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Dead Men Do Tell Tales · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
#1 · 4
This time, I’m in, whatever happens.
#2 · 3
I sighed and sat down to work, drawing up the sack full of tiny bricks.

I checked the requirements again; I could only use a few hundred bricks out of the many thousands in my sack. It sounded easy, but when the time pressure is on and the count is tight, it's harder to feel your way into something interesting.

I reached in and grabbed a handful of foundational blocks, rough and reddish, and started to array them on the dirt at my feet. There'd been a few organic ones, keratin in suggestive shapes, but I left these alone; nothing equine was in the specs this time.

I shuffled my blocks around, seeking the best arrangement, picking out others to round the lines and enhance the stability, then I picked out more blocks of smooth cool marble and laid them down. Some were squared off, some were segments of column, and I had to plan where these would eventually meet when I completed my tower. I scrabbled through my sack looking for casement pieces and started to lay the bottoms of windows and door sills. Some go for seamless monuments, but I prefer a structure that works, something where you could walk in and feel as if you live there.

From the corner of my eyes I saw the other towers going up, people with their bulging sacks rattling as they picked through their bricks. I finished the first tier of windows and extended more columns, trying to get a nice capstone over the door. I searched my bag for way too long before I found one; I had to apportion my time better. I only had until dawn.

I combined blocks and tested ideas; one grand room was so austere yet evocative. If only it could be made to fit! But the foundations didn't agree. In the end I had to set it aside; no time to rebuild. The clock ticked on and the sky darkened. There was always that temptation to add bricks of interesting and baroque designs, to build wider instead of taller, spending time on the details instead of planning for that next floor, and the next...

Through the night I wrought, my sack visibly depleting, the interesting bricks pushed to the bottom and the dull plodding structural beams and columns overlaying all. I stacked them in a half-dreaming state, trying to hold to the requirements my foundation imposed. If only I could change it, or start anew! But there was so little time left.

And then, the rosy glow over the hills. I tossed handfuls of bricks aside, searching for the right roofing elements, grabbing wall blocks in my haste but using them anyway, turned on their sides. I was so close... And there, it was time. I dropped the sack and sank to my knees, looking up at what I had wrought.

The red light of dawn shone over my work, showing to me how far I had strayed from my initial vision, the holes in the walls, the missing tiles on the roof, the wrong-colored panes of glass in the windows. It was only standing in the light breeze by some sort of divine dispensation.

I looked to the ground and shook my head, resisting the urge to dash it all to the ground. I cast my gaze about, where the shadows of other's towers were falling over me. They'd mostly built well, and their spires seemed to dance in the morning light with a grace I had foreseen but failed to achieve.

We were all pulling from the same pool of bricks, but somehow, someone else always built higher.
#3 · 4
Beware, I live.
#4 · 3
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony >>Griseus
Blugh, my entry is in, but I can't say I'm happy with it.
#5 · 3
We know that feeling.
For my part, some poor attempt at a structure has been built.
"He who would be a tower must not fear to be a toppling tower."
#6 · 2
I submitted a thing. Time to terrorize readers and fellow writers... with my writing.
#7 ·
Common theme you got going on.
#8 ·
· on Tell Me About Your Character · >>vladspellbinder
An interesting premise! I like the ending, and the format worked surprisingly well for how sparse it is. The only thing that really tripped me up was:

"Well, I have found that a lot of people are more at ease if they talk over their life. So, tell me about yourself. I'll listen."

"That was a great story, you lived a very happy life."

That's such a curt reply for someone telling the story of their life. What happens in-between these two lines could have been an entire fic inof itself.
#9 ·
· on Overflow
There's some neat ideas here, but the twist at the end came out of left field. Why should Margane require a sacrifice when none of the others did? And why does the sacrifice have to be her descendant? And why do they wish to speak to her so badly they'd murder a woman in her own house for a short conversation?
#10 ·
· on A sequel to Mr. Valdemar's case · >>No_Raisin >>Monokeras
I confess I had some difficulty following this one. There's quite a few interesting bits here -- I got an Island of Doctor Moreau vibe off the introduction, in a way that caught my interest. But I didn't understand where the story went from there, and the ending came a bit out of left field.
#11 ·
· on Elegy for Left Hand Alone · >>No_Raisin
Nicky Fincher was somewhere between buzzed and resolutely shit-faced when he climbed over the brick wall—not too high—of Rockside Cemetery.

And we're off to a great start! :D

Still in his grey suit, as if he'd just come out of the office, his tie loosened around his neck, like a schmuck, Nicky made his way through the tombstones, half-blind. Tombstones. An army of tombstones.

He was looking for his wife.

Very strong hook.

No, he decided that, at least for the foreseeable future, he must have Albertine; he wanted to feel her again.

...well, this went in a disturbing direction. This story is going to make the top of my slate, because the prose is good, the hook is strong, and it's well crafted, but damn that's weird.
#12 ·
· on Interview
With the She-Ra rounds dead and the poetry rounds lightly populated, I might as well wander into an original mini round.

I'm immediately put in mind of Futurama's suicide booths. Or various Star Trek incarnations—the simulated war deaths in "A Taste of Armageddon" and the ritual suicides in a culture with a maximum allowable lifespan in "Half a Life."

