Me, Myself & I
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:
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.
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:
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)."
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:
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!!!
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)
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:
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.
Well, it has been a while... a long while in fact!
For those unfamiliar with our writing workshops, here is the gist: it's a simple workshop/contest where we challenge all of you to create a story matching a particular theme or idea. We had a lot of them in the past, long and short, silly and serious. To be perfectly honest we ran out of ideas a while ago and some writers felt intimidated in measuring up to some big names... so we dropped the ball.
Over this last year and a half something great happened: the site got an influx of new writers and this prompted us to think back about the workshops once again, but (to give credit where credit is due) it was Tsuper's intervention that gave us that last push.
So, without any further delay, we officially announce:
The Fall 2020 SWM Workshop
Theme: Turning into a Superwoman
As for the "rules", here they are:
- Each entry MUST contain a scene of a character turning into a superwoman, costume included.
- No entry can be longer than 10,000 words.
- Each author may submit up to three separate entries.
- All characters must be over the age of 18.
- SWM reserves the right to withhold and/or disqualify submitted entries based on their sole discretion of the content.
- Entries must be received no later than November 6th, 2020 at 11:59 pm GMT. SWM, however, reserves the right to grant reasonable deadline extensions.
- Once submitted, entries will be voted on by the SWM user via an online poll.
If you have any questions or need any clarifications, you can contact Woodclaw or Larafan via a private message or post them in this thread.
Good luck to all!
Hello Maniacs, it feels like it has been a while since I wrote one of these Spotlights.
Late July and early August were very... full of stuff. Things to do. Closing old projects. Opening new ones. It was really intense.
Still, I have some promises to honor and in particular one to one of the most prolific authors in our community. Many months ago I promised Dru to feature one of his oldest and less known stories here. I delayed it for a while, but now it's time to pay my due. Here we go:
For me, this piece of superwoman fiction from 2005 is the quintessential Dru story. While it has been eclipsed by some of his more recent entries, like Not the One or the writing spree that was O-Girl in 2018-19, Stealing From a Thief has a charm that it's hard for me to pass. It's difficult to put my finger on it because, on the surface, the story seems to just go through the moves and yet it captivates me. Before we go any further there's a bit of a caveat: when I say "go through the moves" I don't mean it in a negative way. In fact, I believe that some of you might enjoy it as a sort of piece of "genre archeology", if you want to see where some of Dru's classic tropes come from.
Back on track. If I look at Stealing with a critical eye I think that there are three things that elevate it over some of Dru's later and longer contributions.
The first is the main character. Susan is the perfect example of how to write an amoral superwoman. Sometimes the stories that feature evil superwomen portray them as sadistic monsters, prone to react to the slightest problem with extreme violence and prejudice, bulldozering their way to "victory" without much care for what is around them. They don't just toy with people, they actively look for excuses to do so. This is where Susan is different.
Does she kill? Yes.
Does she toy with people? Yes (more toward the end)
Does she feel regret for it? Not much if any.
Does she make up excuses for it? No.
This last bit is what sets her apart. Susan isn't a monster that loves killing. She is just someone that has found the key to ultimate power and wants to enjoy life. She just want to have some fun, but if you get in her way... it was nice knowing you.
The other bit of this story that I love to no end is how Susan's powers work. I like to call it 'reverse bulldozering'. What do I mean? We often see characters solving every problem by applying an insane amount of the same power or trick. In this story, Dru pulled a clever trick and gave Susan the ability to adapt to any challenge. Instead of punching every problem in the face, she can pull the required power limited only by her imagination. It's almost as if she was a silver age character transplanted into a modern-ish setting. She's all about experimenting and trying new tricks with every chapter.
Finally, there is length. Despite having an open final chapter, Stealing is just five chapters long. This makes it very easy to enjoy, since Dru hit some really high notes in such a short time.
Ok, re-reading this I realized that it might sound generic or uncertain, but that's because I really don't want to give anything away. I don't want to spoil anything out of this story because it JUST THAT GOOD!
Go read it, already!
It's over. It's finally over!
Sorry for the outburst, but today I managed to finish one of the worst projects I had to dela with in the last three years, so what better way to celebrate than taking a deep dive into the backlog of our Library. Looking at the past entries, especially by LFan and me, I noticed that we have covered many of our moste esteemed authors, but there are a few that haven't received this honor yet. so let's fix it with:
Now, I have to be honest, when I think of Ace's stories this is not the first one that comes to my mind. Ace is very well known and respected for his long-winded story Turnabout is Fair Play and the even longer collaboration with Argonaut that gave us The Supergirl of Smallville. If you're starting to see a pattern, it's because there is: Ace is the absolute master of almost pure unadulterated Silver Age style fun, so it's no suprise that many of his stories features some very classic tropes and characters, especially Lois Lane and Lana Lang as Superwomen.
I can already see that some of you are turning away, thinking that you already know the punchline and all the tropes. Maybe you're right, but I want to point out that Ace is one of the few writers here that tried to break the mold of the classic Kryptonian-esque Flying Brick, even without renouncing to his undying love for Silver Age characters. Two of his stories actually featured one of the most unexpected classic superwomen of all: Star Sapphire.
No I'm not gointo tell you which ones: go look into the library, Ace's stories start at the bottom of page one of the "Sort by Author" section.
Those of you that know me better would be surprised to discover that They're All Mine Now is among my favorites and yet it is. The story itself is almost pure action, with the resident superwoman rushing from one emergency to the next, looking insanely good while taking on bank robbers, a building on fire and suicide jumper. There is no plot twist (well almost, more on this later), no deep dive into the motivation of the characters and no clever world-building. It's purely action-driven self-indigent story and I think it's a testament to Ace's skill as a writer how he managed to lure me in.
