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aniuby

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Whaaat ... the results are out already? Darn it, coz 1, I promised myself that I would have done the last one tomorrow now that I've finished my own AAR post, but ... oh well. Gen. Marshall, I promise that I shall write a review of your piece anyway and I shall just ignore the fact that we now know that it's you who wrote it. (my guesses were Rensslaer or DensleyBlair).

On #2 ... well, Densley, I think you've made a small error - I actually disliked the third piece most, although I have said and would say again that I prefer the first and fourth to my own, not just due to the length but also due to generally better writing. However, I am surprised that usually prolific writers eager to throw themselves into a community activity like aforementioned Renss and Densley weren't around this time. Maybe it would be appropriate for someone to read my own criticism of my own text and tell me if I'm being sufficiently impartial or distanced from my own interests - and not just being excessively critical knowing that no one will be offended.

Author #3 ... well, Peter Ebbesen, my apologies since we've never met as it's never nice to be critical of a complete stranger, but yeah, I did mean every word in the review, and in all reviews, in utmost seriousness. I guess there's also the fact that I'm not a terribly funny person in real life, which might explain why I really didn't pick up on the humour appeal, but I will take a look at your AARs to see if they are more of my taste and learn a thing or two.

Author #4 ... Revan86, we've also never met before this GtA thread (yes, I am starting to develop an aversion to CK2, much like my pre-existing aversion to HoI, I'm sorry...), but I guess apart from my words in the review let me just reiterate that I'm really impressed that someone was willing to dig up the historical details about Song China, no less, and write a historical fiction short story about it. It's a bit of a truism to say so now but it's really very valuable to have knowledge of the culture of this great big nation that has the potential to buy out all our debt, so well done.

I'll post a review on the first story and then reply to the comments, once I get some free time tomorrow.
 

DensleyBlair

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On #2 ... well, Densley, I think you've made a small error - I actually disliked the third piece most, although I have said and would say again that I prefer the first and fourth to my own, not just due to the length but also due to generally better writing. However, I am surprised that usually prolific writers eager to throw themselves into a community activity like aforementioned Renss and Densley weren't around this time. Maybe it would be appropriate for someone to read my own criticism of my own text and tell me if I'm being sufficiently impartial or distanced from my own interests - and not just being excessively critical knowing that no one will be offended.

So I have. Blame the fact that I skimmed over this:

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[...]

and, in doing so, read it as:

However, this also means I can't rate it very highly especially compared to the better-developed narratives by Author #1 and #4 and #3

which would have been somewhat clumsy - but it's irrelevant in any case.

Prolific? Earlier I look at In the Footsteps and was comforted by the fact that it hasn't been a month since the last update yet ;) Besides, if you do something all the time it becomes too predictable.
 

Peter Ebbesen

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Thanks for the constructive criticism, everybody, and a special thanks to aniuby and DensleyBlair for their in-depth criticism. That is the kind of criticism that I love to receive. I am not joking. While I appreciate praise as much as the next guy, it is having people telling me what they perceive as weaknesses in my writing that allows me to improve. :)

I suffered from a serious case of writer's block with this assignment - I signed up early and knew what I wanted to write about, which was an unpublished part of the CKII AAR I wrote over last summer and then abandoned, hoping that I'd be able to use this opportunity to revive it, but then, when it came to actually write, to determine the frame for the story - I hit a blank, and I failed to make a start for several days. It was so bad that I only began writing two hours before I handed it in during the last few hours before the deadline, or at least the deadline as I perceived it in my timezone. No editing, no revisions, no nothing.

And it suffered because of that as I'm sure you all noticed.

Typos, repeated words, weird sentence constructions, and - most dire of all - it just lacks that certain something that raises a few paragraphs from quirky to funny. As it is, it really should have been either tightened up or expanded. In case of expansion, the point would not be to explain all the details, as this sort of narrative device pretty much requires that some of the bizarre happenings be left to the reader's imagination, but the middle section consisting of the recovered fragments could profitably have had a few damaged paragraphs before ending up in illegibility.

To the benefit of those who enjoy absurd anachronisms, I introduced the following by design to see which of them would trigger comments: the lawnmower (~1830), the cabaret (~1655), and the trampoline (~1936). All other anachronisms were committed by accident.

I think Rensslaer was the only one who called me out on it, and then only on the lawnmower. :D


For those new to my writing I can recommend my previous GTA entries, all of which are mercifully short, in which I have attempted a number of different styles. I think I would probably hold the prize for most weird GTA entries, were anybody silly enough to award one, or at least those that have puzzled the readers the most. The Cultural Clash: Genesis was particularly amusing to write as it makes excellent sense, but required some readers to read it twice to get it, and understandably so. I did manage a few revisions of that one and just needed one or two more to make it perfect - or as perfect as these things ever are. (Links from the Inkwell.)
 
Last edited:

Peter Ebbesen

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Author #3 ... well, Peter Ebbesen, my apologies since we've never met as it's never nice to be critical of a complete stranger, but yeah, I did mean every word in the review, and in all reviews, in utmost seriousness. I guess there's also the fact that I'm not a terribly funny person in real life, which might explain why I really didn't pick up on the humour appeal, but I will take a look at your AARs to see if they are more of my taste and learn a thing or two.
No apologies necessary. You spent that most valuable of currencies, time, on providing what GTA is all about as far as I am concerned, delivering honest and constructive criticism. I thank you.
 

coz1

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I think I would probably hold the prize for most weird GTA entries, were anybody silly enough to award one, or at least those that have puzzled the readers the most.

I'd agree with that, Peter, but thank God for that! I would not say weird but certainly you take the challenge as just that. Try something new each time. I enjoy them even if this one was not of your complete liking. Schedules, sir. ;) I enjoyed the humor all the same.

And aniuby, I told you a week ago the reveal would be midweek, me lady. We can hold out only so long. ;) I'm sure GM will appreciate your words just as much (maybe even more so.) I thank you and Peter and all of our writAARs again! Great work!
 

Gen. Marshall

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Comment-comment time!

