The Weekly is a community project in the form of a series of micro-fiction contests, inspired by the discontinued Community Writing Competitions on Halo Waypoint. Each week, users can challenge themselves to write a short prose response to a prompt chosen at the start of the week by the competition's judge. At the week's end, the judge selects a winner to receive a shiny new Weekly Winner eraicon on their entry's page, and the entry will then be displayed on Recent Changes for the next week for all to easily see and read.

The project was conceived in response to a long-standing downturn in prose writing on the site, in hopes of encouraging more prose by presenting a painless, easily-attainable length as a target instead of a hopelessly-long novel length. The ideas the writers incorporate to hone their craft under such constraints might then become the seeds for events their own characters go through, or even be worked into whole other long stories.

How To Participate

At the beginning of each week, a new prompt will be posted on this page, for users to write in response to. Working with in the length and topic restraints (which could have to do with the theme, or subject, or writing style like "only dialogue"), users then write their response and create a new page on which to post it. Remember to include a Writer Template ("{{Writer|your username}}") at the top and categorize it "The Weekly" ("[[Category:The Weekly]]") at the bottom. A paragraph at the top can be added to introduce the piece and context for it without going towards the word count, so long as there's a horizontal line ("----") between to make set them apart distinctly. Unless specified otherwise, the word length is 1000 800 words, and while you may submit multiple entries for each week, they must be individual entries (while having multiple entries be sequels/prequels to one another is a grey area, they must still work as stories on their own, rather than multiple-part stories).

Then, simply add a link to your entry's page in the scrollbox for the appropriate week for it to be counted. The judge (LegendOfElTopo, currently) will then read the entries, between the following Monday-Wednesday depending on availability, and pick a winner for the week. Bear in mind, the judge's decision may be based on subjective judgements, but good spelling, grammar, and punctuation go a long way towards impressing by presenting a professional and easy-to-read appearance. Winners will then be given a unique Weekly Winner eraicon and displayed on the Recent Changes page.

Current Judge Notes

  • Feel free to suggest prompts and topics for future weeks - ping me in the Discord if you do.
  • If posted after the end date, I'll still read and review your work, it just excludes you from the standings for winning the weekly (although in some cases I may shift things to allow for more competition). Yes, this means...
  • ...all previous weekly prompts (including those before I took over) can be written for and I'll give them a look, just bear in mind that it'll be a lower priority than more recent things. That being said...
  • ...I won't be accepting works written beforehand, or in general submissions not written specifically for the Weekly and then added to it afterwards.

Weekly Challenges

Week 157: Everything old...

Prompt: You know, they say hindsight is 2020. I have waited approximately four months to make that joke. Feel free to throw tomatoes at me on the Discord. Anyway, going back through bits and pieces of the previous year while reading up for my The Weekly 2019 Highlights, there was a lot of stuff that could've been made a lot better with some more time, some more work, some more polish - so I'm going to give you the opportunity to do so here. This first week's prompt is to give people another 2 weeks (ish) to re-edit, re-write, or even fully re-imagine a Weekly entry they've done previously and weren't satisfied with - or, at least, would like another stab at. Multiple entries are both permitted and welcome! Just so long as you, y'know, say which stories you're re-doing. Word limit is not fixed, but try to stay within +/-10% of the original.

Start Date: January 1st 2020

End Date: January 12th 2020

Truth be told, I kinda disagree with the feedback for the original piece - the opening is quick, sharp, and a punchy introduction to everything, but the ending doesn't feel particularly rushed, it just ended up shorter since there's not much to write from Michael's perspective. What with the whole grabby-stabby-ded thing. Whoops, spoilers.
Here, though, I think flipping things around definitely makes the end stronger. In Sasha's eyes there's much more going on, and getting into her head brought with it the brief moments of the "fight" into better view. It also does a lot of a better job capturing the helplessness of the situation, both with them being split up and towards the end. I freely admit I was particularly fond of the repetition around the end of the original, but on the flip side getting to see Michael fading out is even stronger.
The fight itself is definitely stronger - the tweaks aren't huge, but breaking up longer sentences and the wording changes do make it noticably quicker and snappier - and trimming off the framing intro section lets the story flow better as it comes in. That being said, the added dialogue in the standoff - while bringing in a new angle talking about their kid - feels a tad wooden, the last couple of lines in particular. I also feel like the last few shots from Kate, to finish the job rather than leave Dmitri to bleed out - added another nice bit of colour to their interactions and characters, and a sense of finality compared to simply waking up to find him dead. Then again, word count...
Straight off the bat, I have to say that the bartender's framing sections added a lot more fun to it than I expected reading the first time around, especially considering the rest of the subject matter. The dilemmas of the baker's dozen working to break away from the dichotomy of serving "evil rebels or evil UNSC" is a nice bit of colour of the post-war chaos, especially given how awful the circumstances of their creation were.
On the flip-side, however, I have to say the sheer number of ex-Epis you're working with makes it real hard to concentrate and keep track of each character and the flow of what's going on. While only a couple of them ever have the floor at any given time - and that's a lot more preferable to having everyone try to be talking at the same time - it still leaves them feeling a little underdeveloped, given the constraints of the word count we're working with here. There's very much a feel that it's going around the circle, with everyone awaiting their turns to get a line or two in, before Kennedy continues her TED Talk. Again, though, that's largely unavoidable with the sheer number of characters you're working with here. Definitely more than two friends, methinks.
Actually, this was not what I expected at all, especially given the previous ideas of slipspace spoopiness that we've been spitballing about. Other than the deal with Roberts, the levity of this takes it in completely the opposite direction, with some excellently entertaining characters, even if the set-pieces are a little corny at times. Tara definitely earns more than a few grins, as do the hopelessly new lackeys that don't even get names. This, plus the unorthodox maintenance techniques, the exasperated Captain bantering with her about how important (and expensive!!!) the drive is, and their prospects of getting around without it? Plenty of fun, all-round.
And the duct-tape-or-else-the-warp-consumes-you. That's pretty neat too.
In seriousness, though, I definitely felt like this was more cohesive than the original version, especially with more context/flavour to the intro, and the formatting distinguishing the radio chatter from everything else. I still regret screwing myself over by realising that the prompt was asking for over-the-top CoDness, rather than general tacticool, but having this come out of it was pretty neat anyways. And hey, more Kalis @ Earth lore.

Month 3: ...is new again.

Prompt: Another thing that came up in the 2019 highlights is the number of returning names; and while it's great to see regulars working their magic on a weekly basis, it's also nice to see some new faces make an appearance. This month's project is for a more experienced writer to pair up with someone new to HF - or at least Weeklies - and help them work on an entry. Any of the previous year's prompts are free to use (although again, please specify which one you're writing for when you enter). If you're stuck for ideas, here's some of my personal favourites:

For ease of writing and reviewing, we're looking at a maximum of 2000 words (although entries below that are both permitted and welcome!)

Start Date: January 1st 2020

End Date: February 1st 2020

I really, really rather enjoyed this. While I don't want try and split the piece between the two of you too much, I can definitely see Silver's fingerprints all over this, especially in the focus and description on specific details - the Grunt's tank buckling and boiling, the dying Brute's thrashing. The interactions between each team member definitely felt more natural than they have in the past; while I know pushing for PERUN to be more fleshed out in that regard has been a big thing recently, this definitely flows better. The jabs between them going back and forth are lovely, and dialogue between the fights still felt snappy and quick, with character showing through between the lines and through wording, mannerisms, actions, rather than more mundane description. What I definitely would say was a bit off was the story's overall pacing - which is odd given that individual tales from the two of you tend to not have that as big of an issue. I feel the whole thing came to an end a little too quickly and abruptly; their fighting exit was crammed into a hundred words or so, whereas the opening scene of their entrance was around quadruple that. While watching Bodark dismantle the grunt lance(s?) before even being formally introduced was deliciously badass, it does seem like the tail end of the piece suffered for it - and it could have been trimmed a bit without having a major impact (unlike, say, the Brute fight). As always, a win-by-default is a win-by-default, but this is still a very solid piece.

Week 158: Tall Tales

Prompt: "The stories and information posted here are artistic works of fiction and falsehood. Only a fool would take anything posted here as fact." The Orion arm is a big place, and there's plenty of room for hearsay and stories to spread purely via word-of-mouth. For this week, I'm asking for a 1000-word piece centred around one of these - an urban myth, a rumour based on truth (or not!) twisted and distorted beyond recognition by an interstellar game of Chinese whispers. Maybe from a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who heard that the Covenant eat people, or a conspiracy theorist on Chatternet talking about where the brains for Smart AIs come from, or grunts chattering about how Demons simply come back when killed. Go wild.

