Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 38: WINNERS!

Holy cow, people. Just when I’m like, It’s just not humanly possible to write better than the little dragons did this week, there you go, writing still better. AND this week y’all exploded the Flash! Friday records in the number of stories (almost 70) and comments (nearly 600), WOW. But you want to know a secret?? If next week only twenty of you show up, or only ten, or shoot, if it’s only you (and me), I will be no less grateful. The way you invest in each other by spending hours reading & commenting on each other’s stories, tweeting other writers’ work, and blogging about each other? That’s the very heart of Flash! Friday, and what I’ve always dreamed it would be. I’ve said it before but will say it again, and again, and again: you are making a difference in each other’s lives. You are also redefining on a weekly basis just how powerful flash fiction can be. Thank you.   

♦♦♦♦♦

Judge Phil Coltrane (who, if you’re looking for him, will be napping the next few days) says: Once again, I am amazed by the level of talent displayed by the community. We asked for stories that include an alien, and you delivered big-time: friendly aliens, hostile aliens, absent aliens, alien telemarketers, alien whales, and even (somehow) human aliens. On top of that, you delivered to each other a huge outpouring of constructive comments. The magnitude of this week’s alien invasion was overwhelming.

But the Dragoness doesn’t pay me to be overwhelmed. I loved (and read repeatedly) so many of your stories, so even if I was unable to mention yours this week, I sincerely hope that you will come back next week to make things even more difficult for the next judge. {Craig Anderson says, Gee thanks.}

♦♦♦♦♦

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Liz Hedgecock, “Re-Entry.” A poignant story and a reminder of the alienation that can be felt by those who are deployed far from their homes and loved ones.

Craig Anderson (3x winner & current judge!), “GOTO 10.” It may be the friendliest programming language ever designed, but this story turns two lines of BASIC code into a homicidal alien invader.

Bart Van Goethem, “360.98.” Not many stories can include an alien shapeshifter bodysnatcher, an indifferent cat drinking milk, a Kuiper belt object, and the length of a stellar day, and make it all make sense.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Michael Seese, “Passengers.” What drew me into this apparently light-hearted tale was the dialog — a guy talking of being “on the cover of Newsweek” and “a date with a centerfold” as the two astronauts await their recovery team and dream of their fame.

Karl A. Russell, “A Conspiracy Theory.” Here, the author perfectly captures the language of a conspiracy theorist presenting his lunatic theory. A few leading questions — “Don’t you think that’s strange?” — combines with a barrage of factoids in a breathless attempt to turn unrelated trivia into something sinister.

The author even strays into meta territory (“Karl A. Russell loves his Disney films, see, and he’s here week after week”) as he builds toward his conclusion: “It’s the only explanation. Inside men. Your silent invasion. Mind control.” A well-executed and researched conspiracy theory, complete with the requisite alien invasion.

Eric Martell, “From the Frying Pan….” There is a larger backstory: we know that a “battle that had caused our ship to have trouble,” that “Houston got nuked,” and now the astronauts are in real trouble.

As the title suggests, their problems continue to worsen — the two astronauts have no way of getting home, and one is now unable to safely communicate a new, unexpected threat: “the thing that didn’t need a spacesuit and had twelve arms.” Eric compounds conflict upon conflict, starting with important but distant problems, while saving the revelation of the immediate alien threat for the end, where it will have the most impact.

Pauline Creighton, “Darkness.” Blaise Pascal said, “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.” This is the concept that drew me into this story. After a “fruitless ten year mission to find alien life,” he returns to Earth to find, to his horror, that there is no other life out there in the darkness of space, nor any surviving humans left anywhere on Earth.

In the end, he himself is the alien: isolated, alone, and surrounded by darkness no matter where he chooses to go. A unique interpretation of the prompt, and an unsettling story overall.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Avalina Kreska, “Sugar & Spice And All Things Nice – That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of.” This story works on an emotional level: the heartbreak of dealing with a loved one’s degenerative terminal illness. We learn of Liam’s life — including his astronaut training (“being blasted into the sky”), his love of motorcycles and girls (“kicking up dust on Dad’s old Harley, leathered girls riding pillion”), and some unspecified accident (“the computer malfunctioning”) — through his father’s memories, since Liam himself has none. He is reverting physically and mentally through childhood, and has little time left.

