§ Rebekah says: Happy results day! Deb and I have been looking forward to this all Fire&Ice season: today we’re officially announcing open submissions for the final weeks of Flash! Future! So far we’ve featured global superstar writers like N.K. Jemisin, Ken Liu, Samit Basu, and (just yesterday!) Cherie Dimaline. Now it’s your turn!
See here for submission guidelines. The deadline’s November 20; in the guidelines you’ll find exactly what/where to submit. And then watch for your name in the last couple Flash! Future posts in December before Fire&Ice retires along with 2020. We can’t wait to introduce the community to you & your work!!!
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 13’S JUDGES SAY:
Sinéad O’Hart: It’s an honour to have been on the judging panel for the world’s second most important decision this weekend, and I think both the Sol 13 team and the people of America both did a stellar job in choosing their winner. (Congratulations to President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris!)
Luckily for Craig and me, there’s a bit more wiggle-room around choosing winners for Flash! Friday than there is about choosing the next occupant of the White House. As a Sol 13 judge, I get a chance to do shout-outs to some personal favourites which didn’t, for one reason or another, quite make the cut. It makes the choosing process a lot more fun – and it’s a wonderful opportunity to show my respect to the talent of the authors I’m asked to judge. I loved the themes this week – whales are a personal favourite of mine – and it made me smile to see stories which echoed themes close to my heart (Carin Marais‘ “Among the Stars Once More,” and Rab‘s “Safe Harbours“) and the poignant real-life story of a whale who sings a song inaudible to any others of his kind (Pippa Phillips‘ “A Language of One“). There were many stories of Hope (both whale and concept, I suspect) coming alive once more, and they each made a little light pop on in my soul.
My first personal mention, however, has to be the very first story, Bill Engleson‘s “Whaling, Wailing, Over the Bounding Main,” for its mention of my home county of Wexford – I can tell you exactly where the hell it is, because I was born and raised there! I’m sorry for the fate of the fictional whale, but at least it chose the finest corner of Ireland to die in. I also feel I must salute Rebecca Kinnarney‘s, “The Stranger and the Fork,” and Catherine Connolly‘s, “A Simple Truth,” for their use of the Irish language – it was a treat to see my own mother tongue in this week’s entries. Mo cheol sibh! I also really enjoyed TK‘s “The Quest.” It was sweet, and a good, fresh idea, but mostly I loved its clever use of language. The skittering pace matches that of the mouse across the floor, and something about its rhythm reminded me of an epic Old English/Germanic poem, which I thought was so clever when paired with the subject matter of the story. Brett Milam‘s “Pink Dreams” was so arresting that I read it over and over; it stopped me in my tracks with its unique beauty. And for me, Susan Stevenson‘s “Travel Log” was memorable. I really appreciated the aching realisation, or perhaps quiet declaration, in its last line, along with its characterisation and dialogue.
Craig Anderson: What an interesting weekend to be judging! While the world waited patiently for one announcement, Sinéad and I were busy devouring your delicious morsels of flash fiction to make the (most definitely just as) important decision as to who would be crowned flash champion.
The Natural History Museum was one of my favorite haunts back when I lived in London; I spent many a Saturday afternoon perusing the various exhibits. I remember how in awe I was the first time I saw the huge skeletons, they really have such an imposing presence. Hope was such a perfect theme, and I had a whale of a time reading all your takes on her antics.
My first shoutout has to go to Geoff LePard‘s “The Machine Starts.” I loved the vibe throughout this one, very Pratchett-esque, and the use of French phrases helped to mask the intent of the devious Pomeroy. Ooks all round! My second shoutout is quite the tonal shift from the first, the delightfully spooky “Bone Riders” by Phil Coltrane. I loved the atmosphere created in so few words, the clever use of Latin to sell the sheer age of the creatures and the occasional poetic flourish. Lines like ‘We do not bring death, we await it‘ do a wonderful job of creating empathy for these poor trapped souls.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Maggie Duncan‘s “Revenge of the Space Porpoises,” which was just the right amount of silly. This one reminded me of Douglas Adams (another one of my fav authors!) The interaction between Stine and Click-Click-Click-Screech was fun and playful, and the quick thinking at the end was hilarious.