A number of editing misses early on have me wondering if this was written in haste, like "describing different method of suicide" and "He lead her back to a small office."

There's an odd conceit here, that the person gets to exercise some control over their replacement. As a world-building thing I just have to accept to get into the story, that's fine, but the format isn't allowing you the space to really make that feel deep-seated. Like why does she care that making the new her a little taller would lead to her being happier? It's not going to benefit Tahira in any way, not even in a sense of things being better for her children. And there's not any background for why the society is set up this way. Maybe it just always has been? With the reapers, sure, but not designing replacements, as that wouldn't be a technology they always had. This is kind of key for me: "Her reaper showed no response to her emotional distress." She sure doesn't seem to be in any distress. She's in a situation where it's plausible someone might be (particularly if I had the context of her life specifically or the culture at large), but besides her occasional trailing off and admission of a few seemingly unpleasant memories, she doesn't come across as upset. Sell that more through her behavior.

There's something else that's going on here that could be rather clever. I don't know whether it's intentional. But if her experience is the norm, at least in terms of how these deaths are carried out, then these memories of hers that she wants to change for her replacement may not have actually happened. Not to her, anyway. Yet she seems so certain of it. Do these people know that? Does Tahira know if she actually started life at 10 or 16 or 25 or whatever? She may be remembering a childhood that never happened. Though through all the comments the reaper is making about his database, it's curious that he doesn't say anything to the effect of compiling stats on whether she liked them. Kind of an Amazon reviews thing. That last bit makes me think it's not something you planned this way, but it's an interesting thing to think about.

And I don't understand what has the woman at the end so upset. Just that she has to go through tedious acclimation training now, maybe?

All told, this is a cool take on a concept that's been done similarly before, but it's hard to get it to work in this short a format. I feel like it either needed more fleshing out of the world context, or more focus on the actual emotions, so I really believe this woman is as troubled as the one offhand sentence assures me she is. I do like the starkness of her death and the way the reaper is so matter-of-fact about it. It's reasonable he would be. That leads me to wonder if the reapers are the administrators of this world, or if they're just in a symbiotic relationship with it.
#13 ·
· on A Historical Archive
Like the previous story I read, this one has some odd editing misses, the kind an automatic spell checker would have caught. Maybe you just edited directly on this site in a browser that doesn't have a built-in checker?

I was prepared to write a longer review of this, but there really isn't a lot of it to talk about. It's kind of a takedown of meme culture, and it does poke some wry fun at it, but it's also dependent on supposedly smart people being pretty dumb, and not in a way that someone like Terry Pratchett does. For instance, the professor never acts like a buffoon at all. His comment about the goal of his research being tenure is on point, but aside from that, he's not shown as foolish or comical.

The thought that memes give a complete picture of everyone's life is of course ridiculous, as only a small percentage of people actually create any, and the story never uses that as a source of humor or irony. The computer should know that by comparing the number of meme contributors to the known population level. Likewise with the student's sudden realization that not every life is fascinating all the time. That should be self-explanatory, but the way it's presented, it feels like it's not trying to be funny so much as a sad realization for her.

That's really what I got from the story. The way it was structured was good, and it made some nice observations, but in the end, I don't know whether it's trying to be funny or insightful. It seems to be reaching for both, but only halfheartedly. It's certainly possible to do both. I know I've seen lots of people wonder what history will make of meme culture, and this was a pretty good take on it.
#14 ·
· on Tell Me About Your Character · >>No_Raisin >>vladspellbinder
Another grim reaper story, huh? Not too surprising, I guess.

It took me several paragraphs to realize this wasn't a dialogue, but that every quote is being spoken by the reaper in response to "your" unspoken lines. I think it'd really help avoid confusion of that if you didn't use quotation marks. Those aren't necessary for most second-person stories, and you don't need them for this one.

A number of editing mistakes in this one, too, also of the kind a spell checker would have caught.

There's a trick to writing stories like this, and you're mostly on the better side of it. You want to make it obvious what questions "you" have asked, and the bad end is to have the narrator blatantly state them. "Oh, you want to know my name? It is Death." That kind of thing. You mostly avoid that, but I think you could stand to be more subtle about it in places. You still lean heavily on restating the questions at times.

Look how often Death starts his quotes with "Well." Try to avoid that repetition.

It's not a bad interaction, but the problem is that there's not really a point to it. Minifics can rely on just creating a powerful image and not necessarily having a strong plot, but there's not any imagery here. Just that this is a routine interaction for Death, and a dead man literally tells a tale that we don't hear any of. And as for plot, we never learn enough about Death, or anything about his guest, to have any rooting interest in either of them. There's no tension resolved, and none of the characters show any growth.

As an example of second-person narration holding a one-sided conversation, it succeeds better than most examples I've seen, but it could use either a really striking image or a plot that comes to some sort of a conclusion.
#15 ·
· on Biographies · >>No_Raisin
Was everybody writing at the last minute? Some more low-level editing mistakes in this one.

