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Under the Surface · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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#101 ·
· on Second Chance
tl;dr: A story that only covers the first third of the hero's journey in fairly direct terms, leading to a rather unsatisfying conclusion.

Its worth noting, as I go into this review, that I use this particular arc a decent amount myself: answering the call to adventure. Which can be a satisfying story arc, but for that to happen, answering the call needs to encapsulate more than literally just going "I wanna answer the adventure call." It needs to be them actually doing something heroic or noteworthy. They must rise to the occasion.

Here... our hero really doesn't. There's no actual challenge for them to overcome, just a need to pursue the weird, and ultimately, that doesn't feel like a particularly strong arc. We don't really have a good sense that their life is so miserable or dull that they need this, either, so it doesn't feel like a particular triumph for the main either.

This is going into super nitpicky territory, but that "Why do you fight for it now?" really bugs me. Like a lot of times it is used, it is because the situation is rather different now. A bell ringing in a subway is a fairly mild thing compared to this strange woman showing up, talking shit, trying to do things, etc. If you really want this to be a comparison, the other incident and this incident need to have similar weight.

The idea presented here CAN work. You just need to add real weight and tension to it. Give the character a real reason to be afraid of accepting the call and a real reason to need to do it. That'll create a satisfying arc that will let you get away with leaving the story off at that point.
#102 · 2
· on Resonance
tl;dr: A competently written collection of ideas that fails to really gel into a singular cohesive story.

A piece of advice I once picked up from Writing Excuses is that you should generally attempt to resolve your points in reverse of the order they started. If you open with a big conflict, you should basically end with that big conflict, and resolve smaller plot points within that space. This helps create satisfying arcs and resolution patterns.

I bring this up because I find the biggest issue in this story is that it isn't structured in a way to really give us satisfying reveals. It ends on character drama, but that character drama doesn't really matter until our two hormone inflamed characters suddenly need to have a character moment. As a result, it ends up feeling both unearned and honestly fairly unengaging. For satisfactory results, a story must promise its reader things and deliver on them.

If the romance angle is one you want to take, then you need pretty much open on it to establish that this is going to be a character relationship story with the backdrop of a sci-fi exploration story. Instead, you set us up to expect a sci-fi exploration story and then don't really deliver on that. So, not only do we feel cheated out of the story we were expecting, but we also end up not really caring about the romance because it largely comes out of nowhere.

I'm also find it a little odd that some of the mysteries here are really weird. Like why the satellite crashed sems to still be in the open. Also the question of why the two women got super horny and wanted to fuck while the guys got angry and had to fight. Your specification with the released chemicals implies that it was two dramatically different effects which is... convenient?

A tact I might suggest for the story is establish a bit of will they/won't they for our main two girls at the beginning that is eating at them, then have their reaction to the phenomenon ALSO be violent. Now that is a space for some getting to know each and tension. Whoah, we nearly killed each other. How about that? That sets up a stronger arc and conflict going into the climax while still maintaining the heart of what you want to tell, I think.

You definitely have all the pieces in place. You just need to shuffle them about a bit.
#103 · 1
· on Turn of the Red Coat · >>GroaningGreyAgony
This and that.
I love foxes 🦊❤️
#104 · 3
· on ASCII of a Wave
Reading through this the first time, I had trouble keeping track of who was saying what. I thought Bea was the dentist and Colette was the trophy wife. There is a fair amount of naked dialogue lines in this story that just go on for too long without reestablishing who is speaking that it becomes a bit of a chore to read. Or, the dialogue is interrupted by the narrative, and the dialogue continues without telling the reader who starts the conversation. You have to stop, go back, figure out who had the first line, and then trek your way back to where you were originally before you got lost.

The lack of speech and actions tags become a further problem when it comes to understanding Bea and differentiating her from Colette. When they're speaking, it's hard to tell the two apart. For a character piece involving primarily only two characters, Bea's personality is a bit hard to pin down. Colette we understand because he have her inner narrative to go off of, but Bea is fairly nondescript in how she emotes aside from some brief hints of flavor (she's a party girl, concerned with her appearance, angry[?]).

The presentation of information is a bit unintuitive. Some important information that should be shown instead of told (e.g. Harvey Weinstein's Threatening E-mails, Colette Missing Bea for Days, the call from the hospital, etc) really feels like abridged versions of what should be entire scenes that are skipped over. Some lines are hard to make sense of given their context (who the hell is Nancy?). Elements of the metaphors don't match all cases of the situation.

Why is Harvey Weinstein in this story?

Why is Harvey Weinstein in this story?

Why is Harvey Weinstein in this story?

Why is Harvey Weinstein in this story?

Why is Harvey Weinstein in this story?

Why is Harvey Weinstein in this story?

Why is Harvey Weinstein in this story?

I've typed this out manually seven times now. I did not use CTRL-C + CTRL-V. This is how serious I am about this question. I have no clue why you decided to include a Harvey Weinstein stand-in for this story, but it is horribly distracting to the overall piece and really has no business being there.

For the record, I want to note that I agree with >>Dubs_Rewatcher, and certainly being in a medically induced coma is certainly a cause for fucking alarm. It is not a procedure that is undergone lightly, and it's usually performed to protect people who are in imminent danger of suffering permanent brain damage. If I was Colette in this situation, I would sue the hell out of the hospital.

Speaking of, as a guy who comes from a family of tort litigators, the sub-plot involving Not-Harvey Weinstein, along with the car accident subplot, is pretty patently ridiculous even with a generous benefit of the doubt. I get the impression you don't really know that much about the ins and outs of how insurance works.

Okay, first, let's get the easier one out of the way: the car accident. Your car insurance is not your medical insurance. For the purposes of your medical insurance, it doesn't matter what degree you are personally culpable for the damage inflicted to your body or if you were at fault for the accident. This has nothing to do with your medical coverage your medical insurance provides when you go to the hospital. Whether or not Bea was eating at the wheel has absolutely jack of shit to do with the amount of coverage her medical will provide.

Granted, it could affect whether or not her car insurance fronts the bill for the accident. If you're in a no-fault state like I am, it wouldn't matter, each driver would collect from their own insurer regardless of who caused the accident. However, California is an at-fault state, so it is entirely possible that Bea's insurance premium would see a substantial hike.

But nothing more than that.

Given that Colette appears to be some sort of dental surgeon, whose median salary is around $160,000, and a particularly good one that services high profile clientele, she could easily be making over $200,000 dollars, it's fairly strange that she wouldn't have an outstanding insurance policies for both vehicle and medical that Bea would be covered under. The narrative says she's "middle class", but I find that hard to believe, assuming Bea makes any kind of wage (which again, she appears to given the fact she tends bar for higher class clientes, like Colette).

Given that knowledge, let's get into the more complicated issue of the Not-Weinstein subplot, which with some mental gymnastics, can appear to be more plausible, but really wouldn't happen in the way the story describes, nor would it really be anything resembling a death blow to Colette.

Let's grant a series of very generous assumptions to the author:

-Not-Weinstein's lawsuit can and will go to court, simply because he has the resources and energy to dress up what is essentially a completely frivolous lawsuit.

-Colette's counsel cannot because of this file to dismiss with prejudice or ask the judge for summary judgement

-For whatever reason, Colette's malpractice insurance wouldn't pay for any of her attorney's fees or the damages that Weinstein is incurring (completely implausible, but let's just grant that assumption for now).

-Colette's counsel is so incompetent that he will somehow lose this case or for whatever reason since Colette's lawyer is not mentioned, she has done the extremely stupid move of trying to represent herself.

Not-Weinstein has damages that are so small that the amount of money Colette would end up owing would probably not even be 10 grand. Not-Weinstein is upset over the aesthetics of his teeth. In terms of punitive damages, that's jack shit.

Let's snap back to reality and abandon all of those very generous assumptions. In a world where malpractice insurance exists and actually does something, Not-Weinstein's plan could be to bully the insurer to get money out of them via a settlement (which, although far-fetched, could work), but it certainly wouldn't affect Colette in the manner the story suggests it would. The insurance would pay her for attorney's fees and potential damages, and she's probably going to see a spike in her premium, which would be an inconvenience since malpractice insurance can get up to 34,000 a year, but she certainly wouldn't be bleeding money through attorney's fees, because she wouldn't be paying them herself.

The problem with this is, Not-Weinstein is trying to bully an insurance company at this point, and it's highly likely that he would get swept in court, beaten down with having to shell out for the defense's attorney's fees, and further humiliated with a fines related to frivolous litigation—ironically awarding Colette damages. See the thing about people like the real life Weinstein and Donald Trump is that often don't actually go to trial or file an actual lawsuit. They'll hoop and holler and threaten and cajole, but when it comes right down to it, they usually won't file over stupid bullshit like this. Because it costs a ton of money to actually start a lawsuit as a plaintiff, and you risk losing even more.

Now, let's grant a different set of assumptions. Just for the fun of things, let's assume that Colette actually did fuck up Not-Weinstein's mouth, causing him substantial pain, reduced ability to eat and conduct his everyday activities, and essentially turned his gum-line into a frankenstein experiment, due to massive negligence in her standard of care.

In a realistic scenario, this would have a decent affect on Colette's livelihood. Her malpractice insurance still would certainly cover this. That's what it's there for. But her premium is gonna blow up. Her practice might fire her. Her professional reputation is gonna be stained, and she might have a hard time finding work. But even then, she's not gonna have her house repossessed or lose her car or anything crazy like that.

Additionally the timeline is hyper accelerated. What happens in a month would probably take at least the better half of a year, if not longer. But anyways.

Minutia about the plot aside, this story is has a mystery to it:

Is Colette on drugs or is she really have fugues like Walter White? Has the stress caused her to go crazy, or is she back on the horse?

It's drugs. She's on drugs. The oceans is drugs. You're drugs. We're all drugs. Question: Drugs? Answer: Drugs. The metaphor? Drugs.

