Sunday, 27th June, 2004, 07:53 PM #61
- Join Date
- Dec 2003
- Bay Area, CA
ø Ignore ZhaneelOriginally Posted by alsih2o
And can I just say: Huh what now!
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- Join Date
- Aug 2002
- Cleveland, OH
ø Ignore carpedavid
Match 1-3: Carpedavid vs Piratecat
Strange Little Loops
Kat watched the smoke rise through the hazy air, curling and swirling in on itself to form strange little loops. Gordian knots tied and unraveled themselves within the span of a breath, as ripples of air passed by. She pursed her lips and blew, clearing the canvas that hung in front of her, then waited for Beth to light another cigarette.
"I still can't believe they made me black…" Sharon said, staring at her arms.
Sharon had been something of a skinhead, Kat recalled as she leaned back in the pew, watching the smoke as it began to dance again.
"…and a girl!" Sharon continued, the frustration evident in her voice.
She had also been a man, and was having a bit of trouble adjusting. Kat looked around at the others - their four and five-year-old bodies had been somewhat of a shock to them all at first. Some had adjusted smoothly, while others, like Jimmy, who kept killing himself in wildly creative ways (this was his fourth body in as many months), were taking a bit longer.
Most were talking or playing cards - though there really wasn't much else to do. None of them knew why they were here, and none of the people who ran this place - whatever it was, with its high, barbed-wire fences - were talking. There were rumors, of course, as happens in any information-deprived group: Pam, the preacher, declared that this was heaven, and they were all now cherubim; Ron, the conspiracy theorist, quietly suggested that they had all been abducted by aliens; Starfish, as she insisted on being called, offered the theory that they were all part of a consensual hallucination caused by massive doses of LSD which had been administered by the CIA. Kat had her own theory, but she wasn't sure anyone else would have understood, so she kept it to herself.
She looked over at Beth's cigarette, sighed, and plucked it from her mouth. Placing it to her lips and inhaling deeply, she smiled bitterly. If it hadn't been for the cigarettes, she wouldn't be here now.
***Hoffman turned the mask over in his hands. As the chair of the Institute for Advanced Artificial Intelligence, he had been responsible for its design, both inside and out. From the outside, it looked vaguely Incan (the study of said culture being a favorite pastime of his), and was made of a translucent, blue polymer that gave it the appearance of being carved from ice. That the polymer had the ability to gently mold itself to the wearer's face in order to maximize comfort was an added plus.
Inside, the mask was laced with a series of circuits that acted as a fractal antenna. When initialized, those looping, twisting fibers would emit a signal that would create a sympathetic resonance in the synaptic pathways responsible for the interpretation of external stimuli. Any change in either the mask or brain's signal would trigger an identical change in the other.
The special wideband connection and fractal compression that enabled the transmission of the massive amounts of data necessary to accurately recreate the sensation of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch in the human brain was his design as well. The massively parallel computing cluster that generated the artificial stimuli wasn't of his design, but had been donated by the government - something to which he initially objected. With the news he had received recently, though, he was secretly thankful - he would be years behind now without it.
***When the cancer came, it did so quickly and decisively. Kat remembered walking down the beach, after visiting the doctor and hearing the news. In the middle of the afternoon, on a cloudy, April Thursday, the beach had been deserted. The gulls that cried in the distance were her only companions, which was fitting, she thought, for someone who had done so little with her life. The waves lapped methodically at her bare feet, washing grains of sand from between her toes and depositing others. A gentle breeze tousled her hair and tickled her skin, causing her to shiver involuntarily.
After a moment, she began to cry; beginning softly, but increasing in intensity until her whole body was sobbing. Every muscle contracted with each breath, as she gulped lungfuls of sea-salt air. The thought of dying, of ending, of ceasing to be, was overwhelming. A terrible cold gripped her, sending ice water rushing through her veins, freezing her to the very core. She shuddered.
The thought of all the things she had never done assaulted her all at once. She had never ridden a mechanical bull, been to New York, been married, had children, run a marathon, gambled in Vegas, had sex in the back of a car, owned a dog, or had a chili cheese dog from that little shop down the street that was owned by the old Greek guy with the B.O. and the mustache.
She had gone straight from high school to college, where she had majored in math, then to grad school, where she studied fractal geometry, then to a Ph.D. program at Berkeley where she spent four laborious years as a teaching assistant, then to a research position, all because that's what everyone else told her she was supposed to do. Go to school, go to more school, go to even more school, get a job, get a better job, get an even better job - she had never even f---ing been to Peru!
