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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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THUDNER-DOME







Over 9 million words. Over 7000 stories. Over 700 authors.

This is Thunderdome.




Thunderdome 2012: FYI, I do take big dumps, holla.
Thunderdome 2013: If this were any other thread we'd all be banned by now
Thunderdome 2014teen: Stories from the Abonend Bunker
Thunderdome 2015teen: Weekly Stories with Positive People
Thunderdome 2016teen: Fast Writing, Bad Writing
Thunderdome 2017teen: Prose and Cons
Thunderdome 2018teen: Abonen Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here
Thunderdome 2019teen: Writing Our Wrongs


:siren: CLICK HERE FOR CURRENT PROMPT :siren: (and tell Sitting Here or Crabrock if this link is not working)


Join us.

Thunderdome is a community of fiction writers. It’s also a bloody, no-holds-barred weekly flash fiction contest. Every week brings a different prompt, new judges, a fresh opportunity to prove your mettle against other writers.


Get in.

Weekly prompts are linked at the top of this post. The prompt post contains a signup deadline, a submission deadline, a maximum word count, and a writing prompt. Sign up by the deadline indicated in the prompt post. Submit your story by the deadline indicated in the prompt post. Follow the instructions in the prompt post.

Most weeks, posting a simple ‘in’ is enough to indicate your participation. Read the prompt post to find out if you need to do anything else to sign up.


Judge.

From our most ancient texts:

quote:

Ius iudicis: judge’s right, judge’s responsibility, judge’s law.

quote:

Three shall be the number of judges, and the number of judges shall be three.

Four shall not judge, nor either shall those judging number two, excepting that thou then include a third.

Five is right out.

First time judges: click here.

The winner of the current week judges the next week. This boss judge chooses the prompt, word count, and deadlines. After submissions close, the boss judge and their co-judges select a winner, loser, and any honorable or dishonorable mentions.

It is the winner’s responsibility to recruit two co-judges. The winner should also be prepared to offer some sort of critical feedback to the writers who submitted stories.

At minimum, the boss judge should make three posts: A post containing the prompt, a post containing the results, and a post containing their critiques.

Click here for a comprehensive post on critique, including general critique guidelines. Thunderdome crits can be raucous, irreverent, and hyperbolic, but they should still be helpful.


And be judged.

If you post a story, you may win or lose. Winners become judges, losers get a sweet avatar:



Your story stands a better chance of doing well if it’s formatted correctly. Click here for a formatting guide.

As a participant, you will most likely receive critical feedback on your story. Don’t respond to critiques in this thread (a simple “Thank you for the crit” is okay). If you want to talk about critiques, skip to the bottom of this post for a list of resources.


Act as you see fit, and face the consequences.

There are things you could do to make your time here more effective. Reading the following list is one of those things.

  • Entries submitted after the boss judge closes submissions are disqualified. Disqualified entries cannot win, but they can lose.

  • Entries cannot be edited after they are submitted. Edited entries are disqualified.

  • Do not respond to critiques in-thread; use one of the resources linked near the bottom of this post.

  • White noise posts are never welcome.

  • Shitposts are almost never welcome.

  • Do not put your story in quote tags. Do not put it in spoiler tags.

  • Your story must be posted directly in the thread, rather than behind an off-site link.

  • No erotica. No fanfiction. Individual prompts often have other exclusions. Pay attention.

  • If you receive an additional prompt from a judge, you should add that to your story submission post.

  • Don’t talk poo poo you’re not willing to back up with words or critiques.

  • If you fail to submit one week, you should :toxx: that you’ll submit the next time you sign up.

  • Keep off-site issues off-site. You chat with goons at your own risk.

  • Don’t be malicious. Act in good faith.


Kayfabe.

quote:

Kayfabe /ˈkeɪfeɪb/ is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as "real" or "true," specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or pre-determined nature. Kayfabe has also evolved to become a code word of sorts for maintaining this "reality" within the realm of the general public

From Wikipedia

Kayfabe is the showmanship that makes Thunderdome different from other, similar contests. Kayfabe gives participants the opportunity to show a little swagger, or act out grudges and rivalries within the arena of words. Kayfabe is optional, and it’s meant to be fun, not abusive.

Come find out what you’re made of, you unblooded weenies.


Glossary of terms and abbreviations.

    Failure - Neglecting to submit a story at all. More shameful than losing. See also: Toxx

    HM - Honorable mention; a story that was in consideration for the win, or had some notable positive quality.

    DM - Dishonorable mention; a story that was in consideration for the loss, or had some notable negative quality.

    DQ - Disqualification; a disqualified story. Stories that were submitted before judgment, but after submissions close. Also includes stories that went over word count and stories that were edited after posting. Disqualified stories can’t win, but they can lose, which is better than failure. See also: Redemption.

    Flashrule - A sub-prompt given by the judges as part of the main weekly prompt, often serving as an additional challenge or piece of inspiration.

    Hellrule - A particularly unfair flashrule, requested at one’s own risk. Not every judge will issue hellrules.

    Redemption - A disqualified story submitted after judgment has been posted. Better than failure.

    Toxx - Adding :toxx: to your signup post indicates that you will forfeit your forums account if you fail to submit. Banned accounts may be unbanned at the owner’s expense.

    FJGJ - Fast Judging, Good Judging. A thing impatient morons begin shouting the moment submissions close.

    Brawl - A duel between two or more writers. Brawls are separate from the weekly prompt. See On Brawling by Sebmojo for a detailed explanation.

    The Archive - A repository of all Thunderdome stories, faithfully maintained by crabrock and Kaishai for several years.

    Losertar - Another name for the free avatar given to losers of the weekly contest :)


Quick resources.

The Thunderdome Archive. Account required to view stories. You must have submitted at least one story to the weekly contest to gain access. Archive features include:


The fiction advice thread. A good place to discuss the critiques you receive in Thunderdome, and procrastinate by writing about writing (instead of writing).

Discord invites available upon request. PM me, or let us know how we can contact you.

Alternatively, join #Thunderdome on SynIRC.

For forums-related concerns, contact Sebmojo.


Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 05:34 on Nov 7, 2020

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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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Simply Simon posted:

Thank you very much, I'll read it once we get the other part of the party in the room.

If my count is correct, it's been 6 days since I posted the 200-words-per-day reduction clause, so sitting here still has 1.5 h until her max drops to 1212, meaning she can still match you fairly in words. Just a heads-up~


Cumswap
1200 words

So your girlfriend is moving away for a while. Boohoo. This is 2020. Teledildonics aren’t even a new thing anymore, kid. You can gently caress and suck in the cloud. Eat virtual rear end for all I care. No, you wanna hear about a relationship with real obstacles?

Lemme tell you about my old college buddy, Kerwin. Kerwin was good at exactly nothing except supplying us with fistfulls of LSD. And jerking off. Just those two things. But kid, he leaned into them. He majored in slinging Lucy with a minor in dick studies.

No—listen. I’m getting there. Kerwin is the world’s first and only orgasmonaut, see.

One day he decided that he had to take it further. So he dosed himself with 1500 micrograms—that’s roughly a fuckload—of high-grade LSD, jerked off for a few cosmic cycles, and blew his load on the face of god with enough force to rocket him into the next dimension over. Kind of. It turns out there’s this bubblewrap between dimensions, a sort of narrow no-man’s land that keeps the big squishy dimensional sacks from crashing into each other. And that’s where my man Kerwin ended up, stuck like a rat in the walls.

So meanwhile, this lady named Agatha is just retiring from her career as an astronaut after a real rough stint in orbit. Like no one’s talking about what exactly happened, but you look into her eyes and can really see the endless vacuum staring back out at you, and so on and so forth. Space broke this lady’s mind.

She takes all her retired astronaut money and has a house built for herself—real cramped, full of lots of tiny rooms. And then she just sort of stops going outside. Her therapist tells her over the phone that she’s likely suffering from agoraphobia, but Agatha tells him that it’s not a phobia of going outside, it’s a philia for staying inside. As an astronaut, she feels she’s done her fair share of being outside.

