Tag Archive | Becky Spence

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 17/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: Happy Monday! Here we are with the latest round of contest results—a delight, as ever, platforming your words. Speaking of platforms: be sure to drop by yesterday’s Flash!Future if you haven’t yet, featuring Fire&Ice writers P.A. (Maggie) Duncan & Bill Engleson. We’ll highlight two more writers next weekend to round out our collection of Sunday posts. And finally, we’ve just two more contests before closing up our five-month (!) run. This Friday will be judged by the most Excellent Betsy Streeter & Karl Russell. For the final contest on December 18 Deb Foy and I will serve as your judges, and we are excited to mail off a rather amazing pile of prizes to the winner. We hope you all will be able to join us for one last merry round before we collectively and permanently ban 2020 from the present. And now on to the winners!

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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 17’S JUDGES SAY:

Tamara Shoemaker: It’s been so much fun to dip back into the flash fiction world these last few months and reminisce over the short and powerful stories that eke out of the weekly prompts. Thanks again to the Dragons, who trusted me with the responsibility of weighing your words, to my fellow judge Eric Martell, who has good-naturedly put up with my plethora of emails in his inbox during our judging weekends, and to each one of you for consistently dazzling me with astounding stories. I have enjoyed this sojourn!

Two quick shout-outs before we jump into the winners list: Tinman’sWater Sport,” for making me snort coffee up my nose at “burst gloriously through the surface right into the midst of the Danish Synchronised Swimming team.” Helen Laycock‘s Ocean Lament: for the gorgeous and heart-breaking Romeo/Juliet-esque love story.


Eric Martell: In all of the chaos that 2020 has brought, there have been not nearly enough lights in the
darkness, and one that has been a big part of my life the last few months has been the return of Flash! Friday. The combined work of the Ice and Fire Dragon Queens, and their graciousness in inviting me to judge, has allowed me to return to writing and given me the privilege of reading so many wonderful stories. This marks the third and final go-round for me in the hot seat. I appreciate your indulgence and your patience with my judging idiosyncrasies. Thank you. And for whatever poetry I lack in my words, you get to read those of the incredible Tamara Shoemaker.

Before we get to the winners, I’d like to give a few shout-outs to: Becky Spence‘s “Untitled” [I stand on the cliff top]: “Always waiting, for that part of me to return.” StellaKateT‘s “The Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead“: What we lose when we extinguish another’s light. And Phil Coltrane‘s “0°C“: “I’m sorry, my dear. I thought you were someone else.” Thanks to everyone who wrote this week. It took forever to narrow my list down this far.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Black Sea Dreams” by Maggie Duncan

TS: This story, encased in some vivid mermaid bookends, shows such a sharp contrast between one life and the other, one subterfuge and the next. Loved it!

EM: When we pretend, for a time, we may become another.

Untitled” (Arielle Danced) by Mark Giacomin

TS: I was particularly caught by the way the words of the story themselves became the ocean in the weighted limbs, the oblivion-covered memories, and the dancing water. Simply gorgeous!

EM: A beautiful story of grief and the dangers of being consumed by it.

RUNNER UP

Waterling”  by Nancy Chenier

TS: This story touched on my mother’s heart and made me tear up a little. Granted, my own children are no waterlings, but most parents identify with the necessary distance that takes place in the inevitable growing stages. I could feel this parent’s despair in this line: “Or all the love I poured into this little boy only for it to evaporate into a spritely haze of indifference, webbed fingers always slipping from my hand.”

EM: We raise our children knowing they are their own people, that one day they will leave us and begin their own lives. We don’t expect it to happen at the age of four, nor that they will sink beneath the sea to begin a new life. This story broke my heart.

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

BETSY STREETER!!!

for

Untitled (I’m Sorry, I Thought You Were Water)

TS – I agree with Eric in his comments below; the opening line of this one snagged
my attention immediately and kept me riveted the entire way through the story. I loved how this
story is a communication, almost a eulogy from a lover to his beloved who has gone before. The
enforced separation between what is above and what is below is gutting, and brought to mind the
African proverb: “A fish and a bird can fall in love, but the two cannot build a home together.”
The narrator’s impotence with “I fell back…” shattered me; the emotion all too readily resonates
with many of us as we watch our biggest dreams, hopes, desires slip through our fingers. This
was so well done, and very deserving of the win.

EM — What an opening line! The first line of the first story of the week, and I was
hooked. We try to stay attached to the people we love, but we don’t always walk the same path.
Sometimes, they’re not who we think they are, or wish them to be. This story painted that picture
so well, with such vivid imagery, that it was impossible to look away.

