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Fire&Ice Sol 9/19: WINNERS

§ Rebekah says: Welcome to an extremely soggy and puddle-splashed Results Day! -A couple years ago I moved out here to the (in)famously damp Pacific Coast of the US. When I woke to day after sunny day, people assured me it was just an odd year, that normally it rains so much, and I would see soon enough. But as my garden shriveled, my grandmother finally (mercifully!) explained the only place it’s actually rained as much as people say, is in their fond memories of a time that never was. 

She’s no doubt right, as she is about most things.

All the same, I’m quite grateful for this weekend’s deluge, which sent my azalea sprouting pink buds in every direction. It’s made for the perfect weekend to settle on the sofa with coffee and ginger cookies, my brand new kitten (!), yesterday’s fantastic feature on Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and your stories. Delicious, all of it, and now a part of my own fond memories of a time that absolutely, quite certainly, very much was. You demand proof? Why, just ask our judges. ♥

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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 9’S JUDGES SAY:

Mark King: A big thanks to Steph: I genuinely worried after reading the stories that we would not find much common ground, but it was all very easy (as it normally is). Continued gratitude to Ice and Fire dragons for our inclusion as judges and for the magnificent return of this kingdom of flash.

The thought of this week was pure genius. Not only did it open the possibilities, but it allowed you to explore new ideas and experiment with genres. Some of these will work for you, some won’t. We only grow through trying new things, and this gave everyone a wonderful and magical opportunity to do that – what a gift! But I have to say, I was very frustrated not knowing how far you stretched yourselves, so I’m more curious than ever to read the names attached to the stories. [Dragon note: We hosts fill in the winners’ names for our judges.] Some quick shout-outs from me: Voima Oy‘s “Lost in the Stars” (lovely format and it seemed much more than the word count – which all good flash fiction should strive to be). And Brett Milam‘s “And the Vultures Wept” (for attention-grabbing opening) and Michael Seese‘s “I Laid” (for beautiful creativity,  buckets of charm and playfulness). Well done to everyone. The gauntlet was thrown, and you more than rose to meet the challenge.


Stephanie Ellis: Autumnal evenings of longer nights is the time of the storyteller and it was wonderful, as always, to read your tales. The image itself is magical and something I could simply gaze at forever. It’s one of those which speaks to the soul and there is a lot of soul this week. Knowing that you were having to write outside your comfort zone this week didn’t even register as I read the stories. Before we get to the placings, here are a few stories which didn’t quite make the podium but which caught my eye. Arvind Iyer‘s “The Initiation” is a nice step into surreal horror. The provision of lion costume and human flesh to help the watcher ‘become’ the killer the mysterious ‘they’ want her to be is a nice, stark touch. Nicola Liu‘s “Untitled” is something which is always needed. There is a world out there beyond the walls which house unacceptable and horrific violence. You just need reminding sometime and this in turn helps provide the courage to walk away. And last, but by no means least, I’d also like to give a shoutout to Karl Russell‘s “The Discovery.” I’m generally not a romance reader but this was nicely done and it gave LGBT the boost it needs at the Flash Friday table.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Guitar Hero by S.T. Hills

MK: Timely and clever. A lovely tribute to EVH. Song titles weaved in (which is fine, as titles can’t be copyrighted). “A final solo, a last chord. In the sky the milky way sparkled with twinkling stars.” Great lines.

SE: Guitar Hero had to be included. A touching tribute to the late, great Eddie Van Halen who sadly passed away this week. Lovely to think of Eddie playing air guitar amongst the stars.

Forgotten by TadK/GamerWriter

MK: There is a great feeling of loss to this tiny story. A lifetime lost in a single moment. It almost reminded me of the ending of Blade Runner, with all those moments lost in the rain, but this was the noise of a flatline. Also, the author hooked me with sabertoothed tigers, which are a spectacular image, and that paragraph linked us back to the prompt.

SE: Forgotten is pure tragedy. Regardless of having had anything, for anyone to die ‘unknown’ is a horrible thought. Everybody is somebody, they were known once. How easy it is to forget.

RUNNER UP

If These Rocks Would Talk  by Phil Coltrane

MK: This is the story of “the greatest crime”. An almost forgotten crime buried by history, media, and politics. But I found this to be sensitive and thoughtful, for the author used the paintings to tell the story, to come alive, much like they would have done when they were new, when books and TV and games didn’t tell stories, but people and paintings did, in the light of the dawn, in the glow of firelight, under the shimmering stars. Only this time, the paintings could act as witness, to people that were not ready to listen.

“You’ll carve your Presidents into us?” is, for me, the hardest hitting and most thought-provoking line this week.

SE: If These Rocks Would Talk is a powerful reminder of all the loss suffered by Native Americans. Written in a modern thriller style, set up as a crime scene, it makes its point quietly – and therefore more effectively – without lecturing. ‘If you’ll talk, I’ll listen,’ are words that should have been said so long ago.

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

TINMAN!!!

for

Mac and Beth

MK – OK, I’m totally geeking out. Brilliant choice of genre and even mixing of art forms. It is highly inventive. The personality of the characters shines through. The weaving in of Santa/Father Christmas was just brilliant. And if you look at the prompt picture, it does indeed, look like reindeers in motion, maybe even prancing through the sky. Highly creative, looking to the prompt for something similar but different, and an eye-catching way of delivering picture prompt and genre experimentation requirements.

SE — Mac and Beth is a brilliant Shakespearean pastiche. The humour shines out in this format with the Father Christmas themed soliloquy, to its inclusion of ‘ho ho ho’ to Beth being ‘alarumed’ is brilliant. Original, fun and oh, so clever. 

Congratulations, TINMAN! Here’s your winning story:

MAC AND BETH

Act 1 Scene 1

Tara. A field beside the hill.

Enter KING MACDARA [he draws upon the hill-face]. Enter BETH.

BETH: Father, what art thou at?

MACDARA: Art.

BETH: What art thine art?

MACDARA: Behold the fiery trail above.
This evening while I watched the sky
Between the stars a reindeer passed,
With snout of flame, that lit the way
For fellow deer behind his hind.
They pulled a sleigh of childhood gifts
Like dolls, and books, and shiny pence
And sweets the shape of walking-sticks.
The reindeer reins were reigned by one
With cloak of red and beard of snow –

BETH: Father, I fear that madness –

MACDARA: Now, dear, one does not interrupt the soliloquy.

BETH: Of course not. Forgive me.

MACDARA: – who waved and thrice did utter “ho”. [Dies].

BETH (alarumed): Dies? What do you mean, dies?

GHOST of MACDARA: Well, it’s not one of his comedies.

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…

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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 8’S JUDGES SAY:

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. 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

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).

RUNNER UP

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

MARIE MCKAY!!!

for

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:

THE DARK

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.