Tag Archive | Artie Dinters

Fire&Ice Sol 12/19: WINNERS

§ Foy says: The year 2020 has been a bit “anti-dystopian” to borrow genre-birthing speculative fiction author Samit Basu‘s word (read his definition here), yet somehow we’ve collectively blinked and it’s November, with Election Day in the United States only a sleep away. Whether you’re hopeful or anxious, intrigued or ready to be rid of it all (or like me some ever-shifting amalgam of All The Emotions), please know that no matter the outcome, we dragons at Fire&Ice will be here with strong tea and coffee, and a space to write and grow safely. Because regardless of who wins, the work of making this a better world for those here and those to come will be waiting for us, and it would be our joy to meet that challenge with you. ❤

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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 12’S JUDGES SAY:

Betsy Streeter:  This week’s prompts brought up just a few themes, like, oh, creation, family, ancestry, crime… and the mundane gone very wrong. Which is hard to do – horror is tricky to write because it’s all about those unsettling reveals, suddenly uncovering something deeply not-okay going on. Thank you again for so many tiny worlds to go into and be creeped out by. A few shout-outs: First of all, both VERY short stories, Peg Stueber‘s piece about Geppetto, and Bart van Goethem‘s “Genesis,” packed a punch and were wonderful! I also want to point out Arvind Iyer‘s “The Boy Who Wasn’t a Doll” for pondering generational change in such a unique way. Nancy Chenier‘s “Sharing Is Caring” caused me to hear a creepy piano soundtrack or a music box as I read it. Becky Spence‘s “Replacement” was sad and scary at the same time and made me anticipate some sort of revenge. And finally Mark A. King‘s “The Original Fugitive of Suburbia” for finding superpowers in hardship and difference, something we all seem called to do right now.


Karl A. Russell: As Betsy said, there were some clear themes emerging as I read through this latest crop of mini-masterpieces, not least the idea of children being replaced by dolls – I wonder how many of you are feeling the need for some control over things right now? As much as I’d love a lifelike mannequin of Kirby to sit in front of the laptop for this week’s remote schooling, several of your stories have given me second thoughts though… Creepy, murderous children made particularly strong appearances in Nancy Chenier‘s “Sharing Is Caring” and Stella Kate‘s “From Father To Son“, while the kids in Eric Martell‘s “Planting The Seeds” and Laurence D‘s “Shut Up Freddie!” might actually be better off if they took up arms against their less than loving parents… Some of these stories gave me a real, visceral reaction – and quite a few laughs – just perfect for Halloween reading.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Famsimile by David Shakes

BS: Yikes. You think you know what’s going on, and then it gets worse. This is a great example of that frightening realization that something “normal” has gotten twisted in the name of showing the world “we can be a real family.” The way the imagery builds is just terrific.

KR: The serial killer who surrounds himself with mannequins is a well-worn trope, but “Famsimile” takes that idea and gives it a fresh, unsettling twist. Strong imagery and creeping unease help this one stand out.

[Untitled] by Phil Coltrane

BS: What I love about this one is how once you’ve read it, you realize that no matter how many times this simulation runs, the words “I love you” will never get fully said. And bringing speculative/sci-fi into the mix in this was is just so, so clever. Loved this.

KR: The unexpected interruption turns this slice of life into something else entirely. The fact that the protagonist returns over and again to such a mundane moment makes you wonder just what has happened since.

RUNNER UP

No Time to Stop Running by Maggie Duncan

BS: This is one that I find myself expanding into a larger story, and the details are fabulous. I’m rooting for these people, even though apparently they are murderers! That’s another sign of great horror, where you’re not quite sure you’re not pulling for the bad guy. And that sympathy comes through partly in those mundane details, the care taken to give the impression of a “real” family. Super creative, wonderful.

KR: As soon as I’d read this, I went straight back and read it again. The first time through, it was the story of a cunning fugitive couple, faking a family to avoid detection, full of fun little details like changing the names and filling diapers. The second time though… Now it’s a deeply disturbing story about a mother trying to replace the kids she’s at least allowed to die, or has maybe outright murdered. Those funny little details are now shiver-inducing symptoms of an illness no parent wants to consider. Very clever!

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

ARTIE DINTERS!!!

for

Georgie

BS – This one is a simple, elegant, family moment that does a great job of juxtaposing attempts at “normalcy” of parenting in an extremely not-normal (and horrifying) situation. I also love how the dialogue brings further characterization, shining just a little light on their idiosyncrasies. There is a ton of detail packed in here, which makes it vivid. And again shows how those particulars can be so universal, not because of what they are specifically, but because we all experience life at that detailed, human-scale level. I feel really bad for this couple because they have clearly passed through a terrible terrible transition, and done it together, and agreed on the horrible way they will handle it. In a way, that’s about love. Great story.

