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Ribbon
Original Short Story
8th
84%
476
A Dinner Guest at Midnight
Ribbon
Original Short Story
13th
40%
136
Almost Anything Can Be Repaired
#1272 · 6
· on Doubt Not the Stars Are Fire
Here we go, first up on my slate.

Mechanically speaking, you've got a really strong presence. The prose flows quite beautifully. This is an easy read to get through, and additionally the choice of scene structuring felt very sound. I think you stuck with everyone for the right amount of time, switched between them in a sensible and fulfilling order, and filled in both the time passing and individual arcs at a solid, non-frustrating pace. That can be difficult to pull off in this type of structuring; it'd be easy to ignore a character whose story is less viscerally exciting than others, or make a specific scene drag on too long. Everything feels well planned and solidly executed.

As for the story itself, it feels a little pat to me. There's a sense of having gone through an 'it's the end of the world and people are reacting to it' greatest hits montage. The specifics of the Armageddon aren't particularly integrated—there's the usual spec fic exploration of what it is and maybe why it is, but that's just there to sell the ambiguity and fuel the philosophical discussions for the characters. It could have been a classic biblical end times signs and had the same beats and points for that element. The simulated-world philosophical side had a stronger integration, but wasn't in and of itself integrated with the Armageddon theme very conclusively. They're sort of parallel to each other, and in being parallel the stakes are a bit lower. After all, if the world is ending, the nature of self doesn't really matter at all.

The inconclusive nature of the ending then tried to sell the sense of self/simulated world philosophical points as the more important element to consider, but that's hampered by the attention-grabbing nature of the apocalypse stuff from earlier, and I'm afraid that keeps it from really, actually selling itself.

Were it me, I'd suggest severely curtailing the world ending angle. If the Notification was about, like, routine maintenance to install updates or something, (lol, Windows OSes), a lot of the story could be left alone, but the focus would be shifted towards the sense-of-self issues. Some things would need slight restructuring, but not very much, and I think it would sell the ending and thematic poignancy stronger.

Overall, though, should have a fairly strong spot on my slate. It was an enjoyable read.
#1325 · 4
· on This Sinking Feeling
Hokay, next up.

Author, I'd like you to do me a favor. Take that thesaurus you have next to you, belt it shut, and then throw it down a well.

It's not that I didn't understand the complicated words you used, it's that those words really don't have any place in fiction that isn't hard science fiction. And even then. Less is more when it comes to vocabulary, and there's a real tradeoff that takes place between precision in language and readability in prose. I shouldn't have to remember that 'digitigrade' means an animal leg that stands on toes, especially in the middle of what is supposed to be visceral description of a monster. It drags you right out of a story to stumble over stuff like this, and adds nothing, especially considering there was a much more immediate and helpful simile of 'tarantula legs' in the following paragraph.

In addition to the complex words, there's quite a bit of grammar clean-up that could be done. Whole thing needs a good, solid pass-through of scrubbing to get rid of awkward sentences and errors, and then it should flow better.

As for the story itself, I'm afraid I've been left quite confused. She wakes up someplace, kinda treats it like it might be a video game or something, there's a forest and a UFO, a deep pit, a bunch of room,s and a spidersnakebonemonster trying to eat her, then she's on a train, and there are unhelpful notes, and I just do not know what is going on. Part of that is the description of actions are a little spatially ungrounded and it's difficult at times to follow who is where and what is actually happening, but there's also little in the way of direct explanation of anything. It's a test, but for what exactly? What exactly did the test entail? What exactly was the test even? Why did she react the way she did to things? After passing the test and setting off, what did that entail? What would a reader even presuppose would be happening next? Not a ton of answers here, and it leaves the story kind of fuzzy.
#1223 · 3
·
So I was really bummed I missed the last original short story writeoff, because they're kinda few and far between (I intentionally skip minifics. I don't do minifics), so I was really hoping I'd be able to come up with something for this one.

Turns out I totally did and have been drafting like a maniac. Signs say 100% chance of finishing and posting in time, and I will hedge that by backing up this draft. Good luck, everyone, see ya on the other side of the finish line! :P
#1231 · 3
·
>>Trick_Question
Copyright seems a rather arbitrary line.