Start Date: January 6th 2020

End Date: January 19th 2020

This was a very interesting read, and not what I expected given the setup in the first third or so, too. ONI simply sitting down for a calm little interview rather than pulling some Sneaky (And Quite Certainly Illegal) Spy Shit [TM] is a bit of a surprise in itself, and either outwardly giving the theory some credit (or at least appearing to) wasn't expected too. It's a very cool snapshot into life still going on during the war, crackpot conventions included, and the two characters seem just as smart and measured as their backgrounds would entail. On the flip side... I'm not quite so sure where it's attempting to go. "Justin"'s codename being UTOPIAN, the penguins, the talk of possible origins being in Covenant space or already glassed, and a bunch of other stuff seem to be offering dots to join up for some bigger picture being hinted at, but I'm not sure I get it (or if there is one at all). In line with Justin - I want to believe, too, but I'm not quite there yet - and the occasional odd spot, such as his astonished gasp turning into contemplative humming, detract from things a little bit too. If there's something that I've completely missed, then please let me know, but as it stands - while well-written, it's over double the wordcount and still doesn't seem to have a solid direction it's aiming for.
Goddamn. God. Damn. This is excellent. This hooked me far more than I expected it to, and only got better on further readings. While I've picked up your character interactions and dialogue as a bit of a weak spot sometimes in previous stories and weekly entries, stripping that away and simply leaving description, events, internal thoughts and most of all action plays firmly to your strengths. Your pacing and building up of tension is impeccable, and the imagery of an Elite fleeing and being hunted through his ship, his home turf, doesn't let up for a moment. It's hard to imagine anything being able to comfortably take on hunters in hand-to-hand (hand-to-shield? fist-to-worm?) combat and come out on top without sounding overpowered or plotbreaking, but the visceral descriptions and Rohen's own disbelief - and horror - at watching it happen makes it work and work well. Of course, the sheer terror at "wait hold on, nothing human should be able to fight that fast or that hard" is already well-worn territory with Spartans, but I think writing this around Ballistas keeps itself apart from that. The feats here - Brutes being shredded, Hunters being stopped mid-charge and simply having a fistful of worms torn out of them - are another step further beyond what even the vaunted Demons would be able to do. Overall, the tale works as a compelling case as to what differentiates the Ballistas from their squishy organic competition - and, while it's skirting the edge of the prompt topic, I'd call this your best piece to date, too.
So. Your orientation seminar is being filmed by the guys who kill you if you quit your job. Interesting. And understandably very unnerving from the perspective of watching them get to work on the shiny brand new S-IVs involved, no less - a feeling that filters through to the reader very well. The description, the dialogue, the whole set-up works well introducing them and hinting at what they're there for without actually spelling it out (although I feel like, if that was the goal, then STOLEN GAUNTLET could've been alluded to a little more lightly) - and framing it within the setting of them all being very new to the world of Spartan-y Stuff [TM]. The actions surrounding the two Spartans, however, do end up feeling a little exaggerated, even for the context - going from sneaking up and light mutters to pointing fingers, spitting out words, then back to whispers again. It's confusingly ambiguous about whether they're outright arguing this out or trying to disguise it as idle chatter while watching the watchers - the ending seems to tilt it towards the latter, but also seems to fall a little flat in terms of resolving what was set up or leading on to anything else.

Week 159: Fixed Prompts #2

Prompt: Another batch of fixed prompts, given the interest in them on announcement and in the weekly last month. For those who weren't around or didn't partake, these weeklies work off a set of prompt phrases or lines, free of context (for you to fill in). In other words, the kind of jumping-off point that you'd find on other hubs for writing prompts, rather the usual weeklies based on a broader theme or plot that you have to write within. Once again, 1000 words as your limit. Once again, Silver, using all more prompts does not grant you more wordcount.

  • "Sometimes I think this war ain't so bad, you know."
  • "How was I supposed to know I'd never (expletive?) see you again?"
  • "The stars are pretty tonight." (bonus: "Prettier than-?" "Yeah.")
  • "You think I need a gun for this?"

Start Date: January 13th 2020

End Date: January 26th 2020

These two have been practically the only thing I've been able to keep track out of the torrent of words you've been writing out (and even then, only with limited success), but this - well, this is great. The tales so far have been building them further and further as far as characterisation and fleshing out goes, and watching the two of them grow into one another while their whole worlds fall apart around them is all being done excellently. Sure, taken in a vacuum some lines might sound soppy or melodramatic or any other number of things, but with context? With everything that's happened - or is still happening, for that matter - it just w o r k s . Impeccable scene-setting, slowly simmering angst, and a wordless confession that had been in stone long before this particular scene all come together to make a magnifi...
..okay, yeah, it's cute. It's soft. It's, I dare say, tear-jerking.
Alright, fine, you can have your thirty-words-over-hard-cap. Just this one time. Because win-by-default or not, it's a damn good piece.

Week 160: Case of the Sniffles

Prompt: Hey there everybody, LOMI here to drop in a new prompt! Been a minute since I've run one of these, but I'll keep it pretty simple: write about somebody being sick. Deadly new ONI bioweapon? Flood infection? Strange, exotic xeno-flu? Someone that can't take the common cold? It's all up to you. Just give me some sort of piece with a character of yours or someone they know dealing with some kind of sickness.

And since I'm old fashioned, 500 word limit, one entry per user. Feel free to submit if you're over the word count, just know it'll be weighed against you

Start Date: March 15th, 2020

End Date: March 22nd, 2020

Something about a Spartan knocked out with a cold is definitely amusing, so props for that. Between this and Colin's old piece about Corin Davis not getting his goddamn sandwich, it seems like it's Spartans lot in life to suffer with fairly mundane problems. I liked his very human reactions to the absurdity of it and the boring treatment Sam has to deal with. That said, I would have liked it a little better if you'd focused the Point of View entirely on Sam: the back at forth between him and Vilda was a little too long and dragging the focus onto her primarily for the last three paragraphs takes away from our experience with Sam's thoughts and sympathies. You only have 500 words, best to focus it on one person: a bit of internal dialogue probably would've helped. Also, remember to vary your words a bit; while not much, you have several phrases that echo each other a bit repetitiously, such as the mother comment or mentions of 'rest and hydrate'. Last note, your dialogue gets very confusing: line breaks and "X said" helps denote who's speaking, and would've been very helpful in these two's back-and-forth. I didn't even realize Vilda had started speaking on my first read.
Pretty good writing, as expected from the author of the endless-expanding Heaven & Earth. The banter dialogue between the two is pretty good, though I almost wish we got a bit more of either internal monologues from one of them or more body language descriptions for the encounter. That said, you packed a lot in here, even if it did go over the word count a bit - not a lot of fat to trim either, though the comment about Simon's loading speed might could've gone.
Oooh, a flash forward? Old Man Merlin, dying at the ripe old age of 16? Jokes aside, a pretty solid short piece. My only real complaints here are the two "info dump"-ish paragraphs at the beginning. The weapon details seem a bit unnecessary to the piece, and your introduction of the wasting disease feels like it could have been better integrated into how you showed me Merlin's condition than simply laying it out. Still, there's a nice cadence to the short and it focuses on the disease itself more than the others, and for that I award it the win this week.

Week 161: Lonely, I'm so lonely...

Prompt: Goddammit. Tide asks me (ElTopo) for a cozy weekly prompt, so I make one and disappear to give you a month and a half longer than you normally would get, for good measure, and only Silver puts it to work? I guess we're back to our regularly scheduled angst, in that case. This time: isolation. Being alone. Being kept away from others, by choice or by force. Someone forced to work on their own, either separated from their team or being the last survivor. A ship lost in deep space, crew ruminating on what would've happened if they had that drive coupling properly fixed last overhaul. A world cut off from communication - and maybe even travel - from everywhere else, struggling to cope and find a way to be self-sufficient.

Basically, if this and LOMI's prompts are anything to go by, we're going to be milking current events for prompt ideas as much as we can. Go figure. Back to my usual 1000 words, and bi-weekly cadence, for now.

Start Date: March 23rd, 2020

End Date: April 5th, 2020

Wow, this is... wow. A change from your regular weekly pieces (with familiar flavours of The First from the Halloween special), and it's definitely unnerving. Sensory deprivation is a big fear to play with, and you've worked with it very well - in particular, jumping back and forth suddenly to the crumbs of sensory stimulation that the outside world is feeding Drake lends it a frantic vibe, a mixture of fear and resignation, that matches very well with the bleakness of a titanium-A shell and three inches of saltwater lapping around his ankles. It's another nice touch for him to fully understand the protocol that they're using, for him to be the very one who designed it - I'm sure there's a much wider context for this to fit in that's in another tale or article or on a drafting bench somewhere, but at least just looking at this entry it adds to the feeling of futility, of helplessness brought about by the isolation that wouldn't be as strong if it was just some captured insurgent or sympathiser rooted out from the UNSC's ranks.
As for the protocol outlined below - while it takes you firmly over word count and towards hard cap, I'm a sucker for technical writing, and good one at that. In this context it works very nicely, boiling down the torture into a short, cold, clinical addendum. And it hammers in that even Drake, knowing everything that they were doing and what it did, couldn't last the full three days. Effectiveness of procedure is deemed absolute indeed.

Week 162: Just Like Riding a Bike

Prompt: Getting back into the swing of things now that I have more time spare, so how about a prompt based on that? This week, I'm after a tale with someone picking up an old skill that they'd long neglected, a weapon they've gotten out of practice with, a vehicle they barely remember, or something similar. Whether it goes fantastically or horribly is entirely up to you - and whether they end up being shown up by those damned kids who are fluent with the same thing (or something better, even) is, too! 1000 words, once again.

Start Date: March 30rd, 2020

End Date: April 12th, 2020

  • Thin Grey Line by SilverLastname: I agree. Thirty-two credits - four moa burgers and some spare change - is indeed one hell of a ripoff for a greasy-spoon breakfast like that.
I'm one hell of a big fan of stories beginning in media res, possibly more than I really should be - and this one is no exception. The opening and scene-setting hit it right on the head, with Strider's calm and collected introduction feeling very cinematic. From there, however, I feel like it faltered a little - there is too much left out, and too much hinted-at-but-not-properly-explained, to feel entirely smooth. Some details eluded me and needed me to go over them again - the talk of bodies on the floor and the SOCOM made me think that he had shot up the place, so the talk of assault threw me off-balance; and the juggling of three separate unnamed parties (the officers, their backup arriving outside, and the ODSTs) did too, and I initially thought it he was claiming the officers arriving were to end up imprisoned for corruption.
Still, upon a second (and third) rereading the goings-on were much clearer... but beyond Strider being proved right, and the rather nice ending punchline, I still feel like it lacks a punch, a compelling hook. The reasons why he's right were covered well before that punchline, but the background to the squad - or Strider himself, for that matter - aren't. Most of all, I feel like this is a character introduction for Strider, in, say, the opening few minutes of a TV series pilot (although if word count was cutting out more juicy details, that's fair enough). I just have to say that this feels like a scene cut from a longer piece or a series, but isn't really as satisfying on its own as some of your other self-contained-but-part-of-something-bigger shorts.
For the setup, this was honestly a lot funner than I expected it to be. After opening with the regulation itself, the introduction catches just a little (probably unavoidable, I think, after a few reads) clumsiness, before breaking into the meat of the article - the whole circus of organizers, officials, and even the other competitors tripping over themselves trying to find out just how Linda's that good. The semi-farcical nature of the situation translates very well from the original forum post to this short, and is well-written enough to not feel too slapstick or comical - it keeps enough of an edge in reminding you that these are the top human sharpshooters that she's beating, and that she is doing so even pre-augmentation. The mention of other child prodigies being brought along for these trials, being good enough to compete (if not win) against the other marksmen also caught my eye, and while I would've enjoyed a bit of expansion on that it makes sense to still focus on the here and now of the "controversy".
It's short, fun, and even draws a little aww at the end at Linda still wondering what went wrong. Still, by all rights, it is straying rather far from the prompt... but it's firmly enjoyable enough to overlook that.

