View Poll Results: Pick your favourite!

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  • Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill by Dan Bieger [Hereford Eye]

    0 0%
  • The Body by Ben Hobson [Benh]

    0 0%
  • Sail and Shadow by Richard Dickson [DailyRich]

    3 50.00%
  • The Newly Sighted by Rich Matrunick [Sterling13]

    0 0%
  • A Tale of Black J'oh by Mike Hazelwood [Daddy Darth]

    3 50.00%
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  1. #1
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    January-February 2010 Short Fiction Voting Thread

    Welcome to the January-February 2010 Short Fiction Contest Voting Thread.

    Voting is open to everyone -- you don't need to have entered in order to cast a vote.

    Please read all the stories, then select the one that you think is the best!

    If you feel so inclined, in this thread you may post your thoughts, feedback, criticism, etc., about the stories. This is not required, but as the Writing forum is a place for writers to develop and hone their craft, any and all constructive feedback is greatly appreciated.

    For the Entrants: As part of the spirit of the contest is to help authors produce publication-worthy pieces, you are asked to provide constructive criticism, from a writer's perspective, for at least two stories (you are, of course, invited do more if you wish). To keep things fair and balanced, you are asked to provide feedback on the two stories entered immediately after your own (stories are listed chronologically-by-entry -- the author last on the list, jump back to the start of the list).

    The voting period will close on February 28th, 2010.

    Good luck!

    ---

    Stories:


    1. Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill by Dan Bieger [Hereford Eye]
    http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25149

    2. The Body by Ben Hobson [Benh]
    http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25295

    3. Sail and Shadow by Richard Dickson [DailyRich]
    http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25571

    4. The Newly Sighted by Rich Matrunick [Sterling13]
    http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25666

    5. A Tale of Black J'oh by Mike Hazelwood [Daddy Darth]
    http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25837

  2. #2
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    Alright - I was a tid-bit proactive this month. I've got my comments ready for all of the stories... I know we only had to do 2, but I think it speaks to the quality of the entries that I wanted to read them all.

    I decided to go by sections for each story, point out what worked, what didn't, and any sentences I stumbled with along the way. Then I did a final review. If any of you have edited/revised your stories after they were posted on the site, there's a possibility some of my comments may seem "out of date."

    Comments to follow on the next few posts.

  3. #3
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    Review:
    The Body
    by Ben Hobson


    Section 1:
    I’m not sure what to think about this exchange. Something doesn’t feel quite right – given the glimpse of Aaron’s personality, I’m not sure how Michael remembers himself as a ‘similar child’. Aaron doesn’t feel ‘…shy and hesitant…full of fear.’

    Section 2:
    Love the imagery.

    This sentence reads strangely: ‘The room around him swayed in bright red, the reflected light from the body the ship was in washed through his windows.’

    Section 3:
    I like this dialogue. You parse in a few hints about the setting and the plot without resorting to an infodump, or giving away too much too soon.

    This sentence reads strangely: ‘The place smelled of oak and pork and Michael noticed it then.’

    Section 4:
    Another fine section. I would like to see either ‘Michael thought’ attached to the first of his series of internal thoughts, or italics (or some other marking) used to denote internal dialogue.

    Section 5:
    This exchange with Aaron is much much stronger than the first. Also, looking at sections 2-5… I think Michael’s personality is a bit off in section 1 as well.

    This sentence reads strangely: ‘Michael could see the blue spheres of energy that seemed to glow staying clear of the ship and some bounced from the stern as the passed.’ As does this ‘They were all of them new.’ and this ‘Aaron, the lad, standing and running line.’

    Section 6:
    The phrase ‘relayed through the fax’ feels out of place given the image of the boat I had up until this point. And I’m not understanding Michael’s “Job description”, ‘His duty was to issue orders, to maintain moral, to back up the cabin, to watch out for trouble.’ So he’s a lookout and first mate, yet has no part in the defense (or offense) of the ship whatsoever? And he also doesn’t feel like the type of guy that would be in charge of maintaining moral, given, earlier, that he didn’t even know most of the names of the sailors on the ship. I also find it odd that the captain has time to have a heart to heart with him at this particular moment. And – why is the captain so quick to let him off the ship now? In section 3 the captain was adamant that ‘You are home….’ And I realize he keeps to that line here, but it seemed an odd spot to offer him a vacation.

