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Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)


Week 439 Crits

Tree Bucket - Untitled
This had a cool, clipped cadence that wasn't as annoying as it sounded, the dystopian world is revealed rather elegantly with sparse exposition, but the main character loses me in near the end. Amver's cousin is a weak foil, a privileged caricature spewing canned statements designed to make us dislike him. I found it a little too on-the-nose. Amver's motivation to stir poo poo is kind of muddled and doesn't give the ending the punch it needs.

brotherly - Thirty People
I found this a fun, quirky read, if a bit forgettable. The main character has an engaging internal sassy voice that stops just short of being too obnoxious. I thought some of the minutiae on the "heaven" to be unnecessary and wasteful. I was waiting for a good cathartic moment but it just kind of fizzles out by virtue of the characters not really working for it. Their relationship improves mostly because things just fell into place.

Staggy - Trajectory
Some great prose here. The world-building felt organic. Sadly I'm at a loss for the main character's motivation to rebel against their masters. Why? It just felt like they decided to screw them over for kicks. Were they a double agent from the start? Did they have a change of heart? Hated their boss so much they decided to sabotage the mission out of pettiness? You had words left over for this.

Weltlich - Into the Breech
So I liked the foot soldier drama. There is a good dash of sincerity, but the action/shooty stuff is more than a little confusing. The talking ordnance felt tacked in like you just wanted to fulfill the flash rule. Ending's a little weak. I think it's intended to be hopeful, but it ends up a bit too cheery for the bleak situation, and not in a black humor way. It's just jarring.

Tyrannosaurus - den sisters, we
This was genuinely good, the sisters felt like real people who were having a messy conversation about touchy topics. This was the one story where I walked away feeling something that wasn't disgust or disappointment. However I feel like the main character feeding her dad to her mom was a bit too mean even if it was kinda awesome in its own way. The one she has a beef with is the mother, but she... takes it out on the father? Yeah the dad is complicit and guilty in his own right but I don't see how making mom eat dad would hurt mom--it wouldn't probably hurt her campaign because she's a snake and snakes are predators, so she could just go with the defense that she's just following her nature. Perhaps it's the main character just wants to see her mother's *true nature*, but eh it was a little too reckless. If we follow the logic of this story she could face a murder charge or something. There's a reason why mom and dad were kept separate in the first place. ANYWAY the emotional punch was great, it's just that some of the internal logic of the story is wonky.

Thranguy - The Grass Whisper Among Themselves, Blade to Blade Across the Field
This story is confused and it suffers for it. There is a head (deepfakes, information war and poo poo) and a heart ("wow this guy didn't invite us, rude... but why?"), but it pursues both ends and sort of rips itself up in the process. The big reveal is basically poo poo sucks, sorry about that wedding, we don't actually know a loving thing, the end.The ending paragraph also lost me as it seemed to be trying to make a moral out of the thing like it's an afterschool special.

sebmojo - The day before
I don't get the ordered list, it looks too gimmicky. Story's okay, I guess. A bit too sparse to make me feel anything. I feel like you have the ability and the words to color in the relationship between Gabriel and the main character, but for the sake of brevity just chose not to. It also ends up a little vignette-ish which might be deliberate?

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Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)


Week 440 Crits

Tree Bucket - Bridge Party
I felt a little lost in the setting and the bridge, and it doesn't quite form a concrete enough image in my head to be really engaged. So I guess if that fails the "so what?" test, I'll just go look for a character to root for. So MC in a fish-out-of-the-water situation is always a reliable hook, and for a while the story settles comfortably into it (I thought the paragraph where The Beloved's penchant for ball-kneeing was a overwrought and could have benefited an editing pass and cut to add focus to a more crucial part of the story), but the climax makes the story fall apart. What was The Beloved's plan at the start and how could she get flustered over a technicality? If a public proposal from the main character wasn't part of the plan, then what was? Now it feels like MC was just tacked on into the story, considering he was ill-fitted to the place for starters already. Because of this the ending feels unearned.

brotherly - What Did You See
Creepy but in an okay way, not in a "I'm gonna stop reading this poo poo yikes" way. I just feel like the licking thing is very oddly specific which makes me wonder if you just wrote your kink into your story. Anyway. There wasn't much of a sense of threat in this story, and the way the husband-to-be was handled felt flat in a "huh wtf" kind of way. I could dig the weird family tradition though. It's okay, I guess. I also don't really get how and why Jeremy doesn't know what the people who lick the orb see, I feel like that was a wasted opportunity to sneak in something interesting, as Mellie really really doesn't want to admit that she's a certified ghostfucker. I mean, this story already has that weird licking thing, why get blue balls there?

