This is topic 'Cinders of the Great War' trigger contest in forum Writing Challenges at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
This thread is for the 13 line entries. Please do not post here. If you do not know what this is a about try here.

Feel free to post any questions or comments in that thread. Plenty of time if you want to join in this contest.


Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 1 Cinders

The women were dressed the same as the men. Their heads shaven by a sharp knife as my God blessed their sacrifice. They wore the same armor as the men, thick sheets of copper strapped with linen around their chest, a hip bone from the giant bryum worn as a helmet. They mocked us in the copy of our armor. They wore the loincloth and gold paint to protect their legs and arms, same as the men. I knew the god paint would not protect them, but the Hapil still had faith. Our foes still believed our religion even when we had lost it.
The women... The women who faced me. The women I killed. They knew we would kill them. They knew their side would lose, but it was redemption they sought, not victory. The Hapil knew no victory was possible, not in this life. Yet still they came. Yet


1) If you have that much killing in a story, you need to have some sense of reason for it. This seemed to make a half-hearted attempt at a statement on the nature of belief, but that statement was neither original, resonant or very interesting. It even felt incomplete. The standard of the wording and the timbre of the voice were quite good, and it was a reasonable attempt at world building. However, the story was too simplistic and unengaging for my taste, and the twist at the end, where he stayed at the ruined temple, seemed entirely out of character.

2) I thought the premise was interesting, but to have two groups of people live so close together and one use copper and the other iron/steel didn't work for me. The issue of the Gods were confusing to your MC and it seemed the MC's thoughts flitted and flopped all over the place. The God wasn't a God, then she was a God, but not really, but in the end she was. The very end when he lets himself die with her body, I thought didn't work for me. This story has promise, but in a rewrite, IMHO, the MC needs to be a bit more grounded.

3) I particularly liked the idea of someone in a bronze age culture coming to terms with the mortality of a cultural deity here. But while I felt this story had promise, I felt a few things let it down. At a copy editing level there seemed to be more than a couple of typos, which became distracting and made it hard to read (I realise we haven't been able to workshop our stories for this challenge, and I took that into account). At a plot level, I wasn't sure how well the backstory, framed by entering and then finishing the battle, worked for me. I found myself wondering if the backstory is more interesting and therefore should be presented in a more immediate fashion. I liked the ending at some level, as I felt that what you were trying to do was show that the narrator, despite having confronted the mutability of his religion, is nevertheless intimately tied to it.

4) This story is a very brief glimpse into an odd world. It left me with more questions than answers, which may have been the desired effect by the author. However, I found myself unsatisfied by this. There was more I wanted to know about the world. Why were the Hapil so helpless? Why were the Namo so protective of them? What defined a person as a God amongst his peers? The entire conflict seemed unnecessary to an uneducated reader. If the Hapil goddess was false to match the Namian god, why was there a war?
The storytelling style itself is slightly fragmented, seemingly following chain of thought. However, it felt jarring to read. A smoother “voice” as a narrator would have been appreciated. While it certainly sends the feeling that the main character is hurried, stressed, and weary, it sometimes required an extra reading to ensure the meaning was captured by the reader.
Overall, decent enough story that needs some extra polish. The ending could have been stronger, but the conflict... while confusing... was elaborated fairly well.

5) Personal opinion, but 100% narrative with no dialogue made this a tough one for me. It was like reading an General's journal. Technically it was well written. It was about a war, so generically it could have been about the trigger but would have preferred a more direct tie-in for contest purposes.

6) I’m not sure where we are, physically, at the beginning of the story. I am intrigued more than put off by it. It feels like we are wandering around a good story, but I can’t find the relevance to the narration. There are quiet a few grammatical concerns to be addressed such as an overuse of commas and thoughts broken into several short sentences. The overall read was real good. I enjoyed it very much.

7) There’s a story here. It could be a riveting story, but the flashback distances the reader and dulls the emotional impact the story might have had. I want to know what’s in the narrator’s head, not the bare facts.
The narrator’s god seems to be somewhat fluid, too. First he worships the god who turns out to be only a man, then he worships the god’s wife, who he knows is a gold digger. I’d like a little more milieu to round this out. Why does this guy keep choosing mere mortals to worship as gods? Once, I suppose, he could be fooled. But he KNEW the woman was only a common mortal.

8) I was a bit confused by this. At first I thought the narrator was Namo, and that all men were Namo while all women were Hapil. Then at the end of the story he mentions Hapil men and women. After that he chooses to live (die) in Hapil, which I took to mean he was a Hapil. Also I found the repetition at the beginning a little boring. Since these are all very short stories (at 2K) I think you could have tightened that up a bit and put those words to better use.

9) The first 13 didn’t really hook me, too much time spent describing the women copying the men. Are the women the Hapil, the enemies the narrator is fighting? Not clear at first.

The tie in to the trigger was a bit of a stretch, I guess it was about a great war between the Hapil and the Namo. I was left confused about who was fighting who and for what reason. It also feels like someone telling a story, and there is no dialogue to give it any immediacy. I think it needs to get fleshed out some more, dialogue added, and more characterization. The bones of a workable story are there.

10) I am not sure what to think of this. The writing is strong but the recounting of events by the narrator felt impersonal and distant. This had the feeling of a culture clash between two mismatched civilizations. Much like how the Spanish may have felt destroying the Aztecs and Incas.

11) I like the plot and parts of it did draw me in but there was one big flaw that kept me from truly enjoying the story. Most of the story is a flashback, I could even say the entire story was one big flashback. It starts with the soldier thinking about the women soldier and ends with him staying in Hapil. If I were you I’d start the story at it’s real beginning, when the God makes that woman his queen, or perhaps just before the main character discovers she’s a fake. I think that’s the real beginning. I think the story could be very moving and good if we could be taken through the main character’s journey of love, betrayal and shattered belief, instead of being told it secondhand like a bit of back story. I think you have a good story here and perhaps the 2000 word limit hampered the story or perhaps the story is a bit big for 2000 words.

12) Overall I liked the piece but I feel it can be improved. It's an exposition (some would say exposition dumping – but with 2k words there isn't much room to play.) It feels like a monologue or a movie voice over. So, some might complain of "having more telling than showing."

However, I felt no attachment to the plight of the MC's loss of faith or the horror of his mass killing. (Maybe I'm jaded.) Of course, the theme of killing one's God is an "oldie but a goodie" so that wasn't the most interesting part for me. To me, it's the Hapil and their fate, that were interesting – how did their culture develop? So I would say this piece would work best in aiding the plot of a larger story – a history of a bygone people through the eyes of legendary figure in that world - which happens to be an important clue to further the main story.

13) I liked the idea of the story, but because of the distant feeling pov to me, I had a hard time feeling what I should have. He is dying for his god/woman he loves, but I don’t feel sadness for him. The writing read almost like a dream to me it was so distant. This could just be me. I tend to like a more direct pov, and have it played out as a scene before me. An interesting side note, without any dialogue, it read like as if I were watching a silent movie. There is a good story here though.

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited January 17, 2010).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 2 The Last Grikon

Fitzhew stirred the ground at his feet with the toe of his boot. A small lump rose to the top of the powdery ash that made up the topsoil in this blasted plain—supposedly burned to cinders by Grikon magic. He ground the lump, taking pleasure from the crunching sound and gritty feel. He gasped as his boot had pulverized a piece of bone leaving tiny pool of white dust.
His client promised to pay a great deal of money for the lost magic that created the dusty swirls of dead earth and grit that danced on the wind. A woman named Martibank supposedly knew about the Grikon magics that caused the plain of cinders. Fitzhew searched for her among the shattered villages and disheveled towns on the god-forsaken planet of Chrikorna.
Nine nights later, he trudged through the damp evening air and


1) In the opening he took pleasure and he gasped in shock in back to back sentences.
‘Fitzhew searched for her among the shattered…’
Sounds like he is doing this now, which confuses the tense of the next statement; ‘Nine nights later’. Martibanks description is awkward, and depends upon the reader having the same predetermined idea that her hair fits her garb. The concept totally rocks and the story is very interesting. The fight scene felt contrived to show her ability to heal, something you could handle with a sentence or two of dialogue.

2) For contest purposed I liked the obvious tie-in of the Plain of Cinders to the trigger. Dialogue was interesting and helped put me in the fantasy setting. I know in the bar scene they were drinking but the story could have probably used a few less "took a drink" beats.

3) Interesting concepts presented here. This story covers a lot of ground in a very short time. I noticed a shift in the main character's personality part-way through. The opening scene had me believing he was a mercenary-type character looking to line his own pockets. He explicitly mentioned his willingness to part with far greater amounts than asked for (the 10 pound reward) in order to get what he wants. Yet, towards the end, the main character suggests using magics for healing. The sudden deviation in character seemed forced. What is his motivation? What is his ultimate goal? It was hard to understand what this character was truly about.
However, Sara's character seemed a lot more believable. She seemed truly lost, and the main character's revelation seemed to offer her something no one else had – a purpose.
Unfortunately, the story suffers from a lack of a real ending. There is no real climax, no hill the author has taken us over. Sara has a revelation, and then the story ends without any actual task having been completed. The story is never completed. It simply ends.
The writer's style was fairly clean. There were a few notable grammar exceptions, but nothing another round of editing wouldn't fix. It was easy to read and fairly descriptive, with some very nice vivid imagery to keep the imagination occupied. More than once I was reminded of Final Fantasy, though that may be because of the spiked hair.

4) The Last Grikon had a little bit of a sci/fi-fantasy wild west ambience going on here that I quite enjoyed. Unfortunately a few things stopped me really connecting with this story. Although there were a few typos and copy editing issues which interrupted the flow and which a reread should hopefully catch, probably my main issues were with the reality of Martibank's exile. For example, everyone in the bar doesn't like her and based on the later encounter in the grocery store they could well be expected to attack her on sight - but they don't. Nor do they follow her and Fitzhew. Why exactly she decides to talk to Fitzhew is also unclear. Why Fitzhew has to ask her about why she's disliked - when she has a global reputation which should have explained that to him already - is also confusing. And lastly, having her walk out, revealing her location to him, implying a trust that I didn't see him earn, was also a bit of a problem for me. The story's ending I also felt fell a little flat; I couldn't work out why Fitzhew thinks a good deed or two will be hard work for Martibank.

5) This took a bit to get into – I wonder if you started in the wrong place? Also, I thought that this was straight fantasy and didn’t realise it was space fantasy until half way through. That required a reorientation about the nature of the story, and that threw me a bit. Also, you spent a lot of words describing a character (the barmaid) that added little to the story. However, the line about the barmaid’s greed suddenly drew me in – that pegs that character really well, and was possibly all you needed. From there I found the story to be quite satisfying, and some quirky humor to boot (bring that humor in much earlier, it is a hook in itself). We need to know more about why Martibank was so hated (the magic is not enough, we need to know how she uses it to cause an issue), and perhaps she needs to test Fitzhew before trusting him. However, the resolution of her dilemma, and Fitzhew’s entrepreneurial redirection seem quite believable. This could even be the beginning of a number of adventures together.

6) I like this one. Only two things bother me.
I’d really like to have a better idea WHY everyone hates Martibank so much. She doesn’t seem to do anything to cause it.
Fitzhew seems just a little trusting when he wakes up in Martibank’s hideout. Does he check to see if his weapon is still there? Does he hesitate before he drinks his ale, waiting for her to drink, so he knows it’s not drugged or poisoned. It just felt slightly out of character, given what he knows at that point.

7) I don't understand why you are starting where you are. You have him kick at cinders, and then a bit of back story, and then say nine days later... You probably should just start nine days later, and give us the information a bit slier. “phaser beams set to kill” Spl?, and when in this barmaid historic setting did they invent ray guns? “old Earth western vid made a couple of millennia ago.” Okay, now I get it. This is in the future. I think with the words villages, and barmaid, and magic I put it in the standard fantasy no technology time period. I think a few descriptions of glass or steel, or off world something, or spaceships right at the start would help. The ending satisfied, and I thought the Grikon magic was interesting.

8) The first 13 tells me what the story is going to be about, Fitzhew searching for the lost magic that created the blasted plain. But it doesn’t give me a reason to care. Is this blasted plain different from what was there before, is it a horrific sight because of all the dead that have been killed, or is this magic supposed to be a good thing? Without a reason, I’m not convinced to read on.

The story got better for me after the first 13, pretty clean, excellent action and dialogue. Some witty nuggets that stood out. I am left wondering at Fitzhew’s motivation, and things happened a little too easily for him. Wish it could be longer, flesh out the character and motivation more.

9) The first two paragraphs could be cut; while well written I think they are before the start of the story. It would be easy to mention why he is searching for the woman when he talks to the bar maid, or before he steps inside the bar. Everything was decently written, but I found myself disliking Abner. He is trying to find a terrible magical weapon just for money. He’s rude to women. He’s sloppy (as evidenced by the beer mustache and wiping it on his sleeve.) Then suddenly at the end he uses tranquilizing darts instead of bullets and wants to start a medical clinic and help people. It was a weird transition. I’m not clear on why Martibank decides to heal him after the grocery store fight, or why they get in that fight in the first place.

10) A mixture of fantasy and sci-fi. The relationship between Martibank and Fitshew started to work but became unconvincing to me. I felt this needed tightening. The prose a bit overwritten.

