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Author Topic: [May 2018] - Magic and Technology - Critiquing Thread  (Read 2137 times)

Offline J.R. Darewood

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[May 2018] - Magic and Technology - Critiquing Thread
« on: July 03, 2018, 03:20:55 AM »
If you'd like to exchange feedback / get feedback on your entry this month, drop in here and say hello!

Offline D_Bates

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Re: May 2018] - Magic and Technology - Voting Thread
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2018, 10:33:50 PM »
Congratulations Bradley! Really pleased for you and it was a well deserved win. You had my first vote, and there were a number of really strong stories on what was, by all accounts, a stranger and more complicated than usual month due to the splicing of two distinct genres into one.

I don't think they do critique threads anymore, but I like to leave a little feedback whenever I vote and others seem to enjoy it, so I'll be dropping a bit in shortly.
« Last Edit: July 04, 2018, 10:39:23 PM by D_Bates »
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Offline D_Bates

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Re: Re: May 2018] - Magic and Technology - Voting Thread
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2018, 12:10:32 AM »
My feedback the last couple of months has been getting a bit long, so I'll try and keep it more concise this time.

Gemcutter:
This was a solid story that nailed the theme quite nicely. I really liked the premise of an arrogant military might using its power to bully primitives. I liked even the idea that even with space travel technology people are still not beyond being infatuated with shiny stones.

The story lost a small mark for the wizards, who while clearly the protagonist, didn't manage to evolve beyond the standard of rich educated socialites who lock themselves away with their power on their own pleasant island--or planet in this case. And that in essence, to me, makes them little different to the antagonists.

Had you gone with a genuine primitive people, but one with super powers they haven't yet weaponised or really understand, and the military just got bushwhacked, this would have secured a vote from me without hesitation.

Jmack:
I enjoyed this story, but in the end I thought it got the theme the wrong way round. Mythical beasts resurrected from a fantasy world and sent into space is just too silly to the extent that it doesn't really work for me despite my efforts to imagine a dragon flying through space.

That said, your Han Solo character was spot on. Really liked him a lot. And your use of smirk in the cheeky rogue sense made me... well, smirk. Because almost every time I use the word in that sense people shoot me down of how awful it makes the character seem, and to this day I can't understand why it garners such a negative response.

bdcharles:
This had my second vote, and I really loved the concept of viewing the event from two different sides. It had a powerful message of how we default to assuming that something strange is automatically a threat that has to be exterminated.

I did struggle a bit with the PoV jumps at times. They're necessary for the story, but there needed to be some clearly transitions, something familiar that can be grasped onto whenever we switch sides so that we know who we're with. I don't think it helped that you had such a huge cast and tried to feed in so many world details, which only serves to add to the confusion when we'er jumping back and forth in a short story. But a great effort nonetheless.

OnlyOneHighlander:
I like the name Moot. Tickles me to no end! The descriptions of the good guys were also quite imaginative. Topaz especially created a vivid picture in my head with very few words, so nicely done.

This had a bit of an Infinity War feel to me, and like Infinity War I struggled to grasp the main villains true motives outside of destroy because reasons. That combined with the open ending that made it feel more like a sales clip than a full story is where it fell short for me.

Alex Hormann:
Way-hey, a full story!

This was generally well-written and I liked how you went for a slow pace for the battle. That added a lot of tension. I thought you could have capitalised on that a touch more by a little more detail on the PoV character's view of these alien beings and their 'magic', which is really just hi-tech shields.

The real stumbling block though was a culmination of a lot of little details surrounding the mage that never quite added up. At first I didn't know who's side she was on. Her magic was played up in how she'd only cast it far out in the field in front of them, only for her to be lobbing spells from the rear by the end. And finally, when the order came to charge, I laughed a bit at how they continued the slow advance, because surely the whole point of blinding the enemy is to take advantage of their disorientation, whereas the slow, chanting advance is aimed to intimidate.

Carter:
A lot of good mystery to this story, and I do love an old archeology dig site.

Like others, my issues mostly surrounded details that didn't add up. I think you'd have been better to have started the story in the pit, dismissed the workers in a sentence, and then just kept it to Alana and Verania. Basically, how it ran as I read it, at first Alana was alone seemingly investigating, then a worker was with her, then the whole force comes over the hill, and none of this seems to phase her. Then they're crying out Verania's going in, only for Verania to appear on the ridge moments later for Alana to follow.

