry, Iím Not Flying Again, by flerp
/ synopsis
Grandfather dies, and protagonist struggles with personal sense of entrapment. Numerous references made to a previously written story about grandfather turning into a bird at death; protagonist comes to terms with their own solipsism.

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
The death of the grandfather is obviously a formative moment, and donít want to undercut this, and thereís some palpable anger at the Alzheimerís disease that steals not only the grandfatherís memories, but also the protagís memories of the grandfather.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
Ultimately these donít seem to embellish the story all that effectively -- Iím guessing that the story about the grandfather turning into a bird is a story that actually exists, which may be the piece that Iím missing, but here thereís no sense of why turning into a bird is important. Like, maybe if the protag and the grandfather had bonded over a love of birding or something, that would be more effective. Also unclear as to why a blue jay is the bird of choice, etc.

/ general storycraft
This has the feel of something personal and deeply felt, and my sense is that the author might be too close to the material to be have a sense of authorial detachment from it. From an external perspective, it comes across as melodramatic and solipsistic. The references back to a previously written story make it feel very loose. I kept waiting for some self-awareness to show up.

Protag voice has an authentic feel to it.

/ final thoughts
Thereís some good emotional raw material here that I think can be mined once it cools down a little, but itís jumbled and choppy as it stands. Gut feeling is that this would be more interesting if it were combined with that earlier story, lengthened a bit, and maybe dig a little further into the kind of solipsistic urges that naturally come along with death, and how that relates to bird-ness and Alzheimerís. Needs more glue.


:siren: // White, by Aesclepia
/ synopsis
A nurseís patient dies in hospital, but through application of good nursing techniques, patient is brought back.

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
The protagonistís voice keeps the reader at armís length, and the major focus on clinical details means that this feels like the sort of thing the protag is prepared for. It doesnít feel like much about the protagís world changes as a result of what happens here.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
None, although maybe patient Lazarus feels a little too dead to be revived based on description?

/ storycraft
This feels like more of a medical curiosity kind of story, like a story doctors would tell each other, where the superficial details and technical considerations are the most important things to convey. This gives the story some authenticity, but thereís not a strong emotional core to latch onto here, we donít get the sense that saving Lazarus was a formative moment, beyond giving a sense of pride in training.

Small note, naming the patient Lazarus was a mis-step, because as soon as heís named I know heís coming back to life -- it sucks all of the tension out of the story right there.

/ final thoughts
The stakes feel very low here; would advise trimming some of the more technical details, digging more into the emotional core of what makes this a formative moment.


:siren: // A Mormon Ghost Story, by Getsuya
/ synopsis
A bunch of Mormons on mission in Brazil have a spooky evening.

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
The importance of the moment takes a bit of a subtle backseat here; the big thing here is that crack in the rational mind, even as it tries to retroactively subdue the weight of the experience itself, but we donít get a great impression of why the protagonist is so dismissive of the possibility of this kind of satanic attack (full disclosure, I donít know much about mormonism and what they believe vs what jehovahís witnesses believe, and so there may be some subtleties here that went over my head). But either way, itíd be good to see the repercussions of this shift in the belief of what is possible explored more fully in the context of faith. As it is, it doesnít quite rise above Ďthis weird thing happened this one timeí, i.e. it doesnít feel like itís been fully processed -- and maybe this first draft is an important step in the journey there.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
Left vague; the tapping itself is kind of spooky, but the fact that the appearance of Satan was somewhat ambiguous reduces the stakes significantly. Might be worth exploring how the story would change if the demonic attack was explicit and inarguable -- thatís where the power of fiction to explore broader strokes in character development becomes valuable.

/ storycraft
Protagonist is a bit at a remove -- the voicing around the last third was an opportunity to get deeper into the character. Feels a bit superficial, like a recounting of events; thereís plenty to dig into here to get under the surface of the character, but itís left to the side. Ya gotta dig.

The details around the whole Mormon stuff give it some authenticity, but they feel a bit orthogonal to the plot as well as the character development -- we donít get a good handle on just how solid the protagís relationship with their faith is.

/ final thoughts
There are some strong themes that are ready to be explored here, but it feels like a bit of a superficial pass at the moment; needs another draft, some more digging, but thereís something interesting here.


:siren: // The Man Who Was Too Calm, by Simply Simon
/ synopsis
Someone steals the protagís car because the keys were left in the glovebox; the police take some convincing before they accept that it wasnít the protag driving drunk

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
Hard to see it; given that weíre told the protag doesnít really care about the car, and that they didnít actually drive it drunk, and that the cops generally donít have any good reason to believe that the protag did, the stakes are pretty minor here. The calmness alluded to in the title doesnít ever seem to actually be a problem; the only point at which the stakes raise a bit comes when the protag loses their cool.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
None used here, but this isnít a case where adding spec elems would help; the flaws of the piece are structural

/ storycraft
Thereís not a lot here for a reader to care about; itís never made clear why this is an interesting episode in the protagís life. The language relies heavily on fairly tired tropes and turns of language that are easily glossed over, e.g. opening with an unexpected phone call in the morning, etc. Dialog is a bit stiff, etc.

