HURRAY — it’s party time!! Thanks so much for coming back; I trust you’ve brought kazoos and streamers. If not, please head over to the gigantic Party Wing of the lair and help yourself. We’ve always got plenty. And to those of you NaNo’ing this month: wishing you (and me) brilliant success!!! How’s your Day Two so far?
A couple of quick notes/reminders:
- You’re needed! We’re lining up NOW the next eight folks to take a turn as judge starting in December. Details here. It’s a fantastic way to give back to the FF community as well as grow in your own writing. Please join me! else it’s going to be a very depressing Year Four.
- THANK YOU for all who turned up to crit the #Pyro story this week! Some wonderful comments; and I’m certain I can speak for the (anonymous) writer in conveying thanks. Would love more stories to choose from — send ’em in! (here; please remark at the top it’s for #Pyro)
Many thanks to Dragon Team Six, Steph Ellis & Josh Bertetta, for daring to examine your Frankenstein stories under the sickly green light I provided them. Steph says:
I really can’t believe this is Josh’s and my penultimate judging session. It’s gone so quickly and we’ve had so little to argue about. Every month our choices have spookily run along the same lines leading to very civilised discussions over placings and this week was no exception.
As always, a big thank you to my daughter Bethan for stripping the stories for us; she is looking forward to the end of my judging stint!
Frankenstein was a great choice for Halloween, although not so for any poor trick-or-treaters who may have knocked on my door … with my earplugs in and a Banshees soundtrack I didn’t hear them. So, here are our Samhain results:
Becky Spence, “Fallen Angel.” –SE: A rebirth in the dark, a creature alien even to himself. He has ‘ghosts of memories’ that were not his, writes a language he does not understand, cannot speak. All he can do is walk, find his way out of the darkness and seek his answers. He gets his answer when he opens the door and sees himself in the mirror. The horror here is the situation the monster is in as a being, not in what has been done to others but what was done to him. JB: Here our protagonist is at the lowest point of the Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey,” the part where we must confront the dark. I love the setting here, for it exquisitely captures the darkness and the desperation and the feeling of helplessness, the groping for a way out. But there is only one, and our author tells us exactly what is it—for all of us.
Voima Oy, “Memory Wife.” —SE: ‘She lived in the cloud now’. Heaven and computer storage combined. Society has moved on, but still caters for ‘outdated people with old dreams and obsolete things’, allowing Ben to recreate his late wife. The sadness lies in the ease with which the younger generation, his son, the shop assistant, think how such things, such people are easily replaceable. JB: A story of a timeless theme: the inability to let go of a lifelong love, but with a little twist of futurism. Mourning is a process of moving through loss. Grief. We all experience it. But what happens to a fundamental human emotion (and experience) when technology allows us the possibility of not having to move through that kind of pain? Do we not lose part of what makes us human?
A.J. Walker, “Frankenwriter.” — SE: Of course this made it into the list. I laughed at the overtones of Stephen King’s Misery as poor old Karl and other FlashDogs (Liz, Ronin, Sal, a certain Mr King) were used and abused to create a winning story. One way of getting rid of the opposition, and all to a Bach soundtrack. JB: Much like last time I judged, here is a take on the ol’ self-referential Flash!Friday/FlashDog theme (which I’ve done myself). A fun take on the prompt. Made me smile.
C. Centner, “Author Submission.” — SE: An academic abstract declares the purpose and results of Frankenstein’s experiment and then moves on to give firm warnings. Anyone following this path in future should use the ‘flesh of cute creatures (bunnies, kittens, etc)’, the monster having been an ‘appalling and repulsive character’. And above all, they must name their monster. Frankenstein’s frustration at being identified as the monster rather than the creator shines through ‘No, dammit! I’m Frankenstein!’ Scientists and authors beware! JB: Perhaps the most unique formats of this week’s stories, here we have an abstract for a scholarly paper. Compounded in this piece however, are issues we continue (and will probably always continue) to face: the relationship between science and morality.
Brian Creek, “Kill.exe.”
SE – Always a danger when new technology evolves that the military will jump in and try to use it for more sinister ends. I particularly enjoyed this story because although they had achieved a ‘scientific miracle’, it wasn’t what the military had requested. The image of a powerfully built robot sat peacefully with a wolf cub in his lap and birds perched on his rifle, contemplating a beautiful morning made me smile. I hope he doesn’t get ‘fixed’.
