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Woodclaw

Woodclaw

Tuesday, 20 July 2021 12:20

Admin Story Spolight Theatre #43

Transformations are one of the fundamentals of our genre. Some writers prefer to keep them to a minimum so that the character's powers are a surprise for the rest of the cast, but more often than not there is a changing element to the story, from a dramatic She-Hulk style change to a little amount of beautification.

In spite of this the means to achieve this transformation were as varied as humanly possible: blood transfusion, radiations, chemical mixtures, meteors, alien interference, magic, genies, err... kinky stuff (sorry this is visible to the casual audience as well). All of these and more can provide you with various results based on the amount of the resource available, the concentration and whatnot... but there is only one product that will grant you ever-improving results and beautification with 100% satisfaction guaranteed*.

ENERGIZE! Shower Gel by Monty (with a little intrusion by AuGoose)

I admit that my first reaction when I read Chapter 1 of this series was somewhere between the amused and the bewildered. Never in my mind, I would have even considered a shower gel as a viable means to start a superwoman story and transformation. Part of my reluctance I blame on the 2004 Catwoman movie (the one that won 7 Razzie Awards), where the main villain (played by Sharon Stone) became invulnerabl-ish after overdosing on a beauty cream. Although the equation of power = beauty is pretty common in our genre, the reverse isn't always true and the idea of a beauty product as a power source was always a bit of a sore point since I watched that flick.

Now, what did Monty do to change my mind?

In short: this story is insanely hot!

Like the top of the summer in a foundry hot!

All the superwomen in this story become incredibly beautiful and insanely powerful, even without considering how the gel keeps improving them with every use, creating a potentially infinite circle... or not. The idea of an ever-replenishing bottle of gel as the main prop proved to be a real stroke of genius. Being portable, semi-inconspicuous and easy to steal, it allowed many potential combinations and screw-ups first with Sarah's little sister Emma, their mother and later with Tiffany, who really pushed the story into high gear.

Moreover, Monty's narration truly improved over time adding more and more details and nuances to his repertoire but, unfortunately, the story kind of fizzled out at some point. It was really a shame and I still hope that Monty will pick this story up at some point.

* the SWM admin team is not legally responsible for any possible  side-effect of absuing the Energize! gel. Said effect includes, but are not limited to, increased libido, invulnerability, goddess complex, destruction of clothes and/or property, disregard for common decorum and abuse of metal and/or concrete items for the purpose of strenth-testing.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021 19:38

Admin Story Spolight Theatre #41

For this week Admin Story Spotlight we have a pretty unique bit of superwoman fiction, one (really, really, really) short snippet straight from the mind of a superwoman and one of the oldest contributors to this community.

(Super)Ladies and gentlemen, let's talk about:

It Aint' Easy by Velvet Tree Belle

Before going any futher there are a couple of details I need to address.

First, this story is from the old "1000 words" format workshop, specifically Workshop 2.04, which is probably my favorite one ever. Not only it had a really high number of entries, it also had one of my favorite themes: a romantic evening. As such I'm highly biased toward all these stories and I already featured at least once (Larafan's Charlie's Angel) on this very column. Even so, I think that Velvet's work needs more recognition, being a pretty nice and unique take, not to mention a playful jab to a lot of us and our obsession.

Second (and this is going to be a lot more complicated), as I already mentioned Velvet has been one of the oldest contributor to our genre, being part of the many writers that tackled the Aurora Universe created by Shadar. Now (this is the awkward part), Velvet arrived to the genre by marriage. I'm not going into details, those who are in the know don't need them, but at some point her husband, one of our most estemeed authors, told her about his obsession for Supergirl. Lucky for him she still loved him and lucky for us she started contributing to the genre. I'm not sure if she had been the first woman to contribute to this community, but I think she has been the first one to openly identify her genre.

Apparently she had never even tried to write fiction before and she ended up publishing several piece both in and out the Aurora Universe, including some professionally published e-books.

What makes Velvet's work unique is that she often works from an internal perspective that it's very hard to get. Many of us write focusing on the exterior, the open display of power, she grand scenes. In short, we have a very Hollywood approach to narrative, where each individual shot must tell a story of its own. Her approach was more akin to French cinema, where things are showed us through the mind, rather than the eyes, of a single character.

The result is a very intimate (pardon the pun) point of view that provide us with the perspective of a superwoman that, in this case, is musing about the stereotypes of our genre on sexual encounters. I'm not going to spoil anything else, because it would make this piece possibly longer than the story itself, but I believe this should be a mandatory reading for any writer that want to approach this very delicate subject.

Saturday, 29 May 2021 14:58

Admin Story Spolight Theatre #39

Sorry, sorry, sorry.