Congratulations, Betsy! Here’s your winning story:

Untitled (I’m Sorry; I Thought You Were Water)

I’m sorry,

I thought you were water.

I thought we spoke to each other in waves, and currents, and depths. I believed we felt the same seasons, saw the same colors.

We would swim side by side, every so often touching, squinting in the white sunlight from above, drifting in the dark below. I taught you what I knew. It wasn’t everything.

Sometimes we were still, other times we got tossed around, but we would pull back together like strands of kelp. Free-moving, but growing from the same stalk.

There are creatures that live so deep in the ocean dark they never bother to grow eyes.

You broke the surface, and I tried to follow. But howls of wind and machinery and screeches of gulls lashed my ears.

I fell back helpless, useless, and watched you shrink to a speck, now seen, now not, retreating toward the shore, forever.

Fire&Ice Sol 14/19: WINNERS

§ Foy says: Welcome to what feels a wintry results day! Yesterday, it was all reds and golds with a sleepy sun overhead; today, it’s bare, gray limbs, and a sun that stays nestled beneath the clouds. Gone are the eternal autumns of our youth, I suppose. How the world changes; how we change the world.

Speaking of world-changing, in our most recent Flash! Future on “Writing the Other” (read that post here), literary agent and advocate DongWon Song offers us writers wrestling with questions of how (or whether!) to write diverse fiction this call to action: 

What we need to do is resist the default, and the only way to do that is by representing the world that we live in, which often has people coming from all kinds of cultures, all kinds of marginalizations that are inter-sectional, and rich, and complex. 

Every time I see flash here that resists the default, I’m so encouraged, inspired, motivated. Thank you. ❤   

A quick reminder: Flash! Future submissions are rolling in and if you haven’t gotten the chance to send yours, now’s the time to do so! Find all the tidy details here, and remember: deadline is November 20!

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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 14’S JUDGES SAY:

David Shakes:  It’s our third and final stint as judges on the resurrected Flash!Friday and I’d like to thank our Dragon hosts Rebekah and Deborah for achieving far more than they set out to do. There’s been light in the darkness thanks to you two, I’ve been plugged into a global community whose words and ideas have inspired me further.

My deep and heartfelt thanks to Nancy who, more often than not, liked what I liked but with an eye for detail and a perspective that I am in awe of. Thank you for being my co-judge in this. 

My thanks to you, dear writers, for coming back each round. The original competition is where I honed my craft, found a writing family (hey Flashdogs) and gained the courage to start putting my work further out there. I hope some of that is true for you. 

I loved the prompt picture when I saw it, and though it led many of you all down a few key paths (holes?) you amazed us within your short and precise word count. 

Nancy and I were pretty close in what we liked this week, so we both got to drop in a few of those stories that we both enjoyed. Helen Laycock‘s “Look Before You Seep” was a hilarious take on the fountain of youth, with some great (gross) imagery. Pippa Phillips‘ “The First Thread” was rich in figurative language, took a look deeper at the prompt,  and had a great last line. R.J. Kinnarney‘s “Divine Calculation” takes a clever title, adds in the prerequisite statistics and then ends on a beautiful image. 

As it’s our last go, we’ve taken the liberty of having three honorary mentions.


Nancy Chenier: Here we are, our final round of judging for the reboot of Flash!Friday. I’m deeply grateful to the Dragon Den (Rebekah and Deborah) for lighting up the skies with flashes of light over a world confronted with its collective darkness, and for rekindling my own writing, a tool that helps me navigate said darkness. Also to Shakes: I don’t know what serendipity matched us up, but it turned out a wonderful pairing. If I ever find myself in that hemisphere, get ready for a visit (yes, that’s a threat, tell your family). Finally, a million thank-yous to all you flash writers, veteran and recent, whether here or in #vss365,#flashdogs, etc., for your inspiring creativity and enthusiasm wherever you drop your words. Hope to see you all in the twitterverse beyond the end of 2020.

This week, with the tiny word count, inventiveness was imperative. How else could you cram a sense of beginning, middle, end, while hooking readers into the story and then keeping them there? Very little space remained for incorporating unique takes on the prompts, but you all took on that challenge and created some fine work, which means I ended up with a bunch of shout-outs. First goes to Betsy Streeter‘s Untitled, where the miracle of medicine suddenly feels like a curse, and the word “lost” takes one huge emotional impact. Also to Michael Seese‘s Pitfalls for an amusing story with its fun use of both dragon elements. Then there’s Becky Spence‘s “A Tuesday Morning” for the most original use of the photo-prompt with the “pit” being the pupil of an eye. Laurence D‘s Untitled gets a nod for baudy slapstick that had me baffled (like the oblivious crowd) until the slapstick-rug got pulled right out from under me.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Exit Strategy by WeymanWrites

DS: We both loved the playful aspect of this and I especially liked the dialogue between our Meerkat protagonists Barbara and Derek! In a week when so many stories had something going in, this statistically risky escape plan stood out.

