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Stack Overflow

by f0zz 

Posted: 24 June 2007
Word Count: 3191

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This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

There was only one way out of the Panhandle and Eddyson couldn’t quite shake the conviction that to do it on foot would be certain death. Sure, the last time he had bothered to read a bulletin, sunlight remained a deadly foe of the Ayzee, but that was still no reason to be glib.

Tapping the car’s dead resistors, he felt at least partly vindicated by his decision to suit-up, despite Phillips’ insistence that he come unarmed. It was his partner’s belief that Eddyson never switched off and, if the truth were known, he couldn’t remember when he had last removed the Dermaplas in anger. It was dependable – which was more than could be said for the stricken Grav Chariot he was sitting in.

It could have been worse, he supposed. He wasn't too far from where Phillip’s had asked to meet, but incongruities tugged at a brain inured against complacency. First, and most difficult to countenance, it was daytime. Second; the place was deserted. They never worked during the day. He had forgotten what the sun looked like and now, as the amorphous red giant winked from behind the dome of the city like an ageing courtesan, coaxed from retirement by the nervy pitchforks of science, he remembered why he preferred moonlight.

His partner had been acting strangely of late, and it had everything do with Abercrombie’s Zombies, those enfants terrible of the ‘oops’ approach to genetic testing. Journeying home after one long and profligate shift, the blood of countless Ayzee still running in the streets, he’d confided his unease. Voices spoke to him, he said, and he occasionally saw, in the dying faces of his victims, semblances of forgotten acquaintances from a life he was sure he hadn’t lived. Sometimes, he'd whispered, with a look of gaunt, sloping horror. Sometimes, before they fell bonelessly under the kiss of his Plasma Scythe, they spoke.

"I froze and nearly got fragged the first time," he confessed. "I was so freaked."

"What do they say?" Eddyson asked, fascinated. He had never before seen his partner so thoroughly spooked by these shadow-lurking parasites.

The Ayzee weren’t much renowned for coherence beyond an indolent groan or two, so Eddyson was intrigued on a number of levels. On a personal note, it might bring what was bugging Phillips out in the open so they could get on with the business of killing efficiently again. Professionally, it signified potential intelligence, always a big point-scorer with the Chief.

"It varies," Phillips said, “Mostly, its just static, but one night, I swear I heard words. Two words, in particular.”

“Tell me them,” Eddyson persisted. “It might mean something.”

Phillips shrugged. “Stack Overflow.”

Eddyson mouthed the words, repeating them over. “Doesn’t make sense.”

”No,” his partner agreed. “It doesn’t.”

Phillips hadn’t spoken of it since, and it was almost a relief. He’d kept a close eye on his partner for a while after, and he’d seemed competent, if a little subdued on subsequent forays. Eddyson eventually put it down to those old ‘Zombie defenestration blues’ the boys in the high-rise quarter sang about, but last night Phillips had missed a shift.

They were behind in their quota, and in danger of being brought up before the Captain if it happened once more. Eddyson had covered for him as best he could, but he wasn't about to face the slow-witted hordes alone again. One more omission would signal a reckoning, and Eddyson hadn’t missed two nights in a row since, well, since forever.

Cursing, he popped open the hatch, swinging out onto the slidewalk. He would just have to overcome these irrational heebie-jeebies and walk through the city to get to where Phillips had described.

By day he guessed it was nothing more than a short jaunt, but in the teeth of the night, where hungry, godless things shambled, it represented a bloody slog of attrition. This was the crux of his problem; he was stuck firmly in ‘work’ mode - so buzzed and adrenal that even these clean, bright, daytime streets seemed altogether too fallow for his liking.

His headgear chattered telemetry with every booted footfall, offering up sizes, shapes, chemical compositions; the geometry of shadows. Phillips was right, he supposed, everything was business these days. When did he actually relax any more? And why was it so damned quiet?

The Tesla building finally loomed into view, sandwiched between identical blind megaliths whose mirrored faces rushed to meet the sky.

