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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Peter Ebbesen

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When are the authors revealed? And, perhaps more importantly, when is the great Fan of the Week going to comment? ;)
I want to comment too and some of the others haven't finished their comments. Please have patience and give it a few more days. :)
 

coz1

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Indeed, I likely won't be revealing for a week or so more to let many get the chance to respond with reasoned feedback. With four good length pieces, it takes time for all to get a chance to read them. Plus, I'll be going out of town next week and will be back just in time for a likely reveal. Thus my desire for the latest deadline. ;)

As for commenting on these works, all I can say is wonderful and thank you for writing them! As mentioned, when I run a round I am reluctant to critique them blindly since I am unable to do so knowing who wrote what. It defeats the goal, to my mind. Probably won't be changing my mind soon, Renss. :D
 

Revan86

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Alright, here's my tuppence:

Author 1:

This one was a great piece! The concept was brilliant and the pacing was almost pitch-perfect; always left one wondering what was going to happen next. The surprise 'bummer' ending was a really nice touch as well, with a Fight Club-like sense of Pavel Kirilov's psychological rivalry with himself. Somehow I felt like the story was more about Fedir than about Pavel, so the 'moral' of the story about the rivalry being all in Pavel's mind strikes me as coming a bit out of right field... though you do end up building enough of a rapport between the reader and Fedir that his death at the end really has a good amount of emotional weight behind it. I can see where the other reviewers are coming from in their comments about Fedir's speaking-style, but I realise it's difficult to get across social / class distinctions in other cultures in English prose, so it's really kind of a minor infraction from where I'm standing. Somehow this reads to me like a DensleyBlair piece, but I'm a bit hesitant on that verdict given that that of Densley's writing which I've read tends not to mix black humour with a serious concept in quite this way.


Author 2:

All's fair in football and war, eh? I love the concept behind this one, and the poetic conceit of a football match being likened to battle. At the same time, I felt like the transition to the 'real' war felt clumsy and abrupt - made me do a double-take the first time I read through it, but it makes sense on a second read-through. The writing style is completely different, of course, but the characterisation of Raul Hernández reminded me strongly of the General in Gabo's Autumn of the Patriarch. The self-assurance, the need to be vindicated, the sense of detachment all ring very true to literary type. As to the author of this piece, I can't really venture a guess.


Author 3.

This read to me like the love-child of a CKII AAR and the webcomic Scandinavia and the World, with some Red vs. Blue thrown in for good measure. The fragmentary Noodle-Incident descriptions of the rivalry between Denmark and Poland-Sweden were a stroke of genius, in my opinion; I enjoy the fact that it left a lot to the reader's imagination. I'm not very good at that sort of writing myself, so I stand somewhat in awe of the authors who are able to pull it off the way you did here. Probably my favourite of this round of AARs; well done, sir, whoever you are! And I honestly have no clue about that.


Author 4.

Song China is a very unusual choice of venue for a short like this, and not really typical Paradox fare, but the piece seems to work. I think the atmosphere in this one is fleshed-out fairly well, but it kind of gimps the pacing a bit. The dialogue comes very close to being derivative of 1950's wuxia films, CCTV historical dramas and Judge Dee murder-mystery novels by RH van Gulik; I also think the court scene could have used a judicious addition of more dramatic tension, as Seelmeister observed. Still, the piece holds together quite well, and the conclusion scene neatly balances out the preceding scene. Seeing as Gen. Marshall already believes the piece to be mine, I think I'll reserve comment on whose piece I believe this is for now.
 
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Gen. Marshall

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Found him :D

Revan, you truly are the only one using 'single quotation marks' on these forums.
 
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aniuby

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Hello all. Having participated as both a writer and a critic in similar activities at my writing club in university, and being one of the few commenters in AARs who tend to go on at some length, often about style rather than gameplay, I thought it would be proper for me to offer an opinion on this exercise as well. Indeed I've made some promises to this effect in a couple of AAR comments, and I intend to fulfil them.

Okay! So first some general comments about all the works - it's definitely clear that all the authors are people with decent standards of writing and an excellent command of English. In addition, I'm not certain if anyone noticed, but I have a hypothesis that the authors are actually all British, culturally British, or pretending to be British, as all of them have used words and expressions which tend to be confined to our part of the world ... and of course, the British correct way of spelling as well. Lastly, all the authors took heed of coz1's criticism of the previous round, and kept repeated mentioned of the topic (Rivalry) to a minimum, preserving it for punchy, dramatic effect.

In terms of the differences between the works, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that only one author actually kept to coz1's suggestion of a CK2 story, though the fourth story set in Song China also takes place during the same time period and in a similar feudal court structure. This demonstrates a diversity of opinions and most certainly a very active set of imaginations! I also noted how the first and fourth stories were distinctly longer than the second and third stories - certainly they were not so long as to detract from my enjoyment of the story, but they come off as lengthy (or the second and third stories, lacking) in comparison. Perhaps coz1 or whoever else organises GtA should specify the standards of length to which they want the authors to comply.

I was considering which story to review first, but seeing as to how Gen. Marshall seems to display particular hesitation to finally edit his post to put in his review of story 4, I guess I will start there!



