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The King of Slice of Life
Gold medalMortarboard
The Next Generation
Original Short Story
The Fixer
#16960 · 2
· on The Fixer · >>Bad Horse
Man, the thing I hate the most about anonymous contests is that I can't reply to comments until the very end. :P

>>This is a game I lost
It's fun, and requires you to NOT think and NOT question things, which is neato. Why is there a unicorn, why is no one curious about this. You've taken the magical and wonderful and made its biggest concern whether or not the landlord will be mad about the scuffed floors. And I like that. It's fun, to NOT question things and just accept a little weirdness.

This is something that I really worked on way back when, trying to drill down and explain all the logic of every little thing in first contact stories and whatnot. It was only after realizing that I'd used nearly every reasonable explanation that I came to understand that sometimes it's better when stories leave some of that stuff behind. Why is there a unicorn in New York City? Why not. Why does nobody care? Because it's New York City. That's enough of a reason, I thought.

The interactions between characters were lovely, and certainly there's the strength in this story. Hell hath no wrath like a woman uniscorned. Or an associated bad pun. It was a bit... I don't know, I found myself thinking Rozencrantz and Guildenstern, but with a little bit of Pulp Fiction stooges. It was cute, and silly, and I'll confess that I forgot entirely about the body stashed behind the couch. In a good way!

Uniscorned, man I like that.

If I have one strength in writing, I like to think it's characters and dialogue.

I guess that's two strengths.

(...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope)

I think I figured it out. This needs to be a Netflix Original Series.

I'm strongly considering expanding this. There's a lot that would have happened inside that 'Six Months Later' marker, which unfortunately the word count of the contest didn't really permit.

That said, I don't see what it has to do with the prompt. Any story, ever, will be about characters who probably had parents, and thus could ostensibly fall under the broadest interpretation of "the next generation."

Now I have a sudden urge to write a story with characters who literally have no parents in any sense of the word. But I'll be damned if I can think of anything workable; even the first single-cell organism had 'parents' in the form of amino acids floating in the primordial goop or somesuch.

>>Cold in Gardez
It is very rare that an original fiction story in the Writeoff (or any story, for that matter) grips me hard enough that I have to keep reading. This is one.


Edit: Knowing as little as I do about organized crime and Italian-Americans, I have only a vague sense that this story was inspired by television, detective stories, and the like. Aside from a few details like gnocchi and the stereotypically Italian names, there aren't many details to really paint this story as authentically as I think it deserves. If you come back to this, author, try to fill in those little details. They can do so much to capture the reader and engross them in your work.

I'm no expert in organized crime; most of what I know about it comes from movies and books. I wanted to try and avoid any obvious stereotypes while also hinting at them . . . I can't remember if I explicitly stated it in the story, but she's living in Little Italy and Umberto's is a famous Mob hangout. If/when I do expand this, I'll do a lot more research to fill in those blanks, though, and get the right balance.

I enjoyed this! If it was weird as some others have said, then I suppose I connect with the weird ones, somehow, but I 'got' this story almost from the start. I was thrown off a bit at first with an "Oh no, a unicorn..." but you quickly turned this into something much more unique. This was by far the shortest long story I've read so far in this contest, meaning that I was engaged all the way through to the point where it flew by.


The sharp turn the story (and Clémence) took when Marcus showed up at 2am that first time threw me off, but eventually I realized that Clémence – at least in my interpretation – is a disaffected and ambivalent youth, and that informs everything that came before and after. Her mother is in the spotlight, becoming more and more successful, while Clémence remains in New York: bored, watching the rain fall, watching people sitting in restaurants, feeling empty especially at the end, and only really coming alive when she's doing something dangerous or rebellious. And for me, part of what played into that was the mythical dynamic hinted at many times between unicorns and humans. She showed affection to the men she was with when performing her magic trick for them, even the man she'd felt initially threatened by. Her psychology seemed to be shaped by that of the men she connected with.

That's a pretty accurate interpretation, actually. She's bored; things like looking at America's oldest cheese shop don't fill all the time, and she wants to do something useful that plays to her skillset. I don't think she realizes right at the beginning what the implications of her actions will ultimately be, but once she starts going down one path it's easier to keep going down that path--especially since everything seems to be working out on that path--rather than step back and examine where she was going.

While I don't have any ties to anything like this, there was one point when I was younger and had some relationship issues (which is probably the most delicate way to put it) that one of my friends straight up asked me something like this: "At what point if any did you stop to think how deep the hole you were digging was?" The answer was obviously that I never stopped to think at any of the points where I clearly should have.

This was sad and maybe a little strange, but it works. Excellent story.

:heart: (damn this site for not having the familiar pony emoticons)

Edit: Can't help thinking that Clémence is a little white lie, meaning merciful. You might even stretch that to mean generous. Even if the name doesn't suit her actions. Just a thought.

I used that name with full knowledge.
#16827 · 1
· on Inheritance of The Meek
At least it wasn't a 10mm socket that Rennie lost. :P

I love this story so much. It reminds me of Alistair MacLean's style, if he had ever written steampunky dystopian future stories (and it's a shame he didn't). Maybe steampunky is the wrong term, I don't know, but that's kind of the feel I get from it (probably because of the airship).

I also love the attention to detail. Every scene was like I was there, and the subtle little bits--the duralumin and the Oerlikon cannons were details I really appreciated (and that's when I started thinking of Alistair MacLean, to be honest). Also, "a song of propellers."

The choices of mixed tech were interesting. I didn't figure out right away the time period; I don't think it was until you mentioned LED lights that I was clued in that it was modern but with lots of old tech stuff going on (there might well have been clues earlier that I was dumb and missed).

