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ForzaA

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redwolf said:
The author dropped me a PM to answer your question. Below is his answer.
I thank the anonymous author for his clarification :) (was what I expected, but better to be sure :) )


I'm terribly sorry for the second author though - it's quite well written, but at least in my view, it's rather "bland", more scripted than entry #1. It doesn't surprise much, and when placed right after #1, that makes it seem almost dull.
 

redwolf

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Author #3


Thrama leaped over the scattered rocks and debris that covered the surface of Geonosis, and towards the crumpled body of his master. Behind him, the roar of battle continued, the Jedi were making good their rescue of Obi-Wan and Skywalker. Thrama brushed his dark hair from his eyes and knelt beside his old master. He gently pulled the body over to face him, and cast his cold grey eyes over the tattooed face of his Zabrak master. He had known and been a padawan to Juoner since he was eleven years old.

Master Juoner was certainly dead, even in the dark one of the many arena corridors, there was no sign of life, and try as he might, Thrama could sense nothing but the swirling battle within the arena. But then, something changed, a cold fear washed over him. Thrama threw his head to the entrance of the corridor, the hot sunlight of the Geonosian sky was partially blocked by a silhouetted figure, who stood watching Thrama.

Thrama leapt to his feet and pulled out his lightsaber, shading his eyes he tried to make out the figure before him.

“Who's there?” Thrama called out, the figure remained motionless.

“Heh, oh it's you, Thrama” the stranger murmured and stepped towards him.

Thrama stepped away from the body and gripped his lightsaber, as the other stepped closer Thrama recognised him.

“Sarlo, you?” Thrama continued to move backwards. “How? You're missing..” Sarlo had disappeared a year ago, almost moments after being knighted, Thrama remembered their enmity, and no doubt Karn Sarlo recalled it too.

Karn had a lightsaber in hand.

“Did you kill Juoner?” Thrama could feel the sun on his back, he was reaching the end of the corridor, behind him, the sound of battle rose and swirled about him.

“That old Zabrak? Not me.” Sarlo ignited his lightsaber, the blue blade stretched out before the two Jedi, it's glow illuminating the scar that Thrama had given Sarlo all those years ago.

The two rivals stared at each other. Thrama flicked his thumb and ignited his own lightsaber.

Precious seconds passed, down in the arena the Jedi struggled against the numberless droids. Behind Sarlo, Thrama could see the particles of dust glint in the shafts of sunlight.

Thrama leapt backwards onto the balcony that ringed the arena, Sarlo followed seconds after and swung his lightsaber in a wide arc, Thrama parried once, then flicked his lightsaber up into Sarlo's own blade.

The darksider batted Thrama's blade aside and cut for Thrama's stomach, Thrama parried weakly, using to his lightsaber to misdirect the blade.

Sarlo counter-attacked, his lightsaber snaking out towards the young Jedi's face, Thrama leant back and batted the thrust aside, but Sarlo pushed on, swing his lightsaber across Thrama's flanks, the Jedi blocked awkwardly, holding Sarlo's lightsaber inches away from his side. Sarlo smiled sardonically at the padawan and pushed, Thrama began to struggle, Sarlo was taller, stronger and had two more years of experience. Thrama had to gamble, either he moves, or his guard will break, and both blades will sear through his side.

Thrama gritted his teeth and thrust out his arm, willing Sarlo backwards, Sarlo reacted with lightning speed, he pulled his pressure on Thrama's blade and pushed his own had out against the padawan's. Thrama was hurled backwards and landed hard against the warm stone of the arena balcony, Thrama gagged as he desperately tried to inhale and dragged himself towards his stray lightsaber.

Sarlo advanced slowly, dragging his lightsaber across the wall of arena. Thrama began to pull himself to the edge of the balcony, Thrama's fingers curled round the balcony wall and he pulled himself up on to the parapet.

Sarlo's fist wheeled into Thrama's face and the Jedi stumbled against the railing. Sarlo levelled his lightsaber at Thrama's cheek, the Jedi was stuck against the parapet, the battle below seemed to have ended and an eerie calm fell over the both of them. Thrama's eyes slowly rose to meet Sarlo's.

“An eye for an eye..” Sarlo grimaced and cut Thrama's cheek, the boy gasped as the wound burnt and was cauterised by the heat of the lightsaber.

As Sarlo pulled back for the final blow, the sky seemed to erupt in chaos and the battle below had been resurrected with bloody abandon. The Republic had stormed into the arena behind the Jedi, gunships circled above as the Jedi were pulled out of the arena, laser beams tore into the arena, Sarlo shielded himself from the shower of debris, Thrama, seeking his moment, leapt to his feet and pulled his lightsaber to him.

Thrama stepped forward and cut down towards Sarlo, the dark sider span backwards and deflected the blow, Thrama pushed on, stepping through the mounting rubble and swung again, the blue blades sparked as Sarlo parried and counter-attacked, the Jedi twisted his blade, blocked the attack and thrust out his left hand.

Sarlo taken by surprise, was hurled across the balcony into the parapet, an explosion rocked the arena as the Republic transports began to pull out. Fearing entrapment, Thrama made for the corridor as the arena shook around him.

