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Feb 18, 2014

:toxx:ing to complete my outstanding judge crits for Weeks 305 and 306 before the deadline for this week's story.


Feb 18, 2014


“Offerings for the Dead” by Spark That Bled
Song’s not great. The instrumentation is as minimal as you can get, and none of the lyrics really jump out to me.
What it is: A Japanese family accepts a foreign exchange student, though their daughter, Nana, objects at first. The student is a black boy, Trey, who accidentally leaves his chopsticks pointing straight up in the bowl. This offends Nana, but after she explains that this signals that the food is for the dead, he keeps doing it, eventually putting the food on the altar after the family explains where to put it. Nana asks him why he’s doing it after months, to which point he says he’s offering charity to any local ghosts, and that he can see ghosts. Nana lets slip that she’s surprised that he can see ghosts because he’s either black or foreign, but she apologizes and starts leaving food for ghosts, too.
How it works: Perspective is rooted with Nana, leaving her understanding of Trey to evolve with the audience. Trey at first looks ignorant, then inconsiderate, then hippy-dippy (when he expresses concern for ghosts before revealing he can actually sense them), before he turns out to be a decent guy, as we all knew he would. The reveal that Nana has some unconscious bias isn’t a surprise, either, since her indignation at having to share a house with another teen (I’m assuming she’s a teenager, at least, though this makes me wonder why she has a job and he’s a student.) comes across as teenage petulance.
What I thought: It’s fine. Kind of bland, predictable and simplistic. Could do with some fleshing out.

“Messiah and the Devout” by Sitting Here
Much better song! I’m glad the Goats can work with a tempo this fast, and I hope they’ve done it more often. Saved.
What it is: The narrator is a devout theist on a play-it-by-ear pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. On the way she meets another of the faithful and they bond over their belief in God. When the other woman, Charity, invites her to a gathering of Charity’s flock, the dinner proceeds awkwardly when the narrator and Charity refer to God by different pronouns. At night, she is approached by a male cohort of Charity’s, who has been tasked with impregnating her and is reluctant to do it. Realizing that the difference between her faith and that of Charity’s flock is irreconcilable, the narrator invites the man to come with her instead, and he agrees.
How it works: This story has an immediate edge to it by considering an unusual point of view. Both the narrator’s faith and Charity’s aren’t what I’d usually think of when considering Christianity or monotheistic religion, and it’s interesting to see them play off. Still, it does draw on some of the scarier aspects of devout organizations like Charity’s sect, such as the united wall of awkwardness that greets the outsider, the narrator, and the dubious treatment of consent and treating women’s wombs as property to be exploited. Thankfully, the narrator’s faith in her ordained path, which sits comfortably on the edge of believability, keeps things on an empathetic path rather than an ugly and exploitative one.
What I thought: SH knocks it out of the park again. Not that sure how the song relates to the story, but I really like both.

“Eviction Notice” by Captain_Person
I like the lyrics in this one. They’re pretty evocative.
What it is: James is unemployed, and he gets an eviction notice from his employer. If he’s evicted, he has nowhere else he can live, and it causes him considerable distress. His landlord, Anthony, comes to talk to him, revealing that Anthony’s daughter needs a place to stay. James refuses to leave, and lots of time passes as more notices come in, getting harsher and harsher, culminating with a threat of police action. Almost a year later, James decides to leave, as the cumulative stress of being there gets to be too much for him. He packs up a minimum of possessions and drives nowhere in particular.
How it works: This story is one of a type that gets deep into the head of a withdrawn and self-involved protagonist, lodged in his mind like an impacted tooth. For most of the story, the narrative piles stress onto James, not helped by Anthony’s admission that James is being evicted through no fault of his own, but to help somebody who has a similar problem that’s probably more temporary than his. (Anthony also never explains why his daughter can’t stay with him, and James doesn’t ask because he’s too overwhelmed with emotion to say anything more complex than “I refuse.”) However, his decision to leave comes arbitrarily, without so much as a final straw to provoke it, and I’d really rather there was one.
What I thought: Aside from an ending that doesn’t quite connect with the rest of the story, this is a pretty good entry, though I’m biased toward the subject matter.