SO: Sidney from Accrington captured my heart, and Craig’s. Such a character, created in a tiny space, and with such skill! I loved his attempt to set up his own museum, and the fragrant lesson he learns (and the final line and image made me grin a wide grin. Go, Sidney!).
CA: Sidney! I could almost feel the childhood enthusiasm in this one. My kids share that same sense of wonder every time they bring me a new bug or stick they found in the garden. I loved how lighthearted this one was, and there were several laughs along the way. Poor roadkill!
SO: In a week when many stories centred on the idea of the whale’s skeleton reanimating, this one stood out. Its powerful, beautiful, and controlled use of language, and its holographic twist, meant it was deserving of a special mention.
CA: This one did a great job of mixing the old with the new, the beautiful language (the ribs as silent harp strings, the door closing like a crashing wave) contrasts with the technology of the hologram and the great escape through the skylight. The last line is great too, revealing the cleverness of the title.
DRAGON NOTE: Due to a mixup, we happily have two runners up this week!
SO: This one made me laugh out loud! I was completely gripped by its characterisation, dialogue, and setting – and very much appreciating the nod to Jonah, which this story (along with Matt Krizan‘s “Untitled“) made clever use of – when the author completely turned everything on its tail in one simple image in the final line. Absolutely masterful control, and excellent characterisation, meant this one had to have a podium place.
CA: I love a story with a twist, but sticking the landing with so few words requires a real mastery. This story starts out so ominous, with a young boy terrified of the huge whale skeleton. The description of his fear is so good it is positively palpable, his heart racing, his hands sweating as the bones loom overhead. This pulled me in to the story and made me wonder just why this poor boy was so afraid. Then the final line twists the whole thing on its head, turning fear into laughter. That contrast makes it all the funnier, and made me want to read it all over again. Fantastic stuff!
And now: it is our pleasure to present to you our
SO – This story made me stop, and blink, and re-read, and re-read once more. It was so well executed that it played like a short movie in my mind as I read; I could see the image of JieJie beneath the mouth of Hope, and I could see her grieving cousin looking at her photo from afar, and I could hear the characters’ voices in my head. Such an achievement, from a piece of flash fiction. This was my winner because not only is it an emotionally impactful story, it’s also a completely fresh concept, and its use of the prompts was unparalleled, particularly the language component. This story really made the language prompt a central prop to its action, characterisation, and conflict, and its use was so clever that it left me open-mouthed with admiration. A wonderful piece, and a more than worthy winner.
CA — A great story should leave you wanting to know more, about the characters, the setting and the circumstances that led to the events depicted. This flash does all of that in spades. It demands multiple readings to fully appreciate the layers on display. With my first read I was as lost as the MC, pulled along by the story, but only faintly grasping what was happening. I was reliant on the MC for the translation of the Hanzi symbols, which left me as confused as our narrator, until the reveal of clever wordplay. We learn what has happened right at the same time, and are left with the same feeling of helplessness. I found myself thinking ‘I feel like I am missing something. If only I could understand these symbols…’ which then turned out to be the exact theme of the story. It is such an interesting inversion of the usual rule of ‘show don’t tell’, where the narrator tells us they are not as bright, or smart as their cousin, only to show us the consequences of this with the missed opportunity to save her. To do all of that in 159 words is pure 厨师吻.
Congratulations, NICOLA! Here’s your winning story:
Two days ago, Jiejie’s last message: “大吃一鲸！” She’s under a suspended whale skeleton, mouth open, the perspective forced so she looks like she is, as she says, eating a whale.
She looks so happy.
Jiejie and I: cousins, opposites. She studied abroad; I stayed home. She was BSci, MSci, nearing PhD. I failed Gaokao. (Twice.) Our family called her 好孩子, a good kid; I was 还好, with a painful grin, if anyone dared ask.
But we were close.
Ma told me. “她跳楼.” — “She jumped out a window.”
I should grieve. Can’t. Too angry.
Why didn’t you talk to me, Jiejie? Weren’t we close? Why didn’t you say something?
Now I look again. “大吃一鲸！” A pun, the characters sounding like “I’ve had a shock”. She’s captioned the photo “自然” – Nature.
And I see.
It’s another pun. 孜然 – Call me.
I search for that dead whale. It’s called Hope.
Oh, Jiejie, Jiejie. You always thought far too much of me.