No….. waaaaah!! it’s the final farewell to the final judge for the first quarter of Year Two: Erin McCabe. Thank you for everything!
But YESSSSS, hurray!!!! It is a tremendous privilege to introduce you to our BRAND NEW FABULOUS DRAGON JUDGES for the next quarter! You’ll get to know them over the next few weeks, but for now I will give you their names: Pratibha Kelapure, Alissa Leonard, and Jess West. Join me in giving them a fiery Flash! Friday welcome!
Judge Erin McCabe says: Well folks, this is it, my last week of judging and boy has it arrived sooner than I thought! I guess that is merely a reflection of how much I have enjoyed the whole experience, so I must thank you all for that, especially Rebekah. We have a very unique and active community here and I absolutely love being a part of it.
This opportunity has really given me an insight into how subjective the judging process really is; in the past when I submitted something I was really proud of and it did not receive any comments from the judges or readers, I used to think I was doing something wrong. Although on some occasions this was true, I realise now that quite often it is really a matter of nothing more than the personal taste of the reader. This week has particularly proved this through the difficulties I had determining my short list; there were so many stories I liked equally and trying to tease out the differences in approach in order to put one against the other was challenging. I don’t have distinct criteria for judging, for me, it always comes down to how a story makes me feel, so when many stories create different but similarly intense feelings within me, the whole process of judging takes on an extra shade of complexity.
So in an attempt to be concise – well done to all of you, there were some excellent stories this week and I actually short listed over half of them, which has never happened before, so thank you all for such great reading!
I would like to start with the special mentions; firstly, Margaret Locke for “Make it So.” This story was really effective in taking the reader back to the days of their childhood and described really well that sensation of imminent flight, if only we could just peddle hard enough. Secondly, I really enjoyed “Pinball” by Rachel Delane, I think this interpretation of the photo prompt was very clever and the feeling of motion within the piece was captured really well. Finally, I adored Tinman’s “The Cycles of the Moon.” Frankly, this was hilarious. I loved the tone and the imagery. “The bicycle got a flat tyre, and the whole universe heard the giant fart as it zig-zagged past the moon like a dying balloon” was a line I particularly enjoyed.
Joidianne4eva, “A Million Miles From Home.” This piece expertly captured the uncomfortable feeling that the photo prompt created this week, surrounding the idea of the dark void. I really liked the way in which the creature was described: “Around it the darkness swelled, twisting and writhing in reaction to its distress.” These internal descriptions keep the creature shapeless and this ambiguity regarding its form, coupled with the stark clarity of its “hungry” intentions, make it even more sinister as it snatches at us in the dark, like we’re fleshy sandwiches.
Eliza Archer, “As Easy As Riding a Bicycle.” This story is just so wonderfully visceral. Anyone who has ever been taught how to ride a bike will recognise the tone of these instructions. But this is not about riding for the first time without your stabilisers; this is about travelling through space. Lines such as “The darkness that you see isn’t perceived with your eyes” really help to guide the reader and imagine these sensations within themselves, such a journey being exciting and terrifying all at once. Just like riding without your stabilisers.
Marie McKay, “Recycling.” This was one of those stories that following the last line (“Save it for tomorrow, Greg. Come home with me. My mom won’t mind.”) I had to re-read in order to fully appreciate what had been done here. Within this last line lies the key to the story: what at first appears like childhood caper is really a desperate attempt at escape from circumstances which clearly Greg cannot control and which we can immediately empathise with. This is a subtle story with great emotive edges which I really enjoyed.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Clive Newnham, “Tunnels.” Aliens have travelled through space and time to conquer the Earth, but rather than sneaking into our bedrooms and taking us by tentacle they have opted for something far craftier: we will find ourselves subsumed by our underpasses! I adored the premise of this story and found it quite chilling, especially as I walk through an underpass in Glasgow quite often on dark nights. I especially loved the last line: “He continued his journey on foot along the tongue of the cycle path, without thought, into the maw.” The choice of words “tongue” and “maw” really make it explicit that our unwitting human is stumbling into the belly of the beast. A great story and wonderful use of the photo prompt which in itself was already strangely disturbing, admittedly even more so after reading this story!
FIRST RUNNER UP
Image Ronin, “Interstellar Trip.” An entirely different take on the theme of “Space Travel,” this story grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It has everything, effective imagery, humour, sadness and anticipation which result in flights of fanciful space fantasy wrapped in bleak stark drug addiction reality; it was very clever. There are so many critical lines in this piece which weave the two realities together. I particularly loved: “a stranger hurrying past, arms folded, head down. Classic flight pattern, fearful that the vagrant slumped within his cardboard boudoir is going to attack, or worse, talk.” Ultimately despite the excitement and furry of colour and adventure that grows throughout the story, the overall feeling the reader is left with is sadness because we know this man is not a space traveller, he’s a homeless heroin addict and clearly reality simply cannot compete with the sad joy of his drug induced escapism. Wonderful story, well done!
And now: another marvelous first-time champ! it’s Flash! Friday
I always adore a bit of world-building, which can be difficult to do when facing a restrictive word count. For me, this story was a winner because of the world-building done almost exclusively through quite fantastic characterisation. In only 159 words Kate manages to bring the characters of “Dawson” and “Marian” to life. Sci-fi references such as “reality raft” are peppered through the piece, emphasising the notion of space travel. But the most impressive thing is that very simple lines such as “Marian smirked, they wouldn’t trust you with anything this large” tell us instantly of the perceived recklessness of Dawson, the sharp humour of Marian, the good relationship between the two and Dawson’s difficult relationship with “System Control.” The reveal at the end is hilarious and although obvious, it is not made explicit through the text, which makes it even better. The last line: “Marian ran for the red one” tells us all we need to know and is the perfect ending to this piece. For such a small word count, to me this story seems spectacularly fully formed. Congratulations, Kate, well deserved!
Congratulations, Kate! Your winner’s badge waits for you below. Here is your winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me asap so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:
Dawson thumped his scanner. ‘What’s our time datum?’
‘1930s, judging by the state of those.’ Marian pointed to two bikes leaning at the tunnel’s entrance. ‘It’s the right kind of place to hide a Relativity Raft.’
Dawson put his ear to the tunnel wall. ‘Maybe the tunnel is the ship.’
Marian smirked. ‘They wouldn’t trust you with anything this large.’
‘I didn’t break the ASM-9!’
‘So you say.’
A distant whirring silenced further objection from Dawson.
Marian stepped back against the tunnel wall as the sound grew into a man on a bike. He whizzed past them and out into the daylight.
‘System Control hates us,’ Marian muttered.
Dawson resumed his scan and the instrument beeped.
He redirected it and it beeped again. He looked to Marian. ‘They wouldn’t..?’
Marian looked down the scanner’s line of sight and back to the tunnel’s entrance.
Dawson raised it again to triple check the data.
Marian ran for the red one.