/ final thoughts
This feels like a piece to learn from -- i.e. keep this in the back pocket, and think more about how to develop the characters, how to play with tension and stakes, and how to make it more interesting. Maybe try and release it from the constraint of memoir, and see if you make it a fictional story about a similar set of events happening to a character, how you can make this a more satisfying story.


:siren: // I Want Candy, by Fleta McGurn
/ synopsis
A (satanic?) preacher delivers a sermon on the origins of their faith. Originally motivated by a desire for free candy, the future preacher is told as a seven year old that they and their family are going to hell by a religious ed teacher that honestly probably deserves some disciplinary action

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
Clearly a formative element in the development of the preacherís relationship with faith, but protag comes across as passive -- this is a story in which stuff basically happens to Jenny, and itís not exactly clear how the jump is made from Ďyouíre going to hellí to Ďiímma be a satanic priestessí.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
Not really there, and this is a place where it could have been integrated in a bunch of different and interesting ways.

/ storycraft
Passive protag, murky plotting, not so great, but voice has some good and authentic moments. Not a lot of character development or interaction, aside from, maybe, Jenny and her mother. A few good details scattered throughout. Needs a more rigorous approach to proofreading.

/ final thoughts
A bit too superficial at the moment, but thereís some potential here.


:siren: // 348 Crown Street, Surry Hills, NSW, by Yoruichi
/ synopsis
Our protag sees an attractive girl at a cafe, and doesnít do anything with it.

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
Thereís no sense that this encounter in the cafe is a formative moment; it seems more like this is part of a larger pattern that the protag might eventually work themselves out of.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
None used; would have potentially made some things more interesting.

/ storycraft
This story is a bit emblematic of the problem that many folks have with second person -- itís trying to create interest through style, but that canít make up for a story thatís missing more crucial elements like a real plot, or stakes, or character development, etc.

The imagery here is crisply imagined, which is good -- the vast majority of it doesnít feel like itís in service of the plot or character development, though, and thatís less good.

/ final thoughts
The imagery is good, but good details donít make up for flat character work.


:siren: // The Crack Hand, by Anomalous Blowout
/ synopsis
Gold-prospectiní hill-dweller kid has trouble fitting in with city kids, probably makes things worse by trying to use magic gold dousing ability to find a lost ring, unsuccessfully.

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
It feels like this story is adjacent to an important moment in the kidís life -- at some point, presumably, there needs to be some kind of reckoning where the kid comes to their own understanding of whether or not they believe in their own power, and while it feels like this event could be leading up to that crucial moment in the characterís development, itís not there yet.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
The crack hand stuff is an interesting speculative detail in terms of how it builds the divide between city kids and hill kids, but I think it misses an opportunity by being coy with regard to whether the crack hand stuff is real; the dad is the voice of authority about whether the crack hand is real, and that makes it all a little ambiguous. If the kid was more convinced about their power, thatíd make this more interesting.

/ storycraft
The voicing generally feels pretty good, although a bit caricaturish at times. Stakes feel low, and it feels like this story doesnít start as close to the end as it could.

/ final thoughts
Feels a bit like the real meat of the story is still yet to come.


:siren: // everything the people canít be, by Tyrannosaurus
/ synopsis
A young person struggles with the memory of having failed to save a friend from drowning, with deep repercussions.

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
This hits the transformative moment well, without being on the nose about it. Extremely well done.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
Itís a delicate speculative touch with the inclusion of the ghost character, but their conversation feels like the weak part of the story as it currently stands; thereís room to push this farther to get further down on the characters.

/ storycraft
The first-person direct address format has a potential to be gimmicky, but for me it works well here, and is an effective way of building tension and stakes through the slow reveal of the narratorís existence. The narrator comes across as very understanding of the protagonistís viewpoint, though -- thereís a bit more opportunity for narrative tension than what is taken advantage of here.

/ final thoughts
This is very strong, and the construction is elegant and admirable. My personal preference would be to peel back the stylistic conceits to make more room for character development.


:siren: // It's like that HUM song about time travel, by Siddhartha Glutamate
/ synopsis
Our protagonist builds a time machine to save their eldest brother from being killed by a drunk driver, and goes to somewhat extreme spatiotemporal lengths to avoid time travel paradoxes.

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
The death of the brother hits well as a formative moment, but could be stronger -- some more character development of the protagís relationship with the brother, along the lines of how the parents are developed, would work well.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
The time travel stuff doesnít interfere with the story, and it adds a few interesting elements, but it feels like it needs more mixing.

/ storycraft
Pretty decent -- the stuff around the death of the brother is strong. The sci-fi stuff gets a little jargon-y in ways that donít necessarily contribute to the story all that well. Title is awful.

