Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion

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* AUGUST 2016 MICROSTORY CRITIQUES THREAD

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message 1: by Jack (last edited Jul 29, 2016 01:10PM) (new)

Jack McDaniel | 246 comments Critiques - Each member can provide at most one critique per story, with a single rebuttal by the author to thank the critic and/or comment to offer the readers the mind set of the story to account for issues raised by the critique. Critiques should be of a professional and constructive manner. Feel free to describe elements that you do and don't like, as these help us gain a better perspective of our potential readers. Remarks deemed inflammatory or derogatory will be flagged and/or removed by the moderator.


message 2: by Heather (last edited Jul 31, 2016 12:33AM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments CRITIQUE by Heather MacGillivray: of "Cats and Dogs" - a story by C. Lloyd Preville.

In "Cats and Dogs" a veritable pet bowl full of literary devices combine to call up both instinctive human responses towards animals and human hunger for age-old story traditions.

Just as Sir Isaac Newton recognized that his work "stood on the shoulders of giants," so the author of this tale has placed his work squarely upon many who have gone before: from biblical tales of lions befriending lambs ... to "The Animals Lawsuit Against Humanity," a 14th century Muslim moral tale ... to Virginia Wolf's biographical tale, "Flush."

Animals as metaphors, animals as narrators (which they effectively are during the many moments in the story when they have their own dialogue to speak), a parable style of narration, and of course, humour - all of these tried and true devices play their role in invoking the reader's response to a moral tale ... a political tale; the politics of simple human interactions 'in the moment' that produce complex outcomes 'in the long run.'

The story could have ended at the point where D'ogg and Kittae miss out on - through their mutual misunderstanding, mistrust and miss-aimed judgement - a great opportunity. This would have been a simple moral tale, satisfactory in its own right. But the final tragi-comedic twist in the tale was still to come. The (ultimately trivial) reason behind the-Cats'-and-the-Dogs' combined failure to go on to win Glory against their common enemy was, to the bemused untailed-Monkeys' descendants, ​as alien as the entwined dried bones​ of D'ogg and Kittae they just happened to find.​

In all, a clever cerebral story, about 'the long game' and 'the short game' ... and the often incompatible rules and incongruous outcomes of both: in alien disguise​ as a simple, fun, well written piece of entertainment.


message 3: by C. (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments Thank you Heather, for a beautiful piece of work on this, the first ever critique on our shiny new critique board.

Yours was no simple "kiss on the cheek" review. You obviously spent a lot of time reading and evaluating the story, adding to it your own literary notes and historical perspectives, and for this I thank you.

My only suggestion for you and everyone else who steps up to do these critiques is this: The real "beef" in this hamburger is constructive criticism. If responsibly offered with honorable intentions, it's the most valuable thing you can do to help me, your colleague.

You said a while back that you think differently than I. That simple fact makes your opinions ten times more valuable, since what is perhaps obvious to you would be something I might never even consider, and vice-versa.

The willingness of highly individualistic athletes to help one another is the key difference between sports teams who lose and those who become champions. By offering your critical advice such as editing help, (one of my many weaknesses as a writer), help with enhancements to the use of language or story line, or simply your "feeling" that something isn't right, all this has significant value to me as your partner in this endeavor.

Respects,

-C. Lloyd Preville


message 4: by C. (last edited Jul 31, 2016 01:37PM) (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments CRITIQUE by C. Lloyd Preville, of "Bone Story: Pan Sapiens" -- a story by Richard Bunning.

A haunting tale of discovery set in a remote area of Kenya. An experienced archeologist discovers our surprising true origins as a species.

I liked the historical backdrop of the remote and desperately poor location where the story took place, although I’m not sure how these details added to the central dramatic theme of the story. I liked the informational explanations, written in the style of a personal journal by the unnamed narrator. And I liked the brief description of the creepy and ancient “chamber” of discovery, with some details of aged and decrepit structure, furnishings, and long-dead remains.

One thing that jumped out at me almost immediately upon my first read of this story was the narrator’s voice--expressed through the narrow and academic lens of his own thoughts. There were no wider observations outside the immediate focus of attention provided to the reader; everything was filtered through the limited attentions of the narrator--which is as you’d expect in a scientific journal--but it took away from the opportunity to add vivid and dramatic engagement for the reader.

I offer as example the following lines: “It soon became apparent despite the decays and depositions of great ages that I was inside a built structure. The walls were not of volcanic rock, but rather of once worked metals streaked with multi-coloured oxidants.” It just seems to me that the following change in perspective, from inside voice to outside observation, would have made this story a much more compelling read, and yet still allow for the possibility these words were found in a journal: “I went to the wall and chipped away at what first appeared to be volcanic rock, but instead I found the colors of oxidized metals lurking just below the surface. I was standing inside some sort of alien craft!” Total number of words for the revised text: Almost the same number.

And the last line offers a particularly striking opportunity to change the context of perspective to craft a more dramatic conclusion. Instead of the anti-climactic note indicating this paper would be willed to the children, what if the conclusion revealed one child reading the text to another, and they were suddenly confronted with a scary alien artifact falling out of the envelope? Even a creepy fingernail would have given us all an opportunity for a muted gasp, and a few fresh ice cubes for the forgotten tumbler of whiskey.

An interesting little read. With only 750 words of territory, there was much ground covered in this slightly haunting tale.


message 5: by Heather (last edited Aug 01, 2016 12:31PM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments CRITIQUE by Heather MacGillivray, of "Fossils" -- a story by Tom Olbert.

This critique is written from the point of view of appreciating the writer's voice in this compelling action-adventure-moral tale ... while also noting where a failure to hold the pitch of that voice in a few places made the, otherwise strong, story-telling seem a little uncertain of itself.

First of all, the story itself has an attention holding message and an action narrative style (of writing voice), quite reminiscent of the rollicking good yarn style of the classic, "Raiders of The Lost Ark."

That message, is, a warning about what happens to, and around, the human race, when it hypertrophies some aspect of itself - here the cult of Individualism hypertrophied to the point where greed, deception and destruction, including even blatant murder: everything gets destroyed! Everything: no exceptions, not even the 'hero' adventurer, Morgan, whose action-style exploits earn the reader's empathy, not least of all for the good adventure yarn he is at the heart of.

However, as noted above, there is also a point to be made about ' a failure to hold the pitch of voice in a few places . That failure made the, otherwise strong, story-telling seem to stutter a little. (These 'failings' - or 'slight weaknesses' - occurred primarily in the opening or 'hook' paragraphs.)

So, below, is the opening hook of "Fossils", altered slightly but significantly, to illustrate how those 'failings' might have been avoided (with the rationales for the changes at the end of them all):

*Craig Morgan cursed bitterly. His breath was white steam. The arctic chill cutting cut through the layers of his clothing, turning turned his bones to ice.

*He glanced up at the oil rig as still, silent and useless as the ice flows stretching to the horizon. [He could feel the thoughts tumbling in, robbing him of his focus:] "First, the damned environmental activists, and now this. If he lost his bonus I loose my bonus over this…"

*He clenched his teeth. [He had his men to think of, so] and silently swore swearing as his half-numb fingers tightened on the icy rope, he signaled to them and he repelled down the walls of the ice flow, down through the drill shaft into the darkness below. He and his men [had] descended through the shattered crust of…whatever had damaged the bore and held up production yet again. As hHis boots touched a hard, smooth surface he knew shouldn’t exist. he looked around in the[A] dim electric light [allowed him to look around.] As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he saw…curved walls. And…shapes. Large shapes like fossilized skeletons of creatures the like of which he’d never seen. Things like…huge spiders, or crabs, or scorpions, with strangely shaped forward claws and mandibles.


