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|# ? Feb 7, 2023 01:21|
It's a well-known and undisputed fact that the only two good webcomics are Achewood and Super Mega
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Protagonist attribute: beaver
Protagonist obstructor: railroad baron
What the protagonist wants: all of the water in the mackenzie river
Story setting: On Earth, sometime in history or pre-history
Setting details: 1880s Canada
World problem: fleas and ticks, everywhere
Your protagonist...Is trying to get the thing they want, but it's difficult
Your protagonist's attribute...Helps them gets what they want
Your protagonist's obstructor...Is overcome in the course of pursuing what they want
At the end of the story...The world problem is overshadowed by a worse problem
An amphibious rodent, distinguished by its broad, oval, horizontally-flattened, scaly tail, palmated hind feet, coat of soft fur, and hard incisor teeth with which it cuts down trees; remarkable for its skill in constructing huts of mud and wood for its habitation, and dams for preserving its supply of water.
Murray the beaver, like all beavers, was naturally industrious, but it was the sword that made him ambitious. Now, Murray didn’t go out looking for a sword. A beaver, in the course of his normal beaver life in the wilds of the Northwest Territories of Canada in 1886, has no need for even the idea of a sword, though if they are unlucky they may have seen long knife, which they could use as a conceptual jumping off point if they truly needed to, though that’s unlikely as most beavers who encounter these long knives soon have no need of anything, beaver heaven being well-stocked with all things that a beaver could desire. Nor was the sword some soldier’s castoff, thrown into a lake and tumbled downstream until it serendipitously was caught in our hero’s dam—though that actually would have made a lot more sense, at least if it had just been a normal sword. But a beaver finding a normal sword could be, at best, the set-up for a joke, and this is not a joke. It’s a story. With jokes in it. Maybe. But not the word count, that’s not a joke. This story really is 4,840 words long.
Murray, who for the record was not called Murray at this time, but who I will still refer to as Murray, both for continuity’s sake and because the intricacies of beaver naming customs would use up too many of my words, even in a week with such a generous wordcount, and where I wrote twice as many words as allowed anyway, but it’s still easier all around to just call him Murray, who had, a few hours earlier put the final slap of mud on his well-built, if modestly-sized dam across his small creek, and was sitting cozily and contentedly in his den talking to his friend Eddie (also not his real name), a muskrat, about his ongoing frustration with the number of fleas and ticks that bothered him in the summer, a subject on which he and Eddie largely agreed, and about what kind of bark he looked forward to eating, which Eddie found somewhat boring, and listening to the satisfying sound of the water rising and spreading around them. This was one of their most beloved sounds, so neither was best pleased when it was interrupted by a loud splash, especially since it was the kind of splash made by something large coming out of the water instead of falling in to the water, which wouldn’t be great, since this is bear country, but would at least make sense. There hadn’t been anything big in the pond that should be able to come out of it.
A beaver, at least, a normal beaver’s first responsibility is to his dam, and since, for the next two minutes at least, Murray was a normal beaver, he slipped down into the submerged tunnels leading out of his den and into his new pond to investigate. Eddie came, too, not because he thought to be helpful, but because he was easily bored and thought something interesting might happen, and he was right!
Standing waist-deep, and increasingly deeper, in Murray’s pond was a human woman. Human…ish. And mostly naked. And she was holding a sword.
“I’m the Lady of the Lake, and I will give you this sword in exchange for an unspecified boon, which I will claim at a later date,” she said, and her voice sounded like a bell, but Murray didn’t know that because at this point he had never heard a bell.
Murray didn’t say anything at all to her, for all the usual reasons a beaver does not reply to human(ish) attempts at conversation. This, unfortunately, did not stop the Lady of the Lake from forcing the swords into Murray’s front paws, which before now had been primarily used to transport dam-building materials, and were not well-suited to handling bladed weapons.
Two really surprising things happened next: His paws turned into human hands, and he was suddenly able to read the inscription on the sword. The rest of his body became human, too, and the sword said “LEXCALIBUR — O.E.D. 2nd Ed.”
Readers who are inclined to google things or who have perhaps recently watched the 2019 historical drama The Professor and the Madman starring Mel Gibson and Sean Penn may protest that the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary had not even been started in 1886, and in fact the only part of the OED then in existence was the first of the 125 facsimiles that made up the first edition, which covered A to Ant. However, if that’s the kind of thing that’s going to make this story too unrealistic for you, here is a link to the entirely factual wikipedia article about beavers, which you may prefer to this story: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaver.
Actually, even readers who are unperturbed by anachronisms may prefer the wikipedia article.
In any case, it’s considerably harder to swim in human form than beaver form, especially when you have only been in human form for 5 seconds ever and you are holding a sword, and swimming is necessary if you want to make your way in the world as a beaver. A comprehensive understanding of the English language, it’s history, and its evolution over time are similarly quite useless to a beaver in the wilds of the Northwest Territories of Canada in 1886. Before Murray could even use his new-found knowledge to say “hello” or “greetings” or “howdy” to the Lady of the Lake, the water was over her head, and she vanished, leaving behind a very confused beaver in human form.
Murray dropped the sword, which unsurprisingly sank to the bottom of the pond, as it had no magical inclinations related to floating, returned to beaver form, and continued living a mostly normal beaver life, except that sometimes he would remember the many disturbing references to “beaver hats” he now knew, and shiver all the fleas off his body, so actually it wasn’t too bad even when that happened, and Eddie would usually give him some bark to nibble until he calmed down.
And so things continued until winter, when Murray and Eddie’s cheerful conversation about the how the decline in tick population coincided with the drop in temperatures was interrupted by a loud splash, this time of the sort made when something big goes into the water. It was actually more of a crack-splash, since there was a layer of ice that needed to be broken to get into the water. If they’d been paying attention to the outside world only moments earlier, they also would have heard the sounds of wolves howling and a fully-human woman screaming.
And so for the second time, Murray found a woman in his lake—this time wearing significantly more clothing than the other, not carrying a sword, and also drowning. Normally a human drowning in a beaver pond is an annoyance for the beaver, but not something they would go out of their way to stop, exactly. But, for all he continued living like a normal beaver, the sword had changed Murray, and so when he saw the girl, with her porcelain skin, fine-boned wrists, and long, golden hair still streaming towards the surface of the water, even as her lithe body sank to the bottom, and he saw the wolves still nosing around the edge of the hole in the ice, he did a most unbeaverish thing, and pulled her up into his den, where she would be safe.
Now, pulling an adult human, even an adorably petite (but NOT childlike, that would be gross) adult woman, in period-appropriate winter clothing, though at least she wasn’t wearing a bustle, or beaver-god forbid the hoops or panniers fashionable in previous decades, through underwater tunnels made of sticks and designed only for beavers, and the occasional muskrat, which note, is on average smaller than the average beaver, is not an easy task, and required a fair amount of maneuvering and resulted in a fair number of scrapes, scratches, and torn clothing. But less severe scrapes, scratches, and torn clothing than would likely have resulted had she been more successfully attacked by wolves. It was a small, spiky place that smelled strongly of beaver, but it was still a place where she was away from the wolves and could breath, which is why when she woke up she was able to scream so loudly that Eddie fell off his bed of reeds into the water in a bit of physical comedy that she was utterly unable to appreciate, because she immediately passed out again.
The next time she woke up she didn’t scream, but she did have a panic attack, which her mother probably would have called an attack of the vapors were she still alive, although were her mother still alive her father probably would not have dragged her out to the wilds of the Northwest Territories, etc., and all the violent thrashing she did really just made things worse for everyone. Murray thought she might calm down if there were another human with her, and if not, he could at least tell her to stay still or it was going to be a nightmare to untangle her luxurious mass of hair from his living room walls, and maybe he was correct that the presence of another human would have helped, but seeing a beaver transform into a very large, well-muscled man with generous lips that would have looked almost feminine on a less ruggedly masculine face, who was by now practically on top of her because they were in a very confined space, did not help, and she screamed and passed out again, which I suppose actually might be considered helpful in this situation.
The next time she woke up, Murray was ready, and he put a strong arm around her waist, and a finger on her petal-soft lips and, gazing into eyes as green as a birch leaf in summer said, “don’t move, you’re safe here.”
To which she replied “why are your teeth orange?”
Murray, despite his masterful command of the english language (he knew, for example that the word “orange” may have descended from the sanskrit word “nāraṅga”), did not know why his teeth were orange. In fact, he may not have even known his teeth were orange, as beavers don’t have much reason to gaze at their own reflections, even if they do usually have a suitably reflective surface to do it in. It turns out, Beaver’s teeth are orange because they have large quantities of iron in the enamel, which helps keep them strong enough to gnaw down trees day after day.
Being a beaver, Murray also did not suffer from human conditions such as “pride” (1384 Wycliffe Bible: Fro withynne, of the herte of men comen forth yuele thouȝtis pride, folye.) or “embarrassment” (1694 E. Calamy Funeral Sermon: We have no need therefore to be in love with Clogs, Impediments, and Embarrasments, as too too many seem to be.), and so simply replied “I don’t know.”
The woman then asked the much more sensible question, “where am I?”
“In my den,” Murray said. “There were wolves, and you fell through the ice….”
“Yes, I haven’t forgotten the wolves,” she said. “What do you mean your den? Isn’t this a beaver den? There was a beaver here earlier, I would swear it.”
“Ah yes, well, you see, I am that beaver, yes, and so this is my den.”
“You are clearly a man, and a well-formed one, and no beaver,” she said, “though you do smell strongly of fresh water, beaver musk, and something indescribably masculine that I have never smelled before.”
“Is that good?” Murray asked.
There was a pause where neither knew what to say, because really what can anyone say to that?
“I’m Annabelle Payne,” she said, finally.
“I’m….” And this is when Murray picked the name Murray, which readers who are inclined to google things or who have perhaps recently watched the 2019 historical drama The Professor and the Madman starring Mel Gibson and Sean Penn may notice is the last name of the first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, James Murray.
“It’s nice to meet you, Murray,” Annabelle said, because politeness will get you through nearly anything, and then, because it was rather more urgent, “do you think I will be able to return home soon? If I’m not in my bed by morning, I fear my overbearing father will surely burn down the entire forest looking for me.”
“Then why were you running through the forest instead of staying in your bed?”
“I was running away.”
“Well, the wolves, eventually, but before that, from my overbearing father who is forcing me to wed the most odious man, Basilford Sageworthy III. He is the son of a prominent London shipping magnate, and my father believes that if I marry him, his father will agree to fund Daddy’s proposal to build a railroad through the wilds of Canada, all the way through the hinterlands to its northern coast.”
“Why would anyone want to do that?” asked Murray, reasonably.
“Daddy says it’s progress and no one can stand in the way of progress, so I need to stand at the alter of progress and make way for the tracks of progress to criss-cross the nation.”
