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Entry #2

Discussion in 'Q1 2020' started by Xiph0, Mar 12, 2020.

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  1. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Yoda Admin

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    The elevator down to the dark corridor was a path Gemma Farley had taken once or twice before, but the eerie charm was not lost on her yet. The job offer had been enough to raise a single eyebrow, but no more; she made a point to rule her expressions before making Prefect in Hogwarts. There was no scent coming from the torches of blue flame, but that made sense, as they were a product of Hector Barbosa's research into the Sterilizing Flame. It crossed her mind that such a thing could be useful at Saint Mungo's, but then, only the most worthy could have it all.

    An Unspeakable greeted her by opening a perfectly nondescript door.

    "I expect you've been told most of what you need to know about working here? Can't have an Inspector finding you're not up to snuff."

    Gemma recalled the Decree of Reasonable Secrecy, the provision allowing the Department of Mysteries to work in secret, that their work would not be ruined by being exposed. I most certainly am 'up to snuff', and it should take no more than a conversation to demonstrate this.

    "Of course. The Resource Witch only just explained the Decree, which was meant to be my last section-"

    "Right. That's the last thing we go over before we've decided where you end up," the nameless wizard explained, gesturing for her to go through the door. "Once we've decided you're not going to be a quill twiddler, we can tell you how things really work."

    The witch tensed with anticipation, but remained careful not to let it show. The untold secrets of magical research, for the brightest and most ambitious minds alone, would be hers for the exploring. Silently, she supposed it was better there were menial jobs associated with the Department, since it gave the appearance of a large organization that could not possibly keep secrets from the public.

    The chamber they entered was long and lit by lamps hanging from gold chains that seemed to go up to nowhere. Low desks surrounded an enormous green tank, though it was not clear whether the glass was green or just whatever was inside.

    "We call this place the Brain Room. There are a few offices over that way, but you won't get your own for a while." The Unspeakable let out a long breath. "The short version is, originally we were studying illusions, Māyā in all the texts we got off the Indians. We'd been able to manage with simple memory charms up until then, but the gaps we were leaving in people's brains were just about worse than what we were taking out."

    "This is where you came up with the False Memory Charm?" Gemma inferred.

    "That's the long and short of it. We needed a controlled environment, where brains wouldn't be taking in any information at all," The wizard explained as he walked over to the glass tank and waved a hand at it, as if summoning something to the forefront. "So we put real brains in a real vat."

    She stared at the floating brains that appeared to be somewhat able to move around. Bizarre, to be sure, but they must have been enchanted to be able to survive in this tank. It seemed unlikely that they had any senses at all, meaning their movements would be based on memories, if anything.

    "There's a reason you still have this here," she speculated, turning to the Department employee. They wouldn't keep it around once the spell was developed unless there were other applications.

    "There's the reason we hired you, good lass." The Unspeakable waved his wand at one of the brains and its memories visualized sequentially in the air. They moved so quickly it was hard to tell what she was seeing. "While we were working on a good memory modification, we realized there was more we could learn from these things. Any idea where we got them?"

    Gemma shook her head, guessing he would rather tell her.

    "Good. It started with a couple of muggles in the early nineteenth century- couldn't tell how much they knew, so the people upstairs had to either throw 'em in Azkaban or wipe their memories entirely. Ended up just letting us have them and never asked what we did." The pair of them walked around the container somewhat, and the new hire counted six in the tank. Even if they can survive in this environment, they can't live forever. "The initial project was making strides, so someone quilled it in as a precedent. We get a new brain once in a blue moon; it's enough to replace the dying ones."

    "It seems you have quite a number of them."

    "We do, yes. It's how you control for the uncertainties relating to the individual, so we really can't get enough 'till we fill up the tank, and I don't see that happening in the near future."

    "What do you do when you get a new one?"

    "Glad you asked. With some of them, we put new memories in, though for others we take memories from old brains and dump them in the new after they're washed out. What's the difference between the new ones and the old ones at that point?"

    "I suppose there would not be any difference," the witch speculated at length. If you take a blank length of parchment and copy everything from another page, you should have the same thing, unless there was a difference in the pages themselves. "One brain might have a slight advantage over another, but if they contain the same information..."

    "Right, right- as you might expect, the Ministry proper was interested in making sure the spell was air-tight, so we've been communicating with the brains, asking them questions and the like to see if they answer them the same way every time. Results were mixed, a bit, which is about what we expected. Most people don't decide what they're going to say until right then, so they'll answer a complex question differently every time."

    "Did you erase their memories after the experiments?"

    "It's easy enough, usually, since those are the only recent memories in there. Interacting with them in any way is kind of like waking them up."