11) I thought this one was pretty good. I liked the story and was drawn into it for most of the time. The beginning was a little confusing for me. At first I thought he was looking for cinders and then I thought he found one and was going to turn it in to Martibank for a reward. Then I thought it got pretty good in the middle when he meets Martibank, I like the visuals with the hair and her description. Their interaction was good, though I think you could have been clearer that he was drugged, maybe give us some clues by how his body feels different. I wasn’t sure for a while why he was lurching and thinking odd things and I was wondering if he was drunk from the one beer.
I was also wondering why they use primitive technology like knives when they can travel to other planets. Then I thought it was surprising that Martibank wouldn’t have thought to try and heal others or set a healing clinic herself.
The ending seemed very abrupt like it could have to be continued… at the end. I enjoyed the story and I like the characters. I find Martibank especially interesting and I was disappointed to still know so little about her by the end. She kind of stole the show.

12) It's an interesting story, but I think it gets lost in this piece somehow. I can sense that this is supposed to be a slightly comic, cheeky kind of story, but it feels like a cult B movie where the dialogue doesn't feel right, the characters emotions and reactions doesn't match with the story's mood, and some of the character's (re)actions seem to be illogical. Bottom line: it all seems to be forced-fitted together. I feel this type of story depends almost exclusively on the charisma and chemistry of it's characters – a real difficulty to pull it off in only 2k words – which, in this version, needs to be reworked.

Lastly, there didn't seem to be a climax to the story (word limit constraints?), and the ending (health clinic!?) just came out of the blue – I simply was left with a “huh?” feeling. I think the piece has potential, but needs to be reworked.

13)My main concern with this story was pov, I felt it could have and should have gone deeper. It was a near miss, I could feel the beginnings of emotion there, but when it could have been driven home it was pulled back a little because of the though, saw, felt which pulled me back, removing me from the writing.
As far as the story, I liked the idea. At first I thought the story should have ended with her sending him away saying the magic was dead, and I still feel that it should have in this short of a format. I feel the twist of the clinic was great, but popped out of nowhere didn’t get where it came from, or I missed it. It could have been foreshadowed in the beginning and throughout the story by having him thinking of the perils of war and such.

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited January 17, 2010).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 3 Senders of the Great Wars

Snappers note: The underlines in the opening are my fault. The author put them in there to let me know what his 13 lines were. They were not meant to be shown as italcised text.
I hope this error did not effect your decision.

Shaun wiped his arm across his forehead, his shirt sleeve absorbing most of the sweat. The sun was at its high point and the rich green foliage lining the canyon riverbed was thriving in its warmth as the night’s showers and morning dew continued soaking down to their roots. He topped off his water pack at the river's edge and, after a drink of the cool water, resumed his trek. He smiled, remembering that years before, this entire tropical region had been part of a desert country known as Pakistan.

He glanced at his watch. It had been nearly six hours since he left civilization behind him and the deeper his legs carried him through the canyons, the faster his mind navigated away from the troubling news of the ongoing Great War; thoughts of the


1) This was frustrating. Frustrating because it was so beautiful, your style, choice of language, sentence structure. It has timbre that just wafted though the scenery, bringing it to life. But the characterisation and the information that you chose to divulge felt inconsistent, sometimes jumping too quickly to a new element that you wanted to express, sometimes clunky. For example, “her beauty far surpassed that of the typical archaeologist” seems out of place, and “the world's oil supplies having long since been exhausted” is irrelevant for Pakistan, as it doesn’t have any significant quantities of oil. The idea was an interesting twist on a cliché storyline (ones that end with a new Adam and Eve, even foreshadowing this with her name), but this is one of the rare times that the strength of the cliché might be overlooked to the story’s favor. However, for the ending to work, more emphasis should be made in establishing the reasons behind the war, and particularly its timing to coincide with the Shaun and Eva’s selection to be saved.

2) I thought Senders of the Great War was a bit of fun. I particularly enjoyed the imagery, though one or two sentences might have felt a little ungainly with respect to the overall voice. I wasn't sure if the insect was relevant to the plot - it seemed like it was checkov's gun, but it wasn't used - nor mentioned again, so it didn't really seem a red herring. I didn't get bothered with any telling apart from the 'respectful bow' - I found it hard to imagine a saber tooth tiger respectfully bowing, and would have rather seen the bow described and concluded the respectful nature of it myself. I felt the plot complication of the cavern shaking and the new tunnel opening seemed contrived, because there was no real sense of urgency that the bombs were going to fall *right now*. The ending I felt was being interpreted for me, rather than me being able to see it for myself - Shaun realises a bunch of stuff and I felt that I should have been able to figure it out for myself.

3) I didn't see how the title worked. I liked most of this until the end and then all of a sudden the Shaun is in some kind of Garden of Eden. I think there needs to be a foreshadowing or a better transition. Perhaps a bit of a trek on the other side. Arrival at the new land was a bit abrupt or a dying dream or something that needs some explaining. Certainly doable in a rewrite.

4) This was a good story afflicted by a rough ending. The world seemed curious, as though rapidly spiraling toward oblivion. I was hooked by the story the entire way until the 'drowning'. I could not fathom any kind of drowning that would be peaceful or serene, and the author's attempt to convince me of that fell flat. I've bopped my head beneath the water and been groggy before. To say I was serene as I choked on water and my lungs felt ready to explode is far from the truth.
Moving on... I assume that Eva's presence in the paradise world/vision at the end was significant in that she died as well. The atheism versus religious mindset war playing out at the end seemed hurried. The scenery shift was so sudden that it was jarring. My thought as a reader was that a different story was cut/pasted in, with little relation to the former with the exceptions of names. The end did not feel like it belonged. I'm not exactly certain what the author wanted me to take from this story.
The author's style, however, was very well-formed. There were a few rare occasions were the sentences rambled on for a bit too long, but it was not bothersome. His sense of description was adequate and his characterization was well-handled despite the short introduction per character. The story needed dialogue, however. It's the show-versus-tell argument all over again. I'd like to have heard the characters speaking and relating to one another.

5) Very interesting story, but I am left without anything substantial, only vague ideas. Overall it was well written, with very few places I felt needed work; only a couple of ‘tense’ wrinkles, etc. There is an obvious belief conflict between Shaun and Eva and it seemed like the story was going to resolve this to some degree, but I did not get the resolution clearly.

6) It bothered me that Shaun seemed to forget all about Eva until they arrived at the cave. Shouldn’t he be thinking “they” instead of “he”? And if she’s a seasoned archaeologist, would she really scream because she got bitten by an insect. That kind of goes with the territory, doesn’t it?
It’s a nit, but I’m not sure why the first paragraph and a half are in italics. They’re not Shaun’s thoughts. Shaun’s thoughts aren’t in italics in the rest of the story anyway.
The mysterious, miraculous blue light doesn’t seem to be grounded in anything in the story. Nothing presages it.
The talking (or psychic) saber-tooths were just a little much for me.

7) My first read through of this, I skimmed it. It seemed heavy worded, and too full of information. I didn't even read the ending which is a shame, because that was the best part for me. On the second read, when I made myself just sit and read, I found a lot more in it to like. This story is so full of hope, which I love since it is about the destruction of earth. Shaun seems a bit too clinical and detatched for my taste. I would like to see a bit more purpose and need in his discoveries. I would like to see the proof of his relationship with Eva, instead of being told about his arousal and rememberings. It seemed strange without any dialogue. The words, though, were beautiful, and I did like the story a lot.

8) The prose was clean and very engaging. However the character of Shawn, while not repulsive, was tough to get into. His attitudes and characteristics came across very well, but not his motivation. I guess what I’m trying to say is I couldn’t tell what the story was about until mid-way through.

9) This first 13 got my vote, because of the line that the tropical region was once Pakistan. I’m wondering what the great war is and why is Pakistan tropical now? I’m also wondering what the ‘Senders of the Great Wars’ are. I’m hooked to read on and find out why. (Surprisingly, I liked snapper’s mistaken italics and assumed even more significance to this first 13 because of them)

The rest of the story goes in a different direction. It’s a beautifully described future world, but I’m not sure what it has to do with Shaun’s journey. I’m wondering what Shaun’s motivation is, other than to continue his work. I’m surprised that he had to be reminded that he was not alone, that Eva was behind him. I’m not sure Pakistan is oil producing. I’m confused how he went from drowning to a bed of pine needles, and how he automatically knew that it was a refuge for extinct creatures. The contrast behind Eva’s belief and Shaun’s atheism seems to be the meat of the story, and fleshing that out between them could make it stronger, and some dialogue couldn’t hurt.

10) This started to look like it was going to be something grand then fizzled. I think dialog and some added tension is needed to make this work. Too much of the story was wasted on backstory, in my opinion.

The prose could go for a bit of brevity. Phrases such as…

‘Her mouth hung open in awe as she looked up at the natural arch of the cave entrance that spanned before them.’

…could be trimmed to…

Her mouth hung open as she gathered in the natural arch spanning the cave entrance.

I hope the writer will rework this and expand on it.

11) I thought the description in this story was very good. I could envision all the places and could really feel being there. The second sentence though was a bit wordy. The beginning was slow for me but it picked up once I learned they were exploring a cave and he started in the water. Then I enjoyed every second until the very end. The ending felt rushed and told and I just didn’t buy it. I would need at least some clue or precursor for a land of extinct animals and I know the cave shook but I would have liked something more as a clue that the world had ended. Also why were they chosen out of all mankind and who did the choosing? So I really enjoyed it but I was very disappointed by the ending.

12) This piece is beautifully written, and apart from a couple of word or phrase choices and the ending, it's a piece that works. There times it got a bit heavy for me on the science v religion thing. Also, I was very puzzled by the ending. I'm not sure what had happened. Had the man died and gone to heaven? Were they in an aquatic alien garden of Eden - or the real one? Some might criticize it for having an ending similar to something like the movies The Abyss mixed with Knowing, but who cares – it's an entertaining read.

13) Not completely sure what happened. It was like 90% of the story was about a man who lusted after a woman, get swept away into an underground river and die. But the last paragraph came out of nowhere for me. I may have missed it but I didn’t remember the mc even thinking about the fatality of mankind battling each other, and then bamn. Like many stories I have been reading of late, I am not feelng for the mc, he dies, he goes to heaven/or the equivalent and I should feel it. I would suggest working on that feeling and work into the story the fate of mankind before the ending, give us a little foreshadowing.

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited January 17, 2010).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 4 The Rekindled Flames of Hord

Magithias bent on one knee and inspected the discarded weapons and chain mail. It was as if the soldier decided to strip off his gear and abandoned his post for good. Magithias didn’t need a tracking spell to locate the disappearing border guard. He knew what happened to the soldier but wasn’t sure how.
“Well, wizard?”
Magithias peered up at the mounted Captain Hathers. His hands held firm to the reins of his stallion. The horse stomped and shifted as if aware of a danger his master had yet to perceive.
“Have orcs returned to the Daltons or do I have a squad of homesick lads?”
“And which way would your homesick lads head, Captain?” Magithias swept an arm over the landscape. To the south and west


1) “… the Captain Hathers.” Odd usage of the word ‘the’ here.
“Orcs are hardly that finesse,” this doesn’t make logical sense with the definition of finesse.
"There is only thirty of us…” There are only… tense tweekage!
This is a great concept, very well thought out. It feels like you wrote this in one sitting and then did not re-read it. The sentences don’t flow from one to the other, they seem to stand alone but in neat little rows. Overall this was good stuff, just needs a little TLC.

2) This was an entertaining story. It was extremely quick-paced, perhaps at the sacrifice of some characterization. The plot was fairly well developed, if a little abruptly ended. However, there is a clearly-defined beginning, middle, and end.
Perhaps one detraction from this story is the uncanny resemblance to Lord of the Rings. Several of the main characters seemed pulled directly from that book series. But the storyline did broach into fresh territory and provided a nice “clean” way of destroying a hostile species. I would have really liked to have seen more originality in the characters, however, but this was likely prevented by the hurried pace of storytelling the author employs. Overall this was a very good effort.

3) I liked this all the way to the end. The world building was good. The magical system appeared in full 'flame'. The concept of defeating the Dark Lord was novel. My only real criticism is the end came up empty for me. It was all tell and that flattened it out. I really think a recrafted end would match the rest of the tale. Good job.

4) I thought The Rekindled Flames of Hord was a fun little fantasy piece that managed to do a bit of decent world building and tell a story in very little space - nice work. A couple of the names caught me on the first read (Adveribia -> I read as Adverbia, Mines of Morhand -> very similar to Mines of Moria, sadly, and I wasn't sure how to pronounce Jy'tyr, or why his name was so different) but I wasn't too bothered there. Yet while I didn't have any major issues with the writing, I was a bit confused at a couple of plot issues. Such as concluding from a bent sword that a soldier had killed a cinder - I'd just assumed the animal-shaped rock was… an animal who had touched a cinder. I didn't understand how Magithias could research the old accounts from Kath, if he needed the font to talk to people. As for the ending, the Jester's Star feels a little deus-ex, it's pulled out of nowhere and it takes Magithias to explain the ending to the Hathers (and the reader) because - it seems - it can't be deduced from the story. As for the ending, I'm not sure if this is really the ending - is this all the Cinders there are in the world (which seems difficult to imagine if this little troup have annihilated the Hord territories) or are there more Cinders? Maybe it doesn't matter, but the ambiguity of the ending ("I believe") and lack of information I have to make my own conclusions leaves me feeling a little ambivalent about it, unfortunately.