“Fissures” by Thranguy
A basic folksy beat married to some nice climate and weather imagery, though what it adds up to is vague.
What it is: Aaron watches ice crack and melt with the changing of the seasons, and someone named Derek asks him why he came. This prompts Aaron to flashback to high school, when a girl named Daphne joined his class. She wrote a vulgar message on the whiteboard in permanent marker, and when the teachers assume she had an accomplice she names Aaron, and they serve detention together. After some time they spend pulling pranks, Daphne tells him about Derek, who died after they fell through ice on a lake and froze together. Then she has to move away, content to leave only that blackboard to remember her by. In the present, Aaron is alone, the voice of Derek having been his imagination, but then Daphne comes to meet him.
How it works: There’s an element of fancy here with the mildly spontaneous decisions Daphne gets up to, but more than that there’s an element of casual, familiar shorthand. “Well, there’s this girl” is the kind of phrase that carries the implication of “you know what I’m talking about, I’m sure.” The initial meet-up with Daphne feels like it’s from a romcom written by John Hughes, then we get an abrupt shift into the confession of a painful secret. It’s not as jarring as it could be, since the crying is prompted by something innocuous that Aaron asks a question about, but the relationship doesn’t feel like it’s earned this moment of confession because it still feels like they’ve just met. You paper over the passage of time with two brief montage paragraphs that have little weight or substance to them and are easy to gloss over. Also, I know why Daphne felt suicidal at one point, but Aaron’s suicidal thoughts have no grounding in anything else that happens, as far as I can tell.
What I thought: The pace is too fast and disjointed to really get me invested, and the piece feels overstuffed as a whole, like something I’d write. I wish you made something more coherent out of this, but sadly you didn’t. Also, this is the biggest stretch of the non-song part of the prompt yet. What different paradigms are at play here?

“A Mistake” by QuoProQuid
This song isn’t really doing anything for me.
What it is: Alice is a reporter for the St. Cloud Gazette, assigned to cover a major economic conference, but thanks to a booking error she didn’t get her press pass in time to get in and cover it. She fumes and observes other people outside as she ponders her future, then a car splashes her. Since the car and the man inside look important, she pretends to be a porter helping him inside. The end.
How it works: This might be my fault for falling behind the times with the hippest lingo and freshest memms, but the phrase “bookoo bucks” makes me want to spit on people. Even aside from that, nothing about this works. You’ve got a protagonist with the barest token of efforts to make them seem sympathetic by threatening them with unemployment, and even then I get the impression that this would just be a minor setback, as opposed to the situation in Captain_Person’s story. The descriptions of the people outside, the variety of other people who are too little to get into the conference, are nice but undercooked and barely connected to Alice in a thematic sense. What’s most galling about this story is that you seem to think that the coincidental event of Alice piggybacking onto this VIP to get inside is a natural ending point for the story instead of the Act 1 or 2 complication that it would work much better as. You end the story before what should be its most interesting part, and on an unearned note of ambiguity at that.
What I thought: Not much point to this. Scene set, problem established, problem maybe solved? Nowhere near enough meat on these bones. I’m guessing you ran short on time, because I know you can do better than this.

“PCS” by Djeser
Definitely my favorite song used in the prompt, with the same venom that originally drew me to The Mountain Goats in “No Children.”
What it is: The narrator is a new kid at high school, taking in all the various details of his first day and recounting his worries about fitting in. He meets a girl who draws anime characters in art class, talks to them, learns about her parents’ divorce, tries to ride home with her, then gets thwarted by the bus driver and awkwardly talks to her again later.
How it works: In terms of little details and overall descriptions, this wins out over every other story. As a setup for your protagonist’s life, it has just enough focus to be a perfect tone-setter to a longer story about a formative experience in this young person’s life. Problem is, this isn’t that story, and the events of the story get lost in all this thick tone, not helped by the complete lack of dialogue. I had to reread the latter half to get a good grip on what happened, not that it actually amounts to much. It’s the fumbling start of a relationship, or at least I hope it is. I’d be disappointed to learn that this was the extent to which these kids ever interacted.
What I thought: Like the last story, it feels like just the prologue to something better, but this time it’s the prologue to something I actually want to read.

Feb 18, 2014


“Searching for the Bottom of the Sea” by Yoruichi
I’m not going to disagree with the choice to make the sea and ocean imagery metaphorical and reflecting this guy’s mental state to fit the prompt. What I will fault is that the story doesn’t flow. It jumps around to a bunch of different things happening like our protagonist keeps blacking out for minutes at a time. It’s a trip, but you’re going for emotional closure and reconciliation, which this presentation actively works against. Not great.

