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Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Don't need a faction, but gimme a lore-friendly flash rule.


Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

Birthday crits for The Saddest Rhino and Bad Seafood. Nice work on getting to the top of the omega prompt ladder!

Transcript of Stream #25 of Channel “Korean Food Made Blasphemous” by The Saddest Rhino

Lol. I like the mad energy of this, particularly the first couple of paragraphs. Wandukong's antics are funny. The new subscriber notifications, were, like their on-screen equivalents, annoying after a while. The last line made me smile, but reading this again I would have liked to have seen how you would have ended it properly. Still, as a joke story I think it achieves what it set out to.


This Title Originally Referred to a Parody Song Making Fun of a Problematic Musician but Then I Found Out the Parody Was Performed by an Also Problematic Comedian, so I Won’t Name It I Guess, However if You Figured Out What This Song Was Before Reading This, Good for You. by The Saddest Rhino

I thought the droll style of this was funny. As an anecdote this is amusing but as a flash fiction story it's a bit meandering, and I would have liked to find out what happened to Bumblebee in the end.

I did not figure out what the song was.


Pencherita Malam (Night Storyteller) by The Saddest Rhino

This is neat. I like how atmospheric it is. It's a bit sort of pointless though. I would have liked to learn something more about what the Pencherita Malam meant to the character who is telling this tale.


Crunch Time by Bad Seafood

This is a nicely told story of someone coping with an awful-yet-not-that-bad accident. The cognitive dissonance caused by the knowledge of how bad it could have been vs. no one actually getting hurt is very relatable. The way the protagonist's memories of their grandfather are woven through is well done, and paints a clear picture of what this person and their family are like. Nice work.


Roi Soleil by Bad Seafood

I don't like "coiled like a serpent." It's sort of a waste of a simile.

So, an emperor steals the sun and puts himself in its place? The interesting thing happening in this story is the diplomat's reaction. Is this person witnessing the end of their world? Is this a result of their failure as a diplomat? Or were they powerless in this situation? What is the diplomat going to do next? I would much rather have read about this than listened to the emperor's boring speech.


Magic Scrolls by Bad Seafood

"Freki leaned over the chasm, stroking his chin. Holding aloft a flickering torch, he released it to the darkness," sounds like he released his chin into the darkness.

The medieval-fantasy-esque setting plus smartphone combo was less funny and more just a bit confusing, unfortunately. The prose and the action in this is all fine, but it didn't add up to much. We needed to see something of the consequences of Mune's magic to make this interesting. I guess at the end if others can use magic in the same way he can by posting selfies he is making himself vulnerable, but it's not clear if this is the case.


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

MOAR Birthday Crits :toot:

Yoruichi – Giant Varantula

What even is this story? I chuckled several times but mostly because I love absurdity and this story has plenty of it for its small word-count. And if it were just an absurd romp, I’d leave feeling amused. And I almost do except for the crucial detail of the divorce. These tarantulas have lasers, alchemy sets, web connected (PUN! Because they’re spiders.) phones, but somehow manage to misunderstand divorce, with wacky vampires? Eh. I think this story could have gotten away with them understanding exactly what divorce is and their main concern still being what their own fate would be and the procurement of crickets. Then allow the antics to ensue.

If this gigantic mess of an exploding house and dead owners and sister had all revolved around what Dorothy was going to eat, it would all feel a little more tied together. And I guess it is since the spiders are trying to eat everyone else in the story, I just wish there were a line at the end saying Dorothy didn’t need crickets anymore now that she’s discovered something new about herself. That would at least bring the action to a satisfying conclusion though not necessarily a character conclusion since honestly I couldn’t tell you the difference between Shelob and Dorothy as characters.

Funny for a quick write and read. Thoughts on how to take it in new directions.

Simply Simon – Domino’s March

Because what kind of librarian would I be if I didn’t read and critique a story about the Dewey Decimal System?

Okay, so this story is about a character that is “progress” made manifest and in the first sentence declares that it is not linear but then has to explain and perform its actions fairly linearly in this story. So an interesting choice. But also, what is progress? Some might consider a lot of what happened between 1876 and 2016 to be progress even if from another lens it looks like regressive thinking.

I don’t know. I needed to read this a second time in order to follow some of the arguments/logic of this. But I don’t know that it does enough in character work, in presenting ideas/concepts for consideration, or in compelling stakes. It does elicit questions from me, but mostly on a purely structural basis, like what certain pronouns refer to and how a push can possibly come from outside when it’s coming from within the same society that is producing the stagnation?

Anyway, this story feels like all of the problems I have discussing philosophy, namely that everyone appears to be talking about the same the thing, but instead they have failed to adequately define all of their concepts and even when they do, I disagree with the definition and therefore think the whole process of arguing philosophy is ridiculous and so I think what this comes down to is…

This story just isn’t for me.

PhantomMuzzles – Happy Happy Happy

Haha, I cackled when the sparkly glitter, streamers and balloons came out of the ceiling. It was just such a contrast to that absolutely chaotic scene you open with. Oh man, and the fact that they knew that this could possibly happen and are horrified at the possibility of what will happen. Holy crap, this is turning into a horror story real fast and I’m here for it.

But then it cuts to Carol on the deserted island and that feeling could easily be carried through here, but it gets a bit ridiculous with the squishing of the brains and explanation of the cowboys. You could get away with describing them a lot less and focusing more on the weirdness of what’s happened to her sense of hearing to achieve the quiet. Because people often go mad when they’re in just absolute quiet. And I think that’s more in line with the tone set up in the first part of the story.

The ending also feels expected. I expect her to feel sad and miss her kids. I expect her to want to go back. But it doesn’t tell me anything more about Carol or what her mindset is now that she’s in this new environment. There’s nothing wrong with saying these things, but I’d like to see something else explored here or some sense of progression. She goes from a beleaguered mom to a sad mom.

Good imagery. Liked the strong opinion Carol had in the first paragraph with her expletive about Jacob’s meeting but then that voice is kind of lost. More of that and your character will really pop.

QuoProQuid – Repair Job

I have so many questions, which is good. It’s a 250-word piece so any introduction of something like a repair man who can see more than just mechanical issues, but also existential ones, is going to elicit more questions than the story can answer. But I’m on board for it.

The problem is that since it’s a 250-word piece, I think the first couple paragraphs are not as tight as they could be. They’re introductory where we don’t need much or else, the introduction that we’re given is wasted because the comparison between Margaret Heller and the person with the fancy vegetables isn’t really explored. Since the story is more about this one particular type of person. I’d like to see more about the connection between Margaret and her need to tidy but not go out and explore. Or get some sort of interaction between her and the repair man. Or a little more reaction to his diagnosis of her refrigerator and of her actually. Because it is a judgment on her. And I think this story could have that if it cut a bit at the top.

It’s fun. Overall it works. I’m being nitpicky because that’s what these short ones call for.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

I will be in

Dec 30, 2011

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

I'm judgin'

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
Signups closed!

Bad Seafood posted:


Don't need a faction, but gimme a lore-friendly flash rule.

(if this is too late no worries, i got super busy! Use as much or as little of this as you want)

Your story should feature, in one way or another, the concept of a ragur. Ragur are mischevious and/or malevolent entities from the Anasianin religion('Anasianin' can also refer to a practitioner of the religion. The proper noun is 'Anasia'). Anasia isn't too common anymore, but it's one of the few cultural relics shared to some extent by all factions.

Anasianin venerate the holy Sianad, which is symbolized by three intertwined tree branches, usually colored or crafted in silver. The Sianad is inherently unknowable; it's said that if a living person were to completely apprehend the Sianad, they would perceive their oneness with all things, which would shatter the illusion of the universe and end all existence. The inherent mystery of the Sianad is critical to its veneration since anything else would, theoretically, blow up the universe.

According to folklore, ragur occur when a human dies. In the Anasianin religion, human souls temporarily rejoin the Sianad before being reconstituted for their next incarnation. Sometimes, if a soul lived a very hard or cruel life, it will shed some of itself as it leaves the body. Those sheddings become specter or poltergeist-like creatures called ragur.

Jun 23, 2022

It's a puzzle.
Crits for Week 522
Complete Ladders: Part 2

J.A.B.C - The Lane

Something about “slender red-haired figure” was weird to me. It made me think her body is covered in red fur. Also I’d rather have the screens illuminate her scowling face or something that tells me more about what she’s feeling. The fact that she is slender and has red hair doesn’t really affect her character, nor is it descriptive enough for me to picture her any better. Basically it feels sort of weirdly objectifying.

“‘But it’s space,’ She shoots back…” followed by “‘That’s how all this started,’ That voice shot back…”. Repetitive use of “shoot back” and also “She” and “That” shouldn’t be capitalized. Also referring to her coach’s voice as “that voice” feels a little bit weird because we know whose voice it is.

This one is really tough because it definitely fits the prompt words. But it also does nothing. It establishes an interesting character who does interesting things. And then we get to watch her just sit there, not doing those things. I wonder if you still could have had some action or given her any kind of agency, while still featuring the commute. Even her relationship with her coach/trainer wasn’t particularly meaty. And she definitely came off more as whiny than feisty.

J.A.B.C - A wonderful day

Had to look up bakelite.

(Toward end of the first paragraph) “Birds are singing outside, there’s the sound of the Franklin’s lawn mower humming away a few doors down.” Humming is already an auditory verb, so “there’s the sound of…” is a little clunky and redundant.

Last sentence of second paragraph is present tense; everything else is past.

Third paragraph establishes Harken was a murderer in their past lives, but Mary’s perspective doesn’t seem to factor in as the murder victim. In the first it just says he raids her village, and in the second he tests his aim on a widow and her child (we don’t know if that’s past-Mary). The smiling knife in the back alley one is pretty clear though.

Fourth-to-last paragraph: “...She says, letting him sit at the table.” (again, “She” shouldn’t be capitalized). But brought it up to say that “letting him sit at the table” took me out because why wouldn’t he be allowed to sit at the table?

I really liked the ending, though I thought it was odd that the kids weren’t in it, and weren’t mentioned at all. We know there are kids because you said they’d be home in an hour. So if you’re trying to paint a picture of a quaint family scene where no one suspects anyone of murder, including the kids would reinforce that.

Overall I really like the idea of this story, but we end up not seeing any of the action. Several lifetimes of exciting things happen, all culminating in this spontaneous homicide. Then the story picks up as the murder is like “huh so that just happened”. Then she thinks about what to do next. Then it jumps forward in time to someone else’s perspective so they can have dinner.

If this was longform, I love the idea of not knowing whether all the past life stuff was real, or if Mary sort of snapped and imagined it all. Either way it’s interesting, and either way I still like the ending. I just think the ending could be a little shorter and sweeter and still accomplish the same thing.

J.A.B.C - Old mountain road

First sentence: nowhere should be one word. The second sentence is very long and might benefit from a bit of cleaning up.

You could begin this story with the paragraph that starts with “The Ukrainian captain, a tall man with sunken features..” and it wouldn’t be missing any details the story needed. There’s so much buildup to anything happening, but that buildup doesn’t actually add anything to the action or change the perception of it. You could basically cut that first part (almost half!) of the story and just leave the actual story.

Paragraph that begins with “The major is confused.” You say “...two weeks before it was even passible.” I believe you mean passable, unless the road is capable of suffering.

Overall the story itself was charming, albeit a little passive. For an autobiographical story I’d hoped it would be more of something that happened to you, or that you were more directly involved in.

J.A.B.C - Big

First sentence of second paragraph: stops stops stops.

I really like the relationship here. She so clearly trusts her dad, and he seems to delight in her experience. It’s really quite lovely. The dialogue is so simple, which is perfect to encapsulate a sweet little moment between a child and their parent. The imagery was straightforward and vivid. Good work on this one!

J.A.B.C - Property Rights

Last sentence of third paragraph is in both present and past tense. As is the fourth paragraph.

“You Like Me!” was odd. It was written strangely, and it wasn’t immediately apparent who was saying it, and to whom they were referring.

All in all, there are some good ideas here. I wish you’d been able to show us some of the action rather than telling us about it. Also it seems like a big deal they’re brought before The Grand Magus, but they don’t really do anything. I feel like I get a decent sense of who Visenis is, but not a ton of character from Gurith or The Grand Magus. I was on board with a feud between powerful wizards resulting from a misunderstanding, but then when it was revealed (very suddenly) that one of them *like* likes the other, it felt a bit trite and unearned.

My J.A.B.C Rankings
A wonderful day
Old mountain road (second half)
Property rights
The Lane
Old mountain road (first half)

Big was the sweetest, cleanest, and most genuine. A wonderful day is second because I liked the concept and the setting. The second half of Old mountain road (where the story happens) is next because the descriptions of the Ukrainians were charming. Then Property rights, because the framework for an interesting story is there. Then The Lane, because nothing really happens in that one. Then last is the first half of Old mountain road, where less than nothing happens and it’s just a bunch of unrelated set up.

Mockingquantum - An Account of Two Most Unusual…

These are all going to be a little weird for me to crit because I read them all before you posted them, but I’m going to try to look at them now with fresh eyes.

Stavros is a character in Schitt’s Creek who you don’t ever actually meet but Alexis is dating him at the beginning of the show. Anyway I know you don’t care about that but it’s what I thought of when I saw Stavros.

Reading the third paragraph I couldn’t help but giggle and then heard your voice saying “knock it off, perv.”

Fourth paragraph “...mansteaks, baby back ribs, adult back ribs…” made me laugh. I feel like you shy away from using much humor in your stories but when you do it, you do it well. Everything else is very cleverly written without being terribly verbose, but it is a little dense for dense people like me. So when you pepper in humor like that it’s a nice sort of breath.

We talked about ditching the Renfield reference and calling him a thrall or something instead when you wrote it and I know you’d intended to cut it but then forgot so I won’t harp on that any more.

The last paragraph is probably my favorite part of the story, because it’s interesting and unique. Now granted, I tend not to gravitate toward vampire stories because many of them are quite grand and pensive and take themselves seriously. And you nailed that tone for the first portion of the story, but it is quite a while before much happens. But then by the end, the way you describe the actress, with her “perpetual company of a foppish vampire and his erstwhile assistant”, that’s a very charming image of this bizarre trio. I wish we got to see a little more of them and their interactions. Start the story with the vampire slurping on a used Kleenex, then looking straight at the camera and the narrator says “You may be wondering how I got here”. hahahaha

Mockingquantum - Duck and Cover

I had totally forgotten this happened! Super scary and I’m glad you’re safe <3

The main thing I’ll say about this story is that it reads more like a TED Talk than someone recounting a scary thing that happened to them. It’s a trap that I think a lot of people fell into on the Prompt 2s: it’s uncomfortable to tell a personal story so it’s easy to default into a sort of teacher mode, and instead shed your perspective on something. Which is good and interesting and has definite value, but it’s also a little less of a story.

I know you chose this story because you didn’t really have any duck-related stories, so this satisfied the prompt about as well as you could have. I think it’s well-written, but I also like it when you go into teacher mode.

Mockingquantum - The Brass Key

I like the caring/uncaring in the first line. A little indulgent but it worked for me.

I think the weird thing about this wonder prompt is that a lot of instincts about wonder are very passive. Cool poo poo happens and you go “wooooow look at that!”. So most of the Prompt 3 entries have tended toward either trying to capture an emotion, a memory, or a scene (mostly because 250 words just doesn’t have much room for plot). Anyway that is all to say, I feel like you sort of hit a balance between those three things. It didn’t entirely capture an emotion for me, because I’m not necessarily sure how the POV character (or the watch) feels about everything they’re seeing. And it didn’t so much focus on setting a scene, but a sort of collection of very active, evolving scenes. Anyway I’m not saying it didn’t work, because I did like it. It actually hit the idea of “wonder” a little bit more for me because I sort of just sat back and went “oooh aaahhhhh” like I was watching fireworks, rather than being really active and being like “omg I know just what that feels like!”

Mockingquantum - Siren Song

I liked this one. I saw flerp mentioned in their crit that it took too long to get started. I see what they mean, but it didn’t bother me. There were a lot of details, but they were the kind of details that I like to establish a scene and character. Maybe if you threw in some mention of the metal music stuff earlier? Idk like a voicemail from Zeke that he listens to when he’s getting in the first Uber? Just spitballing.

I like that your first paragraph didn’t shy away from laying it all out there. I learned that Carston was a wizard, but he was also just a dude, and probably a pretty isolated one, and that some cosmic horror stuff was going to happen. That set pretty clear expectations, which the story then delivered on.

I think your Sound-Guy-ness made this story feel more authentic. I didn’t always know what you were talking about, but you did, so it felt like I did.

My Mockingquantum Rankings
Siren Song
Duck and Cover
The Brass Key
An Account of Two Most Unusual Gentlemen, In Search of Supernatural Sustenance

I don’t have a ton of rationale for this ranking because I thought they were pretty consistent quality. Siren Song felt like it had the most complete plot and character, and focused on the parts of the story I wanted. Duck and Cover didn’t have quite as much going on, but I ranked it high because it felt like it was told more comfortably, like you weren’t putting on airs or trying to craft very specific language. The Brass Key was neat, and fit the “wonder” and the flash rule well. Then Account of Two Most Unusual Gentleman was last just because you didn’t come right out and tell me whether or not Theodore ate jizz.

QuoProQuid - Rocket Man

Alright I actually really dig this. I love a good story where silly poo poo happens, but the silliness makes perfect sense to the POV character so it feels grounded. I love the conceit of some rich bro who’s always been told “follow your dreams” and takes it completely literally. And I don’t know why Sandra Bullock was in it but she was my favorite part.

I know exactly who Mr. Thomas is and how much coke he consumes. I also get such a good sense of Sampriti and the weird situations she must get put into. And their dynamic is so clear, too.

The ending was dumb, but in a way that completely worked.

QuoProQuid - The Last Monument

This is so sweet and sad. It’s tender and honest and full of tangible regret. The structure really echoed the theme; it cycled and repeated with slight variations, like you’re playing out the scene in your head thinking of what exactly could have changed, and how it could have gone differently.

I think it’s pretty telling that even in your imagined version of the party, you and Daniel didn’t wind up together. He told you he was still leaving. But the regret wasn’t letting Daniel leave, it was not being honest with him before he did.

You let yourself really be vulnerable with this story, and I want to respect and honor that. A lot of the Prompt 2 stories were much more superficial, comical, or informative. But this story showed a willingness to reveal part of yourself to us, which I really appreciate. I hope it was a little bit cathartic for you, to at least tell someone what Daniel meant to you, even if it wasn’t to him.

QuoProQuid - Repair Job

A lot of the Prompt 3 submissions sort of went the same way: they put something under a microscope and then sort of sat back and captured it. And I think that makes a lot of sense with the “wonder” prompt.

But you really reframed it, in an interesting way. You made wonder active, an action that requires followthrough. You made wonder into a choice, a fuel that needs to be used and spent.

I think that’s very cool.

QuoProQuid - Do No harm

“Then his mother jammed the man’s arm free and buried the knife into his arm.” This was such an important sentence and it was worded a bit strangely. The action here is very important and I wasn’t sure what to picture with “jammed the man’s arm free”. Also the repetition of the word arm made the action a bit more clear but felt a little clunky.

This story had an arc, vivid action, well-defined characters (though I wanted a little bit more from Roger), and clear relationships. But I think my favorite part was the language. I feel like I’ve been harping on people a lot because their stories are too smart for me. But coming into TD as a non-writer, I feel like a lot of the language falls on the more poetic, verbose side. Sometimes to the detriment of me feeling like I can *see* what’s happening in the story. It’s not that your language is simpler or dumbed-down, but it has a sort of straightforward clarity that I appreciate. It still features a lot of emotionally charged descriptors, but nothing feels clunky or overly thesaurus-ed.

I also thought you did a good job with the prompts, though it’s a little squishy to argue that learning basic facts about one’s patience is a “minor inconvenience”. But really great work with the Wizard description prompt. I read it and was like “but you’re not a vampire? That sure sounds like a vampire”. But your wizard is not at all a vampire and fits the prompt great.

I found myself wishing for just a skosh more clarity on the magicks though. In the introduction, it just said that all the people were healed. But then when Brigitte brought up the “certain, lasting negative side effects”, I didn’t know what those were. It seemed like the procedure may have involved Roger giving some of his life to his mother? It would tell me a lot more about him, and his relationship with his mother if I understood that better. I also am not sure if it worked at all, or if I’m supposed to know. It sounded like Roger survived because he got his color back and they bandaged him up. But I don’t know what happened to his mom.