This is a story about being beat down by society and how we seek to escape through drugs and self-harm, despite the fact we know that it'll hurt us. Colette's story is a spiral of self-destruction. Much like the bird runs itself into the window everyday and never learning, Colette is doomed to a cycle of getting high (i.e. doing something that hurts her despite the fact she knows it will) until she dies. The end. Very uplifting.

>>Monokeras once told me that the idea that the bird is a metaphor for Colette doesn't make any sense because she doesn't shit on the window like the bird. I think for the purposes of making this metaphor clearer, you're going to have to add a scene where Colette shits on the window, because obviously the symbolism is too dense for people to recognize the parallelism. This is sarcasm by the way if you can't tell, please don't actually add a scene involving Colette shitting on the window.

I admire this story for what's its trying to do. I like depressing stories about failure and people failing and not succeeding, which is failure or being unable to overcome obstacles, which is also failure. The issues with the presentation and implausibility of some of the finer details, I thought this was generally a decent character study. Some things, like who the fuck is Nancy, or some actions like, why the fuck is Bea so angry in this scene, don't realize crystallize very well to the reader, making it seem more confusing than it already is, but I can back the overall shape the story ended up in.

3rd place on my slate. Bronze medal. Woohoo. Break out the fucking kazoos, because you are a winner my friend.
#105 · 3
· on Turn of the Red Coat · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Now this was a pleasant read. I was a little surprised when the story started off about chickens and dogs and foxes – which is funny, considering being trapped on an island on an alien planet or screaming about vampires didn't make me blink – but it turned out as something bittersweet and thoroughly enjoyable. This could be expanded into a much bigger story and I'm sure that, in capable hands, it would be wonderful. It's not at the top of my slate, but it's close.

Well done, author.
#106 ·
· on Second Chance
"Oh, hey, random crazy lady. Let me tell you about this weird and strangely personal moment in my life because you asked me out of the blue."

Not buying it.

Ignoring the far too brief introduction, this was an interesting story. It's got elements of the Weird that I love in stories, and I am strongly reminded of a certain story. I can't recall the name, with is frustrating, but it started with someone discovering a road that shouldn't exist, traveling down it, and discovering a ghost town. It didn't end well. For anyone.

I feel the whole thing is just a little too vague. There's so much missing, and while I'm normally okay with that for stories like these, it feels as if you went a little too far with it.

Not a bad story, but I agree with a lot of the other reviewers: it feels a little too much like a small piece of a much bigger tale.
#107 · 1
· on In Service to Her Highness · >>PaulAsaran
Hmm hmm.

First off, cut the bit with Thomas, it's not doing much for your story. Sure, it establishes a bit of Lamar's powers, but... you could do that just as easily in Garnet's dream sequence. I think you'd be better off devoting the beginning of your story to Kettle and Lamar's relationship, re-enforce the 'I have a mother' bit, so it comes across as more poignant. Alternately, bring up some sort of plot element that comes back later... have Garnet meet Thomas or something? Give Lamar some regrets that he can resolve in the latter half? As it is now, it's like it's own little open-and-close story before the real story starts, and it's not doing much for you.

Secondly, the confrontation between Lamar and the Queen at the end, which is the crunch point of the story, feels too straightforwards to me. Lamar goes in, says his piece, everything ends happily. Nice in principle, but the truth is, once Lamar gets over his struggle to speak, there's no real tension there. Is the Queen going to kill him? No. Is she going to reject his advice? No.

Thirdly... well, it's a small thing, but Kettle's office and the guard's guns felt somewhat like an anachronism in a country with an all-powerful Queen. On the one hand, magic + orphanage suggest classic 'high fantasy', but then there are hints that this is more modern day. I'd suggest stepping up the 'modern day' stuff just a touch at the beginning, to solidify the surrounding world a bit; it might still clash, but it'll feel more 'normal'? Eh, this wasn't really a big deal, I guess. You could also use a different name for the Queen that sounds more modern, but I'm not sure what I good one would be.

Other than that, I liked this one a lot. interesting characterization, interesting conceit, competent execution. Nice work!
#108 · 1
· on Variations on a Theme · >>GaPJaxie
first two sentences are excellent. nice and punchy.

the next three paragraphs ruin that with purple prose. yes, I already imagined how awkward and bulky that suit must be from the opening paragraph alone. yes, I know what a beach looks like. this is killing that initial sense of wonder and mystery. it's not until the 2 short paragraphs after that where I get any new information, but already I feel at a disconnect. I don't know this man and I don't know his goal.

When he gets to the shelter and the spaceship, my first instinct was that he was returning to them. then a little later wondered if I was wrong, and he had just discovered them. I'm still not entirely sure. I could probably figure it out, if I hadn't stopped caring about the man already. He's just doing stuff, whatever.

There's something about how these descriptions are written, and I don't even know the correct technical term for it. "There is an prefabricated shelter..." and "He is in a living room... On each wall there is a walkway... The fifth is blocked by a locked door. There are signs of damage to the lock." There's something so passive and indifferent to it that it's. Umm...

I feel like I'm reading a text adventure game, or a MUCK. One that I don't get to play. I'm trying to avoid spoilers but I noticed some videogame comparison in Cassius's review; I don't know how close I am to the mark here, but even if this is intentional it's still offputting to me.

(peeking a little further) Audio logs lying around? Now it's definitely a videogame.

And that's as far as I got! Apparently the scenery is the main character here.
#109 ·
· on Dies Iræ · >>Monokeras
You're tipping your hand too soon with the opening; by introducing the mood from the end of the story at the start, you loose a lot of progression. I already knew how this would end after the fainting incident, so I really found it hard to engage with this.

Also, Ben. Ben seems like he's going to be a big part of the story after he gives the MC the tailor's address, but then he just vanishes? That's no good.

The last part has a lot more summary, and feels a lot faster-paced than the opening. Right after he draws a conclusion between the crimes and the jacket, the story just kinda zips along to the ending, without really pausing or slowing down.

Other than that... this is a pretty straightforwards story. I'd like to see more structure surrounding the purchase of the jacket, a few more hints and foreshadowing, maybe some sort of vague deal the MC agrees to hesitantly, so it seems like he knows what he's getting into a bit more? This sort of tragedy is often predicated on the idea that MC's own flaws have brought about his downfall. Here, instead, it's mostly ignorance, which isn't very satisfying.

Still, I enjoyed this for the most part. Good work, even if the concept is an old one.

Still, I did enjoy this.
#110 ·
· on The Many Graves of Gul Hamid Wan
This hook has already lost me by going so in detail about Gul Hamid Wan, a man we don't know anything about, and whom this story says it will not be about. Is he the descendant of Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film?

I notice others comparing it to documentaries or journalism. Okay, if this weren't a fiction contest, I might care about this John Doe's story. Well, maybe not even then. The opening feels like it's trying to be clever instead of telling me why I should really care about this particular individual.
#111 ·
· on ASCII of a Wave
needs more ASCII.

for an opening hook, it seems like slice-of-life intensifies. I guess it's okay. It doesn't do anything to offend or bore me, but it doesn't quite pop in my mind either.

If I'm reading the clues correctly, I would say this actually needs a little more scenery. Find a unique way to describe the beach's waves, just enough emphasis, and it'll be stuck in the back of my mind as I read on. Then it'll resonate whenever you need to bring it back up as a symbolic metaphor (of whatever it is). I know that Colette likes the waves and dreams about them, because she says so, but let the audience feel a little bit of that attraction too and they'll be pulled into her world.
#112 ·
· on Semper Fortis · >>georg
I'm okay with the unfamiliar military jargon at first, understanding that it's for flavor, and trusting that the story will make the scenario clear in other ways.

Well, you gotta do that last part. It's giving smaller puzzle pieces, such as the characters and tech, but it's too much work to assemble them all together into a big picture. Give me the outer frame, at least.

At the second mention of "vampire", my mind already loses that initial trust, and I feel like I have no idea when or where this is taking place. the past? the future? fantasy world?

en route to their dangerous mission.

What mission? I get that in a story like this you might want to keep it hidden from the audience at first to build suspense, but in this case it feels a lot like the author is just glossing over it. Yeah, they're on some mission. You don't need to worry about it. I don't need ALL the details and exposition, but you can't mention something like this without at least some hint.

His age did not affect the speed at which his fingers danced over the controls before the roar of the departing missile had died away, priming a second shot in case the first one missed. Launching without confirmation was far from normal Navy procedure, but Grayson was operating about as far away from the staff pukes who had written the manual as was earthly possible, and he would rather waste a missile on a false contact than have some Chinese fighter jockey paint a US flag on the side of his jet.

ack, really clumsy sentences. trying to communicate too many ideas at the same time.
#113 · 2
· on Turn of the Red Coat · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Hey, this one's great! Is BaalBunny in this contest? This feels like his work.

Really, I have no criticism, except that I'd love to see more.

Thanks for writing!
#114 ·
· on Dies Iræ · >>Monokeras
This is the kind of introduction where something shocking and exciting happens! ...... later on. Then we rewind to the beginning and we'll catch up to the opening scene at the end.

I've seen this a lot, especially in TV shows, but also some books and movies (both versions of Fight Club begin the same way). I don't even know the name for this (can you tell I don't browse TV Tropes?) but I've seen it used both well and poorly. The great ones can use it to twist your expectations, you're constantly thinking about that mystery, yet when it finally comes full circle it's not quite what you assumed it would be. The crappy stories just seem to use it as a desperate teaser, like pleeeease audience, we promise this will be fun later! Don't change the channel!!! and then you have to put up with the real beginning of the story which turns out to be extremely dull.

Anyway, the point here is that I can't tell if this is justified, here in this fic, without reading the whole story. Which I said I wouldn't do. So without knowing the full context, I guess I'll admit it's pretty good. Both the scary suspense teaser, and the guy who knows the rich CEO, they're both interesting enough to stand on their own. Maybe it's a cheap shot to do it this way, but it does work as a hook, and that's all I said I would focus on.
#115 · 1
· on Foxes Have Holes and Birds Have Nests · >>AndrewRogue
Just a few paragraphs in and already I can tell this is a solid opening. There's a mysterious sci-fi thing where I don't exactly know what is going on, but I do know how this character feels about it, and how that character feels about it. And some little details like the shock chip telling me that this isn't entirely consensual, but the lawyer part suggesting there might be a way out of this. This is the stuff I care about when I'm thrown into a strange new world.