Author #4

After doing a little bit of reading on Wikipedia, I was pleased to discover that this story is not merely a work of fiction, but is actually a dramatisation of a series of events that took place during the Song dynasty in China! For those who have yet to figure it out, 'The August Hand' is Emperor Shenzong (personal name Zhongzhen) of the Song dynasty, The 'Duke of Jing' is actually Wang Anshi, a famous reformer responsible for the 'xinfa' (literally 'New Law') reforms during the reign of that emperor, who was indeed imprisoned due to an upsurge of opposition and later reinstated and given the post of Governor of Jiangning. Sima Guang is a real politician and scholar, who was actually an opponent (and honourable rival) of Wang Anshi, and Su Shi was one of his compatriots. I'm not sure if Guo Rui and He Sanare real people, and that's not a critical issue. More importantly, what the knowledge of all this tells me is that the author is certainly a person who is well-versed, or at least well-researched in ancient Chinese history, and they certainly have a degree of command of the Chinese language as well! This is in itself definitely commendable. Xinjin xianbo zhishi, which I haven't a clue how to translate, is certainly not a commonly known term.

However, I'm certainly intrigued as to why the author decided to refer to Wang Anshi as the Duke of Jing rather than simply by his name, considering how he was disgraced and in jail at the time. The effect of doing so is to demonstrate the respect which the protagonist Guo Rui shows to Wang Anshi, and hopefully incite the same degree of respect from the reader by using a more recognisable term ('Duke'), rather than yet another Chinese name, though that makes me wonder why the same respect wasn't accorded to Sima Guang and Su Shi. However, the He (name) and he (masculine pronoun, sometimes capitalised mid-sentence to show importance) issue did pop up a couple of times, so if He San was fictional perhaps another name would be a better choice, or else make it a point to mention all names in full.

There's also a certain degree of name-dropping, referring to Sima Guang's exile as well as Su Shi, and referring to them as respected sources, while a reader (certainly most of us here who are not well-read about Chinese history) would have no clue who they were and why they were important. Perhaps a small reference to why they were respected sources would have helped, or else simply avoid mentioning too many names to avoid raising these questions and creating the 'just another foreign name' effect. But I commend the author for using italics to highlight foreign languages, terms, or slang, indeed this author is the only one who made it a point to do so.

I was definitely satisfied by the quality of the piece. The concept of an 'uneven' rivalry was effectively conveyed, and the change in He San's behaviour, compared with his earlier treatment of Guo Rui, clearly demonstrated how his character had changed. There was real tension when He Shi spoke up against Guo Rui - and I'm intrigued as to why He San saw no need to rebut Guo Rui with hard evidence and instead resort to an indirect personal attack, perhaps emphasising how lowly Guo Rui's station was in comparison to He Shi.

Stylistically, there are a few issues I'd like to point out. For starters, Guo Rui's speech to the Emperor is far too long and it's all in one huge paragraph, which kind of detracts from the point that it's the high point of Guo Rui's performance as a court official, and gives the reader a 'TLDR' feeling. This should be broken up into two or three short paragraphs, and most certainly the 'aside' to He San should not have been included in the same paragraph as the body of his speech.

I also felt there were a little too many sentence fragments and single-line paragraphs for my liking. I understand they are put there to create a dramatic pause, but the excess of them, as you might imagine, detracts from their dramatic effect. In fact, I felt all of them could be subsumed into the paragraph directly before them, save 'The minister merely treated Guo as if he were not even there'.

Wait, is there a grammatical error in that sentence?

See, the effect of only using sentence fragments sparingly is to emphasise their presence, so you should aim to cut them down only to the most essential ones. And I'm not sure if 'was' or 'were' is the correct word to use there.

I also felt that the ending sounded a little rushed (don't worry, this is not an uncommon problem), and perhaps in his haste to conclude the story, the author made Guo Rui's emotions sound rather excessively conflicted. First leisure, then happiness, then either pride or embarrassment ('would admit it to no other man'), fierce and cold (?) righteousness, and warmth. For starters, I would have written 'not the righteousness of vindication, but ...'.

It's also unclear whether Guo Rui is actually a court official at this point - I'd think he is, since he looks forward to competing with He San in the future, but then he wants to be a poet, and somehow he does not know about the release of the Duke of Jing. There's also a reuse of the word 'clench', without any reference to its earlier use (e.g. 'clench again') which is a missed opportunity to emphasise the particular effect of He San's presence. Lastly, while I understood the parable of notching the boat to find the lost sword (i.e., not to use an inappropriate/non-matching set of standards to judge something e.g. The Duke of Jing's reforms and Guo Rui's status as an official), the final analogy of 'archers in competition' and 'descending the platform as fellows' was lost on me. Why archers specifically, and why would competitors not be 'fellows', or is this another Chinese idiom?

All in all, I definitely enjoyed this piece, but would certainly have enjoyed it more if the author had paid more attention to Guo Rui's speech at the climax of the story as well as the ending. Now to guess the author, and in order to become more familiar with the many AAR authors and the great diversity of talent on this forum I'm going to force myself to guess each one of them (albeit with two tries). My first guess would be Tanzhang, somewhat stereotypically so as he seems to be the only person on the forum who demonstrates an understanding of the Chinese language, although this is probably an unfair generalisation. My second guess was initially Mr. Capiatlist, for being a AAR author who has a talent for narrative as well as historical awareness, and he definitely demonstrates the ability to conduct some historical research if it's necessary for his writing. Though with Gen. Marshall pointing out the use of single quotation marks, I figure that I'm wrong on both guesses.

All right! I hope to be back soon with my review of the next piece, whichever it may be, probably the one least commented upon, or whatever daft excuse I which I might conjure. Keep the comments flowing, everyone!
 