Eddyson peeled out of the shadows like a lone, skulking panther; power-laden and bristling with paranoia. He ducked inside the crumbling brownstone and stood blinking there for a moment within a foyer of muted décor. Twinkling motes swirled in a single sloping sunray that bled through a high baroque window and pooled onto an old desk sitting under a layer of dust.

The whole place was an anachronism.

Eddyson’s eyes were drawn to an old-fashioned hand-bell at the table’s edge. During the moment in which he speculated on the likelihood, if he pressed it, of anybody actually appearing, the dermaplas suit ripple-hissed imperceptibly, regulating his body temperature.

No climate control, and he had yet to encounter a single living soul. Phillips certainly knew how to pick them.

* * *

The creaky, paint-peeled door with 1337 embossed crookedly upon it lay ajar. Eddyson squeezed silently through the gap and was already within windpipe-crushing distance of his partner before the hunched figure, without looking around, raised a hand of acknowledgement.

“Losing our edge, Phillips?” he jibed, retracting his glove-talon almost ruefully.

“None of that matters now. Look.”

Phillips jabbed a finger towards the grey filing cabinets which flanked the walls. On top of a glass coffee table in the middle, more files lay strewn and open. The whole room was crammed with shelves and drawers from floor to ceiling. Sheets of yellowing paper poked out from between them, like parched alien tongues.

Eddyson opened his mouth to speak, but his radio pulsed into life and the Captain’s voice cracked the space between them.

“Eddyson - you there? We’re getting telemetry from the car.”

Phillips spun around wildly. A quaking finger flew to his lips, and his eyes bulged with deathly panic.

“Nine-three-one this is control - come in!”

“Don’t answer it!” Phillips hissed, spit gathering at the corners of his mouth. “Please!”

Eddyson shrugged, keying off the mike. “If they need me, they’ll come. The transponder’s on.”

He gave a hoarse, feral shriek and sprang at Eddyson, tearing the locator away from its moorings on his chest.

“You fool! I said not to come carrying!”

“In this neighbourhood? You kidding me?” Eddyson answered with calculated levity. He continued to observe his partner steadily while he struggled to disable the device. Watching, waiting. Doing his job.

“How did you find this place anyway? I've never seen it before,” Eddyson asked, as his locator was nulled.

Eradicator training had kicked in. Something was wrong, and he needed to buy time to gauge the extent of his partner’s sanity. Phillips would be by no means the first among them to go batshit on the job. Tellingly, his partner seemed oblivious to the fact that he was being coldly assessed in this way. They were equals; he should see it coming a mile off. He wasn't himself, that was certain.

“It didn’t exist before,” Phillips explained. “Not properly.”

A sheaf of holo-foils trembled in his fist and he spoke tightly, as though crushed by unseen gravities. “They kept talking, even in my dreams. Talking. It took so long, so long to figure it out. But now I know, of course. I was afraid to understand.”

“You mean the Ayzee right?” Eddyson probed. “So what was it they said to finally enlighten you?”

Phillips shook his head. “It was a bug. Not what they were saying. The fact that they were saying it, do you see?”

“No,” Eddyson responded, he could feel his teeth creaking with the effort of patience. “Why don’t you explain it to me one more time?”

“Once you find one, it was inevitable that there’d be others. Inevitable.”

“This place?” Eddyson reiterated, desperate for even the barest whiff of clarity that might prove him wrong and save his partner from incarceration. “How did you find it?”

“Slipped,” said Phillips flatly, “out of the game world. That’s how I found it, the glitch I mean. Dear god I wish now I hadn’t.”

He began to pace, muttering despondently. Eddyson crossed the room and grabbed his arm. He started to tell Phillips to stop rambling, but the odd sensation as his fingers dug into the flesh of his partner’s upper arm made him recoil. It was clammy, almost waxen to the touch.

“I am making sense!” Phillips snarled, snatching his arm away. “It’s you, Eddyson - you who’s gotta wake up. Don’t you see what’s happening here?”

“I might if you’d stop talking in riddles!” Eddyson shouted, shaking his head, angry now. “Game world?”

