Inside of a single lifetime the telephone has become an entirely different entity. It went from a clunky service connected manually by humans to a powerful computer beyond what visionaries like Roddenberry thought possible. Now that they are invading every aspect of our life, from tracking calories to piloting drones, the possibilities in story telling are endless. This week we have a pair of stories with telephones central to their theme.
Let’s see what our judges have to say.
Telephones. Is there a technology that has permeated our society in quite the same way? Everyone is available anywhere and anytime. If our phones could talk, the stories they could tell. How did our authors choose to answer this prompt? Let’s see:
“Outgoing Connections” – The opening line is great. I love the take on the prompt that uses a phone as a potential murder weapon. Unfortunately, this first line is also a good representative of what I didn’t like in this story. It doesn’t flow well. I’m not sure if it’s the punctuation or the choice of phrases but it took me 2 or 3 times to get the right tone.
This repeats a few times through the story, the ideas are great but the execution is a little clunky.
I enjoyed the repetition of the dream, the way that Sophie has to figure out the details that her mind has worked into this terrifying nightmare. When things start to point towards her friend I was really interested to see how this would turn out,
The actual interactions between Sophie, Nicole and her Aunt needed a little more work. I’m not sure why some of the details are there, a lot of the dialogue seems forced or a little phony and the whole tablet thing was a little awkward.
I did like the idea of Sophie standing up to her bully and finally being able to move on with her life. I was a little shocked by the ensuing death of Nicole and even more taken aback by Sophie’s reaction. To celebrate the death of a childhood friend who abandoned you in high school seems a bit harsh.
All in all, there is the framework of a good story but it could really benefit from a few more drafts.
“I’ll Call You Later” by Danny Brophy – One of the things I love most about the Arena is the way it makes out writers try new and tricky things. Here Mr Brophy treats us to an exercise in 2nd person point of view and mostly pulls it off.
Once I got into the story I understood what made our author reach for the little used narrative style. It really made this story hit home for me. I tried imagining it another way but kept coming back to the 2nd person as they way to go.
The story itself is great. I liked the idea of repeated calls from the same unknown number and the progression from annoying, to intriguing, to calling out of work to wait for that one phone call.
The offer that is made is one that has been done before in other tales, but that doesn’t really lessen its impact. The return of your greatest love in exchange for the life of someone else close to you. How do you make that choice??
I loved the mix of detail and vagueness that is mixed here. We get the precise time of the phone call and numerous little bits about shoes and cars but we’re not really sure what happened to Claire or exactly how long she has been gone. It just somehow felt right that way.
I also liked the resolution of the story, or lack thereof. When I read this story I absolutely knew what choice “I” had made. Someone else might come to a different conclusion and that would be just as valid.
The story isn’t perfect, and could probably stand a little bit of polish, for example there are a few instances where the tenses seem to not match or where something got dropped during an edit. They are all minor though and the narrative propelled me past them without pause.
I think this might be my new favorite story from Mr. Brophy. Thank you.
If you haven’t guessed yet, my vote this week goes to “I’ll Call You Later” by Danny Brophy
Donald Jacob Uitvlugt is our second judge this week. On top of being the current TWA Champion, 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).
Ah, the telephone. Perhaps no other technology is more emblematic of the modern era than this device that makes a distance loved one sound near. How did our Arena combatants handle this week’s challenge? Let’s see.
As is my custom, I’m going to comment briefly on the two stories before moving on to my vote.
“Outgoing Connections” – I found the setup of this story very interesting. It drew me in right away, wondering what role the dream might play into the rest of the story. Sophie is a person who is seeking to move forward in her life, and I was intrigued by the mystery of what she wants to move forward from. And as a technology antiquarian (yes, I have a circular slide rule next to my abacus), I like the appearance of the rotary dial phone in this story.
Yet I’m not entirely sure that the second half of the story lives up to the expectation I built up reading the first half. I like the irony of Nicole’s laryngitis, and I like that Sophie is able to move on. But the resolution seems a little easy to me, given that the situation seems to have caused her nightmares. And I’m not sure the telephone played as strong of a role as it could in the story.
I like a lot of the atmosphere and setup, but I don’t feel that the story stuck the landing.
“I’ll Call You Later” – I’ve said it before in the Arena: a second-person story is a really, *really* hard sell for me. In over three decades of reading, I think I’ve enjoyed two second-person stories that weren’t Choose Your Own Adventure books. Two. I feel like the second-person constantly reminds me that I’m reading a story rather than immersing me invisibly into the world of the story, as I would prefer.
That said, there were things here that I like. I like the mysterious phone call; the set-up reminded me of a couple of Richard Matheson short stories, “Long Distance Call” and “Person to Person.” The walking with Claire on the not-quite beach had a rather Orpheus and Eurydice feel to it, in my opinion. And there was a quite bittersweetness over the whole story that I enjoyed. I think that the story could have used a lot more polish and focus, but the tone had a certain amount of charm.
Neither of the stories was a perfect hit for me this week. They both had weaknesses; they both had aspects I really, really enjoyed. In the end, I’m going to cast my vote for the story that more moved me emotionally and that I think made a better use of the prompt. This week, for me, that story was:
“I’ll Call You Later” by Danny Brophy.
A unanimous judge’s decision! Congratulations Danny! You are the winner of the telephone battle.
Let’s see if our readers agree.
That’s a close one! Brophy won the reader decision but only by a single vote. We’d like to thank Teresa Edmond-Sargeant for competing and we look forward to reading her work in the future!
This week the arena will wipe the blood from the walls, sweep up the broken mirrors, and install a new press box in our ancient walls. We will be back with more stories next week but keep an eye out for some interviews with some of our best competitors and judges!