/ final thoughts
Thereís some good material here, but it needs more development. Most importantly, thereís a lot of ground to cover and not many words with which to do it -- making sure all of the words are important is crucial.


:siren: // Theyíll Drag You Into the Shadows, If You Donít Know How to Scream, by Nethilia
/ synopsis
Three children have a close brush with evil

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
Moderately successful here, but the protagonist already starts out with a rather worldly perspective -- they know this is trouble from the get-go, and they begin the story with the knowledge that they end the story with. The employment of her screaming power gives this event some weight, but we donít delve into the consequences of that usage.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
The speculative elements are muted; thereís a demonic aspect to Death Breath and Too-Many-Teeth that could be built up further, to push the metaphor of the frog prince to its darker side. The scream power could be built out further as well, because itís not clear how the supernatural scream succeeds where just regular old screaming wouldnít have.

/ storycraft
Good flow to the language, good pacing, great detailing. Thereís a lot to like here, it just could use more in the stakes. Consequences could be explored more effectively.

/ final thoughts
Good stuff, could be improved with a bit more vulnerability for the characters.


:siren: // Knowing a life, by Black Griffon
/ synopsis
A young person reminisces about the deaths that have occurred around them, and uses the recent death of a grandparent to revisit their emotional relationship to the suicide of a classmate many years ago.

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
The story doesnít focus on a specific moment, and this is generally to its detriment; rather than trying to be an exhaustive account of all of the deaths that the protag has been witness to, itíd be more effective to dig at the specific relationship between the suicide of the not-well-known classmate and the natural death of Else. The story would also be strengthened by developing the relationship between the protagonist and the suicide -- thereís an emotional imbalance between the unknown classmate (whoís so little known that even their name is not mentioned) and the clearly loved grandparent that makes it a little lopsided.

We also donít really see how this piece of processing is formative with regard to the protagonistís relationship with their concept of death.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
Thereís nothing that seems explicitly fantastical here, but the story is more in need of further depth than additional elements.

/ storycraft
Detailing is good, but lack of focus and character development is problematic. Stakes feel low -- the protagonist doesnít ever actually seem to do anything.

/ final thoughts
Unfocused, passive protag, inconsistent emotional stakes.


:siren: // The Problems of Departure, by Morning Bell
/ synopsis
The death of the protagonistís father anchors a retrospective examination of the protagonistís over-emphasis on leaving places, and their attendant solipsistic tendencies.

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
For a story that ends on a punchline about the perils of solipsism, the voicing of the protagonist is highly solipsistic; itís not exactly clear that this is a turning point for the way in which the protagonist engages with the world.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
None, not needed.

/ storycraft
Big problem is the passivity of the protagonist voicing -- the events that are recounted have an emotional distance like scar tissue, and we donít get beneath that. Like, e.g., the most meaningful departure is that of the father, but I donít feel like we got a satisfying portrayal of what made it personally meaningful to the protagonist.

/ final thoughts
Thereís good material here, but itís spread thin and the connections are unclear. Lack of character development is problematic.

:siren: // Carraway, by Sitting Here
/ synopsis
A young girl grapples with her emerging sexuality, spurred by the teenage romance between her two best friends.

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
Itís emotionally raw, and thereís an effective capturing of that sort of pre-sexual fog; Iím less convinced that this is a formative moment, rather than one of many example moments along a general pathway to a self-conception as someone on the sidelines of the game, one who throws parades rather than has parades thrown for them.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
None used, not needed.

/ storycraft
Wisely doesnít overstay its welcome -- it gets away with not saying much through its brevity. But it feels like a pulled punch.

/ final thoughts
Feels like a low-effort sketch by a talented writer -- possibly loathe to push characters into hard places.

:siren: // Three things I remember happening, by sebmojo
/ synopsis
Three vignettes, all loosely orbiting the space of familial collapse.

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
The piece is doing a thing that I like, where itís picking pieces of memories adjacent to a major event, and by shifting the focus onto what would otherwise be background, it adds a sense of weightiness to whatís left unsaid.

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
Not really used; would not have improved piece.

/ storycraft
The blocking and sentence flow is all excellent; Iídíve liked to see a bit more narrative cohesion between the individual vignettes, a way in which the seemingly non-sequitur-ish aspects reinforced the themes more explicitly, but itís nicely done anyway.

/ final thoughts
A bit style over substance, but itís very stylish.


:siren: // February 2008, by Vinny Possum
/ synopsis
Two bros visit a graveyard to pay tribute to a dead bro, and slam a few brewskis in the process.

/ is this an important moment in a characterís life?
Thereís very little to suggest that any of these characters are changed by what happens over the course of this story; itís more of a window into what appears to be a routine occurrence as part of their friendship. And so, the natural question raised is, what makes this interesting for a reader? Is there ever a point at which the tensions in this web of relationships rise to the foreground? What happens then? And why isnít that the story?