5)This was a consistent story, and very nearly scored some of my votes. In a short space, you created and described an interesting problem, complicated it, and took it to a fascinating solution. One slight problem, for me, was that I kept reading the “Plains of Abveribia” as the “Plains of Adverbia”. (Ok, so that isn’t a big problem.) The defeat of the Cinders was a little too easy for Magithias, it perhaps needed to separate the means of their destruction from the method of luring them together. Otherwise, one wonders why the Dark Lord didn’t do something similar. However, the explanation of the backstory throughout, and particularly at the end, was very good.

6) Cinder tie in, but smiled at the additional 'Dalton' tie-in. Well played! Enjoyed the fantasy setting and nice balance of narrative and dialogue. I liked the LOTR 'type' setting, and of course anything LOTR related such as Dark Lords, Orcs, etc is another tie-in to KDW

7) Love the concept. I felt the milieu needed a little more to differentiate it from LoTR and RPG. (Orcs and wise old elves who were there centuries ago when the Dark Lord was overthrown and getting lost in the Mines of Morhand don’t feel that original to me.)
The main thing is that the climax needs to have more immediacy. It feels rushed through. And I still don’t know what happened to the Cinders. We’re told iron weapons to the heart can kill them. Then, somehow that’s not explained, they die trying to climb a cliff after a shiny ball. And I don’t know why.

8) I love the idea of the Cinders as a creature. I do feel that the story is too big for the word count. Don't give me wrong, you pulled it off, I just think that the second telling should have a bit more space between information. Slow the pace down. I love the spell, I really like the concept, and I even like the characters. It is in need of a bit of polish, but it definitely worked.

9) For the first 13, ‘he knew what happened to the soldier but wasn’t sure how’ seemed to be withholding information from the reader for the purpose of a hook, so I was left with not much to hook me. I was hooked a little, the first 13 did read very cleanly.

Very clean writing throughout. I felt like I was reading about a greatly detailed and imagined world, but not necessarily all the author’s own invention. Orcs, elves, a final battle, and the Dark Lord were just too much stock characters. I did really like the made up cinder creatures, those were original to me and I would have liked the story more if it concentrated only on the interaction between the humans and these cinders. I loved the scenes with the cinders attacking.

10) The world you’ve built was interesting and detailed. I was confused by a few things. Why didn’t Jy’tyr just tell Magithias how to defeat the Cinders (with swords, not the magical solution)? What exactly happened at the end, with the cliff? I couldn’t picture the scene or what happened after the star consumes the Cinders. If the star consumed all nearby magic and souls are magic, did it eat their souls too? Master Yurithas appeared very suddenly in the story; I would have liked to hear him mentioned/foreshadowed a little earlier. Overall, I found it very enjoyable.

11) This is one of my favorites. I was drawn into the story the whole time and enjoyed. I liked how the main character was smart and could quickly put things together. The action and pacing seemed just right and the only complaint is that the world seemed awfully similar to the Lord of The Rings though the main monster wasn’t in the Lord of the Rings so that countered it a bit. Good job, I liked this one.

12) The was a really good piece of straight up fantasy writing. The magic felt right, the characters felt real, the urgency and plot were both palpable and interesting, respectively. Most of the dialogue was spot on (a tweak here and there always helps). I love the analytical and research descriptions that show Magithias methods and also like the use of many scene breaks felt like the piece was longer. Some might say it's very standard fantasy, but I think after page 2 it comes into it's own, largely due to the fast plot and the relentless “Cinders”. The work, however, doesn't seem finished – in fact it feels like a first chapter. But I liked it enough that I'd have probably kept reading. (Awesome use of the trigger, btw)

13) Its hard to pull off a short story under 2,000 words with more than 1 pov. This came fairly close. My concern is the ending I felt that it was an explaination, which is a summary like, versus having the ending as a scene which would have made it more powerful. I think this story suffered from the word limit.

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited January 18, 2010).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :

Rell stood up and stretched his aching back. Weeding the fields was a slow, back-breaking, boring task. But, if they didn’t do it, the weeds would grow faster than the corn and choke out the harvest before it even started to grow. It didn’t help that his father kept up a running account of how things used to be, before the Great Mage War.
“Back before the War, we’d have had a mage spell the seeds before we planted. Then the corn would grow faster than the weeds and choke them out. Things was easier, then.”
Things might have been easier then, for all Rell knew. He’d been born after the War, so he really couldn’t say. He would certainly welcome any magic that made this chore easier or quicker. But there were no more mages. All dead in the War,


1) Obvious tie-in to trigger. I thought well written. Enjoyed the fantasy element.

2) This was a terrific idea story. I am more of a science fiction reader than fantasy, so I may have a naive and uneducated view, but this was a novel idea to me. The strength of this idea took it ahead of some slightly better written stories. There are three things that I would work on, though. First, the initial two paragraphs didn’t excite or create a strong hook. Second, you probably need to foreshadow the role of the blue mages in the battle a lot earlier, so that we don’t feel that the ending comes from left field. Perhaps some ancient knowledge/rumours about the cause of the Mage War would suffice. Third, the last paragraph didn’t work – an exhausted man would never know what was said while in the act of fainting.

3) I quite enjoyed the glowing, primary colours of Mage Cinders and the way they played against a mundane, agricultural world. I really don't have much to suggest with this one - there were a couple of readability nits, but they'll come out in the wash later, I'm sure. My main beef was perhaps with the late introduction of the blue mages, which appear in the story just in the nick of time; it would have been nicer to see that foreshadowed such as in the earlier exposition on the mage war. I also felt the ending seemed a little glib; what's more, I thought Rell, who might not want to see the days of being lorded over by mages return, might reject this closing offer and so leave us back where we started (which is an okay ending, it just seemed a little too empty for my tastes). All in all though a well written fantasy piece that manages to do some world building and story telling in a very concise story that doesn't feel over-trimmed.

4) This was interesting, but I felt it a bit too predictable as the cinder-fall played out. At least the boy lost some power. The tension build-up I thought was good and the horse/oxen set-up added a lot of angst to the story. The blue cinder was a bit too much of a deux es machina.

5)The overall tone and plot for this story felt extremely forced. The events were entirely too coincidental. I never managed to attain a suspension of disbelief while reading this work. Several events seemed misshapen during the course of the story: the father and son characters arguing as imminent death moves closer; ashen flakes presenting the primary antagonist; the convenient salvation of the main character. Events occurred with little rhyme or reason, making the story feel rushed or incomplete.
I'm reminded that, in storytelling, good things can never believably happen to main characters. There is no such thing as a happy coincidence for them. Bad coincidences, however...
Stylistically, the author should perhaps examine his patience in storytelling. There seemed to be an itemized series of events that needed to be told, and the story rushes from one to the next with little regard for the reader. As a reader, I felt no connection to the main characters before the ash storm attacked. There was no real resolution to the story either. The ending leaves the reader hanging with so many unanswered questions that the story is not fulfilling.

6) GOOD! Tidbits; “we’d have had a mage spell the seeds before we planted…” sounds a little like they’d have a ‘magespell’.
The word ‘seems/seemed’ showed up really a lot, suggest striking all of them.
Minor incongruence; the white cinders seeking flesh, but didn’t burn him en` masse. A little clarity here would go a long way. Good story!

7) This one was my favorite. Exactly the right amount of story to pace. I really liked Rell, and believed him and his impulses. The imagery was beautiful, and the story felt original to me, though squarely within the fantasy selling pool. This is how you write a story. Great job.

8) I loved everything about it.

9) First 13 didn’t really hook me. I’m wondering why the mages were all dead in the war, but not given a reason to care enough to read on and find out why.

The story flowed great. I loved the description, the concept of the mage storm sounded very unique to me. I like every color having a meaning, doing different things. I know that the introduction of the blue cinders just in time to save the main character is a no-no. Maybe the significance of the mages, a story about why they fought each other and what that meant for the people would work well at the beginning. The significance of the blue needs to be foreshadowed, possibly even in the first 13. Overall I loved the originality of this one.

10) Great story, needs a bit of work though. The action started to get clunky, I believe this may be because of the restricted word count. Add a thousand words and see what you have. I think this one is publishable.

11) I like this one, it’s a neat concept. The only problem for me was the story lost all tension once I learned the blue cinder made him all powerful, but overall I enjoyed it. I did find that the blue cinder came out of nowhere and it would help if there was some mention of it before.

12) An interesting idea, and like most, feels like the start of an epic fantasy – a first chapter. There are no obvious faults I can find, but it didn't seem to capture me as currently written. The last few pages were great; It's the setup that I feel needs to be reworked to make the payoff at the end more resonant. Not sure what to suggest: maybe a devastating mage storm attack very early in the piece to show the reader what our hero is in for? All in all, a great idea, with a sense of an epic adventure in it.

13) Easy read, and that was a good thing. Some of the dialogue read off, not quite correct for the circumstance, but it didn’t draw me out of the story. At first read the ending was solid, and still is, but after some thought seemed lacking little. My concern here is I don’t know why the storm, I may have missed it, but it seemed odd. The storm(dead Mages) just fly around and kill people until they found one that helped. I would think more than 1 person died in the past helping. So it seemed a little too easy. But still I liked the story

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited January 18, 2010).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 6 Cinders of Earth

I have traveled to every one of the hundred Earths except for First Earth. It was already burned to cinders before I was born. Father was born on First Earth and often tells me its stories while I help him pilot our trading ship, navigating between stars and hip hopping gravity wells. He always says it is important to remember our home, that we are products of our environment. He keeps a jar of Earthen cinders on the bridge deck as a reminder of our origin – that we are carbon based beings susceptible to instantaneous combustion.

The day we discovered the new planet I sat in my usual chair next to him going through my familiar routines. I was busy typing at my console running analysis routines while Father toggled between the various scanner feeds. We always made a few


1) Very cool story. There are so few positive stories anymore, this was a breath of fresh air. My only hiccup was that the miners were also marauders. Other than that it was greatness!

2) There's a message in this story somewhere. Near as I can tell, that message is “Mankind is in an endless struggle to destroy itself”. If there is more to this message, I did not get it. It was fairly-well elaborated, but as I read I was searching for a different context, something that lay beneath the surface of that message. Unfortunately I did not find it, if it is indeed there.
As far as style goes, the author's prose is fairly clean. The story needs to be edited a few more times, as some of the structures needed to be cleaned. The final argument between father and son was hurried, and as it provides the ultimate “finale” for the story, it was left rather bare. The author needed to spend a bit more time here, as this was the final flavor left to the reader. The ending came quickly, and there was little climax to mark its passing.

3) I think the bones of the story are there, but there didn't seem to be much action. They looked at the aliens. The aliens looked at them. The aliens gave them flowers, which turned black. The ex-earthlings gave them dirt that sprouted plants. The ex-earthlings decide to stay. (Don't they need to steal some women to make more humans?) I thought they jumped to too many conclusions. The red flowers might have wilted because they didn't have any water or nutrients form the planet. Perhaps the dirt accepted a floating seed from earth two. Anyway, I think it needs a bit more conflict to make the story work well. I liked the alien description. Reminded me of the villain in Monsters, Inc.

4) I thought Cinders of Earth was an interesting look at the idea of a post apocalyptic space faring humanity, particularly in its exploration of what 'home' means. There were a few minor editing nits, with phrases such as 'leafy green leaves', but overall I thought this read quite well. In the end however I felt there were a couple of issues. The first was that the characters switched roles all of a sudden. Derrick, who had hitherto been cautious, is suddenly the one taking action, and the change was very sharp - and occurred at the same time as his father suddenly becomes cautious. The second issue I had was that the ending seemed somehow a little glib, maybe too overstated. Besides the issues of what the air (and how would an analysis system really be able to detect something 'unidentifiable' I'm not sure) contains and how it might affect them over time, or why they won't/don't/haven't contacted their human friends, the ending just seemed too final. It's rather hard to really thrash it out in such a short critique however.

5) This was disappointing. The first thirteen was really strong, promising some deep themes about connections between the nature of home, the environment and humanity’s penchant for destruction – of self and others. As such, this got my vote for the first 13. What it delivered, however, fell far short of this theme, and perhaps fell victim of such lofty expectations. What was delivered was an average, although by no means poor, first contact story. First contact stories, due to the much ploughed ground of the theme, require something really innovative to work. Unfortunately, this had little conceptually that I haven’t seen before.

Stylistically it bugged me a little. Although a first person point of view can get away with some, there was too much narration for my liking. It felt a little like we were being spoon-fed information, some of which we had little idea why it was important except for the fact that the narrator emphasised it. Worse, some of that ended up being quite irrelevant (e.g. We hoped the animals of this planet were similar to those on First Earth.) Others begged unanswered questions about the protagonist (e.g. I could see intelligence in their gaze and I wondered what they thought. How could he read their gaze, particularly as we can’t read a lizard’s or even a dolphin’s gaze? How then did he know they were intelligent? Why didn’t he wonder whether he was fooling himself?) If you want to talk directly to the audience, make it either something amusing, something profound or, at the very least, thematic (like you did with I imagined other humans coming with their weapons to destroy these creatures and I felt sick). Don’t waste the potential for reader dislocation on details.

