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Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
In, :toxx: for hellrule.

Space Jam.


May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


College Slice

cptn_dr posted:

In, :toxx:, I'll pick a movie when I'm not at work.

Here's your line: “Pirates could happen to anyone.”

steeltoedsneakers posted:


:toxx: - not for hellrules or extra words, just for being a shambles last week.

Sorry about the shambles. Being one of my favorite writers on here, I'll give you a line regardless. Use it or not:

“Life is a gamble, at terrible odds. If it were a bet you wouldn’t take it.”

Thranguy posted:

In, :toxx: for hellrule.

Space Jam.

Great movie. Your story cannot contain the 5 most common words in the English Language: the, of, a, and, to

May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
Hello, I would like to post a story in this thread, please.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Noah posted:

Hello, I would like to post a story in this thread, please.


Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Noah posted:

Hello, I would like to post a story in this thread, please.


Jun 14, 2020

You offer it to me freely? Very well, In with LOTR: The Fellowship of The Ring, :toxx: for hellrule, and to ensure that i post.

May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


College Slice

AlmightyDerelict posted:

You offer it to me freely? Very well, In with LOTR: The Fellowship of The Ring, :toxx: for hellrule, and to ensure that i post.

You story shall contain no dialogue or internal monologue.

Jan 20, 2012

:frogsiren:UNRELATED REDEMPTION TIME:frogsiren:

Week 308, Codex of the Infinite Planes

prompt: The Infernal Battlefields of Acheron

Memories of Battle
835 words


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 06:48 on Jan 5, 2021

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Dear Thunderdome,

Click this link.

For those of you who like to know what's behind links before you click them: :siren: WEEK 420 IS COMING UP :siren: in a little under two weeks. We are preparing a prompt for your writing pleasure.

Normally we do special event prompts on Thunderdome's birthday, but this year the community agreed that we'd celebrate on week 420 because...I don't have a great reason for you, except that we made it to a weed number of weeks of TD, and that is a major loving accomplishment. You have clawed your fiction words from the rabid, snapping chaos of 2020 and you should feel loving good about yourselves.

To that end, let's have some fun. We are commissioning stories (thank you Yoruichi for the prompt idea)! Using the link above, you will spend a couple minutes answering some questions on a Google form. When you are done, you will have created a rudimentary story outline. I will collect these outlines and use them for nefarious 420 prompt purposes.

It's simple. Do it. Don't think, just do it!

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled week! Don't forget to sign up for Hawklad's great prompt too!!!

e: because this was asked on Discord: Submitting entries to the above form does NOT constitute signing up. You can contribute outlines without signing up, though it's probably more fun if you do :)

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 03:52 on Aug 6, 2020

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

The Big Lebowski

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔

Groundhog Day

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010

lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
Film: Blade Runner

Authentic Los Angeles Ramen
850 words

Enji Kato’s chefs stirred, poured, and ladled around him as he stared at the assortment of alcohols on the back wall of his open-air diner. The two customers that had shown up right after opening, for an early lunch, didn’t seem to mind that he had his back to them while they finished their noodles. He wasn’t in the mood for his usual banter.

Should I just change that, as Hitomi does? he wondered. She had married him forty years ago, back in Sapporo, and now every day she was happy. Ever since she bought that mood-link.

The afternoon darkened as gravity dragged curtains of water from the sky, separating the oblong diner from everything but the immediate sidewalk. The building’s neon rimmed roof like an island shore in the deluge.

Enji continued his distracted inspection of the intoxicants. All the local favourites were on display: whisky, vodka, rum, gin, coffee and hazelnut liqueurs. There was sake. There was shochu for highballs, those were getting more popular. Beer was on tap, of course, that was more popular than all the rest put together.

A dozen different paths to the same place. Some placed importance on how they travelled. A few wouldn’t go down those roads at all. Enji didn’t care when his wife got drunk, he liked it. She spoke fearlessly and told more jokes. She was more fun, even when the jokes were at his expense. Her drinking didn’t bother him. The mood-link, though, he cared about.

What if one day she’s not supposed to be happy? What if she shouldn’t be happy with me, and she doesn’t even know?

“Excuse me,” said a voice behind him.

He turned around to see a young woman in a blue polyethylene coat and an expensive haircut.

“Douzo,” he said, waving a hand at the bar stools.

In Enji’s head, a voice chastised him for not welcoming the customer to the store.

“What’s the most authentic one?” the woman asked, pointing at the noodle menu.

Enji thought about telling her the very question was a sign it didn’t matter. She shouldn’t care. What’s the point of finding an authentic dish if not to recapture part of yourself? Why want what’s authentic to someone else when you could instead seek something delicious to your own taste? He thought about telling her the Japanese took noodles from China and made of them what they liked; there was nothing more authentic about Japanese ramen than American ramen.

He’d have to say a lot to get all that across, though. He’d have to say it in proper English. That would make him seem less authentic.

He knew what she wanted. She wanted to like something and feel good for liking it. She wanted to feel, on her lunch break, she was engaging with a deep cultural history as she fumbled with her chopsticks.

“Numba 6, very authentic. Tonkotsu ramen,” was what he went with.

“Okay sure,” she said, “Tonkatsu ramen!”

He didn’t correct her. It didn’t matter. Perhaps anything he served would have been considered authentic because he looked the part. As though there was an art to boiling noodles and marinating pork that could only be passed down through blood. Enji barked orders at the chefs, in Japanese, to get her order ready as he attended to the next customer. He welcomed them as cheerily as he could manage.

Shadows in the rain became people on the sidewalk, and enough became customers to pack the line of barstools tight like a roll of hungry quarters. Noodles boiled and fried; steam clouds filling the diner before being gathered up by the exhaust fan in the ceiling. From there the fan whipped streams of steam out of the kitchen and through the roof, onto the street. Using mood-links on the public for any purpose, including inciting a desire for fatty pork and silky noodles, was strictly illegal. What was perfectly legal, however, was the filter between the exhaust fan and outlet. A filter Enji coated each day in an oil he infused with pork and soy extracts.

“Thanks!” said the woman, placing her empty bowl back up on the bar.

Enji bowed toward her.

“Oh-eee-sheeee!” she said, smiling right at him before darting off.

A terrible pronunciation, one of the worst he’d heard in his sixty-one years. It made him smile. She’d enjoyed the experience. She’d had a good meal. What more did he want for his customers? Why else go to the trouble? The bowls, the chopsticks, the seats under the neon dragon looking onto his team of chefs shouting in Japanese, the enhanced smell of pork and soy wafting on the breeze, his charmingly quaint accent and disarmingly limited vocabulary, a meal made to exacting standards. Parts of it were fake, but the experience was real, and the customers enjoyed it all.

A faint shadow of a smile stayed with him as he worked, his mood for banter growing. He thought of Hitomi. She didn’t seem like a different person; just happier more often. Maybe he’d get a mood-link himself. Authentic was a fake idea anyway.

Aug 2, 2002




in with jurassic park

Apr 12, 2006

May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


College Slice

Tom Stoppard posted:

Word, words. They're all we have to go on.

signups closed!

Jan 20, 2012

prompt: Alien

Jones the Cat, as played by Werner Herzog
762 words


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 06:48 on Jan 5, 2021

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

1000 words

I sprang up the front steps and rapped on the door. I glanced up and down the street - it was a nice neighborhood, way nicer than mine. My feet wouldn't stop twitching around, like they wanted to dance. It was only April, and I was already sweating.

The mother who answered the door brought a warm smile and a trusting handshake. I introduced myself as Ray. Her eyes roamed across my costume. The nametag, the backpack, the goggles; she flashed me a look of skeptical approval. Test passed. Through the first gate.

She led me through to the backyard. It was one of those narrow brownstones that seems bigger on the inside somehow. Full of modern art and uncomfortable furniture that wasn't meant for sitting. High-pitched sounds of chaos grew louder. A child in a princess dress whizzed in and out of view through the sliding door, followed by a pirate, a spaceman, and a Ghostbuster.

"Kids," announced the mother. "Look who's here, it's a real life Ghostbuster!"

The children screamed and crowded around my legs. I had to guess they were around five, six years old, based on my niece, who was eleven when I last saw her, four years ago. I launched into the routine I'd been up all night practicing. It was the classic birthday routine, mixed with specific terms I'd gleaned from the TV reports and newspaper ads. Ectoplasm. Proton pack. Containment unit.

I lurched around the small backyard, pretending the marshmallow man was right around the corner and only the kids could stop him. The mother watched me like a gargoyle, perched up on the deck clutching a cocktail. By that point, I wasn't worried she'd figure out I was a fake. The kids were already entertained - you couldn't stiff a clown who'd already clowned, even if he failed out of clown college. Truth was, I had failed out of clown college, and it hadn't stopped me from clowning - the weak market for clowns had. Hence the copycat getup.

The highlight was blowing up balloon animals. I said they were the ghosts of dead pets, roadkill and the like. Made of some of the kids sad, but most of them were fine. Everybody loves a balloon. I was twisting up a Central Park squirrel when I felt a new presence in the yard.

He was on the deck, looming behind the mother. His broad frame exuded an evil aura. Expensive suit, silk tie hanging loose, newspaper crushed in one fist. Jaw set and eyes burning in my direction. The squirrel escaped my hands and whizzed away, over the fence. Professor Patches would've had some choice honks for me if he'd seen that.

The malevolent entity cornered me after the mother emerged with the cake, and the kids peeled away. I wanted to wait in the hallway until I could collect my payment, but he intercepted me and pushed me into the foyer, where he could raise his voice without disturbing the kids.

"The gently caress is this? Huh? What kinda pervert are you?"

"No kind," I said. "I'm not one. I'm a G-G-G-Ghostbuster."

"That is one," he growled. "Sick Satanic twists." He had me backed up to a piece of textured sheet metal that had to be art, which I didn't dare touch despite his swelling closer and closer. "Looka this." He shoved his newspaper under my nose. Between the crumples I saw a picture of the real Ray, the real Ghostbusters. The day I feared had come. The jig was up.

"Gulp," I might have literally said. I was panicking.

"Besides," he went on. "This ain't technology. This is, what, like, a backpack." He turned me around and pushed against the metal thing, his massive hand around the back of my neck as he unzipped my backpack and rifled through. The vacuum hose attachment I'd duct-taped on dangled perilously. "Clown poo poo! You expect people to pay Ghostbuster rates for weak clown poo poo like this? No. Get off my wife's art and get the hell outta my sight, before I call the cops."

Finally, he released me and opened the front door. He tapped his foot and sighed, looking everywhere else but me. My heart was still pounding. I looked out the door, down the front steps, past the trundling Upper Manhattan traffic, and thought about taking the bus home to face my mother without cash in my hand - again. I balled my tiny fists and tried to muster whatever useful energies might possibly lay somewhere deep inside me.

"Sir," I began, my voice already cracking. Cruelty bent the father's lips, but I forged on. "I was promised eighty dollars for my appearance today. Two hours entertaining the kids, that's honest work. I might not be a Ghostbuster, but they wouldn't have done much different, I promise you!"

He straightened up, inhaling, re-appraising me. I wiped my sleeve across my forehead. It came away soaked.

"Fine," he finally said, dismissing it all in a puff of his chest. He took out his wallet, slapped a ten dollar note in my hand, picked me up by the backpack, and shoved me out the door.