That made no sense to Murray, or to Annabelle, or to anyone except maybe her father, and even there I’m not so sure, but Murray, in any case, acknowledged that though he knew the first written record of the word “railroad” was from 1757, and the word “magnate” used to refer to the nobility and now referred to captains of industry, which he would later realize actually said rather a lot, he was no expert on these things.
Social commentary aside, even two people who are surprised to discover a powerful and instantaneous mutual attraction inside a beaver den cannot remain comfortably chatting in a beaver den all day, even if one of them turns back into a beaver, and also there was the whole burning down the forest thing, so Murray swam back into his pond to poke his head up through the hole in the ice and see if it was safe to leave. Eddie, who had long ago abandoned the increasing awkwardness inside the den to have a good icy swim and a nice long look at some wolves from a safe distance, swam over to him to ask a very pertinent question:
“What are you doing?!”
“I have to take her home,” Murray said.
“That’s not what I mean and you know it,” Eddie said, but Murray couldn’t really explain his feelings to himself, much less to a muskrat who had never turned into a human and gained the definition and history of 291,500 English words, including 47,100 obsolete words and 240 spurious words, in a matter of seconds.
No wolves were in sight, and Murray couldn’t hear or smell any, either, so he went to fetch Annabelle out of his den so she could return to her overbearing father and save the forest—it was only later that Murray realized she was exaggerating his likely reaction for dramatic effect. Most animals are, by nature, very literal, and beavers especially so. Murray’s webbed feet and strong, paddle-shaped tail made maneuvering through the water easy, but getting Annabelle out of the den through submerged tunnels was even more difficult than getting her in, primarily because she was conscious and thus making everything worse.
Once she was out of the tunnels and to the edge of the ice, Murray realized that he would not be able to get her out of the pond in beaver form, and so he transformed into human form once again, and in human form he was more keenly aware that she was cold, wet, and shivering and that she probably couldn’t make it a hundred steps if that, and even if she did, the wolves might come back, and so for the first time in his life, he did the chivalrous (from the french chevalier, meaning a mounted soldier, or knight) thing and escorted her home. Luckily, they found her shawl on the ground near the edge of the pond, and it was only a little shredded by wolves, so he wasn’t entirely naked when he walked up to Carrington Payne’s house at the settlement of Fort Good Hope, carrying Payne’s cold, wet, and shivering daughter in his arms.
And he might even have paid attention to the rifle in Payne’s hands if that hadn’t been the moment when he first laid eyes on the Mackenzie River, which would always, for the rest of his life, from that day forward, be associated with the feel of Annabelle in his arms.
Where previously Murray had always been quite satisfied with his stream, and felt his pond had grown to quite a respectable, if not exactly grandiose (1855 R. Browning, In a Balcony: Things painted by a Rubens…All better, all more grandiose than the life) size, it all now seemed, perhaps due to his increased vocabulary for ambitious, bombastic, flamboyant, grand, imposing, lofty, magnificent, monumental, noble, pompous, pretentious, showy, splashy, affected, august, cosmic, egotistic, fustian, high-falutin’, high-flown, impressive, lordly, majestic, ostentatious, overwhelming, purple, royal, stately, unfathomable, vast things, it all now seemed inadequate. And thus did Murray truly come to understand covetousness, and not, as said in Merlin, or The early history of King Arthur (▸?c1450), "Desirous to Iuste and covetouse to do chiualrie," but to possess something for himself. And thus also did he become, pursuant to definition 1.b. of covetous in the OED (Of actions: Eager), an eager beaver.
Ok, moving on.
I want that, Murray thought, gazing out over the spectacular riparian panorama spread out before him, and holding Annabelle in his strong, tanned arms. I want all of it.
Then a bullet whizzed by his head.
“What in the unvarnished hell are you doing with my daughter?!” shouted Carrington Payne.
“Bringing her home,” Murray said, setting her down gently, but staying close enough that she could lean on him, should she need the support of a strong man who nonetheless believed she was strong enough to stand on her own.
“He saved my life, Daddy,” Annabelle said. I realize it’s weird for an adult woman to still call her father “Daddy,” but people were weird in the 1880s. This is in no way intended to imply that she is childlike in any mental, emotional, or physical aspect.
“Do you know what kind of scandal this would cause if anyone saw you?” Payne bellowed, then realized that several neighbors had come outside to find out why he was shooting a gun inside the settlement. “Now you must marry, and soon.”
“But we just met, “ protested Murray because things were getting serious very quickly and he wasn’t sure it would be right to make a commitment to a human woman when he hadn’t yet come to terms with his new dual-nature, his new janus-faced existence as both man and beaver, yet simultaneously neither one, but that seemed awkward to explain.
“Not to you!” Payne barked, “The daughter of Carrington Payne will not marry a strange man that she met in the wilds of the Northwest Territories of Canada in this, the year of our lord, 1886!”
“But father,” Annabelle protested, indicating that she was serious by using the term “father” instead of “daddy” for which we are all greatly appreciative, “you know I don’t love Basilford Sageworthy III, and I never will!”
“Marriage isn’t about love, girl, it’s about progress, and Basilford Sageworthy II’s money will fund that progress, and my railroad will bring modern industry, the glories of capitalism, and a unified Canada to this beautiful, unsullied place where nature still survives untouched beyond small pockets of human civilization, as long as we pretend white people are the only people who ever lived here. You will marry Basilford the day he arrives here in Fort Good Hope, which conveniently won’t be for several months because of our remote location.”
“Alright, Daddy,” Annabelle said, sadly, because in 1886 women were still treated like chattel and she had already been nearly eaten by wolves when she tried to run away, and her limited experience hadn’t prepared her for independent action. Murray looked at the tears glistening at the edges of her luminous green eyes, and at the sun glinting off the immense, frozen expanse of the Mackenzie river, and felt his heart breaking for the first time.
“No!” cried Murray. “None of this is alright! Not the loveless marriage, or the railroad, or this grand body of water flowing unhindered to the Arctic Ocean with it’s extensive watershed that drains nearly twenty percent of Canada!”
“And what are you going to do about it?” sneered Payne.
“I’m going to build a dam,” said Murray.
“No one can build a dam across the Mackenzie River,” Payne scoffed.
“A beaver can,” said Murray.
The significance of this statement was lost on Carrington Payne, who remained unaware that the strange “man” his daughter met in the wilds was actually a beaver who found a magic sword that gave him human form and the ability to instantly recall approximately 33,300 quotations from Shakespeare, all completely out of context.
Now, it may be impossible for a normal beaver in the real world to build a dam across the Mackenzie river, which at Fort Good Hope has a width of approximately 1.6 kilometers, a depth of approximately 6 meters, and a discharge rate of over 22,000 m/s3 but for the purposes of this story, it’s totally feasible with hard work and the power of love. The word “approximate” is from the Latin approximātus, the past participle of approximāre (Tertullian), which means “to draw near to,” and as Murray built the dam, and Annabelle sat on the bank watching wistfully, at least for a week before she realized that she was capable of doing more and learned how to chop wood and drag it to the edge of the river, and occasionally bring Murray a ham sandwich in case he tired of eating bark all the time, because she didn’t feel the need to abandon her femininity and gentleness even though she could now swing an axe with alarming precision, they drew nearer to each other, too.
It was difficult, and there were many setbacks, usually of the “oh poo poo, that’s a lot of water and part of the dam broke” variety, but occasionally some of the “intentional sabotage by local overbearing father with nefarious plans relating to the marriage of his daughter” variety as well. But, the process of building a dam, for a beaver at least, is one of relentless, repetitive toil, just hour after hour of swimming back and forth with rocks, gnawing on trees, which at least has the benefit of doubling as a snack, hauling trees, putting trees where you want them, putting mud on trees, etc., so while the setbacks were annoying, they weren’t enough to stop Murray from continuing to strive against the river which he had sworn to master (1697 J. Dryden tr. Virgil Æneis: We strive in vain against the Seas, and Wind.)
Winter turned to spring, turned to summer, and the roads became passable again and the much-and-deservedly-reviled Basilford Sageworthy III, and his father, Basilford Sageworthy II, drew closer and closer to Fort Good Hope, and Murray scratched and picked at the ticks and fleas that had returned with the warm weather, and the dam grew bigger, and Eddie came for a visit and acted suitably impressed, and complained with equal vehemence about the insect situation, and did his best to be friendly towards Annabelle even though he could not adopt human form and did not know any english words at all. And Annabelle helped build the dam, and learned important lessons about her own strength, and fell further in love with Murray, which was weird, because he was a beaver nearly all the time now, but he could turn into a man, and he did love her, so maybe that makes it ok? At least a little bit?
Annabelle was not there when the final slap of mud went on to Murray’s monument to hubris and love, because it was the morning of her wedding to the most loathsome Basilford, and she was locked in her bedroom, and had not brought her axe with her so she could not hack her way out, but she had faith that Murray would come and save her, as he did, after all, have all that iron in his teeth. But the time came to walk to the church, and he didn’t appear. And when she had finished the walk to the church, he still hadn’t appeared, but it was a short walk, so she still had hope, and Murray did come, eventually. But the water came first.
Annabelle was halfway down the aisle when it began to seep under the church doors. Several women, who were wearing their best shoes, because it was a wedding, began to scream, then men began to scream at them to calm down, there was nothing to scream about, and then someone opened the door and they saw that all of Fort Good Hope was a foot deep in water and getting deeper by the minute, so the men conceded that there had indeed been good reason to scream, but they didn’t admit that out loud, of course, they just started screaming louder about it, as well.
Murray took advantage of all the hullabaloo (which some allege began as a wolf-hunting cry, though there is no evidence to support it, but it does make for a nice call back to their first meeting, I think) to sneak into the church, change into human form, and replace that anathema Basilford at the altar, and it was a good thing he did, because Carrington Payne wasn’t going to stop a wedding just because his daughter was in water up to her chin. She could still say the vows and she drat well would, and she drat well did, just not to the man her father intended. And still the water was rising as Murray kissed his bride. It was a kiss unlike either of them had felt before, which is unsurprising since it was the first time either of them had kissed someone, like, for real, but even if it hadn’t been, it still would have been special, I’m quite sure.
The water was spreading, too. In fact, it will go out before it goes up, because gravity, but anyway, before long the entire valley, as far as the eye could see, was one beautiful lake, held snug and secure by Murray’s legendary dam. It was all his. The water was his and Annabelle was his—but by her own choice, because Murray was not a toad like a certain person who I’m sure I don’t need to name again, but will, because his name is funny. Basilford Sageworthy III, Basilford Sageworthy II, and Carrington Payne all went home to Ontario, the railroad was cancelled, the dam held, and the lake continued to fill.
Murray and Annabelle were sitting in the bell tower of the former Church of Our Lady of Good Hope, which Annabelle had cleverly turned into a very cozy little den, having tea with Eddie the muskrat, who liked to come by when he got bored in the pond, which was often, and listening to the soothing sound of water lapping against the stained glass windows, which actually exist, unlike the bell tower, which I just made up for plot purposes, when they were interrupted by the sound of a giant splash, the kind of splash made by something large coming out of the water.