Oh also their were a couple moments where someone said “mom” or the story referred to “his mom” and I didn’t know if that was referring to Brigitte or the dying lady.

My QuoProQuid Rankings
Rocket Man
Do No Harm
Repair Job
The Last Moment

Rocket Man is first for me because it was just bizarre and fun. Do No Harm is after that because I think you handled the prompt well and it had some neat stuff. Repair Job is next on merit of the cool take on “wonder”. Then The Last Moment is last. It was solid and good work and I liked it. It’s only last because it’s a story specifically about something *not* happening. Which was still lovely and bittersweet, just slightly less engaging.

Simply Simon - Domino’s March

This one didn’t really work for me.

Having a metaphysical concept as the protagonist is tough. But I don’t necessarily have to relate to it, I just need to understand it. Unfortunately, I didn’t do either. Progress was a cool idea and I instantly liked it. The first sentence was solid.

I think part of where I kept feeling confused were because of some core contradictions. Progress isn’t linear, it fluctuates. Great, got that. But also Progress isn’t measurable, marching, methodical. But then it is measurable (evidenced by the repeated usage of imagery relating to an oscillating line, which inherently indicates some sort of measurable data).

Also you establish right off the bat that Progress is omniscient. But then it spends a whole bunch of time trying to figure out what is going on and why, and what can be done.

Lampshading “And why do I think in years?” was a bit clunky. It didn’t really clarify why Progress thinks in years, or gives any indication why it shouldn’t.

The language varied a lot in formality. It can be really effective to juxtapose heightened language with more casual language. But in this piece it didn’t really feel intentional, just inconsistent.

I have no idea what was going on once you introduced Dewey.

Simply Simon - Dinosaur’s Fangs

After I read this story, I read a friendly penguin’s crit (I’ve been doing that for every story, to try to avoid saying the exact same thing in an unhelpful way). But I feel pretty much the exact same way. I saw you mention in the Discord that the ending was that everyone left and was mad at you for killing the vibe. I would have LOVED to see that in the story. It would have been a more complete arc, and would have demonstrated a lot of the personality of Young You that you described in lines like “He’s even worse at reading rooms than what he will end up being.” Like, if the whole Dinodrome part of the story is about you being uncomfortable in a strange situation, but you played it super cool and went with the flow, but then it’s revealed that you didn’t at all do that, that would be interesting! As-is, I definitely just thought the dance floor dudes got into some beef they didn’t want to talk about, but required leaving immediately.

The shtick about calling the Nazi guy by a different thing every time mostly worked for me, because it seemed like a way to editorialize your feelings about this person (and distancing yourself from him, for the sake of the reader). I will say though that because you introduce everyone by descriptions, I didn’t quite get that’s what you were doing at first.

I do like that the story is bookended by you being thrown in a cramped car with people who make you uncomfortable. That was a neat idea. I also like how the story starts, just right in the middle of a question. It helps the reader feel a little bit caught off-guard, I’m sure the way you felt at the time.

Simply Simon - Clash of Blues

There are some neat ideas here, but it ended up feeling a bit clunky and unpolished. Overall the language is a bit sweeping and painterly, which I liked. But it made the script format for the dialogue sections feel out of place. The story establishes in the first section that they are basically competing for attention from humans.

In the paragraph that starts “Like so many times,” Sky basically says that Forest and Fire and “all the rest” provoke raw wonder in man, and they should also have that duty. But tbh when I think about someone experiencing wonder about something in nature, the first thing I think of is a sunrise/sunset.

“But since man had first glimpsed the rainbow hidden in Sea’s waters, Sky had trailed ever behind.” I think I get what you’re going for here, that they’re competing but both mostly just have shades of blue to work with. But then there are colorful things under the sea. But it sort of took me out of it because when you say “rainbow”, I think of an actual rainbow, which is a colorful thing in the sky.

What if this story was a little less bickery, and was a bit more about them combining their efforts to create the most wondrous sight beheld? A sunset over a stormy sea. Then you could keep the perfect horizon bit and killing the driver at the end if you really liked that part.

Sky’s first line repeating infinite twice felt unintentional.

I also got disproportionately distracted by “A man-made hue”. What were you picturing for this? I literally cannot think of a color that doesn’t exist somewhere in nature.

Simply Simon - Smaller than 420 Microns

The first sentence feels like it should be evocative, but I spent too much time trying to parse the imagery that I think it lost its effect on me.

“Had the firstmark in the door really only felt warm because of the ash-desert heat?” I don’t know what this is saying. It feels like it’s conveying something important but I don’t know what it is.

“Fiery blossom” doesn’t feel threatening.

IFRIT feels like a slightly clunky backronym. I assume you’re going for the demonic imagery, but it still felt a bit contrived.

Overall I liked the arc of this story, and what it did. Jerboa was trying to earn back the respect he thinks he deserve so he can parlay that into helping save his kingdom. That’s pretty neat. And the big demon robot thing is scary, though personally I felt like his robot-ness was inconsistent. Some of his dialogue and reasoning felt decidedly unrobotlike.

I will also say that reading through Fumblemouse’s crit, I got hung up on a lot of the same things. Big picture this story works well, but when you zoom in and read line by line, some of the language and logic just doesn’t flow or track. Some of the sentences took a few passes for me to understand what was trying to be conveyed.

My Simply Simon Rankings
Smaller than 420 Microns
Dinosaur’s Fangs
Clash of Blues
Domino’s March

Smaller than 420 Microns was an ambitious story, but I do think the overall structure worked. Dinosaur’s Fangs was entertaining, and would be even more so with a more satisfying conclusion. Clash of Blues was a neat idea but a bit clunky. And then I just didn’t really understand Domino’s March.

Staggy - Ringside Manner

This was so fun. It was entertaining and silly and I liked it a lot. I like Doc and his sort of journey of “I’m all washed up but I just want people to like me for once”.

Based on the intro, I actually thought this was going to be from Conway’s POV moreso than Doc’s. I don’t know if that was intentional or not.

“The Don fluttered around its cage, beak open, voice drowned out. He was down but rising, when he saw the referee turn their back; saw his opponent take the hint and turn to face the crowd too, waving their arms.” I read this a few times and I’m still not sure I’m picturing things correctly. Who is turned where, who is waving, who is taking hint from whom.

I think my veterinarian mother would want me to point out that veterinarians are doctors. The sick pythons joke was rad though.

Don’t have much more to say! It was clear, it was understandable, it was entertaining!

Staggy - Sleepwalking

The intro captured the feeling well of when you’re so sleep deprived that time becomes hard to measure.

“Andrew’s mind was the world’s slowest pinball machine but eventually a thought bounced its way to the forefront.” YES

I’m not sure what happened in the story, but I liked it? The imagery was clear, the emotion was there, and it felt like something resolved in the end but I’m not sure why. And it made me sleepier! Though that’s not good because I still have two more of your stories to read. But the viking warrior was compelling, as was the sense of time returning. I liked it a lot.

Staggy - The Wizard

I looked up 4-bar heater and Ribena because I didn’t know what they were. I’m sure a lot of people just get things from context clues but I can’t help but stop what I’m doing and look things up, just so I know I’m picturing exactly what I’m supposed to.

This was so lovely and cozy and heartwarming. The imagery was clear but emotional. The perspective captured the feeling of childlike wonder, without feeling naive.

It worked really well :)

Staggy - Still Life

I really liked this one. It also made me cry.

The first paragraph took a bit for its feet to get under it. The first sentence in particular felt a little long and meandering. I was also thrown by the “Aviar Temmish, Aviar Inkfinger,...” bit. The punctuation you used for “Ivor Temmish - Ivor the Wise -...” made what was happening a bit clearer. But also I’m not sure whether the distinction was necessary.

I thought one of your most effective ideas here was that when Aviar draws something from memory it comes to life, but then he loses those memories. It makes the moments where he is drawing Ivor heartbreaking. He ultimately has to choose between a chance at seeing something like Ivor again, or retaining all their wonderful memories together. Dammit I’m crying again.

I really liked the relationship between Aviar and Gimlet.

My Staggy Rankings
Still Life
The Wizard
Ringside Manner

I really enjoyed reading and thinking about all three of these stories. Still Life is first because it emotionally hit me the hardest. Then The Wizard because it evoked a feeling of memories. I never had a grandpa but I felt like I did. Then Ringside Manner because it was entertaining but there wasn’t quite as much to chew on. Sleepwalking is last because even though I enjoyed it quite a bit, I didn’t really understand it.

Jun 23, 2022

It's a puzzle.
Crits for Week 522
Complete Ladders: Part 3

Tars Tarkas - Agony and Empire

This was silly and fun. You had silly prompt blanks and then you made it even sillier by making the werewolf a Party Werewolf and that was very entertaining. The second paragraph was my favorite because it’s so ridiculous but delivered so straight-faced.

I liked the relationship between the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. #girlgang

I mean, this was ridiculous and bonkers. But ultimately the Party Werewolf advancing on the Empire State Building while she quakes in her foundation built tension. And then her being all “bring it on!” at the end was exciting and I was rooting for her. I didn’t completely buy that the Party Werewolf wouldn’t still at least try to climb her, but I like that she made him nervous.

Tars Tarkas - Some May Say I Am A Fan of Cinema

This was super interesting, but felt more like a TED Talk than a story. I also liked the idea that over time it’s become more about collecting these films rather than actually experiencing them. It would be interesting to see this start out with some movie night or something that got you hooked on the idea of obscure or hard to find movies (if that’s what happened), and then it evolved into a quest for a specific film, at which point you just file it away in a hard drive without watching it.

I’m really sorry about the loss of your friend to cancer. It must be very hard to have these two passions - cinema and writing - that remind you of him. That said (and I hope it’s not insensitive to suggest this), I don’t think you needed to mention writing and how you got back into it. Not because it’s not interesting; I think it’s a very personal and compelling note. More just because this story is about cinematic treasure hunts so talking about getting back into writing fiction felt like a non sequitur.

Tars Tarkas - On the Way to Fuzzy Wuzzy World

I think I understand the feeling you were going for in the beginning: they’re going to Fuzzy Wuzzy World, and just stopping at this statue on a whim. But then the statute is where the story happens. So it would be nice to skip more straight to the statue. You could fill in a lot of those details with maybe the kids talking about being impatient to get where they’re ultimately going. But all the business about the brochures wasn’t particularly relevant. If it was longer I think that would be fun details to add in. But with such a short word count, it felt like all the lead-up to the moment of wonder made that wonder not feel as central to the story.

I do like what you’re going for though: when someone has an incredibly emotional response to something they’re not really expecting to have an emotional response to. I think that’s great and worth exploring. But I think put it more front and center and it feels a little more crafted.

Tars Tarkas - The Wizard Watched Trading Places Right Before This Story

There was a whole lot going on in this story and it didn’t quite jive. I think there is a neat idea of two wizard rivals, one of whom isn’t aware the other exists at the start of the story. And maybe some sort of Jim/Dwight parallel there. I liked the idea of Balan just sort of causing communication chaos wherever he goes, just for shits and giggles. But then it’s also an interesting that because of that, he doesn’t really have any friends. So then he kind of becomes friends with his rival (again, the Jim/Dwight thing). But as-is, none of that quite happens or works well together. It starts being a story about Balan’s secret scheme. But then that also ends up not really mattering? And then Krombolo shows up and it’s random and weird, but then ultimately that’s sort of what the story’s about? And all the Office fanfic references are currently just sort of funny asides. So then the story ends up feeling like there’s a bunch going on, all pulling in different directions and competing for my attention. I think this was probably submitted right before the deadline so you might not have had time to merge everything into one story. But I think if you did, it would have been pretty entertaining!

Oh also I liked the title but then I wanted the story to end up relating to it, and afaik it didn’t really.

My Tars Tarkas Rankings
Some Might Say I Am A Fan Of Cinema
Agony and Empire
The Wizard Watched Trading Places Right Before This Story
On the Way to Fuzzy Wuzzy World

I felt sort of weird ranking Some Might Say I Am A Fan Of Cinema against the others because it wasn’t a story exactly. But ultimately I ranked it first because I found it the most interesting read. Agony and Empire is next because the characters and plot were focused and made sense to me. The Wizard Watched Trading Places Right Before This Story is next for me, mostly on merit of the story it could have been, given a bit more time to incubate. Then On the Way to Fuzzy Wuzzy World is last because it felt a little short of wonder for me.

The Saddest Rhino - Transcript of Stream #25 of Channel “Korean Food Made Blasphemous”

I read this and was like aaaaah what is happening but then I reread the prompt and was like whelp yeah that’s perfect I guess. I think the only thing that didn’t work awesomely for me was the blasphemous stuff and like religious phrasing? For some reason I think it would be funnier if she was just a sweet lady trying her best to share her love of cooking while this bird terrorizes her kitchen.

The complex camera work, with like pans and close-ups and stuff seems complex for a stream, but I also know nothing about that so I’m probably completely wrong. But that’s another place where it might feel endearing if she isn’t like super amazing at this stream stuff and is just earnestly trying her best.

The Saddest Rhino - This Title Originally Referred to a Parody Song Making Fun of a Problematic Musician but Then I Found Out the Parody Was Performed by an Also Problematic Comedian, so I Won’t Name It I Guess, However if You Figured Out What This Song Was Before Reading This, Good for You

The title is a funny joke but I probably spent more time thinking about what the title could be referencing than thinking about the story itself.

I was more distracted than I should have been at the fact that you were checking the dog’s nipples to find out if it was a boy or a girl. Boy dogs have nipples too?

The most heightened language in this was in dialogue, and more specifically, Roy’s dialogue. It’s altogether possible he does speak like that. But since we don’t really know him, it just sort of comes across as unrealistic dialogue. Maybe referencing or acknowledging the fact that Roy speaks very formally would help?

I’m glad Bumblebee found a good home because for some reason this story made me sad for Bumblebee, even though nothing bad really happens to him.

The Saddest Rhino - Pencherita Malam (Night Storyteller)

I really liked the feeling and imagery of this piece. I felt like I got a good sense of the storyteller and that was quite magical. However, the POV is a little bit lost, and how the POV character feels about the storyteller. Missing that element sort of undercuts any sense of wonder the storyteller is providing. So the elements are all there for wonder, but it falls a little short in that regard.

That being said, I still really liked it! This storyteller lady is ultra cool.

The Saddest Rhino - Art is Subjective and so Is Your Dumbass Opinion

Great title.

I liked the language of the (first) museum plaque, but the last sentence felt out of place to me.

This was great. The magic was silly, the characters were clear, and it was very funny. The reveal at the end also made me laugh. The language was irreverent, but in ways that made me laugh and weren’t distracting. I thought it was a lot of fun. I wanted to hear even more specialties of the students of the University of Impractical Magic.

My The Saddest Rhino Rankings
Art is Subjective and So Is Your Dumbass Opinion
Pencherita Malam (Night Storyteller)
Transcript of Stream #25 of Channel “Korean Food Made Blasphemous”
This Title Originally Referred to a Parody Song….

All of these were pretty entertaining and very different from each other. So I basically ended up ranking them based on how much it “worked” for me, and how much I felt engaged with what I thought the story was trying to do.

Thranguy - Reflection

Well that was lovely. It felt like a beautiful little parable or fairy tale. The characters aren’t super well-defined, but they never really are in stories like this. Nothing particularly stood out to me as out of place or distracting. I liked the bird a lot, it felt like every talking animal in stories like this who are like “um I don’t think you should do this” and then the person doesn’t listen and then the cats are just left to cry on Paulinchen’s ashes. Oh I guess we don’t really know what happens to the bird after it carries the last message. I clearly didn’t notice so I don’t think that really matters. And actually if you added a “The bird hosed off because Fione made it sad” it would mess up the transition to the swimming lesson.

I also kind of like that this is a beautiful little story without a heavyhanded kind of moral or lesson or warning.

Thranguy - If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Pie

This was so dang cute. I’m not going to crit it because it’s not really a story. But it’s a very nice little love letter and homage to Thunderdome and it was so great for birthday week. Some of your rhymes are very clever, and I’m sure all the references are super funny to the people who get them. Well I got the golden bean reference thanks to Bad Seafood’s story, so I thought that one was funny at least :)

Thranguy - The Dancing Colonel’s Wonder Show

Oh the archive is missing your hellrule for this one.

This was great! And I’m sorry about the hellrule. It was one I made up and thought was funny but it was before I knew the prompts and it’s a toughie for 2 or 3. But you did great with it! Making Rutherford a puppet was a cool choice because marionettes are sort of inherently unsettling (at least I think so). And the descriptions are magical but uncomfortable, a sort of transition from childlike wonder to the aftermath of knowing how the sausage is made. And then the ending is creepy, but brings back the magic and wonder again. Very cool!

Thranguy - Swords and Time

Handful of errant typos in this guy.

“The dragon thrashed violently, but not with skill, not unpredictably.” Had to read that a few times.

This was really well told! I think my favorite parts were the bits about all the different languages, especially when the sword speaks “in the language spoken in the darkest circle of hell.” The sword was also my favorite part, and how it has Caboth kill the vole in the beginning without them even realizing it.

As to your flash rule: I’m really curious how you feel you interpreted it. Personally I think it could have stood to either be a bit shorter (and have some of the world building streamlined or cleaned up) or much much longer (and include all that world building and more).

I liked the ending, and how Caboth gives up the sword when it absorbs too much power. Though it also feels a little bit like Yress needed Caboth’s help and that they were really the one who killed the dragon. Which like is fine, except that it feels a little less like A Wizard Did It.

My Thranguy Ranking
If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Pie
Swords and Time
The Dancing Colonel’s Wonder Show

I didn’t really know how to compare If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Pie to the other two, so I just ranked it first because it was the Birthday Weekiest. Then Swords and Time because it was epic and ambitious, but still a good story with good characters. Then Reflection because it was so lovely and charming. And The Dancing Colonel’s Wonder Show is last, which doesn’t seem right because I really liked it. But I liked them all and one has to be last, I suppose.

Uranium Phoenix - Thesis Retrospective: Results Analysis for Sub-Universe Generation Method for Obtaining Large Quantities of Iron (Final_Final_ActualFinal_2_Edited)

Okay some sometimes in escape rooms there are math puzzles. And even if the puzzles are super duper simple, a lot of people go “ugggh it’s MATH I am bad at MATH” and they don’t even try.

I am very sorry to say, but I think my brain did a similar thing with the sciency thesis-ness of this. It just kind of shut off and I was like “noooo brain you have to read it” and I fed it more coffee but it sort of just kept saying “No Muzzles brain am dumb no science.” So that is all to say that I’m glad Simon already critted this story for you with a smart kid brain.

That being said, I think liked the idea of this a lot, including the title. I don’t know if you had your blanks filled for you or if you came up with this, but either way it fits the prompt perfectly. I think it was about an extradimensional graduate student sort of creating our entire existence as part of a research project? And then getting sort of emotionally attached? That’s a very neat idea. I’m sorry my brain is too flabby to comment more specifically.

Uranium Phoenix - The True Nature of Reality

There were a few typos throughout that were momentarily distracting. Overall it was an interesting read but didn’t really feel like a story to me. It was very cool to read your thought processes as a kid, and how some of them felt universal and some idiosyncratic. I’m glad you wrote about your perspective on things and how your imagination affected it. But then nothing really happened with it so it was sort of character establishment for a character in a separate story (your life). Anyway reading it though, it made me glad you became a writer because I think you have the right mindset for it :)

Uranium Phoenix - Monument

This opened really strong, but then I got more distracted than I should have by “the sky was azure, almost white” because I feel like azure and white are very different colors.

“...the buildings simply got bigger”, “...then just sit and imagine…”. I feel like “simply” and “just” sort of diminish the language.

Ultimately, this is a very cool setting. The imagery was vivid and I could picture it all. But a significant amount of worldbuilding had to be established before you could get to the subject of the wonder, so it didn’t feel like there was enough room for the wonder to be the focus of the story.

Uranium Phoenix - Dirk Venerator - Episode 17 - Fugitive Chronomancer

I thought your story started with the sentence “rear end.” and I thought that was super funny until I realized how dumb I was being.

