Tag Archive | David Shakes

Fire&Ice Sol 8/19: WINNERS

§ Foy says: For the first time since the birth of Fire&Ice, this weekend was quiet enough that I got to sit (coffee in hand!) and enjoy every. single. story y’all submitted, and I’m so grateful! As the many Hugo’ed Mary Robinette Kowal says, “Short stories are about delivering a specific emotional punch” (find her Best-Unkept-Short-Story-Secret Formula here; thanks to our beloved Fire Dragon for sharing!!), and we see y’all demonstrate that emotive power week after week after week. Don’t believe me? Just read what our judges have to say…


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. ♥ 


David Shakes:  What a superb image and flexible word count this week. It led to some beautiful figurative language and pushed a lot of people towards the type of fiction that floats my boat. What I wasn’t expecting was to have my equilibrium wrecked on a tumultuous sea of emotion and invention. You’ve conspired to make me laugh and then break my heart. I love and despise you all. Once again, my thanks to Nancy and I hope she forgives me for pushing towards the darker end of the listing again – it is the witching season after all! There were many overlaps with Nancy’s choices on my shortlist, so we both get to shout out to a few. The bleak metaphors in Brett Milam‘s Black Flag packed a real punch. Bart Van Goethem‘s Splinters in Space was a ten-word delight. The character of Rabbit and the whole world-building in Arcane Edison‘s Fallen Dreams left me wanting a longer piece. 

Nancy Chenier: What an evocative prompt-combo! It sparked the imagination in different ways and inspired some glorious imagery. I find myself in speculative fiction heaven, everything from aliens to androids, arks to ornithopters, plus plenty of ghosts to haunt the start of Spooktober. Thanks to all of you for letting us read your work. My heaven became hellish, though, as I had to axe-murder many favored tales to get to a short-list. Even then, I don’t think I ever had a short-list morph so wildly between readings, and again as David and I compared notes. Despite a general overlap, the hull of our team-judging ship strained as we steered it into the harbor of top contenders. We avoided the shoals, however, and came into harbor with a satisfying moorage. I have to give a shout-out to some of my special favorites this week: to GamerWriter for Untitled, which will henceforth be known (to me) as “Do Androids Dream of Electric Conspiracies?” for some vivid and clever SF. Also to Mark A. King for Old Man and the Kraken, who must’ve been taking notes in our last round and so pulled out a Hemingway allusion to craft a fine speculative tale around it. Finally,  Tinman‘s for To Travel Hopefully for giving me a good chuckle over second-rate-MacGuyver aliens. 



Necessity is the Mother by P.M. Coltrane

DS: Well, folks, I cried – and I just wish that the writer had ended it before the final word of cry – because it’s so beautifully done they didn’t need it. I am a sucker for repetition and the banal meal choices, children’s songs and our child’s inventions all hid the gaping hole in their lives – the missing thread that threatened to unweave it all. 

NC: The parallel construction specifically detailing the hollow ritual made this one float to the top; I loved the way the bedtime songs echo the child’s creations and how the father’s bright exchanges with his daughter stand in painful contrast to the narration (fall apart, sore, a waiting babysitter who gets paid extra for meatloaf). The sharp description highlights what is missing and the result is heartbreaking.

Dissent by Tamara Shoemaker

DS: Dragged in by the first line, the extended metaphor of this was just brilliant and the quality of every word choice just so on point! My favourite line was ‘Weave together answers that defy the inevitable’ and that’s where I’ll end my praise. This piece took on personal meaning for me – it resonated – and that’s what good writing should do. 

NC: A vibrant conceit of a ship straining against the storm of circumstance in a craft of the will’s invention compels us through with drivingly dynamic verbs, and leaves me breathless (and ready to push back against the tide).


Aftermath by Pippa Phillips

DS: The device of the hypotheses was a good one – a rational mind trying to come to terms with an irrational fate. The hope of the second hypothesis crushed by the fourth as the mind unravels and the world becomes more surreal. One of the tales that used the conspiracy theorist as the central narrator, this one took the lead as the insight coupled with the imagery was superb.

NC: The format effectively weaves together a story of the narrator’s fate while hinting at familiar conspiracy theories, each iteration painting a clearer picture of the narrator’s mind as s/he reveals the intriguing details of their environment. The tale moves from what seems the birth of a typical conspiracy (a la the Mary Celeste) in the first hypothesis to a religious theory in the second (I laughed at the “fiat” of nature having its limits compared to divine intervention) to paranoia (like an alien experiment on this poor human) back to a spiritual hypothesis that lands the narrator in hell—tying it all together by coming back to the flame.

