Our warrior writers have fought admirably, but ultimately only one can emerge victorious. Our esteemed judges have sifted through the carnage and rendered their decisions.
Judge Ellie Soderstrom – Ellie has been a longtime friend of Al and of the podcast in general. She has many books available, including The Silver Sickle, which is way too awesome and deserving of your eyes. She had this to say about the stories.
VERDICT: Although both stories gave a great hook, had intensely beautiful lines, and made excellent use of the prompt, “Expanding Scope” rose above “Creatures Great and Small.” It is simple to explain why I chose it as the winner: because character is story. Joseph helped us connect with his characters and invest in his story.
“Creatures Great and Small,” by Caleb Newell
There are some beautiful lines and interesting themes in this piece. It starts off comparing the dullness of physics equations with the fascination of how a breeze forms. Although there are some repetitive lines, I enjoyed the intro and was hooked.
Then comes the new world, Castor 36. This is when it gets even better, and Caleb’s writing shines. It’s pacing is perfect. The world is creative and has a sense of urgency. There’s enough exposition to describe the setting but not enough to slow it down.
The next human sections are when three different themes are brought up, which is just too much for Act II. Time dilation, e=mc2, and perception are all discussed. If only perception (which is the strongest theme, and relates to the challenge) had been focused on it would’ve been a much sharper section, especially if an action or character trait was written along with it. Although these thoughts are important, they’d be heightened and better understood if they were paired with an action.
The bug sections are astute and well done, very engaging. But this story needs a character–no matter how interesting it is, exposition cannot carry a story. I hope Caleb doesn’t give up on this story, and goes on to write a human we can invest in. He’s an excellent writer and can take this story far!
My favorite line in the story was: “They stood around inspecting the fragment for some time, wondering how such a material could even come to exist. A few claimed that they had seen dried and hardened tree sap produce a similar substance.”
“Expanding Scope” by Joseph Devon – The introduction was my least favorite part of this story. It was dull and vague, and written with passive verbs so, like the character, I worried. But I shouldn’t have worried. Starting in paragraph four (which is when the story should have started), Devon swept me into a world of colors, pain, fear of joy, and hope. He eloquently describes the connection between laughter and abuse, and I saw this child so clearly, and my heart broke for him. “All I remember is my laughter making my father hate me.”
He takes us through the years, as the character learns to stop laughing, to stop crying, and harden up. “My knuckles would grind into my eyes and I’d swear at myself, repeating his anger,” and I felt so very little hope and wondered if this character would turn into his father.
And then comes the most brilliant scene—this boy lets his action figures cry for him. Really. Really! It was just so heartbreaking and well written, “the razor sharp edges of my emotions would blunt and grow bleary,” and there was the hope! He was coping, he was working things out and learning how, not only to survive, but to release his anger.
Then came the beautiful description of phosphorescent plankton. And he connects the light to the stars he saw when his father hit him, and that gives him a perspective of the scope of his pain–it isn’t eternal, it has faded. Quick bursts of light that quickly fade. “The plankton thinks its world is searing brightness but the world is so much bigger.” It’s a good lesson, wonderfully told. And important for everyone to remember.
Rich Alix is our second judge. He is a patron of the podcast, and an all-around awesome guy. He is the voice of the common man in this contest, and here is his judgment.
While I was mildly disappointed with the utter lack of 50 foot poodles, I was very pleased with the quality of the stories presented for this challenge. Joseph and Caleb have demonstrated their skill as wordsmiths and gifted us all with stories that shine even brighter considering the short time they had to work with.
Caleb – as the first to accept the challenge and step into the unknown, I commend you. I liked how you were able to take a concept like time dilation and apply it to the theme of scale and to the world of insects. It added another layer to the story that was nice to see. However, I thought the first person perspective in the large scale story felt a little odd, especially going back and forth with the ants and their third person. I did really like the story overall, it just feels like it could use a little more work.
Joseph – I guess I shouldn’t be surprised but your story was not was I was expecting. Playing the fireworks vs the toys and setting it all against such an emotional backdrop was more than what the prompt had me geared up to read. While not having experienced this type of thing first hand, your descriptions were how I imagine it could be. I did however find the transition to the plankton with the waitress in the diner somewhat clunky. The plankton was a nice touch, a good way out of the story but a little more polish in that spot would have made it much better.
This was an excellent battle and you both put out stories to be proud of. Well done.
Today my vote goes to Joseph Devon and “Expanding Scope.”
Lastly, here are the readers’ picks. They are a little sparse right now, but as the community builds, these numbers will grow. We had massive amounts of people who read the stories but didn’t vote. Remember, you can be the tie breaker in this contest, so be sure to vote! Here’s the breakdown:
Joseph Devon’s Expanding Scope – 3 votes
Caleb Newell’s Creatures Great and Small – 1 vote
Comments with no decision: 3
So there you have it folks, TWA’s own Joseph Devon wins this bout, bringing him to an overall record of 1-1!
Caleb, you fought valiantly and brought us an excellent story. We will be sure to have you back someday to fight again.
Hit up the comments section below to let us know what you thought about this contest and if you agree with the verdict. We’ll see you next week as prompt #4 is revealed and we shift focus to Albert Berg taking on Donald Uitvlugt in TWA #3 – The Butler Did It.
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.