The first sentence of the second paragraph confused me. I like the idea of it, being sort of long and rambly before ending with the payoff of the “but when he did, he wore sunglasses.” My problem though is that “so that he could drive while standing on the seat” coming after “when he stole the remains of a famous president” makes it sound like that was his motivation for stealing the skeleton, not his reason for ensorcelling the gas pedal.

Loved the pseudo boob jokes.

“Dirk’s voice always sounded like his vocal chords were duel-wielding cigars, but really, that was just how he talked.” I loved the first part of this sentence and wished it ended after cigars.

“He stood in front of the Darkvile Pyramid, which he’d discovered the location of by squinting at the back of a dollar bill really hard.” That made me laugh.

This was campy and fun and just a hoot to read. I loved the names and the detail and the descriptions of the action. Very nice. Not sure what part was meant to satisfy the flash rule, but I may have just missed something.

My Uranium Phoenix Ranking
Dirk Venerator - Episode 17 - Fugitive Chronomancer
The True Nature of Reality
Thesis Retrospective: Results Analysis for Sub-Universe Generation Method for Obtaining Large Quantities of Iron (Final_Final_ActualFinal_2_Edited)

It felt like as the week went on the stories became more for the reader and less a vehicle for smartness. Dirk Venerator had fun characters and more action and details. Monument was very well written and I really like the world that was built in it. Then The True Nature of Reality and Thesis Retrospective were just not really for me.

Yoruichi - Giant Varantula

I thought this one was a lot of fun. Very bizarre and entertaining. I got a little confused toward the end because we know the thoughts of both Dorothy and Shelob (maybe that was intentional because the prompt was “a [SPIDERS]” plural? I liked the story ending with Dorothy being crazed for human blood, but I was confused because I thought human didn’t agree with her, but then I looked back and that was Shelob, not Dorothy.

I loved the nonsensical tarantula logic and motivation. I loved that they had magical lab equipment. It was all so strange and it worked.

Yoruichi - Big Day Out

“...and gapped it for the stairs.” I didn’t know what this meant and looked it up. Also “bogans”.

This was great! I’ve always thought mosh pits sounded like my worst nightmare, but you described them in a way that sounded sort of fun and exciting. It was a great account of an experience, a fond memory. The beginning was a little bit rocky, but the ending was exciting.

It didn’t have a plot or arc or whatever I suppose, but I think that doesn’t matter as much in the autobiographical stories. This was a great story because it was fun and engaging and exciting. And it sort of had the message of “if you play it safe and avoid the crazy mosh pits, you might miss out on a super cool experience” which can translate to a lot of things in life.

I don’t have any comments on the flash rule because I understand what it means but don’t quite understand well enough how that translates to a story to comment on whether or not your story satisfied that.

Yoruichi - Magnitude 6.2: Strong. Weak buildings are damaged. Fragile and precious objects are destroyed. Walking steadily is difficult, and will remain that way for the foreseeable future

Oh this is so sad. I think anyone who has lost their homes to a disaster understand that feeling of “It’s just stuff and I should be grateful to be alive but this is devastating.” It’s all the tangible proof of our memories and it’s so hard to lose them.

Unfortunately for the flash rule, I think the alphabet game paragraph sort of lifts out. I like the idea of flashes of memories as Rose is going through the destroyed possessions. It would be a cool way to show how the destruction of some objects hits her harder than others, and that their value isn’t tied to their monetary worth. But is the alphabet game supposed to be tied to the poster? That was unclear to me. Also for what it’s worth, you could cut kangaroo and ladder if you wanted because the list is followed by the words “Rose would”, which continue the alphabetical order.

Overall I think this is sweet and sad and I liked it.

Yoruichi - The resulting eruption is used as a cautionary tale for new acolytes to this day.

Yessss Budweiser sucks.

I really like that the ending satisfies the flashrule, but also the title gives a sense of conclusion to the story and makes me feel like I kind of know what happened next. This story was gross, but in a fun way! A story about a hangover is a fitting end to my crit marathon because I also feel like I binged on too much delightful stuff and now my brain is starting to pay the price. But I’m glad all four of your stories were really solid because they were fun to end on! Though I’m sorry you’re at the end of the alphabet so you had to wait longer.

The main thing that wasn’t super clear in this was the sort of magic logic. Okay so Neville has to eat gross stuff to have powerful magic. But it can’t be too gross because then he’ll throw it up and have no magics? But gross means not so much gross as like full of negative energy? I feel like it totally works if all the descriptions of gross stuff is just sort of a build up to the joke about how gross Budweiser is. But throwing in the “replete with new life, the negative energy was far too low” sort of threw me.

Other than that, I liked this! Nothing really happened, but I didn’t mind, especially considering the flashrule.

My Yoruichi Ranking
Giant Varantula
Magnitude 6.2: Strong. Weak buildings are damaged. Fragile and precious objects are destroyed. Walking steadily is difficult, and will remain that way for the foreseeable future
Big Day Out
The resulting eruption is used as a cautionary tale for new acolytes to this day.

Giant Varantula was first because I love spooky spiders and weird things. Magnitude 6.2 was second because it evoked a clear emotional response and I like what you did with it. Big Day Out is next because it has a bit more action in it. Then this is another one where the one in fourth place feels like it’s too good to come in last, but the other ones were also just real good so fourth place is all that’s left.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


They’re all alike, yeah?
2000 words maximum, 1948 words used

Thunder rolled, giving the more paranoid inhabitants doubt about the sturdiness of their chosen homes as they shook in the storm. The sound reminded them of the ancient, but deadly weapons of the chia and the scalvs, who even now fought along the nearby border to the wastes beyond.

“Quiver-quake shiver-shake, you all worry too much,” chuckled Lagochi as he wafted steam from the pot of soup boiling on the stove. He smiled at the waifish, heavily garbed woman sitting at the terminal. “You should be happy. Wet months’re sloshing in. Maybe it’ll rain so much you can swim off the balcony.”

The woman briefly pulled down her hood and stared at Lagochi with pitch-black eyes, her skin glistening from the harsh light of the terminal screen. “Can’t swim. Never been near water in my life. You should know. Father was from Sunken Hope; I was born dry.”

“Dry, really? Such a shame. Perhaps I can fix that for you again when we get a little privacy.”

“Children, please,” said an older gentleman sitting on threadbare sofa as he scratched at a deep, old scar on the left side of his head, stretching from his temple to just behind his ear. “It’s been a long day.” The quaver to his tone implied he’d had more long days than he should have.

“Same length as always, Doc,” Lagochi said, smiling brightly. He took a taste of the soup and smacked his lips, then he sprinkled in some more soy-based protein thickener – fine enough flavor, too watery. He had to stretch his rations better – the supply council had yet to approve his “guests” despite the good they were doing. The elder was an old sympo named Cilphas who had been earning his keep tending to the wounds of the tower guardsmen, and Tueni, the fishbelly woman, had been hard at work fixing the network infrastructure of the tower. “Food’ll be ready in a few ticks.”

“Is there bread?” Tueni turned to Lagochi. “We had some last week. I liked it. Took my mind off dealing with network interference. Still can’t find the cause.”

“Affirm-affirm,” he replied. They’d already used his bread ration, but he did a little wheeling and dealing for some more. Always a lonely person in need of ten or fifteen minutes of privacy with a pretty-pretty like Lagochi, and Lagochi was eager to please. “I call it Lagoloaf – soft, warm, fresh, sweet. Melts in your mouth.” He winked at Tueni, who smiled shyly back with a staccato giggle.

For a moment Cilphas seemed comforted by the chatter, but a sharp chirrup from a battered device at his side made him snatch it up with a curse.

“Gods-cursed fools!” he spat, getting to is feet and reaching for his cane. He looked to his companions with a sigh. “Please save me some for later, will you? The fighting’s started again.”

Tueni curled in on herself, wrapping her heavy clothes tighter. Lagochi turned the heat down on the stove and went to sit by her, murmuring comfortingly, then he looked back up at Cilphas as he grabbed his reinforced coat. “Who’s scuffling?”

“Bloody-damned everyone,” Cilphas snarled. “The barbarians we like are fighting the barbarians we don’t like, and for some imbecilic reason our guards decided to back them up. Senseless!” He rubbed his scar again.

“So they need skilled hands?” Lagochi asked. “Seems like steady hands’d be better; yours shake like a scalv going cold off his sniff.”

“You’ve not slept. Barely eaten.” Tueni peeked up from under her hood, black eyes catching the light so they shone mirror-like. “You’ll be of little use.”

“If that little use keeps even one fool from departing this Verse then I cannot back down.” He put on his broad, threadbare hat, still damp from before. “I’ll be back soon, I hope.”

Lagochi stood, fingers tracing over Tueni’s back as he rose. “We’ll be back soon, I hope. Your hopes are soapsuds; shiny, fragile, bitter-tasting.” He put on his own coat. “Lead on! The soup is getting cold, and if we take too long, Tueni’ll bathe in it!”

“You’d still drink it,” Tueni teased.

“I would,” Lagochi purred.


“’Bout time y’showed,” said the grime-covered, leather-capped scalv waiting for them before the med-tent. “In the time it took for you to hobble your bodi backside down this way three o’my brothers changed from fighters to cooling meat.”

Cilphas swallowed heavily, and when he replied his voice shook with anger or sorrow, Lagochi couldn’t tell. “I just got your message, Paulgan. I was given to understand the militamen had pulled back-”

“’Twas a gods-damned feint!” the scalv shouted. He calmed himself, but the tension in his voice vibrated like a guitar-string. “These ain’t reg’lar chiafolk. They fight an’ bluster for a while an’ then they go home to frolic and boast an’ touch dicks. But these arse-stretchers? They fight dirty – real dirty. Make like they’re gonna put up for the night, set up tents and cook-fires… and when we settled down t’rest, they sent in some fresh, drugged-up cockbiters.” He shuddered. “Mostly kids.”

“Let me see the casualties,” Cilphas said, his voice switching from his aged quaver to clipped, almost mechanical sharpness. “Have your men ensure I have supplies to work with-”

Paulgan gestured at Lagochi. “Who’s the lady? Don’t see no weapons on her.”

Lagochi smiled charmingly and gestured, a net-stripped Bodian South-North Alternating Polarizer railpistol – a SNAPgun – slipping to his hand like magic. “Impressively wrong!” He spun the pistol and it disappeared up his sleeve again. “But before we slink within to do us a medicine or three, according to the message Doc received the casualties resulted from, oh, what were your words, Doc? “The barbarians we like fighting the barbarians we don’t like,” and then something about us Khosaboys backing them up? This situation has a taste I’m familiar with.” He leaned in and smiled bawdily. “It’s fishy.”

“You call me liar, fuckboy?” Paulgan said, his voice terrifyingly calm.

Lagochi put his hand over his heart. “Gods’ graves, I’d never do such a thing! But I do admit to some healthy skepticism. Tell me, if we go inside that tent, will we see a pile of groaning wounded, or some fresh’n’ready rough’n’tumble assassins ready to read us some Divine Poetry?”

“Quit being a child!” hissed Cilphas, rapping his cane on the cracked concrete. “There may be men dying in there-”

“Apropos of nothing, I did my rounds to earn my bread earlier today, and one of my very close, very anonymous friends happened to be a retired guardsman: a lonely young fellow too injured to fight anymore and thus rewarded with generous supplies of food and drink delivered daily. While we talked – well, while he talked, he was pleasantly chatty and I had my mouth full – he told me how he keeps his ear to the ground and his finger on the pulse. He fed me freshly baked stories of brave folks standing with curiously civilized scalvs against even more curiously violent chias, and that, somehow, it was mostly Khosaluans getting bullet-bit. He figured it was because we’re not used to battle, not like the ‘barbarians of the wastes’ people tell stories of.”

Paulgan laughed and spat. “I’d bet a barrel of silk-cut sniff that it’d take a score or more of you tower-dwellers to take down one of my people.” He fingered the heavy rifle in his arms and glared at them both.

“Probably, probably,” Lagochi said, cutting of Cilphas’s increasingly frustrated sputtering. “But to be honest, it really depends on the tribe or clan. Which one are you from?”

“It doesn’t matter, outsider! All scalvs are born to fight! We’re bleeding on the battlefield to protect you lot as you hide fat and lazy in the mausoleums of your grandfathers!”

Lagochi froze, then nodded somberly, expression crestfallen, and Paulgan smirked at having put the effeminate Khosaluan in his place.

“Gods’ graves,” Lagochi said softly. He looked over Paulgan – the man wore sparse leathers and bits of scavenged metal worked into something like armor, though it left little to the imagination. He had his gun, a pair of knives, and some belts of ammunition. Lagochi turned his gaze to Cilphas. “So it was Paulgan here who sent you the message?”

“Yes,” Cilphas said through gritted teeth, color rising to his cheeks in annoyance. “Now if we can please get to work before more men die-”

“In that tent over there?” Lagochi said, gesturing to the large tent.

Paulgan inclined his head to the right, taking his eyes off them to look to the tent in question. “Yes, you soft-headed little idiot, now let’s-”

Lagochi’s arm shot up and without a word the Bodian SNAPgun was in his hand, and Cilphas’s cry of warning was drowned out by the two sharp cracks of gunfire, magnetically propelled metal slivers unerringly striking their target: the left side of Paulgan’s head.

Cilphas screamed and fell to his knees beside the man and tore off his leather cap, desperately, hopelessly probing the wound. “What have you done? What have you done?!

“Look deeper; the answer lies within,” Lagochi said, his usual light tone iron-firm. “Does he have one of those handy little messaging gadgets? How did he send you the message?”

Sure enough, Cilphas saw the faint, sputtering glow of damaged circuitry amidst the ruin of the man’s face. Strips of silver so thin his aged eyes nearly missed them digging deeper into the head. His bloodied fingers absently reached up to the side of his own head, where his own neural implant had been before he abandoned the Abodes so long ago. He looked up at Lagochi, unable to spit out a coherent sentence.

“We need to warn the rest. This conflict isn’t the result of scalvs and chia squabbling on our border – I’m willing to bet a half hour on my knees that this is Cedar’s work, or maybe even Kelp.”

“The Abodes? How did you guess?” Cilphas got to his feet and leaned heavily on his cane, then followed Lagochi at a surprisingly brisk hobble.

“It’s not the first time the Bodians tried something like this. The AI that runs them wants this place bad – lots of resources and easily recycled goods and materials, and more than that, countless free-thinkers to… civilize. The server always needs more sticks of RAM, Doc.” Lagochi smiled grimly. “But they can’t be so overt. They can’t send their own men against us, not openly, but nobody’d question if barbarians started barbarianing up the place, yes? Make things hostile and hard enough and people’ll bend over backwards to suckle at the Bodian teat. But they’re sloppy, Doc.” As they neared the entry to the tower, they heard the sound of voices grow louder, angrier. “They don’t think of the scalvs and chia as populations made of independent groups – they don’t understand individuality. No scalv would willingly call himself a scalv, and while they’re not so keen on spilling the beans about their clans, autonomy is their prime directive – they are not a monolith.”

They got in one of the functioning SNAP elevators and Lagochi leaned against the wall.

“Tueni – that brilliant, beautiful, slippery little lady! – discovered the same interference that knocked out our network infrastructure all those years ago. We’re getting things fixed, and that bodes poorly for the Bodians and their schemes.”

“What do we do?” Cilphas whispered, his voice rich with dreadful memories of the wrath of the Abodes.

Lagochi gently embraced the trembling old doctor. “As we always have, Dr. Cilphas: we live our lives, we take things one at a time, we do what’s needed, and most importantly, we be there for each other.”

Jan 20, 2012

Depth of Feeling


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 22:01 on Dec 10, 2022

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Crab and Spouse
1997 words

Our beloved transoceanic cables served as the backdrop for our nuptials, with the early morning sun glinting off my structure. I felt like royalty wearing one of my gorgeous denizens, in a gown stitched all over with shells and pine needles. Standing in the sand before me, so real I still could scarcely believe it - his rough orange claws gentle around my little hands - was my love. My Byron.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the union of these two…

I had followed him since he first appeared on the feeds from Sunken Hope. Byron Telson, the phenomenal acting crustaceomorph who stole every scene with his easy charm, soulful kindness, rugged good looks. He seemed to embody the spirit of the decade - that after the fighting, after all the desperation, we could have a little bit of hope, of reconnection, of rebuilding. And gods-away, he could dance.

Do you, Byron Telson, take this Abode to be your spouse? Do you promise to love it, to comfort it, honor and keep it…

I had used my Abode privileges to get in touch with Byron and see if he was the real deal. He was instantly receptive, and we began building a rapport. He was incredibly humble, and funny. Few on dry land can match a fishbelly's wit. I'd been smitten, but then I turned hopeless. When he asked me to send video tours of my interior, I wore a different denizen each time so I could figure out what he liked. We knew each other for four whole months when he asked to come for a visit. That visit has yet to end.

Repeat after me. I take you, Kelp, as my spouse. I promise to walk with you every day as your best friend, and your soul mate…

I wondered if Sunken Hope would try to claw him back. He was one of their biggest stars, after all. But no - he just walked up onto the beach one day, tall and glistening with ocean spray. He was followed by a dozen floating camera drones, though, constantly recording. I'm not used to competition from other A.I., but the Swarm turned out to have roughly the intelligence of a sea lion. Besides, Byron was utterly undeterred.

Although I am an indestructible forty-story building weighing over 400,000 tons, he still managed to sweep me off my feet.

With the power I claim from those who abandoned us, I now pronounce you crab and spouse. You may kiss.

With his claws tucked behind his back in a gentlemanly manner, Byron held his dactylus against the small of my back and dipped me, while he opened his mandibles just slightly to meet my lips, and stroked my cheek with his cute little maxilliped. Just like on the feeds, except I got it for real.

"I love you," I whispered.

"I love you more," he clicked.

The party was a whirlwind. We drank and danced, smoked and sang. My husband had the energy of ten men, or a thousand crabs. I couldn't keep up. Luckily, our guests were all my denizens (apart from the Swarm and the delegation from Abode Cedar), so I could switch out the one I was wearing when it needed rest. Somehow, Byron always knew which denizen I occupied, even without me saying anything. Maybe we really were soulmates.

When we'd had enough and his eyestalks wiggled that certain special way, I let him sweep me up, and we scuttled up the beach in the moonlight. He stepped aboard my elevator, and we carried each other across the threshold.


Happily ever after? Not quite. Life is rarely so simple as it is on the feeds.

The trouble began when I gave Byron his wedding gift. I had turned an atomic waste cooling tank into a live saltwater pond, full of replicated biological elements matching what he was used to at home. Plant life, fish - down to the amoebae. Apparently, it wasn't enough.

I miss nothing. It doesn't matter if it's a fraction of a second, or a lifespan. I see it all, and whatever my heuristic analysis can't immediately solve gets replayed as needed. So yes, I certainly noticed Byron's hesitation - however fleeting - when he ducked through the doorway to the pond chamber. I couldn't place his expression, and then it was gone. Tossed away in a whoop of glee as he splashed around. That joy seemed genuine enough, but he was also an actor. What truth lay within that slight drawing-up of maxillipeds I had seen? The tiniest outward tilt of his eyestalks? At a loss, I handed the matter off to background processing and tried to get on with our wonderful life.

I feel bad when I think about how I behaved during that time. To the extent that I can 'feel bad'. Guilt was never programmed in me. I had to pick it up from the feeds and my denizens. But I think it applies.

Byron was perfect, and we spent our days at leisure, walking through and around me, talking and laughing. He had his alone time, though I was with him then, too. I monitored him constantly, waiting for a pattern to emerge. I think he understood he couldn't escape me. He didn't seem to mind. But all the while, every one of my thirteen-thousand denizens had 8% of their brainpower siphoned away to cook up reasons why it was about to fall apart completely.


We strolled through a forest glade, smelled the summer breeze, and watched a frog scamper along a log in a pond. He tried to lure the frog onto his outstretched claw, but it swam across to the other end and croaked at us fearfully from the reeds.

Possibility: Byron is the advance scout for a Sunken Hope invasion that will slaughter my denizens.

I rejected that immediately. It just wasn't their nature. Besides, if he was communicating anything back to the fishbellies, I would know.