She screamed, and fell to the sand, and screamed some more. When she finished screaming, she opened her eyes. The gulls were quiet, the wind was quiet - even the waves were quiet, in that moment when she looked up and saw the sand sculpture.
Whether someone had sculpted it, and left it there, or whether nature had lovingly crafted it, she couldn't tell, but there it sat, atop its own little sand dune. Spirals of sand curled in on themselves, connecting internally and externally, to form a pyramid, of sorts. Running through and around, with no beginning and no end in sight, the whole sculpture formed a strange little loop; each grain of sand playing its part in the eternal, unending, whole.
The tears subsided as she rolled over on her back and stared at the sky. The clouds, the waves, even the beach itself were each a reflection of both themselves and the whole. In that moment, she could see everything, the whole of the infinite, in that sand sculpture, in the beach, in the clouds and waves and gulls and sky, and she whimpered. She was still afraid.
***"Are you going in, doctor?" a voice interrupted his reverie. His assistant, a slim woman in her mid-thirties, whose voice had grown steadily weaker over the past month, looked expectantly at him.
"Oh, yes. Yes," he replied. He leaned back in the chair and placed the mask over his face, while his assistant dimmed the lights and put on a collection of Bach. "Yes," he smiled, "I think we're getting very close now."
"I've been reading your synopses at night," she replied wearily, "the progress that you're making is astounding."
Ah, if only you knew, he thought to himself, just how close we are. He had been making observations for months, tracking the progress of his artificial subjects. Soon it would be time, he thought, as the mask synchronized itself to the activity in his brain. His office faded out, replaced with an entirely different scene, as the new reality took hold. I just hope that it's soon enough, he thought.
***Kat was 15 when she first started smoking. When she was in high school, she had joined the dance team her sophomore year, to try and fit in with the other girls. They all wore letters on their uniforms, and part of their act was to spell out words at different points. She wore an "O," so she ended up in a lot of the formations, and at the end of their routine, she was the one who kneeled in the center. Her friend Jenny, who wore a "P," kneeled to her right, while Kim, who wore a "G," and who she despised, kneeled to her left. JJ and Leah sat in front of them while the rest of the girls leaned in behind them. It was a great finish, and people always clapped wildly, even though they didn't actually spell anything at that point.
After rehearsal one rainy day, while Jenny was driving her home (she was a year older, and passed her driving test on the third try), they pulled into a gas station. "Wait here," Jenny said, and hopped out of the car. Kat passed the time drawing on the fogged-up passenger side window with her finger.
"Want one?" Jenny said after returning and pulling the package of Marlboros out of her pocket. Kat wasn't sure what to say. She knew they were bad for you, but she really liked Jenny, and didn't want her to think she was uncool.
"Sure," she replied a bit dazedly, taking the cigarette and putting it to her lips.
Jenny lit her own cigarette, took a drag, and coughed violently. She looked over at Kat, "Oh, these are a different brand, so, uh, I'm not used to them."
Kat nodded, and lit her own cigarette. She took a long drag, and, much to her surprise, didn't cough. In fact, it felt entirely natural, like she had done it before, a long, long time ago. Jenny looked at her in surprise. Kat just shrugged. Something tugged at the back of her mind, but she shoved it out of the way, and took another puff. She watched the smoke float gently up through the air, curling in on itself and forming strange little loops, and sighed.
***Finally! Someone was actually going to talk to her. The guard had been very curt in giving the order to follow him, but since it was the first time any of them had been talked to by the guards, she hastily followed. Beth and Sharon stared in amazement as she dropped the cigarette - stamping it out as she stood up - and followed the man. He led her down a long, hospital white, tiled hallway. They passed door after door, though she wasn't tall enough in this body to see through any of the windows, until they came to the end. The guard opened the door and motioned for her to continue in ahead of him.
The sounds of Bach's "Air on the G String" floated out into the air as she entered the room. A middle aged man in a tweed jacket sat in a leather chair in the middle of what looked like a psychologist's office. Bookcases lined the wall, a desk sat to one side of the room, and a sofa sat across from the man's chair.
"Hello Katherine," the man said, motioning to the sofa.
"Kat," she replied, "I prefer to be called Kat."
"Oh yes," he smiled, "that's right. My mistake."
She looked at him for a second before hopping up onto the couch.
"Do you know why you're here?" the man asked.
