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In Name Only · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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By Any Other Name
As the class trickled through the airlock, Thomas examined the slab. There were chiselled letters on it, but so weathered away he could barely make them out. They read: “Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomen nudum tenemus”.

“Sir?” Thomas asked the teacher. “What does the sentence on the stone mean?”

The teacher glanced at the slab before smiling at Thomas. “Why don’t you ask the guide? He’s waiting for us on the other side.” He ruffled Thomas’s hair and gently pushed him ahead.

Everything was different beyond the airlock. The light was brighter. Thomas blinked several times to adjust, but even then it was difficult not to squint. The air was strange as well. It carried wafts of a familiar pungent smell, but mixed with subtle fragrances unknown to him.

The teacher walked to the guide. They shook hands and exchanged a few inaudible words. The guide then turned to the class.

“Welcome to the botanical garden,” she said. “Does anyone know what a botanical garden is?”

Thomas stifled the urge to raise his hand. When no one answered, the teacher said: “Thomas?”

Thomas winced. He hated to be the teacher’s pet. “A place where people grow plants”, he answered. “And… flowers!” he trumpeted.

Paul elbowed him in the ribs. “Stop taking rubbish”, he growled. Thomas glared back at his friend. “I–“

“Yes, flowers!” the guide interrupted. “I’m surprised you know the name. Have you ever seen one?”

Thomas nodded.

“He’s Professor Johns’s son,” the teacher explained.

“Oh! I see,” the guide said. “Follow me.”

They set out along a well kept dirt path meandering through a hilly meadow. The light pouring from the ceiling was still harsh and aggressive. Thomas asked the teacher why. “Plants needs stronger light to grow,” he explained. “They need sunlight. So we have to recreate it.”

At that very moment, they crested a mound, and a row of bushes came into view down below. The children let out a choral “wow!” and rushed ahead, only to stop short when they realised the bushes were thorny. The guide approached, gingerly took hold of one of the branches. It bore at its end a mysterious red ball-like growth. Bending it towards the ground, “Who would like to smell this flower?” she asked.

“Me!” “Me!” “Me!” a dozen of voices answered together.

“Oh, so sweet!” Nancy exclaimed, as she was the first to stick her nose into the flower. She was followed by all the other pupils in turn.

Except Thomas.

“Thomas?” the teacher asked. “You don’t want to smell the—“ He faltered, turning to the guide for help.

“Tulip,” she concluded.

“That’s not a tulip!” Thomas protested. “I’ve already seen one in my dad’s lab. He said it was a rose.”

The guide smiled. “Look my boy, I have much respect for your dad’s work, but it’s a tulip, not a rose.”

“No!” Thomas shook his head and glared at the guide. “You’re wrong, that’s a rose.”

“And from what evidence does your father derive his taxonomy?” the guide snapped.

Thomas whimpered, ever so slightly. Everyone turned to him. He put his hands over his face and started to snuffle.

“I’m sorry,” the guide relented, walking to the boy and kneeling before him. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. But almost everything we knew has been lost during the war, and every seed mangled by radioactivity. Our knowledge is just… assumptions,” she explained in a soft voice.

Thomas did not answer.

“Anyway,” the guide carried on. She walked to a nearby wicker basket, and pulled out another “tulip-rose” out of it. “What day is it today?” she asked.

“Valentine’s day!” Lucy almost screamed.

“And you know what we do for Valentine’s day?”

“We give a present to the person we love the most,” Lucy carried on.

“Right! So here is a flower for each of you. You can give it to your special someone. It will make for a very special gift!”

The teacher lined up all the children, butThomas wouldn’t budge. He stood at the edge of path, hunching over and sobbing.

The guide winked at the teacher, then walked to Thomas. She kissed him on his hair. “Thomas?” she called softly.

And as the boy slowly raised his head, she extended her arm and offered him her flower.
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#1 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
Thomas not wanting to seem like a smarty-pants/teacher's pet seems to clash with him being so outspoken about the tulip being a rose. If he doesn't want to make a scene, would he really get into an "I'm right, you're wrong" argument with the guide?

