We went down to the river this week to see what we could find.
Our stories were all about water and our authors served up some wonderful wetness.
Who won the liquid battle? 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).
Another awesome week here at the Arena!
When I read the title of this week’s challenge, I experienced a very strong Waterworld flashback. I was so happy to find our stories had nothing to do with an insane Dennis Hopper or Kevin Costner with gills. Instead, we had two very thoughtful reflections on life and death. Again our Arena writers have a knack for reaching for the deep themes inherent in the challenge.
Water as a source of both life and death. The two stories come at the issue raised by the challenge from completely opposite directions. I don’t think I’ve seen a better pair of stories ever in my times judging the Arena. But the nice people running this show expect a vote out of me, so I should give them what they want.
As usual, I’m going to make a few comments before moving on to my decision.
“Come Sail Away” by Matt Black – This story is a marvelous fantasy. I love how it begins in a world we know all too well from the daily news. And then we find ourselves drawn along with Amanda into a realm that gets progressively more bizarre.
There are lots of delicate touches that were done exceptionally well, starting from the title (which I just got from looking up the name of the band that sings the song). I will admit that when Khatera asks to be called Karen, it rather gave the ending away to me. Especially with the two coins following so closely after. Still, very cleverly handled.
I appreciate the message of the story, but I wonder if Amanda’s victory over Death may have been too easy. It doesn’t make the struggle any less important or meaningful, but in the end, no matter how hard we fight, Death always wins.
Or that may just be my northern European heritage talking.
“Ocean’s Bounty” by Joseph Devon – We shift from a very linear story to one that is much more ruminating in its style. It took me a bit to get used to the way Joseph chose to tell his tale. But the further I read, the more I realized that the style was perfectly chosen to match the meditative nature of Karana’s agony. She has to wrestle with the fact that the same sea that provides life for her people has also taken away her reason for living.
I like that Joseph gave us the opportunity to experience Karana’s grief without necessarily plunging us into despair along with her. The psychology of the story feels a hundred percent real to me, even though I’ve never lived that life. And there’s a rather cathartic existential release at the end of the story. Reading a story like this can shock us out of our egocentrism. Somehow, knowing that other people suffer too makes it easier for me to live with my own pain.
Life sucks for all of us, so let’s try harder to be nicer to each other. Good stuff!
Two very different stories, but both bookending the same set of ideas. It was a very tough decision to choose my favorite (I say that every week, but it’s always true!). In the end, I will cast my vote for the story that made the most emotional impact on me. And for me, this week, that story was:
“Ocean’s Bounty” by Joseph Devon.
Water, water everywhere but do we ever stop to think about it? This week the arena brings us tales of an aqueous nature. How did our authors do? Let’s dive in!
“Come Sail Away” by Matt Black – Another arena entry that doesn’t waste any time but throws us right into the action. The scene in the helicopter was well done, tense, action-packed, and did a good job of revealing more about the Amanda character in a way that felt natural.
After the crash things get a little weird. The transition scene was ok, not sure why she is talking to herself so much in enemy territory but I can handle that. The way she seems to accept the river so quickly can be attributed to her desire to be rescued, I guess, but altogether she seems to take things in stride a little too much.
Once we get to the shack and meet “Karen,” the story gets better, although it became a little more obvious what was going on then too. I enjoyed the ride down the river and the Karen character with her vague and borderline misleading statements, she really came across as otherworldly and all-knowing.
Where this story really shines is at the end. I really liked how Amanda can’t just go quietly and fights back against Karen even after she realizes what exactly is happening. I love the way that the defibrillator translates into the afterworld as “a flash of light and clap of thunder that Amanda felt deep in her chest.”
As a whole this is a good story, it is well written and interesting to read. I think the Amanda character could use a little more polish but she works well as she is here also. A deserving competitor in the arena.
“Ocean’s Bounty” by Joseph Devon – I like how this story starts off. A girl on a beach seems simple enough, but as we get more details and a wider view of our setting we see that things aren’t really so simple. Mr Devon does a great job setting the scene with only as much detail and info as we need. No specific location, just a primitive fishing village. No definite time, just sometime in the age of exploration/colonization. The only name we get is for our MC. This lends the story a sense of universality that I loved. It wouldn’t take much to place this story anywhere or any time.
This story is a good example of how to take what is a common occurance, the loss of family members and providers, and make it personal. By looking through the eyes of a younger girl, it makes it a much more powerful story. The loss is still fresh enough to cause tears on a moment’s notice but old enough that the missing “income” is starting to be felt. The girl is torn between sadness, a sense of duty, anger at having to enter the “workforce,” and despair, and we feel it all right alongside her.
When she starts to think about the tall ships and how she can trade what she has gathered she allows herself to feel good. When it all comes crashing down as she remembers that her father will not be there to do the trading for her we feel it with her, we make it our loss too. That’s a sign of a great story.
This week’s battle was a good one. Both stories were fantastic and fit the prompt very well. It took a few readings to come to my decision. Ultimately one story shone brighter to me and stuck with me a little more. My vote goes to:
“Ocean’s Bounty” by Joseph Devon.
There you have it folks! The judged actually agree for once and all it took was a sad little girl. With two votes already going to “Ocean’s Bounty,” Joseph Devon has this all wrapped up. But let’s take a look at the popular vote as well.
It’s a clean sweep for Mister Devon! But everyone also agreed that Matt Black wrote a hell of a tale and that this was really a week where the readers won.
Thank you all for reading and voting and we’ll see you next week when we take a trip to prison…