JB– Another great story with a killer ending. In a militarized world such as our where some countries spend so much money to build the perfect and most efficient killing machines, here is the story of the creation of such, if it were not for one simple thing (captured in the penultimate line) which renders the perfect killing machine imperfect. Part of me says “hurray” for humanity; with another part I drop my head and shake it.
Marie McKay, “The Help.”
SE – Sometimes I think we have become desensitized to domestic violence and it needs a piece like this to give us a wake up call. By transferring the sufferings of an abused woman to a feeling robot and describing them in terms usually applied to living flesh makes it once more truly horrific. The robot ‘tastes the blood of bruises on her tongue’, is left broken on the floor as the husband switches his attention to her rather than his wife. “Is this life?” Unfortunately for so many women (and some men) the answer is yes.
JB– A story of what some psychologists call “displacement.” An unhappy marriage turned, seemingly happy, aided by technological advance. Technology, some say, is supposed to make life easier. And when life is easier, one would presume life is happier. The wife here would appear to be happy as her marriage seems to be on the mend—and it was all because of “her.” Her husband seems better, which, of course is better for the whole family. But how much better is he really?
Marie McKay, “Touching Reality“
SE – Ah, what people do in pursuit of love, an older husband wants to make himself more youthful for his younger wife. He experiments on rabbits, the poor creatures dying in succession before he hits on formula for rabbit #5. But he has become impatient, doesn’t observe the results long enough and injects himself. Blood leaks from the ear of rabbit #5, there will be no happy ending for this poor man.
JB- Here again a story, in part, of self-identity (and esteem) being based on another’s perception. The older husband here wants nothing more than his wife to be happy, but, it appears, she cannot be happy for he is nothing but an “antique.” His self-esteem as a husband is based on her being happy. Willing to do anything to achieve that goal, all his attempts to do so fail until that one, seemingly final time, but his impatience (if not his the goal itself) serves to blind him.
David Shakes, “No More Than a Trick of the Light.”
SE – A writer and his creation, which is greater, the man who brought him to life or the fiction that takes on a life of its own. The writer’s ideas grew but they choked the fiction, ‘regurgitating imagery that splattered across page and screen’, don’t we all get like that some time. And self-doubt grows within the writer so that his creation is put away … for the moment. The ideas expressed here should resonate with any writer.
JB – “He would often have me write of mirrors.” What a line. The “me” and the “I” of this piece are ambiguous and ambiguity heightened by the stories initial two questions, questions, I would bet, we all ask ourselves at one time or another in our lives if not more. I love the inversion toward the end, where the “protagonist,” seemingly something abstract, is more of a reality than the subject, the story’s “father,” is himself. “The myth became greater than the man.” Isn’t that, in the end, always so?
THIRD RUNNER UP
Andrew (AV) Laidlaw, “Press Ctrl-Alt-Del to Reboot“
SE – This piece really makes you think on two fronts. The statement ‘I am God’, declared on each reboot is dismissed, regarded as error or sabotage. But who is to say who/what God is? So many profess a faith of various forms, faith whose tenets often mention a second coming of some sort, yet as soon as anyone declares themselves that being, they are dismissed as fraudsters – but who’s to know?
The statement ‘I am God’ can also be taken as a reflection on society. These days computers have become almost Godlike, in control of so much of our lives. The computer is merely stating a fact in its own logical way.
And locked away, it is an embarrassment conveniently forgotten.
JB – In a manner of speaking, the scariest of all our stories in commemoration of Halloween. Scary not because of Stephen King-esque horror element. This is not that kind of story. This is scary because it’s potential reality. Perhaps not literally in the sense of what the protagonist says (over and over again), but the implication of those very words in relation to what the protagonist is. Ah, the double-edged sword of technology!
SECOND RUNNER UP
Michael Wettengel, “Momma’s Boy”
SE – A child’s voice lifts this story, breathing sadness through its lines. Joshua knows he is different, made from ‘brass and copper and gold’, not like the twisted black city below. His ‘mother’ tells him he is special, is different, he has a brain unlike his cousins who ‘tick’ or ‘clunk’. He leads us to the last paragraph which tells his whole story, his reason for existing, he passes a picture every day where ‘Mother is in black, her hands on her lap. She’s frowning. A small, sickly boy sits on her lap. He’s wearing the same clothes I do’. And Joshua knows he is a substitute which makes the story even sadder.