    Section 7:
    This explains a bit of my ‘first mate’ confusion from the prior section. Hmmm… I’m wondering if some of this should occur earlier…

    Section 8:
    Good section.

    Section 9:
    No problems here. Strong section.

    Section 10:
    This sentence is intriguing – ‘Michael smiled as he remembered what swimming had been like in his life long ago.’ So, he hasn’t always been in the body? Or was he in a different part of the body? Overall, another strong section.

    Section 11:
    A nice resolution, though the “Ta-da, we’re cancer” line could use a little tightening. This is your big impact twist, and it didn’t quite stand out as well as it should. I was a bit confused as to where the cancer got a boat. I’m assuming that, by feeding them, he allowed them to develop into beings capable of thinking and doing such things.

    This ain’t a full sentence: ‘Glistening in the reflected dark of the body.’

    This sentence reads strangely: ‘The thing looked as though it was attempting to look disappointed.’

    This is unneeded: ‘…his name’s Anthony…’

    Huh?: ‘As though you were alergic to the very place you were born again to be.’

    Overall:
    A solid story that I feel could have used another editing pass. The strongest parts, I feel, are of Michael’s sickness and struggles against the red light of the body. It really put me in the shoes of the character, and almost gave me a headache! In a good way, haha (here’s a random reference, but in some way it reminded me of the relentless blinding white light Al Pacino experiences in Insomnia).

    I’m overall a bit mystified why the captain put up with Michael for so long and why he made him first mate. There’s got to be something deeper there, more than him just liking Michael. A relative, the son of his old first mate… something.

    I really like how Aaron is shown in contrast to Michael – How he slowly assimilates himself into the crew while Michael remains the outcast.
    Just a style thing, but I much prefer ‘“Speech blah blah,” Michael said.’ to ‘Michael said, “Speech blah blah.”

    I’m also a bit curious exactly where Michael would take a vacation to.

  4. #4
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    Review:
    Sail and Shadow
    by Richard Dickson


    Section 1:
    Great opening paragraph and strong dialogue. I’m interested to know why his son is so curious about ninjas.

    This sentence reads strangely: ‘For many a pirate, the only time his eyes know tears is the day his son takes up his cloth.’

    Section 2:
    Another well done opening. We get a good glimpse at a dream that pushes his curiosity… but I’m still left wondering why he wanted to be a ninja in the first place. I’m undecided if the ninja tug-o-war dream is too on-the-nose or not.

    Section 3:
    These openings are great. Everything works here.

    Section 4:
    A well done section, with a few nits -
    In these two sentences ‘Hundreds of scattered islands dot the sea here, and to the south a larger island stands watch. The currents there roil around…’ I believe you can remove ‘here’ from the first and ‘there’ from the second.

    ‘At some point in the past…’ is a little weak. ‘Folklore said…’ or some other such statement might be a little stronger.

    ‘…just as the seas there chewed up and spat out those sailing through them…’ feels like another unneeded ‘there’.

    Section 5:
    ‘He was a Brellish Mariner…’ when I first started reading this section, I was confused why Brayden was suddenly a mariner.

    I really enjoyed this section.

    Section 6:
    I think this sentence ‘And some just watched, trying to decide if this pirate pup would be missed if he were never to return to his ship.’ foreshadows the events that will occur in the next paragraph a little too strongly. Not sure it’s needed.

    Huh?: ‘He hadn't been walking and run into Brayden by accident’

    Section 7:
    ‘I had no desire for it, but I did not wish to see him disappointed in me. Besides, if I did not follow my father's path, it would fall to my brother Yujin, and I did not wish to see that happen."’ I’m not sure that this is needed. The fact that Sumimasen also did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps seems a little too coincidental (I’m a bit undecided on this). And… why did he not want the position to fall to his brother Yujin. As I read this statement, I was thinking that he did not like/trust his brother… but reading the following paragraphs gives me a different impression. Is he trying to spare his brother of the life of a ninja?

    Ah, wait… now I see the art comment. I get it, but it took me a bit to get there. Not sure if it needs to be clearer or I’m just thick.

    ‘…a jinashi, a magician…’ not sure you need to give the magician a new name merely for this brief mention…

    Huh?: ‘…and the wind turned to cheering.’