Sarlo wouldn't let him leave, summoning every modicum of power, he willed the debris to move. The first rock hit Thrama square in the side and threw him against the corridor approach. Sarlo staggered to his feet and continued to throw rubble at the Jedi, Thrama cried out as another rock shattered against his back, but he still kept moving. Sarlo followed, lightsaber in hand he struck out at Thrama who threw himself to the ground to avoid the blade. The balcony behind them crumbled away, and the corridor began to crack and splinter with alarming speed.

Thrama scrambled away from Sarlo, and grabbed his masters lightsaber. Sarlo followed slowly and began to tear the corridor apart and throw the misshapen rocks at Thrama. The Jedi rolled onto his back in an attempt to break the punishment and pushed his hand towards the darksider, Sarlo returned the gesture and used the force to push Thrama across the corridor.

With ground between them, Thrama stood and attempted to balance himself, Sarlo threw another rock into the Jedi's flank and Thrama lurched against the wall. Sensing his moment, Sarlo dashed forward, his blue lightsaber ignited and tore at Thrama. The Jedi ducked under the blade and stumbled towards the exit, Thrama could taste blood as he gasped for air.

“What?” Sarlo roared as battle droids crowded round the exit of the corridor.
Thrama fell to his knees as the corridor filled with blaster fire, Sarlo stood in the centre of the passage, and deflected their fire which burst against the weakened walls. Karn Sarlo began to tear the passage apart and flung them at the droids. The cracks overhead spread and debris began to fall on the pair, enraged, Sarlo continued to attack the droids while Thrama lay dazed upon the floor.

“Sir, concentration of battle droids in the Petranaki Arena” Clone AV-7633 reported as their LAAT/i thundered across the deserted battlefield.

“Take them” The commander ordered.

“Sir”

Two of the four laser-beam turrets turned on the mass of droids and opened fire. The droids went up in a plume of fire and the corridor around them collapsed in cloud of dust.
 

redwolf

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Author #4

Joe cupped his hands around the cigarette; the cold of the winter night caused a puff of steam to rise up, following the smoke of the match. The rough taste of the ugly northern tobacco was a disappointment, but anything was better than going cold turkey. It was a "Goodwin Champion" out of New York, and like most people Joe had met, it was garbage. Harsh, crude and tasteless, it paled in comparison to the good strong southern tobacco. None of it mattered really; Joe only lit it to pass the time. For the last few hours he had been waiting on the edge of his seat, eager for eight o'clock to arrive.

The ball game had ended early, and the crowds outside Wrigley Field had already departed. The game had been a disappointment, the Green Bay Packers had handled the Bears, and that damned Don Hutson had managed to steal away a win. Joe had hoped for a more upbeat way to end the night, especially given what was happening at eight. But luck wasn’t with him. He had consoled himself by visiting the bar on 3rd. Mike, the owner, had been nice enough to let him go upstairs, it was a final thanks for all the years of service. Chances were good; all that service was going to end tonight.

Of course it was because of a girl, it always was. Sarah was beautiful, fun, and above all else, willing. She had been his first, well not counting the women who worked at Mike’s. They had met one night at a club, Sarah was rebelling against her father and Joe was working. After hours he sat her down, shared some of his private stash, and they had hit it off. He remembered that night like it was only a few hours old. And yet, so much had happened since. He had learned she was a Jew when Fat Ricky had seen her and her family at a synagogue. But Joe didn’t care, and neither did Sarah. They started meeting in secret from then on, Sarah to avoid her father and Joe to avoid the laughs of the rest of the crew.

Then came the night Sarah told him about Ari. The jeweler‘s son was promised Sarah’s hand. The night she came to Joe in tears, he swore they would be wed. Joe went to Ralph that night, to tell him what had been happening. That’s when the violence started. Ralph felt it was an affront to him and his crew. First they broke into Ari’s store, and then burnt down a local deli. Sarah’s father, Isaac, struck back. He hired one of the China-men gangs to jump Fat Ricky in Bridgeport. In response, Ralph called up the Irish mob. From that moment on, it was a war. But all that was over now, it came down to tonight, at eight.

Joe dropped the cigarette onto the ground and rubbed it into the sludge beside the road. The last puff of smoke signaled the fire’s death. He watched the stub melt away into the dirty grime that made up the streets of Chicago. In the last 5 years, the city had become dirtier, or at least that’s what it felt like. Ever since President Garner had taken over, the whole country had toppled back into Depression. When Roosevelt fell to an assassin’s bullet in 1932 and Garner, some Texas bureaucrat, rose to the White House, the mobs of Chicago sent up a cheer. Garner did away with J. Edgar Hoover, and swept the Bureau of Investigation clean of all the Republican appointees. From then on, the city fell into the hands of the men who could rise up and seize it.

Joe had grown up in Chicago, served in Al Capone’s liquor running scams, and dealt with the fallout from Capone’s murder just like everyone else. When the dust settled, Joe found himself working with Capone’s brother, Ralph. They called him “Bottles” when he wasn’t listening, which wasn’t often. The second Capone had managed to re-build the South-Side gangs. But the damage done to the city had sent it into decay. The streets were unsafe, even for made men. Just a few days ago Jack McGurn, head of the Edison Park Gang, was mugged and left dead in the street. If it wasn’t safe for mobsters to walk the street, who could?