DensleyBlair said:
Overall, a solid piece - though I have no idea as to the author.
Oh boy…
Note that “Kirilov” comes from “Kyrylovich”, the patronym of your character in Avindian’s interactive AAR, and “Fedir” from “Feodor”, the first name of mine.
Yet, you just couldn’t take a guess, even if I re-used the flash & thunder theme in the “Federation of Equals” AAR.
Well, to be fair, I didn’t guess your (obviously your) submission last time, so I guess we’re even now ;)

DensleyBlair said:
From what I gleaned from the story, the setting changed in the second paragraph. You might consider adding some sort of indicator that it has done so…
I think the problem isn’t that the setting changes in the second paragraph, but that it does so half-way through the first paragraph. The transition from a description of the Major to the current situation could have been indicated better, in my opinion.

DensleyBlair said:
One thing I wasn't sure of, though, was the characterisation of the Serzheant in terms of speech. I'm assuming the 'wot' and such was supposed to be either a Russian accent, or perhaps indicative of some sort of crudeness as far as speech is concerned - further hinted at with 'loud' and 'boorish.' In any case, I read his character as a Cockney, which I'm not sure was entirely what the author was going for. I may be wrong, and it could just be me, but you might want to have a look at it.
Yeah, Fedir’s speech was supposed to amplify his crude and simple nature, but I wholly overdid it; which leads me to perhaps the best lesson I learned from this round’s GtA.

DensleyBlair said:
I'd also suggest adding line breaks between each piece of speech. It makes it easier to read, especially on a screen.
Hm. I’ll mess around with that a bit more - IMO, adding that many line breaks stretches out the text too much.

DensleyBlair said:
My next point, though, would also relate to speech. Take this: “Great cover, sir, but it’s damn close to the Germans.” That, to me, screams Lieutenant George (…) This little dialogue just seems a bit too, well, British, to convince me that I'm dealing with two Russian sharpshooters, and is something I'd have a look at.
Hey! I can’t help it if you instantly relate every single thing to Blackadder!
You’re absolutely right about the Britishness of the dialogue, though. Since, for me, English is a foreign language, I tend to think a bit more British when I’m writing in English, which has its effects on the dialogue.

DensleyBlair said:
I think the next few paragraphs do a good job of furthering the story - and I like how this piece is decidedly story-oriented
Thanks - I myself prefer story-oriented stories as well, which is perhaps why I didn’t like the 3rd piece that much.

DensleyBlair said:
It seems almost like someone is describing what's going on for a lighthearted documentary or article. Mentions of the pair having travelled 'as the crow flies' and being near 'what was once a Post Office' compound this. I think there's a slight description overload, and what is being described doesn't really gel with the theme of the piece for me. It's almost as if we have someone writing about a hard-hitting war scene only to focus on the postal service - not entirely congruent.
You’re absolutely right again. As I said, it would have been much better if I had placed the snipers’ initial hideout nearer the street, so that I could have left out the boring part.

DensleyBlair said:
“I’ll take overwatch from the only intact building near our manhole. You will flush him out.”
If I had a day to waste Googling TV Tropes, I'd find the 'proper' name for it, but this sentence seems to me like Pavel is very deliberately describing something he probably wouldn't.
He would - but differently:
“Yes… Fair point. I’ve done some reconnaissance while you were asleep.”
“And? Wot’s yer plan?”
“I saw one intact building near our manhole. I’ll take cover in that building, while you flush out the Spectre.”


DensleyBlair said:
I certainly hadn't expected Fedir would become 'no more,' though perhaps I was being naïve.
Yes you were. The naivety of the youth :D

Seelmeister said:
As Densley has pointed out above, the word generic is a bit jarring, made me pause to consider and didn’t feel entirely appropriate.
It was the result of toying around with Google Translate for five minutes :eek:o

Seelmeister said:
Fedir is unfortunate and evokes the readers sympathy, although this is largely down to his own naivety – again the author has done well to support this with evidence throughout the story and especially in the dialogue between the Fedir and Kirilov.
On the dialogue, Densley has already made the point that the language choice and perhaps tone didn’t entirely fit with the characters. I already automatically read Wot and ain’t in a cockney accent. I suspect this was an attempt to establish that Fedir was less educated, to further highlight the distinction between Lieutenant Kirilov and Serzheant Fedir – which did succeed, but a better approach may have been to use simpler words instead of slang.
That’s a good suggestion; I guess even using the word “boorish” sufficed at making the distinction.
Ironically, in the end, it’s the simple and naïve Fedir who thinks of the moral of the story, and the paranoia of the educated Kirilov that brought him to that unfortunate end. I actually wonder how Kirilov would have reacted as he waited for minutes, hours, and Fedir did not return. Would he have realized his mistake?

Mithfir said:
Well executed pace. A good balance of details, dialogue and actions. However, I’m not fully convinced with the rivalry concept in the ending. Is chasing a shadow a rivalry? I’m still wondering...
Perhaps not (I think it is), but I took care not to overstate the Rivalry theme, like the Rain theme was overstated in the previous stories.

Revan86 said:
This one was a great piece! The concept was brilliant and the pacing was almost pitch-perfect; (…) The surprise 'bummer' ending was a really nice touch as well (…) Somehow this reads to me like a DensleyBlair piece
I thank you, Revan, for all the nice words. Almost being mistaken for DensleyBlair is a huge honour in my book :D
Regarding the story being about Fedir; yes, I guess it is, especially in the last part of the story. However, as he unconditionally follows Kirilov’s orders, I think the moral of the story isn’t all that far-fetched.

Rensslaer said:
Ahh, an interesting setup -- a rivalry of snipers, as in the movie Enemy at the Gates. I find it fascinating, too.
I really should go and watch that movie some time.

Rensslaer said:
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.
From a military perspective, you are right. However, “discarding” sounds that much more epic…

Rensslaer said:
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.
I absolutely do not ever over-use sarcasm on the internet. What makes you think so?

Rensslaer said:
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!
It’s good to see that you’re able to visualize my writing… although I will offer my apologies ;)
By the way, the idea of these snipers going into the sewer originates from the Finest Hour instalment of a game I shall not name, and if I’m correct that game was actually based on the Enemy at the Gates movie.