Phillips looked up with a glare of frightening lucidity.

“Look,” he said, throwing open the door. He dragged Eddyson out into the corridor and began to move his hands across the wallpaper, scanning its flocked pattern closely.

It was beyond reasonable doubt now; Phillips had lost it. The moment of his forcible restrainment drew ominously closer.

He waited a final moment, allowing his partner to stalk the hallway until, with a sudden screech, his angular frame did a small double leap of triumph.

“There!” he yelled. “See?”

It was a flaw, a scrape of some kind caused by a careless room-service tray perhaps, or a long-nailed drunk grabbing onto the wall with one hand as he struggled to unlock the door with the other. Perhaps six vugits long, it scored the textured wallpaper, showing the lighter brown of an equally ugly design beneath.

Eddyson shrugged. “So, what?”

Phillips counted out eight long strides as he loped down the hallway before stopping several doors away. He beckoned for Eddyson to join him, and with a wild snort, jabbed a triumphant finger at a spot identical to the first.

Eddyson ran his finger over it, almost tempted to repeat his earlier sentiment, but his partner was already past him, galloping down the corridor. He went on to identify roughly equidistant marks, all along the passageway at perhaps four-door intervals. It was clear that he was on to something, but what?

“I don’t get it,” Eddyson admitted, at length.

Phillips’ hair was matted with sweat and fear. “Textures,” he said simply.

“Textures?” Eddyson echoed, scratching his head as he followed the agent back into room 1337.

A growing sense of unease continued to ferment away in his hindbrain. “Like in the old video games?

“Bingo!” Phillips cried. “Reusable, repeating textures, going east-west all the way. I bet if you went through this place you’d find similarities on every floor. Throughout the whole city, in fact.”

“Phillips, look. It’s okay buddy,” Eddyson soothed, convinced now of his partner’s complete dementia. “See, games? We grew out of those years ago.”

Arms crossed, he surreptitiously palmed a Hypojav as he cajoled, waiting calmly for an opportunity to administer the sedative.

“No.” Phillips’ face was a mask of iron. “No, Eddyson, far from it. Maybe we grew into them.”

Sweat beaded above his lip, spilling out as a fearful certainty. “The pattern is clear, even without all this,” he insisted, pointing to the archive walls.

Disoriented, Eddyson stumbled, knocking the topmost folder from its pile on the low table. It hit the floor, flapping open, and the image that peered out from a single spilled holo-transparency peered directly into his soul.

”Stack overflow,” Phillips giggled, as Eddyson continued to gaze, unblinking, at the picture.

“Felt strange when you touched me just now, didn’t it?” Phillips added. “Both squishy and unyielding, all at the same time. Almost like a waxwork, would you not say, old buddy - old chum?”

Eddyson could only nod mutely as the face in the holo continued to stare up at him. It precipitated a maddening itch that came from all the way inside his skull. The Hypojav fell to the carpeted floor and rolled away, forgotten.

“That’s what we are Eddyson – models. Plastic guys, in a plastic world. I fell out of the game world and landed here, and I’m willing to bet our annual cull bonus that here is where we are who we truly are. What say you to that, old friend?”

Eddyson still couldn’t tear his eyes from the dossier on the floor. “I know who I am,” he said quietly. “I’m an Eradicator in the Panhandle district of Precinct Alpha. Killing is my business, and business is good.”

"Haven’t you ever wondered why you do it?" Phillips asked, changing tack. "Why you've never settled down, met someone, started a family? Ever wondered exactly what lies beyond all this?"

Eddyson shrugged, something about the face peering up at him from the floor was sickeningly familiar.

"I’m not paid to wonder. Why would I? I've taken the oath of eradication, so that the city might one day be free of these damned Ayzee."

"But that's entirely the point, don't you see?" Phillips argued, eyes wide with untainted truths. "Protection for whom? Who do you see out there? Who have you ever seen apart from putrefied zombie fuckknuckles?