“Last Breath, 897 Words” by Felime
This is a decently written action scene with a hint of flowery imagery in the prose. I’m not enough of an expert on action scenes or prose to evaluate the strongest, most front-facing aspects of your story, so I’m going to assume for now that you nailed it (aside from the typos). What I can say is that most people, when considering the action scenes that stick with them the most, will either go for a novel idea in execution or emotional resonance with characters they care about, and this story doesn’t have either. I’d prefer going the latter route, which requires set-up before the action and preferably follow-through afterwards. As it stands, I don’t know why this immortal woman decided to engage in mortal combat with two men, nor why there’s a crowd applauding a death at the end. It feels like I’ve just seen a performance art piece without anything to say except “wasn’t that pretty?”

“Sacrosanct” by apophenium
This one’s alright by me. For some reason I didn’t understand what this story was when I first judged it, but now I appreciate that the sparse descriptions and short sentences make it much easier for you to fit a longer chain of events into the narrative. It’s not a narrative that conveys much of anything but an act of kindness repaid, but it works and I know just enough about the world it explores to get a sketch of it. Maybe this would have HM’d in another week with less competition, and with a prompt you could have interpreted less literally.

“The Trap Card” by Ironic Twist
So I think I get what you’re going for in interpreting the prompt. You saw a plane where people battle for fun and interpreted that to mean a card battle, but what you channeled that into was something obnoxious. I originally thought that this was going to turn into LitRPG, that embarrassing black sheep subgenre of fantasy, but no, this reference to life points and HP et cetera is just ribbing me for no reason. I legitimately have no idea what triggers the transition between the main character getting an opportunity to reliving all of his dying days. Was he hit by Gold Experience Requiem when he wasn’t looking? You cranked out some annoying nonsense and got what was coming to you.

“Canto III” by SurreptitiousMuffin
Much better. It’s a powerful and evocative portrait of a man with a unique malady passing on a different malady to his child. Nice imagery and use of the prompt, nice hook that keeps me looking like a nasty car accident, nice pacing and nice everything else. A well-deserved win.

“Dust” by Antivehicular
The mood at the start of this piece makes me think it’ll be a tense story of a man insane enough to smuggle out a valuable culture of alien bacteria through his skin, seeing the world through a hyper-anxious lens because he’s been driven to desperation to get himself infected and sneak away from the company in the dead of night. Instead he just got this way by accident and this is entirely about the process of him getting sick and then having to enter quarantine, so the interesting part is pretty much just what exactly the disease is doing to his body, and it’s more gruesome than it is interesting.

Feb 18, 2014


Antivehicular posted:

Did you just make a Jojo's reference while blasting Twist for writing nerdy? Seriously?

Brawl me, you doofus

well poo poo i guess you got me
who wants to judge

Feb 18, 2014


Anomalous Blowout posted:

Don't make me turn this car around, kids.

Write me 1200 words about a nerd on a family vacation who doesn't want to be there.

Any genre, any destination, any kind of nerd. But I want to feel your feeble, impotent geekrage.

Deadline is one week from the timestamp on this post.

also :toxx:


“East and West and We’re In Between OR: Stuck in the Middle with You” by Pham Nuwen
I didn’t think that this story was resolved at the end when I first judged it, but now I think that Dave abandoning Anil (along with two nameless people mentioned twice, so it took me a bit to realize they were there) does count as a resolution, if not a particularly satisfying one. The worldbuilding you’ve set up here relies on a neat idea you easily explain in a small paragraph, but it’s in service of a story that doesn’t add up to much. I get why Dave is unwilling to take risks, but why is Anil doing the opposite? Is he just that by-the-book? What is the emotional core of this disagreement aside from the inherent danger of their job? I don’t yet understand why this DM’d, but I’m not objecting that strongly.

“The Realm of Forgetting” by Uranium Phoenix
Not much to say here. While it’s not as creative as the Nine Hells story, it gets to the heart of what makes the setting provided compelling on a dramatic level. Cassus’s arc works well, and I appreciate that he learns to do better while also paying a heavy price for past mistakes. If there was a second place, this would take it.

“Hide and Seek” by Thranguy
This is pretty horrific. You found a decent way to construct an unnerving scenario and make it ooze dread while a reader is in the middle of the piece. The effect doesn’t last long after that; I tried tying the mimic outbreak to a bone-deep fear applicable to real life, and the best answers I could come up with are paranoia in what should be familiar environments, particularly if burglary or stalking is on one’s mind. That’s a stretch, while the horrific scenario in “Canto III” is harder to shake off and it’s easier for me to see in real life. All of your characters are stock, but for what you set out to do, maybe that’s enough.

