industrialistDragon

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  1. This flows much better, and the emotions are clearer. I still had a bit of trouble over why the fight happens, but this time it's not as much coming from nowhere. You could probably split it at around the AI reveal if you needed to, but I don't think it's super necessary. I could still use a little more varied emotions from E, but this is a definite improvement. "and a grey interior that could seat " -- for the sake of rhythm, I'd suggest maybe "an interior (also grey) that could seat" because lists look better in odd numbers. But this is much better to parse even as-is and read fine. It didn't skew weirdly for me at all. Thank you for using soap. It takes forever to get soap smell out of stuff, even when I wash it two or three times in a row with detergent, bleach, and vinegar, so I'll believe this much more readily. (I'm pretending T washed the chairs fabric before re-covering them, because that's the only way soap-on-upholstery would work. Incense burned in an enclosed area, or perfume spilled on fabric, now, that's different...Or a little jar of potpourri... Or... ) Soap is also not as creepy-stalker as before, even if that's how human memory associates the scent. The sex references seem more organic and integrated, and less stalker now. I appreciate the weaponized embarrassment, but I feel like if you wanted, you could dig in a bit more on it. A turns awfully red just for the mention of the existence of sex. A reads less as having a thing for T now, though it's still there a little to me. It's a much better reveal at the end, with less gotcha shock, but I agree with @Mandamon that I would really have liked to have had some of these depot/old Earth anomalies seeded in earlier. It would be such a great moment for the reader to go "oh yeah, that WAS weird!"
  2. I agree with most of what has already been said here. With flash fiction, it's especially important that everything in the story point in one direction towards the purpose of the piece. Like the others, I feel like this piece lacked focus. What is this story about? Is it about the restoration of magic? Is it about the woman and her grief? Is it about the robot and why it was built? Is it about the science community and the woman proving them all wrong? Is it about the cave and the device and why they exist? Any one of those things would make a good flash story, but they're all touched on here, and they're all treated with equal importance. I don't necessarily need the story to be longer, however. I think ~900 words is more than enough to tell a complete, well-illuminated story. Not everything needs to be a short story or novel to be fully-realized or good. However, the less space there is, the more a story needs to be focused on the overall theme of the piece. I feel like there's just not room in flash for side plots or explanations that don't directly feed into the primary theme, so if all those multiple themes are still desired in the piece, a longer format would probably be required. I do think this could slim down easily, to one or two of the most salient ideas, and then those themes could be expanded on to fill out the word count again without needing to add any extra.
  3. ...Some, but not a ton. I feel like this was a pretty abrupt face-heel turn and I am reacting to the lack of foundations for it. I really expected more reactions from the members he gathered, more walkouts, more pushback as the ridiculousness and unethical nature of M's plan comes to light. Surely not every two-house mage is an amoral, Machiavellian, conspiracy nut? For me, M is still coasting on his good-guy image from last book, right up until the point where here reveals his doomsday plan. The lack of in-world reactions plus the dissonance between the M i knew from the previous books (which is still in effect for much of the "putting the band back together" sections here) and the M that would contemplate a doomsday plan like that was too much. It still is. I'd like more hints earlier that M's gone off the rails since we saw him last, building to this nutbar scheme.
