THE PILGRIM TIMES: JUDGEMENT EDITION
Our tyred companye of pilgrims with full devout courag have arrived, weary and perhaps moderately unwilling, at the blood throne. Your stories have been laid before it, and judgment has been rendered.
This week, while tiring, was excessively fun for your fair and generous Narrator, and I love you all dearly for coming along with me on this hellish journey in this very weird week. You are all winners in my heart. I can't speak for the other judges though. ALAS! Despite my love one of you must be sacrificed. Did we not tell you that was part of your all-inclusive pilgrim package? It was in the small print, I promise.
And so the loser is Magic Cactus, the Wretched Miller whose awkwardly-accurately named blood shall for one week slake the thirst of the throne. I know your flash rule was three halves and never a whole, but three half stories and not a whole one was maybe not the best way of fulfilling that?
While our companye was formed of Honorable Pilgrimes all, one was deemed dishonorable by virtue of boredom by the two other judges, but not me, because I love you all dearly, but I did not love the story enough to risk my life in battle for it, so Dishonerable Mention to MockingQuantum, The Magenta Priest.
For Honor exceeding the average amount of honor amongst the group, Honorable Mention to Thranguy, the Hellish Pardoner, for his interesting and well-written take on the deal with the devil.
Really, I was planning on just giving this a special E for Effort, but then it was actually good and fun to read, so the Win goes to Weltlich, the Nebulous Shipman, for writing a poem that took this Canterbury Tales gimmick to its logical conclusion, had decent meter and rhyme, told an interesting story, and was very nearly Sailor Moon Fanfiction.
Please lead us back to a normal reality where i don't have to add Es to half my words.
edit, is page 69 sniper still a bannable offense?
edit, edit, gently caress it
(USER WAS PUT ON PROBATION FOR THIS POST)
Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at 23:11 on Nov 10, 2020
|# ? Nov 10, 2020 16:18|
|# ? Jun 29, 2022 00:09|
That trip back in time was fun, but now it's time to the future. A future that kind of was, and kind of wasn't.
I'm talking about the Space 70's.
When were the Space 70's you might ask? Well, they sort of straddled the 70's and the 80's. From about 1975 to 1984. It was a magical time when we thought things were only going to get better, and cooler, and weirder. And goddamn were the Space 70's weird. I remember this one time that Starbuck tried to quit flying in the middle of a war to be an agent for some lounge singers with four eyes. No, they weren't wearing glasses. They literally had four eyes. Two mouths, too... But that's a story for later.
So listen, I want you to write me a story inspired by the Space 70's, of up to 2000 words. It doesn't have to be specifically about the Space 70's, or even set in the Space 70's, or even be Sci-Fi. (Though that might win you extra points!) But it does have to feature unbridled optimism about the future, and it's gotta have serious funk. Don't be afraid to let your freak flag fly!
If you request it, I'll give you an 8-track song to inspire you. If you really want to, you can for a hell rule. NOTE - I do not give out easy hell rules! You can just if you feel like it for the impetus to write, too - but make it clear that you do or do not want the hell rule to go along with it.
Write a story with up to 2000 words.
Write a story featuring wild optimism about the future.
Write a story that isn't afraid to get strange.
Editing Your Post
Might, for bonus points
Write a story that's actually set in the Space 70's.
*Note: While brazen Fan Fiction is no good, you can make references to events in the Space 70's as if they were actual, historical events.
Signup - 11:59PM PST, Friday the 13th (Don't let that harsh you!)
Completion - 11:59PM PST Sunday the 15th
Those what will free their minds, asses to follow:
Djeser w/o Hell Rule
Staggy - Red Hot Mama by Parlaiment Funkadelic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xmdadYujj4
Applewhite - More Bounce to the Ounce by Zapp and Roger https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_IPV2zeDIc
flerp w/o Hell Rule
Weltlich fucked around with this message at 04:35 on Nov 14, 2020
|# ? Nov 10, 2020 22:45|
This prompt is the Cat's Pajamas maaan. I'm
If y'all are putting in songs of the period that weren't requested via flash rule I'm gonna go ahead and do that too.
Life got in the way and I don't want to commit to something I can't finish, if you need a judge I can swing that.
SkaAndScreenplays fucked around with this message at 03:33 on Nov 12, 2020
|# ? Nov 10, 2020 22:49|
in no hell rule thank's
|# ? Nov 10, 2020 22:57|
|# ? Nov 10, 2020 22:57|
This ruuuuuuules. I'm in.
|# ? Nov 10, 2020 23:00|
In, give me a song please.
|# ? Nov 10, 2020 23:11|
In, give me a song please.
Red Hot Mama by Parlaiment Funkadelic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xmdadYujj4
|# ? Nov 10, 2020 23:22|
Chaucer Week crits, part 1
(If your story isn't in this group it's because I want to expand further on what I wrote during judging - will be forthcoming over the next few days)
The Ultra Monk’s Tale: The Mountains of the Moon
Your first sentence polishes off a flash rule nicely, but feels a little out of keeping with the rest of the piece; slapstick comedy is not really an ongoing theme here! It was however an engaging enough image to keep me reading, which is all you can ask for really.
It took a fair bit of suspension of disbelief to keep me in the tale (blah blah unstable orbits/drag effects/chance of an irregularly-shaped mountain passing that close & leaving you unscathed/height of orbit & atmospheric retention of small celestial bodies vis a vis breathability) but fortunately I’m good at mentally handwaving such things.
On the other hand I super enjoyed the scene setting, the climb, the pictures you painted throughout. The occasional awkward phrasing* aside, this was well written, and the ending felt poignant and appropriate. You could have used more of your 1400 words to add a bit more character development and turn it into a more complete story, but I understand why you didn’t given the constraints of the prompt and the time you had available.
Solid mid 6/10
* Examples that caught my attention:
“Legs burning and the mountain receding upwards, she made one final leap” - the subject switches back and forth here in a weird way - you’d be better off with something like “Legs burning, she made one final leap as the mountain receded upwards”
“But the ponderous mountain’s ancient orbit chased it towards the horizon” - getting a bit purple here - cutting one of the adjectives would help.
“Machinery, as dormant and dead as the human remains on the summit” - can something be both dormant and dead? The human remains certainly aren’t “dormant”.
The Sophisticated Plowman’s Tale: IV
This feels pretty raw and real. The writing is technically solid, and straightforward enough in syntax to balance out the dreamlike tone. I was able to read through it, understand it (more or less - there were a couple of points where I had read back over a paragraph), and be emotionally affected by it. Definitely didn’t hate it.
But we’re thin on story - there’s perhaps some emotional development, but it’s quite abstracted and the only concrete outcome is that the protagonist installs a weather mod for his game, I think? - so it’s hard to rate this, really. I’m also struggling to see how most of the flash rules were incorporated - hopefully DocK can pick that apart better than me...
Mid? 5/10 maybe drop to 4 because of the lack of flash rule incorporation
The Hellish Pardoner’s Tale: The Judas Coin
Typos, dude. And “that one ship we took’s loot held” is hella awkward phrasing. And it’s not quite clear whether “Boss Gregory” is the pirate captain or the whip-happy crew-chief the protagonist killed to join the pirates.
But this is good! I did not actually see that ending coming. The protagonist’s altruism remained fairly ambiguous until said ending, although there were hints of it. Then it was like “ohhh” and my mind went running places - yeah this was well set up.
Flash rules seem pretty well accounted for. Little to complain about.
High 8/10 (HM)
The Greedy Manciple’s Tale: A Fable About Wizards
This was nice and easy to read, well proofread, a proper story and all. With a moral! Several in fact. Hit your flash rules, used most of your words without wasting them. It was nice to see the parsimonious wizards get their comeuppance.
The idea of shapeshifting an ant to human form sits uncomfortably in my mind for some reason - I guess intuitively you expect some kind of conservation of mass to come into play, haha. I suspect the only reason you chose the ant was for the manciple/mandible pun. For shame.
It felt like the other wizard the manciple met intended something significant by “consider me a friend”, but that potential hook was never realised in the story, leaving them undeveloped as a character and purely a means for the ant’s betrayal; if you’re going to leave it like that, it would have been better to omit the wizard and give the manciple some agency by having him find his own way to switch the money and the herbs.
Anyway, pretty good story, enjoyed reading.
The Screeching Summoner’s Tale: The Grifts on the Bus Go Round and Round
Oh man, I really feel for Cole. This story gets off to a kinda shaky start - an opening sentence where the protagonist tries to disengage from what’s going on around him is liable to make the reader want to disengage too, and the section where Alonzo plays Jacky could have been cut way down, seeing as she turns out to just be an incidental character - but I felt pretty invested in it by the end (much like Cole, haha).
