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Under the Surface · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#1 · 7
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa
Making this a fic2pic event. Will revisit the schedule based on everyone's feedback.

Current thoughts are

- simul events suck (less fun, people have to choose between drawing and writing with their time)
- not sure what fic2pic or pic2fic looks like with minifics
- people get burnt out quick on pic2fic events
#2 · 4
Sweet. I've got no plans for the weekend. Guess I do now.
#3 · 8
· · >>RogerDodger
Nice. My only suggestion would be to extend the drawing period a little bit. In the last round I had to read quite fast to find a story which inspired me enough to draw something, two days into the event, I'd only read a third of the entries, and had to choose one to start drawing. More time would let the artists read more entries, thus increasing the chances of finding a story which will get the juices flowing.
#4 · 5
Oh, sweet, I love when there's art. Hooray, I get to do arts!
#5 · 2
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa
For once I'm going to have to bow out of a short story round, sadly! I've set aside the weekend for finishing my entry to Aragon's comedy contest.

There's a large part of me that would rather be doing this, but, well, first prize $200 is a real head-turner.

(And if any of y'all want to try to do both, Aragon just pushed the deadline back to Feb. 9. I just know that my writing speed won't let me wedge in two stories in that timeframe. If I get my writing done over the weekend, though, I'll read and review here next week.)
#6 ·
That sounds interesting, why is this the first I hear of it? I wish I didn't suck at comedy, though.
#7 · 2
#8 · 2
I always find original fiction to be the hardest to write.

Maybe I'll find some inspiration this weekend.

Hoping the prompt is good.
#9 · 9
· · >>MLPmatthewl419
Ashes of Civilization, Falling With Style. Snake Swallowing Tail Among the Clouds At the Edge, Skyflight. Blue Blood Supermoon; The Lunar Trifecta.

“Superhero? Slayer of Giants…?”

“Weekend Warrior. I Tried to Save Them.”

“When Everyone’s Special, No One Is. Glory is Fleeting but Obscurity is Forever.” We’re Still Submitting. Prompts Don’t Try to Vote, You Idiot.

“Freedom of Choice, Into the Unknown with Both Feet.” Don’t Quote Me On That.

“The fox guarding the henhouse… The One who sees His shadow.”

“We Have Met the Enemy, and They are Us. Final Feast.”

“This Broken Fence, Between Past and Present Tense…”

“Fuck Binaries! Break Time! Ask not for whom the bone bones, it bones for thee.”


“Serendipity. Picture This… Writing on the Wall.”

“Whatever You Would Do, Do It Now.”


Under the Surface… Doomed.

Everything Is Perfect. Heaven Is in the Sky.

Loved to Death, Pain is Game.
#10 · 2
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Why do I look forward to this part of prompts the most... how long does it even take you to make these?
#11 · 2
Also, @ the person who made "were still submitting prompts don't try to vote you idiot"

I feel attacked and personally offended. This was a callout post directed at me and I am appalled smh.
#12 · 5

I can’t answer that, but thank you. It usually takes me under a half hour. I had a stretch of down time at work today and I did it then.

My thanks to everyone who contributes the prompts. Arranging things isn’t as hard as creating them.
#13 · 6
>>Zaid Val'Roa
Yeah, I think the time constraint on pic events is a lot more flexible, since most people only spend a day or two on their entries anyway. And fic2pic needs to allow time for people to read the fics first.

Will do this soon.
#14 ·
It’s the final countdown~

*doots excitedly*
Post by Zaid Val'Roa , deleted
#16 · 2
Ashes of Civilization 14
Damn, I lost by a nose. I was all set to read and try to write apocalyptica. Under the Surface is good though. :)
#17 · 3
Oh, and before I forget. This kept playing in my head all evening because of the prompt
#18 · 3
· · >>MLPmatthewl419
Unfortunately, work and existential crisis will prevent me from sublitting anything for this round. However, I'll try to still review the entries.

Good luck for those who are still writing, let's meet at the end of the deadline.
#19 · 4
Breathe and I'll carry you away into the velvet sky
And we'll stir the stars around
And watch them fall away into the Hudson Bay
And plummet out of sight and sound
The open summer breeze will sweep you through the hills
Where I live in the alpine heights
Below the Northern Lights, I spend my coldest nights
Alone, awake and thinking of
The weekend we were in love

Home among these mountain tops can be so awfully dull
A thousand miles from the tide
But photos on the walls of New York shopping malls
Distract me so I stay inside
I wish the rockets stayed over the promenade
Cuz' I would make a hook and eye
And fish them from the sky, my darling, she and I
We're hanging on so take us high
To sing the world goodbye...

I am floating away
Lost in a silent ballet
I'm dreaming you're out in the blue and I am right beside you
Awake to take in the view
Late nights and early parades
Still photos and noisy arcades
My darling, we're both on the wing, look down and keep on singing!
And we can go anywhere

Are you there?
Are you there, or are you just a decoy dream in my head?
Am I home or am I simply tumbling all alone?

I am floating away
Lost in a silent ballet
I'm dreaming you're out in the blue and I am right beside you
Awake to take in the view
Late nights and early parades
Still photos and noisy arcades
My darling, we're both on the wing, look down and keep on singing!
And we can go anywhere...

Are you there?

i'm writing a story
#20 · 1
· · >>Fenton
Oh no! I hope everything turns out alright!
#21 · 4
Was looking forward to a quiet weekend to concentrate in, and received absolutely anything but, so nothing from me (as usual). Looking forward to reading everyone else's efforts. Good luck, folks!
#22 · 4
And I'm in. Feels like ages since I joined a short story round, and by sheer luck I got some great inspiration not a day before the prompt was decided. Always great to join in the fun.
#23 · 4
Good luck to those submitting, even with the super bowl and all. I wont be in this time so have fun.
#24 · 8
Sitting at a coffee shop with a fellow Writeoffer and we’re getting our respective stories written. Still won’t be getting an entry in here, but I’m making decent progress and I hope everyone else is being equally productive!
#25 · 2
My story is in! Good luck to all who are still writing.
#26 · 2
Finished in the nick of time! Good luck to everyone still hammering away. You're almost there!
#27 · 2

I finished my entry just in the nick of time, but it's pretty crap. Considered pulling it just because it isn't competition quality. >_<

I ended up leaving it in, but I'm not going to pass the prelims. This was frustrating.
#28 · 2
I'm entered, and I have a feeling that either my story will be really hated or really liked.
#29 ·
Don't worry, the "existential crisis" is a disgust for everything I write. It will eventually pass. But thank you for your concerns.
#30 ·
Woo!!! Prompts are in! Good luck guys 😋
#31 · 1
I'm judging you all super hard right now*. Good luck, everyone!

*Does not necessarily refer to right now.
#32 · 2
· on Foxes Have Holes and Birds Have Nests · >>Cassius >>AndrewRogue
First to show up in my slate, and I'm on a good start. I still have some reservations but let's start by the beginning.

First thing first, you have a very engaging story. Having your character being subjected to an unfamiliar situation does help for your reader to discover the two worlds (the familiar one and the new one) alongside your protagonist, and as such, help to empathize with him.
I also loved what you did with Nevada's companions not showing up anymore at lunch one after the other; it sets a nice pace and creates a countdown until Hadley's transformation.
As for the two main characters, they are likeable enough to make me want to read their story, and their interactions set up for some great lines.

My reservations are that I don't really get what this is story is supposed to say. I mean, ultimately, Hadley and Nevada's journey just sort of happened, in a way.
At first, I was wondering all sort of things about possible plotholes, like why the fuck did the company need humans to recreate species, instead of using the remaining ones, or how a private company could dispose of human lives just like that.
But then I understood (or I think I understood) that the whole story is supposed to act as a metaphor. And that's my main problem, I can't see what this metaphor is supposed to mean. Our heroes go through a lot, starting from an okay situation which gets worse and worse, until their transformation where the pain is at his utmost. That last paragraph, however, shows us that, in the end, all this suffering could have been worth it, since they seem to enjoy their life. They are together and they play together. And thus, their past lifes we heard them talk about don't seem that nice anymore in retrospect, especially Hadley's.

Whatever this story is supposed to say, you still have some solid foundations, which make the whole sotry a very pleasant read. Thank you for sharing.
#33 · 2
· on Variations on a Theme · >>GaPJaxie
First story I read, specifically because it was the longest, and I already feel like I've read this run's winner. I loved every minute of this one. I'm supposed to be criticizing, I know, but... damn. It hits all my buttons, if you will.

Maybe if I read it a second time in a few days I'll notice something to criticize, but for now? Very nicely done, author.
#34 · 2
I'm gonna try something different. Usually I skip these rounds because I'm not much into original fiction. I don't submit anything, and it's "too much work" to read through a whole slate, so I provide zero feedback.

Instead, I'll give one specific kind of feedback this round: how the story hooked me... or not. Did it get me interested, or did I stop caring after a few hundred words? I don't even promise to read any stories to completion, unless one of them really astounds me, so these are hardly reviews. More like first impressions.

Part of me was scared at first that this will come across as haughty, like I didn't even read your whole story yet I'm passing judgement on it anyway! But then again, this might be exactly the kind of harsh feedback that's valuable. You're in the Writeoff in the first place because you want to see if your story succeeds without your name attached to it. And the whole point of the Original Fiction rounds is to prove your work can stand on its own without a pre-existing fandom.

Pretend I'm a publisher. Or an easily distracted internet reader who'd rather go back to browsing fanfics. Maybe you have the most amazing story ever, if only I'd stick around to the ending. But I wouldn't ever know, because the opening failed to grab my attention.

Okay, let's do this.
#35 · 2
· on Second Chance · >>GaPJaxie
Well, that's one awkward way to begin a conversation.

The whole atmosphere between the narrator and the mysterious lady is just kind of awkward. I'm not given much about either of the characters, so I feel lost. I don't know the narrator, so I'm not sure why the "fortune teller" is talking to him. At the same time, I don't know why the fortune teller or her words caught the narrator's attention, so why's he opening up to her instead of ignoring her?

It kinda feels like an excuse for him to start telling his life story. She doesn't react much during that, so it's more like he's telling it to us. I just don't know why he's doing it, or why she wants to know, or how this anecdote is supposed to affect their conversation. I stopped about when he hears the bell in the Tokyo train station.

The opening here is odd, with a few curious details, but not really in a compelling way. I feel like I need at least a hint of what this fic is promising to deliver.
#36 · 3
· on On the Job
"Thank you, sir!" she made sure to add, ignoring the temptation to activate the vocal enhancements that would've rattled the exquisite stonework reaching three stories up to the crystal ceiling, the sky outside as blue and pure as it only ever was on very old and rich worlds or very young and barely cultivated worlds.