Yoruichi - íTil Death Do Us Part
I think this could have worked better for me if the MC's heart didn't swing every other paragraph. She's in love with Emerald (totally out of nowhere, and we're supposed to go with it), and then she does that to her soul in the end. I wish I could call it an entertaining trainwreck but most of the story baffles me out of suspension of disbelief. I guess all the nonchalant killing is part of the mood of the story, but I found Magnolia insufferable. Nice words though. Nice weird but highly specific metaphors, too.

Simply Simon - Death of the Family
I read this beforehand (a little too late to suggest any significant changes to the story though), but now that I think of it it's Juan who's the real bad guy here. Antonio is a loon but at least he's the funny type who fakes his own death to show up at his funeral as a Zorro impersonator. Juan demeans and gaslights his fiancee and I absolutely do not have high hopes for their wedding. The story is mostly silly, but it also feels a bit ashamed of itself--I thought that choosing not to lean into the premise's inherent goofiness really hamstrings the story. Thankfully the melodrama at the end is short enough.

flerp - i tell you this to make it true
This is nice, but it's mostly a vignette. It's a good vignette, but I was looking for an actual story throughout reading it. Not really sure what was the entire point of it but nice words, I guess?

Mercedes - My City, My Rules
Speaking of a story that fully embraces its silliness, this one is pretty good. The sudden attempted assassination kind of surprised me but I found it funny for the characters to be having a spirited conversation about the whole thing. The magic battles were cool. Now I don't think this was some high-quality top-shelf stuff, but its audacity is enough to help me finish reading with a smile than with a scowl.

Idle Amalgam - The Right Wish
Ah, this is peak K-drama. That said, Crenshaw is a sadsack protag with little to no redeeming qualities. When he finally starts noticing Sarah (where you throw in sentences describing her dress and appearance), the gears started turning in my head. The Groundhog Day-esque transition was pretty nice, even if the next scene just reuses the first few paragraphs in an earlier scene. That's a little too lazy, don't you think? I like it, it had some emotional punch, even if I feel that Crenshaw didn't really earn that good ending. He's just an awfully sullen character without anything to make people root for him, and you can't expect readers to root for someone just because they're the main character.

Noah - Together, Forever
Okay so I guess this one pulls out the "love interest is actually manipulative and evil lol" card near the end. (Also Carmila is a stock villain name) Yeah it's supposed to have a weird tonal shift but it still comes off as a little too far-fetched. I really don't understand why Carmila just turned on them like that, and decided to massacre an entire village. I could've liked the bromance more, if not for the unusually cruel ending wherein bad things happen to the protagonists, and then they die. Not really good unless you're Franz Kafka or something.

Thranguy - Here Be Dragons
Very cool premise that is hampered by the word limit. Because there are too many disjointed scenes, there really isn't enough story to fill in the bones. I think if I were to pick the most interesting part of the story, it would be the last scene, because peace is messy and people who've been fighting all their lives absolutely suck at it, so there's a lot of potential for conflict. That or just have Fafnir slaughter Nazis by the dozen.

sebmojo - Three Alarmer
I liked this! I mean, I liked how Dave the himbo is a disaster and the Tony is inside the manor trying to rescue his secret lover's dad while being all baffled and conflicted about Dave wanting to marry him. And then the manor's like, fucken, "I know how it be," which is a big big mood. This feels like downtempo absurd millennial humor and I absolutely gobble that poo poo up. And life just goes on. Same.

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)


I'm in.

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)




That's Why I Didn't Give Up on Music
891 words

At the park, Andrea set her cello down, testing the strings. She examined her bow, noting every little feature of it down to the grain of wood. She was hyper-fixating to distract herself of her heart's aches, and her wallet's woes. The one silver lining about unemployment was that she could practice in the park.

She tried not to think of Amy. She had been a partner, someone Andrea hoped to make music with. It didn't matter if Amy came from a different world, shredding face-melting guitar solos in front of a rowdy audience. They promised to play together, electric guitar and acoustic cello, in the upcoming Muse Fest. And Amy, ever-chasing more lucrative musical highs, left her to join some big-shot band that needed a new guitarist. It would have stung less if she actually cheated on her, honestly.

Suppressing a sigh, Andrea tuned her cello, even if she had tuned it before heading off to the park. It had lasted her through music school, and with care it would last a decade longer. Drawing strength from her old friend, she began to warm up. Finger exercises, scales, and a beginner's piece. Her left hand trembled slightly, which got more prominent as she fought it.

Andrea slouched on the park bench. She wallowed in her despair, until she heard the grass rustle and saw a little girl staring at her cello, her mouth agape.

"You have a giant violin," she said.