    Even while Gemma was asleep, she knew she was still taking in some information, unconsciously. She remembered waking up ages ago because of the sunlight coming in through a window. It's more accurate to say that these brains are comatose.

    "I presume you require a Legilimens to communicate with them?"

    "It wasn't really the kind of communication we wanted," the Unspeakable said, waving the notion away. "In the end, we decided to transfer them to a Pensieve whenever we wanted to have a chat. If you levitate them carefully, they won't feel a thing."

    The witch had researched the magical artefacts to an extent, though they were rare enough she had not used one herself. She understood that if two people had their heads in one at the same time, they would be seeing the same memory.

    "So you use it to test the function of the False Memory Charm?" she asked. "Is that the only purpose?"

    "Hardly. It's dead useful to know what kind of notions the brains invent to string the facts they know together. We've managed to make the charm a touch more effective in recent years because of what we've learned." The Department employee levitated a book to a nearby desk, setting it down on its spine with a thud. It opened to a page showing poorly drawn figures removing a brain, copying it, and putting the copy in what she assumed was a different body. "The theory was rather primitive in those days, but more or less sound. Old man Haider Lawson might well live another century; we're all holding our breath to see if he survives another transfer." The book closed, flying back to a shelf somewhere. "The brains serve as good test material for Legilimency, since we know what's on them, and there are teams in the Auror Corps that depend on those abilities to extract information when there are few legal methods available," the wizard concluded, taking a seat at one of the desks.

    "I see. You seemed to imply earlier that it was already decided what I would be doing."

    "Right, right, but for our purposes, we'll need to get out a few questions first." A chair flew from across the room to the other side of the desk. "What is your name?"

    "Gemma Farley..." she answered after a pause.

    "Pay it no mind; I don't personally know anything about you, only some of your credentials." Wouldn't my credentials be the most useful in determining what I end up doing down here? "How old are you?"

    "I'm eighteen. I had a brief apprenticeship..." The Unspeakable was already waving away her explanation.

    "I know, I have that here. You were born in... '76, then?" he asked, writing something.

    "That's correct. If you're wondering, I crossed paths with Harry Potter a few times, though I could tell you little about him."

    "That's exactly what we were wondering," the Department employee said without looking up. The witch kept her pride contained. It was a simple assumption, nothing more. "Your mother was awarded a promotion... well, it would've been a few days ago now... can you tell me about that?"

    "Right, of course. She's worked in the Improper Use of Magic office for years now, and since Umbridge moved up to Supreme Undersecretary, she was the best candidate to fill the space."

    "It would have been Umbridge who decided this, then?" Gemma's confusion must have shown through. "We don't get out of this old basement very often."

    "Oh, I see. Yes, I believe she wanted a competent, like-minded individual to continue her work."

    "So what does your mother do for work now?"

    "She's basically the Head of the office, so she fine-tunes the policy handed down by the current government. She spent most of last year being groomed for the position."

    The Unspeakable seemed to be writing more than she had told him, but this had been the case during most of her exams at Hogwarts. He's only being thorough. At any point I should be able to answer these questions, after all.

    "Would you happen to have any experience in Legilimency?"

    "No, I'm afraid I would have to be trained in it," she answered. "I understand the law mostly forbids it except under certain circumstances. It's hardly an unforgiveable, but, well, the laws and the school would have made it difficult to practice."

    "I see. We may be able to start your training Monday, if not a bit on from there; not a problem, really. Have you ever had Legilimency used on you?"

    "No, I don't believe I have," Gemma responded after thinking on it a moment. She had heard a mental invasion could be subtle, but generally the victim could recognize signs. "There was a chapter in a Defense book about Occlumency, but we were only required to understand it for the N.E.W.T."

    "I see, I see... while we're on the subject, have you ever had your memory altered?" Her immediate response was a confused look. "Right, then, the regulation states that we have to inform people, well, not muggles, but definitely squibs since ten years ago, by owl post within a fortnight of modifying their memories unless there is a clear argument of necessity."

    "How do they contest the necessity if they do not know what you erased?"

    "That's the beauty of it. There's a lot of guidelines explaining how it's supposed to be, but no one knows how we handle things internally. A few weeks ago we made a witch in Bristol forget an hour from the previous day just so we could send her the letter. The trick is getting people used to the idea; making it look like all we ever do is make work for ourselves changing things that don't matter."

    "I suppose it might also have the effect that the populace would just view the Department as all-powerful, impossible to be contested." She felt like laughing to herself. "Really, though, I only just gained employment here... I've been, well, a touch hesitant to ask, but how is it you can trust me?"