“Come on Joe, its time.” The words cut through the silence like a knife. The voice was deep and familiar. But Joe wasn’t going to take any risks. His hand slid to his pistol as he turned quickly to face his caller.

“Easy there shooter.” Johnny Little said with a grin. The big man’s missing teeth made him look like some sort of twisted jack-o-lantern shining in the night. Little had been tasked with making sure Joe showed up to the fight, sort of an insurance that Joe wouldn’t split town.

“Alright Johnny, lets go.” Joe tugged on his collar, closing it to the night’s cold. Johnny fell in behind him with a grunt. They walked a few blocks in silence, only the distant sounds of the factories to keep them company. It was a quiet night, but then again most nights were quiet nowadays. You kept your lights off, and your windows closed. An open door was an invitation for trouble.

“So I hear Mike let you upstairs. Those are some high class girls he’s got up there. You like the exotic, so let me guess. You asked for the ne…” Joe cut the big man off with a stare.

“You talk to much Johnny.” He said, returning to his walk. They were nearing the alley.

“Alright Joe, no need to get all in a lather pally.” Johnny said gloomily, and then decided to change the subject. “So, what did you bring? The .45 long?” Johnny loved guns, he personally owned 15 firearms, most stolen or taken from murdered thugs. Rumor had it Johnny had been shot five times by a cop, and still managed to beat the man to death with the butt of his revolver. When he was found by the rest of the gang, they asked him why he didn’t just shoot the cop. “I didn’t want to waste a bullet” was all Johnny said before he passed out.

“Ralph let me borrow the .45 automatic.” Joe said stopping to find his way.

“Wow, he loves that gun… He must have an eye for you.” Johnny was shocked that the boss had let Joe borrow a private piece.

“Well, either I bring it back to him with another notch in the handle,” the pistol had a notch in its handle for each man gunned down. The current tally was 5. “or you bring it back for me.” Joe didn’t need to explain why that would happen. Ralph didn’t expect Joe to come back at-all. The pistol was just his way of giving Joe some hope. Even if he did manage to shoot Ari down, and end the feud, he wasn’t likely to make it back to South Side without a price on his head.

“We’re here.”

The two men turned into the alley. Everyone was assembled. Seated in his wheel chair was Sarah’s father. The old banker couldn’t walk anymore, so his big black bodyguard wheeled him around everywhere. Ari was talking quietly with another dark clad Jew; probably the man assigned to make sure Ari didn’t run either. Standing on the scaffolding between the buildings were the representatives of the other Seven Gangs. They were here to make sure the fight went down like it should, and that everyone knew who walked away.

“So you showed up. I didn’t think you had the baitsim.” Ari smirked, getting a laugh out of his companion. He started to say something else, but was cut off by Isaac.

“Enough. I want to speak with Joseph before this begins.” Joe grimaced as the old cripple said his full name. No one but his mother called him Joseph, and she had been dead for years. “Come closer Joseph Donati.” Joe motioned Johnny aside and walked down the darkened alley.

“Well Isaac, I’m here, let’s end it.” Joe said, drawing himself up to tower over the wheel bound man.

“So eager to meet your fate? I would not be so ready to die if I were you.” Isaac paused to let out a soft cough, before continuing. “My daughter, she has asked me to spare your life. She says she loves you. It is a foolish thing for her to say, loving a gangster. But she insists. So, I offer you this chance. Break her heart, reject her, and deny her. And I will call all of this off.”

The offer took Joe by surprise. He had expected the same bitter insults and thinly veiled threats he was used to from the old man. But now, now Isaac seemed to be pleading. He wanted his daughter to feel her heart broken, to turn from Joe and return to the fold. But Joe wasn’t about to give the old bastard that luxury.

“No. I love your daughter, and I will be with her.” Joe said stoically, the old man looked forlorn.

“You know Joseph. My associates told me I should have hired a man to kill you. They say this whole mess could have been brushed aside by one simple hit. Do you know why I didn’t?” The old man said, not looking up.

“You wanted the privilege of seeing me dead in person.” That was the answer Joe had come up with when he wondered that question himself.

“So angry. It is a pity. No Joseph Donati, that is not why. I gain no pleasure from your death, just my daughter’s return. But you see things are not safe in this country for my people anymore. Inspector Kuhn and his cronies are cracking down across the country. And with your master’s connections, my people would feel his lash for your murder. We arranged this fight on the promise that Capone would keep the dogs away. You see Joseph; this is what I am protecting my daughter from.” The old man finally turned his face up to look at Joe. A single weak tear rolled down his cheek. “We can protect her from Kuhn as his thugs, you cannot.”

“I can protect her. I can keep her safe.” Joe said defiant. The old man shook his head slowly.

“I did not expect you to understand. You are a man who has never seen the pogroms of the Tsar, or lived with the legacy of my people. If you wish to die tonight, I will not stop you. Know then, that Sarah will pray over you. She has asked God to protect you this night. She knows how much I care for Ari; he is like a son to me. But still, she waits for you to ride in and save her. You are her Ivanhoe.” Isaac leaned back in his chair and waved for his bodyguard. The two quietly made their way into one of the large brick buildings that flanked the alley.