Week 163: Catch My Good Side

Prompt: LOMI here with a quick prompt for the week: show me your moves! Not yours, really, but your character's moves. Everyone deserves a moment to show off what they can really do, so I want to see you write one of your characters getting to showcase their very best skills - whether it be combat, stealth, diplomacy, cooking, whatever. Just capture them doing their best with that thing they're proud of. 500 words or less preferably, per the usual.

Start Date: April 5th, 2020

End Date: April 12th, 2020

Dancing and a ball are definitely not what I expected from an ONI event, but I suppose in a ceremonial sort of setting it might work. Definitely unexpected though, so thanks for surprising me. That said, I know the goal was under 500 words, but with just over 300 I feel like you needed to use more of them. Some of the early sentences could've used a few more words here and there - "They had spent the majority" or "Not wanting to say no", perhaps - but overall what you had is formatted and grammatically fine. What this story could've used was some more show, less tell: they start having a dance, a very visual thing, and I feel it needed some more description. You describe their reactions to the event, but you don't do a whole lot of description of the dancing.
Story telling is a bit of a meta choice, but it works nicely I think. Granted I don't know a lot about these Deltas - besides Andra, who doesn't get tormented here, which feels like a violation of the site's unspoken rules somehow - but I'd say you did a good job of demonstrating Zach's personality and how he's dealing with his own scars through the tale. You went a little long on word count, but cutting down would probably just boil down to some of the adjectives getting cut here and there. One problem I did have was I wasn't sure if everyone was Spartans or not - you say they're undercover, but every mentioned character appears to be a Spartan? Just a small note of uncertainty there.
Coming in at our longest entry for this prompt, you gave a really good action sequence that's for sure. The piece has a very nice flow and cadence to it, dragging you along as Corin falls face first into danger. You'd think it would be hard to showcase someone's unique style of experiencing gravity, but you do a good job of giving us a look at how Corin thinks about the situation that really works. I think my only complaint besides length is that your descriptive paragraphs tend to be big old blocks: it would probably help to break them down just a bit, punctuate and divide the thoughts a little more. At the end of the day, despite being a stickler for word counts, this strikes me as the entry deserving the win this week.
I have to say, I did not expect an AI going fishing when I'd written this prompt, nor did I expect it to be as enjoyable as it is. It's a simple and quaint little story, but it does its job admirably. Little details like the extra time it takes to walk there or how the video feed is terrible just go to show how much effort Samuel will put into going fishing for some peace. I will say it took me till the end of the story, though, to realize that Samuel was the AI, and not a human in the hospital using a dumb AI to control the robot; in the same vein I at first thought you were talking about a sentient robot, which would've brought out another set of questions. As nice as a story this is though, this was a request to see a character showcasing their best skills, so is this Samuel's best skill? Relaxing with fishing while civic duties run quietly on the back burner feels a bit more like enjoying a pasttime than showing off a skill. It's still a personal favorite regardless of how it fits the prompt.
So maybe it's just your preference, but I think it's parsed as "Troop Hog", not "TroopHog," but that's a small note. A fairly simple story overall, definitely showing off Bodark's skills but not doing much more than that. We're shown a lot of what happens as she deals with the vehicle piece by piece, but I think it would've been nice to have some internal monologue at points to break it up and add variety. We get her smirking or sighing a few times, but what are her thoughts while actually dealing with the engine or brakes or other parts. Overall though, not a bad piece at all.

Week 164: By Your Command

Prompt: For our 1000-word prompt, this week we're having a look at the bigger picture. I'd like a piece about those removed from the frontline action of combat - officers commanding troops or ships, politicians on the homefront, or handlers piecing together clues from their intel and their agents - who are still making their own moves, their machinations, their own finely laid plans and contingencies against what their counterparts might do. Whether it's 4D Chess or a Murphy's Law farce, however, is up to you.

Start Date: April 6th, 2020

End Date: April 19th, 2020

Another curveball from you - another one right at the edge of the prompt's boundaries - and one done well, nevertheless. This one opens strongly, with the contrast of the dawn and Morrison's morning smoke blending nicely into his indecisiveness about leaving, and eventually facing his wife. I have to say, though, I feel like the conflict between the two over his leaving is much more heartfelt in its actions than its words. Marci clinging to her husband, or the sadness in her eyes, or his mouth working to try and think of the right things to say; all of these work fantastically, yet the dialogue undermines things a little. Morrison's lines feel a little stilted, a little cliché about looking after his troops and fighting for what they have back home - although they may well be ringing true, or the best he can think of under the circumstances. Overall? Enjoyable - but the show feels far better than the tell, and the ties to the prompt are a little on the tenuous side to me.

Week 165: Hooked

Prompt: Maybe it's just a morning coffee. Maybe the occasional piece of stim-gum. Maybe it's a habit, a vice, a superstition, an addiction. This week I just want another short about something that one of your characters is hooked on, that they need to do in one way or another. An adrenaline junkie? A nail-biter? A Gamma Company S-III trapped behind enemy lines with a dwindling supply of smoothers? Up to you.

Start Date: April 13th, 2020

End Date: April 26th, 2020

Okay, I might have been dumb and forgotten to actually put a wordcount on this week's one. So you're all exempt from it this time. Although honestly, this week's were really hard deciding between anyways.

I'm still the first to admit that I still know precious little about the history or backstories or lore of these two, and yet I still find every piece you submit with them to be incredibly compelling. Flickering from Merlin's sickly state to the ravaging dust-storms outside, before settling on Andra seeing her own scarred face in the reflection of it - your description of the here, the now, the moment, goes from strength to strength. Again, being able to hook me and keep me in the scene knowing so little about these two is excellent, especially when running in at barely half of the word count. That being said... I definitely feel this could've done with pushing that number a little higher. While the main body is very strongly written, I feel like the explanation of what's going on, the context of this little snippet, is kind of thin on the ground. Of course, if it's meant to slot in to a bigger work, or is a short interlude in a series, or something along those lines where I'm missing something then that's understandable - it's just that right now it takes a bit of re-reading to pick up hints as to what's going on, when just a bit more outright explanation of that would've made things easier to work with and get - and, with more exploration of their surroundings and situation of this quality, this could well have won.
While much more routine than the events depicted in the competing entry, I still enjoyed the mixture of sanctity and mundanity involved here. The "reverence, strength, honour" triangle is very fitting, even if the frantic grunts scurrying around occasionally detract from the gravitas of the situation, and the whole sequence feels very believable as something that would happen. But what I'd probably pin down as the gem I most enjoyed out of it is the brief moment of tension between Zona and the Minor sent as a messenger - the conflict-by-proxy between him and the shipmaster, one of them a warrior of honour and tradition and heritage, the other more used to vast machines of nanolaminate slinging plasma across the cold, unforgiving void. I think the melding of opposites throughout the piece - the sanctity of Zona's ritual and the violence it prepares for, the universality of the Covenant's faith still split by old lines of caste and aristocracy, the way the Swordmaster of deeply personal combat looks down on the Shipmaster's impatience, maybe even born of pragmatism.
Or maybe I'm just reading too much into this. I dunno.

Week 166: To Whom(st) It May Concern

Prompt: Something short and sweet this time - a story told through a message, up to 500 words in length. A letter home from the front - before or after treatment by the ONI censors? A correspondence from scientists researching forerunner artefacts? A fleet after-action report? (Yes, I know I've asked for this before, back in #148) A concerned memo about missed shipments from an already-glassed planet, before news of the war properly broke? Anything you like. In this case, the word count limit only applies to the main body of the message; any formal flavour text such as Waypoint addresses, secure encryption keys, "Dear Granny...", terminal-style logging on/IDs, or weird "Sent from my neural implant" signatures are all fair game and don't count towards your 500.