This one sentence is trying to communicate like five or six different ideas.

The story itself seems to be a bunch of sci-fi tropes tossed together in a salad. Not that I think any of them are bad, or too difficult to understand, but it's just so much thrown at me at once, along with lots of jargon and technobabble that I have to decipher. And we got multiple AIs in this girl's head, oh yeah and she's a genetically engineered furry, and something about settled planets... it's just too much. Even if there's some interesting connection formed between all these ideas later, for right now I'm not sure what to focus on.

That he wasn't bothering to shield the glow of his enhancements told Midge a great deal about him, and the proprietary way he surveyed the lobby as he moved through it told her several more things.

What great deal? What more things? This setting's already so futuristic and alien that I don't trust any of my common sense to fill in the blanks here. Information overload.

I admit I did read more than I planned to, partially to see if it makes a little more sense as it goes on. I got about to the "No collateral damage" bit before stopping, because it felt a little late to emphasize that this is some dangerous criminal heist. Yet at the same time it was moving kind of slowly, having polite chitchat with Exeter and the angry receptionist. A slow burn, while the voices inside Midge's head are going back and forth lightning fast.

I dunno, it's not too bad of an opening, just unfocused. It's in too much of a hurry to show off all this neat worldbuilding from every angle, instead of letting me start with a singular view.
#37 · 2
· on Be As Gay As You Want · >>Cassius
Now this is a great hook. Two sentences. Two characters. A relationship between them (and possibly the other kind of relationship too, later on). I already know so much about the story just from this!

Probably not quite my type of story. The romance feels a bit too direct, and I'm not really fond of the "stalker with a crush" thing. But that's just personal bias, I'll still remember this opening, and hypothetically recommend it to someone who'd be more into it. Maybe I'll go back and read the rest of this later. Because the hook is so effective, dangit.

It's a little unclear how old they are. My first impression is that Julie is in high school, but then Tanya says something that implies she's already graduated high school? A monthlong writing scholarship, like a summer program or something?

And Gav lets them watch. They smile, hold their bald head high. These tourists, they’re never quite sure what box to place Gav in.

This part gets kinda confusing with the they/them pronouns referring to multiple sets of characters.
#38 · 2
· on Resonance
"As you know, backstory, backstory, backstory..."

Already these characters appear as annoying brats arguing with each other. I laughed, but not in a good way.

There's better ways to show that a character has a PhD, or that they're a research team on an unexplored planet. Without making me think they're too immature for either of the above.
#39 · 3
· on Be As Gay As You Want · >>Miller Minus
With a title like that, who can resist opening up this story?

Full disclosure up front: This story is not on my slate, but if it ends up on it, I am abstaining on this story, for reasons I will get into later.

Much like Gav, I'm not quite sure what box to put this entry into. I feel slightly mislead, as this is very much story about the entire LGBT spectrum along with some other associated acts than just being gay. While I understand that contemporaneously these communities are seen to be unified, and in some cases (like Gav), it's sort of difficult to determine where one starts and the other ends, I can't help but feel that the story loses a bit of focus as a result.

There's an obvious politicizing to the plights of these characters that I don't think is unwarranted or out of place, but it seems to be a little too on the nose and broadly cutting towards for my tastes. In particular, I think the interaction between Kevin and Terence needs to be handled with a little more finesse. Again, I don't think the angle you're going for is necessarily untrue to life, but you're just so blatant and afford Kevin absolutely zero humanity or self-awareness—a veritable strawman for your point. But then again, Kevin is a Patriots fan, so I guess he's just naturally a dumb shithead who's never seen a black man in his life.

I'm trying to walk on eggshells as I say this, but I can't really find a better (i.e. more politically correct) way of saying this: this story isn't written for a general audience. I'm not saying that is a fault of the story or an objective summation of its values, but I am saying that this story wasn't written in a way to appeal to people who are outside the LGBT community. It reads very much like a writer from within a certain community (in this case, the gay community), wrote this story for people in that community. As I reader, I feel like an outsider looking in, almost unwelcome. It's as if I myself walked into a gay bar—I feel it's not a place meant for me, which again, I don't want to see as an indictment of the work itself, but it does affect my enjoyment of the piece. That being said, it's not like I'm some ignorant rube with no experience or understanding of gay people (I'm writing this on a site dedicated to MLP fanfiction, for chrissake), and I regularly consume media that depicts the conflicts of homosexuals, so I don't want to be construed as coming from the angle: "gays are icky, and I don't like their stories."

So, author, I'm not going to make assumptions about your intent here. If you are looking to write a LGBT piece for LGBT people, I think you do an adequate enough job, although not being LGBT myself, nor really particularly knowledgeable about that inner workings of their community, I would consult people who are first. If you wanted to write for a more general audience, you need to do a bit more with the characters in order to make them relatable to the layman.

The first segment you present is by far the best because we get the most insight into the mental states of the characters, and understand their personal conflicts. Gav, Tony, and Mark are all underwritten in such a way that their grapples with identity are more informed characteristics than demonstrated ones, and part of that is due to the vignette style you're employing, but I believe you can keep that style and still make your character's conflicts and emotions palpable to general audience. In its current state, you're so strapped for content that the circumstances of their situation and sexuality overtake them as characters—they're cutouts of people rather than actual people. As I've said, for someone who is more familiar with the emotional state of being like those characters and can project themselves easier into that role, I think this works perfectly fine, but for someone who has no conceptualization of what it's like to want to cross-dress or the feelings that come with it, for instance, it won't do anything for them.

You definitely have room to grow this idea, and an easy way to do this is just to add more scenes. You don't have to use Gav, Tony, Mark, Terence, Tanya, etc., just once! You can have all these short little vignettes of them doing things, hey, maybe they some of them even meet each other. Who knows?

The prose needs to be a bit more polished. >>Haze already mentions the issue with pronoun usage in Gav's scene, but I think structuring in general is a pretty consistent issue. You have a tendency to trip over yourself trying to find exactly what you want to describe or simply shift focus mid-paragraph, and it's a bit disorienting. Ideas don't quite transition as logically or cleanly how you'd want them to, and I want to say it is partially due to you rushing. Take, for example, this paragaph:

Julie feels like the female James Bond of legend as she prowls, ducking between the cookie and candy aisles without a sound. She takes as long as possible to pick up her one item, sneaking glances through the shelves at the register where Tanya sits, texting. She looks at Tanya, unless Tanya is looking at her, because Julie is not ready to make eye contact. Someday she will be. Just not now. Or ever.

There are many ways in which the presentation of this paragraph could be optimized, and one of them would be to consistently employ the "female James Bond" with descriptors her actions. Verbs and phrases that connote "spy-like" behavior. But the very next sentence opens on her pausing to pick up her item, which doesn't immediately relate to that idea until you get to the participle phrase (sneaking), and even then, the way she does it is not very "spy-like." Some flavor here could go a long way. Then we have Julie looking at Tanya, but you switch focus to talk about how Julie isn't read to make eye contact. This is a completely separate idea and tone from when the paragraph opens. Feeling Like James Bond: suave, confident, sneaky, agile; Not Making Eye Contact: anxious, avoidant, embarrassed, scared.

Which is not to say you can't have these two ideas, but smashing them together into one paragraph without cleanly transitioning between the two distinct thoughts and emotions makes it a tonal mess. If you presented this in two paragraphs, with Julie first acting like a James Bond LARPer in the first paragraph, and to have it be undercut when she tries to look at Tanya in the second, you'd have a much richer serious of interactions.

On an unrelated note, the "sexting" scene goes on maybe just a couple lines too long. If the formatting were changed to be more traditionally displayed, I think the number of lines would be fine, but because of how you've described to use the "quote" function, the spaces make it appear much longer than it actually is, and as a result, seems to drag despite it's rather short length. The punchline got a chuckle out of me, although I do think it stretches my suspension of disbelief that a person would actually write "mom made me go do dishes" in the middle of a sexting session.

I'm not sure if the final scene is supposed to be communicating anything in particular other than a sort of a cute, warm sentiment. The whole thing is very "lit-ficcy" as Chief Minister of Genre Writing AndrewRogue would say, and I'm not opposed this being just be a "Day in The Life" kind of story, but again, just a little more content to get that across would do you a world of good.

That being said, I sort of liked this entry. There are bits and pieces of it that I do rather like, but at the same time, I feel as though I'm being pushed away rather than brought in. Again, like an outsider. So at the end of the day, I'm just not sure what to make of it.
#40 · 2
· on In Service to Her Highness · >>PaulAsaran
I was certain for a while that this was Cold in Gardez's story. It has all the Cold in Gardez trademarks: good description, fantasy genre, pulpy high concept premise, talks about dreams as they relate to real life in a vaguely Freudian manner, barely manages to fit into word count (I would hyperlink this, but it would be basically every story he's written in the last three years), and of course, the en-dash.

But this isn't Cold in Gardez's story.

I don't know who wrote this.

This bothers me.

I have some theories that some people are involved in a grand conspiracy of trickery headed by the nefarious Cold in Gardez, but of course I have no proof of this. It is curious, however, that a select number of people have switched up what dash type they use.


The opening of this story is a bit rough, which is a shame because there's a lot to like about in once you get over that initial misstep. In particular, I had to re-read the first opening paragraphs a couple times to be sure of who Thomas was referring to. I'm not sure why the story plays so coy with what is going on, since Lamar definitely knows what's going on, but the narrative doesn't clue us into this fact. On a reread, I found myself perplexed as to why the author decided to structure the scene in such a way—I assume to give some sense of mystery or force the reader to ask a question—but it just goes on too long and provides too little answers as to what is happening in the scene. Just getting a sense of what Lamar is trying to do or what his direction in this scene with a sentence or two would greatly improve the initial read, because again, in the context of the scene, Lamar knows what his directive and generally what is happening.

Generally speaking, the biggest thing hold this entry back for me is that it clearly can't fit in the 8000 word limit. The author is trying to tell a novella-length story in 8000 words. The slow deliberate pacing leaves the story feeling highly lopsided once we finally get to the meat and potatoes of the story, which is Lamar's recruitment by Queen Lazuli and subsequent interactions with Princess Garnet (seriously, what is up with how often people use these names. I blame Steven Universe), which gets rolling 2000 words past the introduction, and the conflict really isn't established until around 3600 words in. So we're left with around 4000 words left for the story proper. As such, it gives off the impression that all the work done establishing the setting in prior scenes isn't really fully being put to work, and that the latter half of the story is a truncated version of a much larger scale. All those lovely details come to bite you in the ass since you don't have space to actually flesh out the full scope of the conflict you've established.

