Short story lovers, we had ourselves a wonderful time this week as we watched our writers craft us some supervillains. But now the battle is over and it is time for us to declare a winner in the battle of the baddest.
Which author won? Let’s check in with our judges.
“Judas” by Jeff Martin – I like how this story starts out. The family was a little stereotypical but it worked; drunk aggressive father, worrying nervous mother, innocent, naive sibling. You can tell that there is a lot riding on this meeting at the beach from how the mother and father are acting, and that contrasts well with how Elias thinks it is not a big deal at all.
In my opinion, this story uses one of the most believable reasons for a person to become a villain; an innocent is shown “how the world really is” by way of a devastating personal loss. When he awakens with his powers, he becomes a true supervillain.
I like how there was no explanation given about where his powers came. He has them, they are real, deal with it. It works so much better than trying to piece together some chemical spill or curse or whatever.
I’m not sure where a congregation like this would exist these days, but I know there are a lot of backwater places out there so who knows.
Elias’ quick descent into complete and utter evil is well done. He destroys the pastor to avenge his family, then he destroys the entire village in anger after Tabitha rejects him, then on to the world after the child thinks him a monster.
There were a couple of issues with the story (Elias wakes and finds he “no longer obtained a tongue to make the thoughts audible” but spends the rest of the story talking to everyone) but really nothing that ruined the story for me.
“Ebola Erica” by Tony Southcotte – This story had a much more “real” feel to it. Typical high school interactions coupled with a little mental instability and we have the origin of our villain.
It is a testament to how well this story is written that it does seem so real. Add the current hot topic, Ebola, and this story comes almost a little too close to reality. You wouldn’t be overly surprised to read about this in the paper tomorrow morning.
I like how the ultimate cause for this entire tragedy to start is money, or the lack thereof. If her family could afford the doctor again she could probably cope with things better. Without him she is unsteady, and when she loses her “totem” she becomes completely unhinged. Who knows where she would have ended up with more help?
The first time jump was a little abrupt and confused me at first. I had to reread that section a couple of times to place where we were. Beyond that, the story moves very well, with a kind of compelling quality to it that sucked me in.
The issue that I did have with this story was the scope. Erica comes across more as a sociopath or a serial killer than she does a supervillain. She gives in to her own murderous urges and has no objective beyond that. To me, supervillain means they have a plan. Whether its revenge or domination, financial wealth or even anarchy, they want something. Erica just wants to kill.
Two well written, strong stories this week. Neither of these would feel out-of-place in a magazine or short story collection. However, there can be only one winner in the arena so I had to go with the story that I felt fit the prompt a little more. This week that story was:
“Judas” by Jeff Martin
Donald Jacob Uitvlugt is our second 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).
Yet another great week for The Writer’s Arena. Supervillains come in many shapes and sizes, from the mad scientist type, such as Doctor Impossible in Soon I Will Be Invincible, to the do-gooder who pushes “the end justifies the means” too far, such as Ozymandias in Watchman. There are homicidal villains such as The Joker, megalomaniacs bent on world domination such as Lex Luthor, and sympathetic antiheroes such as Magneto.
We all love a good villain, perhaps because they can get away with things that we only dream of doing. The supervillain always raises the question why — why do they do the evil things that they do? We have two very different answers to that question in our stories for this week. As is my custom, I’m going to comment on a few specific points before moving on to my main remarks.
“Judas” — I love the Southern Gothic vibe to this story; in fact I wish there were even more details linking it to a more definite time and place. I enjoy Elias as a character from the moment he discovers his powers; until that point he seems frozen in time. He suspects what’s coming, but he is carried along by events set in motion by the preacher. I wonder if the story would have been stronger if it started with Elias waking up in the boat with the rest of the prologue information given in flashes as he heads for the preacher’s home. We discover his back story as he discovers his powers.
Elias’s jump from vengeance to a war on all hypocrites and religious bigots happened a little too fast for me. I wish that something deeper had been done with the hypocritical preacher, something more…Flannery O’Connor-esque. But still “Judas” is a solid, entertaining story by a writer I had not before encountered. Well done, Mr. Martin.
“Ebola Erica” — Reasons are a lot more clouded in Tony’s story. Why did Erica become a supervillain? Because she was bullied as a child? Because she was schizophrenic? Because she discovered that, hey, she enjoys killing? Does evil arise from within, from societal forces, from the devil? The story doesn’t shy away from the complexity of reality.
I had a number of issues with the story. I’m not sure how such a troubled person was able to become a nurse. Certain scenes, especially near the beginning, were quite disjointed. I found the time jump from Erica’s childhood to her career as a nurse exceptionally jarring. I wonder if the story would have been stronger if it had started in the hospital with Erica contemplating her first “Angel of Death” killings with the childhood events told in schizophrenic flashback.
Yet in spite of these flaws (if they’re flaws and not just a reflection of my personal preferences), there is a power to Erica as a character. She represents an understandable, human evil, one that is not easily explained away. Why does she choose to spread the plague? Why do any of us do bad things?
Erica is you and I.
Two quite different approaches to villainy and the question of evil here. In the end, I will cast my vote for the story that had the greatest emotional impact on me. And for me this week that story was:
“Ebola Erica” by Tony Southcotte.
It looks like we have another tie in the arena, at least from the judges. When this happens, we resort to our wonderful fans to decide. Lets take a look at how the voting turned out.
Congratulations to Tony Southcotte! The popular vote gives him the win, though that was an impressive fight put up by Jeff Martin. Splitting the judges is no easy feat. I am afraid though, Jeff, that you will have to enter the bear pit now and fight for your very life as runner-up!!!!! **
In the end the readers always win here at the arena
Battle #20 is in the books! Tune in next week when we battle the flu in space.
** EDIT: I am told that we still have not worked out the kinks in the “runner-up fights a bear” concept, so that won’t be happening.
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