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




The Dark

DSThe line ‘Dark is a country’ really took me in, as did its use of the prompt and association with the Bermuda Triangle. A story that lives up to its title, the only criticism Nancy and I had was it was perhaps too short as we both wanted more. The rich language of the first paragraph takes time to fully appreciate, but the real kicker is the hopelessness in the ending. A diabolical inventor. Stay away from thin air and cold waters.As dark as treacle laced with the rum that dripped from the ceilings this was – and that’s a damned good thing. 

NC — As I tend to stuff the word count to bursting, I’m ever in awe of those folk who can pack a full story into a small space economically, without draining the power from it. This one did. Cracking description (oh, and I wanted more!), and it caught me up right from the opening (a bottled “ghost ship” that “haunts” a corner in a room of captivity), and the imagery carries through (rum, skeletal sailors, walking the plank) like an infernal Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The fire-prompt use is wonderful, in particular the way you flipped the conspiracy of the Bermuda Triangle into an invention of the antagonist (again, compellingly described as “a shadow knitted by darkness”). I even felt for the courage-summoning protagonist. Well done.

Congratulations, Marie! Here’s your winning story:


A ghost ship in a bottle haunting the room from the corner. It’s all I see for a week? A day? A second? Until a shadow knitted by darkness, laughs like a bawdy sailor. Rum drips from the roof while skeletons perch on dusty stools.
He tells me he invented The Triangle. He plucks people from thin air and cold waters.
Dark is a country he says and I feel like I’m walking the plank. I find the courage to ask for mercy.
Too late. You’ve been collected he says.

Fire&Ice: Sol 8/19

§ Foy says: Welcome to the madness, dear dragons! Perhaps it feels to you (as it does to me) that our planet is run by truth-tinkerers and chaos-creators feeding a gloaming beast, or maybe you’ve begun to wonder if our politics are indeed overseen by skin-wearing space-lizards (minus Justin Bieber, of course) bent on the death of the world. You aren’t alone. Every week that the confusion grows, my fiery sister and I find focus here. You are proof that there are dragons in every corner of the world sharpening quills and lighting fires against the growing dark. Thank you for your light!   

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


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 1) based on the photo prompt and 2) including EITHER the fire dragon or ice dragon‘s requirement. Pay attention to the 3) varying 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, whether you chose the fire or ice dragon’s element, and word count. That’s it!

Be sure to review the contest rules here.


JUDGES: Today’s judges are Nancy Chenier and David Shakes. Check out their bios on the Fire&Ice Judges page.



Each Fire&Ice prompt includes 1) a photo, 2) a required element (choose between the fire dragon or ice dragon’s offering), and 3) a specific word count. Your story must include all three requirements to be eligible to win.

Photo for Sol 8/19


“Ghost ship” photo by: olivier6973

Fire & Ice PromptRequired elements:

Fire dragon option: include an inventor


Ice dragon option: include a conspiracy theorist

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

Fire&Ice Sol 2/19: WINNERS

§ Foy says: We have our winners! For those who braved the wing-deep comment thread to deliver your own thoughts on how the stories impacted you, truly you are our dragon knights. Your gifts are one of the many magics of this space. And to everyone who shared their thoughts on our first two Flash! Past & Future posts–thank you! We’re forever honored—thrilled!—to learn what has shaped you as a writer. And speaking of shaping, I AM A FREAKING WRITHING PRETZEL-DRAGON trying not to give away who Rebekah has for us this Sunday. Do NOT miss it.

§ Rebekah says: Welcome back! Really I just want to say thanks. From the dawn of time, “community” has played a crucial role in the telling of stories; your Fire&Ice story-words and your words of support for each other prove that true now more than ever. Though I have to ask: do you intend to make me blubber like this every. single. week? Thank you for coming; thank you for sharing; thank you for being the vibrant, breathing, stretching, colorful writing community you are. PS. OK. I do just have to add I am GIDDY at the next Flash! Future, which will include a personal message from a multi-award-winning author to you.


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. ♥ 


David Shakes: My sincere thanks to all 71 writers [§ says: technically 74 if you add the sneaky, ineligible ones] for creating some truly memorable tales this week. Thanks also go to our esteemed fire and ice dragons for their beautiful picture prompt, challenging word length and clever elements. That so many could craft so much with so little is truly awesome.

I was told that there were almost 600 comments on the page by Saturday evening (UK time) – undoubtedly more by the time this gets to be read. The community comments are what this competition was built on, so it’s just lovely to know it’s back stronger than ever.

