TWA #24 – Heat and Meat – JUDGEMENT!

scalesRise, friends. Rise from your post-Thanksgiving coma and join us in feasting on some stories. This week featured a pair of stories about cooking and all the passion that goes into it.

Arena newcomer Tabatha Mathis busted out a retelling of an old Grimm Tale in “Ginger Snaps.”

Grizzled veteran and professional gravy dealer Tony Southcotte took on the origins of food a bit differently in “Universal Soup.”

Who took home the bacon?

Let’s check in with our judges.

Donald Jacob Uitvlugt is our first 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).

After the leftovers have all been put away and we’ve glutted on football, The Writer’s Arena was kind enough to provide us with a feast of short stories this week. Our own personal chef/authors have labored tirelessly to produce offerings that will that will tantalize our palates. The proof of the pudding is in the eating; the proof of the Arena battle is in the reading.

 

As is my custom, I’m going to comment briefly on each story before casting my vote.

 

“Ginger Snaps” by Tabatha Mathis – I love reimaged fairytales, and so this story has a lot going for it. The world of the story is darker than the original (which is saying something, given the darkness in the original) and has a richness to it. These are real people in difficult situations. The relationship between Hansel and Gretel is handled especially well.

 

But in the end I feel like there is too much here for my tastes. Too many characters, too many storylines that in my opinion don’t cohere into a solid ending. The quotation from Macbeth was fun, but I wasn’t entirely sure what the point of it was within the story world. I wanted to like this story so much, but the ending left me out of breath and a little confused.

 

“Universal Soup” by Tony Southcotte – And now for a horse of a different color. I would classify this tale as a shaggy dog story, a genre that I’m not usually very fond of. The best examples I know of in speculative fiction are the collection of tales that make up Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales from the White Hart — and even those don’t always work for me.

 

I’m not entirely convinced that “Universal Soup” as it stands works for me a hundred percent. I wish there were more connection between the first part and the ending. But it does work. The ending made me smile and groan at the same time. A shaggy dog story that I enjoyed reading. A rare accomplishment.

 

A very tough week for me to reach a decision. “Ginger Snaps” sets the bar really high, but in my opinion didn’t stick the landing. “Universal Soup” is an example of a genre I don’t really like, but what it did it did well. After thinking long and hard about this decision, I have to vote for story that worked the best for me this week. And that story is:

 

“Universal Soup” by Tony Southcotte.

 

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 are his thoughts:

The arena would never let you hunger for good stories, especially during Thanksgiving week. Lets check out what’s on the menu today:

 

“Ginger Snaps” by Tabatha Mathis – This was an ambitious story. Re-telling well known tales is always risky. I confess I was rusty on the original, but this story prompted me to go back and read it again.

 

I liked the way that the whole family dynamic was changed around here. With the implied abuse and possible infidelity, there is a lot more going on here than in the Grimms’ tale.

 

Hansel as portrayed here is an interesting character. He truly loves Gretel, although she can be difficult and even if she may not be his full sister. He rages against both of his parents due to her and does his best to protect her. I would love to see a longer story centered on him.

 

When Lady Odecre arrives that’s when the story starts to go off the rails a little bit. On my first reading I got characters mixed up and had to go back and figure out who was who and what they were doing. As you can expect this took me out of the story a bit and I am still not sure if I got it all right.

 

The ending is well done, with Agatha becoming possessed and taking Gretel on as an apprentice. I would have liked to see a little more reaction from Hansel however.

 

“Universal Soup’ by Tony Southcotte – Wow. Fantastic opening paragraph. Had me hooked right away.

 

I loved the descriptions of the being forming galaxies and planets and the like; “It may never be whole again, but at least it would bind together where it could.” The references to its “arms” and the idea that the being spans the entire universe was wonderful.

 

The pacing of this story is perfect. The breaks corresponding to large amounts of time passing and each section touching on an important event, gravity, heavy elements, life, etc, is great.

 

I liked the way that the prompt is layered throughout this story. The being “cooks” the universe, “cooks” life, the woman on the savannah is cooking, Jon and the kids are eating.

 

Speaking of Jon, I wasn’t sure if I liked the ending at first, but I came to see it as a great choice. It adds another layer to the story, gives it a little bit of humor and leaves the reader with a smile on their face when they are done which is never a bad thing.

 

The best part of the arena is the inventiveness of the authors. Given the simple prompt of “cooking” we get a reinvented fairy tale and an alternate origin story for the universe. Fantastic! While I would love to reward the courage it took to rewrite Hansel and Gretel, this week I have to vote for the pure beauty of:

 

“Universal Soup” by Tony Southcotte

 

There you have it folks! A judges’ sweep for Tony. Let’s check in real quick to see what you, the readers, decided:

[poll id=”21″]

It seems Tony took home the popular vote as well.

Thanks to Tabatha for competing!

Be sure to join us next week when the arena goes on a little journey.


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One Comment

  1. Thanks guys! I’ve never written a full story before and when I decided on a Hansel & Gretel rewrite I tried keep all of the original characters in addition to the ones I added in. Its obvious now but while I was fleshing them out I didn’t realize that they simply wouldn’t fit within the constraints of the contest. I took out three other primary characters in addition to removing most of the context of the remaining ones, and I admit I didn’t stitch things up as well as I could have. Thanks for your feedback though, I appreciate it 🙂

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