TWA #70 – Dinosaurs – JUDGEMENT!

TWA 70 Main MAIN judge-01Monday comes stomping in, and with it, the Arena’s judgement. Will dull teeth be enough to win? Or will it go to the greater predator?

Dinosaurs are one of the most fascinating aspects of our ancient past. For hundreds of millions of years they dominated the entire planet, and in a flash they were gone. This week we asked our authors to bring them back.

Albert Berg gave us a taste of dinosaur in “Flank.”

Ryan Dalton went to the future with “Pharaoh.”

It’s time to pick a winner. Let’s see what our esteemed and honorable 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:

Dinosaurs. What does that word bring to mind? Lumbering behemoths? Unstoppable killers? Maybe armor plates and spikes? It truly is a widely varied subject. What did our authors think about this prompt? Let’s see:


“Pharoah” by Ryan Dalton – Right off the bat, this is obviously going to be a different kind of dinosaur story. Set sufficiently far enough in the future as to allow for some really advanced technology, I initially thought that maybe this was an alternate universe where dinosaurs evolved instead of mammals. It turns out this story was something else entirely.


I love the lack of any kind of explanation in the beginning. It’s just, “Here’s a story with an Egyptian title, set in the future, with cybernetic enhancements, and somehow about dinosaurs. Ready? Let’s go!.” And we’re off. This could be a problem with a lesser story but here it works really well. In some ways I was reminded of the beginning of The Matrix and I mean that as a compliment.


Chased by unknown pursuers who want her for unknown reasons, our main character is shrouded in mystery and full of surprises. It seems there isn’t a part of her body that hasn’t been outfitted and enhanced in some way. Is she a self-made superhero or a criminal cyborg? It doesn’t matter, we are on Team Ming the whole way.


I liked how the dinosaurs finally worked into this story. Given the level of technology that permeates this world, bringing dinosaurs back and turning them into intelligent pursuit hounds sounds not only feasible but awesome.


The climax of this story was great. The action, the clever solution to the pursuit, drones, explosive arms, EMPs…it was all so delicious.


The only part of the story I didn’t really love was the epilogue. I don’t know if you could have ended the story just with Ming triggering the EMP but I don’t think we needed the entire “happy ending” package we got either. Maybe just a scene where other enhanced individuals realize they are free? I’m not sure.


Still a great story and a strong entry in the Arena.


“Flank” by Albert Berg – There is a combination of feelings I have when I know Mr. Berg is up in the Arena. Part fear, part wonder, part dread, and more than a little excitement. HIs stories tend to be of an experimental nature and often more than a little strange but he always seems to reign them in just before they cross the border into the absurd. This is no exception.


This story wastes no time in setting a slightly odd tone. We asked for a story about dinosaurs and apparently we are off on a tour of some kind of factory floor for those with strong stomachs. I guess that really should have clued me in to what was going to happen right there, but I missed it.


Now I know that Mr. Berg wasn’t going to give us a cheap Jurassic Park knockoff so there has to be something else going on on the factory floor than just dinosaur eggs.


I liked the origin story for these dinosaurs. The military deciding that genetically engineered dinosaur-like creatures are a good idea for ground battles isn’t really that far fetched. Especially if the technology exists to actually do it.


It was also a nice touch with the teeth. It makes what ends up happening to them seem to make more sense. If they kind of already look like big cows…


The tie-in story with the CEO of the factory and the military was well done. The bond between the soldier and the dinosaur felt real, as did the ultimate decision to sample the meat. When it turns out to be absolutely delicious the soldier sees his opportunity and, after a while, farm fresh dinosaur meat becomes the next big hit.


An interesting and fitting entry into the Arena.



I love it when our authors take a prompt and turn it on its head especially when they make it work. We gave them dinosaurs this week and one author made them cybernetic assassins while the other made them into cows. It’s times like these when I wonder how I am supposed to compare the stories at all. Ultimately I just have to vote for the story I flat out liked better. This week that story is “Pharoah” by Ryan Dalton.



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 or via Twitter @haikufictiondju).

Ah, the dinosaur. Since at least the nineteenth century, these prehistory behemoths have captured the human imagination. Nothing else inspires a five-year-old to memorize polysyllabic tongue twisters the way these creatures do. We had to raise the Arena walls a little to contain them, perhaps, but finally we have invited them in.


Let’s see what our combatants did with the prompt. As is my custom, I’m going to comment briefly on the two stories before moving on to my vote.



“Pharaoh”  This was a very…breathless read, if that’s exactly the word I want. The action starts on the story and it never lets up, letting the reader figure out what’s going on on the fly. I love this sort of in situworldbuilding. The resulting world has very strong cyberpunk elements, but the transhuman elements I think have moved us into what I would call a post-cyberpunk realm.


Whatever you call it, the story is loads of fun. One might argue that the required component plays a relatively minor role in the story. However, I felt that the argument Ming has with the augmented raptors really plays an important role in how her self-understanding evolves through the course of the story.


This is very, very good.



“Flank” – Given what I know about Al’s fascination with dinosaurs (I recently re-listened to the Human Echoes episode where he sings the entire theme to Dinosaur Train), I will admit: I was completely and absolutely surprised by the direction in which he took his story. Al is a writer full of surprises, and this tale in that regard especially, was quintessential Al.


However, I can’t get over the fact that this is, in essence, a factory tour. Probably the best factory I’ve ever been on (that position previously being held by a tour of the Gerber baby food factory), but it’s still just a factory tour. While the factory tour also shows us a fascinating world, I kept wanting there to be more…import to the story.


Still, best factory tour ever.



Two very different stories. Both have their charms, but I am going to cast my vote for the story that I found more emotionally compelling. For me this week, that story was:


“Pharaoh” by Ryan Dalton.


And just like that newcomer Ryan Dalton has won TWA 70. Let’s see if he can pull the sweep with our audience votes.

He has! Ryan has pulled out a very clear victory today. It just goes to show you that raptors in the future are always a safe bet.

Congratulations Ryan! You are a very worthy competitor and we hope to see more of you in the future!

Be sure to come back tomorrow, because Tony Southcotte and Kevin Veldman are bringing you to a haunted house!

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One Comment

  1. This was such a fun challenge! Thanks so much for inviting me, and I hope to compete again in the future.

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