Rensslaer

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Oh, and Renss, I checked out the Sting song. I'm only partially acquainted with his work - I own Walking on the Moon and Roxanne, and studied the rather nondescript Every Breath You Take in school - but I enjoyed the song. I actually ended up buying the Godley and Creme song of the same name, which is also a good one if you are unaware of it ;)

That's great, Densley! I watched that video, but couldn't pick out the words very well. Sting is one of my favorites -- I have several albums by him. He was an English teacher, so many of his songs relate to literature and literary figures. Thoughtful stuff, mixed with some just plain fun stuff.

__________

Now, on to my latest commentary (running backwards, again, as usual):

Author #3

A very well-written and interesting story. It tells more than the mere words, as it suggests so much, and allows the reader's mind to add to the strangeness with more strangeness.

It does tie to the game, with what many of us can see as "insults" or "casus belli", etc.

The trampoline is an interesting addition, and the lawnmower (in 1243). But one hardly notices these absurdities, as they fit, in context, more or less. :)

I really like the story -- it is literarily creditable, and funny, though I am a rotten judge of humor.

I'm going to venture a guess that this is either Peter Ebbesen or J. Passepartout, as the style of humor seems to be similar.

Rensslaer
 

Gen. Marshall

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No. 4
Third time is a charm - now, finally, you'll have your commentary.

Before I start off with commenting on the actual writing, I wish to commend this author on his splendid cultural and historical research and/or knowledge. It's not often we get to see a story set in Song China based on true events. A well-written story as well, running smoothly and flowered by colourful English. The sentence '...ignorant officials and beneficiaries of nepotism who, with their rote learning, either benefitted from the corruption...' especially displays this author's grasp of English, even if 'benefited' is misspelled. Aniuby noticed something interesting about the names - with the use of 'Duke' supposedly being used to make the readers feel respect for the prisoner. Whether that was your intent, whether you used it because we don't see the Duke in person, or you simply used that title subconciously, it does affect the story in a good way because the use of 'Duke' gives us both context and a person in one word. I also second Renss' critique about who was walking in front, as it was unclear to me that Guo tried to catch up with He. Now, through the entire story I expected something to happen - and not just an audacious speech by Guo - so when the story ended and nobody was even harmed, no Densley-like assassination attempt had happened, I must say I was rather disappointed. But that's just murderous ol' me, I guess.

As for my guess, even though aniuby managed to confuse me for a second, I'll stick with Revan86.
 

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Hi everyone, so I've returned to continue my overly-lengthy critique of the GtA stories! After a bit of thinking how I'd like to proceed, I confess that my imagination failed me - so I think I'll just shadow Rensslaer and follow the authors from the fourth to the first. I've also noted the recent update on the Fan of the Week award page - well, this isn't the place to discuss it, but I'm honoured by the good opinions that some of you have of my previous post in this thread.

To be honest, it's not really anything all that special - I actually do talk like this in real life (minus the spelling mistakes), and writing is just the logical extension of putting the words I would like to deliver to the author in a form which is easily accessible ... and easily skippable, for those who would prefer less verbose comments. On that note, if those of you who have a good opinion of me would like to preserve it, you might like to consider skipping the rest of this post, for I'm actually about to deliver what is probably going to be the most negative (or least positive) of four potential reviews. Um, yeah, so let us begin.



Author #3

I won't mince words - this is my least favourite of the four pieces of work on offer this round. It's entirely possible that some of this negative sentiment could come from bias - a personal dislike for Crusader Kings (due to game mechanics, nothing to do with the AARs it inspires), as well as a sort of aversion to history-book style and faux-history-book style writing. Being a history student in real life tends to polarise feelings regarding fictional history-writing - you either love it or hate it. And it could also be that of all the ways of entertaining the reader, the author chose a method to which I'm not particularly receptive, which is to say, comedy, and somewhat non-sequitur, 'noodle incident' comedy that expects the reader's sense of imagination to fill in the gaps, at that. I want to reiterate that by all objective standards this is definitely well-written, with an excellent command of vocabulary and grammar, but by subjective standards - which is to say, my personal tastes - this story failed to entertain.

I'm reminded of Stuckenschmidt's review of Author #3's piece in the last round - there was much promise, but ultimately the reader felt the author failed to deliver. The first few lines already had me thinking of how the author would deliver the punchline - the trampoline, the tub of lard, the vicar, "naked cabaret" - and the following lines promising that the incident was of such epic importance, and hilarity, that plays were written about it. And then there's a perspective shift at the end of the introduction where it appears the speaker (in humorous intent) claims the following document sheds light on the issue, leaving the reader raring for more. It's only after reading through the account that you realise that it's in fact a rambling, inconclusive, stream-of-consciousness chatter which says just about as much of the humourous incident at the climax of the story as did the original first speaker!

Lord Durham mentioned about his writing group where a critic often urged writers to simply discard the first three pages. I believe the same could be said about this piece - the break between introduction and body text creates abruptness, and while this abruptness would be a worthy price for an actual satisfying conclusion to the story, in this case I felt there was none. Sir Thorvald's account, itself well-written in a semi-humorous style, tells us all about the incident we need to know and provides comedic value of its own - albeit without the satisfying climax the reader is led to seek from the opening paragraph. As such, I felt the introduction simply duplicated the humorous aspects already inherent in the main body of the story, and created expectations which the author deliberately chose not to fulfil in Thorvald's account. I don't believe this technique contributes any comic effect, comedy clearly being the intent of the author of the story, and is in fact counterproductive.