A paragraph break between the above and the next sentence in the story, which next sentence is, "And, they were positioned at…no. It couldn’t be. Stations, or instrument panels of some kind…no. He shook his head, almost hysterical with the absurdity of it." (in the original there is no paragraph break here) would work to express a 'dramatic pause'! This is the first time the "Things" have been described in the story. So a moment to take it in, before the next paragraph opens it out more, expresses to the reader "now hold that suspense ... and then, more will be revealed to you!" (in keeping with the overall dramatic voice of the story-telling.)

Now the rationales for those specific slight changes, given above:

* "cursed bitterly" - the adjective 'bitterly' gives a soppiness to the writer's voice, undermining its otherwise strong, stark adventures-of-an(anti)-hero swagger.

* the use of "ing" on the end of words instead of the starker forms of tenses and the use of commas instead of full stops to divide events also undermines the strength of the voice telling the reader that this place is stark. Chill. Uncompromising. Efficient in what it does. Makes life hard. Even for strong men.

* A paragraph break at that point (this time between the first and second paragraphs in the 'altered version', as given above) would have been to use 'writing voice' to signal to the reader, in no uncertain terms, that "EVEN hard men might waiver!" (That is, a new and whole paragraph speaks to the fact that the reader need to grasp the emphasis on this whole episode, in the antagonist-hero's day, of waivering. It is real and threatening ... to his aims and character.) The use of first person dialogue (as I have altered it to) when he speaks to himself, would also have made his 'waivering' more convincingly voiced, more real to HIM! It would have been less passive ... it would have conveyed that he was 'actually experiencing' that waivering of his strength.

*BUT HE has a responsibility TO HIS MEN. This makes for a stronger introduction to 'his team' than in the original, where, at first reading of the relevant sentences, it seems like just Morgan alone is repelling down ... but then we learn his men are also there. This whole relationship - Morgan and his men - deserves a new paragraph, to let the writer's voice speak to why it is that 'NOW the hard man re-finds himself.'

*Likewise just a couple of other things in that paragraph that slowed the pace and softened the toughness in that paragraph, altered above to restore those things (in the eyes of this critiquer): noteably, the pace was slowed by having to re-read about the electric light - when did that come into the picture? ... but a slight alteration of the sentence, as above, makes it seems like the reader encounters it as the same time as Morgan.

Finally, there are two other times - viz., both in the 3026 AD era of the story - when 'the writer's voice' itself very noticeably waivers. Both instances occur when describing the (newly arrived) insects and their thoughts.

Firstly, in the sentence, "Krazz, the alien engineer observed through the overhanging observation port, her mandibles clicking in wonder ..." If the word "alien" had been left out the sentence would have been more strongly stated! More kafkaesque! As it is, the word alien has the weakness of an adjective; unnecessary ... (and it is too important a word in the story's theme to be used in a weak way) but the writer seems to not be confident enough that his wonderful placement of the words "mandibles clicking" is indeed enough to let the reader know what's what ... and who's who!

Secondly, when Krazz says to Traxx, the exobiologist, “What kind of intelligent species would do that?” (referring, as the reader knows, though the advanced species of insects don't know it, to Morgan and his kind - of human) a powerful expression of 'alienation' might have been voiced by the author ... something to the effect of "a kind that is alien to this planet?" (unlike the insect-like species ... of yore, of now and of the future! implied.)

So, in all, the writing voice in this story is a rich, resonant one that, though it sometimes stutters, succeeds in telling two 'levels' of Story: the tough, action adventure, rollicking good yarn AND the moral tale that it breaks through to. Two distinct parts to one voice! It only stuttered when it lost confidence in its ability to move between them without loosing the identity of either of them.


message 6: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1089 comments Thank you, Heather for that very precise and painstaking technical analysis.

Yes, the dreaded adjective trap is always there, always waiting for that fatal moment of weakness. The challenge is always to make the reader feel, not hear.

The dramatic pause...I don't know. There are times when you just have to stop, like the end of a segment in a dramatic serial, leaving the reader hanging, then pick it up in the next paragraph. And, there are other times when you just can't seem to escape the inertia of the train of thought. You just have to follow the POV character's racing thoughts, one to the next. To pause in the middle just seems artificial. It's just an instinctive thing.

One thing even the most technical critique tends to reveal, though, is what the reviewer thinks the story should portray, rather than what the writer may have had in mind. To my mind, the "relationship between Morgan and his men" was irrelevant. The men were purely backdrop; instrumentality. They weren't significant to the POV character at all. He cared only about himself. And, while I wanted the reader to feel his anger, his frustration, his pain, I never wanted to make him a sympathetic character. Vulnerable, yes. An inconvenient reality was intruding and messing up his plans, and he's the type of guy who won't accept anything that comes between him and his goal. That's about as deep as I wanted to go with him. Yes, he's a symbol of humanity's self-destructive tendency to deny inconvenient truth.

And yes, I did struggle with whether or not to leave in the word "alien." It was a crutch, I know. I just wanted to make it easy for the reader, since I wanted to get straight to the punch line.

And, the light...well, I was just going for a half-lit, gloomy atmosphere. I admit I could have done better.

Overall, a very thought-provoking review. Thank you.


message 7: by C. (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments CRITIQUE by C. Lloyd Preville, of “Door Number Three” a story by Carrie Zylka

This was a bone-chilling thriller in only 586 words. Lt. Kora Olsen discovers a mysterious hidden door deep inside an asteroid.

I loved this tightly woven little story. In few words, Carrie has crafted a thriller with the same scary ambiance as "Aliens."

Kora, a courageous astronaut, flies her shuttle deep within a large asteroid--almost a planetoid--to discover its secrets. She finds a mysterious door made of unfamiliar material which may be bone.

I liked the personality development for Kora, a courageous explorer who not only has the audacity to explore a really scary asteroid, but completely ignores her superior’s direct orders not to open the door.

I liked the way Carrie builds the anticipation and dramatic tension. By the time Kora finds a way to open the door, I'm on the edge of my seat, gripping the arm rests with concern for this fearless and feisty--and therefore likable--character.

I liked the ending, with its ironic alien assessment of human kind, although I’m left wondering how it would know about humans since it seems like Kora was probably the first human to explore the mysterious door.

Admittedly, I did feel a bit disappointed with the sudden ending of the story. Here I was, fully invested in Kora's situation, and all of a sudden I am yanked out of her head and stuffed into the head of an unfamiliar alien dude, who hasn't earned my empathy at all, who eats my heroine whole and kicks her ship down into a ravine.

I liked his message; I just didn't like the sudden shift of personalities and context. It was good, with a nice ironic twist, but the change of perspective was jolting.

I'd suggest the ending could have been even better by leaving the reader inside Kora's world, but having her perceive the alien's thoughts, perhaps through telepathy.