KR — Just how damaged do you have to be to try and build a life around the preserved corpse of a toddler? Well, as this story lays out, the answer is very deeply damaged indeed. So much of this is conveyed through the mis-matched dialogue, the couple never quite connecting as they try to keep up their sham lives. Everything is slightly off and there seems to be a streak of jet black humour too – I have to admit, my reading of this was far less sympathetic than Betsy’s, and the thought of these two nutballs trying to “raise” their kid struck me as both horrific and funny, which is not easy to convey in less than 200 words. When little Georgie slumps to the floor at the end, displaying the rotten core of the tale to perfection, I laughed, felt terrible, then laughed again.

Congratulations, ARTIE! Here’s your winning story:

GEORGIE

It was early morning. Ben was cooking eggs and bacon. Linda indulged in latest news. In the background radio played Christmas music. It was that time again.

“Can you turn it off?” Linda said not raising her head.
“It is little Georgie’s favorite song, am I right Georgie?” Ben loomed above his son.

Georgie was a silent child. Gave no trouble to his parents. Always curious about his father’s job. Despite what neighbors talked behind their backs, little Georgie was a perfect child.

A whiff of rot danced with eggs and bacon.

“He stinks again.” Linda said.
“I thought I got the mixture right this time.” Ben turned the bacon stripes over. Knelt to Georgie. “What I got wrong, Georgie?”

Wax was dripping on the kitchen floor. Ben poked Georgie’s arm. Soft tissue met his finger. “Georgie, Georgie why you give us trouble?” Ben sighed. “Will you put him back in a freezer?”

“He is your son.” Linda said louder than she intended.
“I’m making breakfast.”

Georgie silently fell on the floor.

Fire&Ice Sol 1/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: You did it! You battled the fire & ice dragons on Sol 1 and survived! We’re so grateful to the hordes of you who joined Friday’s competition, and who came back over the weekend to support each other by commenting. As writers, whether we’re cobwebby seasoned or brand new, there’s so much we can learn from each other. Thank you! Be sure to drop by this Wednesday for our first Flash! Past feature, where we’ll update you on what’s going on with a favorite (or in this case, favourite) Flash! Friday writer.  

§ Foy says: Well, that was spectacular! Landing in any arena can stiffen the spines but especially one dominated by other battle-scaled beasts. My admiration and affection to you all. The heart of Fire&Ice beats most boldly when we reach out, when we speak up, when we serve, and you all have done that here. We are grateful for each of you.

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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 1’S JUDGES SAY:

Craig Anderson: 2020 finally redeems itself! When I got the email saying that Flash! Friday was back on I whooped and cheered like a little kid. During the hiatus I spoke of FF regularly to anyone that would listen, harking back to the ‘good old days’ when a bunch of awesome writerly folks would have a virtual shin-dig every week. It was so very lovely to see both familiar faces and sparkly new people joining in the fun.

And what fun it has been! Judging with Sinéad was an absolute joy, and I learned a whole lot along the way. We had some really great back and forth where she pointed out the subtleties that made your stories really shine. There were several instances where Sinéad helped me to better appreciate a story at a whole other level, picking up on those words that seemed so innocent at first pass, but so very meaningful upon closer inspection. That is one of the things that I always love about flash fiction, every word has to pull its weight. A 150 word story, that at first appears to be a fun puddle to splash around in, can be as deep as the ocean when you take a moment to break the surface.

A great example of that is the single line from Mark King‘s The Return, ‘like an iceberg, his visible scars were just the edges.’ Such great imagery that both ties in to the prompt and paints an achingly vivid picture. That same story features some beautiful contrast, from the darkness and bleakness at the start, to the cerulean blueskies of hope at the end. Great stuff!

Another special mention goes to Margaret Locke‘s Two Halves Make a Hole, which also played with that mid-point shift. The flip from two people complementing each other to consuming each other was perfectly executed, and from that point on the sentences switch from long and flowing to short and punchy. It is a perfect example of using a shift in tone to emphasize the themes of the story. 

Those were just a couple of examples, but there were so many great stories to pick from. You lot made it extremely hard to choose the winners, but choose we must!


Sinéad O’Hart: What a fantastic start to Fire&Ice! There were so many wonderful tales, each burning with volcanic power or thrumming with frozen majesty, that reading them was a privilege. I’m so pleased to have been first into the judging seat, alongside the marvellous Craig Anderson, and luckily we didn’t differ very much on our choices (it was a small skirmish, I assure you; neither of us lost more than a scale or two from our weathered dragon hides!)