    "We have hostages," the Unspeakable answered, exhaling from his nose in lieu of a laugh. "It's the same for the people upstairs, though they're not seeing a fraction of what you are. If we don't already know your family, we'll ask, and if you don't have one, we turn you down without saying why." The idea of it sank in. "S'pose it sounds a bit odd; the defenders of the common good resorting to hostage taking? Well, it gets easier when you've already done something illegal. The Hit Wizards think they're clever, keeping each other in line with each of 'em having an 'unofficial execution' down on parchment somewhere. Don't let a new boy see or do anything 'till he's killed someone under suspicious circumstances. Well, they might count it if they've got enough minor offenses they'd put him away for life."

    There was a pause.

    "If the Department is wondering, I have no direct connection to law enforcement."

    "We have that kind of thing on file. Have you ever received a warning?" Wouldn't you have warnings on file?

    "Well, there were a few stray spells after my first year in Hogwarts. I had become so accustomed-"

    "No, it's fine. We genuinely don't care about that kind of thing; we always catch it and wrap it up without too much trouble." He seemed to think for a second. "We'd actually sooner catch a second or third-year at it than wait until they know more. Far as I understand it, that was the policy around the time you started Hogwarts."

    Gemma smiled to herself. Apart from a few reaching questions, it seemed the conversation was going well. There were competencies that would have been appreciated in new applicants, but were far from expected. Best of all, it seemed the employee knew she was on the same page as the Department; she would go so far as to say she was relieved they were more reasonable about the rules they were expected to follow than the public expected. It seemed there would be substantial room for her to show initiative, and even greater power to be gained.

    "Is that all, then?"

    "That's all for those questions. It's going to be cracking fun working with you; if we can prepare you, might be you'll go far."

    "I promise not to disappoint. Can you tell me about my first project?"

    "Jumping the broom handle, are we? Well, can't fault you your initiative." He seemed to shuffle around the papers he was reading. "Well, for my own purposes, I hit you with a memory charm a moment ago."

    I suppose I should not expect to remember it.

    "What did I forget?"

    "Do you remember how you came here?"

    "I remember everything back to the elevator, unless there's something else you've changed. I can't seem to remember what was going on before I boarded the elevator." She paused, seeing nothing that contradicted the idea. "I presume that's what you erased, then?"

    "Got it in one; good on you," the Unspeakable answered, again refraining from looking up. "Only a bit more, then. Can you take a step over there?" he asked, indicating a dark section of the room with his wand.

    Complying, Gemma found a stack of books on a desk next to a door.

    "This is to be my desk?"

    "Right, right, open one of those books and tell me what it says."

    She felt her eyebrows knit as she looked through the first few pages. It was a table of contents for a book on the mind and how it functioned.

    "It's a book on brains... just, what they do, how they do it..." Diplomatically, she left off 'exactly what you would expect'.

    "I see," the Department employee answered as she set the book down. "Try that door over there."

    Well, it's not my office, so it'll be locked. She got out her wand and cast the unlocking charm after humoring her more optimistic notions. The interior vaguely resembled her father's office from a few years ago, containing a desk and a chair, but instead of a row of magical magnifiers and telescopes, there was a row of books on the wall behind; between every third or fourth there was a brain stem in a jar.

    "I can't tell whose office it is," she said, looking over her shoulder at the wizard who had not moved from his desk. "It could really belong to anyone here." Well, not me. She walked back over, but refrained from regaining her seat opposite the Unspeakable. "I'm sorry, are we testing something?"

    "Yes; it's all perfectly crucial. Can you describe your day from when you woke up?" Oh, we're back to the memory charm.

    "Of course. Every day I wake up at six sharp, vanish any impurities, apply my poultices, dress, and have breakfast with my parents by half the hour, assuming a standard pace. After that I took the floo to the Atrium upstairs and talked with-"

    "Yes, you mentioned something about the Resource Wizard."

    "I thought I said 'Resource Witch'?" Gemma feigned an uncertain expression. Well, he has asked me a fair few questions. Most people would lose track.

    "Yes, you did; I must be remembering some other time." He rose, collecting his papers with a levitation charm. "Well, no need to draw this out any further."

    "Oh, that's good. Where did I end up?"

    "Well, if I recall correctly, you were of, well, mostly the correct disposition for the job, but we decided you weren't clever enough, so some of your records must've been faked. It was a real embarrassment; we figure someone just forgot that around the time you graduated, there was some political turmoil that would have made it easy to get some changes in as they passed through the Department of Magical Education. To make matters worse, you'd been working for us about a week before we found the problem, so we couldn't just erase seven days of memory and set you on your way; you'd be asking questions. Ended up sending an owl to your parents and telling them you'd be helping us with a project for the foreseeable future- kind of matter you couldn't discuss with them."