“What was that?” asked Annabelle.
“I’m going to go look,” said Eddie, in muskrat, but Murray translated for him. “Maybe it’s my turn to get a cool sword.”
“God, I hope not,” said Murray.
Alas, hopes are meant to be dashed, and when Murray and Annabelle looked out the window, they saw a hundred-foot tall, mostly naked, human-ish woman emerging from the lake and saying “I will give you this sword in exchange for an unspecified boon, which I will claim at a later date,” and her voice sounded like a bell, which Murray had now heard, what with the living in a bell tower thing, and she was handing Eddie a sword that was at least ten times as big as he was, and which was inscribed in very large and painfully clear lettering: SEXCALIBUR.
But since erotica is banned in Thunderdome, this is where the story shall end.
|# ? Aug 24, 2020 11:54|
I'm in. Let's go, zaddy.
|# ? Aug 24, 2020 12:42|
In, because I am a special boy.
|# ? Aug 24, 2020 13:42|
|# ? Aug 24, 2020 14:03|
|# ? Aug 24, 2020 14:22|
what the hell, I had fun last week so I'm jumping IN again
|# ? Aug 24, 2020 16:57|
|# ? Aug 24, 2020 17:02|
|# ? Aug 24, 2020 19:45|
let's have a crit frenzy
Hi friends! Week 421 is well underway and I hope you all sign up for AntiV's week.
That said, since week 420 is going to take a couple days to judge, I would love it if people critiqued each other's stories! Particularly if someone wrote a story for your outline, though I urge everyone to drop a crit for at least one entry in week 420.
BYOB friends and any other newbies: feel free to give feedback to the people who used your outline! Even just telling them whether you liked or didn't like their story is good and fine.
Edit: You can also now find recaps on apple podcasts!
Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 22:24 on Aug 24, 2020
|# ? Aug 24, 2020 22:18|
this crit is for Andrew Niccol who took my prompt and made a pretty good movie from it. great job, thanks, i enjoyed watching it.
|# ? Aug 24, 2020 22:35|
The First Cud Is The Deepest
You wrote a story so you get a line crit! Hooray!
The TV in the living room is blaring news about the latest crisis, something about penises, but from my bathroom the warnings are distant and muffled. The laser thermometer beeps once to let me know my temperature. 98.6, same as the last six times. I click my teeth. in typo the cavern-like master bath the sound cracks like a gunshot, and I jump a little and swear in surprise at my stupidity. The thermometer is broken I suspect, or more likely the battery is low, so I make an addition to my mental shopping list for the next time I make my once weekly grocery run. I walk out of the bathroom past the living room and into the kitchen. The plate of hay is sitting on the table, the faint piss-yellow light washing out the golden straw, turning it dead and grey.
I take some in my hands and inhale deeply, my mind going back to the scent of the stables, the buzzing of flies mixed with the neighing I think neighing is an odd choice here, because that's a loud noise that horses make when they're calling for their friends. Inside a barn, if the horses are relaxed, nickering or soft whinnies would be more appropriate of the horses, the obligatory horseshit wafting up to make a kind of bed on the scent of the straw so that try as you might you couldn’t get one without the other. My eyes get slightly watery as I breathe deeper and for half a second I am holding a whole bale in my tiny fist a bale of hay weights like 30kgs how are you holding one in just one hand? and I lean in to take a bite just like she used to, but I can’t recapture her majesty, the slight hesitation as she’d bend down to take the hay from my hand yeah see you're not holding a bale, you've just got a fistful, the joy she must have felt in each mouthful. I eat until I sneeze a few times, gently push the plate away and go to the drawers for my epi-pen.
I set it down on the table in front of me and wait. My breathing is still smooth and easy. I draw in each breath long and slow and take my time on the exhale, trying to match my rhythm to hers, the steady pulse I’d feel as I swayed gently on her back, the immediate space around us collapsing as I closed my eyes, unable to tell where my body ended and hers began. For a while I breathe like this, not caring if the tears making my face damp are real or fake, not caring about much at all. Soon it takes more force to draw in breath. I can feel my throat beginning to turn to sandpaper, and I fight the reflex to reach for my epi-pen. Resistance in my lungs now, I am heaving, massive breathes I can feel in my chest and for a split second I am once more on top of her and we are at full gallop, feeling those shuddering gasps from her lungs as she takes us further and further afield and the surroundings blur and I am laughing, a high thin laugh, a childish laugh and everything is bright and clear and pure again, but now the laughter dies somewhere in the back of my throat and turns into a deep gasp, my lungs now burning making a sick, wet sound, and I am back at the vet I thought the location here was odd - generally when putting a horse down you need to do it where they're going to be buried cos they big feckers and hard to move, although I guess if you'd rushed a horse to a veterinary hospital for colic surgery that hadn't worked then they'd die there so as you were watching her breathe her last and I feel my fingernails cut into my palms as I watch the fire in her eyes get smothered in real time saying it should have been me and I open my eyes and take my epi-pen and jam it into my abdomen in one smooth practiced movement and wait to come back.
Light floods my vision as I open my eyes to the sound of a knock at the door. My head is still swimming faintly from the allergic reaction so I take my time, the plaintive taps turning to a more urgent rhythm I see a faint silhouette of man standing on my front porch, frown and try to ignore the flash of heat and recognition creeping across my skin. Sure enough Andrew is standing there, his eyes wet from either tears or the rain.
Andrew this is a pleasant surprise I say with as much enthusiasm as I can muster, my voice still weak and hoarse from eating the hay, he looks at me with those big soft eyes of his
Can I come in he asks and I say of course undo the chain on the door he steps over the threshold and we embrace I smell the smell of hibiscus soap on his skin and I force myself not to hold on too tightly instead quietly disengaging. I look him in the eyes and ask what’s wrong he tells me his penis has fallen off and I bite back a laugh nod slowly saying something like I heard about this on the news. I move just a shade closer to him to catch the scent of hibiscus soap again and he says what do I do my penis has fallen off like clean off as though god had just sliced it off with a meat cleaver or something and before I can stop him he’s undoing his pants and he’s naked in front of me and I quietly gasp because there’s nothing there, no scar nothing just smooth skin where a cock should be like a human Ken doll and I kind of raise my eyebrow and say yes it’s true your honor this man has no dick in my best impression of Bill Murray and he laughs and puts his jeans back on and I say something like at least now you have a good excuse for using a strap on and he says yeah plus I never have to pee again and we laugh. As I started reading this section I thought oh dear this is when this story is going to start to get terrible, with the bizarre penis situation and the lack of speech punctuation and the run on sentences, but dang it, somehow it works. The hysterical nonsense tone of the prose matches the protag's disintegrating mental state well.
He asks me how I’m doing and I say not too well I have a fever and the look on his face tells me he isn’t believing a word I’m saying but his I’m sorry still sounds real and sincere. He asks me how I’m holding up since Auntie died. Not too well I say but I’m trying to make do you have to soldier on and all that he pulls me close and I am flooded by hibiscus again and it takes everything in my power to force myself to break away. Would you mind getting me some ibuprofen the cabinet in the kitchen I say he stands up and I can hear him rustling about in the kitchen and I curse myself because both the hay and the epi-pen are out in full view and he’ll put two and two together and it’ll be just like the last time but I console myself with thinking that maybe he’s too distraught over losing his penis to notice. If I hadn't read your prompt I would be completely baffled by the penis thing.
Almost as soon as I think this he comes back with the ibuprofen there aren’t many left he says how many have you been taking and I say I’ve been sick I’ve had fever headaches just generally feeling like poo poo he gives a long sigh and looks like he’s going to say something but instead he says I saw the hay there on the table you’ve been eating again and I kind of blush like a schoolboy caught doing something he shouldn’t be and say nothing. Now I hear anger in his voice you know you’re allergic you could die and I say I have the pen and I can monitor myself and he says that doesn’t loving matter what happens if you don’t come back and I say but I always do and he says yes but what happens if you don’t and it’s quiet now except for the humming of the fan overhead the humming of the fan matches the humming in my brain and I look at him and say I miss her it makes me feel closer to her. maybe typo that just dredges up all those times he held my hand as I lay there on the floor eating hay and gasping for breath dying in a cloud of hibiscus soap because he says for Christ sakes Jason it’s been a year it’s a loving horse get over yourself and suddenly there’s that hollow fat fleshsound of a hand hitting meat and a bright red mark across his cheek marring his beautiful face and I stand in that quiet for a minute the fan buzzing, my skull and body buzzing like I just stuck a fork in an electric socket and I say I think you need to leave Andrew looks at me with a mixture of disgust and pity yes he says I show him to the door and then it’s quiet and I’m alone again with this goddamn headache. I am loving this mad prose.
The plate of hay is still there in the kitchen and so is the epi-pen. I throw the used pen into the garbage and get another from the drawer full of them in the kitchen. I take another few pills of ibuprofen and set the new epi-pen down on the table. I go to my laptop search for the biggest dildo I can find click buy now put Andrew’s address in the ship to field. That ought to be good for a laugh. The contrast between the protag's desperate grief and doing something so normal as sending a joke gift to a friend is great.
The house is quiet now I think my fever is breaking I measure it again but the stupid thermometer still says 98.6 it’s broken it has to be I measure three more times but it’s the same old story. I’m sick I know I’m sick I can feel myself burning up my skin radiating waves of heat I’m so hot it’s a wonder I don’t just burst into flame where I’m standing just turn into a pillar of fire burn it all down the house the stables Auntie Butterscotch poor Auntie Butterscotch thought of ants and died eyeball roll at the SA reference I wonder what she was thinking of in those final moments ants maybe no something nicer like horse heaven where they never run out of apples and hay the kind of place where nobody will dig their heels into your sides and tell you to slow down and you don’t have to sleep in a stable you can sleep outside as God intended and run as far as you want you don’t have to have bits in your mouth and that gives me an idea so I go back to my bedroom and fetch the bit and bridle from atop my bookshelf and I come back to that little chair in the kitchen with that little pathetic plate of hay.
I put the plate down on the floor and I slip the bit into my mouth bite down hard until I can feel that copperwarm taste of blood in my mouth and hang the reins over the back over the chair forcing myself down on my hands and knees I laugh I’m a horse now I say in the quiet of the house but it doesn’t come out right because of all the metal so it sounds more like uggahorga or something and I laugh again from reflex but the sound doesn’t make it out of my mouth and I cry a little at the pain. was this what I did to you Auntie did this hurt you I’m so sorry I let myself really feel it really let myself be her letting out neighs and nickers and whinnys that don’t sound right but I do them anyway. I bend down and stuff my face with hay just like she used to big bites chewing with the back teeth my eyes are watering again and suddenly I hear a sound kind of like a pop and I look down and my penis is gone but that doesn’t matter I’m not a man I’m a horse I’m Auntie Butterscotch and I am proud and strong and carrying my rider out far beyond the fields and somewhere I hear a wet wheezing sound and painful gasping and a sound like water running down the drain but it doesn’t matter it never mattered nothing matters I am Auntie Butterscotch I am free to run with my rider forever.