    ‘…down on him.’ Should it be ‘down on’ or ‘down upon’ or doesn’t it matter? (I’m asking more than anything here)

    ‘”I do not expect what I am about to say will make it any easier for you to bear what I have just told you.”’ This dialogue could use a bit of a cleanup.

    I love how he realizes that if he takes the ninja’s life, he’s doomed to become a pirate like his father.

    Overall:
    You did the thing I was afraid to do: Combine pirates and ninjas in a story without having it come across as some pirate story conveniently mashed together with a ninja story. Some serious applause there.

    Your writing is great, I love the back and forth, and I love the conclusion. Here is my one and only hang-up: Brayden’s original reason for wanting to know more about ninjas (ie, before the dreams) is never really explained. Alright, so perhaps it’s just a bit of boyhood fancy… but surely something brought it on? And it was a shuriken that killed his mother, yet his father apparently never mentions this to him. That seems odd given his general dislike of ninjas. Surely his father, without even knowing it was a ninja, would blame it on a ninja given the weapon of choice.

    All in all well done.

  5. #5
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    Review:
    Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill
    By Dan Bieger


    Section 1:
    ‘Jack and Jill went up the hill, skipping through the river mist, neither noticing the swirling. River mist seldom swirls but the twins paid no attention. Their attention centered on the choice they must make, the school they’d attend for the life they wanted.’ There is something off with this opening. In the first sentence, you end with ‘…neither noticing the swirling.’ I feel like you need something after ‘swirling’ to define that it’s the mists you’re talking about. Perhaps it should be combined with sentence #2? I’m hoping that the swirling mists play some big role in the plot, otherwise, placing such importance on them here (the narrator giving emphasis) seems odd, given how the characters don’t notice.

    ‘…debated the choice, Jill optied…’ should be a period, not a comma. And I assume a typo for ‘opted’.

    ‘…professional, “Jack countered. “then…’ a few other editing boo-boos here.
    At this point, I’m a bit confused as to why this scene was chosen, and the father’s dialogue appeared in flashback only. I also had a small struggle with the twins age – the opening ‘skipping’, ‘quizzical’, and ‘scurrying’ had 10-12 year olds in my mind, but the dialogue feels fit for someone older (perhaps just about to go to college next year?).

    Section 2 & 3:
    Not bad, but it does heap a whole bunch of questions. I think you can remove the ‘and Jiru…’ from the first sentence (not altogether, but perhaps out of this sentence). It feels out of place, given that we don’t get another glimpse of Jiru until Section 3. Also, maybe it’s just the size of the section, but it feels like a half completed scene. Why did they go down the hill? Just to think on their problem? Seems an odd journey for mere contemplation.

    Section 4:
    I was a little confused when Jakku’s lord’s head fell off. After re-reading, I assume Jakku forced it to seem like his lord was the one snickering. But, then… does the chief know it was Jakku… because he does ask him if he has anything to say. This could be cleaned up a little bit.

    I was also confused why the elder would even allow Jakku to speak, given his quick reaction to Jakku’s lord.

    And then Jakku has time, during his speech, to draw his katana and lop off the chief’s head before the chief can react. And none of the other chiefs say a word about it? Shouldn’t they be up in arms? Clearly the chiefs have no idea what Jakku is talking about up to this point… so why let him get away with this?

    I get where you’re trying to go with this scene (in fact, I’m picturing the Lucy Liu board room meeting scene from Kill Bill in my mind)… but things feel a little too quickly resolved.

    Section 5:
    Much, much more satisfying other side of the coin. I am confused by one thing – In section 3, you mention ‘what could she provide that would not only solidify her position but transform these Raiders into a force to be reckoned with?’

    So, is she a Raider in disguise, fooling her lord? Or is the statement in section 3 a typo? I’m guessing the latter, given that you seem to be showing the alternate paths that Jakku and Jiru have chosen.

    Section 6:
    Ah, okay – here it is made clear about the two different raider ‘sects’. I’d look at perhaps defining this better in sections 2&3. Another solid back and forth between Jiru and her lord.

    Section 7:
    (My first thought before even starting this section ‘we seem overdue for a return to Jakku.’)

    While this meeting was solid, it lacked a bit of ‘oomph’.

    Section 8:
    A nice tie back to the beginning.

    Overall:
    The middle reads a little bit like ‘The Art of War’… which is a good thing, and a bad thing. There is some very solid debate going on here, but it really (like most of The Art of War) never gets into the specific details of the strategic vision.

