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Chainmail Onesie
May 12, 2014


LoserWinner
of "Thunder Dome!

In. Gimme some C12H22O11

And yeah, I'll take a specific reaction for 200 words.

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Chainmail Onesie
May 12, 2014


LoserWinner
of "Thunder Dome!

Tessellating Chiral Bonds
1197 words

Of all the geometries known to the Far-Arcologies, the purest are those that conformally map to the Adherent’s flesh.

The ancient verse sits in Soleil’s thoughts as she lopes through the airlock, out of harsh starlight and into inky arcological shade. Black soil and clotted ammonia clings to the soles and gauntlets of her hardsuit as she reaches to undo her collar plugs, watching the figure hunched in the narrow corridor ahead.

“Adjutant-Terraformer Yang-seon,” she says stiffly, her voice crackling on his suit radio. The figure turns, his own helmet slung underarm, looking upon her with a wry smile.

Her hands fumble at her collar as her gaze lingers on the sacred geometries laid upon his face, aglow with purity in the dim light.

“…Yes?” Yang-seon finally asks, pulling at respiration plugs on the trunk of his hardsuit.

“I…” Soleil bites her lip as she finally tugs her helmet off, shaking her hair loose from its pressurised confines. “It… it was good to work with you again.”

“Only as good as the last fifty-two times, Ensign-Instrumentationist Soleil.”

Soleil feels her cheeks redden, and wishes she hadn’t been so quick to remove her helm. “Ha, of course. I… how many hours are left on your mandate?”

Soleil’s heart sinks as she hears herself. This is not a comfortable topic for Yang-seon. As a proud son of the Far-Arcologies, he is quick to hide his dismay. “Well… after this, only nine. The next assignment will be the last.”

Yang-seon steps forth, and the door flashes open at his touch. “I’ll see you later, okay?”

The door clamps shut behind him. Soleil sighs in the ensuing quiet.

--------------------

The central refectory is quiet, a low hour in Arcology scheduling. Only a few off-duty citizens sit here and there at the long tables, irregular-shift workers and those returning from surface assignment.

Yang-seon places his tray down opposite Soleil’s, dropping into his seat with a profound sense of exhaustion. His smile, however, is broad and carefree- it is the exact same smile she has seen him wear since he was a little boy.

She looks down to her meal, but glances up again before long, hoping to see more of that smile. Like the years, though, it is suddenly gone; as he eats, Yang-seon’s features are marked with a deep, defeated tiredness.

Soleil has witnessed the gradient of his spirit, the downturn of his vigour with each passing assignment. Every now and then, as she furtively glances across the table, she sees him look up to the night sky and its innumerable stars, his eyes searching for some form of escape.

--------------------

Soleil wanders, ghostlike, up through the floors of the Arcology towards her residence sector. Every few floors, she pauses to look out on the raw, half-formed planetary surface outside, at the islands and bays that she and Yang-seon have helped form into rich, fertile land.

She lingers on Floor Twenty-two, Yang-seon’s assigned residence. He is probably all but packed up and ready to go by now. His probationary assignment nearly done, bound for larger continents and harsher lands to tame.

Later, floating into her own cabin, she pauses to regard herself in the shimmering mirrors that line her walls. Clad only in an indoor skinsuit, she reaches to unseam the garment from collar to navel, stepping out of its matte contours with little grace or dignity.

She looks upon her own naked form. The lines lay etched in her skin, streaming from scalp to sole in hallowed topologies. Every inch gleams with undisturbed bioluminescence, wrought from birth into those born to the purity of the Far-Arcologies.

This is the proof of her own sanctity, never touched by another living being.

Soleil wraps her arms around herself, cold and empty air prickling her skin.

--------------------

In a bed wide enough to bear a single human body, Soleil lays tangled in white sheets as she drifts in and out of sleep. Her dreams are vivid and tense, as though she were gripped by fever.

Hazily, her dream shifts towards memory. Citizen upon citizen packed into the great assembly hall, standing amongst row upon row of stiffly uniformed citizens, as though called to Catechism.