The body of the text (Thorvald's account), I felt, was the best written part of the piece. I especially liked what Seelmeister and Gen. Marshall already pointed out - the one-sidedness of the story, portraying the Danish actions as merely harmless jests and the Swedish response as grievous insults, which makes Thorvald's account realisitically human by its very clearly subjective nature. I liked the very casual, whimsically florid words with which Thorvald narrates the story, and this really serves to emphasise the change in his tone when it comes to discussing King Demid's retaliation. The only minor quibble I'd have with language would be in the description of Norway's 'net value' and 'strategic value' - does the first mean monetary value? Or how about using a synonym or another term to avoid doubling up on the word and creating confusion? In addition, the imagery was ... not very descriptive and helpful. Fish maybe I could understand (the same could be said of Denmark and Sweden =P) but why 'duckling'?

I'm indeed left wondering how exactly Norway got involved in the spat between Denmark and Sweden, given that Thorvald becomes deadly serious at this point. Again, it's an unexplained 'noodle incident' of a sort, but a good one - the introduction promised a satisfactory explanation of the affair with the tub of lard et al, but that affair was not only not explained in any greater detail in Thorvald's account, it turns out that it wasn't even the climax of the story at all! Thorvald's change in tone when discussing Norway, in my opinion, signifies that it is Norway, and not Marianne, which is the centrepiece of his account - consider how casually he treats the Marianne affair, and how concerned he grows over Norway! Therefore, at a point in time when I wanted to actually think and speculate about the Norway affair, I was left puzzled by the first speaker's words regarding the importance of the Marianne affair, and I ended up unsatisfied with both!

Lastly, I also felt that all text after the last line of Sir Thorvald's account could be deleted. His final statement is indeed a meaningful one on which to conclude the vignette - to meet any challenge, 'even if it was a damn silly one', succinctly describes the attempts of the two kings to humiliate each other through ever more convoluted schemes and indeed highlights the silliness and futility of the whole affair ('the challenge' to be more silly, or 'the challenge' itself was silly? Good one.). The additional text after that line contributed nothing to either Thorvald's account or even the first speaker's words, and were clearly an attempt to create a faux-history book effect and try to extend the joke, but this is counterproductive and merely distracts from the meaning in Thorvald's last statement. Worse still, the additional lines threw in a spelling mistake ('tech'), and an unnecessary anachronism ('lawnmower'). There are already too many breaks in the flow of the text - perhaps the break between the first speaker and Thorvald, or Thorvald and the faux-history would have helped add a sense of authentic roughness to it, but both is just overdoing it. To borrow a Chinese idiom from the previous author, doing this is like 'drawing legs on a snake' - adding to a good effort, but ultimately hampering the quality of the result.

I hope this is an understandable explanation as to why, overall, I was neither satisfied nor really entertained by this story. There were promises of a climactic, humorously ripping good yarn, but it never came, and the multiple, overlapping, mutually annihilating attempts at humour distracted me from what I felt was the true climax of Thorvald's account - the Norway affair. So, in conclusion, my opinion is that this author, while certainly possessed of an excellent command of language in their own right, tried to do too much in this story, and ended up overextending themselves while paradoxically nullifying their own effort to entertain. Perhaps it was too experimental - and this is not a bad thing, for I believe experimentation is the reason for participating in these sorts of critiquing exercises, for why should one confine themselves to what they feel they know best? But this reader's opinion is that the experiment did not result in effective entertainment.

Time to guess the author! Well ... the whimsical style and casually teasing humour at first reminded me of DensleyBlair, as he is one of the few people on this forum to write comedy in such a way, but upon closer inspection I don't believe it's him any more - the 'z' in 'tantalizing', uncapitalised sir, and the use of the term 'Earl of Fuenen' (no 'Earls' in Denmark!) are telltale signs. As such, I'm inclined to think that the author of this piece is BlackBishop, due to the way the rivalry between Denmark and Sweden is portrayed with such words of venom - I felt this particular use of polarising language was one of the standout characteristics of his AAR Of Blood and Honour, and it indeed inspired me to attempt to emulate and replicate it in my own writing.

But my last words are, whoever it is, please don't treat this negative review as a personal attack of sorts, for I'm critiquing the piece of writing, not the author him/herself. As I've mentioned, it would still be a fruitful exercise experimenting with a new technique and hearing the response, whether good or bad. As critics offering our feedback, each of us in this post aim to see each respective writer improve or at least learn from this experience. So please keep writing, and don't be discouraged by my words!
 
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Rensslaer

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Feedback for Author #2

Hmm... A very interesting piece. Clever in many ways. Confusing in some others, because the motivations and action are somewhat veiled by innuendo.

I could wish for a more direct telling, but I cannot guarantee that would improve the piece -- it might be sufficient as it is. It's just hard to tell without more background.

Interesting conjunction between the rivalry of opposing football teams, and their fans, versus the military and governmental rivalry.

I'm reminded that there was a "Football War" or somesuch between two Latin American countries -- Peru and Ecuador? -- in the '50s or so. It was in the jet age, but only just. I vaguely remember in my old Air War or Flight Leader game that there was a setup of Vampires fighting F-86s or something of that order. I wonder if this is meant to be a fictionalized retelling of the origins of that war. I don't have enough background to know.

It's not a bad story at all -- as I said, very interesting. But it's a niche piece, and hard for me to evaluate. It's a style which simply is that style -- it's not my style, so again it's hard for me to evaluate.

If it were me, I think I would have maintained the same ironic conjnction -- the teams, the fans, the soldiers -- but tell it more directly. Give more background. But then that's less artistic. Is it better? I cannot say for sure.