Given what I already said I'm kind of hesitant to spoil the little plot twist at the end of the story, since it really adds a lot of value to the entire plot. Let's just say that Ace didn't stray to far from the beaten path.
One final warning before going: this story was written in 2011, just a few months after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and Ace made a pretty direct reference to it.
Last week I told you that this spotlight was going to slow down.
Well, it seems that this community conspired to make me a liar, since we got a couple of new collaborators that will try to fill this spot in the near future, giving me enough time to catch up with RL job.
Still, today's spotlight is both special and a bit of a cheat (kind of appropriate). As I said before my goal was to highlight great stories that didn't have the recognition they deserved, so I was kind of hesitant to include one from an author that won multiple workshops in the past. Then again, this is a story from 2005, even before the current incarnation of the site, so it deserves a bit of polish.
This story has a special place in my heart. It wasn't the first work of DKC I've ever read, but it was the first that really hooked me. DKC works on a pretty well-known set of tropes. In the past I praised some author for handling the erotica element of our genre in a more subtle or nuanced way, this is not the case. DKC's girls are very overt in their sexuality, they don't make any excuse for it and they rarely need to. In the hands of a less skilled writer, this would be a great turn-off for me, but The Premeditated Providence works this element into the story in a way that is both perfectly in line with the universe and the theme. The two main characters aren't insanely beautiful, sexy and powerful just because, they wished so. Beautification is a really tricky element of our genre, which is often written as an ancillary side-effect, but here it's deliberate and that is something I really enjoy.
Speaking of wishes, one of the things that really hooked me for good are the opening lines: "Not male, not female. It was what it is. And what it is can not be explained by modern science or acknowledged by it. It drifted through the universes invisibly stopping at worlds that teamed with life and technology. Often these worlds and the lives on it would not survive its presence. The entity would not harm the world itself but rather allow free will to decide the fate of an entire planet. It would be hard to understand what its true intent was, for it delivered exactly what it promised. And what it promised was for neither good nor evil. It perhaps felt pleasure in uncertainty, not knowing what would happen in a universe that was as predictable as an egg dropping to the floor. Millions of worlds later it approached the blue planet and randomly selected two that it would reward its gift to and watched with an infant's curiosity, watched a fate that was not intended to be."
For me, this opening is straight out of The Twilight Zone and just like that show, the story tosses a pretty mean curve-ball to the reader. Like in many other pieces by DKC, having two supergirls on the scene is a recipe for havoc and destruction on an untold scale, but this time the resolution isn't a simple tug of war. Remember how I said that the characters are insanely beautiful and sexy... well, without spoiling too much (I hope) this is going to play a pretty big role.
Now DKC is still very active in this community and actually announced a few weeks ago that Infinity Crisis, one of their (I've learned not to assume a gender) stories will be fully re-edited and re-published soon. Personally, I'm also hoping to see another of DKC's projects come to fruition: in the final paragraph of their long-winded epic The Project there is a direct reference to The Premeditated Providence, which means that there might be a potential for future crossovers and mayhem.
Before we start this installment of the Admin Spotlight Theater there are a couple of announcements:
- Both LFan and I hit a pretty rough spot with our respective day jobs, which means that this feature is going to officially slow down a bit. Most of you probably already noticed that we are already doing it almost bi-weekly.
- To compensate and broaden our selection we have already asked some of our moderators and collaborators a little bit of help, as soon as their first pieces are ready we would be able to provide a new, more consistent schedule.
Ok. The administrative stuff is out of the way, let's get this show on the road and this week I'm featuring a story that left many readers puzzled at first, starting with its title, which isn't exactly something that rolls off your toungue:
This was one of Castor's first pieces on this site and, I'm not going to lie, at the time it looked extremely weird. The story had most of the tropes of our genre and yet it felt completely different from everything else we have ever hosted. The story had an extremely slow pace, without any apparent big reveals or crazy stunt. This particular style of narrative is pretty much a staple of Castor's writing, but, for me, it never felt more substantial and appropriate than in Armada. It's easy to turn away saying "boring", but in a way that's exactly what the first couple of chapters aim to. This is not an end od the world scenario, it's a slice of life comedy built around a superwoman doing the least slice of thing possible: taking over a city and establish it as a separate nation because she cares about it.
Now before going any further. I understand that this particular story, especially the last chapter, might be problematic right now. Castor wrote it back in 2013, way before any of us could ever imagined events like those that transpired in these last months. So I urge you to take this story as a simple moment of fun, not an attempt to further any kind of political agenda and whatnot. Any similarity between this story and the events of the Capitol Hill Zone in Seattle is purely coincidental.
Moving on, the slice of life impression is compounded by another of Castor's trope, changes of scene. There is a crapton of small changes of scene detailing how the rest of the world reacts to the insane idea of a super-strong, flying woman declaring herself Queen of Portland. These reactions go from the funny to the extremely serious. My favorite is, probably, the moment we see a completely false and yet completely believable tabloid title about her harem. What really got me here is that this is seeing such a classic supervillainess trope being used in reverse, to characterize Armada in-universe, rather than to the reader.
Still, these scenes aren't just some funny intermissions, they set the path toward Chapter 3. This is when the shit hits the fan and the illusion of the slice of life is shattered. Chapter 3 open with a (literal) bang and goes on to provide us the biggest plot twist of the entire story. I'm not going to spoil it for you, but this is really what made this story for me. Without the final revelation, Armada would have been an interesting, but limited take on another genre. With it, many of the stories plot holes suddenly make sense and our (as in readers') perspective get flipped upside-down.
Personally, I don't think I've really enjoyed any of Castor's stories more than Armada. Out of all of his extensive production and numerous experiments, this is the one that really set the bar for me.