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Thread: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

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    Default The Critic's Quill: Issue 37


    The Editor Speaks
    Hello and welcome to Issue 37 of the Quill.

    Let me start with an apology. This was originally intended to be the Christmas Edition of the Quill! Unfortunately a series of RL events have got between me and my editing duties. However, now I'm back and I am hoping to make partial amends for holding back the good work of the Quill writing team for so long by presenting you with the really quite good Critic's Quill Issue 37!

    We have a special feature on the Scriptorium Summer Writing Competition winners, plus the usual news on competitions, reviews of our favourite AARs and essays on creative writing.

    There have been a few changes since last time, not least a new set of banners from the Content Art Department. I would also like to welcome some new writers to the Quill: Maximinus Thrax, Adamat, Tigellinus, The Kybrothilian and The Forgotten. I hope you enjoy their work and please encourage them to future successes with your rep.

    Since the recent introduction of VBulletin 4, the Jump facility seems to be temporarily broken. Should clicking on the links in the table of contents below take you somewhere strange, then please just press the back page arrow on your browser. Also nested Fieldset boxes are not currently showing up, but hopefully the layout is still reasonably clear. I'm sure that in the fullness of time I will come to terms with the Brave New World of VB4 and begin to use its features properly.

    Juvenal (Editor)

    Table of Contents

    Monthly AAR Competition Section

    MAARC XLI & XLII
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Following on from the intense AAR of the Year, the winners of these competitions have secured themselves a place to enter next years round! Competition has been fierce, with close results and even ties in some cases. The quality if AARs across the site has really improved.

    MAARC XLI

    First Place
    The Wolf Among Dogs by Radzeer
    Radzeer's third AAR is already proving to be as popular as his previous two! With a win convincing more than half the voters and four more WSCM points, bringing his total up to 22 - ever nearing that prestigious gold medal, we are all wondering where it'll go from here and how long it'll take...

    Second Place
    Times full of Distemper by Geoffrey of Villehardouin
    Claiming his first WSCM points Geoffrey of Villehardouin is halfway towards a bronze medal! His AAR lost out on the top spot by only vote, but managed to exactly 50% of the voters on his side. Watch out, for it may reach first place any time soon.

    Third Place
    The Saga of the North by Ganbarenippon
    Earning a bronze medal with this win Ganbarenippon's AAR is off to a flying start. Again the results were so close with him being only a vote away from second place! I suggest you keep an eye out for this, I have a feeling it will shoot up the points table.

    MAARC XLII

    First Place
    To Change Our Fate: Reforging Sicily with Steel and Heart by Swaeft
    The new kid on the block! This relatively new AAR has proven to be a big hit, and the victory in the MAARC has just proven that. I haven't read this one, I'll admit, but I will most certainly make a start on it after this huge victory.

    Second Place
    One Single Man by Paragon
    This AAR has gone from strength the strength, shown by the fact it was in the tie-breaker for second place - which it won. Convincing over 50% of the voters it was worthy we cannot wait to see where it goes from here.

    Third Place
    With the Lions of Caesar - From Siscia to Bathinus by chaplain118
    Causing a tie-breaker for 2nd place this AAR was a strong entry, with an equally strong story. It promises a great read as the voters show, so if you haven't already I'd suggest you start following it now.


    A massive congratulations to all of the winners, and of course a big hand for all the other authors that entered the two competitions. We all wish you the best of luck for when you next enter... which could be very soon as submissions for the MAARC XLIV are being taken! So if you have an AAR head over there -remember you will need to have provided two updates throughout February to enter so hop to it!

    Coverage by Shankbot de Bodemloze



    Tale of the Week Section

    Tale of the Week: November/December News
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    For this issue my trusted colleague HeirofAlexander and I bring you the latest coverage from the Tale of the Week Competition, providing you details of the theme and winning tales! It has been a brilliant period for the TotW with lots of submissions, lots of votes, and lots of winners so be sure to get involved if you want a friendly atmosphere where you can work on your writing skills - as well as being in with the chance of winning the famous Writers' Study Competition Medals.

    We've divvied the coverage between us so I can't claim all the effort; but I must really crack on with the news. So without further ado feast your eyes on this issue's coverage:

    Tale of the Week 160: Resurrection
    The first competition with the conspicuous title ‘resurrection’ promised much in terms of creativity. Some rather contradictory keywords did not dull the expectations. And indeed it was no disappointment. With a total of seven entries, though one disqualified, the a hundred and sixtieth tale of the week competition was off to a good vote.

    The Winning Tale
    With an indeed brilliant poem, Strengelicher out wrote the rest of his competition by a single vote. The poem does – in my opinion, though poetry appeals to all in its own way – describe the aftermath and regret of defeat.
    Click to view content: 
    Far, far away, in a strange land
    forgotten long by me and you
    remains the fortress Xanadu,
    asleep, deep under the sand.

    ‘Twas there we fought, and side by side,
    with sword and shield and folk withal.
    While men would fall like raindrops fall,
    what we fought for our hearts would hide.

    For many days the walls would hold,
    those mighty walls of Xanadu.
    Like me and you, these walls would, too,
    not falter, or so I was told.

    Alas, we know ethereal things
    are hidden well, and hidden deep.
    A fortress sleeps a lover’s sleep,
    deceit from deep within it brings.

    ‘Twas weak now, what was strong before.
    And so one day the mighty wall
    would tremble, crack, tumble and fall,
    and Xanadu would be no more.

    What was it we were fighting for?
    Alas, my dear, I can’t recall…
    the memories have left us all,
    the mighty fortress is no more.

    And still, wherever I may be
    I dimly dream of Xanadu.
    And know that I had faith in you,
    and you, in turn, had faith in me.

    Poem from an ancient inscription on a wall in the ruins of the legendary palace of Saba, Yemen (author unknown).

    Tale of the Week 161: It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day…
    A man greets the rising sun as a new day is made. That is the theme and picture of this week’s TotW competition, giving many a different side to write stories for. In all five contestants entered this week's Tale of the Week, several great submissions among them!

    The Winning Tale
    Lord Inquisitor Derpy Hooves claimed victory with another impressive tale from his conworld, the World of Gaiisha. The story brought him another WSCM point and he is now up to four such points. Not long until a medal now!
    Click to view content: 
    Anhalan woke. It was the dawn of a new day, and he had barely slept a wink. War cries, death cries, musket fire and fires had kept him awake, which was why he went into an alleyway. Did it help? Well he thought so; he was able to get a little rest. Well maybe if he removed his breastplate he could have slept longer and better. As one of the one million War Volunteers, he did not really have an officer that would look for him, so few would have thought it odd to see him lying around in an alleyway.

    Despite all of the death that had happened and was continuing to happen as well as his lack of sleep, Anhalan was happy. The light shining from sun as it was climbing higher into the sky mixed with the early morning mist, giving it a golden color. The mist was almost the same color as the golden sand that he was when he and his comrades had landed yesterday. Of course he loved it, he should love it. The golden colors that filled the air and covered the ground were the colors of his people’s homeland, this land. This was what the fighting was all about, the reclamation of the Janakan homeland…and Regia’s punishment too.

    The latter reason Anhalan did not agree with. The way they were punishing Regia was absolutely barbaric. The order was to exterminate everyone who lived in the city, every man, woman and child, regardless of innocence. He was fortunate that he had not encountered any living civilian yet, but even if he did he would do everything in his power to prevent himself from taking an innocent life, but what if one of his comrades were going to do so? As he thought about this, his happiness was replaced with sadness.

    Anhalan shook his head trying to get that thought out of his mind. “No! No, I shouldn’t think about it. It will only make life complicated.” He said, grabbing his musket as he stood up. Walking out of the alleyway, a soldier approached him, “Shouldn’t think about what?” he said.

    Anhalan looked at the soldier, “Well I have been wondering what I will do if I encounter an unarmed person.” He said reluctantly.

    The soldier stared at him. “You’re going to worry yourself to death. Look, I get it, you can’t bear to kill some innocent person, but that’s not going to change anything. All of the Regians in this city will die. Your only option is whether that will be a quick or an agonizing death, and if you’re a decent man you will choose the former.” The soldier said.

    “Instead, focus on the positives such as a new home when the war is over. Now come on, I hear the Janak Legionnaires are planning on taking the castle today.” He said as he started walking away. Anhalan smiled and followed.

    Tale of the Week 162: The Passenger
    Six submittors jumped on the train and joined the competition this week in an enthralling struggle to the weeks best short story writer. The theme and keywords gave leave for a great variety of storylines and the contestants delivered to great applause from me.

    The Winning Tale
    Confederate Jeb wins the a hundred and sixty second and a bronze medallion with a truly great story and does so with quite a margin considering the number of votes, claiming 85 %. Jeb writes with great accuracy (much like his character) and his description is awe inspiring. So go on, read it, you’ll enjoy it for sure.
    Click to view content: 
    Can't think. Body numb. Heart throbbing, pounding inside my chest. A bullet whizzes over the top of the crate I'm crouched behind, clinging to my side where I have been stabbed. I don't know who is after me, but the events of last night stirred something up. The blood on my hand let me know that my normal life was over. I was part of something sinister now. The train blows its horn as it speeds past a small station. They control the train. Pain. More gunshots. Time and space beginning to blur. I had to make a move, or I would bleed out. I get in position and make a dive for the cluster of barrels on the other side of the car. A clear shot at a startled gunman. One bullet, simple and clean, to the head. Years of practice at the range taking their toll. With him dead, and the man who had stabbed me falling down the winding paths of the mountainside, I was at last alone in the car. I eagerly run over the the body to gather cloth to wrap around my wound, as well as making sure to take the dead man's gun. I didn't know the maker, but it was a beautiful gun. Would it serve me better than its old master?

    I decide that staying on this wild ride is too much danger for one day. After a few minutes the whistle blows once again, letting me know it is time to jump at the station. My timing is good, and I fall into a snow bank a hundred feet shy of the concrete. I can see no one at the station, waiting for either me or the armed thugs. The train continues on. Some service, I should've taken the subway to Carlton. Then again, my attackers had to be after me, and there was nowhere to jump out at in those old underground tunnels. The town that I walk into is called Dunesbury; a strange name for a little town situated on the side of a snowy mountain. It is named after an explorer, no doubt. Still nobody comes to greet me. My dress is ill suited to the temperature, and I begin to grow faint once more. At last I see the sign of a hotel, and manage to stumble up the front steps into the lobby before collapsing.

    I wake in a small bed with light blue bedsheets over my freezing body. As I come to my hands feel my body over, finding where my wound had been the last time I was conscious, and where I now found proper bandages. The cut is not too deep, but in the heat of the moment I had not been able to take a good look at it. My eyes search the room for any clues as to my situation, only to find a pair of soft green eyes staring at me from a head to

    Tale of the Week 163: Skyfall
    A theme that not only proved relevant to most people’s evening plans, but also chose the soundtrack you would write it to (Skyfall by Adele if you wondered) hinted at a set of great submissions. And not unlike the film, the entries were spectacular. Though only five decided to enter the fray, the quality proved more valuable than quantity.