Eddyson fell to his knees, gathering up the folder. He touched the holo-cube and a series of photo-montages bifurcated before him.

Wedding; a sandy-haired wife smiling in white.

Grinning, fairy-winged angel waving a polysteel wand.

Black dog running with its owner along the surf, their footprints swallowing water behind.

The cube wrapped back around to the first image, and he finally saw himself as he really was - as he had been in life. Not a chiselled hero with the reflexes of a panther, but a gap-toothed, geeky streak of piss with huge, thick-rimmed glasses that obscured half his face.

Stack Overflow.

With shaking hands, he turned over the folder. Printed on a sticker was ‘Eddyson’, and beneath that - his real name.

He was Fenton Kirby and once he’d had a wife, a daughter, a pet dog who raced beside him along the shore.

Phillips sobbed hard in the corner. He’d already had his folder moment - oh yes. He had a head start on the whole sledgehammer revelation bit.

“I’m sorry, Eddyson, I’m so sorry.”

Eddyson was ashen. “What are we doing here?” he mouthed, suddenly sick to his stomach, “and if these aren’t our real bodies, where in hell are they?”

The look of abject despair in Phillips’ eyes told him that his partner knew that too. He leapt to his feet, kicking over the table; sending the damning sheaves of paper flying.

“Show me,” he snarled.

The small adjoining room housed a bank of monitors. Phillips pointed to an image on the first of them. Flickering under tungsten light were bell-jars, filled with an amniotic fluid. Inside, suspended brains stirred gently under electrolysis, spinal cords waving beneath like jellyfish in a coral reef. There were hundreds – thousands of them, and as the camera panned in a slowing arc, a dusty sign scrolled into view like advertising ticker, G-E-N-E-R-A-T-O-R . . . R-O-O-M.

Eddyson groaned. His guts turned to water and he collapsed onto the small chair facing the control console, puking violently into the foot well.

“Hellfire!” he coughed. “That’s us?”

“What remains,” Phillips concurred, his voice devoid of emotion.

Eddyson roared “No!” and smacked his fist against the fascia, hitting one of the buttons. As he did so, a cover slid back to reveal another screen bearing the legend ‘MAINTENANCE’.

Two boiler-suited technicians working busily among the jars swam immediately into focus.

“Hey buddy, you’re transmittin’!” one of them shouted, looking up. “How in hell you get in there anyway?”

“Help!” Eddyson cried, scrabbling at the controls. “We need to get out!”

“You and a million others!” the maintenance man quipped. He cupped a hand to his mouth “Hey Mackeson, we got a talker!”

“Stack overflow, I’ll bet,” Mackeson’s voice echoed back. “Third one this year. System’s gettin’ old.”

“I’ve got a wife and family!” Eddyson screamed.

Phillips joined in, clawing at the microphone, his plea rising hoarsely on a note of hysteria. “Please, you’ve got to help us!”

“Look, buddy, you made your choice,” the first technician’s voice echoed tinnily inside the control room, “I’m just here doin’ my job.”

“Choice?” Phillips rasped, his face now close to Eddyson’s as they huddled over the small screen. “Hey, you bastards - we never chose this! What are you talking about?”

“Furnier is right,” Mackeson said, shaking his head at the camera while his workmate continued to fiddle with the wiring below. “When they banned home rigs during the energy crisis, you wireheads chose to continue sucking gigawatts off the grid to play your queer-ass 'immersion' games.

Now, you’ve got just what you wanted – for all eternity.”

Furnier creaked to his feet, joining his co-worker under the blinking TV. “That was a long time ago, Hughie, how you know all that shit? I thought they was jus’ narcs doin’ hard time.”

“Nah man, that came later. These are first generation dweebs, right here. Caught in the big cull, organ-stripped and exiled to the world they care about most.”

He stroked one of the shimmering containers almost tenderly. “And here y’all are, busy little synapses sparkin’ away, throwin’ off all the heat and light a city could ever need. Kind of neat circularity to that, wouldn’t you say, Herb?”

