Welcome to the results! WHAT a pleasure reading your stories. I’ve said before that one of my favorite parts of writing contests like this is the myriad interpretations of a single prompt. The Dragon’s Bidding element of discovery couldn’t have suited dear (or evil, depending on the story) Clot Bey’s anatomy lesson more perfectly. Thank you for taking time out of your week to share your creativity here. You are appreciated!
And now, opening remarks from brand new, Quite Sparkly, Year Two judge Nillu Nasser Stelter:
She says: Are you ready? Are you snuggled in your reading nook with a cup of tea in hand? This week was the first Flash! Friday competition of 2014 and I was so excited to take my place at the judging helm and read all your wonderfully crafted pieces. There was, as always, a very high standard of writing. The prompt generated stories that dealt with science, politics and philosophy. You wrote about adultery and murder, fear and hope, demons and choirs. I was impressed by your knowledge of the human body and as a non-scientist, some of the detailed dissections made me feel queasy (a good thing, I think!). Hidden amongst the submissions were some knock-out endings.
Before we get round to the results (can you hear that faint drum roll in the distance?) here’s a bit about how I judge. Once I’ve printed out the nameless entries – I judge blind – I retreat to a room of my own with the hard copies. Then comes the fun bit when I can lose myself in the worlds you’ve created and I scribble down any initial thoughts, noting things that stand out like an original premise, great characterisation or excellent phrasing. I also check to make sure no one has flouted the word count rules or ignored the prompt. After reading all the entries, I draw up a long list. Then comes the more intricate work. My judge’s page gives an idea of what is important to me in a story and I have a simple marking system using these criteria to come up with my winners. One more thing – I’m a Brit, so please excuse my English spelling!
Ooh the drummer is right beside me now, dressed in colourful garb, leaping as he beats his instrument. I think he’s ready for the results. Before we indulge him, there’s a special mention for Margaret Locke’s ‘Food for Thought’. The prompt this week lent itself to creepy writing, but a few of you tried your hand at humour. Margaret did this brilliantly in her piece, with pithy dialogue – “You’re claiming broccoli killed this man?” – and timing like a well-told joke. Right, now to the winners. Here we go:
Ifemmanuel, “Who Am I?” This story was a firm favourite for its use of imagery and for appealing to the senses – ‘dry [skin] like tanned leather’, ‘smells like death’, ‘my eyeballs hurt like I wiped them with the body of a porcupine’. The words in this piece were beautifully chosen – ‘swinging his arms in wide arcs’ – and the ending was chilling.
Mary Cain, “Smile.” This story for me was one of the creepiest, with sublime descriptions – ‘a heavy scent of decay’, ‘a layer like hardened tar’, ‘hands…devoid of skin’. It takes skill to build a world so surely in 150 words that a smile is no longer something joyful, but rather horrific. Well done, Mary.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Sarah Cain, “Transformation.” What I liked about this piece was how the Master neatly embodies three qualities of a great teacher: the ability to put on a performance, knowledge and compassion. Sarah’s story illustrates all three of these characteristics deftly using beautiful language – ‘thin and brown as a coffee bean’, ‘soft light shines through the domed ceiling’. This was a story that stood out for the gentleness of its central character – ‘let us worship at his [the corpse’s] altar’ – and its ability to see science as necessary for learning and future hope, as opposed to something threatening.
FIRST RUNNER UP
J. M. Blackman, “Devolution.” In this aptly-titled piece the theatre where the corpse is lying becomes the stage for a lesson the voyeurs are not expecting. J.M. Blackman has a science fiction take on the prompt and uses her protagonist as a truth-teller in her story, who heralds the dawn of a new age when humans no longer rule earth. I admired the rhythm and contemplative nature of this piece in the midst of the invasion. I liked the clever use of contrasts and how although it is the alien on the slab, it is actually the humans who are dying with their ‘mere bones of ideals’.
And now, with trumpets blaring, we’ve got our
“Discovering Your Inner Mummy”
This story starts with a great title and premise. It centres on a physician’s slave being used as a guinea pig for experiments. Allison’s writing pulled me in from the get-go – ‘I didn’t volunteer’ – setting up the protagonist’s dilemma beautifully. Using the first person really suited this week’s prompt, letting the reader experience the grizzly nature of the story first-hand. Allison built up the tension in this story like a seasoned pro, making fantastic use of her small word count. There was attention to the prompt: the protagonist refers to ‘the large audience of white men’ and unexpected humour – ‘I thought I’d die of boredom’. The ending sets the experiences of those in the room in stark juxtaposition with each other. On the one hand the ‘ooh’-ing crowd are delighted by the spectacle at hand; on the other, you have the victim’s horror in its inescapable reality. I’d like to see part two of the story, where the slave makes a miraculous get-away and takes his (literal or metaphorical) revenge on the physician and his merry group of bystanders. Congratulations, Allison. Well played!
Congratulations, Allison, on your second win! Your brand new winner’s badge waits eagerly for you below. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for a new set of questions for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature.