12-judgeHappy Friday to all of the wonderful readers, writers, and confused Googlers out there. This week was all about OOPAs, or out of place artifacts. Representing the arena was Tony Southcotte with his story “Disks of Gold.” Tomi Wiley bashed her way into the arena with “The London Hammer.”

Who was the winner? Let’s see what our judges have to say.

Donald Jacob Uitvlugt is our guest judge this week. Donald strives to write what he calls “haiku fiction,” stories that are small in scope but big on impact. Find out more about haiku fiction here.  He welcomes comments at his blog or via Twitter @haikufictiondju).

Two tales of alien artifacts on Earth. Two tales of two very different Karas, one in search of love, the other in search of something worth believing in. Is it just a coincidence that both stories feature a main character named Kara? Or was it all planned long ago by beings from the stars? A tough call.


I’m going to make a few comments on the two stories before moving on to my verdict.


“The London Hammer” by Tomi Wiley — Wow. That first line. Such a nice hook. I also like the science fiction vibe of this story quite a lot. The universe of the story is sketched with a delicious economy of details creating a world that is familiar and alien at the same time. Kara’s tragedy is portrayed in a very poignant fashion.


A well-told story, although the ending is a bit fuzzy for me. Also, I personally wished for a more direct link to the artifact as it’s known in the real world. In that regard, I’m not entirely sure how well the story answers the challenge of the prompt.


“Discs of Gold” by Tony Southcotte — Now we know what sort of person becomes a professional forum troll. I think we see fairly deeply into Kara’s psyche for such a brief story. She’s been disappointed so many times that she’s lost nearly all faith and hope, but there’s a part of her that still wants to believe. Into that life comes her alien visitor.


Yet we never really see Kara’s issue resolved – is her visitor worth believing in, or is he just another disappointment waiting to happen? I want to know, but the story doesn’t say.


Two very different stories, both with compelling worlds but both with issues sticking the landing. In the end I have to go with the story that I felt to be the most emotionally compelling, and for me this week that story was:


“The London Hammer”


Rich Alix is our second judge. He is a patron of The Human Echoes Podcast, and an all-around awesome guy. He is the voice of the common man in this contest, and here is his judgment:

This week we explore the shady world of the OOPA. Giving stories and origins to those things that defy explanation seems like worthy fodder for the arena.


“Discs of Gold” by Tony Southcotte – This story had a little bit of a meta feel to it. Writing about writing about the OOPAs was an inspired take on things. I loved the idea of professional trolls, paid to keep the internet burning with the unbridled rage and idealistic conviction that comes with anonymity.


I liked that the man who “discovered” the stones was really one of the aliens sent to reveal them instead. I also liked the twist of the jaded cynic becoming the one who is selected to receive the truth. The cyber attack and the ensuing paranoia was well done and felt very real. That the Dropa were responsible for life on Earth and all the major extinctions was brilliant.


I really don’t have any issues with this story, it had a great mix of action, suspense and mystery. I could see this as a movie or as a longer story, feels like it was really setting the table for some serious stuff to go down. I would love a sequel to find out what happens in the next five years, but like the old saying goes, “always leave them wanting more.” Very well done, sir.


“The London Hammer” by Tomi Wiley – This is a first for me in the arena. I knew this day would come sooner or later and part of me has dreaded it the entire time. I quite simply did not like this story.


The entire tale reduces down to a very basic one, a crime of passion (maybe?) is punished by banishment, and it did not engage me at all. There are many reasons for this: The main character seems haunted by Seth but also seems to feel no remorse for what she did. Her punishment seems odd and forced. The artifact and its appearance in that rock is never really explained. It seems even more out of place with Seth than in 500 million year old rock, as far as I can see it serves no purpose before she uses it to murder him.


The fact that all of these issues are also surrounded and covered with so much jargon and oddball tidbits (third hands, last set of lungs, extra stomachs etc) doesn’t help. There was just too much stuff introduced in such a short story that I was lost and overwhelmed completely.


Even though I did not like this story, I can see the author’s talent shining through in the descriptions and the dialogue. There were definitely sparks of beauty in there. I would be interested in reading more from Ms. Wiley.


As you can probably guess, this week my vote goes to:


Discs of Gold” by Tony Southcotte


A split decision! That means that the last vote goes to our readers. Let’s take a look at the poll.

[poll id=”8″]

It looks like Tomi is the winner! She might have had a split decision on the judges score card, but the popular vote went to her handily. Congratulations Tomi Wiley!

On a side note, we are paying our authors a base level rate at the moment, but if you really enjoyed their story and want to help us make sure these awesome people get paid, please donate below. 75% goes to the author, the rest goes to keeping this place up and running.

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