Archive | December 2020

Fire&Ice Sol 19/19: WINNERS

The Fire&Ice dragons say: –>THANK YOU.<– That’s really all we have to say, so if you’re pressed for time, please tuck those two words in your hearts and go on about your day knowing your words and presence meant something here.

It seems crazy that a long-defunct flash contest should crank up again, let alone that so many of the original community should return to take part. But you did, and oh, our hearts, seeing your names and hearing your voices again! Deepest thanks to our twelve judges, who went above and beyond our presumptuous, out-of-the-blue request to serve again. Thanks to:

Craig Anderson, Nancy Chenier, Stephanie Ellis, Mark King (whose heroic determination to write through old Flash!Friday prompts sealed our decision to relaunch), Eric Martell, Sinéad O’Hart, Voima Oy, Karl Russell, David Shakes, Tamara Shoemaker, Betsy Streeter, and AJ Walker

Please follow them all. Buy their books. Listen to their words. And as for you, dragon captains! dear friends: please keep on writing. Your words are fire (and ice!).

Thanks too to Carlos Orozco for banner design and Justin Hess for Fire-and-Icing our Flash!Friday dragons. And to all those who helped in myriad other ways, promoting, sharing, encouraging us, anonymizing the tales for our judges, and investing in the community by commenting so faithfully on stories: we appreciate you so much! And as always, undying gratitude goes to the unbelievably talented Susan Utley of Haunted Waters Press (whose latest issue of From the Depths just dropped, we’re excited to note!) for guiding us with your magic way back at Flash!Friday dawn.

Finally, thanks to you, the writers who in the midst of a crushing global pandemic, showed up week in, and/or week out, sharing your stories and reading others’. You are what made this venture the uplifting little corner of the Interwebs that it’s been. We are in your debt.

Last item of business: on Wednesday December 23 we will send this site & the Twitter account back to their slumber-phase. However, we will leave in place a static page with directions for how to find past posts and stories. No story shared here will ever lose its place. ❤

And now, to the final batch of winners!


Quick note on judging: Six pairs of judges across multiple nationalities and genres took turns reading your submissions (meet the judges here). For the finale, your judges were the Fire&Ice hosts, Rebekah Postupak and Deb FoyAs 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. ♥ 


Ice Dragon shout-outs: Every time I’ve had the opportunity to judge—at Flash! Friday before and now with Fire&Ice—I’m reminded again what a difficult, rewarding, and humbling (!) task it is. Wrestling with what makes good flash fiction, breaking down a story to its graphemic components, fighting imposter syndrome—all of it challenging but worth it. Thank you for entrusting us with your words; it’s been an honor and a joy. ♥ Many of my shout-outs overlap with the Fire Dragon’s but I’d like to give additional special mentions to Cindy Vaskova for some stellar world-building in “Mercy“, to Arcane Edison for firecracker voice in “The Last Boy Racer in the Universe“, and to Brett Milam for tenderly crafted magic in “Rocking Along“, a story that emphasizes the beauty in just being.

Fire Dragon shout-outs: Oh goodness, so many of you had me laughing out loud this weekend, including quite impolite snorts over Vicente Ruizs meta-hilarious cheat withUntitled,” Firdaus Parvezs looping narcissist in her own cleverUntitled piece, and the part impressed, part painful groans forced by Tinmans otherwise grate story, “Keeping the Flame.” –Additional shoutouts to Nancy Chenier forBelong,” with its flawless layering of the haunting surreal with the all-too real; and Mark King‘s “Londandoah(for the record, Dark Hollow Falls is one of my favorite falls anywhere! and Old Rag is dearly beloved); this story pulled off a setting mashup in a way that shouldn’t have worked, but wound up breathtakingly lovely—how did you do that?!. I’d never have guessed before 2012 that the Thames and the Shenandoah share the same water, but thanks to you and #FlashDogs, now I can’t imagine it any other way. 


The Omega by P.A. Duncan

DF: Between the gnawing cold and the simple, very human relief of something as low-tech as snowshoes in a deadly ice-scape, I felt immediately grounded in this piece. The setting, also, is unique while still tying in to the picture prompt in a striking visual. But what stayed with me after reading “The Omega” was the vast, fully-formed universe that opens up at the end, as if this world, the sister ship, and these two characters locked in tension with one another, all exist in some future iteration of our multiverse. 

