Tag Archive | Arvind Iyer

Fire&Ice Sol 18/19: WINNERS

§ Foy says: Welcome, welcome, dear dragons, to the penultimate results celebration! Yesterday, it was our pleasure to host two more of our fellow community members, Jethro Weyman & Tad Kelson, a.k.a. Tadk/GamerWriter, for the final Flash! Future. Please do click here and check it out! They fill us in on what they write, and offer some words of encouragement for all of us going forward. And speaking of going forward, as we launch into Fire&Ice‘s last Sol this week, this Friday promises to be a fire-drenched, ice-splintered battle like no other! We hope you’ll bring Rebekah and me your most piercing words!

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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 18’S JUDGES SAY:

Betsy Streeter:  I felt like this week’s batch was just filled with endless gifts of details, both in terms of phrasing/word choices and in little things like names and places. I absolutely loved all the wonder and uniqueness contained within these stories. And I’m grateful I got to read them all! What a privilege. And of course many thanks to Karl for being my judging partner, our exchanges have been so much fun!

I have to mention these: Becky Spence‘s “Like Lucy,” for its clever references to both Peanuts and Star Trek (“I tend bar, and I listen.”), Laurence D.’s Untitled story for the lovely phrase, “danced to the melody of a city,” Voima Oy‘s “The Visitor,” with a nod to Arecibo and looking for life far and near, Tinman‘s “Over the Top” for zooming in on such a wonderful detail – hair! – and how fabulous can make even an alien feel, Nancy Chenier‘s Relativity for stretching family conversations across time in a unique way, Rab‘s Untitled story for digging into a whole other type of detail and ingenuity, Matt Krizan‘s “Mars and Venus on Vacation” with a wonderful nod to Hitchhiker’s Guide and a bit of grossness, and the pure sweetness of Susan Stevenson‘s “Adieu.” 


Karl A. Russell: As we hurtle towards our final Sol, I want to take a moment or two to thank our wonderful hosts for opening the lair one more time, my judging partner Betsy for making it look like I know what I’m doing here, all the people who comment, like and share their favourites on Twitter, and most of all, I want to thank you all for writing. You make us laugh and gasp and tear up, you take us right out of our strange days or push us to recognise that they will pass. You find the perfect phrase, the exact word, the single piece of punctuation that will reach deep into your reader and make out hearts sing. And most of you manage it every single week. So thank you, one and all.

This week’s spread of stories is a perfect example of this, and like Betsy said, there were so many wonderful details that are deserving of a shout out. I loved the final lines of Pippa Phillips‘s ‘Opening Bid‘ and Voima Oy‘s ‘The Visitor‘ for the hints of otherworldly strangeness they contained. Nancy Chenier‘s ‘Relativity‘ gave us the emotional heart of interstellar travel while Tad Kelson‘s ‘Silence‘ showed us what it actually feels like.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Cardboard Empires by Arcane Edison

BS: This could be read in two ways, both epic and delusional. That’s a lot to accomplish in 81 words. I loved reading this both ways, multiple times. Amazing.

KR: It’s all about to kick off! This one was the most action-packed story in a week of mostly wistful takes and is a great opener for something epic.

Consumed by Helen Laycock

BS: This one contains such detail, especially “Franco raised his right hand, covering the tear in his trousers with the left.” That says so, so much. Well done.

KR: That ‘flip’ moment seals this story for me. Franco’s life has turned upside down, and even if his only patrons now are the pigeons, he’s still trying to recapture what was. The lovely little detail with the torn trousers says that no matter how far he’s fallen, he still has his pride.

Commander of Cheer by K. Hartless

BS: Oh, the frustration of cheer muffled by lockdown. Plus interstellar travel, to boot. Really great.

KR: The most seasonal story and the most dystopic! I’d love to see a sequel where the jolly fat man takes on the curfew-enforcing security forced to finish his sacred deliveries!

RUNNER UP

Untitled by Michael Seese

BS: I love when extremely different things come together to tell a story, and this one is so unexpected and hilarious. And once you see “Cleveland” and “brown and orange,” you know where this fellow has landed. And then, partying as a bringer of peace. Just so great!