I was elated. I had proved it - artistic and financial success could both be mine. And the costume had worked great, at least it got me in the door! That carbonated feeling lifted me so much I didn't notice that my feet never made decisive contact with the front stoop, nor the descending steps, nor any point across the sidewalk. I twirled and flopped right into the street, where I caught my bus home, with a fronter-than-front-row seat.


Now I'm a ghost. So what? It's not so bad. Don't have to pay rent, or share a bed with mother anymore. My jokes land much harder now. I'm getting laughs and screams. Only thing that could ruin my after life is if I got ghost-busted, and in a city this size, the odds have got to be tiny.

Say… do you hear that siren?

Simply Simon
Nov 6, 2010

📡scanning🛰️ for good game 🎮design🦔🦔🦔
Side character from movie: Groundhog Day

Bill’s Secret
998/1000 words

Every day feels the same in Punxsutawney. Every morning you force yourself out of the narrow bed you share with your anxiety and night terrors. A quick look at the calendar: it’s February 2nd, you have the first shift at the diner.

On your way through the streets that slowly fill with familiar strangers, you let the crisp air slap your freshly-shaven face. By the end of your commute, your blood is frozen, but you’re awake enough to possibly survive the shift.

“Morning, Bill!” You wonder how Doris keeps up the same friendly detachment in her face each time she welcomes you. You manage a smile with about the same level of sincerity, slip on the blue apron and start setting up coffee. The people of the morning streets start hemorrhaging through the door, an open wound that gets you a little closer to death every time it opens. You start serving them coffee, eggs and a feeling of superiority over the personnel.

“Mostly locals still,” Doris muses during a lull over a shared cup. You scan the crowd – some old regulars. Tom the former coal miner who still eats breakfast like preparing for a hard day’s work, and it shows. Nancy with her chipmunk laugh when you remember her favorite order.

Oh, but is that Debbie? You’ve last seen her in High School, where she was a pointless crush of yours. She sits at a table with a guy you haven’t seen in the diner before, so he might as well not exist in your world. It’s Alice’s table, so you have no reason to get close. To do what, anyway? Verify if it’s a date? You look at Debbie’s immaculate skin, her shining blonde hair, the subtle make-up, the dreams projecting from her eyes as she looks at her companion. Should you be jealous of him, Bill? Or are you fine with an attractive young man, well-groomed, smartly dressed, a cute wry smile on his lips, getting a girl you’ve never really been into?

“Wonder when the tourists will show up.” Doris interrupts your reverie. You have to blink to get Debbie’s date out of your head. Right! Today is the one day for which this town exists. In Punxsutawney, it’s always Groundhog Day, no matter if you’re still remembering the last or preparing for the next. For you, it just means more work, more customers spilling in to rob you of your will to –

This man.

The curly-haired balding stranger who just came through the door like a conqueror breaking down your fortress gate. There’s a woman in his wake, but you have eyes for him only. She is pretty, he is ugly, why does he fascinate you so? What does he have that made you forget about Debbie, even her good-looking date?

“I guess I’ll take their orders,” says Doris, but you cannot answer. Does this man remind you of someone? Have you seen him on a screen before? Why does this perfect stranger seem so intimately familiar?

You take a big gulp of coffee. It scalds you but something else burns hotter in your mind. Images of this man, and you, and things you do. Long talks about your life and dreams and hopes, few and pathetic as they are. He introduces himself with confidence. No, he is a clod, a jerk. No, he says goodbye with a sad smile and a firm hand on your shoulder, a grip that still radiates warmly through your veins.

Is this something that has happened, that will happen, that you want to happen? What are these ephemeral memories or wishes or possibilities? Flittering in front of you like dreams in which you lived an entire day filled with discovery and wonder? And just like in those, once you open your eyes to the true day you will have to live, where you cannot fly and be yourself and free, the memory is gone, a soap bubble leaving just a wet sensation.

You are angry now. Your blood boils because of this man, who seems like he has shown you something, gave you insight on a big secret, and now he’s here, intruding on your real workday, ignoring you, despite the special moments you somehow know you shared?

You bared everything to him! With a tongue that started lead and became silver and then platinum, he stripped you naked and made you scream and sob and quiver and ashamed of what you are, and finally accepting. Of what? This fickle cruel God knows, and doesn’t tell you!

You drift towards him in a trance, ignoring customers, he needs to satisfy your urges again, tell you what you know you’ve known before. As you close in on him, you see the folds and wrinkles of his aging skin, and remember seeing so much more. Disgusting, unwanted visions force yourself on you. His pants around his ankles as you pleasure him in the diner’s restroom. A coarse shy hand between your legs. You feel bile rise, why does he make you think these filthy things? And yet, why do you remember so many pangs of sadness when he admitted that these experiments ultimately didn’t work for him? Why are you madder at yourself than him?

He’s right in front of you, and the kettle of your emotions comes close to boiling over as you reach out to touch him – again –

He turns, and touches you instead, and the hand on your shoulder paralyzes you. He tells his companion about you, and of course he gets every detail right. Your blood, pounding like the thunder forecasting an eruption, obscures most words.

“This is Bill…Penn State…paints toy soldiers, and he’s gay.”

The lava in your veins turns into stone. If everything’s the truth, then this must be – but how – no way – and yet, of course. The secret you kept from yourself so long lifts from your shoulders, and your blood runs free.

“I…I am!” You admit to yourself and the world.

Oct 24, 2018

by Pragmatica

932 words -- 2001: A Space Odyssey 

The first time the crew of Moon Base Clavius resorted to cannibalism, they learned there's not much meat on the bones of someone who died from lack of bone-meat.

"Before we proceed, I want to say a few words about Mr. Jensen," said Captain Michaels, taking a bite from his meager plate of fried Jensen. "Mr. Jensen was a gifted writer, a sensible man, and above all, a patriotic American. His sacrifice shall be noted with significant appreciation."

Jensen's death had been part of the plan, of course. As a journalist who happened to be on assignment to Clavius during the discovery of the Artifact and the subsequent abandonment of the base by the U.S. government, he had the fewest skills necessary to maintain the crew's survival and was thus allotted the smallest rations. Jensen never complained about this plan, and even voted for it during the initial meeting.

Michaels continued. "Now, with that out of the way, here's Communications Director Edwards with an update on our efforts to make contact with potential rescuers."

The crew clapped politely as Edwards made his way to the podium.

"Greetings. As many of you know, during the last week, the Communications team completed repairs of the transmitter that was disabled during Chairman Floyd's visit to Clavius. We have sent several transmissions to Space Stations Two and Five. I see no reason why these stations would not have received our transmissions, so their lack of timely response can only be assumed to be due to an official United States policy regarding the situation at Clavius and our discovery at Tycho. The next phase of our plan is to attempt contact with the Soviet Space Station Orange. There may be some difficulties involved with making such contact, since our team lacks knowledge of Soviet transmission frequencies and security codes. However, we will continue to work diligently to solve these issues, and hope to be able to share positive updates with you during next week's meeting."

The next member of the crew to perish was O'Connor, the former head of Mechanics, as had been scheduled. Though his job was considered vital, he had recently started talking about seeing a glowing child in the sky. The Leadership Council had determined that the stress of Clavius' predicament had begun to impact his judgment, and thus deprioritized his rations.

Communications Director Edwards was again invited to speak to the crew at the next week's meeting.

"The communications team has spent the previous week attempting contact with the nearest Soviet base, Space Station Orange. Unfortunately, we have been unable to identify any Soviet frequencies that may open a line of communication. Please stay firm in your resolve as we continue to work toward a solution.

"I also wish to address a growing concern among members of the Leadership Council about the prevalence of rumors and misinformation among the Clavius crew. Please make sure to verify information from unverified sources with the Leadership Council. Thank you, gentlemen."

The next week suffered six more deaths, including that of Captain Michaels, who was found hanging in his quarters.

"Greetings. The Leadership Council is aware that our communication logs with Space Station Orange have leaked. Yes, the Soviets have offered us rescue on the condition that we reveal what we know about the Tycho Artifact, the so-called Monolith.

"Do I need to remind you of our mission? Do I need to remind you of the oaths we took to defend the United States of America, even when threatened with the spectre of death? The members of the Leadership Council will accept a painful death before we commit treason, and we ask that our crew do the same. We will continue to negotiate with the Soviets for our rescue, and we believe that we can come to an agreement which does not violate our fealty to our country.

"Since we know who it was who leaked our communication logs, the Leadership Council has unanimously decided to deprioritize the survival of Dr. Samuel Knight. We wish you all a happy evening. Enjoy your dinner."

A handsome banquet was set out for the next week's meeting. Captain Knight took his place at the podium to deafening applause.

"I am pleased to announce our imminent rescue at the hands of our Russian comrades. In six hours time, we will be trading the data we have collected regarding the Tycho Artifact for swift transportation to Earth and our new Motherland, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics."

Knight allowed a moment for the crew's cheering. Before he could continue, the conference hall doors opened. In walked Chairman Heywood Floyd. The crew hushed; some tried to throw their coats over their plates of barbecued ribs.

"Good evening, gentleman." said Floyd, taking Knight's place at the podium. "I was on my way here to provide rescue. Intercepted communications between this base and the Soviets demonstrated to the President that we were perhaps a little harsh in our previous efforts to secure classified information. I am saddened to see the tenor of these intercepted communications change, which has necessitated a change in our national security protocol." 

"Please know that you will not die in vain, and that the discovery at Tycho will serve as inspiration to all humanity once we are finally at liberty to discuss it. Goodbye, gentlemen."

Floyd left as the squadron entered. The crew tried to scatter somewhere that only made sense to their panicked minds. 

As per his orders, Floyd only heard the gunshots start after the conference hall doors were closed.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Everyone Wants Something
Word count: 989
Film: The Big Lebowski

Sweat had soaked Marty’s shirt by the time he finished replacing a pipe on 44A’s bathroom sink. He cleaned his tools, loaded them into his toolbox and replaced the bath mat squared with the tub.

As he headed toward the door he tried to say something to Jill, the tenant, but before he could make a sound she had already begun. “And what about the AC? Are the potholes getting filled? What about that grass you promised?” Marty mumbled that rent was due last week and closed the door as soundlessly as he could.

He returned to his identical apartment at 40A to find five messages waiting on his answering machine. He sighed and hit play then lunged into the kitchen. He could never allow the daily struggles of a day job to stop his art. He pirouetted the refrigerator door open to grab a packet of turkey. He put together a sandwich and did leg lifts while listening to Sam from 42B describe a plumbing problem. He moved on to squats while Henrietta in 40B complained again about his music keeping her awake.

As Marty began stretching his arms, an angel spoke to him through the tinny speaker. “A cancellation… Crane Jackson’s Fountain Street Theater… next Tuesday… would you like to move up the list?” And that’s all he needed to hear before launching into the first movement of his quintet, squeezing himself into a ball and rolling across the floor. Five, six, seven, eight.

As the machine beeped over and he heard Jill again, his doubts drummed in his head to the cadence of her complaints: one week, unfinished, no audience, so much work. Marty ceased rolling but remained the unimportant, unnoticeable ball on the floor. He thought of his dance cycle, all his hard work, his father’s demeaning words and he sprang up, flinging his arms into the air and gazing at the ceiling. He would live his dream.