Rensslaer said:
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.
I wrote the story based off the assumption that the snipers’ initial hideout was already behind German lines. However, re-reading the paragraph, I kind of dislike the bit because it is so stereotypical and… generic…

Rensslaer said:
The rapid conclusion of the scene, unfortunately, left me wondering what had happened.
I shall try to detail the course of events for you:
[Fedir] started walking along the side of the alley.
Three patrolmen were walking towards him.
As they turned around to regroup with the other soldiers, one Corporal stayed to take a leak. He never knew what hit him.
Fedir looked at his new [German] uniform.
[He] sneaked towards the white building.
Quietly, he pushed open the wooden back door.


What we don’t read, is Fedir walking up the stairs of the white building, but since I already placed him in said building, I thought that this would be clear. In fact, I chose to describe events this way because if I had described Fedir being on the second floor, aware readers might have noted that it was him being shot at, before I wanted them to.

Rensslaer said:
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?
You got it right entirely. The flashes were probably the result of something else that reflects light - a weapon, any metal object, or simply a window. Naturally, Kirilov’s overreaction creates the illusion that there is actually something there.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone who commented on the works - your advice has really helped me to, hopefully, improve my writing.
I shall await aniuby’s criticism eagerly, and dare him to come up with flaws that all of us missed so far!
 

DensleyBlair

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Oh boy…
Note that “Kirilov” comes from “Kyrylovich”, the patronym of your character in Avindian’s interactive AAR, and “Fedir” from “Feodor”, the first name of mine.
Yet, you just couldn’t take a guess, even if I re-used the flash & thunder theme in the “Federation of Equals” AAR.
Well, to be fair, I didn’t guess your (obviously your) submission last time, so I guess we’re even now ;)

I think Carpaltunnelovych would have been more appropriate ;)

I don't think I would have got that without having both our signatures on hand.

Hey! I can’t help it if you instantly relate every single thing to Blackadder!
You’re absolutely right about the Britishness of the dialogue, though. Since, for me, English is a foreign language, I tend to think a bit more British when I’m writing in English, which has its effects on the dialogue.

No. No you can't. You should join my group.

And English often sounds foreign to me too.

I thank you, Revan, for all the nice words. Almost being mistaken for DensleyBlair is a huge honour in my book :D

Cheers Gen. What he really means is that your plot lines are convoluted and glacial ;)

I shall await aniuby’s criticism eagerly, and dare him to come up with flaws that all of us missed so far!

(anuiby's a her - which sounds really awful when you say it.)
 

Rensslaer

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Gen. Marshall:

Aha! Now that you describe what happened with Fedir, it makes sense.

Enemy at the Gates was not a bad movie. Not one of my favorites, but as I recall it was relatively well done. Seems like maybe the ending was too pat -- I had some criticism, but I don't remember what it was. Definitely worth watching, though.

On the subject of snipers, I may have been placing too much bias on my own impression of how snipers work. I'm not an expert on snipers, but I'm reasonably sure this is how it works: 1) snipers are too highly trained, and too utterly important to risk them behind the lines unless a) they're with a team who can protect them (like in Afghanistan, etc. -- the snipers in Blackhawk Down made their own choice to go into danger to save their people, but normally they don't work that way), or b) they're so far from the front line it's unlikely they'll run into heavy opposition (ala the Sniper movies and high-value-target snipers behind the lines hitting generals and whatnot).

2) Generally the whole value of having a long-range sniper in a battle front area is that they can hit enemy targets from the safety of their own lines -- these targets having no idea that they're potential targets because in their eyes they're too far back from the fighting. Sniper gets into a tall building, and can see targets 5 blocks back from the front lines... BAM! They're dead.

Everybody:


Anyway - really enjoyed these pieces! Thanks to everybody for the submissions, and also for the critiques -- both are absolutely necessary not just for GTA, but for the whole process of improving writing style and quality.

Commenters:

I want to echo what Coz1 said, though -- it's always best to use praise to balance out criticism. It's rare that there's not something to comment positively about, and in my opinion the harder some of your observations may be, the more reason to temper it with positive observations. Also, personalizing reactions to the pieces is best done by stepping back. For instance, I admitted in judging Peter's piece that I'm not a good judge of humor and that's just not my style, so it's hard for me to say whether it worked or not. By explaining that I'm not a good judge of that, it softens any sting that might come from my comments.

Bottom line -- we need quality advice and constructive criticism, but we also can't scare away authors who might feel they're too harshly treated, because even a learning author must go through those early stages and decide to keep going. Positive reinforcement helps that happen, at the same time as the constructive criticism helps them improve.

Thanks everybody!

Rensslaer
 
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Many thanks for the feedback, everyone! And Gen. Marshall, your instincts were dead-on accurate (as mine apparently weren't, heh). Foiled by my own punctuation style, curses! Also, DensleyBlair, no worries about the review - I know how frustrating time constraints can be, and you were fighting off an illness on top of everything else.

First, some general feedback. Yes, my story was pretty much straight-up historical fiction, with two fictional characters Guo Rui and He Shi taking sides in the famous historical rivalry between political reformist Wang Anshi (the 'Duke of Jing') and the historian and author Sima Guang. I had debated actually using Wang Anshi and Sima Guang as my main characters, but there instantly arose a whole boatload of issues - most importantly the fact that the two of them were seldom if ever at the Imperial Court at the same time, with one being out of favour when the other was in, so I decided to use a pair of fictional proxies instead as that would make for a more interesting story.

I think I originally used 'Duke of Jing' rather than 'Wang Anshi' because I was telling the story over Guo Rui's shoulder, and quite naturally he looks up to Wang Anshi in a way he doesn't to Sima Guang. I think there may have been a couple of points where He San refers to the 'Duke' where I could have gotten away with mentioning Wang Anshi's name, though. With regard to the names, I came up with the Chinese names first: Guo Rui (郭瑞) and He San (何散), and didn't really think all that much about the Latin transliteration when I was writing; so that's definitely a big 'my bad' on the 'he / He' problem. Something really easily avoided there.

Seelmeister:

Seelmeister said:
This piece really brought the intrigue of the imperial court to life. Guo Rui is well introduced to the reader, who follows the audience with the Emperor firmly in his camp.