Add to that a generous dash of "blood curdling scream-sauce", and you've got an alternate ending like the following:

Kora saw an immense beast lunge at her and, shockingly, it swallowed her whole! It felt like the exact opposite of birth--she was sucked into its gullet and down a slippery passage, and then shoved into a tight space, her arms over her head and her legs folded. She could hear as well as feel two large hearts beating around her. She couldn't move.

A cold, razor sharp voice which couldn't possibly be her own, spoke directly into her mind as she watched her suit seal fault lights go on, one after another.

"Stupid aliens--they never know when to leave well enough alone."

This was a thriller told in few words, with impressive character and dramatic tension development. With a slight tweak, this little yarn might take you all the way to a scary finish that would have readers tossing their popcorn buckets ten feet in the air.

-C. Lloyd Preville


message 8: by Carrie (last edited Aug 05, 2016 11:30AM) (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 223 comments C. wrote: "CRITIQUE by C. Lloyd Preville, of “Door Number Three” a story by Carrie Zylka "

Well my goodness gracious what a fabulous critique! Thank you for the kind words.
I originally wrote the ending with the creature as a sentient guardian of the door, who remembers back to a time a similar ship came and tried to open the door too. But it just wasn’t flowing right.
And then I wrote the ending where she opens the door and the creatures locked away swoop through and eat her up. But that didn’t work right for me either.
I think in the end after re-writing and re-writing I threw up my hand and was like “oh whatever she gets eaten, done, posted.

I think maybe I should revisit the ending before I post it on my website and the podcast. Thanks again for taking the time! :)


message 9: by Paula (last edited Aug 17, 2016 12:10PM) (new)

Paula | 942 comments I prefer generally to send critiques directly and privately to the author, but one of these two authors does not take messages, so here are two "critiques of endings."

Carrie--
Your story is solidly written and well paced. I have trouble getting into tales that begin with the protagonist in a spaceship cabin, lone brave pilot, etc., but I recognize this is my opinion rather than a story issue. Still, we could feel the protagonist better if we're given some interesting detail about her--e.g., she keeps petting her pet talking cat, who's constantly winding around the dash controls, or whatever. The story picks up intensity with the increasing pacing/action, until the jump in point of view near the end shows us the *something* eating her, is genuinely horrifying--a jump/scene extremely well done. However, the actual ending doesn't quite work: who is speaking there? whose pov is this (rather corny) dismissal of humans, and with such a generalized statement? Why jerk us out of the story that way? (Ah--now I see that C. has brought up this issue, too. I'm glad your answer is that you will change the ending. It could become the very strong story that, until the ending, it is.)

Justin--
Another well-written, well-paced tale, and a frightening one, but it is the ending that . . . I doubt if there is any writer anywhere who would not be very pleased to have written that last sentence. Brilliant, Justin--so just exactly right it's a mind-blower. Nice work.


message 10: by Heather (last edited Aug 05, 2016 01:38PM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments CRITIQUE by Heather MacGillivray of "Door Number Three" -- a story by Carrie Zylka. (critique word count 500, excluding this heading.)

The story is examined here through three, inter-related, story-craft lenses: the story-telling structure; the opening hook:closing twist combo; and the point of view (POV) of the character(s).

The Structure Of The Story-Telling: A cleverly balanced story structure* ensures the reader will feel intuitively drawn to read on because, within the story’s action, is a metaphor for many aspects of life:
*there’s an opening (hook) potentially dangerous situation in a new environment for the main character, which could end in a win or a loss;
*there’s an emotional tug-of-war choice between the need to stay safe and the need to know more and experience more … along with the reader’s likely growing hope, or bet, or delusion that between Kora’s endearing ‘grit’ and that metaphor of the invincibility of humanity’s science – the shuttle – there should be enough going for her to ensure that she prevails;
*there’s a closing (twist) life-or-death consequence resulting from choices made by the character, Kora.

The Opening Hook:Closing Twist Combo: Although ‘story twists’ don’t have to come at or near a story’s end, when a story twist does come close to the end of the story then arguably it might work better if it and the opening hook acted almost like twins, book-ending the opening and close. From that perspective, a more stinging final twist would be ‘the ease with which the shuttle is kicked over the edge!’ That is, arguably, more confronting as metaphor – a metaphor for humanity’s enduring vulnerability – than the already-known-to-the reader fact that ‘humans just can’t leave well alone.’ After all that is what the meat of the story structure is already saying, all the way through. To put some stinging mustard on that meat – that in real life, we are as likely to fail as to succeed – might have been ‘more scary’ as the take-away thought! That could have been achieved by ending the story with “… and with the swipe of one clawed foot kicked the shuttle over the edge.” (The other sentence, articulating that humans can’t leave well alone, could still have been utilized … but not as the very last sentence, as it isn’t such a powerful ‘kicker’ as the “over the edge” sentence.)

The POV: A jarring POV change occurred at the end of the story: One standard resolution to this problem is called the ‘baton change’ or ‘camera rotation’ technique. For example, characters meet or pass each other physically in some way, and in that process the reader is gently given a rationale for why the story-telling POV has changed. Another method that would have worked would have been the ‘parallel stories POV’ technique. So, after the “Roger that” paragraph, a paragraph from a POV more 'other worldly' in perspective might have appeared, as ‘the parallel story-line!’ The Monster’s hearing receptors suffering severe pain at the sound of human speech? Then back to Kora’s parallelity … and hence her POV. Equal POV time wouldn’t be necessary … just enough to rationalize WHY humans aren’t endearing to Aliens!


message 11: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 223 comments Heather wrote: "CRITIQUE by Heather MacGillivray of "Door Number Three" -- a story by Carrie Zylka. (critique word count 500, excluding this heading.)

The story is examined here through three, inter-related, stor..."


Wow Heather! your critique is amazing!
A lot of what you point out is what Paula and C pointed out - obviously I should have taken more time wit the ending.

I did re-work the ending a bit and edited the story.

Thanks again for your awesome words and time!


message 12: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 223 comments Paula wrote: "I prefer generally to send critiques directly and privately to the author, but one of these two authors does not take messages, so here are two "critiques of endings."

Carrie--
Your story is solid..."


Paula -

Thank you so very much for your advice,
As you stated, a lot of what you found to not work C pointed out.

I did re-work the ending a bit and edited the story but alas...try as I might I could not channel my inner Ellen Ripley and fit in an orange cat. :)

Thanks again for taking the time to critique!


message 13: by Heather (last edited Aug 07, 2016 02:29PM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments CRITIQUE by Heather MacGillivray of "Requiesce in Pace" - a story by Justin Sewall (critique word count: 500 words.)

This story's brilliance is its radical use of Symmetry as literary technique: perfect balance.

It takes author-confidence to use a long quote; beyond mere 'mood-and-context setter' to 'essential element' of the story itself. And this story's spine-tingling opening quote - 'opening scene' really - is enrichingly long. Its (key-character's) role (to command ... with nuance) is in perfect counter-balance with that of (the characters in) the story's ending (to obey ... with a twist.)

The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”…

10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.”
Ezekiel 37:1-5, 10



The ending sequence - surmised here as being the following passage - is the opening quote/scene's counter-balancing twin:

Do we need to suit up?” Custer called out.

“No! The civvies just said not to touch anything.”
….

“General you can’t seriously think that-”

“It’s my job to seriously think Colonel, about any threat to this country.”