Marty called the venue to confirm and wrote a check. He called the other tenants and rescheduled his visits to their apartments for the next day. Today was for inspiration. He needed to choreograph the last phase of his five-part cycle before his work would be complete and ready for the stage.

Taking his phone off the hook he set to work, playing the song meant for this fifth phase, the performance that represented his future; past the Sisyphean struggles that was act four of both his life and art. He needed to make the next part the most fluid, the most graceful. Transcendent.

After the sixth rewind of the tape, his body buzzed with potential. Marty placed himself center stage of his living room and poked out a single toe. As he reached his hands toward that toe, percussive notes sounded where they did not belong in the score. He turned off his music and crept to the door.

Looking through the peephole, he saw 42B Sam looking angry. He’d probably tried to call and got the busy signal. Marty opened the door, forgetting that he was in his leotard. He blushed. Sam didn’t seem to notice instead explaining that water was coming out of his cabinets. Marty needed to get over to Sam’s apartment and turn off the water immediately. Marty went, turning off the water and calling the plumber from Sam’s apartment.

Returning to his own apartment, Marty found a note taped to his door from 40B Henrietta saying that if she heard his music one more time tonight she would call the police. Resigned, Marty prepared for bed and hoped for tomorrow.

But every day was today, asking for rent and fixing other people’s problems. He was escorting and paying the plumber. He was rolling in replacement appliances. He was going door to door reminding people of their rent payment. Though he did manage to mention his upcoming performance to many of them. The only time he ever managed to do both art and work at the same time. And the Dude in 46B had promised to give him notes!

But any other time he tried to combine his art and his work he nearly crushed his foot or tripped on a doorframe. Until it was Saturday night and his fifth phase remained unplanned and undanced. He couldn’t stop fixing all of these problems. He needed tenants and rent to survive. But he couldn’t give up. He needed his art to feel alive. He was so close to his dream, he would be living that fifth phase on Tuesday if he could just turn that future into dance and learn it in 48 hours. But maybe not. If he was living it on Tuesday he wouldn’t need to learn it, he could simply do it. He would improvise like a professional dancer.


Phase 1: he is small; he is born; he begins to stand.
Phase 2: he is beaten; he is loved; he is beaten.
Phase 3: he is dragged; he is taught; he is chained.
Phase 4: he suffers; he climbs; he is pulled down once more.
Phase 5: …

The moment had come. The music played. Marty stood center stage with the spotlight remaining still. He stared out into the crowd, seeing only brightness. The beats carried on. He didn’t move. He could only listen and feel the tension build in the music and within his belly.

When the song came to its final crescendo of horns and tympani, Marty’s arms raised slowly until they were pointing straight over his head and he looked through them up to the rafters.

After, Marty wondered if anyone had waited to talk to him, to congratulate him, to give him critique. He found only Henrietta who smiled.

“What did you think of the performance?” he asked.

“I liked the part with dance moves. But I’m a set designer not a critic. Speaking of, can I have your stage props now that you’re finished?”

Aug 2, 2002




Jurrear endic Park
988 words

Ray’s father, sitting behind the wheel of his cherry 1976 camaro, flicked his hair out of his eyes and looked down at Ray. “Hold onto your butt,” he said, lit cigarette bouncing between his lips.

“Ok dad! I’m ready!” shouted Ray, grabbing a handful of cheek in each hand.

His father winked at him and slammed the gas pedal to the floor. The tires and Ray squealed as the car launched forward out of a cloud of smoke. Little Ray was pressed into the back of the seat so hard that his tiny, undeveloped heart struggled to push back against the weight of his chest. The car thundered through the abandoned industrial park and weaved through shells of abandoned factories and warehouses.

Ray’s teeth vibrated and his tears of joy soaked into the shag-carpet seat cover behind him.

They raced toward a brick wall and Ray swallowed hard, but his dad pulled the e-brake at the last minute, sending the car sliding sideways around the corner before he slammed it into third gear and rocketed toward the defunct crane that towered over the empty docks.

“Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaster!” screamed Ray, and his father obliged.

The rusty shipping containers seemed to elongate as they merged into a blur. Ray struggled to remain conscious. All he could think was: “this is aweeeeeeesome!” and: “my dad is the best!” and then suddenly: “wait, what’s that?”

“Dad, watch out!” yelled Ray, and he let go of his butt to brace himself against the dashboard.

The car hit the speed bump with such force that Ray hit the ceiling, rotated 180 degrees, and then flew into the back seat before landing. Sparks spewed from behind them as they exploded through a chaining fence and out onto the street, narrowly missing a pedestrian before skidding to a stop and stalling in an eerie silence.

Shaken and confused, the pedestrian picked himself up off the ground and dabbed at his bleeding forehead with shaking hands.

Ray's dad tapped ash out the window and took a deep breath. “poo poo, Ray. You ok?” he said, looking at Ray in the rearview mirror

Ray rubbed his head. “I… think so.”

Ray’s father sighed in relief. “That gate don't look cheap; we gotta get out of here.” The car started back up and pulled onto the road as if nothing had happened, leaving behind a man shouting impotently into the wind.

Ray sat up and his eyes widened. He slowly reached down and felt where his butt should have been. He gasped. “Dad! We have to go back! My butt fell off!”

“Dammit, Ray! I told you to hold onto it!”

Ray cried. “I was! I got scared!” He looked through the back window to see his butt marooned in a heap on the ground. "I can see it still!"

His father hit the steering wheel with his fist. “We can’t go back! If the judge finds out I’ve been doin’ sweet skids in the abandoned industrial zone again he said I’ll lose my job and maybe even go back to jail!”

“But dad!” Ray contorted himself in the back seat trying to look at his own backside, but wasn’t sure what he was even looking for. He’d never tried to look at his own butt before. “It hurts!”

“Stop looking at it, you’re making it worse!”

“How can it be worse?" Then he thought of one thing that was destined to make it worse and broke into sobs as he imagined what his mom would say we're she found out.

Ray’s dad threw his cigarette out the window and ran his hand through his hair. “It’s ok, we’ll think of something. It’ll be alright."

They pulled into a gas station as three cop cars, sirens blaring, raced past them in the opposite direction toward the industrial park. Ray’s dad wrapped his flannel sweatshirt around Ray’s waist to hide his gluteus indespectus and rushed him into the gas station bathroom, grabbing a pack of latex gloves on the way. Ray’s dad locked the door.

“Ok, drop your pants, lets see how bad it is.”

Ray, sniffling, lowered his pants. His batman underwear, usually filled out in the back by his butt, hung limp off his lower back. “Is it bad?”

“No, man, it’s barely noticeable,” his dad stammered.

Ray could see the lie on his face and started crying even harder.

“It’s ok, we can fix it!” he said, and hurriedly opened the pack of gloves. He blew one up and tied it off like a balloon, then repeated the process for another. He stuffed the engorged gloves down the back of Ray’s pants so that they formed two squishy butt cheeks. “See, good as new.”

Ray turned his butt toward the mirror and looked over his shoulder. Little latex fingers stuck out of the top of his underwear, out the leg holes, and some poked straight back out like they were trying to escape.

Ray sighed with relief. No way his mom would be able to tell now. He pulled his pants back up and looked up at his dad. “I want go home now.”

Ray's dad gave him a hug. "One last stop."


The front door of Ray's house opened slowly, and his mother peeked out around a corner. "Boys, that you?"

"Yup, just us, two normal dudes," said Ray's dad.

Ray walked silently and stiffly into the living room and forced a smile. "Feeding the ducks sure was fun."

Ray's mom dried her hands and knelt down in front of Ray. She looked him up and down and Ray looked up at his dad, who was cool as Joe Camel.

"Wait a minute," said his mom. "What's this?"

Ray clenched his gloves.

His mom licked her finger and wiped the corner of Ray's mouth. "You got ice cream without me, didn't you!?"

Ray and his dad laughed in unison.

"Busted!" said his dad, and they all laughed together.

Apr 12, 2006
prompt: Amadeus

Salieri Stopped Writing in 1804, or the Three Seasons of an Assassin
994 words


Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 22:27 on Jan 8, 2021

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Nina, Who Clowned on Charles Barkley

384 words

Movie:Space Jam. Hellrule: can't use 'a', 'the', 'of', 'to', or 'and'

You thought it couldn't really be him. Just some wannabe who looks like him, you said. In his face. But. Later, when next year's season started, when he strutted out on United's boards, you saw him scope up, nosebleed cheap-seats in his eyes. You made that distant eye contact. He shuddered down there. It wasn't great, his performance that night. So you knew.

You knew that you took Sir Charles down, stripped that old ball right out his hands, jumped up when he took his shot, blocked that mother right out from midair. So, yeah. So what comes next? How you gonna top that?

Wrong question. Right one's more like "So what's out there you can't do, after that?"

You gonna play your way through college, win some NCAA trophies, maybe go pro after? Could be. But ain't that thinking small?

You could use that schooling, turn around right, enter med school, be Doctor N. Now we're talking. Get that knowledge, get those skills, be your hospital's number one cutter. Go surgical. Save some dang lives out there.

When bad times come round, you'll be right out there, risking your lungs, your blood, winning those bets each time. So maybe you'll be ready for this life's real test.

See, that little guy with his funny hat, with his matching funny little voice, he was planning all along. When all his enemies were laid out reeling or busy, he made his move.

Sure, that's coming better than twenty years on. Also back then. Guy comes from fractional centuries, comes from Mars as well as deep hollows under ground. That's just how fractal time's seahorse curlicues work out. Then is now, now is then.

You'll know how they can be beaten, just how they'll fall. Guy sent ten million moistened Martians, mean green vulture-looking things. But you were classically educated. You know how they can be lured, trapped, distracted, disarmed. You'll stop their Illudium bombs, serve as medic, soldier, even general by war's end.

So when it's all over, when you're telling your grandkids all about it they'll listen raptly, they'll hang on every word. But then they'll ask for your other story, about when you clowned on Barkley. You'll tell it too. Then that will be all, bedtime for all them wee folks. You too.

Jan 13, 2020

We’re All Staying Late
Word Count: 997
Beloved Movie: Die Hard

Maria’s eyes darted frantically from the guns to the faces of the men brandishing them. She reflexively held up her hands and tried to look unimportant. All around her, nervous coworkers likewise attempted to avoid provoking a reaction from these men who had corralled them all into the center of Nakatomi Plaza. Her mind raced: who were they? What did they want? Was she going to die here?

“Now everyone, let’s try to remain calm,” her manager Carl droned from behind her. She turned to see him standing by the fountain, hands up as if to quell a rambunctious budget meeting. “We’ve clearly been taken hostage,” he continued, sending a nervous murmur through the small band of Maria’s coworkers encircling him. “There’s no need to panic. If they were just going to kill us they’d have done so already. Let’s all try to stay calm. The police will be on their way, and they’ll negotiate for our release. They have every reason to keep us alive.”

Maria put her hands down. That made sense enough.

“In fact, I think it would be best if we used this time productively. Don’t forget, we have end-of-year reports to file with New York. They’re allocating annual advertising funding January 5th. And we all know how Steve hates being unprepared for a meeting.” A couple people audibly chuckled.