So back to Kerwin. He tries jerking himself back into our dimension, but the high has long since worn off and he’s out of gas. Once he manages to let go of his dick and look around, he realizes that his new prison isn’t all grey nothingness. He can see things, ghostly flickerings from our world projected across the cosmic membrane.

Kerwin’s pocketverse is exactly the size and shape of a small bespoke house—Agatha’s small, bespoke house. Somehow Kerwin’s LSD-fueled orgasm launched him into the interstitial bubble that directly overlays Agatha’s home.

It’s not like he wants to be a voyeur, but Agatha never leaves her house and Kerwin can’t control what he sees projected on the dimensional wall. Over time he gets to feeling ways about her, as one might expect. Agatha keeps herself interestingly busy in her little house world, always making art or tending to her miniature jungle of plants in the hydroponics room, or watching insane foreign action movies.

Kerwin stops jerking off altogether. No one should have an unseen chronic masturbator watching their every move, he figures. But more than that, this little act of respect is the only real way our boy Kerwin has to express his love for Agatha.

One day, by sheer happenstance, Agatha is projected across the membrane in such a way that her eyes happen to fix exactly on the two points of Kerwin’s eyes, their pupils aligning perfectly across dimensions. I don’t think science will ever know what passed between them. Maybe it’s because Agatha had seen so much outer space, swallowed it with her eyes then condensed it down into something that could fit inside the human mind. A super-dense wad of astronaut trauma with its own gravity, drawing Kerwin’s love into its well.

Whatever the explanation, Agatha feels something, and she likes it. She smiles serenely at the space in front of her eyes, absently rubbing the side of her neck in that “I’d like someone to be kissing me here now” sort of way, but then it occurs to her that she’s making bedroom eyes at the wall so she looks down, severing the connection.

Over the next few days, Kerwin alternates between trying to catch her gaze again and avoiding it altogether. It doesn’t seem right, trying to force a connection with someone who doesn’t know he’s there.

But Agatha finds herself scanning the room as she paints, trying to catch that ambient feeling of love with her eyes. It’s not like she has the slightest inkling that there’s a man trapped in her local dimensional walls, but she’s open to the idea of ghosts, even finds herself fantasizing about some Patrick Swayze-like sex elemental wrapping his arms around her while she paints.

It happens again. Agatha catches Kerwin with those big sad space eyes and pins him there, biting her lip just to let any potential Swayze ghosts know that she is in fact down to exchange ectoplasmic fluids. She experiments with unbutton the top button of her shirt. Then the next. And the next. As her shirt opens, Kerwin feels his resolve collapse. His boner springs to life, bulging onto the scene in a heroic display of tumescence.

Agatha and Kerwin do what you’d expect them to do at this point, maintaining this trans-dimensional soul bond thing all the way to the big bang. They hit their climaxes at the same time and—BOOM! Simultaneous detonations of infinitely compressed sexual energy send the wall of the universe into a momentary state of flux.

The stars clear from Kerwin’s eyes after a few moments, but he can’t make sense of what’s around him. It seems like he’s face-down on the floor of Agatha’s house, but that can’t be right. He runs a hand over the carpet, feels the itch of fibers rubbing across his skin.

Agatha doesn’t understand where she is, only that it’s womblike and safe. The pocketverse is truly enclosed in a way Earth’s atmosphere and her little house aren’t. She feels lighter here, without the pressure of infinite interstellar space weighing down on her.

Over time, she and Kerwin work out a system, a mutual masturbation schedule that lets them swap places as needed. The house starts to look like it belongs to a married couple: two toothbrushes by the bathroom sink, dirty boxers left on the bedroom floor, that sort of thing.

Kerwin finally shoots me an email about all this, I email some physicist buddies of mine. Science takes a massive leap forward thanks to one horny acid-head and an indoor-philic astronaut. Kerwin and Agatha are still together, FYI. Getting their pan-dimensional perv on. I think it’s sweet as hell, as long as you don’t think about what that pocketverse would look like under a blacklight.

...Oh, yeah, so, I didn’t have a plan to relate all that back to your situation. I just like telling the story.

But, look. You and your girl? You might not last when she goes away, it happens. But it might last, and if it does, you don’t want to take what you have for granted.

Keep it interesting. Keep it sexy. Love found a way back from the next dimension, it can manage a trip across the United States.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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Mercedes posted:

This legit reads like we boned, our condom broke and years later our kid wrote a sweet story.

thanks for the crit

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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Entenzahn posted:

Okay I mean it's pretty funny that every single Christmas story failed just because of how peak TD it is but I was also really excited to see how my story would go on. But even worse, I could have spent that time getting drunk on eggnog instead, and that I do not forgive.


:toxx: Face me you coward. Best of three. :toxx:

i literally couldn't think of anything entertaining to add but i read it and liked what you lobbed me. mea culpa.

:toxx:ing to purify myself in the fire of ent's righteous brawl rage

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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Entenzahn posted:

what time exactly is this due or anytime as long as it's still the 21st somewhere in the world

I will be posting at precisely "before I go to bed" o'clock regardless of what the answer to this is

Sitting Here
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azza bamboo i like your style but also shut up slightly

e: but to actually answer the question, it's one story per one prompt, no doubling up you should have just done it without asking and waited to see if anyone noticed

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 19:13 on Jan 21, 2020

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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SlipUp posted:



Hard Boiled Brawl

I was spending time with my friend Jack Daniels when a mysterious dame held a gun to my head. She told me she either had a job or a bullet for me, my choice. I was tempted to pick the bullet but I still had half a bottle left. I took the job. It turned out to be some kind of spat between two writers and it was up to me to resolve it. I should've picked the bullet.

Alright youse two, I need two gritty hard-boiled noir detective stories. They need to be one thousand five hundred words and they're due January twenty-first.

Oh and if your stories include any numbers, they must be spelled out.



Hobbs and Bailey Do Jack poo poo
1200 words

Hobbs and Bailey loitered in the shadowy doorway, watching late night stragglers amble through the sodden neon slum. Fists of water rained down from the sky, pummeling the life out of the pavement, splattering the street with shivering reflections.

Bailey’s face was fixed in a rude scowl. “We’re not beat cops,” she grumbled. "This is ridiculous. I worked my butt off to get this promotion, thinking I’d be solving crimes.”

“So you’ve mentioned.” Hobbs reached into his jacket and withdrew a battered aluminum cigarette case.

Bailey aimed her scowl at Hobbs. “You said you quit that crap. You know I hate how those make the car smell.”

Hobbs spoke around the cigarette between his lips. “I said I’d quit until you annoyed the piss out of me again.”

He tilted his head away from the capricious breeze, flicked his lighter a few times to no avail. With a huff, Bailey cupped her hands around his, shielding the cigarette from the weather until the cherry flared to life. Hobbs took a long drag, then let out an exaggerated sigh of contentment, bitter smoke wafting from his lips to mingle with the falling rain.

Bailey crossed her arms and slouched against the slick concrete wall. “I mean—how am I supposed to learn advanced detectiving from you if all we do is wait for lowlifes to start trouble? We’re down here patching bullet holes in this city when we should be doing...doing crime surgery, or something.”

Hobbs gave her a long-suffering look, deepening the lines on his hounddog face.

“What? You’re smoking, so I’m gonna keep complaining.”

“Yep.”

From somewhere in the sloshing night came the sound of voices raised in agitation. Bailey tensed, eyeballing the street like a cat on the prowl, but the voices broke into laughter, then faded.

“The real crimes are all happening behind closed doors anyhow,” she muttered, shrugging the tense readiness from her shoulders. “Your wife beaters, your big-time drug slingers. Your frauds and your serial murderers. Your politicians. The only ones dumb enough to be out in this mess are me, you, and the drunks.”

“I’m strongly considering joining that third category.”

A Lincoln Town Car sharked through the rain, rolling slowly down the street, headlights glaring hungrily into the night. It came to a stop in front of the detectives’ alcove, the vehicle's occupants obscured by darkly tinted windows. Bailey felt that tension return, felt unseen eyes looking on her with unknowable intent. Didn’t matter that she was Detective Bailey. As far as the denizens of the night were concerned, cops were cops.

Hobbs offered a cool nod to the inscrutable window, and a moment later the Lincoln moved on, its taillights making a red wake on the rain-slick street.