There is a tension running through the piece – it is clear that the stakes are high. I did feel slightly underwhelmed when Guo Rui took the plunge and suggested the release of the Duke – it was clear that this was a turning point – and it should have perhaps been drawn out slightly longer. In addition to He Shi’s response, a third persons shock at the audacity would have prolonged the suspense. The Emperors’ reply also very quickly lets Guo Rui off the hook – perhaps he could have opened with the [punishment should such an offence have taken place, paused, and then dismissed the allegation.

I enjoyed the complexity of Guo Rui’s rivalry with He Shi – not just a straightforward disliked or envy, but well mixed with respect. The resolution appeared fitting given the characterisations

Many thanks for the comments! I am very gratified that you felt my piece rang true to type. As I remarked before, I certainly agree with you about the pacing at the end being a bit rushed, and there could certainly have been some more dramatic tension there, just after Guo Rui suggested releasing the Duke. I think I was more focussed on the internal reaction of Guo Rui, there, but you're right that the story could have benefitted quite a bit from lingering on that moment. Certainly something to bear in mind for next time!

Rensslaer:

Rensslaer said:
Some very fine touches of realism in this piece. The writing brush. Styles of script. All this adds depth, and immersion, which is great. This, and other elements, shows a familiarity with the culture that seems to go beyond mere research.

Furthermore, I really like the level of detail of the surroundings. Sometimes an author can dwell too much on that, letting the detail get in the way of the story. But this one has good balance, and it adds to the atmosphere.

Thank you very much, Rensslaer! I am incredibly glad you found this part so immersive. (It does indeed help that my in-laws live in Kaifeng...)

Rensslaer said:
The feelings of affront both Guo and He are feeling come through really well. They're well described, and make sense in context. Their reactions are understandable as a part of human nature, which is well represented. It reminds me of The Good Earth, which seems mostly to be about human nature, which drives us to seemingly unreasonable conclusions and actions.

That's high praise indeed! I love Mrs Buck's novel immensely, and especially its work with the characters (Wang Lung and his sons) and their respective strengths and weaknesses, so I won't pretend it isn't an influence here. I figured I had to be incredibly careful about portraying the subtleties of the rivalry between two Chinese political literati without it coming off as orientalist pastiche - but it passed my wife's smell-test, so I thought it should work well. And I was incredibly happy to read that you also appreciated it!

Rensslaer said:
At first, it was unclear to me who was in front as they were walking the same direction, such that I was confused when Guo caught up with He. At first I was thinking Guo was trying to avoid He, by hurrying his step to keep away from him.

Huh. Thanks for catching that; that's something I didn't notice at all when I was writing it! It does sound - and it actually does make sense to think, given his mood - that Guo Rui is trying to move away from He San rather than towards him. When I first thought of it I was thinking Guo Rui didn't want to enter the courtyard behind him, but also didn't want to make it appear that he was rushing. But yes, that could have been made far clearer.

As for the references to the Chinese phrasing, idioms and literary references you picked up on, I'll get to those below. I think aniuby had some questions about those specifically, so I'll talk more about them in my response to her.

Rensslaer said:
Either way -- whoever it is -- this is a really well written scene that draws the reader in.

Nicely done!

Very many thanks again! And I'm more than gratified that you and aniuby attributed my work first to Tanzhang - even though he doesn't write narrative AARs, I agree that his writing style is impressive and his background knowledge extensive!

Mithfir:

Mithfir said:
I believe this story grasped the rivalry concept the best. The tension is evident between the two men, even if in the end, they transcended the rivalry into a fellowship (of the ring?). This would have made a good movie scene in one of those ancient China films starring Chow-Yun-Fat or Jet Li. It reminded me of a particular scene in “Hero” when Broken Sword writes “Our Land” in the sand, which eventually changed the Nameless Hero’s choice regarding assassinating the emperor... I got carried away, sorry. I liked this.

I'm a big fan of wuxia films myself, and Hero in particular, so of course I'm happy that you compare my writing to them! I did want to make it clear that this was a similar sort of thing, but very much a matter of wen-style honour and a rivalry of literary men, rather than wu-style martial honour. The two are similar in a number of ways, though. Many thanks for the comment, and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

aniuby:

aniuby said:
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! ... 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.

Thanks so much, aniuby! I was really incredibly tickled to see that you looked up the historical period and situation my story was based on!

As an aside, xinjin xianbo zhishi (新進險薄之士) is a contemporary term basically meaning a 'newly-promoted opportunist', and was almost solely used by Shenzong-era conservatives to refer to Wang Anshi's appointees.

aniuby said:
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.

Hm. That's certainly a good point, and it's true that I did name-drop quite a few historical names in here (Wang Anshi by his title, Sima Guang, Su Shi, Emperor Zhongzhen of course, Zheng Xia). As I was writing, though, one of my main concerns was basically 'how much of this can I get away with?' (which is probably never a good sign), and also, 'what would make sense to mention?'. At this point, it wouldn't make sense to call Sima Guang the 'author of the Zizhi Tongjian', which he was currently still in the process of writing and which would not become famous until much later. Likewise I'm not sure Su Shi would have been recognised at this point for much besides his literary work and his opposition to Wang Anshi.

Perhaps footnotes of some sort would have helped? I can definitely see where you're coming from on this point, and I was thinking about some of the same things, it's just I wasn't quite sure when I submitted this exactly how to handle it.

aniuby said:
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'.

Fair do's. And I'll definitely be keeping this in mind for my later work - I was being more than a bit heavy-handed with my single-sentence paragraphs in this piece.

With regard to Guo Rui's speech, it includes translated excerpts from the actual 'Green Shoots' law (青苗法) which got fairly lengthy - it was common for scholars of this time to commit long passages to memory; one of the things they were tested on was long-term retention, particularly of the Confucian Classics. Playing around a bit with the paragraph lengths, it feels a bit odd to me to break up each of those passages, since Guo is using them to make a single direct point.

You are absolutely right, though, that I should have broken off that last sentence into a new paragraph.

aniuby said:
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.

Yes, I also think the end could have used a bit more finessing, particularly with regard to the language and the pacing.