  4. It wasn't as bad as last time, but I was very confused. As I go: Again, I am vehemently not on board with M of all people non-jokingly advocating for the unwilling enslavement and non-consensual assault of another thinking, sentient being. "Should we make more magical sentient AIs? Is it ethical to do so," he muses, whilst simultaneously describing how he's going to break the fabric of reality to rip a thinking creature from its home and use it as a glorified battery. It's really stretching my suspension of disbelief here that all of these people are just agreeing that they should basically summon a timelord and then egregiously violate him in order to stave off, like, the 2012 Mayan calendar apocalypse. Because, from what I gather of the in-world state of the things M's mentioning, that's what it is. Stories, nut-bar conspiracy theories, and ancient legends are what M's talking about. And everyone's on-board, with basically no problems, uniformly despite their differences, based on just two cryptic meetings, a basement full of junk, and the decades-old goodwill generated by a super-secret secret society. It's starting to sound silly to me. I feel like up until this M sub-plot, everything I've heard in-world about the Diss, about 3-house mages, and about their "we don't hurt people with magic" society would lead to this plan of M's being laughed off by pretty much everyone. His proof doesn't even prove his point, it just proves that something weird happened with the Meth 50,000 years ago. Arg! I am frustrated. Wait... He's the villain, isn't he? I didn't think he was the villain in his short, but all this plan is missing is some sharks and some lasers, and it's a mustachioed villain's doomsday infinite power plan. I feel like the twist is going to be that M precipitates the very thing he's endeavoring to prevent, and it'll be some kind of irony/symmetry with the LC -- violence, destruction, slavery, and death in the name of "peace" and "security." Ahh, I knew this chapter was missing something, and that was Walking To A Meeting. With E this time. I am a little unclear why the manacles and the collars are short circuiting each other, and I can't quite remember if E had the both on at an earlier point. Did they put them both on her at the beginning when she turned herself in? I'm completely baffled as to why the fight breaks out once at the meeting, and who is on which side. I'm unclear on the politics that they're speaking about before the fight, but it didn't seem like that was all that important to me. I am honestly not particularly interested in why the LC are doing anything. I find them fairly one-dimensional, and they've not really done much to make me think they're anything other than a bunch of bad guys for the good guys to beat up. N is feeling a little bit of a plot device at the end to me. Is there some kind of background on the knife that i'm missing because I haven't read the rest of the series? I feel like from what I've read here in the subs, that magical objects like the knife aren't really a thing in this world. Systems, yes, but those have been mentioned extensively and been explained in detail so that they seem to have substantial, real-feeling limits, and the knife just feels like it popped up out of nowhere with the random ability to do +5 damage to Ari with no costs associated to it. Did N have it last book and was just keeping it in a pocket somewhere? It feels awfully convenient. Additionally, all this Grace being able to interfere with anything N seems to want it to feels weird to me. I don't feel like I've seen enough Grace stuff happening to really believe what N is doing is possible. Like, with the pixie story, and the other instances of Grace, all the changes were very much centered on the caster. Making the caster more likely to strike true, making the caster harder for others to hit, augmenting the second house in in a grace+other two-house mage. The last section had N mostly using grace to increase evasion, and to make it more likely his strikes hit their target, I feel like I'm remembering, so it didn't bother me so much. This, he's actively interfering with E's casting and I've not really seen anything like this in the mage powers up to this point, so I'm really skeptical of it. Isn't it awfully convenient that he can do all this stuff that none of the good guys are prepared to counter, even the other Grace wielders and the ones with the supposedly non-magic powers nobody's seen in thousands of years...
  5. the ship description also threw me off. maybe something like "walls (grey), engines (four)" so that it's clearer which adjective goes with which noun. If you wanted em-dashes still... maybe... "walls -- grey; engines -- four;" so that there's a harder break between word pairs. It's like order of operations for math -- the weak comma is throwing the em-dashes off and I'm wanting to pair up the words in an order that doesn't make sense in the text. Right now, my eyes want it to break like (walls)(grey engines)(four) instead of (walls grey)(engines four). And it's right as the beginning too, so it's throwing off my stride for the whole first part of this section. E is coming across less depressed and more slightly creepy-obsessed to me. There's precious little by way of sensory descriptions of the rest of E's environment, and only some of her own reactions, but of T there is this almost pornographic detail about the effluvia of T's body -- shed hair, skin flakes, BO, skin oil, mucus -- and it's striking me as a little weird. Other people can't say her name. Other people are not allowed to touch T's things. E is angry at other people for having interacted with T without E present. So far, the only person we've seen mentioned that T was allowed to interact with without E present was N, a family member, and only because E was running a club where T didn't meet the joining requirements. I mean, it's a bit creepy. In this context, the T-ship apologizing for T-person making decisions and acting on them is also a little skeevy. It doesn't feel like E is startled out of anything, to me. She just keeps on in the same general vein and mood up to the end of the chapter.
  6. Getting caught up on the backlog. Mostly just saying I read this, since @kais and @Mandamon have covered most of it. For the synopsis, I did notice that there were a couple lines of extraneous background info, and that the lines I was snagging on were also the ones that weren't totally in present tense. Like, for Q -- the sentence with his marriage, from what I'm recalling, it's not super vital to this story? Like the actual details of what happened? iirc, it comes up more in the next one, so maybe here, it can be smooshed down to a couple words and added in where the emotions it brings up are vital to this story? Sort of "Q hates the idea of taking care of M, due to a bad marriage 5 years ago, but..." or something, maybe? Sort of refocuses it on the emotion of the characters, rather than on the facts? Synopses are so tough! For the rest of it, the first couple pages feel a little jittery to me -- not quite enough description and a little too much in medias res, I think, maybe -- but it settles down nicely with the description of the suit. I do like that description of him getting dressed! But I did get confused by that line about the belt, same as kais did. It got a bit jittery again for me around the walk through the piazza, but settled at the McDs. The flirting with the lady is, of course, a delight.