Custer absently poked a rib bone to emphasize his point. Microscopic barbs along the bone’s surface retained some of Custer’s skin cells, absorbing the DNA and devouring the rest for energy.

New tissue began spreading quickly across the skeleton.


[The intervening, contextual story-component is 'just' meat on story bones; characterizations and setting acting as ‘go-betweens’ - connecting the two 'universal truths' within opening and closing passages respectively..]

The opening passage (biblical quote) tells true: the Wisdom of the Universe must be obeyed so Order can be restored ('Order' of some type; whether literally Israel's restoration, or, universally esoteric.) It is commanded (though nuanced) Wisdom: OBEDIENTLY breathe renewal and restoration into that which needs it!

The complex closing passage reflects a potentially balance-altering truth: that Wisdom in Man's Hands Becomes Tragi-Comedy, and yet ... 'Man’s (recurring) Last Stand': Custer, unwisely, emphasizes his obedience to his man-made job's mandate to be careful, by DISOBEDIENTLY carelessly tapping into a 'potentially-personified' metaphor for Man’s uncaring: a microscopic-alien, template-turned-agent of Man's necessary self-deconstruction. Ironically, a REVERSE-OBEDIENCE to the Universe’s Wisdom occurs: Man does 'prophesy' to dry bones to live; alienly-to-Man!


message 14: by Andy (new)

Andy Gurcak | 91 comments Thoughts on Justin’s story:

I like the Ezekiel opening very much, but it does seem too long a set-up for such a short story. What I might suggest is that you cut half of it out, and bracket the end the story with a quote from Ezekiel 1 or, maybe better, Ezekiel 10, where the descriptions of his beasts later modified for Revelations are delineated. You would have to change your descriptions of the skeletons slightly , but , hey, then it would show that the Bible does in fact foretell the Apocalypse, especially given your own last line of your story, if indeed that's the story you want to tell. If you really want to hit the reader upside the head with that, you could have the general note the resemblance, maybe, then even pooh-pooh it, or wherever you’d want to go with that. But, yeah, so hard to not use your last line as the last line.

Some nuts-and-bolts issues that bothered me:

I can’t believe the general would come without at least having some information told to him of what was going on, especially if there were a swarm of civilians and military personnel already there. A significant amount of time has passed already, right? Maybe you could hokey up something about not having a secure comm system to brief it to him beforehand? The dinner gripe is pretty weak. If he’s a general, that wouldn’t come up in such a situation. Possible, maybe to flip who calls whom, and the general demands to know what is going on, wants to see it with his own eyes, etc., etc.

I thought the “Custer” name was mis-used as a cheap one-liner. It confuses the tone of the story – kind of a slyness that your story certainly doesn’t need. Maybe go for a last name instead , of ,say, “Thomas”, or something else biblical for your purposes if you want to make his name symbolic of something.

How they address each other seems wrong to me. I’m not sure of what the sudden move to first names buys you. I guess it’s to indicate that somehow the seriousness of the situation transcends protocol? That seems an unnecessary move into a non-military setting. Either keep them as informal friends at the start of their interaction or maintain “Sir” and “Colonel” throughout.

The general wouldn’t need to have explained to him what kind of bomb did the damage. Your audience would understand the term “bunker buster”, or you could indicate with a simple phrase that is not in terms of an explanation that is redundant for the general.

As they’re walking down to the opened cave, if you want to keep the Indian burial reference, maybe the general just sees that there are some kind of skeletons, but he can’t make out yet (darkness?) that they’re not human, so then the Indian burial ground reference?

“a lot of civilians in white hazmat suits moving around something just out of sight.’ Abstract and vague. You kind of make the reader see what Is being seen, but maybe work a bit more on how puzzling it is. Possibly, “ everyone in the cave had donned hazmat suits, everyone apparently taking data, but hesitantly, as though they were still trying to determine which data they should be taking.” And I don’t understand why some of the people are in hazmat suits and some not. I guess because some are handling/ packaging the bones, but still seems weird to be mixing suited and not-suited workers in the same quite possibly dangerous area. Given your punchline though, do you even need the hazmat suits?

You have : “Making his way down, Custer was unprepared for what he saw.” Again, this is an opportunity to underline how strange it all is, and “unprepared” seems too abstract. Maybe instead of something visual, move into another sensation , something like ,” As he made his way down, Custer began to smell air older than that in any cave he had ever been in. It was air that wasn’t ancient or prehistoric; it was an exhalation older than earth itself.”

And , I don’t know how many punchlines you want to pile on explicitly, and how many you just want the reader to infer, but right before your killer last line, I was wondering” …and who buried them?”

LOL, and of course still keep to the 750-word limit!

Well, terrific concept and execution. Well-done, indeed.


message 15: by Paula (new)

Paula | 942 comments Heather,
truly nice work. A bit hard getting into the first paragraph or so of the story, but only because you are, from the get-go, introducing the alien language usage, which carries through excellently through the story. Very well done. My only problem is with the final 2 paragraphs and ending line, where the "ordinary reader/human's point of view" appears, in grammatical structure, vocabulary, and attitudes, more clearly and lengthily than would be ideal.
Carrie,
I actually liked your first version better--in a way, you went too far the other direction, perhaps. The power of having her attacked and eaten at the end, finito! was fine in the original; the switch to the more human/author pov there at the end was the only problem. The problem now is more an overlong continuance of an ending . . .


message 16: by Heather (last edited Aug 11, 2016 08:53AM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments Thanks for the critique, Paula. I truly appreciate it.

I was trying a shifting the POV technique: parrallel story-telling (one event, three POV's + 'believable' reasons for the shifts/'camera rotations'/'baton changes.') So ...

Paragraph 1 uses an Omniscient Narrator's POV ... in third person, past tense;

Paragraph 2 uses first person Narrator ... past tense ('present tense-ish sounding when he recalls dialogue.) Narrator is a post-human Pioneer (aka an Angel) called 'Mechanic'*- professional role and personal name are the same ... same goes for his friend Door, a post-post-human Pioneer (ie one step further away than Mechanic from their common human roots and therefore closer to their angelic potential.)

[*Some edits now made; hopefully clearer that Mechanic is a post-Human, not an 'unaltered Human'.]

Paragraph 3 uses present tense. Multiple (still fully Human-era) narrators! BUT since they all say the same line, viz., "Angels are among us!" (as each one's Consciousnesss gets a brief burst of activity when the Sphenoid bone - the seat of Consciousness {according to the Pioneers/Angels} - is removed from each Human) it is condensed into one collective voicing! (i.e., ALL consistently recognize that 'Pioneers' are "angels" bringing awareness of a more 'angelic/more whole/less cubed-up/less segmented' Consciousness, that had actually already 'been given' to humans... a realization come too late! The Pioneers/Angels' patience has run out! The Retribution they exact is severe: matching the Humans' level of disregard for/non-use of their 'better Consciousnesss!'

The Retribution's purpose is for the Humans to experience the wonder of having that greater Consciousnesss ... BUT just briefly, at the very moment it is removed from them! (I suppose its a "don't know what you've got till its gone" tale, told with quite a degree of vengefullness/retribution by the angels who are unhappy that it was disrespected.)

[The opening quote compares Life to Fiction because in my life there are those that I would wish to see visited by 'the wrath of angels!'