I know that this entry is insanely late, but this week hasn't been kind to me in any way shape or form (except that I was finally able to get an appointment for my first vaccine shot).

Anyway, this week's story is one that I had at least one finger in since I was part of the "beta-readering" team for it. So, I'm 100% biased and there is nothing I can do about it.

Let's talk about

Fifteen Minutes of Fame by AuGoose

If memory helps, this story started as a twenty or so pitch that Goose sent me in early 2016 and he published a first version in his Notebook thread. From there, the story got a lot of polishing and reworking, which is pretty much the hallmark of Goose's work, he's never satisfied, he always takes time of gave any piece he does a lot of extra work.

What makes this story really good is how it pulls a 180° about a quater of the way in, turning its own framing device in the main storyline. Speaking of the framing device, I'm kind of surprised that newscasts aren't much more prominent in our genre, not just because they are extremely useful to set up the scene by providing a measure of in-story exposition, but also because they're a very natural progression of Superman's framing device of being a newspaper reporter. Off the top of my head, the main examples I can quote are Gincognito's The Celbutante, which literally included the Chyron in the main text, and many entries by Newshound (of course).

Anyway, what AuGoose gave us a prime example of "collective wish fullfilment" that is exceptionally well written, but also extremely appealing because we can see it in real time. Often, stories based around the idea of a character getting powers from others use this element as part of the background or by delivering powers in "packets" that coincide with key moments of the story. Here we have a prime example of how to showcase the empowerment process in real time and it's gourgeous to watch. The main characte becomes a mirror of the events of the world and fuel them at the same time in a sort of neverending loop... well there's an actual ending, but I'm not going to spoil it for you.

By the way, some people might spot a passing similarity with HikerAngel's grand experiment Superstarter, but I'll leave any explanation about how or if those are linked to the author themselves.

See you at the next story.

Thursday, 29 April 2021 15:46

Admin Story Spolight Theatre #37

How do I start about this one?

Beginning are often difficult.

Even more so when you're not considering what is, but rather what if...

One of the classic Marvel series from the '70 and '80 was What If an anthology that took a single pivotal moment in an ongoing series and reframed it by changing some details.

What if Spider-Man joined the Fantasic Four?

What if Jane Foster found Thor's Hammer? (a favorite in this community)

What if Phoneix Had Not Died?

...and so on.

Since, we are going to get a MCU TV series based on this premise, I thought it was a good idea to dust off our own What If stories, courtesy of a gentleman called TheWiseWatcher.

What if The Invisible Woman Went From Invisible to Invincible?

To be perfectly honest and fair this is really a throwback to the early days of the Supergirls Inc website, the predecessor to our community, and the story might not measure up to some more recent work and yet... it still has something. It has that "old comic book" charm, that ineffable quality that we associate with something that was part of our childhood. It might have not aged as well as other stories from those days, but I do think that it does have a place in the shelves of our library.

I admit I have to deduct a couple of point from TheWiseWatcher for two reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the story and more with my personal taste:

  1. The idea of Sue getting all the powers of the quartet is an idea that I love so much, so a was a little disappointed that you decided to go with a different route. Still, I like the wishing aspect of her new powers.
  2. A couple of times, I felt like this story really needed a tiny bit more explanation.

Even so, it's a great story and I would love to see a remake or a second episode spawning from it one day.

Hatts of to you, TheWiseWatcher and, like someone used to say...

Excelsior!

Wednesday, 31 March 2021 15:04

Admin Story Spolight Theatre #35

Let's see...

What to pick for today's spotlight?

Nice, but too soon...

Already done this one...

Nope...

N... wait... what the hell is this?

Well, well, well... let's see what I can get out of this one.

Today's Spotlight is a really strange one that I meant to tackle a long time ago, but never got around to it. The main issue is that this story had a certain vibe when I first read it and today it's very different. It's very hard for me to explain what I mean, so allow me to introduce one of the strangest stories from back in the day:

The Chosen One by LaraFan

In and of itself this story is good, but very formulaic of our genre. It's a bad-girl revenge fantasy and that had to be expected since it was part of the SGInc Workshop 1.12, a.k.a. "Villainess Month", which spawned from a really old thread that showcased a series of real-life characters with the potential to become supervillainesses. LFan admitted in the introduction that this story was heavily inspired by the work of Marknew and the TV show Chuck, which was really huge back then... and "back then" is really what I want to talk about.

