TWA #72 – Toys – JUDGEMENT

TWA 72 MAIN Judgement-01Dear readers,

It has come to our attention that Danny Brophy’s story “The Ghoul on the Moon” was not created according to arena rules. After some sleuthing by one of our esteemed readers, it was found that the story had been published on another site several years prior.

The story was written by Danny Brophy, so we are not facing any charges of plagiarism, only that he did not conform to the rules of the competition. The Writer’s Arena is based around the idea of original stories crafted on a very set timeline. Even though his story was updated and edited during this timeline, it was not an entirely original work.

Because of this we are disqualifying Danny Brophy from round 72 of The Writer’s Arena and he will be suspended for an undetermined amount of time from arena competition. The monthly pressure of The Writer’s Arena can be crushing, but we must stand by our principles and make sure that the competition is fair.

It has been a rough week in The Writer’s Arena for all involved. We had a writer exit the competition without a word, which is why Albert Berg so graciously stepped up to tackle this story prompt. On top of this, finding out that a competitor had cheated was heartbreaking. We hope we can avoid this sort of debacle in the future and wish only to bring you the best original stories possible.

For all of us here at The Writer’s Arena, we thank you for reading, voting, and helping us wage war in our arena.

The traditional Judgement thread can be found below.

In the spirit of this competition, we will still give you a recap of the action as well as our judge’s decision. Let’s take a look!

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:

Toys, toys, toys. Everywhere I look, there are toys. I step around (or on) them countless times each day. My son has stories for almost every toy he owns and they follow his rules (if not the laws of gravity and nature) very strictly. I have often lost myself in his worlds for a while and tried to imagine things the way he sees them. At their best, toys are focus objects for imagination and at their worst…well, we’ll see the worst in one of our stories this week. Let’s get to it.


“Robot and T-Rex at the End of the World”  – This story is magical. I started reading it and saw only the story on the surface; two friends who happen to be toys going fishing. It seemed weird but it is Albert Berg we’re talking about here so I went with it. It was a fun story and had some really nice touches with the precision in Robot’s thoughts and the fact that even toys played video games. Then the bottom fell out of the story and I saw how deep it really was.


Mrs Potatohead’s arrival and the “conversation” she has with Robot was the first clue that there was more going on here. I started looking at everything in a different way and suddenly the entire story was so much bigger and I was crushed beneath the weight of it all. I can honestly say that my heart sank when it all dawned on me.


The dynamic between Robot, T Rex, and Ankylosaurus was beautiful once I saw what they stood for. That Robot and T Rex might not share as much in common as T Rex does with another dinosaur toy and that feeling that maybe T Rex doesn’t like Robot as much because of that takes on a whole new meaning once you see them as father and son.


I don’t know exactly what is going on behind the scenes. Is this therapy play? Is ‘Robot’ autistic? Was T Rex stepping out with Barbie on the side? We don’t get much information from the “real world”. The toys act as a filter and only the emotion comes through and, man, is there a lot of emotion.


The best part of the story to me is the ending. You can interpret the symbolism in a hundred different ways I am sure, but what comes through loud and clear to me is that life will go on. Robot and Ankylosaurus and T Rex will get by and be ok. The glimmer of hope that comes with that knowledge is what saves this story from completely tearing your heart out.


Well done!



“The Ghoul on the Moon” – Now THIS is the story that completely tears your heart out. Well, it completely tears someone’s heart out, at least, but we’ll get to that.


Ouija board. Is there another toy that comes with so many evil connotations? I mean itt is DESIGNED to talk to dead people!! I love how that point is driven home by the opening paragraphs of this story. We know this story is set in a world where the horrible things described actually happened, and happened because of the Ouija board.


Into this word of evil and death stumbles sweet little Missy and we all know it isn’t going to end well.


The ghoul on the moon. That phrase seems familiar but I don’t know from where. Wherever it is from, it works. There is terror there that can’t be avoided.


I liked how the interactions between Missy and the ghoul start off innocently and as the physical manifestations begin they start to take on an ominous tone. It is almost as if the ghoul was searching or travelling and trying to keep Missy ‘on the line’ until he could find her.


I love the switch in perspective that happens towards the end of this story. We know that something has come for little MIssy but we don’t know the full extent of the horror that happens until we follow Michael into the house and he finds what is left of his parents. And little Missy waiting for him.


This may be the scariest story in the arena. I know it is the one that hit me the hardest that way. It could be because I read it after Mr. Berg’s emotional tale, but I think it is more from the way this story builds horror from innocence and destroys everything in the process.


An impressive tale, Mr. Brophy.


This week was a hard decision as always, but for a different reason. I loved both stories, and would vote for either without hesitation. They both met the prompt in wonderful unique ways but it was hard to compare them because they were so different. This may have been the most diverse week in the arena, honestly. What it came down to is which story I wanted to read again. That story was “Robot and T-Rex at the End of the World” by Albert Berg.


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, Toys. Those reminders of the delights and terrors of childhood. Understood a certain way, they can call to mind innocence and nostalgia, such as in Toy Story. Or they can become agents of supernatural fear, such as in the Chucky movies. Toys can become mirrors of the issues of a very adult world. Or they can be magical objects, drawing us into a world beyond mundane reality.


Our combatants had their work cut out for them this week. As usual, I’ll comment briefly on the two stories before giving my vote.



“The Ghoul on the Moon” – As I read the sequence of Ouija-related history, I couldn’t help but think of the introductory material to Moby Dick. For me at least, this sequence of events served to get me out of my regular world and into the world of the story. I am weaned from the status quo and more open to a world where the Ouija board is a talisman of evil — regardless to what I think of that idea before reading. A very effective opening.


I found Missy to be a sympathetic character, and I really liked the downright oddness of the Ghoul on the Moon as it does (or doesn’t?) speak to her. My biggest difficulty with the story comes at the end, where it seems to become simply (if that’s the right word) a child-possession story. I wish that the ending could have had some more of the originality of the set-up and middle sections, but all in all, I find this to be a very solid entry.



“Robot and T-Rex at the End of the World” – I will admit: I follow Albert Berg on Twitter. In reading this story, I know some of the struggles he went through in creating the story. I also went into the story knowing that the toys were emblems of human characters. I think that becomes pretty obvious on reading the story; in fact, it’s one of the story’s strengths, the way that the toys become such potent symbols. This feels a lot like how Robot must process the world.


I can’t help but wonder what my experience would have been like if I were unaware of the Twitter posts leading up to this story. Still, this is a very powerful tale. I might even go so far to argue that the story becomes even more powerful with the toys serving as masks for the human characters.


This is one of Mr. Berg’s best.



This week’s battle is one of the things I love about the Arena. Two really awesome stories by two writers at the top of their games. (I really, *really* don’t understand why there aren’t more comments posted about them!) Any other week, I might vote otherwise, but how things stand this week I have to cast my vote for:


“Robot and T-Rex at the End of the World” by Albert Berg.


Would you look at that, Albert Berg has won TWA 72! On short notice he managed to defeat the formidable Danny Brophy. Let’s see if the audience agrees.

They do! Albert Berg is the undisputed winner of TWA 72! Despite the controversy, the short notice, and the adversity of this prompt, Albert Berg has found a way to come out on top! Congratulations Albert!

We’re taking a week off from stories here in the arena, but we have some great interviews lined up for you. Be sure to check in and comment on the interviews, as our authors may come back and answer your questions.

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