Guo is certainly a court official, but a very low-ranking one - and given the pursuits of higher-ranking officials it was not uncommon for court officials to dream of eventually retiring to solely literary pursuits. (Wang Anshi himself did!) I think his low rank also explains why, in spite of his plea for the Duke's release, he is also one of the last to know of it. Even though the Emperor is on his side (or he's on the Emperor's side, rather), he doesn't rate high enough to be 'in the know' regarding all of the Emperor's actions - as Minister He clearly is. This was meant to be another hint about the 'unevenness' in the rivalry between He and Guo... though, as you remarked on it before, perhaps it wasn't needed.

aniuby said:
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?

:) Yes, indeed.

The first one, the notching the boat to find a lost sword, is a reference to a story in the Spring and Autumn Annals of Lv (about a man who notched a boat in midstream when his sword fell in) and the idiom (ke zhou qiu jian 刻舟求劍) the story inspired.

The second is a direct reference to the Analects:

The Master said, "The student of virtue has no contentions. If it be said he cannot avoid them, shall this be in archery? But he bows complaisantly to his competitors; thus he ascends the hall, descends, and exacts the forfeit of drinking. In his contention, he is still the superior man."

Earlier, Guo Rui had used the Analects to support Wang Anshi and his own thinking as well:

Analects 13:5 said:
The Master said, "Though a man may be able to recite the three hundred odes, yet if, when intrusted with a governmental charge, he knows not how to act, or if, when sent to any quarter on a mission, he cannot give his replies unassisted, notwithstanding the extent of his learning, of what practical use is it?"

aniuby said:
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.

I'm certainly glad you did enjoy it, and I will take care to keep your concerns in mind in my further writing! Many thanks again, aniuby!

Gen. Marshall:

Gen. Marshall said:
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.

Very many thanks to you, Gen. Marshall! I'm certainly very happy you enjoyed my prose!

Gen. Marshall said:
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.