Huh?? Maria gaped up at Carl, who stared back with his dull, I-will-wear-you-down look that had haunted her every Friday 5pm meeting he’d ever called at 4pm because he “needed to go over a few things”. You motherf-

Jerry sat down, pulled budget projections from his briefcase, and began scanning them, making notes with a pen. Estelle turned to George and asked about supply chain management in South Korea. All around Maria, her coworkers resumed what they had been doing 15 minutes ago. She pushed her way to the fountain.

“What the hell Carl?” she blurted out without a follow-up in mind.

His dull eyes trained on her and he held up a thick folder. “Oh Maria, could you look over these sales repor-” She smacked the folder out of his hands.

“No! Wha-... What are you THINKING?” she shrieked.

He blinked slowly. “I’m thinking that Steve and Charlotte are going to be up a creek if they don’t have those growth projections in time for the 5th,” he said in the same bored monotone she’d heard him speak in for what she was realizing was seven years. Seven years of listening to this man ask for growth projections…

“We’re up a creek now! Jesus Carl I need to call my husband and my kids. Oh my God, they’re probably watching this on the news! Where’s Ellis and that goddamn cellular phone he’s so proud of?” She whirled around as the tension vanished and it became pre-Christmas crunch time again. No Ellis.

Nerves trembling, she approached the gunmen, who went from grim-faced to snarling.

“Please! I need a phone! I need to talk to my family!” she begged.

“Sie können das Telefon nicht benutzen! Kommen Sie zurück mit den anderen!” he barked.

Maria retreated, eyes watering. Marcus was going to college in September and still needed someone to help him structure his classes to graduate on time with a good major. Who would help Alysha struggle through math homework? She’d fallen into the remedial track and after 8th grade they lock you in. Dominic would never know about the abortion. Her mom was slowing down and would she need a full-time nurse or would she need a nursing home so many of those places are so terrible...

There was so much left to do, so many words left unsaid to so many people she loved and used to love. So many plans planned and set aside for Another Day, when this rough quarter is over, when she finally got promoted to regional, when she finally secured the Johnson account, when the goddamn Becker lawsuit was over.

All the inhibitors that loomed so large at the time dwindled to nothing next to the yawning chasm in the family that would be left behind. She looked down at her hands; they were so much older now. How did it all happen so fast?

“Ah, there you are. Maria I’m serious if we don’t get these numbers to Steve by end of day he’s-”

With a shriek she shoved him backward, not hard, but hard enough that he stumbled. Hard enough that the knee-high lip of the fountain caught him, and he flailed blindly behind for something to grab. His bovine eyes went wide that’s the most alive he’s ever looked and he pitched backward with a splash, then a thud.

Maria shuffled forward and saw blood leaking out of the back of his head, where it had crashed into a pointless step in the tile of the fountain bottom. His face was three inches below the surface of the water. Bubbles emanated from his twitching mouth. He convulsed as he sucked in water, gasping for breath. The hands twitched, the eyes bulged to bursting, and then he went still. It all happened so fast.

“Wir brauchen ihn nicht, oder?” one gunman asked the other as he pulled out a cigarette.

“Wir haben noch 40. Es wird uns gut gehen,” his partner asked, lighting it for him.

Everyone around her watched the blood pour out of the corpse she’d made, to be sucked into the vents and regurgitated out of the spout in a ghoulish shower. The crowd turned their eyes to her. Maria searched for the words to explain herself, but none came out. What have I done?

“Oh great, thanks Maria. Now who’s gonna negotiate with Phoenix?” Jim asked.

“poo poo, who else on the 14th floor can get me a meeting with Alex?” Tyler muttered.

“You couldn’t have done this last week? I thought that contract would NEVER get signed!” Kayla shouted.

A hearty laugh went through the room. The pace of work redoubled.

May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
Words: 998
Forrest Gump

Carol ‘Dean’ Williams grimaced at the bustling football field of Denny Stadium. He stood in the end zone below the student section, having just got back from visiting his father’s grave in Greensboro. The Friday bus left Tuscaloosa at 7 in the morning, and the mid-day bus would get him back somewhere before 2. Normally, he would sit in the shade the sun cast as it started its trek to bed, and stare. He would just stare at the beautiful, empty, immaculate grass, striped like a big green tiger, and he would think about the last words his father said to him.

Instead, he saw bench warmers, of which he was one, doing sprints up the field. Carol’s best friend, Jimmy Dill, was huffing and puffing, leading the pack. Their eyes locked; Carol muttered a vulgarity under his breath that he’d never let his mother hear, in fear of the soap.

“Where ya been, Dean?” Jimmy gasped, not following the rest of the benchers as they turned back. Carol had not told Jimmy of his Friday ritual, it was the day off that Coach Bryant gave the team, and he liked to keep his lines clean, like the field.

“Coach Bryant say Friday warmups are like screwing your hand before a date.”

“poo poo, he din’t say nothing to us, we’re doing this ourselves.” Carol liked what he heard even less. “Butch says they found some ringer, a real dipshit by the sound of it, but sumbitch is fast.”

“Spring tryouts are done, roster is locked.”

“They’re gonna cut one of us, give that idiot the scholarship. It’s a done deal, the only thing that’s up in the air is who’s cut.”

Jimmy Dill caught his breath and hit the field. Carol thought about the last time he saw his father. Almost a year ago, his father as close to crying as he had ever seen. The bus to Tuscaloosa leaving soon, and his father insisted on carrying the duffel bags, unknowingly the last kindness he would do for his son. Carol was the first in his family to go to College, on a football scholarship no less. His father swore he would be at every game. He never made it to one. Carol thought about the last words his father said to him. “Roll tide,” he had said, and gave him a punch on the shoulder. Carol hugged his father, to spare him the conflict. Carol then thought about how much he absolutely hated football.

Word had gotten back to the coaches that the subs were sweating their spot, and Carol was there with them. Official friday workouts started at 6am. Carol watched the scoreboard clock pass 7, and thought if he could catch the 11am bus, he could still catch the last bus out of Greensboro.

“Williams! I said Level-1 Drills, git yer dang head in the game, son!” Coach Blevins screamed right in Carol’s ear. Carol shook off the scolding and went back to dragging himself through the drills. Before he knew it, 11 had come and gone and he was sick to his stomach. There were other subs who had left it on the field too. And it went like this the next Friday, and the Friday after.

“Just four more weeks,” he counted down to himself with each Friday he missed. It was a mantra Carol was used to, except the previous year he had measured his indentured servitude in years. “Just four more years,” he would tell himself.

He thought about how his father used to tell him that he wanted to be buried near Denny stadium, so that he could always catch the game. His father had been an itinerant handyman, always a few dollars shy of establishing a true apprenticeship or union gig, let alone attend university. But football had always been a solace. Carol, under the urging of his father, started playing football as a child, and what he had thought to be a grueling exercise became even more dire when the National Football Players Association had formed when he was 13 and his father saw an opportunity, an escape.

“Williams, I don’t know why your dad named you after a girl, since you’re so bad at handling balls!” A drunken Joe Namath screamed at him from the bleachers. Fridays of leisure had been left untouched for the starters, who in their boredom taken to hazing the subs in their own twisted game of culling the roster.

“Just one more week,” Carol thought to himself. He had to endure only one more Friday before season started. Sweaty, exhausted, and on the verge of heat stroke in the August afternoon, Carol managed to work his way through a shower, before sitting down to put on his clean sweats.

“Dean, Coach wants to see you,” Jimmy Dill said, coming out of the meeting room.

Instead, Coach Blevins sat on the edge of a folding table.

“Where’s Coach Bryant?” Carol asked.

“I’m sorry Williams. There’s… just not enough space.”

“What? Where’s Coach Bryant? What are you saying? What about my scholarship?”

“The Athletic Director will send you a letter. You can clean out your locker next week. There’s nothing I can do, Coach Bryant made the call.

“This is a joke, right? This is a sick joke?”

“I’m sorry son, but Coach Bryant needs someone who’s committed, someone who’s got a brain for it.”

Carol couldn’t remember what happened after he left the locker room. He couldn’t remember if anyone looked him in the eyes when he walked out of the stadium. He just remembered looking at the field, and those perfect lines, and Coach Bryant watching a man sprint down the field, and the last words his father had said.

The following Friday, 11am had long passed, Carol could tell by the shadows that stretched through the windows. “Just one more day,” he thought to himself. He turned over in his bed and stared at the wall before shutting his eyes.

Jul 26, 2012

A Few More Guys Like Batman
Word Count: 936
Movie: The Dark Knight

Last year, I lost my job at the hardware store because of an “unexcused absence.” I was late to work because a rocket tank tore up the highway I usually take. I still had my second job at a convenience store in The Narrows. But an international crime syndicate hired an army of ninjas to plant stolen military tech on a monorail and shut down the whole neighborhood. Last I heard, they still hadn’t caught all the escaped mental patients and mafia hitmen hired by the mad scientist scarecrow.That’s when I started thinking about leaving Gotham City. A couple days ago, my wife and I even found a place upstate for a pretty reasonable price. But our bank denied our loan application because of my “income uncertainty.” Then while we were there, the bank was robbed by a gang of evil clowns driving a school bus.

That particular evening I met my old coworker Brian at Noonan’s Bar downtown. I hadn’t seen him in a few weeks since he joined his new gun club, so it was nice to catch up. Our conversation was one we had a million times before. This city’s been going to hell for years. Now we’ve got actual supervillains to worry about. I didn’t usually use the word “supervillain,” but today it slipped out. That caught Brian’s attention. “Let me ask you something, Rory,” he said to me. “You’re watching a cartoon. Or you’re reading a comic. And the bad guys try to take over the world. He always loses. Why?”

“I don’t know. The good guy?”

“You been hearing about that Batman? What do you think he is?”

“Isn’t he one of those ‘cryptid’ things? Like Mothman or Bigfoot?”

“He’s just a guy. But the cops still put that big spotlight on the station, because he stood up to the crime in this city. And he’s no different than me. Or you.” Brian pointed towards me as he said that. His eyes were wide and focused on me.

“What? You want me to go out and be Batman now.” I tried laughing it off in case this was all a prank. It wasn’t. And the longer he didn’t break, the more certain of it I was.

Brian grabbed a napkin and wrote down an address. “Tomorrow night. Nine o’clock. You won’t have to do this alone.”

“You’re serious?”

“All this city needs is a few more guys like Batman.”

I took the backway home, Another rocket tank sighting, so I thought I’d be safe. And I drove by a few places I heard about on the news recently. Back in the 1600’s, Gotham was just a goat farm and a Dutch trading post. From there it became one of the greatest economic and cultural centers in the country, if not the world. But I was passing abandoned amusement parks where Wonderland-themed kidnappers held the mayor’s daughter Alice hostage. The old ice cream factory where the cops found a bunch of stolen cryogenic tech. And all the empty warehouses where entire armies of thematically costumed goons hang out. The next day I went to the address.

Turns out Brian’s gun club had their own abandoned warehouse. And they dressed up in sports pads and rubber masks. His weird friend Anton loaded firearms of questionable legality into a gear bag as we got inside his white utility van. They got a tip about a drug deal going down at a parking garage off Robinson Park. When we got there, we ducked behind the parked cars in our Batman costumes. Brian carries a 12 gauge shotgun while Anton picks up an Uzi. I just grab a pistol. Some Russian gangsters pull up, bringing dogs with them. As does the mad scientist scarecrow monster from last year. Apparently he was selling them drugs laced the fear toxin he made from the rare blue mountain flower. Brian made himself known. I heard one of the Russians say “Pity there’s one only one of you.” We got the drop on them.