“Christ, and there I was half-hoping they were gonna start something,” Bailey said, eyeing the retreating shark.

“Naw, you weren’t."

“Right now the people of this city are paying us to do exactly zilch,” Bailey said. “We’re not solving crimes. We’re not even fighting crimes. We’re just standing around waiting for nothing to happen while the bad guys watch us from slum windows and shady limos. Laughing at the two sopping wet pigs on the night shift, I’ll bet.”

She glanced over at Hobbs, saw he was smiling, just a little, with closed eyes. He took another long drag on his cigarette, exhaled with a retching cough that wiped that brief smile away and then kept going, a horrible muddy sound like his lungs might rip themselves out of his chest.

“Goddamn humidity,” he muttered after the fit had passed. “Always gets me coughing. You were saying?”

Bailey gave him a worried side-eye, opened her mouth, shut it again, and pursed her lips.

“Come on kid, don’t leave me hanging. You were teeing up for a big speech or something, I could feel it. An idealistic manifesto on what it means to be a detective.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Bailey said, deflated.

“Maybe I just like the sound of your voice.”

Bailey snorted. “Yeah, just like I love the smell of your smokes. Face it, Hobbsy, we were born to push each other’s buttons.”

“I didn't lose my thirst to do good, you know. Still feel it every day,” Hobbs said, his voice rasping in the timbre of falling rain. “You just—you learn to appreciate the quiet moments, the simple things.”

“Quit messing around, Hobbs. This sentimental crap is making me feel weird.”

“You’ve got to pace yourself, appreciate the quiet beats when they come.” Hobbs flicked his spent cigarette out into the sidewalk, the cherry dying with a tiny hiss. “You’re gonna do a lot of good in this town. Don’t worry about making it all happen at once.”

Bailey turned to face him full-on. “No.”

“No?”

You’re the one teeing up. You’ve got something you’ve wanted to tell me this whole time. And whatever it is—no. Stuff it down. Swallow it. Sleep it off. Just, no.”

“What makes you think I’m not just being introspective?”

“I swear to Jesus, Hobbs. If you retire on me—I’ll go loose cannon. They’ll have to call you back in to take me down. I’ll commit more crimes than you can solve.”

“It’s cancer,” Hobbs said, his words buried under a refrain of no, no, no, no. “The precinct is letting me do a victory lap. But they’re not giving me anymore cases. Sorry about the beat cop treatment. Just wasn’t ready to call you my ex-partner.”

“Your goddamn cigarettes,” Bailey spat, looking ruefully at the soggy filter on the ground.

“Pancreatic cancer. The doctor and I had a good laugh about that. She said I got the lungs of a smoker half my age.” Hobbs offered Bailey a wry smile.

Bailey held her face very still but her hands clenched and unclenched of their own accord, leaving painful little half moons in her palms. The air was too thick to breathe.

“I don’t want to know how long. Just—just be gone one day. No goodbyes.”

“Naw. There’s going to be a goodbye party, with cake, and you’re gonna cry in front of the whole precinct.”

Bailey laughed in spite of herself, the tightness in her chest easing just a little. “I’d say go to hell, but I don’t want to spoil what’s coming next.”

Hobbs fixed her with a fond smile. “Our shift was over a while ago.”

“You got somewhere to be in a hurry?”

“Naw, do you?”

“I could clear my schedule.”

Hobbs and Bailey loitered in the shadowy doorway a while longer, watching the neon beerlights wink out one by one. The final dredges of the night shift emptied themselves onto the streets: dishwashers, night managers, overworked servers and bouncers. The rain softened to a gentle drizzle, then stopped altogether as a brief gap in the clouds revealed the moon, and for a few minutes, the wet streets shone silver, and the whole city breathed easy for one small, quiet beat.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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grats, ent, well fought!

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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In

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Snake Handlers
500 words

End the cull-serpent. So commanded the God-Empress, Thaeo’s wife-to-be.

Thaeo raced Mateus toward the writhing, scintillating horizon, where the huge snake was methodically flattening the world under its jewel-encrusted bulk. Thaeo noticed with rueful satisfaction that his young paramour matched him bound-for-bound; soon, they would be of a common strength, and Mateus would be well within his rights to challenge Thaeo for the Sacred Drinking Horn of Masculus.

What that meant for their arrangement, neither man could say.

Presently, the Horn—a hollow coil of banesheep’s horn filigreed with silver runes—hung in its customary place at Thaeo’s side, swinging in time with his movements. He felt the Horn’s power thrumming against his body, as though the artifact were straining against its own shape, yearning to unfurl into the world.

The two men emerged onto the cracked and blistering Fugue planes. The air was choked with mountainous dust clouds churned up by the cull-serpent’s thrashing, and the world shook with the weight of trillions of tons of living diamond as the snake threw itself against the earth again and again.

“No games,” Thaeo said. “Go straight for the killing place behind its head, where skull meets spine.”

“That’s it? Do you not wish to taste my lips for luck before we face our doom?” Mateus’s tone was too light, too ironic.

“There’ll be time for that after we do what we came here to do,” Thaeo snapped. “Don’t be frivolous.”

He charged forward into the wind and dust before he could see the hurt look on Mateaus’s face. It was bad luck to kiss before battle, anyway.

The serpent was the size of a city. In the dust-churned air, only the scintillations of its diamond hide were visible through the billowing murk, so Thaeo followed the bellows of its breath to its wedge-shaped island of a head. As he ran, he lifted the Horn of Masculus to his lips, allowing restless, pent-up power to flow into his body and invigorate his limbs.

He lunged for the serpent’s molten eyes, was greeted instead by its onyx teeth, each as long as the God-Empress's palace was tall. He warred with the snake’s mouth, growing more certain with every moment that Mateaus lay crushed and broken beneath the glittering leviathan’s bulk.

A great shudder went through the cull-serpent, a morbid clattering of diamond scales as the snake collapsed onto the Fugue Planes. Thaeo spilled out of the impossible beast’s mouth, breathing hard, feeling the power of the Horn recede from him in the wake of battle.

Mateaus emerged from the dusty murk, body coated in quicksilver blood, sword dragging a line in the cracked earth. His eyes wandered down Thaeo’s tired body to the Horn at his hip, and in that moment Thaeo knew he could no more protect the Horn than fight another cull-serpent.

Mataeus knelt down, extended a hand—

And revealed a feverish sliver of blue: a shard of the snake’s heart.

“For your God-Empress wife-to-be,” he said, smirking. “Now, will you taste my lips?”

Thaeo did, the kiss lasting long past the final shudders of the cull-serpent’s body.

Sitting Here
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12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

A: the power to be in

Sitting Here
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derp posted:

I hate all of you and every one of your garbage stories, except muffin

thx for the crit

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?



The Clarity
950 words

Claudia awoke with an acute clarity of vision, like her whole world had been given a thorough once-over by an omnipotent window washer. Everything in her bedroom was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen, down to the individual golden dustmotes drifting languidly in front of the window.

She reveled in the ecstasy of this for several hours, then went to work at her job behind the till of a gas station food mart. Every moment away from her room was repulsive and miserable.

The glass doors swung open and the canned sound of a recorded chime announced the first customer of her shift, an everyman in belted jeans and a short-sleeved button down shirt who wafted around the small store like a beige-elemental.

In one sense Claudia perceived him as a human being with a face and arms and legs, but seen through this new-found clarity, he was like a spiral-arm galaxy being pulled apart by a thousand competing gravities: the beer cabinet, the candy aisle, the ATM, the lottery ticket display, the Audi parked outside, the husband at home, the other man across town, his mother in Nebraska, an office in a nearby business park, a patch of riverbank verdant with roach butts, beer cans, and the heavy imprint of bodies on a blanket…

This unraveling galaxy approached the register with a protein bar and a bottle of water, stretching toward Claudia like taffy, oozing forward with his purchases against the taut drag of sausage sticks and malt liquor.

The galaxy slid his items across the counter. One of his tendril arms taffeyed toward the cigarette display behind Claudia’s head.

“How’s it going?” His words came out in a wide, bored west coast drawl.

Claudia snatched up the items and ran them under the scanner, shoved them back across the counter.