Upon the frontal stage stand two young Terraformers, their heads hung low in shame. The Arcology Deacon upon the dais, grave as a thunderstorm, castigates the two and their sins. He bellows of their impending expulsion and exile, the shuttle that would drive them from the Far-Arcologies, their lives now at the mercy of the stars above.

In truth, barely anything needed to be said. Their crimes were written into their etched skin, stained black with symmetric oxidation where their bodies had found one another.

Soleil remembers herself back then, only a child, pulling her collar up and shrinking back from her neighbours in the crowded hall. She recalls, simultaneously, the shade of loneliness that reached out to her from the score-lines in the flesh of the two sinners, opening a wound somewhere deep in her spirit where even the Arcological doctrine could not reach.

It is only a dream, but one that Soleil cannot ever seem to awaken from.

--------------------

Soleil’s senses return with the glare of corridor lights in her eyes, her limbs stiff and unwieldy. It is not unlike being in a hardsuit with a failing reactor module.

Her vision warbles in and out of focus, settling just in time for her to blearily read the corridor label overhead:

[FLOOR 22]

Soleil realises she is walking. Her step falters.

Turn back, an old voice says. Perhaps that of the old Deacon. Turn back, and absolve yourself of this imminent sin.

She looks down, pushing back the cascade of hair that falls over her face. The corridor plating is cold beneath her bare feet. Her skinsuit sits unevenly on her body, split open down to her clavicle, her quivering hands pale and ungloved.

Turn back.

Her legs begin to shake, her mind in flames as to where she would place her next step.

“Soleil…?”

She turns to the voice, nearly falling over. Yang-seon stands outside his door, shock and concern on his face.

“Yang-seon,” she hears herself say, walking towards him. She sees his gaze trace to her wild hair, her skinsuit, her naked hands.

This is it. He’s going to turn and shut the door.

Her legs grow weak.

This is sin. I deserve this.

She feels herself topple, closing her eyes in resignation.

When she opens them again, Yang-Seon is crouched over her. She feels his arms through her skinsuit, holding her up, refusing to let her fall.

Then, she sees her own hands around his shoulders, her fingers pressed into the bare skin around his loose collar.

“Oh,” Soleil breathes in sudden terror, as the sacred lines begin to wither and blacken on his neck. On her palms. “I- Yang-seon, I’m sorry, I- I-”

But Yang-seon only shakes his head, reaching up to take her hand in his. He places it across his cheek, a broad smile spreading as the etched loci begin to darken.

“...Thank you.”

His eyes look on her with unburdened youth and energy, gleaming like the innumerable stars above.

Chainmail Onesie
May 12, 2014


LoserWinner
of "Thunder Dome!

So, I've pretty much faded in and out of TD over the past few years without a strong commitment to it, and only submitted a handful of stories, but I really do think that this is the best writing community I've ever been a part of. You guys are cool, there's a great sense of spirit to this group and in everyone's own way, the ones who stick around really do seem committed to improving themselves as writers (as well as improving others). I've learnt more about writing from TD crits than I have anywhere else, as well as reading others' stories.

Between the kayfabe and the camaraderie around here, it really does inspire one to try like hell, write with abandon and let go of your ego as a writer, one awful word at a time.

---------------

...Now, with that having been said, here are my crits for Week 385. This is the first set of crits I have done for TD, but we're not supposed to make those kinds of excuses, so, uh, if I have insulted your honour with it then... [checks page 1] fight me, I guess.

Something Else- The Roommate Solution

The opening paragraph is kind of bland, but there’s at least some form of hook here – we’re now no longer in the “fat years”, so something is wrong in the present between James and Diane. I’m not crazy about the tell-not-show of the last sentence, however – I think there’s something else you could have done here (even just removing that sentence) to avoid the boom-pow exposition of letting us know the working dynamic between these two people. We could probably have inferred this information from the remainder of the story.

