This week, we were all about intergalactic hit-men. It doesn’t matter where you run, these beings are going to collect you. Danny Brophy represented the arena with his story “Out of the Universe by Sundown.” Can love endure when your job is murder? Danny lets you know the answer.
Challenging him was Ian C. Williams, in which he promises you a violent good time in his alien-noir story “Contracts.”
Without further ado, let’s see what our judges have to say.
Lucky #13 this week in the arena. Lets see what our authors can do with “Intergalactic Hit Man”.
“Contracts” by Ian C Williams – This story does a wonderful job of introducing us to an entire alien planet and its inhabitants without burying us in weird details and such (I’m looking at you “The London Hammer”). We don’t need to know how their ships work or where they are in the universe, Terra is far away so he’ll be home late tonight and that’s plenty for this to work.
I loved the reluctance in our hit man. That he doesn’t really like his job even though he is so good at it. I liked the interaction with his mother, how she keeps bringing up that his father never complained and that you just need to suck it up and live your life. It was a nice touch that our hit man needed a pep talk.
The scene in the bar was well done for the most part, I thought the slip of “Terra” was a little clumsy and convenient, but I can accept it. The conversation between the two main characters, “Clarence” and “Jim” was beautiful. I enjoyed the whole two levels of conversation idea, that every statement had another deeper meaning behind it was very nice.
The ending was good too, although I did have to go back and read it again to see when he actually made the kill. I missed it the first time through which I guess for a hit man is a good thing.
There were a couple of parts that seemed a little clunky, I mentioned the Terra slip earlier, the segue into the visit to his mother was another. Nothing major and nothing that jarred me out of the story.
All in all a very good offering that shows skill and imagination. Thank you.
“Out of the Universe by Sundown” – Danny Brophy – Talk about an opening. No messing around here, right to business.
The choice of format here was interesting. I wasn’t sure it really worked on the first read through, but I can see why it was used and it grew on me a little. There was a lot more emotion here than I expected in a tale about assassinations. The love interest really took the story in a entirely different direction.
I liked that the hit man stayed so long that he got used to Earth and, in a way, started to become “human”. He lives like a human and began to take pity on his target. That’s almost a requirement in a hit man story and it worked well here.
I got a real ‘addict’ vibe from our protagonist in this story. Not just with the drugs but the neediness and the apologetic tone and the incessant pleading. I don’t know if that was intended but it really helped set me up for the twist. I was convinced that she had left him because he had a problem or was abusive.
Speaking of the twist, I liked it but I’m not sure I liked how it was revealed. He seemed a little too matter of fact about the whole thing. “It’s what the contract said,” seems like a cop out for something so serious. I wanted more regret, more despair.
Still a very strong entry for the arena.
This contest came down to polish, the winner just felt more like a finished piece. This week my vote goes to: “Contracts” by Ian C Williams.
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 http://haikufiction.blogspot.com or via Twitter @haikufictiondju).
Another great week in the Arena! One thing that keeps me coming back here week after week is the variety, not only in the prompts but especially in the way that the combatants treat the prompts.
“Contracts” has a great Elmore Leonard vibe going for it, at least for me. Like a lot of Leonard’s narrators, this guy is smooth. He has problems, you get the sense that things aren’t necessarily going as well for him as he lets on, but he’s slick. The prose is smooth too, fitting the persona of the narrator. My real difficulty was with the ending. To me there didn’t seem to be much of an emotional payoff for the excellent beginning and middle.
“Out of the Universe by Sundown” was not smooth. I read this story second, and it seemed very jerky compared to “Contracts.” But I think that telling the story in snatches winds up working for this narrator, getting us into his inner neuroses, so to speak. For me, “Out of the Universe by Sundown” feels like a Woody Allen film written by Jack Kerouac, maybe with hints of Quentin Tarantino thrown in. A nebbish tries to do the right thing, if only influenced by the drugs, and it doesn’t go well for him.
Two very different hit-men, one good at his job, the other…not so much. Two very different stories, but like always, I have to vote for the one that had the most emotional impact for me. And this week, that story was:
“Out of the Universe by Sundown,” by Danny Brophy.
Another split decision! That means that it falls to you, the reader, to decide this contest. Here’s how the votes tallied out:
Congratulations to Ian C. Williams! Our challengers kicked the TWA Crew around in this cycle of stories. Will they bounce back? We’ll find out soon!
It’s our off-week coming up, but check back, as we will have some stories, some posts, and many other fun things. Then we’ll be right back into the action again the week after that.
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.