So yeah, I'd have gotten her straight in the pit and milked the alien tech for all its worth, because that ending was excellent and super creepy, but it was just a bit of a slog to get to it.

And finally, Mr Bradley Darewood!
One of the awesome things about this contest this year is every month somebody new steps up to the plate. I still fondly recall our heated critique group debates back in the day and how much of my own journey I saw in you. I believe I suggested during those that you maybe try writing something fresh, and I've since watched with keen admiration at how you continue to develop that one dream story. The fleeting times I've seen your excursions into these contest forums you always seem to be writing that homage tale with a user cameo or else fulfilling the random tangent discussion topic of the moment, and I'd always think how that'll steal a couple of votes from those in the know, but is sure to just alienate others. Yet you always tackle it with so much heart and enthusiasm that it leaves me wanting for that purity of just wanting to entertain.

Then I read this story, and I'm not being hyperbolic when I say it was fucking awesome.

Seriously, you nailed everything in this. The setting was interesting, the characters engaging, the mission and stakes compelling, and the twist of the technology being part of their own ancient history... totally fresh, unique, and right on the theme. And your entry was at a huge disadvantage being the last one I read, because having gone through so many alien spaceships I already had an echo of such a thing in my mind from the get go. Yet when we reached the complex you completely dispelled that presumption and brought me into your world with those simple descriptions of the stone around the metal building. Such a small detail, but one powerful enough to make me think, 'that's really interesting' and set me right up for the big reveal.

The only quibble for the sake of making a quibble is that you could have added something more to the key. I was thinking at the time that it should maybe be some sort of metal keycard, but in knowing it's a nuke key you could perhaps add something like a plastic tag. The plain description of a key just seemed a bit bland for an object of such importance.

But that's the smallest of small issues. You deserve to be proud of this. It's a wonderful story, a well deserved win, and if you ever have doubts in your own ability like I so often do with mine, you only have to look back at this as a reminder that you've totally got what it takes.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2018, 12:14:08 AM by D_Bates »
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Offline OnlyOneHighlander

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Re: Re: May 2018] - Magic and Technology - Voting Thread
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2018, 11:13:04 AM »

OnlyOneHighlander:
I like the name Moot. Tickles me to no end! The descriptions of the good guys were also quite imaginative. Topaz especially created a vivid picture in my head with very few words, so nicely done.

This had a bit of an Infinity War feel to me, and like Infinity War I struggled to grasp the main villains true motives outside of destroy because reasons. That combined with the open ending that made it feel more like a sales clip than a full story is where it fell short for me.


You're spot on here @D_Bates . I've had this idea of doing a novel about an alien invasion of a fantasy world for a while and this is essentially a sequence from what I see as the middle of that story, so you're right to say it's a sales clip/trailer for something bigger. With the ending I was trying to bring together the themes from the epic of Gilgamesh, where he tries to effectively defeat death, with the idea of a tired conqueror seeking an honourable end. So he's fighting the dead but also seeking death. But I don't think I really put that across clearly. 
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: [May 2018] - Magic and Technology - Critiquing Thread
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2018, 01:20:39 PM »
Gemcutter:
The story lost a small mark for the wizards, who while clearly the protagonist, didn't manage to evolve beyond the standard of rich educated socialites who lock themselves away with their power on their own pleasant island--or planet in this case. And that in essence, to me, makes them little different to the antagonists.

Had you gone with a genuine primitive people, but one with super powers they haven't yet weaponised or really understand, and the military just got bushwhacked, this would have secured a vote from me without hesitation.

Thanks for taking the time to provide your insights, but in the future, when it comes to my stories, please keep them to yourself. They're not helpful and just piss me off and are objectively contradicted by the material:

1. A race that chooses to live simply and keep to itself is a lot more than "little different" from an empire of races that believe themselves superior and systematically pillage worlds through raw violence. THEY ARE LITERALLY OPPOSITES. This nonsensical bit of fluff lost me a small mark? You can keep it.

2. The term "rich" in your critique is based upon what, the old man's robe or his stick? He has nothing else, not even shoes or a belt. Educated socialites? Really? They're Stoics who live in harmony with nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune. Did you infer a season ball being thrown?

3. And the whole thing about the 'primitives who are not primitives' is that they HAD evolved to a higher level, a level that sidestepped starships and technology in favor of simplicity, awareness, and moral considerations.

And this is not me defending my work from criticism - this is me pointing out slipshod criticism I didn't request. If you can't take your criticism being criticized either make better criticism or ask first (I suggest both).