Considering when something falls into the public domain is utterly arbitrary in and of itself, it seems fitting. :P
#1343 · 3
· on Of Suns and Moons · >>Remedyfortheheart
>>Remedyfortheheart

You need thicker skin. I'm sorry that your feelings got hurt, but this only got personal because you made it personal.
#1345 · 3
· on Of Suns and Moons · >>Remedyfortheheart
>>Remedyfortheheart
I saw your blog, too. You are aware that nobody knew you wrote your story until after you outed yourself, right? How exactly, pray tell, was anybody supposed to know how many followers you have on fimfic to feel snobbish about a story's author if they didn't know who the author was when they read the story?

There's only been one person here making personal attacks, and it wasn't Bradel.
#1352 · 3
· on Knights and Dragons
Okay, so, random whimsy as comedy is a very difficult road to tread, hard to pull off, and easy to mess up. And additionally, when someone says 'your mileage may vary' and it's related to this genre, you're talking about a cross country trip through the US, taking side-streets and going through rush hour traffic. This ain't no electric car mileage, that needle is swinging all over the place.

It's also difficult, as noted in a few other reviews I glanced at, to give advice on. What makes some other types of comedy funny is easier to dissect; sitcom conversational comedy usually is structured around clever wordplay insults or logically strange misunderstandings, romantic comedy involves schadenfreude embarrassment, physical comedy involves exaggerated movements and injury. Whimsy, though, is based on unexpected absurdity that confuses and intrigues because it follows an internal sense of logic that doesn't match up to the real world in any clear way. The places where the expected from one frame of reference overlaps with another frame of reference forms a contrast that, when done right, is amusing.

That's...not really easy to offer advice on. There isn't a really good or consistent way to try and say something like 'the list of a bat, a cracker, and a drop of water are (in addition to being culturally insensitive to bats) too absurd to read as anything beyond a bland list of three random things, please substitute them instead with a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker, and rather than being beheaded have them be lost at sea. This is funnier.' Number one, because frankly I'm not confident that actually is funnier or would read more strongly in place in the slightest, and number two because even if I was confident it's a horribly subjective thing to offer advice on.

Overall the story structure seemed appropriate for a farcical comedy, but I'm afraid there's not much more to say aside from that the comedy part didn't work for me. Might land better for other folks. If the comedy landed, there'd be very little to complain about.
#1360 · 3
· on Extra
This was interesting, and a novel take on Star Trek style space cowboy shows, the meaning and intention of fiction and narrative, and overall flowed well and was entertaining to read. The concept was really striking and great.

I'm not completely sold on the execution. The prose worked well enough and was easy to read, but there were some missteps. It felt like In Kin Dri/Inkindri was supposed to mean something, or be revealed as a specific thing at some point, but it never was, which kinda bugged me. It was a minor issue though, but ties into a bigger problem.

The first section up through the start up of season three has a different pace compared to the rest of it. It was smaller and more intimate, while the rest rushed by through a laundry list of things that happened and feelings Inkindri had about what she was setting out to do with the Focus, and as a result of how much stuff happened that intimacy went away and the story became an exposition dump. An exposition dump that lasted for, like, half the story. The emotional arc was delivered kinda flatly through all that, and felt like an "I'm telling you all this stuff so I can tell you something later," like a kid wanting to talk about an episode of a tv show he thought was cool, but needs to give you backstory first, so he talks your ear off for an hour giving you a synopsis of everything.

It was easy enough to read, but it took up way, way too much of the running time of the story. And I gotta say, the payoff of the 'I told you this stuff so I can now tell you this' really didn't do it for me. Turned the whole thing into a shaggy dog story. There just wasn't really a punch here. There was some interesting stuff about the nature of storytelling that felt like it might have a poignant conclusion, but the conclusion was to just become recursive, and, yeah, no thank you. To be honest, I was kind of surprised the story had kept going at all after Inkindri was made CTO. It felt like a fairly complete, if a little too hokey (but fitting with Star Trek) story of an extra breaking free and becoming principal cast. And then lo and behold it steered down a long, dark corridor of exposition about going off and back on the rails and trying to find a satisfying conclusion to the show. And then not ending with a satisfying conclusion at all.