Creatively, I think it's well done. The metaphors, descriptions, etc. are good. At first I was expecting a real battle, until I realized it was a sports stadium. And then I was somewhat surprised to find it was more than that.

Once I realized there was more to the story, I at first thought it was overdone -- in a way similar to that silly Bruce Willis movie (The Last Boy Scout), where a football (American) player shoots his opponents on the way to the goal. But I was wrong -- it really was going to be a real war, and not necessarily because of silly motivations.

It's hard for me to venture a guess as to the author, but I have an idea it's someone above the age of 40, because of the little "we begin bombing in 5 minutes" easter egg (which may have been unintentional, but it's a famous accidental quote by President Ronald Reagan, who was overheard on an open mike preparing for a speech).

Thanks!
 

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Continued excellence, folks! Keep it up. As a reminder, I'll be going out of town tomorrow and will return mid week next week. I'll sort out how responses have been and list the date of the reveal at that time (likely soonish after that.)

I am really pleased to see not only a full slate of authAARs this time around but so too the responses to that work. Great work, everyone! :D
 

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I cannot sleep, so let me take this opportunity to complete the last of my feedback on this very interesting GTA round...

Author #1

Ahh, an interesting setup -- a rivalry of snipers, as in the movie Enemy at the Gates. I find it fascinating, too.

One minor quibble in the first part. When Kirilov removes the first clip, he's not "discarding" the 5 bullet clip, which would be wasteful. He's simply switching it out, keeping the clip for another time. The connotation, I think, didn't fit what you meant.

Similarly, I don't know if I'd use the word "affectionately" to refer to Spectre's nickname, except in sarcasm. I don't know what the appropriate word is, but I think there is one.

You did a great job describing the sewer -- a choice of destination that might not have occurred to me. Wow. And then they stay for a while... Ugh!

Outside again, and working in close proximity to the enemy, I wonder if the Germans would really be that incautious when they were less than a block (it seemed like) from enemy positions. I don't know the history of close-quarter urban combat, but I would expect they would keep their voices low and be more hesitant when snipers might be around. Maybe I'm wrong.

The rapid conclusion of the scene, unfortunately, left me wondering what had happened. You'd done a tremendous job of helping me visualize everything that was going on, up until that last, and then suddenly I lost it. Nothing made sense, geographically. I don't know how Fedir got into the line of fire. Wasn't he, just a moment before, on ground level, fencing with some German soldiers who were also on the ground floor, then... Then, it seemed as if Kirilov was aiming at a target on the 2nd floor of the white building (2nd floor of some building, anyway), and suddenly he was hitting Fedir. I missed a turn somewhere. Maybe you intended Fedir to have done alot more than I thought -- maybe descending from a 2nd floor position to kill the German, then going back upstairs. But I think you needed more description here to explain how the friendly fire occurred.

I'm also not clear how their target was merely a spectre -- were they imagining the flashes of a scope? Was there really not an enemy sniper there?

In any case, with the exception of the items I mentioned, it was a very well done piece. An interesting story -- a good rivalry, and a good bit of drama. It was well described, for the most part, and vivid.

I don't have enough clues to venture a guess on the author of this piece. Thanks!

Rensslaer
 

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Apologies for the delay - I've got quite a few (AARland-based) commitments at the moment, but I still hope to review each piece.

With that, here's my critique of:

Author #2

I really enjoyed this piece. I'm a sucker for anything remotely to do with football, so you captured me there, but I also saw a lot of literary merit.

The setup was succinct - a good thing for these shorter works, which do need to get the point across in a quick enough fashion so as to not leave loose ends come the end of the entry. It also hooks me as a reader - why are shots being fired? Who is Raul Hernández?

Planting the story start at a football ground was very nicely done, I thought - and not just because, as I previously mentioned, I am a sucker for the type of thing, but because the premise serves as a very clever allegory for the situation-at-large. The two 'armies,' the 'battle' - even the sense of nervousness before a battle really translates well to the sporting environment.

I personally think the respective uses of 'orb' and 'crescendo of cacophony' somewhat overplay the mood, bt that's just my preference. In any case, a really good vocabulary is demonstrated.

Again, the idea of boys being transformed into men comes across well. After all, who doesn't remember Theo Walcott's mesmerising and hugely successful passage into manhood back in 2006? ;) The line about heroes being villains is rather deep - I see the author has seen Manchester City play. Similarly, as has been mentioned, the 'barbarians' description was very apt.

The use of 'bloody crimson' is interesting when referring to the fireworks - connotations of battle continued. I like the use of a consistent semantic field here. The smoke could easily be that of artillery or gunfire.

Raul certianly seems the archetypal egomaniac dictator (President - my apologies.) 'The Overwhelming Victory Over the Persecutor,' eh? Perhaps these 'rumours' are exactly that - created to give El Presidente a casus belli? I liked the following line very much:

'It was not merely sport for which Raul fought.'

Fighting for sport has been very cleverly used, I think. One the one hand, we have the literal idea of Raul fighting to keep the people's right to a kickabout intact, but in the other we have the infinitely more sinister connotations with hunting - fighting for sport, rather than for sport.

Then the seeds of doubt are planted:

'It was irrelevant as to whether such hearsay was true, of course.'​

Of course. I hadn't serially suspected he may be constructing all-too convenient rumours until this guilty conscience-esque line came about. It's almost as if he's justifying his justification - always shady. Nicely done.

Im fact, that whole paragraphs smacks rather nicely of propaganda. Well done - I liked that spin on the piece's tone.