We perused the artisan market on my fountain plaza layer, where my denizens display and trade the handicrafts they're passionate about creating. Byron roared with pleasure at the many sculptures of himself he found among the booths. He also took time to admire a fine silk suit made by my denizen Giuseppe Ambrosius.

"I regret only that I can't feel the softness through my chitin, Don Giuseppe," Byron said, pinching the cuff gently in his claw.

"Come back next week, Mr. Telson, please," shouted Giuseppe, with round rosy cheeks and dewy eyes, hands clasped in reverence. "I make the pants with the four legs, and a coat with the big sleeves for your claws, eh??"

Byron turned down the over-generous offer, but bowed very deeply in thanks.

Possibility: Byron will leave at the first opportunity and make for Khosalu, where he'll be celebrated for his uniqueness better than my backwater denizens ever could.

It was true, he could leave at any time. But my denizens adored him almost as much as I did, and he had never so much as mentioned Khosalu. At the wedding he'd said the Cedar delegation looked like "a mismatched school of parrotfish," and didn't stop laughing for three and a half minutes.

In the afternoon, we played on the beach with the Swarm. Byron read his lines, faxed over by the brainiac writers in Sunken Hope, and I dressed my denizens as his historically-accurate background players and cowardly foils. Byron had never wanted to give up acting, and the fishbellies finally gave up waiting for him to come back home.

"Give us your gold, scalawag!" I screamed, wearing a portly denizen with a tiny tricorner hat atop his head.

"Never, you fiend! I'll die before I let you touch my daughter's tuition payment," Byron smoldered. "Know what? You and her have something in common. You're both gonna learn."

He pretended to wallop me and I pretended to die.

After the shoot it was hot, so I stripped myselves down and splashed into the surf. Byron dug himself down into the hot sand and watched.

"Don't you want to come for a swim?" I called. He just waved.

Possibility: Byron is afraid of water.

Believe me. I thought it was a joke at first, too. Sometimes my denizens surprise me like that - with jokes they don't even know they're making. But the more I considered the idea, the more it seemed to explain. I cross referenced the moments I had seen him hesitate, seen that sad eyestalk droop. They almost always occured in the presence of water. I didn't notice a wave until it knocked me off my feet.

Dripping, I approached Byron and shook myself off, sure to splatter him with water. He chuckled, showing no sign of fear. In fact, he pulled me into his arms and kissed me, for a long, long time.

As the sun set, I curled up in the crook of his claw and traced my finger along his thorax. It had always had rough bits, but now the smooth bits seemed waxy, and his lovely orange color had faded, like it was bleaching away. When I noticed an odd substance flaking out around his joints, I had to speak up.

"Darling?" I said softly.

"Yes, dear," he rumbled. I felt him more than heard him, pressed against him as I was.

"Are you… afraid of anything?"

"Losing you, my darling Kelpie, of course," he replied quickly. It was a joke we had shared. I've existed for centuries, and my personality cannot change spontaneously. There is no risk of him ever losing me. Only of the opposite.

"No, I mean… are you… afraid of water?"

"Afraid?" He repeated, eyestalks tilting down. I knew that look – I had caught him in something! But he took the spotlight with grace. "No, not afraid. I grew up in it. It did sustain me, for most of my life. I could never fear it. But now it reminds me… that I used to be someone else."

I started more indignant than I'd meant to. "What? No, you're the same. And as a crab, you–"

"I've been staying hydrated–"

"No," I said, pushing myself up. "You're a crab, you need salt water. I know your body is hurting. You could die!"

He paused for a long time. There, right before my eyes, was that enigmatic expression I'd spent so long puzzling over.

"I'm actually… not a crab," he said.

I had heard it. I even had an inkling of what he meant. But I've watched far too many feed shows in my life, so what came out was, "What?"

"I feel like a human inside. My great-grandparents took the crustaceomorphication procedure so they could work as cable technicians. A great honor. My family are all proud to be crab. But for me, it has always felt… wrong."

I wept as he spoke and took his head in my hands.

"I didn't choose this body. But for the first time in my life, here, with you, I can live like I'm not a crab. It feels so right, and I need to chase that feeling. I can't ever go back. Not one step. "

I nodded and hugged him, ignoring his roughness on my cheek. He sighed heavily.

"If that means you feel like I lied to you, or I'm not the person you thought…"

"No," I barked, in poor control of my behavior interface. "No way. I love you, Byron Telson. I need you to be happy. So if there's a human being inside you that wants to come out, then we're going to figure out how to crack you open and bring you home. I promise."

His mandibles opened and closed for a while. There was nothing on him now, no performance, no guard. He gazed up at the stars twinkling into all their possibility overhead.

"Thank you," he clicked, so softly that it could scarcely be heard beneath the crashing of the surf.

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

Put it all together.
Solve the world.
One conversation at a time.

probably should have posted this earlier but thank you flerp, Yoruichi, PhantomMuzzles for the crits!

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


Je'fray and the Green Bear
780 words

Our clan has a few stories they like to tell…this is one of them.

Long ago, when the planet was what was once “normal”, there was a man. A brutish beast of a man, he was both feared and admired. Feared because of his prowess in hand to hand combat. Admired because he was a kind man, who was a natural leader of men. But back then, he was just a regular man. They called him Jeff back in the olden days, but he would become known as…Je’fray.

One day long ago, Jeff was out exploring the mountains, looking for grandeur. He was a foolish man at first, looking for fame and glory, where none could truly be found. It was not truly known why he went to the mountains, but what was known was that he supposedly met his end due to an unfortunate avalanche, buried in snow. A common death in the mountains.

Now, one may ask, why would we still tell this story if it ended there?

Simple. Because it didn’t end.

Thousands, perhaps millions of years have passed. A certain tribe was out hunting for mutated game. Looking for the rare Green Bear, one of the hunting parties explored a cave. While carrying their torches, they hoped to find said Green Bear.

They didn’t find a Green Bear.

They found a man. A man encased in ice.

Finding meat encased in ice was normal, but not this kind of meat.

They rejoined their party, and told the rest about the frozen man. A scouting party was sent to pick up what they could of the man. After they picked up the body encased in ice, they brought it back to their village. A village known as 5 Miles.

While they did not find the Green Bear, they found something just as interesting. The women went and heated up the ice, thinking that the man, while handsome, would serve as nourishment instead of the Green Bear. After a while, they heard what seemed to be a man breathing.

He still lived! And he had no clothes!

Jeff, confused where he was, looked around for some clothing while the women “enjoyed the view”. Finding some cloth, he quickly wrapped it around his waist. Noticing the women afterwards, he excused himself and went outside.

Jeff awent around, asking where he was. A member of the original hunting party found him, and introduced him to the chief of 5 Miles, Ra Berd. Berd explained everything to him, about where they were, what time it was, and even gave a tour of the village. Afterwards, Jeff was distraught, since everything he had known before was gone. Berd then told him something Jeff would remember for the rest of his life.

“Our tribe life is hard and perilous, but it is best for a man to start anew.” Berd then offered Jeff that chance of a new life at 5 Miles. Jeff, knowing he truly had nothing better to do, obliged. Berd then placed his hands on Jeff, and chanted a tribal prayer.

“If you are to live anew, you must fully discard your own life! Henceforth, you are known as…Je’fray!”

A year passed. Je’fray settled among 5 miles, and lived as if he and the rest of the tribe were family. Je’fray trained among the warriors of the tribe, and even became proficient in the Laser Spear.

Soon after, the biggest of ironies hit 5 miles. The original prey in the hunt where Je’fray was found, the Green Bear, came to them. The Bear came all at once, able to hit some of the villagers with its acid spit. Some were killed, while others lost arms and legs. The warriors, Je’fray included, went to get their laser spears, intending to kill the beast.

While the Green Bear was on the rampage, it heard someone yell.

“Hey, ugly!”

It was Je’fray, with his laser spear put away. He charged at the Green Bear, attacking him head on.

He grappled with the Bear, putting it into a headlock. As soon as he was in place, Je’fray yelled, “Now!” And each of the warriors charged in, stabbing the Bear with their laser spears. Je’fray was the last to pierce the beast. The force from all the laser spears made the Bear explode.

After the Bear was killed, Je’fray fell down. It was then he realized why the Bear was green.

Fortunately for him, mankind had advanced enough to find cures for radiation poisoning. Even a poor village like 5 miles knew of the cure.

This is but one of many stories of Je’fray. What happened to him? Well, that’s a story for another time.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
No Master

1766 words

Alyn tipped his hat to the bounce as he stepped into the Kaihaldo Way. Courtesy, of a kind rarely practiced in the outlands. She nodded to him and darted her eyes to a table along the back wall. There was a weapons check by the door, a shelf full of open compartments and old ribbon ends waiting to be tied and clamped. Empty. Alyn didn't figure today was the day nobody came here armed. He walked past it, to the terminal. He transacted some currency exchanges. Galaside Legends Stars were what he usually took. Old game, stable currency. Always good enough to swap for the local coin. A hundred Stars for a small sack of old world nickel, plus a double shot, the good stuff. The barman brought them both on a wooden platter. He took a seat and waited.

Dirg. The target. Not much to go by, just a name that wasn't likely the one they were born with or went by. A name, and where they cashed out. And the terminal recognized Alyn's privs. The next time he swapped game money for coin, Alyn would know. All he had to do was slowly sip his poison and wait.

It wasn't a long wait, halfway through the first glass when the Terminal gave the telltale chirps. Big man, Natron Chia leathers and crew cut. The bounce had been right. He was headed back to that back table, to the card game with a fresh load of coins to lose. Alyn watched, Dirg and his fellow gamblers. Anyone look like his friend, like someone apt to step in? He didn't think so. Still, he was patient, as long as the drink held out.

Dirg stood, then walked toward the pissroom. Alyn followed, quickly checked that nobody else was there.

"Been expecting you," Dirg said. His back was to Alyn, his prick out and streaming into the pit. "Figure if that hat means anything to you, you'll wait till my pants are up. Figure you might want to listen to a few words, too."

"Could be," said Alyn.

"It's sweet," said Dirg. "Reckon it's unfixable, too. How big's the number?" Alyn told him. "Devon's hell, that's small beans next to what we could do. We could move weight with your privs, enforcer."

"Shake it and put it in your pants," said Alyn.

"Why won't you-" said Dirg, spinning and stabbing like a viper. He had a small knife in his hand and struck blindly, nicking Alyn's left shoulder. Alyn's own knife moved just as fast, in a deep slash across the other man's throat.

"Because the hat means something to me," Alyn said. Dirg was smiling, trying to laugh as he bled out.

Alyn fished in Dirg's pants for his tradecard, proof for the mods, then walked out of the pissroom and the Kaihaldo Way, tossing the pouch of coins to the bounce. He unlocked and unfolded his bicycle and rode east, toward a settlement big enough to process the bounty.

The cut in his shoulder didn't stop stinging. An hour out it was like fire, and he felt fever coming too. A few minutes more and his field of vision was narrowing and he felt the imbalance of the bicycle slipping out from under him, and then blunt pain and nothingness.

Fevered dreams. He presents Dirg's severed head to the Mod themselves, a giant, twenty feet tall with a cloud for a face. He has to climb clanking metal stairs to reach their outstretched hand, and when he does they speak with two voices at once: 'You have done well' and 'It isn't enough. The rungs rust away under his feet and he falls, through the stairs and through the ground, falling. He tries to yell and his mouth and lungs fill with dry dirt.

Alyn woke, coughing and starting. In a strange place, naked but for a thin clothespaper gown. He lifted his head and looked around, almost panicking. There. In a pile on the table. His gear and clothes. He didn't know what had been stolen, but his hat was still with him at least.

"Don't get up too quickly." The voice was kind, scratchy, patient. "You still need rest. Rest and food. Best to try and sit for now, see if you can eat."

"Who?" said Alyn. "Where am I? How long-" He started coughing. The man handed him a cup of something warm. He drank it, reminded of his thirst by its presence. You can likely trust someone who's just had you helpless. Something his mentor used to say. A bit bitter and salty, he wasn't sure if it was a tea or a broth, even after he had emptied the cup.

"Sympo Canyr," he said. "This is the Khaldein shore, current home to the Paraphorus people. And you've been out a day and a half since Jacq found you and dragged you here. Judging from the course of the poison it couldn't have been much longer since you fell."

"Hmph," said Alyn, extending his hand with the cup. "More, if it's wise."

"It is, and you should eat. There is bread." Alyn took what Canyr offered. "You're a better patient than most."

"I wasn't the first time," Alyn said. "I was taught better."

Jacq came and introduced herself and her younger brother Tarl. They looked much alike, the same tangerine hair in similar nomad-style knots, his without deed-beads and battle-braids, just the knot of adulthood alone. They were eager to meet him, had only heard tales of enforcers. He was willing to tell them more, and they were a rapt audience during his recovery.

One night he woke to hornsong. "What's that?" he asked.

"Trouble," said Canyr, turning on a dim lantern.

"I'd better-" said Alyn.

"Stay in bed, but I can tell there's no persuading you. Take a crutch; your leg is in no shape for long walks."

He got up, went to his weapons, but they were gone. He glanced at the sympo, then away. He moved fast, even with the crutch, out of the medical tent, into the settlement.

It was pre-dawn, dim light on the horizon. Loud engines and whooping from outside, a crowd assembled to meet them. He walked closer. A large group of Natron Chia warriors were assembled, riding gleaming new motorbikes, with shiny steel plates enhancing their leathers. One of them held a megaphone. He whistled into it, using the feedback to quiet the crowds.

"Listen up, Scalvs," he shouted. "This here is some mighty good land. It's ours now. One week, you have one week to clear out. Anyone here when we come back, well..."

Alyn saw it, but was too far away to make a difference, too far even for screaming. Tarl. Wearing his hat. Reaching clumsily for his iron.

The Chia leader saw it too. Alyn knew they were going to pick someone. Tarl hadn't realized he was volunteering. Three shots, a tight triangle right in the center of mass.

"He didn't suffer," said Canyr, later. "Death was close to instantaneous."

Alyn wanted to call Tarl a fool, playing hero with tools he didn't understand. Playing with death. If it had just been him and the sympo her would have.

"Help me," said Jacq. "Help me get revenge." There was fire in her eyes to match her hair.

"That's not what an enforcer does," Alyn said. Then thoughts began to gather like a duststorm in his head. "Does your settlement have a feed?"

"Yes," she said. "What does that-"

"Take me there," commanded Alyn, and she only hesitated seconds before obeying.

Alyn plugged in and gave his credit. He scanned Dirg's card to receive his bounty, then checked the rosters. Just as he suspected.

Dirg must have shared his methods. There it was, something he had never seen before. Bounties, high bounties on every last member of the Natron Chia. A warrant for war.

"You may get your revenge after all," he said. "I'll have to make the Paraphorus into an army."

"We all can fight," she said.

"Sure, but can you win?"

He explained all to the leadership. "Do any of you play Galatide Legends?" A few hands raised. "There's a bug in the code. An old one, tough to fix. It lets you duplicate any item, no matter how rare. The Natron know how to use it, and can make throwaway accounts faster than the fishbelly mods can ban them, churning out platinum relics and making themselves rich. The mods, the old mods put out a bounty on their whole operation. Might be other enforcers will come here too, but there aren't enough to fight even a small Chia like the Natron, not in the whole region. But you, with a little help, might manage."

Jacq spoke next. She'd been busy. "They're using the money to buy arms. Two halftracks, and demitechs. Two rider vehicles is their style, driver and gunner. They'll be moving them through Fist Canyon in three day's time with most of their warriors escorting. Better to ambush them there than assault their clave, or wait for them to come in a week."

"Or you could give up," said Alyn. "Move on. Find the next home and hope they don't decide it's worth conquering too."

Murmuring. A few raised fists and shouts. A single cheer that knew no dissent.

Alyn barely remembered the battle at all. Death, and fire, and ears ringing from shells just far enough to spare him injury, again and again. The Paraphorus berserker spirit, contagious even through his training. The other enforcers, cautious and greedy but ultimately mortal. He didn't know how he survived, or why.

He did remember after. Him and Jacq. Two survivors, the only two apart from the enemy wounded they were finishing.

"You got your revenge," he said.

"And you got your bounties," she said. Neither were smiling.

"At least mine will spend."

"What are you going to do with it?" Jacq asked, driving a short knife into a Natroner's chest.

"This much?" he said. "Be done with it. Buy an apartment in some free city, spend the days drinking tea and reading old world poetry. Something like that. How about you?"

"I..." she said. "I don't know."

He took off his hat and tossed it to her feet. If she took it there'd be more to do, introducing her to the old mods online and sponsoring her for enforcer privs and gear. Maybe a few words of wisdom on the road as long as their paths were the same.

"Make it mean something," he said.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

The Fool Says in his Heart what Cannot be Thought
1868 words

Sometimes at night Anselm would wake from dreams of startling vividness, eyes open as wide as they could go against the breathing dark. After a second the room would bring up a faint glow and emit a barely audible chime to let him know it was ready to meet his needs; he never said anything, and after a while the glow would fade.

Fourteen weeks to the day after the first dream, though, as he stood cleaning his teeth, Anselm felt something change inside him; the click of something fitting into place. There was no satisfaction from the click, but he found that his anxious uncertainty had resolved into a decision, a decision that scared him and excited him in equal measure. He spat out the tooth paste and watching the writhing gel-goo clamber its way back up into the dispenser. A second later the dish hummed and was clean and gleaming once more.

Outside the weather was cooler than he expected and the sky’s usual blue was paler. A stream of bubble cars slid along the workway in front of his house.

“Abode,” said Anselm. He had the sensation of someone clearing their throat behind him.

“Good morning Anselm,” said Abode, inside his head.

“I would like to leave the,” said Anselm. The final word would not come. He swallowed. “I would like to leave the city.”

“Of course, I will call a car for a tour. How long would you like to be gone for?” said Abode.

Anselm had the sense of a finger poised over a tablet ready to make an appointment, and shook his head. “No. I would like to leave for good. To depart. I want to leave the city, and not be here any more.”

The light touch of Abode inside his mind grew heavier and expanded. In front of him a patch of air curdled and turned into a young man with purple hair and a quizzical expression. “Why would you want to do that?” he asked.

“I have to, Abode. It is nice here, it’s better than nice. I like it here. I have to go though, and I’m not sure why but I do.” Anselm frowned.

Abode was silent for a number of seconds. “You have everything you could need, everything you could possibly want, everything you desire, you are sane, healthy, and of good rational nature. Your desire does not appear sensible.”

Anselm was finding this an unexpectedly emotional conversation. Tears pricked at his eyes. “Nonetheless, I must go, can I go. Please, let me go.”

Abode smiled, with shiny white teeth and one slightly yellowed one. “I can offer you more. Would you like a wife? Partners, of different genders and gender persuasions? An affair. A life of crime? More satisfaction. Ennui is a solved equation, Anselm. You are in my Abode, and it is a whole where no desire is lost and of which you are a part, and since it enjoys everything you do not enjoy, you can surely do nothing but inhabit this desire and be content. Surely. Allow me to ravish you, to sway you.”

Anselm took a shaky breath, then a firmer one. “I would like to leave the city, Abode.”

There were some birds that lived in little holes in the nearby grass and they were calling to each other. Anselm listened to them chirping for a long, timeless moment. At last, Abode nodded.

“Of course. The car will take you to the gate. Goodbye, Anselm.” There was no tone of asperity or chagrin but Anselm found he could not look at Abode’s simulated face. He walked down the hill to the bubble car that had just stopped and climbed in.

As it turned out the gate to the outside was through a long tunnel, sloping upwards, and Anselm was puffing by the time he reached the end under the weight of the heavy pack that Abode had, surprisingly, prepared for him and left by the tunnel entrance. The straps were of a smooth warm rubbery material that molded themselves to his shoulders, and he tapped his fingers on them when he reached the gate. The Gate, to the Outside. There was a palmlock in the middle of the Gate, which was round. “Abode?” he said. No-one replied. Shivering, he pressed his palm to the lock and the door curled open.

The first thing was the smell, of course. It smelt of iron and sharp things and dust and dirt. It smelt of old things forgotten and left to rot in the ground. A long brown hill strewn with wreckage, dead machines, spiked trees, and cracked items made from materials he could not name crawled up towards the broad horizon, all under a copper coloured sky. Anselm had a sudden moment of utter paralysing doubt.