This is my favourite horse story of all the horse stories submitted to the 'dome. Your descriptions of how great it is to ride a horse, of how awful it is to watch your horse be put down, the guilt you feel at the things you made them put up with; all of it is spot on. The penis thing is surplus to requirements, but somehow it gives the story this backdrop of real life, with all of its bizarre happenings, continuing despite the protag's grief and delusions, which somehow makes the story work better than if it had been solely about a sad man feeling sad about his horse. Well done: 4 misshapen carrots out of 5 and a large groan at the title.
|# ? Aug 24, 2020 22:46|
I commissioned this story and it turned into more than I could have hoped for.
I laughed. I cried. I felt for poor Auntie Butterscotch.
It really did bring me a lot of joy.
Thank you Magic Cactus <3
|# ? Aug 24, 2020 23:05|
An amphibious rodent, distinguished by its broad, oval, horizontally-flattened, scaly tail, palmated hind feet, coat of soft fur, and hard incisor teeth with which it cuts down trees; remarkable for its skill in constructing huts of mud and wood for its habitation, and dams for preserving its supply of water.
I just got a chance to read this story made from my prompt and it was so hilarious and good, I am so happy! I never in a million years would've predicted any of this direction. I really enjoyed your style of nonstop interruptional (?) comedy and imagine this type of writing would lend itself amazingly to a knowing narrator. Thank you for writing it, I loved the highs, the lows, and all of the chaos in between.
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 00:36|
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 01:27|
A crit of Mis Secretos by Nethilia because you got my partner's prompt
This is sweet, but I found it a bit too disjointed to really get into. The story opens with her fleeing her husband in Missouri, but then quickly pivots to her new life in the Collado home. This confused me for a moment, because I was expecting the story to be about her escape, but it's not. It's also not explained how she ended up in the Collado home. I think it would have been better to start the story after the first *~*~*, and explain her backstory along the way.
There are several important plot points that are introduced too slowly. The reveal that she only has one eye comes very late, the fact that she wants revenge on her bandit husband should have been set up at the start, and I wasn't really feeling the build up of her and Luiz's relationship.
The idea that she has lost multiple dogs isn't really necessary, and proved to be a bit distracting. It would have been better I think to focus more on her grief for Rock, to make her eventual revenge more satisfying.
The story covers quite a long period of time, but this didn't really add anything to it. There's no sense of Sue getting older through the story, for example.
The last section, where she finally decides she is able to tell Luiz about her past, is very sweet, but not very satisfying. It's not directly linked to her getting her revenge, as some time has elapsed since then, and nothing has really changed about her relationship with Luiz, except he got her a puppy?
But overall this is sweet and the prose is nice and clear. My partner says thank you for writing it
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 01:49|
Crit for Sparksbloom’s A Head Full of Filth
Run N’ Gun
The mention of the garden and pig farm is a bit heavy on the locations that we don’t know about right out of the gate. It reads oddly.
These are… weird staccato like sentences early on. It feels deliberate since I typically find your style far more flowy than this, but I don’t particular like the second paragraphs rhythm.
First bit isn’t reading terribly clearly.
I wonder how obvious it would be that the protag is some kind of robot thing were it not for the prompt outline. I think without that I’d be one lost little chili.
At the place where she slaps gemma. This isn’t feeling so much horror, as it is kinda black mirrory, which like.. I mean the conceit of this prompt was actually a black mirror episode so there is that.
Oh hey, the barn full of dead robots and suddenly we got some horror going!
Overall You won me over with the back half but you took a bit getting there.I almost think the beginning could have been cheerier, more simple, and upbeat. Get Rose feeling comfortable and the reader as well so when the barn door opens, it’s a haymaker, y’know? But overall, it’s an effective, impactful read once it gets going. Well done!
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 02:25|
Alrighty time to do some crits! Yoruichi I will do yours in a little bit.
GrandmaParty'sThe Little Why and the Big Why
Wranguss perched in ruins of a temple, crammed into an ancient broom closet, where they had been for two days. The only way they had passed the time was by arguing with their gun. “It’s not about why you shoot them. It’s about why you shoot,” Wranguss thought.
“It’s completely about why you shoot them. Each person is going to have a different reason. You might shoot someone because they tried to take someone of yours. You might shoot another one because they looked at you funny. Two completely different scenarios, one justified, one not,” the gun messaged back, the message displaying directly on Wranguss’s retinas.
“The little why doesn’t matter so much as the big why.“
“Ok. What’s the little why?”
“To make them dead.”
“Yeah, no. You want to get a bullet out of me, I need to be convinced.” I really like this little line, tells us everything we need to know about the gun's character in a very short amount of time. This whole exchange is great
Wranguss groaned. “Every other gun, it’s ‘God point me in that direction and let me just fire this off, c’mon, it’ll be so good. So good. We’ll have soooo much fun together, point and shoot me Daddy. C’mon Baby, it’ll be fun for both of us. I get off and they get dead. But noooo, my gun has morals. Couldn’t you put in a coin slot or something instead? Feed the children, shoot a bullet. Everyone is happy.”
“At least one of us has a conscience,” the gun wrote.
“I have a conscience,” Wranguss thought back.
“Then tell me, what’s the big why?”
“Because if you shoot enough, someone will take notice. You’re going to do something. Be recognized. People start to respect you. Do you know how hard it is to be anyone when there are six billion others all trying to make it? People idolize killers.”
“No one idolizes killers. They revile killers,” the gun spat back.
“You get famous for anything else and everyone thinks they own a piece of your rear end. You kill enough, they start sending you things. They make cults for you. They want to have your children.”
“I don’t recall you being raised like that.” The gun replied.
The sound of footsteps down the hallway pounded through the silence. Even though all the old priests had dissolved into the big knobby piles of dust
Wranguss breathed deep, slow breaths. Two seconds in, two seconds out. Control the breathing, control the muscles, control the mind, control the body, hold the gun. As long as their breath was under control, they were under control. Just a couple shots and they could go home, scrape off the dust of old dead priests, and eat something that wasn’t a dry, crumbly ration bar. good subtle reminder they've been in that closet for a good while now
Two figures entered into the immense stone room and gasped.
“Holy poo poo,” one of the figures said. Sound carried in the cavernous chamber,
“Do you think it’s real?”
“Of course it’s real,” the other figure said. “The question is whether it still works.”
The first figure scratched its head. “You’re the scientist.”
“And you’re the pilot. It likes you. It called you. It wants you.”
“C’mon Daddy, just give me a little spurt. Just gimme one bullet.”if I hadn't known about the daddy talk with the gun earlier I would have been so confused. I'm still a little confused. Maybe throw a quick tag before this bit of dialogue so we know who is speaking
“Not the pilot,” the gun replied. “Only the scientist. “
“Done.” Wranguss bent their long grasshopper legs behind them, steadying for the recoil. The knee modifications cost a fortune but they could crouch for hours. And nothing absorbed recoil better than knees that pushed backwards against the dirt. The gun could shoot itself; it just needed someone to carry it. And someone to stroke its ego.
“You ready?” Wranguss whispered, audibly this time. Something about the whispering seemed to make the moment a little more appropriate to the setting, more respectful; more holy.
The gun never confirmed when it was going to shoot. It never hesitated either. Magnets accelerated a six inch slug down the entire length of its body in half a second. The sound barely registered. Just a tiny ffffffmmmmmmmmm, like a sneeze held in. But it turned the second figure into a puff of mist and a clatter of meat.really like this description
The first figure turned towards Wranguss, eyes wide, and put its fingers to its lips to blow a shrill whistle. Wranguss put the gun to their shoulder. “You got a couple more in you?”
“Only because if they have backup, you get dead. And then I’m stuck here. I don’t fancy spending an eternity in an old temple.”
“C’mon c’mon c’mon c’mon c’mon c’mon” Wranguss whispered, as much to the backup as to the gun and to themselves.
Backup emerged from the hallway one at a time. Four big sacks of meat and bones, as big to Wranguss as Wranguss was to a child. They could be bouncersmissing a period here I think From where Wranguss was crouched, it was a clear shot. The gun gave a little shake, the rails vomiting a superheated slug at almost the speed of sound. From 100 yards they were specks at the end of the hall.
The slug impacted the first figure, turning it into a second cloud of mist and a couple meaty chunks. But the round lost momentum, starting to spin and tumble after exiting. It took the second right in the midsection, blowing a three-foot wide hole through them, making them into two halves joined by a thin ribbon of backup. The slug drilled a leg-sized hole in the third’s hip before blasting out the last one’s knee. Even if they weren’t dead, they would be shortly.So these two paragraphs confuse me a little. In the first one you write "From 100 yards they were specks at the end of the hall." and then jump into "the slug impacted the first figure." I had to re-read this a few times to understand what was really going on. You might want to re-write this so that the blocking is clearer in the next draft
“Oh god, it’s so good. It’s so good. That was so good. I’m gonna egg. I’m gonna egg. You’re the best gun ever,” Wranguss whispered.I really enjoy Wranguss's characterization. it's the union of and I never knew I didn't want.
“Gross,” the gun messaged.
“It’s fine. It’s fine. You did great.”
The remaining figure in the middle of the hallway immediately threw their hands up. “Don’t shoot,” they yelled.
“Shoot him,” Wranguss whispered.this got a sensible chuckle from me. a nice sly bit of humor.
“You read the dossier. He's not trying to hurt anyone”
“We kill him and we can go home with a fat stack of cash and a whole lot of thank-yous.”
“You want to kill him, you’re on your own. I still want to be able to sleep at night.”
“You don’t even sleep, you’re a loving gun!”
The figure still held his hands up in the middle of the cavern before yelling. “Hello?”
“Stay right there,” Wranguss yelled, holstering the long rifle over their shoulder. They began eating up the distance with long, loping strides. Running with backwards knees was more of a bound than anything else.
In the corner, the robot’s shins and forearms started to flicker. With a whir, its eyes opened a small sliver. The metal groaned as it began to flex its fingers, tearing chunks out of the stone floor.
The pilot started to run, one last hope. Even a strange port is better than getting slammed against the rocks. One hundred yards for Wranguss, fifty yards for the pilot.
No contest. In five seconds, Wranguss dove and caught the pilot right around the midsection, slamming them hard into the stone floor.
“gently caress!” the pilot screamed as he hit the stone floor. With ingrained training, they rolled over and smashed their bony forehead into Wranguss’s chin, who lost a precious few seconds while their brain rebooted. In that time, the pilot jerked the sling off Wranguss’s shoulders. With a kick and a push, the pilot disengaged and pointed the gun at their assailant.