    The Winning Tale
    The winner of Skyfall and proving to be the best secret agent of the entire Writer’s Study was Aonghus G. Friedhold. A story that, while perhaps not most befitting the world’s most famous spy, proved of solid caliber as it described the feeling of rejection.
    Click to view content: 
    Grasping at Heaven

    I watched her move across the room – more a glide than a walk, the diaphanous folds of her dress concealing the lithe movements beneath, cat-like and ethereal. She seemed to me a spirit, intangible in her grace, and as this spirit floated towards me, I felt the visceral urge to seize her, to cover her with my body, press my flesh against hers, shielding her from the crude, lascivious glances penetrating her near-translucent form. She slid up to the bar. I didn’t catch what she said, so enraptured was I with her passage. A martini appeared before her, seemingly as a perfect metaphor for the tall, slender form so near my own. She did not drink. She toyed with it, turning the olive about in its embryonic puddle, and in her action I sensed a desire – neither animal nor conscious – for companionship. I realized, in that moment of epiphany, that I was meant to engage her and in so doing lift this spirit away from her mortal troubles. I was no mere spotter, an inconsequential bar-watcher doomed to mediocrity of action; I was elevated above the din of the cacophonous bar, a valiant knight bearing a holy gift which would rescue this maiden from the engulfing crowd of gloom that might have otherwise swallowed her into its womb. Spying opportunity, I whirled to face her, offering my gift of conversation, daring her to be free of the chasm surrounding her. Suddenly I could see her eyes, startling sapphires, set in a visage of the purest ivory. She regarded me, her look a cool ocean breeze, the salt practically pressed upon my lips.
    “I’m waiting for my boyfriend.”

    I watched heaven crumble around me.

    I was in a seedy bar in a lower class part of town. The drinks, the people, the women, were cheap. As I looked at the girl occupying the seat next me, I was struck by her plainness. Her dress, made of cheap fabric, didn't do her any favors, and the makeup which caked her face made her look like a fairground caricature. I finished off my drink, gathered my coat, and stepped out into the wet and muggy night air. With my coat draped across my arm, I set off into the night. As I passed a short, pudgy little man, it came to me that a quick right turn would take me towards a place I hadn’t visited for some time: the home of an old friend. Thinking about her for only a brief moment before pushing away the memories grasping to take hold, I turned left and made my way to my house.

    Tale of the Week 164: Genius
    With keywords that are certainly not the ones that come to mind swiftest when thinking of true genius, this one would prove a tough one for our dear contestants. But maybe that is the genius of it? To find the genius by setting a hard task must indeed be genius. I shall move on to avoid confusion.

    The Winning Tale
    Rex Anglorvm arose as the genius of this competition, following a nail biter of a tie-breaker that was. A story of a dream, a weird one at that, is what Rex used to claim the place of genius. Though one could argue his very long experience a vital reason…
    Click to view content: 
    Genius
    I had the weirdest dream the other night, I could remember almost all of it clearly; I remember that I was standing in front of a board with a football pitch stencilled on it and a series of moves chalked onto its surface.

    Not that odd you would think, I was just dreaming of being a football manager and what’s so weird about that?

    Well I will tell you.

    The team was comprised of food.

    My star striker was a squat fast food burger; my tall lean central defender was a bottle of English Mustard; my goalkeeper was a solid and reliable stick of Blackpool rock and my silky skilled tenacious tackling central midfielder was a chocolate bar of Nestle crunch.

    And when I looked at the rest of my team it was no different, the rest of the squad was made up of an apple, a custard tart, a jar of coffee, a banana and a host of other products that would have been available at your local supermarket.

    Now I’m not fixated on food, in fact I’m one of those people that view food as a necessary evil, fuel for life, not meant to be enjoyed, just consumed. In fact I could work for hours before even thinking about taking a bite to eat.

    And I don’t like football, I’m a rugby man.

    That was why the dream was odd, but not why it was weird.

    No it was weird because I was a sausage.

    Yes you heard me right, a sausage.

    Now I’m sure that a psychoanalyst would have a great time decoding why I dreamt myself into a Lincolnshire sausage; but I can tell you that I had a normal childhood, normal parents and have no unusual hang-ups.

    I shall tell you why I dreamt of being a sausage, its my new girlfriend, I met her in a wine bar, an unusual place for me as I prefer old looking boozers with old nicotine stains on the walls and peeling paint and rotten looking furniture that looks like it will collapse if you sit on it, but no I was in the wine bar because I had forget to eat…again.

    So I had dived in the wine bar, grabbed a quick drink and some bar food and had met a girl.

    I had made a pass at her; not that unusual after all I’m quite lucky with the ladies.
    But she had turned me down.

    So I came back day after day, cracking corny jokes, having a drink and ordering the only palatable thing on the menu - a sausage sandwich.

    So I guess it doesn’t take a genius to work out that was why I dreamt of being the greatest of British inventions – the banger.

    But the weirdest thing of all and the pure genius of the dream is that Sophie is a vegetarian.

    Tale of the Week 165: Nothing Is True
    Nothing Is True... that was the theme for this week. The image said everything was true, so it was muddle up from the start. However the keywords were true, the 7 submissions were true, and the winner was true as well.

    The Winning Tale
    Confederate Jeb claimed the top spot this week with what I found a rather mysterious, descriptive tale about a theatre production. I wouldn't of said no to a few more paragraph breaks in the main body to help make things slightly easy to follow, but on a certain level maybe the author wanted the reader to interpret it in their own way? I'll let you decide for yourself:
    Click to view content: 
    The theater is empty now, with not a sound piercing the silence save for a lone clock ticking away somewhere in the rafters. Not an hour before the building had been the stage of life and merriment, of joy and peace. A comedy was being performed, a brand new one at that, and as always the citizens of the city didn't fail to miss opening night. A talented rising star played the lead roll, his voice carried throughout the theater and his singing was filled with magic. An old favorite, Theodore, played the part of an old beggar with much wisdom and foresight in a land of mischief and error. He had hinted that this piece would be his last production and he would finally retire once the rounds were completed. But nobody believed him; acting was in his blood and soul. He would keel over on stage before he ever truly retired. A young damsel, naught but sixteen years old, was making her debut as the leading lady. Her casting had been followed with much scrutiny, for nobody so young had ever received such an important part. So many other regulars could have performed the part, but once she was chosen she became the darling of the whole city. The patrons had too much love for their theater to bicker and fight over who should play what or what play should be performed. "Oh, he'll get the part next time around, or be the leading man in the next piece no doubt!" "Honestly I feel that the directors should be following this production with a musical, but this tragedy they are planning sounds simply fabulous." The theater takes in all the joyous cheering and applause as if it feeds of it. If it truly was a living thing it would have no shortage of sustenance. Comedies always brought out the loudest crowds, eager to laugh at a good joke. The dramas and tragedies brought out the ones ready to clap in proud admiration at the work of a blade or poison. And yet everyone made sure they attended every play, regardless of their preferences. There were simply too many reasons to go to the theater to miss a musical, an opera, a comedy, a tragedy, a documentary, a history...

    As the clock continues to click away, a sound can barely be made out in the calm silence. Soft, faint footsteps walking along the rafters pace back and forth, as if observing the theater. Nobody is ever around to hear them, but the patrons hear its works every day. And that makes it happier above all other things.

    Tale of the Week 166: The Sword and Quill
    The quill is oft mightier than the sword, and this is what this week's TotW set out to prove - of course we left the sword option available for people who wanted it. A selection of keywords which were mostly related to writing in some form proved to be a great hit with 7 top-notch submissions.

    The Winning Tale
    A first-timer won a convincingly this week, gaining 90% of the votes! This truly amazing feat was accomplished by Mors Vigilia, whose tale fitted perfectly with the theme. It is about two men fighting to the death over words, as they vie for a position of power. Sophisticated vocabulary and a knack for description makes this tale stand out, although a tenser atmosphere could have been built up as the duel drew nearer.
    Click to view content: 
    The Sword and Quill

    The swords were drawn and the two combatants eyed each other warily. The dawning sun had done its best to pierce through the misty fog that lay low upon this duellist’s field, though thin wisps still remained, occasionally dispersed by tentative swipes of a hand or sword. Nevertheless, the pale orange rays that penetrated were enough to light this grim scene, grim as so many other things that came about in the name of honour.

    Dravik now claimed that he had been wrongly accused of villainy in Nathaniel’s thesis. To think that two friends would come to such vicious blows over mere words. This is the power that words could wield. The two had both been confidants of the late Viceroy and each one was hotly tipped to replace him. Some now thought that the winner of today’s duel would also win the Viceroy position, though the simple truth was that the on-going argument over Nathaniel’s thesis had discredited both of them in the eyes of the electoral consulate.

    Whether he intended it or not, a parchment that contained part of the controversial thesis had gone missing from Nathaniel’s quarters. Soon it had been found and passed around by many different hands before returning to its writer. As such words would, they multiplied, passing from hands, mouths, and yet more papers as people gossiped amongst themselves with the possible future Viceroy a tempestuous yet popular topic of conversation. Soon all knew of these certain accusations against Dravik and even his own boot boy dared to voice knowledge of it as he went about his work in his master’s very presence. It was this that had finally riled Dravik into violence, though a dark and imposing man, he was also usually very calm and temperate, therefore adding credence to his claim that Nathaniel’s words were lies. However, Dravik had been riled and here he stood opposite Nathaniel as his second checked his weapons and clothing. Would the consulate vote for a man who could be angered enough to want to kill a former friend? Could that man be trusted with the liberties of his people? Furthermore, Nathaniel’s writings – true or not – were highly accusative but somewhat petty in places, perhaps too petty for a man who would be expected to deal with great and pressing matters of state.

    Judging that the weapons were fair, the officer of the duels stepped back and ordered the seconds to stand behind their principles. By custom, he asked the combatants whether they would consider either ending the duel now before it had begun or ending it after first blood so that none need die today. Though it was custom, the words were not needed this morning, all knew that the accusations and arguments of the past few days had led to this point. Two men faced each other down now on this accursed field, only one would leave with his life.

    Tale of the Week 167: The Indian Continent
    We travelled to the Far East with this week's theme, and with keywords that emphasized mystical paradise of such lands the 6 submissions were all very unique. The winning tales all came within 1 vote away from each other, nicely showcasing the hotly contested competition this week was!