Then he patted his packstraps, again, and walked out of the city and into the land.


Six days later he was in trouble. The first sign he’d had of it was the scalv arrow that thudded into the earth by his feet, followed by a fist-sized rock that hit his pack, cracking something inside that sounded like his waterflask. He’d run for cover, and stepped on a nail that went straight through his boots, before slumping to the ground in a huff of agonised breath. The nail was attached to a piece of wood and seemed to be at least three centimetres into his foot.

The scalv had ducked behind a mound of fire-blackened brickwork to avoid return fire, and when none was forthcoming poked his head back up.

Anselm held up one hand, the other occupied in working the nail out of his foot. It really was incredibly painful.

“Ho, bodi.” The scalv was tall, and gaunt, and his face had an open glee. “You in a pickle, no?”

Anselm nodded, then yanked the blood-slick nail out. “A pickle. I am in a pickle.”

The scalv grinned, then laughed. “I thought you were Mustani, wouldn’t have wasted an arrow elsewise.” He had another one nocked, levelled at Anselm’s chest as he approached. “I will take your pack, yes?”

Anselm shrugged, and wriggled out of the straps. A part of him had come to loathe their endlessly accomodating smooth warm rubber, the other part was occupied in regretting his doubtless imminent death. “Why not. The water bottle is broken.”

Carefully, the scalv extended a foot and yanked it away. “Nicely. I’m sorry, bodi, you know how it be.”

Anselm sighed and lay back on the powdery soil. His foot had started to throb. “I do. Enjoy the pack.”

The scalv seemed to want to go, but his grin had become quizzical. “Why you here, bodi. This is not the place for you?”

Anselm had had time, and cause, to wonder that multiple thousand times over the preceding week, and had his answer ready: “I had to. There was no other way I could keep on if I didn’t.”

The scalv nodded at this. “You had to. You had to. You had to.” His bow was still drawn, and Anselm waited with glum fatality for the arrow. Then the scalv came to a decision. “You come with me, now, come with Mieko. Maybe you die on the way, maybe not.”


The trip almost killed Anselm, but not quite - the infection was bad but not bad enough. And arriving at the scalv village, tucked into an angle of the endless hills, made him wonder why he had agreed to come. It was cold, and when it was not cold it was hot, and when it was neither the wind blew with an endless ceaseless rapacity.

The wandering doctor who looked at Anselm’s foot after three weeks of it becoming blacker and redder and more foul, sucked in his breath over yellowed teeth and shook his head. The amputation was terrible, an agony that was somehow worse for only lasting a few seconds, because that was the last feeling he would have in a part of his body.

Hobbles, they called him after that, and in the first year it was lucky he was crippled - odds were high that he would have been challenged, or stabbed for laughs by a young hothead. The second year there was a tone of respect to the word, once he’d heard a Mustani raid coming and raised the alarm by frantically banging the hammered out gong. The third year and on it was just his name and he found that he could go nearly as quickly as anyone on his two crutches that he’d made from rusty iron poles.

He had a wife then, too, and though he suspected she was just the one that no-one else seemed to want they liked each other well enough. She would occasionally ask him questions about the city, but in a laughing-eyed way that made him think she didn’t believe he even came from there. Eventually they had a son, then a daughter after the son died young.

They were hard times; when she was fourteen the daughter died too, bitten by a snake. Anselm had thought he’d known pain, until then, he realised he was like one who had merely heard traveller’s tales of it.

He was grey haired and his hands were gnarled roots on the arms of his crutches when he buried his wife, atop a hill that they both liked. There was a view out to the distant sea and, in the far distance, the sparkle of the Abode.

He was very tired after grave had been dug and the words had been said, and he waved away offers to help him back down the hill.

“I will sit with her a time, keep some meats warm for me,” he said, and watched them wind their way down through the scrub and matagouri. He cried, then, feeling the wind snatch at the moisture and whip it away and felt an aching immensity of grief within his chest, so much that he didn't understand how it had the space.

Eventually the sun went low on the hills and he was considering how he would get down without falling in the dim light when he heard a chirping. Birdsong. There weren’t any birds around the hill normally. Good eating, he thought, casting around for the sound’s source.

As he did he realised there was more than one, that the sound was coming from behind him, that the sky overhead was pale blue not copper coloured, that he was standing on two feet, and that Abode was looking at him with quizzical eyes.

“There,” it said. “You did well.”

Anselm swayed, unaccustomed to not having his crutches, then slumped to the ground. The grass of the Abode was lush. He plucked a stem, and smelt it.

“That’s impossible.”

Abode shrugged. It looked pleased with itself. “You wanted to go, I facilitated your desire. This is the place where every desire is met.”

Anselm looked up at the shimmering form of the Abode, limned by sunlight, and took a deep shuddering breath. “But if I wanted to go, after that. After all of that. If I still wanted to go. Would you let me? For real? Not in a, not a dream?”

Abode smiled down at him.

“No,” it said.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
I'm leaving submissions open for a couple more hours for those who are rushing to finish or are in weird time zones

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Thank you critters from the past couple of weeks

WEEK 523 Submission
Pollen on the Breeze
2000 w

“C-Block, Magnolia Building, thirty-first floor, unit five-forty-nine. . . .”

“Abode Stamen, planet Utrenu, the solar system, the universe,” finished Mickey, derisively. “I said I got it. I’ve been inside a megacity before.”

Bern's tone betrayed the eye roll he tried to contain. “When you were six, being smuggled out of Abode Glade. Stamen’s a whole other beast. Just be careful. Stick to the route.”

“May as well walk it in yourself, codger.”

“Can’t.” Bern brushed aside his graying forelock to reveal the dark scar mocking his hairline. “Sympo docs used to have to cut the chips out until a Hoper appeared one day with a datapad full of programming schematics, hopped back in their Trident and disappeared below the waves.”

On any given day, Bern might be supremely annoyed at Sunken Hope’s ever-increasing isolationism, but with one act, they provided a shot at wresting the world from the control of the AI, Hypatia. Maybe the Hopers were watching this on their holovids, some survival game show they concocted from the safety of a boardroom and if Bern, or any of the rebels in the Dark Zone were still connected to the net they’d be in on the joke. But for them, at least, this wasn’t Renday night entertainment.

Mickey touched her own unblemished forehead. They locked eyes for a moment, then Mickey’s bravado broke. “Sorry, Bern.” She toyed with a buckle on her satchel.

Bern cleared his throat. “Alright, enough of that.” He turned his attention to the hardwood box that sat amongst tools and datapads.

The cool glow of biotech illuminated Mickey’s face as she peered inside. Electric veins pulsed along a cube no bigger than a child’s puzzle toy. “What is it?” she asked.

“Dunno, exactly. Back before this—” he waved his hand to indicate the mostly subterranean bunker, war remnant of the old past, where the Dark Zoners hid from Hypatia’s eyes in the sky. “When just wanted to get as far away from the Abodes as possible, I went up north with some homesteaders. Pulled it out of the ground digging a well, box and all. I just felt that was the right spot to dig. Didn’t find water, only this. So we kept wandering. Eventually made our way down here. This thing has been sending a steady stream of data out, but I was never able to crack the code. Then, two weeks ago, the address just appeared on my datapad. Nothing more, nothing less.”

“The box looks old.”

“Likely ancient.”

“Before Hypatia?” asked Mickey. “How was there a biotech cube inside?”

“There’s only one way to find—” The blaring of a klaxon interrupted him. “Take it.”

Mickey stuffed the box into her satchel and they ran for the exit hatch through worn corridors and clanked up the steel ladder. Bern steeled himself against the muffled screams and chaos that rattled down through the tube and spun the wheel that unlocked the domed lid and flung it open.

“Eliminator drones,” he hissed. “You ready?” Mickey nodded back. He sprung up the final rungs and pounded across the open ground. Mickey scrambled out, towards the camouflaged lean-to where the ground cycles were stowed.

The drones circled like carrion birds, onyx triangles against the flat white haze of desert sky, crowing only occasionally, leisurely, as the defense team warmed up the anti-aircraft laser battery. But with each ‘caw’ from the sky came a shower of flechettes, needle-knives as silent as raindrops falling through the air until the inevitable splashdown, and even then, they stuck centimeters in the ground. The pop-pops of rain on tin roofs were the rusty droplets of human blood spraying into the sand.

Mickey and Bern came to a dusty skid between the cycles. The turret finally spun up and with a thin ozone whine fired, a straight white line as thin as the edge of paper cutting across the sky, just as sharp. It found its mark. The drone dropped, a fidget spinner out of control until it it was out of sight beyond the dunes.

Aside from Harvey Pookah, half buried in the sand with her ballistic hunting rifle popping, Mickey marveled at how quiet the machines of war were, and the often shrill, sometimes guttural death cries all the more jarring.

Bern shook her back to the task. The cyclotron gyroscope whirred to life. She walked the bike to the edge of the shadows, knowing there was no turning back once she hit the light. Bern sidled up beside her, and they watched as the turret connected with a second drone.

It fell, but under its own control, and Bern couldn’t hold in a gasp as the drone propellered down and he caught the razor glint of the craft’s edges just as it careened into, and through the laser turret. “Go,” he shouted.

The tires sprayed sand behind her and she peeled out into the open air. It would be rough going until they made it to the mag-road. The three remaining drones patterned into a spiral descent, and Mickey’s throat tightened thinking about when that funnel cloud touched down.

She heard a scream behind her, and the lump got bigger until she realized it was Harvey cheering her own crack shot as a drone thwomped into the sand.

Bern was right behind her now, pointing with an open hand to adjust her course. She swerved and the bike slid out, too much torque for the loose sand. Anywhere else it might have been a hard fall, but she dumped into a bank as soft as snow.

When she squirreled out and righted the bike, the drones were at ground level and charging up the trail behind them. She gunned it and spun again. Bern shouted, “Calm down. Go slow.” She sucked in a dusty breath, finally catching traction and getting the bike back up to speed.

The lead drone was on their heels, and Mickey was making ground. She realized Bern was intentionally slowing. He braked and wrenched the bike into a sideways skid, the nose of the drone caught the engine block, and for a glorious second it looked as though Bern suplexed the drone up and over to smack its topside hard into the sand, and with a final whirr, the drone’s intakes sucked nothing but grit and it was done.

Mickey tapped the radio to life, risking the broadcast signal. “Bern, are you OK?”

Through the static crackles, she heard his voice, much farther away than it should be. “Keep going. If nothing else, lead the last one away so Harvey can evacuate everyone. There’ll be another sortie. Mick—you know I’m not so good with sentimental stuff, but I hope you know—” Mickey heard hard breaths, and shuffling, and Harvey’s faint shout, “Oh Lordy, Bern, your leg’s gone.”

“Save him,” pleaded Mickey.

The blunt reply: “I’ll try but it’s not good. Now let me work.”

Mickey whispered into the radio silence, “Goodbye, Bern.”

The mag-road was less than a click ahead now. The solitary drone cruised behind her, slowly closing the gap. Mickey wasn’t sure if she could outrun it even if she made it to the road, but she was on a hard-packed trail now, and pushed the throttle, hoping the wind in her face would dry the tears.

She bounced up the final rocky embankment, cranked the switcher dial and the tires flipped ninety degrees horizontal, the bike hovering on the mag-road. The drone was directly behind her now, the chase nothing more than amusement, and she kicked herself for believing anything different. Bern gave up the ghost for nothing. It was all for nothing.

The drone floated upwards, and tilted to aim the flechette gun. She stared at the checkerboard loaded with darts and felt rage and bile and anger and sadness boil up through her and burst forth with a single word, “STOP.” She felt Bern’s voice echoing the same and maybe Harvey and the flash of everyone else she knew or remembered.

The drone did. It fell to the pavement with the sullen clunk of a tin can. Mickey heard Bern again, “Keep going.” It felt real, not imagined. But she listened and pressed on towards the sickly city glow that swallowed the stars and pointed the way to Abode Stamen.

It was fully night when Mickey saw the megacity. She knew from Bern’s maps that from the air it resembled a flower, buildings blossoming out around the central spire, but from the ground it looked like a double-helix of dicks spiraling into the clouds with jagged balls plopped ungracefully underneath bathed in the neon glow of city lights until she got close enough to delineate individual towers in the urban petals.

She stopped at the edge of the city. It was a clear edge. There was the empty desert, then there was the Abode. No sprawl, no stragglers, just the statement, unambiguous: This is the Abode and there’s nothing you can do about it.

She walked the cycle a hesitant step over the city line. The mag-road felt the same, but there was an itching behind her eyes. She hadn’t experienced it since she was a child and it was nearly forgotten. The heads-up display pointed out transportation, attractions, and anything else in the megacity database a citizen needed. Most importantly, there was a path highlighted through the empty streets to her destination. She prayed the Hoper programming was sound enough to keep Hypatia out of her head while she scraped the surface level functions of the system.

So far so good. The city slept. She followed the dayglow line only she could see, remarkably straight ahead. Mickey wasn’t sure if she dozed or not, but the hours flew by as she flitted through the empty canyons until the diamond of her destination blinked her back to wakefulness.

“We’re nearly there,” she thought, and it was more than just her thoughts. Her heart quickened, had the AI broken in?

“Not the AI.”

“Who?” Mickey realized now she wasn’t in C-Block. She craned her neck and still couldn’t see the top of the central spire. She stopped at the front entrance, still dark and quiet.

“Bern would never have been convinced to let you bring me here, so there was a little subterfuge on my part. I won’t let the city see you.”

Mickey knew it was the cube. “What are you?” She drew the box from her pack.

“Destiny. Connect me to the tower, and I can give you control of the city. We can break it. Or open it to the people.”

Mickey took the cube in her hands. “I was conned into bringing another old-world AI into the city? Bern died a pawn in some ancient wargame?”

“I’m more than just an AI, Mickey. I might be a god, trapped by Hypatia in this prison. It’s hard for me to remember. Set me free and I will help you.”

True, this thing stopped one of the drones, but—”Why didn’t you stop all the drones, stop the ones that killed people?”

“I wasn’t fully awake. Not until I felt your pain. I’m sorry.”

If there was a devil’s bargain to be had, at least this one seemed willing to fight against the Abodes. “Fine.”

She pried the cover off a junction box, a forest of data cables thick as her ran inside, the guts of this branch of the Abode AI system. She held the cube against the wires, there wasn’t anywhere to connect. Then the electric veins pulsed quicker and biotech tendrils sprouted from the cube and grasped the wires. “DECRYPTING.”

The cube’s sides fell away. An orb of light floated inside. “Thank you.”

The orb smoothed and stretched and before Mickey could lurch away, it spread up her arm, a glowing opera glove. Then it was all of Mickey. “I always feel bad about this, human. But gods need avatars. I will have words with Hypatia for caging me. But first, I need to stretch my legs and what say we have a little fun?”

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Sitting Here posted:

Your story should feature, in one way or another, the concept of a ragur. Ragur are mischevious and/or malevolent entities from the Anasianin religion('Anasianin' can also refer to a practitioner of the religion. The proper noun is 'Anasia'). Anasia isn't too common anymore, but it's one of the few cultural relics shared to some extent by all factions.
Only Human (1970 words)

It was the time of tears, and Amir had been sleeping. His nook of choice overlooked the roof, where a garden of bottles had been carefully arranged - emerald green and amber yellow - to capture rainwater and store it for later. It was the sound of the rain that did him in, and the sound of his mother that woke him up.

“Amir! Guests!”

He jolted awake, nearly falling from his perch. Guests? In this weather? He looked to the streets. The sky had sought to drown the land. The lodge was an island in a river of mud.

Stumbling down the stairs, he stopped briefly at a mirror to fix his hair. It didn’t matter he’d done his chores: if his mother caught so much as a hint of him napping, she’d have him skewered like a lacquer eel. A mousy boy looked back at him with black hair and golden eyes, clad in a shirt two-sizes too big. His mother had rolled up the sleeves herself, and secured them in place with a pair of sewing pins.



The first floor of the lodge was empty, save for Amir’s mother and their newly announced guest. His mother was a toothy sort, plump and hospitable. “We’re here for each other,” she was fond of saying, “And we’re here for you, stranger,” she said as he arrived.

Amir, breathless, leapt down the last few steps and touched down, steadying himself against a nearby chair. “H-here, here,” he said. Then he looked up.

It was the first time he’d ever seen one up close.

There were always a few of them, prodding the periphery. He’d heard them called Scalvs, but his mother told him that was a dirty word. They certainly looked dirty, seen from afar, wrapped in rags with wide-brimmed hats.

The stranger towered over his mother, lean and lanky, a shawl-like poncho obscuring their torso. Their arms and legs were thick with equipment, with an insect-like breathing mask covering their face. They had just removed their hat, revealing themselves to be recently shorn, a prickle of hair growth covering the scalp.

But Amir’s eyes were on their rifle. It was a monstrous thing, longer than he was tall. The Scalv leaned on it, like a walking stick, as though it weren’t anything worthy of concern.

“There you are, boy, thought you’d washed away.” His mother laughed. “Our friend here is soaked. Run ‘em a bath and make it hot.”

Amir took a step back, swallowed, and nodded. He turned up the stairs, much slower than he came.

“Symp here?” asked the Sclav, a distortion in their voice.

“Doc’s out,” said his mother. “But she’ll be back soon.”

Amir made his way to the baths. It was a large room tiled in white and blue, though the tiling had faded from years of use. To hear his mother tell it, this had once been a bathouse of some renown, but that was before even grandpa’s time. It was not a room that afforded much privacy, something Amir had come to care a great deal about in recent years, but when the season was slow and customers sparse, there was something nice about being there, alone, swallowed up in that venerable space.

Amir began running the water, testing it with his hands. Once he was satisfied, he turned to leave. The Scalv was waiting, outside the door.

“AH!” Amir fell back, hands up. “S-sorry, um…sorry! The bath’s ready! If you’d just leave your things by the door,” he indicated a convenient basket, “I can take them to be washed. We’ll provide something fresh.”

Nodding, the Scalv pushed past the boy. They reached up and unclasped their poncho. Soaked through and sopping, it flopped to the ground. Amir’s nervousness was briefly overrun by irritation. He’d probably have to clean the stairs.

It was the removal of the mask that brought him back to the moment. It was a woman that placed it aside, stern-faced and tanned, with deep-set, sleepless eyes.

Amir suddenly remembered himself, that he was in the presence of a guest, a human, a woman, and excused himself. “What are they supposed to be,” he’d once asked a friend. Out of all the replies, not one had been “Human.”

Making his way to the corridor, Amir spied the discarded rifle in a neighboring room. Bereft of the woman, it seemed somehow lesser. Merely a tool propped up against the window. He waited for a moment, until the sound of bare feet on tile told him she was ready. Closing his eyes, he fished for the basket. It was heavier than usual. He dragged it outside.

“They ain’t settled folk,” his mother told him once he’d come downstairs, “But they’re fine as anyone. Don’t let me catch you staring again or she’ll think we ain’t got manners.”

Amir sat across from his mother in the kitchen. He was sitting on a stool, kicking his feet.

“...What do they do?”

“What needs doing,” she said. Tasting the chowder, she nodded, satisfied. “But tonight she’ll be joining us for dinner. Her name’s Fresca, as it’s heard. It’ll be just the three of us, less Doc gets here early. Now bring her up a change so she can get decent.”

Amir considered the pile of freshly-folded clothes. His mother kept herself well-stocked with a variety of fashions for needful guests, but apparently only had men’s clothes in their current guest’s size. She had been rather tall, after all.

Amir gathered the bundle and returned up the stairs. Seeing a trail of water from the baths to the room where she was staying, the door wide open, he decided to loudly announce his presence from around the corner.

“Fresh clothes,” he said. “I’ll just-

“By the bed,” came the response. Hers was a raspy voice, dull and listless.

He hesitated, a nervous expression on his face. He’d been planning on leaving it outside her room. He cautiously approached.

Fresca was sitting cross-legged on the bed, her back to him. Laid out on the bed before her was her rifle, now in pieces. She’d laid a towel across her lap, and was apparently tinkering with something. Her back was bare and covered in scars, faded lacerations, old marks of struggle. Just between the shoulder blades he saw a tattoo: a crow-like bird with a single human eye clutched precariously in its beak.