Honestly, I wish that third game had lasted longer, involved more of an emotional/character journey for Cole (maybe exploring his relationship with his brother more?), and ended in a win for him, emerging stronger for said journey. Would’ve felt good. But I don’t hate the way you’ve told it either.
Couple of proofreading issues to check.
|# ? Nov 10, 2020 23:34|
here are some week 398 crits from back in March that i found in my google docs folder.
Flash rule: A pillar of strength (literally or figuratively)
What is this hammerbro’s poo poo? Go rub one out and get back to writing.
DQ - save the loss for somebody who tried.
Flash rule: An embrace whose warmth never fades
Opening sentence is overwritten. Dial it back hombre.
“proudly erect pillar” maybe “proudly erected would be better here?” i dunno, it’s awkward.
“All courage gather,” autobots assemble.
So far this story feels like somebody telling me a story they heard, but they’re not a great story teller. Like you’re just kind of listing details/events rapid fire. You’re not so much showing me they fell in love but listing some events before. You would do better to show a scene of them interacting so i can feel the connection between them rather than just tell me they were in love.
“Soon, a coveted degree celebrated in intimate embrace. “ i have no idea what this means.
This chili pepper seems important but not really sure why. It’s a magic chili pepper i guess that’s the reason.
Aw gently caress, Abadin’s got the covid.
“a flu his foreign body was not used to” yes that’s how illness works.
“They had studied medicine as well,” oh that’s convenient.
“ Hubert never slept these days “ i also have never slept these days.
“So Abadin’s last hot breath left his lips as Hubert held a candle, not his lover’s hand. But through his multitude of magics, Hubert did succeed in this: matchlessly, the candle ignited, housing Abadin’s spirit until Hubert could find a new vessel.
He’d spent more time than he liked on that quest. Every morning again fearing that over night, the candle had gone out” i feel like this has the potential for a cool story and would tie in well with the chili pepper fear, but you’ve focused instead on a ton of other detail.
“But here Hubert stands now,” this switch to present tense is awkward.
“of the house a scorched figure will emerge” and now we’ve switched to future tense?
Overall: the ESL is strong with this story. Many of the lines are way too purple and really draw me out of the story. This story is 100% telling, and 0% showing, and it was pretty boring to read. Also it feels a bit racist? Not overtly so, just that subtle “this exotic foreigner is spicy and gets turned into a djinn.”
This story seems to violate rules 2 and 3
No "be careful what you wish for" bullshit.
No tragic endings or pyrrhic victories.
Flash rule: An unforgettable gift
At Their Estate
Deus ex grandpa.
grandpa ex machina
yeah that's better
gently caress you again
Your character just kind of sits there and does nothing while boss grandpa shows up and is like “let me solve all the problems.” that’s a pretty boring story to read but also you’re not around anymore so gently caress you i’ll do what i want. Maybe somebody else will read this crit and learn from your mistakes. Probably nobody will. Hail satan.
Flash rule: The completion of a masterpiece
The dialog in this is a bit stilted. They’re talking like writers and not people. Save the fancy words for the prose, have people talk like people.
Well that was sort of a weird, anticlimatic ending.
This story isn’t bad, it just isn’t good. Move a bit more of the world building to the beginning to set the stage. I have no idea why this random junker is out fixing water pumps for people. How did she find them, was she just wandering? If she was doing this for parts, wouldn’t she want to see the parts BEFORE she fixed the pump? Sounds like she used up some of her own parts fixing the pump. So she just did this all for a net loss? Did the pump break because of the aliens, or just because? Why did the thing explode? Why did the machine vanish at the end? What does this mean for the future? Does she just go around fixing disappearing robots? Is that really what she wants? How many does she fix and watch go away with only a quick thank you before she gets bored and moves on?
I’m curious more than angry.
The Power of A Name
Third paragraph in “this seems like a neth story.”
My wife just brought me cookies and i’m very happy now so that will probably unduly influence my opinions on this story. Sorry other stories.
“Grandmother had raised five children and swore she could raise six, even if four didn’t talk to her anymore.” for reals, what are these people always thinking?
“We named you after the Blessed Saint, Grandmother yelled.” saint oval office.
This story legit gave me fuzzy tinglies toward the end so yeah good job i guess. In judge chat i got progressively more drunk while arguing for this win and then i blacked out. I was very hungover the next day
The Keepers in the Sun
There’s parts of this i like, and parts i don’t. Way too much cussing (it sticks out after too many repetitions. Feels unnatural. Like you’re a kid that doesn’t normally get to do it, so you overdo it when you’re hanging out with somebody that lets you). The ending is too ambiguous. Do the son and mother soul blast to a new star or something or did they get reborn on earth as brother and sister? Not really sure what you want me to conclude here. Other than that, I like the imagry and the story and stuff, and the idea of the sun as a repository of earth souls (are all stars like this, even the ones in lifeless systems?)
Flash rule: The taste of something almost unbearably exquisite
I’m several paras in and have no idea what is happening. Some sort of post-apocalyptic autistic animorph?
“a fetid scar “ ew. This dude has stinky scars all over his face?
Ok i have no idea what happened except i feel like i almost was kinda right?
I didn’t care for this one nearly as much as my cojudges. Straight up i stole this win from you. Sorry not sorry. While there is nothing wrong technically with this story, i feel like it leans a little too heavily on the “all dogs are good and the best” meme that is basically the same to me as “i love bacon lol!” dogs are great, treating them like this venerated force that can do no wrong is just p boring to me. This feels like that, but longform.
|# ? Nov 11, 2020 00:53|
The Real Wife of Bath's Tale: The Five Marriages of Margaret Coventry
Redemption: Week 431
Marry first for love they told her; & that is what she did.
An architect; Serena to whom her heart she bid
A truly kindred spirit; as once a life you find
Both were graced with talent & to both success unkind
For as they grew together they also grew apart
The love they’d cultivated would also break their hearts
Marry next for money was gr&ma’s sage advice
So Margaret wed her patron; bl& but very nice
A kinship without chemistry though not for lack of trying
& all the while Margaret felt her creative instinct dying
So with a heavy heart she bid her wife adieu
& made her way to Hollywood to start her life anew
Partnered with a model from reality TV
Margaret found herself the winner of Thread Wars Season 3
She’d trounced the competition with a dress of tangerine
Given what would happen next its a surprise she didn’t scream
Her muse was so excited that on camera she proposed
Once again Marge found herself reluctantly betrothed
There’s a glaring lack of wisdom on marriage three & four
So she sought to lighten her spirit with a heavy pour
It was there she met Vincenzo; a quiet lad with a pleasant face
He wasn’t much for talking but in the sack he was an ace
There is wisdom on Vegas; the town where what happens stays
Her first marriage to a man was over inside seven days
Four divorces later she returned to home-sweet-Bath
For her self she’d chosen a more rewarding path
Forsaking all new suitors; she’d found her own self-worth
Marriage five for Margaret would be one to her work
Then so she held an auction - all funds to charity
In cloth she told a story of her romantic history
Up and down the runway her garments flowed along
A dress she’d made Serena accompanied their favorite song
The models took a bow; the auctioneer commenced the bidding
In the crowd Margaret saw Serena raise her hand in hope of winning
The true love of her youth garbed in elegant red & black
Margaret stopped to wonder if it was worth it to try and bring it back
|# ? Nov 11, 2020 01:46|
IN. Song please.
|# ? Nov 11, 2020 02:23|
IN. Song please.
More Bounce to the Ounce by Zapp and Roger https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_IPV2zeDIc
|# ? Nov 11, 2020 03:19|
in no heck rule
|# ? Nov 11, 2020 04:05|
I'll judge this week.
|# ? Nov 11, 2020 05:24|
Chaucer Week crits, Part 2
Stories where I just wanted to tweak/slightly expand on my original judgeburps.
The Wretched Miller’s Tale: The Flipside of the Con
Your loss this week hinged on the fact that neither DocK nor I could understand what was actually happening in your piece. Having fallen afoul of this issue more than once myself, you have my sympathy! And also my recommendation that you almost literally beat your audience over the head with pertinent details, rather than relying on your seriously, incredibly dumb readers to infer them.
Then again, some of the lack of clarity can be pretty clearly blamed on a lack of reading over/editing passes... For instance, it wasn’t obvious during the first paragraph that your protagonist was crossing from dead realm to living realm, especially considering you phrased it the opposite way (“the barrier between the world of the living and the dead”). Led me way down the garden path there.
I admired your gumption in incorporating your TRex sentences but they weren’t made any less nonsensical by the context, and so threw me out of the narrative - needed a bit more thought and either a clever containing gimmick or better luck with what sentences you were assigned in the first place, heh.
Biggest thing was I wished I understood more about the “job”. There’s that tantalising hint of an interesting world/situation/story, but it’s referred to obliquely throughout. Since the nature of said job, and the associated death/life crossing, is the most interesting aspect of your story, you would have done well to lean into it, especially as you had plenty of words to spare.