    The Winning Tale
    Rex Anglorvm's tale claimed the top spot, as he took a marvellous futuristic spin on the theme. His tale describes one of the trouble facing those who utilize inter-galactic space travel, indeed towards the end of the tale that fear of pirates becomes a reality but how they cope remains unsaid. More build up could have been crafted by placing doubts into the readers mind if they'll appear or not, and getting us to question what we thinl - instead of just no they can't, and then they do.
    Click to view content: 
    The Indian Continent

    It was a strange name for an inter-galactic cruise liner; still when the owners of the vessel come from the plane New Mumbai, I suppose it was no small wonder.

    I checked the instruments on the flight panel for what seemed the umpteenth time during my shift. I hated night duty; it sucked the hell out of you, left you deflated like a when the skin of a balloon has been pricked by a needle.

    Still it was one of the prime articles of faith that a star-flight cruise ship member should always be alert, helpful and honest. I did by best to make sure I lived up to the articles, I didn’t want to be a junior helmsman forever, I had ambitions and I had drive.

    It was great riding the light stream, the name we give to the inter-galactic highway network, set navigational routes that large craft stuck too to avoid horrendous accidents. They work a little like the old Earth flight plans for primitive aircraft, what the ancients used to quaintly call ‘aeroplanes’ they had given flight heights, speeds and directions, not too different from us in 2715 I suppose.

    The only danger we had to face was space pirates; these were men who chose to stand outside of conventional morality and attack passing civilian craft; cruise ships were a favourite target, what with all the wealthy passengers on board.

    Normally pirate vessels were small; they would attack in a series of waves, normally a standard V formation with the largest and best armed vessel acting as the point craft.

    Once their attack had succeeded they would drag their victim vessel back using a hyper photon beam. The vessel would be taken to one of the ‘Island’ planets, a loose confederation of independently minded and economically poor planets that depended on piracy for a way of life as they were devoid of any mineral deposits of real value.

    I wasn’t concerned though, we were light years away from any Island planet, and our ship was armed with the very latest in weapons defence systems, in fact it was more a battle cruiser than a cruise ship.

    I settled back at my command console and stared in the screen in front of me, nothing worth noting still.

    Just as I was beginning to relax the screen went crazy before my eyes, five, ten, fifteen vessels appeared upon it, all of varying sizes, but all in the classic wave attack of the Island pirates.

    My stomach dropped as I sounded the alert upon my console, soon the echoing boom of the alert could be heard all over the ship as passengers were herded to the safety zones and the crew began to arm or take positions in the gun mount bubbles.

    The captain strode in to the command room and looked at my console. His face froze in shock...

    Tale of the Week 168: This is...
    This isn't quite Sparta, but we weren't that far off! With 10 submissions entering the fray it was a massive contest, and almost too close too call as second-place was tied. However one did walk away with the winning point this week.

    The Winning Tale
    A Harry Harrison tribute piece came first this week, written by Radzeer. The tale is dialogue based focusing on a rather humorous exchange between a Director and Historian as they use a time machine to film what actually happened for a new film, of course it wasn't as the Director expected at all! The description between the utterances flows nicely. However, just to be picky, more proof-reading could be done, as I noticed a one-off grammatical error.
    Click to view content: 
    "This is ridiculous! How could we work with these clowns?" The Director stared at the screen with disbelief. His tired face was illuminated by the monitor's flickering light. "Look what they do! It does not make any sense."

    "No, sir, that actually makes sense," said the Historian who was hired for this project. "This was how they asked for the oracle's advice. That boy for example..."

    "You must be kidding. What about the cool smoke effects, and the stunning half naked girl and all that?"

    "There is actually very little evidence for that. What happened in reality was that..." the Historian started the explanation, but suddenly the screen went black.

    "What the hell is this?" The Director was upset.

    "Sorry, sir," said the Technician. "We'll get the picture back in a second. The sensor has to recalibrate itself in every thirty minutes."

    "But that won't be a problem for the jump, right? I don't need to remind you that since the time machine was patented, there is a cutthroat competition in the movie industry to make the most realistic pictures of all times. If the auxiliary equipment fails, the costs of sending the production set back in time can get really high. And if the costs get out of hand, this establishment will go under fast."

    "No, sir. This is why we send these bots back first to map the environment and provide useful visuals."

    "Visuals, eh? I'm glad you reminded me of that," said the Director and turned back to the Historian. "Yesterday's footage had a phalanx in a practice or whatnot, and it did not look very good."

    "What was the problem?" asked the Historian who started to regret that he signed a contract with the movie studio.

    "Those guys look boring. This is not how the Spartans looked like! They all had square abs and red capes and those cool helmets."

    "May I ask where you get this information from?" The Historian wanted to roll his eyes, but he did not want to risk his contract.

    "It came from the classic documentary, '300' of course. That was the most important work of the early 21st century." The Director was dumbfounded. "They had done all the research available up to that point, and crafted the best visuals. We don't need to repeat all that."

    "Standing on the shoulders of giants..." muttered the Historian.

    "There you go," said the Director. "The first time machine picture by Harrison about the Vikings used all kinds of on-site technology and frequent trips back and forth. We are now much more sophisticated than that."

    "The visual is back," reported the Technician.

    "Just about time," grunted the Director and turned back to the screen. "But you still need to double check the coordinates and time parameters. This better not be Sparta. Nobody is going to pay to watch this."

    The Historian sighed. This is madness, he thought. The expression sounded familiar, but he did not know why.

    Tale of the Week 169: I Will Wait
    5 keywords beginning with the letter 's'... it was a crazy week for sure! The theme was based off a song, and 6 submissions were waiting to see who would be the winner. Not as close as previous weeks, but still only 2 votes between 1st and 2nd place!

    The Winning Tale
    Once again the winning tale was written by none other than Rex Anglorvm! His tale is about a man who waits, and waits, and waits brining fame and fortune to his Village, but their is a entertaining twist at the end which I'm sure you'll appreciate it. Refinement on punctuation could be a minor thing to work on, and again proofreading makes an appearance - there was an instance where I'm sure "climate" was meant to be used instead of "climes"...
    Click to view content: 
    I will wait

    The man had stood waiting on the shore for what had seemed forever, he had stood there on the sand of the beach looking out towards the sea, hardly moving, only moving from his position to eat occasionally and to empty the body of its natural pollutants.

    Since he was a very small boy and nobody knew why, he had just simply stood there. First days, then weeks, then months then finally years had passed.

    His fame spread, first to the village nearest the beach, then to the towns, then cities, then all the countries of the old continent. The village next to the beach grew in size, splendour and grandeur as tourists and then religious pilgrims came to see the man by the sea. He would answer questions, provide wisdom and knowledge and smile beatifically at his visitors. But if asked why he stood there, he would shake his head and with a wry smile say ‘I will wait…’ and leave the questioner perplexed.

    He would stand on the beach through all the seasons, through the baking sun of the summer and the freezing cold when the snow fell during winter, in the spring when the rains fell constantly and in autumn when the birds left to find warmer climes.

    Some said the man was blessed especially the people of the village that had grown as the man’s fame had spread and his body had aged. After all, the village had grown wealthy because of him, its one concern being what would happen when the old man died? Would the tourists stop coming?

    If the visitors did no longer travel to the village it would be reduced to penury. The people had grown to care for the old man, they had always clothed and fed him, had even offered to build him a home on the beach but he had said no.

    So the wise heads in the village realised that a plan was needed, they formulated a simple but effective way for the old man to always be their primary tourist attraction. They claimed he was touched by the hand of God himself, they wrote long letters to the Pope, people claimed miracles that had happened after seeing or talking to him, and in the end a papal delegation had come and investigated the old man at length.

    And they concluded that he was in fact a saint.

    Then one day when the latest coach of tourists came to the see the old man on the beach they found the beach empty.

    A miracle! God had come for the saint on the beach!

    Meanwhile on a ship sailing away from the beach the old man looked back at the tourists and smiled, shook his head and muttered ‘bloody ferries you have to stand around ages until one shows up, next time I’m taking the channel tunnel!’

    Tale of the Week 170 Christmas Contest: Fairytale of New York
    For the 170th Contest and to sign off 2012 we threw a Christmas special with a bigger word limit, longer to submit, and two points on offer for the winner! We had 7 entries up for the festive prize but only one could be the winner...

    The Winning Tale
    It was Audacia who pulled the hat out of the stocking for this competition, and of course claiming the 2 WSCM points on offer. His story starts with a young girl having lost her father, however the magic of Christmas manages to reunite them in a warm embrace. A well written tale, however creating a bit more atmosphere, for example when the father realise's his daughter is missing, wouldn't harm it.
    Click to view content: 
    Bright lights illuminated the looming, concrete structures that dominated the cityscape. Light, wet snow fell gently from the night sky, touching the cold pavement and quickly melting. A girl walked cheerfully along the sidewalk, skipping past the multitude of last minute holiday shoppers. Her velvety, red dress jumped up and down as she softly hummed a familiar tune. She looked up at the sky, dotted with bright stars, and smiled.

    The girl walked further until she reached a department store with a large, rosy star. She decided, on a whim, to venture into the strange place and look around. When she opened the heavy, glass door a wave of heat flowed over her and warmed her frigid body. She skipped past the racks of clothing, shoes, and perfumes with flushed cheeks and a face filled with wonder and excitement. She recognized the round man her father had described to her just a few nights before. “Now, don’t be scared sweetheart, because when you meet him, he’ll ask you to sit on his lap. Then, he’ll ask you what you want more than anything in the world, and you tell him all of the wonderful things you’ve told me, and he’ll bring them to you!” her father had said.

    She peered beyond the line of eager children and tired parents waiting to see the round man with the silly white beard. He beamed jovially at the children sitting in his lap, holding them there with care and a deep sense of compassion. The man caught the little girl’s gaze and beckoned for her to come over to him, waving his gloved hand gently. She looked down, grinning slightly, and started shuffling toward him. When she finally reached Santa Claus, he picked her up and placed her on his lap.

    “Now, little girl, what’s your name?” he asked in a deep and husky, yet somehow comforting, voice.

    “Rose…” the girl replied shyly.

    “Rose! What a beautiful name! Now Rose, what would you like for Christmas?” he asked.

    “I want my daddy…”

    ***

    A man raced through the crowd, desperately crying for his little girl. He pushed and shoved past onlookers as he sprinted toward Rockefeller Center. He had been ice-skating with his daughter there, and when taking of his skates, he had lost sight of her. She had been sitting right by his side and, having taken off her own skates, was looking innocently at the tall, gray skyscrapers. He turned to return the rented skates, and when he looked back, she had vanished. He had been aimlessly wandering the city for hours searching for her when he decided he would return to Rockefeller Center. The man had already lost his beloved wife in a car accident just two years before when he was at war in Iraq. It happened at Christmas time, and he had been unable to make it home for the holidays. The event transformed his life; Christmas time forever became a toil. He was not about to lose his daughter.