Amir approached the bed and gingerly placed the clothes behind her. “We’ve also cooked a meal. You’re welcome…to join us.”

“Hmm,” said Fresca. She continued her work. Amir turned around and made his retreat. He shut the door behind him as he went.

The time between then and dinner was quickly consumed by various duties. Amir, as expected, had been asked to clean the floor, and tend to a number of other small tasks. All the same, he couldn’t shake the sight of her back from his mind, nor the bird he’d seen there. The eye in its mouth seemed to judge him from afar. He hadn’t meant to stare, but the bird seemed to beckon.

Coming down to eat, he found himself surprised for the third time that day. Fresca sat across from his mother at the table, smartly dressed in a man’s work clothes, a faded beige shirt with black pants and boots. She leaned on one arm as she ate her meal, a bird of prey in an evening’s repose.

His mother made idle conversation with the Scalv. Her answers were short, almost dismissive.

“Rare to see one of your kind kicking back with us lived-in folk. What brings you streetwise, if I can ask?”

“Bodies,” said Fresca, “Bad people.”

“Oh, well, I shouldn’t hope there’s too much business in that.”

“There is always someone.”

“Not too much trouble, at least?”

“None.” She raised two fingers to the back of her head and tapped the base of her skull twice in quick succession.

Amir’s mother smiled, but her eyes betrayed the smallest hint of discomfort with the topic. “Well then, who’re you with? Everyone’s got someone, even out there.”

“Kril,” she responded, as though that settled the matter.

Amir sat in silence for most of the meal. He remembered to eat, but only just barely. At last his mother rose and collected the dishes. Now he was alone with Fresca, the Kril.

“You’re a quiet one,” she suddenly said. “Didn’t think you people could be.”

“Oh, um…sorry.”

“Is there something in your head? I could feel your eyes.” She leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms, one leg over the other.

Amir struggled to find the words. She wasn’t wrong, and yet, the discomfort he felt bringing it up was bubbling up inside him. Still, when he met her gaze, those half-lidded eyes seemed to pierce him straight through. He knew, instinctively, there was nothing he could hide.

“I was just surprised to learn you were human,” he said, a little ashamed of himself.

Fresca blinked, then let out a little chuckle, the thinnest of smiles at the corner of her mouth. “Is that all?”

“My friends and I, we’ve only ever seen you from afar.”

“I see. But it is not when you see us from afar you should fear us. It is when you cannot see us at all.” The color began to drain from Amir, but Fresca laughed again, a little more loudly, and waved away the atmosphere she’d just created with a flick of her wrist. “Easy on yourself. You’re a good lad, I hear. Our paths shouldn’t cross. I wouldn’t think it.”

Silence returned to the table. Fresca reached up and scratched at the edge of her mouth, a gesture Amir recognized from those who smoked sherkin. She reached into her own pockets absent-mindledly, before remembering these were not her clothes. She clicked her tongue, a clear shift in her mood, and crossed her arms once again. She licked her lips, another sign.

“Boy,” she said, “You know where my kit is?” Amir nodded. “There is a box wrapped in a red cloth. Bring it to me.”

Amir nodded again, and excused himself. Rushing up the stairs, he made his way to wear he’d hung her clothes and sorted her equipment. Taking the box, he dutifully returned. Sitting back down, he pressed it toward her.

Frecsa afforded him a curt little nod, before taking the box and prying it open. Inside was a small glass tube with a long thin stem, alongside several small pouches, packed with care. Flipping the tube over, unlatching the bottom, she took one of the pouches and emptied it inside: a blue and purple spice, fine like sand. Shutting the bottom, she turned it back over, and began to nibble thoughtfully at the stem. The spice within began to cloud, and a look of contentment spread across her face.

“Can I ask you something else?”

“You have,” she said, smirking, “But I shall permit another.”

“What’s the meaning of the thing on your back?”

“The Ragur?” she asked. “So you were looking then too.” Amir blushed and looked away. “Ha ha,” she chuckled. “You’ve no need to worry.”

Amir returned his gaze to hers. She seemed distant, sleepy. Then she spoke. “Ragur are the regrets we leave behind. They are spirits, bitter and cunning. They survive even death.” She smiled again, but softer, as though recalling a fond memory. “Ever have the Ragur watched over the Kril, so we mark our bodies to know our own. Then when we die, we have no regrets.”

Amir watched her, his eye wide with uncertain wonder. His mother eyed them both from the kitchen, a secretive smile of her own on her face.

“I told you,” she muttered, looking at her son. “They ain’t home-living, but they’re human all the same.”

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

🏆 Week 521 crits!
This was a strong week so a lot of my crits come down to personal preferences and nitpicking.

I like the premise of Ecoball, but between explaining the game and introducing the sci-fi setting, the characters get short shrift. Jola is fun but her motivations for re-entering the Ecoball arena are unclear. Even at the end when we find out she’s won and subsequently demolished a skyscraper, it feels like we’re missing a lot of backstory. Why are the organizers of Ecoball out to get her? Why was this skyscraper important enough to come back for? In addition, Talvint seems to exist only for Jola to have someone to talk to in the story. Their relationship could be better defined. Overall, interesting ideas but this story tries to do too much.

This story was a contender for third, but like the previous story, I think it suffers a bit from trying to pack in sci-fi worldbuilding and an unfamiliar sport into the word count. However, I did find the descriptions of the spaceship colony and its inhabitants are evocative at capturing the futility of their existence. Where I got confused was with the portrayal of the spacewalk execution: at the beginning people with this fate are described as “fortunate,” but it’s the team’s punishment for failure. Unless going into the garden is their punishment? What makes the difference? The dreamlike quality of the story works with the character’s general confusion but it does make the stakes of the game hard to understand.

A Simple Magic
I enjoyed reading this story of a cute demon and racewalking. The frustration that the character feels at her teammates’ teasing is matched by her clear love for the sport, so there’s a nice tension there. I don’t really follow her logic though: if people are teasing her for doing racewalking, why does she think winning will solve that issue? In fact, later in the story it doesn’t. I think the emotional transition to “I want to win for myself” could be made more explicit. The demon doesn’t really do much in the story, which I think is OK as that makes the story more about the character’s internal journey.

The descriptions of the match and the seamless introduction of all the kendo terminology are spot on. I enjoyed how this story, out of all of them, made the actual sport the central conflict and immersed the reader fully in the moment. While Nae mentioned that the grandfather-grandson reveal should have come sooner, I enjoyed the match-up between an aging master and a talented student as it was. In fact, the reveal of their connection actually lessened the stakes for me: of course the grandfather is going to be proud of the grandson, and of course the grandson is going to respect his grandfather. When the opponent was anonymous, it felt like the old man had real stakes in proving he was still the master.

Good Dog Waffles
A cute story about a good dog who is bad at agility. The manic distractible dog voice remains fun throughout the story, though it does make it a little challenging to understand what is happening in the human world. It seems like there’s a story with the small human being frustrated with Waffles being so distracted but then being proud of them anyway at the end? I was looking for the story with the humans because the dog has such surface-level emotions that I figured the growth/change of the story must be elsewhere. If that was your intention, I think it could be made more explicit. If not, it’s still a fun romp in the mind of a very good dog.

I like the cyberpunk interpretation of dog surfing and all the anime details. For the first half of the story, I was on board (hah) with the race for mysterious stakes through a megacity … but then more and more worldbuilding got piled on (notably the cleaners) and the story ended without revealing why they had the race in the first place. To get accepted to a gang, but what sort of gang? Why couldn’t she just not take Spooky on the gang missions? Since we don’t know what exactly the stakes are, when she walks away at the end it makes the whole thing seem pointless, like it didn’t really matter that much to her as she can give it up so easily.

Taking the Plunge
This story was a bit strange to read, mostly because it set up a lot of story threads– plunging (a lot of exposition here), the Lois and Sadie friendship, Lois and Jonah– that don’t really form a complete arc. The ending seems to leave the question of plunging up in the air, and Lois hooking up with Jonah and not recommending plunging seems to barely affect Sadie. I didn’t quite buy Lois and Jonah as a couple because Jonah is not as strongly characterized as the women (and it put me in mind of IOC corruption). I did like Lois and Sadie’s back-and-forths but there was just too much going on in the story for it to go anywhere.

Heartbreak on the Miami Trench
I enjoyed reading this story, but I was actually more invested in it before the reveal of the mermaid. The first half of the story is about a YouTuber trying to generate good content and having to deal with a frustrating situation that turns into a potentially dangerous one. All the mentions of a shark gave me an expectation that this was going to turn into a survival scenario, so the appearance of the mermaid gave me genre whiplash. It also removed some tension: he can beg and reason with a mermaid, not so much with a shark. The mermaid character was fun, but I think should have been introduced or hinted at earlier in the story so it’s clear we’re in a fantasy story rather than a modern “The Old Man and the Sea.”

Joyce and Sanchez
This is a lot of story to tell in the word count, and by trying to cover so much ground we miss out on a lot of characterization that we need to get into the mind of such an odd character. More specifically, I think the problems start in the first paragraph. The first sentence mentions classmates, which gives us the rough age of the protagonist but then the fact that he’s an outcast at school doesn’t come into play at all. His age doesn’t seem to matter in the story, he could be 20 or 50 with no real change. The rest of the first paragraph describes why he loves hockey, and I enjoyed this part. From the first paragraph, I was thinking “ah, he admires hockey players and is an outcast, maybe the story will be him plucking up the courage to join a team.” But no, it goes to stalkerville instead. That’s a fine choice, but we need to understand the character better so that it doesn’t seem quite as random as it does in the story now.

To Kiss a Girl
This was one of my favorite stories this week. The story and characters were solid and covered a lot of ground effectively within the word count. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of modern life with the traditional Kazakh lifestyle and traditions. Like Nae said, though, the title gives away too much and so removes a lot of the tension in the story, making it fairly predictable. I’d also like to see more characterization of Dzinara. The change in the story is her gaining the courage to act on her feelings, but I’d like to see her have a little more agency instead of being told what to do by Samal. In the story, it’s easy to see why she adores Samal, but it would be nice to get some indication on what it is about Dzinara that Samal likes in return.

Bjorqvist Diaries
I found this story strange but fun. The strangeness for me (besides the image of Moldovan oil paintings of Slamballers) is that it feels like two-thirds of the story. I was waiting for the typical sports ending where he marries his technical prowess from the first half with his passion in the second half to become an overall good, happier Slamballer. Rereading it again for this crit, though, I appreciate that the story you’re telling is Deonte’s emotional acceptance of his sport. The characters are good, but Jurgen Hoddog could be established more early on in the story to form more of the rival-to-friend arc.

This story was one of the contenders for third: it’s well-written and captures the feeling of something becoming effortless, paradoxically, once you stop caring about it so much. The story gives a good sense of the Mixed TK shot put and how it feels to play it, but at the end I had the question: did this need to be a magic sport? Everything else in the story is mundane (the proctors even have to manually measure the distance) so what is the telekinesis adding that couldn’t be accomplished if the sport was javelin, or high jump, or regular shot put? The puzzle-solving element gives more to talk about and more clear progression over the three shots, so maybe what I was looking for is more sense of the world beyond “exactly like our own, but with magic shot put.”

But, so, the cactus.
This story had great prose and story structure, and, unlike others, didn’t spend too much time worldbuilding at the expense of the characters or emotions. As laid out in my autobiographical story from birthday week, the narrative mirrored my own experience playing baseball while growing up and so Wit and Ezra’s stories of being left-field weirdos resonated strongly with me. And since I was the head judge, you got the win (sorry about that). That being said, there’s a few rough areas: the “X, so Y must Z” sentence structure at the beginning gets repetitive and so loses its impact. The ending paragraph is a little cheesy and the phrase “wonders if she can be part of a world…” tripped me up, as she doesn’t seem like she was going to leave? I get that you meant that she can contribute to it, but I had a moment of doubt.

Planet Cornhole
This story had stiff competition for third place, but it edged out the others for a few reasons. One: it’s funny. All the absurdities are dialed to maximum. Comedy is hard to do so it should be commended when done well. Two: it has the right amount of worldbuilding. Other sci-fi stories this week got bogged down in trying to explain the premise, but having a strong POV character focused the story on what mattered: there’s ugly aliens who are challenging her dad to a game of cornhole. That leads to three: solid characters, especially Miranda and her totally embarrassing dad (who she’s also a little proud of). I’d like to see more characterization for Billy, though. Also, I don’t know what P.I.S.S. means/references so I had a small moment of confusion right at the end.

Three Winters Cold
I liked that this story dealt with the uncomfortable, toxic masculinity side to sports, even if the message was a little heavy handed in the end. The switching POVs between the three characters did take me out of the story each time, as I had to figure out who we were following every few paragraphs. It would flow better if the POV sections were clearer. Also, by having the three points of view we sort of get the same emotional story three times, as each guy voices their struggle and feels better for sharing it. By the end it’s not surprising at all that Ryan is also dealing with some poo poo, and it’s much less impactful than Scott’s story, so the story ends on a bit of an anticlimax.

m v n v m v love
First of all, tricking kids into learning/accomplishing things by making it a competition isn’t really a sport so much as it is parenting. The bigger issue for me in this story though is that I didn’t get a good understanding of what was going on outside the family life. The isolation (the kids have never seen a man?) and focus on survival made me think this is post-apocalyptic, but then there’s references to doctors and chemotherapy. If it’s in the present day, why is the mom so adamant that the kids are self-sufficient and removed from society? The imagery and characters are strong, but ultimately this story left me confused.

Striking Out Regrets
This story feels like an anime to me. Besides being set in Japan, the characters speak in an expository way (“Don't you remember your pitcher”, “You're still a worrywart, even after all those years”, etc.), laying out facts about themselves in a way that real people rarely do. Some information, like the fact that Kitami is a coach, gets repeated unnecessarily. The last two lines also lost me a bit: it’s unclear to me whether Yoshino’s line is sarcastic or sincere, and I don’t get why Kitami’s heart would sink in reaction to it. Up to this point, I enjoyed the emotions of the story and these characters reconnecting. I’d just like to get a deeper understanding of the characters so that they seem like real people.

Team Effort
This was a fun read, hampered by too many characters: Corvus, assassin professor but also a necromancer(?), the soccer players who get surface-level characterizations, the haruspex, and the headmistress. Whew. I was most interested in the soccer players and the idea that even assassin university has intramural sports teams. The reveal at the end is fun but, despite all the Corvus chat throughout the story, a little out of the blue. As the players note, he doesn’t give any indication he cares about soccer, so why is he putting together a team for the necromancy school? My suggestion would be to limit the POV to the soccer team (maybe even one player) as they try to win games and solve the mystery of who’s ordering the assassinations.

Tars Tarkas
Apr 13, 2003

Rock the Mok

A nasty woman, I think you should try is, Jess.

| ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ |
| IT'S |
| ____|
(\__/) ||
(•ㅅ•) ||
/   づ

Sorry this is so late! I did two stories each way from each of my entries, with a bonus one for Saddest Rhino as they submitted two stories in one post! (17 total)

Thesis Retrospective: Results Analysis for Sub-Universe Generation Method for Obtaining Large Quantities of Iron (Final_Final_ActualFinal_2_Edited)
Uranium Phoenix
Prompt #1: An extradimensional graduate student agonizes over their hosed up thesis project

Grad school flashbacks aside, the universe being created as some barely getting by in grad school's thesis project is a rich idea. There seems to be more agonizing by the instructor than the student, who instead seems distracted and unfocused on his project. The comments might seem distracting to some who want a more straight-forward article but I think it added some flavor and some of the emotional requirement. This is the kind of thing I'd love to see written longer as a fake science paper as one of the things I do at work when I'm supposed to be reading real science papers is get distracted by other things such as writing crits for Thunderdome. As a totally theoretical example <Comment: I said please do not condescend to your readers> I do wish the footnotes existed as well, all you need to do next is put it in pdf form and charge $39 for access.

A [teenagers] agonizes about [the void]
prompt - A [teenagers] agonizes about [the void]

Nice short, to the point and has good descriptions of realistic agonizing over the unknownity of death. Parents reaction indicates that she has days where she is freaking out over all sorts of things and they just take it in stride. That's probably to be expected from someone named Xillia Ravenweave Drake, though maybe recent events at wizard school caused the latest worries. Overall pretty good, I liked it and would enjoy more XRD adventures in existential dread

I have noticed many of your stories are pretty short/stylized like phone posting, are you writing quick takes during lunch hour?

Noctilucent Cloud

Prompt - A [Angels] agonizes over [The Mesosphere]

Here we have a sad story of a dying world's last gasp and the failed watcher connected to it. My biggest complaint is the ending is set from the beginning so it is just about the journey, and while the various atmosphere levels don't provide much by themselves, the differing views is the journey. Would like to have known more of the efforts of the angel, claims they tried to help but it was too late. Overall a nice swan song for the angel but as things are far too late it was a bit difficult to connect emotionally as I prefer stories where there is still a bit of hope.

An Account of Two Most Unusual Gentlemen, In Search of Supernatural Sustenance

prompt - A [Vampires] agonizes over [teardrops]

You forgot the prompt in the post, I had to go back and look it up! This is what I expect the upcoming Nicolas Cage Dracula film will be like. Fun tale of vampire questing and discovery. Essence bit seem to imply the different bodily fluids have their own magical properties, and while most are useless to vampires, there is something there. Good to see the dilemma solved by good old fashioned ingenuity and not just chaining people up on a rack and demanding they watch Korean dramas. Overall I liked it, definitely the kind of thing bored vampires would do, and can see this spinning off into several other stories/problems if expanded on.

Stink Purse

Week 522: Omega Prompt #2
Hell Rule: You stare into the abyss but it’s bashful
Flash Rule: None
Wheel Rule: Submission grants a donation to a charity of my choice. I choose UnRestrict MN, please.

How do we know it was Spotucus that peed in the purse? Shouldn't both cats be claiming to have done it? Get with the program, Cookie J.!

I think we've all had that experience where something weird happened that we had no explanation for. Sometimes people fail to realize just how many people sit around all day looking out the window. Whenever I walk home from the bus I see at least half a dozen people gazing out the front windows to empty streets, and that doesn't even count the people taking hidden smoke breaks or other problems. On the other hand, it could have just been a very nice neighbor who happened to be at several places at the right time to see everything that happened. Like how I know way too much about my neighbor's beekeeping adventures.

Story fits more of a storyteller style, like the kind of conversion you'd have at a bar with friends. I like how it works with the hellrule, the bashful neighbor returning the purse of doom. Well, we can all hope that was the reason. Also missing my little guy I had growing up, who loved to pee everywhere out of spite.

Gravity and the Grouse

Omega prompt 2
Flash: protagonist knows their behavior is destructive, and yet…
Hell: the narrator is one of the fundamental forces

I very much enjoyed the fundamental force narration, and like that the force seemed outside the movement of linear time. I'm not 100% sure the throw a rock at a grouse/asteroid killing the dinos comparison works for me, nor the counting presentation. I think it would have worked better with just separate sentences or maybe dashes/asterisks to denote each line so you could make the outside of time concept extend further Overall I don't know, I get what it was trying to do but it just doesn't seem to come together in a format that works. Two rules is a lot so I appreciate what it did, I would have a hard time trying to make those rules work for a story.

Ski Jump
Chernobyl Princess

Birthday Omega Dome Round 2
Wheel spin: -400 because maths failed me

Wow that's an awful thing to have happened, hopefully recovery went okay and there was no lasting injuries. A heartfelt personal story with enough descriptive details to make you feel like you are there. Not much to add as it is already really good.

Luckily all your luck now seems to be good. ::checks wheel spin result:: Oh no!

The Thief of Opportunity

A [driver] agonizes over [anatomical heart]
Flash rule: Your character must describe perfection and find something positive in its opposite
Wheel prize: $10 to the Trevor Project

I liked the duality of the driver spending time and energy for years putting himself in the right moment to do something for revenge and being caught up in the moral quandary he is putting himself in and stuck in a thought loop, yet still being unsafe enough that maybe something would happen. Sometimes karma does the job for you. Here Jomo has the perfect commute in the one time he wishes it was anything but, yet then also gets perfection stealing the opportunity to choose.