“Alright boys.” Called one of the representatives from above. “Get yourselves ready. I will begin counting shortly, and when I reach ten, you can begin. Remember the rules, you shoot only each other, and the first man down looses. No one else is to be harmed. Are you ready? Good. Your guards may now depart.”

Johnny gave Joe one last gap-toothed grin and scuttled off into the darkness beyond the alley way. Joe let out a soft sigh and dropped his hand into his coat. The Colt weighed heavy in its holster. It was time.

“One.”

The world around Joe went silent. Ari shuffled his feet into place and turned his body and stared into the wall. He had positioned himself so that he presented a thin profile, less for Joe to hit. He saw Ari’s lips move silently, probably a prayer.

“Two”

Joe thought back on his mother. What would she think, how would she feel? Maybe he should have taken the old man’s offer, just left this whole mess behind him and moved on. No, she would not have wanted that, she would have wanted him to fight for his love.

“Three”

The memories of his mother brought his youth, the weekdays spent skipping school, the nights on the streets. Maybe he should have worked harder, spent more time in class. Maybe if his father had come back from the war everything would have turned out different, maybe if he had spent more time in prayer, gone to confession, kept his confirmation candle. No, religion wasn’t going to help him here. Where was God? Who cared…

“Four”

Joe dug his feet into the grime of the street. Johnny told him the first shot was the most important, and that a steady hand would beat a fast draw every time. He had to work, but he calmed his breathing, and slowly steadied his hand.

“Five”

He pulled his hand across his forehead and wiped away the sweat. It was cold outside, why was he sweating?

“Six”

He was sweating because he was afraid. He could die tonight, he would never see her again.

“Seven”

No, for her he would live.

“Eight”

For her he would find away.

“Nine”

For her he would kill.

“Ten”
 

comagoosie

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Wow, what is this place? I have never been here before.

*reads the rules*

Ok count me in next time!

Anyways, I am surprised that most of the stories took place in the future or the present (with one exception), I guess that is the beauty of 4 different authors.

My analysis of each one will be out later, but I have no clue as to the writers of each one. My strategy is to look at each writer's previous works and then compare then here, but the only writer I have seen write (out of the major players in AARland) is Amric and as far as I am concerned, #4 resembles him the closest.
 

ForzaA

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#3: Hmm... Someone appears to be a Star Wars fan.. Can't say I am. The story doesn't compell enough to balance the "poor" setting (for me, that is).
As well, the story doesn't hint at "more story" besides the SW universe (to me, but I MAY of course be missing hints that it's not the regular SW universe)

#4: On the other hand, this one does "promise" a complete and "totally different" (yet believable, at the very least when reading) background. They aren't strictly necessary to the 'duel', though they certainly add to plausibility.. I *really* want to know how the duel ends, and how Joe/Joseph (of course he wins ;) ) is going to continue his life, what with WW2 looming for a fascist USA ;)

I have some "suspects" in mind for the writers, but I'll wait a bit and see what others pick up from the stories :)

Thanks to Amric and redwolf for organising this round, and to the authors for participating :)
 

Peter Ebbesen

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I generally don't read AARs these days (well, except for Guess the Author, as these smaller stories that don't require a large time investment are just my cup of tea), so my guesses concerning the authors will be based on AARland 2004 or so and thus wildly out of date, but that won't prevent me from commenting the entries:

------------​

#1. Ok, I admit it - this one is right up my lane. Wacky, well-written, and with a couple of unexpected twists. That said, it is a bit too rambling and there are a few too many lose threads referring to other people, incidents, or background story. Don't get me wrong - I do like that sort of thing in moderation and am a great lover of Simon R. Green's and Glen Cook's works which this likely draws on (if it isn't drawing on the John Taylor P.I. and/or Garret P.I. stories, it is drawing on something awfully similar), but losing a third of the length by condensing the loose threads and sharpening up the language would do the entry good. Moreover, most of the characters have little depth and less characterization. That's to some degree acceptable considering the focus and type of story (people introduced briefly just to be killed off as a sideshow)... but at least the main character and the Fatecaller could have gotten better physical descriptions. I'm not asking for a premature disclosure of just exactly which type of creature our hero is (though once revealed a couple of early comments made more sense) – some sort of description of what he looked like to the other guards would not have been amiss.

GUESS: Somebody who likes Simon R. Green's and Glen Cook's books and is an experienced writer. Unfortunately, that covers quite a number of those whose works I remember. Wyvern could have written this, but I don't think he's written any AARs since we did MP AARs together some years back, Lord Durham and several Free Company chappies are/were obviously also Black Company aficionados, but I have no idea how that's going these days, and this isn't LD's normal writing style, that's for sure. I give up.

-- That said, if the reader doesn't know the stories I'm talking about, you owe it to yourself to try them out. Get the first few books of Simon R. Green's ”Nightside” series or something like ”Blue Moon Rising” (for slightly more normal fantasy) and the first few books of Glen Cook's ”Black Company” series or (what is possibly his masterpiece) ”Tower of Fear”, and, if you like them, get everything else the writers have ever written, which is a pretty big corpus by now.

------------​

#2. Two knights, a squire, the lady who is the daughter of the lord and the object of the knights' desires... and utterly unremarkable.