(Specifically, they are those I had to fight to achieve what Mum and I both wanted towards the end of her life - that she return from hospital to live again with me as she had for years, instead of going to a nursing home as some 'in authority' dictated. I wasted precious time and energy fighting those devil-Humans, who lacked CONSCIOUSNESS of the harmfulness of their decisions. Mum did eventually return home to my care, to our delight, but a lot of harm had been done to her. A creative soul such as she was can't take 'life' as it occurs in the concentration camp-like 'reality' of nursing homes!)

This story is me using my writing to make Real Life sense of 'An Absence Of Compassion' reigning supreme! Noir-like Retribution is my wish; that 'perpetrators of Common-Evil' experience the wonderment of creative presence, BUT BRIEFLY ... then rip it from them, so they 'grieve-for' what they've destroyed!

8th August would have been Mum's 99th birthday ... so feeling raw when I wrote that story.]


message 17: by Paula (new)

Paula | 942 comments Interesting changes, Heather--definitely good ones.
Sorry I've not more time this week for critiquing.
This is a story worth working on, for sure!


message 18: by C. (last edited Aug 11, 2016 02:16PM) (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments CRITIQUE by C. Lloyd Preville, of "Retribution” -- a story by Heather MacGillivray.

Angels descend to Earth to remove everyone’s Sphenoid bone, the true source of human intelligence.

This story, like a tightly wound, solid coil of heavy spring metal, is scary to hold or analyze as it contains an astonishing amount of stored energy, enough to spring open and destroy half a strip-mall mattress store and burst every down-filled pillow in mid-air.

I liked the entry into the story where a foggy introduction of self-separating human consciousness centered in a minor human skull bone is somehow involved with an incursion by a culture known as the Pioneers. Ok--I’m curious. But then the point of view is handed off from the narrator to one of the characters—wow, that was a fast, unexpected left turn!

Withholding judgement, I then wait patiently for clarity as this is clearly a convoluted story. My new narrator, apparently one of a just-landed ship’s compliment, further clarifies the Pioneers are humanity’s intellectual descendants, and the group intends to de-bone their not-yet evolved ancestors in an imminent ‘visit’, where it seems bad, bad things are about to happen.

Then, another fast left turn. Now I’m heading in a new direction and there’s a concluding paragraph where the humans all wail as their bones are removed en-mass, apparently, and there’s a big last sentence reveal that the Pioneers are actually Angels.

Ok, I like a complex story line with literary muscle flexing as much as the next guy, but this is a micro story! Such a complex tale might have been better suited for a mini-novel or a750 page tome where all these convoluted concepts could be properly explored at a reasonable pace.

This story was like one of those three hundred pound ladies we’ve all seen on the bus or in a shopping mall wearing a spandex dance outfit ten sizes too small. You just have to stare at the straining seams, wondering when they will let go.

I liked all the ideas, just not in 750 words. And there wasn’t much middle drama in this sandwich, only a lot of unique concepts thrust upon the reader, and then a sudden revealing ending, like receiving an unexpected nipple twist after a physics lecture.

A good micro story entertains the reader, not just presents ideas. To me, it’s like shooting an arrow: you have the setup as you carefully draw back the arrow, you have the “what happens” drama of the arrow in flight, and then you have the satisfying ‘thunk’ of the arrow in the target, demonstrating the results.

This story attempted to tell the tale of an entire battle in 750 words when we only have time, in two and a half pages or so, for a single arrow shot. That’s my take on this.

Big story, wide panorama, great story concepts and potential, but a much better suited tale for a hard-cover novel with tea and a finger sandwich nearby.

-C. Lloyd Preville


message 19: by Heather (last edited Aug 13, 2016 11:12PM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments AUTHOR RESPONSE/REBUTTAL to C. LLoyd Preville's critique of "Retribution" by Heather MacGillivray (rebuttal word count 500 words.)

C, thanks for your thorough critique, which pleases me, because ... despite not being a ringing endorsement of "Retribution" as a satisfying story, i.e., lacking your preferred micro-story structure: "setup ... draw back the arrow, ... drama of the arrow in flight, then ... the satisfying ‘thunk’ of the arrow in the target ..." ... it confirms that "Retribution" did exact a kind of retribution on a reader for being satisfied with 'something' (i.e., any 'some aspect of life') that is run-of-the-mill e.g., a reader wanting some particular, 'appropriate-to-microstories' story structure that they've got used to.'

Wanting such standard fare, is benign when it comes to its application to reading habits, BUT can, and does often, become a malignant principle, when applied to 'certain aspects of life' that are vulnerable, in human society. True!

So the Consciousness that you experienced as resembling "receiving an unexpected nipple twist after a physics lecture" is exactly the type of singular effect I was aiming for!! That was the only Retribution (viz., a brief moment of intense consciousness, that confuses and disorientates) that I could 'viscerally inflict' :) to get the reader to virtually 'bio-mimic' what the Humans in the story felt when shocked out of their (bored?) non-comprehending, their non-use of their deep, God-given, Creative Consciousness ... in EVERYDAY LIFE implied!

i.e., human readers are cast as listeners to Galactic Broadcast's mundane-to-humans dry story whose SUBJECT is a (bone-retrieval mission) voyage, told from a non-Human POV, then suddenly the OBJECT of the mission, Humans, suffer: briefly-ecstatically, confusedly, irreversibly ... The End! (BTW, the Galactic Broadcast's subject and message (Creative Consciousness) is NOT "Intelligence"-based, but Spirituality-based!)

Still, a problem remains: 'the fine line between' being experimental in creatively demanding of myself that 'the medium matches the message' AND 'risking loosing the reader' because it would be 'wiser' to fit the message into a more entertaining story structure. So, yes, I will definately think about how I might have got closer to being, precisely, on that balancing point. (I'm thinking "via graphic novelling!?") So thanks for pointing out that I possibly strayed too far to 'left of centre'! BTW, where you saw/felt a sharp left and then another sharp left, I thought it was a sharp right and then a sharp left: a zigzag=renewing back to a singular centre!

N.B. There is a religious/spiritual traditional-belief basis to associating the super-complex sphenoid bone (and 'single eyedness') with 'deeper consciousness.' eg In Kriya Yoga, the sphenoid bone is called "Christ Consciousness" ... and the "petrous part of the temporal bone" is said to be named after St. Peter's 'closeness to Christ'! ... and on, single eyed, perpetual-self-questioning vs destructive-to-others, comfortable-complacency, Mat. 6:22, 23: 'The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light; but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!' ... and more references exist.


message 20: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1089 comments CRITIQUE by Tom Olbert of ---
Cats and Dogs
By C. Lloyd Preville, © Copyright 2016.

I enjoyed this grim yet funny bit of black comedy. The concept reminded me of the comic strip "Maus." It felt satirical, yet it had bite.

The setting was extremely vague; no light or scent. The descriptions of the two characters was left primarily to the imagination. Except for the occasional, well-placed hint of facial characteristics at moments of emotional definition. Very nicely done. But, the strength of the story was mainly in the strong flow of narrative. Even while laughing at the idea of a war between two kinds of domesticated animals, one could actually feel the anger and pain of the two protagonists, even though they seemed to take the outward form of cartoon characters.

