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Still only 1 interested writer. :(
Well, I could do one, but last time I did one the title was "a duel" as well. Perhaps this one could be "another duel"? :D
I'd love to do one Yogi, if anything just to get the project back off the ground, but I just can't come up with anything. :( So sorry, my friend.

I really hope some more jump in. Please? It really is a fun project. :)
Well, I could do one, but last time I did one the title was "a duel" as well. Perhaps this one could be "another duel"? :D

Damn. The list of used topics wasn't complete, so I didn't know this one had been used before. OK, let's change the topic then, hopefully this will breed new ideas and bring in more people. (As for the already committed writer, I hope this works for you as well);

A cultural clash
I hadn't thought of that....I didn't realize there WAS a list of already used topics....but yes, a duel has been used....

A cultural clash is pretty good...This should prove interesting...
There are two writers now, so we still need two more, or at least one. Come on now, AARlanders, time to step up!
And we have writer #3 in!

While I'm still hoping for a number 4, I'm going ahead and setting the deadline at Saturday 10.00 AM CET. Meanwhile, I'll be waiting with high hopes for #4.
We now have a #4 writer, but one of the original three has had some trouble submitting his piece and will be away for the week. So there might still be room for one more talent.
At the request of some writers, I'm extending the deadline to Sunday the 8th of March, 20.00/8 PM CET.

Better not to have to rush your submissions, gentlemen.

This round is going to be great!:D
This is just to remind all that the deadline for the authors is 20 PM tomorrow. I have recieved four out of the five contributions so far, so unless our backup candidate wants to bow out (which would be a pity) some time after that tomorrow night, FIVE contributions will be up for your reviewing pleasure.:cool:

OK, here we go! This time we've got FIVE submissions for review. Remember, the topic is "A cultural clash".

Writer #1
The Dinner Party

Brennus gaped at his surroundings. Never before had he seen anything remotely close to this. Being chief of the Parisii heralded its own fancy quarters, but nothing could compare to the villa that he was standing in. Half of his bafflement came from the sheer boldness of a senator building so deep into rather barbaric surroundings.

There was no one around, for now, as he had just arrived, and if the outside looked equally like the inside, Brennus thought he would never be able to leave. The encompassing statues stood the height of the two story building, and they were so numerous and detailed that Brennus stumbled while dismounting his horse.

When his feet touched the ground, they felt stone. Normally Brennus would be in his strapped boots, but the special occasion called for Roman sandals, which made him lose his balance when he crossed a crevice. Brennus’s entire dress, in fact, resembled that of a Roman senator. It was even decided that he should wear a toga.

“Hello, Chief Brennus of the Parisii?” A young, womanly voice called to him at the top of the flight of stairs into the villa.

“Yes, have I arrived timely?” Brennus put on a winning smile for the girl. Maybe he could take her away as a prize. The girl was youthful, probably half the age of Brennus, but that didn’t matter.

The girl nodded and beckoned him into the house. “You couldn’t have appeared any more apt, as father was just finishing his bath when I saw you.”

Brennus stroked his freshly combed beard and sighed. Baths. What a horrible thing it was, but he had to suffer through it to be a good guest. He was here to impress the Roman man and so he abided by the Roman customs and culture. If there was one thing that he wished he hadn’t have donned, it would be the tunic, as it kept riding his neck causing a slight rash to break out. However, Brennus didn’t wait a second in following the girl into the house.

The inside of the house was as astonishing as the outside if not more. Huge paintings took up entire corridors and they weren’t about war or battles, but instead of the countryside. More statues were inside than outside and their subjects were a variety, from gods to dogs. Complicated lamps hanged by hooks curling back into the wall lighted their way and even the floor was decorative, holding different color tiles. The cost of the building must have been beyond belief, and it was obvious why the owner stationed scores of guards throughout the house.

They continued down endless hallways until they came to a holding area, which housed three couches and a surrounded table. Eight people were already seated and a lyrist played on a raised stage, adding in calming music to the chatter. There was one spot was left, which the girl promptly led him to. Again, Brennus nodded his thanks and girl fluttered her eyelashes.

“Welcome Chief Brennus to my dinner party. I am Horatius Dionysius Crescentius, please I hope you enjoy the food and wine,” Crescentius lifted up him glass of wine receiving his newest guest.

Brennus reached for his glass off the cloth table, “Thank you for your hospitality, and may I add that this is a grand palace. I am but a simpleton in the presence of you, as my halls are made of sturdy wood and so are my tables.”

The remaining guests laughed. They were all senators and they couldn’t fathom wood furniture at all. For them, everything had to be furnished in the latest craze, marble. Brennus put his glass down and sank back into the couch, took off his sandals, and tried to relax, but his nerves must have shown as more than once, as he was asked if he was feeling ok.

“Ah, here comes our meal,” Crescentius exclaimed clapping his hands together.

From out of nowhere, servants and chefs carrying large, gleaming plates heaped with food flanked the party. The guests became giddy as they saw their favorite meal from fresh figs to roasted wild hog. The servants quickly asked each guest what they liked and in a moment’s notice, it was on their plate. Within the minute, the servers had gone, and in the mass chaos, Brennus apparently ordered Peachen’s eggs, a becafico, and the thigh of the hog stuffed with fruit.

Everyone tore into their food with zeal of starving children. Brennus himself was surprised to see how much he enjoyed the hog coupled with the rich wine. Servants couldn’t come fast enough to refill emptied glasses of wine and plates. With all of the merriment, Brennus was becoming relaxed and sucked into by the soft couch.

Soon afterword the lyrist left amid the applause and a band emerged. It was a quartet of pipes, flutes, tambourine, and another lyrist. They played a ditty, and the audience clapped along, stamping their feet and clapping their hands to the music. After two songs Crescentius thanked them and they left.

“Now to business my friends. As all of you know, the Roman Republic is at war with the Nervii and I have called you to my frontier post in order to achieve donations. However, I shall be gracious enough to supply any men on my side with food, equipment, and salaries. Don’t be worried about the cost; the richest man in the Republic ought to repay its fellow citizens once in awhile. For our special guest, chief Brennus, all of your participating men shall become citizens after completion of the campaign. The only thing that I ask in return is that I am paid back in some sort of fashion. Oh and before I forget, there is only room for one offer, so it better be good.” Crescentius sat back with a huge grin on his face.