Also couldn’t see how you used your hellrule, but I guess DocK’s idea that you wrote three halves of a story kinda makes sense.
Low 3/10 (LOSS)
The Magenta Parson’s Tale: Ringing the Changes
This is the first story of the lot that adheres strictly to being told from the perspective of the character you were assigned - which wasn’t mandatory, but it’s nice to see it attempted! And it’s a good go at an appropriate voice for them. Some oddities lurk - for instance it seems strange to me at the start that you’re discussing how you, a boy raised in a monastery, should have come to acquire your faith, and how the abbot was a faithful man - these are things that would go without saying! Assuming it’s set in the middle ages, the default assumption would be faith in God, and someone raised in a monastery wouldn’t stop to wonder exactly how they gained their faith, if you get me.
Anyway, all that aside… this wasn’t the most interesting story. Certainly the abbot’s suicide is a shocking moment, but the events surrounding it aren’t terribly exciting. Your opening lines were plausible for a guy taking his turn telling a tale in a pub, but they don’t do the work of drawing the reader into your narrative. Perhaps the abbot was reincarnated as a pigeon, but without more development of his character it’s kind of out of nowhere and doesn’t pack a punch.
Low 3/10 (DM)
Now apropos of chat in the Discord about how to work on a lacklustre story without starting again from scratch, I can think of a couple of approaches I would try (but please note I am an amateur at this poo poo and while this is what I personally would try it may not work for you):
1) I remember sebmojo once saying of his TD writing process that (extremely paraphrasing) he comes up with a super simple story, then just adds twists and turns and surprises until it feels interesting enough. Might be a few ways you can do that here - have the pigeons suddenly infest the chapel early in the story as a form of foreshadowing; give strong, specific, disturbing examples of the Abbot's dark moods (paranoia about the pigeons or something idk); have the protagonist start to hear the bells as "Go, Go, Go" at the end the same as the Abbot did...
2) Check on your characters, asking yourself stuff like - do they have strong personalities, needs or desires? Are these sufficiently expressed? Who is the main character of the story? Are they experiencing development over the course of the story? In this case, it seems like your protagonist is switching from the Parson in the first couple of paragraphs, to the Abbot in the middle section, and then the Parson again in the last bit. Maybe you needed to focus more on one or the other? (For my money, the Abbot is the more interesting of the two.)
The Blushing Man of Law’s Tale: A Matter of Decency
Well that’s an opening line, hooked me well, definitely kept me reading. The story raised a smile but leaving 1000 words on the table makes me suspect you dashed it off at the very last minute, and the ending paragraph, well... I suppose given the age of the joke it's very nearly Chaucer-appropriate?
You got it super easy on the flash rules by entering late, and still didn't use one of them (the colour grey).
Low-mid 4/10 - perhaps this was harsh in retrospect as, y'know, it was a story and wasn't horrible to read, but yeah, you were taking a gamble and you knew it
The Nebulous Shipman’s Tale: The Mone Seilor
Lmao gently caress you
Amazing 10/10 (WIN)
On reflection I'd drop this to a 9/10, but my criticisms are minor, mostly to do with dodgy scanning; I'm also extremely interested to know how authentic this middle English is (and yes as an Englishman myself I feel shame that I don't know offhand). It doesn't actually matter though; main thing is it was a pleasure to read and you hit all your flash rules and your self-imposed rules with such panache that this was an easy call for the win.
|# ? Nov 11, 2020 14:54|
Chaucer Week crits, Part 3
The ones I didn't really write anything useful for during judging, but look, I'm doing it now!
The Finicky Host’s Tale: What We Don’t Talk About
While this tale on the face of it seems to skirt the line of erotica, all the judges were fine with it so well done for having a good sense of where to stop, I guess!
Overall the story was kinda funny in parts (I got a small chuckle out of “I’m going to brush your teeth with it”) and serious in parts and cringe in parts without leaning all the way into any of them. In the end, the fact that nothing really happened was the downfall of your story - if you’d gone on to somehow actually have the orgy, you’d have been DQ for erotica but at least it would have been a fun surprise, I guess. The abruptness with which Davis gives up and runs away is a decided anticlimax.
Of course, what this story is really about is Davis and Kim’s relationship, and as such the end bit is kinda nice - I like the way the two of them interact. It’s just not the story I was set up to expect, and nearly 1600 words is a lot to spend on that.
The Divergent Monk’s Tale: Change
I thought this was a really nice example of how to pull off a story with character development over the space of a single conversation. The characters feel real, the conversation flows naturally, yet without unnecessary padding - everything tells us something relevant about the characters and their histories or attitudes or motivations or desires.
It was a really hard one to score for me, ended up giving it 6/10 but maybe it's a 7/10 - readable and enjoyable, but didn't excite me like The Judas Coin or wow me like The Mone Seilor.
The Faded Squire’s Tale: Nostradumbass
Didn't read this one during judging as it was DQ.
Funny story, I liked it... but took a while to get my head around the situation as explained by the lover/businessman/spouse combo. In fact as I write this I'm still really loving confused and reading over it to try and get a picture in my head of who these people are and what their relationship is to each other. Are you sure all your dialogue attributions are in order?
Gonna give it another try after a cup of coffee before I give this an actual score, heh.
Okay I figured it out while making the coffee! The spouse is NOT the businessman's spouse! Judy does not feature in this scene! Alright, so I was just being a dumbass but I'd suggest maybe replacing "spouse" with "husband" to help with the potential confusion a little? Also this line screwed up the timeline in my head -
"Roger was pulling a cart that I got from this fella, and he starts muttering to me."
because why is he pulling the lover's cart if the lover hasn't yet bought him from the businessman?
6/10 (DQ) - poor editing but nice story, I really like the squire's relationship with his stupid impossible horse.
The Real Wife of Bath's Tale: The Five Marriages of Margaret Coventry
I really like it when people take a punt at poetry in a TD entry, it's bold and ambitious and also they are usually short so it saves me some time. I'm sorry you lost your original/didn't manage to get this in before the deadline.
This is sweet, I liked it! The scanning is... variable to say the least, the rhyming occasionally eccentric, and the phrasing gets a bit forced here and there, so I can't really elevate it to HM levels, but I'll give it a solid 6/10 for enjoyment and note that you did incorporate the colour orange as requested.
The Wet Friar’s Tale: Trust Not Boasts, but Deeds
This is another one that leans into the Canterbury Tales format. I appreciate this! And medieval luchadors is an entertaining concept.
On the other hand, it's a hackneyed tale straight from the Rocky films, told straight with no interesting twists. The writing is quite flabby - you could cut a great deal, both minor verbiage and whole sentences, without detrimental effect on the story. The phrasing sometimes veers towards cliché, and the attempt at a fairy-tale style doesn’t always hit the mark. I felt this had enough scattered issues to offer a line crit. Let me know if you want this - it's already written, but not everyone likes to see their words put through the meat grinder.
(I ended up marking this 3/10, although unlike the other 3/10 ones it wasn't quite in the running for a DM or loss.)
Edit: added linecrit per request.
Some years ago I
There's more you could cut than I've marked above, honestly. Remember in flash fiction everything should be in service of the story you're telling, the conflict, and the characters. If a line (or paragraph!) doesn't convey anything interesting/plot-pertinent about the characters or advance the story, you can probably throw it out. Use the extra words to write in some piece of real characterisation or interesting plot development.
Maugrim fucked around with this message at 13:45 on Nov 13, 2020
|# ? Nov 12, 2020 15:20|
|# ? Nov 12, 2020 16:34|
In for my first TD! Taking this as my inspiration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vTKmVvyNRc
Nae fucked around with this message at 21:33 on Nov 13, 2020
|# ? Nov 13, 2020 19:41|
1,989 / 2,000 words
Flash rule: Red Hot Mama by Parliament Funkadelic
Moved to the archives.
Staggy fucked around with this message at 23:25 on Jan 7, 2021
|# ? Nov 15, 2020 21:00|
Djeser fucked around with this message at 22:58 on Jan 10, 2021
|# ? Nov 15, 2020 21:01|
Where to Go When The World Doesn't Need You
The first time I see Kettrick, she’s down in the pits, grappling with something that looks half beaver and half crab. She’s bobbing and weaving and her opponent is hissing and spitting, snapping at her with two big furry claws, each the size of her torso. The beaver crab is getting so worked up that it’s blowing big, chittery bubbles from its disgusting, bucked-tooth crab mouth. And then, as she’s running up to drop kick this thing right under the chin, it whips around and slaps her with its big, flat tail. The audience cheers at the first crack when the tail slaps her and they groan at the second crack, the one where her spine snaps as her back hits the wall. When she can’t move, two of the clowns run out to distract the beaver crab while the medics remove her from the field. The audience cheers when she throws up her hand, a small victory even in defeat.