Which is possibly intentional, in which case, well played, but that doesn't make me like the story. Just annoys me. I think it could work and be a really neat story about storytelling if the season play-by-play could be radically truncated in length, and then given a nice, solid ending where the day is saved and that someone else gets their fulfilling story. As is, I'm just disappointed.
#1331 · 2
· on The Last Burdens of Childhood, Cut Loose
Okay, so, I'm really into ghost stories. This is aimed pretty squarely at me, and I got a lot of enjoyment out of it. I found the overall story a really enjoyable arc that digs into the meat of what makes ghost stories and revenge stories interesting to read. I liked the lore that's developed, and thought it was doled out at a good pace. I also liked the ending, I thought it was very visceral and satisfying in a nasty sort of way. Mechanically, it's also an easy and non-frustrating read. There are some typographical errors that need a proofreading pass, but overall it was pretty solid.

However, I think that while the shape of the arc is good, the ending isn't quite sold by the content. We have a good idea of what Ella did to spark the desire for revenge (though I think you could probably trim down that section explaining the school thing a smidge, it felt a little over-long), but the fact that Alex did something bad is hardly mentioned at all. Something happened, we know that, but what it is gets brushed away without explanation and it's hard to get a sense of it at all. He thinks she blamed him, she says she doesn't, he wants to talk about it, she doesn't want to, that's the end of it. That could be any number of things that can be super benign, and considering it was treated in a benign way in the text, there's no reason to assume it was something bad until after the fact. And while that might make the twist more shocking, it makes the main character seem rather unhinged. We know she's the type to seek revenge from the Ella story, but without any context as to why she'd want revenge on Alex other than 'there's a thing she doesn't want to talk about that he's worried she blames him for,' there's no frame of reference for the raised stakes of actually leading to his death. Especially considering before the scene where they meet and talk, the last thing we knew was that things were going well between them.

At the risk of possibly telegraphing the ending, I'd suggest setting down some concrete details as to what transgression she blames Alex for. Provided it isn't truly outlandish, the goal and satisfaction of him dying should still be shocking, as the assumption would be that her revenge plan was just to repeat the trick played on Ella. I think that if that context was there, the story would hold together much stronger.
#1440 · 2
· on Homebound · >>Ratlab
I like the concept, a nice blending of the hopelessness and confinement of Alien with the at-odds survival of The Martian. Makes for a good, short hard sci fi story.

Related, I think the plot has some of the same problems as The Martian (book, not film, haven't seen the film), wherein tension mounts as a new thing goes wrong over and over again, but it doesn't really up the tension all that much because things are already bleak as sin, so rather than feeling consequential, it feels repetitive. The overall beats are fine: opening and the propulsion issues, the stuff wrong with earth, the stuff wrong with the other pods/crew, the hard choice, the likelihood of it failing, up through the ambiguous ending. Other stuff feels extraneous. All the little systems failures that are things going wrong, many of them that don't even get specifics, feel very repetitive, and the radiation sickness feels touched on too much for not going anywhere. A lot of it could be tightened up and feel just as treacherous. In the freed up space, might be worth exploring more of Vance's character and his past. It's there a little, but more to forge a stronger connection with him would not be remiss in the slightest.

Mechanically, the story is pretty easy to read, though I was distracted by the reliance on adjectives and adverbs. I love adj-words as much as the next guy, but too many of them lessens their impact, and can be distracting. Not to mention, adverbs can be kinda ungainly.

The one that stuck out like a sore thumb to me was "She looked around and sighed gustily." Gustily just feels awkward to read, and even more awkward to say. It also doesn't really add meaning to the sentence. What does a gusty sigh look like compared to a regular sigh? Windier? Albeit it's more descriptive than a heavy sigh, but that isn't necessarily a good thing, as it's kind of obtuse instead of clear. It'd work okay to reorganize the sentence so you could use the adjective form of gust instead (ie: She looked around and heaved a gusty sigh.), or switch it to a less awkward adverb like 'heavily.' Or, perhaps better yet, go for a more precise verb and ditch the adverb (ie: She looked around and huffed.). It's not too bad overall, and got better the further into the story, but strong, direct word choice with fewer modifiers will make the ones worth keeping more impactful, and make the prose that much stronger.

Overall pretty solid, though.