I don't need to say more. I really want to read the rest of this now.
#116 · 1
· on In Service to Her Highness · >>PaulAsaran
This one's hard to judge by the opening alone. It's making me confused... but with the horror vibes I'm getting, that may be the intended effect. The surreal scene is different and strange enough that I'm still curious to read more. So I guess that's a thumbs up for the hook doing its job.

Thomas’s body began to go limp. A little at a time, he relaxed. His eyes started to close.

They opened again, and he was staring at his hand atop a blue pillow.

This part tripped me up. It made me think the POV had jumped over to Thomas (cool transition!), but it's actually still Lamar.
#117 · 3
· on I Want You to Touch Me
I like the opening. It's pretty clear what's happening, how the narrator feels, and there's some tension in the awkward "date" to wonder what happens next.

I'm running out of ways to say why good hooks are good.
#118 · 3
· on Turn of the Red Coat · >>GroaningGreyAgony
This is cute.

I kinda wish it emphasized the chickens having their own unique culture, like in Watership Down.... well maybe that's unfair and I'm just reading too much of my personal preference into this. Though I'll admit, at first I wasn't entirely sure if this was in the tone of a children's storybook, or an Aesop Fable, or whatever. So maybe the Watership Down comparison isn't entirely baseless?

I'll read the full thing later.
#119 ·
· on In Service to Her Highness · >>PaulAsaran
This is a strong entry, but it does seem to let itself down as the story continues. As others have mentioned, the simplicity of the conflict and the lack of an antagonistic force betray the premise.

Overall the story needs a couple more editing passes—not only for the typos here and there, but also because it's in dire need of a trim. There's a fair amount of repeating yourself and trying to be a little too verbose with some of the descriptions. In my experience, it's when too much effort is poured into sounding cool and/or unique that the typos, hidden pov changes, and narration confusion featured above end up happening. It's nice to see it from the outside for once!

Another complaint I have is that when Lamar revealed himself to be 15, I was shocked. I was thinking late twenties at the youngest. I don't think I've ever seen such professionalism from a 15 year old boy. The terminology he uses and the manner in which he stays on task is astounding. The only explanation I could see for this would be that he had a mentor of some kind, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

The highlight of the story for me is the dinner scene. Lamar overcomes Garnet's brashness with ease, but it makes sense here, because presumably he spent his whole life with children of multiple ages—so it's not weird that he's a natural at making friends with kids. I only wish the narration wasn't so cocksure about it.

Great work and good luck!
#120 ·
· on I Want You to Touch Me
I agree with the all the above points (positive and negative) except one: I don't think it's fair to say that Lynn is a terrible person. She sure looks that way until she starts going nutso, but this just reveals that everything after her fated handshake with the old lady hasn't truly been her—she's being slowly turned into a demon whose regular values are slowly being replaced by an insatiable libido. Before then, she's just a girl with a crush on a boy who's dating someone else. Yeah, that makes people think shitty things sometimes, but I don't think it destroys their entire likability.

But that leads me to something that really miffed me about this story: Lynn's punishment doesn't fit the crime. The old lady was super vague about what she would do to her, and even in the parts she was specific about (e.g., taking Jen out of the picture), Lynn doesn't for a second believe her. No part of her internal monologue hears the old lady's oddly informed rant and then says "sure, I am going to shake this woman's hand, even if something awful happens to Jen, which it won't, haha, but hopefully it does". She explicitly says she'll just shake her hand to get the lady to fuck off. She never agreed to all this horrible stuff happening those around her, so it's not really fair when the horrible stuff starts to happen to her, too. It's almost like she's been turned into a scapegoat to shame people who get upset at not getting what they want—a frankly very human reaction if you ask me.

But this was still a very fun read! It flowed remarkably well, and the characters played off each other wonderfully, at least until things started going tits-up. Lynn's internal monologue, too, added a nice pinch of spice to the story.

Oh, and one more thing:

Jake’s apartment is on the fifth floor, and there’s only one stairwell leading to the exit.

I hope after the events of this story that they moved out of that death trap of an apartment building.
#121 ·
· on The Many Graves of Gul Hamid Wan
Part of what makes a story stand out to me is the author's ability to take a concept I'm already familiar with and put into a new perspective. I've read enough of our mystery author's other works on the same topic to understand exactly where this was going, yet the clever twist in how the topic was presented made it a very compelling read. Great stuff!
#122 · 1
· on Turn of the Red Coat · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Writer, you've totally nailed the old-school children's-fable vibe. I can feel there's a ton of potential here for a larger story, but as it is I think it's still a stellar read. Put a smile on my face, anyway!
#123 ·
· on In Service to Her Highness · >>PaulAsaran
The way the kid was ignoring him, I thought he himself might have been a ghost at first. Still, two days stuck in a flooded building with a dead parent? No wonder the kid has issues.

I get a vibe that the setting is modern, but clearly there's magic, or at least esp afoot. But whatever it is seems to be normal enough.

Good descriptions of body language, showing the headmistress's nervousness.

Hmm, palace guards and now a queen. More anachronistic than I was getting earlier; I'm having trouble picturing the setting.

He's fifteen? I wouldn't have guessed.

Ah, so the dream thing doesn't seem to be a common ability.

I didn't follow the therapist logic, though, as to why he's not worried.

A few mechanical errors, but nothing excessive for a writeoff entry.

Some nice interactions with the princess; I like how he has to use his skills to win her over. That said, it's still relatively quick. It would've been nice for there to have been some more complications.

Likewise with the dream sequence. It's an interesting dream, and it all fits together, but it only takes the one. Given the writeoff word limit, this is largely forgivable.

It seemed solid overall, my main thought would be to throw more obstacles in his way to overcome.
#124 · 1
· on The Many Graves of Gul Hamid Wan
Weighty subject, evocative prose.

One thing I noticed on my read; after it's said that the fellow's name is basically 'John Doe' it took me a while to be certain if the scenes were all of the same guy, or if this fellow was a representation for all suicide bombers, as they were both reasonably plausible explanations. The balance eventually tipped, but it did introduce some uncertainty for a time.
#125 ·
· on Semper Fortis · >>georg
My stream of thought reactions, for the most part.

It took me several beats to realize that they were probably not talking about a literal vampire. My first reaction was 'hey wait, I thought vampires don't like water'.

As much as I like the video game reflexes bit, I'd think countermeasures would be automated once enabled.

It seems like a bit of a stretch for a virus to remain in the system for that long. I suppose it gives a reason for the defenses not to be automated, though.

San Diego is radioactive ruins? Just what kind of war is this?

Okay, so they're not just playing dumb and sailing towards a sub for the hell of it. It would have been nice to have known their mission sooner, though.

Given how hot this war is, I'm very surprised by the level of restraint they're showing by asking the trawler to be boarded.

Ah. So much for the boarding.

Hmm, the helo comes back, but no word on if it succeeded or not. Would've been nice to have some closure there.
#126 ·
· on Semper Fortis · >>georg
tl;dr: A competent enough parody(?) action story that ends up being surprisingly hard to penetrate due to a very cinematic writing style and dense lingo.

Hoo. This one was a tough read. Cinematic style works in narrative form sometimes, but you have to keep in mind the limitations of text. For example, introducing multiple characters in the middle of an action scene is generally not going to stick effectively because of the way text frames them. You can do that in a visual arena where you'll have particularly distinct elements to the characters (costuming, appearance, etc), but in text? Eesh it is hard to track them, especially when you use different tags for them.

Similarly speaking, the story ends up being pretty hard to read because of the amount of jargon being thrown around.

There are definitely some amusing elements and funny world concepts (at least I assume they're supposed to be funny), but the effort required to dig them out is pretty above and beyond what I'd expect for this sort of story, again because of the density of information as presented. This really is a super cinematic story, but I for once unfortunately mean that in a negative way. Really stop and consider whether certain things which work well in cinema are really going to carry effectively in narrative!

This would be a really solid little action comedy with some cleanup.
#127 · 1
· on Turn of the Red Coat · >>Cassius >>GroaningGreyAgony
tl;dr: Two solid ideas for stories that both lack meat.

I talked about this on the podcast, but when you create a story you need to consider what "promises" you are making to your reader. Creating a satisfactory narrative is about setting those promises up on delivering on them. Why do I bring that up? Because this story doesn't really succeed at that.

The first scene sets this up to be a story about this farm adapting to their newly inherited fox cub, but instead of delivering on that, the second scene instead pivots to be about the fox deciding whether she really belongs on the farm. The distinction is a small but critical one, as it means the first scene does not really follow into the second scene and they can't act to support each other, instead ending up as, effectively, two linked minifics about different things: the fox being kept, the fox deciding what to do.

If you really look at the second scene, it more or less covers all the critical information within its own text. The first scene adds detail, but none of that detail is really necessary to understanding the narrative.

The other problem is that both scenes really lack conflict. This is not to say the conflict doesn't exist, but that it is something that is essentially dealt with without challenge. The objection to the fox cub is solved by virtue of the dog pulling rank, then the actions she takes in her scene are both easy and normal for her. While success and competence porn can be fun, it is important to keep in mind that what readers really love is to see characters succeed against real challenges. A character that wins after getting knocked down a time or two is much more engaging and exciting.

So yeah. You have the framework for two cool stories here (a fox being raised on the farm or the fox deciding if she belongs on the farm). I think you should pick one of those stories and really lean into it. Make the characters face some tough challenges and really earn their endings.
#128 · 2
· on Dies Iræ · >>Monokeras
tl;dr: A very classic Twilight Zone style tale that loses a chunk of its impact by not starting or ending in the right place.

