Reviews for Ch0023r
chickenscrews chapter 5 . 11/3
She’s still sleeping. But she wakes up at the end, so something does happen this time.

It’s the “sylph worlds” that give the impression of AXIS still dreaming, but it also explicitly says “the physical realm” is suffering some wacky crap, so AXIS must be able to see all this somehow. Not just that, but she’s EXPERIENCING it too, at least as far as these time-traveling “riftworlds” are concerned, and so she describes to us things she’s seen that we wouldn’t believe—attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate, and other such moments that’ll be lost in time like tears in rain or whatever—and these are all strange and terrifying phenomena to her.

Taking a guess here, I think what she’s seeing are Chooser’s memories. She’s still connected to him after he ravaged the iNet, and now he’s using whatever he found there to wreak havoc in the physical world. As everything goes to hell both in the internet and the outernet (yes, I’m calling it that—shut up), AXIS is catching glimpses of the life of the man who betrayed her and terrorized the world.

Perhaps her experiencing his memories is her way of resisting him, and as Chooser becomes aware of AXIS hacking into him, the scenarios become more and more dangerous to the point that she has to abort.

From there, it’s a hard stop in scenery and threat-level. The lunar imagery from last chapter returns, signaling AXIS’ reunion with Angel as he/she comes to protect her. Whether the supernovae are representations of Chooser’s explosive defeat or of his swath of destruction continuing unimpeded, AXIS is finally safe from him. She can finally breathe again (or whatever programs do) and takes comfort in knowing that, whatever will become of the worlds, at least she is protected by Angel, so she can just sit back “and drift on watching the show.”

“Supernova Cyberpunk” ends with AXIS seeing a light at the end of a space-tunnel, and the last line is “Username, password, system scan complete, virus report: zero. /logout”—This confused me until I remembered that AXIS may not be just a program, but a user avatar. It sounds like whoever made the AXIS avatar has been trapped in this connection to the iNet for quite some time and, whether by Chooser’s actions or by Angel’s, she’s finally free. What’s more, even though Chooser poisoned her and is doing much worse things to the iNet and the physical world, AXIS is once again virus-free and able to finally log out. I guess.

Yaaaay.

Well, I’m tired. Can’t remember the last time I resisted sleeping drugs this long and I’m sure these last two reviews suffered for it. Whatever.

But now that I’ve finally seen something of your original work, I’m curious what you’re going to do with it. Is Ch0023r a proof of concept for a novel or other larger project you want to work on, or was this just a delirium-inspired poetry series you wrote at 3 AM for fun/to make the voices go away? Whatever the case, I think Ch0023r takes my commentary about Crisis Core to both extremes: really cool ideas and an abundance of style to back it up, but way more purple prose than you need.

Also, I need to read me some Billy Gibson—thanks for the indirect book recommendation! :)
chickenscrews chapter 4 . 11/2
I’m going to assume this is still AXIS’ POV because, back when we followed Chooser in Chapter One, it was all third-person. We didn’t get first-person until AXIS came along, and since we’re still in first-person mode, I’ll assume this is still her POV.

Additionally, last chapter ended with her dying, and this one begins with “Eternal revenance.” “Revenance” isn’t a word, but it’s got the root word “revenant” in it, so this is probably some sort of afterlife AXIS is in, if all the flying and sky-related imagery wasn’t already a giveaway. I can’t help but think how much more effective “Panic Attack” would’ve been if it ended with a transition to this here Heaven, even if it was only a white light fading in and obscuring AXIS’ vision—at least that would’ve counted as narrative development.

From there, it’s a bunch of purple prose and run-on sentences describing a pretty angel-person AXIS sees and is getting a bit too touchy-feely with. Lightness and darkness and brightness and fringo-frang razzmatang, and I guess AXIS is in a better place than where she started last chapter. It’s a classic death and rebirth scenario between these two chapters, but there’s so little happening in the wordiness of both that it’s hard to care or even understand what happens to the speaker. Chooser screwed her over, and now “Angel” is giving her a tour of Robot Heaven...I think?

It’s a lot to swallow, especially when I can’t tell what’s a metaphor and what’s literal. And didn’t the description say “this is an experiment in taking cyberpunk into the videogame scene.” Sure, the next sentence was “Emphasis on style rather than story,” but aside from the first chapter, nothing about the style gives the impression of taking cyberpunk into the videogame scene, whatever that even means. I’d like to know what that means, but I think the story forgot.