"It's a cello," Andrea said. A common misconception, but she knew better than to tell off a child.

"Why big?"

"Big is for deeper sounds," Andrea said. She played a low note to demonstrate.

"Wow."

Seeing her young audience transfixed, Andrea played the C major scale, simple and pleasing to anyone's ears.

The child smiled. "I feel it in my tummy," she said.

"Mika!" a woman's voice called. An adult strode towards the child and grabbed her hand. "Don't go running off by yourself, please. Mommy's worried about you."

"But I wanted to see the lady play the big violin," Mika said.

"Cello," Andrea said, without a hint of chastisement in her voice.

"Cello," Mika said. "Mom, the woman taught me a new word! It means big violin."

Andrea snorted a laugh. Big violin, then. "Would you like to hear a song?"

"Can I, mom?"

"I don't see why not," Mika's mother said. "But just one."

Putting a flourish to her grip on the bow, Andrea played the prelude to one of Bach's cello suites. She had known the piece since she was ten, and it comforted her more than any friend or lover could. It wasn't perfect, but her hands obeyed her for the most part. When she finished, Mika burst out clapping.

The child's applause spoke louder than her pained heart. Andrea stood up and bowed.

"Thank you!" Mika said, and dashed away as children did, their attention already elsewhere.

"Mika..." the mother sighed. She turned to Andrea and smiled. "Thank you for playing for my daughter. Are you okay?"

Perhaps her fingers still trembled after all. If it were a friend she would have started crying already. "I'm working on it," Andrea said.

"Then I'll do my best to keep my daughter away," the mother said. "Good day to you."

As the woman left, Andrea wiped the sweat off her hands. She wasn't going to let anything stop her from practicing today. Not random kids, not unemployment, not Amy.

Speaking of Amy, the scent of her familiar perfume reached Andrea's nose. She ducked just in time as Amy tried to prank her from behind.

"Whoo, you've gotten better," Amy said. She was wearing black despite the humid day, without a drop of sweat on her. Andrea wondered how she could do it. She changed her lipstick, though.

"Why are you here?" Andrea snapped. She wrapped her arms around her cello, as if it could protect her.

"Can't I go where I please? I just heard your sloppy playing from a mile away and decided to drop by. You're rusty, girl."

"And whose fault was that?" Andrea said. Whose fault was it indeed? The woman who dragged her around to late-night gigs, who got them a slot at Muse Fest, powered by big dreams and nothing else? Or the woman who agreed meekly to all of it?

"There you go, blaming others again. Classic Andrea. I really dodged a bullet with you." Her cold dismissal dropkicked Andrea's heart, and she flinched as if physically struck.

But she wasn't backing down this time.

"You're not worth it," Andrea said. The last vestiges of the Amy in her heart faded away as she confronted the real Amy, standing in front of her.

"What?"

"You're right, I've lost my touch. But I played for a live audience today. It sucked, yes, and I'm far from where I should be, but I managed to make someone happy with my music. You're not going to take that away from me."

Amy shrugged. "Whatever, loser. See you at Muse Fest." She turned and walked away, waving her off with a dismissive hand. Andrea stared at her back until she finally disappeared from view.

Andrea slapped her face lightly. Muse Fest was just two weeks away. Putting everything else away from her mind, she hunkered down, and started playing notes, one after the other.

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)


I would like to judge, if you'll have me.

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)


Week 445 Crits

This was a disappointing week. The prompt was already as straightforward as it could be, but you bozos instead decided to write stories that a) sacrificed emotion for cool genre stuff (which ended up being inaccessible because there was nothing I could latch on to aside from wow cool genre stuff), or b) tried hard to be quirky-funny in order to dodge the messy but necessary task of writing about feelings.

I can't speak for the other judges, but I did place some weight in nailing the emotion each of you were given. I'm not expecting some melodramatic, cry-fest tale, I just wanted to feel something in my cold, dead heart. This was a fantastic week to lean into harnessing emotions for your writing but you all decided to second-guess yourselves. Who are we trying to fool here?