6) Nice opening. It is both well-written and a good hook. Fun read and liked the 'journey' but thought the last line, while a good ending and concept, sounded a little 'campy' as it was written. Good tie-in to the trigger.

7) An example of first person done well.
I realize you were hard up against the word count limit, but I still want to know WHY they asteroid miners ran wild and burned and killed people, even if they were just drunk on some alien liquor that made them crazy. This event just hanging there with no reason behind it feels off to me.
And the ending missed just a little because it seems to me that Derrick and his father are going to HAVE to do at least a little traveling and bring back a couple more people or the new First Earth isn’t going to last very long, at least for humans.

8) I liked this one from the first line. The ending though felt a bit too expected, for me. I would like to see more of a weight to his decision to leave the human race and start over. What is the reward for discovering a new planet? What is he giving up? How does he know the dinosaur like creatures aren't gonna eat him? I like the story, I would just like to see a bit more his choice, as opposed to just justification for him making the choice he did. I feel like the overall message of the story is that humans aren't worth saving which makes the story on satisfying, but that could be tweaked.

9) Overall I found it very enjoyable. There was a bit too much “telling” especially at the beginning. I know there had been a lot of discussion on how “show not tell” is not useful advice, but I can’t find another way to describe it at the moment. For me the story picked up quite a bit after they made first contact. Not to say the stuff that came before wasn’t important to the story, because it was. I think you slowed down and took more time to describe the scene, his emotions, etc after they met the aliens, which is why I enjoyed it more.

10) Good opening and an intriguing piece. While I did enjoy the descriptive narrative, the story lacked the sufficient dialog for it to work.

11) I liked the ending, it fit well. My biggest problem is the long middle flashback. It didn’t seem to add much and just brought me out of the story. The third half of the story was my favorite.

12) This was an okay piece. Didn't really capture me - not that there were any major flaws in the writing. It read very well, and had a nice flow to it. The tone was just right without being overbearing or preachy. Yet I wasn't carried away by it. Nothing really stood out and made me eager or curious. Also I think I've been jaded by similar themes before (so mine is a very subjective critique.) When the finish came, I felt indifferent when they finally found a home. But I feel a reader relatively new to the ideas will enjoy it.

13) I prefer my first 13’s to read like a scene not a summary, it tends to draw me in quicker. I liked the concept of the earths, and the hunt for their first earth. Was taken off guard by the butchering of his mother, seemed a little out of place. While I got the ending, it didn’t quite ring true for me. It seemed off to me that he would find a planet with no human life as his first home. I would think that even a less “green” planet with some humans would feel more like home.

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited January 18, 2010).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 7 Last Will and Testament

Beulah Cinder, Commander, Operation Red Coat; Continental Theatre Group.
Last Will and Testament, dated; 19DEC3109, Eoric Calendar.
I have come into these times as a result of my own decisions and claim full responsibility for the trouble I have seen, for the fate which will soon catch up with me. I was a good soldier, good enough to fulfill my duty to the utmost and remain alive.
History will hold the war; there is no need for me to explain it further. Suffice it to say that we fought like devils until we were ordered to retreat, then we ran. My evac-transport was destroyed on approach so we missed the retreat and stayed behind. As far as I know I am the last one alive of the fifty-three who were stranded with me.


Story Title: Last Will and Testament
1) Nice original concept. Was pleased that the entire story wasn't the narrative last will. Dialogue came in at a good time. Well written. Wasn't entirely hooked on the conflict though.

2) This story started out ok, lost its way as soon as it became backstory, and then redeemed itself somewhat in the final scene. Even for a final testament, a line such as I will digress and offer a brief historical rendering of myself is an offering to the reader to skip to the next story. However, I did like the (pseudo) altruism shown at the end by the dragon, and the ending, particularly the last three paragraphs, did have resonance.

3) By the end, I really wanted to like Last Will and Testament. I think it came as close to a touching ending as I've read so far, and the second scene with the marines seems to move along quite nicely. Unfortunately the exposition of the first scene / testament is a huge infodump that left me gasping for air. Hugely long names, a whole bunch of background that I thought I needed to try and piece together and claiming responsibility, in the opening for what she's seen, rather than done, left me a little confused. It would be nice to see the beginning - the testament - broken up into two or three scenes whereby the reader is shown Cinder's actions, rather than told about them, so that it becomes a little more engaging; the ending does seem worth keeping. I'd only suggest re-examining the last paragraph; if possible, just end it with some form of the first part of dialog there; at present it feels a little redundant.

4) This seemed overly contrived to me. I would have liked to learn more how the dragons pro-created with humans. I had a hard time with the names and the description of how the dragons got to earth was a bit more involved for such a short story. It seemed to me the story would be stronger if there were an episode or two about how Beulah interacted with the humans in a 'show' manner rather than telling. The ending where the Colonel understood (how did he learn to read 'dragon'?) what she did seemed a fitting move, but as you work with this, I suggest you give us some additional dialogue between Beulah and the survivors. It would raise the story to a higher level.

5) These names are unreadable. They are too long and too alien to be memorable or relevant to the reader.
The end meaning behind the story, near as I could tell, was unity amongst the gulf of differences. An alien dragon was able to relate to human survivors that she had attempted to obliterate only days before. That respect was returned. However, the story relates this in a soft manner. Too much was told and not shown. There was no real climax to the story. I would have liked to have a character to which I could relate, but all I had to relate to was an alien female espousing her ability to obliterate mankind.
This story seemed as though it was yanked out of a larger tale. It does not stand very strong on its own.

6) It’s a good story. I just feel like the milieu and back story haven’t quite been fully worked out, yet. For example, I’m a little confused between the evac-transport (which sounds space-going, but they don’t know WHERE in space Earth is) and the rift in space which seems more like you can just walk through it. And mercenaries work for hire. If the military is chasing this group down, who were they working for?
Also, I’m not really sure how much of the back story about Black Oren and Cindervein is really needed. I’d rather have more of Beulah’s outrage at the mercenaries’ behavior and decision to essentially change sides to her mother’s people.

7) Beulah Cinder, Commander, Operation Red Coat; Continental Theatre Group. Freakin brilliant way to start. Hooked from the get go. This is an interesting story, but in heavy need of a hatchet. Too much backstory, too many unpronounceable names, and hardly enough information of how, and why, she is going to die. I think this one could work really well though, once it is a bit clearer. A really interesting idea, and clever first sentence.

8) I don’t know if I like the second half with the soldiers – I was expecting the story to end at her signature. I was also surprised to find out she was female. I don’t know why but the narrator seemed masculine to me. It didn’t occur to me while reading, but did she write her last will and testament in a human language? It was technically strong, but a little too military for my personal taste.

9) First 13: I’m not sure “last will and testament” is a good start for the first 13. I really liked the will and testament as written, and the voice for the dragon was great. But maybe starting with somebody finding the will, setting up some background, scenery for where this story is taking place would help me picture it better. I was left piecing it together as I went, and didn’t catch on that it was a dragon talking until the dialogue near the end. I like the concept, liked the world invented, the dragons, but just had a problem with the plot structure.

10) I liked this one. I found it to be crisp and compelling. The writing I thought top notch.

11) This one was hard to get through. The last will and testament was a difficult read and I probably would have put it down if I was reading for fun. There was too much backstory and the history was so involved. I didn’t find that it added to the story. I woud have liked it better if we just could have seen the dragon meeting the humans and then been with her as she struggles with the decision to give her life for the humans. I think the concept is great and it could be a very touching story.

12) Love the use of an intelligent dragon as the narrator, but the story confused me: was it being realistic or was it a parody of those melodramatic last confessions of the dying soldier? It might be a problem with the narrative voice. Perhaps the author was going for a grand, lofty, 'high-speak' style to give the dragon a sense of age and wisdom and of noble origins. But the words felt slightly off-kilter – sort of 'putting-on-airs' or snooty. I also felt something humorous in the last part with the army folk. I dunno, maybe it was the dialogue – I felt a hint sarcasm from the tone of the general. I did like that this story ended in that perfect place where the reader can't easily guess what will happens next – so it's a great point to develop the story in really cool ways.

13) Not sure how I feel about this piece. The whole first part of course was a journal entry, so I wasn’t in a scene at all, and then the ending switched to another pov, which is very hard to do and pull off. As I said, I am not sure how to handle this piece. My best guess is, I might have ended it with the last will and testament, or maybe had the refuges come out at he end, that might have made me feel more complete, these knew characters holding the main pov at the end was unsatisfying for me.

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited January 18, 2010).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 8 Agent Orange

Adrian took a deep breath then let it slowly flow out across his tongue. He paused, brandishing the reputed flair of a sniff, before assessing the local agents. "X-on. Debussy viroid. Caraway seed." I looked at him. Caraway seed? He shrugged slightly, and then looked passively at the Lieutenant.

The Lieutenant surveyed the empty streets before responding. Overgrown lawns mocked the columns and colored brick of the stately homes. Gates remained locked, signs that few people had raided this part of the sprawl. Trees stood blackened or grey. Some still puffed smoke into the winds, pyres of silence, the final throes of the nannite plagues.

"Richards, boosters for Debussy viroid and caraway seed. We should have enough resistance to X-on after yesterday." The


1) Couple minor type-o's but I probably had some in this competition too. Punch-line didn't really register with me since I overload on vitamin C and think that problem is a myth. Trigger tie-in?

2) This was an amusing story if nothing else. The characters were bland, but some traces of personality were detected. I found the concept of a wandering medic producing various nose-sprays unusual, but got over that rather quickly. It was an interesting glimpse into an odd world, and perhaps I viewed this world as far less serious than the author intended. There were certainly elements of darker mood around between the shells of cities and power of cannibals. The author's tone, however, was far lighter. Whether the author was intentionally making lightly of the material, I'm not sure.
Still, this was a good read with some silly humor thrown in, culminating ultimately in the epitome of bowel jokes. Entertaining and amusing, with some sci-fi sprinkled in for flavor.

3) Hm…. Agent Orange, eh? Haha, I loved the title in retrospect, although it was a little hard to pin at first. The opening of this one I found hard to fathom; the X-on and list of chemical agents reads as gibberish. While I managed to follow along, I think, through most of it, by the end I still wasn't really sure what was going on, or if I should even know. For example, Richards and Adrian seem to know that the survivors are shadowing them on their patrol as if they have a special relationship with them, yet the survivors are just as hostile towards Richards and Adrian as everyone else, which seemed a little weird. The chewing gum in the lock seemed far too simple, for as the survivors are apparently normally intelligent (at first I was expecting zombies) they should pick up on the fact that the lock isn't engaged, I'd have thought. Also a little too convenient seemed having the gum harden in minutes magically to be tougher than steel. The ending I didn't mind, particularly, however I don't see why he couldn't have just gotten his medicomp to manufacture an orange flavoured laxative, since there was no survivor qualified to use it and thus none to question the formula he enters.

4) After I read it, I understood the title better. It seemed a bit roughly drawn to me, but then it is a war tale. The cannibalism was a bit strong, but the men had to know they'd be eaten regardless. I'm not sure the caraway seed joke worked, but the Medicomp and the drug stuff and chewing gum made it an enjoyable read. The instant hardening chewing gum was a nice touch and enabled their escape. I'm not sure, however, that diarrhea would keep them all occupied all the time. It doesn't matter. I'm glad they escaped.

5)It was a well written piece, just a little boring. Clever and all, just didn’t pull me in.

6) Cute story. I anticipated the scurvy diagnosis and the results of too much vitamin C. But it was still an interesting twist--everybody’s worried about nanites, and they really should be worried about what they’re eating.
It wasn’t until the middle of the story that I realized that Adrian himself was the sniffer, rather than the one operating some sort of mechanical sniffer.
I’m not quite sure how this relates to the challenge prompt, though.

7) The title made me laugh after I read the story. It did take me a little while to get into this story, the Caraway seed bit didn't work. Good though, really interesting. Love the last line.

8) First 13 did not hook me, I was confused what it was about. Where many of the stories here were lacking dialogue, this one excelled. The dialogue was crisp and well written. Well done. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much description and it was hard to determine what was going on. I get that they need a lot of immunities to protect them, and there is some kind of war going on, or the aftereffects of a great war? But nothing specifically ties it to the trigger.

9) I liked this one. However your first thirteen lines were very dense. The way Adrian breathes made me think he was part snake. “He paused, brandishing the reputed flair of a sniff” didn’t make any sense to me at all. “X-on” and “Debussy viroid” were equally confusing. Why didn’t Adrian tell the Lieutenant straight away where the odours were coming from? Not knowing cost several of the soldiers their lives. Also, Laurel and Hardy is an old reference even now; it strained credibility for me to believe they would still be remembered in a post-apocalyptic future. Other than those points I really enjoyed it.

10) Nice work. Complete story that didn’t feel cheated by the word count ceiling. The author knows how to tell a story. Liked the misleading title and the solution at the end. One nit, didn’t see how the ‘Cinders’ part of the trigger worked into the piece.

11) The beginning was confusing. I wanted to know why they were there and what they were doing and I didn’t get the caraway seed joke. The story seems interesting though.