I like the short bit of dialogue that ensues – it seems to characterise James nicely, although I now notice that it does pretty much nothing for Diane as she only says one word. This is the last bit of dialogue we see, by the way, which is a bit jarring- if you had traded between dialogue and event description, it would have modulated the overall pace and intimacy of a story that is ostensibly about the intimacy of a couple. Instead, we dilate out into fairly loose plot description from here, which undermines the tension and stakes that ought to drive a story about a crumbling marriage.

By this point, we have some idea of the conflict in the story – James and Diane are neither happy nor connected in their relationship. However, there isn’t really much feeling for what these characters want – James’ decision to fix things with a dinner with the Alders doesn’t seem to come from anywhere except an outside confirmation that James and Diane’s marriage is falling apart. The fact that his plan works without a hitch flattens the tension of the story even further.

The details of the Alders’ lives and careers are practically irrelevant, and their one-line personalities feel as if they’ve come too late – we’ve already been explicitly told that their relationship is strong and healthy, which is the real contrast between them and James/Diane.

I like the fact that you end the story on the same note as it begins: the warmth of their house. The ending is about as rushed and glazed as the rest of the story, however, and I feel frustrated that we can never get any closer to these characters or be shown instead of told how their lives play out.

Sitting Here- Staggered Conformation

“Mitch looks down at his left hand, still surprised to find the pale band of skin where his wedding ring used to sit.” – okay, look, this is how you begin a story. Here’s the protagonist, here’s the situation and its problem, and here is how he clearly is not comfortable with being in said situation. It propels us through the exposition of the opening paragraph, which is written with enough clarity and focus so that we don’t lose the momentum of that opening line.

I’m not going to point out every example of good writing technique from here, because most of the story is so: lean prose, regular switching juxtaposition of what seem to be the story’s main themes (change/upheaval and stability/monotony), and mostly-flowing dialogue. It’s generally just a pleasant read, embedded in Mitch’s perspective in a way that is easy to follow and gives a good sense of his mental state throughout the story.

I said “mostly-flowing dialogue” because, in some places, the conversation seems a bit repetitive and awkward. On the other hand, this is probably how actual people in an emergency situation might talk to one another? Also, in the small space afforded to you by the word-count, the story does seem to lean on expositional dialogue a bit – these characters seem quite eager to share details of their lives to one another. They do, however, seem as if they might be inclined to it – Mitch being in a state of inner upheaval, and Alex being free-spirited enough to talk openly about it to a near-stranger. Also, they just sort-of-nearly-died; I might also be like this in the same situation. I don’t know. It just bothered me a bit as I read through the story.

I’m not going to comment on the ending, as I saw Simon’s note about not sticking the landing before I read the story, so I’m probably biased towards that idea.

Thranguy- Rhymes with Spiral

I quite like the opening, but I feel like it would benefit from being divided into two or three paragraphs to give a bit more emphasis to the premise of the story. We’re comfortably settled into a real-world-with-magic setting that is accessible and comfortable, with enough promises of Trouble to remain interesting. Although I kind of feel that Ouma Witch’s “don’t date a Billy” warning is a bit too specific.

Estelle strikes me as a person with a remarkably high tolerance for witches making inroads on her boyfriend. Like, way too chill. Maybe she and Will are really that confident in their relationship that even a reckless girl with access to magic doesn’t pose a threat… although they’re teenagers, so come on, there is now way they can be this relaxed about it. Especially after Will says his “I wish there were two of me” bit, I would have thought Estelle should regard this whole situation with extreme suspicion.

I get that the characters are teenagers, and that (it’s Alyss.) is characterised as being heedless of danger, but there are just a few too many warnings that she just… ignores. To the point of just inviting disaster into her life for fun. I don’t find this to be an entirely believable character design, not to this extent.

“Chiral” really feels closer to “Enantiomer” to me, in the Greek sense, than “Deasil” and “Widdershins”, but alright.

The climax of the plot is a bit unsatisfying, with the last two lines in particular feeling as though you might not have known how to end the story.

Overall, I did enjoy this, as well as your writing style, but I think it could have been made into a better story with some restructuring and refinement of the characters, their motivations and their motivations.