What really makes this story worth re-reading is how the main gimmick created by LFan had become a little time capsule of the end of the first decade of the current millennium. It might seem preposterous, but looking back through the lens of this story I realized how much the internet has changed over the past ten or so years, not just in terms of content, but in terms of how we interact with its resources. Rereading The Chosen One is like finding an old photo under a drawer, which suddenly jogs your memory and makes you wonder how much time has passed.

Okay. I'll stop with the reminiscing and go on with the story. As I said before, this story is very classic bad-girl revenge fantasy and LFan didn't pull any punches with the main character, from the get-go you know that she is bad news, that she has the empathic ability of landslide but, unlike said landslide, she actually does care about what other people think of her... or rather if they think good of her. I really think that, besides Marknew, a lot of other well-known writers probably inspired this piece. I can see a lot of DKC and Conceptfan in it (in fact I suspect that CF had been a beta reader for it). Our superwoman, empowered via the strangely named "Female Amplifcation via Cornealosmotic Experimentation Program", pulls all the stops of the petty revenge scheme, until...

Well, until LaraFan pulls a pretty incredible bait-and-switch which, I swear, I really never saw coming the first time and still astonishes me today for some reason.

No, I won't say anymore, go read it and come back here.

Wednesday, 03 March 2021 09:47

Admin Story Spolight Theatre #33

Let's stoke the fire, shall we?

About six weeks ago we were graced by a long-expected story.

I honestly do believe that neither the author nor the story needs publicity, but I really want to take a long look at its original version to see what made it click.

So let's dive into:

Infinity Crisis by DKC

Where do you start to take apart a story that has been a staple of our genre and community for almost 15 years?

Well, I think that's fair to point the finger at the main character. Natasha Beland is exactly the kind of character that I really dislike in real life and in many movies: a spoiled girl from a small town that thinks everything is due to her because she is the belle of the ball. What separates Natasha from most of her peers is that, as the story progresses, we can see that she's somewhat conscious of her own situation, that she might be the sexiest girl in her school but that's amounts to nothing, and yet she still acts under the assumption that putting her breasts on display can get her everything... almost everything. And this is the second part: Natasha doesn't get her powers via a pure accident, by being hit by lighting or something, she works to get them -- even if she really wants them for petty reasons -- and this is a pretty big departure from her "mean valley girl" format. In general, I think that DKC made an excellent job at showcasing how the character flip-flopped between being cold and manipulating on one end and vapid and uncaring on the other. Natasha is mean, but she can't see herself as such, as we look at things from her perspective we can see how she really thinks she's the hero.

All of this plays perfectly when we reach chapter 4 of the original version, when DKC put forward one of my favorite tropes: trapping a character by giving her exactly what she wants. It's a brilliant solution that clicks perfectly with Natasha's established character but, in the following chapters, we see how it's just a speedbump. Natasha wants to play along, to be the idol of millions, but she's also easily bored, making any attempt to keep her under control a full-time job. It's a subtle balance, that the story maintains for quite a while, although things start falling apart pretty soon...

And this, my dear readers, is where we have been for a long while. DKC has written a lot of other stories and, I believe, these early attempts have blossomed into a rather recognizable style, that actually won him a number of past workshops. Now we have a new version of Infinity Crisis in the works and it has already dug into a few more details about the world at large and I really hope DKC will be able to keep it coming.

Cheers to you, DKC.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021 18:39

Admin Story Spolight Theatre #30

Let's have a chat, shall we?

I have something on my mind as of late and I really need to scratch this hitch sooner rather than later.

Throughout this series of articles, I made no secret that I choose many entries not because they appealed to my personal tastes (heck, I'm probably on the lower hand of the spectrum when it comes to superpowered feats, I take 100 displays of skill insane skill and control over a single act of random destruction), but because they surprised me. I think that the mark of a great writer is finding that extra pinch of spice, that small something that either flips the story on its head or makes everything really engaging beyond the simple feats of power and shiny costume.

So what about a story that is pure wish-fulfillment?

What about a story where wish-fulfillment is literally what moves the plot forward?

Well, to my eternal shame, allow me to introduce you to:

Baker's Dozen by Argonaut

For a minute, when I read the first chapter of Baker's Dozen, I really felt that this story would not be a favorite of mine. The premise is kind of cool but, for someone that has been around this community for a long time, it felt like something we had done to death... until I noticed the small print: our protagonist, Bobby Baker, can wish to make up to twelve women into the superwomen, but all these wishes are non-revokable. One might think that this is a small deal, but it's the perfect monkey's paw. Bobby knows what is going to happen, but he has no idea how, nor he can really foresee the potential consequences. Genius.

As a result, every chapter of this story is a discovery, an attempt from Bobby to fix something with this newfound power... usually causing some unintended consequences in the meantime. The best definition I can think of is that it's a superpowered Sit-Com... or is it?