There's a bit of a slow build to introduce us to the characters, and I'll be honest the story didn't grab me right away like a couple of the other contenders did--maybe that's just because there's no story description to give the promise of what's to come. But once it grabbed my attention, it didn't let go for a moment, and this is a story I'd dearly love to read more of.

I can't say that I'm entirely happy with Rennie's choice in the end, but that's not something I'd consider a downside to the story at all. I didn't foresee it turning out quite that way, but that's okay. It felt like it was in character for her, at least by the end of the story.
#16828 · 1
· on Mabel's Journey: The Bayopolis Tale
Wow. I don't even know how to organize my thoughts on this. On the one hand it was a bit confusing--not the author's fault, but rather the baggage I brought to the table. I kept thinking it was something else, and then it would shift and change right before my eyes, and I don't think I ever quite got the author's view of the world, but I feel like I was damned close.

Oddly, that didn't detract from it at all. All throughout, I felt like I was in some world that was familiar, but not quite the same as the one I knew, and I guess that given the protagonist's journey to a strange new place that she thinks she knows about but doesn't really, that worked. That worked really well for me. It looks like it was the longest story entered, but it sure didn't feel like it. In fact, it needs to be longer! I only got a tantalizing taste of the world, and then it was over.
#16829 · 1
· on And What Becomes of Champions? · >>Kai_Creech
This was an interesting story. A little bit normal high fantasy, and then you introduce the color commentary on the magic mirror . . . the revolution may not be televised, but clockwork dragon fights are.

There were a couple of spots where I noticed minor technical mistakes: "Maybe the monster would flatten her house, but if it didn’t there wouldn’t be fractured plates and glass all over the floor." for example. I had to read that twice and I'm still not sure if it shouldn't be "...if it didn't there would be fractured plates..." I also think that there was some comma abuse, but since I pepper the damn things like buckshot over everything I write, I'm hardly an authority on how commas ought to be used.

That aside, I really liked it. It's an interesting world you came up with with sort of a fusion of traditional high fantasy and also some modern technology and ideas (for lack of a better word).
#16830 · 1
· on Emancipation (Prologue)
Man, this one is a toughie. On the one hand, it's very well written and absolutely feeds into the aspects of Sci-Fi I love the most. It's sort of I, Robot. Plus, I've also been on a legal kick recently, watching Leonard French on YouTube (everyone's favorite copyright attorney), and I always liked Grisham as well, which makes this totally awesome in my book.

On the other hand, it's not a complete story. Well, it could be, I suppose, but I hope that there's going to be more of it. I want to see how the case goes. I'm invested in the characters now, dammit!

>>Baal Bunny
Second, I don't know how court ordered non-disclosure agreements work, but since they've got the word "non-disclosure" right there in the name, I have to wonder if Knox could legally tell Anderson anything at all about the other cases involving robots gaining sapience.

Not a legal expert, but I think it varies on the specifics of the NDA. I think that Knox could say that there had been previous cases and possibly what the resolution was, but he couldn't give any other details (I base this on the fact that I occasionally hear on the news things like "Ford settled three lawsuits for an undisclosed amount").
#16832 · 1
· on There Is No God · >>Miller Minus
Well, this was delightfully odd. I had an idea what was happening, and then when that was wrong I had another idea, and so on. By the end I think I figured it out, but I'm not entirely sure that I actually did.

Telling it in two distinct voices was an interesting decision, and it really worked. Sometimes that gets confusing to read, but not here.

I agree that the whitespaces were annoying, but I imagined that they were different pages in a book. Like if you were actually publishing it on paper, you'd read a little snippet and then have to turn to the next page and you can't really do that on a computer so you had to settle for the next best thing. And that helped give it the sort of disconnected, snapshot look and feel of her diary.

I think that there was also a good balance of humor to seriousness, and I loved the line "he'd probably smell like fish that also haven't showered in a few days."
#16840 · 1
· on And What Becomes of Champions?
That's what I assume it means, but it could have been clearer.

I assume if the house gets flattened, she's not worried about the dishes.
#16831 ·
· on Off the Cuff
This is an interesting story. The whole thing, from beginning to end, felt familiar. It reminded me of a story I'd read once, or several stories, or conversations at bars and parties. The narrator's voice was a little odd, but completely believable, I guess in the way that sometimes you can't be sure if someone is consciously trying to strike a particular tone or if that's just the way that they naturally talk.

Some of the details in the story hit close to home, as well--my grandfather was a foreman at a factory making airplanes for the war (Baltimore Assembly, building TBM Avengers for Grumman). He got to keep a toolbox full of drill bits after the war ended and the plant went back to building Chevrolets.

When my father was thirteen, Clyde decided he didn't like looking at that face anymore. He decided it would look better with a nice round hole through the middle of it. He did the remodeling himself.

I had to read this line twice before I got it. I read it, and then I said, 'wait, what?'
#16833 ·
· on The Formative Years of a Ship’s Psyche
I didn't really get this one. It reminded me of some of the weird Sci-Fi from the sixties and seventies--like in Dangerous Visions--and I'm just not smart enough to figure it out. Like, why have the offspring of two spaceships be a human? Is it supposed to make her feel empathy towards her human cargo later on when she becomes a ship's AI? If there was a reason for it, it should have been explained in the text, preferably rather early on, so I didn't keep wondering and hoping for an explanation that never came.

I have so many questions about this universe, and I didn't feel like the story gave me any answers.
#16961 ·
· on There Is No God
>>Miller Minus
Now, I have to ask. Did anyone solve the last license plate?

"A great big voice" is probably too obvious to be the answer. Isn't it?