    A cold sweat formed around her temples, and nothing was said for a moment as the Unspeakable concluded his business and made his way to the door.

    "Where did I end up?" Gemma asked again, choking on her words slightly.

    "Oh, down here with us. There's nothing to worry about at all."
     
  2. Gaius

    Gaius Fourth Year

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    no title?

    i like the theme of memory central to your story. the job interview could be a good way to build suspense and frame the story, but i found the prose and the dialogue to be a little stilted.

    some comments:

    the first sentence of your story is a bit wordy. the first clause can be made more active, and the eerie charm clause tells more than shows (the dark corridor conjures an eerie image for us). maybe something like: “Gemma Farley had taken the elevator at the end of the dark corridor only once or twice before and its eerie charm was not lost on her yet.”

    i don’t know if you wanted to stick in the “once or twice” in here to set up early that Gemma may have forgotten something and this is part of her memory issues or if it is just a background detail. shouldn’t Gemma have never been down to the Department of Mysteries before this interview? you could revise to say “Gemma had never taken the elevator… yet she felt at home in the eery, dark corridor” to get the sense that she has been down more than once and can feel it intuitively even if she can’t remember.

    also the phrase “but that made sense” is unnecessary since you give the explanation immediately after.

    Often when you have Gemma’s thoughts in the story, they don’t really tell us anything new. also, you can get at what she’s thinking with her gestures, body language, posture, and response to her interviewer. this thought is redundant since she quotes what was said to her and her proof of being “up to snuff” is the conversation. what she says next should get this across instead.

    Her first thought seems rather obvious. not sure if we need her direct thought here. also the “it seemed” sentence following is a bit long and awkward. you also go on to tell us how the brains work (“meaning…”), and the end “if anything” is a bit conversational.

    the second thought explains what she just said to the employee, so i don’t think you need it.
    parts of your dialogue that read a little stilted to me and slowed down the pace. “we do, yes” can be omitted since the employee can just nod or you can have him say “that’s how you control for…” straight away implying a yes answer to her question. “glad you asked” also seems unnecessary.

    this is nice. it characterizes Gemma, who has been a fine job candidate up to this point, as someone is unsure of her identity. adds a bit of creepiness to the scene and sets up the ending.

    i also didn’t mind Gemma’s thoughts here. since she doesn’t voice the question it adds something new and also shows how she is beginning to find something odd about the interview. why wouldn’t this be about her credentials? what is it about then?

    why does Gemma have a “confused look” if he’s asking about knowledge of Legilimency, etc. seems like a reasonable question? also you could tell us she sat up straighter, quirked an eyebrow, more physical description of how she expresses her confusion.

    long sentence makes it difficult to read, which you probably don’t want since the new regulations are important for the content of the story.

    Ok, so employees stay in line because the Department knows about their families? the employee here seems interested and motivated in researching the Memory Charm without that over his head, and if they are “defenders of the common good” won’t they recognize what they’re doing is fine without the necessity for hostages? and the Hit Wizards example isn’t quite the same thing since they are holding dirt on their colleagues as a way to protect themselves.

    this is a considerable non-reaction to the idea of hostage-taking. shouldn’t Gemma react a little? even if she’s fine with it? this “smile to herself” and the paragraph that follows is jarring when compared with with what precedes it because it seems more like she’s satisfied with how the interview is going.

    i don’t think you need the thought and the speech here since they express similar ideas. just one is fine. if you want to make Gemma seem canny in this situation you could have her say “I suppose I should not expect to remember it” to the interviewer.


    why wouldn’t they be discussing the Memory Charm? they haven’t really changed topics. i think it’s clear to the reader too that he’s testing her memory and he may have tampered with it.

    Gemma “feigning uncertainty” and the interviewer saying “some other time” makes this thought unnecessary and overly explain-y.

    i like that the story turns and Gemma becomes a prisoner/lab rat, but the explanation the interviewer gives Gemma ties things up really quickly though.

    and the ending raises some questions for me… weren’t there new regulations saying the DoM could just mindwipe people and then send them via owl? why couldn’t they do that for Gemma? 7 days is a long time, but she would presumably not get anywhere asking questions about the Department of Mysteries, or they could lie to her and say she did some work for them but it was need-to-know so they Obliviated her.

    i think it would be even cooler if she ended up being one of the brains (or did you mean to do that? i couldn't tell) since you spend so much time on that at the beginning of the story. she doesn’t realize she has had this conversation before and that she is without a body because of all the memories the interviewer has implanted in her.

    thanks for your submission!
     