I wanted to begin by thanking everyone. Writing flash is such a skill, and when a piece works – it *really* works. There were stories here which unfolded on a second or third reading, revealing more meaning tucked away in their tightly-controlled prose; there were tales which made me laugh, and others that stopped my breath. We had many stories about portals and awakening beasts, and each of them brought something new and unique to the table. We had fury, we had pain, we had loss and grief and love and more, all of it, in these tiny tales. What great writers you all are.

I want to make special mention of Taryn Noelle Kloeden‘s The Right to Cold, which will stay with me always, both the title and the tale itself. I also loved the glimpse of Jormungand the World-Serpent in Steph EllisUnlikely (my medievalist heart glowed). And, needless to say, the funny tales – particularly the meta-stories – brought a smile to my leathery chops. Thanks to Bart Van Goethem‘s The Awakening, and Esther van den Heuvel‘s untitled tale which gave us all a mention. I loved the final ‘Snap’ in Artie DintersLast One, and the closing image of Brett Milam‘s Crackle; brilliant stories, both. But, sadly, winners must be picked! And so, here we go.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Reflection by Becky Spence

SJO: I loved the feel of this tale; the sorrow and finality, the sense of threat, the separation from family, and the imagery of the petals and the water.

CA: This story put one-word sentences to great use to break up the flow of the story, punctuating it and really emphasizing the word in question. It staggers along, disjointed and bleak, with crying and bodies. Then when the family appears it starts to flow again, and the imagery becomes poetic, with tumbling cherry blossoms and laughter. The way that the petal surfaces does a great job of bringing that happiness into the ‘real’ world, and then just as suddenly it is snatched away again.

Untitled by Betsy Streeter

SJO: We were united in our appreciation for this hilarious depiction of a choir of singing (and burping) caves, and the use of all-dialogue was wonderful.

CA: I loved this one because it does something really well that you could never do in a longer story: it only uses dialogue to tell the story. So much character comes through in the banter between the voices and the playful way they tease each other. I also liked that it took things in a different direction, the prompt was so icy and bleak, and yet this story is light and funny.

RUNNER UP

In the Maw of Gul-Go-Thor by Phil Coltrane

SJO: What begins as just another ‘expedition to the frozen wastes’ story turns completely on its tail with that fantastic last line. This piece of flash shows how powerful the form can be – it’s a fully-developed story in its own right, but one which explodes into a million possibilities by the end.

CA: Wow, what a great example of how a single line can twist a whole story on its head. Its always the sign of a great flash fiction when the first thing i do after reading it is immediately go back and read it again! I loved how all the senses were invoked, the sharpness of the view, the moaning of the ice, the smell of perfume in the air, even the throat and cheeks that burned like whiskey. It’s hard work to convey so much information is such a short piece of flash, but here everything flows together so seamlessly to paint a vivid picture.

And now: for the very first time, we are pleased to announce the very first 

FIRE&ICE WINNER

CASEY ROSE FRANK !!!

for

How Do You Know”

SJO – This story slipped past me on first reading, and it was on a second read that its deeper meaning opened up before my eyes. I loved the play on ‘ice’ (not just the literal ice, but the diamond on Cora’s finger and, possibly, the cold shard in her heart too), and the incredible subtleties of meaning – the ring painfully misplaced, the cold hands inside the glove, the freedom of Cora’s thoughts compared with the stasis of her body and her situation. A wonderful and worthy winner.

CA — I was similar to Sinéad in that I had to read this one a couple of times to truly appreciate it. That subtlety is one of the most powerful things about this story, it creeps up on you. The imagery is quiet and unassuming, the thought about the waves travelling across the ocean to lap upon a warm beach, or the water pulsing in time with her heart beat. Then the layers of meaning start to bob to the surface. The water that can’t stay still is suddenly cemented in place as a glacier, but it never truly stops moving, it is still only ‘semi-permanent.’ Her diamond ring twisted on her finger, awkward and painful, and a final pang of jealousy that the water is free to flow away as it pleases, while she remains trapped. There’s just so much going on, and the whole thing is perfectly encapsulated in only 160 words. 

Congratulations, Casey! Here’s your winning story:

How Do You Know

Cora had grown up amongst the constant current of rivers and lakes, and spent most summers submerged in an ocean that pulsed in the tandem with her heart.
But here she found water made land.
She stared at the ripples below, streaming away from the boat, perhaps going on to become a wave against a warmer shore. Or something as grand as a glacier, like a waterfall.
A sliver of ice broke off into the water and bobbed away.
She wondered how such solid semi-permanence existed right up against something incapable of keeping still.
How did the water choose?
Elliot’s gloved hand found hers and squeezed. She felt the sharp diamond edge of her ring twisted the wrong way against her fingers, awkward and painful under the fabric that still left her hands cold.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?”
She smiled and agreed it was, but kept watching the water that flowed beyond the horizon, moving farther than she could see.