RP: It’s the imagery that captured my eye in “The Omega,” from the tiny, wrenching shroud at the opening to the color of the shrine (“a rust-red beacon”) against the snow to the fur-wrapped, dying protagonist at the end. The dueling parallels in this story, too, are breathtaking. Twin ships. Two remaining survivors. Hoshi’s hand frozen above the transmit button in contrast with the speaker’s literally frostbitten fingers. This story is just so wonderfully crafted start to finish. 

Untitled by Pippa Phillips

DF: Phenomenal characterization here! The boys, Mr. Funaki, Miss Yuki with her hair down to her feet, all of them strut, shuffle, and glide straight off the page. I love, especially, how something done in mocking cruelty, like building the arch crooked, only makes Mr. Funaki’s validation that much sweeter (and perhaps, poetically, ensures the effectiveness of the portal’s magic!). Captivating bit of flash.  

RP: I. Love. This. Story. The compelling voice (“The boys didn’t know how their teacher bagged a dish like Mrs. Funaki”) of a fantasy in 1940s LA (!). Mr. Funaki’s vibrant culture that’s both familiar and not. And the utterly vivid expression on Rinjii’s face—I can see it!—as he gazes through the arch, realizing Mr. Funaki was right but that he alone knows this. You drew me deep into this world in such a striking, memorable way, and I need to know what happens next, please.


Dayspring of the Gods by Phil Coltrane

DF: Humor is one of the most challenging forms to write, and this piece is an excellent study in how to pull it off well! There’s a punchline (and it’s good!) but the story itself isn’t sacrificed to it. Knowing the characters we’re journeying with here (and the tricks they often employ), requires an immediate re-read to peel back the layers of those last three paragraphs, let alone catch the clever hints in a name like “fellow-beard” or the meaning of a glint in the eye.

RP: “Dayspring” draws on Norse mythology and ends with a punchline: but what I love is how the story isn’t just a vehicle to reach a joke. The characters—the shakujō-wielding monk, the one-eyed, bearded sojourner—leap off my screen; their perfectly paced dialogue crackles and snaps, as does the highly visual world you’ve painted for us. You’ve taken existing myths and a classic setup, but made them beautifully your own. Reading the story (full disclosure: again and again and again 😀 ) was sheer delight.

And now: it is our pleasure to present to you our


TAD KELSON (GamerWriter)!!!



DF – I love so, so much about this story. The tender connection between Uncle and Nephew conveyed in moments both resonant—the childlike comparison of an uncle to an Oni—and thematically cohesive—the shared haiku welcomed with praise and met with a demure response. All of it made more beautiful for the absence of punctuation, as we’re gently nudged into letting go of traditional structure with the promise that the words and line breaks are strong enough to hold the images themselves. And they are. I would read a whole novel that follows this quiet, unassuming pair from their (or their kind’s) beginning “hiding in the bottoms of strange boats” to the moment the shadows swallow one and leave the other to silence.

RP — This story seized both of us at first pass, and it refused to let us go. Even now, days later, its utter simplicity startles, engages, compels me. I love the uncle’s prosaic vulnerability against the nephew’s more optimistic deference; you can tell it’s a relationship that has steeped and simmered over the years to become this beautiful, familiar, comfortable thing. I love too all the speckles and flickers of light: the rising sun at the opening contrasted with the extinguished candle and shadows at the end. And ohhhh the worldbuilding hinted at just past the edges of sight: the uncle and nephew unseen by the living, surrounded only by shadows. It’s in Uncle’s haunting, mysterious haiku that the veil’s pulled back for just a moment, and its ancient, wandering secrets stole my own breath away. It’s loss, and family, and love, and mystery, and magic, and poetry all wrapped up in one, and a perfectly fitting story to end Fire&Ice’s run. ❤       

Congratulations, TAD! Please check your email for details about claiming your prize. Now here’s your winning story:


The sun is rising
Perhaps to you nephew

He had always scared me when we were younger
Like some Oni become my mother’s brother
No longer

I wish to visit town
Yes Uncle
Along our narrow streets people live their lives, unaware of us.
We move slowly down towards the rest of them

It seems so cold
Button your jacket uncle.
He once told me of how we came to this land, hiding in the bottoms of strange boats, stowaways Generations ago

Distant echoes of May the Buddha Bless You

Take down my words nephew
Yes Uncle

Candle, in the night
Unknowns seeking for others.
Never showing all

Not bad Uncle
It needs work
Well tomorrow then. Try again

Shall we visit the blossom girls and their fields soon?