I'm already a little put off by the premise from the first page. There were plenty of Allied personnel in the midst of the fighting. If they weren't, then who were the Nazis fighting? Plus you're localizing "World War 2" as specifically Europe, whereas the Americans were very much in the thick of it in the Pacific. All that has me anticipating this as a "the Axis won the war" story. Except that you're detaching the Soviets from the Allies, and Alex's roommates find the Russian and Nazi symbols disconcerting.

Then it turns into either a comment on modern politics, or another one of these entries about meme culture. It even asks one of the same questions: why care about history? It's odd that that's come up repeatedly for a prompt that doesn't directly ask the question.

I hope this doesn't come off as a rant, but this feels like a strawman story to me. Now that I know the specific battle in question was one only the Germans and Russians were involved in, it makes the point more pertinent about the lack of US or British sources. But it would be a matter of known historical fact, with some degree of uncertainty involved, which military units were there, what actions they took, what losses they suffered, what orders were given, and the outcome. It wouldn't be too big a task for a military strategist to analyze them and decide which moves were good or bad. There are many such books, where people not involved in the action look at the records after the fact and piece together what happened. I take your point that "history books are written by the victors" in some sense, where the victory in this case is getting your account published whether or not you won the battle. And while that might apply to specific lesser-known battles, in broad strokes, historians do a pretty good job of getting it right. Once enough time has passed that historians wouldn't be biased by a personal stake in the analysis, especially, and in the more modern world where that doesn't mean the records are lost to time, there's a whole lot more available for a dispassionate analysis. I just feel like it's taking an over-simplified view of things and picking one specific (and somewhat egregious) example as support.

The Somalia vs. DC question, as an example, is also one that has many practical reasons for it beside the fatalistic ones the professor implies. Not that those are wrong, but it's not as simple as he's making it, and by leaving it at that, you're letting him fall into a stereotype that's probably making him less of a sympathetic character than he could be. Same as his truth vs. stories point. Most people do care about the difference, but just don't always realize which things are stories.

As a story, though, this works well. It builds up the tension nicely, but it could use more in resolving it. It doesn't have to resolve it completely, but without following through, I don't know whether this has any impact on Alex. What insight does she get out of that question? Was this whole thing just an exercise made up by her professor to lead her to that realization? He poses the question, but we don't get the first inkling of how she might answer it, or that she's learned anything from it. Was her crisis just in locating the truth, or was she having one about her educational path as well? Some of that is going to be limitations of the word count, and maybe this is just a story that won't fit in this one. It's a kind of issue that could use some more nuance and a stronger thematic bow tied on it. It's close, thematically. Alex definitely has a strong reaction, but it's unclear what this will change for her, or why this is a new concept to someone so far along in her education. Her naivete comes across strong early in the story, making me think this would be framed as some idealistic society centuries from now, but by the end, I guess this is more present day?
#16 ·
· on Elegy for Left Hand Alone · >>No_Raisin
Hot take before I even start reading: a composer (I think it was Maurice Ravel, but I may be remembering wrong) had a friend who was an accomplished pianist, but who lost an arm, so Ravel wrote a piece specifically for him that could be played with only the left hand. The title evokes that to me, and I'm wondering if it'll have anything to do with that. And... no, it had the meaning I was afraid it would.

Still in his grey suit, as if he'd just come out of the office, his tie loosened around his neck, like a schmuck, Nicky made his way through the tombstones, half-blind.

There's a piece of writing advice I picked up long ago that you can either load up the subject or predicate of a sentence, but it's a bad idea to do both, or the sentence will start to ramble and lose focus. This isn't a problem you have throughout the story, but I did want to point our this one. It's not that bad, but you load up the front of the sentence with four descriptive elements and the back with one. So it's not that unbalanced. But look at the kind of descriptive elements you're stringing together up front. If it feels more like a list, where it's grouped, it feels like there are less of them than there are. You start out saying what he's wearing, go to his general behavior, go back to his attire, back to his behavior. This might feel like it only has two elements up front instead of four if you grouped the like ones together.

I agree with Nickey about Jim Carrey, though I do rather like that Buggles song.

Fewer careless editing mistakes in this one, but there are still a couple.

As a piece of prose, this is very good. The sentence crafting and word choice are all great. As a story, I don't feel I knew enough about the characters. He's so attached to this woman that he can't let her go, even after she's died, but I can't believe that's due to physical attractiveness alone. They were married, so I doubt that was the entire basis for their relationship. If it was, then I'm not going to be drawn into his pain over it. He knows a lot of details about things she liked and didn't. What did they share? What interests did they have in common? If I don't understand the relationship, then I don't know what it means for him to lose it. I only know the strength of his attachment because the narration assures me it was great, but that's not going to make me have an emotional attachment of my own to it. That's all I think this needs: enough context about their relationship to bring it alive, as it were.
#17 ·
· on Overflow
Man, and more simple editing errors. I wonder if everyone submitting with only minutes to go.