While the opening to this story is relatively exciting and does an excellent job of working as a hook, I think this story misses out on some really killer impact by positioning its big emotions around the repayment to the suit maker. This is a rather human tale of callous greed. The protagonist doesn't really learn anything and his karmic punishment... isn't really that karmic. The devil collecting his dues and all, but the dues come long after he's had great happiness despite the horrible things he's done. It ends up not being overly satisfying.

I feel you'd get a little more impact out of ending on one of the hammers. Let him finish by grappling with the horror of what he's done when he discovers the cost of his money, or let him live his life in terror after he loses the jacket, never knowing if it'll be his life that's claimed for cash next. And really lean into the vileness of this guy. I think the story kinda downplays what a monster he is. Lean into that, show us what a fall really looks like. Make us hate this guy, because he deserves it.
#129 · 1
· on Dies Iræ
Good luck to the finalists, and thanks to all for the feedback!

>>Miller Minus

Dies Iræ

This was inspired by a Dino Buzzati’s short story called La giacca stregata, the bewitched jacket, which I expanded quite a lot.

It’s always difficult for me to get all my ducks in a row for a long story because I can hardly enjoy writing stretches longer than half an hour during week-ends, due to family chores and stuff. So it makes for a rather disjointed process of writing, which leads to somewhat unsatisfactory results.

But I’m glad it outwitted Andrew’s guessing and that most of you loved it. Thanks guys! ❤️

See you in 6 weeks!
#130 · 2
· on Be As Gay As You Want
There's a lot of great humor here, and some of the tiny details – Julie nearly squeezing the air out of the bag of M&Ms – are just perfect. The writing and the voices are spot on. Terence's scene felt a little too pat, like, "Here's the moral point I'm making, and I'm going to punch you in the face with it until you get it," but that was the only real misfire of the bunch.

Seeing this not make the finals hurts, but I also have to agree with some of the other commenters who feel there's nothing really tying these scenes together except their theme. Vignettes are good, but without some overriding sense of progression I'm not sure they tell a complete story. I'm trying to be more forgiving lately with what I consider a 'complete' story, but even with the relaxed standards I'm trying to enforce this still seems a bit disconnected.

Still, I wish it'd made the finals on the strength of the writing alone. Sorry, Dubs.
#131 · 4
· on Foxes Have Holes and Birds Have Nests · >>Baal Bunny >>Cassius >>AndrewRogue
This one's a challenge for me. I love the concept and the situation we're put in. The opening scene was a tad rough, but very quickly we get into a smooth, believable explanation for what's going on, and the world that's presented is quite compelling and engaging. I want to know more about this place, even as the obvious conflict is constructed for the poor souls selected for transitioning. I like the subtle humor of having Remington being one of the corporate sponsors for wildlife selection.

Lately I've been trying to get away from a rather strict idea of what a proper story consists of – a protagonist, a conflict, and a moral choice by the protagonist that results in victory or defeat. Plenty of stories use innovative formats that don't incorporate some or any of those pieces.

But this story comes across as a traditional narrative. We have a character, and a conflict, and... well, there's that missing piece. Hadley never actually does anything in this story. He is ferried from plot point A to plot point B and finally the ending without ever taking any action himself. The only thing he could be said to actually do is wait by the tree at the end rather than go hunt for crabs, but that's pretty minor in terms of consequential decision making, and it's not even clear if it's still Hadley at that point.

The result of Hadley's lack of agency is that his entire arc, really the entire story, is just a vehicle for you to tell us about this fascinating future world where people are randomly selected to help repopulate extinct animal species. And that's an awesome setting for a story! But it's just that -- a setting. The story you wrote to fill that setting is so bare bones I'm not even sure I could outline the plot.

Give Hadley something to do. Have him make a choice, even if it's only the choice to carry on with the treatments or try and escape somehow. It doesn't matter how futile his choice is, give him some choice to make. That will invest the reader more in the character, rather than just interesting them in the setting.
#132 ·
· on ASCII of a Wave · >>PaulAsaran
It's all very pretty, but your MC has very little agency here.

I guess it's kinda a tragedy? It didn't really do much for me though, because despite all the sound and fury, I don't think it's really about anything, thematically. 'Collete goes insane under pressure and commits suicide', the end. She makes maybe one active decision in the whole thing - deciding to buy fast food - and then just sort of slowly crumples under the pressures of life.

Perhaps it works better as a horror story, actually. Horror is one of the few genres where I think lack of agency can work really well, and there's enough mood elements that I did feel some emotions while reading this; it gave a kinda claustrophobic feeling, and the end was sort of a relief from that. I don't think it really goes deep enough for horror, though. Still, I like it better as mood piece than a narrative, although it's not good enough as a mood piece to surpass the narrative stories on my slate.

Part of what's going on, perhaps, is my frustration with the seemingly thematic elements; the bird and the sea-dreams/fugue keep coming back, but they never seem to actually mean anything to the characters. They're just sort of there. Litfic lovers will probably really enjoy this. I... don't.

EDIT: I've now read the comments. (I usually don't, so I can give an uncolored reaction.) I can see how >>Cassius would zero in on this being about drugs, but I don't see any indication in the story that Collette is actually taking any, or anything she does to parallel it. Sure, she considers it a lot, but I'm not seeing evidence that the fugues are caused by drugs that would give her unreliable narrator status.

Taking drugs requires a decision, after all. Even if this was totally metaphorical, I'd expect to see her making decisions which parallel that, which would then cause her fugues/suicide. There's no fugue/not fugue conflict to parallel the drug/not drug conflict. She explicitly rejects drugs; she never even tries to reject the fugues/dreams. Unless it's about being drugged, which just sort of happens to you. Anyway, I can't buy into the metaphor.

Well the characters are great, and the prose is really solid. This definitely deserved to final, but it doesn't have enough actual substance for me to really get behind it.
#133 ·
· on Variations on a Theme · >>GaPJaxie
So, I liked this a lot. It reminded me of A.E Van Voght's "The Enchanted Village", which left enough of an impression on me that I still remember bits of it, despite reading it in probably middle-school.

I realize why you started with an unnamed protagonist looking into the past; it lets us see Jules eventual decision, which is great. The thing is, I wish I had a bit of closure on them. It might have almost worked better with just a flyby kinda thing? Well, that has its own issues too, I guess. I just wish the first introduced character wasn't simply abandoned. I tend to dislike it when people lead with a not-main character; in this case, it almost works, but now he's trapped on the planet too, and we have no idea what his decision is going to be.

Anyways, this one's really solid. Interesting plot, good pacing, solid prose, well-realized characters - except for the unfortunate throw-away. Even the journal structure serves a strong purpose. Great work, thanks for writing!
#134 ·
· on On the Job
On Feb. 1st:

I got a semi-rejection from Jeff Eddy at Sofawolf Press, the folks who reprinted my first novel and published my second, a "companion volume" to the first. They liked a lot of things about the stand-alone science-fiction novel I'd sent them, but they had suggestions, too, and the letter said that I would be welcome to resubmit if I was "inclined to do some modification and work on some issues."

One of the issues they focused on was the main character. At the beginning of the story, she pretty much has everything she wants from life, and her primary focus throughout to the book is keep the status quo from unraveling. The editorial team thought that maybe bringing a second POV character into things, someone who is trying to get something and who would run up against the primary POV character, might help the overall structure.

Well, I was thinking about this when the prompt dropped here the next day, and I suddenly found myself remembering a story I'd had published in an issue of Sofawolf's magazine series Anthrolations back in 2001. Midge, a.k.a. Colleen Trager, a.k.a. Canis Major, would be the perfect character to be the secondary POV in the abovementioned novel, and I began freewriting to see if I could come up with a somewhat self-contained story that I could then turn into a new first chapter for the book.

What I came up with here is neither story nor chapter, but it's jumpstarted my thought processes for revising the book for resubmission to Sofawolf. That's kept me away from reading for the contest here, though, but I hope to get at least some of the final ballot looked at before Wednesday. :)

#135 ·
· on I Want You to Touch Me
tl;dr: Cass knows what he did.
#136 · 1
· on Foxes Have Holes and Birds Have Nests · >>Cassius >>AndrewRogue
The weird thing to me is that, given the current mixture of left- and right-wing ideologies in constant combat today, I could see this as a possible future. And yeah, it's disturbing.

Once again, we have a story that is immersed in the Weird, and as such is everything I enjoy. I loved the characters, the setting, the themes. I didn't like some of the underlying suggestions within those themes – God, Corporations, and apple pie? – but it's a small issue that didn't hinder my overall enjoyment.

I think the big catch is that, with its style and subject matter, it is a niche piece. Some people will love it, and some will be left scratching their heads and going "what?" And that's fine, as long as you're aware of what audience you're going for. It probably won't win you any generalized contests, though.
#137 ·
· on ASCII of a Wave
For once, I went ahead and read some of the other reviews before writing this. Normally I don't like letting my opinion be influenced by what others think, but I wanted it for this one.

The biggest debate I've seen so far is the presence of Weinstein. After some thought, I think the name is purely convenience. Nobody likes Weinstein, so he's an easy target for ridicule and loathing in a story where a big wig rich guy is needed to take on a villain's role. It's not any deeper than that. His presence isn't about him at all, it's just a means of introducing the lawsuit. And why is the lawsuit there? To provide a metaphor for how drug use destroys financially, much in the way Bea's accident may represent how drug use destroys one's health.

As to the query regarding "why the heck do we keep going back to the bird shitting on the window," that's a clue to what specific drug she's using, and how. First off, what color is bird shit? Colette is on heroine, and she's been snorting it directly from the windowsill. That's my interpretation, anyway.

Now, this all assumes that the story is about drug abuse. As >>Not_A_Hat notes, that may not actually be the case. The drug dealer and the argument could very well be red herrings. Most people who do drugs are aware of the fact they are doing drugs, after all. I'm tempted to think there's something deeper going on, even as I acknowledge the most obvious possibility. But to be honest, I was just waiting for an ending scene to announce that Colette had ended up dead due to a previously undetected brain tumor (promptly making Bea feel like crap for accusing her wife of something she wasn't doing, much like the reader).