“Skulls and Beetles” by Lippincott
In terms of setting and imagery, this is one of the most bizarre stories submitted this week, and it’s for that reason that I have a soft spot for it. In exchange, barely anything happens in it, and I still don’t know why Templeton chomps down on one of those weird metal bugs aside from adding to the weird vibe of this story. I guess it’s supposed to be a show of defiance to the minotaur-thing that keeps tormenting them on their travels, but I fail to see how this makes his trip on this land of color any better.

“With Form, and Void” by Kaishai
This is a really sweet, cute story about an unusual boy finding acceptance and a home in a world that has been unkind to him since he’s not like other people. I’m not much of a religious person, so I don’t know if there’s a greater significance to “God is in the void, too,” but it’s a nice sentiment that shows one of the better reasons why people embrace religion. It’s a nice piece overall.

“Just Like Clockwork” by cptn_dr
So there’s a lot of detail put into the inner workings of how a mage casts a complicated ritual, one of the most comfortably genre ideas on display this week, and not a whole lot of emphasis on the actual problem and reason why they need to cast a spell. I’m not convinced that this complicated, highly risky ordeal is a viable solution to the problem set up by the story, and you forgot to actually demonstrate the extent to which it worked. What the story demonstrates, whether or not you intended, is that Aria is the sort of person who chooses a convoluted, flashy solution that she thinks will impress people who hear about it rather than just cutting the Gordian Knot and going for an efficient, simple method instead. This might very well be what you wanted to convey, but you could have also wanted us to be as impressed by what Aria did as she probably wants her superiors at the university to be.

Feb 18, 2014


“Living with Demons” by Fuschia Tude (DQ)
I also don’t know what this has to do with the plane of Elysium, nor am I as impressed with this as Jay W. Friks was. Sure, it’s eerie and unnerving that thanks to these voices and presences, but I’m not sure about the use of short, one-line paragraphs to represent... his parents, I think? The first time they come in, during the scene where you mention that Victor liked to go to the woods, it transitions from omniscient 3rd-person narration to unattributed quotations without telling me, and that trips me up and takes me out of it. Not a bad stylistic choice, but you needed to delineate it more from the normally told part of the story.

“The Gift” by Benny Profane
I said earlier that Lippincott’s story was the most bizarre and out there of all the stories I read this week. While that’s still technically true, this one comes close in terms of being out there, and is a better story because I have a sense of what’s happening and why. Not a whole lot about this story is overtly explained, like what the Blue or all the other proper nouns are, but aside from the slightly stiff opening part where Malok and his apprentice are talking, sensation and intuition take precedence over exposition. I came away from this feeling a stronger sense of awe and portent than I’m used to, and now I feel like seeking out more novels that can channel this specific feeling, too.

“Wretch” by Chuf (DQ)
I have much the same reaction to this as I did to Felime’s story. It’s mostly a fight scene, but with an ugly, gritty aesthetic instead of the flowery one they opted for, and I have more of an idea as to why the fight is happening. That doesn’t make it much easier to get invested, though. I mostly just wanted to end it, since without context it just feels unpleasant and predictable.

“Punishment duty” by sebmojo
This one’s pretty good. You’ve got this “don’t give up on life” pep talk happening in the imaginary headspace of a man in a coma, which has a sentimental aspect to it, but it’s balanced out by the unsentimental tone that reminds me of Guy Ritchie or Matthew Vaughan movies for some reason. Whatever, it’s got some hardness to it, which tells me everything I need to know about our main character. Shame you couldn’t have gotten this out sooner, or this would have been a strong HM contender in my book.

“Where the Desert Meets the Sea” by Bad Seafood
The whole idea of a killer targeted for revenge going “you’re better than me and that’s why I know you won’t shoot,” and being correct kind of had me roll my eyes a bit, but the ending line is good enough to make up for a lot of that. I also appreciate that you took from your Carceri assignment the idea of a place where only strength earns respect, and that you wrote a story significantly under the wordcount without making me wish you hadn’t. Yours is the first story I’ve critiqued to pull of that latter achievement.

“Gone to Collections” by Mercedes
Oh, it’s one of these stories. It wavers between this stale brand of internet humor that I don’t find funny, with the last line and the presence of Black Jesus, and a confessional vibe that might have been fine in a different context, especially when Nadia tells her story. Honestly, this feels pointless to critique, other than to say it bored me.

Feb 18, 2014

Brawl entry:
Are You Ready for the Country?
1,197 words


Solitair fucked around with this message at 22:19 on Dec 28, 2019

Feb 18, 2014

I volunteer my services as judge this week.