I pulled one over the barricade, throwing him several floors down. Anton did the same on the other side. In the one moment of confusion, Brian pulled his shotgun, firing a blast towards the crowd. I saw the scarecrow dive behind some vehicles. I charged at him, pointing the desert eagle at his back. I thought about The Narrows. I thought about it too long and got sprayed with fear poison from the scarecrow’s sleeve. I don’t remember much of what happened after that. The dogs bit Anton then Batman showed up to beat up everyone. Turns out he drove the rocket tank.

I woke up two days later handcuffed to a hospital bed. First my wife showed up with divorce papers. Then Brian showed up with a big smile on his face. As soon as the doctors left he said “Good news! I slipped a few bucks to this doctor from Arkham. He’s gonna diagnose us with a whole bunch of stuff. Worse we’ll have to do is a couple months in the nuthouse, then be back on the street.”

“Wait! You bribed a doctor to get a fake diagnosis?”

“Means to an end, that’s all. They don’t make poo poo up there. Funding’s a mess. But it keeps us on the street.”

I never went back to the gun club after that. I took my ill-gotten freedom after a brief in-patient hospital stay. I was expecting Brian to be angry, but he passed away two days later. He was killed by an evil clown who spent the next few weeks committing philosophy-based crimes.

Jun 14, 2020

prompt - LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring
Hellrule - Use no dialogue or inner monologue

A Most Troubling Offer
927/1000 words

Farmer Maggot stepped onto his front porch with a plate of fried sausage, onions, and mushrooms. The savory steam of the dish billowed out into the brisk morning air, catching the attention of the farmer’s three dogs who quickly raced to his side. With endearing snouts and paws, the dogs begged for a morsel of their master’s meal. The farmer happily obliged and gave each a healthy portion of sausage. Maggot ate his breakfast as he scanned the farm for any sign of trespassers, hobbit or otherwise. Much to his relief, everything was in order, not a single mushroom cap nor turnip top in sight had been disrupted during the night. The farmer was never keen on disruptions, not the least of which the kind that concerned his prized crops.

He left what remained of his breakfast on the porch for the dogs, and went inside to wake the family. Together they worked as the sun rose: picking the ripest turnips and mushrooms. A quiet sound of giggling came from the road, sending the dogs into an alarmed pursuit of growling and barking. The farmer gave chase after them and ran into the lane where he saw four small hobbit children running away, leaving a trail of mushrooms behind them. Maggot shook his fist and shouted threats at the children, as he often did; warning that the next time he caught them he would feed them to his dogs. He cursed and mumbled beneath his breath as he returned to work. A stout pony was hitched to a small wagon, and soon after the farmer departed on his journey to Bree and The Prancing Pony inn, fine fare and hot temper in tow.

The East Road was as busy as it had ever been, folk all the way from Buckland were traveling west with carts filled with preparations for Mr. Bilbo’s birthday. Each hobbit that passed gave Mr. Maggot a hearty salutation, but he would merely give a small wave and nod of approval to them in return. The day was growing hotter, and sweat had begun clinging to the farmer’s red cheeks when he finally arrived at the west gate of Bree. There the crooked gate-keeper, whom Maggot had never thought well of, stopped the farmer and gave him a concerning message. Bill Ferny, an even less savory resident of Bree, was looking to have a word with Maggot. The farmer scoffed and moved along without saying a word, he had little desire to speak with foreigners, except for those who bought his produce or traded for it with good beer.

The inn was already in an uproar when Maggot arrived. Burly men with dark hair and tattered clothes were drinking beer enthusiastically in the parlor, though it was barely past mid-day. Among them stood Bill Ferny, a short and unkempt man with thin hair and a weasely smile. Maggot deliberately directed his gaze away from Ferny and walked to the bar to show his goods to the innkeeper. Luckily, Barliman was in good spirits and cheerfully agreed to trade three large wheels of cheese, two casks of beer, and one hot meal in exchange for the produce. Farmer Maggot agreed and sat at the bar, happily awaiting his dinner of herbs and stewed rabbit. Across the room, the strange glances of the rowdy men shifted towards the farmer, and soon four large men, including Bill, approached. They insisted on sitting with the farmer, feigning good cheer and friendship. Bill leaned in close to Maggot, put his arm around the hobbit’s shoulder, and gave him a most troubling offer. They wanted him to lure Mr.Bilbo away from the party on the night of his birthday and deliver him to the men; Bill told Maggot that he would be rewarded handsomely with land and gold should he agree. Maggot lept out of his seat, and began to shout and curse at the hecklers, such an indecent request was practically an assault on the farmer’s character, and he demanded that the rogues give an explanation. The men didn’t understand why the hobbit was so worked up, after all, he had a bad reputation for being a curmudgeon that didn’t think fondly of others, even his fellow hobbits.

The farmer’s face turned bright red, he bit his lip and clenched his fist, attempting to hide his shame. He told the men one last time to leave him alone, but Bill was undeterred. He warned Maggot that he had friends who would take revenge on the farmer and his family, should he fail to cooperate. Barliman came back to the parlor with the stew and quickly broke up the quarrel, he threw the thugs out for nearly an entire year for the disturbance, but later forgot and would serve them again. The stew was left on the bar, the farmer had lost his appetite. Maggot left for home after exchanging apologies and farewells with the innkeeper. As the pony clopped on toward Bamfurlong, the farmer smoked stoically, sending soft white clouds into the crepuscular sky.

Maggot rounded the last hill on his way home, in the lane there were two adult hobbits that were pointing at his mushroom and turnip patches, but they were not there to cause trouble. They were two parents of the children he had scared away, and they had come to apologize to the old curmudgeon. Mr. Maggot wouldn’t accept their apology until they joined him for supper and drank beer with him, he insisted that it had been him who was out of line.

Sep 7, 2011

Seven for beauty that blossoms and dies

A Drop of Roberts' Blood
The Princess Bride
657 words

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering what the rest of the Dread Pirate Roberts’ crew was doing while he found himself rolling around in swamp-mud, wrestling a very large rodent. As it happens, at that very moment, his ship was anchored in a cove not far from the border between Guilder and Florin. Most of the crew were below deck, locked in a battle of wits over a card game of their own devising.

Jez and Davy, who weren’t often invited to these games for reasons of their not having a single wit to share between them, were up in the crow’s nest keeping watch in case the Dread Pirate Roberts came back early or one of his enemies tried to ambush them while they weren’t paying attention. Over the distant sounds of shrieking eels, Davy tried to make conversation.

“Ay, Jez, give us some of that dried seal.” said Davy, reaching towards his best mate. Have you ever eaten dried seal? Oh, it’s a treat! Salty, chewy, blubberous, a single strip will keep you feeling full for days. Everyone who’s ever eaten even a mouthful can tell you–you’ll never want to eat anything else.

“’Ere, take the whole thing. I’m so sick of dried seal,” said Jez as he tossed it over. “Every day, it’s seal this and seal that, I’ve ‘ad enough. Why can’t we have some eel? Or whale’s tongue? I used to be a tonguer, d’y’know? It was good ‘onest work, so in the final summation it weren’t really for me, but at least there was always some nice tongue to be had.” Jez’s words trailed off and he stared out at the waves, lost in conflicting memories of good tongue and hard work.

“Well when the captain gets back, you can take it up with him.” Davy suggested. “When’s he due back anyway?”

“Well, he said he was off to save his true love from a fate worse than death, and that he’d rescue her successfully or die trying. He’s probably swashbuckling his way past one ‘undred armed men, while his love waits for him in a tower or dungeon or et cetera. Or something equally romantic, I would suspect.”

Another couple of hours passed. The Dread Pirate Roberts, at this point, remained up to his elbows in rodents and swamp. The sound of shanties from below deck rose up to meet Davy and Jez, still up in the crow’s nest. From the sounds of things, it was time to roll the old chariot along.

“Ay, Jez. Why are we sitting up here anyway?” asked Davy, “What are we keeping watch for?”

“We’re looking out for His Dreadliness’s enemies. We need to be careful, pirates can happen to anyone, at any time. If you’re not always paying attention, they might sneak up on you without warning.” Jez answered.

“Yeah, but Jez, we’re the pirates. We happen to people, not the other way around.” Davy pointed out, not unreasonably he thought.

“Right, and that’s ‘ow we know the way pirates operate. Anyway, Pierre told us to come up ‘here, and Pierre’s in charge ‘til the captain gets back.” Jez folded his arms, clearly convinced he’d won the discussion.

Davy, never one to enjoy long silences, changed tack and asked, “What do you reckon the captain’s doing now?”

“I think he’s in a swamp where tongues of fire erupt from the ground all about him, wrestling giant rats while being pursued by armed soldiers.”

“That seems a bit unlikely, Jez.”



“Do y’ever wonder why the captain looks like he’s only about 25 but stories of the Dread Pirate Roberts ‘ave been around for decades?”

“Yeah. It’s a funny old world. Really makes you think.”

–What? You want to get back to Westley and Buttercup? Fine, fine. But don’t complain when you never find out what happened to Jez and Davy. Anyway, where were we? Oh, that’s right, the Rodents of Unusual Size…

May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


College Slice

Tom Stoppard posted:

“Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”

subs closed

Sep 14, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Been a minute, still gotta finish all these. Sorry everybody! Also, some of these get the full three section critique treatment, but I've to start moving more quickly so from here on it will just be the commentary bits. Anybody who wants the full deal will have to make trades with me.

Black Griffon’s Iterate
Plot Summary:
Reggie (username: nuascendant), who is rather jumpy, has been jumping from ‘safehouse’ to ‘safehouse’ (really more of random locations, by the looks of it). His current one is the apartment of a man named ‘Bud’, found through a dodgy online marketplace; Bud lives a pretty sloppy lifestyle. Reggie is mostly unbothered by this. He gets to work, posting that he is on the move, but still planning to release his ‘sequence’. One chatroom member comments that he shouldn’t be online so much, another (apparently a real-life nazi) comments that he’s looking at the wrong things. Reggie, who hasn’t been sleeping much do to his jumpiness, drinks a Diet Pepsi with a caffeine pill for good measure.

Someone knocks on the door, startling Reggie. Bud comes out to open it, asking if it’s Reggie’s. Reggie replies that it is not. He opens it, and then a strange event occurs: the door opens, then rewinds, again and again. Whoever is on the other side is retrying the event, looking for the version that satisfies their needs. Reggie, who is outside the sphere of influence of this rewinding, pulls his gun and shoots through the door. The final sequence involves Bud in the path of the bullets. Reggie moves to leave out of the window, but a voice stops him, begging him to stop--not just currently, but his whole plan. The voice says he’s unraveling his lifeline, in effect; Reggie says so what and jumps outside.