12) This was fun piece to read. It read very clearly and fluidly, and feels like a full, completed story. The characterizations weren't made too complicated, they were just enough to carry the plot and idea of the story, which was the main focus anyway. All in all, a very good piece that feels publishable as a one-off entertaining story in sci-fi mag. Great job!

13) Well I felt a little lost at first, but as the story progressed became ingrossed into it. A little of the dialogue seemed off when he first came to in the jail, but was a minor issue. From that point on though I got the jist of the story and got more involved. The ending was satisfying. Not too much really to say on this piece other than that.

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited January 18, 2010).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 9 Cinders of the New Great War

Arbeit macht frei... work liberates.
But tonight there would be no liberation, despite the iron-wrought promise prominently displayed across the entrance gate before the stone-faced officer's quarters. Rafal knew the fate that awaited him in but a few minutes. He looked up as he carried his last remaining family member by the arm. Esau gurgled as he breathed, hot and foggy breaths wafting across his face with every pant. The dark look in his eyes told Rafal that his cousin knew that his time was short.
Cold mists dampened their skin and smeared blood and mud across both of their faces. Angry glares and the cold, wet muzzles of their Schutzstaffel escort were to either side. Rafal kept his eyes locked on the iron sign as they passed beneath. The 'B' was


1) It sounds like the cold mists were what ‘smeared blood and mud across both of their faces…’
“Schutzstaffel” this could be a weapon, a person, an animal, etc. to me…
“Die endlösung der Judenfrage – The final solution to the Jewish question.” This is annoying, to have a foreign language without the interp. This feels like the author is trying to impress the reader.
Otherwise this story was top-notch.

2) "still several fires still burning" Needs edit. Otherwise well written, just wasn't my kind of story. Personal preference is more of a speculative element.

3)Holocaust stories always tug at my heart. This one was no exception. No speculative element here. The story arc was depressing, as it couldn't be otherwise. I wish I could have gotten a bit better handle on the revolt. I think you could spend a bit more time up front with that after this contest and build up the tension to create a stronger storyline. I thought you did a good job with this in the 2,000 word limit.

4) Now this was a surprise. This story didn’t make my top 50% for the first thirteen. This was largely due to my dislike of multiple, particularly wandering subject, adverbs and adjectives (read iron-wrought promise prominently displayed and stone-faced officers’ quarters). It made me think that Esau’s gurgling was due to the writer’s penchant to overuse adjectives, rather than the important clue it was. Also, a little later, Water dripped from the black iron like blood as the cousins passed below felt like a POV shift due to the impact of the word “below” contrasting with the earlier knowledge that Rafal had to look up when going under it.

But this story built. As back story developed, as imagery complimented the thematic feel, as the story built towards the protagonists’ final resolutions (sic). The fact that they wanted death, that they welcomed it, was both surprising and believable, a final plea of beaten men. So the final two twists, where the officer thwarts their final hope for death then kills Esau, resounded with unexpected clarity. I particularly thought the ambiguity of the officer’s motive (was it some compassion? or cold hearted pragmatism?) was very well portrayed. And the final two paragraphs just resonated, the feel and theme filling the mind and heart, well after I finished reading.

Not really spec fic, but brilliant. The best story I have read for a while. Definitely the standout piece.

5) Sigh. I thought this little look at life inside a Nazi concentration camp was both dark and very well presented. It didn't initially bother me that the orders of the Germans were withheld, while they could clearly speak to Rafal, though this bugged me a little later. I did find, though, that the futility of the situation left me a little ambivalent about the story as a whole. I would have liked to see something grow from the experience, even if it wasn't ultimately going to end well for Rafal. For some reason I didn't pick any such redemption up: While at some level this brought back memories of Keneally's _Schindler's List_, I thought that at least with that story, for example, there was some small glimmer of hope amidst that dark night of the holocaust. Still, very well done. Only nit was the duplication of the phrase "men that had carried the bodies of their wives and parents to the furnaces".

6) Tough read. Apart from an indictment of the Nazi SS, though, I’m not sure what the point of the story is. I don’t demand that every story have a point. But if I’m going to read something as uncomfortable as this story, I want there to be some deeper meaning to it. What’s redeeming or enlightening about this? If, for example, Rafal were to stand still and refuse the order, essentially saying “No. I have remembered that I am a man. You can’t force me to do this.”, that would be a sort of redemption. A dark redemption, but that’s probably the only kind possible for this story.

7) Beautifully written. Depressing as hell.

8) Very powerful. My only nit is the repetition of “prisoners” in a couple of the paragraphs was annoying. (The ones that start “Loud cracks echoed” and “The SS descended”). Other than that, excellent work. I feel depressed now.

9) I liked this first 13 a lot after reading it a second time. I somehow knew it was about a German concentration camp before reading the rest of the story, and that takes some skill to embed that many cues into so few lines. Good work.

The story was very descriptive and emotional, and very well written. Excellent tie in to the trigger, but not speculative, and I am left wondering what was its point. I am thinking the message is somehow tied to Rafal wanting to die but not getting his wish. Either the message could be: that one should never lose hope. Or that in cases like this there can be no hope. It would make the story much stronger if the message was clearly expressed.

10) Strong prose. The author is a very good writer. I found the story unsatisfactory though. Too much of a downer for my tastes.

11) A sad and depressing story. I thought it was well written though. It kept my interest and the only part that lost me was the back story. I did care that much about it. I only wanted to know what happened next so I found my mind wandering in that section. I think this story would be even better if you started at the revolt instead of at the end of it. Of course that would make the ending much more tragic, and maybe too sad.

12) It's a well written vivid piece and definitely a horrific story – but I felt ambiguous about what it was about. My best guess is that it was about a spiritual conflict within a young man about his God in the face of such horrors. In addition to that, I felt it needed a resolution, even if it was a depressing one. I reached at the end of the story, asking, “what happened to our main character? How did he endure? What happened to his faith?” etc. One can say it doesn't have to have an ending like that. I disagree this story needs to finish the MC's spiritual journey to feel like a completed piece – assuming that spiritual doubt was the main theme.

13) This was a hard read for me, but was a deep read as well. Obviously with it being at least based upon a real war, brought on an entire new dimension, as a reader I felt horrified. At a risk of sounding argumentative, I don’t know if it was the writing or the fact that I knew things like this have happened in our past. The writing itself, like I said earlier was a harder read, it was very in depth in the scene, setting in nicely. It had a good sense of drawing us back into the backstory and at the same time not slowing the story down. Well Done.

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited January 18, 2010).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 10 The Forgotten War

“That's him over there. Thinin' hair. Five-foot nothin'. One too many doughnuts. See? He's in charge of figuring out this whole thing.”
The two conversing men, both in American Rescue Workers uniforms, glanced at the man in a fitted dark brown three piece suit from a bygone century. His squished brown face had permanent dark circles under his eyes, which aged him even more. He was staring at a massive fused piece of amalgam that once had been a bus, several pedestrians, and a good portion of the sidewalk. It looked like the ground itself had liquefied and erupted up, encasing everything that had been in its path. These victims had been cooked alive - unlike the others. Most of the other victims over the fifty square miles disaster zone had


1) The author presented an intriguing scenario in the beginning. The idea of an entire city suddenly bursting of seemingly its own accord is terrifying. Despite the impossible explanation the author presented (microwave energy is a wave, and all waves disperse over time and distance, growing in size but losing strength fast. In addition, space is a near-vacuum, not a true vacuum. The microwave 'laser' would bleed energy as it traverse and interacted with the interstellar medium), the idea of earth being hit by alien “friendly fire” is a unique one.
Unfortunately, there is little plot to move this story forward. The reader is presented a circumstance, and the author tries to explain this circumstance to the best of his ability. There are a few incredibly improbable solutions presented (The Hubble Ultra-Deep Field scan was taken and showed one thirteen-MILLIONTH of the total area of visible sky. The odds of it catching an interstellar war 120 light years away is incredibly slim).
I really wanted a more concrete ending. This story feels like it was lifted from a larger novel. The last line does not feel like an ending; it feels like foreshadowing.
I'm also going on a limb and guessing the author also really likes Star Wars.

2) I quite enjoyed the forgotten war - a little bit of star wars magic brought to life. I thought the opening was nice and tight and raised a good question (what slagged the bus? Who is this guy?) and then kept asking questions (what razed the city?). While the prose was fine, the science was my main issue in this. My main beef here, having worked with the design of laser measurement systems, is that laser (or maser) light is focused - either by mirrors or lenses - and such focal systems aren't (and can't be) perfect. While the waves of the light remain coherent (which is what makes laser light special, not that it can be collimated to a beam), ultimately, the beam of light disperses. Which is just as well, or else these wouldn't be used for war in outer space either, since whoever used it would be paranoid about shooting their own homeworld or a pleasure ship somewhere off in the distance. It would be much more likely that such energy weapons would be focused on the intended point of impact and so disperse thereafter. I liked the idea though, so I have to hope it's possible to massage this to accommodate the science (or if it's necessary, for other audience demographics).

3) I really like this story. The idea is quite unique, and that should make it a real possibility for a sale somewhere. As an idea story, it had me on the edge of my seat, trying to work out what solution would be found. However, it also had an underlying theme which also resonates in a dark, though not quite satirical, way – that of the desire of a nation to seek revenge through war. The final solution was a bit of a non-solution, but real.

There were, however, a couple of points that this story fell down. Firstly, I found the fact that Rao had interrupted the president’s speech incompatible with the acceptance of his ideas by the president. This felt like a distraction from the story as essentially an idea story, by creating a perfunctory compromise to a pressure for characterisation. To me, it would work perfectly well if Rao was simply a scientific advisor.

Secondly, the reference to a “three piece suit from a bygone century” made me think it was a time-travel piece. The entire first scene could be reworked, introducing the key character by name earlier, and establishing his real importance.

Finally, neither the title, nor the last paragraph (particularly the last two sentences) worked for me. The war is not forgotten – it wasn’t even known about until that point. Furthermore, I think that you need to do more with the theme set in the opening scene – create some sort of resolution for the fear and desire for revenge that is in the community. For example, you could show the president announcing a new space race to “prevent this newly discovered alien threat from delivering another atrocity”, and then make a sarcastic comment by Rao about how long that policy would last.

Great idea and theme.

4) I thought the premise to be very, very clever. However, I think this could actually be reduced to flash size. I felt the descriptions of the effects of the errant beam went on far too long and I think this is just the thing for a sub-1,000 word story. I liked the interaction between the two scientists and I think you could distill that in a rewrite and make that the focus until they lay their proof on the brass.

5)Not sure if line spacing was intentional. Don't typically like shout-outs like the Star Wars references but it worked for this story. Interesting story idea and written well enough to sell it. Decent trigger tie-in.

6) Very cool concept. This story reads very well for the most part. The suspension of belief was torn a couple of times;
“They are highly collimated and wouldn't disperse their energy…” How’d he have the slightest clue about this?
“A hundred years ago…” microwaves both disperse and travel too slow for this trip to take only one hundred years.

7) Quite a premise. I like the story.
My failure of belief (and it’s a small one) in this one comes when the President and Secretary of Defense accept the theory so easily. Especially since there’s already a P***ing contest between Rab and the President. The scientists have discovered the answer and the politicians have to believe them. It’s too pat. And there’s more conflict if the politicians DON’T believe them. I’d like to see Rab and Matheson scrambling for evidence and trying to persuade other scientists to back them up. That said, I didn’t find this to be a major problem with this story.

8) Interesting stray bullet theory. I do think Matheson is too caviler about the deaths. I didn't buy that, especially by how grotesque the whole death is. Overall, definitely sell-able.

9) I read somewhere that a story should never begin with a line of dialogue, as it is just a voice floating out of nowhere until the person speaking and the setting is established. Just my personal opinion, the second half of the first 13 was the more interesting bit.

This story was surprising, I liked it more and more as I continued reading. Great original idea, cleverly described, and almost sounds like hard science fiction. I did doubt that this kind of stray fire could actually happen. It worked really good as a more humorous description, and I liked the tie in to star wars in that regard.

10) Very cool idea. The first part, with the other persons POV, was a bit off-putting. I like the idea of collateral damage, though would a microwave (typically short range) really travel through space for that long intact? I don’t know much about it, so you may have to have your scientist explain a little more for people like me. I have heard that the US government is actually developing a micro-wave weapon as a form of crowd control…

11)Nice. I really liked this one. The story fit nicely inside the word count but it would be better if the author built on it. Liked the idea and the explanation. Very believable sci-fi premise.

12) I liked this one, but I didn’t like the opening. It felt like a contrived introduction of the main character, but I would have liked it better if it had been in the mc’s POV and he just overheard them. I really liked the story once it started in the MC’s POV. The other nit is I felt like the government accepted the idea of aliens rather easily, but if perhaps there had been some evidence of aliens before I would find it believable. The idea of earth being hit accidentally was a neat one.

13) I liked the concept of the story but was turned off by the attention to the gory detail, It seemed redundant at that point, flesh charred, scorched and on. That was really my main negative point to the story, other than that, it read fine, and had a beginning and an ending. The first scene was hard for me to find a pov, and therefore was a loss to me, I would have liked to see a strong pov from the main character to drag me in and make me feel for the character or outcome.