"Do you mean practically or metaphysically?" she replied.
He chucked. "Both."
Kat shrugged, "Practically, I don't know. I'd say you're doing research on something, but I'm not sure what."
He raised an eyebrow, "Go on."
"Metaphysically, I'd say that each individual is part of a whole. A giant, infinite fractal, if you will. I think you're tapping into that to bring us back when we die. I just don't know why or how you're doing it."
"Interesting," he said. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, "care for one?" Kat accepted his offer, and leaned back on the sofa. "How much do you remember?" he asked.
"Of my previous life? A lot. But not all of it - there are still some blanks." She paused for a moment, "I remember the cancer. I remember the feeling of helplessness, of failure, though I don't remember actually dying."
The man paused for a moment. "How would you like another chance? To live your life over again - to create new memories?"
"I'd like that more than anything," she said, beginning to cry.
I think it's time, he thought to himself. "You wait here," he said, as he stood up from the chair. He opened the door to the office, and then turned to her, "Someone will be along shortly." He stepped through, closing the door behind him, and was gone.
***"Katherine," Hoffman called to his assistant as he removed the mask.
"Kat," she corrected him.
"Oh yes," he smiled, "that's right. My mistake." He stood up from the chair and motioned for her to sit down.
"Oh, no doctor," she replied, although sitting sounded incredibly appealing right now, "I'm ok, really."
"No, no," he waved his hand dismissively, "I want you to try the mask this time."
Kat was shocked - he had never let anyone use the mask, not even the men from the government who had funded the project. "Are you sure, doctor?" she asked.
"Yes, absolutely," he motioned to the chair.
He helped her lower herself into the plush leather seat. "I'm sorry, but this is going to get in the way," he said as he removed her wig - the result of her recent chemotherapy.
"Doctor," she said, embarrassed, reaching for the wig.
"It's ok," he said reassuringly as he placed it on the table next to her, "it's just me."
He handed her the mask, and she took it with trembling hands. She gently placed it on her face, and was surprised to feel it fit so comfortably. "Just relax," he said, as the lights dimmed, and the sound of Bach floated through the air. She took a deep breath, as Hoffman worked the controls, gradually fading out this existence and fading in the artificial one.
As soon as the mask had taken effect, and she could no longer sense him, Hoffman opened Kat's purse, and began searching for the syringe and morphine he knew she kept, in case the pain got too bad.
***Kat looked out at the office through four-year-old eyes. She held a cigarette in her hand, and took a puff as she felt an unexpected pain in her right arm. The world began to blur for a moment as the sounds of Bach faded from the background. Then, reality reemerged with a bright clarity, and the realization of what had happened overwhelmed her as two sets of memories merged.
She fought back tears, her lips quivering, as the office in front of her faded away, replaced with the ancient Incan capitol Machu Picchu. Gasping, she looked at the mountains and boulders and stones around her, each part of the unending whole. Smoke drifted up into the air, curing in on itself, forming those strange little loops. She smiled, and, dropping her cigarette, stamped it out. This time, she thought, I'm going to do it right.
Novice (Lvl 1)
- Join Date
- Jan 2002
- Essen, Germany
ø Ignore Berandor
I just wanted to say sorry for all the little errors that slipped through. I got a little nervous and didn't read it over closely. I hope you're able to decipher most of it, though
"I desperately needed to go throw up, but I was so busy reading your story I made myself wait until I was done reading it" – Sialia
Read my stories (PDF):
Gwen / One Hour Later, Three Days Ago / Cold Fish / Indian Summer / Disillusionment / Rememberance / For Lack of a Better Term / The Hunt / The Second Coming (AU-Serial)
"Berandor, what a beautiful story. It made me cry at the end." – Eeralai on "Rememberance"
Disclaimer 1: Above all, I am a very silly man. So if a statement of mine can be construed as joke - especially if it's not funny - it likely is.
Disclaimer 2: I am also opinionated, so when not joking I am still voicing my opinion. Except when I am stating facts.
Had a chronic case myself latelyOriginally Posted by Zhaneel
Judgement- Macbeth vs. Morpheus
Macbeth "Art Memoir"
Wow. I really, really liked this story. Absolutely fresh and original, with a couple of nice recurring phrases to hold it together. Confessional stories are hard to get right because the voice has to be completely authentic or else it comes off like a cheap trick (which it is, but hey, a cheap trick is sometimes just what you need). This voice takes a couple of paragraphs to really get up to speed, and you probably could have edited that opening a little, but I was grooving on it.