    The beginning, the end, and the mention of ‘Jack and Jill and the hill’… I’m not sure they have any place in this story. I mean, I understand the debate, and I like how they reach different conclusions between the two scenes… but the setting… the setting seems like a strange little bookend for the “The Raiders Story” that is the middle.

  6. #6
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    Review
    A Tale of Black J’oh
    by Daddy Darth


    Section1:
    ‘…could not tear his eyes away from the three men.’ What three men? The inquisitors? This just reads a little weird to me – you have Jacob not being able to tear his eyes away from the 3 men, but then the action occurs ‘offscreen’ where he cannot see it (only hear). I’d add a bit to this, perhaps describe the inquisitors as they pass.

    ‘The men lurched forward, struggling with the weight of the man.’ Another reference I believe to the inquisitors (‘The men’), but just vague enough (as with the first) to give me a bit of pause when reading. I’m also not sure I like the simple ‘the men’ and ‘the man’ in the same sentence.

    ‘He was realizing the life of a jailer was not for him.’ I think we’ve got a tense confusion here. Either modify to include the word ‘realized’ (maybe) or change this to internal dialogue.

    ‘Still he laughed.’ Unneeded.

    Not a bad section overall, you do a very nice job with the condition of the pirate (the description of his face).

    Section2:
    Whose POV are we in to start here? I don’t believe its Jacob Buckle…

    ‘But there was no escape and Stan’s bladder not lack for volume.’ Missing a word or two in this sentence.

    ‘Tarriquaz watched the two men retreat…’ Starting with this sentence, we’re put in Black J’oh’s shoes. I’d try to make the POV more evident in the beginning as being Black J’oh (or is this a POV switch?)

    ‘Cracked ribs could not deter him filling his lungs and he felt that possibly his wounds felt a little less severe.’ This sentence needs a re-do.

    ‘It occurs to him that this is the last sunlight he will ever see. He finds he cannot…’ There’s a strange tense shift to present for this paragraph. Why shift to present here?

    The section is not bad, story wise, but there are a few POV issues and tense shifts that could be cleaned up. I rather like the visuals of the pirate closing his eyes to hear the surf.

    Section3:
    ‘…said a voice behind them…’ You’ve haven’t quite defined ‘them’ in this scene yet. One is Stan, and I’m assuming the other is Black J’oh, but that’s not 100% apparent.

    ‘Stan turned his attention back to the cell and drawing knife from a leather sheaf at his hip…’ Missing a word or two here.

    ‘Tariquaz offered no resistance, intent instead on remaining upright. Tight muscles resisted …’ I know its two different uses of ‘resistance’, but it seems odd in back to back sentences like this. Also, this is minor, but we’re in Stan’s POV here… Stan would be referring to the pirate as Black J’oh, not Tariquaz.

    ‘Tight muscles resisted…’ – Going back to this, this phrase feels like it’s coming from Tariquaz’s POV, whereas we started in Stan’s POV (given that we have some of Stan’s internal thoughts earlier). I’m thinking now that the double space in this section is intentional to denote the POV switch. And, while you can certainly switch POV’s mid scene, I always find such things very difficult to do (and do well).

    ‘Little indicated his station save for…’ This could be cleaned up.

    At this point, I’m a bit confused why the inquisitor is just now asking him to confess. I had assumed in the first section that he was questioned by the inquisitor and the inquisitors men. Apparently they were just beating him?

    ‘…was still holding…’ – This just reads strangely to me.

    ‘Stan, having never seen an inquisition by a High Inquisitor…’ Now we’re back inside Stan’s head. Feels like an unneeded jump for this little piece of info.

    ‘…watched curiously but never took his eyes off Tariquaz.’ - Using ‘but’ doesn’t seem right here. Again, Stan should be thinking of the pirate as ‘Black J’oh’.

    ‘A bead of sweat trickled down his back.’ – Back to the inquisitors POV.

    ‘And I raped the virgins and murdered the children.’ – It felt like you were steering us towards liking/feeling sympathy for Black J’oh. This sentence definitely took me out of that feeling.

    ‘Tariquaz failed to notice; his mind was still trapped three years…’ Tariquaz POV.