If you had criticized my sloppy repetition of "gleam" in a single paragraph, it's a legitimate issue that would have been fine. But your offered suggestions are literally nonsense - how the hell would one adapt my story, adhere to a 1500 page limit, and offer "a genuine primitive people with super powers they haven't yet weaponised or really understand, and the military just got bushwhacked"?
« Last Edit: July 05, 2018, 01:37:05 PM by The Gem Cutter »
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Offline D_Bates

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Re: Re: May 2018] - Magic and Technology - Voting Thread
« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2018, 03:28:22 PM »
You're spot on here @D_Bates . I've had this idea of doing a novel about an alien invasion of a fantasy world for a while and this is essentially a sequence from what I see as the middle of that story, so you're right to say it's a sales clip/trailer for something bigger. With the ending I was trying to bring together the themes from the epic of Gilgamesh, where he tries to effectively defeat death, with the idea of a tired conqueror seeking an honourable end. So he's fighting the dead but also seeking death. But I don't think I really put that across clearly.

Yeah, I don't think that quite came across, mainly because the ghosts were summoned by the defenders as a last ditch effort, so it wasn't really Gilgamesh choosing to fight them, but more that they were the thing in his way of conquest. The description of the ghosts rising was also really well done btw.

It's an interesting concept though. Dystopia isn't really my taste as I find the broken world to often be more of just a backdrop to excuse the violence rather than the genuinely interesting theme of survival. You overcame that prejudice though, because your characters were genuinely trying to survive at all costs.

I also found the various species rather interesting. That may have been due to the theme pushing for the fantasy elements, but it gave the story a cartoony feel in a good way. I don't know if that would expand so well into something bigger, but there was definitely underlying interest there, so if you do intend to expand it into something more I'd say go for it. The market is ripe for such epic scale villains right now.
David Bates
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Offline D_Bates

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Re: [May 2018] - Magic and Technology - Critiquing Thread
« Reply #6 on: July 05, 2018, 03:34:28 PM »
Thanks for taking the time to provide your insights, but in the future, when it comes to my stories, please keep them to yourself. They're not helpful and just piss me off and are objectively contradicted by the material:

That's fine Gem. I've thrown that offer to you multiple times, you only had to say. Clearly, for whatever reason, you're unable to take any sort of criticism and I'm not going to do anybody the injustice of pretending something's perfect in every way as I don't see how that helps.

The funny thing is I didn't even have anything truly bad to say about this story, only that when comparing it to others and looking deeper something felt off on the underlying concept that I felt others maybe delivered slightly better. That's my personal opinion, one I explained, and one you were more than capable of debating and change my mind on if you were so inclined to. But seeing as you're ego is already bruised I won't waste my time reading your response and stoking your anger further. Good luck to you.
David Bates
Works in progress:
Ciara: A Faun's Tale - 90,000; The K.B.G. - 100,000; Maria and the Jarls of Jotun - 90,000; The Shame that lurks in Stableton - current project; Ezra'il - Plotted. TBC July 2018

Offline JMack

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Re: [May 2018] - Magic and Technology - Critiquing Thread
« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2018, 04:35:39 PM »
@D_Bates, thanks for the positives on “Apollo Landing” (I.e. Han Solo)

And, yes, I was absolutely aware that my flip of the theme would cost me any hope of a win; but it was where the creativity took me so I had to roll with it. Absolutely silly, and so much fun to write.

I’ll try to add my comments latter today/tomorrow for others.
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Offline D_Bates

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Re: [May 2018] - Magic and Technology - Critiquing Thread
« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2018, 07:39:56 PM »
Np JMack.

It was a great effort nonetheless. I have to admit, there's a certain charm about elves and dwarfs and orcs flying through space. I wonder how you could draw the nature of those cultures in further. Maybe dwarfs mining meteorites and elves siphoning energy out of quasars?
David Bates
Works in progress:
Ciara: A Faun's Tale - 90,000; The K.B.G. - 100,000; Maria and the Jarls of Jotun - 90,000; The Shame that lurks in Stableton - current project; Ezra'il - Plotted. TBC July 2018

Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: [May 2018] - Magic and Technology - Critiquing Thread
« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2018, 08:13:07 PM »
My bad-- I forgot to open this by asking who does and doesnt want critiques! If you have a preference please let me know

Thanks a lot for taking the time to do all that @D_Bates ! I'll write more later