    Beads of sweat poured down the man’s face as he harvested all the strength he had left in his body to battle his way through the crowd. His heavy boots pounded fiercely on the pavement as he crossed busy intersections, nearly being crushed by several taxi cabs. The man shed his heavy overcoat as he ran, tossing it on the sidewalk. He focused his sharp, blue eyes ahead of him. Finally, after what seemed like years, he saw the bright and colorful glow of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. He had made it.

    When he finally arrived at the ice-skating rink, he noticed Santa Claus standing under the large, regal tree. The round man was holding a little girl in a velvety, red dress and painstakingly looking around the ice skating rink. He dashed across the rink toward Santa Claus. The girl saw her father approaching and cried out in overwhelming joy and relief. The round man carefully handed the girl to her father. He watched as the girl’s father hugged Rose with pure love and compassion. “Merry Christmas Rose…” he said, before disappearing into the night.


    And so Ladies and Gents that brings us to the end of our Christmas coverage. Again I'd like to thank HeirofAlexander for providing the coverage of the first 5 whilst I was slacking! The Tale of the Week has been running strongly recently, with high submissions and a diverse choice of tales - so with the dawn of the 170th+ contest now is the perfect time to start getting involved. Enjoy the rest of the issue, and here's to 2013.


    Coverage by Shankbot de Bodemloze and HeirofAlexander



    imb39 ...is my daddy!
    See AARtistry in action: Spite of Severus and Severus the God


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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37


    AAR Review Section

    ROMANI (A Historical Roman Campaign)
    An Europa Barbarorum AAR by EdwinMerit
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Hello people. Let me provide you with my first AAR review.

    So we will be talking about a rather unique AAR, which I found in the total war eras section. EdwinMerit, the author, has gone to write about something that any player of Europa Barbarorum would love to do when playing as the SPQR faction: go for completely accurate historical expansion and playing style with the campaign. Everything from the order of wars and battles to army composition and characters are made as accurate as possibly can be. This obviously means that an actual creative story plot doesn't exist, having been replaced by the historic line of events. Fans of the Roman republic will be enjoying this AAR more than those, who came looking for a set of interesting characters and their adventures.


    Each chapter has its own header image.

    The first thing that one can notice from this AAR is that it is picture heavy. Most updates have several images attached to them, and battles are usually represented with images with some image text with them. The size of the text paragraphs tends to vary, and they are often bigger when general events are being described, than with battles. On the other hand, the author also makes use of images not sourced from the game itself, such as maps, demonstration pictures and art depicting the time era. These help to increase the historical and documental feeling of the AAR. The off-game images were most impressively used in 9th chapter, where the author described an entire naval battle, using images taken from an animated battle map site. Descriptions of naval actions are rare in the AARs that use the older TW games, due to the lack of naval battle subsystem in them, which means that this AAR is very original with its updates. (Although it could be possible that some other AARs of older TW games have had naval battle descriptions) Refining of images is also done, though room for improvements is plenty: while most images are cropped and character names are replaced with those of historical figures and use of boxes, lines and arrows added with painting programs is also made of, some other images lack cropping, and many battle images have unit banners and green arrows under models visible. (although the former might not be an actual problem, seeing as they can do a lot to help recognize which units belong to which side) Still there are some very good images as well.


    The fallen Roman soldier of this opening image reveals immediately what is to come in the images respective update.

    The narrative style of the AAR is mostly neutral and descriptive, as if one was reading a mix of a history book and a novel. In the start the AAR had a dialogue between the senators discussing the political decisions on the Pyrrhic war, but conversations between characters don’t happen after this. While the author edits the character names in order to match the historical ones, the characters themselves do not gain much attention. Meanwhile, another impressive thing done by the author is the decision to start with and describe the Pyrrhic wars instead of starting from the mod start date that is 272 BC. The Pyrrhic wars serve as an excellent multi-chapter prologue to the AAR, as they explain a lot about the situation in which the SPQR starts at 272 BC. The author made use of an historical battle scenario from the mod to depict the war as well.


    The situation of Sicily before the siege of Argentum. The gradual progress of Roman expansion in the island is well represented with drawn maps like this one.

    So to conclude, this AAR is good read for anyone who has a thing for Rome and its legions. Although it is not meant to have a plot besides the historical timeline, the AAR would still benefit from more conversations between appearing characters. Few corrections with the images themselves would also improve the updates a lot. Currently the AAR is still going through the first Punic war, so if you wish to see how EdwinMerit has replicated the events so far and how he will do that to upcoming wars that Rome had to face, come to check and read.

    Review by The Kybrothilian


    The Four Brothers
    An SS6.4 England AAR by NEXUS12
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Story
    The story is based in England. Where the reader follows the story (At the beginning chapters) you follow the tale of the King and how he is neglecting his brother’s right to marriage. If his brother is to die heirless then only his children inherit the families’ estates.

    The plot of the story is well balanced on the Kings corruptness for power and his brother’s ignorance to the fact that the King wants him to die childless.

    The story is based on the conflicts between the brothers. One corrupt and powerful. The other old, frail, weak and ignorant.

    The in-depth of the characters is quite detailed though sometimes with a lack of facial features. But the emotions are strongly described. How King Henry is constantly worried that his brother will uncover the plot to make him die childless. His constant hatred for his brother is well presented on very good quality!

    NEXUS12 has done a very good job at describing the scene however, with a detailed introductory paragraph every chapter. Giving a small but detailed account on some events.

    Over all I think the plotline so far is well written, exciting, intriguing and well detailed.

    Writing
    NEXUS12 has done a superb job with the writing, written in third person and extravagantly detailed that I can picture every scene vividly before my eyes. There haven’t been any typos or grammatical errors that I have picked up on.

    But then again my grammar isn’t great so maybe I have missed a few.

    The writing in itself is detailed firmly and gives a detailed account on the events that happened. With each paragraph a new twist and turn to keep you guessing! With each battle so vivid you can picture the blood, gore, guts and sweat of the men. Each scene so mesmerizing that you cannot stop reading until it’s over.

    The writing design is fantastic, using a simple but suitable font and size. Perfectly readable and pleasant to look at! None of that hurting your eyes fonts. Though maybe a font like Book Antique would be more suitable but that lies in personal opinion.

    The story flows elegantly. Each scene leads to the next and each scene is better and more detailed then the last!

    Overall NEXUS12 has made a very well written AAR.

    Presentation
    The quality of the pictures is quite alright. Once you get passed the fact of the HUD/UI showing. But that is only there for the first few chapters. Battles have really good picture quality. Giving you a detailed oversees of what the soldiers are doing. Most/all pictures of battle have no green circles around the soldiers, giving it a more realistic feel and not reminding us that we are reading of a game.

    The Campaign pictures give a good overview of what he is doing. Whether diplomacy, laying siege or getting ambushed.

    The pictures are well taken, some close up for a good look at archers firing and horses charging. Others giving you a full screen overview of the conflicts.

    Overall the pictures are well detailed and good quality.

    Verdict
    Overall it is a thoroughly enjoyable read! A brilliantly wrote AAR with fantastic pictures. True some UI problems but we can overlook that. Besides it’s the quality of the writing you should be looking for (Or do you guys just look at the pictures )

    Out of ten I give four brothers a nine, simply because of the UI. Otherwise it is a well written AAR. The Writer deserves some more views! We all know that even criticism helps writers, as long as they get some feedback on what they are doing right or wrong. NEXUS12 is a great writer! He needs some well deserved recognition and some well deserved rep!

    If you want to read a thrilling English AAR, with very detailed characters, scenes and some well written story/plot then NEXUS12’s Four Brothers is for YOU!

    Review by Tigellinus


    In the Holy Lands
    An SS6.4 Crusader States AAR by Strengelicher
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    It is no wonder that any AAR focusing on the Holy Land tends to captivate the readers' imagination, as the great realm of Outremer was one of the ultimate theaters of war in human history. Picking the Crusader States in an MTW2 AAR certainly promises a lot of warmongering, and Strengelicher's campaign choices (Stainless Steel, vh/vh with BGR) clearly indicate that he is serious about putting a challenge in front of himself, not only in writing (this is his first AAR) but in playing the game as well.

    He starts with a clear opening post on the campaign and rules and moves on to introduce the faction, the units and the characters. Even though I am familiar with the Crusader States, I really liked how this context was provided, because unless the plot requires to withhold certain information, this is the best way to bring the reader up to speed. The one thing I would have added was a bit more on BGR's unique features, because those are really unique and have a significant impact on how the campaign plays out. But Strengelicher does mention some of these as the campaign goes on, so that is fine.

    The narrative is told in first person using the diary of Prince Alphonse, the faction heir of the Crusader States. This is occasionally interrupted by letters of battle reports to him from his father and others, also in first person. Strengelicher's writing is excellent, with good dialogs and the right amount of immersion. For example, the early alliance with the Fatimids via Yolanda's escapade is a gem, and sets up a subsequent important (and also well written) event. The same is true for the fate of Gaza which is used to describe the protagonist and another main character in greater details. And what I particularly liked were the small additions like this.

    The city of Acre was quiet as well – the stream of pilgrims had subsided after the beginning of the war, and business for the townspeople was slow.
    Such parts seemingly do not advance the story or add to character development, but are invaluable for creating immersion in a simple and elegant way. Also, they help to keep the narrative from speeding up which is very important to tell a story - it is not just about jumping from battle to battle.

    It is obvious for me that the writing talent is here, so what I would suggest as improvements are rather technical in nature. The most important is that since everything is written in first person, it would be useful to have some formatting difference between the protagonist's own narrative and the letters he reads, particularly because the letters carry as much action as the prince's own experiences. Sometimes the AAR seems to have a number of protagonists with equal weight, which is of course fine, but if all the narratives are in first person certain structural distinctions have to be made. These may be a different font, a spoiler, or editing (separating updates according to who speaks about the action). Apart from making it easier to the reader to follow, this would also serve the purpose of keeping the prince in the center of the story, even if it's his father or one of the generals that tell the battle narrative.

    The battles are action packed and well written. In the pre-battle army description I could see the style of Skantarios who is listed in the OP as a source of inspiration. There are probably fewer than average battle pictures, but it's still plenty to tell what is going on. The pictures are solid, and my minor critique here is consistency: some of them are cropped for UI and others are not. Either choice is perfectly fine as long as it does not switch back and forth. (The occasional grey arrows should not be there though.) However, what I absolutely loved was the use of campaign pictures. There are many and they perfectly complement the narrative. This is another excellent tool to keep the reader informed. Since the Crusader States territory is fairly small, it is possible to show most of it in one picture which opens up an opportunity to see the whole campaign theatre. Therefore the written narrative can focus on the key action (General X is advancing against Enemy City X), while the campaign pictures can also hint several other enemy armies moving around. These pictures have the same inconsistency about editing out the UI, but it's much less noticeable here, because campaign pictures provide less immersion than battle pictures.