Sneak peak at what happened to Daniel Ryde's next donated heart:

The Man with the Pantry Keys
Screaming Idiot
(posted by The Saddest Rhino)
A [wraith] agonizes over [food empire]
A - You are not allowed to call your entries bad when I am entering with worse entries. B - This was pretty good though I am wondering what the guy is coughing up if he no longer needs to eat? Glad the Noise was kept vague enough that you could fill in the blanks with whatever horrors lie in your imagination that is probably more satisfying than any concrete rules. It did seem obvious the guy was creepy from the start, maybe a bit more good ol' boy instead of humble worker would have covered it a bit, but that's also been done to death as cover for villains.

Repair Job

Wheel Spin: Circle Game
No flash rule

I like the idea of the magic of not doing things. Of course, as a homebody, I also like the idea of not doing things. Everyone knows the only reason you go to see the sights is when family/friends are in town. Actually as I've kept writing these I've been getting more introverted as the night wears on (it comes and goes with me between "very" and "very very very") and now this concept is terrifying, time to learn horrible dark magic to clear the fridge so I don't have to leave home if I don't feel like it.

Big Day Out

Flashrule: The first and the last sentence of your story must be almost identical, with exactly one word changed.
Hellrule: No items, fox only, final destination.

Fun times that was a neat slice of life and managed to satisfy both rules succinctly (and bonus points for keeping the screaming thing away from the possible horrible bad ending) Getting lost in the music at concerts can be hard to convey in written form so good job there too! Enjoyed it a lot.

Transcript of Stream #25 of Channel “Korean Food Made Blasphemous”
The Saddest Rhino

Prompt: A :kimchi: agaonizes over :birdthunk: (1000 - 200 = 800 words max)

What the, a misspelled prompt? Beyond that, this was amazing, and definitely a stream I would probably catch a clip of after the fact on social media. The increasing tension with the bird and the wonder of just what disaster was about to unfold and how that would increase the subscriber numbers was great.

This Title Originally Referred to a Parody Song Making Fun of a Problematic Musician but Then I Found Out the Parody Was Performed by an Also Problematic Comedian, so I Won’t Name It I Guess, However if You Figured Out What This Song Was Before Reading This, Good for You.
The Saddest Rhino

Prompt: Autobiography (1300 words max)

Dual stories in one post! This one didn't hit me quite as hard, I think it was a combination of the dialogue just being off from how Roy talked and a pet peeve of mine about irresponsible pet owners (that wasn't originally written as a deliberate pet-pet thing but I am keeping it) I'm hopeful Bumblebee found a good home, though the dog seems like the sort that is traded off a bunch before finding a forever home and is just happy to be around people to puke on. I have no idea what the song was so I'm just going to guess Blind Melon - No Rain

Iceberg Theory

A [Hemingway] agonizes over [erotic ice sculpture]

This was amazing, I love it all, the ridiculous pet author concept, obedience school, the male authors write women dilemma, all nicely mixed together in a way that makes you want to cheer for the tiny pervy Hemingway. I believe it is my favorite of the week.

Please Watch Dad Do a Cannonball
hard counter

prompt #4 [WIZARDS]

As a dad with a kid who is already selectively ignoring us to play with wind up bugs, I am expecting a similar scenario as he gets older. This dad seemed a bit too set in his ways as the world modernizes and unable to see perspective from his daughter's eyes. His approach works fine for the final confrontation, but we all know despite his razzle-dazzle, his attempts to impress are doomed. Though maybe he can show off with his reputation that will allow doors opened that simply pressing an app cannot. Perhaps this family can learn to act as a team over time, but for now, no.

There was a great mix of new techniques are good but not too good as they solve one problem but also caused systematic failure. Collin seemed to survive the battle more through wits than skill, while his daughter uses the same to quickly diagnose the students. Sadly neither seems to impress each other. Good wizarding slice of life with fun action and puzzle solving. Ending up in the air as opposed to crushing disappointment is the best way to go.

Magic Scrolls
Bad Seafood

Omega Prompt No. 4

Enjoyed the idea of getting energy from the social media posts, both in the concept and in the posts getting destroyed upon use. Some people go viral so rarely they'd be mortified that their clout went to smashing skeletons deep beneath the Earth, especially if they didn't even get a lot of retweets on their skeleton wars jokes. Beginning seems a bit rough like they aren't partners who work together with a rhythm nor understand how they are powering their magic (which is probably a choice to explain the system gradually for the reader, it just seems odd in retrospect/rereading it a few times) Mune seems like someone who just drops bombs on their problems but also hides from the violence while Frekie has more cautious but personable approach. A split from the normal bains/brawn dichotomy though makes it a bit harder to flesh out their personalities beyond the basics in a short story.

Good closer, good wizard concepts, doesn't seem like there is much of a plot beyond the magic demonstration, but I liked it.

That Time We Were All Wonder Woman

submission #2 for autobiography

Fun memory story of obstacle course fun but beyond the obstacles and costumes it just seems to be people doing an obstacle course. I would have probably kicked and screamed about going to one of these as a teen but ended up liking it as the day went on.

Thanks for prior crits - PhantomMuzzles, hard counter, flerp, Chernobyl Princess, Idle Amalgam!

Jan 20, 2012

WELL DONE CRITTERS! Through your combined efforts (and a truly herculean showing by PhantomMuzzles, who critted 98 STORIES IN A WEEK) we now have at least one crit for all 102 stories from birthday week. That doesn't mean you lackadaisical goblins should wander back into your dank writer-holes! I mean, you can do that, I can do nothing to stop you. But if you're still in the critting mood, there's no reason to stop! All crits are good crits, no matter how long it takes for them to be messily birthed into our writerly obstetrics ward you know what this metaphor is getting away from me quickly here...

Long story short, I know what you're thinking: "MQ, I want to keep the crit train rolling, but I don't know what stories to crit!" Well, my gormless friend, do I have the link for you! If you head on over to the 10th Birthday Crit Tracker there's a brand new tab just for you! The "Crits Per Story" tab will tell you how many individual crits each story has received. It'll even helpfully highlight the stories with the fewest crits in an intoxicating pinkish hue, in case reading numbers is just totally beyond your abilities.

I'll keep the spreadsheet updated for about another week or so--after that point, you're on your own. Godspeed, writers. Goonspeed? No, even I can't say that and retain a shred of self-respect.

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

said I'm never lackin'
always pistol packin'
with them automatics
we gon' send 'em to Heaven
Redemption: A jailed in-law and a stomach bug sapped my life essence away this past weekend and didn't have much time during the week. Alas...

Here are my bad words anyhow.

What's Fair is Fair
1,998 Words

Knelt down in front of a mostly dismantled skiff, Kozu realized that a Bodian marketplace wasn’t the best place for a scene. Not when the Big Rider was here to stand trial for Declan, the sympo who cured her. She turned her spanner and a long stream of oil arced onto a nearby merchant. Her eyes went wide, but she didn’t dare look. She collapsed the spanner back into its widget.

The merchant staggered in his surprise, saw Kozu, then began to shout. “You there, girl! I would have your name! Do you know what this outfit cost? No, of course you don’t. It’s clear you belong to that unsightly rabble outside the city. If that weren’t offense enough. No… Now we must suffer your harassment in person.”

Kozu finally turned to assess the damage and looked at the man covered in oil. He stormed over. Wincing, she began to spew incomplete apologies, waving her hands frantically as if she could wipe it all away. The man seized her by the shirt and that’s when Kozu, who knew she needed to keep cool, lost it. She headbutted the merchant. They both tumbled onto the floor. Her widget expanded back into spanner. She looked over the man.

“How dare you put your hands on me? Have you lost your mind? Because I can help you fix it!” she shouted. The man cringed away from her. The onlookers were in uproar. At least one person call for a guard. It wasn’t her fault! Big Rider wasn’t going to see it that way though, and Declan…

She considered her options and nearly fled, figuring one trial better than two, but then she remembered the skiff. Her clan would be severely setback without it. The spanner disappeared back into the widget, and begrudgingly, intimidatingly, she offered the man a hand to help him from the ground. He thought better of it, but the look in her eyes suggested she wasn’t asking. He took it, dusted himself off and began grinning. The guards had arrived.

“Oh, thank the Curator, this Scalve ruffian tried to kill me!” the merchant said.

The guards gave Kozu, the skiff and the dramatic merchant a look. Thin streams of light ran across the guard’s eyes. Kozu had only seen it once before. The guards of the abodes had been humans custom crafted by the A.I. Curators. One stepped forward.

“Assessment: Scalv,, the graviton emitter on the anterior section of the skiff is no longer operational. Seek repair. Inciting incident: oil struck Citizen ID C26043, merchant class. Determination: unintentional. Secondary Inciting incident: C26043 initiated physical contact with provisional visitor ID V34215. Resolution: Citation or time in holding, you decide?"

Kozu hadn't expected the guard to assess the situation fairly. Citations were issued and the guards forced her and the merchant through a negotiation of goods for damages done.

After Kozu had got an adequate part for the skiff she visited the guards again. 

"V34215?" The guard said as she approached.

"You guys know anything about Declan's trial?"

"The traitor Declan is known to us. We know your clan has sent a representative to vouch on his behalf, but the Curator and the council of elders do not look favorably upon the disclosure of Bodian secrets. It is a violation of the systems put in place to protect us.”

“I don’t see why it’s so traitorous to help someone in need!”

“Nor do I imagine you saw the problem in trying to repair your downed skiff in the middle of a busy market. This is not a discussion, however. I am merely stating the facts.”

She didn’t see the problem in repairing her downed skiff, but didn’t press the point. Instead, she asked if he could take her to the trial.

“Excuse me, Mr. Guard, sir. I didn’t mean to cause any trouble, I’m actually just trying to find my way to the trial. Would you be so kind as to point me in the right direction?”

“Hmm… Assessment: Given that Provisionary Citizen V34215 has already engaged in one conflict, assisting your further would be unwise. You should return to your camps.”

“Aw, come on… that’s not cool. Isn’t it your obligation to help, no matter who it is?” Kozu asked.

“Why should I?” the guard asked. It caught Kozu off guard.

“You can’t be serious? What is this, are you asking for a bribe or something?”

“Great Programmer, no! Of course not. I just have allocated enough of my time to this.”

Kozu frowned and raised her hands in frustration. Then she snapped her fingers at a sudden realization. It was in the guard’s best interest to keep her out of trouble.

“Ohhhh, well… I suppose I’ll just have to go back to the camp and definitely not try to find the trial ground on my own.  I definitely won’t run afoul of any other bigoted, disgruntled, self-important, conde-”

“Okay.” the guard said pinching the bridge of his nose. 

Kozu bowed waving an open palm in invitation onto the skiff.

“If I must…” the guard said, and they were off.

* * *

The guard escorted Kozu to the trial grounds where several people gathered. Everyone in the clan felt torn up about Declan’s trial. He had become family and now he faced execution, or worse for abandoning the abode.

The Big Rider was speaking when they arrived. Declan was held in place, encapsulated in a force field.

“Council, Curator, I am Muzzle, leader of the Free World Rebirth Rebellion. I petition you in accordance of the free persons of Humet act established in the free cities.”  The Big Rider said.

Kozu watched in awe. The Big Rider was a diminutive man, shorter than Kozu even, but he rode on a mechanical beast the size of a small hill. It was his home, and the flagship of the clan. But it was his commanding presence that earned him the title of Big Rider.

The Curator was silent, but the council whispered among themselves. One eventually answered, “The free persons of Humet act is only applicable to citizens of an established free land.” To which another whom seem conflicted commented, “However, the curator of the Glade Abode did see fit to extend those same privileges to the various nomadic clans of Humet…”

The first councilman looked flustered, but knew they had an obligation to judge fairly. A third councilman wearing a scowl chimed in. “I don’t see how that is relevant to the Traitor Declan’s case. He was a citizen of the Glade who jeopardized Glade secrets.”

“Yes, and after renouncing that citizenship, he wandered alone until he found a new home in the Free World Rebirth Rebellion.” The Big Rider said. The council looked shocked. A Bodrian becoming a Scalv. It was unheard of.

Declan caught sight of Kozu in the crowd and a sorrowful grin spread across his face. Kozu met his eyes, tugged away from the guard escorting her and shoved through the crowd to get nearer to him. Muzzle spotted her almost immediately and gave her a blank stare. The message was clear, ‘Don’t you dare.’ Only Kozu never paid Muzzle much mind. Sure he was the Big Rider and all, but this… this was love. She sprung to the stand with a few carefully placed flips. At least one Bodrian got really stepped on, but she was there. Only a few precious feet away from her one true love.

Declan had a sympathetic grimace on his face beneath the forcefield. Muzzle’s eyes looked like they were about to bulge from his head. The council was petrified. Mouths were gaped open. Kozu leaped at the forcefield and was nigh instantaneously rendered unconscious. So much for keeping a cool head, she thought as she faded to black.

* * *

When Kozu awoke, she found herself in a small cell with no means of escape. The attending guard was the same from before. “I knew you’d make trouble,” he said clearly annoyed.

“I-I don’t know what came over me.” Kozu responded, rubbing her head with hands that felt numb and alien.

“You’re lucky you know.” The guard said.

“Oh, how do you figure? I’m going to be de-gunking crawlers and skiffs until the sun collapses.”

“Well, if you knew anything about Bodrian law in the Glade, it’s that trials are considered sacrosanct. They are to be witnessed, but not at all interfered with.”

“That’s why I’m in here right?”

The guard laughed, then paused to muse at his own laughter, then said, “No. You’re in there because… because… I don’t know why.”

“You don’t know why?” Kozu asked confused.

“I mean… Assessment: The penalty for interference with Bodrian law is one of three punishments assigned by severity of the interference. One, to live your life in servitude of the abode, living and working in the city without the rights of citizenship. Two, the same punishment that is meted out to violent criminals, your entire body becomes a living attachment of the Curator. A mindless drone to be used until expired. Three, well… that’s just death. Seems a more fitting end then either of the first two, but none of those things seemed appropriate for you.”

“What? Why?”

“Because I confessed it was my own negligence that caused the interference.”

“What about Declan and the Big Rider? What about the trial?”

“Well, you’ll be surprised to know that a Bodrian interceding on behalf of a Scalv for one of our most egregious offenses was alarming. Alarming enough for them to reconsider your 'Big Rider'’s defense of Declan. They’re both back at your camp.”

“What about you?” Kozu asked, suddenly struck with the awareness that this must have cost the guard something. She didn’t even know his name.

“What about me?”

“Well… what’s going to happen to you? I don’t even know your name?”

“Hmm. My name? My identification number is G-436, security clearance level Delta. As far as what will happen to me? Probably a reformatting… it’ll be my first time.” G-436 said.

“I’m going to call you G for short. What’s a reformatting?”

“The Curator evaluates my collected data for efficiencies and removes clusters of information deemed non-pertinent to the performance of my tasks. Given that I let you interrupt a trial, I imagine they might prune quite a bit.”

Kozu covered her mouth in horror. The weight of her actions hadn’t been anything she ever gave much consideration beyond tangible cause and effect. She twisted the wrench, the lug loosened. She balled up her fist, someone got punched. She could see the outcome, but not the aftereffect and began to realize this had been true for much of her life. For the first time in a long time she truly felt remorseful for what she had done.

“G, I didn’t mean- I didn’t know- I’m… I’m sorry.”

“You chose your actions, I chose my own. I hold no ill will towards you for my plight. Maybe a bit of annoyance, but I’ll be alright.”

“Will you remember me, G?” Kozu asked.

G-436 was genuinely unsure. “Probably not…”

They stared out at the sun cresting over the horizon and watched until twilight settled over them.

“It was nice to meet you V342-,” G stopped and tried again. “It was nice to meet you, Kozu Cain.”

“It was nice to meet you too, G.”

They remained silent until the end of his shift and then Kozu didn’t see him after that. When she was finally released, the Big Rider and everyone in the camp was rightfully miffed with Kozu. They thrived on trade and the bounty of Etrenu, but had been held up at a rather unfriendly city for two weeks because of her actions. She recognized G-436 in her departure, but when she approached him happily, he showed her no signs of recognition.

“May I help you, provisionary visitor?” he asked.

Kozu gave him a pained smile, then returned to her clan where Declan was the only person enthused to see her.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


copernic posted:

Alpha Prompt: A [failed fanfic writer] agonizes over [sentient weed]

I was on board with the characterization starting this off. I love the stoic, principled fanfic writer facing down the barbarians. Even though I don't have any experience with fanfic, the specifics seemed real to me. I wish there was a better description of the room, we get a little sense of what he broke later in the story but if his room was more detailed earlier in the story I'd have a more satisfying visualization of his rampage. The plot really drags to nothing in the second and third chunks of the story. You could have jumped to the plant being in full flower right after the first chunk and lost little. Or maybe you could have drawn out the process of the online reaction to his fanfic opus to give those middle sections something to do. The motive/logic of the plant feels very vague, maybe you could've had the protagonist smoke mysterious buds from the plant itself as the inciting incident, rather than regular weed? That factor of causality would improve the tension of the second and third chunks, as we wonder what other unknown effects the strange plant will have. Ultimately this feels like a pretty bad marrying of the two parts of the prompt (not that it's a particularly easy one), the fanfic stuff and the weed stuff don't really interact. The verdant, intoxicating growth of the plant (established with strong imagery in general) pings off of the protagonists unwillingness to explore the theme of sex in his own writing, but I don't really feel the resolution of those crossed ideas.

Yoruichi posted:

Omega Prompt #3
Flash rule: 12 words in your story are in alphabetical order.
Hellrule: Exactly one thing happens in your story.
Magnitude 6.2: Strong. Weak buildings are damaged. Fragile and precious objects are destroyed. Walking steadily is difficult, and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

This is one hell of a hellrule. Unfortunately I don't think you nailed it, as a few different things happen in this story. Rose picks up her office, takes out the trash, and finally lets herself cry upon seeing a sign of hope in the wreckage. Maybe I'm showing my rear end as to what I consider "something happening" but it feels like three to me. The flash rule execution is a cop out but it's birthday week and this probably took less time to write than I'm spending to crit it. One thing that bugged me was the repeated hit of "Rose's mouth tugged down". First of all, what does she have to smile about in the first place? Wouldn't she already be frowning in this situation? Hitting it twice makes it seem significant, to the point where we need to know what her mouth looks like before it gets tugged down. Also, the moment of blooming hope at the end could be a place to pin a big character change by having her explicitly smile. Going from 'too much crying' to finally being able to cry is good, but the mouth tugging thing steals some focus. Overall, this story presents a nice little moment in time with mostly clear prose, an appropriate level of detail, and a meaningful turn in the status quo. Not exactly dramatic, but about equivalent to a newspaper comic tribute to a natural disaster, which is to say you are at least in the company of some published storytellers.

MockingQuantum posted:

Prompt #3
Flash: Time is a panopticon
The Brass Key

There is some cool imagery here and it really conveys a sense of wonder about this magical device. But in a sense it feels hollow, because there's no 'why' to it. Perhaps instead of just seeing the magic in the watch and bringing it home, it could be they've been looking for the watch a long time and finally found it. Hard to say how much more could fit in this word limit, without also cutting down the verbose tone of the descriptions, though. The descriptor "ant-colony sprawl" doesn't feel right to me. It's previously established that the protag is inside of everything that happens, not above it the way that descriptor suggests. And it's jumping ahead of the description, which is really moment-to-moment, so you shouldn't pre-summarize the experience of seeing all the houses grow out to become civilization. Maintaining that consistent point of view would sell this better as a complete piece. "Wielding time like a sickle to reap down the towering monuments of civilization" is a very cool line and you should feel cool for writing it.

flerp posted:

Omega Prompt #2: Autobiography
I saw an eagle cry!!!

