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Jamie Brickley's picture

Chinatown Surprise

By Jamie Brickley in Scare Us

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I'm sorry, I figured the due date was at the end of the month!  I hope the story goes through.  Hopefully the benevolent dictators at LitReactor will find favor with me.  Anyway, the story is basically about the end of the world due to a meteor.  But the meteor is not the monster.  The monster is, more or less humanity, and you'll see what I mean if you're kind enough to read this late entry!


Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks July 31, 2012 - 6:46pm

This is a really intriguing premise, but I think you need to write more simply and directly. A lot of your sentences are convoluted and over-complicated, making me wonder whether you thought that would give a serious feel to the story. You don't need to do that. The story starts out with all sorts of philosophical stuff, when I think you'd have a better chance with your reader if you started with character and plot. I hope I'm not being too blunt here. I like the story a lot. It ends really well, and I enjoyed it. Just ignore me if any of this is not helpful.

Jamie Brickley's picture
Jamie Brickley from Malvern, PA is reading V. by Thomas Pynchon July 31, 2012 - 7:38pm

thanks for the criticism, jane.  honestly, it couldn't have come at a better time because i tend to write in a stylized way, and maybe sometimes too stylized, and lately i've really be focusing more on plot and character development and such. but i'm not very good at it yet.  i don't know.  the language itself, making the act of reading more experiential, has always been the more fascinating aspects of writing for me, personally.  but that doesn't mean i should neglect the other elements of storytelling.  thanks again.  you told me what i needed to hear, even though at first i didn't want to hear it.      

Emma C's picture
Class Facilitator
Emma C from Los Angeles is reading Black Spire by Delilah Dawson August 6, 2012 - 6:04pm

The opening really captured me right away and made me want to learn more. I really like this sort of first-person narration, which feels familiar and reminiscing. The little note about the president they wanted to vote for but didn't was a nice detail. 

This isn't a terrifying story, but its tone is somber and menacing. The theme of cults rising up in the wake of astronomical phenomena is a common one, and I like the way you tell it from a slightly different perspective through your narrator. 

Your writing is strong but occasionally bogs down a bit. I found this passage nice to read but was unsure of exactly what was being conveyed:

I was about to start describing her until I saw the non-profit emptiness beneath the girl’s blinking eyes.  She was clearly unsettled with the goings on, but also visibly excited.  She didn’t know which side of her reaction to respond to, and neither did I.  She sort of floated there, suspended in willful detachment.  The giver of precious water to the meditating droves.

On page 3 I believe you mean "stigma" when you use "stigmatisms". 

Page 4 "phenomenon" (singular), rather than phenomena

You refer to Eve and Roger as both meteors and asteroids at different parts of the story; these are two different things.

Finally I was surprised by Lindsey's reaction when Ben shows up at the end; she had been calm and direct when she said she was joining HI, and I expected she would be even more under their spell by this time, but I didn't get that feeling. 

When I finished I wondered if there were any deaths: were the bodies at the beginning dead? It wasn't clear.

I enjoyed the story and think your writing skills are strong. I think this piece just needs a little work. I didn't mind that the opening was wordy, as Jane said, but I feel like the end needs similar weight to balance it all out, and it felt like it just trailed off. The ending I was waiting for (not expecting; I didn't know what to expect) just didn't come. 

Jamie Brickley's picture
Jamie Brickley from Malvern, PA is reading V. by Thomas Pynchon August 8, 2012 - 4:14pm

Well, Emma, a lot of your criticism was right on.  First, the minor mistakes such as "phenomena" vs. "phenomenon," and the whole meteor vs. asteroid thing, was just sloppiness on my part.  I rushed to get the story in on time and probably wouldn't have overlooked those errors had I been more thorough.  And thanks for saying that my writing is strong.  I'd say that most of my writing is style driven, and clearly this story had to be more plot driven given the word count parameters.  At the end, I tried to make Lindsey as spellbound as possible, not by mannerism or affect in the narration, but by the nature of what she was saying.  I thought, given the short history of the narrative and the obvious hollowness of the HI members, that this would come through.  Sorry to disappoint.  :(   Also, I figured that the world ending would suffice for no deaths in the actual story, the implication being that at the end, everyone dies.  So in that way, I guess my story ranks high in death count.  Thanks for you're thorough criticisms.  I'm sure a lot of people count on them.


Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep August 6, 2012 - 6:19pm

Literary Doomsday. That's how'd I describe this to my friends.

Your prose is poetic, and there are some pretty sentences in there. There's a fine line to walk, being as beautiful as you can be without abstracting an idea too much, or just simply losing your reader by taking too long to get somewhere. There is a way to write elegantly and still get to the point in a timely manner. I will say I haven't read too much of this genre in your style, but hey, I think it derails your narrative in this case. After all, if you can't get philosophical at the end of the world, then when can ya?