As such, the latter scenes seem a bit rushed. Answers come too easy. Lamar doesn't even really need to be in Garnet's dreams to get an understanding of what is wrong, he can pretty much observe it himself without much difficulty. The story tries to deflect this with an "Emperor Has No Clothes" sort of situation, where the "experts" just can't tell the Queen what is obviously wrong. I'll outline three problems with this approach:

1. The Queen is not established to be such a cruel woman that she would lash out at anyone trying to give her the slightest criticism on her parenting, and despite appearing intimidating, she is consistently demonstrated to be rather reasonable and cool-headed. There are mentions in the prose that the Queen maybe is cruel enough to do something drastic, but it is never demonstrated.

2. The ease at which Lamar is able to ascertain what is amiss with the situation deflates the idea that Garnet's problem is desperate as to warrant his help and even further, doesn't fully utilize the unique skill set he happens to possess (his dream-walking). It seems to me even Siegfried the Servant could figure this out. When combined with the above point, it breaks my suspension of disbelief that the Queen is so desperate as to be scouting out an orphanage in Bumfuck Egypt for the vaguest hint of what could possibly be going on. Again, if the situation was that Siegfried and everyone else knew what was going on, but you'd get executed if you spoke out, it'd make more sense. Maybe there Lamar could have some conflict between himself and the servants, or even Garnet, like they're threatening him not to tell the Queen, because then they'll get shit.

But that's not the case.

3. Lamar isn't really challenged and isn't really allowed to have an arc. Everyone just seems to accept his advice carte blanche. He has minor adversity in the fact that he has overcome his fear of Queen Lazuli in order to actually tell her she's wrong, but that's not an "arc" (moveover, it's not what the story is about) and really he had already done it before in an earlier scene. Lamar ends the story with the same mindset as he starts it. Even the Queen admits that she thought he'd take a bit longer.

Complaints with pacing and information distribution aside, the story has all the components to be complete, and ends in a mostly satisfying way once you adjust to that fact. I'd hate to tell the author of the 7,800 word story that it's just not long enough, but unfortunately it really is the case.

If you want to go with the "Emperor Has No Clothes" and ditch the necessity of Lamar's dream powers to remedy the situation, you're going to have to introduce some sort of antagonist force that is keeping the blatantly obvious information from the Queen, whether it is the Queen herself, her staff, or perhaps a new character altogether. If what's going on is really as easy as Lamar being with Garnet for literally a day, provide another source of conflict to make it the adversity seem more substantial.

Alternatively, you could make Lamar's dream powers more important to actually solving the problem. This makes a lot of sense considering the painstaking details you go to establish this. Maybe Lamar can't tell what's going on right away. Maybe there's something unique about the Princess's dreams that stop him from being able to enter them or something that makes them unique in some way that proves difficult to Lamar. Maybe he pushes himself to develop new limits to his power. I don't know. For the purposes of this story, I find Lamar's powers to be criminally underused for something so fleshed out and important within the story's universe.

Still. Near the top of my slate if not the top of it. I'd post the "you tried" star, but Roger doesn't let us use images.
#41 ·
· on Second Chance · >>GaPJaxie
As an introduction to a larger novel, this could work just fine. As a standalone short story, I can't help but feel put off by all the vagueness (which I assume is an intentional decision). I'm a strong advocate for intentional vagueness--sometimes to a fault--but this is one of those cases where there's simply not enough foundation for that intentional decision to stand on. The writing in itself is crisp and efficient. I just can't parse out where you're trying to go with the plot.
#42 · 1
· on Foxes Have Holes and Birds Have Nests · >>Cassius >>AndrewRogue
This was a really compelling read! I'll echo Fenton's compliment on the use of Nevada's friends getting transitioned as a countdown to Hadley's own transition. The shift in tone at the end was executed perfectly, too.

I will also say that I'm not sure what point you're exactly trying to make with the plot. Hadley's time spent in the facility pre-transition set up a strongly anti-corporation vibe, and then by the end he seems much more content with his life as a fox than with his life as a human. So... the corporation was right all along? I could also see this making the case for a more natural life a la Ralph Waldo Emmerson, but that would rely on the corporation being a benevolent one, which wasn't the vibe I got from first reading. That's not a terrible stretch though, so it's totally possible.

That all said, I really enjoyed reading this. Though deeper meaning is tough to parse out, it's an entertaining story with a great consoling finish. Great job!
#43 ·
· on I Want You to Touch Me
At least I can hold his hand.

Something tells me that it won't be the last thing she will hold tonight. *mic drop*

Enough of dirty jokes; this is a struggle to review. It's a struggle because there are a lot of tropes or writing shortcuts that I'm willing to forgive if I liked the story, but this one is unfortunately a bit far from my taste.
It's also a struggle because I can see some writing skills, alongside some beaten to death tropes (love triangle for instance).
It's a struggle because Lynn's character arc, even if complete, is vague. I mean, at the end, she doesn't seem afraid of what she has become, nor she is fully embracing her new condition. She wanted something, an outside powerful force gave her the power to get that thing, she gets it, and she feels satisfied.
Unfortunately I'm not, because I can't really empathise with characters who didn't work to accomplish their goal and instead waited for someone else to help them.

All in all, I think I'm gonna abstain for now. If I ever change my mind, I'm sorry to say that I'm not sure it would be ranked high.
#44 · 2
· on Semper Fortis · >>georg
In the twenty-four hours:

Since reading this story, I've been trying to find a way not to damn it with faint praise. But faint praise is really all I've got.

It makes me think of a situation I've been in more than once where I find myself listening to a stranger talk about something he and his friends did in a Dungeons & Dragons game they played a couple nights ago. All I know about the people involved is that they're fellow sapient beings, the stakes are nothing but basic survival, and the telling is heavily reliant on jargon I only kind of understand. A tricky problem is presented, it gets solved in a clever way with our poor bastards not dying for their country while making the other poor bastards die for theirs, and the story ends.

It's pretty much the definition of pulp fiction, and I have no suggestions, author. I would personally prefer a story that has more to it, but that's just me.

#45 · 2
· on I Want You to Touch Me
I'm sleepy. I talked a great deal about this story with Monokeras, the French man. Mostly it was me trying to figure out and then explain what we read.

This is an uncomfortable read. Part of that is due to intention, of course, it is a horror story with lots of sex, but part of it is just that there is a complete lack of goodness to everyone in the story. Lynn is our villain protagonist, an envious and completely manipulative female version of a "nice-guy", Jen is basically a bimbo, the old witch is obviously bad, and Jake is implied several times to be pretty dickish (a fact which Lynn seems to willfully ignore). Everyone is sort of horrible, which was obviously the intention, but regardless if it that was the story's design decision, one must ask, "Was that a good choice?"

This is a question that I'm going to be repeating throughout this review. Everything in this story seems to written with a certain intention behind it. The nature of how the powers work being almost completely left to imagination, for instance, or never really explaining what exactly happened to Lynn. It's not due to lack of time or wordcount constraints that these details are omitted. But one must ask, "Was that a good choice to tell the story in that manner?"

In this case, I think the author plays his hand a little too close to chest. I had to read this twice in order to get a solid grasp on how everything works. There's piecemeal hints in the background of most scenes informing that all tie together rather nicely if you're looking for them, but the story doesn't explain itself quite enough to avoid confusing people. It's the sort of experience where I felt like I was missing necessary information the first time through.

This story is very "filmic." Along with name-dropping a fuckton of movies (okay it's only three, but they're sort of written into the fabric of the story) it's also written and paced as if it were horror movie, complete with book-end stinger. It's sort of like this writer decided to give himself as many handicaps as possible when writing this story.

"Not only am I going to write a story where the supernatural element is completely vague, I am also going to: use a villain protagonist, try to write it like it's a different medium, have a dark ending, and also write lurid, intense sexual encounters."

There's a line in story itself I feel perfectly summarizes what the author probably thought:

"We owe you no answers, harlot."

Calm down. You're making thing unnecessarily difficult for yourself. The whole story is built on a really solid and interesting metaphor, but because you leave everything so intentionally vague, I doubt anyone is going to spot it. Your reader is not a detective. Sometimes you need to point things out to them and link things, instead of expecting them all to connect the dots on their own.

I'm going to spoil the metaphor now. If you read this review before reading the story, you're cheating and should be ashamed. The whole story is a metaphor for infidelity and obsession. As the story progresses, as Lynn becomes progressively indulges her desires, she becomes more powerful, more shameless, and manipulative to the point that her obsession with getting Jake's affection literally becomes her power source, whereas Jen (i.e. the person being harmed by the infidelity) becomes sicker until she eventually dies. In the end, Lynn turns Jake into basically a lobotomized version of himself (highlighted by a helpful One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest reference), because she was never in love with him, she was in love with the idea of him.

Again, author, you get a cute little asterisk next to your entry for making a story with some sort of commentary in it. But what use is it if 70% of your audience won't bother to dig it up out the ground where you buried it? It's like I'm at a restaurant, and I ordered a nice salmon, but the waiter serves me a block of ice with a nice salmon in it, telling me to "Pick it out, and I'll cook it for you." Like dude, I came here to get a meal, not to pick a fucking salmon out of an ice block.

This metaphor is getting carried away.

There's a lot I like about this story, ragging aside. The prose is strong, voicing good, it flows and transitions well. For a 7K story, this reads much faster. The shortened paragraph style I think is really to its benefit, and it keeps the narrative from being too bogged down from the prose itself. I'm pretty sure everyone at this point can tell who wrote it.

The ending could use a bit more polish. It's basically trying to skip a scene (i.e. seeing Jen's dead body) that really should be its own scene. I like the reincorporation of all the elements of the beginning with a darker tone, but again, nobody gives a flying fuck because they're too busy wondering what the hell just happened. The final notes do legitimately sort of creep me out, so points there, I guess.

Everything about Lynn is sort of unsettling to be honest. She's pathetic, and to some extent, I think the author wants me to feel sorry for her (which I do, kinda), but she's also just completely remorseless in how she manipulates people.

So in preparation for this review, I tried to figure out how everything in the story "works" so I could explain it to Monokeras since he thought it didn't make a lick of sense. To which I said, "It kind of makes sense, let me try and break it down." I'm going to repost what I figured out here because I'm lazy and don't want to do any more work.