KR: The humour in this was wonderful; the matter-of-fact description of vomiting, the whooping drunk and the contrast between the alien’s intentions and their innocent imbibing…

RUNNER UP

Home by Eliza Archer

BS: Again, those details! The setting, the language, and then the simple practicality of the old coins. And, having been everywhere, just wanting a latte. Who of us hasn’t felt the pull of simplicity and wanting “normal” things this year? This taps into that sentiment so, so well.

KR: The details in this transported me right to a busy city street. The sights, sounds and smells of coming home. Yes, it’s about space travel, but it captures something more universal – who wouldn’t want to be free to wander crowded streets, watch beautiful people pass by and get a good cup of coffee right now?

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

ARVIND IYER!!!

for

The Letter

BS – This story jumped into a world and I felt like I could see Vo-Tan right off. Part of it is the use of words like “cosmodazzle” which immediately give a sense of other-ness, but also this story has a strong voice, and point of view, that is unique and shall I say, sparkly. And the idea that someone is out there building a cosmic Bridge of Emotions, and discovering how the good and bad travel together, warmed my heart in a very needed way. It evokes the idea that “negative” emotions are as necessary as “positive” ones to build a complete universe. And that is a big truth in a little story. Well done!

KR — Consider me cosmodazzled. With very little space to move, this gave us glimpses of a cosmos-spanning endeavour, an intriguing concept in the Bridge Of Emotions (I’m picturing something like Bifrost, daisy-chain-linking planets across the gulfs of space) and a wonderful inversion in the way that tears are more powerful than laughter. Vo-Tan’s obvious excitement at their discovery carries right through to the reader. So well done!

Congratulations, ARVIND! Here’s your winning story:

THE LETTER

Dear Iuri,

I write to you from the wondrous planet of Terra, and what we have been looking for– the missing piece to build our Bridge of Emotions spanning a thousand stars– is right here!

We’ve found cosmodazzle in varying levels across planets…why, the mildest form of it– laughter– was from here.

But the people here also do something else, Iuri. They cry.

I’m bringing it with me. When you taste the tears, you’ll know what I mean.

Love,
Vo-Tan.

Fire&Ice Sol 15/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: Happy Monday! As if the latest round of Fire&Ice winners weren’t exciting enough, did you know it’s also Doctor Who Day, Fibonacci Day, Eat a Cranberry Day, and National Espresso Day? It’s also NaNo Day 23 (38,341 words, or whatever beautiful number of words you’ve written). Wherever this Monday finds you—whether snacking on cranberries or not—here’s to another sunrise, and another day conquering the white page together. We’re glad, as ever, you’re here.

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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 15’S JUDGES SAY:

Mark King:  I am sad that this is the last time I get to judge. Thanks to the majestic Ice and Fire dragons for their faith and trust in us, and for all the work it has taken to bring this magical place back. Thanks also to the folk behind the scenes who help to get the stories to judges each week. Much gratitude to Steph who shares my timezone, has a great work ethic and has impeccable taste in great storytelling. As writers, you did wonders with the prompt this week, I enjoyed every story and the ones I picked tended to just stand out in some small way. Some quick mentions: Betsy Streeter‘s “Untitledfor the image of grasshoppers and great use of dialogue. Tamara Shoemaker‘s “Soul’s March,” for the creepy and unsettling feeling. Maggie Duncan‘s “Fix Our Eyes Not on What is Seen” for the concise and very effective structure.


Stephanie Ellis: November already and my last time as a judge! Seeing Flash! Friday come back has been wonderful, even though the past few weeks have seen me somewhat absent for a variety of reasons; that being said, I’d like to thank Deb and Rebekah for inviting me to take part, it’s been an honour and a privilege to work with them and Mark. The quality of submissions was excellent, as always, and this week I found the majority of my choices went to those I regarded as a story, rather than an introspective or ‘scene’ piece. I needed to engage with the characters and the stories chosen allowed me to do that. In addition to those on the rostrum, I’d like to mention a couple of other stories. Laurence D‘s “King of the Hillwith its termites having distinct human speech and accents, and Tinman‘s “Transfer of Power,” with its finger pointing to the future destruction of mankind via a growing army of mutant insects, were both great fun and hugely original.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

The Museum of Nobodies” by Arvind Iyer

MK: It’s a reverse mirror to the superficial and branded world of influencers. I loved how the story took me to other places, transporting me, almost by word-teleportation – handy we can travel like this with stories when we can’t go physically.