    Too many ‘head jumps’ for me in this section. Also, given the inquisitor’s personality, I’m a bit confused as to why he would let him men do nothing but beat Black J’oh for two days straight (even cut out an eye) before he questions him.

    Section4:
    This feels it occurs just seconds after section 3 (given the last sentence of section 3 and the first of this section), but the inquisitor has disappeared. Again, given the inquisitor’s concern that the crowd would tear Black J’oh apart, why leave him alone in a cell guarded by the two fellows that have been beating him non-stop for 2 days?

    ‘No,” he said, changing his mind. “Open your mouth, pirate.’ – I think there wants to be a comma after ‘mind’.

    ‘…he asked as Stan becoming winded slowed his assault.’ – Needs fixin’

    ‘The possibility of real fortune tumbled around his mind. “We have to move though.’ – Having that first sentence before the dialogue made me think Stan was talking here.

    I keep waiting for another appearance by Jacob Buckle. It feels like a strange POV to open the story with if we never see him again.

    I’m assuming at this point that Black J’oh is going to lead them into a trap of some sort. Certainly he doesn’t seem a man to give anything to men such as these…

    Section 5:
    ‘From the cove they would traverse a small tangle of forest that skirted a small fishing village.’ - Should it be ‘traversed’ instead of ‘would traverse’ here?

    Ah, the trap. Though I’m delighted that Stan and Chester will ‘get theirs’, it seemed a tad easy to get to this point.

    Section 6:
    ‘But stout arms grabbed…’ – I’d cut the ‘but’

    Now, see, this chapter was very satisfying. I was looking forward to his revenge on Relios… and then it ends.

    Overall:
    Perhaps others will have better luck with the POV switches, but they were very confusing to me. I wasn’t seeing anything overly pertinent that you would lose by limiting the POV to one per scene.

    I thought the beginning dragged just a little too much – too many scenes of rehashed beatings for my tastes. I would have liked to have seen sections 1-3 condensed into 1, maybe 2 scenes, with instead a focus on Black J’oh escaping jail and his revenge on Relios. I would completely cut Jacob Buckle – Giving this very unimportant character the opening scene plus a last name (while Stan and Chester had none!) felt very odd. I kept waiting for Jacob to be important to the plot somehow.

    I think you’ve got some very strong visuals, and did a very nice job at making Stan and Chester utterly despicable. I was rooting the whole time for Black J’oh to get his revenge (though you did lose me for a moment with the raping women and killing children bit).

  7. #7
    Damn fool idealist DailyRich's Avatar
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    Sterling, thanks for a really thorough read and critique. Much appreciated. Here's my response to some of your comments.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sterling13 View Post
    This sentence reads strangely: ‘For many a pirate, the only time his eyes know tears is the day his son takes up his cloth.’
    It was my attempt at a poetic way of saying, "The only time a lot of pirates cry is when their son gets their bandanna."

    Another well done opening. We get a good glimpse at a dream that pushes his curiosity… but I’m still left wondering why he wanted to be a ninja in the first place. I’m undecided if the ninja tug-o-war dream is too on-the-nose or not.
    I wasn't necessarily trying to give the impression that he wanted to be a ninja, just that he had a growing fascination with them. As a child, that comes through as emulation. As he gets older, it grows into investigation.

    Huh?: ‘He hadn't been walking and run into Brayden by accident’
    I was trying to convey that the man deliberately bumped into him.

    As I read this statement, I was thinking that he did not like/trust his brother… but reading the following paragraphs gives me a different impression. Is he trying to spare his brother of the life of a ninja?

    Ah, wait… now I see the art comment. I get it, but it took me a bit to get there. Not sure if it needs to be clearer or I’m just thick.
    It was something I wanted to build to, so I didn't want to come out and say it. I thought it was a nice moment to have him stop and look at the sheets on the wall.

    Huh?: ‘…and the wind turned to cheering.’
    Probably should have been "the sound of the wind", the idea being that his father (the sail) thinks he's going to kill the ninja and heartily approves.

    ‘”I do not expect what I am about to say will make it any easier for you to bear what I have just told you.”’ This dialogue could use a bit of a cleanup.
    I was trying to imply here that he's speaking in a language not his own and is being overly formal and precise.