    Spoiler for The Whole Realm in one picture (shame about the UI)


    Spoiler for An Atmospheric Battle Picture


    At the time of writing, Strengelicher's AAR was still at the early stage, so it was relatively easy to catch up with the story. He made it clear that updates would not come every week, but it does not take anything away from the experience. This AAR showcases very high quality writing skills, good storytelling and interesting characters, and I am sure that as we move on it would bring more great adventures. It's not just another crusader story, but a well paced, balanced AAR with a lot of potential to be a story to remember just as much as we remember the crusades themselves.

    Review by Radzeer


    The Kingdom of Ionia - A Roman Reinterpretation of the Crusades
    A Roma Surrectum 2 AAR by chaplain118
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    A good story is a joy to read. It might never be a favorite, but there will always be fond memories of the tale that kept you entertained for those uneventful hours. Now a great story is one that gives you chills reading it. The whistle of the wind and the swirling of the dust can almost be heard, as though it is just out of reach.

    Chaplain’s ARR is about the crusades. Now before everyone starts thinking that it is another Christian/Muslim holy lands fight to the death story, I must tell you to keep reading. The story centers on the Kingdom of Ionia, a small Roman colony that has been forgotten by the regular citizens of Rome. The AAR starts off with introducing the reader to Decimus, the Coward King. As the story progresses, it will tell you about many people who all have their own plots, which are all just as interesting as the last.


    When I first read about the Coward King, standing on the walls of the city, I was sure it was going to be a great story. It felt almost as if I was on the wall next to him, staring out into the gloom. Chaplain is a very talented writer who can bring scenes to life and give characters flesh and blood. Even the tiniest details, that if were absent would go unnoticed; completely alter how the story is imagined in the brain.

    Dawn gave birth to a morning made red from the dust of the marching Greeks. The sun dimmed to a small red orb dangling precipitously over distant plains. Upon the walls of Ephesos, the Coward King stood against the parapet, his purple cloak bordered with threads of gold enveloping him and barely brushing against the stony surface of the high walls. He was sleep-deprived, having stayed up endless nights listening to the dull thudding noise of the Greek axes as they hammered away at the forests surrounding Ephesos to construct their engines. Adjusting his aged cuirass, the single piece of armor left to him by his father, the Coward King sighed at the sight. His men could hardly be described as adequately armed, and his army existed only on paper. The standards under which each attaché marched under were woefully depleted from the half-year siege. The Greeks were approaching with their siege engines—a ram, a tower, and a single sap point from which their men labored like moles to undermine the walls. The dust swirled around the creaking siege tower that wobbled as it rolled towards the walls and for a brief moment, the Coward King prayed that the tower would topple on its own.
    Not only is Chaplain’s writing superb, but so too are the supplements to the tale. The pictures are splendid, but are neither too much nor too little. As a little intro to each new chapter the author also has faux archaeology excerpts to give sort of a mystery to the upcoming update. Shoot, it’s realistic enough I didn’t even know it was fake for some time!

    … Our first records of a religious factor in the conflicts that surrounds this Kingdom of Ionia lies in a fragment found inscribed upon a beautifully preserved metal clasp near where the old harbor of Ephesus used to be.

    The fragment reads, and translated here to the best of abilities: “pilgrimage to […] Ionia with blessings […] Maximus for the defense […] Kingdom […] absolution”

    If the rest of this fragment could be found and deciphered, then what we have discovered here would have been conclusive proof that Roman religion, far from being a relatively loose collection of different beliefs amalgamated together, was a more dogma-based doctrine not dissimilar to that of major monotheistic religions of the Middle Ages. Furthermore, it would suggest that the concept of Roman religion that many academics hold may have been an incorrect assumption and that Romans did not actually adopt their enemies’ religions to help facilitate a smooth transitioning period. In fact, the unveiling of this information could be crucial in explaining several oddities in Roman conquest history such as the brutal sacking of Corinth, the genocidal campaign waged in Spain and Gaul, the utter repugnance at the eastern religions, and the fierce persecution of Christians.

    Excerpt from “Forgotten History of the Ionian Coast” by C. Krieger Ph.D and J. Connelly Ph.D
    The drawbacks are few and tiny. Every once in a while the crusade theme didn’t seem to fit to well with the setting and left me with questions over what the crusade was actually even for. Also during battles the point of view can suddenly change, although the only time it was actually a problem was when I wasn’t paying attention well enough.

    All in all this AAR is very well written out, detailed, and entertaining. It has somewhere around 40 chapters, so for the avid reader this will be a treat to savor and relish. I highly recommend those who have yet to read it and maybe even a reread for those who have.

    Review by The Forgotten


    Work Critiques Section (Scriptorium Writing Competition Special)

    This time, the Work Critiques section is given over entirely to coverage of the Scriptorium Summer Writing Competition. There was a wonderfully diverse set of entries, ranging from essays to historical fiction to full-out fantasy, and I think the winners (reviewed below) prove that there really is no such thing as a "standard" piece.

    3rd Place: Unnamed
    A Poem by Sanderlicious
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    In third place for this year's Writing Competition was Sanderlicious with his well-crafted little poem. It is about someone's voyage to a new world and what they expect, what they fear, and what they feel. It is divided into 3 stanzas, the first of which follows a classic rhyme scheme of AABBC which suggests the author wanted to portray the perfection of what the subject is thinking about this new world. The alliteration of the letter 's' in the first line sets a nice beat for the rest of the stanza, complemented nicely by the sudden ending which, whilst defined as "A perfect place", gives an incline that things aren't all as they seen.

    In the second stanza the coherent scheme that was found previously has gone, replaced by a more subtle rhythm. Implied by this is the uncertainty maybe the subject is facing - by painting their own world they are countering the feelings they have on some level that it won't be as good as first envisaged. It accumulates in the third stanza, switching back to that AABBC rhyming pattern as the subject reflects on the longer journey, using his imagination to be occupied. The final sentence "When once my mind’s designs might be realized." implies the second stanza was imagined, evident by the changed pattern, and provides further doubt as to this new world will be as expected.

    However, this is only my view. It is an excellent poem which I hope you enjoy reading and let us know your thoughts on it, and why you think the author has used certain techniques. I'll leave you with the thought that the author maybe be hinting the subject is unstable. His mind differs greatly from his reality, and he says that "no earthly lines constrict my designs"... well how can something that breaks the earth's 'rules' exist outside our mind, and be subject to gods blessing as well?

    Review by Shankbot de Bodemloze


    2nd Place: A Midnight Meeting
    A Story by Diamat
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Before proceeding with the review, I would like to take this time to extend my congratulations to all of the winners of this years competition; your effort is commendable. Now, switching gears here slightly, I have produced a review of Diamat’s second place entry, ‘A Midnight Meeting’, to present to you. It is a philosophical tale set sometime during the Napoleonic Wars, and though I would not quite deem it a story of historical fiction, the author certainly employs elements from that genre and applies them to his work.

    The plot of the story, and this is something that I really personally appreciate, is almost non-existent. With the exception of a few key moments, the focus on the story is effectively on an idea, rather than on an action where something ostensibly is supposed to happen but nothing really does. Here the author presents a group of soldiers from, presumably, competing nationalities within the German Confederation, and places them around a campsite where their discussion increasingly turns to nationalism, language, and the German identity. Interestingly, a first person-narrator is employed, which, given the context and thematic implications of the story, gives this story a level of personal authenticity that certainly warrants the use ‘I’ and ‘we’ as a means of examining the differences (if indeed any such differences exist) between a Prussian or a Saxon or any other of the German principalities.

    One of the things I think the author does well is that he establishes the emotional catalyst for the troops’ decision to rebel against their French officers early on in the piece. They feel ashamed and taken advantage of by the unified and powerful French, yet I am conflicted here because I’m not sure the reasoning behind their willingness to revolt is fully explored beyond being told that the French had presumably said or done something else to warrant: ‘Thus were fueled the flames that were already burning hot’; but, something about the mundaneness of the statement makes it really work here, though something needs to be mentioned about the other offences the French have done unto the Germans, otherwise it makes the Germans look petty.

    Something that I’m not sure works for me in this story, but at the same time is thematically crucial, is how the author uses language in the piece. For example: at the beginning of the story a Frenchmen enters the tent where the German soldiers are discussing various items of importance, and they greet him, in French: ‘bonsoir’; however, the Frenchmen answers them in English, and then reverts back to French when describing the Germans. Obviously the author chose to do this so that the dialogue would be readily comprehendible to those reading the piece, but in doing so he greatly diminished the rhetorical affect of the piece. While I personally think that the story would have been more interesting if all the languages had been utilized, a simple remedy would have been to write everything in English and then said, in the pivotal spots, that the language being spoken was French or German, etc. – it came across as somewhat ironic – off – that a Frenchman spoke German and a German spoke French and then they both spoke English for the majority of the piece. As I hinted at a moment ago, an all or nothing approach would probably be best here.

    I also need to mention (given my username ) that a piece concerned with German nationalism might be better served by quoting a German author rather than Shakespeare. But, you know, now that I mention it I almost wonder whether or not extending the cultural diversity of the piece to England is such a bad thing. It’s hard to go wrong with Shakespeare.

    Review by Shakespeare


    Winner: The post Justinian period and its Legacy
    An essay by Pompeius Magnus
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The first word I think most of us uttered once seeing the winner of the Scriptorium Summer Writing Competition, is “wow!”. The amount of work the author has gone through to make this brilliant piece of non-fiction is clearly shown through his elaborate use of resources, detailed maps, amazing layout and breathtaking factual writing.

    In this review I will not go into the historical aspect of his writing, as I now understand none can do that better than Pompeius Magnus himself. I will limit myself to reviewing the writing style, the imagery and general impressions. I hope you’ll enjoy.

    First off, this magnificent work of writing is long. Really long. Really, really long. Yeah, you probably get it now. It has a tremendous amount of research gone for it. So if you are one of those TLDR people who quickly shut the window whenever you see a huge block of writing, this probably isn’t for you. However, if you enjoy good writing and like to learn new things (and you will learn new things, even if you thought you understood this period already) – then this is definitely the stuff!

    The author uses maps he has made himself, they are really good and as they are his own creation then he can customise them specifically to the subjects under discussion. Cyprus, Malta and Mallorca are the islands Pompeius Magnus has made maps of, very accurate and neat as well. He also includes photography taken by him of various locations and artifacts. Yes, Pompeius Magnus has actually been to the islands in person. Kudos for dedication! Also included are ancient pieces of art with soldiers brandishing weapons.

    The Post Justinian Period and its Legacy reminds me in several ways of writing of some of the many other historical essays and documents I have read. The sentences are to the point, the detail is strictly historical (no flowery descriptions here) and it uses a great deal of more advanced words that are perhaps not too common when practicing modern day English. And I like it all!