SE: In these days of celebrity status and global powers, us lesser mortals often feel unseen and disregarded and this writing recognises that fact, and in doing so, it also reminds us we are somebody and that there are millions like us.

Be Careful What You Wish For by Geoff LePard

MK: It’s approaching panto season in the UK so while it probably wasn’t the author’s intention, I loved the thought of this missing eccentric British tradition somehow living on as a termite-mound genie in a story.

SE: A hugely entertaining story; sometimes we just need that touch of humour in our lives and I thought this was perfect. A termite genie granting the wish that would be the downfall of Terrance and Susan.

These Days by Karl Russell

MK: I loved the world-building in this one. The global nature of it. Those amazing images of buildings being like the termite mounds. The great name-dropping of Scorsese, London, Manhattan, Tokyo and Layla booming across the post-apocalyptic landscape. 

SE: A ghost with no one to haunt, such a sad thought. Bleak description of a post-apocalyptic world which we could head towards, if we’re not careful. Although maybe, we are already ghosts haunting ourselves.

RUNNER UP

The Land Remembers”  by Voima Oy

MK: This is a highly creative take on the prompt. It appealed to me in several ways. It was unique, it included a familiar tale of ‘progress’ at the expense of nature, it included wonderful images: At night, they gave off a strange glow, like cities at night.” It reminded me of the film, Avatar, only much, much better. James Cameron needs to take notes from this story.

SE: There is magic in our planet: our ancestors have often mentioned hidden energies or forces beneath our soil which affect us and our lives. This story gives this ancient magic a sci-fi feel, as the planet draws up its defences against the developers. Beautifully written.

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

ARCANE EDISON!!!

for

Notes On a Life Lived

MK – I’m a sucker for an intriguing title, so this drew me in. Then the story grabbed me tightly from the opening and didn’t let go He’d always been a quiet man. Silently toiling in the fields that surrounded the cottage. I, his shadow, watching his metronome arm arcing with the odd shaped knife he used everyday.”  In the middle, we have this amazing image, “We gathered, dressed in black, on the greyest day. Umbrellas shadowing darker faces.” 

There is a mastery of storytelling and structure and pacing, yes, it’s showcasing in a microscopic space, just what flash fiction can do. And that ending, what a life. It makes you think and be thankful.

SEThis is a story which must resonate with many of us, as grandparents get older and we drift apart, moving on with our busy lives, knowing they are still there in the background – until they’re not – and we realise we have failed to make time for them, to listen to their stories, thinking our own so much better. This delicate showing of ‘the life lived’ at the end is poignant, an emotional gut punch to those left behind. If only they’d talked. An imaginative take on an image whose markers called to mind those rows of white headstones in a war grave cemetery. Wonderful writing.

Congratulations on your back-to-back win, Arcane! Here’s your winning story:

Notes On a Life Lived

He’d always been a quiet man. Silently toiling in the fields that surrounded the cottage. I, his shadow, watching his metronome arm arcing with the odd shaped knife he used everyday.

Nightfall, he, Grandmother and I would sit within the perfume of the plum orchard. Small words uttered as he split purple flesh with his blade, revealing the sweetest yellow flesh.

As the seasons faded into years I returned less to the cottage, till one day I never did.

When she died he moved into the city. Living in a small terraced house with dirty windows. Each time I visited, he would seem smaller again, as if every breath I took stole directly from him.

Seasons faded into years.

We gathered, dressed in black, on the greyest day. Umbrellas shadowing darker faces.

Sat in pews. An old man struggled to the front, hands trembling, eyes blurring, medals clinging to his chest.

Telling a tale never before shared.

Of parachutes, fighting behind enemy lines.

Of capture, the torment of the prison camp.

Of liberation, the gift the soldiers had given Grandfather.

For his leadership, fearlessness and love.

An odd shaped knife.

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.