Here it is almost as if we see Raul in a truer light for the first time - General Hernández. Yep - that fis the stereotype nicely. Operation Fútbol was a nice link between the two 'halves' of the piece.

I enjoyed the Reagan reference - deliberate or not and thought the piece's denouement was well done. That is, until the

'"Libertad, Unión, y Cristo[...]"'

Don't get me wrong - the last few lines were in no way bad, they just seemed a bit unnecessary. I think I would have preferred to have been left with the choice of imagining the ending, rather than having it told to me. It would seem more congruent with the piece - which was full of little hints as to the situation's background.

All in all, a very strong piece. I'm tempted to guess aniuby, just because of the football, but I'm not really sure that the piece itself is reminiscent of her writing. I'll therefore stay neutral, and declare myself unsure. I'm very much looking forward to finding out, though - this was a very good piece.

--​

Good to hear Renss - the lyrics are somewhat odd, though quite witty once read. I think they encapsulate the alien feeling of the Big Apple to an Englishman rather well. There is also a literary reference, with Godley singing they boggle at menus in Old English verse / Ode to a burger by Keates at his worst. Incidentally, if you enjoy the literary angle to songwriting, have you ever listened to any of Morrissey or The Smiths' work? I'd strongly recommend it.
 

aniuby

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Author #2

While I'm installing Heart of Darkness and other addons that I've bought in the ongoing Paradox sale on Gamersgate, I thought I'd continue with reviewing the stories. Somehow it's quite appropriate to move on to this story, which seems to me to be very oddly reminiscent of Victoria (2) in tone, despite the fact that it's obviously a dramatic retelling of the outbreak of the Football War from the 20th century, as expressed in the very last line of the story.

For those who don't know, a quick check on Wikipedia reveals that the Football War is in fact a real war, fought between El Salvador (aggressor) and Honduras (defender) in 1969. It was called the Football War because the outbreak of war coincided with a series of football qualifying matches played between the two countries which were marred by widespread outbreaks of violence. It's an interesting case because it was one of the few wars fought between relatively minor nations in the post-WW2 era, or the Geneva Convention era as I like to think of it, when the entire concept of war itself had been denounced. The motivations for the war itself lay, as El Presidente Raul Hernández said, on very simple grounds - oppression, persecution, and marginalisation, which seems very reasonable grounds for war when you're playing a computer game like EU or Vicky, and certainly it was so towards people living in the time period of those games, but most certainly not in the real world of the present day when war itself is considered abhorrent. The poignancy of this contrast gave me a lot of food for thought.

It is after this point when the author's setting starts to raise my hackles, as although the author is clearly making a reference to real world history, they're also tossing in lots of fictional elements. Not explicitly mentioning El Salvador or Honduras is one thing, and the distortion of the timeline (open hostilities only began after a third match, played in Mexico City, far away from El Salvador, and the fighting itself only started several weeks after) helps to confine the exciting bits to a shorter period of time. However, the somewhat reluctant reimagining of El Presidente's name - in reality, his name was Fidel Sanchez Hernández, not very much different from Raul Hernandez (the Raul should also have been Raúl) - as well as the national motto 'Libertad, Unión, y Cristo', which is in reality 'Dios, Unión, Libertad', and the continuous references to historians left me wondering whether the author really wanted to break away from history with the dramatisation or to cling to it to add a sense of credibility to the tale. The story felt reluctant to diverge from history while introducing obvious fictional elements, which left me as a reader feeling puzzled as to the author's intentions.

Perhaps this might have been a reflection of the author's style, for I detected a clear attempt to occupy the middle ground - to straddle two points and be neither black nor white - throughout the entire piece. The footballers being both heroes and villains is an example of that. Likewise, although Raul is the 'protagonist' fighting for a good cause, he's portrayed as an unsympathetic and even villainous character. I don't know if this is a good thing. Personally I see the merit in trying to explore both sides of an issue, but when time is limited, and it most certainly is in a short story, it might be best to actually pick a point of view and just get on with it.

In its tone and style, this piece felt markedly different from the other three. It relied on description and atmosphere to keep the reader interested, rather than depicting action or dialogue. Of course, this is a massive gamble - a good writer will produce a Tolkienesque masterpiece, while a poor one will dull you into submission, and I felt this writer came about half-way. It was good enough to get me hooked and keep me interested, but not really fantastic enough to commend the author for the style (I'm sorry...). What I really appreciated was how the author's words were able to get me thinking about the concept of a rivalrous war, as well as the comparison between war and sport, and the justification of war in the present day. I was also pleased by how this story fulfilled the 'classical unity', of focusing on a single character/group of characters, in a single place, in a single timeframe, which avoided the abruptness which comes from shifts in action in the other pieces which tends to mar the enjoyment of a short story - although this is probably personal taste.

However, in terms of a piece of literature, rather than as a piece of thought-provoking speculation, it was just all right, not especially outstanding ... and this is what could use improvement. Unlike my feelings about Author #3, where I felt that there was a promise of a climax which was never delivered, this story had no real movement or momentum, the action which came closest to having any real effect being Raul speaking on the phone. Perhaps a little bit of excitement - like how the mobs took over the city? It really just seems like a thought exercise rather than a tale, although some might say the story is sufficient the way it is, fulfilling its role by provoking the mind. Like DensleyBlair mentioned, the 'reveal' at the end where it was said that Raul lost the war was somewhat disruptive to a story which focused on dreaming about what could have been.