Again, if you read this before you read the story, you shouldn't and God will kill you if you do. You wouldn't want to upset God would you?

like whenever guy is asked to do something involves cheating, girl is always making eye contact
the pain associated with rejection is established when she first gets the text message saying they should just be friends(edited)
the curse becomes more powerful the more she pushes things and the more plainly obsessive she gets
so Mono, okay, rereading this I think I can spell out the "rules of the game" so to speak here
There's a three-pronged relationship between old woman, main character, and other girl.
Main character given power or maybe transformed by old woman
could be a curse, she could be a succubus, or some sort of emotional vampire, I don't know
Main character's "curse" becomes more powerful the more she tries to sleep with guy, which causes other girl to get sicker, and old woman to "de-age"
The day main character accepts the deal, girl gets sick at dinner and main character gets an appearance boost.
Next day, main character tries to get guy to cheat with her. Girl interrupts scene, even sicker. Old woman appears as middle-aged woman.(edited)
Week passes. Main character has gotten more "corrupted." Sleeps with guy, and then rapes him. Girl in hospital.(edited)
Main character further corrupted to the point she begins to crave love. Tries to force guy to be with her even visiting girl. Girl dies. Old woman takes the form of young girl either to fuck with main character or there's something sort of "de-aging" process going on.(edited)
Epilogue: main character completely corrupted. Guy is now her thrall. Bad End.
girls eyes are green because envy
eye contact is her way of manipulating people
every time she asks guy to do something naughty she has to make eye contact
old women definitely demon of some kind. directly quotes Legion with "We Are Many"
I should just write a review on it at this rate

This story is not on my slate, but I'd rank it pretty highly, close to the top, but not quite at the top. But I'm like one of three people who enjoy stories like this.
#46 · 2
· on Be As Gay As You Want
Review written from a phone, so pardon the brevity.

I have mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand, the execution is very solid. It has a strong hook, consistently good characterization, evocative language, and an understanding of how to build empathy with its characters. It will probably end up near the top of my slate just for that.

The problem is that it's barely a story. It is a collection of character vignettes, and all those character vignettes are well done and I like the characters in them, ultimately this doesn't have a lot of depth. That's not a bad thing necessarily, but this feels more like an editorial or a writing exercise than a property story.

10 out of 10 for execution, 6 out of 10 for ambition. Won't top my slate but will be near the top.
#47 · 1
· on Dies Iræ · >>Monokeras
Review written from a phone, so excuse the brevity.

Overall I would describe this story as "fine." It is a classic Twilight Zone premise, reasonably competently executed, and that did make it fun to read. But we get very little characterization of the main character, it is hard to empathize with his struggles, and the story doesn't really put much detail on it or add anything to the twist beyond what becomes obvious by the middle of the story.

Basically, while I don't have much bad to say about this story, I don't have much good to say about it either. It would really have benefited from a bigger insight the characters mental state during these events, so we can have a better idea of what drives him to these actions.
#48 ·
· on Second Chance

I agree with both of these points. While there are some interesting elements here, it doesn't feel like a story so much as the introduction to a novel. Additionally, it is vague to the point of being intentionally obtuse, in a way that is frustrating to read.
#49 · 2
· on Turn of the Red Coat · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Well, that was delightful!

While there are points I wish this story had more substance, over all it is a lovely little character piece. It's small hints of worldbuilding are well done, the descriptions are vivid, and it is very well paced.

The ending threw me a little. I assume it is supposed to represent the chickens accepting the fox's nature as a predator will still recognizing that she is their friend. But it felt like a really big gift that needed to be foreshadowed more than it was. If you end up doing a second version of this story, I would recommend making it longer so you can ease into that ending more gently.

Nice work!
#50 · 1
· on ASCII of a Wave · >>Cassius
I feel like this story is meant to be a metaphor for something, but damned if I can tell what. Maybe I'm just not poetical enough to understand it, but in my reading this came across as a collection of only vaguely interlinked scenes and events.

I understand that it is an unreliable narrator story so we are supposed to read between the lines, and again, perhaps I just lack the insight to understand what was meant to be implied. But whatever I was supposed to get out of his story I didn't get it.
#51 · 2
· on I Want You to Touch Me
Enjoyable, if a little surprising to find on my work break.

The story works well to me, and it has that bit of weirdness I am all in favor of. It's curious, it seems like 'good person falls hard' is a running theme in the stories I've been reading lately. This one compares well. I saw where it was going from the moment Lynn woke up 'refreshed' after the 'handshake' and tried on a different outfit. Perhaps that's why I was perfectly okay with the vagueness of the situation. I knew, so it didn't seem so vague at all. The whole thing struck me as carefully constructed and smartly directed, letting us know everything without telling us anything.

On the whole, I enjoyed it. A lot.
#52 · 2
· on Variations on a Theme · >>GaPJaxie
*reads first story*
*is probably going to be my favorite*
#53 ·
· on I Want You to Touch Me
Spoilers ahead!

First of all, I sense that the writer has enjoyed toying here with the T/M line. Some scenes, while not explicit, are dangerously close to, and since that explicitness is not really indispensable to the plot, I conclude the author has indulged in it.

This story has some good points, but fails to deliver. The beginning is fair, though frankly I don’t really imagine the two “friends” watching a crazy sex movie. Does the girl hope the guy will be turned on and come on to her? In any case, that’s not the kind of movie I’d watch with a friend, unless I had clear intentions.

But never mind. The we-go-at-the-restaurant scene is alright. Then we get to the hag scene, and yeah, as I explained to Cassius, it reminded me of that famous scene in Silence of the Lambs. Strange again, but I think here hugging to reality is not your main goal, so fair enough.

Next scenes are okay. We get that the more the girl approaches her goal to sleep with the guy, the more the other girl gets sick.

Then we have the main sex scene, which, as I mentioned before, straddles the T/M line but okay, it’s nice to read. Then, then everything starts to go south. First the girl begging the boy to stay is pathetic; then the cop comes (why?) and suddenly she finds she has the power to mesmerize him (where and how did she discover that?).

The end feels rushed and leave, at least to me, many open questions: other girl dies (OK, in a pinch) but then her dead body transforms into the crone’s body. Why? How? Everyone thinks this is normal, it seems, and that she only died of an unexplained cardiac arrest. Crone becomes the other girl, but what exactly is that morphing character? A demon? Can’t a demon morph their apparence at will already? What’s the point of this very complicated plot?

Biggest problem is girl. Girl has not become a demon, yet possesses an evil power and boy has become her living dildo. Yet she seems to have retained their former personality, at least in part, so what? She’s not tied by a pact anymore, yet remains sort of cursed.

All of that is very unclear to me. The story doesn’t really explain why the whole shebang took place in the first place, and so I felt I was robbed of a resolution. The transfer process kind of make sense, but the way the two subplots are intertwine sorta doesn’t make really sense.

Sorry author. But I’ll be eager to hear your explanations once the round is over.
#54 · 1
· on On the Job
The story itself seems to be a bunch of sci-fi tropes tossed together in a salad. Not that I think any of them are bad, or too difficult to understand, but it's just so much thrown at me at once, along with lots of jargon and technobabble that I have to decipher. And we got multiple AIs in this girl's head, oh yeah and she's a genetically engineered furry, and something about settled planets... it's just too much.

+1 all of this. If I had to pick one word to describe the story it would be "cluttered." There's a ton of stuff here and it's not clear why we're supposed to care about any of it or how all of it connects together. The heist feels generic, Stakes are not established until we are more than halfway through the story, and a lot of the elements The Story Goes to some lengths to introduce are never actually used.

Also, I'm sorry, but that action fight scene was less than dramatic. That's where I started to completely tune out. His story is trying to be a slow-paced action-packed character-driven social commentary powered Heist novel, and that is too much stuff for 8,000 words.
#55 · 2
· on The Many Graves of Gul Hamid Wan · >>Cassius
This entire story reads like something out of a Pulitzer nominated exposé on Middle-East terrorism and how it affects Afghan locals and bystanders as well as Western targets. It's beautiful and has the emotional impact of an orbital strike.

Except for the last little break. All the questions in the final section feel really important, but just dropping them at the end doesn't fit the structure and feel of the rest of the piece.

But still, top notch.
#56 · 1
· on I Want You to Touch Me
This story was difficult for me to enjoy for a few reasons, but the biggest one has already been stated by other reviewers: everyone in this story is a terrible person.

Seriously, everyone. The protagonist is worst of all (being outright evil), but everyone else is either selfish, petty, or both. Combined with how little characterization all the characters get, it makes it really hard to root for or care about any of them.

Without characters to care about, the appeal of the story falls back to worldbuilding, and as others have said the worldbuilding is super vague. We end up with very little idea of what it's all about, beyond that the old woman may or may not be Satan.
#57 · 1
· on The Many Graves of Gul Hamid Wan
Well crap.

Contrary to what I said in the last story I have found a hard contester. This prompt, it seems, has a lot of great stories so far.

This story made me have the choke in my throats and pain in my nose trying to hold back tears. I applaud you.
#58 · 2
· on The Many Graves of Gul Hamid Wan · >>Cassius
This is an easy top-slater. The various examples of a horrifying event and its literal fallout carry the voice of experience and authority with the authorial skill of knowing how much to show. I think the ending needs work, as Rao mentioned, but bringing a piece such as this to a conclusion that isn’t clichéd is difficult and I think you handled it well. Good job, Author.
#59 ·
· on ASCII of a Wave · >>Cassius
I agree with Jaxie ^^^

I really can't tell what the huge metaphor is about. My best guess is that she is using drugs again but the bird hitting the window doesn't fit in there??

I do like the story though, it's well written but very vague.
#60 · 2
· on Foxes Have Holes and Birds Have Nests · >>Cassius >>AndrewRogue
Given the eco theme, iPlants made me think actual plants for the longest time, before I cottoned on that the plant probably referred to implant.

Interesting premise, but I can't help but wonder why they'd need to start with a human to make an animal. There's a whole 'life cannot come from nothing' bit, but it seems like starting from humans is still an unnecessary overcomplication.

The vixen twist was very strong. Especially after all his interactions with Nevada and finding out that they'll be the same species leads you to think they'll be getting together.

Understated but moving ending.

Overall this was a slow burn with an interesting premise. Some high points were that it wasn't just the poor that were caught up, management was as well, to the extent that he wasn't the only one represented. The twist was another high point. I don't know if I could really pinpoint the theme; the tones of religion and corporatism were provocative, but not main points of the story. I still don't get the title.
#61 · 1
· on Resonance
I liked the description of the planet. In particular, it's a good excuse to light up the caves.

Ominous crystal is ominous. Nice balance, though. Dangerous, without being too terribly overt. Makes me wonder if their ship is going to be there when they get back to it.

And they just leave the sample there in the lab overnight in their spaceship, after bad things happened with it around electronics before. Not winning any awards for genre savvyness.

They're acting strange. Not a complete surprise, but I'd expected more of a technological effect. Silver in her eyes? Are their bodies being invaded by the chrystals?

It might help to give the AI a less human name - it's easy to forget that they're an AI.

Overall, it's a decent arc, though I'm not seeing the connection between the drone's circuits being smashed, and people's emotions being affected.
#62 ·
· on The Many Graves of Gul Hamid Wan · >>Cassius
Uh uh. Nice, beautiful and moving story, of course, and very well written. Top notch stuff.

