Despite your desperate flailing and favorite methods of caffeine absorption, Monday will always find you, hunt you, and try to kill you. We mustn’t fall to the Monday beast. The only thing that will fall on this day is one of our weekly stories.
Inanimate objects are often brought to life in literature and film. This personification can lead to monstrous trucks taking over the world, teddy bears seeking out their masters, or patchwork humans being zapped into new life. These often anthropomorphic tales allow the very walls to speak while we watch the characters cope with their new situations. Let’s review the stories to see where our authors took this idea.
Albert Berg went plastic with “Living Memory.”
Logan Noble summoned the trees with “Awaken the Mother.”
Who won? Let’s see what the judges have to say.
Donald Jacob Uitvlugt is our first 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).
The power to give life to the inanimate. So many story traditions see this as being a power belonging to the gods. What happens when a mere human being wields such power? Will the new creature become protector or destroyer? Or simply just as confused as the rest of us living creatures? There’s room for great drama in these questions.
Two worthy combatants have risen to the challenge this week. As is my custom, I’m going to comment briefly on the two stories before giving my vote.
“Awaken the Mother” – An implacable enemy that devours living cities as if they were bread. A shaman with a strong connection to the natural world but fully aware that his abilities do not make the powers of the druids of old. And the World-Tree that he may or may not be able to awaken to stop the invasion.
Mr. Noble has built a very rich world here in a very short span (under 3500 words, by the count of my word processor). The Hellions remind me a bit (perhaps a bit too much?) of the corelings in Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle, but I definitely appreciate their being paired with Eros’s nature magic. Dark mystery versus the mysteries of the Green. I also appreciate that all the world-building here is at the service of the story and not the other way round.
The biggest difficulty I had in all honesty is the name of the protagonist; the name kept my imagination trying to see in him the Greek god of romantic love. I don’t know if those resonances were part of Mr. Noble’s intentions in giving his shaman that name, but I for one found the name a little distracting.
Only a minor difficulty though in story that simply a deliciously fun fantasy romp.
“Living Memory” – And now for something completely different. Albert has written a poignant story of an animated object that has outlived its creator. I get the feeling that Sir Roderick lives in a post-apocalyptic world, though as a toy his understanding of that apocalypse is understandably limited.
I think that it’s what Roderick tries to do in that world that makes the story so touching: he takes what he has learned from his creator – the lessons of play – and he tries to re-create the spirit of play in his new world. That’s the only way he knows how to honor the gift Sara gave him.
If there’s anything more I want from this story, it’s that it be a bit longer. I of all people appreciate the small scale, but I think I could use a little more of how Roderick came to life in the first place and of how he taught the mouse the lessons of play. I think the story might be even more powerful if the interactions with the mouse especially were described rather than simply summarized.
But very nicely done.
Two very different stories this week. It’s hard to choose between the two of them, so in the end, I simply have to follow my heart and vote for the one I enjoyed just a little bit more.
This week, my vote goes to:
“Awaken the Mother” by Logan Noble.
Walking trees, men of stone, puppets without strings…literature is full of examples of the inanimate becoming animate. This week the Arena commissioned our authors to breathe life into an object of their chosing. Let’s see what they did:
“Awaken the Mother” by Logan Noble – This story reminded me of Lord of the Rings a bit and I mean that as a compliment. Starting off right in the middle of the action makes it feel like part of something bigger. This has an epic quality to it that I found very compelling. Lone heroes, castles under siege, supernatural enemies I would really love to see more from this world.
I enjoyed Eros as a character. He is a loner but connected to the forest in ways not possible to a normal man. Watching High Castle fall and with the note from within he has full realization of the situation. Waking the mother is not something to be done on a whim but he knows that this is the time. The awakening is probably my favorite scene in this story. The self doubt battling with the ultimate need of the forest is done so well.
The battle itself is good and I am glad it is not drawn out more. Facing a giant tree even the powerful Hellions stood little chance.
If there was a part of the story I didn’t like, it was the epilogue. I’m not sure we needed all or even any of it. I was fine with Eros succeeding and saving the forest and the surrounding lands from the Hellions. A line worked in elsewhere where he deals with the guilt of not waking her sooner might be just as effective.
Such a strong powerful story here.
“Living Memory” by Albert Berg – This is not the kind of story I expected and that means it is exactly what I have come to expect from Mr Berg. He has a knack for seeing the prompts in a slightly (sometimes more than slightly) different way.
I liked the whimsical open to the story. Here we have a hero who has lost his hand in a fight with a beast and is put out by the fact that it takes him a week to find a new one.
I enjoyed the look at the implications of animating an object that is built to last. We don’t know what happened to the world, if there was some kind of disaster or if it was just time eternal that brought everything down but I am leaning toward a more sudden event.
We also don’t know how Sara managed to bring him to life and none of the other toys. I like that we don’t know. We could chalk it up to the love and wonder of a young child, we could chalk it up to a slightly older child dabbling in the occult. It’s our choice to make.
There was a part of the story that bothered me a little the first couple readthroughs. The mouse who ate his hand is also the mouse that became his friend at the end. It has to be because it is the only other living thing he has found. That contradiction kept bugging me until I realized; Roderick is remembering the mouse as his friend. As a way to keep his sanity, if toys can have sanity, he has latched onto the mouse and will “remember” things the way he wants them. The sadness in that action is almost unbearable.
While there wasn’t a part of the story I could point to as far as “what I didn’t like” I can say that I wanted more. This is a topic that you could really explore and this story seemed short, even for Arena standards.
This was a tough call this week. When I read them first I thought there was a clear winner, but not anymore. It came down to which story felt more complete, which one called to me more. My vote this week goes to “Awaken the Mother” by Logan Noble
There you have it folks! Logan Noble has beaten Albert Berg and is the winner of The Writer’s Arena 78. Congratulations Logan!
Let’s see if the audience agrees.
They do! Logan has swept all three categories of judgement today, a very rare feat against the powerful Mr. Berg.
Thank you all for reading! Tomorrow Tony Southcotte digs into the arena’s fertile soil against Jarrod Withers.