Language-wise, I enjoyed the copious amounts of imagery, symbolism, and especially references and wordplay both explicit and the subtle. Reading the other reviews helped me discover more I never realised existed - Gen. Marshall mentioned 'the first shot', for instance (Imagine that you 'fired the shot in hatred' straight at the enemy goalkeeper, just like Wayne Rooney, haha!), though the 'five minutes' reference felt a bit forced in my opinion. I also liked the little reference to the 'Claims our Rivals!' EU3 event when Raul said 'Glorious shall we be!'. But seriously, similar to the way the Author #4 used parables, correctly-applied imagery and symbolism really help to heighten the reader's enjoyment of the text and I would like to see more authors using them - but hopefully pairing them with actual action as well.

However, I do have a bone to pick with the author regarding a certain very persistent negligence or carelessness, which is that of using two of exactly the same word in close proximity to each other without at least making use of a synonym between the mentions. This is definitely one of the worse flaws an author can commit, as the repetition tends to attract the reader's attention, and if the repeated words are not a point of emphasis (I repeat, not a point of emphasis) the repetition comes off as jarring and unnecessarily distracts the reader from the flow of the text. Seelmeister rightly pointed out 'pierced the air' and 'into the air', but there are plenty more - 'watching the sky' and 'cloudless blue sky', 'across the border' multiple times, 'the other man' and 'the other end' ... All I can say is, please do check your work, and check it multiple times, as these repeated words are like blind spots in our own eyes, but clear as day to readers who will be less than pleased to encounter them.

There are a couple more nitpicks here and there - for example, it is preferable that all mentions of foreign languages, terms, or jargon be italicised to make them appear distinctly different to the reader. The missed accent on Raúl is another. Tenses occasionally get a little wonky too, for example 'laid claim to' followed by 'and generously extend' - admittedly, this is a very common problem, frequently ignored except by utter grammar fanatics (I am obviously not one).

My final evaluation was that this story was ... sort of okay. I mean, it served its purpose by encouraging me to think more about its themes, and did so through a descriptive story which occasionally made me smile even as it kept my brows furrowed pondering the unfolding situation. However, I can't help but feel it was sort of mediocre, possibly due to how there was no character development, no climax, perhaps even no real change except as expressed in the oddly out-of-place last paragraph which was itself somewhat unnecessary. Perhaps the only reason why I prefer it to the story by Author #3 is because it didn't inflate my expectations before throwing me off with a massive letdown - rather, it did not really excite any to begin with.

However, this also means I can't rate it very highly especially compared to the better-developed narratives by Author #1 and #4. This story, and the one by Author #3, were significantly shorter than the other two, and I believe both these stories came off the worse for it. Perhaps I'm just being biased, because I have no particular fear of wading through a sea of text if I'm enjoying myself. However, I felt the shortness of the story had the effect of magnifying the flaws in the writing, especially when one considers how the stories could be improved by cutting out some of what little text there is, although I felt this story did not suffer from it to the extent as did Author #3. Perhaps it's as Rensslaer says ... this story might not really be my style, even though it has its merits, so I'd guess I'd describe it as okay at best.

Guess the Author! Well, like I mentioned, this story seems to be deeply inspired by Victoria 2 even though it has references to other Paradox games as well, and takes place during the time period of East vs West. Interestingly enough, this style of descriptive writing seems to be rather popular in the Vicky 2 AAR board, and there are quite a few authors who have written about Central America as well. I'm actually inclined to think of either Morboth or MondoPotato as authors of this work, although neither have been active in this thread so far, and I have no idea if either of them is British or likes football =P Either way, both their AARs are definitely worth checking out for a writing style very similar to this one.

That's all I have to say! I'll be back soon to finish the review of the last piece - assuming I'm able to escape from the Heart of Darkness for long enough to write it! Keep commenting, everyone!
 

coz1

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Back from "vacation" and awesome to see the reviews continue to come in. I see we have 5 complete and two more in the process. I am inclined to leave it open for a bit longer to allow for those that want to finish their reviews and a few more perhaps to jump in? It's been about two and a half weeks so let's say the reveal will be sometime next week. Probably mid week. Great work everyone!
 

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Quick note to any wishing to finish their critiques or others wanting to get in...the reveal will be Wednesday. Act now! :)
 

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I'm off ill today, and therefore should have copious time to review the last two. I'll get them up later.
 
Last edited:

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Sorry to hear, Densley! Hope these stories make you feel better. :)
 

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I'm off ill today, and therefore should have copious time to review the last two. I'll get them up later.

Gah! Illness throws any sort of schedule out of the window, it would seem.

I'm beginning my final two now.

And thanks Renss - being able to spend the day writing and listening to David Bowie's back catalogue does help somewhat ;)



Author #3

A unique premise, to be sure. The idea of a transcript was original – within this GtA period, at least – and really lent itself well to the story, though I couldn't help but feel that sometimes it was almost a, well – I want to say cop-out, but I think that would be too harsh.

In any case, I'll get onto it eventually.

Straight away, I'd want to rewrite the first sentence.

Some say it all began with the tub of lard, the squeaky door, and the vicar, may God have mercy on his rotten soul. And the trampoline, lest it be forgotten.

I feel this could be better punctuated, perhaps thusly:

Some say it all began with the tub of lard, the squeaky door and the vicar – may God have mercy on his rotten soul. And the trampoline, lest it be forgotten.

I've taken out the Oxford Comma (or, as the only people who really use them seem to be American, Harvard Comma) as I feel it makes the sentence flow better. I actually had to debate whether I wanted to alter it so that all four ideas were in one list, though I think the rule of three works. I think I'd alter the final sentence there. I read it almost as an afterthought, and having it so close to the rest of the sentence makes it seem almost as if it comes too quickly. I think I may have actually had it in its own paragraph – probably changing lest it be forgotten, as well. This would have been how I would written it:

Some say it all began with the tub of lard, the squeaky door and the vicar – may God have mercy on his rotten soul.