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited January 18, 2010).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 11 Lessons of War

Kena aimed her bow at the boy’s chest and let go. He folded like a rag doll, and his sword hit the floor, one less Demari to kill, even if he only looked ten. Both sides were past sparing the young. Her last cousin was only nine when he died as a scout a month ago.
The war had been raging for thirty years. She was born on the year it started and she would outlast it, if only to avenge all the deaths. The Demari had taken all four of her uncles, their wives and children, her mother and father, but it hadn’t taken all of them yet. Her sister Genari still lived, and Genari’s daughter, Dellarti.
Turning back toward camp she slung her bow over her shoulder and placed the pot of water on her head. Today was not her day


1) It seems odd to me that a ten year old warrior would be out alone. My assumption is that this is happening on Earth in the future. I lose that sense early on; the names are throwing me off a little. Most sound very similar, even between the good guys and the bad guys (minor impact on me). My tongue got twisted up with the pronunciations. Suggest more common sounding names.
The story was very good and fairly well written. I felt the compulsion to read about the journey they were about to embark upon. Good stuff.

2) A big problem I had in my first WOTF draft last quarter was pointed out to me in the Writing Guide "Revision" by Kit Reed. A little section about sentence variety warned not to start all your sentences with 'he' I realized that I had it gave the piece a very clunky feel. I felt the same in this piece with all the sentences that started with 'she'. It really weighed down the writing. Better sentence variety could say the same thing, but really help the flow of the story.

3) A frightening world you've described here. The ending is fitting. I think the middle of the story could benefit from some tightening. The beginning and the end were great. The name Demari and her sister's name Genari were too close to the same. But that's a nit. Good job.

4) I didn’t expect to, but I actually had to fight back tears when Kena tried to tell Dellarti about Genari’s death. This was a very strong story, climaxing at that point. However, it was let down a little at the very end. I think that you need to show Kena’s faith in the cause can waver, even a little, well before the last few sentences. Otherwise Kena’s actions, although understood from a distance, seem counter her character at the end. Anyway, great story.

Moving, great characterisation, let down just a little at the end.

5) Despite it's particularly brutal opening, which I didn't really take to, I thought Lessons of War ended up as quite a promising story; I felt the ending was very fitting. Unfortunately I struggled with the prose quite a bit, as besides a couple of typos there seemed just some odd phrasing here and there, like "rather slit her own throat that have to use it to tell" means she uses her throat to talk? or "Her town used to be called Jerinoam, now it was just a bunch of blood soaked charcoal", in which the transition from name to charcoal was hard, but calling it a 'bunch' was a little confusing. Regardless, however, I think this story has potential and would love to see it polished some more.

6) First things first: “Their blood will water the earth” was used too many times. It had its full effect on its first usage, but was then echoed far too often. It lost meaning with every repetition.
The message behind this story is touching. The author does a fair job at conveying the emotion of losing a loved one. The dialogue was well formed and easy to read. There are plenty of sentence fragments and run-ons that need a fresh round of editing, however. This read like a rough draft.
The ending to this story came suddenly. I would equate the quick ending to reader whiplash. The reader is engrossed, but then suddenly yanked out of the world by the shocking appearance of “THE END”. There needed to be more. I wanted to know more, even if it was just how the little girl reacted.
However, it was a touching read and a well-formed effort.

7) Good story. It had me right until the end and then it threw me out, just when it should have the most impact. No one would stop a woman and child, they were just extra mouths? But everything in the story tells us that women are warriors, same as the men. Rather than throwing that out there, I’d rather see more of Kena’s insight based on this event.

8) This one broke my heart from the first sentence. I love these characters. Great job.

9) Another very good story. There were a few spelling and grammar mistakes that distracted me while reading, but a quick polish should take care of that.

10) The first 13 set a great tone, and the story did not disappoint. Very well written, engaging, believable, good characters. I’m imagining a fantasy world that this takes place in, and the only thing I am left wondering about is what the war is actually about, who are these Demari? And who are Kena’s people, and what do they want, other than revenge? Great characterization and dialogue.

11) The story opened with the MC on the battlefield then suddenly shifted to her village. The names were too close which leant to some confusion. A little back story to why the war started or continued would have been nice. Not a bad story but the outcome was predictable.

12) An interesting story told in a compelling way. The writing pulls you in, and the world becomes real. I'm not sure what more the story would have to offer after the last line (they leave – the end?), but I would have read on till the end. So good job!

13) Close very close, I can’t quite put my finger on it but something was just a touch off from greatness, and I don’t say that a lot. I felt for the characters which is very hard to do in a short story, but I did. At first I thought it should be a little longer, but now feel it maybe would have lost some of the impact. For me reading is about emotion and this had it in spades. Well done.

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited January 18, 2010).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 12 Wolf Mountain

The boy is cold when they find him, trembling in the footwell of the car. The ranger makes cooing noises as she lifts him out, wraps him in a sparkling silver blanket and carries him towards a crowd of flashing lights on the highway. She doesn't ask about the jar he is holding.
The boy sits in a warm hospital bed. A nurse is sponging away blood caked around his neck and arms.
He has been given a book by an orderly, one his mother read to him before once. Amidst the nurse's fussing he gives up trying to read it, closes his eyes and tries to remember the story.
The nurse finishes her work and steps back to regard the unscathed child before her.


1) Nice twist to close the story. There are several ‘tense’ problems; i.e. – “My story begins…” followed by, “Dad had finished” as well as a few overlooked missing words; “reading us from the paper” (add ‘to’). It sounds like… “Beneath my covers, a scratching sound and frigid breeze chilled my heart.” …is saying the scratching and breeze came from beneath the covers. Other than a few odd sentence structures and some wording work, this was a cool story to read… very good imagination.

2) Clever writing, though the style is jarring. The switching verb tense was hard to swallow. I understand where the author was trying to go with it, but I don't believe it was necessary. The switch between first and third perspective was enough to separate current time-line from retelling perspective. Perhaps it's just personal preference, but third-person present tense is hard to follow.
There are plenty of structure problems that need editing. I recommend a strong revision phase to clean the story up.

3) This is another story that I would have voted for, but for a few fatal flaws. There were elements that were great, and in the end I could just sit and reflect. However, three things spoiled it somewhat.

I never knew the boy’s age. Now this may seem a small issue, but it is key for me understanding how the boy should react, and therefore the believability of the character within the story context. A ten year old will react very differently to a four year old.

Even if I knew his age, I couldn’t believe that any boy would tell their story with the same adult detail which this is written. The entire sections that the boy tells need to be simplified into a language and observational level that is appropriate for a boy of that age. This will be some challenge, but your present tense sections show that you probably can pull that off. If it isn’t, then many readers may have trouble suspending their disbelief.

"If you were him, which story would you rather remember?" Now that line has zing. It makes sense of the entire story. Everything after that line is pointless, worse, an attempt to make a happy ending of an intensely saddening story. Don’t spoil the emotion with such sugar candy.

4) No real speculative element. This had a lot of subtext. I thought the treatment was very mature and treated well enough. I thought the transition between ranger and story wasn't quite as smooth as it could be and thought the numbered sections distracted. A break of a line or two would have worked better. I also didn't like the present tense and didn't think it added to the story. I also don't think the boy's voice was quite juvenile enough when he told his story. A boy wouldn't say "My story begins…" I think if you give him a younger voice it will really add to the piece. The story line is powerful and all that would be preserved.

5) The POV lost me as a reader. The whole "screenplay" style did not interest me, personally. A big fan of Lucan growing up I would love to see this story with a better POV. Did I miss the trigger tie-in?

6) This could be a powerful story. I’m not sure that present tense serves this story well. And the first person portions just don’t feel like the boy’s voice at all. Not only too mature--too writerly. Things that would work just fine in third person like “My story begins at the dinner table” are just not things a boy would say in this situation. I almost thought for a moment that the story had become a memoir told by the boy much later in life, it felt so wrong.

7) There are grammar issues, especially with the shifting tense. I would like the story to sound as if a child actually wrote it. A child wouldn't begin a story with “ My story begins at the dinner table”, he would say, “We were all sitting down to eat.”
The story's narrator seems inconsistent, and not in the good way. I think you should go through and say okay, who is saying this, for every line.

8) Interesting first 13. Really great idea and plot. However, I didn’t believe the boy’s voice when he was telling his story. I think that the bit about the child molester being in the area needs to be hinted at in the beginning, some kind of foreshadowing so that this just doesn’t come in near the end as an easy explanation. Also, the bit about Wolfe’s accomplice was a stretch. Overall, very well done and great plot. I don’t see the tie in to the trigger, though.

9) An interesting story. The writing was a little rough; some of the sentences were confusing. The tense changed from present to past a couple times, which I don't think was intentional. The end tied-in well with the beginning.

10) The second person POV made this an odd read. The story of wolves abducting and raising this boy made the story unbelievable but the final scene made it all make sense. Change the narrative and this will have an excellent chance at a sale.

11) I thought this was interesting and it got better as the story progressed. A few things threw me out of the story though. I didn’t buy that he wouldn’t want to go back to his parents. Also I kept wondering how old he was. The beginning simply said he was a boy, but that could be any age from 4 to 24 and at first I imagined a teenager and then as the story progressed I had to keep changing my view of the boy. I found it unclear what he thought happened to his parents and I wasn’t sure what the wolf brought back. That whole part was a bit confusing. I thought it was weird that the boy would start his story with “My story begins.” I also thought it was weird that he said “I can’t talk to strangers.” It made me think he was some sort of alien and it was actually impossible for him. “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” or “Mom and dad say I shouldn’t talk to strangers,” would be clearer. I liked the bit of a twist at the end with the real story coming out, though it reminded me a lot of Life of Pi, which does something very similar.

12) Interesting psychological piece. It was difficult to get into it in the beginning – it felt like a screenplay description (without the usual formatting) - but fared better near the end. I think the use of tense and point of view doesn't work, it distracted me to no end. Also, The first person parts don't sound like a young child. The plot twist is good but it won't make the story; I think refining the boy's character and voice is what will make the piece really stand out.

13) Not generally fond of chapters if you will in short stories but it worked here, separating each scene and pov very well. Not sure about the ending, I would prefer it to be the wolves, I don’t like to go into that other dark place, dealing with children. But with that said, the ending and brining that up, made the story that much more terrible, and I mean terrible in the good way, it made me sick inside which the reader should be when dealing with that kind of crime. Well done.

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited January 18, 2010).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 13 Cinders of the Great War

The iron-jawed instructor paced across the front of the room while Jolene and the three other new recruits sat in nervous silence. She ran her tongue across the freshly installed stud in her lip. The receiver portion punched through her ear hadn't hurt at all. She got the feeling the transmitter would take a bit more getting used to.

“Many of you believe the Great War ended 200 years ago.” The instructor began. She didn't stop her pacing, continuing slowly back and forth like a pendulum. “You're wrong. That conflict could reignite at any moment. Male soldiers have been caught stealing from our food supplies. They have even infiltrated our cloning chambers, damaging our genetic stores.”

Jolene's jaw clenched and her vision swam with a red haze.


1) Well written. Ending...would a woman really say that? lol...not to me I guess But seriously, so soon after the emotional stinging pain of Katie's death and being in tears? Or did I totally misinterpret the innuendo of the closing line?

2) I'm not sure I can swallow this premise. Once you accept the split between men and women, the rest of the story makes sense. I'm not sure you couldn't manufacture a gene pool and make it work well enough without excessive inbreeding. Depends on the cloning equipment. I never did figure out who Katie was. Everything else worked out okay. I'm not sure Jolene would turn from avenging the mysterious Katie's death to giving the man a girlish kiss.

3) Iron-jawed instructors are a stereotype that would get an automatic rejection from me, were I an editor. However, the story was somewhat stronger than I expected from that opening line. I liked the pace, it kept me reading and imagining the scene. There were only two points that pulled me out of the story.

The paragraph revealing Katie’s death came as an unexpected surprise, of a bad kind. It felt that we were suddenly being dumped with an emotion that we weren’t prepared for. Reading back, I realised that I had missed the importance of some references to Katie, however, I expect to know that she died and understand how that drives Jolene well before I read about her internal battle to change her world view. All we know from earlier was that Katie was some sort of motivation.

Secondly, and this may be related to the point above, I felt that Jolene’s change of mind at the end was too sudden, not really worked through, and a little off screen. Going from true hate to kissing takes more than a little, or medium sized, change. It therefore didn’t quite ring true.

4) I found this future where male and female have ended up locked in an endless struggle to be quite fun. There were a couple of places I got confused however, such as trying to work out whose pov I was following in the opening (once the instructor is shown as 'she' in paragraph 2, I then wonder if the 'She' in paragraph 1 was the instructor too), or who Jolene is talking to in *“Damn. I had him. He was right there.” She …*, or if it's Jolene at all. I was also surprised that there wasn't a procedure and a right way to do things that would have prevented her when she announces "I'm going after him". The shot of espresso seemed an anachronism too, somehow. I also wondered at the efficacy of their supposed military training if the two new recruits are just able to waltz in to the enemy lab. While the ending worked for me, I think it was overstated: Firstly, why would she kiss him? Without a cultural precedent I thought this was just weird, as was the final line. With both cut, I wondered if the ending would be stronger.

