Happy Sunday! Thank you for spending some time here at Flash! Friday–I’ve loved reading your stories & comments this weekend. You seemed to take to vendettas with great relish. Er, we’re still good friends, though, right…?
Today we bid a mournful farewell (in her judge’s tiara, anyway) to Her Highness Nillu Nassu Stelter. What a pleasure it’s been having you on the FF team, Nillu! Your sparkly and spirited judgery will be greatly missed–can’t wait to see all those marvelous skillz in your future storification! Thank you so much for your time and dedication.
Judge Nillu Nasser Stelter says: It’s my final week as a Flash! Friday judge and how the months have flown. Each time it was my turn to step up to the bench with my quill in hand, I learnt a terrific amount from each of you. Your stories have been sizzling feats of imagination, lessons in precision and emotional depth. What other form of fiction allows you to experience so many different voices in such a small space of time? You have spanned multiple genres, and found opposing rhythms, from high intensity piece about a man with murderous intent, or the gentle calm of a story about ladies at tea.
Despite the joy with which I approached this task, there is a mantle of responsibility that comes with judging your entries. I was once told that attention = love. I wanted to give you the gift of 100 per cent focus to mirror the care with which you crafted your stories. Yet, I was conscious that reading is a subjective exercise. I worried that despite judging blind and using marking criteria there may have been writers amongst you whose work, week after week, resonated with me more than others.
I was wrong. As a judge, I have never picked the same winners. In each story submitted, I found something to relate to. You convinced me to appreciate genres that I have neglected in the past. In the best stories, I found that the writer’s vision fused with my imagination as a reader, making the story pulse with energy long after I finished reading it, and firing my synapses to build a world around the one you had committed to paper.
This week Rebekah chose ‘vendetta’ as the Dragon’s Bidding, to accompany a black and white photograph of three welders from the 1940s. Of all the entries submitted, I short-listed a third of these for rereading. You gave me murder and mayhem, sibling rivalry and clones, war and infidelity, immigration, witches and even Vendetta mopeds. You gave me horror, humour and pathos. There was some wonderfully chosen period language and some fantastic final sentences, after which I was compelled to read the stories again.
A special mention this week for Karl A Russell’s story ‘Patience’, for his wonderful setting description, the slow build-up of tension – ‘Women screamed. Alarms rang’ – and his characterisation of the murderer and widower. Well done Eliza Archer for powerful imagery in ‘Patriotic Duty’, in which she writes about witches working to give war planes a helping hand, so that they may be ‘guided by fingers stronger than mortal craft.’ A warm pat on the back to reigning judges Erin McCabe for beautiful phrasing in her story – ‘her bright sparks setting the dark on fire’ / ‘they burst into redundant, violent cascades of pixels’ – and M T Decker for her fantastic concept delivering a modern twist on Greek mythology.
And finally (*drum roll*), with their names in lights this week are:
Anna Van Skike, “Level Up.” In this story the welders are part of a video game played by a young boy. The welders come to life, and stalk after the boy, who they know as ‘God’ and ‘The Great Controller’ once he has left them to their own devices. Great concept, and I liked the description of the young video gamer – ‘with his vacant eyes and slack smile’ – who nevertheless has the power to play puppet-master here and the use of capitalised pronouns to denote his god-like importance to the women.
Chris Milam, “Indifference.” In a horrific take on the prompt, the author tells the story of a sadistic step-father – ‘his welder craved human flesh and emotion’ and troubled mother – ‘her frozen stare always darting, fluttering, never quite landing.’ There was some terrific language here, which was deeply vivid and emotive: ‘[I was] fit for burning. A slab of human steel. / His dark mask shaded his eyes but never his intentions.’ The final line packed a punch: ‘[Mom] never even glanced at the garage.’ Fantastic writing.
Caitlin Status, “Up in Ypsilanti.” Being a Brit, and possibly because of a gap in my history knowledge, I had never come across the phrase ‘Rosie the Riveter’, which a few of you used to great effect, including Caitlin, the author of this piece. The writer here expertly set the glamour and pain of war in juxtaposition with each other: ‘I reapplied my lipstick and did one final hair check before closing the compact’ / ‘I’m a widow and only child at twenty because of this war’. There was an impressive use of dialogue and setting in this piece.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Robin Abess, “We Three.” The repetition and rhythm is this story emphasizes a sense of bleakness: ‘we three do what we three do.’ The first part of the piece is filled with a supreme sense of sadness – ‘we have no names, although we did once’ – as the identities of the three welders merge. Yet, it is individuality here that causes rage and then murder, and finally suicide – ‘I disappeared into the fire.’ Robin has written a wonderful ending where the three welders are doomed to once again continue their task, as penance for their defiance.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Margaret Locke, “Superior Plumbing.” I think this might be my favourite start to a flash fiction piece ever: ‘Penis envy, my ass, Charlotte thought as she bent over the metal tube. Freud was an idiot.’ Ha! This story shines a spotlight on the skill of women in untraditional roles using clever plotting and beautiful phrasing: ‘Charlotte ignored him as the molten metal responded to her commands.’ The writer deals with sexism and uses period language effectively: ‘girly’, ‘boy-o’, ‘bug-eyed’. Best of all, the feisty, competent female protagonist makes me smile: ‘one slip of the welding iron and you’ll be needing replacement pipes yourself.’
And now: for her second time, it’s Flash! Friday
This was a unique take on the prompt, which is about clones in a factory. The themes of power, vengeance and loneliness are amplified by the use of repetition. It’s a cracking piece of experimental flash fiction, in which the author repeats almost every sentence and punctuation mark, thus reducing her word count and meaning that every word had to be chosen with additional precision. The double pain conveyed in the story is haunting – ‘We We see see reflected reflected in in each each other other despair despair’ – and gives a sense of imprisonment. As the reader, the robotic monotony of these sad clone voices filled my head. Even the white space works hard in this story. The lack of repetition when talking about the supervisors – ‘The Singles are armed’ – emphasizes their role as the aggressors. The final sentence is both poetic and terrifying: ‘So So we we sit sit side side by by side side echoing echoing a a desire desire for for revenge revenge.’ Congratulations, Marie!
Hauntingly amazing job, Marie! Your winner’s badge waits for you below. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:
They They cloned cloned us us.. Doubled Doubled the the workforce workforce in in a a year year.. We We work work two two by by two two,, side side by by side side,,with with our our Doppelgänger Doppelganger.. We we look look into into our our own own strange strange eyes eyes and and see see how how dead dead they they are are.. We We are are the the other’s other’s prison prison..
The Singles supervise.
There There is is no no opportunity opportunity for for us us to to break break free free. We We see see reflected reflected in in each each other other despair despair..
The Singles are armed.
We we think think to to destroy destroy the the supervisors supervisors.. So So we we sit sit side side by by side side echoing echoing a a desire desire for for revenge revenge..