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 #7 – Long Lost Love 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. Wow wow wow. The Writer’s Arena just keeps getting better and better. This has been the hardest week for me to judge because the stories are both so excellent. I find it very interesting how both tales this week have mythic overtones. “What Must Be Done” has shades of Orpheus and Eurydice, and “The Stars Also” could be read as a gender-swapped Eros and Psyche. A few remarks on both tales, then I pull my hair out as I decide, and finally my verdict.
“What Must Be Done” – A very evocative tale here, with the voodoo handled just right. The texture of the world surrounding Doc is rendered so richly that I wonder if the story might be stronger if it started with the visit to Doc and contained the information about the narrator in flashback. The underworld is handled deftly as well. It reminds me of the Homeric shades, always thirsting for blood. I can understand what other commentators said about wishing the story to be longer too.
“The Stars Also” – speaking as someone who has tried to write them, folktales are hard. With only a couple of exceptions, I think that the story hits the tone just right. I think the tone could have been a little stronger if there were cultural details grounding the story a little more. For some reason, probably having to do with my own obsessions, and because of the Tanabata legend, I was envisioning the fisherman as Japanese. Yet the trial to me has shades of the Platonic cave. A few telling details would have defined the story world a little more for me. But with that quibble aside, this story is a nearly perfect example of a folktale.
Both tales are so very different, both are well done. In the end, I find myself very conflicted. “The Stars Also” sticks in my mind. It seems like the sort of story that should have always existed and Al just uncovered it. But in thinking about this verdict for a long time, I have to vote for the story that created the strongest emotional impact.
I vote for “What Must Be Done.”
For better or for worse (though I’m pretty sure it’s better) I have given up on having an easy choice in this competition. Challengers and TWA crew alike keep stepping up and just absolutely nailing it. Bravo and thank you!
“What Must Be Done” by Amber Keller – Maybe I was just being naive again but when I read the prompt I didn’t expect for a story to begin with one of the lovers already dead. That was an interesting take on it. I enjoyed the voodoo spin on things too, such a rich mythology there to draw on. The choice of perspective in this story was perfect. Being in his shoes and seeing things through his eyes made everything that much more intense, that much more real. The part I have a hard time with is the twist. It’s what I wrestled with most during this judgement. It’s what keeps this story from being bland but it is also what leaves a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth. The world isn’t full of happy endings, I know this, but I really felt bad for this guy. First she dies, then he brings her back un-whole, and then when he sacrifices himself for her he gets screwed again. I kept looking for a glimmer of hope, some faint silver lining and found none. I know that was the writer’s intent and it was a complete success. This is still a very good story and one I would recommend to friends to read.
“The Stars Also” by Albert Berg – “Once upon a time” is a phrase I hadn’t expected to see in this arena ever but it works. Here it lends familiarity to the story and puts the reader in the right state of mind to accept whatever comes next. What comes next is a true thing of beauty. This story captures the feel of a fable, a fairy tale, or an oft told myth. Written simply and yet grandly with all the fantastical trappings of Aesop or Grimm. I could see reading this story to my son before bed and him asking for it over and over. I honestly have no criticism for this story, it astonishes me that something so complete and so polished can be done in such a tight time frame. Well done sir, well done.
While my choice appears obvious, I can say that it was closer than it seems. Ms Keller was only eclipsed because Mr Berg was able to approach perfection for this prompt. I would definitely like to see her back again. This week my vote goes to “The Stars Also by Albert Berg”
Once again we are faced with a split decision! It seems that we have a supreme court as divided as our nation’s. That means it comes down to our readers to make the choice. Here’s the voting breakdown:
The Stars Also by Albert Berg – 5 Votes
What Must be Done by Amber Keller – 2 Votes
There you have it folks! The judgment is in, and The Stars Also by Albert Berg is the winner!
Have a happy and safe 4th of July friends. We’ll see you next week!
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