  7. Do you haiku? https://haikuthatcanpayyou.pgtb.me/36wh5V (Meriam-Webster and Paypal are running a haiku contest)
  8. Over all, this is an improvement from the first version, but I also had the same issues as @kais, @Mandamon, and @Alderant. The general is nothing more than a harmful stereotype right now for me, and it is very strange to only describe one person's skin, and that with food (does L want to eat her? Did L miss breakfast? I'm wondering that more than having that word describe anything useful). @kais has listed my top links for issues around food-descriptors and harmful stereotypes, so I'd like to talk about some of the meta-commentary on this story. I see here you've stated you intend this piece to be an epic fantasy. I don't know what audience you're aiming for, but from what I've seen here, this appears to be a novel aimed at teenagers. I would expect different focus and characterizations from a novel aimed at adults, regardless of the age of the protagonist. So my first question of this work would be, "Is this an epic fantasy?" But, what makes an epic fantasy? From this chapter, I would guess that an answer to that would be "a setting in the past, primarily in western Europe," and while that is certainly a very common choice, I believe that a European or even medieval setting is not necessary to make a story an epic fantasy. Rather, in my opinion, epic fantasy is defined more by its scope. The fate of nations, the salvation of the world, the fate of the universe in the balance, dangers that are grand or large in scope, affecting more than just the protagonist and the protagonist's near associates, are a defining feature to epic fantasy in my mind. Right now, I don't see that from this piece -- the focus so far is very much on L and her daily troubles. The things that are going wrong in this chapter are affecting L and pretty much L only. There are some hints that she's working for something bigger, but I have no context to place them, so I don't feel like the scope of this is epic. Sometimes on the forum we call this a lack of stakes, but there are stakes here -- L is in danger of losing her job and getting in trouble -- but they are not epic stakes. You have stated you were wanting to fold aspects of your culture and heritage into your work and that's awesome! However, I don't see much of anything here beyond the typical western European fantasy stereotypes. We have a kingdom, with a king, some miniboss-esque generals, a princess, magic, chambermaids and stable hands so a semi-feudal class system. I see one depiction of skin tone, which is problematic; a couple of italicized words for things that are not plot-essential or character-essential; and some modern-sounding, possibly ethnic surnames. What I am seeing from this chapter is not an integration of heritage into the core of a story, but a veneer of it, thinly laid atop generic western European stereotypes. You also mentioned that you have been unable to find stories like the one you are writing already extant in the world. And while I can't really help you with something as personal as redoing your worldbuilding to better incorporate your heritage, I can show you books and stories where authors have done that very thing with their own backgrounds and culture. Sometimes seeing how others have solved a problem can help you figure out how to handle it in your own work. I'm going to start with two novels Shadowshaper by Daniel Hose Older; and Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova. Shadowshaper is urban fantasy, and Labyrinth Lost is more of a portal fantasy, but both feature Latinx protagonists. The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson also merits a mention here, since the protagonist in that one is Afro-Caribbean (actually most of Hopkinson's back catalog would likely merit mentioning in a non-European, not-necessarily-medieval fantasy list, despite much of it getting categorized as "magical realism"). Unfortunately for epic fantasy fans, a lot of Latin American and Spanish-speaking literature got sort of typecast as "magical realism," to the point that it's difficult to find anything else translated into English. If you're interested in seeing the more magical side of the Latin magical realism genre, I can definitely find you a long list of books, but since you mentioned fantasy and epic fantasy specifically, that's what I looked for and what I'm recommending here. This means I did have to move beyond just a Latinx/Hispanic heritage. I also tried to find books where I could also locate the author talking about using their heritage in their work. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin tops my list of non-European-centric epic fantasy, sine that's exactly why Jemisin wrote the trilogy. Here she is talking about this series: Link 1 and Link 2 Ken Liu's Grace of Kings, is also epic in scale and decidedly non-European in setting. Liu talks a lot about his heritage and how it influenced this story here: Link More recently, Marlon James' Black Leopard, Red Wolf is out now and being compared to the Lord of the Rings, so it is definitely epic fantasy. Moving back into a territory I feel is closer to your own story, there's Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor. Okorafor has written numerous novels heavily based in her African heritage, and they are all amazing. I'm mentioning Zahrah the Windseeker specifically because to me it is the most "fantasy" like of the ones of hers I've read. Akata Witch (and Akata Warrior), the Binti novellas, and Who Fears Death all have a more real-world-feeling setting to me. Okorafor makes no secret of the way she draws on her African heritage to write her novels and interviews with her discussing that are all over the place. Here is one where she's talking about different cultures' views of family, in the context of the Binti novellas: Link Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi are two relatively-recently published fantasy novels that are getting good reviews. Children of Blood and Bone has been something of a sensation, and you can find author interviews in several places. Here's one on Teen Vogue, where she talks a little about using her heritage in making the world and setting for her. Beasts Made of Night is also getting Tolkien comparisons, but here the author used his Nigerian heritage to make his world and setting. Here's an interview where he talks about it: Link Cindy Pon writes novels influenced by her Taiwanese heritage. Her duo, Serpentine and Sacrifice, are definitely non-European fantasy. She is less epic in scope than the others, but I enjoyed her books. Here she is talking about her Taiwanese heritage (it's in conjunction with her scifi novel, Want, but I believe it is still worth the read: Link Continuing east-Asian, Aliette de Bodard writes amazing fantasy and scifi novels using her Vietnamese heritage as a basis for her worlds. Her In the Vanisher's Palace is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast through the lens of Vietnamese folklore. She also has a trilogy of well-reviewed fantasy books based on Aztec mythology. Here she is talking about her Aztec books, research, and incorporating culture into her worldbuilding: Link One last recommendation is Fonda Lee's Jade City. It's a modern fantasy, which is why it's getting listed last, but it also draws heavily on Lee's heritage and the the way family has a special meaning for her as an Asian-American. Here she is talking about it: Link Getting back to your story, I do believe it has good bones on it, but from what I have seen of this section and what you have stated as your goals for it, it needs some serious revisions in order to meet those goals. I look forward to seeing what you do with it!
  9. For me, two things: 1) Consistency. Pick an atrocity and stick with it. The word choices and phrasing had me bouncing around from one implied real-world horror to another and that got old really quickly. 2) Emotion. Reactions: I need more of them. Especially from S, who should be making some real-world connections here. He is me, in this book, and I am noticing similarities. It makes me mad when he doesn't (or at least, feel like he should). I feel like, the queen is trying to say that what she's doing, while bad, is so much better than genocide, and, on paper at least, she's right: some is better than none. But also, the extermination of S's facet's Ari happened thousands of years ago and has been treated as a distant historical event by everyone, up to and including In and E. I feel like In and E might not even believe in Ari, were they not living members of the species and feeling the continuing repercussions from the war. It happened to strangers. Ancestors, yes, but strangers. What the queen is doing is ongoing, happing right now, to her own people, some of which In and S have seen with their own eyes. It's more present. Yet they're reacting to the two things in similar ways. Changing things away from general "insanity bad violence" to something more logical and grounded will also help.
  10. Sorry, this is pretty much just as-I-go. I had... issues. Okay, the opening scene with In going all brainwashed killer and S trying to wake him up is intense, yes, but I got some really worrisome vibes off it. "I'll make you hurt me" (so that the guilt you feel from my pain will make you remember you love me) just sounds so emotionally manipulative, I'm immediately reframing what I know of S around it, and not liking what shapes up. It's pretty easy to take S's need for external help with his anxiety and turn it into a manipulator's need for everything to be about them. The trite, pat dialogue through this scene just seems to reinforce it -- S is just aping these emotions to get In to focus on him. In -- emotionally damaged, vulnerable, looking for guidance; S -- needy, self-absorbed, unable to express real emotions so relies on worn-out phrases... I know, I know I know I know it's not that but, oh, this scene just feels so repugnant to me! Please think about word choice. Coming off of that scene above, where we are shown through actions and emotions that the Ari are emotionally unstable and prone to violence, then going straight in to "yes and we keep them in ghettos" is just really, really problematic. Really problematic. "emotionally unstable" is a go-to accusation to lever at anyone who the ruling group wants to control (whether women, or black people, or the non-neurotypical, or anyone else); and "prone to violence" plus "we put them in ghettos for their and our own safety" I really shouldn't have to explain. "rehabilitated" -- Riiight. paired with ghetto, and the removal of a "strain" of thought, and everyone's basically okay with it because we all know that Those People just can't be trusted to control their own emotions. Why even the Ari say so themselves! It's the Eff talking and she's Ari