Start Date: April 20th, 2020

End Date: May 3rd, 2020

It's very nice to see a more personal, human story amongst the action and drama that's the norm for a lot of weeks, and this certainly takes it and runs with it. In particular, I do have to say - while the main body of the piece is what I'm looking at - the book, and especially the message scrawled in the pages, make it particularly touching. It does feel like I'm reading a plea directly from Luke to Waimarie, although I also have to say that it somewhat suffers a little because of that. A lot of if feels like it's built on background information and history between the two of them, and while a fair portion of that can be gleaned from context - the bombing, the condition of the two of them, and so forth - the deeper details are left unexplored. It definitely feels like an outsider looking inwards - although given the prompt, if it's intentional then that's absolutely understandable.
(On a note completely unrelated to the piece or feedback, I can't help but notice that the G is clipping through the V on the title image).
Oh man, I am a sucker for this kind of thing. I have a huge soft spot for formal/technical writing, procedures, anything that requires a fancy UNSC/ONI header and gratuitous overuse of fixed width typewriter fonts - and for anything involving contingencies, apocalypses, and other Bad Ends. And so... I really, really wanted to love this piece, but it just feels like it could've done with more polish. There's contradictions between the concept of "if you are reading this, we lost" letters of last resort, while the letter's contents are still discussiong who should be reading it and when - and "high-tonnage warships" or "several thousand or more" feels uncharacteristically unprofessional for ONI. Similarly, the actions for Loss of Earth are covered below the "above", and the wording of that whole segment feels a bit awkward - but I still really love the concept, and a lot of it is done really well done. The total collapse action list reads much better than the first half of the letter, and the extreme contrast between "2) Flee and find a new home, we Galactica now" vs "3) immediate prolonged and total orbital nuclear bombardment hits like a 5-ton sledgehammer made out of shivers - especially when it bears thinking about how different officers may react and what they would do in desperation, since I imagine there's a lot more variation between them than the handpicked submariners the RN writes their letters for. I want to stress again that this is a concept I am an incredibly big fan of, I just feel like the first half of this particular piece needed a bit longer in the oven.
I really wasn't sure how to approach this one, even after a couple of rereads. For sure, the opening was well-done - the excursion into the freezer, as well as the offhand reveal that his prize was a popsicle, was cleanly executed, and there's a certain satisfaction in the officer's idle musings while enjoying the stolen goods. And yet... the rest seems to stumble uncertainly from there. The note left on the box reads almost comically over-the-top, but only "almost" - the rest of the prose description doesn't really commit enough for it to work. Instead, the ranting and raving from a fellow professional officer just comes across as kind of daft, as does the sudden klaxon and corniness of the "THIS IS NOT A DRILL" immediately following. The twist of their pettiness and it evaporating in the face of a Covenant invasion would've been pretty amusing if it was done played straight, or if pushed into outright comedy, but the half-and-half approach stops the punchline from really working.
I also have to add that this piece unfortunately misses the prompt by quite a large margin - while shorts for other prompts having other forms of writing embedded in them have been done before and are perfectly fine, this week was explicitly asking for the message to be told through a story, rather than it simply being tacked on, as it kind of feels here.
While a journal entry skirts the edges of the box too, you did ask about it beforehand, and it's still the whole body of the work. It does feel like more like an internal monologue than properly trying to record or communicate something, but I feel like this works in its favour. The stream-of-consciousness style feels like uneasily tiptoeing around, yet inevitably towards, a confession - and I'm not sure if it's the one I expected, but it still caps off the entry nicely. Still, I have to offer some of the same critique as I did for Tough Love here - some of the events defining Sasha's character and confession here are only lightly covered, as is their impact; although in this case, there's still more than enough of a history to work with within the short word count.
This was quite difficult to come up with feedback for, truth be told. While it's certainly well-written as a call to arms, I didn't have much to form an opinion with narratively; although I did dig into the page for Kropotkin, which helped things somewhat, and between the two there's certainly more to work with here. This piece leaves more questions than answers - what really led up to this uprising, how effective really was this (and how crucial was this declaration in triggering it), and how much solidarity there really was. It plants a lot of seeds for further lines to be explored, especially in the immediate leadup and aftermath to the declaration - and if this was the intent, it does it very well, in spite of the lack of a direct hook.

Week 167: Coming To You Live

Prompt: Format Screw 2: Weekly Boogaloo! This week, I'm asking for the bane of everyone's middle-school English classes - a written news article. Again, within this scope, the format and content of said article is all up to you - whether it's an official ONI-sanitized propaganda piece, a small local story from a minor planetary journal with the Big Things [TM] of the orion arm as a backdrop, or a wildly untrue rumour picked up and amplified across every news service on Waypoint. It might be fun exploring how the varying times of slipspace travel make timely reporting frustrating or impossible - or even putting together a Xenonion-style satirical (or not!) report on, say, how the systematic destruction of human colonies is affecting the business world. Someone please do one of those. While there's a wide disparity in what you could write for this, word counts should aim for the 500-800 range or so.

Start Date: April 29th, 2020

End Date: May 10th, 2020

I very much like this not-at-all subtle callback to your previous work, and it's nice to see another look into the tensions accompanying the transition from the war into an uneasy, flaky peace. A sigh of relief across the Orion Arm was exactly right - although I have to admit that I'm even more interested in the other two featured articles on the left hand side and what they might entail. How much of Under The Helmets is poorly-explained inaccurate diagrams that armchair generals seize upon to analyse? How much of the original piece for Thin Green Line after the ONI censors are done with it? And most importantly, what are those symbols on the bottom?

Week 168: The Road Not Travelled

Prompt: Based on an idea that came up while discussing RPGs on the community Discord server - this week I'm interested in two (or more, if you're feeling ambitious about how much you can squeeze in) alternate sets of results that diverged from a single choice, or decision, or event. Seeing both sides of a figurative what if is what I'm after - although you're welcome to specify a "canon ending" if you're planning on tying it in to other works - whether we're talking about the immediate results of either choice, or how it affects things much further down the line in a Butterfly-Effect-y way. Given the possibilities involved, I might be a bit more lax on word count this week, but 800 words is still the goal.

Start Date: May 4th, 2020

End Date: May 17th, 2020

  • A Question: There is as yet insufficient data for a meaningful review.
I really, really liked this. As well as managing to pull off a solid homage to the source work, it keeps a long enough arm's reach away to not sound like a ripoff, and instead takes the concept into a completely different direction. Guilt over the war is to be expected, of course, but the mindgames with the AI made this far better than I expected, especially with the supposedly cold, factual AI starting to trade barbs with Ryder. The "debrief" at the ending was also another layer to this that I enjoyed, although I did find it a little bit hard to follow, in terms of which of the two Ryder was originally communicating with in the first place, and what their overall connection/link to the Assembly is. Is the Reach Net (or Pompeii?) speaking on their behalf? Regardless, emotional AIs toying with their interrogators is deliciously fresh - at least to my eyes - and, for some reason, I found the capping of that exchange with "WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR ANSWER PRINTED" was bitingly funny. Good stuff.

Week 169: The Truth is Out (There)

Prompt: Not a format screw this time, unfortunately - but this week's theme-based prompt I'd like to be based around a confession of some sort. Maybe a whistleblower on an ONI black project whose conscience finally got the better of them, a long-standing grudge finally aired, or maybe just two biochemically-augmented dumb kids letting their feelings out to one another at the worst possible time. 800 words of secrets being 'fessed up, that's all I ask of yous.

Start Date: May 13th, 2020

End Date: May 24th, 2020

  • Foxhole: I had like, three double-takes trying to figure out why the collapsible image wasn't working before realising there wasn't one. 10 points for me, I suppose.
Blood and mud. I liked this piece, especially with just how well it depicts how hellish things are (or war is, in general) - switching back and forth between Reinmoore's internal feelings and the wider scene lends a very cinematic feel to the descriptions, and the actions between the dialogue keep him and Goldlich very much grounded in a human point of view. The interplay between the two of them works pretty well, and although towards the end it veers towards somewhat more predictable territory, it doesn't feel corny or cliché, and some of the barbs work well to lend a bit of flavour towards the different backgrounds of the two. Excellent scene-setting and a surprising choice of confession that still works well for the piece. It's a shame that it's so far over wordcount, but unlike previous instances I honestly can't think of much that's trimmable without losing something from the story.

Week 170: Fixed Prompts #3

Prompt: Another batch of fixed prompts - if you're unfamiliar with them, this is a round of the Weekly where you're given lines, phrases or sentences to build a story off, rather than a theme to work within. You don't have to start off the stories with these lines, though, they (or some variant of them) just have to be included at some point - and feel free to use more than one. 800 words is your target, as per usual (which I've also updated this page to reflect).

  • "You always had a soft spot, didn't you? Until it (almost?) got you killed."
  • "Artificial intelligence inevitably had to come with artificial emotion."
  • "What did I miss while I was on ice?" (Bonus: "Everything.")
  • "Killing doesn't take skill. Not compared to hunting for sport."

Start Date: May 20th, 2020

End Date: May 31st, 2020

Hm. I should probably file the other three prompts away for reuse some time.

  • Sport: Did Jordin Sparks ever figure out how to breathe with no air?
This was... nice. The exchange between Irons and his spotter - the real meat of the piece went in a predictable direction, but it was still pulled off well enough to feel fresh-sounding. I'd possibly point to his use of the prompt line (or the variation of it, I suppose) as being a touch on the clumsy side, but nothing to really worry about - especially since the remainder of their conversation was plenty convincing. Irons's hunting was made to sound exactly that; a source of amusement, a test of skill, rather than torture for torture's sake - which contrasts with Monique flickering between confusion and disgust (although the latter felt like it came a little out of nowhere, considering the more casual, flippant tone of the rest of the conversation). Plus, I very much liked that extra touch of Vessev's missing lance probably having fallen victim to the same pair offscreen, even though I only noticed it on a reread.
  • Hunger: (Not) a lot of loyalty for a hired gun.
I was surprised by pretty much every aspect of this - both the shortened version of the piece, the Director's Cut, and seeing this username appear in a Weekly all of a sudden. Still, the hunt was very enjoyable; both of the fight scenes were handled well, kept punchy, without losing the point that this was all as seen from Jik's outsider perspective. The tension between him and Aran's grandstanding was solid, too, and the brief, sharp moment of violence before returning simply to "business as usual" as far as the captured Demon goes. The escape and brief exchange of blows also work well to set up an excellent inversion of the situation just moments before, and a fun inversion of the prompt line, too.
As far as length goes, however - while the short version does lose something without the earlier context, I would say that the biggest losses are simply the naming of characters (who Aran, Olin and Jik are, at least) and the context behind their hunt and their hunger. While I agree that they wouldn't really be able to squeeze inside the 800 words, I do feel like they could be worked in without ballooning quite so much (and by extension, needing to trim quite so heavily). The first half isn't bad, by any means - it's just as solid writing as the latter - but the chameleon sandwich, the distant explosions (I very much liked the distinguishing between plasma and "powder", by the way), and the fight through the forest were definitely more setup than plot. Still, a very strong piece, and it's nice to see Silver have someone on his heels for these Weeklies!

Week 171: Green as Grass

Prompt: A (belated) counterpart to #162, this week I'm interested in a tale about someone's first day on the job - figuratively, if not literally. Someone's first battle, the debut operation of a newly-formed unit, or even the first shots fired in anger of a shiny brand-new weapon type or variant. Whether it goes well or horribly is entirely up to you, of course, so long as it all fits within the 800-word target.