That’s part one. Then part two begins, from a new perspective: a woman’s (though, questionably human). She is the one manipulating timelines, and she begins to do so with Reggie’s current actions. As she jumps, she rewinds again and again to find the set of events which kill Reggie upon landing. She is satisfied that the cover of him having pissed off some drug dealers after a fall from grace in his position at MIT (for pursuing crackpot mathematical theories) will hold. She then plans how to handle the online chatroom; she will muddy his tracks and try to discredit him by manipulating the information he put out and flooding it with more, incorrect ideas. She reveals that Reggie only ever had a fraction of the truth, but that if any of the people with whom he was communicating are any kind of mathematician, they could continue digging into his line of inquiry. Having cleaned up the scene to her satisfaction, she moves to a bar across town, where she drinks (despite it having little effect on her). Then she gets a call that they have lost control, and the sequence is in the open.

Story Analysis: This story is about the importance of ignorance--that there are some things that the public should not know. To guarantee this, some people have to die (and, it follows, some people have to do the killing). This story is about the true existence of a secret conspiracy underpinning all of society. This story is also maybe about how despite all efforts to keep things nice and tidy, some darkweb denizens will eventually unravel the whole thing.

Despite the narrative complexity, and despite all of the sentence I wrote just now, this story does not have a whole lot of thematic coherence. Though, as I have learned in the reading of chapter 1 stories, that’s a little hard to judge; in this case, though, there is a whole lot going on and I’m having a hard time trying to piece together what this story wants to be about.

Commentary: I really liked this story at first. You had the highest degree of difficulty, by far, given your three flash rules, and I certainly think you made good and clever use of them. On subsequent rereads, however, this story does not hold up to scrutiny. It is not that I like it less, (though much of my affection could probably be attributed to my weakness for sci-fi thrillers), but I just don’t think the content is strong enough to hold what you’re trying to put on it. As CurlingIron said, I’m not sure where this goes, and I’m not sure you know, either. The complexity here is high--just look at the length of my summary above. I tried to slim it down, but this text is dense. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and actually indicates some good world building in your prose, given how readable I found this; you communicate a lot in your word count here. That density, though, makes it hard for anything to breathe, and makes it hard to sift through to know what you really want us to know.

Another quirk of this chapter (as I should have been referring to these all along, as opposed to ‘story’) is the switch in perspectives halfway through. It definitely threw me for a loop, as the woman reads as the antagonist at first, but I am fairly certain she is your protagonist. Which is totally fine, just something to be aware of--our first sympathies will typically go to the character we meet first, unless they are obviously bad or whatever. Reggie, though jumpy and a little dodgy, is the guy with the truth, or at least part of it, as the woman confirms. She’s the cops, and nobody likes rooting for the cops. For her to gain my sympathy, I would need to understand why she is covering this sequence up, and why it is okay for her to murder people in order to do so. The difference in Mission:Impossible is that I know from the get-go that the NOC list getting out is a Bad Thing. Here, I don’t know that. Part of the issue here is potentially a chapter construction issue; Reggie’s bit may be more of a prologue (which would make sense, given that it is chapter zero [which may also be a coding reference, as in computing the first entry in arrays and the like is position zero, but your story doesn’t mention coding so I won’t pretend to be certain]), and then we’re supposed to follow Woman and learn her motivations and whatnot. All of that to say, if you want to expand this story, I would consider how you paint these characters and how you want them to read.

Speaking of the woman… Is she human? I have many questions. She refers to her “shell” several times, as if her consciousness is seperate from her body, her body a construct that allows her to move around in the world. She has control over this shell, and can approach something like feeling the effects of the world on it (i.e. alcohol) and the effects of many millions of read/write cycles, but I am unclear on anything beyond that. Of course, this is only chapter one, so presumably we would learn more about this in future chapters. I think you could revisit how much information you reveal about this character and how you do it, either to create more obvious lines of inquiry, or to be more subtle, or whatever you want. Again, consider how you want this character to read, and what you want the reader to be thinking/questioning/exploring in their minds.

The last line of this needs a little polish. I think the construction of it robs it of its potency. You want this to be a total ‘oh poo poo’ moment, and it is (kind of--again, lack of understanding of the stakes factors in here), except Floating Point’s delivery is soft. You need to create more urgency here; even just the way Tom Cruise delivers the line lets me know that this is serious business.

This story makes me want to watch Tenet.

Saucy Rodent’s BREAD ALONE, Chapter One
Plot Summary:
Kimberly, a “bulemic, teenaged alcoholic”, is in a counseling session with her therapist, Wanda. Kimberly tells us that Wanda is the best therapist she has had, because she in fact does not care about what Kimberly has to say--as opposed to the rest of her therapists, who care out of some sense of self-righteousness. Then, during a session (unclear if at the beginning or middle or what), Wanda asks how Kimberly has been smuggling in booze. Kimberly deflects, which Wanda allows, then asks about her eating. Kimberly chooses this moment to reveal her secret, but first asks Wanda to get her some water. She does so (in a unicorn cup, which is perhaps meaningful? unclear). Kimberly relates the story, which she says will sound crazy: when she was 11, her parents were driving her to a Renaissance Festival in Wisconsin (unclear how far away this is), and while they were driving through the woods, a voice called out to her from the trees, bidding her to come into the woods. She begins to do so, her parents scream at her, they turn around and go home. Since then, Kimberly has had the persistent presence of the voice, which is responsible for all of her bad behaviors. Wanda at first writes this off as her imagination run wild, in lieu of writing it up as schizophrenia (which would require her to refer her to a psychologist). Kimberly begs Wanda to believe her, and reveals further that she has Jesus powers: water to wine, multiplying loaves, healing, walking on water, etc. She then throws her cup, now full of wine, at Wanda, who remarks calmly that it is the best wine she has ever tasted.

Story Analysis: Bad therapy is actually good therapy? I am not too sure, honestly. This story is very much a Chapter One, and not a complete story. It could be a complete story, in which case I think it would be about how mental health problems are real, and not the fault of the person in question--as we see with Kimberly, who has, as far as we can tell, a real actual demon behind her drinking and her bulemia. Beyond that, I’m having trouble conjuring up themes here. Wanda is above all an incredibly lazy therapist, who can barely be bothered to get her patient a cup of water. Her questions are seemingly out of boredom, as opposed to genuine interest.

Oh, another implication here is that therapists as a whole are pretty worthless--they either are extremely lazy, like Wanda (and despite Kimberly’s claim that this actually makes her the best therapist she’s had, she is pretty objectively terrible), or so self-righteous that they only listen to you in hopes of finding an opportunity to sermonize.

Commentary: This story HM’d, but I was actually not particularly in favor of that. The more I read this story, I’m not sure it holds up. That is not to say that the story concept is bad, or that there are not good elements here; as a whole, however, this Chapter has significant issues that would make me extremely wary of reading more.

The therapy here is not good. I don’t mean that Wanda is a bad therapist (though that is also very true); I mean that the depiction of therapy is not well executed. This scene doesn’t feel real. Of course, your story is also about demons and spiritual powers, so perhaps you don’t mean it to be realistic; however, the more realistic you make the therapy, the more room there is for things that are unreal. I’m not sure that makes sense, so let me say it another way: if I believe your therapy (the real bits), the more room there is for me to suspend disbelief on everything else.

I’m struggling a bit with Wanda’s character. I’m not sure she doesn’t care about Kimberly, as Kimberly claims (though, of course, Kimberly may not be the best judge of character), or if she is just incredibly lazy. I am leaning toward the latter, because she does apparently have a high degree of curiosity. Of course, that impression may be due partly to us being dropped in the middle of their most interesting session, by far. Similarly, Kimberly is apparently reticent to talk about these really big problems, but we wouldn’t know that based on what we see in this scene. I might include a little more detail (like, a sentence or two) about how she’s been in therapy for 6 years and never mentioned this, or something like that.

The biggest issue is not necessarily your fault: I have no idea what kind of book this is supposed to be. Is it a fantasy novel, and Kimberly will be literally fighting demons like some kind of teenage Constantine? (I hope so!) Will this be a more personal story, a look at mental health and its effects, how it manifests, etc.? I might also be interested in that. As it is, I have no expectations for this story, and not in a good way. This is the sort of issue that the cover of a book really helps with.

Also… do you wanna know how I got these scars?

Sitting Here’s See-Sayer
Plot Summary:
Thun, one of the clan’s grandmothers, watches the clans hunters depart, presumably for some good ol’ huntin’. The grandmothers are responsible for, as far as I can tell, midwifery and the delivery of wisdom. After the hunters depart, Thun and the other matrons head off to their secret hideout where they will hangout for the day. On the way there, Thun slips into dreaming--some form of clairvoyance. In this dreaming she sees some fragmented images that she does not understand: something accelerating, flashes of light.

The other matrons notice her strange behavior as she bumps into Wepa (the mother of all mothers), who cautions her to keep her mind in this world. Thun is chastened. The other mothers want her to take up dreaming full time as the clan’s see-sayer, but Thun resists, because she knows what that entails (slow madness, and a lifetime of celibacy). It also appears that Thun is not a traditional mother, anatomically. As they reach the cave and partake in its luxuries (food, blankets, etc.), Thun reflects on her bountiful career as a midwife, and how the clan doesn’t need a see-sayer. The future is, in her mind, as the past was: full of birth, death, more birth, and always birth.

Someone then asks what is in the sky, and all the mothers go outside to observe. Some celestial object is streaking across the sky (a spaceship??!?!?), then crashes. Thun’s vision returns and coincides with this occurrence, and when the questioning continues as tp what it is, she answers: “the future”.

Story Analysis: There is a lot going on here, but because this is ostensibly chapter 1 of a larger work, much of it is not fleshed out beyond hints or the initial seeds of ideas. As such, I will touch briefly on many things, but not dwell too deeply on them.

This clan is some form of hunter-gatherer, pre-modern society, with an established social structure. We don’t get too much info on this, but we do know that the clan’s grandmothers are greatly revered (though we do not know if that equates to being the rulers of the clan). They are semi-nomadic, and believe in some form of magic, at least in terms of future-sight. They live (at least from their perspective) in harmony with the land, and their lives have been peaceful for some time, as far as we know. The clan also seems to have fluid ideas about gender and biological sex, or at least in terms of gender roles: Thun appears to have male anatomy, but fills the role of mother in the clan (though she will not have the biological experience of motherhood). This also doesn’t appear to be something she knew intuitively--until puberty, perhaps?--until changes in her body became apparent. We don’t know anything about the gender roles of the rest of the clan, or whether there are any at all.

That, presumably, would tie into a theme of the larger work, especially when complemented by Thun’s wrestling over her potential identity as clan see-sayer. I can see Thun wrestling with the idea of destiny and fate over whether she is to be the clan’s see-sayer (ironic, that the seer of destinies would wrestle over the compulsion of destiny--or perhaps not ironic at all), and whether she has to accept what everyone else wants from her or whether she can self-determine her own path, along with the consequences of either of those choices. The crashing ship (I’m assuming) also introduces elements of culture shock--both of the clan members reacting to whatever the ship brings, and if its people/beings, how they react to the clan. Whether we have to accept the future, or have some agency to change it, etc etc etc. Thun’s declaration at the end also provides a contrast to what Thun was saying to herself just moments before--that the future is known, because it has been a certain way for so long. The crashing ship immediately provides a new variable into the lives of this clan, and Thun, who has resisted being the see-sayer (though moments before foresaw the outlines of this event) may be forced to change her position by necessity.

