Howdy! color me OVER THE MOON HAPPY–you all rocked the prompt this week. I am absolutely bonkers for the way y’all gave the judges so much to work with in addition to a guy running down a giant Colorado dune. That’s exactly how it’s done, and in STYLE. Really truly wonderful work from each of you. Thank you for sharing your time and magnificent talents here at Flash! Friday.
Dragon Captains Pratibha/Sinéad O’Hart say:
Sinéad: What an assortment of riches to choose from this week. Stories of derring-do amid the dunes, archaeological mystery, otherworldly locales, despotic kings, and imaginings of a land without water – this week’s Flash! Friday entries had it all, and more. As a fantasy/SF nut, I was thrilled by the amount of SF-tinged tales on offer, but the ones which stayed close to home were just as moving. Thanks, you guys, for coming out in force and creating tales of such power and variety this week – but let me tell you, it made our job as judges very hard indeed! Lucky Pratibha and I are such ladies, or the ‘negotiations’ could have descended into fisticuffs…
Pratibha: Like our dragonly hostess tweeted, this week’s tales were out of the box. The great sand mound sent all of you running and sliding in so many directions that it was dizzying, in a good way. All of us in this community have come to expect such brilliance, and sometimes I forget how difficult it is to put a complete story with memorable characters into so few words. All of you do this week after week, chiseling new stories in less than 24 hours. What a talented bunch that attracts and assimilates new writers each week. So without further ado, here are the results.
For Classic Movie Evocation: Michael Simko, ‘Running‘
Pratibha: I loved the visual aspect of this story. I also liked the sprinkling of humor throughout the story.
Sinéad: Another great setting (and set-up) and the lines: ‘[S]ome of the locals kept chanting that we were all going to hell. At the time I thought they objected to our bicycle shorts. Now I know better’ cracked me up. But it gets a Special Mention for reminding me of one of my favourite movies, Tremors.
Pratibha: “The Temple of Doom” indeed.
Sinéad: Out of several similar stories dealing with the Big Nasty being awoken somewhere in the desert, this was the most memorable. Plus, who doesn’t love a story about hubris? This made me wish it could be turned into a movie, so that I could watch what happens next. Someone get on that.
Pratibha: This one gets a nod for its brave experimentation.
Sinéad: Need I say more? Sound effects, visual effects, and making a judge almost choke with laughter, this story had everything (besides enough words).
Pratibha: I loved this for its somber tone and its religious imagery.
Sinéad: It being Easter, several Crucifixion/Resurrection-themed stories cropped up in this week’s offerings, too. This one was memorable, and touching, and also managed to make wonderful use of the prompts.
Pratibha: I loved the lighter touch on the prompt.
Sinéad: Great setting, great dialogue, great characterisation, and lots of humour, this story was huge fun. It managed both to be completely ‘out there’ and yet totally believable, which was an achievement!
Pratibha: The story captures the human need for intimacy and freedom and one man’s brave attempt to pursue both.
Sinéad: It stood out for me because, out of loads of stories set on desert planets or in sandy wastes, it focuses on a relationship, and it doesn’t just satisfy itself with finding new ways to describe how hot/inhospitable/horrible the place is.
JM6, “Running to Samara“
Pratibha: Ever had that caught “in-between” feeling. This story cleverly captured that fear of caught in a life of limbo without the release of death.
Sinéad: I loved the idea of the Between, and the Waykeepers, and the delicate touches with which this story creates its setting. I also loved the closing lines, and the desperation of the narrator to avoid an eternity in a place where s/he can never truly die. It exhibits skilfully executed tension, as well as an engaging voice and well-sketched characterisation.
Pratibha: I loved the opening paragraph with its clever and engaging style. The idea of time being measured in tin cans is hilarious. The best (or worst) blunder ever.
Sinéad: This story is clever, and well-imagined, and creates an intriguing world in a tiny space. Some of the imagery was very accomplished, including the ‘guts… like dirty washing’, but it was the idea of the only two people left after a nuclear holocaust being the person responsible, and that person’s boss, which grabbed me, as well as the ‘blunder’ being a slip-up at a nuclear power plant. What a great set-up! (Though my inner pedant won’t let me pass without saying this: it’s ‘desert’ when you mean a sandy place, and ‘dessert’ when you mean a slice of chocolate cake. And here endeth the lesson).
