Welcome to the results party!! It’s always such a fun adventure, picking out favorites from the glittering heap. And speaking of glittering: WHAT A FABULOUS kickoff to #Pyro!! (Go read the story & critiques, if you haven’t already!) I couldn’t be more thrilled by the good-humoured, constructive, kind feedback on our very first offering (and thanks to you, Writer, for your courage in going first!). Can’t wait for our next round this Saturday. I loved seeing myriad perspectives on a single piece — so insightful. Thanks, y’all.
Coming up TOMORROW: a #Spotlight interview with writing phenom Lisa Crayton. Y’all may not know her yet, but you’re going to love her. She’s a freelance writer, mentor, editor, and respected conference speaker (of particular interest to me is that her book on Toni Morrison (with whom I have a slight obsession) is being republished in 2016) — she has so many interesting things to say on writing and connecting with agents/editors/publishers. You won’t want to miss this.
Ever grateful for the powerhouse judges of Dragon Team Five, Foy Iver & Holly Geely, for their combined efforts. I have it on good authority that tears were shed (on less good authority regarding what sort of tears, however). Here’s what they have to say:
HG: Dear friends…Once more I am floored by your talent, and yet I must wonder – why was the depressed robot the most popular character? Who out there needs a hug? C’mon, bring it in. My arms will enfold you.
Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let us delve into the goodness that is the Adams prompt. For the record, my favourite part of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series is the oblivious whale falling to its death (closely followed by the bowl of petunias) which should give you a feel for my sense of humour. When I saw the prompt this week I knew you wouldn’t let me down.
So long, and thanks for all the fish!
FI: Do I have to turn in my writer/reader card if I haven’t read Hitchhiker’s Guide? Hopefully not… I cried tears of laughter over the movie and have meant to enjoy the book ever since (no worries – my fellow judge is a fine connoisseur of all things Adams).
Your stories reawakened that sleeping intention! So many of you captured that tone, that voice, that hilarity (genius!), while others took the prompt a whole new direction (a boldness I’m quite pleased with), and all with wonderful results. Hopefully, our judging does them justice.
For Revenge that Tastes of Strawberry: Nancy Chenier, “Dining at Starpost.” HG: I love it when the cocky customer gets what’s coming to him. You want to be a stubborn jerk? You pay for it, son.
A Beverage that Does the Trick: Evan Montegarde, “Galactic Jack: When a Good Whiskey Just Won’t Do.” HG: Anything that begins with a guy in underpants and a purple robe is bound to end well. Where can I get some of this drink?
For the Most Dizzying Use of Bureaucratic Drivel: Clive Tern, “In Response.” FI: For both the laugh and the headache, I thank you.
For Working in a Few of the Best Sci-Fi’s on Bookshelves: @dazmb, “Tyrell High School.” FI: A clever alphabet soup of several of the best sci-fi’s on bookshelves. Miss Voight-Kampff’s empathetic head tilt especially tickled my brain.
Evan Montegarde, “SAD2434 and His Box of Crayons.”
HG: As a huge fan of crayons, I approve of their use in this story. SAD2434 (fantastic acronym, well done) tugged at my heartstrings. His heroic efforts to amuse himself made me cheer. That ship needed a real dressing down. I hope your crayons last too, SAD2434. I love you. Good luck.
FI: Haven’t we all wanted to crayon someone’s face now and then? No? Just me? Never mind… SAD2434’s irritability is amusingly human.
HG: Dear writer… you win at life. “I’m afraid Elvis has left the building.” If you know me at all, you know how I love a punny ending. (I bet you did, didn’t you? I bet you were trying to trick me into choosing you, weren’t you? It worked, writer. It worked.) This is fantastic, a marvelous use of the depressed robot.
FI: I wonder if a spoonful of peanut butter might make our irascible Elvis feel better. Great job telling through dialogue – not easily done! – An amusing end makes this a fun read.
Craig Anderson, “Dozing Off.”
HG: This is a spectacular use of the depressed robot, the age-old question of what would happen if the machines took over (and had a dark sense of humour), and it includes sound advice: “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” Well done, writer; this is hilarious.
FI: A machine with an existential dilemma, Doze-master 3000 is exactly the type of antihero I adore! He thoroughly stole my heart. In fact, I’d take him to Paris in an instant. Charming voice, no excess word fat, and character progression in 160 words. A fine piece of flash.
David Parkland, “The Infinity Machine.”
HG: Even when one does not know one’s own purpose, how can one resist pressing the big red button? (One, or six, or nine…) This story has a clever, shivery feeling and I like it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and press a big red button.