Well, from what I can gather (late at night and when the heavy-duty melatonin's finally kicking in), it sounds like the end of “Lunar Flower” is of AXIS going into some kind of rest under Angel’s protection, likely to regather her strength after Chooser betrayed her and so she can rendezvous with Angel in some other location. And since it’s an “aphelion night,” it sounds like she’s in for a long sleep.
chickenscrews chapter 3 . 11/2
Oh joy, more poetry homework.

So, for as facetious as I was with the previous chapter by likening it to a tedious homework assignment, I actually did like the style and surreal narrative it wove. For as short as it was, it really did feel like a lot happened, open to interpretation as it all was, and I think that’s what won me over about it despite it coming off as unintelligible gibberish on a surface level.

So, if including narrative progression in “Blood-Velvet Dream Sequence” made spending an hour deciphering it all worth it, the lack of narrative progression is what turns me off about “Premonition Panic Attack.”

For reference, “Blood-Velvet” told an entire story with five whole plot points: 1) Speaker is promised a birthright, 2) Corruption leads her astray, 3) She’s found unworthy and left in the cold, 4) The corruption she once embraced comforts her when she needs it, and 5) She accepts who she is rather than who others wanted her to be. She began in one place and ended up in another with plenty of twists along the way.

But with “Panic Attack,” we end exactly where we began with no progression in-between. Breaking each sentence into a plot-point: 1) Dude’s poisoned, 2) Still poisoned, 3) Poison’s getting a bit cumbersome, 4) Oh wow, we’re still poisoned, 5) How’re we not dead yet? 6) This is some slow-ass poison, 7) All of that and we’re STILL not dead yet?

See, the final line was, “Sorry kid, you’re GONNA die.” ...As in, no one’s died YET...meaning the chapter began with waiting for death and ended before it ever came. I’d be fine with this if something happened in lines two through six, but they were just ultra-wordy descriptions of how poison works. Nothing changed between A and B—I don’t think there even was a B. Sure, it can be argued that the plot progressed simply because a new situation was introduced, but if nothing happens with that new situation, it’s either filler or may as well be attached to another chapter.

But onto forcing some kind of meaning out of this. In “Ch0023r,” the titular character breaks into the top-secret government-quarantined death-zone of the ancient internet to search for the AXIS. His reasons haven’t yet been stated. He found her in “Blood-Velvet” and corrupted her from her predestined path so that she now serves him.

However, the conversion in “Panic Attack” wasn’t as smooth as he’d hoped it would be. The signature tunnel-vision of the Augmented Reality stream (first seen in Chapter One) is evidently harmful to AXIS, and it may even be that the AR itself is poison to her, or at least has become poisonous over prolonged exposure.

(I assume it’s an AI of a sort who’s being poisoned because this stream of consciousness is WAY too robotic to come from a human.)

It may be possible that destroying AXIS was part of Chooser’s plan all along. If she is a high-ranking avatar with wide-reaching “physical” connections to the programs inside the old iNet, then poisoning her would also harm the avatars and programs she’s connected to, effectively crippling the iNet. Perhaps Chooser needed the iNet disabled or haywire so he could sneak past the government’s internal security so he could find/do something he otherwise couldn’t do, but whatever that is is still a mystery.

By the end of AXIS’ stream of consciousness here, she hears Chooser’s last words to her, “Sorry kid, you’re gonna die,” but is he saying this as a taunt or with regret?
chickenscrews chapter 2 . 11/2
Did I say this story was written three years ago? I meant six. :P

Having again read and reread and rereread this techno mumbo-jumbo to glean some kind of narrative meaning from this, I think I might be approaching this wrong. The description clearly says this is all experimental, and the more I consider it, the more I realize this isn’t a novel at all; it’s poetry homework. As such, I’ll approach Chapter Two like it’s one of my old poetry assignments where I have to decipher every line of it so we can all somehow have a whole two-hour discussion about it in class tomorrow. I was never good at this...

1) “A song; it echoes on a bridge of sanguine glass, over teal-streaked moonlight banisters, flowing over stairways to the heavens.”

In the last line of this paragraph-poem, it’s revealed that a philharmonic rock-opera plays in the background, reminding the speaker of who she is. It’s never explicitly stated if the song in the last line and the first are the same or even if they come from the same source. And if these two songs are different, the effect is one of two different songs battling each other to assert which identity the woman will keep in this outlandish environment.

“Sanguine” is often poet-speak for “blood-red,” and this combined with the contrasting teal evokes images of blood and tears—two mainstays of emo poetry and also favored literary symbols to depict one’s life-force, ancestry, morality, and feelings. The bridge is sanguine and the banisters are teal; her “blood” is the bridge and her “tears” are what keep her from falling off. Furthermore, this bridge (and its connecting stairways) leads either to or from the heavens, meaning there’s something about her life-force, family ties, moral standing, and/or her emotions (all potentially represented by her blood) that’s leading her down this path. But is she advancing to or from the heavens because of these things, and why does this trek make her cry? Are these tears of joy or sorrow? Is this a journey of salvation or damnation? What role does the music play? Are the two songs battling over whether she goes to or from the heavens?