...I suppose it could also be a metaphor for West Coast society in general. After all, according to Colette the dreams didn't even start until she got to the West Coast, and the drug problem apparently started before that time. Although it is interesting to note that Colette gave up drugs at the same time that she and Bea moved to the coast. Coincidence? Regardless, it seems that the real problem began ten years ago, when she quit drugs and when they moved to the coast. Ten years. That's a long, slow build up for it to just be drugs.

I like the story and the mystery it evokes. I think it lends itself well to a forum such as this, allowing everyone to debate what it is about. But as a story – and one entered into a contest, no less – I don't think it holds a lot of appeal. It got into the finals because it is well-conceived and written, but I think the niche appeal will limit its prospects from here on out.

Regardless, I am impressed.
#138 · 2
· on Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You · >>Zaid Val'Roa
This is awesome and hilarious. I love it!
#139 · 1
· on The Hand and the Eye · >>GroaningGreyAgony
A not that obvious symbol for this story.

The colors and the lightening are pretty and vibrant, so vibrant that I'm wondering if that was "necessary". For me, the story this image is based on didn't call for something so shiny and almost "cartoonish".
That last adjective is a bit exaggerated, and from what I've seen, the Hamsa is usually represented with vibrant colors, but still, the narration was so detached that it almost felt impersonal to me.
Moreover, I'm not sure to get why you added the red veins. My guess is that in order to protect people and the country from Evil (aka terrorism), the eye can't blink - thus the red veins.

Anyway, nice and pretty work.
#140 · 1
· on Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You · >>Zaid Val'Roa
This is really well done, great job. Not much to critique, honestly.
#141 · 1
· on Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You · >>Zaid Val'Roa
DUDE. Whoever did this... let's talk after. If you can do this with ponies... yeah. Let's talk.
#142 ·
· on In All Her Majesty · >>TheRiverSings
Oh man, that's really nice. I especially like all the detail on the necklace and the shape of the earrings.

The critique I have here is that the facial dimensions, or the pose, is a little weird, making the chin jut out in a cartoonish way. Also, the forehead seems a little too rounded. Now, this wouldn't be so bad, except it has a bit of contrast to the detail placed on the jewelry and hair that doesn't work super well.

All in all, though, it does look nice.
#143 ·
· on Leitmotif · >>GroaningGreyAgony
This is... certainly well drawn, and I can appreciate the artistry and effort put into making this. But for some reason, it doesn't quite work for me. She just seems a little... shapeless outside of the chest.
#144 ·
· on Deviations of an Alien
To me, this one appears to bear the marks of image editing. Which is fine and all, but, not the most amount of effort. Maybe next time focus on cleaning up the stray pixels a bit more? Nice try, though.
#145 ·
· on In All Her Majesty
I love this piece. The details on the jewelry, the hair, the sad expression.
Definitely my favourite this round.
#146 · 1
· on Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You · >>Zaid Val'Roa
Laughing too hard. Well done. :D
#147 ·
· on Leitmotif · >>GroaningGreyAgony
This fits the story quite well. That's an interesting look for Fido too. Reminds me of old Dr. Who robots.
#148 · 2
· on Be As Gay As You Want
tl;dr: A solid set of romantic vignettes that seriously got robbed.

I wanted to disagree a bit with Cassius. While I do feel this story is intended for a specific community, I didn't much feel put out or kept at arm's length by the story. Yes, the romances have some LGBTQ+ specific stuff. Yes, Gav's vignette is a bit weird to me (thought not wholly unfamiliar). But, in the end, the core emotions all resonate in familiar and relateable fashions to me.

It is possible that, thanks to cultural positioning this is the case, but eh?

Anyhow, I think the biggest problem is that you lead with your best foot. This is not to say any of the vignettes are bad (though some are definitely weaker or feel like they fall outside the broad boundaries you have setup), just that you lead with the most compelling one and none of hte others quite reach that. Tanya and Julie are charming and their little mess about is very pleasant to read. The text conversation is similarly fun, but not quite as good. The rest, while they have their plusses, are just not as interesting. Again, not to say that they are bad, just that, pound for pound, they don't provide as much emotional weight. Some of this is likely not lining up quite with the emotions (Gav) and some is just not having a solid enough arc, I think.

Still, it is fun and solidly written and really should have made the cut. =(
#149 · 1
· on Foxes Have Holes and Birds Have Nests · >>AndrewRogue
>>Cold in Gardez

I'd say that this whole story is about lack of agency. In the eyes of the Powers That Be, these characters literally aren't people, and Hadley's "let's meet at the tree afterwards" carries just exactly the right note for me: there's nothing we can do, so let's make the best of it. My only suggestions would be minor things, author--I'd like to know that Hadley's room doesn't have a door at the beginning of that scene instead of at the end, for instance--but it's good stuff here.

#150 · 2
· on Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You · >>Zaid Val'Roa
Creatures designed by Deviantart

God have mercy on our souls, this is the most terrifying horror movie ever made!

I like the idea, I like the execution and the overall picture, and the little details "hidden" in the credits are funny to read.
However, there is huge clash between the background and the island. One is a realistic representation (if not a photo) of an island, and the other is a dreamish 80s naive representation of a sunset (which is also the symbol for new retro wave music).It reminds me of these "photoshop masters". And with all the little jokes, I understand this was not supposed to be a realistic and serious movie poster, but with the clash, and because I'm a perputally unsatisfied dickhead nitpicker, I have a hard time to find the whole thing pretty.

Also, there is not enough boobs. 5/7
#151 ·
· on Foxes Have Holes and Birds Have Nests · >>AndrewRogue
tl;dr: A not-so-fun (but very enjoyable) story that suffers due to a criminally underwritten protagonist and a bit of a muddied ending.

I talked about this one on the podcast, but in case you weren't there... I really did dig this a lot and I think it does some great stuff, especially with conveying a concept, setting, and situation that are pretty horrifying. The flow towards the inevitable end is smooth, information is delivered efficiently, and a lot of the character stuff is great.

That said, Hadley is surprisingly non-present for the viewpoint character. You might be trying to create a bit of a reader-insert thing by keeping him relatively mild and using him as a vehicle to just drag the reader along, but I don't think it is particularly compelling that way. Give Hadley a bit more voice and a bit more to do. I don't think you have to give him more agency per se, but him actually being more present would be beneficial. Give him more chance to at least build the relationship with Nevada, which I -also- think is underwritten.

The other sticking point is the ending. You leave the extent of the identity death a little unclear (though there is certainly at least some), but the overall positive nature of the ending I think softens it a bit too much to really let that hit home. It is hard to reconcile the tonal difference and not walk away with some degree of positive feeling. Which I guess might be the point? I dunno. It is really, really muddy.
#152 ·
· on ASCII of a Wave
tl;dr: An intriguing bit of character based drama that stumbles over some facts that really distract me from the story.

So this was the story this round that really left me wondering "how do I feel about this story?" And I'm still not sure. There is some really good stuff here, with a generally high prose quality and some legitimately fun interactions between Bea and Colette. I can see where you're trying to do character drama, but the sense of progression throughout the story is rather weak and we are just sort of ferried along. Which might be part of the point, but I feel in comparison to something like Foxes Have Holes, the sweep is much softer.

Cassius brought up the technical plot errors, and I have to agree with them. They were hugely distracting and, given they formed the basis for a lot of the later action, it is really, really unfortunate that I have trouble suspending disbelief for them. To reiterate though:

1. Everything I know of medically induced comas says, in fact, that they are rather big deals.
2. Insurance on the whole doesn't work that way.
3. I'm pretty sure dragging out legal stuff is actually more a danger to the plantiff than the defendant.
4. You would figure out the name of someone destroying your life with a lawsuit.

And yeah, the Harvey Winstein thing is... really distracting and I'm not really sure what the point is. It seems to be a joke, but it isn't particularly funny, and if there is some deeper meaning to it, I don't have the patience to ferret it out. And the fact that it repeats several times is fairly tedious.

Bea's dumb bitch commentary is also... very out of place? Setting aside the fact that media has made it so I have a hard time separating that expression from abusive spouses, she is... amazingly aggressive out of nowhere, particularly at the end of the story where she -should- know that Colette is clearly having a mental break. It is possible that this is all about the breakdown of drugs and insanity and such in relationships, but we really don't get to see the collapse of their relationship like we do in something like, say, the Drowning Girl, which leaves me sort of unsure what to do with it.

I dunno, even recapping my thoughts on this story I'm still kinda unsure what I feel about it. There was definitely a lot of good, but there was also a lot of really problematic stuff. My winner for hardest story this round to rank.
#153 ·
· on Variations on a Theme · >>GaPJaxie >>GaPJaxie
tl;dr: Some truly great tension and build up that is let down by a deeply unsatisfying ending and a lackluster frame narrative.

Talked about this on the podcast, but I'll repeat here. So let's get the first part out of the way. I don't think the frame narrative adds anything here and, in fact, takes away from the tension of Jules situation by removing us from it. The setup heavily implies she's gone, but doesn't imply any immediate danger, so we can assume from the beginning that there is no immediate threat to our astronaut. And he himself does nothing to justify his presence aside from getting a shorter version of Jules' story. Probably.

Now then, that said, the build up worked quite well for me, with the slow descent into fear and despair, the questions of what FIDO is hiding, and why things are slowly seeming to change around her. That's some good stuff. Totally A+ there in my opinion. Got my Silent Hill vibes going.

The problem is that I find the conclusion super disappointing, mostly in that the answers we get aren't really satisfying. You can't really position an idea like "you can't die" and not do SOMETHING with it. I can sorta stretch a bit to imagine how it might work, particularly with her slow drift to an alien form, but that's... eh? The problem is that the story, as it continues, transitions from being about her survival (given she is basically staying put, it is never really about her escape) to being about this mystery as to why she comes back from the dead. So not getting a clear, decisive, and plot foundational answer to that is really disappointing.