Instead of going anywhere we find two empty benches
The gate rises in front of us
Silent, offering no answers
We sit and pay silent homage to all the others come to do the same as we

It is warmer now Nephew
His candle flickered finally, going out.
I watch, as he slowly fades away into the shadows that surrounded him his entire life
I go home alone

Fire&Ice: What’s Next?

WELCOME to our final edition of Flash! Future! From the beginning—way back in August, believe it or not!—we launched Fire&Ice hoping to build and spread courage in the sharing of stories among friends. The world has seen hard times before and will again. But there’s always hope to be found, as you have shown us so powerfully week after week. Your story-words and faithful encouragement of each other proved just the therapy we needed, and we hope it’s proved the same for you. Thank you!

Where can writers go after Fire&Ice? Sooo many wonderful places to stay connected with the flash writing community. We’re slightly biased of course, but #VSS365 is the Twitter venture closest to our hearts. Read more about it in our Flash!Future post here from September. Be sure to read up on its exciting changes here. In the #VSS365 community you will find daily engagement and encouragement, as well as heaps of hashtags to join all sorts of other related writing challenges.

OK, but what about the actual Fire and Ice dragons? Who are you, anyway, and are you disappearing back into the Void after Sol 19? Very sweet of y’all to ask! Here’s a quick take.

Fire Dragon: Rebekah Postupak, aka Kitten Minion

What do you write? My home is dragons, always and forever (I’ve even the tattoo to prove it!) in the wide world of YA

What’s your favorite mythological tradition? Despite growing up in the story-rich jungles of Southeast Asia, my reading roots germinated in Tolkien and Lewis. It was Robin McKinley who first showed me women could wield magic too, and that the pale fairytales of the West could be fractured and re-spun. These days I’m mostly, gloriously, lost in un-mything myself; I’m elbows-deep in histories and biographies and other works of non-fiction, alongside a towering stack of non-Tolkien-esque fantasies. I’m forever grateful to and for Middle Earth; I’m also grateful for an industry that’s finally, if reluctantly, recognizing there are worlds beyond it.

What’s the best book you read in 2020? Nonfiction: a very belated but lifechanging read, The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson. Fiction: also very belated, but ohhhh the thrill of making up for lost time! the Middle-Earth-shaking The Fifth Season, by NK Jemisin, and brain-bursting, heart-rending Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor. And then for pure candy: The Ten Thousand Doors of Januaryby Alix Harrow. Maybe next year I will finally finish Chernow’s Grant.

What’s up for 2021? Where can we find you? Oh my goodness, it’s been ages since I’ve felt this excited about a new year. Thanks to my heart-and-writing-sister Deb, I’ve a heap of new stories just about ready to go out. Funnest of all, though, is the Middle Grade speculative fiction project we’re building together. Without risking spoilers, I’ll whisper in your ear alone that you can expect to meet a young dragon, Manhu, who might be an utterly amazing dragonglass-spinner if he could go five minutes without breaking something. -Follow me on Twitter here (I’ll follow back), so I can, like the busybody I am, stalk your personal affairs without having to ask first.

Robot DreamsIce dragon: Deb Foy, pictured here as a space-bewitched robot

Your turn! Tell us what you write. I write Middle Grade worlds populated by capricious spirits, alien-made mech, & apocalyptic scavenger kids.   

A portal into fiction’s multiverse just opened up. Where are you off to? So many places! I’d wander the cities reseeded by nature in the action-adventure game The Last of Us; there’s a peacefulness, a comfort, in such a quiet, moss-and-vine triumph. Or I’d sneak through the decks of the HSS Matilda from Rivers Solomon‘s novel An Unkindness of Ghosts, or walk the B-Mor settlement in Chang-rae Lee‘s On Such a Full Sea to better understand how communities move in solidarity or function despite emotional isolation. Or perhaps, more indulgently, I’d drop by a certain Hobbit-hole in time for all the soups and pies and cakes and ale one serves at an unexpected party.       