“Four dollars, nine cents,” she said, her voice thick with revulsion. She had to get this stretched, seething thing out of her sight as soon as possible.

“Um,” said the galaxy.

“Cash or card?” Claudia asked. The galaxy was splayed open before her like an obscene starfish.

“Credit,” he said, then pointedly added: “How’s your night going?”

A small tendril extended toward Claudia, probing for the validation of idle chitchat. She wanted to bat the horrible thing away, or send the man into the night with his purchases—nevermind payment—but in that moment she was struck by a nauseating realization: it was going to be like this with everyone who walked through the door. Send this galaxy away, another one would replace it five minutes later.

The tendril brushed her cheek, the tip of it puckered and suckling. Hungry.

“Sorry, I am feeling sick in the stomach,” she said, exaggerating the Romanian flavor of her accent. The suburbanites always gave her a little more leeway when they thought her english was poor.

The suckling galaxy arm retracted back into the sea anemone mass of tendrils. “Yeah, I thought you didn’t look so good. Are you alone here? Can anyone cover you for a break?”

“It’s okay,” she said, waving him off. “Please, run the card in the chip machine.”

“It should be illegal to make someone work alone overnight,” he said as he opened his wallet and produced his credit card, which dragged heavily at his spiral-arm tendrils.

They waited for the transaction to complete on the aging gas station POS system as musical white noise streamed in through tinny speakers. Claudia couldn’t have guessed the song; it was the nameless sound of M&Ms wrappers and travel-sized packs of tissue paper, condoms and cigarellos. The sort of music designed to be half-heard in passing snippets, neither novel or familiar.

“I could complain to your manager,” the galaxy said as the POS system labored through an involved discussion with his bank. “Call them up, give them an ear-full for leaving you here like this.”

A different sort of tendril extended toward her from the morass of conflicting gravities, this one bright gold like dust motes caught in the morning sun. With her clarity of vision Claudia perceived a difference in the polarity of this galaxy arm: this tendril had something to give. Somehow, in spite of the hundreds of things stretching this man like a tanned hide, something in him defied gravity, offering itself to her without reservation.

She lifted a hand, brought it close to the scintillating tendril. It coiled loosely around her wrist like a snake, exuding a playful eagerness, simple joy in the act of connection.

“What are you—why do I feel—” the galaxy stammered. The POS system chimed completion, but neither of them reacted.

Claudia yanked hard at the golden tendril wrapped around her wrist, uprooting the galaxy, wrenching all its various spiral arms away from the beer cabinet, the men, the river bank, the bills, the office. That which had been distended and sprawled out snapped back on itself, coalescing into a singular point of infinite density.

A human being stood before her, reconstituted from the tormented shape of a fracturing galaxy.

“It’s okay,” said the man. Then, grinning like a child: “It’s all okay!

“Yes,” Claudia agreed. “My stomach is feeling better now. Thank you.”

The man looked confused, opened his mouth, closed it, peered into Claudia’s eyes as though a message were hidden in her pupils. Finally, he scooped up his purchases, handling them as though he wasn’t precisely sure of their purpose.

“Well,” he grunted. “You take care. Thank you. Thanks.”

The canned door chime heralded his exit. Claudia collapsed down onto her little stool and rested among the cigarettes and lottery tickets.

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Music is visible as well as audible in your story.

In, someone flash me with something rad :kimchi:

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prompt: Your story takes place in one of those TV/VCR repair stores, the kind that has seemingly been open for decades but has no apparent customers.


Video Catacomb Restorer
900 words

I enter the VCR repair shop to the tinkling fanfare of little bells and immediately the air feels different. Vintage. Like inhaling the fibers of a thirty year-old carpet—which, judging by the grubby grey floor under my feet, is probably the case.

The cash register—assuming there is one—seems to be tucked away behind several crowded rows of shelves, which are crowded both in the sense that they are uncomfortably close together and in the disordered heaps of home entertainment viscera that spew from every surface.

I tuck grandma’s videotape protectively under my arm and edge sideways down a likely-looking aisle, feeling unaccountably wary of dusty power cord tentacles and anemone plumes of tangled videotape. The heirloom quality of the air thickens as I go deeper into the shop, and for a few long moments there’s only the sound of my sideways shuffling and the listless sigh of the air conditioning unit.

A prim woman in her sixties stands behind an ancient yellowing cash register. Her name tag reads Edna. I’m instantly put at ease by the sight of her; she could pass for a librarian or a notary—something sensible. The shelves above and behind the register, in contrast to the rest of the store, seem to be meticulously organized, without a speck of dust to be seen on the ancient VCRs, all of which seem to be powered on and running though none are connected to any sort of display.

She beams at me—or, more precisely, at grandma’s videotape—as I emerge from the narrow aisle, then brings her finger to her lips, gesturing that I should follow her into the office behind the register.

Once I’ve closed the door behind me and taken a seat, Edna says, “What do we have here, hmm?”

I set grandma’s videotape on the desk between us. “Grandma said I’m supposed to ask you to ‘check on him and make sure he wasn’t damaged.’ There was a spill incident, I guess. Prune juice all over the thing.”

Edna’s beatific grin melts into a look of professional concern. “There’s someone inside? Right now? After a spill incident?”

“There’s tape inside, yeah,” I say, not sure if we’re talking about the same thing.

“But is someone on the tape?”

“It’s just a bunch of recordings of some campy old talk show that grandpa used to watch. Grandma says she’s afraid to rewind it.”

Edna nods, brows furrowed. “We’re going to have to do an extraction, then respool the tape. How bad was the spill incident?”

“I, uh—I think grandma called it a ‘level two’ spill incident.”

Edna relaxes a little. “Okay. I think your grandpa is going to be alright.”

I feel a flush of grief-tinged annoyance. “My grandfather is dead.”

“Of course, of course,” Edna says, waving me off. “I don’t do transfers for the living. But his videoscape should still be stable.”

While I grapple with that statement, she rises from her chair and retrieves a variety of objects from a tall cabinet behind the desk: a videotape shell, scissors, several screwdrivers, and a small crank or wench of some sort.

She sets to work with surgical precision, opening up grandma’s video with a series of specialized screwdrivers, then uses the little crank to unspool grandma’s tape from its sticky housing and into the hollow innards of the surrogate shell.

After the new tape shell is screwed shut, Edna looks up at me from beneath a sweat-slick brow. “Right. We’re going to have to check the quality now. This part…” she falters, eyes moving back and forth as though she’s searching for words on her cluttered desk. “This part usually goes right, but if it goes wrong, it can be a bit upsetting. Are you ready?”

I don’t know if I’m ready. “You’re telling me,” I say, “that somehow, some version of my grandpa is on this tape? A tape of a show he wasn’t ever on?”

“Some people prefer to inhabit their own home videos, but yes, in this instance, your grandfather chose to inhabit mass media,” Edna says wearily. “Assuming the tape wasn’t warped at all, we should see him quite happily rubbing elbows with Lawrence Welk or David Letterman, or whoever.”

“And if it is warped?” I ask.

“Then the kindest thing is to burn the tape,” Edna says briskly. Then: “Are you ready?”

I watch as Edna slides the tape into a VCR, the old tube TV flickering from blackness to static to—yes! A moving picture. After a brief title card, the talk show fades into view to the clatter of applause, and there, seated in a plush chair by the host’s desk is grandpa, beaming at the audience as though he’s right at home playing the smarmy celebrity.

“You think I’m something,” he’s telling the host, “wait ‘til you meet my wife!”

I feel something like a chill down my spine and a swelling in my heart. There’s an empty chair next to grandpa, a spot for another guest on this ever-repeating talk show.

As I exit the office—videotape safely ensconced in a carrying case given to me by Edna—and pass by the quietly humming VCRs above the register, I’m finally able to name the peculiar atmosphere of the VCR repair shop: it’s like a mausoleum or a burial catacomb.

Holding grandpa tight, I make my way to the exit, careful not to disturb the mylar remains.

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prompt: The gestation period of an elephant


The Elephant Gap
840 words

Today, I cross the Elephant Gap.

There are no elephants among the small menageries that populate the makeshift town that’s sprung up around the Ark. There haven’t been Elephants on earth for nearly a hundred years. We remember them now in the name of our escape route: the Elephant Gap. The path to Pax Mundi.