Anomalous Amalgam – Ethically Sourced Future Food

The opening scene is, unfortunately, quite bland. Your opening line is particularly guilty, starting us off with some tell-don’t-show about Enrico’s feelings on top of some tell-don’t-show about his current situation. I’m not sure that you can glorify a scapegoat, and I’m not really sure if this opening line promises any actual conflict or tension to come – Enrico’s attitude suggests that this is a routine kind of thing. The rest of the scene doesn’t really add anything, or characterise either Enrico or Bhatt.

I think you should focus on tightening your writing style – I’m guilty of this myself, but there are a lot of awkward sentences in this piece. “12 nondescript steel cylinders encapsulated in scaffolding and interconnected walkways ruptured out of the ground with specific purpose” is a bit painful. There are also a few punctuation issues that bug me on a first read: “…when the plant reopened, which is why…” really needs that comma there, for instance. Also, I’m genuinely puzzled at the idea of a still-living corpse.

In terms of the actual story, I’m a bit perplexed by this tour crowd. They don’t seem to be here in good faith, coming here as concerned community members but then turning the discussion around into which company can provide the best product. Is this about slamming Empirical for reopening an old and possibly dangerous plant or for providing subpar goods and services?

The bit where Enrico first talks about the new food material… this should probably have come much earlier in the story, to spark some interest in the reader. I’ve heard that flash fiction should actually begin in the middle of the story given the word limit, and I’m not sure about how solid that advice actually is, but I think this story would actually benefit from doing so. Unfortunately, I don’t think that alone would work, because I consistently get the feeling that the story is cutting any tension or intrigue it has with the speech, the actions, the very attitudes of all its characters. Nothing particularly interesting happens, although at points it seems as though something might- I kept reading, thinking “alright, finally, now something is going to finally happen- oh, okay, nevermind.”

This story gives me the impression that you are still getting into writing fiction, and that you should take a look at exactly what makes a story tick – stakes, conflict, tension, resolution and so on. If you can lay down a proper skeleton on which your story can really be a story, I think your work would improve quickly.

Hawklad – Above the Grid

This story is competently written, although it uses a lot of well-trodden ideas and tropes in dystopian fiction. That’s not bad, necessarily, especially if your goal was just to write a typical story of the genre. The weak-protagonist-undertakes-a-great-task-above-his-abilities-and-martyrs-himself-as-a-result plot is pretty standard for this kind of setting, but you tell it in a satisfying way. If you wrote this as practice for writing good prose, then you succeeded, even if it isn’t particularly innovative.

I’m not sure I can write too much more about this piece, except that there was also a satisfying sense of narrative tension (even if I could see the ending coming from a mile off). I think the “above the grid” revelation to Guillaume perhaps comes too late as it feels like a bit rushed – nonetheless, Guillaume’s displeasure at seeing what lies above the grid at least gives a plausible explanation why we don’t linger on it for very long.

Carl Killer Miller – The Dizzy Wizard Family Fixer

Not a killer opening line, but you get to the interesting stuff fast enough so that it doesn’t really matter. It’s kind of eerie, and terse enough to elicit my curiosity.

Spooky Mood successfully established. Also a nice buildup in the way you keep Dad out of sight, gradually introduce the family members, and show us the crappy family situation. One small thing that does bug me is that, for a story that is clearly embedded in Randy’s perspective… how would he know that his dad’s office door stayed shut long after he went to bed?

This story’s greatest strength, to me, is the situation and the mood that you continuously unfold and elicit. I was initially on the fence about Nadine, then had my opinion of her soured by the spider incident, which I think was the right type of plot progression – it lines up well with the story’s general gradual slide into domestic ugliness. On a similar note, providing a bit of context for Dad’s terrible attitude is also effective, which evokes a bit of sympathy… but, effectively, not enough to excuse the neglect and pain Randy is going through. “Randy cleaned his cereal bowl after lunch” is probably my favourite sentence of the week… it’s just so effortlessly loving depressing.

I was somewhat disappointed with the ending- I don’t think you had enough space to give it the weight that it needed, given the build-up you’d provided for it. It stops short of being the mean, foreboding, vengeful ending that I felt was promised by the plot.

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