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 Foy. 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. ♥
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 Ruiz‘s meta-hilarious cheat with “Untitled,” Firdaus Parvez‘s looping narcissist in her own clever, Untitled piece, and the part impressed, part painful groans forced by Tinman‘s otherwise grate story, “Keeping the Flame.” –Additional shoutouts to Nancy Chenier for “Belong,” 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.
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.
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
I wish to visit town
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
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