Yet I’m going to abstain on it. Because the author is obvious. Because this is, in a way, not really a work of fiction. Because it is for the author a sort of low-hanging fruit to pick. Well, I don’t mean it’s an easy path to walk, because it conjures up painful memories. But it does not involve the same amount of work in world building, characters and plot the other contestants have to face. As such, this story does play in the same ballpark as the others, and, much like Ranmilla’s comment about poetry several rounds ago, I don’t think it is fair to judge what comes across to me more like a personal (or related) experience than a true work of fiction.

And finally because this is another story in a series that began several rounds ago.
#63 · 1
· on ASCII of a Wave · >>Anon Y Mous >>Not_A_Hat
I'm going to review this at a later date, but I just briefly wanted to interject here.

>>Anon Y Mous

Come on guys. I get that this is a litfic, and the manner of presentation isn't exactly the most intuitive (I had troubles figuring out what the story was about for about 2000 words into it), but you're treating it like it's a puzzle. It's not. Some of the artistry I find difficult to pin down (all the ocean dream symbolism, why it's ASCII, what Bea is suddenly amazingly vulgar and angry in certain scenes, why Harvey Weinstein is a minor antagonist in this story, why perspective shifts in some scenes, etc.), but it's not like the main point is buried under a rock or something.

The whole story is about drug abuse, specifically being driven to it. The wave is both a visual representation of the cyclical ups and downs of drug use as well as a narrative indicator of when Colette is "tripping." The bird is a representation of Colette, something that's compelled to hurt itself, but never learns any better.

I usually don't critique other reviewers on their level of attentiveness, but I feel you're being very uncharitable with your read of this story, and I feel bad for the author (WHO ISN'T ME BY THE WAY, I SEE YOU TRYING TO GUESS ME FOR THIS ONE. IT WASN'T ME I SWEAR) because the story in my opinion isn't nearly as obtuse are you're making it out to be.
#64 · 2
· on Foxes Have Holes and Birds Have Nests · >>AndrewRogue
The story could use an editorial pass. There are extra words and typos, and some sentences would be better off rephrased.

Why that strange species of fox and not Vulpes vulpes? Red foxes are gorgeous animals.

The premise is nice, but as someone else pointed out, we don’t really get to know why they use humans as working material, especially since it is revealed in the story that some “pest” species have survived too, so they have access to other genuine biological material they could work on/with.

The pacing of the story is fine, the various scenes follow on pretty well. The religious emphasis is maybe a bit too on-the-nose, but after all this is an American background.

The vixen switcheroo was like extra pepper added. Good job imagining that.

My most important reservation comes from the ending. I think explicitly stating what happens inside the newborn vixen’s “mind” is like spilling the beans. As you (rightly) show in the preceding lines of your story, the big question is to know if they remain sapient or not after their transformation. I think it would've been legit to allow the doubt to endure by describing the final scene as seen from an outsider’s, a visitor of the park’s (or one of the technicians’) POV, who witnesses the two vixens gather and play. That way, the reader would’ve been left unsure, and that would’ve added a further layer of interest and interpretation to your story.

Minor grumble, though. I mostly liked it.
#65 ·
· on ASCII of a Wave
That makes a bit more sense.

The Weinstein thing popped into my mind when reading this but my brain went "hur der its a coincidence" If this story would have been about sexual abuse I would have been able to put two and two together but she mentions drugs, which weren't a part in the scandal with Weinstein. There was the Weinstein guy who abused his power- a key part in the real life scandal. And there was her drug dealer- who might be part of real life??

I don't know, blame my 11:00 brain processing this.
#66 · 1
· on The Many Graves of Gul Hamid Wan
I would feel actually disrespectful trying to critique this. Not because it's a flawless construction - it's not, although there's not much there to poke at and it's very well put together. Because it would feel as inappropriate as if I were standing in a graveyard criticising the styling of the headstones.

I wasn't aware that was a feeling that could be conveyed in text.

Well done.
#67 · 2
· on The Many Graves of Gul Hamid Wan
Let's cut to the chase: good description, good general concept, good grasp on fundamentals. Author, whom everyone knows, you know this. I know this.

>>Monokeras is sort of right. With this, I think you're coming right up to the limit of what can really be called fiction. I would not be surprised if a lot of these anecdotes are based in your personal experiences and actually occurred, or are something you have may not have experienced personally, but were in the area when it happened. It's sort of like the "Band of Brothers", a television miniseries that serializes real events that happened to real people with a thin layer of fiction, exaggeration, and continuity alterations laid over it. This is not a fake story about a fake Afghanistan. This is a legitimate attempt to portray and comment on the real state of Afghanistan with (presumably) fictionalized accounts of real anecdotes. I'd be lying if I said I felt it was worth abstaining for that reason, or that I felt that it crossed the line into non-fiction, but I think you're butting up right along that line.

This didn't do much for me. I know I'm a monster, but hear me out. It's not because your prose is substandard, or the way you describe it is not evocative. To the contrary, it is a crutch. It is a crutch you are using to hobble through a story archetype that I'm sure you know by now is very well-mined ground. People die, and that's tragic, but the world has to keep moving, so people find a way. War is hell, I know.

The problem is every war is hell. What's so different about yours? What makes yours unique?

That's my main problem. For all the lavish descriptions of the remains of people that have violently died and the flavor text given to the setting, there isn't much to chew on. It's like being given the taste of a delicious steak without being able to eat it. Frustrating. I understand it's sort of the nature of the format you've adopted, but it was not the best of directorial decisions to set yourself apart from other such stories.

I don't mean this as an insult, but this mildly triggers my "White Man's Burden" alarm bells. This is something I could not ever imagine myself saying without a sense of irony, but it's really how I ended up feeling. The narration comes across as pitying these people rather than empathizing them, a perpetual outsider looking in, and it comes across as rather maudlin.

I would call this "misery porn." There is an unrelenting bleakness to the entire story in a way that I feel strips the humanity from the setting and its people. The narration is given in this removed, sterile recitation that state the facts of the situation, like a man giving a power point presentation on the current state of Afghanistan, which is just the style of vignette you went with, but it done in a way that feels exploitative. It gives off the same vibe as a Sarah McLaughlin pet rescue commercial. Cute little dogs with sad music, and isn't it so terrible how they're being abused.

Except this is with suicide bombers. Isn't it so terrible?

Yes. Yes it is.

In many ways, I think it's hard for me to separate the work from the author in this particular instance, and that's a personal shortcoming on my part, but nonetheless, I feel underwhelmed. I can't feel much heart here.

The ending, as >>GroaningGreyAgony and >>Rao have pointed out doesn't work. The story simply does not build to that conclusion. The ideas which it addresses seem like afterthoughts rather a fleshed out thesis. The use of the first person narrative at the beginning and end is very strange, considering you employ what is essentially third person for the vast majority of this story. It is as if the narrator is not written from a person's perspective, but some sort of divine spectator, again, like someone reading a story or a chronicler of events. The way you are using this device is not built enough into the fabric of the story's universe to function as anything meaningful. The narrator doesn't really receive enough characterization to be certain of what his role in the story is other than the person that says what is going on. Who is the narrator? Is he God? Is he a Librarian? Is he a troop deployed in Afghanistan?

Who is John Galt your narrator? He seems to think Afghanistan is a bit of a shit-hole, to quote the current president. He seems to have judgments and opinions on things. He's not impartially recollecting a series of facts. He speak like an outsider, but he later says that calling Afghanistan the graveyard of empires is an outsider's perspective, but so maybe he's an insider-outsider.

So who is he?

I really can't understate how misguided and borderline pretentious the ending comes across to me. It's like you gave a 3200 words of your 3400 essay on how Afghanistan is a place that deals with death, poverty, and war on a regular basis, then in the last 200 words you tried to say, "Well, that's just an ethnocentric perspective, brah." Jesus christ.

This isn't on my slate. I don't know how I would rank it if it were. To be honest, it sort of makes me angry.
#68 ·
· on The Many Graves of Gul Hamid Wan
You and I both know this is excellent prose, Writer, possessed of enough morbidity to create a compelling sense of detached horror without going overboard and driving me away. I felt myself drawn inexorably onward until the end.

And it is here, at the very end, that I have a problem. For me, the rhetorical handwringing of the narrator undermines the effect created by the rest of the story. It is often said that subtlety is an excellent way to fail in the Writeoff, but this is not a subtle story. I don't need the narrator to beat me over the head with the message you are trying to convey - the story itself does an excellent job of that. Nor do I need the story tied up in a bow by the narrator breaking from the pattern established by the rest of this piece. It almost feels like a softening of the devastating blow delivered by Wan's final graves, which I don't think was your intent at all.

But that's all I've got as far as critique goes, Writer. This was a compelling piece, and I'll be shocked if it doesn't medal.
#69 ·
· on Turn of the Red Coat · >>GroaningGreyAgony
A small tale, sweet and melting. Heck, that could even be the beginning of a Disney move (or a middle whe I think of The Lion King).

However, I'm afraid you only have a beginning. I'm think I understand what you aimed for, the fox gaining her place among the chickens by protecting their eggs, and with the egg at the end symbolising their reconciliation, but, because there is always a butt, the way it is presented feels like an introduction and not an adventure.
I believe the two main reasons for that are:
1- We don't see the fox growing up with the chickens and how they have interacted with each other. Was it difficult? Okay? Easy? Yes, she describes a bit herself how it was, but like I said, that makes it belonging to backstory, and not actual story
2- The fox says that, aside from the dogs, she doesn't love this place, she doesn't feel at home. She also says, after the mention of the other foxes, that if she find something truely valuable outside, she would leave. That sort of things is a huge indication that your character will leave the farm, searching for something. The ending depends on what kind of message you want. He comes back home after he realised that what he was looking for was there all along, or he never comes back, because deep inside, he has never really belonged here.
And this totally contradicts your ending (or it's the other way, I don't know anymore at this point) where you have the chickens finally accepting the fox.

Anyway, I still appreciate the effort and the genre you've tried to write. Thank you for sharing your work.
#70 · 3
· on Semper Fortis · >>Cassius >>georg
Sorry, author, but your attempt at using famous poetry to give this something 'more' fell flatter than a pancake.

The story relies far too heavily on things nobody in the audience understands. It's great to worldbuild, but this dives on the assumption that the world has already been built and everyone present knows it. At times it gets outright confusing as the story-specific lingo attempts to mesh with real-world terminologies with only partial success. Had the story been less dense in its new vocabulary, I might have enjoyed it a lot more.

