Tag Archive | Nicola Liu

Fire&Ice Sol 13/19: WINNERS

§ 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!!!

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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 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.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

“A Grand Idea With a Pungent Lesson” by A.J. Walker

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!

High Hopes by Helen Laycock

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.

RUNNER UP

DRAGON NOTE: Due to a mixup, we happily have two runners up this week!

Untitled”  by Michael Seese

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.

Untitled” by Matt Krizan

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

NICOLA LIU!!!

for

Untitled

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:

UNTITLED

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.

Were.

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.

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 6/19: WINNERS

§ Foy says: Mondays are one of our favorite days here at Fire&Ice. It means a new, shimmering Sol 7 winner’s crown to forge for you, and the bestowing of Sol 6’s, with all the feasting and hymns and resplendence in your honor! In our most recent Flash! Future follow up, we shared an interview on trauma and empowerment with the immortal Toni Morrison, and in it she speaks to how she honors her characters by revealing them as they are: “complicated, interesting, mysterious people,” not larger than life, but rather as large as life itself. This is how I see our little community; each of us brings our own beauty, our own complexity. For enriching our lives with your words and presence, we thank 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. ♥ 


SOL 6’S JUDGES SAY:

Betsy Streeter: Boy oh boy do the writers have things on your minds this week! This felt like a bit of a therapy session. And the vividness of the various “commutes,” after months and months of lockdown — it’s such a strange double life we lead now, memory plus current state plus hope to regain what’s in the memory… all at once. Seems like the prompt being a train, something we maybe can’t/don’t access – or if we do it feels like a gauntlet – really set off some things.

As a cartoonist, I’m on this endless quest for the lyrical line and the turn of phrase, and I so admire the various ways little worlds shine through with each story. I especially enjoyed Mark A. King‘s “The Driver/The Loop” and its hopeful phrase, “with every loop, there is a chance of a new beginning.” Like Nicola Liu in Untitled,” I too have wondered if goo on the floor of the train is some form of life making First Contact. MJ Bush‘s “Bea Yourself” was a great portrayal of being on public transit with a kid. Dr Magoo‘s [Note: Eric Martell!] “Riding the Red Line Into Heaven” just opens right up at the end in such a lovely way. Pippa Phillips‘ “Root and Thread” went a WHOLE other place with the prompt, which I always admire. And Phil Coltrane‘s “To Get To The Other” is a terrific example of world-building through narration, with “So glad they don’t have six legs like me.”

Karl A. Russell: So, my first pan-global judging session brought a wealth of wonderful short pieces. It’s great to see so many of you returning every week, and I’m pretty sure that I recognised some of your distinctive voices coming through loud and clear. That feeling of recognition – of being amongst friends – is one of the finest things about the return of Flash! Friday and it’s one more reason why I’ll keep coming back for these few precious weeks. Once these comments have winged their way to our fabulous hosts, I’ll be heading over to see if my suspicions were correct…

But first, we have some winners for you. It was very pleasing (and a huge relief!) to find that Betsy came to the same conclusions as I did, but there were so many great stories along the way that I have to mention. I loved the bleak despair of Chris Milam‘s “Goodbye,” the rhythmic language of Becky Spence‘s”Beneath” and the startlingly surreal lobster of Voima Oy‘s “Rush Hour Afternoon.” The visual playfulness of Mark A. King‘s “The Driver | The Loop” was another stand out, and the cynicism of Allison Garcia‘s “Essential?” cut so close to home right now.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

First Visit by Tinman

BS: Perhaps because I’ve recently gone through this process with the loss of a lifelong family friend, whose presence just keeps popping in and out of my consciousness, this writer’s description of that strange, disorienting, in-between place of grieving really struck me. Well done.

KR: A meditation on loss and finding yourself newly alone, with the absence of dad’s dad-jokes keenly felt and cleanly detailed.

RUNNER UP

Untitled  by Helen Laycock

BS: I loved seeing all the ways writers played with point of view with this prompt, and this one felt uniquely special. So much character and story contained within, and the ending is just sublime and heart-level.

KR: Taking the low-level photo prompt and staying there, this story gave us a shoe’s-eye view of the daily commute. Some fun, well-written observations (and a lovely soul/sole pun) helped this one reach the podium, and those final lines sealed the deal. Sad and stunning.

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

FIRE&ICE WINNER

PEG STUEBER!!!

for

Untitled

(“Our lives, are measured, in clicks”)

BS – I found this one compelling right away. First, the use of the social media language as this “world” everyone is inhabiting, together yet alone – the use of “click” and “fwoop” and even “/endrant” which took the language one step further into the Reddit/radicalization space. Using so few words to sketch all these realities, again right next to each other yet isolated, and then the lurch into the dark and deadly side of this out-of-control technology – so timely, and also multi-dimensional. Really great.

KR — This stood out from my very first read through. The snapshots of different worlds, all the lives about to come to a crashing halt, made it feel so much bigger than the 93 word count, and despite the brevity, each of those lives felt distinct and real. The prompt was cleverly integrated, and the repeated “click….click…” mirrored the motion of the train and gave the writer an easy way to hit the word count without massive rewrites. Best of all, that sudden lurch into a very real horror at the end reminds you that you never know what your fellow commuters are going through… 

Congratulations, Peg! Here’s your winning story:

UNTITLED

Our lives, are measured, in clicks.

ClickClick…clack. ClickClick…clack. Staccato heartbeat of the train.

Click…click…click…click. “What’s for dinner?” “IDK, Mexican?” “Thumbs up emoji.”

Click. ClickClickClick. Click…fwoop…click. “I swear, these PEOPLE.”

Snap. Fwoop. Click..clickClick……click..click..click. Fwoop. “Found this cute rubber duck on the train. r/hiddenducks #awesome #HideandSeek”

ClickClickClick. Click. Click. Loud sniff. Click. “OMG, I can’t believe…with HER???” “How?” “You bastard, it’s OVER!”

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. ClickClick…clack. ClickClick…clack. Click. “As our needs have not been met, and our voices go unheard, perhaps now they will listen. This blood is on your hands, President.”

BOOM.

/endrant