  3. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

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    Did she get brain-in-a-jar'd? I think so, which is if nothing else an interesting idea. I think you could've gotten more out of it, though. There's a bit of stuff I realized on scrolling through it again, which I think you could've been more obvious about. Like the whole "Umbridge is the Supreme Undersecretary" thing - his interjection being "it would've been a few days ago now" - the end being about there "having been" some political tumult: this isn't a new interview, it's her retreading the old one.

    The rest of the piece lacks something, I think. The idea of the Unspeakables making the whole family hostages is whatever, Hit Wizards all being "executed" criminals is IMO really, really stupid. If the idea is that Farley cheated her way in somehow (this time) then I think that could've been made clearer, too.

    And, finally, if this is a retread of the old interview, why? What did the Unspeakable learn from this, other than to give her a parting shot she can't even really stew on?

    On a technical level, it's serviceable. It's not super clean, but by the same metric I can't name any standouts immediately of where things went really wrong.

    In summary, a pretty decent effort. 3/5.
     
  4. FitzDizzyspells

    FitzDizzyspells Fifth Year DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    5/5 for plot, climax, and prompt use.
    2/5 for protagonist, antagonist, and characterization.

    As Blorcyn recently said, a good story lives or dies by its characters, not its events.

    You have a very good idea here, but I wish you'd made me care more about Gemma. If you had, I would've cared far more about the tragic end she meets. You hit us with way too much exposition about the project and not nearly enough about the lab (aka the setting) and the people in it.

    For the most part, Gemma doesn't think very much about herself and her past. You do take some opportunities to sprinkle background and characterization here and there, but not a ton. I recognize that Gemma is in an addled state (unbeknownst to her), but that shouldn't prevent interesting thoughts from occurring to her as she's "interviewed." If anything, it's an opportunity for her thoughts to be a bit loopier and more dream-like. Don't be afraid to let your main character's mind wander a little bit. These thoughts don't need to be italicized, either.

    If I'd gotten more details like that, I think I would've been more distracted from the inevitable twist ending we were hurtling toward.
     
  5. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Minister of Magic DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

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    Another brief attempt to share my opinion and any brief thoughts I have. I read this a few days ago now, and it's better to jot something down than just leave it hanging and not get around to it before the comp is over, I suppose.

    So, I think this is the strongest opening for an entry. Your technical ability in writing is stronger than either of the other competitors and the promise of good characterisation is always the thing that most excites me in an opening. However, where I warmed to one, I cooled to you as we went along.

    The essential problem is your dialogue.

    While you establish a likeable character to start, who we are willing to get to know better, the potential is then squandered, in service to a twist that you telegraph too hard.

    Further, there's no clear direction.

    I think I could ramble on, but most of all I'd direct you resources that deal with Dialogue.

    Chuck Palahniuk writes some essays on Disconnected Dialogue in his 36 nuts and bolts craft essays and this should be easily 'findable' though I can't link it as per rules of site.

    Further, Savage Books is a youtuber who works as a book editor, of all the youtuber's I watch, his 'Dialogue Dives' are the best for this. He's got a few and they all cover different things, this one isn't chosen specifically for you, so have a look through his stuff.

    Essentially good dialogue in this story should consist of her altering sense of power in the conversation which doesn't come across well, and in our altering understanding of the time period this is taking place which doesn't come across well - and so the twist at the end feels almost perfunctory.

    Her goal is 'get the job'. Sure, great, this is reasonable. But did it all have to be a seated interview? Did it all have to be her interviewer discussing this or that in obvious exposition?

    I don't think so.

    I think you should analyse the beats of the scene, see what's exposition, what's goal reevaluation and new action, and then when you realise there's not much, slash the words and alter the story. Throw something in other than walking to the interview and walking to the back office.

    If this twist is all that you want it to be, then you might as well chop it in half, cus it's long for what it is.
     
  6. Shinysavage

    Shinysavage Madman With A Box ~ Prestige ~

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    I'm conflicted on this. There's lots of touches I like, but I'm not sure it all adds up to something the sum of its parts...yet I also kind of feel like it might be my favourite of the three?

    Overall, I thought it was decently written; not anything special, but nicely done, and while the twist isn't exactly a shock, I didn't think it was outrageously obvious either; the final scene strikes an effectively chilling note. As I write this, I'm reminded a little of the Black Mirror Christmas special from a few years ago - White Christmas? - particularly the framing device for it. Anyway. As I kind of said, it's the little things that stand out for me. Quill twiddler as an equivilent to pen pusher, the origins of the brains (both the literal origins and the reason for them being in the DoM), the idea of spells being constantly refined and improved rather than created and the results varying based on individual talent.

    It's perhaps a little rushed? Maybe in a longer piece, or without the deadline pressure, this could be refined, with the tension of the end more effectively strung throughout rather than loaded at one end. Still, an enjoyable read.