FI: Such a fascinating concept! A machine adrift in that dark void, creating something from the nothing, maybe even all the numbers in existence. What sealed it for me is that familiar curiosity – even a robot can’t resist pressing the red button.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Brett Milam, “Hollow.”
HG: “There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t fight another machine.” The title fits the story in so many ways. Hollowness, literal emptiness, loneliness… It makes me sad in a helpless way, and somehow I understand the robot’s pain even though I don’t have a similar experience to draw upon. Beautifully done.
FI: Another story that won me over for the trim, simplicity of it. The voice in “Hollow” is perfect, cold, distant, matter-of-fact and ties everything together from John’s death to the slow wait. It, too, raised questions of the relationship (dependence?) between humans and their technology. Anything that makes me think gets high marks in my book.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Sydney Scrogham, “Without You for the Last Time”
HG: “She died choosing him.” What is this in my eye? It can’t be a tear, I don’t cry. DON’T LOOK AT ME. (In all seriousness, though, this is truly beautiful and thought-provoking in such a unique way.)
FI: I adored this one for the questions it provoked: what lengths would we go to to keep our loved ones alive? If we could extract human consciousness, the soul, and upload it into an immortal body, have we really saved the original being?
The prose is clean, clear, and minimalist – William Strunk Jr would’ve been proud- and all the other elements of good flash are there, from the first line to the last. Who could stop reading after an opening like “He knew he’d outlive her”? The rest follows suit until that final paragraph brings this original twist on love and lose to a reverberating close. Well done.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Tamara Shoemaker, “Demolition.”
HG: “I am Victory, and you are Defeat” is, for me, the best closing line in the bunch. Something about this story makes me feel small; not insignificant, only small. It touched something in me I can’t usually reach; A+, writer. Well done.
FI: I asked that your story sear itself to my memory, and this one has.
Gorgeous prose, meaning woven throughout, and distinctly unique tone kept bringing me back for “just one more read.”
It’s a clever wordsmith that can bring me from laughing at the oddities of depressed robots and horrendous poets, to hushed awe over a reflection on a single yet universal victory some 2000 years old.
It’s no small thing to take a prompt as concrete as a house about to be bulldozed and give us an abstract view.
You know your craft well, dear writer.
And now: for her second time, fabulous creature!! — join me in congratulating our
“Byron’s Last Stand, by Lord Algernon Postlethwaite”
HG: This is a heart-wrenching tale of woe, tearfully sculpted from the broken dreams of a broken man.
I’m totally kidding. This is a hilarious romp in which the enemy threatens to “haiku on your face.” I don’t know what that means, but I desperately want to see it. This was a clear choice for winner; a bad poem about bad poets. It’s just like the movie Inception. Okay, not really, but it’s magnificent. My new favourite line from a poem ever: “Byron swallowed, sensed the threat; From this man of beef.”
Two things you’ve done especially well,
Mysterious writer friend.
You’ve captured Adams’ cheeky flavor,
And did so to an end.
For while we laugh and cringe at him,
Lord Byron could be us.
At first so proud of his creation,
Cruel jeers send him running to the dust.
Was he bad or simply cowed,
By common negativity?
So oft, as writers, we heed the harsh,
Believing truth must lack civility.
Silly us, t’isn’t so! Truth is bold,
But also kind – we want critique not criticism,
Let’s hope Lord Byron learns this fact,
Before his passion fails him.
Congratulations, Steph! Please find here your smartly updated winner’s page (let me know if you’d like to rewrite your bio in verse? cuz that would be totally COOL). Your winning tale can be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for details regarding your second Sixty Seconds interview! And now here’s your winning story:
Byron’s Last Stand, by Lord Algernon Postlethwaite
Byron Grimshaw eyed the crowd
Gathered at his door
Better than at Open Mic
The chance he’d waited for
He inhaled the dusty air
Puffed out his pigeon chest
“Hark my fellow countrymen,
Beneath my bosom’s breast …”
“Lurks a Primark padded bra
And poncey pink silk vest”
Determined not to yield his spot
To hecklers, he declaimed
Words that he intended
Would endure, spreading his fame
“Down Durham’s dreadful dreary roads
Yellow monsters chewed up brick,
As the bard orated ….”
“You really are a p…”
The words were lost amid a stir
As the foreman pushed towards him
Bulldozed his way up to the front
Clear threat behind his warning
“I’ve tickets for the match tonight
Son, you’re a right disgrace
If you don’t come out here pretty quick
I’ll haiku on your face”
Byron swallowed, sensed the threat
From this man of beef
Meekly slunk out of the house
And ran off down the street.