/ is the use of speculative elements effective?
No overt speculative details used.

/ storycraft
There are a bunch of basic proofreading issues here, compounded by flat characterization and limp dialogue. The tension and stakes are muddled.

/ final thoughts
Feels like a sketch of remembered details that havenít cohered into something resembling a story yet.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


There is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the badness of stories.

(volunteering as judge)

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


This being Moby Dick week, I went into judging looking for headstrong characters with maniacal fixations on colossal goals, baroque prose, portentous dialogue, and a strong dash of the inexorable march towards inescapable fate. Failing that, I guess, gently caress it, throw a whale or a boat in and call it good. On the whole, this week was generally decent, with a compressed feeling across the board. The low stories generally had some redeemable qualities, and the high stories were not without serious flaws. For those who care, I read all of these in judgemode and have added the author names post-judgement.

From On High, by Toaster Beef
Thereís a nicely fleshed out quality to the setting in this story, with some good evocative detail work around the description of the church. The arrival of the dead parishioners locks in well to a creepy tone, and the voices of the deaders are well distinguished from one another. However, thereís also a lot of exposition work describing what would normally happen in an average, non-ghosty day for the Benjamin, especially before the ghosts show up, and that stuff has a porridgy quality thatís not the most fun to wade through. Many of the setting details donít end up contributing to the story beyond window dressing, which is generally fine for long form story work, but in flash fiction you canít really afford to be throwing out inefficient words. The engagement with the prompt is pretty minimal to my eye; Benjamin seems to spend most of his time being meekly confused about affairs, right up to the point where he gets beaned by some falling plaster. Not exactly overflowing with blood and thunder. The use of the quote was fairly superficial -- I think thereís a lot more potential in the provided line than what the story draws from it.

Helioglabalus, by crimea
I found this one pretty confusing, almost aggressively so, on the first read-through. Thereís a lot of sci-fi fluffery to slog through, and the story falls into that unfortunately common sci-fi pitfall of being more interested in theoretical structures for harvesting star energy than in compelling characters with coherent motivations. Around the point where our guy steals a spaceship to go try and crash an entire Dyson sphere into the star, I started to get a flavor for a good Melvillian doomed mission -- but why this guy? Whatís it about this guy, whoís not a warrior, who seems like a pretty fluffy sort of fellow, that makes him decide that heís the guy to singlehandedly sabotage a star-scale satellite network? And then, it seems like not only does this guy successfully reach the Dyson sphere, putting the smack down on some stowaway nerd in the process and engaging in some Event Horizon fire extinguisher shenanigans, but he also succeeds in collapsing the entire sphere with some nifty computer touching. So, the story had some Moby-Dickery going on for a hot second, but then threw it away for the sake of a generic story of a hero who makes the ultimate sacrifice so that some dudes in the coda can wipe a tear away and talk about how great it is that thereís still a sun. Thereís potential in the setup, but it needs a much stronger protagonist than the one we meet here.

For You, My Love, A Hubris, by Sitting Here
I very much enjoyed the Tower of Babel meets Katamari Damacy nature of the staircase Grizelda builds to slap half of her wifeís face off the Sun (which, if nothing else, is a delightfully unusual sentence). The imagery of the Sun wearing a half-skin mask with a burning eye-socket is pretty chef-kiss primo stuff, and thereís a good bit of Melvillian maniacal hubris to Grizeldaís endeavor. I do think the piece would be stronger if Grizeldaís motivations were fleshed out a little better, though: Eleanor doesnít seem to be terribly miffed about missing half of her face in her dialogue, and itís not immediately clear why itís so important to Grizelda either. The Sunís motivations seem a bit half-baked, too. Iíd also take a quick gander over that stretch of dialogue with Tholomul in the mid-section, and toss the lot of it out -- itís pretty banal stuff, which dampens the kind of wild creativity of the opening. I also felt like the big conflict piece with the Sun was a bit of a whiff -- the Sun just kind of crumples when it gets some of its own rays reflected back on it and rolls over, which knocks the foundations out from under all of the juicy stakes that were established in the lead-up to the conflict. I found the conflict resolution a little pat and convenient, but I also thought the idea of Eleanor lending her face to the Sun half the time to create the Moon was a clever twist that I didnít see coming. Good stuff.

Art Performance, by Armack
I see what youíre going for here, with the calling to art standing in place of the desire for revenge in generating a maniacal and self-destructive purpose, but itís missing a visceral immediacy as a motivation. The ambiguity about the nature of the artistís art -- is it art? Are they just a giant rear end in a top hat? -- doesnít give the vileness of the protagonistís actions a foundation to work from, and makes the character feel flat. Additionally, while it seems like thereís potential for some character development to occur, it doesnít happen in this story. The protagonist starts out being lovely, and ends the story being lovely, and at no point do they exercise any agency with regard to how they respond to their calling. There is conflict present, and the protagonist clearly bears some resentment against the insistence of their calling, but that doesnít come to a head here, and that ultimately leads to an unsatisfying resolution to the setup of the story. Finally, Iíd consider carefully what the use of second person is achieving for the story; for me, it came across as tired and gimmicky, and it hamstrings the story from being able to dig deeper into the motivations of the characters.

