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. So here we go, TWA #5 – Soul to Sell Judgement Day.
Donald Jacob Uitvlugt is our guest 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.)
Wow. Again I’m really impressed by the level of talent evidenced by our TWA authors. The length of the stories, for one. (I really need to up my game, should I ever again enter the sands of the Arena.) They met the historical aspect of the challenge in interesting ways. This is a tough one.
Frozen Chosin – I like a lot of things about this story. The narrator is a very sympathetic character, fighting in a war that is all too often forgotten. (Though the story does call to mind pleasant days watching MASH with my family.) I like the frozen setting, calling up Dante’s Inferno in a very subtle way. And I love the unique depiction of the devil as Legion.
I’m not sure the title does as much as it could to sell the story (so to speak). And as Joseph Devon has noted, it does take a while to get to the deal. And I would have liked to have seen the emotional consequences of the deal more strongly. I suspect that the main character is now living a hell of mediocrity on earth – a dead-end job, a loveless, perfunctory marriage, ungrateful kids – but I think the story would have been stronger if those consequences had been spelled out more.
Going Cheap – Another solid tale. I like how the time jumps are handled in the story, though I wish the first period could have been established a little earlier. (Fun to think of an age when fifty quid was a lot of money.) I love the devil as Rex Harrison – I keep seeing Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady. What’s not to like about a homburg-and-spats-wearing devil? And I really like how Adam uses the position provided by his deal to try to help other people. Even if they might perceive it as “ruining” their lives. I also love the small glimpse into hell, including the shift in narrative style.
The start is a little slow, and I’m not sure what the emphasis on Adam’s Jewishness adds to the story. It doesn’t seem to matter much in the payoff. (Are you thinking of the rabbinical principal: he who saves a life, it’s as if he saved the whole nation?) I’m not really sure I like Adam as a character at the beginning, though he becomes stronger as he goes along. The ending also feels a little compressed to me. Perhaps there could be more about the emptiness of Adam’s life of success? I wonder if the story would have been stronger told more in flashback, or with someone asking Adam how he rose to prominence.
In the end, there can be only one. I have to go with the story that evoked the greatest emotional resonances in me. And that would be Frozen Chosin.
Rich Alix is our first 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 is his judgment:
Another fine showing from both authors this week. As a reader I celebrate the quality of the short stories presented thus far, as a judge I dread having to choose between them. But that is what I am here for, so let’s go:
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