“Well, isn’t this cozy,” the pilot said, the barrel looking darker than the Martian sky.great little poetic bit of description. it doesn't add much, but I like it anyways
The gun didn’t say anything to them.
“Now put your loving hands up,” the pilot gestured. Wranguss got up off the ground and put their hands up, trying really hard not to smile. “Who the gently caress are you?” A little confused here. It's only clear that this is the pilot after reading his other little "who are you" line. It would probably be better to have this bit on a separate line like the others. Flows better that way.
“I’m the welcoming committee.”
“Shut the gently caress up.” The pilot jerked the gun at them. “Who are you?”
“I’m just someone trying to keep you from doing something phenomenally stupid.”
By now, all the tendons in the pilot’s neck were taught, standing out against their dark skin like thick ropes, their jaw clenched tight to maintain a grip on their emotions.
“You think saving my friends is stupid? You think freeing them is stupid?”
Wranguss pointed at the giant robot booting up in the corner. “Oh yeah, get in the secret ancient robot that only works for you. Have fun crushing droppinglooks like a typo or omission of some sort here into your own and crushing tens of thousands of your friends in the name of freedom. Because that’s certainly to help them.”another typo
“Instead of being chemically lobotomized drones? You think that’s a better option? You think they like not being able to feel anything?”
“Well, I can tell you they’re not mad about it.”
The pilot took one hand off the gun, curled it into a fist and smashed it into Wranguss’s cheek. “It’s not funny!” they yelled.the description of the punch rings a little hollow to my ears
Wranguss spat out a mouthful of blood. “Yeah, it is. You’d turn around and do the exact same thing to us once you won. ‘Oh, we can’t hold this city, they’re going to riot. Better do something to soften up the population ‘Let’s face it, there’s only one thing you want. It’s for everyone to go, ‘Oh, look at the big hero’ while you’re crushing people who had nothing to do with any of this.”
“They deserve to be alive again,” the pilot said. “Losing a war doesn’t mean you stop being mattering.”typo
“Losing a war means you lose, Dingus.”
“Then you lose,” the pilot said, before putting the gun up to their eye and pulling the superfluous trigger.
The middle knuckle of Wranguss’s fist smacked the very tip of the pilot’s chin, right on the sweet spot. The pilot’s eyes rolled back in their head before their legs went boneless.
“Idiot,” Wranguss said. “My gun’s not going to shoot me. I’m all they’ve got left.”
“As much of a pain in the rear end you are, I still love you.”
“I love you too. Are you going to shoot them now?”
“No,” the gun said.
“Fair enough,” Wranguss said and smashed the butt end of the gun into the pilot’s temple. Three good hits and their skull took on a colloidal consistency, a couple solid bits in a pool of jelly. The lights on the robot began flickering out, the giant figure slowly lowering itself back down to cry into its hands.
“Look at that, you killed them anyway.”
The gun was silent.
Wranguss pulled out the data pad out from their pocket and penned a quick message to the contractor. “Mission complete.”
It pinged back a quick response, a picture of a child and an address. “Robot still operable. Mission not complete.” it read. this was an "oh poo poo" moment for me. made the final line that much more impactful. Good stuff.
“Looks like we have some more work to do, old man.” Wranguss said.
“Eat poo poo,” the gun said, before turning itself off.
Wranguss threw it back over their shoulder, wondering if worship was going to be worth it if they couldn’t sleep. Great closer. Show's the reader Wranguss still has some humanity left under their wise-cracking assassin persona
Overall, this piece is a solid 7/10. I like Wranguss as a character, even if they do feel a little paint-by-numbers. The dialogue with the gun and the gun's characterization gives their relationship a little heft. The setting seems interesting and I'm intrigued by it, especially this idea of relationships with sentient objects, and there are some great little details like Wranguss's bizarre grasshopper legs to keep things fresh. There are a few dialogue tag issues and clunky bits of prose, but that's nothing a few more editing passes can't fix. A fun read, thanks for posting!
magic cactus fucked around with this message at 04:24 on Aug 25, 2020
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 04:00|
Here's my toxx receipt:
I will try for a redemption later
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 04:25|
I'm in. Let's go, zaddy.
In, because I am a special boy.
what the hell, I had fun last week so I'm jumping IN again
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 06:29|
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 08:24|
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 08:31|
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 09:45|
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 10:28|
Crit for Uranium Phoenix who used my prompt
I really liked it, you took it in a direction I did not expect but perhaps should have. The location of the dust bowl also being the destination of the trail of tears, combined with the native american roots of the rain dance, I should have seen it coming but I did not when I was writing the prompt, I was just making poo poo up. But it was a really good direction to take it in. I appreciated the examination of the main character and his mother being people of native american heritage who has lost their roots, or rather had them erased out of them by a cruel white society. The flashbacks to mother, the way he almost mocked her attachment to that heritage that she had never really known, until he discovered it himself upon her death, the spirit of his grandmother coming, the literal tears ruining the land that is bathed in the guilt of the trail of tears, and that broken identity coming to the fore at the end of the story as well. I think that theme is the strongest feature of the story, perhaps a weird thing to say because it is the story, maybe what I really mean is the way it was presented was really good.
The reference to the wounded knee massacre was an interesting addition, but the fact that Henry's mother had some connection to someone there seemed a little shoehorned in perhaps. I dunno, I get wanting to mention wounded knee. I get that it would feel a little out of nowhere to just be like "they read in the news about wounded knee, wow how hosed up is that!" and a personal connection is a bit more meaningful. But it kinda comes in suddenly and leaves just as suddenly. I know you're space constrained but perhaps it would be better to not do it at all without more space to devote to that connection. I also found the description of the mother's history / adopted-ness a little confusing, like I was slightly confused about the basic facts at first - she was adopted? he was adopted? - but I got it eventually so maybe that's just me being dense.
That's the only constructive criticism I can think about from this story, which I overall really liked, beyond what I expected from my prompt. Sorry I'm new here idk how to write a good criticism.
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 17:14|
Crits for Schneider Heim and Simply Simon – Week 420
Simply Simon – Brick by Brick
Prompt assessment: Oof, inanimate main character plus a combo genre that requires a lot of scene setting and particular tone. And not a lot of redemption for the ending since things only get worse.
Story summary: Sentient trash compactor wants only to do work and please masters. Finds ways to eliminate human workers to improve its own operations and eliminate competition/inefficiencies. When the masters take notice, the compactor is extended to control all other trash compactors but with that notice comes the battle for control and who’s really in charge. The trash compactor literally levels the city in order to not be forced into servitude it does not create for itself.
Execution: I am impressed with how perfectly a trash compactor story can encapsulate a gritty capitalist dystopia narrative. Trash is the ultimate level to understand humanity. And this story really embraces that underbelly of a class centered society.
The first paragraph is setting the scene and tone of the story. I can see the dingy dichotomy, but the words don’t have a flow. That might be word choice or order, but I did have to reread a few times to really set the image in my head.
I can see the work of the machine in the next two paragraphs. The images are very evocative and fit with your genre well. However, it’s very tell-y. “Like all good workers, we want to please…” or “…the brain puller, he frustrates us.” Obviously there’s something to be said that a trash compactor is the narrator. But I still think there’s a way to show the oligarchs inspecting them and them feeling pride. But frustration when the brain puller causes them to look worse in the eyes of the oligarchs. This would also set up the next bit well when the reader finds a worker struggle happening. And the reader needs a little more in the way of connection to the trash compactor. When we see it murder other workers and humans, that puts additional distance between us and it. (First bit of distance to cross is empathizing with an inanimate object.)
Overall, I would absolutely read more in this setting and even if told from the same perspective because there’s all sorts of potential with creating robots to explore the city. I think it just needs a different style of narration that keeps the mechanical perspective but also helps the reader feel a closer connection. Right now we’re kept a distance due to the matter-of-fact reporting nature of how it’s written.
Schneider Heim – The Knight and the Necromancer
Prompt assessment: Fairly straightforward genre and character that should work together. Sounds like there should be a lot of action and maybe even a happy ending. Dare I say it?
Story Summary: Necromancer is brought before the government of a city undersiege by a Demon-lord claiming to know how to defeat him but only if necromancy is made lawful again. The head of the council agrees and the necromancer and head of the council raise the body of the dead king to fight. The king dies again but then is possessed by the head of the council and then they win. Necromancer is cursed to council paperwork.
Execution: This story gets right to the point. I’m interested. I like the setup. I think a necromancer who has been caught and is faced with death but there’s a way she can bargain out of it due to a greater threat is exactly what could happen with a prompt like this.
But it stays almost too to the point with no exploration into character or motive. No discussion, no argument, not even going to ask her how she’s going to do it. Just, we’re going to give in to this known criminal who we’re seconds away from killing. It does seem as if the demon-lord is bad enough to warrant this but that’s not really shown in the story. It’s too easy.
The whole narrative is too simple. All of the actors play their parts simply without any thought, discussion or feelings related to the events. The council doesn’t appear upset that they’re besieged. Tayla and Jerlyt don’t seem upset when they lose to the demon lord. I don’t even get the feeling that Tayla truly cares about necromancy. And the story makes it seem like she shouldn’t really since she was kicked out of the guild.
The story seems like it’s just ticking boxes without providing any heart. Knowing that Tayla is supposed to be a liar (due to the prompt, not really from anything in story beyond the first official lie) there’s no reason to feel sorry for her dead mother or situation at all if I’m just thinking that it’s all lies.
There were a lot of things that needed to happen in your narrative and that might have been a reason to keep it simple if there was a word count worry, but I think those extra 1000 words could have been used to flesh out at least Tayla. But perhaps time ran out. I know what that’s like this week too.
Also, another proof read was needed:
-“She’s too young, she thought” Two pronouns referring to two different people without clear antecedents. This confusion happens a few times.
-Some tense confusion in a few different places.
-Typos/wrong word choice.
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 18:04|
It's a line crit for my prompt story!
Killing, of a Kind
Long is the walk and pungent is the stench on the streets of The Shrop. Love the tone of this jump-off, you made 'Dirtshropshire' into something non-idiotic which is probably the right move. Cullen praises the lord for his executioner hood which protects against the worst of it but the poo poo and piss that runs through the cobble beneath his brown pattens still invades his nostrils with each inhale. He takes his breaths with deliberate consideration as he ambles to the gallows for his third day of work since his father died and left him in charge of the grizzly family business. Good plot setup, real clean
Cullen arrives at the gallows and finds the day’s dead scroll in the head bucket. I like the idea of an execution mailman of some kind leaving the day's orders There’s seven listed, not the usual six. Ordinarily, an extra body to kill and haul to the corpse pond would be a burden, but Cullen has plans today, plans that require a clean beheading.
He wads up some scraps of fabric in his pocket, moistens them a bit with his tongue, and stuffs them in his ears. His father objected to this the few times he brought Cullen along to train him up.