In The Depths, by Yoruichi
Thereís some good work with epic-scale battle imagery here, and some of the eldritch sea horror stuff with, e.g., krakens being summoned from the entrails of dead whales is fun. That said, I think the story would benefit substantially from a bit of restraint; all of the gigantic set pieces crowd out any opportunity for building interesting characters. Isaiah is a passive character throughout, spending most of his time being tied to stuff and getting carved on by the Captain, and beyond a superficial sort of empathy for someone in a decidedly lovely situation, I wasnít especially invested in whether or not Isaiah survived. I also didnít feel like I got an especially strong handle on Agwťís motivation -- itís implied that she doesnít do this kind of thing often, but itís not clear why this whaling event was the last straw that caused her to surface, or whatís prevented her from stepping in and taking a more active role in smacking whalers around before now. Overall, this has what in film terms would be CGI bloat -- itís spectacle over substance. As pure spectacle, thereís some good material here, but I think it could use a bit of tightening up.

Debtor, by apophenium
I liked the body horror of unspooling microplastics directly from the lungs pretty well, but I think the stakes could be have been built up considerably -- I donít think we ever get a compelling reason why the Middle is so interested in harvesting lung junk, and itís not at all clear to me why a table-top sized statue of a tree formed from hocked-up plastic would be an effective means of kickstarting a rebellion against the Middle. I also didnít really get why it was important that the protagonist gets cyberpunk lungs; Iím guessing this was maybe a play on Ahabís leg? Like, lungs made out of, presumably, plastic serving as analogy to a whalebone leg in terms of a prosthetic made from the hated enemy? Iím also not sure the idea of artificial lungs that inject microplastics into the bloodstream sounds like a super-good idea, medically speaking; I think the Middle may want to go back to the whiteboard on this one. Thereís some fun stuff in this, but it ultimately felt pretty lightweight and pointless to me.

life loving sucks so death has to as well, by flerp
This story pushed pretty much every single one of my pet peeve buttons -- itís technically fine, but from the 2edgy lower-case title to the bullshit second-person POV to the insufferable whininess of the voicing to the tired cheap melodrama of yet another family drama around the funeral of a dead grandparent who, gasp, was no angelÖ And while I knew this was going to pull out some Very Special Episode style reconciliation at the end even before I got there, that last line is a pungent wet fart. I also have no idea what any of this has to do with Moby Dick -- the prose is solipsistic and petulant, and about as far from Melvillian as itís possible to get. Unless, maybe, this was a meta thing about the maniacal folly about trying to ram a whiny teenager story into a Moby Dick theme week, in which case, good job.

Due East of Split Rock Point, by Weltlich
Of all of the stories this week, I felt like this one did the best job of hitting a grim, doomed tone reminiscent of the narrative march in Moby Dick. Thereís some slick violence to the beating Thomas puts on the spooky lake monster that works very well in a stabbery from hellís heart context. And I like that you didnít show us much of the shark -- youíve wisely left the details of the monsters sparse, trusting the imagination of the reader to paint in the rest. Now, all that said, the story is light on agency and motivation for Thomas -- he reacts directly to the events of the story, but his hand is forced by the plot in all instances. For example, itís not immediately clear why itís imperative that Thomas fight the monster munching on Paul, especially given that Thomas knows full well that Paul is already dead, and Thomas knows full well that his oxygen is in scarce supply. Or why Thomas tries to bring Paulís chewed corpse with him when he tries to make his escape. Finally, while I thought the eyelessness of the beasts was a good way to engage with the quote, I think the story could have made more use of that element; standard good horror story practice would have had the lantern go out at the worst possible moment during Thomasís fight with the beast. And watch out for the typos -- this one could have used another proofing pass.

Sun-Comprehending Glass, by sparksbloom
I liked what you did with your quote here, emphasizing both emotional and literal coldness approaching the top of the office building where Nell works. The voicing of the story is generally pretty good, too, with some thoughtful detail work propping up the narrative. Nellís agency within the narrative, however, is less good -- her one major action, quitting her job, seems like a foregone conclusion throughout, and there donít seem to be any stakes attached to that decision. I did like the ambiguity of the window washerís death, and I think that if Nellís decision to leave her job had been a little more tortured, that device might have been substantially more effective. I didnít get the sense that there was much engagement with the Moby Dick theme; Iíd been hoping that Sheryl was going to turn into an Ahab replacement in an workplace-reimagining of the story, but she turned out to be fairly measured in her ruthlessness.