Feb 18, 2014

“The Man from Martian Road” by selaphiel
Is this cyberpunk? It feels like a normal science fiction story to me. I suppose the inclusion of a bionic eye means it technically counts, but there’s not that much engagement with the usual themes and conflicts the genre’s known for, probably because of the extraterrestrial perspective. That could be an interesting wrinkle to cyber-punk, but you spent all your time on setting up that premise and left none to take it in an interesting direction. Aside from that, this story’s pretty middling for me. It doesn’t seem broken at all, just not that engaging.

“Second Opinion” by Easy Diff
This also has the feeling that it’s ending just as you’ve given me a hook to get invested in the story, and in your case you could written more words than what you’ve got. Is there a catch to this whole debt exchange plan that would make Henry regret signing up for it? He’s already dying, so you’d have to get creative about it, but it seems doable. Regardless, there are a few glimmers of detail here and there that make me want to go easy on you, but I doubt this story will do that well in comparison to most others.

“The Game of Life” by Simply Simon
Now this one has some potential. It gets its point across quickly and in the right places, plus it does well at making me feel for its characters. The high points come when Hannah’s alone in the real world, dealing with the effects of being stuck in a body that falls so short of her expectations and what she wants from it. My only quibble comes with the worldbuilding; I’m not clear on how exactly putting most of humanity in VR would be a huge net gain for the environment, considering how much energy I imagine those chairs consume. That’s pretty optimistic considering the prompt, isn’t it? Not to mention the nature of the game itself; I don’t know if I buy so many people getting into that one fantasy milieu and an endless grind, even with full sensory input. I still like this story, though.

“Latency” by Applewhite
A hefty slice of thick, cheesy pulp, though there’s not a whole lot to the application of the flash rule beyond one detail about how much waste heat an A.I. singularity would generate. It would be an interesting way to work global warming into the prompt, but once katana boy enters the tunnel and the Griefers start to fight him, this detail stops mattering to the story. As far as I can tell, you write action well, but I don’t know anybody involved in the scene so I can only appreciate your writing on a technical and prose level. Nor do I really get how the ending is supposed to be ironic, so your bookends are neat in theory, but not execution. I do think this is worth salvaging and reworking, but in this context the mild thrill of reading vanishes once I’m done with it.

“The Anarchist and the Associate” by Uranium Phoenix
Oh god the corporate douche stank on this one, I love it. This ended up being a strong contender that not only fits the prompt well, but updates it for modern sensibilities and feels topical without being forced and heavy-handed. I’m jealous that I didn’t come up with it, honestly. I like the interplay between the main character and her daughter, the mention of real-world anarchism, and how the two of them are willing to get even with that slimy co-worker. No complaints here. HM candidate.

“True Futures” by iTrust
You need to put a comma between “suicide” and “detective.” The way the woman with spectacles talks rings false; the word choice in a couple of places makes her feel unreal, even for the haughty personality you’ve given her. You also messed up the italics in the paragraph where you talk about Jupiter. Overall, I don’t know what you’re getting at with this story. It really seems like Trent didn’t learn anything about these horoscopes that couldn’t have been surmised with the assumptions about what horoscopes are normally like. How does the horoscope make people kill themselves? Is the ending meant to imply that Trent is also going to kill herself? If not, why not? She’s looking at hers, isn’t she? If so, why doesn’t she appear to feel anything about this turn of events? The whole story is wooden nonsense. DM/Loss candidate.

“Planned Obsolescence” by Sitting Here
This is an astonishing amount of product placement for a flash fic. Alright, so what you’re going for is an understated, unflattering look at where our generation might be in a few decades. Watching this from the outside makes me embarrassed to be as online and tech-dependent as I am, especially since I remember City of Heroes. I wasn’t really invested in this game-playing wine mom character from the start of the story, which might have affected my decision not to buy into her change of heart at the end. She’s into this chintzy game for most of the story, and then at the end she chastises herself because… midlife crisis? She was cheating on her husband with Wintermoot? This is just not working for me, and it’s a shame because I normally like your work a lot. DM candidate.

“Hot Pursuit” by Staggy
This is alright. It’s another action beat, but with clear stakes that I can understand. The cop protagonist is trying to catch a thief as part of their job, and because their partner is angry and thirsting for status in making a collar, but has a twinge of guilt and decides to let the kid go at the end. It’s fine, though it doesn’t have much in the way of attitude or flavor.