Well, this being Imperial China - particularly during the Song Dynasty, though there were much more murderous and intrigue-riddled periods (like the late Ming) - I certainly could have gotten away with doing something like that and had it work. But ultimately I thought it would be out-of-step with the characters as I'd written them. He San tends to think Guo Rui is beneath him - having him assassinated would just call to Guo more attention than he deserves. And Guo Rui tends to respect He San, perhaps even stand in awe of him a bit, even as he is convinced that he is clinging to an outmoded order which will in due time be swept away.

~~~​
Again, thanks everyone for all the feedback - I really felt like I took away a lot from participating this time around!
 

aniuby

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A couple of quick replies before I get back to that long awaited review of #1.

DensleyBlair, don't say that you (and Rensslaer, just to rope him in) aren't prolific writers. Who else still manages to find time to write, and also do a bit of independent research for the AARlander? Although it's true that a bit of change and unpredictability makes things more interesting - I find the articles to be similar to the last issue's because it's the same people doing the writing, and it's already clear what their tastes are like, so it kind of lacks the variety of the earlier editions, trading that for more regularity and reliability.

Rensslaer, I don't believe 'snipers' themselves are so rare, especially in a large nation's military, that they can't be deployed behind enemy lines, and it's always conceivable that there would be a soldier or two in each platoon who has a commendation in marksmanship and the ability to display their skill if they had a proper rifle. However, I'm actually inclined to think of Lieutenant Kirilov more of an assassin rather than a sniper due to the nature of his job, being instructed to kill a specific target and moving deeper into enemy lines to do so, rather than eliminating enemy soldiers in general. Also, I have the impression that both Pavel Kirilov and Fedir Burdukovsky seem over-promoted considering the nature of their jobs, or am I mistaken?

Revan86, you know, I'm still wondering how you know so much about ancient China and Chinese culture in general. Is that your research paper at university, or maybe just a pet interest of sorts? I'm pretty certain even the average Chinese person from China doesn't know that much about those particular aspects of history. Also, seems like you made the mistake of calling your own character He San as He Shi as well ... it's just like I was subconsciously thinking of Wang Anshi when I wrote that review post.

Okay, let's get on with it!



Author #1

I'll say it straight off that this was my favourite of the four pieces on offer this round, and it's not because it's the longest of them as well. I liked it best because it gave me what I expect to find when I read a short story - a plot that's quickly apparent at the start of the story, characters that aren't too difficult to understand, a clear flow of the story which leads seamlessly from beginning to end, and a conclusion which gives closure to the story. These conditions are also fulfilled by Author #4, but what made this story stand out, in my opinion, was the fact that the ending couldn't be guessed simply by reading the first few lines of the story - I mean, we all thought that Guo Rui and He San were going to at least get along by the end of the story, right? But who would have guessed that Fedir would be 'no more'?

The author also grabs my attention from the way he juggles knowledge and terminology with a commitment to keeping the story flowing, so while military terms are occasionally tossed in to give the story a feeling of authority he also avoids getting bogged down in detail. However accurate such information might be - indeed, I felt some of the tactical decisions discussed in the story were of rather questionable value as Rensslaer has pointed out, and Lieutenant Kirilov and Serzheant Burdukovsky seem too high ranked for the nature of their task - the most important thing is to keep the reader interested in the characters and the plot rather than the supporting facts, unless those facts are absolutely crucial to the conclusion of the story. I also enjoyed how the author reinforced the importance of perspective and situational awareness throughout the piece, as would be expected from soldiers deep within hostile territory in a warzone, I could swear I was subconsciously glancing around as I imagined how Lieutenant Kirilov attempted to pinpoint and get a bead on his target while avoiding being spotted by either the patrols or the enemy sniper.

In style and language, I really have very little to say that hasn't already been said by many others. For example, the odd use of adjectives, like 'a bit more destroyed' and 'generic' which, in their own way, describe through their lack of descriptive features - likewise an 'uneventful' journey of 500 metres in one and a half hours. While this might be rather clever on a metanarrative level this is going to puzzle people unless you are writing in a deliberately obfuscating manner. There's also the issue of how Fedir knew he had been hit by a black bullet, considering how it was still embedded in his flesh. It's not really fair for me to pass this criticism, since I'm probably one of the most prolific users of malapropisms around, but always ensure that your adjective fits the situation and makes sense, and that also means picking adjectives which describe the situation on their own, without the need of (many) more modifiers.

The key observation I'd like to bring to the table is how it seems to me that Fedir, not Lieutenant Kirilov, is the main character of this story, which strongly affected the way I viewed the flow and outcome of this story. It's quite clear the bulk of the story is narrated from Fedir's point of view, such as how he described the rats eating his trousers, his thoughts on National-Socialism, as well as the climactic scene of the approach to the German position and storming the sniper hole. I wasn't really sure how I felt about him, supposedly effective at what he does but also deeply flawed - not just in a human way but also a way which is hazardous to one's lifespan in wartime - and I didn't know what to think about the ending, apart from how I certainly didn't expect it in the slightest.

There's been a little bit of controversy about Fedir's 'British' accent, whether Cockney or Yorkshire - to be honest, I'm not especially bothered by it because there's really no other way to make it such that Fedir has a sort of uneducated or provincial accent. However, what I did feel was out of place was how Fedir seems really quite incompetent, being excessively loud and ignorant, despite his rank as Serzheant as well as one who is a crucial backup and spotter in an infiltration team. The line 'used his training to move silently' also stood out in a glaring sort of way to explain that Fedir was competent in his own way without saying how exactly, leaving me unconvinced. In contrast, the killing of the German corporal was a good example of how to demonstrate his skill. Remember, show don't tell, so it would be much better to describe exactly what he did to prove he was well-trained.

But I did have issues with the 'moral' of the story, which is supposedly told from Fedir's thoughts after he has been shot with his own superior's bullet. For starters, the ideas being discussed require pretty significant amounts of split-second philosophising, despite the reader having already been shown earlier in the story that Fedir is actually a relatively simple guy. I'm not actually sure about Fedir's feelings upon realising he has been shot - Does he blame his commander's paranoia for resulting in this deadly mistake? Is he overcome with the painful realisation that they had been fooled? Might his commander have even set him up to kill him for his incompetent behaviour (don't laugh, I did entertain this possibility)? As such, I have no idea of the tone in which his last thought is phrased, and I have no idea whether to feel sorry for him or not. Perhaps it's somewhat like the description of the outbreak of war by Author #2 - distant, detached, and emotionless, knowing that things have already been set in motion. As such, I felt this paragraph was the weakest point in the story - the author sought to bring across the 'moral' of the entire story that rivalry is not pre-existing but rather perceived, but without properly setting up how he wanted the reader to actually feel about Fedir and his fate, or writing enough emotions into that paragraph, and thus making it difficult to sympathise with Fedir's thoughts or their validity as the 'moral' of the story.

I'm really not good at giving praise, but criticism notwithstanding I must reiterate how much I enjoyed this story, and not to rubbish the efforts of the other three authors but I also enjoyed this one significantly more. I can only wish I was able to write with the same sense of purpose - a clear vision of beginning, rising action, climax, and denouement - or at least the illusion of sense of purpose, as this author, who left me not only satisfied with his story but also impressed with a twist rather than a 'storybook' ending. As such, my guess is that the author of this piece is someone who is an experienced writer who also has some interest in military matters - that sounds exactly like Rensslaer. However, the British speech and the somewhat inconsistent commitment to the detail of the military names and manoeuvres makes me think of someone else, so my guess is going to be DensleyBlair, due to the way in which he enjoys casually writing in British dialogue, and it's entirely conceivable that he did a little bit of research to find out about military names and terms to insert them into his story. Whoever it is, well done.