I feel like a bastard saying that since the writing itself is good and completely on-topic (unlike #1), but how often have we seen the "two good men and true, as brothers to eachother &etc, fighting over a lady - and THEN, SURPRISE, the best one of them (undefeated champion! RAH!) decides, like a really soppy manly man putting somebody else's desires above his own, to lose because he belives the other guy is most worthy/most loved by the lady &etc&etc&etc" story? Much too often, that's how often.

Everybody feels entirely one-dimensional for the brief period of time we know them and not even the ending - the lady showing up to ask just what is going on - saves it.

Now, if the story had left Sir Arthur dead on the ground with Luke crying over his body, Sir James rashly vowing to take holy vows in penance OR happily forgetting his friend since he'll get the tail he's after and, who knows, perhaps the lordship too in time?, and the Lady Kathleen disconsolate (for she really did love Sir Arthur better, or convinces herself of that after his death), then you have a plot twist worthy of ending the story with a bang, not a whimper. (Ok, this might be overdoing it more than a bit, but you see what I mean? :D)

A couple of words of advice: Men at arms don't have to be grizzled. Squires don't have to speak in gruff voices. Duels don't have to take place in hushed silence (before combat) and stunned silence (when something unexpected happens), everybody else present do not need to act in unison while referred to as the crowd - and so on and so forth. Yes, many of these phrases are used all the time in knights' tales, but using stock phrases can definitely be overdone.

I know it is hard, particularly for non-native speakers of the English language and particularly when the story itself is stylized, but the language is so rich that it is a crime not to experiment a bit. :) If you don't feel safe enough to experiment, stealing directly from Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur would be another option - it has god knows how many variants of "and he smote him to the ground, man and horse" plus other useful phrases for knights pounding eachother or speaking to underlings. :)

GUESS: The style doesn't really match any I recall back from 2003-2004 (sorry). At a guess, the author is a non-native speaker of the English language who has written a few AARs and is comfortable with writing in English in general but not yet comfortable enough to experiment.

------------​

#3. I've forgotten the movie mostly so I do not know whether these two guys were in it or invented for the purpose, but who cares? We've got two Jedis going all out in mortal combat with a high degree of intensity and well choregraphed moves: a hero and a villain fighting their private fight against the backdrop of an active battlefield. The story itself evidences approximately zero originality – it goes entirely according to script: dead master, older student (evil) versus younger student (good), superhuman efforts, and the fight ends inconclusively when the good appears to be almost defeated (but not quite!) and outside forces intervene in a way that will undoubtedly have the hero surviving while leaving the fate of the villain uncertain, setting up the scene for a return engagement (because if there's one thing that is certain about villains, whose fate is uncertain, it is that they'll be back for an encore). Let's face it – it is a quite decent representative of the type of pulp space opera fanfic that the major SF movie franchises attract. Good work. :)

That said, the writer desperately needs to find alternate ways to refer to the duelists. Having almost every single sentence include ”Thrama” or ”Sarlo”, and in many cases both, subtracts significantly from the flow of the story – even with the few uses of ”dark sider” to cut down on the uses of ”Sarlo”, it is just too much. It is hard to find alternate ways of referring to people without it seeming out of the place to the reader, but hey, nobody said writing had to be easy. :)

GUESS: I'm lost here. The English is good enough for either a native speaker or for a very good non-native one. The writing seems effortless which suggests a veteran writer. I don't recall any AAR writer who's written detailed fighting scenes to the degree it happens here save Lord Durham, but his writing skills are better than this – he knows better than using the names of the people involved in every sentence as one can see by reading some of his swords and sorcery novels. Then again, it is few AARs in which we see descriptions of one-on-one combat and the choice of the Star Wars universe imposes so many restrictions on words chosen that even if the writer is one I have read several AARs by, I might not recognize it here due to the enforced vocabulary and style.

------------​

#4. Very well written overall, good characterization, and for once it isn't obvious what's going to happen at the end. I tell a lie. Joe is going to win, because the author is a bleeding heart, but it is written in a way such that death of the main character is an entirely acceptable outcome to the story.

There's one thing that really annoys me, given the attention to detail in the rest of the story, and it is this paragraph:
Then came the night Sarah told him about Ari. The jeweler‘s son was promised Sarah’s hand. The night she came to Joe in tears, he swore they would be wed. Joe went to Ralph that night, to tell him what had been happening. That’s when the violence started. Ralph felt it was an affront to him and his crew. First they broke into Ari’s store, and then burnt down a local deli. Sarah’s father, Isaac, struck back. He hired one of the China-men gangs to jump Fat Ricky in Bridgeport. In response, Ralph called up the Irish mob. From that moment on, it was a war. But all that was over now, it came down to tonight, at eight.
Quite simply, given the devotion to detail in the other paragraphs, everything happens too fast here and, considering the rest of the setup, it isn't all that believable.

Joe works for Ralph. He tells Ralph, whom we are assured is a hardened criminal and gang leader (the elder brother of Al Capone, not as smart or vicious a criminal as his brother but not an idiot either), that he loves Sarah but she's promised to somebody else.