The Ark’s terrestrial antenna juts skyward, into the sun-bleached upper atmosphere. I pause outside the intake facility and look up, and up, and up, eyes climbing the megastructure all the way to the great vanishing point in the sky. Are living signals jittering up its length right now?

A calm-faced attendant waves me inside with a kind smile. There’s only so much time; it’s good to keep things moving. I return the smile and incline my head, then enter the Ark.

The Elephant Gap is so named because the passage through time-space takes a relative ninety-five weeks to traverse—roughly the time it took an elephant mother to gestate her child. No one really knows what the experience is like for the person crossing the gap; it’s assumed it’s not too mind-shattering because the first group of colonists to arrive on Pax Mundi were able to establish a settlement and send the initial ‘thumbs up’ transmission a year and a half after the Ark beamed them into deep space.

That was good enough for those of us who survived to see the completion of the Ark project—a dreary eight thousand humans and a smattering of plants and animals.

As I enter the anesthetization room, though, it hits me that I’m about to take my corporeal being—the comfortable lump of meat I’ve known, loved, and loathed my whole life—and fling it across the galaxy. I don’t even understand exactly what I’m going to be while in that ineffable gap between places, as much as the scientists tried to reduce it to layperson’s terms.

I hesitate beside the single hospital bed, thinking on elephants.

I’ve never seen a live elephant, but I read up on them plenty when I was little. They were big, smart, and sad—socially intelligent creatures birthed into complex social groups, beset on all sides by predators. Baby elephants were born precocial—able to walk, to run. Imagine waking up into that. You’ve just spent a year and a half gestating to size and sapience in your mother’s womb. And then—kerplunk—you’re in the world, and you have to run. You can cry. You can remember. But first you have to be able to flee the things that want to hunt you, eat you, or take your mother’s tusks.

The attendant gently touches my shoulder, a concerned, inquisitive expression on their face. No one has to go if they don’t want to, that expression says. There’s no shame in dying on Earth.

It’s been a year since those first colonists relayed their message of hope back to us. In six months, we might get another message: Turn back. No hope. Or there might not be any message at all.

But I’m not afraid of what’s on the other side. I’m afraid of what’s in between.

“What do you know about elephants?” I ask the attendant.

They smile serenely. “The Elephant Gap is—”

“No. Not the Gap. Elephants. Pachyderms.”

“Ah,” says the attendant, their beatific smile fading. “I know their gestational period lasted roughly ninety-five weeks, because—”

“Because of the relative time differential of the so-called Elephant Gap,” I say, sighing.

“There should be ample information about elephants in the colony archives when you get to Pax,” the attendant offers.

Should be,” I repeat.

Who can know? It’s not like the first colonists included an exact accounting of their elephant knowledge base when they pinged Earth. And even if all elephant-related knowledge were lost, would it really impede the development of an otherwise successful colony?

No. But the thought of a truly elephantless future fills my chest with a cold, erosive sadness—a tiny grief that contains within it grief for a whole planet. For all that is lost. For all that will never be remembered.

The universe will remember elephants.

I climb into the anesthetization bed and say, “I’m ready.”

.

A death. A dream. A womb. A warmth.

.

Sucking breath, pulsing heart, eyes open, photon storm, shapes and movement, oh god put me back in, I want to go back in, crushed into a hair-thin tube of linear moments, human again.

A fragment of knowledge constructs itself out of the chaos:

Baby elephants are born precocial.

The kaleidoscope of light and motion around me resolves into people, concerned people with understanding faces. I’m swaddled in something heavy and tight, a faint echo of the infinite embrace of the universe.

Someone says my name. I have a name. I have a name and I remember elephants.

“Can you speak?” someone—the same someone—asks.

I laugh and say, “I am precocial.

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Prompt:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uJsoZheTR4


Six-and-six
1200 words

You’re born with an extra thumb on each hand, uncanny digits that jut obscenely from the meat below your pinkie fingers. Your stooped, aging mother won’t let you tend the ribby cow for fear that your cursed hands will taint the milk, and the people in the nearby hamlet won’t trade with you or look you in the eye. Your mother goes to trade milk in your stead; the people watch her hobble in and out of town without comment, knowing drat well an old woman like her ought to rest her bones in the sun and let her able-bodied daughter do the errands.

Except you aren’t able-bodied in the eyes of these people. Your body is too much. It has something extra, and so it is evil.

Your old mother lets you do some things, mostly out of necessity. Those extra thumbs of yours aren’t just vestigial: you’re handy with knots, repairs, stringing bows, setting traps, and skinning animals. Her hands are swollen and arthritic, and she cries when she milks the cow, but only when she thinks you’re not looking.

So you do what you can—the shameful, delicate work of staying alive, your unspoken labors hidden from the eyes of the god-fearing world.

When the day’s chores are done, the sorrow of solitude drives you out into the wilderness. Life hurts when there are no traps to rig, no rabbits to skin. There’s nowhere to go, and nothing to work for. One day your mother will die, and the people of the hamlet will not trade with you, and the cow’s milk will run green and putrescent when you touch her teat. And when you yourself die in squalor, God will avert his gaze from you and your devilish six-fingered paws.

So you go into the woods, down to the chilly stream that brings meltwater down from the hills, and sit naked in shallow, icy water, immersing yourself in persistent misery. It helps you take your mind away, put it inside an empty space where there is no time and nothing hurts.

.

You were wrong: your mother outlives the cow. The skinny heifer takes sick, stops eating, and dies over the course of a handful of days. Your mother does not let you use your adroit hands to skin the hide or butcher the meat; instead, she directs you to burn the cow, who you must have killed with your cursed hands when she wasn’t looking. Perhaps you snuck out to the barn sometime in the night, she supposes, and stole a squirt of thick, fresh milk from one of those teats.

You do as you’re told without comment, burning that which might have sustained you—penance for the imagined crimes of your evil hands.

It’s a hard, hungry season. An early frost comes in the autumn, before the people of the hamlet can finish the harvest. No one will trade with your mother—not even when she lies and tells them you died of a fever.

Stomach maddeningly empty, you go to your icy creek and lie down in the chilly flow, feeling the jab of stones against your bare back. If you lie here long enough, you know, eventually the water will steal the heat from your bones and carry it away, and you’ll be free from the curse of your life.

Something in your periphery catches your eye: a cluster of pale mushrooms growing at the base of a tree near stream’s edge. Your stomach leaps as your eyes narrow; you know there are mushrooms that can be eaten, and those that kill, but no one has taught you which is which. Hunger, on the other hand, can never be eaten, and will only kill you if left unchecked. You drag your shirt and skirts on over your wet skin and squat beside the cluster of mushrooms. They look mirthful in their broad-brimmed caps, clustered together like giggling courtiers; you decide nothing so cheerful-seeming would do you harm, and eat.

Afterward, you walk a while in the sun, letting the last autumn rays coax the lingering cold of the stream from your skin. The hunger isn’t sated, exactly, but your stomach has something to do, and that is a welcome feeling after two days of water and nothing else.

A swell of aching gladness fills your chest: gladness for the sun, for the branches of the trees, the sway of the grass. There is a music to the world, you think, though you’ve only heard music once in your life: you were a child, draped beneath an over-sized cloak, hands hidden, brought down to the hamlet by your mother to see a traveling minstrel. The lazy oscillations of grass and trees remind you of that minstrel’s voice, as though each motion is a note in the forward progression of a song. You laugh in delight; this is the most interesting thing you’ve ever experienced, and it’s happening right here, in your brain, independent of anyone or anything outside of you.

Suddenly every step you take in the golden afternoon light feels like a step toward something, and you realize that you, too, are a note in this omnipresent song of the world, and that makes you cry—a good cry, like rain washing away the haze of a dusty summer.

Tears streaming down your cheeks, you raise your cursed, evil hands up toward the sun so they’re silhouetted like trees against the late light. You curl and extend your fingers, counting them, seeing for the first time all the smaller numbers nested within the six-and-six of your hands. With your fingers you can make two sixes, four threes, six twos, three fours, a pair of two-and-fours; you have one finger for each lunation, three fingers for each season of the year.