Commentary: There is a lot of good stuff going on here. This is excellent world-building, for a few reasons: it is well conceived, well written, and compelling; it trusts us the reader to make some inferences, and to not need mountains of exposition (i.e. describing in detail what a see-sayer is, the structures of the clan, etc.), and even plays with our expectations; it is rooted in character, and uses character to reveal the things we do know about this world. Chapter 1’s are a hard gig, because they have to accomplish these sorts of things while also advancing the plot. This was one of my favorites from this week because it manages to do that well. We get both an initial sense of this clan and this world, and are also immediately presented with the central conflict or inciting incident (the crashing of the object/ship).

There isn’t a whole lot for me to critique negatively here, in part because I don’t know what comes after. A fuller picture would be required to know what this chapter is ultimately trying to accomplish, and whether it is successful at that; I can say with full confidence, though, that this succeeds at a first chapter’s most important job: I want to read more of this. I don’t know whether it would continue in this perspective, or switch to characters from the crashed starship, or include both, or whether this is ultimately just a vignette only thematically connected to some other story (like the beginning of season 2 of The Leftovers, goddammit Lindelof).

This is also just good writing in general, beyond the world-building aspects. It is similar to Neth’s story this week, in that there is both little that happens plot-wise, and little in the way of dialogue, but a tremendous amount is communicated. The trick is doing all that without being boring, a hard task to be sure. Anyway good job is what I’m saying.

HFCS’ Blackfeather
I had a really tough time with this story. It’s mostly a function of the world-building, which I found to be horribly unclear; I am left with so many questions about so many things, and at the end, I basically have no idea what any of this is supposed to mean. Also, basically nothing happens in this story. It fails the first chapter test: no, I do not want to read more.

Mind you, that doesn’t mean it needs to be tossed permanently, it just means it probably means it needs to be tossed out and rewritten. There is a broad problem with your storytelling and world-building: you hint at so many unknown ideas, but so very few of them provide enough detail to have any idea what’s going on. We know precious little about this world your characters inhabit, despite knowing the names of several cities, and some of the practical functions of mail-delivery, and some (ostensibly) important titles, like Heir of the Slayer. What the importance of any of these things is, though, is entirely unclear. Some of the problem here is the mechanics of your prose, too, in revealing these details (or not revealing, as it were). One example: what is a Himari-style braid? I don’t know what that is, and Google just gives me vague anime references, which still isn’t helpful. I also don’t have any sort of description that might give me a clue. Another example: “half-tree, half-stone structures called mabokiin”. This is tricky, I admit. I would much prefer you just use the term mabokiin, and then told us that they were residential dwellings (which you do, in the next clause!). By saying ‘structures called’, though, it turns it into a different kind of exposition. Give us context clues, and trust us to figure it out. That’s the broad problem: you drop so many unknown references and ideas and provide so little in the way of context to determine either what they are supposed to mean or what their significance is.

Some more questions that I do not have enough context clues to figure out. Are these bird-people? They have hairplumes, which I cannot figure out what that is supposed to mean. Plumage is for birds, hair is for people. So what the heck is a hairplume? What is a drakathra? A dragon? I have slightly more information, but it is clearly a made up word. Not a problem, but is this supposed to be a significant reference? If so, I need more info; if not, save the reference until it is, or use a more universal reference. What is the Slayer? Is everyone suspicious of everyone else being a demon? Is it possible for anyone to be a demon? What’s wrong with being a demon? What is a Y-shaped apparatus? Oh it’s just a goddamn perch?!? Why didn’t you just say perch??

Are these two siblings… You know… Look, I’m just saying it’s a little weird in this first scene.

I would rewrite this story from scratch. I would sit down and outline what you want this story to be about, and focus on making this first chapter do only a few things: introduce the characters and a few significant details of your world, and make it exciting. Most of all, it must be clear. You can save a whole bunch of your world-building and ideas for subsequent chapters. You can flesh out characters later. But you gotta make us want to go there first.

dmboogie’s Copyright Trademark
This story really pissed me off. It’s not awful, no, and the grammar is competent, and some of the jokes are even good (“Look, just tell me your name, and why you sound like a robot hosed a ransom note.”). I think it’s because I really, really, really dislike Blade--sorry, BL4D3_W4LK3R_696. I find him unfunny and completely unsympathetic. Even with the apparent goodwill motivating his quest to build a crappy version of the filesharing system that one dude we all know had in college, I just don’t like the dude. And that’s a problem, when he’s your protagonist. (I like Rose, for what it’s worth--she’s got spunk. Though, she isn’t the main character, so who knows how her shtick would hold up under that level of scrutiny.)

(Also, take note that both the other judges liked this story much more than I did, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt.)

This reminded me of Snow Crash, which (in my opinion) is a good thing to be reminded of. Unfortunately, this doesn’t deliver the same qualities that make Snow Crash great. There are hints that this story takes place in some vaguely dystopian future (amazon scrip, figurehead of the resistance, the state of the apartment complex, etc.), but we don’t really get any significant world building here, which is a bit of a bummer--this would benefit by being weirder, in my opinion. This milquetoast dystopia isn’t all that compelling. And ultimately, that is the problem with this chapter as a whole: it fails to compel me to want to read anymore. The conflict of this chapter is essentially resolved, and I have nothing that really hints at any compelling conflict beyond this chapter, aside from these two living in a lovely apartment complex and being under the thumb of our corporate overlord, Jeff Bezos. He also even apparently succeeded in his modest goal of tapping into the router, so, problems solved. Even though the conflicts are resolved, however, this chapter still feels incredibly unsatisfying. Part of that, of course, is I don’t ever really feel as if Blade is in any real danger; coupled with my disinterest in him as a character, the stakes feel really low here.

What is this story supposed to be about? What are the actual, major conflicts here? What are the themes of this going to be? Where is the action? Honestly, just make this story freakin nuts, and it will be better.

Doctor Eckhart’s What You Can’t Leave Behind
So many of the stories from this week made me unreasonably angry, for one reason or another. This story is one of them. It’s just an absolute mess--the tone is all over the place, I have no clue what is going on until halfway through, I can barely keep track of who is talking at any given moment, and I don’t really like any of these characters. Mind you, none of this means that this is a bad idea for a novel, just that I really didn’t like this chapter. It might need to be torn down to the foundations and rebuilt. Or it might need to be thrown out. Depends on how much you like this story.

Let’s talk about the tone here. It’s really hard to know what you are going for here, and I acknowledge that perhaps tonal inconsistency is part of the play here (given that the characters are grappling between taking selfies in one moment and emotional breakdowns in the next), but I really don’t think it works at all. That sort of play would work better later in the book, I’d say; also, it’s hard to pull off well. Usually, when I think of tonal inconsistency, I think about events that don’t match the tone of the writing, in order to make things grotesque/funny/whatever. When the tone of the writing itself is inconsistent, it makes it really hard as a reader to latch on to anything--a really big problem in the first chapter of a book. Even if the tone were consistent, and you were trying to make this read like the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, despite the calamity that has just occurred, it’s a really strange choice for a first chapter--unless you were going to use it to highlight some unusual aspect of your main characters, e.g. they were unbothered by events that would horrify normal people, for reasons related to their character… Anyway, all this brings me to my second point: the obfuscation and withholding of details makes this hard to follow.

There are different reasons that authors intentionally withhold information. Sometimes, it is because a character does not possess that information, and the perspective of the novel means we don’t either; sometimes, an author will hold something for dramatic effect; sometimes, narrators are unreliable; sometimes, an author is attempting to manipulate tone. I’m sure there are more, and all can be valid and effective. Here, though, it is just bewildering. It makes me think you are attempting to manipulate our reaction to these characters, because we don’t find out the reason these women are on the road until more than halfway through, when Nandi sort of casually slips in a mention of the blast after they’ve just been ruminating on romance novels and Astrid’s sex life?! This is part of why the tone feels so wildly inconsistent--like, what the hell? A blast that wipes out the town they came from? What kind of blast can do that? A goddamned nuke? They just lost their cats, not to mention their homes, families, whatever else, and they are cracking wise about high heels? Who the hell are these women? There is also just remarkably little detail in this chapter, to begin with--it’s mostly dialogue (another problem, which I’ll get to in a minute). I know very little about these women, aside from some travel habits. I know nothing about their relationship to each other, their jobs, their appearance… Anything, really. One seems to be a conspiracy theorist, one seems to be a psychopath, and all seem remarkably unconcerned with the fallout of this vague blast. I also don’t know what the landscape looks like--at first, it seems like these women are just on some impromptu trek. I don’t even know if they are on a paved road.

Not only is there precious little information, there is precious little action. Like, nothing happens. These girls talk, without telling us much of anything, but they also don’t do much. They walk, and maybe walk a lot, but nothing happens. They don’t get anywhere, they don’t encounter anything or anybody, they don’t make any major decisions. There is an additional problem with that: I don’t know who the hell is talking. Partly because I have so little information about these characters, so I don’t know one from the other to begin with, but also it’s just all dialogue all the time, sometimes without attribution. I found myself confused most of the time, having to re-read to try to keep the characters straight, and then I just kind of gave up. Partly, it’s the presence of three characters talking in equal measure, with little to distinguish them from one another in speech patterns. But really I just need more detail and more action.

This fails the first chapter test. I don’t want to read more of this. I will say, though, that I could be convinced--post-apocalypse, conspiracy theories, all that’s cool stuff. So maybe there is a good story idea hiding in here, and this thing turns into an absolute banger. Right now, though, it’s just not.

Jan 20, 2012

:frogsiren: UNRELATED REDEMPTION TIME :frogsiren:

Week 311: It's a poor craftsman that blames his tools

1248 words


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 06:48 on Jan 5, 2021

Aug 2, 2002




because not everybody reads the discord i thought i'd pop in to let y'all know that team archive is currently working on some archive upgrades because why the hell not. PM me any suggestions you might have and I'll consider them if it sounds reasonable and i don't think it'll take a lot of effort.

there's a new tool to play around with to see how many individual words you know, find all your unique spelling mistakes, and see all the stories that use the word "butt" (it's a lot)

in addition you can now favorite more stories, up to total/10 (3 minimum) cause apparently writers can't stop huffing their own farts

more coming soon

May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


College Slice
:siren: Week 418 Judgment! :siren:

Many of the stories this week firmly entrenched themselves in the soggy middle of the pack through their use of either jarring tone, tedious exposition, or general lack of stuff happening. Others took the source material and built upon it truly unique and interesting stories with their own theme and voice. Some tried to do that and failed miserably. Let’s start with those:

The loss goes to CaligulaKangaroo’s effort “A Few More Guys Like Batman.” The judges found it confusing, boring, and riddled with the aforementioned tone issues. DM’s are given to Something Else and AlmightyDerelict for not quite reaching the middle of the pack with their entries. AlmightyDerelict was hobbled by a hell rule that they couldn’t quite overcome; Something Else had no such excuse. But, as always, we write so that we can improve on our bad words, and I have no doubt they will bounce back strong!

On a brighter note, the judges agreed that three stories deserved positive mention. First, Tyrannosaurus’s depiction of an assassin haunted by guilt earned our first Honorable Mention thanks to its technical expertise, clean structure, and layered story. Also receiving an HM is crabrock for crafting an emotionally intense, almost painful introspective tale of love, loss, and life—actually no, we just liked the butt joke.

Our winner this week took their movie setting and created an original, interesting, and rather melancholy story that we all agreed rose above the rest. Congratulations to our winner Chopstick Dystopia! “Authentic Los Angeles Ramen” takes the prize this week. The throne is yours!