    Here is my one and only hang-up: Brayden’s original reason for wanting to know more about ninjas (ie, before the dreams) is never really explained. Alright, so perhaps it’s just a bit of boyhood fancy… but surely something brought it on?
    This probably could have been clearer, but like I said above, the idea is that the dreams were always there in some form, it was just that he wasn't old enough to understand or do anything about them until we pick him up in the story.

    That opening originated from when this was going to be a more humorous story. As I wrote more, it became a more serious piece, but I really didn't want to lose that opening bit about the various traditions -- I felt it was a really solid way to introduce the world I'd created, and I liked the juxtaposition of describing this solemn occasion and then cutting to the boy showing up wearing it like a ninja.

    And it was a shuriken that killed his mother, yet his father apparently never mentions this to him. That seems odd given his general dislike of ninjas. Surely his father, without even knowing it was a ninja, would blame it on a ninja given the weapon of choice.
    Nothing but mea culpa on that. One of those things that honestly never occurred to me while writing and now seems face-palmingly obvious.

    This was the first thing I've ever completed of this length. I've got some rambling 9000-word aborted NaNoWriMo novel that accomplishes nothing but going nowhere and getting lost on the way, so this was a great learning experience as well as a confidence booster. Glad you enjoyed it.

  8. #8
    Boba Fett Lives Daddy Darth's Avatar
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    Review
    Jack and Jill Went up the Hill by Dan Beiger

    I really had trouble getting into your story at the beginning. I immediately thought that you were talking about children so the shift to the fact that these are young adults contemplating university popped me out of the story. Their decision making discussion did not strike me as genuine for youth of that age and was overly simplistic. For example Jill’s comment that piracy is more legal then espionage.

    Then a transition to a gritty Asian setting. I think I was still confused by the opening to go there with you right away. However the meat of your story in this setting is good. Nice pacing with good dialog over all. My favourite part of the story by far was Jakku’s plan being put into action - it was very enjoyable and written well. Nice action and convincing. It really blew me away to be honest. Though a small man being somehow hulking did trip me.

    I did not like switching to Jiru’s POV - though you did a good job with it in terms of portraying her as exerting her influence in a passive way through a man. However, I did get bogged down in the story here with Jiru explaining to her dumb male partner how to come out on top of this situation.

    I found the resolution b/w Jakku and Jiru a little flat and then the switch back to Jack and Jill again took me out of the story. They just had this very serious experience and they run laughing down the hill hand in hand like kids. They too easily move past what just happened to them in my opinion. And I don’t get the relevance of them switching what they had thought they would prefer.

    Overall the beginning and ending I had trouble with. The middle was quite good and well written. Personally I think you could jettison the beginning and ending and move the whole story into an alt fiction/fantasy world about Jakku and Jiru.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by DailyRich View Post
    Sterling, thanks for a really thorough read and critique. Much appreciated.
    No problem - I did enjoy reading it.

    To put everyone in a better frame of reference as to how I critqued: I was actively critiquing as I read... so any sentences that I have marked down as "needs cleaned up" etc, doesn't mean that I didn't understand the meaning of the sentence (that was reserved for "huh?" ), just that it was something that tripped me up momentarily.

  10. #10
    Boba Fett Lives Daddy Darth's Avatar
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    Sterling - you sure put the pressure on - having great reviews for all right out of the gate. I will get Ben's out soon and likely make some comments on the rest. Yours is the only one I have not had opportunity to read yet actually. But I will get to it soon. Then voting. I almost dont want to vote and instead just appreciate this as a writing exercise.

    Gotta tell ya writing a 5000 word story was quite a challenge. I really got to try a lot of different things. I learned alot. Thanks Beav for the opportunity - wish you had finished given this was your baby and all.

  11. #11
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    A Tale of Black J’oh, Mike Hazelwood

    A fine tale told with attention to detail and an ear for the patois. Found it believable and consistent save for one tiny detail which I’ll get to in a moment. Things to admire include the source of the pirate’s name, the High Inquisitor’s means of interrogation, and the gold tooth ploy. Things to worry over include the ease with which Stan is tempted. Okay, Stan is not a Caladonian – side trip: is this a bastardization of Caledonian, making the bad guys those terrible Scots people? – so, maybe, his lack of loyalty is understandable. It would be more so if there had been hints to this effect in the earlier conversations between Stan and Chester. Nothing in those exchanges admitted of any discontent on Stan’s part. Another side trip: Stan and Chester are both English names so my earlier speculation about terrible Scots people is off by a by a long shot.
    Would have liked to understand why the High Inquisitor felt no trepidation during his inquiry. He’s facing an obviously desperate man and yet he sits across from him, knee-to-knee, and only once considers the prisoner might attack him. This suggests some knowledge the H.I. has that the prisoner does not. OTOH, maybe the prisoner does have it as he does not attempt to take advantage of the apparent defenselessness of the H.I.