JB – I see here four central threads interwoven so tight as to appear, upon my first reading, as a single thread. First, there is the issue of our uniqueness. What is it about each one of us that sets us apart, so to speak, from others? What is that particular “thing” about each one of us? Second, there is love the mother has for her child. She sees him for what makes him unique and praises him for it. But then there is that last paragraph, where the author throws a slider to the issue of identity: that who we “are” is often determined how people see us, in this case, how the mother sees the child. And finally, there is that disturbing last line…
FIRST RUNNER UP
Michael Seese, “Frankenboy.”
SE – Truly a monster was created but not by science; this unfortunate came about by natural selection, nurture and environment in the laboratory of the world, the ‘human junk yard’. He details his inheritance, from his father ‘hands that naturally, reflexively formed fists’, from his mother, bruises and tears, from his grandfather, a foul mouth and bigoted mind. And through all this he has carried on the family tradition so that now he faces the end – gladly – when he is given a lethal injection and sees his ‘hideous alchemy lost in the darkness and distance’. Unique take on the traditional monster theme.
JB – “Truth in simplicity” is what comes to mind when I reflect on “Frankenboy.” There is a simple pattern/repetition to this sad story, which plays on, as the title implies, Mary Shelley’s famous work. But whereas the title might conjure in the mind an image of a young version of her famous monster, there is something perhaps more disturbing going on at work here. As much as we might like to think we, as individuals, are autonomous and as much as we might like to think we make ourselves to be who we are, this story expresses the truth that such is a delusion and in some cases, that truth — the truth of who we are, as products, in part, of our past is sometimes inescapable.
And now: for a (totally disturbing) first win, it’s this week’s
SE – ‘What did you do today?’ such an innocuous question, the usual husband/wife interaction demanding no more than some trite response. And he gives it ‘tinkering in his lab’, a bit like the traditional housewife and her supposed ‘pottering around the house’, looked down on and not really valued despite the real work going on behind the scenes. And boy has he been busy whilst his wife has taken on the role of breadwinner, something she has clearly grown to resent. He has achieved his dream, his perfect creation, an exact replica of his wife but amenable to all his dreams and desires. His secret business is booming so financially he no longer has any need of the human wife and feels nothing as she dies in front of him. A complete little story about the lengths someone will go to to get that perfect partner. I don’t think I’ll be eating risotto any time soon!
JB– A marriage troubled by lack of trust is a marriage on the brink. Here our author puts us in a desperate setting where the husband is confronted by a wife who no longer believes in him. The distance and the frustration (for both parties) is palpable as the wife has no problem switching from voicing her frustration with her husband and commenting on the delicious food, a food so delicious she can’t help from eating more. Until, that is, she can eat no longer. There’s a great twist at the very end of this story and as much as one is led to believe the wife is the “bad guy” here, one can only wonder if such is the case, or if the husband is much more malevolent, for we not only get that great twist, but we learn something a little more about the husband and how nefarious he really is.
Congratulations, Jenn! It’s been a pleasure reading your stories here at FF, and we couldn’t be more delighted to see you up top! Please check out your very own sparkly winner’s page; your winning tale can be found there as well as (shortly) over on the winners’ wall. Please contact me asap here so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds! And now here’s your winning story:
“What did you do today?”
“Oh, just tinkered around a bit in the lab.”
“When is that little company of yours going to get off the ground, finally?”
“Soon, my dear. Soon.”
“That’s what you always say, ‘soon.’”
“I thought you believed in me. In my ideas.”
“I did. I just don’t think I can support you and your…delusions any longer.”
“What are you saying?”
She took a bite of her risotto and commented, “This is absolutely fabulous!”
“What did you mean when you said you can’t support me any longer?”
“I meant I don’t think this is working,” she muttered while shoveling a very unladylike portion into her mouth. “This is just extraordinary.”
“I’m glad you like it.” A woman emerged from the shadows. An exact replica of her, down to the arrangement of freckles across her nose and cheeks.
He watched unmoved as his wife gagged, finally falling face first into her plate.
With hundreds of back orders already for the DreamWoman 1.0, his “little company” was a runaway success. He took his great love, and greatest creation, into his arms.