"I'm crazy. I'm charismatic." Now I'm starting to get a feel for this character. And when we get to "Pope-Dalai-Lama-Anton-Levay way" I'm starting to like this character. And when THAT little trick pays off with the later hyphenated lists, and then the "Fear and Loathing" repeats, I feel like I'm in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing. Did you really just combine Patton, Hitler and Moses? Yes you did. Props for balls.
The hands and the lizard pictures are beautifully integrated into the story. The masks are a little bit of a stretch, unfortunately, and if I had to pick the point where this story just doesn't quite reach its potential, it's in the last picture, of the guy on the phone.
If this guy calling the cops were the turning point of the story, this would be solid gold. Problem is, with all the build-up, a couple of burst water mains feels a little... anti-climactic. I was preparing myself for an honest-to-God (or maybe two) Great Flood, so there was a certain amount of let-down at the end. And the fact that the cops are coming doesn't seem like such a big deal, so the guy on the phone feels a little tacked on.
If we'd had a little more set-up on the cops and their efforts to get at our narrator, this would have turned that picture into a critical plot point and there's a Ceramic triumph.
You got me ready for a tale of "Biblical proportions" -- you need to either deliver, or make a point of NOT delivering.
Still, I really loved this story. Very unusual and a gripping read. Great stuff!
Morpheus "The Third Degree"
I loved the gritty details and especially the opening -- the "official document" idea is a good gambit if you can fill in the right details, and that opening bit is very nice. Fills me with anticipation for the tale to come and gives me a sense of where we're going -- which lets me hang on for the ride, if you know what I mean.
I think, though, that you made a miscalculation in blending the "official document" feel with the more traditional narrative material. Keeping to the official document -- making your story nothing more or less than a military operational report and interview record, would have made this story a lot stronger, I think.
When the first narrative bit starts up, with the entrance of Corporal West, I'm okay with it. The "report" was the introduction and now I'm getting a story. Fair enough. But then you go back to the "transcript" feel and I start getting distracted. I start looking for a pattern in the switches between one narrative style and the other, and I don't see one. So I start wondering why the switches are happening -- which is distracting me from the story itself. I get a further distraction when suddenly, towards the end, the narrative voice goes into Walters' head and I get his thoughts, as well.
Cthulhu stories have a long tradition of being told through "reports" -- "The Thing On The Doorstep" purports to be the written testimony of the narrator, "The Haunter of the Dark" reads like an investigative article, and of course "Pickman's Model" ends with the classic "But by god, Eliot, it was a photograph from life." So you've chosen a good model, and updating it as a military record is a great new twist. I feel like you didn't really have faith in that approach, however, and added in the narrative sections to get across details you didn't think would come through in the interview. If you were to rewrite this, I'd say, have faith.
The final comment concerns the pictures, which don't really get used in the story. The primary images of the story are the helicopters, the guy in the wheelchair and the Bloated Woman. All fine images, but the pictures provided don't seem to fit in very "holisitically". And I have to say that the first two pictures don't seem to be part of the story at all -- you could have left them out with no impact on the story, which is a problem for a Ceramic DM entry.
First let me say that I'm happy I don't get to beat on you guys for
silly spelling and grammar errors. That aside, this is going to be a
grumpy review, because I was a little disappointed in both of the stories.
ART MEMOIR (Macbeth)
A lot of good ideas that read like a rough draft. It's the first round,
so somewhat to be expected, but I found the flow and development of the
story impeded by the bumps.
First is the "show, don't tell". The narrator is telling us a story
about the events leading up to the climax. It makes sense in this
context, but unbroken by much dialogue or description means it's easy to
skip over instead of hanging on and following the text. There were also
parts where the narrative skipped around--first the artist gave his
followers poisoned wine, but then mentions that before they died he had
them carve masks. Now, presumably they weren't doing it WHILE poisoned,
but the structure makes the reader stop and say "Wait....oh, okay, he
must mean before he gave them the poison in the first place."
There was also, honestly, a suspension-of-disbelief problem. Nobody did
anything about the guy using body parts? Nobody noticed a colony of
drug-using, law-breaking corpse-robbers in the middle of San Francisco,
even though they had enormous publicity and "even the free speech
people" knew about them and hated them?
The repetition of the "Las Vegas" phrase was clever (although it might
have worked better if they were *in* Vegas), and the last paragraph
really captures the narrator's off-kilter mind. Extend that back through
the whole story and it would be very much improved.