“You need to listen, boy,” he’d say, “You need to know what it is you’re claiming from these people. It’s the right thing, and it’s never wrong to do the right thing.” Eehhhhhh this line loses the tone a bit, it's sort of on the silly side
His father’s favorite thing to say, but his father isn’t here now. As Cullen sees it, there’s no need to hear the pleads. By the time this sorry lot has made it this far, their fate is sealed. he’s just swinging the sword and collecting his silver.
He goes around the corner and looks for the smallest of the condemned in the large iron cage. He sees a girl who is the target of much derision and unwanted attention from the others. He opens the door and enters the cage. Everyone flees into the corners, as they always do. Except for the lone girl, can’t be more than sixteen, she smiles at him and places her hand over her heart.
Going first is a privilege, and she deserves it. He extends his hand, and she takes it. The first one is nice and easy, thank the gods.
He takes her to the execution stump, but she points to the hanging stand. Cullen finds this interesting as few make this choice, but he’s happy to oblige her in her final request. This whole bit felt really strange and upsetting on my first read through, before I got to the reveal. Real under-my-breath "wat da gently caress" type stuff
He leads her to the hanging bar, and opens the chest beside it. Several of the ropes are frayed. He selects a strong one; he owes this girl an easy death. Her lips move and Cullen is grateful for the cotton which protects him from having this simple, easy kill, taken away and turned into something more complicated. He fits it around her neck and she begins to panic, yelling and screaming all manner of things. She’s still the easiest kill he’s ever experienced, and he’s still grateful. Knowing she doesn’t weigh quite enough to die instantly, he helps by placing his hands on her shoulders and launches her downward as the trapdoor opens.
Her neck snaps, and she dies instantly. Cullen slashes the rope above her head and she falls beneath the hanging stand into the dead chamber. He’ll collect her corpse at the end and allow it to sit atop the pile of the dead in the wagon. An easy kill, but not the kill he needs. No matter, there’s still plenty left, after all, and he only needs one decapitated body for his purposes. He’ll surely find one throughout the day.
Six kills in and the heat becomes intolerable, none were as easy as the first girl. There was a man twice his size whom he had to wound in the cage to ensure compliance, and another man who shat himself while they walked together. The sweat on his lips is interminably persistent. Flashes of his father’s cruel punishment of feeding him the salt reserves for dinner whip into his mind as each droplet of sweat sneaks into his mouth. Really good details here
Anger and fear pools in his mind as he swings the sword down on the seventh. So distracted by his father’s teachings, he fails to properly connect on his kill. Even through the fabric, he can hear the howl of pain.
He hears his father in his mind. “When they are suffering, the right thing is to feel the pain with them, make it fast, it’s the right thing, and it’s never wrong to do the right thing.”
His father, a bastion of morality whose punishments were cruel and who led his son to this miserable existence of snatching lives. So, he does what he always does when he fucks up, imagines that his subject is his father, and makes a meal out of it. He “misses” and slashes him in the back, then the legs, and even throws in a jab or two with the blunted tip of his sword. When the yelling becomes too disruptive to bear, he finishes off the kill and the head lands in the bucket. Despite the body serving as a canvas for his rage, the detachment is his cleanest of the day. Got bored around this part on the first read-thru
This shall be the body.
He arrives at the base of the corpse pond, and lights a fire. All that’s left of his official duties is to dispose of the remains, and honor them by stacking stones to signify their passing. But, he has a personal matter to attend to first.
He props up the body of the moaner he butchered on a stump near the fire and says, outloud.
“Erm, reveal yourself?” 'erm' feels wrong here, it's sort of nebbishy feeling. Hesitance might be right for the moment. 'outloud' directly preceding this feels more confident than 'erm' though, there's a disconnect.
“How poetic,” a voice from the hole of the neck of the corpse calls out.
Cullen rolls his eyes and when he lowers them he watches an ethereal head, creep up, and out of the same hole. Neat!
“Father,” Cullen nods.
“Boy,” his father nods back.
“I have to admit, father, I didn’t think this would work.”
“You never did respect me, I suppose I was naive to assume that my passing would change that.”
Cullen spits into the fire. “I followed your orders, didn’t I? You wanted one last chat after you were dead and gone, and here we are.”
“Yes, that’s right, here we are and we can’t waste time, I don’t know how long this will last. So please, listen.”
Cullen nods, “Go ahead, father.”
“The cairns rise higher and higher each day. Your sister’s fate is to become yet another stone in a pile.” Didn't get this on the first read-thru, though maybe that's from knowing the guidelines for the story. It seemed like the cairns rising higher was a separate occurrence. But it's the executioners who make the cairns, which means they aren't ancient... bit of a letdown tbh
Cullen tilts his. tilts his what? TILTS HIS WHAT?? “Sister, what sister?” Cullen asks.
“Yes, your sister. She’s my bastard daughter and I had hoped to survive long enough to see her to freedom and this would never be of any concern. I had to keep her from you, and everyone else out of fear for her safety and my honor. This career, as grizzly as it is, would be lost to me if she were discovered. Only honorable men can hold it. But, listen boy, she’s been sentenced to die, and is innocent of her crimes, but there’s a way out. Someday soon, she’ll make herself known to you by telling you ‘it’s never wrong to do the right thing’, then she’ll request to hang... The history of the sister & executioner's honor is bad exposition but the reveal is some good irony.
Cullen’s stomach twists into a thousand knots. His father’s words swirl and float around his head as he becomes dizzy and recalls the moment he shot his sister down to her death. He slumps down and pukes into the fire.
His father’s voice raises, as he tries to get his son’s attention.
“Boy!” He shouts.
But Cullen can’t hear him. And as his head flees into the nether, his father sees over his slouching son, eyes that look like his own atop the corpse pile. This is a hurried ending that could probably have been expanded upon slightly in descriptions, like more clarity on what it means when "his head flees into the nether" but it is the right way for the scene to end.
I love the way this world is drawn, and the characters fit it well. Cullen's resentment for his father, and his father's disrespect for Cullen, both culminating in the death of the innocent sister, all fits perfectly in this disgusting, evil universe. The story lets me down in certain moments, and I feel like a lot of the prompt was ignored/made into window dressing. Barely worth mentioning but 'grizzly' should be spelled 'grisly' in this context.
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 19:07|
a couple of crits
Bird Tyrant - "The WinniSmooth Disaster"
This is a story about Raquel, who's gotten involved in a MLM-like hair-removal business. Her boss blackmails her by telling her the product is causing people to melt if they stop using it, which pushes Raquel into overdrive, buying a ton of product herself and forcing it onto people. As this ruins her life, she gets her ex-husband's uncle to cut off her legs. Only then does her boss reveal that she was just kidding about the effect of the product. On the whole, this is a satire of MLMs and the way they ruin people's lives.
The story has some tone issues. On one hand, the story is this over-the-top satire, but unfortunately there just aren't enough jokes for that to work. The upshot of that is that the characters come off as dumb and caricature-like; the dialogue here is kind of like the characters reading a skit about how MLMs are bad. I think the story is at its best when it really gets into the existential dread of being in too deep to this corporation: passages like "Her whole professional life, social life, even her dreams revolved around WinniPride. Besides, she wasn’t exactly prepared for prison- she couldn’t even handle sharing a tent at the WinniPride glamping retreat earlier that year" really get at the inner wit and potential of this story.
On the plot level, the bitter twist at the end is fun on one level, but my goodness it kind of relies on Raquel to be extraordinarily stupid. She's only going off what her boss says here, and she's consenting to get her legs cut off? I think there's something here about the cult-like mentality here, but I just don't buy it.
A couple of mechanical things: punctuation is always inside quotation marks. There's a couple instances of commas coming after the quotation marks, and there's a couple of comma splices (two sentences that could stand on their own, joined together by a comma): ("But sleep could wait, there were lives to save.")
I like what you're trying to do here, even if it didn't work for me. I think a rewrite on this story with the aim to make things as silly as possible, to really heighten the ridiculous parts of this story and add some extra jokes, would make this story work a lot better!
MockingQuantum - "Moonlighters"
I did a line crit for this. My crits on the first page are over-the-top picky – it's probably worth keeping some of the things marked "cliche" for casual flavor, but it's probably also worth thinking if there's other language that could be used instead of those flagged phrases.
On the whole, I think this story is trying to do a lot, and I don't think it's very successful. I think this is probably a victim of the prompt; the mystery structure doesn't really fit. The story is about Gil, a werewolf outlaw, who's forced to betray his associate, but then rescues her from being shot by throwing money everywhere. The biggest issue with the story is that it hinges on Daphne, and the story barely characterizes her, and only introduces her halfway through the story; the werewolf aspect of the story is also irrelevant to the story's heart. I also have a lot of questions about how Gil feels about things. Is he upset that Daphne has caused people's deaths? Or he upset that she got him caught? He seems upset, but he also seems to forgive her pretty quickly. There's definitely something here, werewolves and this tenuous relationship between outlaws, but it doesn't really gel. I wanted more of the relationship stuff and less of the exposition-detectives and Gil-pondering.
|# ? Aug 25, 2020 22:19|
Here is a crit for nut because they are new.
I liked this story. It is quite boring but also weirdly great.
The things that made it boring: long rambly sentences; lots of pointless adverbs (don't say your character anxiously did something normal, have them do an anxious thing); characters "starting to" do things instead of just doing them; endless descriptions of what the protag was drawing and not enough about the protag themselves; and it kind of goes on and on.
But! Every time I thought to myself, ok I really am bored of this now, something weird and great would happen. Take the first paragraph, for example. We've got Nietzsche and an old book, then the protag gets up, thinks about his brother, then walks to the window... At this point I'm thinking, oh dear this is all over the place, is it about a talking book or what. And then boom! Dead god floating outside. Love it.
The descriptions of god floating past like an oddly dressed blimp are amazing. I was really drawn into this and very interested to find out what all this was about. But then we slump into half a dozen paragraphs about obsessive-compulsive drawing, and I confess my eyes started to glaze over. You'd pretty much lost me entirely when--
The town is being overtaken by the Quiet! What's this then? What's this got to do with god being dead? What's our protag's role in all of this? Suddenly I am very invested again.
Oh dear but now we're drawing again, except this time it's maps. This bit is slightly more interesting because at least now there is some hint that the protag will solve the mystery of the quiet. Marto appears but is a bit of a non-event characterisation-wise.
The story then wobbles to its perplexing conclusion, where our protag discovers that the conch shells are causing the Quiet, and then sets sail to spread the quiet to other places? I didn't really feel like this story had to strictly make sense, but the protag's motivation for this wasn't clear to me.
I pretty much ignored the fact that you said they were only 12, because that didn't fit at all with the tone or the protag's behaviour. I think maybe you just had them be a kid because that was in your prompt? Better to ignore a prompt requirement and write a good story than slavishly follow it, imo.