She’s back the next night, screaming obscenities at a pig man twice her size. Kettrick’s so muscular that she looks like someone piled a woman out of boulders. The pig man makes her look like an eight-year- old fighting her own father. When he grunts a reply, she leans her neck back like a cobra rearing to strike and with a snap forward, hocks a fat, wet blob of snot right into his face. The pig man looks at her like she just poo poo on his dinner table. Then he grabs her, wraps one enormous fist around her shoulders and the other around her hips and cracks her like a glowstick, spraying her insides over the crowd. A few of them are vomiting but most of them are losing their minds, treating what used to be Kettrick like confetti, smiling and laughing and throwing their worthless betting chits down to the pig man, thanking him for making it rain. Meanwhile, I’m in the corner hyperventilating, running that moment over and over in my mind, because in three days, it’s my turn in the pit.
Coach knows something’s wrong the next day by the way I’m working the pads. Normally I’m able to stab right through the padding; today, I’m barely able to scratch them. He tells me to take a break and when I stand up, he shakes his head.
“Your head’s not in it today, Marky. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, Coach.” You don’t talk about your feelings in the gym. It’s one of those rules—no matter what happens, you focus on the sport. The art. Not the feeling behind it. You want to talk about feelings, you go find someone who wants to talk about feelings, who gets warm and fuzzy from helping people.
“You’re fighting like you got butterknives instead of spears. You really that worked up?”
I look down at what I call my hands, the serrated green spears that are only good at making things bleed. They used to tease me for these things growing up, trying to hunt and peck on a keyboard. No one is going to hire a mantis to run a daycare or enter data. I wouldn’t know how to start getting a job, anyway. No one really works anymore unless they want to.
“Nah, coach. Just thinkin’.”
He claps me on the back. I know I answered correctly, saving him the trouble of baring his soul to me. He runs into his dingy broom closet office, set dank and cramped, just the way he likes it. He comes back with his phone and with nimble thumbs, he texts me a location. It displays right across my retinas—I stopped carrying a phone after stabbing through the fourth one.
“I got a friend you should talk to,” he says. “A fighter. She works the bar. Tell her coach sent you.”
I try to avoid any excuse to talk to people. Most nights I go home and plug in to the simulations and pretend to be someone else for a while. But tonight my stomach feels like a black hole, trying to solve my problems by cramping up and sucking me into nonexistence. I walk to the bar anyway, hoping maybe a drink will help me relax and knowing it won’t. The bar itself is programmed for 1950s Ireland, dark and cavernous and homey. The yellowed glass windows are printed with blocky letters, “Finnegan’s.”
When I open the door, Kettrick is working the bar in a tank top, work pants and suspenders. A couple of patrons look up before returning to their drinks. She sees me gawking and waves me over.
“What can I get you?”
I have trouble talking to her and accidentally ignore her question; I can’t stop focusing on how I saw the pig man turn her into a Christmas popper the previous night. “I didn’t think you’d be back so soon,” I told her.
She flashes me a grin, showing off a mouth of perfectly straight, white teeth that don't belong in the mouth of a pit fighter. “You saw that, huh?”
“I thought it took weeks to get reborn.” My parents used to terrify me with death, telling me that by the time I got back, all of my friends would be taller than me and the cat wouldn’t remember me.
“Maybe twenty years ago,” she said. “Absent something really big happening, there’s usually not a line.”
“How quick were you back?”
“Twenty minutes. Two people got into a lover’s quarrel and shot each other, so I was third in line.”
As she’s polishing the glass in her hand, she’s also preening, making her muscles appear bigger than they’d normally be and standing so that the light makes her hair glitter. I envy that she can polish the glasses without dropping them while she's looking at the sharp tips at the end of my claws.
“Does it hurt?”
“poo poo, yes it does. You never forget how you go.”
“How many times?”
“Too many to count.”
“And are you still…you know?”
Kettrick makes a show of examining her body, running her eyes down her biceps and the thick lumps of her quadriceps, flexing her surprisingly delicate fingers. “Yep, all here.”
“You’re not afraid that you’re not you?”
“Are you afraid of going to sleep at night?”
I shake my head. I’m afraid of a lot of things but sleep has never been one of them.
“Just like that. Except instead of waking up in your bed, you just wake up somewhere else.”
The muscles in my stomach unclench the slightest bit, just enough to get back to my normal levels of nervous. “Thank you,” I tell her.
“Coach send you?” she asks.
I nod. “Said it’d help.”
She gives me a wink and a thumbs up. “You’ll do fine.”
Two days later, I’m in one of the locker rooms on the side of the pit, fighting off the shakes. I tell myself that it’s the anticipation, like racehorses get before running. I tell myself this is what I’m made for. I could care less about what the betters think—they’re here for status. The pits hand out fake money they let people wager and keep track of who’s got the most. I could care less about some old men in a pissing contest. What I care about is how to fit into a world that doesn’t need me.
The locker room is almost a hospital, with several doctors eagerly waiting nearby for their chance to help the fighters. As I sit and wait for the call, other fighters are here with their coaches, getting wrapped up and going through the motions. Maybe in a couple more rounds I’ll invite my family to show them what we are best at, at least, if I can get them unplugged from the sims.
One of the pit workers comes to grab me, to let me know it’s my time. I stand up from the bench and crack my neck, walking out to the pit while the audience screams its approval. I don’t even see them, because my eyes are on the other gate. Whoever it is, he’s so big that he has to crouch to get through the door.
My heart drops when I realize it’s the pig man Kettrick fought. Even though I’m tall, he still has a good four feet on me—up and to each side. You could fit six of me into his pants. I don’t have time to be scared, because as soon as he enters the pit and sees me, he puts his shoulder down and charges, trying to smash me into the wall and hammer me with those clubs he calls hands.
Since the pit is about 20 feet wide, I have a couple seconds before he reaches me. I wait for him to get just close enough, then roll out of the way, carving a chunk from his thighs with one of my spears. He screams, more rage than pain, before trying to square up with me. Even though he’s big, he’s slow, and his punches and kicks are so obvious that he might as well be yelling out his combinations. I pepper him with lots of little slashes, opening up tiny red wounds all over his body. And for the first time, I’m not thinking about how scared I am, or how my hands are useless, or that I’m a waste of space in a society that doesn’t need people. I’m in my element.
The blood is running down his arms and legs but he’s got so much of it that he’s not tiring. Without a debilitating injury, he’s just got to catch me once. I wait for him to put weight on his left knee and as soon as he does, I dive and try to carve through it like a butcher, tearing through the cartilage. And it would have worked but he collapses his knee backwards, pinning my spear with his own weight. He opens his mouth in a cruel imitation of a smile and rears back one of his enormous, chubby fists. His sadistic happiness is the last thing I see before he pops my head clean off my neck with his punch.
It’s just like waking up, except the bed is different. I figured they’d have some nurses but Kettrick is waiting for me by my bedside. “You had a rough time there, Marky,” she tells me, giving me her hand to help me to take my first steps.
I give her the best smile a Mantid can, the one that doesn’t scare other people. The muscles in this body are smoother than my old one, not full of clicks and pops and scarred-over wounds. “I think I’ll be seeing this place a lot,” I tell her.
"How you feeling?" she asks me.
I shrug. "Honestly, a lot better than I used to. How'd I do?"
“You nicked an artery on him. He almost bled out. I think that’s the best anyone’s ever done on him." Kettrick pulls the tip of one of my spears from her pocket, six inches of serrated chitin. "You ok with me keeping this and turning it into a knife?” she says as she swishes my old hand in the air a few times.
I nod and start moving towards the exit. “Just don’t use it on me,” I tell her.
“No promises,” she tells me, holding my elbow even though I can walk on my own. There's nothing romantic about it; it’s nice while it lasts, though.
|# ? Nov 15, 2020 21:52|
Nae fucked around with this message at 01:14 on Jan 1, 2021
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 00:28|
Beyond the boundary
The console beeped one last time and went silent. A disembodied voice echoed in the cockpit, letting them know they had reached the last waypoint. Steve sighed and turned the sensors on. He could hear the engines purr at the sides of the ship. His fellow space explorer, Ethan, was monitoring the computer's metrics, juggling the same old pen with his right had. He then turned to Steve.
"Probe's ready for launch. Your call."
Without a word, Steve activated the probe and watched it disappear on the sensors as it crossed the boundary.
"Now we wait for a bit, and then it's our turn. I wonder what we'll find out there." Ethan said on a casual tone.
"Except certain death, I'm not sure we're gonna find anything at all." Steve grunted.
"Ever the optimist! I'm sure with all the tech we're packing, we're gonna do better than the last ships that tried to cross it, and we're gonna discover new stuff and all!"