War stories, by Black Griffon
Your hellrule really screwed you on this one, I think. If you get something as fucky as mandatory non-sequentiality, itís ambitious to plow forward with a slightly goofy epic sci-fi conceit. When used well, the non-sequential narrative device can be effective in terms of playing with reader expectations and driving thematic emphasis over plot; in this case, however, itís a pretty rote tale of prideful out-of-touch superiors and the noble commanders who defy them to save their soldiers, rendered into a slog by the chopped up nature of the story. The opening is a bit of a pratfall, unfortunately -- the trappings of simulated authenticity with alephs and TTS proceedings and whatnot is at odds with the blunt adolescence of the tone our guy uses in communicating with the emperor. All that aside, though, this story is actually pretty strong when it gets down to painting a sci-fi war story -- the action is blocked out decently, and the language keeps pace with the flow of violence. Thereís some good material here, and I wouldnít get too caught up on the fact that this was selected for the loss.

The Litany of the Wounded Ones, by Antivehicular
I think youíre largely successful in hitting the mark of an epic mythical tone for this story, and you did a good job of meeting your hellrule without having the 50-word sentences stand out from their surroundings. Iím getting a little caught up on the choice of the word ďlitanyĒ -- Iím not sure that actually fits here, but thatís a minor point. Anyway, so what weíve got is an origin story for what sound like dragons, developing through an evolutionary process that would bring a sparkle to Jean-Baptiste Lamarckís eye. The idea of a diverging population of mountain dwellers, with some driving to the depths and the others to the sky, is not uninteresting, but Iíve read this a couple of times now and I still feel like itís missing a hook -- some kind of naughty apple munching or suchlike that leads to the would-be sky worms diverging from their descending compatriots. As it stands, the motivation for both groups (be it down-digging or up-digging) feels sparse, which leaves the ending feeling unresolved. In terms of engagement with the theme of the week, the ties to Moby Dick feel tenuous, aside from the chopping off of legs, to which: partial credit.

The Old Ways, by Hawklad
If nothing else, I certainly learned a bunch of new words for things from this story. For me, at least, being unfamiliar with all of the traditional words used here, having to skip back and forth between the story and a search window looking for definitions made for a stilted reading experience. I liked the backstory around Anakís mermaid wife and sacrilege of his consumption of boa meat, but felt like the story could have done more to tie that into the narrative; furthermore, given that Anak seems like heís got his head on more or less straight, it seemed off that it took a visitation from a dream jaguar for him to realize that harvesting achu head trophies for the inkis was putting him on the wrong side of history. The madness of his snake thirst driving him to his actions was a decent engagement with the theme of the week, but I think more could have been made about how his pride as a warrior drew from that supernatural thirst.

Roger Bartholomew Pickett: A True History, by Thranguy
This story started out strong and stood out from the pack with its commitment to damnable jolliness, but for me it ran out of steam around halfway through, where it becomes more interested in uncovering the reasons for Rogerís condition rather than establishing stakes and conflict for him to work with. Thereís a lighthearted, jokey tone that persists throughout, but it felt like the setup for a joke that was missing a punchline, and the ending was a bit of a directionless cop-out. I also felt like the story had plenty of opportunity to connect more satisfyingly with the Moby Dick theme, but ultimately didnít choose to engage with those opportunities in a meaningful way. Still, I enjoyed the lighthearted tone, and Rogerís slow yet jolly disintegration as his succession of crewmates grew increasingly disconcerted was fun to read.

Cetacean Bycatch, by sebmojo
This was a bastard of a hellrule, and as with War Stories, I think that the attempt to hew close to its dictates ended up costing the story its soul. The transformation of Dover came out of left field at the end, without any telegraphing that I can find, and the characters of Dover and Finn didnít feel particularly whale-like -- they felt like human characters with a slap-dash coat of whale paint. The bickering between Dover and Finn takes up a lot of oxygen in the story and quickly becomes repetitive, which wouldnít be so bad if it didnít remove any room for the establishment of any sort of meaningful conflict or stakes. The end result is a kind of ďlol randomĒ brand of surrealism that doesnít leave much to chew on. Having read this on judgemode, I hadnít realized this was yours, seb, until after judgement -- I was surprised on the reveal, as Iíd normally expect better from you.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Well, if no-one else is going to do it, I will release a giant fart.

And also write a story this week.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Godís Chosen Vessel

Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 18:00 on Jan 3, 2020

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


:siren: TD 369 -- Nothing But A Number :siren:



ďIf you only knew the magnificence of the 3, 6, and 9, then you would have the key to the universe.Ē -- Nikola Tesla, noted number enthusiast

Numbers: what are they? What are they good for? Are they overrated or underrated? Letís find out, in this weekís Thunderdome!

Your stories this week will be set in a world where everyone has a Number floating above their head. How you choose to work with that constraint is up to you -- it could signify age, wealth, number of toes, hit points, etc. If youíd like for me to assign a meaning for The Number, toxx when you sign up and Iíll hand out flash rules.