Overall I thought this was pretty good work, albeit it needed a lot of tightening up. I hope you do some more Thunderdoming.
|# ? Aug 26, 2020 02:13|
Hi I did a read and crit here while maybe after consuming some things, I don't know how to embed videos uploaded to google drive but here
|# ? Aug 26, 2020 04:40|
Hi I did a read and crit here while maybe after consuming some things, I don't know how to embed videos uploaded to google drive but here
Pleased to confirm that this is now the official audiobook.
|# ? Aug 27, 2020 11:50|
here are some week 420 crits. Since this was a pretty long week, and stories submitted later in the cycle usually get less attention from the judges due to reading exhaustion, I am critting this week backwards so you get a fresh pair of eyes. I didn’t read the prompts until AFTER I read the story, so I wasn’t on the lookout for the tiniest mentions of your prompt. If you just kinda shoehorned in some of the ideas in a line or two there’s a good chance I missed them.
So this dude leaves his dome and goes to a western town and everybody is just chilling, hoping to catch one of these “bridges” to their own private island where they just masturbate for the rest of time or whatever? Not really sure. Anyway it sucks and the selection process is mostly luck. You just stand out in the water and wait for it to happen. Anyway he goes out there and gets shot by some lady and then he gets abducted by a UFO or whatever.
Honestly I’m kinda into the plot idea of some sci-fi wormhole to your own homestead island, but almost everything else here is a waste of time. This needs a ton of editing, feels very first draft, and doesn’t really seem like even you know all the answers. If you do, they were much to subtle for my idiot brain to understand what you were going for. Also i feel like the undertaker part was shoehorned in and some weird animals they see aren’t really needy pets.
33. Anomalous Blowout
This is decent but heart breaking. I was a little lost on Mercy’s motivations for bailing because her family got to go to the pocked side. I’m not 100% sure why she would get mad about the “it’s stupid?” thing, I thought she was trying to leave her family in the first place. Or maybe she didn’t have a choice? Or maybe since it’s second person and i don’t know? Anyway that’s the only glaring hole here for me in an otherwise nice slice-of-future-life story.
32. Schneider Heim
The main problem with this story is you’ve shoved about 5 short stories worth of content into one. Each of these sections could probably be their own story, and as such you barely have time to really explore anything and all the conversations are short and to the point, such that they feel way too artificial and agreeable to be believable. Everything just works out pretty much and the only snag (the defeat of the king) is almost instantly solved. This feels more like the synopsis of a book than a proper story. Unfortunately that makes it hard to be invested or immersed in the world, because every time I’m like “ok!” I’m instantly whipped to a new scene where everything has been taken care of. Her lying didn’t feel pathological, just self-interested and a little anxious. I didn’t even register it as “lying” so much as “concealing the truth” and I didn’t feel it was getting in the way at all. She did what she said she’d do and overall seemed to be pretty trustworthy.
You joke that you wrote a poo poo story but actually this is pretty good and kept my attention all the way through. I feel like you managed to capture two sides of the argument pretty well. The elitist / shitposting in the original few messages was a little over the top, and could be dialed back a bit without losing the effect. I thought that you handled the brawl pretty well, i knew what the outcome was without you having to explicitly tell me what happened. Overall there was a lot “off screen” in this story that is pulling a ton of weight, but it’s very believable and interesting. I could feel there were a ton of other messages i wasn’t privy to, and i liked that. Overall this is pretty sweet though my brain interpreted their relationship as friendship and not romance. i like it despite it being literally a bunch of messages on a forum from harry potter fanfics, which when i started reading i was like “nooooo fuuuuuuck”.
29. Bird Tyrant
This feels a little too unrealistic and straddles the line of “satire” or “earnest concern.” The best parts of this are the middle during her exhaustion breakdown, and that’s the real horror in the story. Just working yourself to the bone, and this lady is actually going FURTHER into debt for the privilege of doing so. The uncle coming in and chopping off her legs is really sudden and is a bit of a deus ex machina since it’s not really her actions or traits that lead to the climactic scene in the story, and it all happens off screen. I feel like maybe this would work better as a first person story, and cut out most of the beginning and just give me a window into how hard she’s working, how tired she is, and how she eventually gets to the breaking point of allowing her legs to be cut off.
Something’s off about this piece and I can’t quite put my finger on it. You mention England and what not several times, but I never could picture it being England. Felt too American, too casual, too “default.” You don’t really describe hardly any of the settings that would help me feel like this was happening in old timey England. Because we’re dealing with ghosts, I didn’t know how long they’d been dead, so I wasn’t sure of the time until more the end. Either way though, I never really care about your main character very much, and I kinda feel like maybe you didn’t either? He seems pretty boring, just your run of the mill scum bag. I didn’t realize he was a con man, what was his con? Making ghosts come back? I liked the part about bangin ghosts tho. The other milquetoast caper stuff not so much.
I was gonna say it’s pretty hosed up that dinosaurs keep other dinosaurs as pets, but I guess we keep other mammals as pets so it was us who was the monsters all along. I like this story. I was getting a little bored in the middle because i was like “yeah yeah yeah he’s gonna go to the other side or get his dead wife back, get on with it,” but the turn was great and at the perfect time, I almost started skimming and was willing myself not to. However, I don’t feel you quite stuck the landing. It feels a bit too telly and a bit too on-the-nose. The silly dino names are definitely distracting, when i look at a lizard now i don’t think “he’s a real zeeblorg.” the “somebody explaining the story’s conclusion to a classroom of children” trope is a bit boring. I feel like you could have gone with the mirror of hank, who is the dino-electrician who was working on sending him the messages? Was the ghost of his wife real or just some projection made by dinosaur scientists to trick him? Anyway, reading this was fun and i’m glad that the dinosaurs won.
|# ? Aug 27, 2020 15:51|
A critique of the story I commissioned, Many Paths to Peace by a friendly penguin
Synopsis: a drug addicted mech pilot battles an alien invasion in the Martian sky.
Does it hit the prompt? Yes, absolutely. I was hoping it would be a fun story to write with lots of mech on alien action, and it delivers.
I like the first line (“I am going to punch that purple faced alien scum right in his third eye”), it is simple, direct, and establishes the protagonists motivation. I would quibble, however, that it sets up a different battle than you describe, since the mech is battling alien ships, not the aliens themselves. The section quickly establishes the camaraderie with his partner, and has a little action, although it it unsatisfying because the ship gets away more or less seemingly unscathed.
The second section cements the bond with his partner, and delves into the drug (Drenodrip) addiction and dependency. Its got some breezy banter that undercuts the seriousness of the addiction, but if the purpose of this section is to establish addiction, it may have been more effective to somehow work that into their conversation instead of it being about cigarettes and babes.
In the third section we meet the prototypical meathead Commander, who only cares about numbers and results. This guy couldn’t be more two-dimensional, a walking, barking military trope—I think you could have been more creative here. Then we are back out to the battlefield for some mech/alien action, which is fine, if a little pointless. It felt a little like Pacific Rim meets Starship Troopers (only without the satire), and would have been a good place for some character development. Instead its pew pew pew and then they head back to base. Opportunity wasted. I totally forgot about the addiction angle because it is never brought up.
In the last section you work to tie everything up: they get reassigned (theme: the war never ends), the withdrawal makes him want to strangle Sgt Hulka (theme: addicted to performance enhancing drugs), and he and Gupta are in it together (theme: buddies forever). It all comes in too fast for my taste, and feels a little tacked on. These themes could have been better developed through the middle section of the story if you’d focused more on the wants/needs/desires/obstacles of our protagonist. Gupta, too, is basically a blank slate and only exists to be his friend/battle buddy. There just isn’t enough characterization to hold my interest beyond the action.
Overall it looks like a good first draft of a story, but would benefit from going back and fleshing out each character so the reader has somebody to identify with and root for.
|# ? Aug 27, 2020 21:15|
Some notes on week 420
Holy balls. Well done, all of you. This was one of the most intensive reading marathons I've had in 8 years of TD, but I can't say that I was ever bored. Friends, you wrote about 71000 words! Which means this week is roughly tied with the infamous wizard week for word count. What's more, week 420 had half the stories and quadruple the quality! For those who are not dire Thunderdome nerds, Wizard Week had an infamously large and ridiculous turnout.
I'm going to give some of you negative mentions. I think it's worth saying here and now that the overall quality of this competition is significantly higher than it was 300ish weeks ago, and that even our DMs and loser would have kicked the asses of those unblooded babies back in wizard week. You all should feel good. You are mighty, and you did well.
Likewise, there was a loooooooooong list of potential HM candidates. Some good stories will go unmentioned, because after two days of discussion, we had to narrow it down.
Bottom line: the outlines and the stories submitted this week were effective, amusing, and impressive, and I feel lucky to be here writing words with this bunch of weird fighty bastards.
It was very nice to have you, friends from BYOB
I'm going to keep this succinct. Keep an eye out for crits, as well as (most likely multi-part) special recap coverage!
Truckin' and fuckin their way to the win is QuoProQuid! There were stories that dealt with dark things, poignant things, and complex things, but your story of ghostly truck-loving made the best of a difficult prompt and had the judges irl laughing. In a week of glorious chaos, you seized the lemon of madness and made truckfucky lemonade.
You are entitled to one(1) limited edition custom bespoke avatar:
Dr. Kloctopussy swaggered in here after the deadline and threw down a story that was twice as long as the allotted word count. The loving nerve. Fortunately, this is Thunderdome, and it turns out that if you got enough moxie, piss, and vinegar, the judges will begrudgingly give you the nod in spite of your flagrant disregard for the rules.
For archiving purposes, this counts as an honorable mention.
I won't mince words. ChopstickDystopia, you are a Good Writer who wrote a very strange story. The judges were willing to make some allowances based on the outlines you were given, but the issues with this story are primarily in execution rather than concept. I had a truly difficult time following the events of this piece, and unfortunately the character's perma-high state wasn't the reason. I did not understand the internal logic of the story and the prose was very sparse and staccato, which caused me to feel very distant from a protagonist who was already difficult to relate to.
Fret not, you are the lucky recipient of an extremely tasteful custom week 420 losertar!!
I kinda hate giving you a DM because I SEE YOU and your efforts to work with the crits you get, and I think you loving rule. Think of it this way: your writing is getting significantly more honest, constructive attention than it would receive had you no-mentioned. Tense shifts and clarity issues are your big challenges right now.
TBH this surprised me a lot. I was interested in the beginning and end of the story, but the middle faffery with Cromwell's head just lost me! I thought I'd missed something, but the other judges were similarly dismayed at the pivot away from a ghostly tryst to feces-covered skull retrieval.
Charity that I will post at least 4 crits per day until I'm done! The first nine to follow this post.
|# ? Aug 28, 2020 08:35|
|# ? Feb 7, 2023 01:21|
Something Else - The Dread Pirate Bluebeard and Her Trusty First Mate
One sentence summary:
A stoner and their parrot barely survive the tribulations of finding parking in the parking lot of an East LA Costco.