That said, my superb judging partner Nancy and I had a lot to say and also the honour of choosing a top tier. So many stories made it onto the list of our shared possibilities, I hope it’s not too bittersweet for these writers to know we pored over their work in some detail. For me, Pippa Phillips’s Plucked orchid – the root remainswas a superb line that echoed its longer tale of revolution in microcosm. Both Nancy and I greatly enjoyed Michael Seese’s Untitled I loved its onomatopoeia and quiet philosophy. I’d also like to mention Becky Spence’s Beneath for its subtle horror and Marsha Adams’s Untitled for making me watch Blade Runner yet again.

Nancy Chenier: So here we are, Sol 2 of Fire&Ice Flash. It’s been a weekend of electrodes and rebellion, sometimes simultaneously (my kind of weekend). First, big thanks to our Dragon Captains for reviving the contest and community in its latest incarnation. Secondly, thanks to David (Shakes) my marvelous co-judge, for making the Herculean task of selecting only a handful of stories lively and enjoyable. Finally, to all those who participated this week, whether via submitting or commenting, thank you for keeping this space creative, inspiring, and supportive.

71 entries! Each one brought something different to the prompt and elements—no small feat with only 75 words to work with. Just to show you how close Shakes and I were in our decision-making, I too am giving a special mention to Michael Seese’s Untitled as one of the lone fire-element pieces to rise to the top of my short-list with its quiet power and beautiful use of sibilant alliteration throughout. Sian_Ink hit hard with the split-dumpling image in Untitledand left me with the lingering sense of injustice with the revolutionary ‘humanists’ spreading it. I also want to give a hearty har-dee-har-har! to Stephanie Ellis for the pile on of tasty puns in Icing on the Cake. Now, on to the winners.



Untitled by Marie McKay

DS: Everything about this is so well crafted – a well-oiled machine – designed with economy of language to bring you to an end where you must blink, blink, blink away your tears.

NC: The language here caught me: the metronomic quality of the words brought the droid to life, capturing its mechanical longing to perfection.

Untitled by Nicola Liu

DS: Our little street urchin braves slop-bucket stares to warn her mechanical benefactor what’s coming, so we get a simultaneously figurative and literal last line that’s just brilliant – it resonates for a long time.

NC: I like how the story comes full circle with the utilitarian disposal of the soup turning into a relationship that saves his artificial skin (that it evoked Big-Hero-6 nostalgia tugged at my heart-strings).


On A Mission by Brian S Creek

DS: This is such a clever use of a machine’s processing and cold logic to weave a tale filled with tension, excitement, action and sorrow. I asked for an economy of language and it’s masterfully deployed here – there’s so much story between each line. If Hemingway wrote “Terminator,” I put in my notes.

NC: The crafty use of the prompt, element, and word-limit inspired my admiration. That it told a complete story in this format captivated me. And those final two lines delivered a blow as strong and as poignant as Hemingway’s 6-word flash about baby shoes. (David and I independently thought of Hemingway on this one.)

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




Visiting Time

DSThis is a lovely use of the prompt picture and the additional element – it moved me so much. There are beautiful little details and descriptions: Joe’s hand, brittle as fried noodles; his whispers under the wheezing machinery of life. The simplicity of the dialogue is so natural but works powerfully to enable this story to work up to its clever denouement. What I love most is the matter of fact way the story is told, leaving readers to think about the moral and ethical implications of a future where this is a possibility. Do the recipients request this? Is it prescribed? I asked for something to ponder – and ponder I have. 

NCWhen asked what I looked for in a winning flash, I said I wanted a real sense of story within the word limit, and this one delivered, and then some. The patient asking,”You went somewhere?” added a hint of mystery, that there was something more going on—and there certainly was. The “wheezing machinery of life” gave nice misdirection (for a moment I thought this would be connected to the droid) while the hands “brittle as noodles” was a gentle nod to the photo prompt while also holding the reader in place with a concrete image. The story made me want to follow the droid to every last hospital room.

Congratulations, Karl! Here’s your winning story:

Visiting Time

“Remember the Vietnamese place?” Sarah asked.

Joe whispered under the wheezing machineries of life.


“Yes! Our first anniversary.”

He frowned.

“You went somewhere…?”

Sarah stroked his hand, brittle as fried noodles.

“I’m here now…”

His eyes closed.

“See you tomorrow love.”

She kissed his forehead. A smile ghosted his dry lips.

Leaving silently, she checked her files: Daisy MacNeil. Son Kevin (1964 – 2008).

Holographic tiles updated, Kevin entered the next room.

“Hello mum.”