I'm not sure there's any persistent horror in here, but in the end, there's a good amount of dread. I think this story would be more horrific if you'd introduce the doom a lot earlier. Perhaps even as a first thing. It should be no secret that the Earth is doomed, and that everybody is going to die. What can be a secret until the end is who's responsible (in this case, the HI...assuming I interpreted that correctly). That should be your Ah Ha! moment, and the moment our hero really knows all hope is lost. It's one thing to die, but it's another to die alone.

I really like your twist that peace is delivered, but in the most horrible way possible. Totally depressing! Thanks!

Jamie Brickley's picture
Jamie Brickley from Malvern, PA is reading V. by Thomas Pynchon August 9, 2012 - 10:01am

Best part of your review:  "Totally depressing.  Thanks!"  Made me laugh.

And I like the title Literary Doomsday.  If I wanted to go super-metafictional, I might have gone with that.  Thanks for taking note of the style, too.  I pride myself on my ability to construct pretty sentences and paragraphs, but what you say makes sense.  I'm constantly walking the line between being heavily literary and more character-based and plot driven.  I guess I like the challenge of writing something in florid language and (attempting) to make it sound contemporary at the same time. 

Also, I understand what you're saying about the horror being evident from th beginning of the story.  This story was an experiment for me, since I have no experience writing in the horror genre.  But that advice made sense.  So, thanks for that especially.  And thanks for reading.

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep August 9, 2012 - 10:51am

Oops, that should have read "...I *don't* think it derails..."

Jamie Brickley's picture
Jamie Brickley from Malvern, PA is reading V. by Thomas Pynchon August 9, 2012 - 12:11pm

that's what i assumed.  i thought it would be to caustic, even for an informal internet forum

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. August 6, 2012 - 7:23pm

It would seem that you've thought a bit about what world peace really means.  At the start, I was a little worried that the meteor thing might be a little overdone but I couldn't help be say "Oh bloody hell!" when I read that last line.  When you brought up Eve, that had me thinking that an unpredictable city was going to find itself vaporized.  Very nice the way you pulled in the big one.

A few things:

* It would have been nice to see more of the narrators reactions in the restaurant where he first heard about Roger changing directions.  He seemed to ignore what he was hearing a little too much.  I can see him staring at the TV as he hears the announcement, at least for a moment, and then running off to find Lindsey.  It just didn't feel right for him to hear the president's words and not react, especially since he brought them up when he finally found Lindsey.

* This one I'm not sure about but, I think it would have been more effective for him to realize what was going on and react more at the end rather than just having the story end on Lindsey's answer.  If not that, maybe a touch more lead in to what she was going to say.  Either way, something to add a little more visible emotion to it.

Still, good work!

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland August 11, 2012 - 2:02pm

I like your writing style alot. I agree with Emma. I would love to get lost in Ben's philosophy for several pages but this contest  is too limiting(with word count and genre specification) to let you carry it out too long. I have to agree with Ethan. To make this story "Scary" or atleast suspensfull the threat of imenent death should probably be introduced earlier. However, I feel like the H.I. was your monster here rather than the astroids or meteors. So I'd really like you dig deeper into that. Cults can be really scary and as much as i loved your nararator, i wasn't afraid of the monster. I don't think you need to do to much major tweaking to make this story horrific: couple suggestions, Maybe Ethan's scepticism of the H.I. could lean a little closer to the fear end of the spectrum. Possibly have the astroids collide earlier. Instead of Katie reacting the way she did I was expecting her to be more serene, maybe saying Ben join us, or some slight hint of zin or bliss before the closing lines. If not if this works for you than you can toss it aside. You can really write well and this story is pretty great as it stands as a psychological drama.


sean of the dead's picture
sean of the dead from Madisonville, KY is reading Peckerwood, by Jed Ayres August 11, 2012 - 2:14pm

For some reason, this reminds me of that Twilight Zone episode where Burgess Meredith just wants to read in peace and quiet, then essentially the apocalypse "happens," and now finally alone, he can read all he wants...then breaks his glasses.  It's the Monkey's Paw, where that wish that seems so good and sincere comes true, but within the worst possible circumstances.

I like Chinatown Surprise a lot.  Especially the very end, to the last word.  I like the tension that is built when he tries to find his girlfriend.  And just as it seems he's going to win (find her) and the happy ending seems in sight, we get news that NO ONE is going to win in this story.  I'm a sucker for the good story that ends in complete and total misery and dispair, even more so when the misery and despair would happen on page 11, but the story is only 10 pages long.

Technically, no deaths are shown, and there isn't a "monster," but at the same time, everyone dies, and everyone is the monster.  Tricky, can we get a judge's ruling on this?

Fantastic story, great job!