    3/5.
     
  7. Microwave

    Microwave Professor

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    The biggest takeaway I have after reading this is that it just doesn't feel like there's a story. It's a bit too disjointed for my liking. I don't think I can fault you too much for it though, I had the same issue myself with a story I wrote for a previous competition. The story starts off pretty strongly and just fizzles out towards the end.

    Which is fine, if there's a promise for something more afterwards. But I think the twist at the end should have some sort of build-up, either some foreshadowing or misleading, both of which don't really seem to be present in your story.

    Another thing I would like to see is just more of Gemma. She's there the whole time, sure, but I don't think there's enough there that allowed me to be really attached to her character. I think the reader just needs to know more about who she is or about her own character. She's just a bit too blank for me to really be interested.

    It's still nicely done. I can feel something bigger than the core of the story working in the background, which create nice layers to your world. I just think it might be a bit better to focus on the surface a bit more, because that's the part that we get more attached to.
     
  8. Majube

    Majube Order Member

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    I liked the premise but like others, I think that Gemma isn't someone relatable because you haven't made her a character we feel all that sympathetic for, or attached to at all. If you had her arrogant and miss even more of the creepy atmosphere at least she'd have more personality. I did like how we get to see how she acts after she's told she's going to be a brain in a jar, but its a bit of a plothole for why they're keeping her when they could just mindwipe a week of her life and leave a letter.

    I think that you could also expand a bit more on the character of the Unspeakable, have him have a glint in his eye, sadistically amused, or even just chillingly calm and apathetic, instead, we just see - in a normal fic I wouldn't care but if it's a short I don't think going bland with characterization is a good idea.

    One thing I do have to give you props for is the uneasy atmosphere. That was good for sure. I'd give this a 3.5/5 overall though.
     
  9. Niez

    Niez Slug Club Member

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    Hello :)
    Once again I find myself enjoying the initial premise - what the unspeakables get up to, from the perspective of a new recruit - and I find it fits the prompt beautifully. I got even more excited when you started to inject some creepiness into it , as I am not only a fan of the genre but I feel there is plenty of potential for it in the HP universe, memory manipulation being just one example. Unfortunately I was slightly confused as to what exactly was happening throughout and even more so at the end, where I didn’t even ‘get’ what the twist was at all, even with a second and then a third, reading. I think that if you wanted to suggest that Gemma was about to become a brain there were clearer ways to do so, though I don’t think that particular twist even made any sense at all (more on this later). Was she a brain already and that is what you were getting at? Is she to become a generic ‘lab rat’ and that’s it? I’m afraid I just don’t have a clue, which sort of detracts from the whole experience.

    Anyway, some thoughts as I went through:
    I don't like it - elevator shaft is not a path but a ride.

    You call it eerie, but you don't have a single descriptor - you even call the door nondescript for chrissakes. Naughty, naughty.

    Odd phrasing an odd sentiment. Ever since making prefect she’s been ruling her emotions? I didn't realise school prefects had such a large responsibility (?) Overall rather weak opening I must say.

    Again, odd sentiment. I get Gemma is an odd cookie but this logic is kind of confusing - does she mean that only the ministry is worthy, only the department of mysteries and if so why? Is it a patrician sentiment a nerdy one (ala only the researchers should have the product of their research). So many interpretations, none that add anything other than slight confusion.

    Huh? An inspector¿ Don't the department of mysteries sort of do their own thing?
    Yeah, exactly. This exposition seems to contradict what the unspeakable just said. Also the thought seems unnecessary, also this whole thing seems unnecessary. Later on you will tell us how the department has hostages and shit, so why is the decree of reasonable secrecy relevant to their independence - it seems they have the means to guarantee it already.

    Is this the wizarding equivalent of human resources? Because I hate it, thanks.

    Noice, but Gemma has only remarked on the lighting so far - remove the first mention so that the second is more impactful?

    a bit inelegant - not clear whether the glass itself was green or was tinted so by whatever liquid was inside - an example that makes it a bit clearer I feel

    Why capitalise ‘Room’?

    Try as I might i don't understand what you mean to say here. Erase all the redundant info and we are left with this; Originally we were studying illusions. We'd been able to manage with simple memory charms up until then (huh? how does this follow?), but the gaps we were leaving in people's brains were just about worse than what we were taking out. (????? so you erase memories and somehow you leave larger ‘gaps’? huh? what? also what timeline are you talking here, centuries? just yesterday?)

    no cap for ‘The’.

    as he is indeed about to summon something to the forefront, this observation is unnecessary

    Impossible I should add, though I’m no neurosurgeon.

    Lmao is the unspeakable a pirate or from newcastle?