In all, this was a nice tale, but I feel like the logic was inconsistent. No sacrifice had been required up to the point of Vardani's death, so I don't understand why one was then. For Margane's purposes, yes, but not Gethric's. He had been getting weaker from each casting, but it had never been framed as him giving up some life energy each time, just him getting fatigued from the effort. And one further usage, if he couldn't fuel it himself, should only take an equal bit of strength from Vardani, not her entire life. I don't get why Gethric knew or even suspected that was the case, and why it didn't surprise him. It's as if he knew he would have to kill her, but given the circumstances, why wouldn't he have thought he'd have to for the very first spirit he raised, let alone all the ones since? The "issue of succession" is only ever stated vaguely, so I don't even know why it would be necessary to go to these lengths to resolve it. Had they not had access to her, what would they have done then? It'll take some convincing that it's worth killing someone over.

The atmosphere is nice here, and I like the idea of the story, but it needs some more internal logic for everything to stand.
#18 ·
· on A sequel to Mr. Valdemar's case · >>No_Raisin >>Monokeras
Yet more editing problems. Yes, I think everyone submitted late enough that they couldn't make an editing pass.

The idea for this is cool. I'm going to take a stab and say you don't reveal the characters' names because they've been redacted? Otherwise, I don't know why you'd hide those. There's never a reveal where everything clicks, or where it makes a difference, so it comes across more as a gimmick for the gimmick's sake. And by the end, I have no idea what happened. They were doing some kind of research into what happens when someone dies. But I don't know what they wanted to do with that knowledge, and I don't know what the lady patient did to the assistant. I can't imagine what he asked her to make that happen. I don't know if it was some sort of attack she made on him, or the response to an ill-advised question he'd asked her. If it's a way for her to come back to life by killing him, then she's still in a diseased body, and I don't know what she's going to do about that.

The atmosphere and the setup are good here, but I don't understand enough about what happened to have much of an opinion about it as a story.
#19 ·
· on Tell Me About Your Character · >>vladspellbinder
Honorable Mention:
"Yes, there are things even Death does not know."

Much like >>Pascoite I was confused at first by the nature of the whole 100% dialogue thing, and the snag for me was that it's not formatted like a chain of dialogue lines from a single speaker. When writing, if you break up a character's dialogue into paragraphs you would not add quotation marks to the end of each paragraph, with the exception of the last one of course. The method used here makes sense in a way, though, since it's meant to be read as a two-sided dialogue but with one of the parties being omitted. I do think that if you want to make this feel like a second-person narrative, like the title seems to indicate, you would remove the quotation marks altogether.

Something I find strange but also curious is that the speaker claims that the word to describe its occupation has yet to be created, but it's clearly meant to be like an angel or the Grim Reaper. Or maybe one of the Grim Reaper's interns. It's one of those things that, like much of the story, seems to take pride in not being wholly shown to the reader. We're being kept in the dark about most of what happens here, and there's a great deal of potential in that. Some very dry humor, a sense of emptiness, and so on. It does, however, feel incomplete, not least because it's so short that it barely makes the minimum word count. Ultimately it feels kind of rudderless. Nothing happens, except for the not-Grim Reaper sending "you" off to Limbo. It's clearly meant to be open-ended, like second-person narratives tend to be, but it's so abstract that I'm not sure I can say it bears any significance. With stories like this where there's little plot or character I expect a strong thematic point, but I'm not sure it has that either.

It is, at the very least, an experiment whose style would not have occurred to most people. There's clearly imagination put into this, although we could've also used another editing pass.
#20 ·
· on A sequel to Mr. Valdemar's case · >>Monokeras
Honorable Mention:
Although I had already witnessed Mr. Valdemar answering my questions from the nethermost regions of the grave, the hollow, utterly inhuman voice which replied, without our guest's tongue or lips moving, sent a shuddering down my spine. "Yes. Leave me alone, for I am dead now."

So from what I can tell this is The Island of Doctor Moreau crossed with... Invasion of the Body Snatchers? I'm not sure what else could've happened at the end there, yet I was never given enough of a reason to believe it could happen in the first place. To agree with >>GaPJaxie I do like the horror atmosphere; reminds me of a Val Lewton production, with the horror being unseen. There is something almost spiritual going on here. And to hopefully bring some light to >>Pascoite 's comment about the redacted names, it could be that I had recently gone through Two Years Before the Mast, but I can't say it's unheard of for a work of autobiography to keep the names of real people hidden with em dashes. And given the first-person narration this is meant to be read like a memoir or journal.

Of course, that raises the problem of what the hell the narrator could've done or how they could've reacted to what happens at the end here. This is one of those classic shocking swerve endings you find in a short story, except I'm not sure how everything leading up to it explains it. I'm also not sure what happened immediately afterward. Is Mrs. H— a zombie now? Is she possessed? How does that work? Mind you, my reading comprehension skills are not the best; one time I thought a girl in one of these minific rounds had literally turned into a tree. But I know I'm not the only one confused by this turn of events.

You gotta admit, though, having "sequel" be part of your title in a minific round is a ballsy move. And I still like the setup. I'm just not convinced that the payoff adds up.
#21 ·
· on Overflow
Honorable Mention:
The meaning hit Vardani like a blow and she had only time to see the realization flash across the eyes of the two men, and she saw death written there.