Start Date: May 28th, 2020

End Date: June 7th, 2020

  • Starfall: You know, I swear those stars are moving every time i open that collapsible box.
Well, you were right, tovarisch. This has very little, if anything to do with the prompt, so I can't hand over that era icon or any fake internet points. But it's still excellent. It still strikes an excellent balance between description - a little technical talk, a bit of background - and the character work. The admissions of where it all went wrong weave in and out of description as if a camera's point of view looking, glancing around the inside of the rapidly-disintegrating pod. The background and hints of a plot make me want more information out of it, and the final sentence caps things off very nicely and just... sounds good.
Shall we just say this was a retroactive entry for #169 (nice) instead and be done with it?

Week 172: Take the L

Prompt: I know we're losing. I want to know if we've lost. This week I'm throwing another set of unfortunate events into the mix - I'd like to see some stories about defeats. Not just narrow, edged-out, by-the-skin-of-their-teeth losses, but protagonists (whichever side they're on) getting their teeth kicked in. The stakes can vary, of course - this can be a sparring match in training or a planet-wide counteroffensive - and the losing side can be completely wiped or still put up a good fight. But being beaten, and beaten decisively, is the name of the game. Once again, your goal is 800 words.

Start Date: June 3rd, 2020

End Date: June 14th, 2020

  • One Bad Day: You're still gonna have them all hug after this, right? I was promised softness.
Another step further for the SHIKARI, and one that I genuinely didn't expect. True, they sit in and watch new Spartans to analyse their fights and their weaknesses, and they stand around delivering a seminar about how they'll go all Liam Neeson on anyone who defects, but I'm surprised that they're going as far as fighting them in sims. Out-of-setting, I might question just how useful this is, since exposure to SHIKARI tactics might give S-IVs ideas on taking them on, or demoralise their otherwise-invincible mindsets. However, I really can't fault the piece itself; the description in the first half had a very cinematic feel to it, surveying the carnage left behind and hammering in the sense of complete, utter defeat - and honestly had me up until the moment the twist came in. I'll admit that in this case the exchanges after coming out of the sim felt a little less inspired than your normal works, but given the tight wordcount (even with the step over it) and the exposition necessary I'm aware there wasn't time for particularly deep characterisation outside of SHIKARI hornyposting Still, I'd love to see more of this - of these characters, of the setup and the sim and what other uses it has, or even of what else SHIKARI gets up to.

Week 173: For The Record

Prompt: "Topo, why can we only write stories?" I hear you cry. And, while I could just sit here and gesture over at shill for a certain documentation-based pet project of mine, I have heard your pleas. This week's prompt is to write an article about a battle - any time period, any scale (a huge campaign or a short skirmish), any sides.

There is no hard limit on word count - but if you're after a vague ballpark goal, the battles of the Etran Harborage, Sigma Oct IV and Requiem all stand in the 1500-2000ish region on Halopedia (prose only, excluding infoboxes). That being said, I will strongly favour a well-fleshed-out article over a wall of words. A short piece with a well-put-together timeline, infobox, background, aftermath, and prose that follows the big picture would be in better standing than however many thousands of words describing a single team or character kicking ass and nothing else. Embedded crosslinks to other work (teams, factions, ships, events, etc) would also be nice, although I'm aware that less well-established writers won't have much by way of expanded universes to do that with.

While this is open for the original bi-weekly cadence, I'm willing to leave this prompt up longer (if the admins and SPs let me) for others to have a go with, since the Weeklies have been monopolised of late and I'd like to see others give it a go.

Start Date: June 9th, 2020

(Provisional) End Date: June 21st, 2020

Oh boy. Ohhhh boy. This is a lot.