What you answer is "what happened to the previous crew" which, ironically, is rendered an uninteresting question by her death experiences. Because it positions the planet as lethal, but does not attribute her survival to a planetary condition. For all we know, she is the unique thing. So we aren't really asking about the former crew. We just assume they got offed by the lethal fauna. Thus the ending you present does not connect well to the story as you were telling it.

Also, Fido's choice to not reveal things to her after her first few trips is... weird and particularly illogical. You can sorta see the idea of not telling hear early on to keep her from trying, but once she is trying and clearly continuing to try, informing her IS the best option. It is just an odd little choice.
#154 ·
· on Turn of the Red Coat · >>GroaningGreyAgony
I've described this story to others as a sandwich made of tasty bread, yet lacking meat or cheese. This is another story that's sort of strapped for content. It's cute enough, but there's not a whole lot of substance.

I find it interesting that everyone has a very odd name.

It's honestly a bit hard to comment on this story simply because there's only two scenes in the whole damn thing. It's so truncated in how it deals with the arcs of its characters that around 900 words of its 2700 wordcount is used to describe Vechi killing a rat. And then as >>AndrewRogue states, the story pivots to a question that it sort of answers, (Does Fox Belong?), but not really.

This is really the barest of the bare bones of a story. Characters give exposition on their histories and the current climate of the farm, and how they feel, but these feelings are simply said as opposed to felt or conveyed via scene direction. It's a show vs tell sort of thing, and this is mostly just tell. There's some interesting character dynamics at work in the dialogue, but we're not really given a lot of space to actually know these characters. We get their one and done scene, and that's mainly it.

This a is "cute" story. It's a story that's eminently likable because it deals with a cute fox being cute with a cute dog who's like a cute mother isn't that cute. But there's not much to it beyond that. Characters are literally one-note. There's not really enough space to develop an actual conflict; everything is pretty much solved as soon as it's introduced. The prose is directed decently enough, what little there is sandwiched between two massive dialogue scenes.

I once talked about a similar story that I enjoyed a great deal called Chode Mustard that suffered from a similar problem of being far too little content and being paced far too quickly. The difference between this story and Chode Mustard is pretty simple: Chode Mustard isn't missing necessary scenes. Whereas Chode Mustard was a complete skeleton of a story lacking any organs, this is more akin to an incomplete skeleton with some necessary organs clinging to the bones. By that metric, it seems more unbalanced and lacking in its design.

Not much to say on this otherwise, unfortunately.
#155 · 1
· on Foxes Have Holes and Birds Have Nests · >>AndrewRogue
The opening line is a mistake. As the 1st place winner of the AndrewRogue Genre Writing Foundation for Genre Writing's "Best Hook in Show" Contest, I feel compelled to tell you that failing to open on "We have decided that you will be transitioned as Urocyon littoralis santarosae” was a missed opportunity. The current phrasing really bogs down the initial read with fluff that could have easily been explained in the subsequent line.

But that's okay. We can't all be winners.

I'm hoping this story finishes first. There are a lot of things I don't quite like about it, but I think the good aspects of the story outclass the rest of the competition this round.

So. Things I don't like.

There's a lot of aspects of the story that don't quite mesh together to make any sort of coherent thesis, and seem to be thrown together sort of slapdash to give character to the setting as opposed to meaningfully incorporated into it. The biggest one, of course, is the consistent religious motifs thrown about. The story itself is presumably intended to address big earthly concepts like the concept and persistence of the human soul and all that shit (will Hadley still be Hadley after becoming a fox), but it's so minimally incorporated into the story itself outside of its use as a motif that even famed writer, director, and porn star >>Cold in Gardez couldn't spot it. In fact, >>Fenton, >>Ratlab, >>thebandbrony, >>PaulAsaran pretty much everyone didn't see what you were going for.

There's really only two paragraphs of dialogue grappling this idea that should really span the entire expanse of the story. The religiosity of the setting isn't fully utilized into the overall narrative, especially not in the characters, which is why you're seeing readers having a disconnect between setting and characters. This idea really should be plastered everywhere, especially by the instructors.

The proto-religiosity of the setting is contrasted against the use of pre-existing corporations such as Apple, Amazon,and Disney which, I think distracts rather than enhances. First, the names themselves are rather conspicuous, like low-hanging fruit, but the fact that I'm aware that these organizations are highly liberal organizations strains my sense of disbelief that they'd ever be overtaken by religious fanaticism associated with conservatism. To me, it is the equivalent of Fox News running an eco-terrorism group as if they were Greenpeace. Additionally, there is the idea that consumerism caused the ruination of the Earth, so why are present-day companies well-known for their massive consumption still in existence?

There's some minor on-the-nose social commentary to be found in here, that again I don't feel really crystallizes in the way it should have. Partially because of how the scenes are constructed, but also because of the wooden quality of our cast. As much as Hadley cries that he shouldn't be there, it's immediate from the scene direction that there are plenty of people that are like him there, which deflates his conflict with Nevada.

Hadley bit his lip, before he shook his head. “Look, I’m sorry it didn’t work for you, but I worked to get where I was. I wasn’t just handed it.”

“I’m sure you did work. And I’m sure you were one of those people who walked around the parks, looking at all the animals, going ‘well, at least those stupid lazy heapers are doing some good now and making the world a better place’ too, I bet.”

And I thought the instructors in the story were supposed to be the preachers, not the author!


Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week.

So the big issue on everyone's mind is of course our protagonist, sir Hadley. As many have pointed out, he's spending the entire story just waiting to "die" so to speak, not being able to affect the outcome. The problem isn't so much that the protagonist can't in the end change the outcome of the story; the problem is that he never tries to. Hadley is a character passively resigned to his fate since day 1, so we can't really find a lot of reasons to be invested in someone who we know is doomed. There's no hope spot.

Hadley should have been religious. He seems to be a character who bought the party's talking points hook line and sinker, but he never acts betrayed or has a crisis of faith or anything like that. In this midst of this story that is so heavily affected by religious rhetoric, it is very odd that there is no "true believer" character in any sense. The way the characters approach the idea of whether or not their identity will remain intact is not from a "soul" perspective outside the one instance of dialogue as I previously alluded to, but from a simple rational perspective. Not even the instructors, who seem to believe this shit, hit on this note, really. You would think in an environment that is so heavily religious that this point would have been brought up numerous times before it happens. But is isn't.

The more upbeat ending is strange. It seems to apply that Hadley in some form has persisted and met up with Nevada. Regardless of the subtext of the situation, that's really better off than the reader was expecting at that point, so while what has happened to Hadley is horrifying, the nature of the scene directs us to feel good in some sense that he was able to at least continue existing in some form. Sort of a "Silver Lining" ending. I think if the story itself had some more hope to it, the ending would seem more tonally appropriate, but for a story that is essentially a dirge to one's death, it doesn't quite fit.

I don't really get a sense of how most things look in this reality. Description of physical locations is highly limited. Some of the dialogue is doing work to cover for this shortcoming, but I noticed it.

I don't have very strong feelings about this story but I want it to win the competition. Good direction kept me invested and interested enough to keep reading. Fun little flavor components with recurring motifs, even if they were underutilized or not quite explored to the extent they should have, sets this story apart from other entries. Having a theme helps too. I like when stories have a point.

So little gold star for you.
#156 ·
· on Deviations of an Alien · >>MLPmatthewl419
Well, here’s a cheerful fellow.

I’m not entirely certain what the smile is adding to the piece here - without it, it would help to sell the alien nature of this creature. My original read of the crab was something similar to the lobstrosities from the Dark Tower’s The Drawing of the Three. Dad-a-chum?

Still, the notion that the crab is smiling like this as it punches a claw through Jules’ leg is decidedly unsettling, so in a way, this still fits with the horror overtones of the story.
#157 ·
· on In All Her Majesty · >>TheRiverSings
The longer I stare at this piece, the more I find to love. I particularly like the intricacy of her choker - there are a lot of details, the most interesting of which (to me) is that the top center tine, viewed in profile, is bent inward to poke at her neck. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, and for the queen, the prickle at her throat is a constant reminder to maintain her poise.

There’s something off about the relationship between her eye and her forehead, I think. The trouble is, I lack the words to explain why - half the time when I look back at the piece, I don’t even see what’s bothering me. Maybe something to do with the implied space between her eyebrows, given the perspective we see her from? Also, the placement of the jewels on the crown seems a bit haphazard.

Still, these things do little to impact how much I love this piece. From the interweaving of the leaves of her crown to the stray locks of hair framing her face to the soft sadness in her expression, this is a wonderful work. Well done, Artist. I do hope to see more of your art down the line. ^^
#158 ·
· on Deviations of an Alien · >>MLPmatthewl419
Cute, charming, open-clawed, ready to welcome you to the Sea of Change. Simple in execution but competent. 7 out of 9 pixels.
#159 ·
· on In All Her Majesty · >>TheRiverSings
I admit I find myself wondering where the top of the lady’s head has gone. Perhaps we’re not seeing just a crown, but a symbolic projection of her dura mater or her dreamstate? If so, that should be made more clear.

Still, a top notch and creative piece, rendered with skill. Eleven of nine pixels, with a dusting of eraser rubbings for using traditional media.
#160 ·
· on The Hand and the Eye
A sinister perversion of a famous symbol, in a sense perhaps like the dark veins of hate embedded in many cultures. Nicely sanitized of realistic blood to protect the squeamish. Creative use of the border flourishes to show the bend lines in the fingers. Eight of nine Bézier curves.
#161 · 2
· on Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You · >>Zaid Val'Roa
The eighties want their background returned. The memes drift by in lazy banners. This will be Gottfried’s finest effort since the Fifty Shades of Grey audiobook. Ten of nine shoops.
#162 · 1
· on Leitmotif
Yeah, you have some torso issues here, Artist. Apart from that, this is a creepy way to show Jules confronting the changes she’s undergone. Pencil was used somewhere in the formation of this image, so 8 of 11 graphite shards to you.
#163 ·
· on The Many Graves of Gul Hamid Wan
tl;dr: An subtle and understated snapshot of a time and place designed to make the reader think... that then proceeds to abandon the subtlety to punch the reader in the face.