Your hands are a puzzle, a calendar, a pair of trees, a song. You fall to your knees, then your side, curl into a fetal ball, and sob for the coruscating feeling of love for your self emanating out from within yourself.

As you lay in the waning sunlight, God comes and takes your mind away, lifting you into a kingdom of intricate, recursive shapes that hum and throb in time with the beat of your heart, and you know beyond all doubt that you are an intentional part of this world, an interval of melody in the song of angels.

You come back to yourself in the early hours of the morning, frigid and stiff, your clothes sodden with dew. You stagger home, expecting darkness, but finding instead the flicker of a fire winking at you from between the cracks in the walls of your home. And when you open the door your mother is there to embrace you, hardly flinching when you return the embrace, resting your miraculous hands on her back.

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Thunderdome 397: at the end of the tunnel.



this week is very simple. No matter how your story begins, it will end with someone attaining their heart's desire, and it's all wonderful. It's up to you to decide how they get there.

you may request a heart's desire when you sign up and I will assign you a flashrule, something fulfilling for your character(s) to attain.

here's some things that will earn you a negative mention and—even worse—evoke my displeasure:

  • Stories where an evil or lovely person gets their evil or lovely heart's desire won't fly.
  • No "be careful what you wish for" bullshit.
  • No tragic endings or pyrrhic victories.

Wordcount: 1300
Signup deadline: Friday, March 20, 11:59 PM PST
Submission deadline: Sunday, March 22,11:59 PM PST

Judges:
sitting here
crabrock
sebmojo

Desirers

Your character(s) achieves...

yoruichi - the perfect wind in their hair.
Simply Simon - An embrace whose warmth never fades
Anomalous Amalgam - The completion of a masterpiece
Carl Killer Miller - An exquisite song
PTSDeedlydoo - An unforgettable gift
flerp - A friend who will never leave
Thranguy - The taste of something almost unbearably exquisite
Black Griffon - a wish fulfilled beyond wildest dreams
kurona_bright - a party that glows with love
Captain_person - words that heal the mind
Armack - A safe house for the soul
Djeser
skaanscreenplays
solitair - A garden of delicate life
randompaul - A pillar of strength (literally or figuratively)
arbitrary fairy
saucy rodent
antivehicular
hawklad
nethilia


Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 17:21 on Mar 23, 2020

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your character(s) achieve...

Yoruichi posted:

In, flash

the perfect wind in their hair.

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quoting the prompt for the new page...

Sitting Here posted:

Thunderdome 397: at the end of the tunnel.



this week is very simple. No matter how your story begins, it will end with someone attaining their heart's desire, and it's all wonderful. It's up to you to decide how they get there.

you may request a heart's desire when you sign up and I will assign you a flashrule, something fulfilling for your character(s) to attain.

here's some things that will earn you a negative mention and—even worse—evoke my displeasure:

  • Stories where an evil or lovely person gets their evil or lovely heart's desire won't fly.
  • No "be careful what you wish for" bullshit.
  • No tragic endings or pyrrhic victories.

Wordcount: 1300
Signup deadline: Friday, March 20, 11:59 PM PST
Submission deadline: Sunday, March 22,11:59 PM PST

Judges:
sitting here
<3
<3

Desirers

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Your character(s) achieve...


An embrace whose warmth never fades.

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your character(s) achieve...


The completion of a masterpiece


An exquisite song

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your character(s) achieve...

PTSDeedly Do posted:

thank you for roasting me!

in, flash

An unforgettable gift.

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flerp posted:

in flash

A friend who will never leave

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Your character(s) achieve...

Armack posted:

In. I request a heart's desire.

A safe house for the soul

Captain_Person posted:

In with a flash please

words that heal the mind


a party that glows with love

Thranguy posted:

In and flash

The taste of something almost unbearably exquisite

Black Griffon posted:

in and a flash please and thank you

a wish fulfilled beyond wildest dreams

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your character(s) achieve...

Solitair posted:

In, flash

A garden of delicate life

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Your character(s) achieve...

RandomPauI posted:

I have two ideas that I'm attached to, but they don't work together and I can't choose, so flash please

A pillar of strength (literally or figuratively).

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Nethilia posted:

what's this signups are still open

in

indeed!

they are closed now. Unless you really want to sign up i guess, idgaf.

BTW if you are on Discord, tomorrow afternoon (sunday, 3/22) there is going to be a one-shot rpg over voicechat—a glorified radio show for the isolated goon masses. The players are already decided but we would love to have an audience! More details will be available to members of the server. PM me for an invite.

Also, for those who aren't aware, discord upped its streaming cap from 10 to 50 for all accounts, so we've been doing frequent game nights. Please continue to take care of yourselves in this weird time by keeping in touch with your fellow humans, whether through TD or elsewhere :unsmith:

ahem.

right, enough of that soft 10-ply toilet paper bullshit. GET WRITING YOU FUCKMONGERING LINGUIPHOBES

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submissions are closed.

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judgement for week 398

Guys. Why did this week have such a high body count. Dead people were rarely far from these stories—even some of the defter pieces leaned hard on deceased loved ones for emotional gravity. The deceased, in order of appearance:

A dead lover.
A dead father.
A dead son.
An implied dead wife.
another dead wife.
Oh and an old lady who dies peacefully at the end of her life.

Here's the thing, dear writers. I don't care that you wrote about death this week. What bothers me is how often the deceased were shorthand for character development. Loss and death can shape your character, but it shouldn't be the beginning and end of their development on the page. It does not suffice as a singular motivating factor—even if it is a primary motivating factor, your character is still has other attributes that inform their reaction to loss, and it's your job as the writer to explore them.

Fret not—not everyone who wrote about death fell into this pitfall, but it was definitely a thing this week.

Also for the love of god please absorb something other than video games, goons, i had to wade through so much stilted dialog that read like a synthesis of 1000 poorly localized video games.

All that said, the quality was not especially varied this week; the judges were mostly "eh" about everything. You flattened the curve!!!

Loser: Simon edges out a couple other people for the loss; this was a sad story that might've been saved by slick editing, but there were a couple too many missing words and typos.

HM: I have been going back and forth about this all night. DJESER, you take home an HM for writing a nice mythy story about kindness that ends happily.

Winner: We talked about this a lot while getting increasingly drunk. At first I had djeser for this spot because he instantly moved the emotional needle for me with his treatise on why Kindness Good (it is), but ultimately I had to give the win to Nethilia for emotional realism and credible character portraiture.

Neth, I warmed the throne up for you, enjoy ;)

:toxx: that my crits will be up before 10PM PST tomorrow (3/24)

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 08:28 on Mar 24, 2020

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actually, here are the first half of my crits, still :toxx:'d to get the other half out in the next 24 hours

RandomPauI

I’ll give you one thing: this is one of the more sincere “I’m turning in an apology instead of a story” entries I’ve seen. It’s kinda got an arc, even. You didn’t quite achieve what you’d intended, but you’re able to be content with having gotten a little fragment of your story out into the world. For the record, I like the idea, and I would’ve liked to read that story. It sounds sweet.

I’m writing these crits before judgment so I’ll tell you this: if the other eleven stories are basically competent to good, it’s difficult to justify not giving this one the loss. If that ends up being the case, hey—I appreciate that you submitted anyway.



Simply Simon

There is a lachrymose, character-heavy quality to your stories that I’m fond of, generally.

This story has that, but unfortunately it stays terminally lachrymose from beginning to end; spin it however you want, slouching off into the night, scarred and alone, is not anyone’s heart’s desire. Since this story contains magic, why not have Hubert himself absorb Abadin’s soul? Maybe after having a change of heart about exploiting the body of an orphan (bonus if Hubadin adopts the kid, but not necessary)? If my SO died AND left a weird burning rash on my back, I’d be pissed. Like imagine your partner serves you some food and it’s a little too spicy. And then a while later you go to have a poo and OH LORD OH GOD BURNING RING OF FIRE. Hubert basically has that for the rest of his life, implying that he will remain forever alone with the red-hot chili residue of his deceased partner.

Slick editing might’ve saved this story from evoking my displeasure, but there are several errors—stuff that Google Docs is capable of catching for you, like missing particles and prepositions and such, as well as typos that look like tense errors.