NC: You had me at meerkats, and you kept me with the surprises at every line of increasingly anthropomorphic dialogue. You kept me chuckling through to the end. With everything we’ve put the earth through in general and the meerkats through specifically, we so deserve that parting shot.

The First Question by Phil Coltrane

DS: Something lovely about this, that dual aspect of having the courage and intellect to get to Mars but the all too human frailty of having one’s heartbroken, but I like his odds. Maybe I’m an optimist?

NC: Inventive use of statistics throughout, ultimately tying in with the picture prompt (one in seven on Mars), plus a solid sense of movement through a story. I also enjoyed the pivot on the act of “asking questions”: the class asking the MC all the questions, except for Anna, who might have invited MC’s long-unasked question way back at the beginning had she asked a homework question too.

Numbers Game by Karl A. Russell

DS: We all know the drive into the desert plot from various mob movies, but I couldn’t resist this one – so well written. The dialogue is on point, the tension well-mounted within the word limit and a classic last line to complete the sort of flash that floats my boat. 

NC: This one stood out to me for the Lady-or-the-Tiger vibes (big folklore-buff over here). You set up a complete, distinctive story in a Vegas pit-trap with tension building appropriately enough like a high-stakes card game. I was hooked with the snake, immediately followed up by conflict via a sneering antagonist, then the surprise of another victim in the first box. The consistent character voice held the tone so the final line hit with authenticity. Well played! 

RUNNER UP

Quick Time by Tinman

DS: A unique theme amongst this week’s entries,  filled with clever imagery like the ‘Rachel hair’ and the right mix of humour and poignancy. The opening image of an unimaginably far shore sums up a teenager’s view of middle-age wonderfully. The subtle introduction of Jill’s treatment and the closing note of optimism was sublime. The economy and balance of this story had it near the top of my list from the start.

NC: This one settled in and gave me a time-release sense of nostalgic melancholy. The contrasts are stunning between the teenage creation of a time-capsule, during a time when we still feel playfully immortal, to the middle age opening when mortality has started seeping seriously in. The kick is that Jill is the one to reset the capsule by throwing in her smart watch, a symbol of time, when she probably doesn’t have much of it left (another cleverly introduced contrast: her cancer vs 1990s Rachel hair). Every detail is rich and evocative of place and character and theme—such strong writerly craft, here.

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

ARCANE EDISON!!!

for

Butterfly Wing

DS – What made this stand out from the other monster in the pit stories? Firstly, an economy of language – the staccato punch of the lines creates a pace that juxtaposes with the depth and quality of the writing. I loved the flare…falling, a crimson-hot star seeking reassurance, mirroring the improbable fall of the asteroid. The use of statistics to underscore the title of the story puts us squarely in the existential shoes of our narrator. Two zeros x together  = something unknowable, and yet I know the feeling well. A slice of sci-fi noir that Nancy and I both liked a lot. 

NC — This week’s picture prompt lent itself to monster-in-the-pit tropes, so to get to the winner’s circle pit-monster tales really had to stand-out. This one ticked all the boxes. The first sentence hooked me, not only with its clear description of the MC’s shadow, but also conveying a sense of urgency (hurrying)—which is then undercut by the next fragment (the MC is chain-smoking, not hurrying to the crash site as fast as their shadow is). The MC’s voice is crisp with its staccato sentences and the sly, self-deprecating application of statistics. Then there’s a theme that threaded through and beyond the tale: the line up of near-zero probabilities starting with the MC’s own existence points to a vast gap between near and absolute zero. The vanishingly small probability of the MC’s existence raises the question what other improbabilities are entirely… probable. Thanks for the engaging read. 

Congratulations, ARCANE! Here’s your winning story:

BUTTERFLY WING

My shadow stretches out, hurrying before me to the crash site.

Chain-smoking.

Mind racing with possibilities.

My existence = 1 in 10 2,685,000

That’s basically zero.

Yet, here I stand at the edge of another improbability.

The hole is deeper than seems possible.

The asteroid actually hitting Earth was 0.41%.

Another zero.

Another cigarette burns.

Two zeros x together = something unknowable.

Tension envelops as we gather. Tabitha ignites a flare.

Falling, a crimson hot star seeking reassurance.

Illuminating an eye bigger than seems possible.

Whose existence = 10 septillion.

The slowest blink.

A pupil that isn’t possibly real.

Begins to come closer.