“The God Code (a Sermon)” by Saucy_Rodent
Are you the person in the thread who said their story got away from them so much it no longer fits the prompt? Because boy, it feels like you are. Not only is this not really a cyberpunk story, I hesitate to call it a story at all. It’s a sermon justifying the existence of evil in programming terms, which isn’t that novel and doesn’t leave me feeling much sympathy for God. The wasp thing feels tacked on, too, like you felt the need to give your anonymous preacher a personal touch that doesn’t quite make them feel like an actual character. All in all, kind of annoying. DM candidate.

“Rosa & Tom” by crimea
The story starts out pretty well and stays that way throughout most of its wordcount. You describe things in a way that makes me interested in what’ll get revealed next, dripfeeding details at just the right pace, but the payoff is one of those “Huh, how about that” things that I’m not sure about. It’s somewhat sad that this dead person’s consciousness got lost and dissolved in the nearby machinery after a last-ditch attempt for him to save his own mind from death, but it doesn’t affect much of anything. This is the story of another guy coming across the aftermath of somebody else’s story, as if the ship he’s on is the Obra Dinn. Maaaybe HM?

“Aspire” by cptn_dr
My only real complaint is that I found the repetition of Persephone’s full name in the first paragraph annoying. I get what you’re going for in doing so; you want to reinforce her identity as a corporate drone before kicking off the plot and revealing her hope and motivation. I’d still rather it not be there, though I’m not sure how else to convey that information economically. Otherwise, you did about as well at introducing stakes in this story as can be expected of flash fiction. I especially liked the corpse part and her playing along with the initial call. HM candidate.

“Cryptomnesia” by anatomi
“You haphazard to ping the fixer”? Is this a real sentence fragment I’m reading? There’s definitely at least one typo in the story besides this. It’s a shame this piece needs a bit of polish, because I like the novelty of submitting a text game for TD, and the actual story is unsettling and alien, as befits the viewpoint of a spacebound AI, and I appreciated the twists at one of the ends. HM candidate.

“Pieces and Parts” by Lippincott
drat this is nice. I love how nerve-wracking it is, conveying the helplessness and outrage of someone who’s being hosed over by a system that doesn’t care about him at all. You give just the right amount of hope and then take it away. Perfect. I’d do that finger-kiss thing if I didn’t find it insufferable. Win candidate.

“Cheating on the Turing Test” by QM Haversham
This is another good one that nails what makes the prompt special right in the head. It starts out being sad and embarrassing and ends up being just sad and a bit infuriating. Instead of a huge, faceless system using people and tossing them away because it’s convenient, it’s just this guy, who isn’t even secure enough in his convictions to just wipe Nari without having a frank conversation with her, the point of which lies solely in assuaging his own consciousness since she won’t remember any of it. Not a bad portrait of dehumanization, even if I like Lippincott’s a little better. HM candidate.

“The Walls of London” by Viscardus
Easily the best of the three first-time entries this week. Like “Hot Pursuit,” it takes the form of a story about a low-level enforcer of the status quo breaking protocol to do the right thing, but I like this one much better. The story takes time to give Eddie a personal reason why he’d want to do that, plus it works in some commentary about how corporations put people at risk to pursue profit, and the whole story gives me a pretty strong sense of place. I think you’ll do well here. HM candidate.

“Into the Night” by Baneling Butts
What mostly holds this back is the clunky manner in which you deliver exposition, especially at the start. It doesn’t give the rest of the piece much room to breath, so the conflict introduced and resolved has to be super simple. Mbali reveals that she’s killed her boyfriend, and confides in someone that she’s exiling herself from the city, and that’s it. I’d say that your setting had potential, but I’m not sure what other conflicts could emerge from this particular city. They seem to be doing much better than anyone else this week.

“Off Sight” by M. Propagandalf
You didn’t seem to take advantage of the NGO Superpower flash rule, thought to be fair this is the one flash rule that I’d be more surprised if it doesn’t come up in a cyberpunk story. More importantly, this story doesn’t resonate with me because you don’t present a particularly uncomfortable or brutal vision of the future. Sure, it’s mildly creepy that people have advertisements in their dreams, but Futurama made a joke about that and this story doesn’t present it as anything other than a tolerable annoyance. I’m not even sure what Jesse’s risking by following the dream and disobeying his… oneirocian. What an ungainly word.