What do you mean it's Gen. Marshall?
 

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A lady said:
Rensslaer, I don't believe 'snipers' themselves are so rare, especially in a large nation's military, that they can't be deployed behind enemy lines, and it's always conceivable that there would be a soldier or two in each platoon who has a commendation in marksmanship and the ability to display their skill if they had a proper rifle. However, I'm actually inclined to think of Lieutenant Kirilov more of an assassin rather than a sniper due to the nature of his job, being instructed to kill a specific target and moving deeper into enemy lines to do so, rather than eliminating enemy soldiers in general. Also, I have the impression that both Pavel Kirilov and Fedir Burdukovsky seem over-promoted considering the nature of their jobs, or am I mistaken?
Snipers usually hold officer ranks (or at least, they did so in the Red Army), which distinguishes them from designated marksmen, who are usually conscripted. I’m not quite sure what the usual rank for a spotter would be, but I believe that they could really hold any rank below that of the sniper they were attached to. The former also brings me to Rensslaer’s commentary - while the designated marksmen did indeed operate within the safety of friendly lines, the actual snipers were (as far as I know) mostly used for counter-sniper actions and assassinations, which inevitably brought them behind enemy lines.

A nooby said:
What do you mean it's Gen. Marshall?
Isn’t that guy dead anyway? :D

anuiby said:
However accurate such information might be - indeed, I felt some of the tactical decisions discussed in the story were of rather questionable value as Rensslaer has pointed out,
I most certainly didn’t conceive the smartest snipers out there, you are right. I feel their decisions would have made more sense if they weren’t snipers - but then again, that would have removed the entire point of the story… I’ll go ahead and claim that this is the major ‘inherent’ flaw of my story.

anuiby said:
the most important thing is to keep the reader interested in the characters and the plot rather than the supporting facts, unless those facts are absolutely crucial to the conclusion of the story.
That’s true indeed - in my opinion, a flaw-ridden, well-written story beats a boring story any day.

anuiby said:
The key observation I'd like to bring to the table is how it seems to me that Fedir, not Lieutenant Kirilov, is the main character of this story, which strongly affected the way I viewed the flow and outcome of this story. (…) I wasn't really sure how I felt about him, supposedly effective at what he does but also deeply flawed - not just in a human way but also a way which is hazardous to one's lifespan in wartime
I’d describe him as competent when needed, but loud and ignorant when not. Given all the comments, though, I reckon I should have polished Fedir’s character a bit more. Perhaps change out the indirect clues for a short description of him, or something like that.

anuiby said:
But I did have issues with the 'moral' of the story, which is supposedly told from Fedir's thoughts after he has been shot with his own superior's bullet. For starters, the ideas being discussed require pretty significant amounts of split-second philosophising, despite the reader having already been shown earlier in the story that Fedir is actually a relatively simple guy.
You’re right - it might perhaps been possible for Fedir to have realized that his commander shot him (thereby preserving the ‘paradox’ that in the end, Kirilov is the one taking stupid actions), but the moral of the story might have overdone it. I guess it would have made more sense if said moral would have been revealed separately, leaving the poor Fedir with his own, simple thoughts.

anuiby said:
But who would have guessed that Fedir would be 'no more'?
anuiby said:
I didn't know what to think about the ending, apart from how I certainly didn't expect it in the slightest.

3ovhbz.jpg
 

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Revan86, you know, I'm still wondering how you know so much about ancient China and Chinese culture in general. Is that your research paper at university, or maybe just a pet interest of sorts? I'm pretty certain even the average Chinese person from China doesn't know that much about those particular aspects of history. Also, seems like you made the mistake of calling your own character He San as He Shi as well ... it's just like I was subconsciously thinking of Wang Anshi when I wrote that review post.

I studied Chinese language for three years at university and Classical Chinese for one semester before taking a development degree with an East Asia specialisation in grad school. I did, in fact, do a research paper on the political economy of land reform in late Qing Dynasty Kham (now part of Sichuan) - but most of my interest in Chinese culture comes from self-study and generally being a China nerd, so to speak (like I said, Pearl Buck [The Good Earth] and RH van Gulik [the Judge Dee mysteries] are two major influences on me, as are Jin Yong, the wuxia films of Zhang Yimou and Feng Xiaogang, The Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, CCTV period dramas and so forth). It also really helps that my wife is Chinese, comes from Luoyang (one of China's ancient capitals) and is also a wuxia / Jin Yong fangirl.

Now that I think about it, I might have gotten away with doing a martial arts-based rivalry short based in Song China, but that could have been a tough sell for a Paradox game unless it were Mount&Blade or something similar.

Also, yeah, I think that I made the mistake of calling He San 'He Shi' several times, but I honestly don't know why. :p I'd blame Seelmeister if I could, but it looks like I actually made that typo in my original story once.
 

Revan86

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I'd just assumed that 'He Shi' was a wonderful pun ;)

:D That would indeed have been awesome, but unfortunately the (modern, and thus anachronistic) Mandarin pronunciation doesn't quite work out that way. He Shi is pronounced a bit like the English phrase 'huh, sure'.
 

Rensslaer

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I'd just assumed that 'He Shi' was a wonderful pun ;)

You know, I thought I'd seen He Shi, but then I looked back and couldn't find it. I was so confused!

It reminded me that I knew a reporter here in Denver named Wei Wong. lol

Rensslaer
 

aniuby

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Hello, everyone. Finally, I have some time to get on with responding to criticism, which should be about just the last thing to wrap up this round of 'Guess the Author'.

I'll share some general points of guidance which I tried to stick by in the process of writing this short piece. Like all writing that I submit for these sorts of criticism activities, it's very experimental in nature - I go out of my way to try new things and use the criticism that I receive in my attempt at a new style to improve my regular writing. For example, I observed several bad habits developing in my recent writing, such as my AAR ... for example the use of too many ellipses and emdashes (and parantheses, too!) - as I've just demonstrated. I also wanted to try my hand at writing in a more descriptive style, without the use of much dialogue or character-based actions to explain the situation. I believe I've mostly accomplished these objectives, but as to whether the piece of work I produced was sufficiently entertaining and of decent enough quality, well, that's for the readers to decide.

When I first thought about the idea of 'Rivalry', the first thing that actually sprang into my mind was a football/sporting rivalry, because these are the rivalries most apparent, most socially acceptable, and most publicly felt in the present day, assuming you live in a reasonably peaceful and civilised country. And while I was thinking about how to tie this in to a topic which this forum's readers would find interesting I quickly remembered 'Claims on our Rivals!' from EU3, and the leap toward attempting to dramatise the outbreak of the Football War was a pretty logical progression from there. coz1's suggestion of CK2 also made me think about rivalry existing on multiple levels, from individuals, groups, crowds, to nations, and the ability of all these units to exert hostility against the targets of their rivalry, and it also helped me connect to one of my pet topics in political science and international diplomacy, as to why 'wars' as we know them from the history books have fallen from prominence in the present day. Now on with the replies!

Author 2

I enjoyed the way this piece considered the conflict from more than one point of view.

(...)

The description of ‘seething barbarians’ made me initially think this piece was a medieval or ancient battle, but the mention of a private office casts doubt on this before it becomes clear that this is much more modern.

Interesting that the piece sought to describe the rivalry between peoples, which I think it did very successfully.

You got it right on the spot. I find that, when writing as in life I try to look at things from multiple points of view and I find it impossible to praise anything perfectly or condemn it utterly, hence the equivocating about 'heroes and villains'. If I ever write about a character or concept which is unreservedly and insuppressibly 'good' in nature, it probably means they are doomed to imminent painful destruction.

