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No Prompt! Have Fun! · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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The Precession of the Equinoxes
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#1 · 3
I liked this a lot. I think the ending is what really sells it, and it all comes together as nicely narratively as the in-text scene itself.

Had the most trouble with the constant 'Goddamn's. They felt fairly out of place compared to the more angled insectoid geometry of the rest of your prose. I guess that connects to the one section about Mauli having seen God, but I didn't really feel like I understood the point of that, either. I think you either need a little more development there, or cut back. Not sure which.
#2 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny
Haha, this one was fun.

Yeah, I don't have a whole lot to comment on here. This was great work, and quite enjoyable.

I was a bit confused with the butterflies on the mulberry at first; mulberry, to me, means silkworm moths, which aren't colorful or, likely, out during the day. I'd suggest milkweed, personally, especially since monarch butterflies are really quite stunning.

I'm not entirely sure about capitalizing Goddam all the time - it seems you were actually using it as a name, which was cool, but the capitals made the sentences seem awfully lumpy, especially with how often you threw them in. I guess it's sort of telling that that's the only profanity Mauli uses, but I still think it might have been better in lowercase most of the time?

Oh, and I was wondering if you'd based the names on scientific names. The domestic silkworm moth is Bombyx Mori, right? Bix and Mauli seemed to call out to that, even if the colors don't match.

This was fun, and well written! Great job.

I once found a Hercules moth on the front screen of our windows, when I was... I dunno, five or six and we were living on the coast. I swear it was a foot long, although that's likely my brain messing with the scale. We took it inside and fed it nectar, and I've remembered it ever since. :)
#3 ·
I'm going to second Ferd's complaint about Mauli's language. That one word came dangerously close to ruining the story for me. By the time I saw them outside the quotes, I was getting pretty annoyed with this decision. Inside her quotes, it made her sound fake, because the use of them doesn't resemble how people actually swear, even ones in the habit of doing so frequently. Even if it's representative of... I don't know, Mauli's desire to emulate God because of how impressed she is with his way of doing things, it's still annoying. Stop it.

Other than that, I found the idea of animals crafting wondrous experiences for human audiences an interesting idea, almost like they were movie directors who knew how to trigger emotional responses with just the right touch. That made more sense than the idea that it was a corporate thing. The serendipity of everything coming together would be a perfect way to wrap it all up minus all the Goddamns.

6/10 (Decent).
#4 · 1
I agree that the story went a bit over the top with the "goddamns", but otherwise this was a fairly decent piece. The butterflies and rabbits and all being entrusted with making the world a magical place for people was a cute idea, and of course, who doesn't love Painting the Frost on the Windows?

It didn't wow me, but I think on the whole it worked well.
#5 · 2
the first Goddamn already felt forced to me. and after that it kept spilling everywhere. I bet the author is tired by now of reading the same repetitive complaint about the Goddamns. TOOOO BAD, you better Goddamn accept what you did.

The concept isn't too bad, with nature itself being some kind of Disney World type staged show put on for the sake of humans. Those silly humans, romanticizing the beauty of nature, when it's all a bunch of corporate manipulation. I'm not personally fond of either view, but I'm not entirely sure if the message here is poking fun at it or glorifying it. Especially in the final speech where the cynicism seems to turn right back around to saccharine, with how noble they are for inspiring and bettering us all with the magic of spring. Is she for real? Is the story making fun of Mauli or am I just being too cynical myself?

The line about Halloween makes me wonder if this is sort of a Nightmare Before Christmas type of world. Well maybe not. Those characters revelled in their holidays and didn't gripe about corporate politics. And then it went in a strange unique direction. Maybe these bunnies and butterflies should've actually tried to put on Halloween like they said. It wouldn't be original, but maybe more interesting.

Teb kind of annoyed me since he mostly recited stuff that the characters already know, just to inform the audience. I get that it's gotta be done, it just felt too transparent to me.

It felt really weird that the insects are so anthropomorphized, rolling their compound eyes and behaviors like that. At first I was willing to accept it, but when it introduces mammals and then actual humans, it gives me a very grotesque mental image. Eew. Why give a bouquet of flowers to a tiny songbird? Aren't the flowers sentient and part of the performance too? Maybe I assumed too much. I mean, they even talk and act like humans, just with some alternate vocabulary swapped in. The story's self-aware about the pathetic fallacy, but are these animals supposed to be viewed as human or inhuman? Why should I feel sympathy for them when they are the ones suggesting that my sympathy is just an illusion?