Full disclosure: I liked the intro. It had a fun, campy occult vibe and you used the phrase “proudly erect pillar” which is always going to pique my interest. I’m not actually sure there was much point to starting near the end, then jumping back, except to introduce the “hook” that Hubert’s lover was being sustained by the candle. I think I might’ve rather you used those words to endear me to Hubert and Abadin; their actual relationship—the things that make them special to each other as people—gets a little glossed over in favor of a lot of words about magical CGI effects and flaming pentagrams. Likewise with the orphan, who is kind of a prop who’s there to give Hubert the chance to regret his choice to focus on a magical fix rather than being a good partner.

Bottom line: you had the ingredients for a decent piece, but the ending is too morose and you didn’t use your characters to the fullest extent.




PTSDeedly doo

This story kind of captures the mood of a Yasujiro Ozu film in its themes and descriptions. It works decently well as a snapshot of a moment, so much so that your happy ending feels tacked on and vestigial, even though it technically fulfills the prompt. I think that in reality, Mr. Sato would not come in and interrupt his daughter’s frisky makeout session with the news that he is bailing his future son in-law out. I think it would be a tense, private conversation where the narrator is forced to eat his pride and count his blessings. The realism of the rest of the story doesn’t support such an abrupt happy ending.

The other issue with this piece is the dialog. It’s not awful, but when compared to the rest of the prose, it’s a bit bland and workhorse. It almost reads like translation english—like subtitles or something. Everyone responds very plainly to what everyone else says and there isn’t much nuance. Nothing about the way these people talk tells me much about them, the narrative is doing all that work.

Bottom line: a decent nod to the mid-20th century Japanese family drama, ending lacks realism and the dialog doesn’t do much for your characters.



Anomalous Amalgam

I appreciate that you don’t spend much time on worldbuilding. Clearly some sci-fi poo poo is happening, but you don’t bog down my reading experience with unnecessary backstory. On the other hand, much like in the critique just ahead of this one, your dialog is fairly one-dimensional, so direct as to seem stilted. I’m going to zero in on a random example from your story:

quote:

“He’d always come back with the strangest objects from the Visitation Sites. Most of them with no discernible mechanisms that could be disassembled or means of understanding their function. Disparate parts of some unknown whole.”

Kanoko’s eyes lit up then. “Do you still have any of them?”

“Of what?”

“The objects.”

Orland just got done describing these objects to Kanoko. Why would he be confused as to what ‘them’ is referring to? Fluff like that makes the dialog feel like filler, as opposed to words that progress the story and/or develop the character.

As for the story itself: your intro is conceptually fine. Competent character demonstrates competence, reveals that she is looking for something in this vaguely apocalyptic wasteland. The conversation with Orland is all exposition; for all that you omit tedious worldbuilding, you get really bogged down in dialog-as-exposition, which can work to an extent if your characters have compelling voices. As it is, I feel like I’m listening to a Pokedex read off Kanoko’s experience of losing her father, which is probably not how you wanted me to feel.

The ending...I haven’t connected enough with Kanoko’s desire to bring this alien thing to life. I know it’s something she wants to do because the story has made that pretty clear. But we don’t get a single rumination on what it means to her personally; the closest we get is her line about wanting to finish her dad’s work, but that’s about as dry as the rest of the dialog.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: readers don’t care whether it’s a cyber heart or a quantum dong that makes this creature come to life. They don’t care whether it takes a prick of blood or a ice cube tray full of unicorn piss. What they care about is the connection between the protagonist and the object of their efforts. In this case, a dead dad is supposed to be the protagonist’s motivating factor. The legacy of a deceased parent is actually a pretty good motivation, but in the case of this story, you use “dead dad” as shorthand for emotional gravity instead of giving us vivid, on-the-page examples of why Kanoko is so set on bringing this alien thing to life.

So at the very end, when the alien does a “thx k bye”, I’m left feeling a little sympathetic to their abrupt departure. Kanoko didn’t have any particular depth of feeling for them, why should they have strong feelings about her?

Bottom line: a decent enough premise that suffers from its resemblance to a video game dialog tree.



Nethilia

Okay. Here we go. This is not a happy story by any stretch: the protagonist is abandoned and then forced to wear an identity that is fundamentally at odds with who she is. Her search for a name that is truly her own is not happy or comfortable. Normally I’m not a fan of stories that resolve with “character finds a thing in a book that solves everything”, but this story isn’t about which name she picks. It’s about her journey to the moment where she can even look for that name. Finding her name is an affirmation that who she is is valid, but the journey to that moment is the thrust of this piece.

I have a nitpick, but it’s a style thing more than anything else. I really disliked Capitalized Nouns that are meant to tell me when something is a Special Concept. It makes me feel as though the writer doesn’t trust the reader to get the gravity of the thing; I think the Wrong Thing could just as easily have been effective without the proper nounification.

Bottom line: this story has heart, and is the first of the week to truly deliver on the prompt.



Hawklad

Okay I’m going to stop you at your first line because I think you are a basically good writer but your use of simile presented a big ol’ door stop right off the bat. Let’s look at the offending line:

quote:

Like a fragile canoe perched atop a giant waterfall, forces reach up to pull her down towards her death.

The way this is written, it reads as though you’re saying “Like a fragile canoe...forces reach up to pull her down”. You’re telling us that these dangerous “forces” are like a fragile canoe, which is obviously not what you intended! And at this point I’m so distracted by this canoeing metaphor that I’m totally blindsided by the fact that this is happening in space.

You know what would have been an amazing first line for this story?

quote:

The Sun was communicating. Phoebe listened.

The story itself is decent. In the future, I would challenge yourself to steer away from boilerplate gently caress IT NOTHIN TO LOSE dialog. The reason we care about human protagonists is because they represent feeling, thinking individuals like ourselves, and when they care about their circumstances, we care, too. The beginning is frontloaded with a bunch of action stuff happening, a bunch of don’t give a gently caress, and a single sentence alluding to a dead kid. You use a bunch of cool words to describe Phoebe’s solar dive, but that’s not the interesting part of your story! The interesting part is the sun apparently communicating with humans, then the revelation that’s it’s full of loving ghosts.

The story gets more conceptually appealing as it goes on, but I don’t think it was the best approach to have John explain everything via dialog; I think you could have conveyed all the same stuff using imagery, feelings, and just a dash of ‘telling’ (gasp).

The ending is sufficiently on-prompt but it’s incredibly tidy and Hallmark channel and I’m not entirely sure what Phoebe and John did to fix the whole sun ghost situation. Like, apparently all it took to free the ghosts was a mom and son who love each other very much?? It kind of seems like they make the sun explode. But then where do they reincarnate as children? It’s not clear how the cause (ejecting the core of the sun along with a bunch of ghosts) results in the effect (mom and son reincarnated as two picturesque children in a sunny field). The more I think about it, the less it makes sense.

Bottom line: this is a decent pastiche of Sunshine, Interstellar, and Event Horizon that suffers from a lumpy start.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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The rest of the 398 crits!

Thranguy

The judges were stumped by your story. The throughline is clear enough: the narrator is trying to return home, in a manner of speaking, by recreating their mother’s long lost recipe. There are some things I know for certain: The protagonist wants to recreate their mother’s recipe. Obtaining the ingredients to do this comes at great discomfort and personal risk, but they are clever and able to find workarounds to their various obstacles. This process is threatened by, among other things, beings called Obliques, who seem to be twisted dopplegangers of some sort—though the protagonist wields life or death power over these particular beings, i guess. Ultimately, the protagonist succeeds in making the meal, and disappears happily into the lineage of the food and the people who developed it. Not only that, but it seems that the taste of this dish hints at a world outside the protagonist’s purgatory, though for whatever reason they are not ready to come home.

There are a bunch of cool individual moments. I was intrigued by the almost spectral way the protagonist seems to interact with their environment; the bit in the grocery store, for example, was really cool and surreal even though I wasn’t totally clear on what was happening. My best guess is that the narrator, for reasons not made totally clear, seems to have ensconced themselves in some sort of ghostly in-between space in an attempt to escape something, but also seemingly in search of something. This individual seems more lucid than the other beings who wander this place, but for all I know they are an unreliable narrator; perhaps this is a wandering spirit who only thinks they are acting with agency, but in reality they are simply unable to let go of the life they had and move on to elsewhere.