5) “Maybe someday we can recombine more than just our DNA” - this final sentence sounds like a pick-up line.
The premise of this story is odd, to say the least. Unfortunately, I was never able to reach the suspension of disbelief. The idea of Man versus Woman has existed since Adam first rolled his eyes at Eve, but to literally pit one sex against the other violates every natural law in existence. Such a situation would doom humankind, a fate the author even alludes to faintly. However, the beauty of sci-fi is that everything is possible.
The ending was incredibly sudden, with a complete personality change in the main character that seemed incredibly forced. I took nothing from that ending. I could not make myself believe the author's voice as he/she told this story. Events made no sense, and actions were taken without good reason. There was no logical reason presented for the main character to suddenly kiss her antagonist. “Impulse” was not enough, and certainly not enough for a fulfilling conclusion.

6) I’m not sure what the opening paragraph is trying to say. No other reference is made to the transmitter. (or is that the implant in her ear… lip? A little confused.)
“Can you believe it's been over two months and I still haven't even seen a man?” This is odd sounding now that I know there have been no men in their lives… ever.
Espresso – kinda derailed me.
I got the feeling at the end that her entire life of burning anger suddenly vanished, completely. I’m not sure who Katie is to her so the emotional connection is undeveloped for me, the reader. (I don’t really care about Katie.)
The concept of the story was very good.

7) Interesting premise, but it just needs to be a longer story, I think. There were too many things that made me stop with a “Huh?”
If Jolene is just out of boot camp, how does she have the authority to decide to “go after him”?
In this sort of paramilitary culture, why is the guy who stole the embryos also the scientist? Shouldn’t that be two different people?
And the ending was just way too facile. After as much as she’s been trained to hate and fear men, Jolene just decides to kiss this one and make a veiled offer of potential future sex? Didn’t work.
And by the way, since gender is determined at fertilization, aren’t all of their (Jolene’s people’s) embryos female and all of his male? What’s that exchange going to do to their society?

8) This is a good story in need of a different title. I bought the war between sexes, I bought the cloning. I didn't buy the last sentence. I didn't buy Katies death, or its impact on her mother. Was this written by a man? I like the concept. Overall I found it a good story which I voted into my top three.

9) Good first 13. I was intrigued to read on, and it would have got my second place vote for first 13.
Interesting funny plot, not entirely believable, I think I had problems believing the POV’s voice and the way the events unfolded. I like the speculative element of the DNA banks and war between the sexes very much, worked very well for this challenge and the trigger. The last line made me laugh. I like her constant thoughts of how ‘they are like us after all’, and this concept could be elaborated on, to really explore the differences between males and females to make this a more powerful story.

10) Great premise. This could use another edit, a few misused words were very noticeable. I think the word count ceiling hurt this one more than most. This felt very rushed to me.

11) I liked the different world and I wanted to know more about it. I thought it was a cute story and the ending made me laugh.

12) The piece had an amazing sense of action and pace (very fast), which I liked. There was only one time where I was brought to a complete halt: 1) The word 'espresso' doesn't belong in this piece – it feel...anachronistic(?).

There also seems to be a bigger history. How did the Colonial guard come about? If there's a colony – there must be an empire, right? Nice seeds sown in. I do think that the implanted transceiver should have been used at the end. Maybe her commander kept ordering her to kill him as she struggled to see his point of view. Not sure how the title ties in.

There are many places where the prose can be tightened. There are some lines which if feel if they were shortened or split up would increase the power and punch of the piece. The last line does not work. It was going so well, and then suddenly it seems like she made a pass at him which is entirely at odds with her emotions.

Lastly, while I liked the piece as a whole, it is missing the key explanation, not only of what separated men and women, but the science that shows why the diseases appeared (which created the new conflict after the separation.) Do most people know how cloning might lead to increase in genetic diseases? It wouldn't be too bad to show how recessive diseases can slowly pop up over the next few generations. I feel the story idea is a really good one that can nicely be expanded into a great hard sci-fi piece.

13) By far my favorite first 13 and the story didn’t let up, it delivered. The ending as a whole well done, the only slight complaint was ok, I got the kiss idea and all that but I seemed a little forced, maybe have them wondering more of the idea of man and woman. It was real close , but I thought that a little more of that chemistry would have delivered a bigger punch. But well done.

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited January 18, 2010).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 14 The Last Flame

Jason ran his hand down the steel blast door. Seven years and still he dreamed. He rested his head against the cold metal. Hoped.

“They made it, Jason.” He turned at the sound of Wade's voice.

“No, they didn’t.” The Genocide Bomb dropped from the starship StellarDar11 had been sudden, catching both armies unaware. The ground shook and a mushroom cloud built, then blossomed. The only reason he and the others had survived was that they were only half a click away from the deep caverns, laser drilled from the depths of Darnel’s Core. But his family was still back at Colony 7 forty clicks away, no sanctuary in sight. He patted his best friend on the back as he walked by. “But we will.”


1) “But than that was the history of their race. Brother killing brother. They had been killing each other since the dawn of time.” Old adage wrongly applied to the human race… would have caused me to drop the story right there. But… without that one sentiment the story is solid and engaging. Nice come around twist at the end, left me feeling good about Jason.

2) I found this story hard to keep up with. Some details were glossed over. The fight was well-conducted, but sudden. It required a re-reading or two before I was able to reorient myself.
There is no real resolution in this story. Granted, the main character discovers in a rather distressing fashion that he is not as alone as he believed, but as far as the reader can tell, he remains unchanged. The author shows us a hill, alludes to the trek to cross it, but then seems to turn back after the first step. The overall plot remained fuzzy at best by the end. It feels lifted from a larger story.

3) This apocalyptic survivor story seemed promising, however it left me a little confused by the end. On the one hand, it seemed a little slow to get moving, and there was a little awkward exposition (most memorably the "It had taken years…" section). Further, the Rowkain, given how important a role they play, seem to be introduced very late. It's therefore hard to really understand Jason's reaction to the appearance of one, or of seeing their city (I'd just assumed humans had recolonised an empty planet). Also I felt that the relationship between Jason and his family wasn't sufficiently established (we only hear of Ariana in the last scene) for me to feel with him the emotion as his "heart gave, tears streamed…". Just as confusing was that he has daughters, which never seems to be mentioned except in the last word. As a result I felt the ending fell a little too flat for me.

4) The opening of this story promised three things, a melancholy feel (delivered in spades for the first three quarters), a story about survival (also delivered) and a story about a friendship between two men (not really delivered, although there were moments). My concern for the story, however, is in its resolution.
The concept of the resolution was fine – it was a nice twist to meet the Rowkain first, and to find that they now cooperated with humans. That is enough, and I wouldn’t bother about the final twist with the daughters, two are enough. However, all the revelations happened too fast, and to a now-passive Jason. He needs time to process the twists, and a more active participation in the events. Furthermore, we need to know what happens to his stoicism, his sense of hope (a central theme given the opening), his place of leadership that he has held and his friendship with Wade, and how each of these are transformed by the revelations of the ending. I think that this story needs to be somewhat larger than 2000 words.

5) Not sure my suspension of disbelief was in full force for this one. I liked the retreat from the face of the earth part. I thought the ending, coming out to a green world and the Rowkain who happened to be the creature who befriended his family would be right outside the door and his son walks up. The Rowkain didn't know if any humans made it and wouldn't have known Jason made it either. The basic bones of the story is fine. I liked the aspect that Earth was sanitizing the planet and they didn't mind if there was collateral damage. I guess another thing that might help is an explanation woven describing the problems with the Rowkain. I think a rewrite that expanded aspects of the story might clarify the relationships.

6) Action packed story with decent story arch that could have been more interesting with sentence variety and not so many sentences starting with 'he'. Felt like the POV was squeezed with that and was more how "he" actually 'thought' about everything instead of a easier flowing 'perception' of the events from MC POV.

7) Very good story.
I was momentarily confused by the corridor beyond the blast door being filled with rubble and yet being the way Jason remembered it. And the late reference to the acidic rain didn’t seem to have any connection to the rest of the story.
If Kraig was only knee high, and seven years have passed, then he’s only ten or eleven--younger than portrayed here.

8) I don't know what to think about this one. I like the concept, I like the hero, I just... I can't explain it. Something is missing. This feels like a first chapter, or a a Fourteenth chapter chapter in a novel. I am left wanting so much more. The line they adapt through evolution put me on a path, and then... So Arianna was pregnant when the bombs fell, did Jason know that? And what is the daughters significance, and how did Arianna die? Too many unanswered questions. To much lose ends for me to feel satisfied at the ending. Good though. This story has promise.

9) In the first 13 I was confused by the “they made it” “no they didn’t” part.

Great concept, plot arc works great for this length of story. I just feel there was a little too much explanation; all the facts of the situation were relayed all at once in a little bit of an info dump. Then the action happens, and feels hurried. I would like to read more about Jason’s memories of his family and the aliens right at the beginning, have the background events alluded to, explained just a little as the story goes on, then when he is reunited with his family and the discovery that the aliens are still alive, this would be more meaningful. I guess I mean Jason’s motivation needs to be fleshed out more. Sounds like a great worldbuild, would like to see it expanded, and my personal preference would be to give more details about these aliens. I’m curious about them, and all I know so far is that they have horny heads and claws.

10) Interesting concept. The end was very abrupt. The first thirteen hooked me, but I don't feel as if the story delivered. It only implies the survival of the colony, but doesn't actually address it. When he learns about his wife's survival it's the first time I realized he meant his wife and child when he mentioned his family earlier. I think you need to re-work the opening to bring his wife and son more prominence or re-work the end to wrap-up the colony's struggles. Also at the beginning of the story the MC is a bit too violent towards his friend.

11) The first half dragged for me but the second I loved. The story took off when the alien came on the scene.

12) Good story with a nice ending. The only thing that bothered me was the bomb. I wasn’t sure exactly what the bomb did for most of the story. When it said that it wiped out the people and left the planet whole I thought it only killed animals. Then it talked about acid rain and the landscape being ash and the air impure. I would have liked a few more details about the bomb. Overall I liked it.

13) A lot of things happen in this piece, and quite randomly. First you had a genocide bomb that killed only living things (plants animals, bacteria, fungi - that's a permanent kind of thing – no recovery), with people living underground (how did they survive with out plants, animals). Then acid rain, talking evolved things which had little to no physical description... It was hard to make sense of things.

There were many problems with the prose itself: weird uses of the word electric and electricity, genocide bomb explanation was kind of a non sequitur from the rest of the paragraph, Jason and Wade needed better descriptions, start dialogue on new lines, make sure the reader isn't confused about who is talking or doing things, etc. The piece needs heavy reworking; I'm guessing it was written in a rush. I'm not sure how the author wants to present the well-used premise of a disaster that sends everyone living underground – I couldn't gather what the new take was.

[This message has been edited by snapper (edited January 15, 2010).]

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
This is all of them. Two authors have asked for a short extension to complete their stories but have sent me their opening lines.

I will send everyone a RTF file with all the stories on them as soon as I can. Here is the rules on voting.

Pick your favorite opening and send your choice to me. Each vote gets one point. Do not vote for your own.

Once you receive the file with all the stories (and read them), pick your first, second, and third favorite (do not vote for your own). Every 1st place vote will receive 5 points, 2nd 4 points, 3rd 3 points.

You are asked to give a short critique (50 words, give or take a few) on each entry.

The one that gets the most votes wins the prize. WotF vol 9, signed by Kathleen-Dalton Woodbury, author of the winning entry Cinders of the Great War. Sent to you at my expense, no worries on postage. Even if you live in Perth Australia.

Their is at least one author that has disqualified themself from the prize. So in the advent that he/she wins, the prize will be awarded to second place.

Good luck and enjoy!

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Comments up above. Critiques for each story are under their 13 line opening.
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
More comments above.
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
MORE comments are in.
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
More comments above.
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
More comments above. Just two left to go.
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
More comments above. One left. This is in no way settled yet. The voting is that close.
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Okay here we go. Our victor was four points behind when the last author sent in his vote. So without further ado, the top five...

1) Entry # 11 Lessons of War by Satate 27 points

2) Entry # 9 Cinders of the New Great War by Rhaythe 26 points

3) Entry # 4 The Rekindle Flames of Hord by Snapper 25 points

4) Entry # 5 Mage Cinders by Meredith 23 points

5) two tied with 17 points

Almost every story got at least one vote on someones favorite list. The first place votes were spread out between 7 different stories. One more voter and we would have entirely different outcome, I bet. Now who wrote the rest.

Entry # 1 Cinders by shimiqua

Entry # 2 The Last Grikon by Owasm

Entry # 3 Senders of the Great Wars by Dark Warrior

Entry # 6 Cinders of Earth by Llessur Nire

Entry # 7 Last Will and Testament by Dougsguitar

Entry # 8 Agent Orange by Brendan

Entry # 10 The Forgotten War by billawaboy

Entry # 12 Wolf Mountain by BenM

Entry # 13 Cinders of the Great War by ScaredyDog

Entry # 14 The Last Flame by Tiergan

Wonderful work.

Satate, I will contact you so we can get your address to collect your prize. Congrats to you. Nice work. Hard fought and well deserved.


Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
OH and post away here if you like.

Graet job everyone!

Posted by BenM (Member # 8329) on :
After reading how great some of the other submissions were I remember pulling my hair out and asking myself What was I thinking?

So I've been thinking about what I learned from this challenge. Anyone want to compare notes?