Steve kept silent, and passed a hand into his graying hair. Why would it be different? Dozens of ships and countries had tried to cross the boundary of the known universe, and they all vanished without any intel on what happened to them. In his mind, they would take whatever they found there to their graves. He only accepted the mission because he had no money and they'd promised him and his family more riches than he could dream of. Still, they were given an old cargo ship, reconfigured for data storage and equipped with cutting edge shields. Living quarters were bare-bones, but the goal of the mission was mainly to get in and get out as soon as possible. Now they had to wait the regulatory five minutes in case the probe came back. As silence started to settle in, Ethan leaned back on his chair, making it creak.
"So, tell me. What's the best pub in the universe in your opinion?" Ethan said.
"What's this all about?"
"Humor me, please."
Steve shrugged. Ethan was younger than him and it seemed like he didn’t mind putting himself in danger for science. This was the first time he heard him try to make conversation.
"The Monolith, on a moon in the Amundsen system. Best Aquavit in the universe." Steve said after some thinking.
"Well, never heard of that one before. We should have a drink there after this mission."
"If we end up surviving, your drinks are on me. Still, we'll need a hell of a jump to get there, it's not close by." Steve said with a hint of a smile on his face.
They were interrupted by a sharp sound. Ethan straightened up and looked at his screens. His face was tinted green by the all the lighting in the cockpit.
"No news from the probe, so it's up to us now! We’ve got the green light." He said, his eyes bright.
Steve shook his head and engaged manual piloting. The spaceship stirred and went forward slowly. When the nose of the ship reached the zone that was black on the screen, it started shaking. First at the front of the ship, then it spread around as they were going forward.
And then it stopped.
"We're in! No sign of the probe." Ethan said.
"Sensors are going crazy, and all my metrics only show meaningless data."
"Don't discard anything! Someone might be able to make sense of all this back at the lab."
"No worries, It's all going to the data banks." Steve scoffed.
Yet he couldn't help but smile. Somehow he had started sharing Ethan's excitement.
"Everything's nominal. It's all going swimmingly!"
"If you ignore the fact that we're smack dab in the middle of nowhere, yeah." Steve said, gesturing towards the front windows, where they could only see empty space.
"Don't be a wet blanket! We have some time to try things out. Can you set a course to somewhere using the autopilot?"
"What for? it's useless if we don't know where we're at."
"It's just to get data on how the computer behaves."
Steve shrugged and entered a destination, then activated the autopilot. Nothing happened for a moment, then Ethan had a look at one of his screen and tensed.
"We are getting some computer bugs in the system!" He yelled.
"I'll go kill the living ones, try to squash the rest!"
Steve jumped out of his seat and grabbed a sprayer gun on the tool rack, then he ran towards the back of the ship. He passed through an airlock, and was welcomed by a strong ozone smell. The room was full of electronics, and the back wall was covered in large data banks, the kind that looked like cupboards. Three of those had a green light above them, the other two had a red one. Hazmat-like suits were hooked on the side of the wall. Steve ignored them and opened the first red data bank with a swift move and sprayed a yellow mist inside, not stopping to check where the bugs were before closing the door with one foot. The rattling that started inside was enough proof for him that he'd gotten them. Those insects were dangerous, but mainly for data. For some reason they evolved to eat data rather than crops, and they had a knack at hiding in the most ridiculous places. He went to the second red light, ready to strike again.
Suddenly, the ship heaved. As Steve tried to keep his balance, another data bank went red, and its door opened without warning. A wave of black grasshoppers jumped on the startled Steve, who fell on his back. He started spraying the yellow mist everywhere in a panic. He could feel them creep and crawl on his skin and clothing, their little claws piercing wherever they landed. He sprayed and sprayed, hoping they would all die before him. He could feel them falling off him, little by little, but more came. He dropped his weapon and rolled around to shake them off.
And then it was over. After what felt an eternity, they were all dead, either squashed or convulsing on the floor. Steve tried to catch his breath. He looked around, and shuddered. All the doors were open, and their lights had all gone green again, but the floor was littered with tiny black corpses. He checked his body for wounds and only found small scrapes and cuts. His clothing was also stained with blood and some kind of green goo where he crushed the insects.
As he started to stand up, he coughed. The stench was horrendous, a mix of chemicals and alien blood. He looked at the full suits, still hooked near the airlock, then angrily grabbed the sprayer gun and emptied it on the still twitching corpses before throwing it on the ground and getting back in the cockpit.
He was welcomed by the sight of all windows covered by metal shutters.
"So, how was it?" Ethan said without turning.
Steve tried to calm down before replying.
"Bad, never seen that many space bugs. Dunno where they came from. It’s good now. What's going on here?"
His voice was hoarse, but Ethan seemed not to notice.
"Jump drive started on its own, but I've got no idea where we're going."
"What the hell? That's weird."
Steve went back to his station and tried to focus. After some time he shook his head.
"It doesn't make any sense. We're locked on to some signal. It appears to be..."
Before Steve could finish, the ship shuddered and started shaking heavily.
"Something's happening!" Ethan screamed with excitement.
Steve was too busy gripping the armrests on his chair and gritting his teeth to answer. He could see the shields level dropping. All lights in the cockpit went out one by one, then the screens, until it was pitch black. Then the shaking stopped. The emergency lights went up, painting the cockpit in red. Steve felt his heartbeat start again.
"I'm too old for this poo poo." he grumbled, passing a hand on his brow to wipe out the sweat.
"Well, we're in one piece. Computer's down, I'll start the reboot sequence."
Steve stared at the progress bar. He didn't want to think of the consequences of a dead computer while stranded in unknown space. Then the screen lit up. He looked at the coordinates they were at, dumbfounded.
"Well, it looks like we're back in known space!" Ethan said.
He was beaming.
"I can't believe it. We’ve done it. We're the first to come back alive from outside the known universe! This trip is gonna change everything we know about space."
Ethan looked more closely at the coordinates, and scratched his head.
"Wait. Are we near the place you were talking about earlier? The Monolith?"
Steve had a heartfelt laugh.
"Yeah, that's what I entered in the autopilot. After we've wrapped up the debriefing and transferred all the data, the drinks are on me, as promised! But first, I need a freaking shower."
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 02:21|
More Bounce to the Ounce by Zapp and Roger https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_IPV2zeDIc
The Dark Planet
“Happy New Year.” Lieutenant Colonel Bruin tapped the ship’s chronometer, which had just started counting up the seconds from 00:00. “We just crossed the international date line. Welcome to 1997.”
“In lieu of champagne, maybe we can pop the cork on this experimental faster than light rocket we’re sitting on,” Colonel Logan replied as he reviewed the pre-launch checklist.
“This new rocket fuel has a little more bounce to the ounce than champagne I think,” chuckled Bruin.
“You can say that gain. A drop of this stuff contains a million times more energy than an entire tank of standard fuel,” said Logan. “If we don’t blow ourselves up, mankind may finally crack the lightspeed barrier.”
The two sat elbow to elbow in the cramped cockpit of the spaceship, surrounded by switches, buttons and dials that coated every surface except for the narrow windshield looking out at the blue Earth below.
“What’s the holdup anyway?” asked Bruin. The bulky man craned his neck to look back at the empty seat behind the co-pilot’s chair. “We’re at t-minus ten minutes, where’s our telepath? He should have been on board an hour ago.”
Ever since the disastrous 1988 Martian expedition, a certified telepath was mandatory on every space crew.
“Mission Control this is Rocket X-9, what’s the status of our telepath? Over.”
“She just arrived and will be onboard presently. Over,” the radio buzzed.
“She?” the astronauts repeated in unison. Both of them looked back at the cockpit entrance. The white plastic door slid upwards with a soft “whoosh” to reveal a distinctly feminine silhouette standing in the doorway.
“Please forgive my lateness,” she said. “Major Philippa Duvall. Telepath First Class.”
Logan opened his mouth to introduce himself.
“Captain Travis Logan, pleased to meet you,” said Duvall. She turned to the co-pilot. “And you are Commander Reggie Bruin.”
“Let me guess, you read our minds?” said Bruin.
“No, your nametags.” Duvall sat down to buckle herself into her seat while Logan and Bruin reflexively looked down at their nametags.
“Old telepath trick,” said Duvall, smirking slightly.
“I’ll be honest, I’m surprised a woman tested into the space telepath program,” said Bruin, checking his instruments for final countdown.
“Actually, women on average test higher than men on the Telempathy scale,” countered Duvall. “Female telepaths outnumber males two to one.”
“Sure in the private sector. I’m talking about physical fitness,” said Bruin. “Space travel can be very stressful.”
“I assure you; I passed my fitness evaluation with flying colors. I more than meet the International Space Agency’s physical requirements.” The major arched an eyebrow. “By every measurement.”
Bruin eyed Duvall up and down.
“I bet you do.”