Apr 30, 2006
week 418 crits

Chopstick Dystopia - “Authentic Los Angeles Ramen”

Have I seen the movie? - Blade Runner: I’ve watched the first fifteen minutes twice

Enji Kato serves ramen to a tourist and comes to reconsider the concept of authenticity. I liked this. The prose is a highlight here, intertwined with the POV to capture this kind of weary melancholy, and the imagery is precise and striking. Even in the short form, there’s a sense of plot, in the way Enji reconsiders authenticity here. And I like how there’s a lot going on here; even with the tight wordcount, the story weaves together Enji’s ennui with his wife’s moodlink and this almost mundane day in the life of the ramen place. I also appreciate how this story isn’t tied to the events of the film, but instead just uses its world for context.

MockingQuantum - “Jones the Cat, as played by Werner Herzog”

Have I seen the movie? - Alien: nope!

Cat muses about the approach of a space cat. This is not really a story, but I’m mostly OK with that, since the writing is fun, clever, and lively. “They are right, to see me a necessary symbol to sustain their humanity, and to treat me like a treasured relative and appease me with food and scratches from their impressively dextrous and deliciously fleshy fingers” – that’s good stuff! I think making the cat more involved with events would give this more of a story-shape. Not having seen this movie yet, I figure that this story is mostly tracing the events of the movie, and I feel like this prompt is asking for something more ambitious and divergent (but I’ll let the more culturally literate other judges make that call.) As it stands, this is fun to read, but feels like a pretty minor piece.

Something Else - “Busted!”

Have I seen the movie? - Ghostbustster: Perhaps the most shameful one here – I’ve only seen the remake.

So this is the story about some hapless clown masquerading as a Ghostbuster who gets caught, stands up for himself, and turns into a ghost. I’m wondering if I’m missing important context for the clown / father here. The prose is nice, and the piece is well-paced, although I’m left wondering how/when the clown died (a reread makes it clearer that he gets hit by a bus), and I don’t think there’s a lot of depth here. There’s some interesting character work with the clown, although it all feels a bit “arch,” tongue-in-cheek, which makes it hard to take seriously.

Simply Simon - “Bill’s Secret”

Have I seen the movie? - Groundhog Day. Nope!

Not a huge fan of this. The tone seems to weave all over the place – one moment it seems to be this kind of melancholy longing, another moment it seems to be black humor, and, worst of all, it kind of settles in this over-the-top satirical mood. The choice to tell this story in second person amplifies this tonal issues; the piece often feels like it’s sneering at this character, which I guess makes sense for the internalized homophobia he’s dealing with, but it makes the piece unpleasant to read. I didn’t hate this, as I think there’s useful bits of character work here, but this is definitely in my lower bucket.

Saucy_Rodent - “Clavius”

Have I seen the movie? - 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yep!

The starving residents of the moon base Clavius are starving and make several appeals for their rescue. I think this is handled well, but I found it a little hard to follow. Who’s speaking in the section where they read the statement reminding them of their mission? How’d this group arise in defiance of the leadership council? It was confusing how we went from that to the guy who communicated with the Soviets leading the group. But on the whole, this works: events happen, things change, there are stakes, the ending wraps things up.

a friendly penguin - “Everyone Wants Something”

Have I seen the movie? - The Big Lebowski. Nope.

Marty the landlord is so busy making repairs that he has no time to practice his music, and even his day off is interrupted. This is the first piece this week where I feel like I’m missing something important due to not seeing the movie, as this just doesn’t feel like a story to me. I found myself not caring about Marty the landlord here or whether he’d have an audience at the end – there’s just not enough context in this story to give it to us, and the story ends on this note of “welp, here’s another person that doesn’t care,” and it makes me wonder what the point of this story is. What does it matter that Marty is searching for profundity but doesn’t find it? I think for this story to work for me, I’d need to have a clearer answer to this question than “nothing matters.”

crabrock - “Jurrear endic Park”

Have I seen the movie? - Jurassic Park. Yes, but it doesn’t really matter.

Ray’s son doesn’t hang onto his rear end. This is goofy and fun, but very silly. I guess that’s what the story is attempting to do, but there’s not a whole lot of “there” there. I smiled! This is a sitcom beat turned into a story, though, high camp and mostly vamping on one joke. The blow-up gloves as a substitute butt is a nice touch, though.

Tyrannosaurus - “Salieri Stopped Writing in 1804, or the Three Seasons of an Assassin”

Have I seen the movie? - Amadeus. Half of it!

Vogler poisons Mozart so that his son won’t be castrated, and then he breaks Saleiri’s fingers. This is fun to read and skillful on a technical level, and the specific cultural details sketch in Vogler well; I think this story does a good job at balancing different aspects of Vogler’s interests and sympathies. I guess I feel like the story is a little overstuffed here – we begin with Vogler’s sympathies and desire to protect his son, we’re led to understand that he’s being put in an impossible position here, but then the ending has almost nothing to do with this. I mean, I do like the irony of the son become a priest, but I think the thrust of the story turning to “Vogler appreciates music” makes the story feel a little scattered.

Thranguy - “Nina, Who Clowned on Charles Barkley”

Have I seen the movie? - Space Jam. Technically yes, though I remember almost none of it.

Nina thinks about how her experience clowning on Charles Barkley will set her up for life. Given the constraints of this flash rule, the prose here is good, clear, but this isn’t really a story. And that’s understandable – Nina’s just thinking about the endless potential offered by this unusual moment. And there’s actually a poignancy here, which is awesome in this Space Jam story without the most common words in the language.

AstronautCharlie - “We’re All Staying Late”

Have I seen the movie? - Die Hard. No, but I know it’s actually a Christmas movie.

Maria is asked to work while being taken hostage, so she kills her boss, and her other co-workers don’t care. There are absolutely some great passages in this story capturing how Maria feels ground-down by her office culture, but unfortunately the story really suffers from tone problems. I think this story is attempting to go for satirical, but in making Maria conscious of her impending death – and having her really consider the consequences of this – the tone becomes much more serious. That means that the absurdist satire of this workaholic culture doesn’t really work for me. It feels like it’s operating on a different level, on a story that doesn’t ask us to care intimately for Maria. It’s the kind of satire that works best when all characters are broad and larger than life.

Noah - “Ebb”

Have I seen the movie? - Forrest Gump. Yes!

Carol Williams thinks about how he will get cut from the football team and lose his scholarship, and then it happens. This is one of several stories this week where we kind of just hang around in the character’s head for a while. I think the characterization here is nice. The story does a good job at stacking up all these petty insults, all this motivation behind Carol… and then it just doesn’t go anywhere. As a reader, I wanted to see him do something surprising, something that moved him past his spot of self-hatred, and we just didn’t see that here.

CaligulaKangaroo - “A Few More Guys Like Batman”

Have I seen the movie? - The Dark Knight, yep!

Unemployed worker in Gotham attempts to fight crime and fails. I think what this story is trying to capture is how tough it is to make a living when comic-book crime and crime fighting can interrupt your day at any time. Unfortunately, like most of the stories this week, this piece has tone issues. I don’t think there are enough jokes in this piece for “over the top and silly” to land, but this character ends up losing his assault on crime because – because he thinks about his last job for too long while facing off against criminals? Why does our unnamed protagonist go along with this? There’s some energy in this piece, which I appreciated, but mostly this left me disoriented and confused.

AlmightyDerelict - “A Most Troubling Offer”

Have I seen the movie? - Fellowship of the Ring, I have!

Farmer Maggot scares hobbits off his farm, is asked to betray hobbits but doesn’t. This wasn’t the roughest flash rule this week but I can definitely see it hemming this story in; it wants to get inside Farmer Maggot’s internal life but can’t. The effect is that the story doesn’t have a great deal of impact. We don’t understand if there’s any sort of conflict at Barliman’s – my instinct is that there’s not and this is a clear decision, but that means that this story doesn’t really have a lot of lasting conflict. I wanted higher stakes, and I also wanted a conflict that was more distinct from the movie than this was.

cptn_dr - “A Drop of Roberts’ Blood”

Have I seen the movie? I’ve seen scenes, but never the whole thing.

Dread Captain Roberts’ pirates talk about how they’re hungry and wonder where Dread Captain Roberts is. I like this because it has energy and life to it, but it’s a story about pirates sitting around and chatting. And it’s got that Princess Bride narration to it, which, again, is lively and makes this piece fun to read, but it also means this piece isn’t really settling its own ground, and feels more fan-fictiony. And it’s absolutely doing a good job at that! It’s just not really what this prompt was looking for.

sparksbloom fucked around with this message at 15:42 on Aug 11, 2020

Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010

lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE
Thunderdome Week 419: The Thunder Chef!

"Tell me what you eat,
and I'll tell you what you are."

- Brillat-Savarin

Announcer: "Nearly a decade ago, one sub-forum's fantasy became reality, in a form never seen before: The Thunderdome. A giant writing arena. The motivation for spending the sub-forum's fortune to create this arena was to encounter new and original works, which could be called true artistic creations.

"The challengers have one week to tackle the theme ingredient of the prompt. Using all their senses, skills, and creativity, they're to prepare artistic words never read before. Every battle reputations are on the line in the Thunderdome, where writers pit their artistic creations together to find out who... will become.... the Thunder Chef!"

If my memory serves me correctly, it was a humble ingredient that first launched the Thunderdome. Yet has there ever been a suitably bacchanalian celebration of cuisine?

This week, depictions of food and drink in your submission should be lavish or pivotal.

Your descriptions might be vaguely pornographic, but please do not write actual porn. No loving with the food. No gross out stuff. Be merry, celebrate the vittles.

I want to sink my teeth into these culinary constructions, so you each get 2,000 words. But of course you know, using an ingredient just because it's in your pantry and there's space left in the pan isn't likely to improve what you end up serving.

If you would like a specific ingredient, you may ask for one, and it should become important to your story.

Sign ups due: Midnight of Friday, August 14th (America/New York)
Submissions due: Midnight of Sunday, August 16th (America/New York)

Chopstick Dystopia
Mocking Quantum

Sparksbloom - Cinnamon
GrandmaParty - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Antivehicular - Yellow Bell Pepper
Sitting Here - Preserved Orange
Saucy_Rodent - Lamb Fat
CaligulaKangaroo - Hummus
Thranguy - Dark Beer
Something Else - Water
Noah - Butter
Cache Cab - сало
Freakie - Duck Eggs
Ceighk - Rye
The Saddest Rhino - Fig

Chopstick Dystopia fucked around with this message at 07:25 on Aug 17, 2020

Apr 30, 2006
in! and I'd like an ingredient

Jan 31, 2003

My LPth are Hot Garbage
Biscuit Hider
In. One ingredient, please.

Jan 20, 2012

I will join Chopstick Dystopia as judge this week. I expect the highest caliber of taste, presentation, and originality.

Be warned, I will judge your entries with Jeffrey Steingarten-esque jadedness and disdain.

Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving And something has got to give

In, and toss me an ingredient, Chairman


Chopstick Dystopia
Jun 16, 2010

lowest high and highest low loser of: WEED WEE

sparksbloom posted:

in! and I'd like an ingredient


GrandmaParty posted:

In. One ingredient, please.

Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

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