This is by far the smallest scale battle out of the four, and while this makes the infobox rather lightweight and lacking of information, the dramatis personae you have serves to fill in those gaps rather nicely, along with providing a little backstory and info about how everyone's roads leading to the raid. However, I still feel like it's an insufficient substitute for a proper prelude/background section introducing the bigger actors as a whole - the biggest gap to my eyes was that the nature of the Syndicate is never really elaborated on, nor their relations to the Created (and the Assembly, too?). I'm aware that there's probably far more further reading that would've elaborated this, but the lack of even a brief explanation of what they are - criminal organization, Created vassal, insurrectionist splinter, stellar quasi-state? - leaves a rather awkward hole right at the heart of this piece, and it's evident even from the opening quote; why is this attempted strike on the Syndicate a blow against the Created?
As for the main body of the article, I find the focus and wordcount devoted to certain parts over others to leave the article feeling a little lopsided. The preparation, securing of the Tofu XII, and even the opening moves of the raid itself felt methodical, believable, and built the picture of a efficient (if somewhat improvised) playbook - but the amount of airtime it got relative to the combat onboard the station feels awkwardly unbalanced. The UNSC strike force, dominant (or at the very least on even footing) up until this point are laid low in a single paragraph; Silverthorne gets only his second mention in the entire article before being presumably killed offscreen with the remainder of the team in one fell swoop - and, well, nobody else in the team gets a mention beyond a line about them tiptoeing around Prometheans. The fight through the station just feels very skimmed over, and it's a bit of a jarring turn from having Phoenix-Two comfortably clearing Syndicate security to rocks fall Kahn shoots, everyone dies.
I still think the piece was very well executed technically - there's relevant and useful crosslinks on characters and kit, without being excessive or having one for everything that moves, and similarly the images complemented the piece nicely (although I would've tweaked some things - the "Hot Jupiter" pic felt like a bit of a tangent, and the info in the caption for the Furthest Point is just re-covering context given in the dramatis personae). It's a short, sweet piece that covers a very specific battle, and does so well, but without context for the Syndicate or detail of the combat itself, I have to say this is left feeling quite incomplete.
Ah, this has the taste of a classic. The UNSC outnumbered, outgunned, and clinging on by sheer bloodymindedness. The prelude has just the right amount of context to make sense of things without dragging on, the infobox is packed with information about the forces and the battle's place in the war, and the main body of the piece...
...seems to be trying to cover two things at once?
Somewhat similar to Tide's entry, things feel a tad lopsided here, in the speed of events and their pacing within the body of the article. Most notably, the orbital campaign seems to end with a bit of a whimper - there's not much talk about the failed counterattacks that eat away at the UNSC forces, but as soon as the ODPs fall they're very comfortably wiped. I suppose there's definitely a weirdness about trying to write a siege and make it work in the context of space battles and the groundside campaign, and that it's awkward to try and write around that to make it work, but the other thing that nags at me is the timescales involved and the sequence of events. Reach Syndrome rears its head here, in the somewhat clumsy timeskip of a whole year between the ground campaign starting and the orbital one being lost, but also in the way the Covenant are still able to support said campaign with the ODPs and fleet intact. Was the loss of 90% of fighter escorts and 30% of landing craft within the first wave? If not, was that over the course of the campaign - or if so, how did they sustain said campaign? Did Conviction just decide to sic all the ground assault forces on Sirona at once, then sit at arm's length of the ODPs to stop any possible relief force? To clarify - I'm not saying that you should've picked one of these, or that any of them could be bad (I personally think all of them could work, given the right execution) - it's just a bit confusingly ambiguous between them.
As for the ground battle section, however - this is a gem. The hastily-put-together defences, the UNSC troops working with their knowledge of the local terrain, the delaying actions and pincer attacks, all of it swaps very smoothly back and forth between talking about the tactical and strategic moves by both sides in a way that makes me feel like it's a Total War game. The genuinely unexpected twist of it being the attacking Covenant forces being trapped into a last stand was very good too, as was the solid conclusion that solid tactics and home advantage had won the day, rather than any asspulling or secret materiel superiority. The only things that were really confusing about this part were context - I was never quite sure about the name of the capital, and a map would've done wonders for clearing up what was happening on the broader operational front (I vaguely remember one being posted on the Discord, but I can't find it off the top of my head).
I honestly feel that the ground battle is outstanding, and maybe would've even worked better as an expanded standalone piece, as right now it's dragged down a little by its placement and the flow of the article around it. It all takes place within the third paragraph of the "Orbital Battle" section, and the end of it references events that come a year later - it feels more like a sub-article set within the Sironan(?) campaign rather than part of a sequence of events (since the orbital battle was still ongoing after it) in the article. Still, the attention to detail on the ground side made that really quite enjoyable - the extra context given in the captions about the Jabber and the Pangolin, the timeline covering both the Earth and local calendars. I also enjoy the weaving together of different aspects outside your own work that I've seen around - as well as the two vehicles (which might have benefited from a crosslink) I also see Alaska popping up in there. I'm aware that there was more cut off for time concerns (both by "placeholder" and the extra timeline points), and I would've really liked to see these - but as it stands the overall flow does feel a bit disjointed.
Wow, this is... weird? Cool? Intriguing, let's go with that.
This reads, well, very much not like a battle article, and much more like a chronicle, maybe retold internally within the Covenant. I assume that was the intent, and I have to say it definitely lends a much more unique tone to it - but I'm ambivalent about whether or not it was the right direction to with. Sometimes it lends the piece a much more grandiose feel, a poetic retelling of grand battles and heroics - like the second half of The Arrival and The Oracle after it - on occasion it instead seems to add bulk to the piece that slows it down.
While sitting as a relatively simple sequence of events, the structure is also really interesting - one one hand, I feel like fitting them into thematic and "chapter"-like narrative sections aids with the flow of the piece, but on the occasion that I got lost in the piece I ended up searching back through bits and pieces to try and find what I was looking for, which I feel like would've happened much less with a more traditional delineation between battles and events. The opening part, First Blows, would probably have benefited from being distinguished more cleanly from the rest of the piece; a prologue and background to the battle that ignited doesn't fit quite as smoothly into the rest of the piece, and having it denoted as the first blows of Sundered Shore seemed a little odd.
The actual narrative of the piece I really enjoyed - from The Little Deacon That Could, to "oh god oh fuck the tunnels are speaking Unggoy-". The first half of the tale (I feel like I should call it that? It's certainly not an article, but not quite a story either...) chugs along at a nice pace, but the deeper it gets the better it gets. The negotiations with the Oracle of the Shore and path towards the final cataclysm bring with them an escalation that feels very natural, and the eventual Sundering finally cements why the legend-esque tone was chosen. The vast scale of the events, the huge impact on the rest of the Covenant as a whole fit perfectly with the way it's retold, and the events themselves fit in with canon ones - the raising of the Arbiter, the abdication of the hierarchs, the nature of the Shore's failsafe, and the course of the Unggoy rebellion as a whole - pretty much seamlessly. The execution of Ripper is a good yet sad touch, too, given their lack of fault in the series of events and the inflexible nature of the Covenant theocracy. The final few paragraphs of The Aftermath also play with a more direct message that isn't quite part of the narrative, and the retro-foreshadowing of the Schism and the end of the war strengthen the voice of the piece, - something that couldn't possibly have been done with a conventional article.
Ultimately, that's both the huge strength and weakness of the piece - the way it's told as a tale. It feels like a story crammed into the confines of an article, with an infobox, and submitted for this entry - the story behind it is very good, yet the structure is creaking somewhat. The few crosslinks there also feel a little on the weaker side - the ones linking to the factions and the Flood as a whole don't do much, although squeezing Truth-to-be and the Ministry of Concert in there from Halopedia work better - although given the lack of expansion of this period and side of Covenant history, I can't really fault that. Overall, I feel like the Sundered Shore is an excellent story, and a fantastic foundation with which to build stories or characters from, or to be referenced in future Covenant material (especially that pertaining to the Sangheili and Unggoy)... it just feels a bit bent out of shape when presented as an article.
Okay. This took a while, and a very long while at that, because it took me several goes to really get this piece to really settle with me. I have to apologise about how long it took, but also I want to get this out of the way first because it was by far the biggest problem with this entry; it was just a huge slog to get through. I don't particularly mean in terms of word count, either - but the way it was set out and written was the thing. Long, run-on sentences stretching out for 2 or 3 lines ended up the norm, and having so much bolted onto every point made it take a long time to really get and understand each bit as I was reading, to the point where it became quite draining to read. I do think that putting out the longest piece for this weekly (by far) and doing so in such a short time, at such a hectic pace, was a very big achievement given your block at the time, and I gotta congratulate you on that; but honestly something much shorter, even half the length would've been preferable - even if it wasn't finished. There is some really nice content in there but it's simply drowned out by how fatiguing the whole thing was to get through.
Anyway. Time to get to the article itself, in a bit of a blow-by-blow. The initial good impressions of a nice, light overview and a packed-yet-interesting infobox give way to an exceptionally confusing prelude. This is probably the second biggest sticking point for Grannus - normally such a section would add context, but in this case it just highlights the absence of it. Names of officers, formations, references to treaties, plans, dates, listening stations, and so on, are all written in there as if we should know what they are already, without any explanation of their histories or relevance. This is also probably the part where the long-run writing really took its toll the most, unfortunately.
Once moving onto the actual body of the battle itself, things do clear up a lot - the ships and commanders in question are established quickly, and are few enough to keep track of well. The formations on the ground, too, are more modest about throwing new concepts into the fray - although one noticable exception is how we're never told what Leopards are properly (in fact, the closest thing to that is a mention in the infobox). The flips between the space and ground action are somewhat confusing, although I understand that it's hard to not be when following both theatres being interweaved with one another while trying to write in a chronological order. The latter portion of the space battle is kind of a mixed bag. The coverage of individual orders, attacks, even shots between the vessels brings a very tight level of detail to the battle, but it again makes things confusing to work with, incredibly so with so many names being thrown around in the space of a few sentences.
Then... then there's the solar flare. I honestly am not quite sure why it warranted the big ask or discussion when this was still a WIP, as right here in context it seems kind of... inconsequential. Sure, it's big enough to disable Covenant shields... but they keep firing and the GDF gets screwed over anyway? Both its positioning in the narrative and the earlier discussions made it feel like it was going to be a pivotal moment that allowed an underdog UNSC to strike hard and gain the upper hand, but in this case they simply seem to fizzle out after the flare passes, being wiped out after just another two sentences. While I suppose having them be able to destroy the attacking Covenant ships on even terms is a major upset, the lack of airtime given to the fight that took place after the flare feels like it was very quickly handwaved away. It's left lacking a feeling of being an important point in the narrative, which then reflects badly on the suspension of disbelief about the flare disabling shields in the first place; if it was an opportunity that let the GDF strike back and be Big Damn Heroes [TM] then I'd be more inclined to give it a pass, but it ended up feeling more like "solar flare, everyone dies, next please".
The piece then breaks with its previous chronological order, and then rewinds a few hours to the UNSC ships and their relevance to the ground battle - which I kind of feel is a mistake. Holding the two separately or bringing them all in-line both would work fine for the flow of an article (although I would slightly weight more to the former), but jumping backwards to the GDF still providing fire support when they all died just a sentence ago is rather jarring. The aerial battle described does sound visceral, though, with the four vessels duelling it out in the sky certainly sounding like a sight to behold.
The next major section definitely reads much more like a smaller scale combat scene, and this does work well - there's a sense of plays and outplays taking place, and Montoya trying to do as much as possible with too little. Bringing us down to the scale of busyworks does wonders, but it does expose a feeling of imbalance in the tone in the piece. While Siege of Sirona pivoted back and forth between battle tactics and theatre operations very smoothly, the swings here feel much bigger, and unfortunately more clumsily done. The ground battle primarily focuses on Montoya and a single platoon of troops, with just a handful of vehicles, yet until Everest Base they seem to be the only relevant forces actually worth following on the entire planet. The jump from this narrow scope to a much wider one is extremely jarring; going from the battles of just a few dozen troops to just having two battalions be casually wiped out, both to a man, offsceen by falling ships - and it happens again in the introduction to Everest Base. All of a sudden we're thrown back hours, discarding Montoya's platoon and then throwing up names and numbers of infantry and cavalry formations that are nameless, faceless, little more than units on a board or videogame. Who is Hannely again? Which battalion is which, and is doing what, again? There's no point of attachment, nothing to really care about, with the partial exception of the Ballistas of SPECWAR 7.
The following paragraphs then settle in to the much broader scope established and now being worked with, and describing Hannely's forces as a whole makes things much easier to handle than dealing with numbers being thrown back and forth - which makes them feel like needless over-detail, truth be told. The actual combat and tactics themselves are much more of interest, like the linking up with the raiders of the 2nd Platoon, or Tulamee deciding to prepare a defence in depth against a breakout from his own encirclement. The supervolcano then adds some more tension to proceedings - and while it's arguable that there may have been too much going on already, the prospect of a forced ceasefire during those conditions is a very interesting one. (At the risk of sounding like I'm bashing the flare too much, I do have to add that the two natural disasters foiling otherwise-dire circumstances, back-to-back, really starts to strain disbelief.)
And, at last, the Ballistas get their time to shine. It's definitely a good look for them - advancing alongside the Grizzlies, then breaking through Tulamee's lines and somehow encircling them. Between the mental imagery of the ballistas themselves and the probably-terrifyingly-effective gunline of the two opening up alongside each other... well, there's not an awful amount of finesse there, but it definitely sounds awesome in both the modern and biblical senses of the word. This last section is honestly surprisingly strong - covering both sides, their plans and their tactics, without bogging down into fine detail or skimming over large time periods like the earlier parts had made the mistake of. It's a good look, especially when skimming past the order of battle (which possibly could've done with being at the top, just to provide a bit of a dramatis personae of units) to the aftermath. This, again, is better. While there's still a lot of extended run-ons, the epilogue is painted in much broad strokes which avoids a lot of the choking-on-description that the earlier sections had encountered.
As for the extras? Another mixed bag. The infobox as said before is well done, with a lovely image and two fleshed out sides; the orders of battle aid things nicely, and the images are both very solid both in themselves and their relevance to the article themselves (captions in particular). The timeline, however - well, it takes up about a third of the entire article's scroll length, and it does the opposite of what a timeline of these things really should; the down-to-the-minute detail hampers it and bogs it down, which isn't ideal for something that should be providing a streamlined lightweight chronology. For example - the separation of the Roosevelt's dispatching and destruction feels unnecessary, as does the two separate descriptions of each side's fleets forming up just two minutes apart. Each point should really be a whole engagement rather than going all the way down to individual shots (which is what outright happens with the battle between the GDF and the Blightless Faith. And then, all of a sudden, we have great big timeskips of a week, of two - similar to my issues with that happenign in Sirona, the detail in one part not afforded to others feels lopsided - and it doesn't do the job of a timeline, at which point it's not really adding to the piece; even the times are explained (a bit unnecessarily imo) in the prose description itself.
Overall... well, I'm aware that this looks like I've kind of ripped it to shreds. I don't want it to feel like that, because honestly it's better to have significant amounts of detail there that you can gloss over later, rather than just have broad strokes that fall apart or don't make sense once you try and write in smaller-scale stuff. But I think that's my overall concern with this entry as a whole - scale. The scale is all off. Going from following an individual platoon to whole battalions being slapped around, or writing about individual shots by the second or minute in one section while casually ignoring a couple of weeks on the other. Even the length of the piece itself feels... somewhat overambitious, at least for something pushed out in such a short time. I really do have to commend that, too, because it's an incredible amount of material - but while Sirona felt like it was trying to be two different battles at once, this feels like three, and the two ground ones were at the exact opposite ends of the scale. Writing about squad tactics and segueing straight into operational strategy of thousands of troops just feels... unbalanced. I would absolutely love to see this polished or redone or split up into other things or written about elsewhere in the future, because the space battle itself is an excellent picture to paint - as is the adventures of the 2nd Platoon, and Op: GALILEO. But right now, they seem very disparate, stuck-together, and have a lot of extraneous detail that makes them hard to read and enjoy as one cohesive article.

Week 174: Home at the Front

Prompt: Back to a traditional 800 word "write me a story" prompt this week, I'd like to see a story set in the field, but outside of combat. Setting up a forward base, downtime between operations, ships searching for their opponents in the depths of space or even pelican rides during in- or exfiltrations. Anything that's right next to the action, just not in it - and hopefully a good look at the characters stuck in those situations, too.