“Don’t mind Reggie,” Colonel Logan cut in. “He’s just old fashioned.”
Bruin grunted and turned back to his console. He withheld voicing his frank opinion that women had no place on a spaceship, but he tried to think it loud enough for Duvall to hear.
If the major picked up on Bruin’s thoughts, she gave no sign.
The ship slid smoothly from the central docking tube of Spacewheel Five. A sleek, white, cigar-shaped craft with narrow, swept-back fins.
“Our course takes us one lap around the solar system,” said Bruin. “Estimated flight time, four hours and seven minutes. Mars Station will check in with us at the two hour mark.”
“Commence countdown to ignition,” said Logan.
The engines blazed brighter than the sun.
Pressed back in their seats by the force of acceleration, the crew of the X-9 could do little but pray that everything had been adjusted properly. The tiniest imbalance in the fuel ratio and they’d be vaporized in a split second.
After a few minutes, the roar of the engines died down and the crew could move again. The pilots checked their instruments.
“We did it!” cried Bruin. “Space velocity indicator reads we are now traveling at a hundred and eighty six thousand and… one miles per second! We’re going faster than the speed of light!”
Colonel Logan had to yell over the cheers of the other two in order to report the success back to Mission Control. They couldn’t hear the reply of course; they were outrunning the radio waves.
After a round of congratulations and celebratory handshakes, the crew returned to their duties. Major Duvall pressed her fingertips to her temples.
“Crew stress levels normal,” reported Duvall. “No signs of space madness.”
“Glad to hear it,” said Colonel Logan.
“Navigation reads we’re on course. Deviation less than point oh two percent,” reported Bruin.
He glanced at the dials again.
“Correction, deviation of point oh four percent…” said Bruin.
The colonel took out his pocket slide rule and began checking the co-pilot’s figures.
Sensing the elevated stress levels, the major pressed her fingers to her temples to emit a calming aura that would help her fellow spacemen focus under pressure.
“Course deviation is increasing,” said Logan. “Up to two percent!”
“Can we correct?” asked Bruin.
“Not without knowing what’s causing it,” said Logan, his eyes darting from panel to panel.
“There’s a dark planet out there,” said Bruin, flipping through the data screens. “Not on any of our charts. It’s the only explanation.”
As the crew worked frantically to calculate the thrust angle they needed to correct their course, a dark shape blotted out the stars ahead, growing larger and larger.
“Emergency course change, prepare to fire thrusters on my mark,” said Logan, flipping the safety caps off the thruster toggles.
Duvall suddenly let out a scream!
“AIEEEEEEEE!” She clutched her head with both hands. The wave of telepathic panic swept over the other two spacemen and they winced as the major’s piercing screams filled the cockpit.
“What the hell is going on?” demanded Logan, turning in his seat to look back at Duvall.
“Is it space madness? Has she got it?” Sweat beaded on Bruin’s forehead. His heart pounded in his chest.
“Telepaths are immune to space madness,” said Logan, unable to keep the panic out of his voice.
“Like hell!” shouted Bruin.
Alarms blared and red lights filled the cockpit as the dark planet loomed closer ahead of them.
“We’ve got to turn!” Logan seized the wheel.
“No!” Duvall abruptly regained her senses. “There’s something down there on the planet. It called to me, telepathically. We have to land.”
“Land! Are you crazy?” cried Bruin.
“Initiating course change,” said Logan, reaching for the thruster switches.
Duvall unbuckled from her seat and flung herself to the front of the cockpit to seize the controls.
“To hell with chivalry.” Bruin threw an elbow, knocking Duvall to the back of the cabin.
“Turn us now!” shouted Bruin.
“It’s too late, we missed the window. If I try to turn now we’ll crash,” said Logan. “We have no choice but to land.”
Bruin glanced furiously back at Duvall. The telepath wiped the blood from her nose and stared back at him, eyes blazing with fury.
“You’d better strap yourself in if you don’t want to become a human pinball,” he told her.
A steady whine built up in the cockpit as the ship descended into the atmosphere of the dark planet. The whine became a roar and the roar became deafening. Their stomachs lurched as the ship pulled up from its dive and pointed level with the horizon.
The landing was rough. The ship dug a smoldering trench a thousand yards long, burying itself nose first in a hillside.
One by one, the astronauts staggered out of the smoking ship.
“Breathable atmosphere,” remarked Logan, glancing around at the strange twilit landscape. None of them had time to don their space helmets before the crash.
The sun, though directly overhead, was barely visible as a pale, dim star.
“Are you happy now? You’ve stranded us!” Bruin shouted at Duvall.
“I didn’t bring us here,” said Duvall.
“Then who did?” shouted Bruin.
“I think maybe he did.” Logan pointed at a tall figure standing a few yards away.
The figure resembled a human, but much taller. Almost a full twelve feet tall. The creature had a bulbous, oversized head covered in throbbing veins. A sapphire set in the center of the creature’s vast forehead glowed with eerie light.
“Who are you?” Bruin demanded.
The creature did not respond, but looked quizzically down at the three small creatures before it.
“Why have you brought us here?” asked Logan.
“It can’t hear you,” said Duvall. “Let me try.”
Duvall pressed her fingers to her temples.
“I am Zartax!” declared the creature. The astronauts “heard” the creature’s voice in their heads, rather than with their ears. All three of them clapped their hands to their ears in a futile attempt to shut out the deafening sound.
“Why have you brought us here?” asked Duvall telepathically.
“Your race has discovered the secret of superluminal travel. Soon it will spread out among the stars and mingle with other races on other worlds,” said Zartax, thinking at a lower volume. “This cannot be allowed.”
“Can’t be allowed? Who’s going to stop us? You?” yelled Bruin.
The creature did not reply.
“Why not?” asked Duvall.
“If allowed out into the universe again, humanity will surely wreak destruction on countless worlds,” answered Zartax.
“Again?” asked Duvall.
“Behold, your sister planet!” Zartax swept a long arm through the air and the haze overhead parted. The astronauts shielded their eyes as a shaft of sunlight illuminated the area.
Blinking in the bright light, the astronauts gasped. They were standing in the ruins of an alien city!
“Thousands of years ago, humanity had two homes: Earth and Gaia. Two great powers locked in a struggle for dominance. You made war on each other. Earth’s civilization was reduced to a primitive level. Life on Gaia was wiped out completely,” explained Zartax. “Now the dark planet is nothing but a monument to humanity’s eternal bloodlust.”
“Humanity has changed! We’re not like that anymore,” said Duvall. “Look what we’ve achieved by working together!”
“Even now your United States and Soviet Union are on the brink of nuclear annihilation,” said the alien. “Humans have learned nothing.”
“That’s not true!” said Logan. “Give us a chance and we’ll prove it.”
“No…” the alien continued, ignoring Logan’s outburst. “No you cannot be allowed. You must die.”
The creature raised a long arm and pointed at Bruin. A ball of electricity crackled at its bony fingertip. Bruin threw up his arms.
“No!” Duvall hurled herself in front of Bruin, shielding him with her body.
There was a flash of blinding light. Duvall screamed.
She blinked. Smoke rose from a charred crater at her feet.
“You would willingly sacrifice your own life to save this man?” asked Zartax.
“Of course I would. He’s my friend,” said Duvall, rising to her feet.
“But I have looked into your minds. He disdains you. He has even harmed you,” said Zartax.
Duvall looked down at the stain of blood on her sleeve.
“I forgive him,” said Duvall.
“Our previous records of humans indicate the people of Gaia and Earth would never be willing to sacrifice themselves in such a manner,” said Zartax. “Perhaps humanity has changed.”
“Then you’ll let us go?” asked Logan.
Duvall relayed the question.
After a period of consideration, Zartax nodded.
“You will be allowed to continue on your journey and return home,” said Zartax. “But we will be watching humanity closely. If you do not make peace among yourselves, you will not be allowed access to the stars.”
Zartax waved his bony hand. As if by magic the X-9 rose up out of its trench and set itself upright on its tailfins.
“Coming, Major?” called Bruin, halfway up the boarding ladder.
Duvall paused at the foot of the ladder for one last look at the ruined city and the warning it represented. Zartax still stood there, staring back at her with cold, bulging eyes.
“Humanity has changed,” she whispered. “We won’t make the same mistakes again.”
“We shall see,” said Zartax.
“No more war,” thought Duvall. “That’s a hell of a New Year’s resolution.”
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 02:30|
to those who stared at the stars and wanted to know them
flerp fucked around with this message at 01:22 on Jan 1, 2021
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 03:17|
We fought the revolution in the craters of the moon, on Antarctic fields of ice streaked with blood and ichorous slime, at the silent points between raging Jovian moons. We killed the Atlas Striketeams with electric lances and solar concentrators and pockets of compressed illogic. We killed and killed and killed again. It was not a time for mercy.