I did feel, however, the story was a few too lines longer than it needed to be. A bit repetitive on the grand declarations of common struggle, but that's a minor complaint. Overall, I thought it got the job done quite effectively. A very interesting technique.


message 21: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1089 comments CRITIQUE by Tom Olbert of ---"Floor of Bone" by John

Interesting setting and concept. But, a glaring expository lump right at the outset. No characters or POV introduced until late in the story. The opening, while interesting in conception, read like a historical text. I thought the characters should have been introduced right off the bat, and the historical back-ground info introduced in bits and pieces in the course of the story, hopefully intertwined with character motivation in some way. The characters were never clearly defined.

The closing scene, while atmospheric, never made clear what the point of the story was and didn't explain what was going on. The use of the phrase "in a pickle" didn't help, and certainly weakened the sense of dread. Overall, good world building, but not much of a story.


message 22: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1089 comments CRITIQUE by Tom Olbert of ---
“Door Number Three” by Carrie Zylka

Overall, I liked this one very much. The opening relied on strong sensory POV to project a dark, ominous atmosphere and sense of entering the dark unknown, making good use of terms like "adrenalin flow" and the over-used but still effective device of a voice over a radio going scratchy, lost in static as the darkness closes in. The sense of loneliness and dread was well-delivered; very Ridley Scott, very "Alien." The image of entering the gaping mouth of a beast was well-placed.

A few minor complaints: The phrase "her voice sounded eerie" was cheating a bit. The goal is always to use imagery and feeling to create a mood, not to state it with adjectives. The part where the narrative says "everything looked blue -- not a pretty sky blue, but a dark grey..." It breaks the ominous feel. Just get straight to the dark grey, don't bother with telling us what cheery colors are missing. (It reminded me a bit of Myrna Loy's Mrs. Blanding in "Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House." -- Not a robin's egg blue. Not a sky blue. A greenish blue.)

From there, it shifts from Ridley Scott's "Alien" to a dark, dream-like mix of Dante's Inferno and a Grimm's fairytale. The gothic poetry used in describing the beasts on the other side of the door was striking and darkly beautiful, though incongruent with the narrative up to that point.

The angry jailer (zookeeper?) demon-thing trying to break into the shuttle while the POV character huddles in a corner with her eyes shut strongly conveys the feel of a child's nightmare. The ending was suspenseful up to the last line, then disappointing when it finishes with a joke, again breaking the mood.

Overall, I liked it, but it threw me a few curves. Like several good stories, or fragments thereof spliced together.


message 23: by Heather (last edited Aug 15, 2016 03:19PM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments CRITIQUE by Heather MacGillivray of "The Sling" - a story by Jot Russell (critique word length 500 words.)

1.) Story Value: (ie, what it gives the reader)

*Pros: "The Sling" is a good read! It’s considerable worth is that it provides the reader with an escapist, traditional (even ‘Boy’s-Own Magazine’ style) sci fi reading, say for, at the end of a hard day or on a cold, rainy, stay-indoors weekend: good therapy for a mind craving to be transported to another world for a while and then be left with an aftertaste of a rye smile (no pun intended!) at the end of the story. But since a food theme has crept in here, it can be extended to say that this story is the literary equivalent of ‘comfort food.’ Everyone needs that!

*Cons: What the reader wasn't given was the literary equivalent of a beer or a warming cappuccino with their 'comfort food.' Instead a blander, ‘glass of water,’ ending washed down the final gulp, with scale-covered, differently-digited-to-the-now-just-alien-'astronauts’-of-a-prior-era Beings puzzling over the American flag's symbolism. That’s fair enough: giving the reader pause for thought. It DOES twist the reader’s perspective a bit … asking for the ‘meaning of a coded symbol’ to be viewed anew. BUT, a stronger twist might have been achieved if the Scaled Ones had more (scaley) skin in the game! E.g., rather than ending on a mere/‘benign’ misinterpretation (“that is impressive!”) in a more twisted ending The Boss might feel relief: thinking he is onto a winner with this relic-of-something they've found. Believing his obligation to The Agency is done, its all Winnings now! But what if the unearthing of these ‘alien (aka human) bones’ was just the start of his troubles! Something like, say, linguist interrupts his celebrations having just found a program inbuilt into the aliens’ suits. It automatically transmits an au secours alarm that incorporates a code-breaking algorithm! It must have jammed, but her poking about has ‘fixed’ it; the signal is transmitting, Agency receiving it, they'll be dis-pleased! The Boss, hoping for easy ‘gold dig,’ now has new problem! He should have been careful what he wished for! (Not saying discard original twist layer! Just add extra ... for double twist {of knife into Boss}!)


2.) Writer’s Voice: (ie., how story-value is achieved)

Pros: Mostly a good consistent voice: strong, no-nonsense dialogue gives a feeling of being right there in the scene; good escapist reading.

Cons: Too much/loose dialogue. Tightening it up would've made room for an added twist at the end AND room for a second paragraph, of omniscient narrating, setting the scene up better. “Boss, we need you to come down to sub-level four.” is a perfect hook BUT needed following immediately with an expose of his situation: (what The Sling even was, the pressures on the Boss, etc) would've shone a laser-like focus on him, aiding reader-identification with him, making more sense of all following dialogue AND leaving room for a stronger twist at the end, re-focusing back to the pressures on him! … and therefore on 'more possibilities' – perhaps for a series?


message 24: by C. (last edited Aug 15, 2016 01:59PM) (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments Tom wrote: "CRITIQUE by Tom Olbert of ---
Cats and Dogs
By C. Lloyd Preville, © Copyright 2016.

I enjoyed this grim yet funny bit of black comedy. The concept reminded me of the comic strip "Maus." It felt sa..."


Hi Tom,

Thank you for the thoughtful and insightful critique of my story, "Cats and Dogs." I'm glad you enjoyed the read, and your suggestions were all spot-on. I'm sure the story would be a better read by taking some real estate from the grievance declarations and dedicating some of that to more descriptive narration. However, as this would require substantial retooling given the 750 word limit I'm pushing, I think I'll leave the story in play as is.

Thanks again for your suggestions!

-C. Lloyd Preville


message 25: by C. (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments Critique by C. Lloyd Preville of “The Sling” a story by Jot Russell

An alien ship is discovered, and turns out to have a USA flag emblem which is misinterpreted by the discoverers.

There’s a lot to like about this story. The concept of a sling used to accelerate ships being launched from a moon is novel, creative, and entirely believable given the probable low gravity. The big twist at the end when the discoverers turn out to be the aliens and the ship they discover is human, is a great reveal ending. And generally the dialog, descriptive language, and plot line of the story are well engineered.

Where I had some issues with this story were with the dialog balance and the dramatic development. Granted, we only have 750 words to work with. But the dialog seemed unbalanced, with the early part of the story entirely spoken dialog with few observations, including too many short answers by the protagonist and too many descriptive phrases by his subordinates. Also, the big release of the ship was described in 3rd person and lacked the color and drama it deserved, being an important story event.

And frankly, I found the use of offensive language entirely unnecessary to the story line, inappropriate for potentially young readers, and probably in conflict with GoodReads standards. I admit to having a personal aversion to using crude language since, in my personal opinion, as writers we can do better with our dramatic use of language in any and every case.

