THANK YOU, everybody, for coming out to ride along with FF # 50 and fill its virtual trail with such rip-roaring adventures. Reading your tales each week is massively fun (or depressing, of course, depending). Thank you so very much for writing so inspiringly and for encouraging each other so wonderfully.
This week’s Farewell Symphony in Three Movements is composed, conducted, and performed by Maestra Maggie Duncan, whose passion for elegant and flawlessly executed stories helped further drive our writing toward excellence. We’re so grateful, Maggie, for all the time & effort you’ve donated to this community. Thank you!
THE COUNTDOWN SPEEDS UP! Flash! Friday Flashversary Festivities will run Dec 2-6, and Year 2 will officially launch Dec 13 with a brand new judge panel (which is being announced at any moment, I promise).
Judge Maggie Duncan says, My last stint as judge of this contest is bittersweet. I’ve read some incredible stories over the past year, but the editor in me has to say I’ve read some clunkers, too. However, the pendulum swings further to the side of incredible than to the other. I’ve loved the fact that I got a review in British English from some of you. My two British grandmothers taught me how to read and write, and then American teachers worked all that lovely British English out of me. It was a pleasure to see it again. There are some amazing writers who participate in Flash! Friday, and many of you leave me breathless and wanting more each week. Thank you for the places where you’ve taken me.
Since this is my swansong, I’ll just revert to the pedantic school marm I used to be. First, a little advice on entering contests, whether large or small, formal or informal—read the guidelines. If a contest says “X words, plus or minus X,” then that’s what it means. I hate disqualifying good stories because they have too few or too many words. Second, don’t pass fan fiction off as your original work in a contest; at best it’s entertaining; at worst it’s a copyright infringement. I could go on, but finally, invest in a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style. In the U.S. the overwhelming majority of markets for your fiction writing, whether contests or for publication, want to see your work conform to that standard. From the CMS you’ll learn that in the U.S. we love the Oxford comma (it’s one of my personal faves), and you’ll learn exactly how to format those titles I’m fond of, e.g., titles don’t need quotes around them (unless you refer to them in a body of work, as I do below), punctuation counts in them, too, and they require initial caps. And one more thing—proofread, then proofread, and then proofread. I know this is a twenty-four hour contest and that some submit at the last second, but proofread.
Oh, and this really is the last thing, I promise. Please, for the love of all that is holy and sacred, learn not to use a comma splice and learn the difference between its and it’s—unless you like making me weep.
And I exit, stage right, with some words from the Bard’s Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5:
“Unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled.
“No reckoning made, but sent to my account
“With all my imperfections on my head.
“Oh, horrible, oh, horrible, most horrible!
“… Adieu, adieu, adieu. Remember me.”
Best title, hands down: “Not All Things Lost (Wish to Be Found)” by Joidianne4eva. This is a case where the title is a perfect match to the story.
Best opening line: “The children were gone, but the children were not gone.” From “Tormented,” by Lady Hazmat. This was a textbook example of foreshadowing.
Best closing line: “Death may ride a pale horse, but life rides a palomino.” From “Beyond the Pale,” by MT Decker. I laughed long and hard at this great comedic ending.
Best story premise: Horses on Mars in “Coming Home” by Jay Korza. This was a fanciful yet totally believable story with a killer penultimate line.
There are a lot of HMs this week because the stories were good but just had some minor shortcomings.
Marie McKay, “Unwanted.” This was a chilling, desolate story of a mother keeping a brave face while devastated by what she has to do to save her children. Very gripping and tense.
Gordon B. White, “Long in the Tooth, or Manifestly Mandibular Destiny.” This story was a delightful romp with a lot of action. You’ll never think the same way about a dental appointment ever again after reading this.
Jay Korza, “Coming Home.” One of the best sci-fi stories I’ve read in all the times I’ve judged this competition. It’s a wonderful, appealing premise—I wanted to know so much more.