“Karma is the word that springs to mind,” Furnier said, “but yeah. One of the few good things in a fucked-up world.”

“How long have we been stuck here? At least tell us that!” Eddyson yelled, his senses reeling.

Mackeson sighed, “Look, buddy. I was supposed to knock off a half-hour ago. I ain’t got time to go through a million jars just to find your tag, but I can tell you that no wirehead in this block has been here less than four hundred years.”

“So they ain’t no point worrying about that purty wife and family no more,” Furnier added. The rest of his words were lost in cackling static, but a trademark finger across the throat signified rendered them unnecessary.

The two men gathered up their tools. It was the end of their shift. Mackeson gave a last wave to the camera while, inside the tiny room, Eddyson and Phillips whimpered in the dark like entombed children in a derelict fridge, holding onto each other as the air slowly expired.

“We gotta go now,” Furnier explained, snapping his lunch box shut and turning for the door. “You guys are doing a great job – keep it up. Sparky’ll be along shortly to mop you up and set you right. You’ll see. Be like old times.”

The two agents exchanged identical looks of fearful apprehension.


There was a sudden, sharp rap at the door, and the voice of their Captain boomed through the wall. “Eddyson, it’s Westinghouse, I need to bring you in for, uh, debriefing.


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Comments by other Members

toshi at 15:50 on 29 June 2007  Report this post
Hi Tony,

Loved the beginning of this. I can't recall if it is a novel or a long short story. Anyway you had some great ideas and some adrenalin pumping action all in the short section. It was easy to imagine your setting too - having played these sorts of games myself, I'm ashamed to say. But your descriptions work really well. I liked "Kelvinium-plated evsicerator"; sounds like something we all need. Also "He winced under its bloated leer; a vast throbbing pustule that might burst at any moment" was highly evocative, as was "the geometry of shadows".

I did have one problem understanding how they were able to see out of the game into the room with the brains in jars. Were they looking out of their own jars or via some device in the game? If a device, why was there such a device in the game in the first place? Or perhaps you are saving that for later.

Anyway I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Your two characters have got themselves into a sticky situation which could go a lot of ways, so I as a reader am anxious to learn more. Look forward to reading teh next installment.

Best wishes

hmaster at 23:13 on 29 June 2007  Report this post
Hi Tony,

In summary - I thought this was great. I had to stop reading halfway through because I got off the train, but I wanted to get back to it as soon as I could to find out the end of the story. Some of your descriptions are well done, stand outs for me -

a lone, skulking panther, power-laden and bristling with paranoia

like entombed children in a derelict fridge, holding onto each other while the air-supply slowly expired

- and also the paragraph on the photo montage.

The story carried itself well. At first when I read the about the 'hypojavs' and the 'eviscerator' I thought I was reading some pulp fiction, but there was, of course, a reason for this which revealed itself further down the road.

As for the plot, it's not bad although derivative. When we got to the sentence about 'the government went ahead and harvested 'em anyway', The Matrix jumped into my head (not saying The Matrix is the origin of this sort of idea, just giving it as a point of reference). But it did keep me reading to the end; there was a certain suspense that was built up. However, I wasn't sure why the Ayzee were speaking - that thread seemed peter out; in a game world, I would have thought the Ayzee to be just artificial constructs. Unless the suggestion is that some of the Ayzee are actually game players who get to play for the other side?

Another one for you - I'm not sure of the connection between the title and the story?

Ok, I will now launch into my usual nitpick fest!

as he habitually reminded his partner
One of those show-not-tell remarks, but I think I'd pull this fragment simply because it doesn't really add anything to the story. Try it without - I don't think it's missed.

Tapping its dead resistors....
I have only just, right now, worked out that it's the car's dead resistors. I wasn't sure what the dead resistors related to. Plus - why did the car break down?