From what we are told, he doesn't tell Ralph Capone that he (Joe, Ralph's man) isn't considered good enough for Sarah or anything else that could be considered an insult to Ralph, he's told that Sarah is already promised to somebody else. Based on the information the reader is given, there's zero reason for Ralph to feel it is an insult to him or his crew. Given what we know of Ralph Capone in our universe (as opposed to the one this tale takes place in) it also seems out of character. Of course, Joe may have misrepresented the situation to Ralph, but we are not given any indication that this is the case.

Now, in the tale's universe Ralph has taken over as leader and may have changed significantly from the point of divergence, but even so, breaking into Ari the Jeweler's store and burning down a local deli (why?) seems like a remarkably poor choice compared to starting out by sending out one or two guys to have a chat with Ari concerning a change of plans, which sounds more like the choice a sensible boss would follow if he wanted to aid one of his men. This somehow leads to the direct involvement of (at least) two other mobs apart from Ralph's men – the Chinese via Sarah's father and the Irish via Ralph.

Now, in something that was placed in a land of your imagination, that would be fine, but in alternate history with recognizable names... it deserves a better explanation.

GUESS: This reminds me of something that Storey or Director could have written. I don't know if they are writing these days, but the excellent use of characters combined with mastery of the English language is something that few people in the AAR forum mastered when I was a regular visitor. There's undoubtedly many more since then (4 years of experience will change people and, of course, there are many writers I've never read something by), but the devotion to writing a good story first and foremost – that does remind me of Storey and Director above most other AAR writers.

------------​

Just one more thing, and this is something that all four authors could benefit from. Read ”The Tough Guide to Fantasyland” by Diana Wynne Jones. If you ever intend to write anything in Fantasy style, this will help you avoid some very common pitfalls in writing and characterization or at least make sure that you know what you are doing. If you don't... the analogies you can draw between the issues brought up in this book and the style of writing you prefer will also help you. Finally it is a quite fun book in its own right.
 
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ForzaA

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Peter Ebbesen said:
#1. Ok, I admit it - this one is right up my lane. Wacky, well-written, and with a couple of unexpected twists.
Foiled again! :(
The one story I thought I had a shot at making a decent guess (obviously, not entirely without reason, too :) ) ...
 

redwolf

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Well, well, well, a critique from the legendary Peter Ebessen himself. How about that. :)

Forza, so your guess for Author #1 was PE? :D It's a good try I gotta admit.

Come on people, let's have more comments for the 4 writers' works shall we. They made the effort to write an article for us, surely we can reciprocate with some comments.
 

Amric

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I haven't had time to comment, but I WILL do so. Probably sometime in the next couple of days.....
 

Rensslaer

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Yeah, I'm still stuck somewhere in 4022... I'll catch up as soon as I finish that first story! :D

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I'll try to make the time to read and review later today. :)
 

dharper

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Story #1: An extremely well written piece; it manages to convey the feeling of a novel in a few hundred words - something often attempted and rarely achieved. Bravo! However, the initial introductory description of the war, while integral to the story's development later on, seemed forced and marred what was otherwise a very dramatic Film Noir introduction. The attitudes and names all fit in with the genre well, and the shift to a fantasy world where the protagonist turns out to be a dragon was well done: the understatement helped sell the story. Overall a very enjoyable story that hinted at all kinds of tangents, back stories and sequels - congratulations! There is one thing that keeps nagging me, though: the story seems to imply that the secretary is his girlfriend and has been for some time, but also that he's recently lost his girlfriend. Did I read too much into it?

EDIT: Like Peter, above, I also was reminded of the Nightside series of novels when I read the piece. It's one of those genres that's so specialized and rare that it jumps out at you when you see it.

Story #2: A good story, but it felt like it ended too soon. Of course you want to leave the reader wanting more, but somehow it felt a bit sparse - despite quite a lot happening, it didn't fill me up or leave me satisfied at the end. I don't think I knew enough about either main character to really care about the outcome of the duel (sorry!) and things happened far too fast, like a whirlwind. At the end I was still confused - was Arthur's back really broken? Was he crippled for life? My advice would be to flesh things out more and add more description and reactions from more characters, not just the main characters. You don't have to give us a running monologue of what each character is thinking and feeling, but more description would help set the stage for the reader - and, if you do it right, provide subtle cues that spell out feelings without needing to be told. I guess that's the biggest problem I have with the piece: there's almost no description until Arthur has his vision, and then it's made explicit...it's very black and white, which is fine, but uncommon in modern writing. Even so, I'm seeing a lot of potential; there's certainly human drama and a cliffhanger ending. It needs a bit of polishing to really shine, though. Keep at it!

Reactions to the second pair later.
 

comagoosie

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would anyone feel weird if I printed out these and then try to read them because I get halfway through the first one and my eyes drown in the sea of text. :D

EDIT: Too late I already printed them and I somehow mistaken Peter's comment as an entry. :D
 
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dharper

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Story #3: It's always a bit risky to write fan-fiction as you're never fully in control of the story. In this case, the first thing that leapt out at me was the introduction of a new Dark Jedi in a series famed for only ever having two Sith at the same time (at least, in the movies) - kind of a deal-breaker for immersion. I used to write a lot of fanfiction, but although it can draw in an audience that might otherwise not read your work, I find it more rewarding to change a few details and make it wholly original; that said, it was an interesting side story. Unfortunately, perhaps because I've seen the movie, it didn't really leave me wanting more: I knew how the movie turned out. The dialogue was sparse, but that helped draw attention to the action that was the meat of the scene. Personally I found many of the sentences to be run-on sentences - too many commas, too many sentences crammed with many details. With an action sequence like the one you have here, you want to make it as clear as possible what's going on, so I'd suggest shorter sentences that have a single point wherever possible.