Kudos for an effort at being creative and different, but it takes more than that to make a story interesting.
#71 ·
· on Dies Iræ · >>Monokeras
Writer, one of my main sticking points with this story is the protagonist. Gary isn't just dense as a brick (although he certainly is that), he's shallow. He seems to buy a yacht and half a dozen manor houses not because he wants them, but because that's what rich people do, right? He acquires all this stuff just to have it, so it's hard to sympathize when he loses it all as quickly as he obtained it. The fact that these acquisitions are summarized into a list creates the impression that not only do these things mean nothing to him, they shouldn't matter to us, either.

Doubtless this was partially your intention, but you've done such a good job of demonstrating how much of a pillock Gary is that he's entirely unsympathetic once it comes time for him to pay the piper. You have an excellent level of tension in your intro, but it's dispelled by the time it comes full circle at the end.

Also, that final line is unnecessary. It's plenty obvious who's come a'knocking, and the preceding paragraph would would have been an excellent way to end the story.
#72 · 1
· on Second Chance
At first I thought I struggled to get into this story because the characters felt kind of intangible—I don't know why they do what they do. The protagonist is awfully willing to open up to and even chase after someone who might just be an insane asylum escapee, and she herself is so volatile that I can't follow anything she does or says. But I think the larger barrier I experienced was that the premise felt even more intangible. Clearly there's some hidden... something going on here, but the reader hasn't been let in on what it is, even a little bit. There's been no rules established, no stakes, no history of the something, just a chase scene. I disagree with the above comments saying it might work as an opening chapter to a novel, because even if chapter 2 existed, there's nothing encouraging me to flip to it.

Sorry if this is all kind of negative but I'm just such a sucker for these types of stories that I was left wanting more. This idea can turn into a really, really engaging story with the right premise, so if you do continue it from here, I think your first step would be to really nail down what exactly is under the surface. Thanks for the read!
#73 ·
· on Be As Gay As You Want
I had to think long and hard about why this story made me uncomfortable, because there's two distinct possibilities that could cause that and I had to make sure it wasn't either of them. Thankfully, it's not.

This is obviously a story meant to challenge the reader, which is one of the toughest stories to really nail, and I think there should be credit where it's due for writing something so crazy, crazy ambitious. Unfortunately, on the whole I didn't feel challenged so much as preached to.

Sorry to get political here (you asked for it!), but I've always felt that for anyone who doesn't understand the LGBT community, the best thing a member of that community can do is to reach across the aisle. That of course requires the "other side" to reach back, allowing everyone to lock hands, pull each other in and live in that sweet, sweet harmony, but I digress. The point I'm trying to make is that this story feels less like an outstretched hand and more... just waving the rest of us away, I guess. It's one-sided, and while it doesn't show everyone in a fantastic light (looking at you, Kevin), it's got nothing from the other side of the aisle, and without that it feels rather self-indulgent. Actually, >>Cassius puts it better—it's not written for the general audience. Maybe if there were more, if you'll allow me to use the word, "traditional" characters in this story (I would have said "straight", but for Tony) that interact with the personalities you're trying to showcase? If you're trying to challenge that "traditional" frame of mind, then shouldn't it be in the story? I don't know if that would work; this topic is super delicate already without turning it into a story meant to challenge.

From a technical standpoint, the writing is really fun and engaging! My only note is that the present tense approach may have let you down a little bit. I found it off-putting that a writing style notorious for really engrossing the reader into the action—the here and now—is being used whilst quickly jumping around to entirely different stories. It could just be me, but I thought I'd let you know.

And as a final note, I just wanted to point out that while the first two lines are excellent, I was put under the impression that these two were in bed together. It was a tiny stumble, but I would recommend adding that she was alone, perhaps, or that she's counting the colours in her head, to really drive it home that she's fantasizing.

Thanks for the read and good luck!
#74 · 5
It's mashup time!

Gul Hamid Touched Me -- A mysterious woman transforms the protagonist into a monster, but nobody is bothered by it because war is the real monster.

A Wave of Being as Gay as You Want -- The protagonist struggles with her addiction to a drug that makes her a huge lesbian.

Second Chances on the Job -- When a man takes a second chance to follow a mysterious woman on the road to adventure, he discovers that he's suddenly a furry in an action-packed heist film.

Dies on a Theme -- When a man accepts a coat from a mysterious tailor, he is trapped in an endless cycle of suit-jacket themed deaths and ressurections.
#75 · 1
· on Second Chance
One issue I notice is that the story is trying to portray fantastic events, but using a dry reportorial tone to do so. This combination can be effective, but in this case it’s not quite gelling. As others have suggested, the author should put some wings on the mystery.
#76 ·
· on Turn of the Red Coat · >>GroaningGreyAgony
This story has a lot of good points.

The fundamentals all generally seem to work; the description does its job, the characters are interesting and well voiced, the narrative is enjoyable, the action is believable and hangs together.

The one area where it doesn't quite fire on all cylinders for me is conclusion, however. It felt like the issue the story sets up: Vechi wanting to be there, isn't the one it delivers: the other farm animals acknowledging her efforts. Right now, the two don't seem to be strongly linked.
#77 ·
· on Semper Fortis · >>Cassius >>georg
I've stopped towards the last part. All this babbling is unpleasant to read for a non native. I get the basics of the story, the characters, their goals, but I don't get the rest, what is really the story, what all this is supposed to mean.

I'm sure some people here are part of your audience, unfortunately, I'm not amongst them. I'm trying to decide wether I should abstain or downvote this. I'll abstain for now, I think.
#78 ·
· on ASCII of a Wave · >>Cassius
This is a good story. Not easy to read, and read into, but good nevertheless.

I like the play between the two protagonists and the way they interact. This is actually quite nice.

The metaphoric part (sea, bird?) can be subject to many interpretations, which is good and bad. Good, because it gives matter to chew our cud on. Bad, because it makes the story unnecessarily obtuse. What exactly does the bird represent? Why does it shit over the window? What is the exact meaning of the sea?

I think the decision to leave out the scene in which the girl phones to her old dealer introduces an artificial confusion which does not add anything to the story. You bet the reader is clever enough to interpolate/recreate the missing parts, which is good. However, the fact that no drug-related stuff (outside the guy) is mentioned I think perplexes more the reader than it entices it (we sort of get this blank is intentional and created by drug use, but we’re never 100% sure).

The pile-up of mishaps might be a little contrived.

At the end, I’m left a bit wondering though. What exactly is the takeaway? Girl has a nice life, bumps into a series of mishaps, gets back into drugs and dies. Cassius tells me it’s a character piece, which it certainly is, but I’m still left unsatisfied. I would’ve like more meat to it. I’m left thinking there is a big box (the metaphorical, poetic aspect of it) but actually only a tiny mote in it (the story itself).

Which is sort of a bummer to me.
#79 · 5
· on Semper Fortis · >>georg
This story feels like a fever dream. All this spewing of military terminology like >>PaulAsaran and >>Fenton speak of really is more a cause for confusion than giving flavor to the setting. But really, that's not even scratching the surface of what an oddball story this is. The further I went into reading this story, the more baffled I became, and the more convinced that the story was a parody of itself.

This story is so pulpy that even critically acclaimed genre writer AndrewRogue would consider this to be too genre for his tastes. It plays into its own tropisms so hard that I felt the author was winking at me the whole way, and the story itself had grown self-aware. It conjures of memories of the film Battleship. I kept expecting Warrant Officer Rihanna to appear and aliens to interrupt the fight.

There are a plethora of really odd details in this story, from the opening dialogue screaming "Vampires, Vampires!" (immediately conjuring up the idea of literal vampires in my mind) all the way through to its conclusion. I found myself laughing a lot, but it was a laugh of confusion, like when you're watching Tommy Wiseau's The Room or a Neil Breen film. What's going on in frame is just so strange that you just can't help but laugh at how strange everything is. Every time I found that I was coming close to getting my footing, the story would blindside me some bizarre decision or strange detail.

Like the fact one of the female characters is referred to as "Seaman Dikes."

Or that fucking Greenpeace hacked all the United States and China's weaponry.

Then Greenpeace gets nuked.


Or how a Hawaiian is established as a Hawaiian and then in the immediate next sentence referred to as Chinese (like are we to infer Hawaii is part of China now?).

Or that there's an inflatable balloon Twilight Sparkle is in this.

If bloons had entered, I would swear to god this was his story.

I felt my mind imploding as I read this. Little comments like that just and the long-winded relentless expository style just never allow the reader to catch their bearings and really get a grasp of what the flying fuck is happening. A slower paced, less frantic style with much less dialogue would help quite a bit for the overall readability of this story. Establishing what the hell is going on at the beginning would help as well.

This story is like 75% dialogue, 25% narrative. But the narrative is usually restricted to very long block paragraphs of straight exposition with tiny bits of detail funneled in. It's like listening to a conversation where you have no idea what is really going on, and only have a vague idea of what's happening. It feels like there are two distinct segments to this story: dialogue parts, and narrative parts. There's a lot of narrative dedicated to the necessity of certain devices and why they exist, or talks about procedural affairs, but there's barely anything that establishes setting, what's going on in the scene, why is this specific vessel being attacked, what's its purpose, what they're doing there, what the characters think of the situation, who holds perspective, what our enemies look like, why we started fighting to begin with, what certain orders mean, and a plethora of other things required to get a grasp on what the flying fuck is going on.

I could go on about this, but it's like watching footage from a movie depicting the Pickett's Charge, except you're Monokeras, and you don't know anything about the American Civil War. You get a vague sense of what is going on, but you don't know the significance of anything that is happening. Also you don't get to actually see Pickett's Charge, you only really get to see a bunch of generals talk about what is going on.

Man is there a lot of dialogue that could be cut. A lot of it is flavorless busywork of Character A telling Character B what to do, or Character C saying something happened, and not much of it communicates any kind of character between the cast. The relatively large cast all sort blends together and everyone sounds the same and talks the same way. Some characters have minor informed characteristics to barely separate them apart, but this is never really felt in any of their interactions.

And then the story ends with an abridged version of O Captain! My Captain!

Don't do this unironically. You're not going to beat out Dead Poet Society.

I'm sort of at a loss of what to say about this story. It sort of bookends on a note that it does nothing to earn, and really is lacking in so many aspects presentation that I can't tell if it is a deliberate omission by an author trying to make a parody or just a poor, yet sincere attempt of co-opting something like Hunt for the Red October.

But not on my slate, so you don't need to worry.
#80 · 3
· on Second Chance
Despite what all the others have said about the too vague context and characters, I was enough intrigued to see where this was going (the pace was good). I wanted to understand, or at least starting to understand, something, anything.

But then, we have these two answers:

“Who are you?”

“It is not the time or the place for that,”
“Why me, then?”

“It would seem that there are no better options,”

That was the PERFECT place and moment to start revealing some clues as we are approaching the ending, but instead you decided to keep the mystery complete. That's up to you, but know that it was infuriating.