THIRD RUNNER UP
Pratibha: I loved how the contemporary sounding dialogue turns into something quite imaginative and “out of this world.” It is clever.
Sinéad: This one made me laugh, and then it made me think, and then I began to realise how clever and well put together it is. It was wonderfully imagined, slightly bonkers (in a great way), and the last line – when read in conjunction with the prompt image – is very funny. I also loved the idea of a creature in an early stage of evolution being spoken to by its ancestors – that really tickled my funny bone!
SECOND RUNNER UP
Pratibha: I love how this story superimposes usual office politics on the SF background. Both prompts are incorporated creatively. The writer paints a vivid and painful image: “sprinting down the dunes, microscopic shards of silicon berating my unprotected skin.”
Sinéad: I thought this story was another great imagining of an SF desert planet in a week where they seemed popular! Again, it focused on a person and their individual struggle, which made it so good. It features a very relatable protagonist (who among us cannot identify with their struggle?), it has a wonderful concluding line, and I loved how it sets up an entire history between our narrator and the venomous Calloway, as well as hinting at a future conflict as soon as the character is beamed back aboard the ship. From its engaging first line (‘Trusting Calloway, that was my first mistake’), this one grabbed me.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Pratibha: I loved the creative use of the prompt. The story is touching, and the ending is optimistic and powerful. The somber and introspective tone of the narrator appealed to me. Loved the phrase “infinite land of purgatory.” The title is brilliant too.
Sinéad: From its great title (which set me humming straight away) to its wrenching ending, this was another tale I loved. It made excellent use of the prompts, and I loved how it reimagined the sand dunes as a cityscape, and the picture it painted of the protagonist and his/her struggles. I found it very touching, and I loved the sense of burgeoning self-forgiveness and possible hope for the future – and also the aspiration at the end, that this person will not let their circumstances define them. Such a fantastic way to conceptualise the struggle between the person and their environment as depicted in the prompt image.
And now: for her 2nd time, it’s the very talented Flash! Friday
“A Story Between Me and Thee on the Occasion of Our Shipwrecking”
Pratibha: This is a clever tale of revenge. The blunders of the enemy are piled a mile high. I liked how the story was told in the tongue-in-cheek fashion. I loved the visual images such as “decidedly not-aflame sleeve.” The imagery in the last paragraph is like a slow-moving camera picking every moment of action.
Sinéad: I think this story has it all. It makes fabulous use of the prompts, it has clever punning, it has a great setting, it’s well written, it’s funny and clever, and it has such a fresh and exciting use of voice, creating an entire character and backstory with such skill it seems effortless. It also has a fabulous title and I love that the ‘baddie’ doesn’t get killed at the end, so the only option for him is to swim to the desert island and spend the rest of whatever life is left to him in the company of the person who shipwrecked him. I also loved the dragon, ‘as likely to breathe fire out the back as out the front’ – I giggled quite excessively at that.
Congratulations, Rachael! Here’s your updated, fiery winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!
A Story Between Me and Thee on the Occasion of Our Shipwrecking
I have a blunderbuss on my shoulder and a dragon in my pocket. Don’t believe me? Look. What? I never said it was a real dragon. That’s just what that little firearm’s called. A dragon. As likely to breathe fire out the back as the front, and then you’re in trouble, flames licking up your arm and you searching for a pail of something cold and wet to stick it in. Not that you’ll find any such on a desert island like this.
Meanwhile, your enemy has sailed away, laughing up his own decidedly not-aflame sleeve, and you’ve one shot left. He thinks you’ll save it for yourself, for that moment when you just want off this island, fast, and if death is the quickest way, bring it on. But there’s his blunder, because there’s not a man alive with arms long enough to shoot himself with a blunderbuss. Be a shame to waste it, though.
You take aim, squinting against the whip of sand in your eyes. His eyes go wide, then he’s lowering the row boat off the side, thinking to escape. Too late. Your shot strikes his gunpowder store and all goes up. All except the row boat bobbing towards you on the incoming tide.