Story #4: A good alternate-history setting with lots of flavor. Unfortunately some of it felt like telling, not showing, but overall not too intrusive since inner monologue works well with mob-style stories. The introduction of religious friction was an interesting twist, but a little forced - it would have been nice to have had a little more reaction from people over Sarah's religion before hearing her father speak about it at length. Incidentally, it was slightly odd to have him talk about Ivanhoe, given how proud he seems to be of his Eastern European Jewish roots. Another issue that kept me from immersing myself in the story was spelling and punctuation; there were a lot of incidents where a homonym was used (e.g. to/too, loose/lose) or where it didn't seem natural to use commas, or where two words were made one (away/a way) or vice-versa (wheelchair/wheel chair). It was all 100% understandable, but it kept breaking into the story. It also seems strange that a "made man" would be questioning whether he would kill his opponent in a duel once the duel had begun, though, but I guess that's just nerves. Overall a good piece with a lot of flavor and feeling; I would have liked to have seen a resolution to it, with reactions from Sarah and Ari. Without that, I feel like it ended abruptly before the last page (which was undoubtedly the desired reaction). I wouldn't mind reading more, even though the mafia isn't usually an appealing genre for me.
 

comagoosie

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Author 1:
Great story, unbelievable. Who wrote this? I demand to know.

Cons: The dates are confusing. Was it truly that far in the past and unless it is legal for humans to live that long, I think that the RA broke the law living that long. And I guess what the fatecaller did is confusing. So he could show each person their future and they can accept or decline it? And that goes for the dead too (or did I mistake a live person for a dead person)? Then at the end, it didn’t switch back to the present, which I can understand as it might make the transition a little rougher.

Pros: There aren’t enough good things I can say. The beginning had a solid base for the flashback (can that really be called a flashback as he’s just retelling the story). I loved it how you gave the “secretary” a personality that no man should mess with. Good explanation of the main opponent, Dan, glad to know he wasn’t born evil. Also the battle scene had plenty of before hand scenery, I know that it is always hard to do. I must say, I liked the ending, you tell the reader who they are (truth seeker) and you continue with Deborah. Magnificent.


Author 2:
Cons: What happened afterwards? Does James get the girl? Does Arthur go on the crusades or does Kathleen stop him. What happens!? After thinking about it, I know you deliberately put it that way, but it doesn’t seem to wrap things up. Rather it let’s them wonder, which may have been the intent, but I still think you could have taken things a little further. Also the flashbacks could have been more meaningful (meaning they needed more description). Now I am going to have to go with Peter on this one and say that the storyline is too old, we have heard it a thousand times.

Pros: Good to see some knights. It is impressive how Arthur has flashbacks, which made him lose. And I always like to see two guys fighting over the same girl (I know I contradict a con, but still, the story may be old, but it can be well liked). Another thing I enjoyed was that you started what the winner got and what the loser’s consequences were, so each knight knew in the back of their mind what would happen if they failed.


Author 3:
Cons: If a clone trooper could detect drones, certainly t could have detected the Jedi. It isn’t believable which is what we want here. You should have added the commander, knowing full well of Jedi inside, ordering the execution, which would have aroused suspicions that something was wrong with the clone troopers in episode II. A little more information could have been used on both main characters and scenery. I admit, I had a difficult time picturing where this was and what was happening. Overall I think this a little short for the audience to get a full understanding. Also I think you are writing this assuming everyone has watched Star Wars, which I think everyone has, but you still need more in-depth writing.

Pros: First off let me say, I love Star Wars and I think you have done a brilliant job with the storyline, yet you killed the characters to wipe all evidence from the Star Wars plot. I did like the battle scene with the light sabers (good thing you mentioned the colors because they do have a big effect on imagery). All in all, this brought back some memories.

Author 4:

Cons: Honestly, I got lost when he went upstairs and then he was in an alley and then a brick building. I think I understand, just maybe a more emphasis would have helped. I don’t know if this counts as a duel, as two guys are planning to duel, but we don’t know if they actually do. In addition, why would a hardened man be afraid to kill someone in a duel?

Pros: In general, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. I liked the ahistoricalness beginning and how you kept repeating how Sarah and Joe loved each other, it drove in some meaning. The determination of both characters astounds me, all due to you and your detail. The old man and the ally was good part, as you offered Joes a way out of this mess, but of course, we knew his answer but nevertheless, it added great affect. Further, I find you handled the ending very well.
 

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Author 1:

I really liked this story. Of course, I like Robert Jordan, too. The duel was almost anticlimactic considering the buildup to it. Wonderful use of imagery and verbiage. Yet, like I stated before, the duel was over almost before it began. It had a long lead in that made me believe it would be an epic battle. But the Dread For Hire never really stood a chance. As for Deborah, well she may be his secretary, but >I< think she is the former princess. With a mean right hook and a 'sterling' character. If it were truly a stirling character that would be one thing. But to use the spelling of sterling, as in perhaps sterling silver, really made me believe she is the princess in question. Which really has nothing to do with a duel, but I found in interesting.