It feels like a tug-of-war, and my heart's not being moved in either direction.
#6 · 2

Tells me that there are 36 "Goddamns" here, and with the story length being listed as 2,715, my calculator says that the story is nearly 1 1/3 percent "Goddamns." So yeah: maybe a few too many.

I also wondered if the story might be stronger if there is no God. All there is is this vast conglomerate of Nature Inc. making humans think there's a God for reasons of their own. Other than that, though, I got nothing.

#7 ·
I wasn’t as bugged by the ‘Goddamn’s as others, just because not being a native, I don’t hold the same gut feeling you boys have with that kind of words. I found it a mere annoyance because they were a bit too many of them, that I plainly agree.

The concept is nice and the execution is fair. It makes for a light, but savoury read, and the spat between the two supervisors is a joy to read. Beyond that, I’m not a sucker for anthropomorphic animals, so I can’t say I was precisely enrapt. The ending is nice, but you can’t wrench out of my mind that butterflies live at most a week I think, and some only one day, so it makes your final line a bit difficult to eat up.

However, on the whole, I spent a wonderful time with that fic, and it goes right atop my slate! 😉
#8 · 3
7 – The Precession of the Goddamn Equinoxes

I absolutely adore this opening. Okay, Author, you have my attention.

I know I've seen some incidental commenting on the use of "Goddamn" in this story, and my initial reaction was to disagree on its overuse because that first barrage did a huge amount to establish Mauli's character and it had me laughing. Moving on, though, I do think you're running into diminishing returns with this—and it doesn't help that some of the later "Goddamn"s really don't feel as natural to the flow of the dialogue or narrative. To wit, "Goddamn" can be a very effective adjective, but it usually sucks as an adverb a verb modifier (it actually looks like it can work okay as an adjective modifier, c.f. "Goddamn sticky").

I'm not finding much to talk about on the character, plot, or setting fronts because I'm just thoroughly enjoying this story. The insect blocking in particular is just kind of wonderful. Teb's four-armed sanctimonious pose is so easy to visualize.

"Mummy! Daddy! There's butterflies! May I please go in a little ways and look for more?"

This may just be me, but I feel like this line is a little off. That last sentence makes it sound like Alice is mature enough to be very good with rules and action planning (e.g. she's going to have to wander into the woods to look for more butterflies); but to me, that feels at odds with the wonder she seems to be feeling towards the butterflies themselves. Maybe I just had a depressingly rational childhood, but I don't usually find that passion couples well with good planning in kids.

Through to the end, and I really don't know what to say on this one. It's easily one of the best stories in the competition, almost certainly going in my top three, and I'm going to have to think hard about where to put it. The characters are rich and interesting, there's a whole range of conflicts going on in the background, the story is very goal-directed, it's funny, the world it creates is fun to live in... No, screw it, this is my new Number One. Lose or move a couple of Mauli's signature words (especially the ones modifying verbs), and this'll be all but Goddamn perfect.

HORSE: Decline to rate
TIER: Top Contender
#9 ·
Wow….just wow. Talk about the cast of Bambi characters turned sitcom. About several paragraphs in I had to stop and laugh, as I had figured out that I was reading about a vulgar butterfly. Three insects in fact, that seem to be doing some sort of job. At first I figured it would be pollination of the various flowers, but it was, oh, so much more than that. We dive into the mind of an angel, literally. Who is sent out to do a job of turning events into something unforgettable. You know the various scenes where something present’s itself and something epic comes flying out to encentuate the situation. Those moments in movies where something stands out from the norm with an epic presentation coming out from behind them. From a lion roaring, to birds and bats flying about, or just something cute. That’s what the creatures in this story were tasked to do. Finding this bit out in the story just hit on so many points. Religion, business and work ethics, ecology and economics. I only point this out because the characters behaviors are very appropriate for their roles in this grand plan of civil duty.