Bottom line: the words are good, the imagery fascinating, but since we don’t get even the slightest nod to the rules of the setting, the story ends up feeling just a little too opaque.



djeser

This is a nice story about kindness. It made me feel good to read, plus it did not rely too much on cliches or dead parents/spouses/children for emotional weight. Yes there was death, but that wasn’t the point—Izal got to be a happy old lady, and then her kindness continued on in her place. That is beautiful.

I don’t have much to critique; the other judges weren’t keen on the god taking a dog form because they felt it was a little saccharine. I didn’t think so; Izal is a shepherd and would very likely have a dog anyway. What actually edged it out of the winning spot was this: Neth’s story had a specificity, a realism that made the feel-good aspect of it feel hard earned on a personal level. Your feels more like a parable—equally valuable, but the feelings of the piece are painted with a broader brush.

Bottom line: im not crying your crying


yoruichi

This is absurd and whimsical enough to make me not care that I don’t fully understand why any of this is happening. Well, okay, scratch that—I understand why some of these things are happening. The king seems to have gone a bit eccentric, possibly because of the passing of his wife, who is implied to have been the no-nonsense half of the equation. He definitely doesn’t want to be king. Right, okay, so actually I think I understand a decent amount of this.

What about Wagner though? Is he just some sort of well-meaning crow wizard who decided to do an intervention on the clearly lackadaisical king? He initially reads as some sort of nefarious charlatan come to grift the king—which is hard to avoid when you have an apparent stranger turn up and offer something that seems too good to be true. It would have worked better if Wagner was some well-known figure, like a corvid Gandalf, or something. Melvin could still have been uneasy about Wagner’s presence, but the offer of aid wouldn’t seem like such a non-sequitur.

This is actually a very lovely story to picture in my brain, and the king’s eccentricity is very charmingly painted. If this were a film, it would look great, but I would walk away feeling as though I had no insight into the characters’ feelings. The king’s exhilaration is nice, but it rings a little hollow because I don’t really know what it means for him to experience this miraculous escape. I’ll let you in on a secret: you are allowed to use the narration to give us a little window into the character’s thoughts and feelings, even in a relatively distant 3rd person POV (which this story is in). As the king rises into the air, does he feel the weight of this reign fall away? Is he relieved? Does this resolve some grief or dysfunction related to the death of his wife or his resentment of his station?

Finally, I always like to point out to writers when they can trust their readers more. I wasn’t a fan of “crow-wagner”. It’s the sort of thing writers do when they want to make quadrupal sure that the readers understand that the character has undergone some sort of change. But you described him very compellingly as a big ol’ crow!

“Long live King Melvin!” cawed Wagner is way funnier without the crow-.

Bottom line: a charming story with great visuals that needed a little bit more focus on the feelings and motivations of its characters.



solitair

You asked me about this elsewhere, so I’m going to start by talking about dialog.

What you successfully conveyed with your dialog (ignoring the background info provided by the narration): Mei and Tydus are friends (or something else?)! They have a close relationship, and pay attention to each other’s needs and feelings.

What could use work: Your characters tend to ask each other dry questions, then answer those questions very straightforwardly.

Here’s an example of a pretty good exchange:

quote:

9-Mei fingered a scratch on the back of her hand, recent enough that she'd yet to shed the plate. "I took the strain of my own accord, Tydus. Maybe it wasn't always pleasant, but someone had to do it, yes?" She turned her head to face him, a cross look coming over her face. "I hope you didn't treat this like an obligation, too. You know how I feel—"

"—about treating relationships like ledgers, yes." Tydus scowled and looked away from 9-Mei. "This was borne of gratitude and appreciation, nothing less. I realized I hadn't shown my first friend, without whom the Academy wouldn't be, the gratitude and appreciation she deserves in some time. I don't need to keep exact figures to realize that needed to change."

Mei’s desire to avoid transactional friendships feels true—it’s a well-observed trait that real people really have. As is Tydus’s indignation that Mei would imply his gift was anything but a gesture of gratitude. Plus I liked the detail about the scratch on Mei’s hand; it’s one of those little things that makes your world feel more real, which is important in science fiction.

The only bit of the above quote that I would rework is everything after “...without whom the Acadamy…” just because it’s borderline “as you know, Bob.”

Here’s a less-good exchange (I snipped some stuff):

quote:

"Good morning, Tydus. Is there an experiment that needs my attention?"

"No, you finished the last such assignment last night." Tydus replied in a level voice.

This is a reasonable enough exchange, but this is the first time we see these two interact and it feels a little robotic.

You were also worried about not having enough of a plot. I disagree; in fact, I think you could have spent a couple hundred more words on some really fun exploration of Mei’s new garden, letting us experience it with her. Because that is the essence of this story: this wonderful garden, and the relationship between Mei and Tydus. If I were going to rewrite this, I’d get them inside the garden within the first paragraph, then launch into the dialog and characterization from there. That way you could have them wandering around interacting with cool stuff while they talk throughout the whole piece.

Bottom line: You successfully gave me a sense of established characters in an existing world, but slightly stilted dialog and a lack of narrative focus made the reading experience a little muddly.


antivehicular

I’ll get this out of the way: I’m not mad about the dead wife.

This was a fairly breezy read; the dialog was refreshing in its organic-feeling execution. I like the subtle subversion of tropes, here; the mad, grieving scientist is safely tucked away in an assisted living community, sought out by his own creation rather than the other way around.

I think the only problem is that the story keeps things very surface level. You touch on themes of personhood, of family in a time of cloning, grief in a world where your loved one lives on in form but not in mind. It’s some heavy stuff. You could have absolutely picked one of those things and had your characters explore it a little deeper through the dialog. I think what bothered me is how much parity there was between the narration and the dialog; both are, for the most part, telling us about the past. The narrative gives us the past as Magnus experienced it, while the dialog gives us the past as explained by the two characters to each other.

What might’ve slammed this one out of the park: Let the narrative tell us about the past and get down and dirty with some heady sci-fi concepts in your dialog. I’m not saying that I wanted to read technobabble or some philosophy 101 treatise, but if I was confronted by the clone of my deceased partner, I imagine the conversation would be about 75% more intense than the congenial tea chat we see here. Your ending could stay relatively the same, but you could have definitely punched up the dialog that got us there.

Bottom line: well-written, did some neat stuff, needed to lean harder into its own premise.



Armack

This is batshit insane in the best way. Gods being rendered into flavors? What the hell. I love it. The first line hooks with its absurdity. I love the internal logic of this story; it makes perfect sense when you tell me that Igor rotates his worship of lesser known gods. When Hestia shows up like “hey cut it out, you’re gonna blow up my spot” I’m like, yeah that makes sense.

This piece very much flies by the seat of its pants, which could be hit or miss, depending on the reader. I thought it was a blast, but there are enough weird, non sequitur elements that another reader might be put off by the randomness. I think the peak of that randomness is the role that baked beans play in the resolution—it makes the story feel a little Ren and Stimpy rather than like a theological fever dream.

Igor studies the fluctuation in paranormal activity and then...baked beans. It’s its own paragraph!

Baked beans.

The logic of the story suggests that the frog thing either tastes like baked beans or is craving baked beans, but the more I think about it, the more I’m not sure I understood the logic behind that particular detail. I get what happens at the end, but not why, exactly. And I’m not fully sure I’m meant to!

Bottom line: this is a fun, creative romp through an insane premise that suffers only slightly from its own silliness.

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 08:59 on Mar 25, 2020

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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:siren: SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT I SHOULD HAVE MADE A FEW DAYS AGO SORRY :siren:

As per TD tradition, the winner of week 399 will judge week 401. Week 400 will be a special event week because holy poo poo guys, 400 weeks of Thunderdome. What the gently caress.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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how many posts until the next page

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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shitpost

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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shitpost

Sitting Here
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hmmm

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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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I want to post the week 400 prompt but i want a fresh new page

edit: OH gently caress HERE WE GO

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