Our characters this week had to work their way through some troublesome mazes. Who will find their way out? These winding paths and labyrinths may have been tormenting for them, but it certainly made for a great round of action in our 51st Writer’s Arena.
Albert Berg went mythical in “Alas, Ariadne”
Eric Lange navigated concrete jungles with “Micah’s Promotion.”
It’s time to pick a winner. Let’s start with our judge’s verdict.
“Micah’s Promotion” by Eric Lange – This story starts off very well. I enjoyed the imagery that went along with the comparisons between Micah’s morning routine and a maze. Coupled with the promotion he is up for today as a mix between a prize to be won and a map to follow for the next few years, I can say this story meets the prompt in a creative way.
The interactions with his coworkers seem a bit odd, a bit too stiff but that could be the way I am reading it. Kimberly really seemed more disinterested in the entire situation than she did upset. If she really didn’t care why hold up his promotion and if she did care why was she so calm about it all? Jerry seemed like a stereotype you might find in an office sitcom. On those shows the hero always has to have a mostly harmless adversary who enjoys making life more difficult for him, and this fits the bill. I did enjoy the “secret passage” that allowed MIcah to sidestep Jerry’s prank gone awry.
That the rest of Micah’s day passed without anything interesting happen seemed weird. I would think that if the beings with the gills were watching him “achieve nothingness” why wait all day to take him?
The idea of the “game of life” was odd also, especially with the way you get to leave it. Does achieving nothingness really equate with maturing? I am not sure that apathy is really the trait we should all strive for. Maybe I missed something. The ending also seemed a little more philosophical than it needed to be.
“Alas, Ariadne” by Albert Berg – This story starts off very strong. Dual narrators really worked here to allow us to see behind the scenes but not reveal everything.
While I was familiar with the story of Theseus on a casual level I admit I did throw a few things through Google to remind myself of the details.
This story follows the myth pretty closely if not exactly and exceeds the myth in the personal way Ariadne’s true motivations and feelings are revealed. The problem is that I could have used more of this. What could have been two sides of a heartfelt but ill-fated connection is reduced instead into something akin to diary entries. I wanted more interaction, longer scenes. I wanted to know Theseus more as a person and would have enjoyed more about Ariadne’s god/mortal mixing.
The two confrontations that do appear in this story are very anti-climactic. There is essentially no battle at all with the “fearsome” Minotaur and he becomes a target for pity. Then when Dionysus blocks the way back to Theseus’ homeland he surrenders Ariadne, the one who had saved him from the labyrinth and its denizen and the one with whom he shared so much, without even an argument.
While the maze does play a central part in this story it is also glossed over with hardly a mention. Prompt satisfied but not embraced as much as I would like. I am ultimately left unsatisfied by this story because it seemed to promise so much more.
The stories given to us this week fell short of greatness but both attempted much. This is one of those weeks when I feel like I missed something in the stories and did not get their intended impact. I am left to judge whether the confusion of “Micah” is worse than the disappointment of “Ariadne”. Is the novel interpretation of the prompt given by Mr. Lange more worthy than Mr. Berg’s glimpse inside of a classic myth. In the end, I cast my vote for the story that felt more complete, and that is “Alas, Ariadne” 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).
The maze is an age-old symbol, found not only in pre-Greek European culture but in early Indian and Native American examples as well. Sometimes these complex systems are seen as fortifications; other times they are imbued with mythological, even spiritual significance. To step into a maze is to enter a challenging new phase of one’s life.
Our combatants this week were tasked with crafting a story with a maze, a labyrinth, or a maze-like element. Mazes and stories go hand-in-hand from the very beginning, so let’s wind our way into the tales. As is my custom, I’m going to comment briefly on the two stories before giving my vote.
“Micah’s Promotion” by Eric Lange – I think this story’s setting hits the challenge just right. The labyrinthine twists and turns of the modern corporate world in which our hero must navigate rise as formidably as any maze of turf or stone. Even the rest of the world, the freeway, the parking deck, seems to bend itself to bar his way forward. All very potent symbols for the turmoil swirling around Micah, our Everyman, caught up in forces beyond his control.
I don’t find the secondary characters as well-drawn as Micah; I especially don’t see Jerry’s motivation for having played such a juvenile prank on Micah. The biggest difficulty I have is with the moment of Micah’s epiphany. I want to sense the weight of this moment in his life, and I don’t feel that I do. I don’t really feel what inspired his moment of holy indifference in the first place, and I don’t see why his particular action is chosen above any other similar actions by other humans at the same point in time. As a result, I think the impact the story could have is undermined for me as a reader.
““Alas, Ariadne” by Albert Berg – I’ll admit it. As a Classics major in college, I’m a sucker for a well-done retold myth. It’s actually harder to do that one might think. But thankfully for us as Arena readers, it’s really done well here.
I like the stereoptic effect created by alternating between the two points of view. We learn more seeing both viewpoints. It’s hard not to see this story as a parable about gender psychology: “masculine” versus “feminine” ways of looking at problems, of living life. I think the brevity of the tale plays into its strengths. Much more verbiage than what we have could come across as heavy-handed. The light touch serves the story well.
Very well done.
Our stories this week chose two very different paths, one looking at modern life as a labyrinth and the effect that our every choice (or non-choice) has. The other re-examined a classic story to help us discover something deeper at its core. In the end, I will cast my vote for the story that had the greatest emotional impact on me as a reader. For me, that story this week was:
“Alas, Ariadne” by Albert Berg.
Boom! The judges have decided to award this contest to Albert Berg! Congratulations Al!
Let’s see if our audience agrees.
That’s a close one! It looks like our audience wanted Micah to get the promotion more than Theseus to get the girl. Eric may have lost the decision but he did win over the people. Great job Eric!
That does it for this week in the arena. Be sure to stop by next week, as Tony Southcotte takes on Darryl Foster in a battle of the bugs.