I'm very torn on this one. For a minific it's quite ambitious in how it illustrates its characters and how much high-fantasy lore it manages to pack inside its little frame. Yet the story being told is kind of an odd one, and not in a compelling way to me. Indeed, if I was Vardani I'd be angry at the fact that the last few minutes of my life didn't make a lick of sense.

We're immediately presented with three characters, and honestly I had a hard time separating Vardani and Gethric at first. Doesn't help that they more or less serve the same purpose in the end. The Duke is more fully realized, and weirdly enough so is Margane, despite being a spooky "Bloody" Mary type and also being dead for most of the story. There are too many characters and too many moving parts in this for me. Much has already been said about the odd nature of Gethric's dwindling strength, but I just wanna also note that the whole "sacrifice" thing seemed to have come out of nowhere. It would make sense that the Duke wouldn't tell Vardani about it, but we should at least get some clue in the narration that this was his intention.

Overall it could be a high-fantasy yarn with a mean horror edge if given a larger word count, to fill in the gaps and such, but I'd say this suffers more from the word count restriction more than any other entry. It does at least serve as an exercise in world-building under tight circumstances.
#22 ·
· on Elegy for Left Hand Alone · >>No_Raisin
I will always award points in my book when an author goes for something daring. This was an ABSOLUTE FULL SEND of a story.
The narrative vibe you achieve fells very detached, making the protagonist's connection with his wife seem equally distant. I don't think that's a bad thing, though. It comes off to me like the shame of his act, and the addict-like lengths with which he goes to maintain a connection with her even after death, has overshadowed his love for her. Again--not sure that's what you were going for, but that's what I got. And I like it! It's freaky, shameless, and punchy. Thank you for sharing!
#23 ·
· on Biographies
Big ideas presented here! I like your ambition. And I thought that, at least from a literary standpoint, the ending was a fun snappy little slap in the face.

Not being a historian, I may be wrong here, but I would have to believe that given the scale of a major battle like Kursk, at least a few other primary sources would have written about it enough to fill in some gaps. So I don't know how well that works as an example in this particular sense. Without taking any stabs at your "history is written by the victors" and "we lose a great deal in the sands of time" arguments, I thought this was solidly written, if not a bit on the "talking heads" side of things. That's to be expected with a 750-word cap, so no points docked there as far as I'm concerned.

Thank you for sharing!
#24 ·
· on A Historical Archive
That first bit about the professor only working for tenure and the AI programmers only interested in code had me in tears. Very Vonnegut-esque. The ending is something I see a lot of in stories with AI. The best way I can describe it is, the AI is so intelligent it achieves both motherly know-it-allness and childish nativity all at once. It's either that or the AI goes full Terminator. I prefer the former, as it's often more illuminating.

That's what I thought of this story, too. Illuminating without being full of itself. Very nice! Thank you for sharing.
#25 ·
· on Interview
WOAH this is a ton to unpack. I absolutely loved this. The style is perfectly pithy, and the "took her out back" line reads like a shot in the head. That is the high point for me, literarily speaking. All this amazing technology, cloning, the grim reaper, replacement lives, coding memories, then--boom, take her out back like Old Yeller.

Really well done! Thank you for sharing!
#26 ·
· on Interview
Honorable Mention:
“Excuse me.” After a moment, Tahira cleared her throat. “I’m here to die.”

Feels almost unfair to highlight the opening line, because it implies that the story peaks early, but this is quite the kicker of an opener. Tahira is quickly established as a relatable character, young, troubled, sort of emotionally disturbed, and who can blame her for wanting to head out the door of life early? But of course the question of replacement is where this becomes a science-fantasy yarn, with a great deal of ambiguity added to the mix.

This is an unusual method for someone to commit suicide and "be reborn," as it were. We get to know a good deal about Tahira, and we get the impression that she had a depressing life in adolescence, although some things don't quite add up to me. For one, her request for a change in height. And why only two inches? If I was 5'9" (which I am), and I wanted to grow taller, I would wanna be like 6'2" or something. A noticeable change. Nobody gives a hoot about the difference between a 5'9" man and a 5'11" man. And also, I have to wonder about the logistics of these rebirths. They're not called clones, even though they basically are (in the wacky sci-fi sense of the word), and for some reason the reapers have assigned death dates for people. I'm not sure how that works. Is it like the expiration dates in Blade Runner but for ordinary people?

Even so, with all my questions, this is certainly one of the more enjoyable entries. It's stoic, dryly humorous, kind of sad, and gives us a glimpse at a macabre world that seems to walk the line between fantasy and science fiction. The opening and ending sections in particular are juicy to read.
#27 ·
· on Elegy for Left Hand Alone · >>No_Raisin
He's not dead, and what's the tell? All these culture references? Then he pees or jacks off on his dead wife. Meh.
#28 ·
· on Biographies
This story theme is needed to be told in something that didn't have 750 word limit. Ending feels like walking into a brick wall. Still like it.
#29 ·
· on A Historical Archive
The start was funny as hell and the rest went at a goof pace. This whole thing fit in perfectly... well from my low brow background. This story will be easy to related to in the next hundred years and I appreciate the person who wrote.
#30 ·
· on Interview
Want to read more about this world. Wonder why Tahira wanted to check out before her time. Neat story!
#31 ·
· on Overflow
Getting a real Crusader Kings Three vib from this.
#32 ·
· on A sequel to Mr. Valdemar's case · >>Monokeras
Read this story twice and had a hard time following until I read in out loud in Bruce Campbell's voice. Has 50s horror movie feel this.
#33 ·
· on Tell Me About Your Character · >>vladspellbinder
Lot better than I thought it would be due to the reading the title first. Bit cranky the story makes me do more figuring it than usual. This is like reading 30 stories all at once. I approve the level of detail with the word count as well. Neat.
#34 ·
All and all, all these stories I have something to learn from.
#35 ·
· on A Historical Archive
Honorable Mention:
“It’s a great undertaking for the history department,” said one guest, “but if I may ask, what is that practically good for?”