The plotline of this story wasn’t hinted at first, but ended up making sense within the story as supervisors argued and shotcalled at one another. Mauli and Kiola hint at their real boss. The one in charge of doing all of this. And me being Catholic knew where this was going immediately. Taking bits from the bible on the plants, land, and animal life being made for man specifically. The author shows this side of the holy word and brings it into life by showing us one side of a character’s mentality. As they pour effort after effort into the big man’s plan. Time and again to create a world to experience and a life to enjoy for a human. Through some proper planning and all. While it was confusing at first how these creatures didn’t care about anything else instead of making a show out of it, Mauli also mentions how they maintain and keep up the ecological side of nature. Continuing the cycle for pretty much the same reason.I found it strange that only one supervisor was manning a whole division of insects, small mammals, carnivores, birds, and the like. A machine this big would require much more effort and more oversight to do this properly. It only adds to the realism of how a business works. Rather than the fantasy of “everything happens for a reason.”.

-Character Development
Mauli was just a delightful thing to read. She is a vulgar beautiful monarch butterfly who’s job is to oversee the insectoid side of things in a mulberry tree patch. She is joined with Teb, a new angel to the job and seeks guidance from Mauli. Bix a lazy worker under the insect division and Kiola who is the supervisor of small mammals. Each character was memorable. They all had a different view on things and just were such a joy to read about. They constantly argued with one another giving me more material to read and enjoy, as conversations flowed in and out from one another to the next. Mauli’s attitude was great as well. I just wanted to also point out that the author wasn’t using the term “Goddamn” himself. It was Mauli’s bad habit of using it all the time. So in fact it’s not the writer, but the character herself overusing the word. Mauli must have created this bad habit as she’s busy cursing while trying to do her job. After all she is one of the best in that business, to be the best takes a lot of stress on one’s self. Also doing a bit of research that insects themselves could be in the millions in just one forest alone, leaving Mauli’s job a lot harder. I thought it was a grand choice and explained a lot. Rather than a care-free character we get one filled to the brim with dedication and frustration. Which makes her stand out so much more alone than with other characters.

I could have imagined this story in a cartoonish sense. The writer himself chose to make this more realistic with details on a butterfly’s anatomy. I first would like to point out that you’re writing a story about talking critters and insects. Not only is that impossible, it’s downright cartoony. The way the characters act and talk are indications that it’s very unrealistic. Animals do not plan or argue in real life. While I already had a set scene and character portraits in my mind, it was broken with how much I needed to focus on how a butterfly’s eyes and thorax looked like. If you’ve seen a butterfly up close you’d see how ugly they are. I could not see something like a real butterfly communicating with another being let alone being able to kick at cocoons. Now on a disney sense I could see these characters come to life easily. Remember you’re painting a portrait in every reader’s mind. Once the paint goes on, there’s no taking back the stroke itself. Once you have something going, keep it going in it’s same nature. I agree with other reviews and say this didn’t feel like it was trying to connect with me with much. It did it’s own thing. It was entertaining, but I would have loved how the writer made it to where we could connect through this piece of work. By switching your styles around you also switch the audience’s’ own attention.

The background and reasoning behind this creatures’ jobs were rather vague. I understand that it’s complex as hell. Why would simple things want to influence just the human race by just making a scene breathtaking? Or why would we care if these things continued the cycle of life or not? The justification is almost completely not there. I feel as if these beings have no real reason going for them other than that God said to do it. While as powerful as his word is. You need to show us more of what these insects and mammals’ reasons are. It needs to be broadened to where we can understand it better. Why do we need insects? Why do we need mammals? Why do they care about one simple moment in a child’s life? What is their intent as a whole in the grand scheme of things? From what I could guess is that they’re angels with the task of providing a good world for humankind. We should see more of a connection through the heavens themselves or maybe a reincarnation. The reincarnation wouldn’t break the type of viewpoint you wanna keep and it would still accomplish this task. However, I do love that you simplified all aspect of reason through conversation and small detail explanation. There’s a not a lot going on behind these events as sweet as they are. The author does provide means of slowly showing the goal each member provides. Granted it just didn’t feel powerful enough to show why it was so important. Helping one little girl and her parents is one thing but what about major outbreaks? Are these guys suppose to be spending their entire lives dying and tending to humankind? And care to explain how deadly carnivores get away with the chaos they can ensue? These questions eat at the brain and can break your story.