Maven Alysse, “Wind Swept Sands.” This story had a wonderfully haunting cadence to it. It was a nice use of language to evoke mood.
VB Holmes, “The Adventure Ends: October 3, 1880.” This is a tragic tale beautifully told and which appeals both to our sense of adventure and our love for our siblings.
The same holds true for the Runners Up as for the Honorable Mentions—great stories, which were just edged out by the winner.
(4th RU) Lady Hazmat, “Tormented.” This is a harrowing alternate vision of the Pied Piper, which is horrifying in a way that will give you chills and will haunt your dreams. Thanks a lot!
(3rd RU) Joidianne4eva, “Not All Things Lost (Wish to Be Found).” If you have children or grandchildren, you won’t look at them the same way after you read this delightfully creepy story. And if those children happen to say, “Food,” run. Just run.
(2nd RU) Jessica West, “Always Changing, Always the Same.” As unrequited love stories go, this is touching and unique. You get a complex, wonderful character hoping to surprise his love, only to have that surprise turned on him. You feel sad for him, but you also realize he’s ultimately on the right path.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Allison K. Garcia, “Antes de que Caiga La Noche” (Before Nightfall). You’re never exactly sure what the protagonist is fleeing, but this story makes you feel the dread and fear as if you can see it. This magical realism tale shows how you should never lose your faith, but if you do and regain it, the spirits can be very forgiving and obliging.
DRAGON WINNER IS….
for “The Wanderer”
The premise of immortality being bestowed on a mere human has been done many times, masterfully in Star Trek’s “Requiem for Methuselah” and the Twilight Zone’s “Escape Clause” and “Long Live Walter Jameson.” This week’s winning story ranks right up there with them. This is an immortal who understands exactly why he was cursed with immortality and knows he needs to stay away from people so he won’t experience an eternity of hurt, but he just can’t help himself. The staccato cadence of the sentence fragments only emphasize the protagonist’s pain; they’re like the jabs of a knife, getting the point home that no matter where he wanders, he’s doomed to suffer the consequences of his earlier, thoughtless actions. Well-developed and well-written.
Congratulations, Margaret! Here is your updated Winner’s Page, a would-you-please-stay-put-for-one-lousy-second dragon eBadge (below), and your winning Tale. Watch your inbox for your next Wednesday’s Sixty Seconds interview questions.
The sadness settles across my shoulders like an old, familiar coat. Like a yoke around my neck. Like the cross I have to bear.
I bring destruction wherever I go. It’s followed me through millenia, since the dawn of time.
Atlantis. Pompeii. The Great Fire of London. The Titanic. The list goes on and on.
I thought this time was different. It’d been twenty years. Twenty years of peace in this tiny village, so remote, so removed from the rest of the world. I thought maybe, just maybe, she had forgotten, had forgiven. Maybe, just maybe, I’d atoned for my sins.
I’d risked it; I’d settled down, had a family. Now they, too, lie beneath the sand that had enveloped them in a flash, like so many before them.
This was my fault. Mine.
I’ve tried to hate. Tried to ice myself out. Tried to live alone. But the drive has always been stronger, the hunger beyond my control.
She made sure of that, on that mountain top an eternity ago. It was the price I had to pay for taking her, for seducing her, for rejecting her.
“You will sow only pain, reap only sorrow. You will pray for death. It will not come for you.”
This is my curse; to seek love knowing I can never have it. To find love knowing I can never keep it. All the while knowing whoever gets close…
I can’t voice it, can’t warn them. Can’t control it. I cannot stop the liquid words from pouring out of my mouth, cannot control the intoxicating magic emanating from my eyes. They’re like moths to the flame.
I am a magnet, attracting those I should repel and repelling those I should attract.
Bring me the monsters, the murderers, the depraved, the wicked. Not these innocents, time after time.
I am The Wanderer. I get around. But this is nothing like the Dion song.