Rules: the usual, no fanfic, keep it in your pants, no gdocs, etc.
Word Count: 1369 words
Signup Deadline: August 30, 2359 PST
Submission Deadline: September 1, 2359 PST

Judges:
1. Barnaby Profane
2. Fuschia Tude
3. Antivehicular

Entrants:
1. Black Griffon :toxx:
2. Toaster Beef :toxx:
3. flerp :toxx:
4. Armack
4. Pepe Silvia Browne :toxx:
5. Thranguy
6. Anomalous Blowout :toxx:
7. kurona_bright
8. sparksbloom
9. sebmojo

Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 08:45 on Aug 31, 2019

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021



There can be only one. In your world, when two individuals with the same Number encounter one another, tradition dictates that they must engage in a mortal contest.


The Number indicates the remaining number of seconds in a person's life. It is almost never wrong.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021



In your world, everyone has a floating circular halo above their head. In your story, a main character's halo turns into a one.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021



In your world, the Number changes so quickly that people perceive it simply as a blurry sort of aura. Your story focuses on scientists developing cameras with nigh-infinitessimal shutter speeds.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


The Number of sign ups is currently 6. This is a Sad Number.

The Number of judges is currently 1. This is an Incorrect Number.

Number must go Up.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Anomalous Blowout posted:

I can't come up with a good meaning for my number so in and please assign me a flash.

The Number represents the tally of a person's encounters with Death that they have survived.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Sign-ups have closed.

The Number of Judges is Three.

The Number of Entrants is Nine.

These are Pleasing Numbers.

Praise Number.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Submissions are closed.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


:siren: TD369 Judgement :siren:

I wafted my way onto the throne on some greasy and noxious fumes, and on the basis of this weekís entries it seems the air in the Thunderdome may need some time to clear. Of the seven final entries less than half, in the eyes of the judging panel, managed to clear the low bar of 1) engaging with the prompt in a meaningful fashion, and 2) delivering a pile of words approximating a story.

sebmojo wins this week, despite the truly pungent grammatical error of using ďwhoísĒ in the place of ďwhoseĒ, carried by some well-crafted dialog and a genuine sweetness.

sparksbloom follows close behind with an honorable mention, digging into the interplay between internalized shame and externally visible metrics.

The stories at the low end of the week were each not without their saving graces, but generally suffered from incoherent plotting and a somewhat gaseous relationship with their core ideas.
Black Griffon and Pepe Silvia Browne were selected as dishonorable mentions, with kurona_bright lagging just behind with the loss.

Thank you to my co-judges, Antivehicular and Fuschia Tude. sebmojo, the throneís all yours.

Crits to follow shortly.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Crits for TD369

Pepe Silvia Browne - Dr. Vorka, The Atmos, and Gus
The idea of the bio-camera and harvesting eyeballs to see the Atmos is a good thread, but itís disappointing that it didnít take that further. The stage is crowded with extraneous characters, and the focus on Gusís hero-worship of Dr. Vorka takes up much of the air in the room, without any payoff. Dr. Vorka seems awfully delighted at the realization that his lifelong study of the Atmos has been largely invalidated. I think thereís some good potential here, but it needs substantial restructuring to bring out the more interesting facets.

sparksbloom - The Shrink
I like the setup here, especially with how the subjective nature of the perception of shame is interwoven with the conceit of an externally quantified label. Iím not entirely sure if I understand the mechanics of the transference of shame between Maggie and the doctor, as in why the doctor adopts the shame of the baby as Maggie comes to see her own shame in clearer light -- if the doctorís previous patient unburdened themselves of the shame of the peanuts, and thatís not among the doctorís five shameful incidents, it seems that itís not always a one-for-one proposition. And the pressure on teachers to hold a number of zero seems like itís undercut by the idea that shameless war criminals are also Zeros -- not that this is implausible or anything, but I think I might have liked to see Maggie rage against the unfairness of the system a little more. But still, thereís a lot to like here, and some very good dialog work.

Thranguy - A Definitive Classification of the Peoples of Boria According to the Numbers That Float Above Their Heads, Volume LXVI, pp 98-100
Thereís a very Borgesian feel to the fleshing out of a world through a scholarly catalog of details, and I like this conceit very much. There are plenty of tantalizing details in here, especially those relating to ghosts, but it feels like a fairly shallow trace across the surface of the world as it stands -- I went in hoping to find the echoes of a story lurking in the depths beneath the details, but if itís there I was unable to find it. Still, as a collection of details there is a lot to enjoy here, and the execution is quite skillful.