“Bix, you magnificent bastard!” “That over sized fat squirrel, Kiola, should mind his own business and suck a nut!” “Teb stop being a goddamn moron and help me!” I’m sorry. I enjoyed this way too much. It was like reading a redubbed version of the Lion King or The Little Mermaid. With all the little animals shouting out like mature adults. This was refreshing and very welcomed on my end. I’ve seen too many things in life to just enjoy everything nice and cuddly. Mauli’s attitude fit her well. Kiola acting like a fat rabbit snob just added to the mix. Bix being lazy and refusing to work. It all fit the personas of different people working in a job. It had the tone of a real business and what a person goes through being just a supervisor and dealing with things on a daily basis. No job is a rose garden, so to speak. So I thought it was highly appropriate for Mauli to act out the way she does. Cursing the boss under her breath while at the same time loving what she does in her um….eternal life span? Although this is a negative as you’re taking a fairy tale imagine and dumping on it to create a type of twisted mature version of it. When in reality it would have impacted us more if you chose one single style. Either the fantasy version of why this all happens or just a mature “Goddamn” one. I think you were aiming more towards the “Goddamn” tone. When this is literally a whimsical based story for whimsical coincidences. With whimsical like creatures with very vulgar mouths and nasty attitudes.

The nastiness of the characters was just too entertaining. And I hate Sitcoms. It made way for events that would shape into something that should be beautiful but felt wrecked by what it took to be able for it happen. Snapping at an intern and a lazy worker constantly. Arguing with another department’s supervisor, because you didn’t like his advice. Insulting other animals in the Mulberry patch just to get things ready. All within just the span of a day, for little Mauli. All the little nasty things, yes even the Goddamns, seemed to darken the plotline so thick that I just didn’t feel reaction in the little girl. Grant she’s suppose to be naive to the fact that it was all a setup, but it was indeed a setup. What is genuine in life anymore?! The content of this story made me laugh, smile, ponder, think, and sigh out in awe. But the one thing that it could have easily done was touch my heart. I didn’t even sympathy for the characters’ hard work. Maybe if you added a scene where everything goes wrong first. The audience would appreciate more of the little girl’s scene and expression at the end. Instead we’re left thinking that these guys do everything perfect. Probably since they’ve been working on it for a long long time. Besides the point add some bad to make the good even better. Vulgarity and stress over a schedule is not a satisfying bad to a story. This one was really fun to read and by the end I thanked the little story for doing a good job in what it was intended for. To give me something entertaining to read, that your intended audience. Us.
#10 · 1
So it's the first day of spring, and Mauli makes it a Goddamn success!

I didn't think the Goddamn's were too many. It's a mannerism Mauli picked up, and for better or for worse, that's how she talks. Deal with it. :coolphoto:

The characters were perfect, all the mechanics in place... this was one smooth read through-and-through. I can't really think of anything to criticise.

The theme of the story... well, that's pretty open to me, actually. Mauli's words seem to try and forcefeed it to the reader, and I had to think of the ideas from the epoch of german classic (y'know, Goethe & Co, 1786-1832), which had the 'ideal society' in mind, in which people had achieved balance between emotionality/rationality, art/science, etc. Instead of let's say the French revolution, they wanted to improve the individual one by one, by exposing them to art that highlighted the "beautiful, good, and true". To me, that seems exactly what Mauli's trying to achieve.

However, that's not how the animals live themselves... their society, or individuals, don't seem to matter. I read comparisons with corporate world and disney, but that's not at all what I see here: what I see reminds me of communism. The old veteran and the young, over-enthusiastic pioneer, doing something without personal gain, trying to outshine the other group of pioneers, trying to impress the great leader. Be that god, Stalin or Kim Jong Un, no matter.

There's also the thing that these woodland creatures just existing for the purpose of amusing those who would gaze upon them could serve as mirror for the highly arrogant human stance, that nature does not exist for its own benefit but only to serve mankind.

Or I might be overanalysing the Goddamn shit out of this and it's just a well-written story with a rather sappy message. Anyway, this goes to the top of my stack.
#11 ·
This one came in second on my slate, because it didn't hold together quite as well as 'Tiny Planets' in the end. The repeated 'Goddam' did not set me back a single step, because I had an uncle who used that particular word just the same way most people breathed. Reminded me of the National Parks commercial where the forest ranger is talking to all of the animals before the tourists arrive. Goddam good. A+
#12 ·
7 – The Precession of the Equinoxes

Bucolic joy as a factory-floor job. It's a certainly a cool concept, if verging on being twee. But it never manages to go beyond that. Yeah, fair enough, it's not a long story, but I feel I would have liked Mauli more if she went beyond the grumpy-but-competent supervisor type.