“Well,” said the professor, “it got me tenure.”

An entry that starts really strong and kinda fizzles as it continues. Which sounds hard to do in a minific, but you'd be surprised. But no, there is some great humor here. Pratchett and Vonnegut have been mentioned by others, and reading this did give me some crazy Vonnegut vibes, like something out of Cat's Cradle, which might also explain the humorous-but-insightful tone. I'll be damned (which is fine, I'm used to being damned) if the author hasn't read any Vonnegut. Simple but punchy syntax with a punchline seemingly lurking around every corner. It cuts, but in a clownish way.

I also hope tenure someday gets abolished, so I'm naturally prone to find the highlighted exchange funny.

The message, however, feels somewhat jumbled, the more I think about it. At first it reads like a satire of academia, which is great, academia is easily and justly mocked, but then it becomes a satire of meme culture, which is weird because meme culture already satirizes itself (the postmodern landscape do be like that), and then it becomes... something about existentialism. Or how the vast majority of stuff people upload to social media is totally not worth keeping. While social media and meme culture are certainly interlinked in the CURRENT YEAR, the former is considerably less self-conscious, and things that lack self-awareness are best fitted for satire. Like much of academia.

Expand, remove the most timely of references (the California wildfires from 2020 specifically feels almost in bad taste), and connect these two scenes (because it's really two scenes, although the first is more of a prelude) and you've got a nice slice of comedy on your hands.
#36 ·
· on Biographies
Honorable Mention:
“True,” her advisor said. “Read enough of these books and you’ll notice that a lot of things get blamed on people who aren’t around to disagree.”

So once again we have a female student getting schooled by a presumably more knowledgeable authority figure. And once again we examine a peculiarity of what we might call the postmodern landscape, but this time taking on that classic Emerson saying about how there is no history, only biography. The lack of objective truth in a world where there are many sources, but many of them are mutually exclusive.

Personally I would've much preferred if Alex and her advisor talked about something that has far shakier historical ground than the Battle of Kursk, such as the life of Socrates. Socrates was no doubt a real person, but our only accounts of him come from people who supposedly knew him and talked with him, but who were not Socrates. I supposed that's not putting enough emphasis on the "biography" part of the equation, though. Anyway, Alex and her advisor don't seem to know much about WWII, which I suspect was intentional. Even the advisor's more enlightened viewpoint is racked with ignorance and oversimplification, which could very well contribute powerfully to the message here, but the advisor is written as too much of a mentor figure for me to put confidence into this. Also weird how Alex, inexplicably, equates a famous YouTuber with major military figures from 70+ years ago. Seems like a really bad point of comparison.

There's a lot to unpack here, certainly. It's more or less a Socratic dialogue (bringing up that prick Socrates again, I know) about the nature of objective truth, and how history is ultimately written by people who are able to write about it in the first place. Even primary sources can be hard to trust with this thing in mind. Sort of reminds me of Melville's The Confidence Man, but not as abstract, and honestly I think the modern references in this entry undermine it. Alex and her advisor could be having this conversation in 2020 or 1980, it shouldn't make too much of a difference. And, like >>Pascoite, I find myself tumbling down a rabbit hole with this line of thinking.

That must be saying something, though, that we're thinking about it as much as we are. It is, if nothing else, a story of big ideas squished into a cage fit for a hamster.
#37 ·
· on Elegy for Left Hand Alone
Honorable Mention:
With no one to interrupt him, with no one to tell him he shouldn't do it, he started thinking about Albertine, considering her face, her curves, how she looked when she got out of the shower, and his mind sank into the image.

A lot of roaming sentences like this one. Sort of unruly. With minifics it's expected that there will be either mostly dialogue or none, and this entry leans more towards the latter. I would even say there's too much of the little dialogue we get, because the meat of the story is Nicky's thoughts and actions, not what he's saying. But putting so much emphasis on thoughts and actions gives the prose some major breathing room to flex its muscles, which this entry certainly does. It houses what has to be easily the chunkiest paragraph out of the whole roster, and it's a lot to take in.

Then of course there's... the thing you should never do in public.