    A very poor way of conveying what you wish to convey. Basically, unless I have it wrong, before the more refined memory charm the ministry had no recourse but to throw those muggles who witnessed magic in prison, to protect the statute of secrecy. So why not say that? This is a clear example of the curse of knowledge, you know what you mean and thus you assume we know it also, but we don’t, and the ‘couldn't tell how much they knew’ is mighty confusing - makes it sound like there were muggle spies or something.

    Ex: It started with a couple of muggles in the early nineteenth century. Those too nosy or unfortunate to witness magic before the ministry could do anything other than throw them into Azkaban, or give them to us.

    Still not 100% clear maybe, but clearer.

    Remove ‘somewhat’. You don't walk around something somewhat, what a weird thing to say.

    The unspeakable explains how they got brains in the past, but not how they do so now - despite it making it look like he does. Even if you intended this, it seems something Genna would pick up on, particularly since he admits they get new brains once in a while. (so the reasonable follow up is, ‘from where? Mr. Fronkonstin’)

    Why? The standard answer of ‘for science’ (or I guess ‘for magic’) is not really satisfactory, and it seems something Genna should ask about.

    Read the The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven pinker to rid yourself of this nonsense way of thinking, you heretic.

    Again, I sort of see what you want to say and sort of don't. You mean to say that if you inject someone’s else's memories into your brain, will the brain remember it the same or will it remember it differently? This has obvious relevance to the memory charm itself, or more accurately, its efficacy. But you don't say that at all, and the last line is confusing as heck.

    Why is she making this point via her personal experience, rather than saying something like - even during sleep the human brain takes in some information, so it would be more accurate to say that those brains were comatose, though she didn't say this out loud.

    I’m still not sold on these brains being aware - human-like agents. Like put yourself in their place, suddenly waking in absolute darkness with no sense of hearing, smell or touch, no senses at all, only aware of your own consciousness and an everlasting nothing. You would surely go insane - the human brain is not designed to work in that environment, I mean, ever heard of the effects of extreme sensory deprivation? yeah magic, I know.

    Legilimency, also, surely - after all legilimency has nothing to do with what was previously discussed.

    This does not show her answering after a pause, but rather trailing off or pausing after answering.

    "Gemma Farley," she answered, after a pause.

    Ham fisted reference to main character is ham fisted. Also, if he was wondering, why didn't he follow up on it?

    Why do we need to know this? Is this setting up her school records being altered? And if so, why? There’s just been a civil war, I don't think it would be too hard to fudge a few documents, even if your momma wasn't a big ministry name.

    As with most of her others, this train of thought leaves me confused. Yes, these are personal questions that you should be able to answer, why remark upon this at all? (and out of story reasons like giving hints that her memory has been altered do not count)

    required to read it surely? Again, a very confusing way of speaking/thinking. Such a strange strange lady.

    Inform people of what? That you modified their memories? Surely it would be worth to say this clearly so you don’t make it harder to understand for the reader.

    This doesn't make any sense. If there was a shadowy organisation erasing people’s memories, them telling you about it would only make you more paranoid/concerned, even if it were for menial reasons. Especially for menial reasons I would think, because that implies that the DoM is for some reason involved or interested in your menial everyday life. Whatever way you try to twist it this don’t work boyo, shadowy mind erasing organisations are creepy nor two ways about it, no sirree

    A bit of a hurdle. Saying that you have hostages implies that you are willing and able to hurt them should the people you are threatening step out of line, which somehow means you either control/are able to stop auror investigations and in truth the whole ministry apparatus, which implies some sort of hold of society as a whole. So… how can you control a whole government and yet one snakey boi can wreck your whole society and you are impotent to do anything about it? And also, why? This is like the mad scientist stereotype but like driven to an absurd degree. If you just want to do messed up research there are easier and more believable ways to cover for it, such as simple memory charms - which is, after all, the ‘topic’ of the story. As I said, there is a lot of potential for creepiness with the premise you set forth, but the way you go about implementing it doesn't jive to well with me, unfortunately.

    I don’t understand this sentence and I don’t see how it follows the previous one. Also, just how many people do hit-wizards kill? You are hurtling straight past creepy into dystopian, not in itself a bad thing but it doesn't really fit with the context. Harry just won, the ministry is in disarray - I just don’t really buy it at this particular point in time.

    bit of a leap but ok

    So erasing her memory for a few days is too much for them but [whatever it is they are going to do with her] is not? Does this unspeakable imagine that her parents will not care if she doesn't it show for a couple of months/shows up complete mind-addled?. Also Hermione erased her entire existence from her parents’ memories when she was eighteen. Gilderoy Lockhart erased entire feats of magic worthy of the best songs (or bestselling books) and he was a complete moron. You would think the mighty unspeakables would be able to erase a week’s worth of memories.