In this sentence, one of the occurrences of ‘air’ could have been substituted which would have improved the flow I feel.

Good eye, I didn't actually see this until you mentioned it. I do my best to root out all these repetitions but there are times when you just don't seem them until someone points them out to you - 'blind spots' in writing, like I mentioned later.

No. 2
"The first shot"? Brilliant. I don't think I have ever read such a comparison between football and war. Teams standing opposite each other, barbarians surrounding them - "Barbarians" being a soothing description of most football fans. The transition to actual war was hard to grasp at first, but again, brilliant nonetheless. It's the next part where something just isn't right. It took me half an hour to find out what, and even then I don't think I really know what it is. I -think- it has to do with the transition between the decisions and thinking of Raul, and explaining to the reader what is going on, and a description of the battle plan. The latter, in my opinion, is not necessary and clutters up the story. The first two should just be separated more. Given that Raul is the President, perhaps a speech would have done the trick. As for the author? I have no idea.

You guys are better than me at this - again, I didn't notice the pun on 'first shot' until I read your post so all credit to you. However, I do admit that the part from after Raúl spoke to his chief of staff was rather weakly written - I wanted a way to talk about what the actual war itself (rather than the philosophical hypothesising Raúl does) would entail, but couldn't find a good opportunity to do so, so I ended up just rattling off a list of the likely military manoeuvres which would take place without sufficiently connecting them in tone to the rest of the story. I doubt a speech would have solved this problem, though, for such a speech would either be a rehash of Raúl's philosophy or it would go into too much technical detail to interest the populace. Also, I'm really bad at writing grandiose speeches. I think the most likely way to get around this would have been to continue writing about the military forces Raúl had prepared in the same descriptive style used in the earlier part of the piece.

Author 2

It ended way too soon! I wanted more! Also, without a clear antagonist, I had trouble picturing the rivalry in this story. However, Raul was an interesting character and it’s a pity the story was too short. There should be a part 2 to this.

It's true there was no clear antagonist, as I was trying to emphasise the heroic/villanous duality in all who were mentioned in the story, which had the effect of making the one character more complicated (in a good way) but also more self-conflicted. And I agree the story was too short - I deliberately constricted all the writing to fit within a single sheet of printed A4 paper, because that's the way I was told to write for the criticism activities back in my old writing club. It's true more could have been said, especially after I doublechecked with the length of earlier GtA submissions, but by the time I got to that point I had basically planned out what I wanted to do in the story. Also, it makes it harder to guess it's me if the story is unseemingly short, isn't it? =D

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.

Thank you for the compliments - the truth is that I have never read the writings of Gabriel Garcia Márquez, though I've heard of him and would gladly give them a try if my local library would actually stock his books. I'm of the opinion that any General/El Presidente/Tony Blair, especially one of the present age, must necessarily be supremely cold-hearted and aloof to willingly march his own countrymen to their doom for his personal ambition. But you're right in making the same observation as Gen. Marshall - the transition was clumsy because it was written in a tone which didn't fit in with the descriptive style of the rest of the story.

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!

Thank you for the detailed commentary, Rensslaer! You are right to point out that everything seemed veiled and possibly even deliberately obfuscated, as I was trying to write in an experimental, more descriptive style rather than being direct with dialogues and actions, although it's a fair criticism that I may have misunderstood the point of being descriptive. You were also the first person to pick up on the 'Football War' and 'we begin bombing in 5 minutes' =D I'm really not old enough to have ever lived through that time, but I have certainly heard and read about them from different sources and I'm surprised no one else previously noticed it.

I didn't really understand what you meant by 'tell it more directly' and 'give more background'. Do you mean skipping the metaphors and just getting straight to the justification and declaration of war? Well, I guess it would be possible to write a 'straightforward' story about the outbreak of war, but, at least in the present age, war is a very impersonal affair, and I actually found that distancing myself from the most crucial parts of war (justification and declaration) actually allowed me to draw more attention to certain aspects that are often overlooked, such as the role of leaders, popular sentiment, and the impact of war or conditions leading to war on people's lives.

Your mention of The Last Boy Scout certainly made curious enough to go look it up. And Vampires fighting F-86s made me laugh ... what about Tyrannosaurs in F-14s?

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.

Densley, you should have stuck with your gut feeling. I mean, who else in the AAR forums writes anything to do with football apart from you and I? (Truth - I don't even play or watch football ... I just find the way people over here get hung up about it to be entertaining in itself.) I'm glad you liked the metaphor between football and war and picked up the multiple meanings of the word 'sport', because anyone who's ever had West Ham vs Millwall down the road should certainly be acquainted with what those 'fans' can do ... 'for sport'! And I apologise for letting the word 'orb' slip in there, Eye of Argon-style, but really there are only so many synonyms for 'ball' and I got fed up thinking of them.

I didn't actually intend to write Raúl as actually lying about his supposed justification, but it's a fair observation - after all, when a person is set on a course of action, one is inclined to interpret situations to justify their actions. More accurately, at this point the truth of the rumours did not matter, but the response of Raúl and his people to the possible truth of the alleged rumours were in themselves possessed of truth value of their own (eek, metanarrative). I wouldn't actually describe the style as 'propagandistic' ... I thought of it more as philosophising, since no one else was privy to those thoughts, but perhaps El Presidente's mind was already warped to think in a propagandistic manner. And it was necessary to avoid giving away just who Raúl was until the climax of the story to keep the reader hooked, and I hope I succeeded at that.

And your last comment about the ending certainly encapsulates the criticism echoed by earlier commentors. Truly, it's a common flaw for writers, especially short story writers, to rush their conclusion to their story and end up misplacing their style, tenses, and sense of direction. And it wasn't reminiscent of my writing because I simply don't write for these criticism activities (or, indeed, short stories in general) in my 'usual' long-winded style. I'm glad you enjoyed it all the same!

Author #2

TLDR

You are the worst critic ever and nobody likes you.

Seriously, though, all the criticisms I direct at myself are, I hope, actual valid points, ideas and self-reflection which emerged after I had submitted the piece of writing, and I do hope that others can learn from my mistakes as I and the other commentors above have described. The most important thing is to enjoy writing, and never hesitate to take on constructive criticism, acknowledge your errors, and keep improving your style.
 

Avernite

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Darn, I missed a whole round! I don't think I now have much more in informed criticism to give, but I'd just like to say I liked all 4 stories. I especially liked Author 1's version of 'nothing to fear but fear itself'.
 

LordTempest

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:D That would indeed have been awesome, but unfortunately the (modern, and thus anachronistic) Mandarin pronunciation doesn't quite work out that way. He Shi is pronounced a bit like the English phrase 'huh, sure'.

Her shuh, surely? :D
 

coz1

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Been a few weeks since the previous reveal and allowed for plenty of feedback so how about another round? While looking back over this last installment, I was struck by a perhaps cool idea for a topic...a game. It's why we are here, after all. ;) Interpret it as you like. :D

First four to PM me as usual get a chance to put their work out there anonymously via Guess the Author...who's game?



EDIT - Within minutes of posting, we already have 3 signed up. Better act fast! One more slot. :D

EDIT 2 - And we have 4. Damn, that was fast. Excellent! A reminder to all authAARs, the deadline is the 29th for your submission.
 
Last edited:

Avernite

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Next time post at a less ungodly time for us Europeans! :p

(also, by detailing the time so precisely, we have some hint of who writes ;) )