The ending, with the guide telling Thomas she loves him the most, doesn't mean anything to me past her trying to apologize for snapping at him. If there's a deeper reveal going on there, I don't see it.
#2 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
Alternate Title: The Real Fallout 76

Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man...

This piece is rough. I say that from a purely technical standpoint, because there are a lot of typos littered around here. Some inconsistencies with em-dashes, some commas lying outside lines of dialogue like orphans on a deserted island, some awkward spacing like towards the end.

There's also this:

“Me!” “Me!” “Me!” a dozen of voices answered together.

Having dialogue from multiple speakers appear in the same paragraph is a dangerous game, kids.

But with all that said, how does the story itself hold up?

For one, I like how this is a post-apocalypse story, or at least a story in the wake of a nuclear catastrophe, that doesn't focus on a bunch of people trying to survive in the wilderness. There seems to be civilization remaining here, or maybe civilization rebuilt itself after the catastrophe? We rarely get to see stories where this is the case, so on the creativity front I have to give the author props, even though they took an L on the proofreading front.

As for Thomas, our precocious protagonist, I find myself feeling mixed about him. He's supposedly a teacher's pet, as we're told outright, and he's the son of a scientist, but he throws a temper tantrum for seemingly no reason. Not behavior befitting a teacher's pet and professor's son, I would say.

Yet Thomas's dilemma, which is a very banal one, is quite relatable; he wants to educate his peers when he feels the adults are ill-equipped to do so, and he learns that even though he might be right, that doesn't make him in the right, if you know what I mean.

Also, the ending is pretty sweet, with just a touch of bitterness.

This might be the weakest entry that I like. I think with some revision it would've been far higher on my slate; as of now it's more mid-tier, which is fine.
#3 · 1
· · >>horizon >>Monokeras
Stop taking rubbish

Why is Thomas stealing trash?


There's a good concept here, but it gets buried under a lot of nonessential things. Like Thomas being given the flower at the end. It's a nice gesture, but as your parting shot, that's what should bring home the story's message, so it sure sounds like the point of the story is to say he is a teacher's pet. I mean, it's a nice gesture, and it does say something about tolerance, but that's not aligned with the message the story seemed to be leading to.

The bit about flowers being so rare, and how people don't really know what they're called anymore is this story's strength, but it got swept under the rug by all these other things that don't really matter. How Thomas is perceived by his classmates in general can be dealt with in a single sentence, not the lengthy treatment it gets here, but insofar as it applies to his knowledge of plants, by all means, this could use more. Then when challenged on what a rose is, he gives in too easily. He must have some idea of why his father thinks that's a rose, but he backs off before ever saying. Then the guide backs off as well, conceding she doesn't really know either, after she had been rather insistent.

Everyone keeps waffling, and as a result, the story does, too. Do you want this to be a lament of a world that no longer knows what flowers are? Or a story about Thomas gaining acceptance? The conclusion you come to is a logical follow-on to this universe, but it's not what has the emotional attachment. It's not Thomas's father and this guide fighting a precarious battle against the loss of knowledge, since we don't see either of them with their passion in action. As to Thomas himself, he's upset, but more because he isn't believed, not because he's grieving a world from the past or his father's expertise or his own lot in life. He gets the flower and has no reaction to it. That's a pretty bland way to end things.

Nice idea, but needs some focus.
#4 · 1
· · >>AndrewRogue >>Monokeras
I was going to talk about the central battle over what the flower is, but >>Pascoite beat me to it. +1 to that whole comment.

I'd add just one more thing: as currently presented, the tragedy seems to be that Thomas knows the truth, but isn't believed. I think you could make that work — if you removed Thomas' waffling and grounded the question of why he knows about roses and why he isn't believed — but if your goal is to draw tragedy from the truth being lost, I think that instead you should double down.