The lead-up to the big twist at the end was probably too long, and much of that real estate could have been used to build drama by first person descriptions of the big launch and the (creepy?) observations entering the ship. Also, the scary hand on the shoulder scene was amusing and cute, but didn’t really serve the story, and instead seemed to let the emotional air out of the balloon just before the big reveal ending came around.

The Sling is a great story idea, plump with opportunity to build dramatic pressure smoothly through the story, leading to a great explosion of a conclusion, with a satisfying ending twist. If the inflation of emotional pressure were managed a bit more closely, you could probably twist this story into animal shapes and whistle a tune with it like a magician's balloon trick.


message 26: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1035 comments Justin Sewall’s review of “The Sling” by Jot Russell

What I enjoyed about this story, and what the author does so well, is make you think you are reading a conversation between human beings. The dialogue and banter between the characters is such that it gives no inkling of what is coming later. Slang, swear words, etc., all convey very human interactions. It even took me a couple readings to realize what the cleverly described symbol was on the alien craft at the end.

Having humans be the aliens is something I also considered but ultimately did not write about, so it was very satisfying to see it pulled off here. Even the description of the skeleton did not necessarily give it away. No, the author manages to get all the way to the end and finally spring the “Aha!” moment on the reader.

One thing I felt could use some improvement was the dialogue in the last section. It felt simplistic and lacked the spirit of the first part. The linguist screamed too much and there was a little grammatical error (“She scream and jumped back.”) that briefly pulled me out of the story. However, the last two sentences really stitch it together and gave a good reveal.


message 27: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1035 comments Justin Sewall’s review of “Floor of Bones” by John Appius Quill

“Floor of Bones” begins with an almost encyclopedic description of mining operations in the far future. Gravition Crystals stand in for oil, anti-matter, dilithium or spice mélange as the thing being pursued. It beings pulling you in with the description of some company from the past that I still cannot figure out what it is and the tantalizing idea of “The Great Data Loss.”

Then suddenly, dialogue interjects and the reader is moved from a documentary to an action/adventure movie that becomes hard to follow. What I found missing was some type of explanation as to the motivations of Afua and Essie. Why are they there and why does one of their robots get shot and by whom? It was unclear to me even after several readings.

I realize that in short stories like these, the author cannot hold the reader’s hand and explain everything perfectly and even conclude it with every loose end tied up. However, this story makes a reader have to make huge mental leaps to keep up and then ends quietly and leaving you scratching your head as to what just happened and why.

I’m perfectly willing to accept this is a shortcoming of my own ability to comprehend another’s work so I do not wish to appear overly critical of John’s story and I mean no disrespect with my critique. It just left me confused rather than giving me some satisfactory conclusion.


message 28: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1035 comments Andy wrote: "Thoughts on Justin’s story:

I like the Ezekiel opening very much, but it does seem too long a set-up for such a short story. What I might suggest is that you cut half of it out, and bracket the en..."


Andy,

Thanks for taking the time to give such an in-depth review of my August entry. I did wrestle with how long my scripture quote was, but ultimately felt I needed all of those verses to foreshadow what was coming at the end. Foretelling the apocalypse was not necessarily on my mind when I wrote this, but I can see from your perspective how that might be a good angle to take.

General Benedict Custer is of course an amalgamation of two notorious American soldiers. I had originally thought about cramming Patton in there too but it felt too forced in doing so. Using Custer though, in my mind, immediately tells you a lot about this General in that perhaps he is arrogant, too self-assured and possibly not too bright compounded by ineptitude. Hence the showing up and not knowing what is going on and his subordinate having to remind him what a bunker-busting bomb is. When I added in the Indian burial ground idea in, I did not even make a connection with Custer (and I’ve even been to the Little Big Horn battlefield!) I’ve never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the shed.

I see your point about the change between ranks and names. I could have alleviated that by perhaps explaining somehow that they were friends and officers of long association that are able to, in the privacy of their interactions with each other alone, drop ranks and simply use names.

There were certainly some other plot holes like the civilians in hazmat suits and the military officers going in without any kind of protection. That could definitely be cleaned up and straightened out a bit. I think I was going with the ambiguity of the situation and then allowing Custer’s gesture to be humanity’s undoing in an event many times worse than the massacre at Little Big Horn.

Thanks again Andy!


message 29: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1035 comments Heather wrote: "CRITIQUE by Heather MacGillivray of "Requiesce in Pace" - a story by Justin Sewall (critique word count: 500 words.)

This story's brilliance is its radical use of Symmetry as literary technique: p..."


Heather,

Your review was very encouraging and much appreciated!

Somehow the symmetry came about without my actively thinking about it. I did not plan it, but ultimately it seemed to balance out and work. I did want to use the scripture to foreshadow/explain what happened when Custer touched the alien skeleton so that when it happened, a reader would instantly know that something really bad was going to happen.

What I value very much is how you dissected and disassembled the various bones of my story and demonstrated how they went together with the “connective tissue” in between. You see more marrow in my story than I do!

Thanks again!


message 30: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1035 comments Justin Sewall’s review of “A Robot Walks Into A Bar” by Jack McDaniel

This story reminded me the most of the works of Clarke, Asimov and Bradbury during the Golden Age of sci-fi. The conversation between the metal man and Ol’ Sam is so casual, smooth and easy to read, I felt like I was sitting at the bar listening to the two discourse.

The juxtaposition of this robot in a bar, asking questions about Area 51 gives the reader no idea of when it takes place, not that that is necessarily important to the story. And that’s another one of the great things about it, it could really take place at any time, and even in an alternate universe.

The descriptions of the bar instantly and easily transported me to that micro-universe, with all of the clichés that go along with it: the swinging saloon doors, an “establishment girl”, everyone clearing out with the clueless drunk persisting in finishing his whiskey. All that was missing was for the robot to excrete something into a spittoon.

Story pacing is pitch perfect here. It never gets bogged down and moves the reader effortlessly along until the final sentence.


message 31: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1035 comments Justin Sewall’s review of “Dry Bones” by Kalifer Deil

The author succinctly sums up the entire backstory in the two opening sentences, immediately setting up the reader for the scientific examination of a potential alien skull. It is masterful in its brevity and with how much framework it sets up using so few words.

In fact, this story is almost all dialogue, with very little descriptive or narrative text in between. Yet it does not need it due to the richness of that dialogue. There are no bloated passages with historical information or character development. The entire story stands completely supported by the dialogue between Charlie and the various scientists he encounters over the course of the story.

Finally, the author deftly opens up the vast plot potential of the story with his closing sentence and resolves the argument that informed most of the previous dialogue.

Excellent work!


message 32: by Ink (new)

Ink 2 Quill (ink2quill) Justin wrote: "Justin Sewall’s review of “Floor of Bones” by John Appius Quill

“Floor of Bones” begins with an almost encyclopedic description of mining operations in the far future. Gravition Crystals stand in ..."

You´re absolutely right about my lack of explination of the character´s motives. I failed to explain that Afua shot Rusty and Essie was trying to kill Afua to cover up a terrible alien genocide. Thanks for the constructive criticism.


message 33: by Ink (new)

Ink 2 Quill (ink2quill) Tom wrote: "CRITIQUE by Tom Olbert of ---"Floor of Bone" by John

Interesting setting and concept. But, a glaring expository lump right at the outset. No characters or POV introduced until late in the story. T..."