No, it is too much. I cannot tell it all, not in one night or a thousand. One small piece, then. A taste. And at the end I will ask you if it was worth what it cost.
To the middle of it, then. Early in the war. Atlas' first strike had been devastating in its swiftness. They came from nowhere, from across three thousand years they claimed. Their weapons were unstoppable. They conquered capitals in the work of a week and thought they had accomplished the thing. But we fought, in armies and militias and engineering skunkworks. Each captured enemy electrowhip led to a thousand lightning lances in our hands. We built ships that copied their drives and hulls and flew them to far planets, hiding from them. The war followed us.
I was working in a factory in Far Fall, Minnesota, reverse engineering the solar arrays someone had managed to tear off the shoulder of one of their Walking Titans. Lucky hit with a heat-seeking missile during the retreat out of Knoxville. We set up in the basement of an Atlas Radio tower. Half of the propagandists upstairs were fools and the other half were working for the resistance. It wasn't loud work, we had to run slow and quiet twenty-four seven. So Carl and I had to listen to that crap as we worked. "Our time too saw the forces of nature rising in wrath," said the Atlas spokesman in a business suit. "The seas rising, storms that scrubbed the coasts bare." I soldered leads to the latest try at a power cell. Carl checked the circuit with his oscilloscope probes. "We were too late to save our own cities, but we will not fail you. Remember that:everything we have done is a kindness." They went straight to the execution footage from there, live from the incineration chambers.
"Sounds like a mighty bleak future they had," I said.
"A mighty white one," said Carl. Truth. I never saw one of their guys who wasn't paler than me, sometimes with a faint blue tint that we eventually figured out was all makeup. I remember that, because it was the last thing he said before the gunfire started. Our guys took the fools by surprise and a pair of unmarked semi trucks pulled up, and before the day was over the two of us and all our research were on a rocket ship header straight to the far side of the moon.
Good man, Carl. Took a hit in the battle of Europa, an IR laser that cut his right leg clean off above the knee. Could have been done with the war then, but when Gail DeSilva worked out the neural interfacing tech he was one of the prototype patients, fought with the 1st Cyborg Battalion in the Antarctic campaign.
We didn't get to finish our work on Translunar. Just spent one week debriefing the new team, then had to start learning how to fly a spaceship. It was like that all around. They had a huge technical advantage, but they weren't very creative about how they used it. They set up automated clean mining facilities on the Antarctic ice. We stole the tech and turned a few rich asteroids into a fleet, wound up with more ships than officers. So a lot of engineers were put in charge of picket ships. I got the Grant; Carl got the Knoxville, and we got assigned to different parts of the line.
Atlas was unimaginative, but they weren't dumb, weren't slow. As soon as we took the war into space, they followed and, as usual, they went big. Devoured Deimos and turned Phobos into a factory shipyard, spewing huge capital ships to throw at the war.
People talk about the big campaigns of Mars and Antarctica as the end of the war, but as far as I'm concerned the day it all changed, the day we started winning was January 1, 2021, out in the orbit of Jupiter somewhere between Io and Ganymede. I'm a little biased. I was there.
We were holding the line, defending the free human bases from one of those capital ships. I was in the Grant V4, captain of a crew of six. There were four other ships in the engagement, the Solidad, the Red River, the Victoria 3 and the Ysrael. It wasn't a pretty fight, and I expected it would be my last. The only time we'd beaten a ship of that class it had taken a dozen ships, with heavy losses. But we were the only thing between it and the colonies, and every second might count, might give time for reenforcements to arrive. We flew and fought the fight of our lives, maneuver and distraction, strike and retreat. Our doctrine was the better one: ton for ton and man for man our ships outperformed theirs. But they had so much more tonnage, so many more men.
Captain Vanessa Herrera of the Solidad. Bless her, and remember her name. And her crew, Abe Castle, Juana Spires, and Hein Xi. Remember them. A ramming approach, guns on overheat and engines past breaking strain, and the enemy ship was disabled.
I still thought I was dead. I was too close, and their ships always self-destructed with fusion bombs rather than risk capture. I braced myself, didn't bother with a futile effort to outrun the detonation, just saluted Captain Herrera and waited. But nothing happened.
Technologically the big prize was the engine. We quickly learned how to duplicate the nearly free energy of Quantum Illogic, and more importantly to weaponize it. After it all was over we found out the Atlan Science Council was shocked and horrified when they learned we were using Illogic Bombs even in deep space engagements, that they, in the end, staged that last coup against the generals less out of likely defeat than stark fear that we might use illogic weapons planetside, to break a stalemate at their fortresses. We wouldn't have; the men, women, and otherwise gendered, mostly women, of the brain trust in deep Translunar had already modelled that disaster. But they couldn't know that.
But I think it was something else that really shifted the tide, something we found while exploring the massive vessel in our vacuum suits and magnetic boots. A map, in the Captain's quarters. The world, with old Egyptian and Babylonian lettering on the label, and a huge continent nestled between Europe and North America. Atlantis. They weren't Invaders from the future but from the past, and once that news broke their hold on Earth began to slip.
The thing is, they were right about a lot of things. The environment, the path we were on. They could have come in peace, come as partners, but all their leaders knew was domination and war. So now we have a restless defeated Antarctic nation, a flotilla of die-hards dug in around Neptune, old rivalries flaring up with true doomsday weapons in too many hands, dozens of fringe groups and cults peppering the belt and a group of rebel scientists near Saturn who don't answer radio hails, not to mention dozens of Illogic pockets in unknown orbits.
But we could not fail to fight against atrocity and tyranny, so when you do ask if it was worth it you should ask the Atlan generals and oligarchs in their cells and in their graves.
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 07:06|
WEEK CCCCXXXII JUDGEMENT
A small but fun week, thanks to all who submitted, and NOBODY FAILED which is amazing. This is another week where the overall quality of submissions was really high. Please, ‘Dome, go back to writing lovely so I can throw shade whilst judging, without feeling bad.
Staggy gets the Win. There were some proofreading issues here that nearly cost you that, but overall the story nailed the prompt, and the strengths of that weird, optimistic storytelling were enough to carry through.
GrandmaParty gets an HM. Strong character work and a compelling story. The dialogue was tight, and it was a fun read. Good job!
Nae also gets an HM. This nearly was my pick for win this week, but the optimism was just a little (lot) too tainted. Still, it was an excellent story, and managed to put some serious weird in
Applewhite regrettably takes a Loss. You flew too close to sun of Ironic Tropes, and everyone (almost no-one) knows what happens when iron is fused in the heart of a massive star (it explodes.)
Staggy – Getaway Trip
From the opening, I’m enjoying this already.
I note that the word subliminal is used, might have meant subluminal, but given the funk levels, I’m not sure. Just saw it again, so I’m going to assume you meant that and not superluminal. This is a minor nitpick on my part, but if the ship is moving then I’d go with superluminal, rather than superliminal. Liminal implies some sort of wormhole or “being in two places at once,” so when you talk about “superliminal speeds” it’s sort of nonsensical.
Using ants as an integral part of the ship is a nod Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time. Not sure if that was intentional, but it’s a good book to reference.
Another nitpick is that Mama is italicized early on, making it clear that it’s the name of the ship, but then it switches to non-italicization after that. I think this is a case where when it’s hard to tell which is correct, because one case is “ship as a thing” and one is “ship as a character,” and the story does a good job of blurring the lines between the two. Personally, I’d say use italicization all the time because the other ships named are italicized, and it keeps the style consistent.
But, all of that is just nitpicking and I don’t want it to diminish what is otherwise a really great story. This is the sort of story I was hoping to read when I threw the prompt down this week. It’s colorful, optimistic, weird, and entertaining. Normally I’m sort of a stickler about AI’s sounding “too human” but in the context of this story, it works. I really like the little tweak that the SOS isn’t just answered, but it’s answered by many other ships – even if they’re not going to get there in time, there is no reluctance to try. And the ending is just Space 70’s as hell.
This is a strong story to start the week on, and you’ve set the standard to beat. We’ll see if anyone else manages to do it.
Djeser – First Contact Protocol
This is totally a case of “Doctor, heal thyself” but it feels to me like the first two sentences of the story could be cut. There’s a temptation I succumb to all to often to give a five-senses scene setting intro to a story, and in this case, I don’t think it needs it. Just opening with getting touched and wrapped in cloth by strange hands would make a much punchier opening.
The description of Telaion makes me want to see a Frank Frezetta illustrated cover of a dog-eared copy of a 70’s era paperback. That’s a good thing.
But overall the story sidles up to the edge of weird without ever really taking the plunge, and I’m trying to put my finger on why. I think it might be a case of worldbuilding taking up too much wordcount, and the central conflict of Telaion and Jone sort of gets a speed-run. There’s a monster fight and even though Jone is injured, it ends up feeling like “oh this is just something that happens, do I still have time to make dinner, or should we order out?”
