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 #6 – The Edge of the Universe 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.)
Yet another marvelous week for the Arena. I’m always impressed by the caliber of writers that have collected around this contest.
I’m going to start by commenting on the two stories before giving my verdict.
“The Price of Knowing” — I love the combination of Lovecraftian horror with military (or at least quasi-military) sci fi. Echoes of Fahy, Ochse and Maberry. For me, it hits just the right notes for a Lovecraftian story, not overwhelming the reader with a lot of words without vowels, but those in the know realize exactly who is meant. The portrayal of the creature possessing William Gordon (Nyarlathotep?) is especially strong.
However, I didn’t have a very strong emotional connection to the human characters and their mission. I wonder if this story would work better as a novella, where the reader had time to see the emptiness the explorers saw and time to develop a stronger relationship with the characters. I’m also not sure what averted the apocalypse of dark knowledge at the end. Was the Gordon-creature just messing with Watson? The ending left me unsatisfied.
“The Pedestal” — This story read to me like an homage to Douglas Adams’s Asylum house, but in a more serious vein. It’s not as obvious a tie-in to the challenge concept, being more about the edges of perception than a physical edge of the universe. (But then again, does the universe even exist without our perception of it?)
I like the change that comes over the Realtor, and the subtle way this change is evidenced. I’m not sure what’s so different about the Bevington’s that they “get” the pedestal. That would be my one big complaint about the story.
Lovecraftian menace at the frontiers of knowledge versus a meditation on perception and value. After going back and forth on this one, I have to vote for: “The Pedestal.”
As soon as I heard about this week’s prompt I started imagining the stories our authors would provide and I was not disappointed at all with what they delivered. I’ll tell you right now I went back and forth on this one more than once. Let’s begin:
The Price of Knowing – Nick Nafpliotis – This story is a great example of the power and simplicity of the short story as an art form. No preamble, no introduction, we join the action already in progress and away we go. The tension right at the start got me hooked and had me invested in the characters very quickly.
The dialogue here was well done, I especially liked the exchanges between Watson and the thing that used to be Gordon. The whole story reminded me of movies like Event Horizon or Sphere and that is a very good thing.
I was a little disappointed with the ease with which the possessed were dispatched and the subsequent reversal of R’yleh’s rising. Gordon tore his own heart out but was destroyed by a hail of gunfire? Voyager 4 seemingly came into direct contact with those that came before, R’yleh withstood the initial nuclear blast, but they are all undone by a few machine guns? To me, this story screamed out for an unhappy ending. Still a great story, I just feel like it could be much more.
The Pedestal – Joseph Devon – As much as the first story reminded me of a sci-fi action movie, this one reminded me of a film festival critic’s choice winner. Especially knowing the prompt, I was baffled as I read through the first time. I kept waiting for someone to move the pedestal and open a doorway to another dimension or something.
While that never happened, the author’s skill was on full display as he turned such a seemingly mundane event as a realtor showing an apartment over and over into a beautiful tapestry of life. This resonates even more when the purpose for the pedestal is revealed. The apartment owner’s worldview seems to leak into the story and we start to see the world as art. As part of my decision process I read each story multiple times. This one got better with each reading and that doesn’t happen all the time.
The only problem with this story is that I am having a very hard time figuring out how it fits with the prompt. The end of the universe, to me, implies a boundary. One side is our reality, the other is…? I just don’t see that here.
Both stories this week shone in their own ways and choosing between them was difficult. Ultimately I had to go with the story that I thought satisfied the prompt the best. Today I vote for The Price of Knowing by Nick Nafpliotis.
A split decision! When this happens, it comes down to you, the reader. Lets see how the voting turned out.
“The Pedestal” by Joseph Devon got 8 votes.
“The Price of Knowing by Nick Nafpiliotis got 9 votes.
Nick Nafpiliotis is the winner! He is the first one to unseat a member of the TWA Crew! Congratulations Nick!
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