Here's my list:
1) Write earlier. There was a whole month! Leaving it until after Christmas meant very little sleep in order to hand it in by December 31. And yes, I am indeed bone lazy.

2) Don't be clever. I made this mistake in a previous challenge, but trying all sorts of oddball narrative structures and special effects isn't going to win votes. I don't really fully understand the pitfalls of present tense, so despite the fact that the story spoke to me clearest in that format, I knew it was a risk and should have taken that into account. Conservative wins the day.

3) Listen to my first readers. All three said the narrative needed a different voice and the boy an age, which I kind of suspected, and if I'd done (1) I'd have had time to fix it.

4) Know my audience. Hatrack has its roots in OSC's primarily SF/F work and so most of us are aspiring SF/F readers (me included). Not everyone will be happy with a non SF/F story.

5) Telegraph the trigger louder? My story evolved out of using a cinder as a token and a great war as something metaphorical, something shocking that would be revealed through subtext so as to surprise the reader. From some of the comments I think this was lost on people (and probably made worse by trying to re-amplify the war aspect with some clumsy tagging).

6) Pick a story that fits the wordcount, rather than try and fit a story into the wordcount. I think mine wasn't the only story to suffer from this (judging by those with nearly exactly 2000 words), but I had a very hard time cutting 4000 words down to 2000. What can I say, I like to talk. And talk and talk and talk. (Oh, and write) (also, someone please tell me to shut up if I talk too much)

7) Enter more challenges! I'm not going to push myself to get better at this unless I keep trying.

Hm... those are the obvious ones that spring out at me. Maybe I'll learn from them for next time. I hope so In the meantime my story is getting filed away for a couple of months when it will be rewritten to be a bit longer and maybe find its way into F&F.


Posted by Brendan (Member # 6044) on :
Ok, I'll get the ball rolling. I have two questions from my critiques.

Firstly, I know that I confused the h#$@ out of some people with the beginning of Agent Orange - this will need some rewriting, so thanks for the feedback. I will prize the issue into two parts - the chemical agents and the caraway seed.

As one critic said ""X-on" and "Debussy viroid" were equally confusing." My question is, how many of those that were confused with this are science fiction readers, as opposed to fantasy readers? Or, in other words, is it confusing to my target audience, science fiction readers, who would be quite familiar with viruses, biological warfare and nanotechnology? (Note: this question is not about the caraway seed, which could be confusing for an entirely different reason - humour can be hit and miss sometimes.)

Edit: Ok, that feedback has helped clarify what I need to change for the above question. Thanks.

Secondly, (and much less seriously) why did five question where the trigger was? FIVE? Surely Cinders of the Great War could be interpreted metaphorically as living with the aftermath of war? And this story had a platoon and a lieutenant and deserted streetscapes and survivors and grenades!! Even BenM's war on everything only got two queries on the trigger(gotta bring Chaser into this somewhere Ben). (Brendan slowly gets down off soapbox and starts an embarrassed, or is that sheepish grin.)

[This message has been edited by Brendan (edited January 18, 2010).]

Posted by Brendan (Member # 6044) on :
I noticed that a couple of critiques (particularly of snapper's and Meredith's work) suggested that they thought the stories felt like beginning chapters of a novel. That is not necessarily a bad thing - it can get the audience wanting to read more and therefore take note of the author. One of my favorite short stories did that (I think it was called Lot) and later the author wrote a sequal (Lot's Daughter). However, having said that, I have had one story rejected from a magazine on that basis.
Posted by Meredith (Member # 8368) on :
I have to say that for me the critiques were mostly right on. I did need to foreshadow the blue cinder. In fact, I've already made that change. And the ending could use a little work. I'm thinking about that. Not sure just exactly what to do, yet.

The critique that said it seemed like the first chapter of a novel surprised me. In some ways it shouldn't be surprising--I write mostly novel-length. But I hadn't thought of this story that way. Now you've got me wondering if I should. Hmm. Rell's quest to become a mage with no one to teach him. It has possibilities.

And I'm positively thrilled to have done so well on this. I'm going to print out those critiques and read them when I doubt that I can actually write something shorter than a novelette that works.

Thanks. Looking forward to trying this again.

Edited to add: Oh, and I'm mostly a fantasy reader, but I understood the nanites and that Caraway Seed was supposed to be a joke.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited January 18, 2010).]

Posted by shimiqua (Member # 7760) on :
My story was the first one with all the killing and the warriors and the copper and bronze, and how come nobody realized I was retelling Cinderella??

Seriously I was. A prince meets a common woman at a ball, searches for her, finds her, and then lives in hapil forever after. I mean really nobody noticed? There was a godmother in there, and a glass slipper. Still nobody realized.

Come on people!

Obviously if no one noticed, I wasn't being as clear as I though I was. I've changed the title in my head to Cinderella of the Great War.

Thanks everyone for reading and your comments. I am going to rewrite this one completely with a closer POV and answering all the questions you all so cleverly made.

I read both F and SF, but I didn't get nanobots.

Congrats satate and everybody with the great stories!

Posted by Owasm (Member # 8501) on :
Thanks for the crits.

I just couldn't stuff my story into 2,000 words. The confusing beginning scene was courtesy of the trigger and was promptly ditched as well as the health clinic... although Fitzhew did convince Martibank to leave the planet with him by saying she can spend more time offplanet trying to find a cure for her people's stupidity than dodging knives and shovels in her own. They are now trying to figure out how to let down Fitzhew's evil client gracefully as they fly through space.

Haven't finished plotting yet.

This was a great contest. Kudos to the winners and kudos to snapper for putting it on.

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
And thanks to everyone for the crits. I agree with them and they have given me a few ideas to evolve this into something better.
I had teh same problem as almost everyone else did, too much story in too little words. That was clearly reflected in the quick and pat ending.
I will probably double my word count (if not more).

A few things amazed me.

Shimiqua had her submission to me two days after I posted the trigger. She informed me that she dreamed up and written that story in that short of time and it wasn't already sitting in her computer.

The voting was very diverse. Nobody had the same three choices. Satate's story was on the most of the voters lists, 7, which left it off of 6 others.

8 of the submissions had more than ten points.

Great Fun!


Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (Member # 59) on :
Congratulations to everyone for a great challenge, and thanks to snapper for letting me be involved in my own way.

I was amazed at all the diversity, and can certainly agree that choosing a winner must have been a huge challenge all by itself.

I hope you all will consider submitting your stories for publication.

Posted by ScardeyDog (Member # 8707) on :
What I learned:

1) Start early, and finish early. I started right away on this challenge and wrote about half of it, but then stalled. I ended up cutting two 600 word chunks and sending it off without a proof-read, (I was already 3 days late) which is why some things are mentioned and then never come up again.

2)Proof-read. Do a second draft. See 1) above.

3) Don't leave anything intentionally vague. I knew when I made those cuts the MC's relationship with Katie was left unexplained, but I decided to leave it. A lot of critiques commented on that - a definate no-no!

And just to clarify... in the last line I was trying to imply the colonies would one day re-integrate. I was in a hurry and it came out a bit more, shall we say, forward than I intended.

Brendan - I read SF (aside: love Richard Morgan) and F, though more F lately. I "got" nannites, but not until later in the story. The sniff and a list of scents(?) is the first thing I read. I had no idea if X-on was supposed to be a virus, perfume, food, motor oil, or what. I guess viroid should have been a tip-off, but combined with caraway seeds I wasn't sure what type of thing he was listing. It didn't help that not all stories in this contest were SF, so going in I wasn't assuming a future world at all. Also, maybe capatilize Sniff to make it more clear it's a person/job.

Shimiqua - Cinderella, really? I didn't pick up on that at all. What was the glass sliper? I just read it again, now I kind-of see it. Cool.

Thanks everyone for the crits.

Posted by Rhaythe (Member # 7857) on :
Well done, everyone! And congratulations, Satate!

(Note to self: No more WW2 stories in a sci-fi/fantasy forum)

Posted by BenM (Member # 8329) on :
gotta bring Chaser into this somewhere Ben
Ha! I never thought of that. I bet you no one else gets it.

The problem with the caraway seed and stuff at the beginning was I didn't understand X-on at all, Debussy is (in my experience) a composer, so when X-on, Debussy, viroid and Caraway seed all got mixed into the same sentence they seemed unrelated: my brain exploded with a WHOMP that made the windows rattle and kept the cleaner busy for hours. I concede it is possible my sense of humour needs to be further refined.

(Note to self: No more WW2 stories in a sci-fi/fantasy forum)
Hee hee... only - maybe that's the best way to get guaranteed crits on a sci-fi/fantasy forum? If I'd posted mine in F&F would I have gotten more than a couple of nibbles? (and, for those that want to stretch their writing muscles occasionally, is there a similar forum for non-SF/F genres?)

Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :

It wasn't writing outside the genre that did you in, it was the total lack of hope your story had. One critique summed it up great.

Beautifully written, depressing as hell

Despite the nature of the story, unhappy ending, and lack of a speculative element, you just about won. It is a testament to your story telling talent and strong prose that you came so close in this strong field.

Well done. Write like that more and I'll be begging you for an autograph copy of a future masterpiece for a contest like this in the future.

Posted by Brendan (Member # 6044) on :
gotta bring Chaser into this somewhere Ben
Ha! I never thought of that. I bet you no one else gets it.

We'll see, we'll see. The Osama stunt certainly made world headlines.

(Note to self: No more WW2 stories in a sci-fi/fantasy forum)

Snapper did state that historical fiction was allowed. And it got second place, so I don't think it counted against you.

Posted by Meredith (Member # 8368) on :
My story was the first one with all the killing and the warriors and the copper and bronze, and how come nobody realized I was retelling Cinderella??

No, I didn't. I was more focused on what this guy had to be feeling, finding out that his god was only a man. And then his conflict over the woman that had killed his god (and his faith), but whom he still loved in a twisted way. That's what I wanted to get from the story.

Cinderella may be where you started. But I don't think it's where the story really needs to go to be great.

Posted by dougsguitar on :
Great job Satate, Rhaythe, Snapper, Meredith! Great story line-up from everyone, I liked them all. I am most grateful for the excellent level of crit work. I felt that your comments were well thought and well spoken. I agreed with most suggestions, especially the ones that were threaded through several comments.
I look forward to picking the collective brain about the name thing. And I vow to grasp and to practice control of backstory and info-dumping!
My own copy of 'Character and Viewpoint-OSC' is on the way!
I would like to see some of the revisions that come out of this contest. The stories were great. Anyone seeking a volunteer reader would find me ready! Peace, Doug
Posted by Meredith (Member # 8368) on :
I would like to see some of the revisions that come out of this contest. The stories were great. Anyone seeking a volunteer reader would find me ready! Peace, Doug

You may get a chance at that. Expect to see mine (possibly with a slightly altered title) in the F&F forum before too long.

Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (Member # 59) on :
those that want to stretch their writing muscles occasionally, is there a similar forum for non-SF/F genres?

I don't know of any other forums (fora?) like this, but I don't see why people can't ask for feedback in this forum for non-SF/F stories. Just be sure you explain up front that you have a story with no speculative elements and you'd like feedback on it.

Surely the people here have read other things than SF/F and can comment on such stuff?

Posted by Brendan (Member # 6044) on :
those that want to stretch their writing muscles occasionally, is there a similar forum for non-SF/F genres?

Forward Motion is another site for writers. It requires membership to enter, and, like this one, is quite a good site. It does all sorts of genres, though, as it was started by a fantasy writer, there is a large proportion of spec fic writers that attend it (but less so than here).

Posted by BenM (Member # 8329) on :
Yeah I was just throwing that out there - this is the second non-SF story I've ever written, so it's treading new ground for me and I wasn't sure what to do with it. I'll certainly try it in F&F when the time comes though.


[This message has been edited by BenM (edited March 09, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by BenM (edited March 09, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by BenM (edited March 09, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by BenM (edited March 09, 2010).]

Posted by Dark Warrior (Member # 8822) on :
Motivated by my top 20 finish in this contest I have started my rewrite on Senders of the Great Wars. I am returning to the original title (which I will leave out in case this ever becomes a WOTF entry...previous posts have made me paranoid about that) and excited about applying all i learned from the positive and negative (yet also positive in a constructive way) critiques.

This was the first story i ever wrote and while I knew at the time of submission there were things I would have changed I left it in its original form, curious to see how different a rewrite would look after applying all I have learned here since October and all I learned from the contest feedback.

Posted by dougsguitar on :
Dark Warrior,
My thoughts exactly, especially;
This was the first story i ever wrote and while I knew at the time of submission there were things I would have changed I left it in its original form, curious to see how different a rewrite would look after applying all I have learned here since October and all I learned from the contest feedback.

I want to see how the story works with a longer word count and a couple of passes through the 'crit-mill'. Seeing how the other writers here craft plot, layout, descriptions, etc. has helped me see the snaggletoothes in my own.
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
I would be willing to give a complete critique to anyone that wants one on their story as it was or any rewrite.

A lot of fine submissions, I believe we should see some as published works in the future.

Posted by Dark Warrior (Member # 8822) on :
My first draft rewrite of the post-contest Cinders story (#3) is finished...anyone interested in talking a looksee? 1600 words

[This message has been edited by Dark Warrior (edited February 27, 2010).]

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