I know it can be scary to crash and burn and lose but I wished people had taken more risks this week! Also because I'm a weeb so I'm assigning each story an anime. Go look them up. Or not.

brotherly - See You in London
This was pretty cool. I would have evaluated it higher if it had entered in another week, but it's so devoid of feelings that I couldn't enjoy it in the spirit of the prompt. The ending is unsatisfying and I guess that's kind of the point given the emotion you were made to work with (oh god please let this time be different)? But it lacks oomph. Shame, because the agent developing strong feelings for their target would have made for some delicious drama.
Anime: Monster

Azza Bamboo - Not to Fail at Valentine's
Nailed the emotion in theory, but the story feels like it's going through the motions instead of actually exploring what it means and feels to be excited about something the other party isn't enthusiastic about. I mean, the AI is well-written enough, but you spent more words trying to be quirky instead of making an attempt at real pathos. So it ends up being just okay.
Anime: Idolmaster Xenoglossia

toanoradian - A Clown and A Fool
So the first time I read this, it confused me. So I reread it, then I read the story that one of the characters came from (big mistake, it left me even more bewildered). Basically this is a story of a quirky couple who've gotten their love languages down pat, but you don't really convey that clearly to your unsuspecting readers. I kept wondering why Evelyn is making all that effort not to have sex with Abraham. Is she a sex-repulsed ace? Or is it a joke, and she's applying reverse psychology? The jokes would have worked if you sold the characters more to me, but they fell a little flat. My personal loss pick, not because it's particularly bad or anything, but I just found it the weakest.
Anime: I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying

Casual Encountress - Lipstick Kisses
Funny and self-deprecating in that millennial manner. I liked that you didn't sacrifice self-reflectiveness over the bad decisions the main character was making. It adds a layer of depth to what feels like a believable character. I just think that you could've milked the tension between her and Jennifer more, as the latter just gives the MC a free pass the whole time. Just adding some more tension in whether she would get mad or not would have added a lot more spice to the story. My pick to win, but just because it annoyed me the least.
Anime: Scum's Wish

flerp - We Didn't Drown
Not much to say about this story really, other than the fact that it's just barely a story. It wears its heart on its sleeve, but it doesn't have much to say, and even as a vignette it's not particularly memorable. I also don't think that the emotion was nailed here. It almost feels like you wasted my time reading this, but the words aren't too bad so it ends up being the literary equivalent of eating a tasty bag of chips.
Anime: Toward the Terra

Thranguy - Emotional registers
There is some neat and dense worldbuilding here for a sub-1k word story. I can't quite picture some of the terms used like rider, roamer, or wraith, though. From what I understand, Dan is a digilect rider partnered up with Stan, but started piloting Stan's body as his condition deteriorated, and then he had to get a new body afterwards (the Ken). But I will forgive that given the very limited wordcount you had to work with. Anyway. I don't expect such a character to be particularly emotional, but the tension is too clinical and impossible for me to get into. The fact that Lilly could have betrayed him, but didn't, was such a meaty question that deserved more attention. I would have liked to read more about what they thought about each other, instead of the job they worked together.
Anime: Appleseed

Yoruichi - Hell-crossed Lovers
Maybe I'm slow but it took me a few paragraphs to figure out that Kana is a demon. The story takes us in the middle of an established relationship, and it's been handled fairly well for the most part. I can sort of appreciate the humor and light tone the story is going for, but I feel that it skimmed off some of the emotion in the process. Like the other stories you keep trying to disarm the reader with humor than pathos, and it almost works. Had you pulled off making me emotionally invested about this silly couple, you would've won.
Anime: Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt

Pththya-lyi - Song of the Warleader
This story establishes its tone in the opening paragraph, which is good. Nargol is likeable enough, if a bit horny on main, and I can sort of believe that Jaime is in a relationship with him. I just think that the story jumps to the resolution too quickly without much lead-up. This could've been a stronger tale had you milked their talk about taking things slow. The ending tries to be funny but... shrug.
Anime: My Love Story!!

sebmojo - One job
Kind of a fun if inconsequential caper. My suspension of disbelief stretches during the whole "my car is burning but I need to get the flowers" part, which is pretty much the entire story, so I'm wondering if Dave is supposed to be a himbo or something (maybe establish that more?). It's a story about a guy who loves his wife very much and while I respect that, I also feel that you really missed a prime opportunity by turning it into a comedy, because I really would have loved reading a sincere story about a guy who loves his wife very much. Instead we got a perfectly decent story that sits in the middle of the pack.
Anime: Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto

Lily Catts fucked around with this message at 09:24 on Feb 17, 2021

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Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)


Week 446 crits for Simply Simon and a friendly penguin

Simply Simon - Hospitality
So this was pretty fun, even if I had to read back at the beginning to see where you telegraphed Black getting swatted. Once the tiny super sentai people showed up it was smooth sailing. The piece suffers a little bit for having too many talkers, but that's a hell rule for you.

a friendly penguin - Wiped Out
This piece is mostly dialogue, which works because the two characters' voices are distinct enough. It's pretty natural and easy to read, you've dated the story well enough, but it feels lacking in a way that the story just sort of ends. It feels a little too light on the drama--Dave even got arrested, but it's resolved off the page and they don't seem to learn anything from it (maybe it isn't a rare occurrence for them?).

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