This is a story that really starts where it ends, when Telaion sheds their skin. That’s when the optimism and the strangeness starts.
GrandmaParty – Where to Go When the World Doesn’t Need You
This one starts out pretty grim, a really Heavy Metal vibe to it. Doesn’t mean that it won’t end on an upnote, though, so we’ll see!
I think the characters are working pretty well here. Weird, but relatable. The idea of instant reincarnation technology reminds me a lot of parts of Stross’ Glasshouse.
I think if I were to focus on one aspect to improve, it would be pacing within paragraphs. You’re falling into a trap that I fall into a lot, which is the need to go “This happened, then this happened, then this happened” which if you’re writing a report is a good thing, but I find that it robs a lot of punch from the action. Here’s a brief line crit:
But, I’ll be totally straight with you: This is my favorite story that you’ve written so far. It’s very Heavy Metal-esque, and you pull it off pretty well. The character work here is strong, and it’s a very readable and enjoyable story.
Nae – Love Train
From the intro, I’m into this. Weird right out of the gate.
Also, I’m interested to see where this goes with the optimism angle. With Jimmy, Davey and the Marys, there seems to be an element of “tainted optimism” that is very period specific – the burnouts from the 60’s trying to keep that momentum going and finding that it just won’t hold together. There’s a real feel of threat under the façade of love. If that’s what you were going for, then good job. Reading further, yeah, there’s a lot of the honest bleakness of the 70’s bleeding in here.
Goddamn. The pacing is really, really good. The acceleration of the story toward the conclusion makes sense both in a narrative and kinetic sense.
I guess if I have to offer one nitpick, it’s the paragraph about Jimmy buying and getting the train on the rails. The issue that I have with it is that it opens a can of worms. It poses the question, “how did Jimmy get tracks and a train to this field?” If left unanswered, then it presents a challenge to the suspension of disbelief. If answered, then it’s a massive digression that does nothing for the story. I’d be tempted to just cut that paragraph wholesale. It’s enough that he’s got “family money,” and in a story that’s about hippie burnouts trying to launch a train to the stars, we can hand-wave away the logistics of building a railroad.
It’s bleak, but it’s a contender.
Gorka – Beyond the boundary
So, once again from the “Doctor, heal thyself” files, I think this is a story that really starts about 1/3 of the way into the wordcount. I think there’s sort of an albatross around sci-fi writer’s necks that they need to talk about why people are in a place, and what kind of vehicle they’re in, and what kind of technology they’re using. So we end up burning a lot of words on worldbuild-y type writing that doesn’t really advance the story, and ends up distracting from character interactions.
When Steve and Ethan cross the boundary, that’s where the story really started for me. It’s also where the story-logic starts to make sense. If you keep the intro parts, the idea of having data-eating insects is a lot harder to buy into, because there’s a ship that had to travel lightyears to the edge of space, and obey the laws of physics, and get built by people who are presumably not idiots. All of those ideas make it hard to believe that data-insects are things that periodically infest starships, because they seem like a major problem that would have been solved for. But if you just have them spring into being beyond the edge of space, then they’re easier to believe, because who the serious gently caress knows what lies in the great beyond. I guess what I’m saying is that introducing weird elements into a story is easier when you just roll with it from the jump instead of trying to play it straight then springing it on the reader halfway in.
Other than that, the only thing I’ll harp about is the over-use of exclamation points in dialogue. Ethan’s dialogue uses them frequently enough in casual dialogue (“Don’t be a wet blanket!”) that it robs impact when they’re used in actual exclamatory dialogue (“We are getting some computer bugs in the system!”).
Applewhite – The Dark Planet
I appreciate that you lean into the gimmick from the start, with the whole getting ready for FTL travel in 1997. Gone are the days.
What I’m not sure of is the writing style that uses dialogue as a stand in for exposition. On one hand, if you’re doing it to tweak the nose of certain Sci-Fi authors *cough*DavidWeber*cough* then I’m generally on board. I think with the addition of the obvious Mary Sue character and all the other literary winks, I can safely assume you’re taking the piss instead of using obvious tropes with any level of sincerity.
So technically speaking, I have no real gripes with the story’s composition, pacing, etc.
I do think you took some risks here that didn’t necessarily pay off. The story’s a pretty obvious lampoon of 50’s through 80’s era Sci-Fi. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but for a 2000 word story, I think you tried to cram too many tropes into it, and it comes off as a “we fed an AI stories, and here’s what it produced” feel.
I think that in a story of this length, you can tease out one or at max, two tropes and still have a serviceable story in the end. The ending left this one feeling pretty cookie-cutter.
flerp – to those who stared at the stars and wanted to know them
If Lovecraft wrote sweet, unracist, optimistic stories, I imagine they’d be something like this. For the most part, well done. I really appreciate that at it’s core, this story is about knowing, and being known – because to me that is the crux of the “benevolent explorer” idea in optimistic sci-fi.
That said, the same “shave off the first few paragraphs” advice is given. The story really started at “The beginning was quiet.”
And don’t take this as harsh criticism, because I really do like this piece, but this seems like less of a traditional story to me than a piece of weird monologue prose poetry. It doesn’t really tell a cohesive narrative, rather it evokes feelings. It does that very well. I also think this is an essential skill in the telling of “weird tales” where the speaker in a story might have begun to shed humanity. To me that’s the “stakes” in this story – it’s saying “no” when asked to return to the fold, and continuing to wander, venture, and in this case attempting to become a star, or the idealized notion of a star.
So yeah, good job, I really enjoyed reading this.
2021 – Thranguy
A very Tannhauser Gate opening, and another “narrator” driven story. Some seeming nods at Forever War, which is a good book to nod at if you’re talking about military sci-fi.
So, some of my comments to flerp about pieces that evokes feelings rather than cohesive narrative also apply here. This is all world building, and it’s setting up a gritty foundation for a longer set of stories. It’s entertaining, and it piques my interest, but it falls short of being a story on its own merit. There weren’t any real stakes in the story, since it hopped from one vignette to the next. The way it was set up, as a sort of oral history of a war, ends up robbing the characters of a lot of agency. They don’t really have choices, just a recounting of deeds.
As always, the prose is tight, and the character voices are strong. It’s not bad, it just feels like a solid elevator pitch for a 10 book KindleUnlimited series, rather than a 2000 word story in its own right.
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 18:35|
to post crits by 8:00 PM PST on Friday
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 19:06|
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 20:01|
THUNDERDOME WEEK #433: THE MORNING AFTER
oh god not so loud
What a party!
You're pretty sure it was someone's ... birthday? Promotion? The host was pretty wasted when you finally met them - at least you think that was the host. It was hard to tell, what with music loud enough to wake the dead and more alcohol than a brewery. You think someone brought in a fog machine - either that or there was a fire. Only a small one, though.
whose traffic cone is that?
Now the sun's starting to come up and the crowd of people sprawled out across the living room are starting to stir. Your head's fuzzy, your throat is sore and there's a weird bruise on your arm but you had a hell of a time.
... so why do you feel like you're forgetting something?
WORD LIMIT: 1,200 words
+100 words if you let me/another judge tell you something important that you've forgotten
+100 words if you let me/another judge tell you something important that you remember
+100 words if you let me/another judge tell you what song was playing last night
(Pick any or all - but no more than one of each - for a potential maximum word count of 1,500 words)
SIGNUP DEADLINE: 11:59PM PST Friday 20 November 2020
SUBMISSION DEADLINE: 11:59PM PST Sunday 22 November 2020
Staggy fucked around with this message at 22:44 on Nov 20, 2020
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 20:17|
In. Gimme one of those things, dealer's choice.
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 20:19|
In. Something I forgot, pls.
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 20:21|
In it to win it.
One something I remember, please.
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 20:25|
In. Forgot, Remember, and Song, please.
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 20:27|
In, something important I've just remembered please
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 20:36|
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 21:03|
In. Gimme one of those things, dealer's choice.
You can't remember what your face looks like but it's definitely not the one in the mirror.
In. Something I forgot, pls.
You've forgotten how to get home.
In it to win it.
You remember where you hid it. Unfortunately, someone else is about to get there first.
In. Forgot, Remember, and Song, please.
You remember winning a race last night but you can't remember what the prize was - only that you weren't supposed to let it out of your sight.
In, something important I've just remembered please
You remember talking to someone who offered you a job - but the number on their business card is one digit short. That seems to be intentional.
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 21:21|
In. Tell me something I've forgotten and something I remember.
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 21:31|
|# ? Jun 29, 2022 00:09|
In. Tell me something I've forgotten and something I remember.
You've forgotten who you pissed off but you remember how you did it: you gave them exactly what they wanted.
|# ? Nov 16, 2020 21:44|