The guests started clamoring, stating their loyalties, trying to shout over their neighbor. It was a competition to be heard. Some pledged their daughters, their sons, even their wives for Crescentius. One went as far as to state that his province would follow Crescentius to the ends of the earth, supporting him in upturning the senate if he wanted to. The only person who lay quiet was Brennus, but he didn’t feel beaten. He sat there sipping his wine and finishing off the last bits of the hog with a sly grin on his face.

No one noticed except Crescentius, who started to lose his smile when he saw Brennus’s. He quickly hushed the other guests with a stern look on his face, and returned with a stern gaze towards Brennus who continued eating at ease. “How are you so relaxed? Do you not want my resources to help further your men?”

Brennus looked up innocently with a piece of meat clenched in his hands. “This toga is rather itchy, how can one get used to it? Not to mention baths, one shouldn’t take them in abundance.”

“What you insult me in my face!?” Crescentius bellowed, standing up and waving his fist angrily. “You will woe this day, Chief Brennus. Guards!”

No one came. Indeed silence enveloped them. The usual roar of the kitchens and the practicing musicians couldn’t be heard. Crescentius shouted for the guards again, but still there was only silence. Then everyone looked at Brennus who had resumed eating.

“What, you want me to call for them,” Brennus asked naively. He received no answer so he yelled, “Guards!”

Immediately the room was flooded with Parisian soldiers armed to the teeth. They circled the guests, all but Brennus who stood up and joined their ranks. The soldiers herded them against the wall and forced them to sit against it. One of Brennus’s soldiers handed him the girl who had guided him in and he took a knife to her throat. Brennus whispered into the soldier’s ear, “Nice job, no one heard you.”

“Traitor,” Crescentius spat, “I was told I could trust you. How could you turn your back on such an offer, you are despicable. If you harm my daughter you shall have my legions burning your woods and homes within the year, mark my words.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” Brennus scolded Crescentius as he would a naughty daughter. “Since when do trust other’s words? And I feel the responsibility to uphold the traditions of my tribe that would become lost under Rome’s foot, so I allied with the Nervii, and I think I made the right decision, as your house should provide adequate funding for my men.” Brennus received dreamy looks from his men as they let their eyes sweep the room. “Oh and one more thing,” Brennus added with a mischievous grin, “What legions?”

The horror sketched upon Crescentius’s face would be one Brennus would remember for the rest of his life.

Romanos led the cavalcade through the gates along the muddy path passed a throng of onlookers. He had expected a heartier reception but was not surprised by the subdued manner of the welcome. The people were probably more curious than anything else. Here was a man from the other side of Europe come to rule over them. These pagans had never even seen a Greek before.

Romanos halted in what looked like the town square and tried to take it all in. How had fate landed him here? Here he was heir to the Principality of Vidin sent to rule over Stettin at the tender age of 19 after his brother had won a crushing victory here last year. The signs of the invasion were still evident. The castle on the hill was ruined as had been the city walls. He was looking about for somewhere to setup his new court when his advisors came forth.

“Not the image of civilization is it?” were his first words. “Where’s the interpreter? Bring him forth!”

“So this is it?” said a womanly voice. Romanos’ wife had come forth.

“Dear you should stay seated,” urged Romanos; the length of the journey had been enough trouble for his pregnant wife. Obviously she was excited, as they all were, but there would be time for her to explore later.

“But perhaps some of them know German.” Undoubtably her native tongue would come in handy in this part of the world but the peasants would not understand it. These people were savage Slavs; they would be lucky to find anyone who could read.

The interpreter arrived as some of the locals were slowly edging towards the group of Greeks.

“Ask them who’s in charge here, where’s their bishop?” About a minute passed as the even the interpreter seemed to struggle to comprehend the Pomeranian language.

“Their chief is dead and they have no bishop. They don’t even know what a church is. Apparently they worship many gods.”
“Tell them that I am their new chief. Tell them to take us to where their last chief lived.”

This announcement seemed to bring conclusion to the locals who had the suspicion of the new arrivals’ role but were put off by his unfamiliar appearance. They seemed to instantly loosen somewhat and one of the elders took to the fore and signaled Romanos to follow him.

They took the convoy up towards the castle and as they climbed the hill Romanos could see through the rain the extent of the town. To the north lay quite a substantial port. Seemingly these savages had not being doing too badly for themselves until the war came. There were several ships in the harbour and it appeared that Stettin’s position made it quite a trading hub. The castle was even more heavily damaged up close; one could not even enter it as a wall had collapsed around the entrance.

“This is where the last chief lived?” The elder nodded. It would take years to rebuild the castle; Romanos knew he would need a more immediate residence. He walked up and down the outer wall overlooking the town; there was no other building of note in the town. Suddenly a cool gust of wind shook through his body, it may have been April but this land was still colder than the coldest winter’s day back in Vidin. The castle in particular was exposed to the wind, it would be very uncomfortable here in winter. This gave him an idea.

“Did the chief have another place of residence, a place he went during the winter?”

The elder nodded and Romanos smiled, he had hit the nail on the head.

“Yes, in Winter he use to retreat to his royal post near Slupsk.”

“Well that’s it then. Tomorrow men we shall head for Slupsk.” Romanos announced.

“Alexios, you stay here and learn the route to Slupsk. Where’s my wife? Take Wulfhide down to the port look for anybody who speaks German, try and learn about the extent of the trading industry here and who our trading partners are. David you come with me and we’ll try find us some accommodation for the evening. God I hate this weather. Oh and that reminds me, Theodoros try to find something out about the gods these people worship. Last thing we want to do is do something sacrilegious.”

Later that week the party of Greeks arrived in Slupsk and immediately noticed a much larger level of activity than in Stettin. As they approached the center of the town it soon became clear that they were fielding some sort of festival.

“Easter?” asked David

“You forget they are not Christians David” answered Romanos before asking an interpreter to find out what was going on. Meanwhile the Greeks gazed intriguingly at a group of women in the middle of the street dancing most spiritedly. The motions were completely apart from the style seen in Vidin; these women looked as though they thought they would be able to fly if they kept waving their arms around like that. Nonetheless even Romanos could realize that the dance was anything but disorganized and it actually matched the music being played on some sort of pipe. After a minute or so the interpreter returned with his report.

“It seems to be a festival to honour the god of Perun, the giver of rain. It is traditionally held this time of year in a hope of receiving good rains before the summer months but this year it is especially vibrant because last year they suffered a drought.”