As funny as this premise is, it would have lost steam pretty quickly, if it wasn't for Argo's great skill at putting the characters in situations that really makes them endearing to the reader. Bobby starts as a very bland audience insert, but I dare you, I dare all of you not to grow attached as he struggles with the start of his relationship with one of these superwomen. About that, initially, I felt like this was... kind of forced, because every girl transformed seemed to be insanely into Bobby, but with each passing chapter I realized that this was just what jumpstarted everything. If I have to choose a word to define their relationship I'd use "cute". There is a sexual element to hit, but it's not central, which is the key point for me. In short, Argo managed to hit every high note on my personal scale in a story that I thought would go in a completely different direction.

Right now the story has been on hiatus since 2016, but since Argo is still around: "Man, I can count on one hand the stories that need a continuation more than this one. You left us with a big cliffhanger (that I'm not going to spoil here)."

Tuesday, 08 December 2020 21:22

Admin Story Spolight Theatre #27

Well, December is here and, for better or worse, finding new stories to feature without breaking my rule of featuring single stories over multi-chapter ones has become quite the challenge. Still, there are a number of little entries tucked away in the old workshops that really deserve to be dusted off, so it's very likely that I will rummage through those in the near future.

Today's entry comes straight from our first experiment at the 1000-words workshop back in 2005. The theme of the day was "PO'ed Superwoman gets back at her Ex". If this sounds familiar, well Ivan Reitmann's My Super-Ex Girlfriend had just been announced... and many of us had pretty high hopes for it. As far as I'm concerned many of the entries of the workshop were a lot better than the actual movie, albeit a lot shorter. So, without further delay, I present to you:

Dropping By by Whitepaw

There are very few authors in our community that can boast a production as diverse as Whitepaw, who experimented with many techniques, settings, characters and situations. From inserting movie-style credits and music to reframing classic stories, from space opera to slice of life comedy.

This particular story really fits into the slice of life genre, but with a really savage twist. What I really enjoy in this story is how Whitepawn managed to highlight the superiority of the main character without going on a power trip. This "less is more" approach was absolutely brilliant. Letting the reader's imagination fill the gaps created a story that would appeal to everyone, each reader is free to set the character's power level to his/her own liking, while still enjoying every bit of the story as it is.

I'm really hesitant to say more than this because I really think that this story must be read and I don't want to spoil even a little bit for you... so go read it on the double!!!

Tuesday, 10 November 2020 01:11

Fall 2020 SWM Workshop Voting

Well, people, it's time to cast your votes for your favorite story in the Fall 2020 workshop.

The pool will run for two weeks, ending on Tuesday 24th November at 23.59 GMT.

I have to remind you that you got only one vote and that you won't be able to see the results until you voted.

See you on the other side.

(It goes without saying that the Admin Story Spotlight will go on a hiatus until the 25th of November)

Monday, 12 October 2020 23:51

Admin Story Spolight Theatre #24

Well, this is going to be a really short one. Short and sweet like the story I'm going to present this week. This particular one was part of the Workshop 2.04. For those who don't know the workshops numbered 2.X were a supershort format that we used to fill the months between the proper one. The workshops had a word limit of 1,000 (which is insanely short) resulting in single-scenes stories, where the challenge was giving the readers as much as possible using as little words as possible. Workshop 2.04's theme was "Romantic Evening with a Supergirl" and out of the nine entries, which included some really great stretches of the concept (like Argo's Birthday Wish), the one that alwasy stood out ot me was:

Charlie's Angel by LaraFan

I don't think I can give this story the praise it really deserves, in 990 words, Larafan managed to pack everything this story needed. It was cute, it was heartwarning, it went straight to the point and it even had a final plot twist which immediately prompted me to read it again, because my mental image of what happened had changed that much. Out of all my favorite stories this one has been my bar for how to write a purely romantic scene. Even without much set dressing, just the dialogue really shows the mutual feelings of the main characters, making the halfway revelation a really sweet and important moment in their relationship. Of course we have no idea of what happened to these characters after the end... but I really wish them all the best.

Even with a story this short there's a little hitch for me. Nothing world-breaking, but there is. Larafan used a really clever trick to put us right into the action, by starting the story as a diary entry. After a few lines, the narration switches to a normal third persone perspective. It's not jarring, but I would have loved to see this in a complete diary format, showcasing the entire story from the perspective of one of the character. Perheaps it woould have been longer, I don't know.

I'm really sorry to cut this short, but if I keep rambling this spotlight might become longer than the story itself. If you enjoyed this story, go check the rest of Workshop 2.04, you won't be disapponited.

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