And the trampoline. One mustn't forget the trampoline.

The next few paragraphs run smoothly, though there are a few aspects that would need tidying up – as with any GtA piece. For example, the lowercase king and sir would need to be rectified by being capitalised.

I'd also mention this:

No slight was too little, no diplomatic snub too outrageous, no accident too unlikely. As the naked cabaret incident stands silent witness to.

Again, the to at the end of the sentence stops the flow. Strictly speaking, the sentence is correct, but I still think it could be rewritten. This is what I'd do:

No slight was too little, no diplomatic snub too outrageous and no accident too unlikely - to which the naked cabaret incident stands silent witness.

Id also quickly point out the inconsistency in using "the Noble" while also using the Bold. Later on we also see the "Magnanimous. I imagine that the use of inverted commas is to do with insincerity, but we see differentiation even between these instances, which would probably want to be standardised.

This is the next thing I would point out:

[...]I was one of the king's companions, and as merry a bunch of hell-raisers as ever were seen seen were we.

To me, this is a very clumsy sentence. Not in that it's incorrect – aside from the repeated seen – but in that it seems not to really flow. For example, the use of were we at the end makes me think of a sort of doggerel pirate drinking song. I imagine that this is probably the intention considering the subject matter, but I'm still not sure about it. Perhaps this would flow more easily:

[...]I was one of the king's companions. We were as merry a bunch of hell-raisers as ever were sen.

As others have said, the fact that the Danish performed mere jests, while the Poles/Swedes sent grievous insults was very humorous. Well done – I enjoyed that a lot. That said, I would have enjoyed hearing about the War of the Golden Pisspot ;)

Going straight into the description of the Lady Marianne was a good idea – keeping the piece fast paced – though were she just sounds like an erroneous usage of the subjunctive past. Again, this is probably an intended bit of psuedo-archaism, but I think it disrupts what is a piece of relatively more serious description. That said using was she would work perfectly well.

One question – why were the 'organs' flaccid?

I think I'd have rewritten this, however:

All of Europe laughed at the scandal of the king Demid, the goat, the vicar, and the maid.

A better effect could be derived from a list of three. And the the before King Demid is supererogatory. Either use the king orKing Demid. I would personally write it thus:

All of Europe laughed at the scandal of the king, the goat and the vicar.

I felt the maid was the least important aspect there, so took it out.

And here we come to why I felt that the transcription angle was a bit of a cop-out. The bits after <ILLEGIBLE> had the potential – I feel – of being some of the funniest, yet they are abandoned. Though the hints at what may have been going on could else the reader to think of their own potentially humourous explanations, I feel that they could have been fleshed out a bit.

I do, however, appreciate that these things can drag on for too long, and therefore give you the benefit of the doubt. Overall, I feel this could be a fantastic piece with the usual polishing and such that one is often obliged to leave out when doing a GtA entry. Judging by the Oxford Commas, the use of "" for insincerity and the use of 'tantalizing,' I can only go as far as guessing that this author is American. Apart from that, I've got bugger all.



Going in the basis that this took me two hours (on and off,) it's probable that I won't get he fourth review done straight away. If I haven't done anything and you want to post, coz, please go ahead.
 
Last edited:

coz1

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We are three weeks in and it is now time to reveal our authors. Feel free to continue critiques going forward but you will now know who wrote what. I will list the writAARs and a few of their works. Here we go:


* * *


Author #1: Gen. Marshall

To Reach The Wolga... in HoI3.



Author #2: aniuby

The Ned's NederlandAAR : From Holland to Hindustan in EUIII



Author #3: Peter Ebbesen

Born to Breed: The Estridsen Lectures in CKII

It Came From the Mountains in EUII (A classic!)



Author #4: Revan86

The Legacy of Durham - County of Durham, 1066 in CK

Day of the Doves: The History of the von Danzig Family (Innsbruck, 1187) in CKII


* * *


I was very pleased to see both the volume and caliber of the reviews this time around, not to mention that we had a full slate of writAARs since we don't always get that. I would offer one bit of counsel - critique isn't just what is wrong with the piece but also what is done well. By and large, this was not a huge problem this time around but it is always a healthy reminder. These writers want to know what to fix but also that they did accomplish some of what they intended, hopefully.

I'd also say in response to an idea of suggested length, I am loathe to be too restrictive in what the folks write. I have always said in response to the question, "how long should it be?" that it should be like a woman's skirt...long enough to cover the subject but short enough to make it interesting. This remains my advice.

I wish to thank each of our writAARs for putting their work out there blindly and hope that each took something positive from the experience. Now each of you have the chance to respond to these reviews! Have fun. :)
 

DensleyBlair

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Damn. I guessed aniuby's (and then declared myself unsure...) I should stick with my guns on these things! Actually, a good giveaway tends to be if someone is unusually strong in their criticism of a piece - I should have realised when you deemed your piece your least favourite.

I was going to guess Peter Ebbesen based on the humour - as well as the fact that this is the first time I've seen him post in - well, since I joined. I'm honoured that it was said that my work is similar.

I can't claim to have been so sure about Gen. Marshall's, but the fact that he showed up in the thread at all should have perhaps given it away ;)

Sorry I couldn't get around to yours Revan - though you know that I enjoy your work, if it's any consolation.