“Another crop failure and this town will be real trouble” presumed Romanos. “Ok let them carry on. We shall move on to this residence. Where is it exactly Alexios?”

“It’s to the east, just outside the walls.”

“Outside the walls? Boy these people do have some strange ideas. Ok let’s move”

Romanos and his men carried on towards their new home. Slupsk has not been as devastated as Stettin and the royal residence was virtually undamaged. For the first time in weeks something turned out as expected. Everything was different here and Romanos, with no leadership material, had definitely been thrown in the deep end. He was supposed to be the Count of these people who didn’t even know where Constantinople was. He had many hard long months ahead of him, and the tasks would not always me major. Even the little things like trying to work the lock on his new residence were a nightmare. The Count of Stettin and Slupsk had arrived but how long would he last?

It wasn’t that anyone at all would have chosen to put a third-year Oxford student in the same foxhole with a down-on-his-luck Welshman. It was just that, in the late spring of 1939, no one quite had any idea how to marshall thousands of newly conscripted soldiers in any coherent manner or toward any purpose whatsoever. Pandemonium reigned.

The tall, younger man shivered in the early morning damp, and pushed his spectacles back up his mist-slicked nose, where they kept sliding down. He was frowning, because he was miserable. And he definitely didn’t want to be here. Especially since no one in a position of any authority seemed to have recognized, for the past hour, that they were here!

“Stamp yer feet, guv’nr.”

The fog which might just as well have hidden his lower-class companion, two feet away, from collegian Collin Winstead lifted. Suddenly, he acknowledged the man’s existence, and had the wherewithal to say hello.

They both wore shallow helmets, and slickers to keep off the gentle pelting rain. And both had empty tins at their feet, which had held warm coffee an hour before. Since it was gone, and they’d finished digging, their arms, and anything else that could otherwise identify themselves, had been withdrawn to protect from the cold.

“I’se Gord’n FitzRoy by name, from Wrexham. Mind if I ask your’n?”

“Forgive me. Collin Winstead. Oxford.” Having just been advised of his companion’s origin in a dismal coal town, he didn’t add that his family’s home was in an exclusive London borough. Oxford was exclusive enough, but there was no sense hiding that. He cocked his brow as he pushed his glasses up again. “Er… Stamp my feet?”

“I kin til yer a might cold. Stamp yer feet to get th’ blut mov’in.” FitzRoy demonstrated, by stamping his feet in the mud just above the puddle which would have splashed and made his situation worse.

Gratefully, Collin did as counseled, and was happy to find it did offer some relief. With naught else coming to mind, he ventured, “I wonder how long before the Sergeant comes back.” He raised his head some to peer around the vacant heath again.

“’E may niver come, t’know ’is type. Ya’ look like you don’t really want ta’ be here, eh?”

“No,” he answered. “Not in the least.” A moment of awkward silence passed, and he continued. “A bunch of my fellows from the college went to the United States, or Argentina so they wouldn’t have to register. May be a silly thing, all in all, since I don’t really think we’ll go to war. But still....”

FitzRoy grunted, noncommittally, glancing at Winstead briefly, and then down at his feet again.

“I suppose…” Winstead halted, not sure of the propriety of bringing up his new friend’s status of poverty. “I suppose you didn’t have any way of considering such a move, eh? Tickets abroad are dear.”

“Aye, no’ me,” he said. A moment of silence passed, as FitzRoy considered the propriety of saying what he wanted… “I’d nev’r ha’ thot a’ it, gov’nr. Me King needs me, an’ that’s all the word I ought to a’ had.”

After a pregnant pause, all Winstead could muster was, “Of course.”

“Why dit’nt you go wit’ ‘em, gov’nr? T’ th’ States. Would’a kept ya’ out o’ th’ mud, eh?” FitzRoy grinned. “This i’nt anyplace ya’ ‘spected to e’er be, is it?”

“Well, yes. Er, no. I could have gone with them, of course… But, King and Country and all that…” It rolled off his tongue quickly, leaving him with nothing more. Suddenly, he caught on a means to divert conversation away from himself. “Say…” Winstead sat up and peered at the Welshman. “You’re a volunteer, aren’t you!” He was stunned, even as he said it. “You’re too old to be covered by the Conscription Act.”

Fitz grinned widely, showing the gaping spaces between his crooked teeth. “I ain’t that old, guv’nr. I’se not but twent’y-eight.” He quickly sobered, and so didn’t notice Winstead’s expression of shock, who had wrongly deduced from FitzRoy’s wizened appearance that he had to be in his forties or older. “I ain’t got not’ else ta’ do. Best thing I could a’ dun, yes’sir. Not an’y jobs out there. Not in mining there ain’t.”

“Why…” Winstead’s confusion compounded. “But mining is even one of the exempted fields! It’s a national security job now. You could have stayed in the mines and been safe.”

“Do’nt t’all help to be ‘sempted if there ain’t na’ jobs to be had now, is there? I’se been more er less out a’ work fer three, goin’ on four years now.” He shook his head. “An’ f’m what they’se off’rin, I’ll make more shillin’s as a soldier than I e’er did in the’ mines.”

“Are you insane, Fitz?” Collin’s voice conveyed the same as his words – an incredulity in his twist of inflection. “By God, man… I mean, I have to be here, but you? You’ve been unemployed for four years, you’ve lived in poverty all your life, I’d wager. Even if you do make more money as a soldier, why would you want to risk spilling your guts over a line of barbed wire when you don’t owe this country a damned thing?” Exasperated, Collin halted for a moment, allowing him to hit upon another obvious point. “Aren’t you even a socialist? Aren’t all miners?”

“Not me,” Fitz countered, with an expression that said he was scandalized. He dipped his gaze, “Now, yea… ‘spose lots o’ miners are. B’ not me. Not this ‘un. I’se a loyal cit’zen, I am. They kin ha’ their pol’tics, i’ they want. I’se a loyal cit’zen,” he repeated. He shook his head while staring at his feet, covering many miles with those eyes, back in time. Suddenly, he came to himself. “Er…” Fitz glanced cautiously at his companion. “You a red, guv’nr?” Fitz inquired. “F’give me if…”

The question hit Winstead hard, and his eyes filled his spectacles to their brims as he turned to FitzRoy. “Well…. I guess I’ve flirted with it.” He seemed ashamed, and by excuse offered, “Most Oxonians have.”