Start Date: June 17th, 2020

End Date: June 28th, 2020

Another very strong piece, and another look at the horrors of the war through a eyes of a normal human. There's more and more of these on the site, of course, but you can never have too many - and this one does it very nicely. This time I have to say that the image really does add to the piece - not just in depicting the setup of where everyone is (which I'll admit I kind of had difficulty with at first), but the sheer sense of exhaustion of it all that the rest of the story works to convey. The dialogue, the exchanging of stories are the main narrative thrust of it, but I can't help but think that it's the smaller details that really make it *chef's kiss*; the discomfort of sitting on the stairs, Jackie's introduction to and first impressions of Jillian, and what everyone seems intent on doing to their beer bottles between lines. Very enjoyable, and the way that all the blood of TREBUCHET washes away compared to the fight against the Covenant; it'd be fantastic to see a counterpart from an Innie point of view, whether they still want to strike out on their own or not.
It's just a shame it's, well, approaching double the word count.
I'm aware that I've taken far too long to get to this, but I also feel like that time could've been used to polish this story up some more. It's definitely a solid piece, and your character writing is quickly strengthening now that you have more material for Bodark and PERUN hammered out - but there's so many tiny things here that really needed a go-over. More than half - no, most of the dialogue lines are lacking closing punctuation; the second paragraph has the whole thing italicised rather than just Bodark's thoughts, and her second moment musing to herself is ovely drawn-out and wordy. The intention of the piece, presenting Sal as a more neutral party - not quite an arbitrator, but simply an experienced wall for her to be bouncing off and allaying her own creeping doubts - comes across clearly, and I think the decision to keep him nameless until the very end definitely strengthened the almost sagelike responses she gets. I'm ambivalent about the final note of Braughner entering the picture with its "all according to keikaku" addition, but Sal standing up for himself still keeps it entertaining - although I have to say that it's slightly confusing if his last line was meant straight-faced or as a more humorous riposte to the Major's pressing questions (and I feel like the latter choice would be far better at keeping Sal's neutrality intact).
A win this time, but neglecting the presentation and polish of the piece really let it down.

Week 175: Badfic

Prompt: If you've seen Odd One Out, you know what I'm talking about. Even if you don't, I'm sure you're all familiar with badfic out there on the internet. Poorly-written, overpowered, one-dimensional characters tearing up all semblance of reason and depth in their respective universes, just for the sake of some (often literally) juvenile power fantasy. I want you to write one. Actually, I want you to write a few, but this is just the first and least ambitious of the bunch. This week, the goal is to write about an OC of yours - Spartan, ODST, AI Sangheili, Forerunner, another alien race, some weird mashup combination, or even a ship - getting up to some frankly ridiculous antics, but explicitly taking place within Halo as a setting. These'll be split into two different categories:

  • Canon-adjacent - your OC is clumsily shoehorned into canon events or relationships, such as a secret clone taken of Catherine Halsey which grew up as a hyper-mega-giga-uber-lethal vector, or the Supercruiser at Reach which was really an ultimate doomsday ship that could one-shot the entire UNSC fleet if it tried, commanded by Thel's long-lost sibling.
  • Standalone - your OC is independent of canon events or relationships, still working within the setting but not leaning on specific events or characters in canon as part of their stupidness (Odd One Out being a good example of this).

You're welcome to write for both of these if you're mad brave enough, so long as you clearly mark which one is which. Marking will be as much to do with the WTF-factor of each piece, as well as the overall quality of writing; while I won't reject something written like My Immortal straight out of hand, it's the kind of thing that can wear out fast, and putting together something just as insane but written and played completely straight is double the fun.

Anyway. Yeah. The first of a set of prompts I am already deeply regretting. 800 word goal, as per usual.

Start Date: June 23rd, 2020

End Date: July 5th, 2020

Silver, any possible one-liner comment or summary I could put here would be fuel for The Wall, so... I got nothing.
Nope, I still got nothing. I'm just very unsure of how to take this - while it hardly fits the prompt in over-the-top-ness, the insanely lengthy purple prose is definitely, uh, quite something. I don't really know if the "uh, wait, is this legit?" preface makes it better or worse, but the clumsy attempts to sound biblical in both parts are definitely the best part of this. The rest? Edgy Prelate sees through the heresy, raises a cult(?) and storms the High Council Chambers before deciding "nah"? Not sure it does an awful lot for me, although it being deliberately painful to read probably contributes directly to that.
Overall... I give it a [???] out of 10.

Week 176: A time to reap and a time to sow...

Prompt: (This prompt submitted and guest-judged by Actene) The nature of writing fan-fic grounded in a sci-fi FPS such as Halo is that we tend to overlook the commonplace in favor of high-octane action. Look around the sight and you'll find more pieces about naval battles or Marines storming an enemy position than you will about someone going shopping or sharing a meal with friends or simply going for a quiet evening walk. For this entry, write about your characters doing some mundane, everyday activity. Feel free to use Spartans, Sangheili warriors, or UNSC servicemembers but try to divorce the focus of the piece from a military or action environment as much as possible. For example, a character taking a peaceful stroll through a city or going on a date is more in the spirit of this prompt than a Spartan team sharing a quiet moment in a combat zone. Remember, just because the lead and plasma aren't flying doesn't mean things have to be boring!

Keep things within 800 words, give or take 100 words or so.

Start Date: July 5th, 2020

End Date: July 12th, 2020

I'll start with the presentation: excellent visual style, especially the custom title card. This piece sets the standard for Weekly formatting and I'll certainly be referring to it for any future Weekly entries of my own. The piece itself is also a well crafted exchange. The interplay between Lillian and her interlocutor defined the situation as it played out and the reference to the planet's weather worked in well to both set the scene and give some flavor to the exchange. My only minor criticism is that the piece over-describes here and there and sometimes veers a little bit into purple prose territory. In different circumstances this piece would be a shoe in for the win... unfortunately, I have to hold back for the sake of prompt integrity. Excellent piece, but getting talked out of suicide doesn't quite hit the "mundane" theme I had in mind this time.
This prompt turned out to be much harder to judge than I anticipated. I'll get the chief criticisms out of the way up front: there's some sloppy formatting that made me a bit confused about the piece's pacing. I had to read through a few times to figure out exactly what was going on. With that said the piece does a lot with the limited space it has to work with. I enjoyed the interplay between the Spartan trainees and the bittersweet ending had me invested in where this story might go. The simplicity of the action—just some kids figuring out how to go camping—was in line with the prompt and while it definitely loses out to Until the Rain Stops from a technical standpoint it clinches the win thanks to prompt faithfuleness.

Week 177: Badfic II - Cringe Boogaloo

Prompt: Topo here, back again, and here to ask you all to write some more sheer pain. This time, instead of over-the-top awful OCs, I'm looking for the twisting and perversion (not necessarily, uh, literally) of existing material. Juvenile fantasies of characters that already have material tothem, but juvenile fantasies nonetheless. You wanna write about just how anime-tier NOBLE Six's hyper-lethal exploits were? You wanna write about Ripa having a softer side and secretly being into poetry during his tenure as Arbiter? You wanna write crack-ships? Go for it.

Also, since we're moving beyond the realm of expressly making OCs for the purposes of it... I would also be entirely onboard with having these entries being perversions and cringe-writes and crackships of characters and ships and factions here on Halo Fanon, too. (Just be sure to ask the owner of the material before you use it, though. Unless it's your own stuff. I dunno.)

You should be writing around 800 words, or 1000ish at a stretch. And God help us all.

Start Date: July 14th, 2020

End Date: July 26th, 2020

Week 178: Naked And Afraid

Prompt: I'm back - and this time with another traditional story prompt. This is arguably a spin on #130 (Improvise. Adapt. Hopefully don't die.), but the general idea is to have your characters out of their element, and having to overcome that. However it might be - perhaps fighting on foot where they normally would be in a vehicle, or out of armour, or even simply missing their comfort blanket of a signature weapon - I'm looking for 800 words of someone being stuck outside of their particular comfort zone, and fighting through it (or maybe back to it) regardless.

Start Date: August 2nd, 2020

End Date: August 16th, 2020

Week 179: Man The Guns!

Prompt: This week, I'm after combat in space; yes, again. But this time, rather than vast space battles, I want it to be focused much more on the smaller scale - a duel between fighters so full of adrenaline that seconds drag out into hours, a grand fleet action told from the perspective of a few low-ranking officers or ratings, or just the boarding of a smuggler's freighter in an otherwise-sleepy backwater. One way or another, it needs to have the feel of being a much smaller cog in the grand scheme of things - and you have 800 words to write it in.

Start Date: August 11th, 2020

End Date: August 23rd, 2020

  • Enough by SilverLastname: Okay, I need to get this out of the way first - there is so much fanciness going on in the formatting headers and the image that I have to say is excellent even on its own. The other thing I have to say is: yes, this is vastly, vastly over wordcount. But it doesn't feel like it.
Even at around triple the target, this is a fantastic piece. It very neatly balances the descriptions of the battle outside, the tense conditions on the bridge, the back-and-forth between the crew, and the rather... ballsy ideas that they work with. It was snappy, it kept up a pace, and it never was bogged down to a point where I realised how much was actually happening in terms of words and in terms of story. While they are some things I probably would pick out from an academic standpoint, I never really minded the length of it, or the naming of only two characters, the flipping between names and ranks, or the slightly anime-esque tendency for the characters to over-narrate what they're doing and thinking about out loud (in particular the setup to the second torpedo launcher takedown, where there was still time for a conversation in the split-second their shields were lowered). It was more than good enough to cover for what were honestly just nitpicks compared to the quality and consistency of the description, the well oiled back-and-forth between the bridge crew, and the sheer pace of the story.
Still far too long for your fake internet points, but both a very strong piece and a very fun one to read.
I dare say that this entry is a lot more modest in formatting than Silver's... although then again, I have to weight it all on content rather than presentation - and the content is really, really good. There's not enough stuff out there that acknowledges how dumb, weight-of-numbers, meat-grinder a lot of battles with the Covenant ended up with, and specifically looking at Jul's Covenant was a rather interesting choice to spin it with. Of course, the strength of faith vs the fear of death and the prospect of martyrdom is always a solid theme to work with with anything from the Sangheili side of things, but it's exacerbated by the fragility of the banshees Tuka & Co. are shoved out of their hangars in, as well as just how fast and frantic space combat would be from an individual perspective. Losing Yiv right off the bat was a somewhat predictable move, but it still worked well and had weight to it, not in the least with how he was mirroring Tuka's fears earlier on. Plus, I feel like the shortness of the Weekly format worked to your advantage, since it lines up to neatly cut off after just the first few moments of the fight, with Tuka's fate still (technically) unknown. It doesn't even have the chance to lose steam, even though it barely sees any shots fired in anger. Well-written, within wordcount, and hits the nail of the prompt on the head. Nice.