    This tale was a serious contender for my vote based on the thoroughness/completeness of the plot and the very sound execution of same.
    The one tiny detail? When did he put his patch over his vacant eye socket?

    The Newly Sighted, Rich Matrunik

    The path to glory lays branched before you, and you must chose one branch or the other before you go on: Ninjas or Pirates?"

    Given that theme, you give us a tale of time warriors where time is not the issue. The issue lies with the selection process and the tragic flaw is that the issue is not resolved. Maccai remains at story end as he was at story beginning, committed to dream and the fight to make the dream real.

    In retrospect, Maccai could have known at the outset that a terrible mistake was transpiring even as he watched it happen: “You don’t belong here,” he said but he did not grasp the consequences of his insight. He simply went forward accepting his insight as a natural instruction to his student. “Go deeper,” he commands but fails to follow his own instructions.

    “Soon, this ‘noise’ shall be taken from you.” Derzan is a painter. What lies in his sight is not noise but life. And each memory ended in an abrupt flash. Not that of the mountaintop but that of the poker.

    Maccai continued his training with no improvement, no lessening of the agony, no hint at the possibility of future success but the sensei knows only one strategy: press forward. And Derzan feels no possibility other than to pres forward. Even when he asks himself directly: why am I still here?” he does not answer the question. Everyone is rapt in the war and the possibility of future happiness; no one lives in the present.

    Berraj Tali takes him away from the school to where? To where he can find himself? No. He is taking him to his home where he should discover his family had been captured by the enemy, hopefully thus spurring him into renewed dedication to the war. It merely spurs him to further rejection of that life.

    Everyone in this tale acts in accordance with the script they’ve been handed, mindless automatons. Even the dream of success becomes lifeless. And it ends with the final confirmation that Maccai, the teacher, can no more give up his ways than his former pupil could.

    If that is where you wanted to take this tale, you did it well. Everything follows, point to point, but the people do not sing to me and the picture painted is less impressionistic than it is cartoon.

    There are no choices in the tale; only blind duty. And every character we meet performs accordingly. I don’t think blind duty will ever achieve the dream.

    The Body, Ben Hobson

    The path to glory lays branched before you, and you must chose one branch or the other before you go on: Ninjas or Pirates?"

    Not enough knowledge in me for how cancer works so putting together the pirates and the ninjas doesn’t work. Yes, I can see the cancer as the pirates but I am missing Michael’s choice. Is it that he is supposed to be a ninja – a white blood cell – fighting off the pirates? If so, I don’t see that point being made.

    He is the morale officer but only aids the Captain’s morale. Everyone else believes him to be not suited for the ship; everyone else knows his penchant for feeding the enemy, and yet – again, assuming they are white blood cells – they do not attack him.

    If the final paragraph is accurate and he is home, then, he was a ninja cancer cell all along. He did his job, then, weakening the defense of the body. Against that argument is the revulsion the cancer cells feel for him. There is one the one hand their willingness to carry him along for a few days and their statement, on the other hand, that he is home. All through the story, there is the match and mismatch of Michael’s role.

    Forgetting the ninja/pirate thing, just considering the story on its own merits, I remain at sea wondering where and how it all fits together. Not enough information for me to understand Michael’s role.

    Sail and Shadow, Richard Dickson

    A beautifully written tale with a proper nuance and lushness of story and description befitting the topic. The language of the captain enthralled me with its seafaring imagery. Lines such as “…or I’ll set ya to scrapin’ barnacles off the hull without the courtesy of dockin’ the ship first” bring, for me, great realism to the story.

    Trying to describe the emotion associated with libraries and book stores has always been a pet pastime of mine and you hit it as well as any I’ve ever read with: The boy had never seen so many books in one place before. He never realized people knew so much.

    While the journey through the bite did little to forward the action of the story, it did wonders for showing the father-son relationship making the boy’s choice that much more difficult. And the choice that honored neither of the theme’s choices worked very well.