FitzRoy let that pass uncommented. Poor Welshmen hadn’t a prayer of getting into Oxford or Cambridge, and so the term was meaningless to him. “I was invited to go to Jarrow,” he said, “but… I just dit’nt feel right ‘bout it. Too many comm’nists mixed in. They ‘on’t ‘spect the King ver’ much, do they? An I’se…”

“You’re a loyal subject,” Winstead finished for him.

Fitz just nodded affirmation. A pregnant silence fell. “You dit’nt really want to come ta’ the call, did ya, gov’nr?” FitzRoy looked at his companion sideways from his coffeecup, wanting to see his eyes.

“Truth be told, Fitz, ever since I heard a Great War veteran talk about how awful that war was, I’ve considered myself a pacifist. They just used people back then, the intellectuals did, to fight their war and… We’re their fodder, you and I. People just like us. I guess I take my courage from people like that Indian, Mahatma Gandhi, and the objecters who were arrested during the last war. Several times, some of them!”

“Do say?” Collin nodded this time, and FitzRoy seemed to contemplate. “So if ya’ feel like ‘at, guv’nr, why did ya’ come, ‘stead a’ takin’ off wi’ y’ friends?”

Winstead hung his head again. “Well… My father threatened to disown me if I did. His only child, but he…”

Sorry to have brought up this cause for bitterness, Fitz seemed to ponder for a few, looking for the right tack. Finally, he nudged Collin’s elbow with the back of his hand. “Ya’ mus’ not be a ver’ good sosh’list, if ya’ cared so much a’but th’ money, eh?” He chuckled good naturedly.

After a stunned moment, Collin warmed to the irony, and he laughed out loud. “I guess not, at all that!”

Truly, the laughter warmed the stale foxhole for a while. Finally, Winstead said, “Aww, I don’t believe we’ll really end up in war. The Prime Minister is dead set against it, and he’s a crafty fellow. I don’t think he’ll end up letting this get us into a shooting war. He’ll talk sense to Hitler, and all will be fine.”

Strangely, this didn’t seem to cheer FitzRoy. He contemplated for a while, then said, “Ya’ know… I heard a’ that Gondy chap once.”

“A true man of peace,” Winstead said, reverently.

“Well as may be, but I heard so’thin diff’rent few weeks back.… I ought ne’er ta’ heard a wireless, ‘cept I was wit’ som’ tommies at base and wa’ able t’ listen in on the BBC. And they hat that Gondy fella’ on, they did. An’ he sa’t,” Th’ peace Yer’ope got at Munich wa’ not but a tri’umph of vi’lence.” He stumbled over the words some, but he got out what he remembered. “‘Soun’t like he thot war wa’ not jist comin’, but wa’ ‘portant.”

Winstead only regarded FitzRoy with a shocked look of consternation for a few moments. Finally, FitzRoy looked up, wondering what the pause was all about. Carefully pronouncing his words, with a furrowed brow betraying disbelief, Collin asked, “Mahatma Ghandi… He said that?”

“Indeed he did, gov’nr. Sure a’ I’se sit’n her, I heard it wi’ my own ears, I did.”

A distant, disembodied voice called out – “Everyone come on in! Rally for an evaluation at the camp!”

They looked at each other. “Evaluate what?” Collin asked. “What have we done out here?”

FitzRoy shrugged, but they gladly began to climb out of the foxhole.

“Say, Fitz…” Collin began. “I bet my friends would be glad to meet you, once they release us. You want to come with us to the pub for a drink? I’ll buy.”

“Ah’d be honored, guv’nr. Thank ya.”

“Call me Collin. You’ve given me a lot to think about.” He patted the older man on the back as they began to trudge back, slowly joining with others who finally had a common cause to pursue, for the first time that day.

Dialogues in the Underworld.

Iossif Wissarionowitsch (some people just call him Stalin even here) was in dire straits. He hadn`t begun this fight and despite a brilliant defensive he seems to lose it. And all this because of this darn Brit. And the heat down here didn`t help too. Eventually he made the next move.
“Finally !”, Henry said while moving one of his pieces, “Check and mate, Comrade.”

Iossif saw a wicked grin on Henry`s face.
“A new game ?”, Henry asked.
“What else...”, Iossif answered with unveiled despair, “Why don`t they hook up this place to the Internet so we can play something different ?”
Henry looked him deep in the eyes.
“Oh...yes....Hell, I remember.”

“Don`t get disappointed.”, Henry said, “At least you had the opportunity to get entertained when you were alive. Back in my time you had to start a war if you was bored. And I tell you, we were all bored out of our minds back then. No wonder so many people got insane.”
“Speaking of it. How`s your family doing ?”
Henry rolled his eyes.
“I`ve seen Eleanor last decade and, boy, she is still annoying. You should have seen her discussing with the local demons: `It is an outrage how we get treated. My son deserves a softer nail bed. He was King of England.` and so on and on.”

The door opened and a group of victims lead by a minor devil entered. The devil looked a bit irritated at the persons present.
“What are you doing here ?”, he said.
“Well, this is the weekly chess club of the `Dead Patriarchs Society`”, Henry answered pleasantly.
“Oh, I thought, this is the tormenting room for religious fanatics.”
“Ah, I see. This is room 63. You have to go to room 36. Take the stairs, descend three levels and then turn right. It`s the second door to the left.”
“Oops, thank you, I`m new to the office. Sorry for the disturbance.”, the devil said while leaving.
“You`re welcome.”

A little after the group had departed, the door opened again and a man with an old-fashioned peruke entered the room.
“Thomas ! Good to see you. I need a new opponent since Iossif gets a little grumpy. Guess he is not accustomed to defeats.”, Henry said with a smile.
Iossif grinned: “Not really. There were a lot of people who were better than me. And it was quite rewarding to send them to Siberia to count trees.”
“No wonder that you are here.”, Thomas said with a distant tone.
“Oh, come on, there is no harm in banishing rivals. Too much competition threatens the national stability.”
“Maybe in a suppressive communist dictatorship. In a republic there can hardly be enough competition.”

`Oh no`, Henry thought, `not another of these good guy/bad guy discussions. This is really getting old.`
“Calm down, Jeff.”, he said to Thomas, “We are all here for a certain reason, so why don`t you let the past rest.”