herself! I am pretty much done with this chapter, right here, since this is reading still really problematic for me. All right. All right. I took a little break. Maybe I'm reading too much into things... "put in a special reservation," --- Then again, maybe I'm not. Is this referencing the Japanese internment during World War II, or the Trail of Tears and Native reservations? It's a yikes either way, and neither one is somehow better or more humane than outright genocide like I think this is trying to portray, and it's in no way mitigated by having a member of the oppressed minority saying these things, but I suppose I'm curious. "within their own species, culling the crazed creatures" -- So, this looks like a reference to minority-on-minority violence being used as a "reason" for the above internment of all members of that minority, so I guess that's a point for the Japanese internment source. It's still problematic. And then the added "crazy people are violent and must be killed for the betterment of society" stereotype on top of it just compounds the awfulness. "amenable to interaction with the other species," -- Wow, now there's a loaded phrase... At this point, I'm sorry to say I've run out of energy and skimmed the last couple pages or so. I'm still trying to rebuild my stamina from the Thing that Happened to me and I've just run out of processing power. This is, I think, the most problematic sub I've seen from you. It's just so all-over-the-place with what it's trying to reference, and the words that it's using. No one's reacting to any of these implications, and I would expect S, at least, to pick up on some of this WWII stuff, since I assume he's gone through a standard US high school education. I want to try to sum things up a little more, but I"m just plain outta juice. Please take @kais's and @shatteredsmooth's advice and rework this.
  11. Hello and congrats on posting your first story to crit! I usually love Star Trek, and all things Trek-adjacent, so I was really excited to read this. However, I, too, was confused. I couldn't figure out what sort of story this was, so I wasn't able to form a cogent criticism of it. For me, what I view as too stereotypical, or too generic, or not realistic enough depends on what type story I'm reading. If this is intended as a parody, for example, I would have different criteria for it than if it was intended as a homage. If this started as a fanfic and evolved, I would view it differently than if this is intended to be a wholly original world. Additionally, I'm seeing elements of multiple Trek series being referenced here, though it seems to mostly be the original it's pulling from, and I found this to be confusing as well. So for instance, if this was intended to solely comment on TOS, then I would find the references to other series to be a problem, but if this is an homage or pastiche, those other references would be more acceptable to me. Because this hews so closely to the source material I was unable to figure out just what exactly I was reading, and so I don't know how to parse what happens in it.
  12. Hello and welcome! I am doggedly trudging through my backlog. I see most of my issues have already been covered here, and also that this version has been superseded by another one, so I'll leave my comments there.
  13. Clearing out backlog, slowly gaining stamina... If I could tolerate caffeine, I'd definitely be using it this week, but I can't so please forgive the increased lack of coherence. I don't have very much to add to this, other than to note I read it, and I still love it. It's more refined, and while it's missing a tad bit of the energy of the original, the smoother nature of the story over all makes up for it. I never had a problem with the vampires thing, it seemed clear in v1 and it feels very well telegraphed here in v2. My as-I-go comments: I like the added info in the beginning, but the "who's your daddy" line is still a bit odd to me. I think that might just be how much more I assume guys like that would be using (american) football chants than anything else, though. With the added description above, it's more understandable as a morale boost chant thing so i don't think it really needs changing, maybe? The disabled toilet is upstairs? Wait, then how do the people who can't use stairs use it... or wait, is that the joke? It's clean because it's unused? Is this an old-building thing that my "no building I live near is old enough to rent cars" suburban surroundings have left me unprepared to parse? "(or is that just me)" -- hah, love it! Superb lampshade.
  14. Honestly, neither do I. I just use Google's or Opera's built-in viewer.
  15. Hello! I'm still working on my backlog, so I don't have a crit yet, but I'm just dropping in here to note that PDF as a file format is 100% acceptable in this critique group! It's in our welcome rules post, in fact. We like it because of how easy it is to view on just about any device, operating system, program or app. You'll see several professional submissions calling for pdfs as well, at least as often as a doc. Speaking of, we specifically don't allow the newer docx as a filetype, as it (still) has some compatibility issues with some combinations of devices, apps and operating systems. @Alderant, you shouldn't be having so many problems copying from a pdf, unless it's specifically had copying disabled. I found this guide on Adobe's website -- do those steps not work for you?