One last thing, the last paragraph, I suppose, kinda resumes what you wanted to say with this story
A seemingly endless line of hotels, airplanes, traffic jams, microwave meals, meetings, and computer monitors. “I suppose you could say that my other options aren’t so great, either. There are some risks worth taking.”

The guys has a boring life and realises it only now. Thus, he is ready to follow a seemingly crazy woman. How has this not been hinted at before? Re-reading the beginning we can kinda decipher that subtext but this is very farm from being obvious.
#81 ·
· on The Many Graves of Gul Hamid Wan
I shall not be writing any critique for this, as I fear the potential shit storm my feelings on the subject may cause.

That being said, I fully expect this to win for a variety of reasons.
#82 ·
· on Semper Fortis · >>georg
I'm having the same reaction as everyone else, but I wanted to add a note:

It's a hell of a task to start a story with an action scene whilst also trying to introduce all your characters' backstories and appearances all in one go. I felt like my attention was getting yanked in a different direction every sentence—from action, to dialogue, to history, to dialogue, a character's appearance, and so on. All the while I'm desperately trying to piece together a world that seems to exist in your imagination a lot clearer than it exists in your entry. It's just too hard to follow.
#83 ·
· on Dies Iræ · >>Monokeras
I'm a fan of this story, although I'm not sure how exactly the prompt connects to it. Perhaps someone can help me understand.

But regardless, I like it. It's well written, only needs a bit of editing, and is paced well.

Overall, the issues with the protagonist mentioned above make probably the largest barrier. I was okay with him being deplorable because I think that works for this kind of story, but I had a hard time believing his actions. The "you're a scientist" line felt particularly lame, because he should already know that real world laws don't apply to him anymore what with the money wellspring in his pocket. And for a prodigy scientist, he seems really keen to avoid seeking out the truth. Actually, on that note, why have you made him an all-star scientist (academically, anyways)? Why not have him be a drop-out who doesn't accept blame for his own mistakes? One who sneaks into his old buddy Ben's class reunion to sneer at him, only to be taken by how successful and charming the guy's become and decide, "hey, I'm gonna be successful like him, and I'll start with getting me one of those swank-ass jacket, damn son."

I think this story would benefit from better-established rules surrounding the jacket, too. Neither Ben nor the tailor even hint at what it does, and there isn't a, "be careful what you wish for", line or the like that can slowly dawn on the main character. Perhaps he could get a taste of the jacket and go back to the tailor again to find out more, and then maybe the tailor can drop a line about the "true cost" of the jacket when Gary asks about pricing. After all, the tailor said they would discuss price after he tried it on, not several yachts down the line!
#84 · 1
· on ASCII of a Wave · >>Cassius
Seeing the title, I was hoping for a massive ASCII picture, like the kind you used to see in game walkthroughs on GameFAQs. I'm tremendously disappointed. Jenkins, I need an ASCII Link Head on my desk, stat!

I liked this story! Bea and Colette are funny together, and I like how the stakes keep rising. The imagery of the beach is vivid and alluring. There's also something to be said for how confusing this is—but the good kind of confusing! Just like Colette, it didn't take long for me to lose track of what was a dream, and what was reality. That works here.

Bea’s past thought came back to Nancy.

Who's Nancy?

She’s doing very well, and I need to reiterate that there’s no cause for alarm. We just want to run a few tests, and since she’s in a medically-induced coma

"She's fine" and "We had to put her into a coma" are two statements that don't match up. That said, I'm also not a doctor.

I'm still not clear on everything—what's with the bird, for instance? And Harold Weinerstein... that name sounds quite familiar.

In all, pretty good. Just a few—

Oh, my ASCII Link Head is here!

..-'` ````---.
.' ___ .'````.'SS'.
/ ..-SS####'. /SSHH##'.
| .'SSSHHHH##|/#/#HH#H####'.
/ .'SSHHHHH####/||#/: \SHH#####\
/ /SSHHHHH#####/!||;`___|SSHH###\
-..__ /SSSHHH######. \SSSHH###\
`.'-.''--._SHHH#####.' '.SH####/
'. ``'- '/SH####`/_ `|H##/
| '. /SSHH###|`'==. .=='/\H|
| `'-.|SHHHH##/\__\/ /\//|~|/
| |S#|/HHH##/ |`` |
| \H' |H#.'` \ |
| ''`| - /
| /H\ .---- /
| |H#/'. ` /
| \| | '.. /
| /| ''..______.'
\ //\__ _..-. |
\ || ```` \ |_
\ _.-| \| |_
_\_.-' `'''''-. | `--.
''`` \ `''-; \ /
\ .-'| ````.' -
| .' `--'''''-.. |/
| .' \|

#85 · 2
Good news: This group is full of fantastic writers.
Bad news: I will never place top on the charts again.
Good news: It's worth it to read all the entries.
#86 · 3
I have arted again.
#87 · 3
· on The Many Graves of Gul Hamid Wan · >>Monokeras
"War. War never changes."

...or something like that.

Maybe I'm not really in the right frame of mind to review this. I'm tired, and don't really feel like focusing to the level this story probably deserves. To that end, I'll be aiming most of my critique at theme, because I think that's where this story really failed to grab me.

...Not that there weren't a few details that felt off too. Moondust? Vibrantly green wheat? "We know nothing about this guy, let me spend the next paragraph describing him in detail..." Eh. You do you, I guess.

Anyways. There's a lot of detail in this piece. Some bits show exceptional care - the inclusion of non-english characters, or the use of flavor words like wadi and qalat - but those details didn't really engage me. It goes all over the place, but it does keep coming back to Hamid. That's good, that's the right idea for a thematic story, but... eh. Again, failed to grab.

See, for me, a story needs progression. And I don't feel like the beginning of this story set up something to progress from very strongly. This story feels reader-focused; none of the living characters stick around long enough to change much, emotionally. The progression felt like it was trying to move the reader from... maybe curiosity, to... sadness? Empathy? I'm not sure.

Part of it was, I think, because the thematics here feels impersonal and unfocused, at least until the end, when they're pointedly summed up. I spent a lot of the story basically going 'alright, so?' and then I got a 'war is bad, mmkay?' and... it just didn't do much for me.

I dunno. This feels like one of those paint-drip things. There's a lot of stuff going on, and each small section is individually interesting, and if you analyze it mathematically there's some cool patterns there, but I'm just not the sort of person who looks at it and thinks 'wow that's neat', because I just don't engage on that level.

On the other hand, this isn't quite... atmospheric is maybe the wrong word, but yeah, it doesn't feel like it has a cohesive enough mood to be an 'emotion as theme' piece, and the message didn't really hit me, because I didn't feel like it had enough progression or nuance to it, I guess.

Anyways, write me off as 'that litfic hater' or 'someone who needs their hand held' if you will. It's legitimate; I may be outside your audience. But I mostly found this boring, despite the obvious care that went into it.

Hopefully this is at least a little useful to you. I apologize if I came across as negative; you've done some good work here. I just wasn't my cup of tea I guess.
#88 ·
· on The Many Graves of Gul Hamid Wan
It’s more a documentary than a fiction. I could quite easily be turned to one of those famous BBC or w/e else station one-hour long programs on a theme.
#89 · 1
· on Resonance
Need an editorial pass. Some constructions are awkward (e.g. “informed after the fact that…”)

I’m pretty positive you got your inspiration from this, which match both crystals’ shapes/sizes and the climatic conditions you’re mentioning.

So, to the story now. If I had to summarise it up, it’d be: underwhelming. You bring up several “mysteries” here: why did the drone crash? What are those crystals? But none of these are addressed. They’re just hanging here in the air, and instead you chose to focus on a “minor” twist of the plot (as far as one can call a lesbian relationship a “twist”), which, by the way, seems a diversion rather than anything else. That’s why I said the story was underwhelming: you promoted what should’ve remained a byway to the core of the story, and demoted the real plot into a mere setup. As such, you lowered the stakes so much that the story loses almost all interest.

So, interesting idea, botched execution.
#90 · 2
· on In Service to Her Highness · >>PaulAsaran
tl;dr: A charming story with an enjoyable central premise that is unfortunately dragged down by a misuse of its word count.

I like this story. It won me over rather quickly with its fun teen inception concept and a rather imminently likable main. The idea is smoothly presented and we are introduced quite easily to our main, his abilities, and his place in the world.

Of course, what this world is is a bit of a troubling question. You give very little information here, which kinda leaves me scratching my head. I'm not even sure if this is primary world or secondary world fantasy. It is not a super important question and you establish the key facts well enough (dream sharing being unusual), but it still leaves me floundering around a bit whenever I try to imagine the setting.

Also, the drip-drip-drip at the beginning is a bit of a problem. Simply put, the visual structure of it doesn't actually lend itself well to the auditory description you provide. That text reads quietly and quickly, where you have something much slower and more ponderous. Always keep that in mind with onomatopoeia.

Of course, the problem with this wonderful and evocative opening is that it doesn't work in a short story. With a short, this is way too much time invested into setup. It is cool, it is a good hook, and it utterly devours your word count, forcing you to compromise the actual narrative you were attempting to tell. Due to their space limited nature, a successful short story needs to be tight and focused.

As Cassius says, Lamar actually has a pretty breezy time. He comes in, hangs with her for one night and solves the issue. There is no real challenge for him, no real conflict, no real sense of stakes. Don't do that! Give Lamar some obstacles. The dream is tough symbolism, the princess is far less cooperative, there is a red herring option that makes him unsure, etc. Make Lamar work for his victory, give us the sense of a hard earned therapeutic battle for this princess' soul. There is nothing wrong with a character succeeding, but they can't succeed right away. They need to be challenged. They need to fail. Then they rise back up and rock it. Otherwise the story is just too flat and level.

So, that is a lot of words spent saying: cut straight to the queen or even the princess, backtrack us into a few necessary facts, and then make Lamar earn the W.

The foundations are great here (though I'm not quite sure I buy Lamar at 16 - he's a bit too mellow and reasonable), you just need to clean it up and refine it a bit for a truly excellent "psychological" adventure story.
#91 · 1
· on On the Job
tl;dr: A solid enough cyperpunk heist story that ends faltering due to the underdeveloped (but very central) character conflict.

I noticed a theme this round, and it was "stories that began too early." Not to say that this isn't a common theme, it just really jumped out at me this round because it feels like there are a lot of really clear cuts and new starting points. In this case, we should be starting on the idea of "Boy it sucks that I'm going to have to kill this guy, doesn't it?" That's where the plot really starts, and where a lot of the later focus is on.

The challenge here isn't in her completing her job (sort of emphasized by the fact that we don't even really know what it is until we are deep in there - another issue, I think, in that we don't have any understanding of the stakes until we are basically at the end of the story), it is her completing the job without killing this guy. And that's honestly a good concept for a competence porn story. You know Midge and her crew is going to dunk these fools, but can she do it without also having to ice this seemingly reasonable dude?