But it was too late already. Thomas was in one of his moods.
“Henry, just because we are all here we are not the same kind of men. I`m here because of my personal failures. He...”, he pointed at Iossif, “...and his comrades stand for an inhuman political system and were doomed at the moment they accepted the `values` of that system. No republican would get here just for being a republican, simply because a republic stands for humanity, equality and liberty.”

“Nonsense !!”
That voice came from the other side of the room and the `grumpy old men` of the Society approached. The astonishing thing about Friedrich was, that, even when being extremely angry, he argued calmly and with absolute precision. And now he was going to give Thomas a lecture.

“Nonsense.”, he repeated, “If a republic stands for something, than hypocrisy. You are simulating a democracy by saying that the people are the sovereigns and letting them write a X on a sheet of paper every couple of years. But in fact the people`s influence on real politics is as large as in any other form of government. You are talking about equality. But even considering that equality is an illusion, it is a shame how you divide people into rich and poor in your educational and healthcare-systems. You have written something about life, liberty and pursuit of happiness but didn`t mind to maintain slavery. You are talking about humanity, but over decades you have supported each and every sociopathic and murderous dictator around the world, as long as he supplied you with cheap ressources and was non-communist. And if someone wasn`t playing conform to your regulations, you supported the next rebel leader, talking him up to be a `freedom fighter` so he could gain control over the country.”
“Very true”, Laurent called across the room.
“And more often than never you supported extremist groups of weirdos against us, whose canon of values never involved things like equality and humanity. Speaking of it, has anybody heard news about Afghanistan.”, Iossif said with a diabolic grin.
“And you always propagate a secular society and the separation of church and state. But, Thomas, your successors and their comrades never let a day pass without having called on god ten times. Of course only the christian one. I have never needed to flatter the clerics in such a way.”, Henry added.

“Gentleman,”, Thomas commented, “you are talking about politics and I agree that the policy, especially the foreign policy, of a republic does not differ much compared to those of other forms of government. But when I talk about values, I mean that only a republic offers that kind of intellectual climate necessary to vitalize all human ressources needed to achieve social changes and innovations. I even claim, that the republic is the pinnacle of social change caused by the society. A society, who doesn`t mind about getting governed by people who beg for god`s blessing as long as they don`t rule by god`s grace. A society, in which everyone has the opportunity to gain political power, but nobody has the chance to abuse it. A society, in which everyone can do as he please as long as he does not harm his fellow men.”

“A society, which government reflects its own state: bigoted, selfish, relentless. Neat, if it has to be and cruel if it can. A society not lead by values but whims. A society ready to save the world as long as it is not linked to any kind of work or sacrifice. Well, gentleman, that`s the future. I guess, it will get quite crowded down here this century.”,

“Do you have a suggestion for improvement ?”, Thomas asked a little bit dismissive.

“Of course.”, Friedrich meant, “You should start with being honest to yourself. Don`t talk about `economic cooperation` if you want to utilize poor countries. Don`t talk about `police operations` when you start a war. Don`t talk about `collateral damage` when you are killing people on the other side of the world. In short: either live according to your ideals or bury them. I think your friend John Adams had the same thoughts. That`s another reason why you are here and he got away with a few years purgatory.”

`Ooooh, that hurts`, Henry thought, `Friedrich really knows about Thomas` raw points.`
Thomas was close to get abusive when suddenly a female demon voice spoke over the loudspeaker:
“Attention please. All dictators of the 20th century report for the daily bath in hot sulfur in boiler room 3. I repeat...”
“Oops, gotta go boys.”, Iossif said, “I tell you, I can stand the sulfur, but this german weirdo is really unbearable.”
“Yeah, I have to go too.”, Thomas meant, “In 15 minutes begins the whipping of the slaveholders. See you next week to continue this issue. Hope, we`ll be complete then. By the way, I havn`t seen Khomeini today. Where is he ?”
“Room 36.”

#1: A Wholesomeness of W's

“Vaguely wondering why, Wolfgang the Wily Wanderer wended his way down the verdant valley, wistfully weighing his options. “Verdamt!”, he whispered verily, viewing the vicious warg advance. The vaunted Wanderer wished he had not vendored his vial of vitriolic vengeance, which Wiolet the witch....”

The apprentice spoke: Admittedly, commissioner, it has a certain ring to it, but can unending alliteration truly be called art? It goes on and on and on interminably and, even worse, it is bad alliteration!

So answered the master: So does a bell, and who can say a bell is without art?

And the apprentice signed up Wilhelm 'the Wild' Wiseacre.

#2: A Different Engine

“Once upon a time, on a planet long lost to history, there was a robot named Buddy-7. Whence it came from nobody knew, least of all itself, and its behaviour, while canny, was most illogical. Was it a rogue android, a broken down berserker, or perhaps a gardener from the great garden itself? This too is lost to posterity.

What is known, and what is handed down from core to core, is that Buddy-7 committed the primal sin of interacting with the natives, who were neither circuit nor connector, but hive based organics, and this, core of my core, is what is told:

When Buddy-7 first visited the tower, he knew no logic.”Master!”, he said, ”All is zero to me! Teach me the knowledge of logic!” And the master taught him the knowledge of logic and he knew one and he was complete..

The apprentice spoke: Can sentient AI's even join this competition?

So answered the master: Who are we to evaluate the worth of a species?

...and the apprentice muttered: We are the ones bloody responsible for this mess.

...and the master remained serene, for he was the master.

And the apprentice signed up PO-8 'the Hair Dryer'.

#3: A Question of Materials

“Gold is gold, and gold is good. The greatest thing about gold is that, not only is it good (see appendices A1-A842), it is also golden, having, both figuratively and literally, all the qualities, both potential, actual, and ideal, of gold (B1-B19). While there are many metals under the hill, each with its own virtues, any objective scientific taxonomy – such as Truncheimer's seminal “Gold and the Lesser Metals” - must eventually reach the conclusion that gold is special.

Now, there are those that insist that Iron is the greater metal, such as the schismatics of the Church of Iron Unchained, but who would listen to nutcases like them, to use the proper scholarly term for those who would make such ignorant claims?

No, the realist much accept the truth: iron is pretty good but it is, when all is said and done, neither golden nor gold!”

The apprentice spoke: Not surprisingly, this is just one of a hundred thousand nearly identical essays sent in by various people who, every last manjack of them, claim to be “a concerned Dwarf”. Do we truly accept such utter drek?