The cartridge belts criss-crossing...
There's a subtle break in flow here but caught me when I read this. I think it's because it's not clearly signposted that we're talking about the suit (I did think it was car, first time around). The car and suit are both prominent subjects for several sentences which means, as a reader, I'm not sure what we're talking about. This would be a piece of cake to fix up, though.

the 'oops' approach to genetic testing
Nice, I liked that!

coaxed from retirement by the nervy pitchforks of science
I loved this description but there was something that felt slightly wrong about it. The reason is that you're not describing the red giant at all. You're explaining what has happened to the red giant in its description, which feels slightly incongruous. I can't think of a decent example, but here's my best stab at it:

"the man shivered, begging like he was one of the homeless desperate for food" -- description fits action
"the man shivered, like he was one of the homeless desperate for food" -- description pushing an absent action instead of describing

sloping horror
This construction sounds absolutely delicious, but what is a sloping horror?

blind megaliths
Why are the megaliths blind?

The creaky, paint-peeled door...
After mentioning the "torture of a million stairs", no mention was made of his post-stairs condition. Of course, if he's in a game, that might not feature in the fantasy world. But there's no acknowledgement of it and it comes across at this point as if the author just forgot about it.

He pointed out a small flaw... It was a scrape
There's a pretty long sentence which says there's a flaw, but only AFTER that sentence do you say what it is (a scrape). It would be better to get the scrape in right at the start, so the long-nailed drunk comments make sense.

Within the context of Eddyson's world, I don't think he'd consider italicising vugits. My rationale is: would we italicise metres?

repeating textures
I play a lot of video games, always have, so I understood this perfectly. But my question is, would the average reader understand what a texture was? Maybe it's clear from the exposition. I dunno. Just flagging it.

Come on, Phillips, we grew out of those years ago!
Felt like an odd reaction to someone who is telling you: oi, matey, you live in a bleedin' game world. It's almost like he's acknowledging that it's a possibility, when it should come across as an irrational supposition.

organ submittal
I didn't like the term, sounded too technical to me in the hands of these maintenance men. Something more everyday or consistent with their verbal style would be better.

Anyway, Tony that's all I got for ya. Thanks for putting this up here, I hope it's the first of many! Remember that anything any of us say shouldn't be taken as gospel, pick and choose what feels right or put it all of our feedback in the bin if you want! It's your piece, do what you think is correct.

Last thing - there's an unwritten WriteWords rule that, if possible, try to keep any upload under 3000 words. Over 3000 you find people start dying off and not reading it, response times elongate... This doesn't mean you should cut down your stories to 3000 words, just upload them in parts if you have to.

- Joel

f0zz at 12:45 on 30 June 2007  Report this post
Cool. Guys, sincerely, thanks for the comments. All really constructive, useful stuff. Insightful, and way better than I imagined.

Toshi - I'm not sure how the guys are able to see back into reality. I've sketchily inferred that the technology of the era has a heavy focus on virtual reality, but for a somewhat darker purpose. I liked the idea of the paradox, without wanting to add too many extra words in explaining how (or, more truthfully, promoting inference as a means of not having to think too hard about it!) If I were to expand on the story (and it is just a short standalone tale for now) I'd, erm, have to think of something to justify it!

Chuffed that you like it though!

It sounds like we are a trio of gamers-in-arms, and that's no bad thing. The story is based on an initial question I had - whether it would be possible to place a gaming theme into a fiction genre, and have it stand alone as a piece of work that doesn't rely too heavily on a knowledge of gaming to work as a story? It's something I'd like to expand into novel form at some point, if it holds water.

The genre chose itself, but I'm still interested to see if a non-gamer could appreciate and understand it, whether its over-egged or too subtle, that sort of thing. All the points raised concerning this, therefore, are valid.

Joel - thanks for taking such a detailed look at it. Your comments about the Matrix are spot-on. I watched it again the other night, a couple of weeks after writing the story, and I was surprised how much of it had subconsciously infiltrated the work.

Concerning the Ayzee speaking. I would probably rewrite that bit to have them saying something less cryptic and perhaps more technical to indicate malfunction or sloppy code, like a repeated hex address or something, I dunno. The point is, I needed an initial spark to get Phillips thinking about what he was doing, the environment he was in, and so on. The Ayzee speaking seemed like a good way to plant that seed, and that apparent glitch would lead him to investigate more deeply, while his partner worked on in blissful ignorance.