    Pompeius Magnus also uses Greek in his writing. To be honest it is all like Greek to me, but it is possible to understand somewhat by the text beneath. It certainly adds a flavor to the writing that it would, in my opinion, lack if it had been an all English work. There is also some German used.

    Here are a couple of quotes to give you a small taste of what the writing is like, so you can make an opinion for yourself.

    Despite any doubts regarding the date it seems clear now that there was indeed a garrison serving under the δρουγγάριοςκαιαρχων- suggesting a troop strength of about 1,000 men. All other numerical examples up to 3000 men are in my opinion possible as well after north africa was completely lost.
    Malta, initially a small and possibly insignificant island. But as we shall see, this pearl of the Mediterranean has its right to exist in the list of important Byzantine outposts. The domination of New Rome lasted over 300 years and thus represents a longer period than the occupation of the Arabs or any other country.
    There you have it, champs! My view on this, as I believe I have expressed throughout the article is that this is a work worthy of extended study, both for expanding your knowledge and for demonstrating a different sort of writing to what we are used to at TWC. If it doesn't completely overwhelm you then perhaps it will provide you with the inspiration to embark upon some significant project of your own.

    Review by HeirofAlexander


    Librarian's Choice: The People of the Pillars: Broken Torch
    A Story by Ngugi
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Introduction
    Hello, folk of TWCenter! I am an intern at the Critic’s Quill and this is my first piece. This is a review of the Ngugi's entry to the Summer Scriptorium writing competition.

    My choice
    I have chosen to review this story, because it really appealed to me. Right from the beginning I felt sucked into the story. I could feel the tension like a physical thing, and it didn't let up at all as the story progressed. When I was done reading I still wanted more, but there weren’t any words left. Now this may sound like I'm a bit crazy, but hopefully you will understand better when you’ve read this review.

    The story
    Ngugi tells us about the People of the Pillars, an ancient race of men living on the steppe. They are struggling to survive, for the Enemy of Old is preying on them, and the only thing protecting them is the light. After a long struggle with many sacrifices, the People of the Pillars finally manage to get away. They thrive in the new lands they have discovered, and hundreds of years later a professional army of People of the Pillars returns to the dreaded steppes across the Danilo river. One of the greatest military leaders of the People goes across the river himself, to end the Enemy of Old (the antagonist of this story) once and for all. In just five chapters, we learn about the People of the Pillars, their motivation and their culture. We see how they turn from a poor agricultural people into technologically advanced civilization up to the point of gunpowder.

    The writing
    Ngugi does a good job at using simple yet descriptive words, which ensures the story flows and is easy to read. The sentences are of medium length, with logical endings. The good use of punctuation makes sure you don’t lose track of what’s happening.
    Ngugi’s writing style is quite detailed, as shown by this representative sentence;
    “The only light on the steppe as heavy, dark clouds filled the night sky, dragged along by a steady wind from the east.”
    It’s this kind of writing that really grabs me, and carries me into the story.

    The story is built up in an accomplished manner. The very first sentences of the story make an immediate impact:
    “”You shall not touch my people!”

    Rednan's voice rang out over the night steppe. The voice trembled as from ice within his soul but the burning torch made his skin retract on the scorched arms and hands.”
    The tension that pervades the story is there from the start, and I was left in no doubt that I had entered a whole different world from the one I knew. Now this might leave the reader briefly confused as in “What on earth am I reading?”, but soon all becomes clear and the situation is explained organically within the story, without recourse to external narration. The story continues fluidly, and I hardly even noticed that Ngugi was explaining what is going on.

    I was also impressed by Ngugi’s ability to think up a whole people, complete with their legacy and customs, gods, jobs. Even a song of their people, which once again shows how the People of the Pillars are suffering.

    "Moon, oh moon, why can't we you see?
    Moon, oh moon, when dire our need be
    Moon, oh moon, dark and shadow we fear
    Moon, oh moon, the night peace they tear
    Moon, oh moon, sun's brother, People's friend
    Moon, oh moon, harsh away the darkness send
    Panion, mother of the stars, wake up thy son
    Panion of the stars, do not forget or shun
    Panion mother, what have we done?"
    The writer sketches perfectly the pain people are in on several occasions.

    The turpitude of the Enemy suddenly tore the silence apart behind the light's edge. A fool who had not left the fields or the river or the temple in time. Her poor scream echoed.

    Rednan's tears evaporated on his chin. At the loud scream the flames of the torch rose in challenge, Rednan thanked it silently with cracked, bloody lips while he realized that the last of his hair on his body was lost and only ash covered his head and shoulders.

    The torch would not let the Enemy come close to the people whom sought safety in the camp. It would keep himself up there on the pillar, whatever remained of him when the night ended.

    His slowly boiling, chaotic mind prayed for a short night. The Enemy promised that with its presence it would not be so.

    Rednan continued with his dry, cracked chant while the tongue thickened in his mouth.
    I could really feel for Rednan at that point, even though I have never personally felt flames burning away all of my hair.

    The insight crushed his chest, there was the obvious sound of something walking trough the grass in the dark just outside his range of sight, then a hasty shadow against the outer wall of fire, something that almost resembled heavy purrs from a cat. It circled him, he turned around on the spot, trying to catch It.

    ”Why did I volunteer for this crap? Oh gods, my family...”

    Carpenter's scream echoed into the night.
    Carpenter is royally ed at that point, and he knows it. Even though his words were just one small sentence, It had a profound impact on me.

    I have to add a bit of criticism though; The font. It was the standard font, and although okay, a bit boring in my opinion. Also, everything is in the same font. It might have added to the readability if the speech had been made Cursive, or A different color than the rest of the text. Also, maybe the paragraphs could have been made a bit shorter, to make sure there’s no “Wall of text” on your screen. An example:
    Suddenly the wind eased so that the night became utterly still, but not quiet because there were distant rumble from thunder. The cow bellowed.
    ”A storm would destroy everything,. We would miss It coming” Marion sighted. He moved his tall body, strong as a slender mountain lion, through the bunker opening to get a better view. His legs took him up in front of the bunker so he stood inside the circle of the trench.
    The steppe was all nothing beside the fire in the centre of the trench circle and the distant rim of the blue shaded horizon in the west. He made an evaluation.
    Perhaps he had misjudged everything? Perhaps It was not in these part on the realm at all? If so it was dumb to only allow so few soldiers to join him and force the others away. Perhaps the legends claiming It could and would find anybody in the night not protected by light were untrue so that they and the cow would not work as bait? Or, perhaps everybody gone crazy and there was no Enemy at all?
    The cow was silent and the grass sounded soft in an increased wind.
    Had Marion seen himself from the outside had he considered him speeded and disjointed where he wiggled in a circle but he felt sharp and calm. Perhaps he should call it and hurry back to his army he sent up the valleys, past the Danilo river? It suddenly felt embarrassing that he, the renowned Talafeon, had fallen victim to an outburst of some children tales superstition. Either way it was wrong to risk his soldiers like this!
    ”Ranker Ynn!” he shouted. ”We will go home, this is just dumb.”
    A distant flash made the night slightly brighter and then it was apparent that next to the cow a mighty black shape towered.
    Every vein till the core of his bone froze to ice. It was something there, It was there, only five hundred steps away in the middle of the circle. It was huge, and it had been all dead quiet. How on Earth could it? What was it...? Suddenly the marshal who was renowned for taking head in charges was all out of power, his legs trembled under him.
    ”What? What did you say Marshal?”
    Ynns voice broke the momentum, she cried from his left and he just had the time to respond ”Fire! It is here! Fire!” before there was a terrible rumble. The Enemy acted directly it seemed and the moment later there was a big thud when the foe landed. ”Fire” he screamed. ”Fire!” First now Marions senses awoke but with a great force he flew trough the air.
    There was a horrible scream of pain throughout the night.
    A passage as daunting as this might discourage some potential readers.

    Conclusion
    The story is well thought-out, well-written, and I have very little criticism to add. I can definitely see why this story has been crowned Librarian’s Choice in the writing competition. If you can spare fifteen minutes of your time, I heartily recommend reading it.

    Short interview with Ngugi
    -What inspired you to write this story?

    -Why the People of the Pillars? What made you write about them?

    -Did you use real-life influences to shape the story?


    The two first part, about Rednan and the torch and Haijon and Marion I wrote back in 2002 and took my inspiration from the fascination humanity has for ancient constructions, as well as the story about Moses and the brass snake from the Bible, about how serpents bit the Israelites but Moses made a snake out of brass upon a pole and those who looked at it was saved from mortal poisoning.

    These two melted together in my head into chapter 1 and 2.

    The Enemy? Can honestly not recall fully, but would say it grown out of my childhood fears for the bear Akakabuto in the anime Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin, werewolves and other man vs dubious natural challenges such as the shark in Jaws, dinosaurs in Jurassic Park or Alien in the 1979 film.

    In 2005 I made a "in-medias-res-quel", a story about how the Iron-folk in exile crossed the mountains in the east and entered the land of the Pillars (where they later became the pelans and are the ancestors of Marion and his folk).

    On one hand it took its inspiration from folk sagas of the medieval time like the islandic sagas (though in my own style) and on the other hand I love the story about the ghost ship Mary Celeste, that was found 1872 empty at sea, with breakfast at the table and no signs of issues but the crew lost.

    It's not included though, as it's very different in style and never was intended as part of the short story but rather a part of history retold in this culture.

    First in 2010 I think it was I came up with the ending for the two first parts, once I almost had concluded it would end there (to those who read its dismay haha).

    But I knew I did not want to write fantasy in the expected generic way, and in such the logical conclusion would been "Oh, Evil is coming back. Let's go find an aaaancient artifact and save it all".

    I concluded I was much more in line with the later 19th century and early 20th century culture and sci-fi where the attitude was that by technological advancement humanity would be able to overcome all obstacles (Jules Verne’s books are good examples with space ships and submarines etc).

    The first text about Marion refered to him being feared for his skill with the bayonet and that really opened my mind, it was not written with the intention that they used gunpowder weapons, honestly I did not consider the arms very much at all, but suddenly it was clear to me that a modern man would try to meet opposition with all might that could be mustered, realism and not magic - and that was how he would try to light up the night! And knowing that I finally decided that I would write the latter part of the short story, which I had never made up my mind on until that point.

    Then I had longed to put man against beast and 'in modern time', but I wanted to make it unclear about what they face.

    In the future I will probably take it ever longer, but in the case with The Pillar People it was enough for the persons to simply be 'ambiguous witnesses' and while you never see the Enemy for real it's a mortal danger. Inspiration to this is how I dislike when a story reveals to much (and most do, in thrillers and action, too many to name!) and a book named The Park is Mine about a Vietnam veteran who alone occupies Central Park in NY [sic!]. To manage he takes drugs to not sleep but it screws him up more and more till he believes he's back in 'Nam.