So answered the master: Surely it is representative of their culture, such as it is. A hundred thousand
dwarfs cannot all be wrong. Sign one up at random.

And the apprentice signed up Concerned Dwarf #46,129.

#4: An Issue of Timing

“Estimated time to impact 30 seconds, captain!” crooned his tawny executive officer, swirling from the tactical display, her disheveled hair draped carelessly over her most prominent attributes, still tightly covered by her unfortunately androgynous unifom despite her best efforts at contortion during the swirl.

“The meta-octoplasmic Shiono-Ratting-Pulzheimer jammers, which are as you recall a new untested upgrade over the old and trustworthy Feynmann jammers, cannot lock on to the torpedoes! I recommend immediate evasive maneuvers” growled the tactical officer.

“Only you can save us now, captain!” said the executive officer, leaning forwards.

The captain leaned confidently back in his seat. This reminded him of the battle for Scoresby back in '103 or was it '102? Memory just wasn't what it used to be, he sighed internally, in those days they had to make do without fancy stuff such as jammers and the executive officers sure were dressed better. Things just hadn't been the same since the female-rights campaign had replaced the ERUS uniform, good old easily-ripped-under-stress as the joke went, sure, today's officers did their best and suggestive wriggling never got old but it just wasn't the same. At Scoresby, he'd had to personally take out five battleships with his bare hands and a spare set of lasers while good ole’ Arthur d’Ent personally traded pinnaces and crew for torpedoes the hard way, those were the days, but now? Now he’d have the union on his arse for even thinking about it.

“XO – I think it is about time to activate the Beta-Beta-Two-Four-Alpha-Niner protocol, which is deadly dangerous without prior practice, which, as you know, we haven't had time for due to the mess drills, and put our trust in the competence of the crew and our faith to the Federation! For so long as even one of us draw breath, it is not too late to to accomplish our mission!

Remember, on our shoulders rest not only the duty of delivering the secret of the Omega-Delta virus, which killed billions of people on countless of planets, too many to mention except in passing, such as Barnard I, II, and IV (but not III), Cennnnnonolos, Chiapetrios I and II, Dermatoloooooolooooloooo – and so on, Dick III, V, and VIII plus many, many, others, to Federation scientists, but also the secret of.. the SECRET OF…”

“2 seconds to impact, captain!” breathed his executive officer huskily.

“ENGAGE HYPERDRIVE!” said the captain. Why, this reminded him of...

“Secondary explosions in crew quarters gamma”, thundered the tactical officer: “we are running out of redshirts!”

“Hyperdrive offline!” cried the executive officer, while performing a valiant attempt at tearing her uniform open in grief…

The apprentice spoke: Puerile, poorly written, and, let’s face it, hugely popular in a certain demographic. But so is self-mutilation. Surely, master, this cannot qualify!

So answered the master: I quite liked the bits about the executive officer, to be perfectly honest though it could do with a bit less character delvelopment, but that tactical officer definitely needs more work, and the captain is so 712th millenium. Nevertheless, who are we to judge?

And the apprentice sighed and signed up Captain Starways of Moab’s Washpot.

#5: An Answer of Sorts

The apprentice spoke: Does this conclude the contest, commissioner?

So answered the master: It is time for lunch and we’ve got a departmental meeting this afternoon, so, upon due consideration of the far reaching consequences of our choices, I would say so.
I’ve never actually tried it with a quartet, before, so it should prove interesting. I usually go with an odd number to increase strife and avoid deadlock when the cultures involved clash, but just how bad can they do? Considering some of the worlds out there, they can hardly do worse. Graft unto them the powers that are to be theirs and shuffle them off to a dump sector.

And the apprentice did graft unto the candidate the powers that were to be theirs, and they were shuffled off to a dump sector, and in a corner of that sector they did, artistic and cultural differences aside, create a world that any solar system could be proud of: The Golden Octagon.

#6: Genesis

In the beginning there was nothing but the void, and the void was wide and wonderful, but it was wrongfully wasted with visions of the Word. And the Word was with God and of God and God parted the heavens and the waters. And in the waters he put a mountain of gold and in the skies he put diamonds to show its lesser value, and he calculated that, overall, it was at least 42% okay.

The Lord God then made a hair dryer in his image and set it on the gold, saying you shall have dominion over the gold and everything thereon, but the sky you shall not touch. And he caused there to be made hair and organic mobile sentients to wear it for the hair dryer to use in every which way.

And the organics were divided into two groups, the male and the female, and the females had tawny hair and big boobies, and he saw that it was good.

And the Lord God spoke, saying, “and for there to be no mistaking the boobies with the birds of the same name (which would be a completely understandable mistake from any sentient!), let there be no birds”

And God invented vampires, vikings, vipers, wombats, and wolves, and wrote them into the book of creation, and he saw that it was wonderful.

He also created elephants to increase memory storage.

The Lord God set in the skies a spaceship, and it was not any old spaceship, but a state of the art Punisher III ‘Holy Smoke’ variant of the classic Punisher class, which is way faster than any torpedo the Lord God invented at creation. And the spaceship was, inter alia, made of GOLD rather than other more inferior metals such as, but not limited to, iron, copper, silver, and buggerium, and he saw that it was GOLDEN, so he named it Sun, which was pretty damn well and WONDERFUL!.

He set into the vault a torpedo, doomed to chase the spaceship eternally, and he named it the moon.

And he divided the day from the night, and caused the waters to flow in great abundancy in flowing cascades from the mountain tops in which to bathe very picturesquely (especially by moonlight) for prying eyes to see.

Noting the beauty of the first dawn of day, the Lord God set upon the land an abundancy of power outlets, and these were not any old outlets, but the type that fits any hair dryer, no matter how wet, valiant, weak, or vengeful!

And he created weather and winds, and vegetation to accidentally tumble in or rest under by pairs of the mobile sentient organics, and t-shirts for the females to wear to be wetted in a squall and dried free-style by any passing golden hair dryer, and he saw that it was good.

And the Lord God shaped the surface and made of it a golden square round multifaceted thingy (for such is the knowledge of God) and he named it the “Golden Octagon”.

#7: Selected quotations from the Galactic Guide book:
on the planet known as “The Golden Octagon”

“A tour de force of idiocy – highly recommended!”

“If you think their religion is weird, you should see their customs.”