The title (as I'm sure you probably know) is a line from Blake's 'A Poison Tree', about repressed anger and the way it can lead to an escalation of emotion far greater than the incident that preceded it, particularly where a close friend is concerned. In the poem, he doesn't tell his wrath immediately, so it can be defused.

'And it grew both day and night, till it bore an apple bright, and my foe beheld it shine, and he knew that it was mine.'

It seemed like a good idea at the time, doubling as an ironic statement, since Eddyson and Phillips are largely unaware that the product of their 'anger' serves to 'light' up the community, an unknown and unrealised foe, with an altogether more practical application of power. Probably a bit obscure, and/or clever for its own good, in hindsight. :)

Your other points are all eminently and perfectly sensible, getting straight to the heart of things. Thank you so much! This is exactly what I'd hoped to see. Reading what you wrote really does pull the scales from my eyes. Remnants of revised notions and half-chased threads that need a healthy dose of 'fuzz-away'. It's something I can learn from and move on with, having lost all sensible perspective myself somewhere around draft 10. :)

Finally, Joel, thanks for the tip about length. Ironically, the tale was originally a bit leaner than this, at around 2800 words, culled from its original draft 4500 length. I added back in some waypoints for
clarity, and with the timid notion of submitting it for the Dark Tales compo. As someone with experience in this area, do you think its worth sending? It will be the first time I've submitted any work, ever, so I won't be too disappointed if its maybe a little too derivative for their tastes.

I'll keep what you said in mind though, when uploading work in the future.

Thanks again, guys.


hmaster at 14:34 on 30 June 2007  Report this post
Hi Tony,

On subconscious inspirations - god, if I had a penny for every time that happened to me!

I'm not as well-read as I should be, so the Blake reference completely passed me by (oops). I think, from your explanation, the reference sounds too obscure, being fairly disengaged from the actual point of the story.

Don't worry too much about your story's length. I just wanted to impart something about WW I'd picked up over time. Upload something about 4000 words, and you'll find people take forever to get back to you on it and some don't even bother. Probably one of the reasons why the Flash groups are so successful - reading is quick, and responses come back pretty fast. It's just how things tend to work here; if your story needs 4000 words, then it needs 4000 words - just split it up into two to make it easier for people to spend proper time on it (I split my recent story Abigail into four). Any critique for me takes at least an hour to put together after I've read it - the longer the piece, the longer that eventual critique will take.

Eeh, I'm not sure I consider myself having good experience in the area of submissions yet! I've only made one submission thus far (although planning a couple more in the next few months). It seems to me there's no harm sending this out, particularly as your writing comes across as confident. I'm not personally 100% happy with what I submitted to Libbon - but it still got published. Plus, they do say it's best to get started on rejections as early as possible =)

- Joel

toshi at 09:12 on 02 July 2007  Report this post
Hey Tony,

I too missed the Blake reference, not being well read either. In these cases I wonder if it would be better to go with a snappy, eye catching title, but then insert the quote at the beginning with the attribution to Blake (if he was a more recent poet you'd need to do that anyway for copywrite reasons). That way any literary readers will enjoy the references, but the rest won't be put off by the seemingly unconnected title.

Just a thought!

Best wishes

f0zz at 12:41 on 02 July 2007  Report this post
A very good thought it is too. I might just do that, thanks for the tip!


Azjale at 10:50 on 04 August 2007  Report this post
Hi Tony,

thanks for a for a great story.

I found the first part confusing, but when you made the switch to it being game world it made sense. It definitely felt macho, adrenlin filed and pumped up, like a computer game.

I'm not a big gamer but even as someone who played a few you can get the feel of it very quickly.

I think it works well as a stand alone short story. It leads the reader with something to think about and has a good pace through out.

I would consider developing the characterisation. I found the two control guys hard to distinguish, and sometimes I got Eddyson and Phillips confused.

I look forward to you next submission


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