I talked about this on the podcast, but for completeness... well, pretty much what I said above. Prose is lovely and paints a very solid picture of a world that many of your readers will be unfamiliar with, then uses that world to horrify them and make them uneasy with the casual acceptance of such atrocious things and how little impact they leave behind despite the impact they make. It is a rather somber look at violence, all focused around a rather clever framing device.

I think the "dispassionate" view works in the story's favor, as, again, it lets the reader draw on the emotional keys in the writing.

The problem is you could not leave well enough alone. :p

I think the editorial statements (the end of scene stuff, poisoned words, etd) actually serve to undermine the overall structure of the story by assigning views that I don't think are necessary. And then the ending comes in to really hammer it home hard, which I think is the biggest failing of the story. Aside from sorta trampling on the previously established subtlety, it is also a significantly worse bookend to the story. You have positioned the entire story around the Gul Hamid Wan narrative, which I think leaves precious little room to try and pull out at the very end like this, especially with no additional build up. Ending on the note of the children feels far more effective based on what you did prior.
#164 · 1
· on In Service to Her Highness
>>Cassius>>AndrewRogue>>Not_A_Hat>>Haze>>Miller Minus>>Ratlab

The day before the prompt was announced, I had a dream. In this dream, I found myself in this strange world of darkness and red, where I met a little girl I'd never seen before and watched her undergo a nightmare very similar to the one Princess Garnet went through. I then woke up... only to find myself in another dream, in which the girl ran away in terror and I had to explain to her mother, a powerful political figure, that she was responsible for the nightmare. Then I woke up for real.

That was one of the strangest dreams I've ever had, and I just had to write it down. Oh, hello there, Writeoff!

Honestly, I knew that the idea was too big for a single contest of this nature, even as I was writing it. But the dream was still vivid in my head and I really wanted to write it down properly, so I accepted the issue and the fact I wouldn't be placing this time because of it. I didn't even expect to make it into the finals with this, but you people never fail to surprise me. My real intention was simply to get the idea down so that it could be expanded upon at a later time, and maybe get a soundboard on the idea in and of itself.

So consider me pleased. Now I can grow this into something great at my leisure and when I'm ready to do so, while keeping the visual concepts intact long after the dream fades from memory. I thank everyone who gave their thoughts on this. Many of the issues – pacing, characterization, sense of conflict – were known to me ahead of time, but I appreciate the insights regardless. There are a few things I didn't anticipate, and maybe I'll be better prepared to deal with them next time.

PS – Okay, guessers, here's a clue: Paul likes powerful female characters. So if you see a female role that is strong politically, physically, financially, or just in personality (and especially a combination of them), it might be me.
#165 ·
Congrats to our winners:

Even though I still haven't read two of them. But I finally picked up the fabled Wooden Spoon even though we don't even give them out any more! :)

#166 · 1
· on In All Her Majesty · >>TheRiverSings
Congrats, TheRiverSings! I avoided commenting on this for obvious reasons, but I must say I am happy with the way she turned out.
#167 ·
· on In All Her Majesty · >>TheRiverSings
A deserved win if I've seen one.
#168 · 2
· on Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You
My longer retrospective is lost to the aether. Such is life, you'll have to make do with the abridged one.

I'm happy to have gotten a medal this round. I'll do my best to keep up the good work and improe in the future! My only regret (aside from not having time to make more art entries or even finish my story) was the lack of polish on the poster. >>Fenton brought up the issues with the island, and yes. It's just a normal island with some filters on it and slapped in the background because I had less than six hours before the deadline. Same goes for the embarrassing shading. Mea culpa and all that.

Nevertheless, I accomplished most of what I set out to do with this, and I'm proud of that much, at least. I really liked Variations of a Theme, the setting was interesting and I liked the feeling of isolation and dourness I got from reading it. So, of course I chose to do a movie poster depicting it as a low-budget, shlocky 80's action flick.

Also, I'm surprised nobody brought up how this blatantly rips o--I mean, how this is heavily inspired by the Buckaroo Banzai poster.
I'm glad you all liked it. I'll do my best in future art rounds as well!

Sure. Send me a PM in FiMFiction or discord if you like.

I take full responsability on the dissonance between background elements. I was busy most of that week, and wasn't able to put as much effort as I wanted on it. If I'd had the time, I would've drawn the island from scratch, and make it look more mysterious. Live and learn, I suppose.

there is not enough boobs

Of course there are not enough boobs. Jules is the MC, the eye-candy are the men. And the crab.

The eighties want their background returned.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Ten of nine shoops.

I'll work hard to make it a full ten next time!

Thanks again to everyone who liked this, and thanks as well to those who didn't, but cared enough to give some feedback.
#169 · 1
· on Turn of the Red Coat
>>GaPJaxie, >>Fenton, >>Ratlab, >>Monokeras, >>PaulAsaran, >>Not_A_Hat, >>Haze, >>thebandbrony, >>AndrewRogue, >>Cassius

Congrats and condolences as appropriate.

Turn of the Red Coat

I start most rounds by making a list of story ideas, one for each submitted prompt. This one amused me the most:

The fox guarding the henhouse…
Fox version of Hellboy. Raised by chickens, eats mice with them, and is actually guarding them. “Hellkit.”

I lost a good bit of time deciding just how I wanted to approach this idea (my first concept was to parallel Hellboy and have the fox cub be kidnapped during a magic ceremony). Once I chose a natural Talking Animals setting, I was still struggling on how to reach the climax I intended for the story, and other obligations were fighting for my time. I was about to give up on Sunday evening, but then I saw a way to use a sub-climax to make a plausible ending and I went with that. What got left out is likely what several critics considered to be the “meat” of the story.

So this story isn’t everything I wanted it to be, but I’m glad I persevered.

Thanks for the praise and critiques! I am still considering how I might take this story further and they will be of much help.
#170 · 1
· on The Hand and the Eye

The Hand and the Eye

Woot! Thanks for the bronze. I was lucky to get it with so many other quality entries in the ring.

Graves struck my imagination the most, but finding a way to make a viable illustration wasn’t easy, even though the story itself provides plenty of visual cues. I first envisaged something quiet, such as a scene of the house where the arm lay on top of the roof and it was only just visible. I then thought that I should keep the gore to a minimum, and started searching for symbols. I found the Hand of Fatima right off and knew that I had to use it somehow, symbolizing our hopes for the future being corrupted by acts of terrorism.

I drew everything in Illustrator, using some fancy borders. I’d intended the eye originally to have its four muscles attached, which if the eye were rotating could cause it to resemble a swastika. I couldn’t get it to look right so I abandoned it. I also considered hiding a star and crescent in the highlights of the eye but decided against it. I didn’t want to lean too heavily on any one national symbol; as the recent events in Florida show, Western nations are not immune.

Thanks for the critique, Fenton!
#171 ·
· on Leitmotif
>>MLPmatthewl419, >>GaPJaxie


Argh. I put most of my effort into drawing and coloring this, and comparatively little into The Hand and the Eye. So this turned out to be the lesser effort.

I really should have redrawn Jules from scratch, rather than try to fix the errors in my original sketch. But I was already coloring the piece and I kept slapping on bandaids and proceeding. I do like how Fido turned out.

Thanks for the comments!
#172 ·
· on Variations on a Theme
>>Anon Y Mous

Back when this contest started, I wrote:


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.

I may be a moody artist.

>>Anon Y Mous

Thanks! I'm glad you both enjoyed it, even if I don't quite understand why. I felt that the middle was strong, but that the opening and ending were both really weak and dragged it down. There are some good ideas here though, so I'm pleased to hear you got something out of them.


Wait. Jules is a female name? Since when?

Because it's the future!

Also I once knew a girl named Julia who didn't mind when people called her Jules so I think of it as a female name.

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 agree with all of these points, and this was very helpful feedback! Thank you. ^_^
#173 · 1
· on Variations on a Theme

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.

Constructive Feedback Cut for Length

Thanks for the feedback! I'm glad you liked it, and I agree with your assessment about its strengths and weaknesses. I think it needs some pretty fundamental restructuring before it can ever work, but it's good to see people get something out of it.

Your review made me quite happy when I first read it!
#174 ·
· on Variations on a Theme

Thanks for all the comments! This was much helpful feedback. To get to one a lot of people asked:

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.

Because this is shorter. I was already running up against the length limit. A choice I now regret!
#175 ·
· on Variations on a Theme

Also, Fido's choice to not reveal things to her after her first few trips is... weird and particularly illogical. You can sorta see the idea of not telling hear early on to keep her from trying, but once she is trying and clearly continuing to try, informing her IS the best option. It is just an odd little choice.

This is one of the reasons I was very unhappy with the story. Thanks for the feedback! We'll see if I end up polishing it, but if so, this is one of the big things I want to fix.
#176 · 1
· on Deviations of an Alien
*Has shamelessly stolen a vector off a google search.

Anyway, one fateful night, I suddenly realized I was right up against the deadline for submission. So, instead of actually drawing this out like I wanted, I threw a pic into Paint and messed around with it...

Only to wake up the next morning and find the deadline extended. Grr.

I suppose my greatest regret is not doing more cleaning of the cropped areas. Anyway, thanks for commenting, and I take my traditional last place with a smile as big as this little guy's, because I had fun!
#177 · 2
· on Foxes Have Holes and Birds Have Nests
Congrats to everyone and double congrats to our medalists!

So yeah, this was a story I had somewhere on the backburner of my brain for a while and this round seemed like a decent opportunity to pull it out. The original core concept was "middle class dude gets dumped into the poor people to repopulate animal populations capitalist culture criticism" and, for the most part, I ended up sticking pretty close to that concept.