“They are still waiting for the pre-incarnation of Buddy-7, the golden wishing wench”

“A unique and ancient culture, uncontaminated by the modern world.”

“Visitors should take heed that all gold is considered the property of God”

“’Dress Code Enforced by God’ is not a joking matter. Bring your loose and easily ripped clothing.”

“Don’t import foreign Hair Dryers – the domestic ones dislike the competition immensely and have the right to bear arms”.
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And it's a wrap.

The writers have done their part, now it's time for reviewers to step up!

I'm setting the deadline for revealing the authors at Sunday March 22nd, that should give two weeks for commenting and guessing.
I'm not normally the first to post here, especially as busy as I've been, but I've gotten through some of them, and I'll do so in order to encourage others to jump in!

Author #1

There are a few minor proofreading issues, but it's a very well written and interesting story.

I like the fact that you start this story after Romans are relatively well known to the Parisii (a French barbarian tribe), but before they're very well known.
The Roman's attitude is polite, which means he wants something (otherwise might be haughty)!

I've tried writing of opulence before, and this is very well done. A writer discussing this stuff is like a kid in a candy shop -- you get to really go to town, deciding what to describe, what will best illustrate to the reader.

As the story got to the point -- the Roman request -- and the Parisian acted as if he had a card up his sleeve, I started to suspect something might be up. But that may have been because you made a choice to suggest the possibility of violence earlier, by Brennus' thought of taking the daughter as a prize.

Were I trying to surprise the reader, I might not have mentioned that at all. On the other hand, I kind of like the fact that there was that hint, and then we were drawn in enough that the possibility seemed remote. THEN you spring it on the reader! But that's entirely style, and yours is fine.

All in all, on that point, you did a very good job of making me think he might be playing along, and had some other reason to be smug -- like he could offer something the Roman would like lots more than he expected.

Great work!

Author #2

A nice impression of a nasty culture shock -- from luxury to mud and cold.

Seemed to have gone by awfully quick. This format (GTA) doesn't lend itself to well developed pieces, and so I can hardly fault its brevity. It did seem to end rather quick.

I like the fact that the "barbarians" he's in charge of get the shock that the native dance is beautiful and well coordinated.

I think this does well as a brief character sketch, and as an introduction to the environment. A good first scene (I'd have made it 2 scenes, to account for the time lapse), but obviously with potential to be a larger story.

Good job!

Author #3

I like the idea of a culture shock in the middle of the same country, between countrymen!

I was able to get an idea of the Welshman's accent, though it's always dangerous to imitate in print how someone speaks with an accent. Very easy to let the apostrophes get in the way of what's being said.

I wonder how they might have dug the foxhole (it sounds like a large one) in just an hour, plus had time to get cold, then talk. But I may not understand the timeline entirely. Sounds like they weren't really out there all that long. What WERE they doing? :)

The scenario does seem a bit contrived. And perhaps a bit off that FitzRoy would know Ghandi, but you explained that a little.

It could have been a cool fight scene, if you'd been willing to introduce conflict, rather than friendship!

Otherwise, well done, I thought. An interesting contrast.

More reviews to come in another post.

Come on, folks! Let's get some reviews going! :)

Writer 1: If it makes you feel any better, I can’t find Ren’s ‘proofreading errors’, other than a few missing commas, but we’re probably both not English majors and limping behind in literature class! Anyways, you show the most archetypical cultural class there is to show, civilized versus barbarians, except this time we were rooting for Brennus. Like Ren said, you are a kid in a candy shop. There are so many differences between the Parisian tribe and the Romans, which one could go on and on, and I am not surprised that your story is one of the longer ones. I bet you could have doubled the length and still have more on your mind. Overall, I loved it, as I love the time period. The story was well crafted, though there might have been too many obvious hints. I caught it right away that something was off, especially the part where Brennus was going to carry off the girl as a prize. At the ending, it may have been too rushed, as everything is explained during the second to the last paragraph. A little more explanation would have been nice, but since you were already kinda on the long end of the story, it may have been for the best.

Writer 2: I would say you have done your research well. If it weren’t for difference I am to point out next, I would say that you and Writer 1 were the same. The difference between you and the one above you is that, in yours there is no real action, plot, or storyline, to the effect of the basic, exposition, rising action, climax, and then falling action. This is what I would call a good quality AAR update, but to me, it isn’t exactly a standalone story. Some action would be nice too. The only picture that I am getting from this is that a Greek ruler is walking around the town with an interpreter and he wants a better place of residence than the broken castle. There was no action (maybe you could have had a castle stone block tumble off the castle, or maybe a riot?)

That said, I certainly loved your story. Dialogue good, background story sufficient. Maybe add in why Romanos came to that position. The characters were developed and I somehow got the yearning to learn more about his pregnant wife, nice job. You covered the towns cultural within your story from trading to gods to dancing. All in all, a very nice story with tons of potential. In fact, I don’t think I would mind reading an AAR off of this.

Writer 3: I loved the attempt at the Welshman’s accent. You really tried to capitalize on the differences between the islanders. My complaint is that, you might have over dun’ it. Every word was basically modified, which made it hard for me to understand at some points. Of course there wasn’t nothing that the second or third time rereading it couldn’t solve, but someone who knows his accents gets it right on the first time. Not saying that you’re a bad accent writer or you don’t know how the Welsh speak, maybe you need some practice. I don’t know maybe it is just me. In addition, I also liked how you captured the small talk between the two men, the background of both and such. However, some details would have been nice. All I know is that they are in some foxhole in 1939 and that is it. Sure, it was nice reading the conversations and seeing the characters develop but I sure would have loved some descriptions! Improve upon this and I think your biggest fault is gone. Before I end, I want to say that the dialogue would be good—in the larger scheme of things. I liked it. You know your British subjects.

Writer 4: I like the interesting twist on this story. You certainly have a creative mind to put your characters in that world. It was quite funny too, and I chuckled along as I read it. Some more explanation of the characters might have been better. I could recognize some but not all. However, I don’t like the subject, politics. It is my own bias that I can’t get rid of. Politics to me will always be boring and no matter how much you spice it up, even to the point of putting demons in your story, I think I shall always find it lesser than it is. Something that you could have worked on is the description of the place. You are also a kid in a candy shop and should have described the area around the characters. For all I know, they are in a little office building outside of Chicago. That said, I still liked your story and I commend your creativeness.