    Last there was my interest in writing action, from a technical authors point of view. I consider myself stable when it comes to dialog and environments as a rule but I search for practice and had recently read both the original Conan short stories and The Bourne Identity (from the 1970’s) who both are very good in this area (if not in many others haha).


    Many thanks to Ngugi.

    Review by Adamat


    Article Section

    When Life Gives You Lemons
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Or in our case, when AI throws you a curve ball. Yes, that is right it has happened to all of us, we have all been bombarded by an unexpected cruel twist of fate of the game killing a character that was essential to the plot and moving it forward, or doing something so bizarre that we really are lost for words - but hey after cursing the AI for uncounted hours we learn how to deal with it. That is what separates the good writers from the great. It is not what we do, but how we deal with what has been done - now, see, couldn't a wise person living hundreds of years ago have said that?

    Death - "Whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you stronger"

    The most major thing us as AAR writers face is the death of a character through either a battle or some other sneaky AI mechanism we have no idea about. I remember back in the early stages of my AAR the heir died in a battle, whilst I was in the process of writing, so you can imagine the mayhem that caused, and yeah I wasn't too happy either. Another time Eustace was fighting and got killed, although I still won the battle - so I just reloaded and auto-resolved it to keep him alive.

    So what do we do when this catastrophic event happens? There are many paths to take, all with different consequences:

    Restart, reload, rewrite - "You are the master of your own fate"
    The first, most obvious, is just to write it off as a failure, re-load, and re-write. This allows you to start again as to try and avoid the problem, however if you write-as-you-play like me then this isn't a very good choice. Of course if you haven't saved in a while then you A.) Are very stupid and B.) Need to start saving... In my view this is almost the cowards way out (although I have done it numerous times) as I think the best writer's will do something creative with what they are given, make up a surprise ambush etc. This would make for a thrilling read, and it'd be a very unexpected twist for your readers as you yourself didn't plan for it to happen! Again, though, if it is your main character then I'd advise you think about it a lot before taking said course of action.

    Pretend it never happend - "Ignorance is bliss"
    Yes, you are hearing me right - continue the game as you would even though your character is dead. The readers don't have to know, and you don't have to include pictures of him/her, heck you could sue older ones but remove the traits/age section. This is, surprisingly, the least disruptive in terms of the writing, as you can just keep moving it forward until a more convenient place of death - of course you could be really clever and save the death notification pic that appears until a time when you need it. Some of the more crazy of you may indeed go for keeping him alive in the story until the end, ignoring the death completely! Whilst in the short-run this may seem the best course of action, you may find it difficult to keep getting inspiration for the rest of the story.

    Start-over - "The best generals know when to retreat"
    This is a good step if your AAR is in the early stages and you really want to surprise you audience. You simply kill off the character in the story, and bring the focus onto someone else thereby allowing you to move on easily enough without a lot of other stuff to be done. Heck it could even provide that bit of inspiration or another plot line about what happens after their death (useful if your character is a King, for example). Of course the further into the story you are, the more risky the consequences for both the game and you you if the readers have developed a certain fondness for your character.

    Deal with it - "Life's to short to look back"
    And finally we have just deal with it. Let it be, let it be, let it be speaking words word of wisdom let it be.... oops got carried away there. Here you simply keep calm and carry on, your story that is. Take the death in your stride and include it into the plot to see what happens. This technique is doable if you are organised are ahead in-game compared to where you are in the AAR as you can then make the event fit in more evenly, you may even convince some people the character was killed on purpose!

    So to conclude there are a bucket full of things you can do, and not all of them listed here, but what you do will depend on you, your writing, your story, your game - after all it is your AAR. As a wise man once said, we don't have to take responsibility for our actions, but just for the consequences of them.

    The AI - "For only those expecting nothing can surely never be faced with the unexpected"

    Especially in the older games the AI has a knack for not doing what you want, or doing something you have no idea how to deal with. For example Norway could conquer the Holy Roman Empire, a Crusade could be called against France, Scotland could beat England... the factions might go in the opposite direction to what you expected - all of these instances can cause an AAR focusing on history a lot of trouble, or the enemy you have been building up to face in the ultimate showdown be nothing more than a one province whelp.

    Below are a few sneaky tricks you can use to help counter (or prevent) such derailings:

    Custom Battles - "Ask and thou shall receive"
    This is a great way to fill out a couple of chapters, especially if nothing much much is going on in your campaign. During my war with France most of the battles were custom ones, simply because France didn't have any armies! You can set up one of these between as many factions as you like and have troops set up that you might not have available in your campaign. Also if you want a particular weather/time of day to fit a dramatic chapter then this is a perfect way to get what you needed.

    Modding - "Change is the law of life"
    A technique that I've yet to explore, but one I've heard is very effective and successful. Yes it is hard work, but you can in theory tailor-make the game to suit your AAR. For example lets say you want it to move at a slower pace? Then change the turn lengths. You want France to start with another region? Add it in to the text files. Maybe you even want to create a civil war - the pinnacle of AAR modding? The go for it, there really isn't much stopping you here and TWC has plenty well written tutorials to help you through.

    Helping a Friend - "What goes around comes around"
    My final technique - and only for the older games - use the game "cheat" engine to a variety of effects. Lets say you want a certain faction to have an army in a certain place? Well press the game console key and type it in, if you are feeling generous you may want to add some more money to your opponents so they present more of a challenge. What is great about this is it is a quick, and relatively easy, way to give the AI that helping hand it often needs to get the ball rolling. You can add traits, create units, make money, produce characters - simple little things that can add that extra bit of punch to your game.

    And there you go folks, you should now be prepared to face anything the game throws at you - you'll be mastering it in no time! If you have any other methods you think could be added please give me a shout and I'll make sure to come up with a Part 2 if enough are sent in, or if I can think of a few more! Enjoy the rest of the issue.

    By Shankbot de Bodemloze


    The Role of Historical Research in Writing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The inspiration for writing this article has been drawn from my series of narrative introductions designed specifically for the latest version of the Broken Crescent mod. Before accepting this task I had never imagined myself delving into the history of the Middle East around the time of the Third Crusade, in an attempt to uncover informations about the major happenings of the day or the significant number of omnipotent overlords which ruled their lands with an iron fist. The most tremendous challenge however was to reproduce, as faithful as possible, the various literary and rhetoric styles in use during the second half of the XII century across the Eastern areas, spanning from Constantinople all the way to the gates of India. Whether I’ve succeded or not, the players will soon have the opportunity to evaluate my efforts, but one thing is certain. Attempting to recreate the atmosphere of the period wouldn’t have been possible at all without the aid of a thoroughly performed historical research, considering that the medieval history of the Middle East isn’t my strongest point. After this experience, I’m really firm in my belief that writing a historical work concerning any period in history is definitely doable, even if the author isn’t quite the expert in that field, as long as he/she is willing to address the situation by consulting a sufficient number of sources, for a better understanding of the period.

    Most of the guidelines mentioned in his article are aimed not only at our talented creative writers out there, but also at our host of AARtists, the backbone of TWC’s writing community. Some of the most known AARs have always managed to stand out from the crowd by choosing to incorporate other historical elements besides those provided by the standard campaigns.

    So what does historical research mean? It could very well be a compulsory set of procedures which must be performed in order to collect a substantial amount of historical information, allowing us eventually to imbue our writings with a sufficient dosage of authenticity. As technical (or tedious) as it might sound, the truth is not far. The most impatient author would probably want to skip the boring part and proceed to write the actual story instead of searching through some dusty old library. However, in that case, I do hope that the author is well prepared to assume the inherent risks. Most of the historical fiction fans would not absolve the author if they were to stumble across some blatant mistakes while reading the text. Any self-respecting writer with a penchant for history knows that the path to success can only be achieved through a proper employment of historical research, one of the main ingredients when it comes to writing historical work of fiction. In other words, the writer must ensure that he has done his homework, taking all the safety precautions necessary before embarking on his literary journey. He should always keep in mind that, in the end, his work is like a puzzle built from a multitude of pieces; the fact that he didn’t neglected the historical researching aspect will guarantee that all these pieces will fit in seamlessly, especially those which are the fruits of his imagination.

    Since it was more than obvious, the first element to be taken into account is the historical age in which the action will take place, along with its specific set of parametres and limitations. Whether the story focuses on Ancient Rome, the Crusades or the Italian Renaissance, the most basic of all rules states that the writer must avoid at all costs mixing together characters who lived or events which occured at various points in history, in order to keep at bay any possible anachronistic effects which might appear, that is if he cares about the credibility of his work. Who honestly would want to read about the Roman legions getting vanquished by the merciless hordes of blood-thirsty Aztecs at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (that sounds like a Crusader Kings 2 scenario...), or Napoleon dying heroically in battle against the invading forces of Genghis-Khan in the year 1554, three years after he had conquered the Easter Island? Well, technically everything is possible, but then the writer is either a huge Dr. Who fan, or he enjoys foraying into the highly fictional realms of alternate history. Since alternate history is not the object of this article, I will not make any further references pertaining to that particular genre.

    Another vital aspect to be considered when choosing a particular period and place is that each epoch comes with its own baggage of mentalities and morals, and the writer must really understand some of the most basic aspects which had surrounded that age, ranging from religious, economic, social and even to judicial practices. I said judicial practices? Why not? Centering the story around a medieval judicial duel (or trial by combat), now that would be a great subject to write about, even as a short chapter in an AAR. Also, the multifaceted aspects of daily life shifted continuously throughout the history. Exposing one’s intimate parts in public was considered to be less offensive in Ancient Greece than, let’s say, during Cromwell’s rule in England. Also, urinating nowadays on the corridors of the Louvre Palace would probably earn you at least a night in arrest, and for a good reason I should add; the situation was totally different four hundred years ago, when proper bathrooms hadn’t been invented yet.