A touching story with parallels to coping with Alzheimer’s, and with a slightly irreverent ending in the spirit of this week’s contest that plays with the typical after-school special — “that’s what you get for sleeping around with alien girls. You never know where the hell they’ve been.”

SECOND RUNNER UP

Sarah Cain, “Good Business.” When I read “astomuts,” I was hooked on this fun story about alien bartender Jin and his patrons, Gus and Flann. What I liked most about this story was the oddly down-to-earth nature of these aliens. Unlike most other stories, these aliens wish neither help nor harm upon Earth. Instead, they are ordinary blue-collar blokes, tipping back a few and watching a TV show.

The friendly rivalry between the bar patrons, arguing over our space program (“Geez Gus. It ain’t astomuts. It’s astronauts.” “Moon, shmmoon. So what?”) the way we might argue about sports teams or current events, serves to establish that these four-armed aliens aren’t so different from us. The last line sums it up for the bartender: “Humans were crazy weird, but great for business.” It’s the author’s natural-sounding dialog that makes the crazy sound normal, and connects us to the story’s alien characters.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Voimaoy, “Cats in Space.” If cats told legends, they would read like the one in the story. “We are the wondrous strange. We pass between the walls.” It is a legend filled with both wonder and self-importance — both of the cats in the myth are described as “beautiful,” and the legend claims that they “have always been sailors’ familiars.” Their self-importance continues into the present: “We have so much to teach you about gravity and doors.”

The humans’ opinion of these cat people is less lofty: “difficult to work with,” and “[c]haotic as the random decay of subatomic particles.” Yet the cat people’s claims of importance must have some merit, or the humans would not put up with their demanding ways. They even admit that “there was no denying their talent for navigating the seas of quantum foam.”

It’s hard to say what makes this story so appealing. Whether it is the juxtaposition of the cats’ conceited opinion of themselves and the humans’ views of them, the beautiful language of the legend, or just the idea of cats as alien navigators, this story successfully captures a fun and fascinating idea.

And now: taking the #flashfiction world by storm, it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

NANCY CHENIER!!!

for

“Mission Control”

This story hits the ground running, providing tension, setting up the two characters Marvin and Meuller, and establishing a conspiracy between them, all in the first paragraph.

The rest of the story is an emotional see-saw, with Marvin and Meuller’s reactions always opposite to that of the rest of mission control. As the conspiracy unfolds and the returning Gemini space capsule goes off-course, “the eggheads went into a tizzy.” Yet at a time when the tension in the room is mounting, Marvin can slightly relax, “going through the motions,” because he already knows that this is “not a program error.” Soon after, when the astronauts correct the problem, this swings in the other direction. As the rest of mission control rejoices, “Marvin’s heart stopped [… he] gaped at the ashen expression of the director.”

What could compel these two men to commit such a betrayal of the astronauts? It seems the most frightening enemy is the one we don’t see — this alien threat is mentioned only as a “secret malignancy.” Upon realizing that this “secret malignancy” will soon be on Earth, nothing remains for Marvin to do but to go home and be with his family.

The word economy from packing so much into the beginning of the story, plus the constant contrast of Marvin and Meuller’s reactions against the rest of “the eggheads” and the subtlety of the alien menace make this a powerful story.

Congratulations, Nancy! Below is the super sparkly winner’s badge for your wall(s). Here also please find your winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Mission Control

Beads of sweat dripped onto his console as Marvin hit enter. His glasses fogged, but he could still make out the erect figure of Meuller, the director, facing him across the floor. He gave a nod, barely more than a blink.

Ten seconds later, the eggheads went into a tizzy.

“They’re off course!”

“What the hell?”

“Can we fix it?”

“Not before entry!”

Marvin hunched over his console, his quaking hands going through the motions.

It was not a program error.

Though who would suspect otherwise on Gemini’s mission, already fraught with malfunction?

“Woohoo, Cooper!”

Marvin’s heart stopped. A cheer rose from the control stations.

Marvin gaped at the ashen expression of the director.

Cooper “corrected” the course from aboard. The capsule would land safely—along with its secret malignancy.

Marvin’s toddler would be sleeping, wife awake, waiting for him. “Can I go home?” he piped.

To the bewilderment of Houston’s personnel, the director tightened his jaw and nodded.

 

FFwinner-Web

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 38: WINNERS!

  1. Thank you so very much. I’m truly flabbergasted at all the talent here. I’m even more astounded by all the support everybody gives one another. I’ve become a huge fan of this space.

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