The actual implementation? I had a lot of different ideas (including a low-key ex-human society and focusing the story on his integration there), but I think the place I ended up was the better choice. Not to say there wasn't a story there, but that, for my purposes, this shape was the more interesting one and one that better spoke to the stuff I wanted to cover. Of course, it took me a pretty solid set of failures to get moving on that (scrapped about 1000 words I wrote Friday night that took place 2-3 scenes before where I started, then decided "wait, that is a terrible idea for a short story, let us just start at the punch and work back any other info we need") and frankly, like most things I write, a lot of stuff was emergent (particularly the last couple scenes, the counting mechanic, etc).

It is astounding how little I know about stories until I'm writing sometimes. And how much of it happens when it is 1am, I desperately need to keep moving so I can finish and go to bed then go to work, and thus I let the ideas all spill out.

Religious themes! Religious themes were kinda plastered on unfortunately, even though that wasn't fully the intent. I wanna say that the way I arrived at them was going "Okay, government sponsored corp that does this. How do we further justify it?" All the environmentalism talk and the stewards of the planet thing came to mind and hey, there we were. Do a little Supply Side Jesus style justification and we're there. Nevada's little ramble at the end was one of those written in the moment things, so unfortunately I didn't end up with much of a religious theme all through.

Oh. And the company names was originally Eden. But I typoed Edgen to a friend while talking about it and they suggested I keep it, so there we are.

Hadley's positioning was indeed a concern when I finished as I realized that, while the point was his lack of agency, that still doesn't justify having a protagonist who doesn't do much. This doesn't have to mean escape or anything, just that he takes a little more... uh... agency within his lack of agency.

I remain a little surprised people took the end as positive as they did (Hadley had a perfectly fine life before this point, it is just that the system is cruel and lacking mercy). While they are kinda happy, there is a very real question how much of either one of them remains, especially given the bullshit that the Transition Specialist was peddling about cognitive impairment. Still, the problem is it reads happy which, well, is a big obstacle to portraying something that is, at best, bittersweet.

Anyhow. On with the show.

>>Fenton To answer this question for everybody: as to why they use humans, my internal excuse was that the process has limitations which include not being able to cross orders (I alluded to this with the bird comment from the specialist, but it is really subtle, plus I screwed up by listing rats as a survivor) and having upward mass progression limitations (which limits use of small animals). Beyond that, simply put, all their current specimens are far more valuable than the people being used. As for how a corp can do this to people, well. This is near future cyberpunk in the US. We belong to the corps! Mwahahaha.

But yeah, seriously, everything in the setting is ruled by corps and they act as collected government reps. So you overextend your credit too far, they basically send you to collections. Collections being animal transitions.

So, to spell it out, the metaphor is about the current corporate capitalist climate being a dehumanizing system that reduces its participants to nothing more than commodities, with a pretty sharp poke at the idea of what we can do for the underprivileged in this idea that tons of money is being spent on making them "useful" to the upper classes when this could be instead spent helping them out. I mean, in so far as I want to allegory and metaphor. At the other level, it is just about a dude trying to survive as the system swallows him whole and how we rely on other people to do that.

>>thebandbrony See the above. His contentment largely stems from the fact that he's got a tiny fox brain now! Life in the facility sucks, but pre it he was basically your normal middle class-ish dude.

>>Ratlab I never considered that issue with calling it an iPlant. I'll have to see how other people respond to that. See above for other things. Interestingly I never considered the vixen thing an actual twist, just another nail in the complete disregard for the subjects that the world has. But I can see where that statement comes from, especially since it does sort of reposition him out of the expected sexual relationship with Nevada.

Title. Right. I forgot about that one. Boy oh boy did I regret that one once the shortening was pointed out to me. Foxes have holes indeed. This is why you don't title at 3am.

Anyhow, the title is actually another Bible quote. Matthew 8:20. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. What does it mean? I dunno, I picked it at 3am because it had foxes in it.

No, seriously, I did look it up a tiny bit when I chose it and found it was basically about a scribe or scholar or such getting told that Jesus' lifestyle sucks. I think it can be twisted in some reasonably fun ways for the purpose of this story (like all the little quotes I chose, especially Proverbs 12:10 - but yeah, here, again we can sorta ascribe it to the idea that people are treating these individuals, once they are animals, far better than they ever would have as people). That said, I probably should have used one of the versions that reads as Foxes have burrows, but I was using the King James version for all the internal quotes, so I figured I'd stay consistent.

>>Monokeras In my defense, I finished at 3am on Sunday. I was tired. The only things I'd written before Sunday were like, the first two scenes? Then I didn't get back to start on the rest until after dinner. So it was a hell of a fucking sprint, is what I'm saying.

I thought about Vulpes vulpes, but I decided to go more obscure because it makes me look clever. Also, I dunno, not allowing it to click to the average person right away felt right to me? For all that the red fox would be perfectly serviceable in the circumstances and maybe even better given that it communicates the level of mass extinction we are talking about here. Still, the island fox is uniquely Californian, and I do gotta rep my home.

That is an interesting take on what to do with the end and i'll need to keep it in mind since either the end or some degree of build to the end are the obvious problems based on the pretty regular commentary here.

>>Haze Honestly this is probably one of the better first scenes I've written. Sadly I couldn't win my own best hook award based on the criteria I was judging by. >:|

>>Cold in Gardez I both agree and disagree, per a comment I made somewhere up above. Hadley does make choices throughout the course of the story. He chooses to hang with Nevada and her friends. He chooses to stay alive (or at least not try that path). He chooses to believe something of him will remain and cling to Nevada. The broader framework is indeed that he gets ferried from A to B and has no say in the matter. What he can do is choose the manner in which he meets it.

That said you're still right in that none of it comes out strongly or well arced enough though.

>>PaulAsaran I'm still not quite sure what weird set of choices lead us to this future, though.

>>Baal Bunny See my comment to CiG. Basically, I agree and disagree. Just the other way around this time.

>>AndrewRogue I fully admit I am enamored with my story. Probably the happiest I've been with something I got through the Writeoff.

>>Cassius God, Cass, now I have to respond to a long tomment. tl;dr: I think I agree with everything you say here and will keep most of it in mind during drafting.

Yeah, once you phrase it that way, I'm not sure why I did that paragraph in that order. I suspect it is because the build-up to conclusion to Hadley's consideration makes more sense to me from a normal presentation. But, from hooking, it'd be better to lead with the end, reorder the beginning and then have Hadley zone out under the horror.

This is kinda what I mean about things coming through as I write. Like I said above, to disappoint, the question of the existence of the soul and all that was not actually originally intended but rather was a happy accident of wanting the religious draperies for setting purposes and then touching on it nicely in the scene where Nevada has her mini-breakdown. You are correct though in that it should play a much, much bigger part, Hadley should be more overtly faithful (even the discount faith that might exist in this future) and then I can layer those themes on more, which, in turn, I think will help with Hadley's role in his own story by giving him more to confront and deal with even as he is ferried from A to B. Because in the end, that's guaranteed. This story is about how somebody who thought they were better than this realizes exactly how fucked the world is and how they cope.

I went more for a stratification of things. It isn't necessarily the consumerism that did it, it is the people not properly putting in the time and money. You should have been consuming HARDER so the companies had more funds to help the environment, yo. That said you're probably right about the low-hanging fruit, especially since it comes up so little again later.

Yeah, I'm surprised more people didn't mention that. There were a couple paragraphs I thought were pretty hella on the nose and crossing the line into screed territory. The joke gets a chuckle out of me, though.

See the above. I think you're 100% right on Hadley and how to reposition him.

Ending is an issue that I do need to solve first though, since how I take it might affect that somewhat. I don't think i want to go full dark, but it might honestly be the best choice available to me. But I can mess around a bit and see what works.

And yeah, I still don't describe shit. Ever.

Anyhow, thank you all for your comments and insight!
#178 · 3
· on In All Her Majesty
>>Zaid Val'Roa

I apologize for my long overdue response!

Thank you all so much for your feedback. I do wish I had spent a little more time on this piece to just to neaten everything up a little and work on proportions.

Things I need to invest in right now: A scanner (so I'm not taking pictures of these on my phone,) and better time management.

I do always find it challenging to create a piece based off of someone else's writing, without being able to do it collaboratively with them. I want to be able to bring their vision to reality, rather than my interpretation of it.

I really appreciate hearing all of your critiques and opinions! It helps make me a better artist :)
#179 ·
· on Semper Fortis
>>Baal Bunny
>>Miller Minus

Ok, we’ve determined that I’m not going to make a million bucks writing the next Red Storm Rising. Yes, Semper Fortis is mine, and also the US Navy’s motto.

First, let me address some of the obvious complaints. It’s choppy and abrupt because I didn’t do my usual series of cleanup passes due to real world issues.

-It’s highly technical war porn, because that’s the genre I was aiming for. Exercise those writing muscles by practicing thing you don’t with poni.

-It *is* pulp fiction, after all. A few hundred million books with that angle have been sold, so *somebody* likes them. Can you blame me for seeing if I’ve got what it takes to write me into a five-room mansion with a pool?

- ‘vampire’ is the word used for incoming missiles, while ‘missile’ is used for *outgoing* missiles, due to the (80’s era) radar track showing an inverted ‘v’ for them and an attempt to prevent confusion during intensive activity.

- Seaman Dikes is based of a *real* sailor. ‘Seaman’ is the word used to address all low-level Navy enlistees, which can lead to really odd combinations depending on the branch of the service. This unfortunate lady has a last name of ‘Guzler’ Now say that out loud.

- The use of intensive cyber warfare to disable active weapon systems is an area of ‘Anybody who knows anything can’t talk about it’ which is just downright scary. That, and how many ship systems still use an older version of Windows.

- Greenpeace in this story is not nuked. Their headquarters is truck-bombed with radioactive isotopes sprinkled in the bomb residue, a ‘signal’ that the Russians like using with their defectors. (see recent history involving nerve gas used to attempt murder on a defector in Britain)

- It is a *constant* frustration to me in Star Trek/The Last Ship combat scenes where the actual military maneuver and fire is sacrificed on the altar of the good camera shot. A trained weapon systems operator or starship pilot should be given some slack.