2) “It comes to me from across a far off place, one promised to me in the early days of my life, lost swiftly to a sable-coated sunset, casting shadows on days and nights obliterated by time.”

Wherever the woman is going and whatever the songs compel her to do, she notes that the guiding music has been tied to her since a distant past—that, even though time and circumstance have corrupted the way, this birthright (or musical guide to her birthright) has returned after a long absence to lead her to what was nearly lost, whether it’s a blessing or a curse.

The mention of her promised path and/or possession being stolen by “a sable-coated sunset...casting shadows” suggests her enemy is a force of darkness, meaning her birthright is likely something on the light side of the morality spectrum and that her blood-bridge wants to lead her up to the heavens rather than away from them. Her tear-bannisters may be symbolizations of her struggle to stay on that path and claim what is rightfully hers.

3) “Now I stand before a mirror of jaded brass, jilted in the haze-yellow amberlyn [sic] glow, bending in the image-distortion of aura-gold fractals, reflected in sun-flecked conflaguration [sic] of bronze-refracted still-composite, wearing red.”

I guess she got to the top of those stairs, because now there’s a strange mirror in the way. I say strange because most brass-involving mirrors are RIMMED with brass—not actually MADE of it. Still, brass can be given a mirror finish, but it’s probably not as reliable as good old-fashioned glass. Furthermore, the brass reflection is “jaded.” Is the mirror showing the woman her own jaded nature in the reflection, or is the surface itself weary of showing people what they look like? Whatever the case, the image is that of the woman “betrayed by the sun,” if you’ll permit. She came all this way up the blood-bridge to Heaven only to be greeted by her own reflection, but it’s corrupted/jilted by all these different words for “yellow,” impressing this idea of the sunlight itself cursing her.

The narrative I read from this is that, though she was promised a place in this particular sanctuary, life and tragedy tore her away from the path that would lead her there. After she once again found her way, the “songs” of her birthright and of her persecution battled for control of where this bridge would take her: either closer to or further away from this personal heaven. But upon reaching the top, she finds that she’s no longer worthy of entering.

And yet, she sees she’s now wearing red. Is this the same sanguine as the blood of her life that led her here? Has the blood that once led her to this promised land now become an albatross to remind her of her unworthiness?

4) “This dress is a blood-velvet dream sequence played out in crimson calescence [sic], amaranth satin feels so soft and melodic against my skin, outer inner-representation of the soft music in me, folded like pressed flowers to hang a wreath around the places where he’s supposed to kiss.”

The wording seems to support my theory that the woman’s dress is made of the same material as the blood-bridge, meaning it’s a physical manifestation of her life, familial ties, morality, and/or emotions, as emphasized by the bit describing it as a “dream sequence.” But it’s not just one dream that envelops her; it’s a “coalescence” of multiple dreams (the dreams of her past?—dreams for the future?—the dreams of her family?) all coming together to clothe/comfort her after she’s rejected by the sun.

After failing to claim her birthright, the connections she’s made in life have manifested to comfort her in the face of her own corrupted reflection.

The introduction of amaranth threw me off at first because, though the plant genus Amaranthus includes red flowers, amaranth as a color is typically purple—distinguishing it from the crimson introduced earlier in the sentence. In other words, the purple is not the color of her dress; it’s the color of “his” clothing as he wraps his arms around her. I posit that this “he”—with his dark colors to contrast the brightness she pursued—is a personification of the forces that led the woman away from her birthright: the “dark” song that battled the “light” on this blood path that led only to rejection. And now that she’s been rejected by the light for being deemed unworthy, the darkness she ran away from has come to comfort her.

(Also, exactly where is “he” going to kiss her? This story is rated K, but since this sentence of the chapter was dedicated to describing the woman’s dress—and dresses are most known for covering the torso and leg areas—that could only mean he won’t be kissing her head or hands, the only K-rated places one could kiss a woman, but that he’s getting a bit more daring with his lips than a K rating would allow. I’d make more of a fuss, but how many elementary school kids do you know of who read William Gibson?)

5) “A philharmonic rock-opera plays in the illusive background, reminding me who I am while I enjoy this, and keeping who I want to be dear.”