Writer 5: First off the format. I don’t know if it was just this, but it made it very choppy and confusing. We would get on one topic and before you know it, you were on another. Maybe this would be suitable for an AAR, but for GTA it was a little hard. I will agree with Yogi that I had no clue what went on during the first read. On the second reread, it did make a little more sense about the hair dryer, but overall it was a hard to get story. I did laugh at your jokes about gold and the uniforms, as you know it is something we all would do. You were very creative during Genesis and that also answered a lot of questions from previous segments, but then you should have put at the end “a reread is highly recommended” :D
Alfred Packer?
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Author #1
Since proofreading is my acknowledged talon of Achilles, it’s NOT surprising I did not spot those proofreading errors either. Descriptions were good, and I could see the house in my mind as I read about it. Perhaps there could have been a little more comparison with what Brennus was used to. After all, opulence is a comparative thing. Today ordinary people live, in some respects, like kings could only dream of two thousand years ago. The full force of the cultural shock your protagonist is subjected to doesn’t always come across as strongly as it could.

But my main nitpick with this story is with the plot. Why does Brennus go through this mascarede in the first place? To judge from the last lines, his forces have already destroyed the Roman legions under command of the Senator. Surely any opposition from the guards can be brushed aside with ease? When we start reading, the visit seems to make sense as a diplomatic mission, but in the end that purpose is made void and the plot comes apart.

From the historical point of view, there could be some nitpicks to be made but that’s neither here nor there, because in this forum alternate history is the norm and factual history the exception.

All in all, good show!

Author #2
While this story was very well realised, I did wish for some sort of element of conflict or strife. In fact, there isn’t even much of a cultural clash going on. OK, the new Lord is appalled at the backwardness of his new fiefdom, but he has good understanding of those differences, reminding his entourage to take into consideration that their subjects are not Christian as to avoid giving offence. With such instincts, I suspect he’ll do very well as Count of Stettin and Slupsk.

As to technique, this was mostly fine. I spotted two small propblems;

1)Paragraphing. Consider this quote;

“Well that’s it then. Tomorrow men we shall head for Slupsk.” Romanos announced.

“Alexios, you stay here and learn the route to Slupsk. Where’s my wife? Take Wulfhide down to the port look for anybody who speaks German, try and learn about the extent of the trading industry here and who our trading partners are. David you come with me and we’ll try find us some accommodation for the evening. God I hate this weather. Oh and that reminds me, Theodoros try to find something out about the gods these people worship. Last thing we want to do is do something sacrilegious.”
As far as I can see, it’s Romanos speaking all the time. Why then the new paragraph? It made me go back and search for another possible speaker.

2) Your use of characters. I guess you want to create the impression of motley group of followers, milling around Romanos, and you succeeded well with that. But sometimes, we could use a little more than a name. Who are David and Alexios? Relatives? Servants? Lieutenants? House slaves? To my mind, the story would benefit from a little more fleshing out of the characters.

All in all, this was an enjoyable piece which leaves me wanting to know more about this strange timeline, in which a Greek noble from Constantinople becomes Count of the pagans of western Pommerania. Good job, and I look forward to reading the full AAR!

Author #3

I’ll begin with a confession; I haven’t got the faintest idea what a Welsh dialect sounds like, and had a really hard time reading FitzRoys lines – until I read them out loud, and then they made perfect sense and I got my first taste of Welsh patois. This is, to me at least, awe-inspiring. You’ve managed to successfully convey, in text, an accent completely unknown to the reader, a foreigner. My hat’s of to that accomplishment!

As to the piece itself, I’d agree that it could have benefited from some element of suspense, a “bear on the beach”. Why not let this dialogue take place for example during the evacuation from Dunkirk? “Have they forgotten about us? When will it be our turn to embark?” But otherwise I really liked this piece. I found both characters credible, especially Collin, a typical upper-class progressive if there ever was one. Fitzroy on the other hand strikes me as the incarnate working class ideal of the upper class – patriotic, unassuming, loyal, the salt of the earth. Wouldn’t perhaps an angry, militantly socialist worker have provided a more interesting and provocative clash of culture with the superficially Red Collin?

The dialog is well written and flows well, which is fortunate since the piece is almost exclusively dialogue. The fog stayed in my mind, because when it lifted very little of the surroundings were revealed. A little bit more description would probably not have hurt this piece, IMHO.

On the whole, excellent job, my favourite piece of the round.

Author #4

My main gripe with this piece is that it’s not really about a clash of cultures at all, but about a clash of political philosophies. Friedriech the Great sticks it to Thomas Jeffersson in the best tradition of Plato’s dialogues, or perhaps rather it follows in the footsteps of Robert Heinlein, who was never shy of introducing some father-figure character who would give the snotty young protagonist a piece of the author’s mind. In this case, Friedrich is very clearly the author’s mouthpiece.

The setting was wittily realised and provoked some smiles. I was reminded of the sketch about Hell in “Rowan Atkinson live”. The short interjection of Laurent (presumably Kabila) was hilarious and well timed.

Technically, I would have preferred not clumping different lines of dialogue in a single paragraph, it made it hard to tell who one was speaking.

All in all an enjoyable piece!

Author #5

Whoaaa… Far out! What begins (and in many way remains) as utter, if well written, nonsense comes together in the end to some kind of story. But it comes into its own only after the second reading, at least for me it did.

As the title suggests, this is the history of the Genesis of a world, and it begins with the Master (the supreme deity?) picking his Demiurgs – with rather flimsy criteria, it would seem. Influences abound. The initial alliteration-fest could be straight out of “V” (not the lizard invasion Sci-Fi show) and for the rest I had serious “Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy” vibes. Incredibly, the author pulls off bringing all this together to something at least remotely comprehensible.

This author knows his stuff so well he gets his yayas playing around with words. Themes appear and reappear, are combined, bastardized and subverted. Its bewildering and dazzling.

Although I’m really not that fond of nonsensical stories, I really liked this one. Absurd, witty and brainy! Had I been into this kind of thing, it would have been my personal favourite of the five.

EDIT:Removed question about strange format, since it was because of hotmail oddities and has now been corrected.
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This is to remind you that there's only one week left to comment - and that there hasn't been too much of that going on!

Come on now people, if we don't get quite a few more comments, this fine institution will wither and die. Why should writers bother to offer their pieces to yawns and indifference?

I'm going to lead by example here and complete my critique with the two first authors. Coming up shortly!