Of course, if this author had written this sparingly it would have only taken about two paragraphs to depict. Again, I LIKED this story, but it seemed pretty lengthy to me and took a long time to get to the point. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing when it is written as well as this story was.

Author 2:

I have an unfair advantage here. I KNOW the characters of this story. When I first saw it I knew who they were. However, I DID not see Arthur giving in the way he did in the end. He's not that kind of guy, really. He's more likely to steal, cheat, and lie his way to the end result he wants. So when he gave in to James it surprised me. It's not written by a native English speaker, but it has been written quite well.

Yes, it is a story of boy wants girl, and so does other boy. They fight over her. One of them wins when the other decides not to 'play the game' anymore. Yes, it's been told before in various ways. But it is still well written and it DID surprise me how it turned out.

Sure it would be nice to know what happened to Arthur, James, and the girl. But it isn't necessary. She's a woman. She's going to make them both pay...and dearly. Count on it. In fact, in a twisted way, with Arthur purposefully losing and getting hurt....it might actually make the girl more keen on being with him, rather than James.

Still, I liked this story very much.




I'll get to Authors 3 and 4 later...
 

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All right...

Author #1

I've finally finished the first tale, and though I often fault GtA entries for being too long, I could hardly complain about this one, for it was a true joy to read, and I wished for it to continue even when I'd finished! Perhaps the most flawless GtA entry I've ever seen, frankly. And wholly enjoyable!

Parts of this were an epic tale, with all the absurd hyperbolic exaggerations which were fun. I loved the feeling (still!) that it was a '30s detective story, with a serious twist. I also loved the many parts of this that took me back to glorious hours spent playing ShadowRun in the college dorms!

I must guess that this is Storey (having not read any other guesses!), because it just seems to fit what I know of his style.

Great work!

More reviews coming for the other stories...

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[EDIT] Hmm.... Or, ForzaA, it could be Peter Ebbessen trying to throw us off the scent.

"Mr. Ebbessen... You haven't been seen in this neighborhood for some time, yes? But you just happen to show up NOW, of all times. And you cleverly point out that the author must be a fan of this Cook guy... And then you demonstrate that you ARE a fan of this Cook guy... And, besides, you're a KNOWN author of epic humor pieces..." Hmm...
 
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Rensslaer

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Author #2

I think I glimpsed some other commenter indicating this story seemed flat, and not very sophisticated or interesting. I must respectfully disagree. I know where you're coming from, but I picked up some stuff that I really liked.

This isn't a gritty, cynical, tensely dramatic scene like some might write. It's more like what I'd expect from "young adult" fiction -- something meant to entertain, more than to make a serious point, or to tug at the baser emotions. This, I think, was meant to tug at more lofty emotions, such as love, affection, friendship, humor.

And, if that was the purpose, I think it succeeded well. Simple in conception and execution, and yet complete (almost -- discuss later), cute, fun.

I thought there was a respectable, even an admirable, element of character development in this scene. In fact, probably more in such a short scene than I've often seen in GtA. The personalities were caricatured, and relatively shallow, but if this story were to go on for several scenes, I can imagine where the characters would grow deep and recognizably complicated personalities. One can sense that, simply from how this situation must have come to pass in the first place, and then how it changed as Arthur reassessed his goals.

I did enjoy the situational humor offered with lines such as "Why do you think we're doing this now?" I think subtle humor such as that is difficult to carry off well, and yet I was amused by that line.

The author showed some research or knowledge of jousting, which I appreciate -- it may not be a whole lot of knowledge (or it may be), but it was enough to make the scene feel realistic to someone who doesn't know as much about jousting.

And, despite the fact that I really liked the piece, I felt there were two possible endings. The author chose one, which left a somewhat comedic, "oh, no! she's mad" kind of happy ending... which is fine, except that it contrasts blindingly with the possibility that Arthur's back might be broken (which in those times was not fixable, to my knowledge, and which could actually shorten his life by a few decades).

The other possible ending wouldn't fit with the tone of the piece without major reworking, but it would be a far more dramatic and compelling end. What if, say, in his attempt to throw the match and give Kathleen to James, Arthur actually is badly enough injured that Kathleen becomes furiously mad with James, and suddenly is turned to love and care for Arthur! That end could either be tragic, with Kathleen caring for an invalid Arthur whose back is broken, or simply her allegiance changes against the brutal James (the fate Arthur just barely missed!). From there, perhaps the mutual friendship is restored, which would fit well with the piece, or perhaps it's not.

In any case, there's lots of potential here for expansion and turning this into a much better piece than it is. As it stands, I think it was a quaint story which I enjoyed, and which I have no major complaints about.

It was well written, the dialogue was well paced, and believable. I never really lost track of what was going on, which means the action and happenings of the story were well described. Evidence of a talented writer who is perhaps still growing in his craft.

As for a guess on the author... I really couldn't begin. I've not read alot of AARs from CK, and am not familiar with the writing style, though I might be inclined to check more out by this author. There are elements here (potentials) that remind me of Frogbeastegg, but it's really not up to her polished level of humor, or cuteness, nor up to her level of sophistication or edgy quality.

Good work!

Rensslaer
 
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