The plot doesn't work for me. Mauli grouses, gets involved in some interphylum bickering. Then – oshit – humans! Time to enact the facade! Which they pull off perfectly. It all comes off as rather formulaic – here's the snotty character who will get shown up, here's the foreshadowing, here's the time limit, and so on. The ending, too, felt underwhelming.

Still, you clearly know your craft, author, so I find it hard to offer advice. Be more ambitious, perhaps?

All things considered, this is still getting a fairly high place on my slate.
#13 · 1
Continuing the review chain.

Sorry, author; I can see why this made the finals, but I bounced off of this one hard. (I'd feel more guilty about my unhesitating bottom-slating if I didn't think it was headed for a medal anyway based on the collective review response.)

1) The "Goddamns" turned me off, but less in the repetition than in the implications of the repetition, if that makes sense. They are strong characterization for Mauli, and what they told me about Mauli is that she is temperamental, aggressive, and worst of all, lacking even a single spark of creativity. These are problematic qualities for a protagonist whose success I am supposed to cheer. That the rest of her characterization backs this up is strong writing in the abstract, but highly alienating.

2) The solution to the major plot problem really begs the question of why that sort of display isn't already in the employee manual. I mean, that's like textbook wonder-of-nature right there. (It also begs the question of exactly how "for all his laziness and his idiocy, [Bix] was before anything else an absolute Goddamn professional", because I have known lazy professionals and dumb-but-scrupulously-hard-working professionals, but all three at once is a contradiction in terms.)

3) Combining 1 and 2, I'm not sure whether the ending is an example of Mauli unintentionally succeeding through abuse and petty vengeance on the sleeping bug she hated, or whether she trusted him and planned that out from the beginning. The former is morally problematic and the latter out-of-character.

Most of that should be pretty simply fixable, but Mauli's bullying is a painful read and IMHO this needs a protagonist rewrite, stat.

Tier: Misaimed
#14 · 1
This one is not without its flaws, but on retrospect, it's notable that this is one of the few fics I've gone and re-read. Mostly because I absolutely love that scene with the little girl.

The author may not have intended it, but reflecting on it, it's actually kind of meta; all the work it takes to set something up (be it spring engineers or writers), but when all the elements finally come together, that climax is exquisite.
#15 · 2
This was my last story, and I Goddamn loved it (… yeah, I went there…). What a perfect way to end what’s been an incredibly strong slate.

I’ll admit it: the Goddamns worked for me, since their usage felt purposeful, and they helped informed Mauli’s character. The writing flowed smoothly, the tone was a fun mixture of mundane and magical (I mean, stuff like supervisors and employee handbooks clashing with enchanted forests and the like – that sort of thing has always appealed to me), and the ending was probably my single favourite scene of all the stories I’ve read in this competition. It was satisfying to see everything come together, and it added a whole new layer of depth to Mauli – I think the temptation would’ve been to have her act curmudgeony and one-dimensional right to the bitter end, but it’s clear that there’s more to her than that. It was a great note to end on.

I hope this ranks highly when the results are released a few hours from now.
#16 · 5
Thanks, folks!

As others have said, we had a good bunch of stories this round. I'm quite happy folks thought enough of this one to give me my second medal in the year-and-a-half I've been entering Writeoffs.

This one came straight from the prompt. "Have Fun!" it said, and my mind immediately flashed on the old fable of the grasshopper and the ant: the grasshopper sings and dances all summer while the ant works, and when winter comes, the grasshopper isn't ready while the ant is. Bix and Mauli came straight from there and were originally silkworm moths as >>Not_A_Hat surmised, but as the story evolved in the writing, I realized they needed to be more colorful sorts of lepidoptera for the climax to work.

Now for the clean up! By removing both God and at least 50% of the Goddamns, I can monkey with Kiloa and Mauli's characters and add a few more paragraphs to the discussion Mauli and Teb have at the end: Teb can ask "How?" the way he does here, but Mauli can tell him that the question he should've asked is "Why?" Then the revised version is getting e-mailed to Fred Patten as a submission for his upcoming Gods with Fur anthology: he asked me a couple weeks ago if I had a story about the Twelve Curials from my Blood Jaguar books that I could send him, but I this is as close as I'm likely to get before the May 1st deadline...

Thanks again!