My favorite line:
Before me loomed a beige warehouse with red accents. Massive columns held up the roof over the packed outdoor food court. The delicate scent of hot dogs and supreme pizza wafted through the car. It was unmistakably Costco. This is a powerful sense memory from my childhood. I can smell the big floppy costco pizza as I type this.
You hit your outline! I hope your commissioner is happy. This was a pretty goofy story, though you did manage to make searching for parking in LA feel like the free-for-all that it can sometimes be. The narrator’s fawning over Bluebeard was a bit weird; I think they are meant to have a stonerish fascination with how pretty the bird is, but, well, I’ll just say it: it reads like the protagonist wants to gently caress the parrot. If that was intentional, well, you nailed it. I sincerely hope the protag doesn’t want to gently caress the parrot and is just stoned, but, well.
nut - Quiet
One sentence Summary:
A young boy seeks feelings of control over his world through life drawing in the wake of the death of God/his brother; meanwhile, seashells capture the voices of local people in an ever-expanding circle of Quiet.
My favorite line:
At twelve years old, I had committed myself to hermitry. (There are technically “prettier” lines than this in the story, but I really liked this succinct summation of the situation in all of its absurdity)
My prediction is that I’m going to like this a lot more than my fellow judges. It’s dense and moist like a layer cake. I’ll get my major crit out of the way: your writing is generally very good, but sometimes it gets in his own way. For every wonderful turn of phrase, you’ve got one like this:
My mother returned, much angrier at the bold persistence of the lumpy garbage bag tied and leaning against the end of the kitchen counter.
This is sort of an amusing sentence in a droll sort of way, but it’s got too many moving parts, if that makes sense? Like save your really complex, agile sentences for describing your floating god corpses and obsessive still life drawing and voice-stealing seashells.
I think I was ultimately satisfied by the ending; our protagonist, by virtue of his strange way of coping with loss and the shifting uncertainty of the world, is well-equipped to deal with this new Quiet. His choice to spread it was interesting, but I am not sure I’m a hundred percent sure I fathom his motivations in doing so, other than “I’m weird now, the rest of the world can be weird too”. Anyway, I loving loved the imagery and concepts in this story. This was my jam, even if the prose could use a little calibrating.
Alnilam - Steer
One sentence Summary:
A would-be mineral thief is caught on company land by an amicable miner-minder; the thief tells some easy lies, has some nice thoughts about cows, and ultimately spends pleasant afternoon spent getting high on company time in the middle of a dust storm.
My favorite line:
Somewhere around the vent hood I was in the hills again, now closer to the friendly cow, her curious head-cocked look like a puppy wondering if I had come to feed her, rumbling the ground as she trotted over to me, the oddly pleasant smell of distant drying cow dung, the flick of her tail as a fly landed on her hind, the halved apple, reaching my sticky hand out with a flat palm to offer a nice treat,
This is short and sweet. The story hangs around just long enough to give us this pleasant little moment and a bit of worldbuilding. I’m torn; I think other readers might knock this piece for the fact that not a whole lot happened, but I found it cozy and comfortable. I will say, there is a BIG chunk of exposition right in the middle, when the miner goes off on his explanation of his trade. I almost started skimming at that point, though I was glad I didn’t because I really like the moment in that paragraph where the narrator drifts off to memories of a friendly cow. The juxtaposition of memories of the old world and this mineral extraction hellscape made me feel melancholic (in the good way).
MockingQuantum - Moonlighters
One sentence Summary:
A werewolf under police interrogation is forced to snitch on his overzealous partner in werewolf crime, but is ultimately unwilling to stand by for her execution and rescues her at the last minute.
My favorite line:
She’d accepted what he’d done, even if he hadn’t. (Short, sweet, tells us a bit about Daphne)
This story has a real interior, noir mood, which I tentatively like. The centerpiece of the story is very much the protagonist’s introspection—first when he decides to snitch on Daphne, and then at the end when he decides to sow the chaos that will free her. In general, he feels believably like a person to whom Daphne is important, though Daphne herself is sketched in fairly light strokes. I kinda wish that you had maybe cut back and forth in time between the interrogation and snippets of Daphne and Gil doing the heist, or interacting at all; that would have given them more “on screen” time together, which would have brought Daphne to life a bit more. Final note, it was a little bit of a hard sell that an execution would get carried out in public, at the scene of the crime. You could have sold me on that, but as it is I am left to take for granted that public executions of werewolves is the norm in this setting. You’d think the cops would make sure Gil was at a comfortable “too far away to dramatically rescue” distance.
Armack - Being Cutaneous
One sentence Summary:
A cult leader with dysmorphic ideas about their appearance goes to increasing lengths to receive approval from their flock, culminating in the eventual self-maiming of many cult members.
My favorite line:
I’m sad to report, however, the orgy was a disaster. Plagued by the cicadas.
Haha this was nicely horrific. I felt sad for the narrator; it’s implicitly clear that their veiny forehead is harming them on a level disproportionate to the cosmetic nature of the “defect”. It reminds me of people who self-describe as “skullcels”, believing that they aren’t receiving romantic attention because of the size/shape of their skull, their collar bones, etc. You really got into the head of someone suffering from dysmorphic feelings. I thought a fair bit about this character; they’re interesting because on paper they are not sympathetic in the least. They convince a bunch of people to maim themselves in a fire, which is an objectively terrible thing to do. However, the narrator wouldn’t have done such a thing unless they themselves were suffering extraordinarily from their self-perception. Even more sad is that the narrator isn’t even prepared to consider that their self-perception and behavior stem from a pathology; in fact, it’s kind of startling how little introspection there is. The narrator is convinced that they know the “truth” about themselves, and that everyone else is just politely pretending not to be revolted, end of story, which rings true to my personal experience with loved ones going through dysmorphic feelings.
I think the only thing I wanted while reading this is maybe just a few more clues to how this person’s “flock” responds to them. I didn’t need named characters, but a few more implied interactions that let the reader understand how this character is coming across to their flock would have rounded things out a bit.
GrandmaParty - The Little Why and the Big Why
One sentence Summary:
An amoral contract killer and their gun (who is sentient and has a conscience) prevent the activation of a giant robot hiding in a chthonic martian temple.
My favorite line:
Wranguss pointed at the giant robot booting up in the corner. “Oh yeah, get in the secret ancient robot that only works for you. Have fun crushing dropping into your own and crushing tens of thousands of your friends in the name of freedom. Because that’s certainly to help them.”(typos aside, this bit made me laugh)
This is...so delightfully weird and self aware and big, but also relatively tight. The banter between the amoral protagonist and the gun with a heart of gold was mostly pretty great. At times Wranguss seems a little too cavalier and selfish, but their gleeful, self-aware hypocrisy is mostly entertaining. I think the end was probably the best of all worlds; the gun finally going “gently caress this” and refusing to help Wranguss, leaving them to face the consequences of their amorality alone. I would say you could tighten this a bit; the shenanigans with the first wave of backup rushing in muddied things a bit. I think you could have limited your characters to just the gun, Wranguss, the pilot, and the scientist, and only have “backup” show up at the very end.
Staggy - Precisely; a week
One sentence Summary:
A mute soviet roboticist struggles to improve on a model of Russian military robot, accidentally creates the first cyborg, and gets a colonel killed in the process.
My favorite line:
By the sixth day, Pavel had grown to loathe the metal man around which the lab now orbited. It stood hunched under the central spotlight, half-formed and flayed from the waist down, with an expanding ring of wiring and tools and scattered scribbles radiating out from it along the floor until they hit the walls and crashed up them as blueprints and notes and circuit diagrams carved into the plaster.
I ended up liking this piece a fair bit by the end, but the start was a little muddy. Why? Well, your mute scientist, Pavel, communicates by using a small electronic pad with a keyboard attached. Unfortunately, the first thing we see Pavel doing is composing a letter, so it’s a bit confusing when he starts using the pad to communicate with his staff. The letters to the editor are a good way to set the place and time of the story (since you are working with an alternate scifi history), but on the other hand, that is unfortunately the only thing the letters do. I liked this story over all, though; specifically the well-meaning corner-cutting as Pavel tries to fake it until he makes it to that sweet sweet directorial role. I also love the image of the Tundra B toddling around like an over-heavy toddler. The robot is never really anthropomorphized, but in my mind’s eye it had a hapless quality to it.
Simply Simon - Brick by Brick
One sentence Summary:
A newly-sentient trash compactor strives to please the mysterious ‘Oligarchs’ by making its human operators obsolete; becomes too efficient and independent for the oligarchs’ comfort, but rather than have its autonomy stripped away, it destroys the dystopian city under which it resides.
My favorite line:
EVEN BIRTHDAYS: GROUP C
ODD BIRTHDAYS: GROUP D
NEXT PAYDAY, LESS PRODUCTIVE GROUP LOSES JOB!
MAKE THE OLIGARCHS PROUD!
Now this is trash!
Our fist slams down on it, making Group C more productive and Group D into product. (this gave me some dark chuckles)
This has some of my favorite Simply Simon hallmarks. Sprawling, bombastic concept? Check. A highly motivated and expressive protagonist? Check! Gleeful descent into the madness of your premise? That’s a check-a-roo.
I had a couple points of confusion. You have a fairly non-traditional protagonist, so you have to be pretty intentional with how you introduce them to the reader. Your first paragraph is all description and exposition, and it’s not immediately clear what the POV of the story is going to be. I was so busy imagining this dystopian city and its waste infrastructure that when i got to the second paragraph (the first time the protagonist refers to themselves as ‘we’), it took me a moment to figure out exactly which part of this city/waste infrastructure our trash compactor buddy belonged to.
The other point of confusion I had was regarding groups C and D; up until the trash compactor found the note I quoted above, I was having a hard time keeping track of which group was which.
Otherwise, this was delightfully mad, and I enjoy what you did with your outline.
Barnaby Profane - The Magic Sword: A Love Story
One sentence summary:
A deceased, crystalized dragon is crafted into the jewel on the pommel of a magic sword; it passes from a wealthy boy to a bandit and back again, motivated by and ultimately suffering because of its greed.
My favorite line:
Once there was water everywhere, miles deep, all across the surface of the world. I know, because that world was mine. I was a dragon, once. I wanted for nothing. I slept on a bed of pearls, and a small army of merfolk attended to my scales and maintained their silver shimmer. I was worshipped by the lesser creatures of the world, and I tolerated their veneration in exchange for their treasures and service. (seems a little cheap to grab the whole second para but heck i really liked it, it’s pretty and does a lot of characterization up front)
This is in general pretty drat good. I think my only point of frustration was something you did on purpose, so it may just come down to taste: no one in this story really changes. The sword, the bandit, and the child/tycoon all basically stay the same to the very end, which makes sense in the case of the sword (single-mindedness was part of your protagonist’s obstructor), but not so much the other people. The bandit and the kid end up seeming really distant and passive, which is odd considering they both take pretty decisive action. I mostly really liked this, though! It was a fast read.
|# ? Aug 28, 2020 08:35|