TWA #56 – Phat Ink – JUDGEMENT!

TWA 56 Main Card THIS ONE-01-01The terrible affront to humanity known as Monday rages on, despite our lamentations. Like this damnedable day, the arena treads onward as well. It’s time to bring this third round to a close.

There’s a lot of Ink in The Writer’s Arena, but not all of it is permanent. Our authors were tasked with driving the pen so deep it leaves a tattoo. These marks are the epitome of commitment, even if they aren’t always made with the highest of judgement. Hannah and Tony brought us two very different tales. Let’s see who advances and who goes home.

Tony Southcotte brought his own arena with “Broken Chains.”

Hannah Newell revealed the truth with “Transistor.”

Let’s see what our judges have to say.

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 are his thoughts:

This week we are treated to two tales of choice and two tales of enslavement. I find it odd that a prompt of “tattoos” would inspire such tales but I like it. Let’s take a look.

 

“Transistor” by Hannah Newell – This story starts off a little strange but in a good way. “I remember my first headache,” is an odd statement to make especially when she is talking about being 5 or 6 years old. It’s only when we find out what she means by “headache” that we understand.

 

I like the idea that something so crippling and so powerful would be referred to as a simple headache. This shows us just how commonplace they are to her.

 

Area 51…such a loaded place with so much “history”. I love that Mrs. Newel took it upon herself to provide us an alternate (or additional) explanation for the mystery surrounding it.

 

Implanted transistors, thought projection, tattoo maps to hidden controls…things just got weird fast. The matter of fact way that everything is presented though and the way it is introduced through a routine checkup make it all seem so normal, at least for our story.

 

The explanation of how agents were chosen is done very well. That the government would adopt a “If you can’t beat them, assimilate them” policy towards Targeted Individuals seems pretty accurate. I also like they idea of the agency gaslighting some of them in order to make them less of a problem.

 

Teleportation, aliens, shared technology…our story just ratcheted up the weird a few notches.

 

I enjoyed the interactions between Dane and our main character. That they were both forced to do something that they never wanted to and are just trying to make the best of it comes across very well.

 

I liked how the progression of our MC through the “ranks” of Area 51 is shown. Training, then co-op missions and finally a solo mission that turns out to be more of a test than she expects.

 

The internal conflict over whether it is better to play along or to refuse and be removed is the highlight of the story. I love that she justifies her self preserving actions to herself over and over. I love that such a strange, fantastical story is brought around to such a universal truth. Well done.

 

 

“Broken Chains” by Tony Southcotte –  It is hard to imagine any of the other arena regulars writing this story. That is in no way a slam on this story, just that it screams Tony.

 

The brutality that permeates this world is in our face from the start. Tattooed by chisel to mark the deaths of those who opposed him in combat, Killian is definitely someone to be reckoned with.

 

Enslaved as a child, Killian knows very little outside the barbaric world he lives in now. He strives to attain the rank needed to challenge the king that destroyed his old life. A noble pursuit and his own justification for what he does, what he has become. I enjoyed the scene where he contemplates escaping the enclave and living in the wasteland. There is a sense of self-sacrifice in deciding to stay that helps him sleep at night for sure. His hand is forced. He doesn’t want this, or maybe he does.

 

The fight scenes are well done and show the skill and intelligence that Killian brings to the arena. I also liked the way that we are shown highlights from his life rather than an in-depth look at his overthrow of the king. It helps to show more of the lengths to which Killian will go to reach his goal.

 

The climax of the story was good, though I would have expected a little longer fight with the king. I just took this to show that all of Killian’s work and sacrifice had paid off immensely. The moment that he lifts the crown and is faced with his lifelong goal is great. Torn between destroying this society that caused him and so many others pain beyond words or assuming the throne and gaining all that their society holds dear, Killian fails. Maybe he spent too long living the life or maybe he wasn’t as noble as he would have liked to believe but whatever the case, Killian chooses to perpetuate the status quo. That in doing so he inspires another to begin a lifetime quest for revenge against him is fantastic. It really illustrates how cyclical that violence can be.

 

 

Strong stories on both sides this week made my decision another tough one. In the end I had to go with the tale that impacted me the most. That story is “Transistor” by Hannah Newell

 

 

Our second judge is Kevin Veldman. He a writer who reads way too many books to be healthy. He’s also one of the hosts of the Comicnoobs Podcast (comicnoobs.wordpress.com).

Hi everyone! I was asked to be a fill-in judge for this week’s tournament round. I said sure! After all, I cast my vote almost every week, how hard can being a judge be? That was before I read both of these stories, and wow… both of these stories were excellent. I would have had a hard time casting a reader vote this week, let alone being one of the judges. But now I’ve agreed, so here goes:

 

Broken Chains – This is a story about revenge and tough choices in a dystopian future where the king is chosen by arena-style gladiatorial combat, a system put in place by, or perhaps to honor the Chaos Lord.

There were a lot of elements of this story that I loved. I loved the Death Race / Mad Max vibe I got while reading the story, and the chain links that the gladiators earned through victory were a very cool story element. What I loved the most was the way as additional chain-link tattoos were added, the gladiators became slaves of the system. I thought this was a great way to make the Arena prompt into a central story element.

 

I didn’t have much to criticize about this story, but as an Arena judge, I’m supposed to do just that. I would have liked to see a bit more depth from Kilian, who seemed a bit one-dimensional for much of the story, until he was actually faced with the choice represented by his crown. The other criticism I have is the last part of the story, which felt a bit like an epilogue. With the introduction of the King’s son, the reader was shown the vicious cycle of the Arena. I would have liked to either see more of the former king’s son, or have had it left to the imagination.

 

Transistor – This is a story about the inner struggle of a former conspiracy theorist as she becomes a member of a top secret government organization that exists to suppress conspiracy theorists who get too close to the truth.

 

Again, there is a lot to love about this story. The main character’s inner struggle throughout the story is accessible and engaging, she feels terrible about destroying the proof and hard work of people who are much like her, and she comes to suspect that she is doing this for selfish reasons; do it to them, or her organization will do it to her. That’s a tough choice, and ultimately makes for a great story. There are also some incredibly creative story elements: The base in Area 51, the ironic truth that conspiracy nuts are the ones who really know what’s going on, and the tattoos that represent the circuitry that weaponized the protagonist for her new job. I also loved the final conflict and ending to the story.

 

Again, there isn’t much to criticize about this story, but here goes. While I did very much enjoy the character moment flashback at the beginning, I couldn’t quite connect it to the rest of the story. I thought that moment might have a further meaning, but I didn’t make the connection. In addition, while very creative, the tattoos in this story were just a minor story element, and not as central to the story.

 

In the end, there were two stories that I absolutely loved, but I’m going to have to pick Broken Chains as the winner, for incorporating the tattoos as a central story element. Good luck to both competitors in the rest of the competition!

 

It looks like we have a split decision! That means that our voters get to decide the winner! Let’s see what they have to say.

It looks like Tony Southcotte was able to edge out Hannah by just two votes! Congratulations Tony, you now have the pleasure of taking on the winner of Danny Brophy vs. David Webb. Hannah wrote an excellent story and I’m sure will be back soon.

Be sure to come back tomorrow as Arena veterans square off in a battle of mind control!

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