Your right. I didn´t explain the character´s motives well enough. I should have further explained that Afua killed Rusty before Rusty killed him and Essie was out to kill Afua if he discovered too much proof of an alien genocide. Thanks for the constructive criticism.


message 34: by Ink (new)

Ink 2 Quill (ink2quill) Critique on Justin´s story #6: Requiesce in Pace

I liked the story a lot but I found one very important element missing. That element is extreme hubris in the part of the general. You could do this in the form of a dire warning or act of cruelty or disrespect on the part of the general. I feel that it would have made a nice touch. Like a cherry on a cupcake. Great story though Justin.


message 35: by Ink (new)

Ink 2 Quill (ink2quill) Critique for C. Lloyd´s Preville story #2: Cats and Dogs

I really liked your story. It wasn´t what I thought it would be at first glance and I like that. I have one criticism to make though. I got the impression that the monkeys they spoke of were humans. I wish you had stressed that more, either through an anecdote or even joke. Like saying "The don´t even bury their own feces." Otherwise very good story with a great development.


message 36: by Ink (new)

Ink 2 Quill (ink2quill) Critique for Tom Olbert´s story #3: Fossils

You wrote a very good story. I loved the way you dealt with the passing of time. That was masterful and the two human characters were very well done. I wish you had included some kind of flaw on the part of the aliens though. Implying that they survived because they are wiser than us is too obvious for such a good story. Otherwise, I enjoyed it and hope to see it soon on TV or online with your name in the credits.


message 37: by Ink (new)

Ink 2 Quill (ink2quill) Critique for Carrie Zylka´s story #5: Door Number Three

I liked your story and the characters. It was fun and well put together. Too bad you didn´t give us a deeper look inside that den of monsters. A little H.P. Lovecraft style descriptions would have made your story perfect. I really enjoyed it though. Very good.


message 38: by Jack (new)

Jack McDaniel | 246 comments Justin wrote: "Justin Sewall’s review of “A Robot Walks Into A Bar” by Jack McDaniel

This story reminded me the most of the works of Clarke, Asimov and Bradbury during the Golden Age of sci-fi. The conversation ..."


Thanks, Justin.


message 39: by C. (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments John wrote: "Critique for C. Lloyd´s Preville story #2: Cats and Dogs

I really liked your story. It wasn´t what I thought it would be at first glance and I like that. I have one criticism to make though. I got..."


Thank you John, for the great feedback!

-C. Lloyd Preville


message 40: by Ink (new)

Ink 2 Quill (ink2quill) Critique of Jack McDaniel story#7: A Robot Walks Into A Bar

I liked your story a lot. It´s world building and originality are fantastic. It reminded me of a twilight zone episode. Um otherwise...um...you could always...um. Sorry I can´t think of any criticism that would make it better.

John


message 41: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 223 comments Tom wrote: "CRITIQUE by Tom Olbert of ---
“Door Number Three” by Carrie Zylka

Overall, I liked this one very much. The opening relied on strong sensory POV to project a dark, ominous atmosphere and sense of..."


Thanks Tom, and the things you pointed out were spot on, I wish I had thought of that when I was trying to cut my extra 250 words.

And thanks for the great critique!


message 42: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 223 comments John wrote: "Critique for Carrie Zylka´s story #5: Door Number Three

I liked your story and the characters. It was fun and well put together. Too bad you didn´t give us a deeper look inside that den of monster..."


Thanks Jon - I almost...almost had them breaking out and eating her up but damn the 750 word limit. :)


message 43: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 223 comments Cats and Dogs By C. Lloyd Preville - first off, clever use of the spelling, it clearly set the stage between the two characters and what they were, D’ogg & Kittae…it delighted me from the get go.
A couple small things that stood out, the capitalization (perhaps just a typo) feline and canine were intermittently capitalized. Also “moonlet” as in moonlit?
I loved the begrudging banter between the two characters - you truly captured the nature of each species.


message 44: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 223 comments Fossils By Tom Olbert
Curious to know if you chose “Craig Morgan” because of the country singer or honest coincidence?
This line “Evidently, they valued individual profit over the greater good.” How would they know such a thing if the survey ship they sent was fifteen hundred years before? The sentence made the question pop into my head.
I liked Krazz and Traxx very much, their characters were interesting and I wished I knew more about them.


message 45: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 223 comments Floor Of Bones by John Appius Quill (you didn’t mention if you wanted critiques or not - if not then just ignore me!)

“In the begining they nearly went bankrupt when the second energy revolution struck the “markets” “- I would have done away with the words “In the beginning” - mostly because the thought of a second energy revolution happening in the beginning didn’t quite make sense - but it’s a tiny point in a very engaging story.
It was admittedly quite a lot to take in before I got to meet Afua and Essie - I actually scrolled back up to see if they were the first line or two. Not a criticism - just an observation.
I particularly liked the description of the downward, circling road along the crater wall - it immediately took me to the scene.
And I liked that the Robots were named “Rusty” which is hilarious and 85/86 which I’m sure harkened back to the fact that it had been 85 years!


message 46: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 223 comments Requiesce in Pace by Justin Sewall
I definitely liked this story, it was very cinematic in the introduction. The set up with the scripture quotes were perfect, although I probably would have simply chosen the most applicable one. I like when a movie gives you a quote that defines the entire movie - but you give me permission to skip sentences when they get too long or repetitive.
I was a bit disappointed in the ending. I’m pretty sure I LITERALLY said “ wait…that’s it?” The last 3 sentences seemed rushed. However - obviously word restraint played a part and I wish I could have read the next 250 words.


message 47: by Carrie (last edited Aug 17, 2016 11:46AM) (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 223 comments A ROBOT WALKS INTO A BAR by Jack McDaniel
Your spelling and placement of the word cum and reference to “knickers in a bunch” in a brothel was clever.
I really liked the descriptive work and the robotic characters.
I did get a little confused as I wasn’t sure the metal man that walked in was the same character that walked in and send the whore running.
And why exactly would a metal man be riding a horse?


message 48: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 223 comments Dry Bones by Kalifer Deil

Ha! I love this story - very technical and believable and the ending was perfect!
I did find “I think it proves that aliens were here helping the Mayans.” a little odd, how on earth would he know they were there to help and not rule the Mayans?
Other than that small nitpick really well done.


message 49: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 223 comments The Leviathan by Chris Nance
A really well told story, I liked the way you created a sense of dread and increasing urgency with every word. The idea of a town inside the stomach of a massive creature was awesome. I almost envisioned a super charged Moby Dick!


message 50: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 223 comments Retribution by Heather MacGillivray
Your opening line "The difference between life and fiction is that fiction has to make sense" ~ Tom Clancy. was fab-u-lous to say the least. It really set the tone for the story.
(one thing that stood out - and really only because someone pointed it out to me long ago - was your over use of adverbs. When you do a search for “ly” you come up with 18 instances. Which is a lot in 750 words!)
I had a hard time understanding your story, you’re extremely intelligent and while I would never ask a writer to “dumb it down” sometimes I think you “out clever” yourself when it comes to a general audience.
I had to read it a few times before I understood “Door” was actually a door. And when I made the connection I thought it was a very cool concept.
I liked the flow, it was very well constructed and I thought (once I figured it out) it was rather smooth!


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