Nicky is a sick man. Not necessarily a bad man, but a sick man. We know very little about his relationship with Albertine, although I'd hesitate to say they might not have loved each other. There had to be something there, or else this wouldn't be happening. It's not normal, though, for widows and widowers (at least as far as we know) to do what Nicky does, or maybe to even contemplate it. The psyche captured here is a particularly disturbed one, driven mad from grief, and there's something shameless and filthy about it. It's an explicit portrait (maybe too explicit) of the grotesque, in the way that social outcasts are sometimes considered grotesque.

It works more as a prelude than a self-contained narrative. There's a great deal about Nicky and Albertine's marriage that we ought to know about. I'd say it's still an effectively grotesque portrait, though.
#38 ·
· on A sequel to Mr. Valdemar's case · >>Pascoite
Congrats to all, especially our winners (very impressive, GaP)

First of all, I am so sorry to be late. I thought I had until tomorrow to comment and rate the stories, and planned to do it tonight (because I was away at a conference most of the week). I am going to comment anyway, even if it is too late to fill my slate.

I had quite a bunch of ideas for this round, but hardly any that would fit into 750 words, so I had to go for a backstop concept. I thought everyone in the Anglo-Saxon would be familiar with the works of Edgar Poe, even those less famous than the most celebrated ones such as The Raven or The Pit and The Pendulum. "The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar" was one of those lesser short stories which I am personally quite fond of, and I resolved to write a sequel to it, trying to mimic Poe's style as much as I could—without sounding too posh or archaic. Once again, I surmised everyone would immediately recognise the name in the title and set the story into its background. I was wrong.

At the end of Poe's story, a mesmerised man, Mr. Valdemar, dies while being in trance. Although he is dead, his "corpse" endures, intact, until after a few months the narrator decides to break his "spell". Upon being freed, and much to the horror of anyone present, the body of the late Mr. Valdemar rots away at once.

I know I let slip the word "assistance", which in French means both "assistance" and "audience, onlookers". But, Pasco, I’m interested in knowing what other mistakes you found (and I apologise for these, having written the whole story in a single, much disjointed, hour).

I’m sorry to have let you with a story you could not properly place. I’ll try to do better this time. Yet, I thank you all for your appreciation.

PS: Also, I wonder if there’s any relation between Poe's Valdemar and J. K. Rowling's Voldemort.
#39 ·
· on Tell Me About Your Character

So now that the authors have been revealed I can reply to comments made.

First though; thank you all for reading and commenting on my story.

Some backstory to the story; I lose track of when prompts are going up, I've often missed prompt submission by a few hours or a day. This time I missed it by nearly the whole writing time! I checked on "when are prompt submissions due" and found that there was a little more than three hours left to submit the story and not the prompt!
At first I wasn't going to do anything, the prompt itself hadn't initially caught my attention. So I went off to go do some other things but them I had An Idea (tm). Said Idea was the title I picked, which is a somewhat common phrase for use in tabletop RPG circles. From there my first idea was to go "the character of a person", as in a sort of "weighing of the feather" type of scene, where a recently dead man had to tell an Anubis like figure about why they deserved to go to the good afterlife and not the bad one. I didn't really go anywhere with that and instead just latched onto the "talk with the Reaper" bit of it and from there settled on doing a "pure dialogue" fic. It wasn't until I started writing that I decided on doing just one half of the conversation. Oh, and I only had a bit less than two hours to write it all.
On my phone.
So, yeah.

I actually finished the "first draft" with about forty-five minutes left to spare and then did a few read throughs for major flaws and autocorrect errors, which of course I didn't get them all (again, on my phone). Then I started to trim down my word count and changed some phrases as I got a handle on the Reaper's voice (not sure why it uses the contractions it does and not others but it 'felt right'). My first daft had been 520 words, and I really wanted to cut it down to 400 but this was a case of "If I had more time I would have written you a shorter letter" and when there was less than ten minutes left I said "Good enough", submitted it and went to bed. So, sorry Griseus, the word count being a number associated with closure was completely happenstance.

Now, for replies to comments.

That's such a curt reply for someone telling the story of their life. What happens in-between these two lines could have been an entire fic inof itself.

One of the "points" of the story was that the readers don't get to hear any of it, and that to this Reaper it is just another life story it has been told by a soul not willing to pass on just yet. The curt reply was meant to imply a certain level of apathy on the Reaper's part while also not being overly blunt. The departed is too caught up in their own thoughts, now being ready to move on, to really notice just how apathetic the Reaper was top hearing their life story.
I also felt a needed something of a direct tie in with the title so this part was put in. It also gave me a way of having the departed 'resolve' their death and be ready to move on.

Pascoite, No_Raisin: I did not intend for this to be a second person story, more third person limited. The Reaper is not talking to the reader, there is an actual in-story person they are talking with that gives actually in-story responses it is just that the readers do not get to 'hear' what this other character is saying. I'm not sure how I could have made that clearer without detracting from the story though, as I tend to work in either first person limited or third person omniscient and never in second person anything.
One idea I had after reading your two comments was having a "partial transcript" line at the start but that would imply all sorts of things I hadn't wanted to imply in the first place, mainly there being some sort of oversight bureaucracy on Death.
I'm not sure how to really take into account Pascoite's advice since it was all hinged on the fact the story was intended to be second person narrative when it was not.
But Death of the Author and all... .