“Never Stops (1195 words)” by kurona_bright
This finds another angle on how corporations people over, specifically their workers, that nothing else has gotten to yet. The problem is that the reader is distanced from being put in thumbscrews by the story putting them not in the shoes of the driver from the beginning and end, but by Rowan, who is doing some sort of espionage for… it’s never really clear who, actually. He works for Mr. Beros, but then it’s implied that his actions are what kills Mr. Beros’s taxi company, and then he finds out that his actions did result in improved conditions for cabbies and feels mildly uncomfortable about it. So what.

“Flying High” by Fuschia tude
Easily the most anime of all the entries this week. I still don’t have a whole lot of reason to root for or against Pon and Jasy, and I have no idea where that freaky guy with all the metal legs came from or how he relates to their caper, but the fight at the end was neat. The rest of it I could just take or leave.

“To see a sparrow fall” by sebmojo
Is this a big joke that I don’t get? None of the details in this story connect; it feels like a bunch of things happened without cause and effect. The aesthetic of Havelock and Elena having dangerous bullshit instead of hands is kind of funny, but I don’t get why they’re so chipper about everything in the beginning and end of the story. I guess I understand why Havelock is bummed about accidentally mutilating a dead bird, but nothing ever comes of it. The attack on the car by some gang comes across like something you just threw in because it’s a thing that can happen in cyberpunk stories. Overall it feels like you’re trying to waste the reader’s time on purpose, which is not a good look. DM/Loss candidate.

“The Devil Lives in Razak Towers” by The Saddest Rhino
A novel, intriguing story that feels, more like any of the past stories this week, like I’m visiting a whole new world. Part of that is because you steeped this story in Malaysian culture, which I know little about, and you’ve given it a lot of future flair that makes me curious about what else is happening in that region in the 22nd century. The focus of the main plot, as well as all of the technical jargon, feels like a more sophisticated form of joke, just ludicrous enough to tickle the funny bone but still within the realm that someone could take it seriously, too. I know I’ve heard of some out-there stories of musicians trying unconventional approaches to get new sounds in the past, and in a hosed-up cyberpunk future this seems like a logical extension. My personal favorite this week in terms of concept and flavor. HM candidate.

“Social Climbers” by Bad Seafood
The leveling up and down bit actually made me laugh, and it kept going when it became apparent just how much behavior the phone took into account in forming a social credit score. I don’t know if this system is more or less hosed up than the idea where people give other people scores that affect their lives, but the conceit works pretty well for this story, even though I’m unclear as to how it relates to the sharp architectural divides in the city.

“Wake Up” by Yoruichi
Dunno how to feel about this one. It mostly depends on the sense I get for Casey’s character. What I’m guessing is that she’s enamored with the Captain, who’s of a higher social station, and was content to spend her life in a cryodream with him while the world burned until she got woken up by radicals. Even though she fights them and maybe kills one of them, I suppose seeing other people’s suffering up close leaves her unable to play along with the Captain’s selfish fantasy anymore. I’m fully on board with the message, but I felt disconnected from Casey most of the way through and my assessment of her arc was kind of an educated guess.

Feb 18, 2014

I also wish to judge.

Feb 18, 2014

IN, flash please

Feb 18, 2014


SlipUp posted:

Hey Solitair, only one of us can be #1.


whatever you say, #2

(this is me accepting the brawl challenge obviously)

Feb 18, 2014

Push It to the Limit
1, 059 words


Solitair fucked around with this message at 23:52 on Dec 28, 2019

Feb 18, 2014

1,939 words


Solitair fucked around with this message at 00:19 on Dec 29, 2019

Feb 18, 2014

(That was my entry in the brawl with SlipUp, not the prompt this week.)

Feb 18, 2014


Feb 18, 2014

A Deep Understanding
886 words
[i]Based on PoshAlligator's The Black Mountain's Bell


Solitair fucked around with this message at 07:47 on Dec 29, 2019

Feb 18, 2014

In with a flash

Feb 18, 2014

Paid in Blood
1,480 words


Solitair fucked around with this message at 08:31 on Dec 29, 2019

Feb 18, 2014

in with eater of entrails/house of thirty/perjury

Feb 18, 2014

The Secret-Keeper
1,169 words
Eater of entrails, house of thirty, perjury


Solitair fucked around with this message at 09:10 on Dec 29, 2019

Feb 18, 2014

IN with Setting 10 and Genre 12 please.

Feb 18, 2014

Thanks for the crits.


Feb 18, 2014

When Thomas Met Thomas
963 words
Setting is… IN PRISON +144 words
Genre is… HISTORICAL FICTION +195 words

In the black cells of the Tower of London, a bearded man in threadbare dress sat in his cell, praying with his back to the corner. The sounds of footsteps echoed on stone, and he opened one eye to behold a clean-shaven, chubby man on the other side of the bars.