Any books you read in 2020 you won’t soon forget? Freshwater, by Akwaeke Emezi; their novel is raw and weighty, with imagery that will carve itself into your soul. Also, Katherine Arden‘s The Bear and the Nightingale. She weaves Russian folklore into the narrative seamlessly, and the chill of her wilderness winter seeps into the bones.

Tell us about your half of our 2021 middle grade mischief! And where can we find you? I still can’t believe we’re doing this! I already adore the fearless Manhu. ♥ Of course what every impetuous dragon needs is an overly-practical robot companion, no? Enter Oki! Together, the two of them *might* be able to save their world from certain annihilation despite themselves. To track our progress, and encourage us when the chocolate runs out, stalk our social media! I’m on Twitter and Instagram—find me here & here

Fire&Ice: Sol 19/19

§ Rebekah says: We made it! Nineteen (!) weeks of Friday flash fiction contests. What a riot it’s been! Please be sure to stop back by this Sunday; Deb and I will be sharing about what (mischief) is on tap for our 2021. I’m saving most of my thanks for Monday’s final post, but today must mention a heartfelt спасиба to P.A. (Maggie ♥) Duncan for anonymizing today’s stories so we can judge blind. And speaking of stories!! As a judge for this round: I love vivid worldbuilding and vibrant characters; I love snappy dialogue and courage in the face of overwhelming odds. I love stories that fire up the imagination with possibility. I’m so excited to meet the worlds you’re about to dream up for us!  

§ Foy says: A riot, indeed! I’m so grateful to have been invited on this journey. The opportunity to learn from y’all and (hopefully!) improve my own writing craft was invaluable. Each of you made surviving this year a beautiful thing, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of us in her inscrutable hands. As your second dragon judge in the dyad, I want fiction that gnaws on the root of what it is to be human*, imagery carved out of unusual word-couplings, characters fully embodied, and a strong sense of wonder or the peculiar. We’ve seen y’all deliver this and more, already. ♥

*Bonus points for nonhuman/off-world creatures!          

QUESTIONS? Tweet us at @FlashFridayFic, shoot us a note here, or tap any of the judges.



Through this Fire&Ice season, it’s been our joy sharing works from our reading journey with you via our Flash!Future Sunday posts. We’ve chatted about writers we’ve loved a long time, as well as writers new to us; writers from our own continent, and writers from parts of the world we’ve yet to visit. Today’s “finale” contest allows us to bring the celebration full circle: honoring both you and the writers we’ve featured. The winner from Sol 19 will receive in their very own writerly hands, the below treasure trove of works. It’s our way of thanking you for walking this road with us this little while. ♥

#VSS365 Anthology (featured here)

Cherie DimalineThe Marrow Thieves (featured here)

NK JemisinThe City We Became (featured here)

Ken LiuThe Hidden Girl and Other Stories (featured here)

Mimi Mondal, editor, Luminescent Threads (featured here)

Silvia Moreno-GarciaMexican Gothic (featured here)

Nnedi Okorafor, Ikenga (featured here)




Fire&Ice Guidelines: 

Time: The Fire&Ice contest is open between exactly 12:01am to 11:59pm on Fridays, Washington DC time (check the current time here). Entries submitted outside of this window are welcome, but will be incinerated ineligible to win.

How to Play: Write and submit an original story as a comment on this post 1) based on the photo prompt and 2) including the “dragon” requirement as specified. Pay attention to the word count constraints! Story titles (optional) are not included in the word limit. At the end of your story, add your name or twitter handle, which dragon element you chose, and word count. That’s it!

Be sure to review the contest rules here.


JUDGES: Today’s judges are Rebekah Postupak and Deborah Foy.



Each Fire&Ice prompt includes 1) a photo, 2) a required “dragon” element, and 3) a specific word count. Your story must include all three requirements to be eligible to win.

Photo for Sol 19/19


Torii Shrine by peaksignal. Read more about the shrine here.

Fire & Ice PromptRequired dragon elements: YOUR CHOICE of one or more of the following (be sure to indicate your choice at the end of your story):

1. Write your story in a genre that’s different from your default (you decide what that means to you)

2. Include a mythological character or non-Earth world

3. Incorporate a favorite fire or ice dragon challenge from Sol 1 – 18

Today’s word count: Less than 200 (no minimum)