Anomalous Blowout - Born Sick
I get a bit of a Semplica Girl Diaries vibe from this story (which is one of my favorite stories, so thatís intended as a compliment). I feel like the characterization of Joe weaves interestingly between comedic bumbling and awkward creepiness, but I think you could push that further than you do here; I was hoping weíd see a bit more introspection from Joe about how, in his imagination, he might be contributing to Lauraís brushes with death. And I would have also liked to have seen a bit more of how Lauraís own high number -- which sheís presumably aware of? -- affects the way she moves through the world; she seems to carry herself in a way thatís almost oblivious to the effect that her high number must presumably be having on all of the people that surround her. But itís a well-paced story that builds to its conflict in a skillful fashion, and I think thereís some good potential here for expansion.

sebmojo - Numbers Game
This is really sweet, and itís carried by some very strong dialog. The number as social capital is a little obvious, I think, but itís executed competently and serves as a solid commentary on the increasingly quantified nature of human social interactions in our modern times. Thereís not necessarily a ton of depth here, and the last paragraph in particular feels like itís trying to pull a bit more weight towards itself than itís earned, but itís a good and competent piece of storycraft.

Black Griffon - The price of the public eye
This felt rather undercooked to me -- it had a fair bit of work to do in terms of the setup and really could have filled out the wordcount a bit more effectively in order to do so. The groundwork leading up to the conflict resolution (i.e. Secundusís knowledge about Primeís past) happens off-screen, which is unsatisfying, and the overwhelming bulk of the story is exposition, as though itís a wikipedia plot summary of a story rather than a functioning story itself.

kurona_bright - Letting Loose
The role of the number is never really clear here, and the fart joke doesnít land; it feels like you either lost track of what you wanted the story to be, or never really had a strong concept to begin with. I wasnít really sure where the stakes were in this story, or why this particular part of Emilyís life needed to be a story at all; the fart seemed more like an escape hatch from a story that wasnít going anywhere rather than a pungence that enveloped the story elements in a cosy confit.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


In

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Voidlings

Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 18:01 on Jan 3, 2020

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


gently caress yeah, in hard for Merc Week. Flash me a recurring character, I'm fixin' to pander.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


South-ish of Heaven

Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 18:01 on Jan 3, 2020

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


THUNDERDOME CCCLXXIX -- ANTS

Having swarmed my way onto the throne through shameless pandering, I now bestow upon you the opportunity to pander to me in turn by writing stories about ants, or at least stories that feature ants prominently. In general, I’m going to look most favourably on stories that at least seem like they’ve done some basic research. It bothers me, perhaps more than it should, that A Bug’s Life features a male ant protagonist and almost no true bugs. This is your chance to do better. Which is not to say that you can’t put male ants in your stories, but you should know what you’re doing.

If you like, you can request an ant with your signup, and I’ll give you an ant species for inspiration.

Word Count: 750
Rules: No gdocs, no fanfic, no erotica
Signups Close: Friday, November 8th, 2359 PST
Entries Close: Sunday, November 10th, 2359 PST

Queens:
Barnaby Profane
Yoruichi
Flesnolk

Workers:
Antivehicular - Odontomachus bauri
Thranguy - Anoplolepis gracilipes
Carl Killer Miller - Paraponera clavata
flerp - Dorylus helvolus
Tibalt - Atta cephalotes
lofi - Linepithema humile
sebmojo - Sphecomyrma freyi
asap-salafi - Eciton burchellii
Black Griffon - Cephalotes atratus
Sitting Here - Solenopsis invicta
Something Else - Mymecocystus mexicanus
Jon Joe - Gigantiops destructor
Some Strange Flea
Anomalous Amalgam - Mystrium camillae
crimea
SlipUp - Polyergus rufescens
GenJoe - Oecophylla smaragdina

Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 20:58 on Nov 11, 2019

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Antivehicular posted:

In, gimme an ant

You get Odontomachus bauri!



Thranguy posted:

In, ant me up.

It's Anoplolepis gracilipes!


Carl Killer Miller posted:

In, hit me with an ant.

Watch out for Paraponera clavata!


flerp posted:

ant! ant! ant!

Dorylus helvolus!


Tibalt posted:

I'm in, please give me an ant.

Hope you brought your appetite for Atta cephalotes!


lofi posted:

I ain't written in a while, let's give this a shot! Ant me up!

Have a crack at Linepithema humile!


sebmojo posted:

Yeah ant me :toxx:

The O.G. special: Sphecomyrma freyi!

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


asap-salafi posted:

In. Ant me please.

Oh snap, it's Eciton burchellii


Black Griffon posted:

feeling antsy gimme a shot of ant partner

The gliding Cephalotes atratus!

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Sitting Here posted:

well, the queen can hardly let the colony get busy without her. IN, and give me an ant, if you would

Careful with Solenopsis invicta -- these polygynous relationships sound fun at first, but often end with gruesome dismemberment.


Something Else posted:

I'm in please ant me up

It's Myrmecocystus mexicanus!

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Jon Joe posted:

Fire the ant ray.

Gigantiops destructor has eyes only for you. Side note: this is objectively the best ant name, so don't gently caress it up.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


That's one of her three ocelli!

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Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021


Anomalous Amalgam posted:

I'll take some ants, please?

You've won the snappy Dracula ant Mystrium camillae!

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