"Back so soon, Cromwell?" the prisoner asked. "What's changed?"

"Nothing, More," Cromwell said. "I only worry about your sanity. You have nobody to talk to up here."

More smirked and waved his hand in the air. "I do have the twins."

Cromwell looked bemused. "Richard and Edward?"

"There's so much they never had the chance to learn. And then there's God. It's a wonder anyone in court bothers with Him these days."

That made Cromwell scowl. "You speak falsehood again. His Majesty and those who serve him are as devout as anyone in these sceptered isles."

"If he was that devout, he would trust in his wife rather than whore himself out to the Boleyn woman," More said. He flinched when Cromwell gripped the bars, but regained his composure soon afterward. "You expect me to mince words in a place like this? Ah, but I forget you keep pestering me with demands to accept his false church. My answer remains no."

Cromwell balled his hands into fist and shook them before remembering himself. "I don't understand. You claim that His Majesty is too base and selfish to serve as a conduit to God, but what makes the Vatican any better? Have you researched the Popes of old? Wars, genocides, orgies, cannibalism... I wouldn't trust a heaven that would admit half those so-called holy men."

"Then why not support the Lutherans?" More snapped. "You sound like someone who would trust the rabble to interpret the word of God, but you cling to worldly royalty instead. Why is that? Could it be that only one man can ensure you a comfortable life in court?"

"For God's sake, a man has to know the limits of what he can do!" Cromwell threw his hands in the air. "A honeyed word to the king can take the realm one step toward stability. You could have followed my path, but you're hellbent on dashing yourself against the rocks of royal authority. The world doesn't work like your vaunted Utopia!"

More gave Cromwell a level stare. "Did you even read Utopia?"

"I-it doesn't matter. I just..." Cromwell sighed. "I thought you had more sense than this, Thomas. I didn't know you were in such a hurry to die."

A moment passed, then More got up and stood next to the bars. "I trust in the Lord to see me through to the end, just as I assume you do. The difference is, you also trust a loudmouth, spendthrift, volatile man who may never be allowed an heir. Who are you to say you can weather the storm of his reign? I won't flatter his sensibilities long enough to find out."

Cromwell stepped back from the bars. "So be it. If you won't take the Oath of Supremacy, I will see you dead within the year. May the headsman's stroke be clean, and may you find succor in death. Until next time." He retreated into the stairwell and vanished from view.


"Back so soon, Cromwell?" More's specter asked, years later. "What's changed?"

Cromwell only growled in response, and reached for More's neck with both hands, grasping nothing more substantial than smoke. He panted from the exertion, his face flushed. His whole countenance looked shabby and flecked with sweat, and he took several moments to catch his breath.

"Being mortal, I'm not here to judge," More said as he floated to the opposite corner of the cell. "Only to be a sympathetic ear. Anne told me about her marriage, so how many wives has His Majesty had now?"

With a sigh, Cromwell said, "Four, soon to be five. I'm here because I arranged the fourth. I should have known everyone had their knives out for me, and that was their chance to cut me loose." He wrung his hands. "How could he fall for it? How could we be so unfortunate?"

More shook his head. "It is as I said. The will of God lies with the Vatican, and such is the fate of all who oppose it."

"Then why are you here, spirit?" Cromwell shouted. "Why are you not in paradise with Him?"

More paused. "An excellent question. I don't have an answer as of yet."

"Looks like we're both in the mood for mercy," Cromwell said, his voice quavering. "His Majesty is a man of many moods. He may yet come to his senses. I suppose it's too much to hope for my titles back, but I can at least hope for my life, can't I?"

"The Lord may yet be merciful. Will you admit defeat? Will you accept the Vatican as the conduit of the Lord's will?"

Cromwell glared at More. "Never. Just because..." He took a deep breath. "Just because I may die soon doesn't mean I was wrong. It was God's will that England leave that horrid church's influence. I still believe that now."

More leaned forward and stared at his shoes. "We'll see eventually. I'm no Pope. I don't know what the Lord is thinking. All I know is that England no longer concerns me, and it might not concern you anymore. Where this nation goes from here, who knows."

Silence reigned, before Cromwell spoke again. "Was the stroke clean?"

"Oh yes. The headsman was kind enough not to touch my beard, actually."

This made Cromwell smile. "Well. My neck's a great deal thicker. Hopefully if worst comes to worst, I'll at least have your fortune."

More smiled back.

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