Oh Friday, you glorious and welcome beast. You are the harbinger of the coming weekend, and the day the arena dispenses literary justice. It’s about time, too. No, it isn’t time for the weekend or judgement. Well it is, shut up, but the battle is about time as well as travel.
Jenn Collins decided to go medieval on this competition with her story “The Wish.”
Arena master Albert Berg locks you in a box in deep space with his story “Iteration.”
Another week, another round of stories. This week the arena demanded stories about time travel, and the arena will not be denied!
“The Wish” by Jenn Collins – This is just a basic story about a boy and his birthday with a side trip through time. I liked that.
The section of the story that dealt with the medieval era was well done. I enjoyed how most of Ben’s preconceptions are smashed. He is expecting an adventure with heroes and maidens and what he gets is quite different. His “maiden” is repulsive, he can hardly even stand up nevermind be a hero, and what little victory he manages to achieve is primarily by luck. I like to think that we are told how much his views have changed by how he acts when he returns. To me, he was really wishing he had chosen a PS4 instead.
The part of the story that I think didn’t work as well was the part before the cake. The exchange in his bedroom and the scene throwing the football were well written and worked as scenes, but I just don’t know if they needed to be in this story. I would have enjoyed more in the medieval time or with the Make a Wish people rather than Uncle Bobby.
All in all this was a good story, I think the issues I had were more personal taste than things really wrong with the story.
“Iteration” by Albert Berg – As is usual, Al put his own twist on the prompt. It took a minute to get the idea of what was going on in here but once I did it was fantastic.
Long time space travel faces quite a few challenges. The solution given here to one of the issues, while definitely outside what is possible, is imaginative and unique. Sending one person who uses the “coffins” to get help is something I would never have considered. This is another story where the magic box works well. There is no effort to explain how they work or who created them, they just work and are accepted.
The story itself was well done, I liked the contrast between the physical computer problem and the emotional problem our narrator is working through. I enjoyed the time limit imposed by the number of coffins involved, everyday your consciousness wakes in the next coffin and after you sleep in the last one you are gone.
This raises a little bit of an ethical dilemma, and it might just be me not understanding it completely. If the problem is not fixed in 12 days, are the “iterations” stuck in that loop forever or will they all eventually work their way through the line of coffins? This is the kind of stuff that sticks with me and I love it.
I wasn’t really sure the ending of this story hit completely when I read it first, the second read through had me sold on it.
This week was very interesting, both stories hit the time travel prompt well and I enjoyed both. My vote this week goes to the story that made me want to go back (in time?) and read it again. That story is:
“Iteration” by Albert Berg
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).
Time travel? It’s about time!
This week the Arena presented us with two fascinating stories. Though usually conceived of as a science fiction trope, the concept of time travel is found in other genres as well. “Rip Van Winkle” and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court come to mind. Paranormal stories can use a version of time travel to twine the experiences of two characters together. And of course there’s a plethora of time travel romances out there these days, from Bid Time Return (which became the movie Somewhere in Time) to The Time Traveler’s Wife and beyond.
When one reads our stories this week, the question one has to ask is, why hasn’t the Arena done this before? As is my custom, I’m going to comment briefly on both stories before giving my vote.
“The Wish” by Jenn Collins – This story is definitely in the Connecticut Yankee vein. I found it a real delight to read. Though the beginning is perhaps a little long for my taste, the characters are nicely delineated and enjoyably quirky. I was definitely a Ben growing up, more interested in books than sports. There’s a lot of humor and heart in this story. Yet I found myself wanting the story to be a bit more than another example of the “be careful what you wish for” idea. I missed that little extra something that, for me, would push it from the good column to the great.
“Iteration” by Albert Berg – In my opinion, Al has the most unique voice of the Arena’s regular cadre of writers. I could easily imagine him narrating his story as I read. While it has the trappings of a science fiction story, the time travel here is really more metaphysical, enabling the narrator to engage in a complicated web of self-deception and self-examination. There were times where I got confused as to precisely which iteration of the narrator I was listening to; but I think that may be part of the theme of the story. The narrator himself is confused. There are so many versions of himself, I’m not sure he knows who he is any more. He’s haunted by the ghosts of his other selves. Or perhaps he’s the one who’s really the ghost.
Two very different approaches to our theme this week. Both stories with different sorts of strengths and weaknesses. In the end, I’m going to cast my vote for the story that lingers most in my memory after reading it, that has the greatest personal resonance. This week that story is:
“Iteration” by Albert Berg
For the first time in ages, it seems we have a judges’ decision! Congratulations Albert Berg.
Now, let’s see if the popular vote lines up with the judges. It’s a much smaller margin, but Albert takes the people’s choice as well. Let’s take a moment to thank Jenn Collins for a wonderful story.
We’ll see you next week as Tony Southcotte takes on Lu Whitley in a scaly contest of dragons!
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