    Tying the ninja and the father together with the killing played as real as the pirating. The back story the ninja provides makes Braden’s ultimate choice that much more believable. It isn’t the daydreaming of a pre-pubescent but the conscious choice of a young man fully aware of the consequences of that choice.

    In the words of an old platoon sergeant: you done good! And you get my vote.

  12. #12
    Boba Fett Lives Daddy Darth's Avatar
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    HE,
    Thanks so much for the thoughtful analysis. You make some great points and remind me of the importance of the little details. They all matter.

    I meant no disrespect to the great Scots of the land. I love the sound of Caledonia and a slight twist just seemed like the right place for me.

    The patch - he placed it on his eye right before the battle at the end of the story. Till then he bared his gory hole so to speak.

    As for the easy decision for Stan to go for it - I knew that this would likely be the weakest and most suspect part of my story. I struggled with it. I liked the tooth ploy but needed something to totally sell it.

    Now a little story about the creation of Black J'oh. He is named for a bath toy of my son's. Funny but true. He's got a great pirate voice and is not very nice to my daughter's mermaids.

    Lastly - this goes to a point of Sterlings about the character of Jacob Buckle. Well this was a little homage to my son - though he does not get treated very well here. I just pictured this young naive guard suddenly confronted with this scene and I was off to the races.

    my thanks
    DD

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    The Body by Ben Hobson

    Ben - sorry I dont have much more to say other then what I posted over on your story. At the end of the day I enjoyed your story. It was easy to read with an engaging character and some good dialogue. You did not sell me on this being a pirate story though - I dont know who the pirates were supposed to be here i.e. the folks on the vessel or the cancer cells. My only other complaint really is not understanding the technology in your story and how it worked and who these people were on the ship. I needed it spelled out a little more clearly I guess. It detracted from the good points of your story.

    Very interesting!

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    Sail and Shadow by Richard Dickson

    You know I really like your stories. You have a nice voice in which you tell your tales. Very easy to settle in and just enjoy. The world you created seemed a very plausible fantasy setting. Brayden was a wonderful character who almost stepped off the page. Interesting ending for the lad - librarian. Didnt see that coming. I loved this next sequence.

    "Ninjas could enter a shadow in one part of a city and emerge from another shadow in an entirely different city. Ninjas were stolen as babies and never knew their parents. Ninjas rode black horses stitched together from pieces of moonless sky cut down with a magic knife. Ninjas could kill a man with a stare. A lone ninja once withstood a charge from a troop of the famed Aorlatan, killing every rider but sparing every horse. Ninjas were actually ghosts, and one had to die to become one. Brayden's mind reeled. None of the great libraries of the western world contained more than these whispered fragments."

    I have some minor criticisms. Dont think overly long on them. Just food for thought. Hey I cant let you totally off the hook can I?

    The Shuriken death scene. My limited knowledge of Ninja tells me that throwing stars are more sizzle then substance. Great theater in a movie but not the lethal killing tools we would like to believe. A knife would have been more realistic if the ninja was not going to come back and take the dude out in true ninja fashion i.e. when the guy was sleeping.

    The old "stepped in front of the shot and got killed" trick and the Ninja being able to tell this "pirate whelp" was the son of the woman he killed were not terribly original in my opinion.

    Anywa, nice entry. And now I really have to get to Sterling's story and all the flash fic. Oi.

  15. #15
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    The Newly Sighted by Rich Matrunick

    I found myself very engaged by your story. I really was able to just read it for the most part from beginning to end. You had so much good stuff going on. The writing and dialogue as well as a great character.

    I did get confused near the end though b/c I thought he had lost his eyes at the beginnning of the story so was really surprised he had not. I question why they did not just kill him instead of going through the deal of giving him the knife to cut out his eyes and then let him wander blindless to die. Not an honourable death to be sure. Granted these are not Samurai but it still felt pretty cold.

    I also could not sort out what the issue was regarding whether he was the right student b/c of the painting and that significance. I think this could have been made clearer. Maybe I missed something.

    Finally a small point - the ticks. I dont know the history of clocks but I am not sure you chose the right mechanism to show them seeing into the future based on the kind of time period you are writing in. Felt to modern and connected to how modern folks look at the world via the almighty clock.

    You had my vote till the end b/c it was quite strong. I need to think about this.

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