    That being said, let’s move on to the next stage, where the writer has already identified the historical period, and when he sometimes makes the mistake of believing that he possesses a fair amount of knowledge about the age and most of its inherent characteristics. This is the moment when the historical research must step in to counter any trace of superficiality which, in the long run, might affect the aforementioned element, the credibility factor. Historical research makes use of various sources, which in general can be grouped in two main categories: primary and secondary sources. The first category includes original materials and other first-hand accounts. Speaking from my own experience, the historical writer should always seek to obtain access to as many such sources as possible. Each primary source, no matter how small or insignificant, will always hold inside a glimpse of the past. The most credible settings are built upon this particular type of sources because most of the time they can provide unique and undeniable accounts about everyday life (language, manners, customs, fashion) during a certain period in history. I should mention here letters, diaries, memoirs, prints, paintings, diverse treaties, official records, notes and even music. The primary sources are the ones which, in my opinion, tend to be the most interesting ones since they deal with the more inconspicuous aspects of history, which usually are reserved mostly for the professional historians or diehard history fans. The secondary sources are generally available informations about any given subject, ranging from various studies, all sorts of history books (more or less biased) up to Internet sites and other modern means of communication. I’m somewhat against using movies as references but that’s probably just me being a bit too overzealous. As a side note, I’m convinced most of us here are well acquainted with the Viking storyline from the 13th Warrior movie but how many did notice the 16th century conquistador helmet and breastplate used constantly in battle by one of the main characters? Sadly, accuracy in movies isn’t an important goal not even today, despite the technical advancements, as we all know. That’s only one of the reasons why a book will always win over its cinematographic counterpart, mainly because it offers each reader the possibility of recreating an imaginary universe which may vary from individual to individual, while a movie delivers only the director’s version of the story, which most of the time doesn’t meet our more demanding expectations.

    The historical writer must always remember that the details he amassed have limited appeal only, and, at the same time, their role is supportive in essence. An overabundance of details would most certainly detract our attention from the literary aspects to the more historical ones. After all, the reader doesn’t necessarily read the text for its plethora of historic details, but rather for the story itself.

    Original characters or historical counterparts? Which kind of characters should the author use in his story? Actually, both of them. The former category tends to be the most frequently used option because it offers a greater freedom of improvisation; it’s probably the best suited option for main characters. Molding an original character from scratch can be performed in two ways: either by coming up with a brand new character, or by borrowing different traits (or even names) from various individuals which usually existed during the set period. The latter category is more restrictive, since it forces the author to be familiar with the personal characteristics for each of his historical personages, which most of the time they act as secondary characters. The presence, or at least the very mention of such characters, is what confers authenticity to the story, placing it into the historical fiction genre.

    A story doesn’t live only through its characters. It strongly needs a credible setting, constructed from elements which need to fit perfectly to that age. The most powerful example I can think of right now comes from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, an unparalleled example of literary mastery – we can almost see and touch the old streets of Paris, and to some extent even smell the stench of dead across the battlefield of Waterloo, which gets ressurected under our very own eyes, fifty years after the actual event. Again, it’s up to the writer to investigate or at least be aware of architectural variations, the urban and rural layouts of the areas in which the story takes place, distances between specific settlements, and so forth.

    Another important element, which should definitely not be overlooked in the process, is the correct use of the language of the day, in all its aspects. The way people addressed to each other was quite distinct during almost each age; at the same time, the lower classes and the highborns were kept appart not only by social barriers but also by linguistic rifts. As a non-native English speaker always struggling to maintain the illusion of a decent display of English, I find this part to be the most difficult one to achieve since not only that I must be careful to write my texts as correctly as possible, but I must also recreate the kind of language which was used during the chosen period. We no longer use the flowery speech of our ancestors who lived back in the 17th or the 18th century, for example. Words we make use of today had different meanings back then; other words became obsolete over the centuries – jollux (fat), kench (to laugh loudly), to jargogle (to confuse), to name just a few. I’m sure there are plenty of other such terms which remain unknown even to some native English speakers. Sure, using one or two such unusual words to construct the phrases might seem fun but the negative aspect is that such details would definitely bog down the text. As an example, I had to cancel my plans of doing an Ottoman Empire AAR because of that, knowing that my ardour for the excessive use of Turkish terms would probably ruin the readers’ enjoyment in the long run.

    As a conclusion, I should add that being good at history doesn’t automatically mean the story will be a success. In the end, the literary skill should always prevail over other aspects. The story and its characters are, and should always be, the most important requirements for any successful piece of writing. However, ignoring the historical facts can no longer be considered an excuse these days, when technology has become such an important part of our lives. In an age when everyone can easily have access to any kind of information, history is literally at the touch of a button.

    By Maximinus Thrax


    From the Editor's Desk


    I do hope that you have enjoyed the issue. If anything here has impressed you, then it is not my doing, it will be down to one of my splendid team of fearless reporters, critics and sages: Shankbot de Bodemloze, HeirofAlexander, Radzeer, Shakespeare, Maximinus Thrax, Adamat, Tigellinus, The Kybrothilian and The Forgotten. So, if you are impressed by their work then please, please send them some rep and/or make your feelings known in the thread below.

    If some of the stories you have read about here have inspired you then you ought to know that the Scriptorium Winter Writing Competition is currently running and is still taking entries right up to the end of February. Don't be shy, entries are anonymous (unless you end up as one of the winners of course) and you really can never tell what will take the fancy of the TWC readership. Indeed fame could be just around the corner!

    Finally, the Quill is always on the lookout for new talent. If you want to support the writing community at TWC with reviews or essays then please send me a PM. In the end it is your enthusiasm and drive which keeps TWC being a place worth visiting. So until next time, goodbye and happy reading.

    Juvenal



    If you find yourself at a loose end, then why not consider sampling some of the TWC publications or creative forums. It's easy, just click through the picture!


    Last edited by Juvenal; February 23, 2013 at 05:29 AM.
    imb39 ...is my daddy!
    See AARtistry in action: Spite of Severus and Severus the God


  3. #3
    Shankbot de Bodemloze's Avatar From the Writers Study!
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

    Woo! It is finally here!

    Great work everyone, and I hope you guys enjoy it.

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    Adamat's Avatar Bokkenrijder
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

    Looks good, everyone!

    Son of Diamat

  5. #5
    Paragon's Avatar Sōkō no yari
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

    So does Strenge know he's getting reviewed or can I warn and congratule him on his thread.
    This is my Aragonese AAR, One Single Man

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  6. #6
    Juvenal's Avatar love your noggin
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

    Quote Originally Posted by Paragon View Post
    So does Strenge know he's getting reviewed or can I warn and congratule him on his thread.
    It is possible that he doesn't know yet, however it is my practice to inform all the subjects of the reviews so that they can rebut anything they disagree with.
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  7. #7
    Strengelicher's Avatar Hastatas Prior
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

    Ah, I do know by now, because I found Juvenal's PM, which brought me here. Well, I feel kind of humbled having been reviewed by such an established writer as Radzeer (will rep him in a minute), all the more since I have been slack lately with updates. Well, a particular member of the female gender is to blame, so whoever will accept that kind of thing as an excuse shall take it as such. However, I have quite some material prepared and played ahead a bit, so there should be another update before the end of February.

    Concerning the content of the review, I am grateful for every suggestion. Indeed, I have not been very consistent with the cropping of my screenshots, as far as the UI is concerned. This was because initially I sometimes wanted the reader to be able to see some details there, such as the current amount of gold in the treasury or - in battles - the current state of affairs on the minimap or which units were involved in fighting at the time of the screenshot. However, it seems that consistency is the better way to go, so I will cut that little bit of extra information out from here going onwards. Also in the beginning, I did not know how to make the grey arrows disappear, but I have learned how to do that in the meantime. And as to the number of screenshots in the battle reports - I sometimes was so immersed in the battle that I forgot to take enough of them. Well, I am still a beginner and will hopefully become better at this as well.

    So, all in all I found the review very helpful and will try to incorporate Radzeer's hints and suggestions. It may not be right in the next updates, though, since I have already cropped most of the pictures for those and the battles obviously have been fought and cannot be redone.
    Last edited by Strengelicher; February 23, 2013 at 09:31 AM.

  8. #8
    Radzeer's Avatar Rogue Bodemloze
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

    What a nice surprise! Excellent work, everybody!

    @ Strengelicher: I think you have a very good story with a nice balance. I really enjoyed reviewing it, and I'm looking forward to reading more!

  9. #9
    Heiro de Bodemloze's Avatar Just climbing the Wall
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

    Great work on the Quill everybody!
    READ MY TALE: The Tale of Nobutada(Chapter XXXVI - Uploaded 14 April)

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  10. #10
    Tigellinus's Avatar Content Staff
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

    Glad it's finally here!

    Great work everyone!

    Thanks

    Tigellinus

  11. #11
    The Kybrothilian's Avatar combating madness
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

    Cool! Great work everyone.
    "I'm going to tell Allah everything..."

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  12. #12
    EdwinMerit's Avatar Sukauto
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

    Awesome! This is, believe or not, the first time I have actually ever checked out the Quill before. I feel honored that my AAR received a review, and a great one at that! Currently the AAR is still fairly early on as mentioned by The Kybrothilian and since my time has been best spent focusing on my classes right now (midterms are going to kill me...), it's kind of staying right at the end of the First Punic War until I get a bit more time to put into the final 2 parts. Hopefully I'll get some real free time to work on it, but in the meantime it is awesome to see the review and critique so I can think of what I would like to add into the ext few chapters. I assure you some dialogue will be coming in shortly, I just have to make sure I know how to implement it in a fashion that compliments the historical accuracy of the AAR (The first triumvirate and the generalship of Gaius Marius look to be very interesting as far as the politics should go, but those won't be for some time). I'll try to see how dialogue could be potentially added between consuls or other senators (or possibly other individuals depending on the situation) into the next few chapters to add to some character depth and to try and bring this AAR closer to novel than history book.


    Thank you again for the interest, and thanks to Kybrothilian for the excellent review!

  13. #13
    Sanderlicious's Avatar Shisai
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

    So great to see this publication after being away from the TWC for a bit. And my own work included? A pleasant surprise indeed!

    Shankbot, you're too kind. I'm glad to see that I wasn't being toooo subtle with some of the ideas I wanted to get across. Although, I wouldn't exactly say that the subject is necessarily unstable (although I definitely see how one gets there), more that he subscribes to an ideology that God's blessing justifies his own actions. I suppose I let my own critique of some religious thought slip in a bit.

    Thanks to all for their hard work here! I enjoyed reading.

  14. #14
    Shankbot de Bodemloze's Avatar From the Writers Study!
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

    Ah I see, I did wonder what the hidden sort of message was. Reading back I get where you're coming from, shame I didn't pick up on it.

    Glad you liked the review, it was a pleasure to do.

  15. #15
    Robin de Bodemloze's Avatar Sugar free
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

    Good stuff. Well done chaps.
    The Wings of Destiny (Chapter 11 - Updated Dec 14, 2014)
    Takeda - a Shogun 2 AAR (Completed) Reviewed by Radzeer

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  16. #16
    Robin de Bodemloze's Avatar Sugar free
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 37

    Issue 38 is out! Go bask in its awesomeness!
    The Wings of Destiny (Chapter 11 - Updated Dec 14, 2014)
    Takeda - a Shogun 2 AAR (Completed) Reviewed by Radzeer

    My writing | My art | About me | Sekigahara Campaign - Developer

    ~~Under the proud patronage of Radzeer, Rogue Bodemloze. Patron of Noif de Bodemloze, Heiro de Bodemloze, and Hitai de Bodemloze~~

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