§ Foy says: We have our winners! For those who braved the wing-deep comment thread to deliver your own thoughts on how the stories impacted you, truly you are our dragon knights. Your gifts are one of the many magics of this space. And to everyone who shared their thoughts on our first two Flash! Past & Future posts––thank you! We’re forever honored—thrilled!—to learn what has shaped you as a writer. And speaking of shaping, I AM A FREAKING WRITHING PRETZEL-DRAGON trying not to give away who Rebekah has for us this Sunday. Do NOT miss it.
§ Rebekah says: Welcome back! Really I just want to say thanks. From the dawn of time, “community” has played a crucial role in the telling of stories; your Fire&Ice story-words and your words of support for each other prove that true now more than ever. Though I have to ask: do you intend to make me blubber like this every. single. week? Thank you for coming; thank you for sharing; thank you for being the vibrant, breathing, stretching, colorful writing community you are. PS. OK. I do just have to add I am GIDDY at the next Flash! Future, which will include a personal message from a multi-award-winning author to you.
Quick note on judging: Six pairs of judges across multiple nationalities and genres are taking turns reading your submissions (meet the judges here). As soon as each contest round closes, your stories are first stripped of all personal info before being sent on for judging. This represents our effort to maximize every story’s chances, whether it’s the first or hundredth story you’ve written. ♥
SOL 2’S JUDGES SAY:
David Shakes: My sincere thanks to all 71 writers [§ says: technically 74 if you add the sneaky, ineligible ones] for creating some truly memorable tales this week. Thanks also go to our esteemed fire and ice dragons for their beautiful picture prompt, challenging word length and clever elements. That so many could craft so much with so little is truly awesome.
I was told that there were almost 600 comments on the page by Saturday evening (UK time) – undoubtedly more by the time this gets to be read. The community comments are what this competition was built on, so it’s just lovely to know it’s back stronger than ever.
That said, my superb judging partner Nancy and I had a lot to say and also the honour of choosing a top tier. So many stories made it onto the list of our shared possibilities, I hope it’s not too bittersweet for these writers to know we pored over their work in some detail. For me, Pippa Phillips’s “Plucked orchid – the root remains” was a superb line that echoed its longer tale of revolution in microcosm. Both Nancy and I greatly enjoyed Michael Seese’s Untitled – I loved its onomatopoeia and quiet philosophy. I’d also like to mention Becky Spence’s Beneath for its subtle horror and Marsha Adams’s Untitled for making me watch Blade Runner yet again.
Nancy Chenier: So here we are, Sol 2 of Fire&Ice Flash. It’s been a weekend of electrodes and rebellion, sometimes simultaneously (my kind of weekend). First, big thanks to our Dragon Captains for reviving the contest and community in its latest incarnation. Secondly, thanks to David (Shakes) my marvelous co-judge, for making the Herculean task of selecting only a handful of stories lively and enjoyable. Finally, to all those who participated this week, whether via submitting or commenting, thank you for keeping this space creative, inspiring, and supportive.
71 entries! Each one brought something different to the prompt and elements—no small feat with only 75 words to work with. Just to show you how close Shakes and I were in our decision-making, I too am giving a special mention to Michael Seese’s Untitled as one of the lone fire-element pieces to rise to the top of my short-list with its quiet power and beautiful use of sibilant alliteration throughout. Sian_Ink hit hard with the split-dumpling image in Untitled—and left me with the lingering sense of injustice with the revolutionary ‘humanists’ spreading it. I also want to give a hearty har-dee-har-har! to Stephanie Ellis for the pile on of tasty puns in Icing on the Cake. Now, on to the winners.
DS: Everything about this is so well crafted – a well-oiled machine – designed with economy of language to bring you to an end where you must blink, blink, blink away your tears.
NC: The language here caught me: the metronomic quality of the words brought the droid to life, capturing its mechanical longing to perfection.
DS: Our little street urchin braves slop-bucket stares to warn her mechanical benefactor what’s coming, so we get a simultaneously figurative and literal last line that’s just brilliant – it resonates for a long time.
NC: I like how the story comes full circle with the utilitarian disposal of the soup turning into a relationship that saves his artificial skin (that it evoked Big-Hero-6 nostalgia tugged at my heart-strings).
DS: This is such a clever use of a machine’s processing and cold logic to weave a tale filled with tension, excitement, action and sorrow. I asked for an economy of language and it’s masterfully deployed here – there’s so much story between each line. If Hemingway wrote “Terminator,” I put in my notes.
NC: The crafty use of the prompt, element, and word-limit inspired my admiration. That it told a complete story in this format captivated me. And those final two lines delivered a blow as strong and as poignant as Hemingway’s 6-word flash about baby shoes. (David and I independently thought of Hemingway on this one.)
And now, it is our pleasure to present to you our
DS – This is a lovely use of the prompt picture and the additional element – it moved me so much. There are beautiful little details and descriptions: Joe’s hand, brittle as fried noodles; his whispers under the wheezing machinery of life. The simplicity of the dialogue is so natural but works powerfully to enable this story to work up to its clever denouement. What I love most is the matter of fact way the story is told, leaving readers to think about the moral and ethical implications of a future where this is a possibility. Do the recipients request this? Is it prescribed? I asked for something to ponder – and ponder I have.
NC — When asked what I looked for in a winning flash, I said I wanted a real sense of story within the word limit, and this one delivered, and then some. The patient asking,”You went somewhere?” added a hint of mystery, that there was something more going on—and there certainly was. The “wheezing machinery of life” gave nice misdirection (for a moment I thought this would be connected to the droid) while the hands “brittle as noodles” was a gentle nod to the photo prompt while also holding the reader in place with a concrete image. The story made me want to follow the droid to every last hospital room.
Congratulations, Karl! Here’s your winning story:
“Remember the Vietnamese place?” Sarah asked.
Joe whispered under the wheezing machineries of life.
“Yes! Our first anniversary.”
“You went somewhere…?”
Sarah stroked his hand, brittle as fried noodles.
“I’m here now…”
His eyes closed.
“See you tomorrow love.”
She kissed his forehead. A smile ghosted his dry lips.
Leaving silently, she checked her files: Daisy MacNeil. Son Kevin (1964 – 2008).
Holographic tiles updated, Kevin entered the next room.