I think Thomas should be wrong, too.

I think Professor Johns should be not a botanist, but a linguist. He believes that roses must have been the most important flower in Earth history because of all of the sayings about it: "every rose has its thorns", "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet", etc. So when he finds a time capsule with a seed and plants it and cultivates it, he claims he's rediscovered the long-lost rose. It's got thorny things in the center and it smells pretty good. Thomas instantly recognizes this flower as the same type his dad grew.

No, the botanist argues. This is clearly a daisy. We've got fragments from an ancient book which identify a daisy as a flower round like the sun, with pointy petals, just like this one. We respect your dad's scholarship but he's wrong here.

Then she hands a bunch of sunflowers out to the class.

“Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomen nudum tenemus”.

“Sir?” Thomas asked the teacher. “What does the sentence on the stone mean?”

I guess that postapocalyptic Earth didn't end up with a copy of The Name of the Rose, then. :-p

Seriously, I'd drop that. It feels a little too on-the-nose, and a little too googleable. You never actually have Thomas ask the guide what it means. Which is good, because explaining it would be sledgehammering the point of the story in way too hard. But at the same time, bad, because if you never explain it, the reader won't get anything out of it unless (A) they've read TNOTR, in which case your twist is spoiled; or (B) they google it to the same effect.

Thanks for writing!
#5 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
I think the arc and the message here is really muddled. At least that's the impression I get from the ending. Given the title I kinda feel like the ultimate conclusion of the story should be more that the name given to the rose doesn't really matter, but it in fact seems to matter a -lot-. And I think that is kind of a loss to the story.

That said, I'm honestly really not sure what you are actually for with the ending. I mean, it is clear that it is supposed to be a reconciliation moment of sorts, but I'm not really sure what the emotional backing behind it is. At some level it honestly feels like the guide is patronizing him.

Speaking of the guide though, that part kinda bugs me. I mean, if his dad is the one doing the genetic engineering to bring these flowers back, I kinda feel like he's in a better position to actually know the identity of the flower than the guide? That just really jumped out at me.

The way you lean into the unknown nature of the flowers is a bit... inconsistent? You use mysterious terminology to describe them, but the problem is that our protagonist actually knows what they are. So continuing to lean into it is... weird because we the audience know what they are. The protagonist knows what they are. I'm not really sure why the narrator muddles it. I sort of agree with >>horizon Horizon in that I think you should go with nobody being right about what it is, but I don't think it is to double down on the tragedy of hte loss, but to reveal that the loss of that information doesn't change the beauty of a rose, which feeds back into the title.

Prompt relevance... I see how you get there. Its a fine take on it.
#6 ·
· · >>Monokeras
I don't think we can assume Thomas is in the right here. But that's kind of the problem, Author, because since there doesn't appear to be a message so much as an interesting premise to this story, it's tough for me to take sides. But take this sentence:

“...almost everything we knew has been lost during the war, and every seed mangled by radioactivity. Our knowledge is just… assumptions,”

I think you need to be more careful when you start expositing like this, because it raises a lot of questions**. EVERY seed was wiped out? Then how are they growing anything at all? What's happened to all of our pictures and textbooks? Surely those would tell us what's a rose and what's a tulip. How much of our information is lost exactly?

There's a suspension of disbelief required that while some can clear I clatter right into it. Take that for what it's worth.

Apart from his, I also want to point out that Thomas is being dragged through the scene a little bit, and it's not clear what exactly he wants from the situation. I guess others have said that, but it's important that this gets hammered home because I think it's step one to improving this story. Give Thomas a goal and give us a clear picture of what he knows going in.

Before I leave:

“And from what evidence does your father derive his taxonomy?” the guide snapped.

I really like how you had the guide dial up the science-speak in order to win the argument. Well done.

Thanks for writing!

**Aside: Yes, there are certainly answers to these questions that the reader can take a stab at, but I don't think your premise should be where we're taking guesses, especially not in a story like this.