The dark song has won, and the woman is reminded of who she is, rather than who she was or who she tried to be. Though her family promised her a life of light from her birth, “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” if you’ll permit the biblical allusion. Basically, it’s the original meaning of “blood is thicker than water”—that is, the choices made (the blood shed) in life defines a person and his/her ties far more significantly than simple genetics. The woman’s family wanted her to be one thing, but she chose to be another, and now she has more meaningful company in the life she made for herself.

And now to apply all this poetic pretentiousness to the premise of the first chapter: This scene takes place inside the iNet. The woman is the avatar known as the AXIS, whom Ch0023r sought at the end of Chapter One. By now, he’s pursued her for quite some time—long enough to corrupt her for his own schemes and lead her astray from her original programming. She’s resisted to some extent and made a final effort to escape him, but in attempting to fulfill her programming like the other high-ranking avatars before her, she finds that the MCP no longer recognizes her and so rejects her as a program. Brokenhearted, she finds solace in the embrace of Ch0023r, who has lived up to his name and indeed given her a choice: do what you were made to do or do what you want to do.

With this, AXIS’ corruption is complete and she is now at Ch0023r’s disposal in whatever mission he’s pursuing in the iNet.

[Jorgen Von Strangle voice] Your illegible vocabulary and oblique writing style were obviously part of your master plan to make the readers weave their own narratives from the provided stimuli to foster a community of diversely creative storytellers. Very impressive. Highly original. DON’T DO IT AGAIN!
chickenscrews chapter 1 . 11/2
Reposting the review here because FictionPress is giving me technical difficulties. Still, posting entire author’s note chapters is one thing, but reposting an original story on FF might get you into some trouble. Not from me, but one of your many enemies in the FF7 fandom might do something about it.

I remember awhile back you very helpfully told me to use everything I learned on FanFiction and apply it to whatever meaningful original stories I’d want to write later on to be as successful as possible. Ever since, I’ve wondered just what sort of original story you’d end up telling. Unsurprisingly, it’s a high-concept sci-fi with a fascinating premise and about twice as many made-up words as it needs to be legible.

Yes, yes, I’m the guy who constantly defends your wordsmithery and praises your attempts to raise the standards for fan-fiction writing—AND there is also a point where fantastical language becomes too cumbersome to be interesting. I’ve complained a bit about too many crazy words coming one after another in the delta draft of your Crisis Core novel, but Ch0023er takes it to the next level.

You’ve mentioned William Gibson being a big influence on you before and that you wanted to write something at his level. Having never read anything by Billy G, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but now that you’ve cited Neuromancer as a direct influence on this story, I finally read the Amazon preview for the book and...I think you’re trying too hard. And I think Gibson would agree. Clearly, you have a fascinating artistic vision and an overabundance of sci-fi vocabulary to invoke, but even I think you’re using too much all at once.

For reference, consider this paragraph from Neuromancer (pages 4 and 5), the first one that’s actually weird and wordy:

“A year there and he still dreamed of cyberspace, hope fading nightly. All the speed he took, all the turns he’d taken and the corners he’d cut in Night City, and still he’d see the matrix in his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void. ...The Sprawl was a long strange way home over the Pacific now, and he was no console man, no cyberspace cowboy. Just another hustler, trying to make it through. But the dreams came on in the Japanese night like livewire voodoo, and he’d cry for it, cry in his sleep, and wake alone in the dark, curled in his capsule in some coffin hotel, his hands clawed to the bedslab, temperfoam bunched between his fingers, trying to reach the console that wasn’t there.”

My thought process as I read it:

* It is currently 1984 as I read this, so there are no Wachowski films to offer any sort of shorthand for what the “matrix” is. However, I know that a matrix is a fancy word for an environment of some sort, and given the mathematical connotations and cyberpunk aesthetic of this story, I’m guessing it’s some sort of computer world with simulated people in it, like that trippy-ass Tron film that came out two years ago.

* “Bright lattices of logic” is clearly a prosaic metaphor for something. A lattice is a criss-crossing fence of a sort to support plant growth, so “lattices of logic” must refer to a structure that stimulates data processing power or something. Nifty.

* It’s never directly stated what “The Sprawl” is, but context leads me to conclude it’s that matrixy-doodle I just spent two bullet-points deducting.

* “Console man?” What the devil is a—OH, you mean like those videowhatsamahoozits all the children are playing these days? The Commodore 64s and such? Oh, okay. And I think I remember my nerdy cousin rambling that there’s a huge distinction between console gaming and computer gaming at Thanksgiving dinner last year, so it sounds like the protagonist is one of those “console peasants” my cousin would look down upon.