Use of the pictures was very steady, especially given their, er,
THE THIRD DEGREE (Morpheus)
The biggest problem with this story is that it doesn't pick a single
narrative style; it's a mismash of a "report," an interview, and
narrative description. A transcript of a report wouldn't contain a
paragraph explaining Corporal Walters's point of view in watching
Corporal West brought into the room, and the descriptions of the event
need to be set off somehow if they're 'flashbacks' of what West is
describing. This made it very hard to follow along.
There's a Ceramic DM tradition that it's a no-no to use a picture *as* a
picture, but I didn't ding you on that becaues it wasn't emphasized in
the rules. The problem is that I couldn't figure out where in the story
they *were* supposed to be; Walters pulls them out of the folder and
that's the last we hear of them.
The story centers around an interesting incident, but that's about all
it is--an incident. We don't learn how West got out, or who the Black
Fan was other than something icky; why is Walters so afraid? What was
the point of the mission in the first place?
Judgment for this round goes to MACBETH.
Macbeth- Starts off with one of those comic book indulgences of a characters running monologue. I always liked that, some of us are reared on Shakespeare, some of us on Frank Miller. There are lots of echoes in the writing and while I enjoyed the rhythm they created it sometimes made it hard for me to catch what was being said, “it meant, it meant.” I did enjoy the fun Macbeth was having in giving the character the rambling sense by the use of the something-another thing- something sing song descriptive style.
The character chafed me with his language and in how everything he did was consciously derivative, but I give Macbeth credit for that because I think it was intentional. Even the pounding of the Hunter title entertained me.
I just wish something more had happened. Something more in line with what the mood implied.
The picture use was good without really being surprising ever.
Morpheus- At first I was excited by the formal tone, a really challenging way to tell a story, but soon there seems to be a mish-mosh of styles, and I found it distracting. This may have worked with jumping editing in a movie, but was stilting in a story.
But where do the first two pictures come in? I feel maybe there was an err here. I like how tied in the masks are, but the hands are mostly just added in and the “man on phone” and “monitor lizard” pictures are just pictures.
Unfortunately I know how hard these thinga are to blend, I got my tuckus handed to em last time trying it. J
Judgement for Macbeth.
Winner, Macbeth 3-0. Thanks for joining us Morpheus, come back again. J
Last edited by alsih2o; Monday, 28th June, 2004 at 02:34 PM. Reason: to not show off my lack of math skills. :)
Gallant (Lvl 3)
- Join Date
- Mar 2003
- Redmond, WA
ø Ignore Macbeth
Not to be picky, but therte were only three judges, so it' 3-0, not 3-1, I think.Originally Posted by alsih2o
Thanks for the feedback, and a big thank you to my worthy opponent. I'll try to put together some cohesive feedback on the feedback when I've got some sleep.
Be bloody, bold, and resolute! Laugh to scorn The pow'r of man, for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth
Avatar by Sialia
- Join Date
- Dec 2003
- Bay Area, CA
ø Ignore Zhaneel
Too much stuff has come up in my life, stuff which I'm going to be paid to do or am paying to go do. I unfortunately don't have unlimited time. I respectfully withdraw and cede my place to one of the alternates.
I'm very sorry, and to my opponent I apologize profusely.
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
- Join Date
- Jul 2003
- Albuquerque, NM
ø Ignore BSF
Congrats to Macbeth! I'm falling behind in stories already so my feedback is lacking over in the other thread.
Ack! Zhaneel needs to withdraw. Major bummer. Still, if real bill-paying life rears up and says you have to pay attention, well then you have to pay attention. Zhaneel, good luck with the stuff you have to do. I have been kind of crossing my fingers hoping we would go head to head in one of the rounds. It would be great fun. Perhaps another time though.
Avatar by Sialia!
Now with name shortened from BardStephenFox
New Ptolus Campaign in Albuquerque, seeking players
Ceramic DM FAQ for Fiction
Ceramic DM Winter 2007 Contest
Wow, Well thank goodness it is all good stuff. Beats quitting over bad stuff.Originally Posted by Zhaneel
P-Kitty can you email Noskov for us? And can someone kind please move my alternate list form the non-judge thread to here? Without this mornings polite email form BSF I may have been lost.
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
- Join Date
- Jan 2002
- Boston, MA
ø Ignore Piratecat
On it. I've sent you an email with his address. You know, I should have thought of that last night.Originally Posted by alsih2o
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