Week 180: For Science!!!

Prompt: ...and more exclamation marks! At least after Wikia's growing pains are finished. This week, the prompt is to write something tied to research and development - the cutting edge, whether that's the testing of a new vehicle, secret experiments into AIs, or a bunch of blissfully ignorant archaeologists striding into some floaty forerunner ruins. Or maybe you watched i00's breakdown of the Halo Infinite "Become" trailer and you want to build some exciting Gen3 handwavium from that. Given the detail inherent to something like this, I'll be a little more flexible with the hard wordcap - the target sits at 1,000, although there's still no issue with submitting anything shorter.

Start Date: August 29th, 2020

End Date: September 6th, 2020

I have to say that the piece was rather trope-laden, that the eventual cock-up was guessable around 40% of the way through, and that the initial documentation spoilt it even before then. But the execution of everything was so fantastic that it makes up for all of that and the much-exceeded wordcount, and then some. The frustration with events was palpable; the character side of things entertaining and downright funny without spiralling into being solely a joke piece. Instead, the meticulous preparation powered by cold coffee and tired researchers and engineers stayed well within the realms of believability, and that empowered the payoff at the end that much more. Nice.

Week 181: Eleventh Hour

Prompt: This week is a race against time - to escape an exploding shield world, to catch a Prophet, or to plant a bomb that you clearly can't escape the blast radius of (oops, sorry NOBLE). I'm looking for stories focused around a last-minute rush, a Hail Mary, a final stand or anything else crucially time-dependent. Of course, you're welcome to have either side win or lose, and I'd love to see the aftermath of their success or failure. (I'm still soft-capping at 2,000 so things don't get ridiculous, but you're equally welcome to drop in a 500-worder!).

Start Date: September 15th, 2020

End Date: September 27th, 2020

Week 182: Kinda Sus

Prompt: This week's prompt is all about paranoia, uncertainty, suspicion - or is it paranoia if they really are out to get you? It might be an amateur hacker stumbling across UNSC secrets, or troops fleeing into the wilderness to escape someone (or something) that's after them. That being said, of course I had to respond to the wave of Among Us fever shaking the Discord server (and the internet as a whole, for that matter) - so you'll absolutely be looked on favourably the closer your story is to that iconic premise of distrustful crewmembers on a ship with impostors among them. As always, 800 words as a target, with some leeway above and below.

Start Date: September 23rd, 2020

End Date: October 4th, 2020

  • Amidst Them by SilverLastname: I was initially going to say that it was a little corny and going for the low-hanging-fruit to immediately pick out Among Us as both plot and title inspiration... before remembering that this was exactly what I explicitly asked you to do.
Truth be told, going for Flood infections were still a little safe in my opinion - although on the other hand it was done fantastically well. The sheer gore and gristle, the violence of the descriptions, absolutely threw me into Dead Space territory and played into the horror of the combat forms to the point that this could be mistaken for a Spooky Week [TM] prompt (wink wink nudge nudge). If anything, however, I'd say that it delved into that far enough to pull away from the prompt a little. Outside of that final kicker, I found myself wanting for a little more suspicion, a little more paranoia of suspecting one another, even if that sacrificed some of the blood, guts, and fearful sweating. What there was was excellent, but trimming away some of the lunchtime chatter and the initial encounter could've kept the word count below hard-cap without losing too much. Maybe working with a more insidious feel with infection from spores would've made the tone work - and I would absolutely adore something similar seeing an "impostor" point of view.
Kovacs is kinda sus, though. That's what permeates every word, every line of this piece. The worry, the paranoia, the feeling of something being slightly off but not quite knowing what - then again, the mysterious stranger showing up with a shitload of credits, and beating Sasha to the draw without any kind of recognisable Spartan augments? That's absolutely cause for concern, and the balance between that and the necessity of having him around is what makes this work so well. Sasha's constant internal questioning about who he is, what he's capable of, or what he's doing right now; a visceral fear of being cooped up in what was her and Floyd's safe space with this stranger. That build up, along with the constant ticking, is what makes the final payoff, where you can very fully understand her fear being refunded as fatigue.

Week 183: All Good Things

Prompt: The collapse of a nation. The fall of a city. The breakup of a team, the dissolution of a department, the decommissioning of a ship. This time around, your prompt is about something coming to an end; destroyed, taken, or otherwise lost - things big, old, or storied enough that this is a momentous occasion. Then again, it doesn't have to be a huge thing on a vast scale - it could simply be a pilot's fighter being too damaged to be worth fixing, and instead being scrapped or cannibalised. It just has to matter, whether that's to the world as a whole or just to your characters. Note that this explicitly excludes character deaths - while it's entirely fine to have characters die as a part of it, the main focus should be on something dying, rather than someone. Given the breadth that this topic can cover, I'm keeping the 800 word target but shifting the hard limits higher for this prompt.

Start Date: September 28th, 2020

End Date: October 11th, 2020

It's good. It feels good, a piece, and as the collapse of movement. I wanted to get that out there, and across, because that's the best way I could really put it - the strongest point is the depiction of Alice's world simply falling apart. The initial (and sustained) disbelief, even as it confirms something that may well have been suspected deep down for a while. The piece itself, however, does need a little more spit and polish. A few glaring errors jumped out to me at first glance, with ALice being told to Pack u, and a missing full stop a few paragraphs before that. Mark himself seems a little over-vigorous in his expressions and descriptions, but it's nothing that really detracts from the piece - other than the blatant name plagiarism from Tim at the start of this year (/s)... I really rather like this one.

Week 184: The Dark Below

Prompt: Hang on, that's the wrong Bungie game! This prompt, following on from #182 in being adjacent to the upcoming SPOOKY WEEK [TM], is all about the underworld that lies beneath the surface. Dark dingy caves (natural formations optional), cleanly-cut subway networks, dripping sewer systems; anything that digs beneath the ground level of a world (although maintenance spaces and not-jeffries-tubes on ships and stations could fit at a stretch). Bonus points for playing up the nature of the surroundings up; a sense of cramped claustrophobia, or alternatively maybe a jarring lack thereof from characters used to such confines. Another normal 800 word target for this one, though.

Start Date: October 6th, 2020

End Date: October 18th, 2020

While too long for a full blow-by-blow, I still have some thoughts on this. I do have to say that the lack of any kind of protection or entourage for the Butcher, especially given the nature of his work, chips away at the believability here, as does the moral indignance of the ONI agent. Disgust, sure, but an urge to beat the crap out of your perp? Gives me more a vibe of it being local law enforcement.
The main thing, however? The description, while solid and lending it a "cinematic" (god I hate that word) feel, was probably one of the biggest contributors to the inflated word count, and also ended up having it feel like it was dragging on a bit. Yet it still felt a little plain, a little perfunctory - the coldness of the Butcher, the shadiness of the operation, the disgusting nature of the Abattoir itself were never played up in any real way. It's a solidly written and well-executed piece, but missing that little bit of magic you work into things so often.
This honestly could've worked for this prompt or the next, but it came off fantastically well either way. The exhaustion and cold mixed in with hints of fear ends up delicately toeing the line between desperation and resignation to her fate, which in turn is excellently set with Sirona as a backdrop (especially with the Pyrrhic barely-victory that turned out as). The things that mostly stuck out to me, however, was how quickly the latter part of the piece went - I'm aware it's probably a product of the word limit, but with the bulk of the writing dedicated to setting things up, Xenia's actual fate being left to the last two paragraphs feels a little rushed, skimmed-over. Still, for an entry that barely strays over the 800-word target, it's a very good piece both on its own and in the wider picture of Sirona. Even if Xenia seems an odd choice of name for such a French-derived world.


Prompt: Come on guys. It's spooky week. You know what to do. Write me some horror. I'm rather partial to reality-warping weirdness, anomalous stuff, and a more unnerving brand of spook than anything built on abject terror, but all are welcome! Again, a fairly loose target range is welcome, anywhere from 500-1500, and as usual a hard cap a fair bit above that. Plus, you're entirely allowed to tie this into the prompt for 184, if you want!

Start Date: October 12th, 2020

End Date: October 31st, 2020

Week 186: Black Cats & Broken Mirrors

Prompt: Whoops! Turns out I can't actually count, and set down the SPOOKY WEEK prompt a week early. Which I guess means I have to do another Halloween-adjacent one in the meantime. So, for those of you who aren't as partial to writing horror, how about some good old superstitions? I'll openly admit that there's a lot of overlap here with #158, but on the other hand you're welcome to carry on or build upon stuff written there! Note that this doesn't necessarily have to actually be scary, it just has to concern superstitions and beliefs (although tying in to #185 is entirely welcome too). What do UNSC sailors do for luck on the maiden slipspace jump of a new ship? What do the Covenant think of Spartan Signals - heinous, demonic rituals hidden within innocuous gestures? Or even a look at how cultures have mixed and folklore has merged between alien cultures in a post-war galaxy.

As usual, 800 words as a target, with some flexibility above and below.

Start Date: October 20th, 2020

End Date: November 1st, 2020


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