The problem, of course, is that the story doesn't really give us much reason to care about Exeter. I mean, he's not a blatantly racist douchebag, but otherwise we don't really know anything else about him. Making this more a character piece where we start immediately with him greeting her, then follow up with the two bonding more thoroughly on their way through the facility would do a much better of setting up the final conflict than the current structure does.

To that end, the reason he opposes her in the end is... problematic. While there is something to be said for having sympathies for people just doing their jobs, he is also defending a truly reprehensible thing without much apparent regret or concern. Like, it is well and good for you to be loyal to your employer, but not really having any issue with this anthro annihilating virus is a pretty good way to kinda go "well, maybe you aren't such a big loss."

So yeah. Again, I think the pieces for a solid story are here, but you need to refocus a little bit to really make them work. Hone in on that conflict and sell it!
#92 · 3
· on On the Job
First, the use of underlined sentences is awful.

I must disagree with Andrew entirely. This feels, as the first two reviewers said, like a patchwork of semi-futuristic but cliché and hackneyed concepts thrown together in a bowl and mixed hoping something palatable will come out. Bad luck, it didn’t. Matter of fact, I wasn't even 1000 words into this that I was already bored to death. To be honest, I ended up skimming over the rest of the story for words I didn't know (“indenture” was one of those), but that’s all the value I could get out of this story.

Sorry author, but I’m obviously light-years away from your intended audience.
#93 · 1
· on Variations on a Theme · >>MLPmatthewl419 >>Cassius >>GaPJaxie
Wait. Jules is a female name? Since when?

This fic has several shortcomings. The first one is a terrible hook. The beginning is long-winded, abuses of the 'to be' verb, self-contradictory (the guy trudges because of high gravity then suddenly rushes to the shelter, which is inconsistent), redundant (a small spacecraft of some variety lies half-sunk into the sand. […] Its landing gear has vanished almost entirely into the sand, and its nose has begun to bury itself as well.). In short, it desperately needs a complete makeover.

The “diary” form is a bold choice, but comes out as very very telly, and that is not alleviated in anyway by the beginning. Adding some actual dialogues between the girl and the AI would give the plot a little more pep. As such, it can be pretty boring at times.

I cringe each time I read pseudo-scientific jargon like spontaneous tachyon wave formation in high-quantum pressure energy states, where I suspect you mixed up high-quantum pressure with high-pressure quantum.

However, the pacing is quite good. The idea is not precisely groundbreaking, I faintly remember reading Sci-Fi novels on about the same theme (humans being mutated to adapt to their new environment, humans cycling between life and repeated deaths). But it’s decently executed, within the bounds of the reservations I listed before.

The last of which comes from the end. The story doesn’t reach a resolution. On the contrary: after the big reveal we’re left in conundrum, and that’s pretty unsatisfactory to me. I get you didn’t have any space left to expand, but this is quite a messy state of affairs to end with.

So, to wrap up, it’s balanced between good and bad, so I'd say pretty much average.
#94 · 1
· on Variations on a Theme · >>Cassius >>GaPJaxie >>GaPJaxie
A discussion with Andrew made me realised that this story was more flawed than I thought it was at first. However, I still enjoyed it deeply.

The first half is excellent; the tension, the pace, the character, all of these shows some great skills when it comes to writing. Despite its length, I didn't feel bored or the desire to quit my reading. In fact, I was deeply engaged with Jules and what was happening.

Unfortunately, the ending doesn't quite resolve the whole thing. It didn't bother as much as my esteemed colleague, but it still feels incomplete. I think the reason why I still find the whole story kinda satisfying is that, since we follow one character, once she has her answer on what is going on, we also have our answer. It's an incomplete one, which will probably bother many, but it is still an answer.

The story kinda reminded me of Darkover Landfall by Marion Zimmer Bradley (too lazy to detail why)

One of my main concern is the very beginning. Since we don't end with this astronaut, I don't know which role he's supposed to play in the story. He doesn't frame the main story, he doesn't comment on Jules' life, he's just... there. The only purpose it serves is to inform the reader, in retrospect, that Jules has in fact chosen to leave.

Whatever it is, and whatever the flaws, it is still a top contender in my slate. Good job, author.
#95 · 2
· on Variations on a Theme · >>Monokeras >>GaPJaxie
Ever since Psych? I don't know, that's the only other time I've seen Jules as a female name.
#96 ·
· on Variations on a Theme · >>GroaningGreyAgony >>GaPJaxie
I don’t know, American names are always weird. But in France Jules < Latin Julius, is definitely male.

Julie, Julia is the female counterpart.
#97 ·
· on Variations on a Theme · >>GaPJaxie

Just spell it “Jewels.” Problem solved.
#98 · 2
· on Variations on a Theme · >>GaPJaxie >>GaPJaxie
Hmm... Edge of Tomorrow/All You Need Is Kill, Re:Zero, and other such novels using the "Life Die Repeat" premise told in a diary format, or in this case, what I would call, "Video Game Audiologs." It's rather unfortunate that I'm familiar with these works, because it lessens the novelty of the premise to me. As a result, you're sort of trapped underneath the reputation of those stories, which is unfortunate, because they're generally good stories. The bar is higher for you.

This is another story with a bit of a delayed start. I agree with >>Monokeras, your opening needs work. I don't particularly mind your opening line as >>Monokeras did; it's atmospheric enough and gives a bit of flavor to the setting, but you take too long to establish what is going on in the scene (man running for survival), and ironically, despite the man moving with "great urgency", the scene itself is rather plodding. The perspective distance is a bit too far away for any sense of urgency to be imparted to the reader, and it takes several paragraphs before the reader is able to infer via context clues exactly what is happening, causing the opening to seem rather directionless for its initial read. The overall significance of what is happening in the scene is apparent on a second read, it is just rather dull the first time through. A couple of flavorful sentences could go a long way in this opening for the purposes of reader investment.

I'm not sure why you keep the narrative distance in that scene so far away. I understand the astronaut is not the protagonist, but giving him some character would make that opening scene a bit more dynamic.

If this were a movie, it would be classified as "Found Footage." By being in that genre, you're tipping your hand as to how this story is going to end up. I don't think that's a problem necessarily, but it does add an element of predictability and futility to the narrative. Again, it is somewhat unfortunate for me as a reader that I am pretty familiar with this sort of thing.

But I digress. I don't really subtract or add points based on originality or lack thereof, as I feel there's always some overlap in ideas, presentation, and conventions when it comes to writing.

I disagree with >>Monokeras, >>Fenton, and Lead Missionary of the Church of Genre Writing, AndrewRogue in regards to your ending. There are numerous hints and previous anecdotes established in the story to suggest that everyone, with exception of the guy Ryan, eventually mutated (or hallucinated that they did) into a part of the natural environment after a sufficient exposure to the outside world. Judging by the fact that the protagonist is no longer present in the beginning, and the story ends on the protagonist weighing her options, it is apparent (to me at least) what choice she made, and what happened to her.

I think it's a good note to end on. And of course, what I think is law, and the dissenters shall be executed posthaste.

Faint praise aside, I will say that I don't think you chose the right format to tell this story. As opposed to everyone else's reaction who seemed to be rather engaged by events, I found this story to be unrelentingly dull. Not because the plot itself is uninteresting, but that it's conveyed in such a boring way. Part of it I think is the fault of a lack of real emotional range coming from our protagonist. Jules isn't really given much space to emote, mainly just to plainly recount events as they occurred. She never really comes off that business-like tone of bored recounting of the day's minutia. It gives off the impression of being told a story about a character giving the summary of interesting story. You get the idea that you'd just rather see the more interesting story than have it recounted to you.

Of course part of this is just the medium you used to convey this, but there is a real missed opportunity to have Jules interact with the audience, get more emotional, frustrated, etc. I mean she literally gets her face mauled by a space crab and aside from a few "Fucks", it's described the same way and the same amount of passion as filing paperwork at the office. That's an exaggeration, but there's a certain sense I get that all the emotions in the scenes I'm supposed to be witnessing are muted and overly formalized. Jules has a personality, it's just very subdued, and despite having read around 7000 words of her narrative, I don't feel like I really know who she is as a person.

Even the way she admits to trying to have an AI help her masturbate comes across as oddly dignified and reserved.

She's very underwritten, I feel. Additionally, her remarks about her breasts, while also serving as foreshadowing to some extent (a weird similarity this story shares with I Want You to Touch Me, although in this story her breasts disappear as opposed to get bigger), and other narrative indicators of that are intended to cue the reader in to the fact she is female always rubbed me as "Man Not Quite Understanding How to Write Woman." This is a vague point of criticism, I know, but Jules is very androgynous in how she is portrayed throughout the story (so much so that she could easily be male and nothing would change; very progressive), and I feel the points you attempt to establish her femininity falter.

The one line about sexism in Roadster is really out of place.

What I find strange, or perplexing, or whatever is that I don't find the story on paper to be boring. I'm sure if you handed me the outline of this story, I would be like, "Hey, this has been done before, but you're playing with some interesting ideas here." I found myself more interested in the "plot" of the story than actually reading it. Reading this the first time through, I was very bored. Reading it the second time for this review, for the purposes of making sure I had a grasp of what was going on and finding evidence to combat the evil triumvirate of Fenton, Monokeras, and of course, AllFather of the Genre Writing, AndrewRogue, along with their wrong opinions, I actually found myself remarking:

"Hmm, that's a cool idea. Hmm that's a neat concept. Hmmm, I like how he keeps things vague. Etc"

It's a shame to me that my interest in the ideas behind the story can't be reflected in my enjoyment of how it's conveyed.

But you're not at on my slate, so you also don't need to worry.
#99 ·
· on Be As Gay As You Want
I came away from all of this with just one thought: "What was the point of all that?"

I get it, the material is supposed to be gutsy and point things out and maybe offend a right wing nutbar or two. But... is it anything beyond that? I'm not seeing a cohesive plot from beginning to end, just a bunch of seemingly random short stories bound together by a taste for the so-called 'not normal'. Don't get me wrong, each individual section is good by itself as a thought piece, but only the opening scene really worked to me because it was the only one with a clear story from beginning to end.

All of that said, I love your sense of humor, author.
#100 · 3
Pah-pa-rah, pah-pa-rah

This is the radio Writeoff announcement. You know the drill, Discord server, podcasters without any knowledge on litterature and writing talk about stories and pretend they know their stuff.
There is also a poll, that you can find here:

The date? This Saturday, the 10th. The hour? 11 am PST, 20pm UTC+1, 19pm UTC. The speakers? Me and Andrew, and anyone willing to join.