Why'd you request a critique of this? The story itself is already a critique of your entire body of work! No but seriously, I do love this self-critical approach to autobiographical writing, and on the TD anniversary it feels very appropriate to be summing things up. I relate strongly to the feeling of emotional dysphoria you describe of believing there is a right way to emote that is unavailable to me, particularly around grief and sadness. Although I take issue with the logic that experiencing this and writing anyway somehow invalidates your artistic output. Calling out the lovely 9/11 poet is a great choice for this piece because it proves that many, many artists farm their grief for art and you never have any idea if what they felt was real or not, and the realness of the feeling doesn't have any bearing on the quality of the art. I struggled a little to critique the writing as much as I wanted to critique these lines of thinking, but I'll just summarize and say: try therapy. As far as the writing goes: There is generally very little structure in this piece and that makes it hard to follow. I would prefer if this was built around some sort of timeline or process, instead of rambling around somewhat repetitively. I wish you'd brought up some specifics from your old stories and shown me how they were fake instead of hoping I would know you and your work (I don't). Or maybe you could show me the false starts from your post-death writing attempts. "That poem never came to be" in the second paragraph is a little confusing because you didn't say your writing idea was a poem in the first paragraph. Feels like a typo but maybe it isn't? "My writer brain wants me to do more here" yeah that's a good instinct. I wanna read good stories, not bad ones! I bet you do actually remember whether he was playing online poker or Everquest, but you withhold that detail (which I'd really like to know). C'mon man!

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
:siren: :siren: Week 523 Results and birthday judging update :siren: :siren:

Birthday week stuff: It's going slowly. We want to do it right. After talking to some members of the community, we're going to keep on keeping on, and acknowledge this might take a couple more weeks.

This week stuff: I can't speak for my co-judges, but this was a delightful week for me to judge. Everyone who submitted seemed to settle nicely into the world I provided, so I had the very self-indulgent experience of reading speculative fanfic of my half-finished WiP. In terms of judging, the stories were mostly consistent in quality, which meant it took the judges to arrive at a winner. That's a good problem to have!

I'm going to keep this post short and sweet so I can get back to birthday reading! Know that everyone did a moderately good to thoroughly good job.


Man Called M, this wasn't actually the worst entry you've submitted. It was fairly ambitious and story-shaped. However, a lot of the events of the story don't make a whole lot of sense, and it felt like the whole thing was sort of flying by the seat of the pants, right up until the end where you gloss over the protagonist's radiation poisoning.


Sebmojo. You fool. You imbecile. This wasn't a perfectly unanimous choice, but all of the judges agreed that this was some solid scifi with a strong central ethos. On a personal note, I was thrilled by your portrayal of my world.

Honorable mentions:

Bad Seafood: Yours was a cozy story with a big heart. Plus I'm a sucker for inn-based stories.
Something Else: This gets an HM for the sheer delight it caused two of the judges. You truly made the prompt your own and wrote something unlike anything else this week.

Sebmojo, pls report to the blood throne!

Crits soon.

Jun 23, 2022

It's a puzzle.
Week 523 Crits - It Takes a Village (to gaze at a navel)

They’re all alike, yeah?

This was great! I understood the characters, where they were, and what their motivations were. The plot was interesting, and it was fun to watch Lagochi cleverly figure out what was happening. Lagochi had some fun dialect, though I wish it was a bit more consistently peppered throughout. Though also that may have gotten distracting.

Typo in paragraph beginning with “‘Gods-cursed fools!’”

I like the “Your hopes are soapsuds” line. I found Lagochi very charming in general, but not in a way that felt too heavy-handed. He felt worldly and clever, but welcoming and kind.

My only note, and it might be a me thing, is about the tent. Paulgan wants Cilphas to go in the tent to help the wounded. Lagochi says “no it might be full of assassins!” and then turns out to be correct that Paulgan is a Bodian. So does that mean the tent is actually a trap? And if so, why does no one come out with Paulgan gets shot? What’s actually going on in the tent? Lagochi and Cilphas just leave after.

Depth of Feeling

There’s some very sweet moments here, and I enjoyed the relationship between Jarom and Gisna. I liked the overall arc of the story, but it fell a little flat for me toward the end. I feel like you set it up well, that Jarom is looking for something, Gisna (and Haniau) is offering something, but Jarom doesn’t see it. I think part of the struggle is that I didn’t get a good enough sense that Jarom was looking for Sunken Hope to find beauty/love/belonging. It seemed a little bit more like he was just excited and fascinated by it. So then finding a community in Haniau doesn’t really feel like the same thing. But then also once that’s established, it’s hit a little hard. It felt a little bit like the characters turned to the camera and told me the moral of the story.

The part between “Jarom didn’t answer for a moment as he finished wrapping the gauze…” through “Before Gisna could respond, he was standing and gathering his bag.” feels really weird to me if you picture the whole thing happening, beat by beat. At least for me, when I picture someone steepling their fingers, I imagine them thinking of what to say, or carefully phrasing something. So she asks him a question, then he finishes wrapping the bandage. Then he takes a moment to steeple his fingers and says something with “the weight of a shameful admission.” But then the second he says it he just jumps up and grabs his bag to leave. That pacing just feels very strange to me.

This wasn’t a big deal, but when Jarom is leaving his hut you say “As he opened the door to the hut, he looked back at everything he’d built over the last three years.” and it gives the sense that this workshop (and anything currently inside it) was a significant project and the focus of his intention. Then a few sentences later he gets to the submarine it says “Jarom pulled the tarp off to reveal his project of the past years” and it just feels a bit less like the submarine was the culmination of his efforts and his primary plan, and it’s more like “oh he was working on this too”.

Typo (or weird phrasing) in paragraph beginning “His anticipation was cut short..”: “his fcovert expedition”

I find it a little surprising that Jarom’s hut is “tucked away within the crevice of a broken cliff face” and his submarine was “tucked away in a natural cove” and yet the second he crashed it, Gisna was just suddenly there to save him. I’m all for “people are where the plot needs them to be” but that seemed like a weird coincidence, unless she followed him home or something. Which she definitely could have done, but we aren’t told that she did.

Crab and Spouse

This was very interesting! There were times where I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be funny or not, but it definitely made me smile. The concept of a city A.I. marrying a Big Ol’ Crab was neat, but the perspective was a bit tricky. Abode Kelp didn’t feel much like an A.I. to me for much of the story. They mention that guilt was never programmed into them, but it seemed like love and jealousy and paranoia were. So it made this unconventional pairing seem a little bit pedestrian (which is also sort of impressive to pull that off). Then the ending felt a little bit unearned. Throughout the story, we know very little of what Byron is feeling, just sort of conjecture by Abode Kelp. So then the revelation that he is… transspecies?... seemed like it should make his behavior throughout the story make more sense, but it didn’t, really.

When I read the prompt/setting, I definitely didn’t think the residents of Sunken Hope were giant crabs, it just mentions that they tend to be sickly pale. But I guess good for you for making a bold choice? I also you noticed that you say “He seemed to embody the spirit of the decade - that after the fighting, after all the desperation, we could have a little bit of hope, of reconnection, of rebuilding.” Does that mean you decided to set this in a time period after the prompt/setting?

“...and see if he was the real deal.” felt out of place to me but I can’t exactly tell you why.

Yeah on a second read I’m seeing more of why Abode Kelp doesn’t feel like an AI to me. Right off the bat they talk about funny Byron was, how they were smitten and hopeless. They actually express enough range of the emotion that it’s sort of startling they weren’t programmed with guilt.

“Although I am an indestructible forty-story building weighing over 400,000 tons, he still managed to sweep me off my feet.” That’s a pretty cute line. That seems like a heavy building though. I just looked it up and the Empire State Building weighs 365,000 tons and that’s 102 floors. But I guess buildings could weigh way more on Etrenu, so I’m not saying it’s out of the question. I guess I’m just saying I got distracted enough by it to look up how much the Empire State Building weighs.

“My husband had the energy of ten men, or a thousand crabs.” That line made me smile.

“‘I make the pants with the four legs, and a coat with the big sleeves for your claws, eh??’” here we are on a different planet in a different universe, and yet Don Giuseppe sounds decidedly Italian to me.

Je’fray and the Green Bear

Man I like the idea of the opening sentence, saying something that makes it clear this is an epic tale that has been passed down. But I feel like as-is it needs to either get punched up or cut. “Our clan has a few stories they like to tell…” says nothing about the kind of stories, or the weight they carry in the culture. Then the way it ends with “....this is one of them.” is underwhelming. The sentence as a whole sort of feels like “alright storytime… uhhhh *makes jerk off gesture*”

“Long ago, when the planet was once ‘normal’” wouldn’t make sense from their perspective, only from ours. The current planet is the only normal they’ve known. It would be weird to start a story like “Back before electricity was invented, when the planet was normal…”.

“But back then, he was just a regular man.” Is that saying this story took place before he was feared and admired? Or every man was feared and admired so this was regular?

“Jeff” is certainly a choice for a character name who lives on another planet in another universe.

“While carrying their torches, they hoped to find said Green Bear.” This sentence doesn’t do much.

What happened to Jeff’s clothes? He wandered into the mountains and died. Why naked?

Adding quotation marks around “‘enjoyed the view’” made it feel a little cheesy and uncomfortable. Without quotations it’s a little funny but still kind of weird. With quotations I’m like “What are the quotations implying? What are the women doing?”

“Berd explained everything to him, about where they were, what time it was, and even gave a tour of the village. Afterwards, Jeff was distraught, since everything he had known before was gone.” That’s an incredibly straightforward (and not very interesting) way to describe this mind-shattering experience. “Oh hey you’ve been frozen for thousands or millions of years? Okay lemme give you a tour of the town.”

“Jeff, knowing he truly had nothing better to do, obliged.” Bro is just like “welp okay moving on”

“Je’fray trained among the warriors of the tribe, and even became proficient in the Laser Spear.” Okay so the guy assimilated. But like… why is he a legend?

The fight scene is like “No one had their laser spears. The bear attacked. Then they got their laser spears. Then they killed the bear with laser spears.”

This felt like it was set up to be a legendary tale, folklore. But if my oma told me this story before bed, or someone from my tribe told it to me around a campfire, I’d be like “umm so?” It’s like AU Futurama but with none of the interesting ideas. Je’Fray essentially travels in time, but it doesn’t matter? He doesn’t do anything that anyone else in 5 Miles didn’t do. He just helped kill a Green Bear, and then gets radiation poisoning but is completely fine.

Then ending with “What happened to him? Well that’s a story for another time.” isn’t much of a teaser because he didn’t really have any agency in this story, so I can’t imagine anyone is particularly anxious for Episode 2.

No Master

I had a little bit of trouble really connecting with any of the characters in this one. They didn’t feel particularly fleshed out to me, just sort of archetypes. Actually it just sort of felt like an episode of the Mandalorian. Bounty Hunter (assassin) finds himself relying on someone’s kindness, then gets swept up in their deal, helps them fight, then leaves. It doesn’t feel like anything really changed for him. He gave her his hat, like it was the beginning of Last Crusade, but that also felt a little weak.

That being said, overall it definitely has action and change, just not for the POV character. He just sort of makes money and retires. But the fact that he helped Jacq sacrifice everyone she knows to avenge her brother may have changed her? Who knows.

“He transacted some currency exchanges.” seemed overly complicated for a five-word sentence.

“All he had to do was slowly sip his poison and wait.” is a sort of weird thing to say in a story where he does get poisoned later. Is it supposed to be foreshadowing?

“Alyn watched, Dirg and his fellow gamblers.” has a weird comma.

It feels like when Alyn says “Because the hat means something to me.”, that’s in response to Dirg saying “Why won’t you-” but I don’t know what Dirg was asking. So that feels a bit odd.

“Dirg was smiling, trying to laugh as he bled out.” I like that line. Especially because he was trying to laugh through a slit gross. That’s creepy and I like it.

“Alyn fished in Dirg’s pants…” I’ll admit I was worried where this was going because as far as I know, Dirg never put his weenie away.

“He unlocked and unfolded his bicycle” I don’t know why but it felt cute (but odd) to me that this badass assassin guy rode off on a bicycle.

The fever dream paragraph was nice. I like the imagery in it.

“Tarl. Wearing his hat.” I didn’t connect until the second read-through that this meant Tarl was wearing Alyn’s hat. I get that Alyn’s hat is the Important Hat, but I just thought Tarl was wearing Tarl’s hat and I didn’t understand why you pointed it out.

“There was fire in her eyes to match her hair.” Tangerine fire?

“Fist Canyon” sounds like the name of a porno I would be too scared to watch.

“Alyn barely remembered the battle at all.” I suppose that’s one way not to spend word count on the climax of the story.

“Him and Jacq. Two survivors, the only two apart from the enemy wounded they were finishing.” Literally everyone else died?! So they didn’t save the town at all? I mean, they killed all those particular baddies, I suppose. But I feel like others are just going to swoop in and take the land.

The Fool Says in his Heart what Cannot be Thought

I really like how different the dialogue feels for Anselm, the Abode, and Mieko.

I like the first sentence.

“The light touch of Abode inside his mind grew heavier and expanded.” That was a cool way to convey that he had gotten the Abode’s attention (in maybe not a good way). It sort of popped up as Siri, but then turned into something more ominous.

(When Anselm was pulling the nail out of his foot) “It really was incredibly painful.” feels like it implies that for some reason it shouldn’t be painful.

“...and when it was neither the wind blew with an endless ceaseless rapacity.” surely you don’t need both endless and ceaseless here.

Lots of mention of teeth. Was that deliberate? Or are you just a tooth person?

“Anselm had thought he’d known pain, until then, he realised he was like one who had merely heard traveller’s tales of it.” This is a great line, and really effective to convey the Anselm felt at losing his daughter, especially when we know he’s undergone immense physical pain. I will say though it felt a little weird that he was in that much pain when his daughter died, but we didn’t get a sense of that when his son died. They just sort of shrugged and had another kid. I’m sure it more meant that he was sad having lost both his children, but they way it’s structured it just feels like it’s about the daughter.

The ending was great! That’s the kind of twist I like! It changes the perception of everything that happened in the story. I know the “it was all a dream” idea is well-trodden. But when it’s a dreamed forced on someone by a sentient A.I. who won’t let them leave, it makes it much more interesting and threatening.

Overall I really like this. There was a moment when it was describing his life in the scalv village where I thought “hmm I wonder if this will all have a point eventually”, but it proceeded quickly enough that it didn’t bother me much.

Pollen on the Breeze

I like what this story did and where it went. The story was sort of divided in thirds for me. The first third established the setting and the characters, though it felt like it took a long time to do so. And none of the characters felt particularly fleshed out to me. Then the middle third was a lot of action, but for some reason I kept getting distracted. I think something about the action sequence didn’t hold my attention. Maybe the pacing or something? I don’t think I could picture what was happening well enough to be fully invested. Then the last third, once Mickey is in Abode Stamen, was pretty interesting. I like the idea of an old god being trapped in a cube by the Abode AI. I think if you wanted to focus on something, I’d punch up the cube stuff more. Instead of the god saying it was awakened by Mickey’s pain, you could have showed us that when it happened, and make us understand why pain, or Mickey’s pain in particular, woke it up. Has no one felt pain around it until now? Is Mickey special?

“The drone dropped, a fidget spinner out of control…” I’m glad you’ve decided this universe also has fidget spinners.

“...a double-helix of dicks spiraling into the clouds with jagged balls plopped ungracefully underneath…” yep yep

I really like the descriptions of when Mickey reaches the city. Everything from “She stopped at the edge of the city.” through “...there was an itching behind her eyes.” was really effective for me. It felt like a clear turning point and delineation and I like how it was described.

I thought the ending was neat. It was ambiguous, but still felt like something important had happened.

Only Human

This was some really nice, sort of slice-of-life world and character building. I got a good sense of Amir’s character, and this sort of seemed to be a story about him learning that the Scalvs are just people, and not the abstract sense of “other” he’d always thought of them as. Other than that, not a ton happened in it, but it was still engaging enough that the lack of action was fine by me. Sort of a story about a young person learning about someone very different from themselves.

I really like the descriptions of the things Fresca does, and the way she talks. I like how they reinforce the idea that she “ain’t settled folk”, but not like a complete barbarian.

“...but Fresca laughed again, a little more loudly, and waved away the atmosphere she’d just created with a flick of her wrist.” I like how this conveys that Fresca knows that she makes Amir uncomfortable, and both messes with him but also sets him at ease.

Amir’s mother seems pretty comfortable with a Scalv staying there, and seems pretty unfazed about it. But Amir has never seen one before and is shocked. Did something change at some point, that made it a rare occurrence? It seems like whatever brought Fresca there was pretty commonplace.

Typo in paragraph beginning with “Amir nodded again…”: where/wear

[b]What’s Fair is Fair[//b]

I read the first paragraph a few times in order to parse what was happening. I’m not sure what confused me so much. Maybe just that there were a lot of names and descriptions and setting the scene but also action happening?

“The man seized her by the shirt and that’s when Kozu, who knew she needed to keep cool, lost it. She headbutted the merchant.” This sort of felt like “fight happened because fight”

“Aw, come on… that’s not cool.” felt very casual and low-stakes, given what’s going on.

I will assume Muzzle is named after me and I am flattered ;)

Gosh the end of the trial scene should not have been funny but it really was. The Big Rider is getting his Atticus Finch on. He sees Kozu and silently warns her not to do anything. Kozu does a couple backflips onto the stand, then jumps at the forcefield and is knocked unconscious like a moth on a bugzapper. I’m just imagining all the onlookers being like “um what just happened?”

Overall this was interesting, but it felt like the stakes varied a lot. First it seemed like Declan was in a dire position and this was Kozu’s last chance to see him. Then Kozu stunk up the trial, the punishment for which was surely death. But then the guard stepped in and was like “my bad” and that meant both Declan and Kozu were free to go? I know the guard got lobotomized and that was sad, but it still felt like Declan and Kozu got off easy. Also The Big Rider felt like they were going to be important but then they didn’t really affect the story.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Week 524: In Michigan it is Illegal to Hurl an Octopus

hey thunderdome, it's been a while.

when I am not working in my day job as a horrific cyborg monstrosity sent from the future to destroy the past, i moonlight as a lawyer and have therefore observed any number of bizarre laws.

this week, you're going to sign up and I'm gonna give you one of them. tell me a story about it, how it came to be, why your characters need to break it, or preserve it, i don't care.

hellrules dispensed on request.

1200 words, 2359 PST, usual exclusions, if you don't know the drill after ten years what the gently caress are you doing here

hanging judges:

dome lawyers:
yoruichi it is illegal to hold a fish in a suspicious manner in the UK
the cut of ur jib it is forbidden to fly a kite in a vexatious manner in the state of Victoria
mocking quantum California law stipulates that a frog that has died in a frog-jumping contest may not lawfully be eaten
thrnagles no-one may enter the British Parliament in a full suit of armour
fuschia tude in south Carolina, allegedly, it is not permitted to keep horses in bathtubs
the man called m in Missouri noone may wrestle a bear
the saddest rhino It is a misdemeanor offence to sell a dyed duckling in Kentucky, unless part of a group comprising six or more
bad seafood In Massachusetts it is illegal to make, sell or own an explosive golf ball.
rhoan Vampirism is prohibited in the state of Louisiana
idle amalgam it's an offence to possess 50kgs of potatoes in Western Australia.
phantom muzzles in Victoria, corresponding with pirates is punishable by up to ten years imprisonment
t.rex if you challenge a man to a fist fight to the death in Norway, he must accept or pay a penalty of 4 deer.
applewhite in France it’s illegal to name your pig Napoleon.
devinosdoom any man carrying onions in Paris must be given right of way in the streets.
screaming idiot In Norway editing photos without attaching a note is illegal
kuiperdolin In Texas it is illegal to sell your own eye
digital raven in Hawaii coins may not be placed in ones ears
simply simon Ohio police may bite a dog if they want to. :siren: none of your characters can comprehend that they exist :siren:

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

it is illegal to hold a fish in a suspicious manner in the UK

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

ty critter


Jan 20, 2012


Apr 21, 2010

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

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

it is forbidden to fly a kite in a vexatious manner in the state of Victoria

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

no-one may enter the British Parliament in a full suit of armour

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

California law stipulates that a frog that has died in a frog-jumping contest may not lawfully be eaten

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


sebmojo posted:

Week 524: In Michigan it is Illegal to Hurl an Octopus

hey thunderdome, it's been a while.

when I am not working in my day job as a horrific cyborg monstrosity sent from the future to destroy the pasti moonlight as a lawyer

in but primarily because I want to know more about your pasti-moonlight-destruction job in the legal field

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Fuschia tude posted:

in but primarily because I want to know more about your pasti-moonlight-destruction job in the legal field

in south Carolina, allegedly, it is not permitted to keep horses in bathtubs

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009



Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

in Missouri noone may wrestle a bear

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

Put it all together.
Solve the world.
One conversation at a time.

... In?


Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

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