* “Cyberspace cowboy”... Now, it may be because my dad marathons John Wayne movies all the time, but I don’t think cowboys have ever inhabited cyberspace. This must be another metaphor. Since cowboys are romanticized as frontier-blazers that court danger and don’t have a steady paycheck, it sounds like this world is introducing a similar (or at least metaphorical) role to the Sprawl, evoking something like a Blade Runner-tinted Flash Gordon inhabiting an untamed Tron world. Nifty.

* “Livewire voodoo?” A livewire is a wild and unpredictable person, or at least the qualities thereof, so by applying that to voodoo, it sounds like the protagonist is a VERY disturbed individual.

* Curled in a capsule? Coffin hotel? ...Oh, this must be one of those claustrophobic “capsule hotels” I’ve heard Japan has. And this must be so because the term “Japanese night” was used earlier in the sentence. Clearly, the protagonist is a mentally disturbed, down-on-his-luck has-been yearning for the glory days while he rots away in the ghettos of a foreign land. What an interesting setup!

Basically, I understood the Neuromancer excerpt perfectly the first time I read it. It’s a weirdo high-concept piece doing transformative things with the sci-fi conventions of the time that, while evoking big and foreign words to really make the weirdness sink in, keeps it digestible by spacing them out and using context to help the uninitiated figure out what’s going on.

Compare this to the first paragraph of Ch0023r:

“He switched on the Augmented Reality goggles, and became Ch0023r. A flash of chrome was all the warning he got before hi-jacking in. Scatterframes of nanobytes swirled around in cykene kinesis like foxtails, neon slipstreams racing through flow-wire circuitry, fraying the nanoform of iNet. A grayscale membrane saturated the tunnel-vision of the Augmented Reality stream, and then it was like a curtain being drawn back on a silverglass LCD holoscreen; a steamstack fringewire colossus rose out of the Linux universe like a motherboard metropolis, made of microchips and metacode, root programming streaming in beta like a thousand shooting lights across cyberspace.”

My thought process as I read it:

* ...Ah, crap, I’m gonna have to read this again -_-

It’s like when RedLetterMedia recapped the story of John Carter of Mars in their review of it on Half in the Bag:

“John Carter is based on a series of novels by author Edgar Rice Burroughs and tells the tale of John Carter from Jasoom who travels to Barsoom, meets Tharks, and is entangled in a war to stop Sab Than the Jeddak of Zodango, but Matai Shang, a Hekkador and leader of the Therns, is manipulating Sab Than into conquering the Heliums and into marrying Deja Thoris, a Jeddak Preddak plag. But Tars Tarkas, Sarkoja, Sola, and Wooloo the Calot are out to stop Sab Than and Matai Shang from crabdangoing the frangochangs. Plingo-plango but Thorkis frango-frang.”

You see the problem here?

By all means, take as much inspiration as you want from Willy Gibs, use all the fancy and made-up words you want, but remember that even Gibson used restraint and he’s STILL revered as one of the greatest sci-fi writers of all time. You can afford to tone it down so we know what’s going on while still wordsmithing and such when it’s effective.

Now that the language is out of the way, I can finally focus on the story...a thing I would NORMALLY critique first.

So, if I understand this right (after having to read it three or so times), there’s a dangerous and obsolete prototype of the internet that the government is trying to keep top-secret. And inside the old iNet is a mumorpuger where abandoned avatars constantly fight to the death because no one ever shut down the servers. Some leet-speaking dork named Ch0023r (or “CHOOT-ther” for those who choose to rightfully mock him) has illegally accessed this digital death-game to find the apparently important AXIS so the story can begin.

I love this setup (tryhard language notwithstanding). I was initially wary because it involves a MMORPG death-game and SAO taught me to hate those, but it looks like this is approaching it from a very different angle. It’s really pushing the cybernetic feel, so that’s already solved the aesthetic problem, but I’m more so fascinated by the idea of this being like some high-stakes super-illegal death-sport that the protagonist has to delve into for a thus-far ambiguous personal mission. It feels like he knows enough of the ins and outs of this game to get around, but has some higher goal that ups the stakes.

There’s not much more that can be said about a two-paragraph synopsis, but once you finally make some kind of sense of the fringo-frangoing plingo-plang Bene Gesserit pon farr centon razzmatazz, there is a fascinating premise to be found here. Still, a story’s quality rests pretty much entirely on how it’s told, and if no one can understand it, there’s not much of a story to read. This first chapter was written three years ago, so I’ll trust you’ve learned how to better manage your prose since then.

...Also, I’m totally adding Neuromancer to my reading list now. Just gotta finish The Divine Comedy and Neverwhere first...
Ch0023r chapter 1 . 10/25/2012
Hi ;)