    Some tentative suggestions/comments - tentative because I didn’t really understood your ending so take it with a grain of salt.

    1)Set up what you are talking about earlier. Gemma hasn’t come for a standard position in the DoM, but rather has been offered a position in regards to memory research (a bit of dramatic irony there too. Thus the talk about the brains comes across far smoother, and you don't have to explain anything other than how the brains are relevant to their research.

    2)Gemma is a bit of an odd cookie - this in itself is not a problem but I am constantly confused by the way her logic works, how she ties up thoughts/observations together which at a first glance makes no sense. I don't know if this is intentional but if so you need to find a way to showcase her oddness in a way that it doesn't confuse the reader as well. She might very well be confounded (though this is not particularly clear from the story itself) and I understand the hardships of showing a confused pov without confusing the reader too but you need to somehow figure it out. As it is right now I stumbled again and again on the narrative, sapping all the potential flow it might have had.

    3)Also placing it in a singular point and time (after the war to be precise) retracts from the eeriness of it all. Also brings to mind questions like, if the DoM is this all-powerful shadowy entity, why didn't they do anything during Voldemort’s reign? Better leave it ambiguos I feel.

    I probably shouldn’t rate it but I want to be clever so I give it two and a half olives out of an olive branch. Interesting idea - the execution however, I feel was some ways off the mark.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2020
  10. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    Nicely done!

    It crossed her mind that such a thing could be useful at Saint Mungo's, but then, only the most worthy could have it all.

    Wait, is she saying that St. Mungos isn’t worthy of having Sterilizing Flame? It makes me curious WHY this is so special that it can’t just be everywhere. Also helps to characterize Gemma, which is actually quite well done in the first paragraph.

    I like the idea that you can technically work for the Dept of Mysteries yet not really be in on the mysteries until you’ve proven yourself. Same for it having menial positions as a sort of cover.

    The brains explained! (That rhymes sort of!) Well done tying in a real, random canon thing and running with it to this extent. It’s even engaging, this conversation about how they’re used.

    Huh, so… Gemma’s mother is considered to be ‘like-minded’ with Umbridge, eh? I have to admit that you do a damned admirable job of making me like Gemma while hinting regularly at the fact that I might not actually like her. That’s hard to pull off. She starts to feel real and nuanced here in ways that most OCs don’t because this is a delicate balance to pull off.

    I have this creeping, uncomfortable feeling that this isn’t a job interview and she’s not here for the reason she thinks. This feeling has building for a while and it’s getting to the point that I hope I’m right and it’s really clever foreshadowing. As I continue it’s even little things like “exactly what you’d expect” that really have the hairs on the back of my neck up.

    …and there it is! I like that you tied this into the ‘political turmoil’ bit. She should be, what, four years older than Harry? Her mom knows Umbridge. Works nicely and great build up to the ending. I think the ending could perhaps be tweaked a bit to somehow hit harder, but overall it had good payoff.
     
  11. Silirt

    Silirt Minister of Magic DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    Thanks, all. I had some sense that posting a shorter story would be better for people's ability to enjoy it, but it seems I couldn't cut corners with the characters. The Unspeakable is supposed to be anonymous, as he doesn't have a name, and what I was trying to convey with that was that it doesn't matter who he is, because he's a successfully integrated cog in the machine. Gemma was basically supposed to be exactly what it says on the tin, she's self-important, she's a ladder climber, and she's not as clever as she thinks she is. I really should have gone into her past more, or had some other opportunity to flesh out her personality, because, let's face it, that's all she has left.
    Gemma is already a brain in a vat. She has been for years, and unless they decide to move her memories to another brain, she'll probably just die in there. I suppose it would have been no skin off their noses to obliviate a week's worth of memories, but there's a chance they don't want people getting the idea they do extensive changes and they wouldn't be getting a brain out of it. They use her for research/training most of the time. This particular conversation is about how the brain fills in gaps in understanding, as evidenced by walking over to the back office and seeing what she expected to see. It takes place inside of a pensieve, and if you were there for the pensieve thread you've probably realized that serves as the inspiration for some of the more technical aspects of the story.
    I wrote this before watching the first season of Psycho-Pass, but if it helps, that's basically how things work in this story. It's a semi-dystopian story in which the Department doesn't really have total control over the population, but can manage its own employees. Since everyone seemed to have a different opinion on the twist ending, like it was too easy and you totally saw it coming or it was too hard and you still can't be sure what's going on, I really wouldn't know how to improve on that, but I'll look into examples of twist endings that worked.
     
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