Something I find strange but also curious is that the speaker claims that the word to describe its occupation has yet to be created, but it's clearly meant to be like an angel or the Grim Reaper.

The "Sadly you currently have no proper words in your language for what I am." line is referring to species not occupation. I was saying here that, as of this person's death, the human language can't describe what a Reaper is. They are literally Indescribable because the language lacks the words needed. This implies a lot of things about what the Reaper looks like.
#40 ·
· on A sequel to Mr. Valdemar's case · >>Monokeras
Sure. It's not like there were a lot of problems. There's only one genuine typo, so that's the only thing a good editing pass probably would have caught.

expunged of

Maybe this is just a more archaic phrasing, but I'd normally see "expunged from."

were we could continue our research


the slanders of our London's opponents

Again, this may be a legitimate archaic usage, but I'd normally see that as a noun adjunct, not a possessive, so "our London opponents."

had proposed her to spend her last days

That sets up an odd indirecct object for "proposed," which doesn't really take one, and when it takes a regular direct object, it's the thing being proposed, not the person it is being proposed to. There are two ways to fix it. One, make it "proposed to her." Then "to her" becomes an adverb prepositional phrase, and "to spend her last days..." is an infinitive acting as the direct object. Or the other way is to make it subjunctive mood, so "proposed (that) she spend her last days."

Mrs. H— arrival

As phrased, that would need a possessive.

magnetic passes

You may have chosen the wrong word here. I can't figure out what you mean by "magnetic," except for possibly referring to the watch being metal (though, depending on the metal, not necessarly magnetic).

F— famous impatience

Another spot that needs a possessive. Or did Poe write it this way as well?

Halfway through the stairs

This may just be a difference in prepositions between languages, but "through" in this case would imply he was ghost-like and physically passing through them as if through a wall. (Or in another sense that you obviously don't mean, that he was halfway finished with some task involving them, like building or painting them.) You'd normally say halfway up or down the stairs, depending on which direction he was going, or more rarely, halfway along them, if you want the direction more generic.
#41 ·
· on Elegy for Left Hand Alone · >>Pascoite

Thanks for the feedback. Been a hot minute since I really participated in one of these rounds.

Was hoping I would get a medal or the Most Controversial badge with this one. Didn't expect to get both. Also didn't expect to be completely surrounded by GaPJaxie entries. I saw how you triple-dipped, ya filthy animal!

Now, the only thing I feel the need to explain with this entry is how it happened. Because it's not often that you get a premise like this. The inspiration was two-headed. First I was struggling to come up with a premise, period. Scrambling for ideas is always a struggle with these mini rounds, but that's part of the fun. Anyway, I tend to have a few books on the side, always reading something, and on that day I was a decent way into Sabbath's Theater by Philip Roth, which I was loving. The protagonist is a complete lech who, sometime after the death of his mistress of more than a decade, commits a certain obscene act near her grave in the dead of night. I thought, "What a distasteful and perverted act, and yet in his own demented way he must be deeply in love with her." Sure, you could call it love. You could also call it obsession, but there are few other words that I think might fit.

As for the title, it's sort of a reference to "Concerto for Left Hand Alone," but more directly it's a reference to a section from Underworld by Don DeLillo, which is presumably a reference to the composition. I also happened to be reading Underworld while brainstorming, and used the grimy New York setting from certain parts of that massive novel for inspiration. I figured, ultimately, that I wanted to write something grotesque and somewhat transgressive, but also heartbroken.

I think I did my job well enough.
#42 ·
· on Elegy for Left Hand Alone
Concerto for Left Hand Alone

Ah, and that's the exact piece I was referring to.
#43 ·
· on The Far Away Look
Interesting take on what one of these test subjects would have looked like. I kind of came up with a fairly generic visual while reading, but it's nice to have the work done for me. Did you get that pixellated effect by blowing up a smaller photo or applying a texture to it?
#44 ·
· on A sequel to Mr. Valdemar's case
Thank you very much Pasco.

You’re of course bullseye on every item.

Thank you for teaching me the right way to use propose is “propose something TO someone”. It’s sometimes hard, with verbs that I don’t use that often, to arbitrate between the double accusative “he gave me the stone” vs the “normal” accusative + dative construction (“explain that to me”). It’s mainly a usage thing, but I never really paid attention as to how the verb “propose” was used. Thanks to you, that lack is now filled.

“Halfway through” – I was envisioning the walking down of the stairs as a process (e.g. “He was halfway through his work when his phone rang”).

The rest are more or less typos or careless mistakes, like forgetting the 's after the — (I caught most of those, but some slipped through the net). As for the use of word “magnetic”, this word was often used back then to refer to the underlying influence which Mesmer's techniques were thought to be exerting. Backing this is an excerpt of Poe's story: “ My attention, for the last three years, had been repeatedly drawn to the subject of Mesmerism; and, about nine months ago, it occurred to me, quite suddenly, that in the series of experiments made hitherto, there had been a very remarkable and most unaccountable omission: no person had as yet been mesmerized in articulo mortis. It remained to be seen, first, whether, in such condition, there existed in the patient any susceptibility to the magnetic influence; […]

Once again, thanks so much!