TWA Tournament II – Round 1 – Transformation – JUDGEMENT!

twa-89-main-judgement-01The Writer’s Arena Tournament is in full swing! All prompts for the first round are out and our writers are diligently drinking their worries away. Their first drafts are probably getting some work done on them as well.

Transformation is a big topic. People strive for it in their daily lives, hoping to drop pounds or become better at a skill. In the animal world, the change can be much more drastic. No matter the type of transformation, it takes shedding the old part of ones self and moving on.

Our authors were asked to write a story about transformation. Somehow through different time periods and entirely different stories, the transformation ended up bringing about a similar creature.

Joseph Devon hopes to advance with “The Queen’s Cure.”

David Webb teaches us about tolerance in “Impossible Wings.”

Our first judge is Matt Sobieralski, who otherwise goes by the alias Sobie, has studied English in college and is currently teaching High School English. Sobie co-hosts comicnoobs, which is a podcast for fans of comic book movies to get into the real comic books stories the movies are based on. Check out comicnoobs on Twitter @comicnoobsshow or check out Sobie @The_Real_Sobie .

Transformation stories have, pardon the pun, transformed over the course of known literature. These stories have a rich history that normally contain an underlying theme as to why character(s) transform into something else in the text. With the stories in the first round of the Writer’s Arena Tournament, the author’s find new and exciting ways to write a transformation story. Let’s dig in:

 

The Queen’s Cure by Joseph Devon

 

A story that ultimately gives off a very “Three Stooges” meets “Game of Thrones” vibe, “The Queen Cure”, drops you into a world that is in crisis. The queen is sick and in need of a cure. Devon really does an excellent job of dropping you into Estienne and Raspiallis’ world and makes you wanting to know about the land and time, in which, they live. From the beginning, I got a sense that the Queen would be going through some sort of transformation, but the road that Devon takes us down had me on the edge of my seat.

 

The story starts out fairly simple, but as we get toward the middle of the story, when Estienne, and most notably Raspiallis’ motives become clearer, the reader is in for a treat. Raspiallis and Estienne basically configure a plan to do some major PR control for the ailing Queen and her confused husband. Raspiallis comes up with an idea just to create a prophesy that a boy will become a dragon that can easily make the Crown look like the heroes and give a good excuse for why the Queen has fallen ill. In these moments is where Devon’s story shines as a comedy of chaos ensues and the prophecy of the boy turning into a dragon actually comes true. Raspiallis and Estienne spend most the rest of the story doing damage control and Devon really does a great job with the dialogue to show us how the two are BSing their way out of this situation.

 

The story comes to its close as a final twist comes to the forefront. While the transformation of the boy into the dragon comes as a funny surprise, we find out that the Queen must also go through her own transformation into a dragon and the two dragons set off into the sunset, leaving Raspiallis and Estienne back where they started, devising a plan so as to make them look like the wise people who saw this coming.

 

Overall a really great story with great characters and a world that you want to spend more time in. Only a couple complaints with this story, it took a while for the story to get to what it was trying to be. I wasn’t sure what the tone of the story was at the beginning, but once Raspiallis’ motivations were clear the story really took off. 

 

Impossible Wings” by David Webb

 

Impossible Wings” drops you right into the always complicated world of being a teacher. You can feel the tension from the very beginning as David takes on a very special day in the life of Tom Gunnerson. Tom Gunnerson is haunted by the “old school” attitudes of his father to the very “new school” approach to education. Tom dreads his job and on this particular day he has a crisis to deal with. This story does an amazing job of building tension, whether it’s with Tom and his staff, Tom and his students, or just the general tension that is in the hallways of the school. This tension building atmosphere really raises the stakes of the story.

 

The world that David puts his characters in really captures what it is like to work in a school building. To David’s credit, he also does a great job of allowing his audience to feel similar connections to various other professions. You don’t have to be a teacher, principal, or headmaster in order to understand the nuances of the work day. The minor characters in this story are fascinating and leave you actually wondering what they are thinking? You also gain so much about them in just one small sentence, specifically “Mrs. Stillborn.” So many questions and inferences can be made by that character.

 

The transformations in this story work on so many great levels that you can almost lose track. I saw three different transformations going on, the first being Tom trying to distinguish between Mr. Gunnerson and Tom, the second being Evans and his personal identity as male or female or other, and the third being Mr. Gunnerson’s self as he battles between the culture he believes he should adhere to and the culture that his father had always instituted. A really great job of exploring all three of those transformations.

 

In the first round of the Writer’s Arena Tournament, I knew that there would be some top notch stories and these two stories did not disappoint in the least bit. The two stories had two different takes on the transformation of their characters and the topic in general. One took a classical approach to the topic while the other took on a modern approach with great commentary on real world topics by touching on PC culture. This was a very difficult choice and in the end I vote for the story that I connected with a little more and felt the need to have more of a stay in the world and see how the transformations effect the rest of that world. That story is “Impossible Wings” by David Webb.

 

Rich Alix is our second 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:

Transformation comes in many forms, this week we’re looking for complete physical transmogrification. Ever wish you could be someone or something else? Then this is your week. Let’s see what sort of changes our authors have wrought: 

 

Impossible Wings” by David Webb – I like how this story started off with the Tom/Mr Gunnerson division and the “change” between the two. This makes a nice contrast with what happens later.

As Tom, now as Mr Gunnerson, goes about his day we see how much he feels trapped in his job. I never thought of teaching as a family business but there is definitely a taste of that here. His father was the Deputy Head before him and he has taken up the mantle. He slogs through his day with hardly any joy. I think this helps him to empathize with Evans and his trans nature.

I like how this story addresses some of the issues that a school would have to deal with when acknowledging non-binary students: bathrooms, sports, educating teachers and other students. It also shows how they really shouldn’t be issues at all. 

The first time we actually meet Evans we see the resolve he has regarding his decision. This isn’t just a whim. He takes the mocking from the other students without breaking down or lashing out. This time at least.

I’ll be honest, I had to Google “otherkin” to see if that existed beyond this story, It seemed so perfect here I thought Mr Webb had coined it. Now I know it’s real. 

The final confrontation was well done, for the most part. I enjoyed the shouts from the crowd and the emotional turmoil that Evans was going through. He claims that none of them understand what is happening and, to me, it seems like he isn’t exactly sure himself until he changes. 

The only thing that bothered me in this story in that Evans killed Tom. I would have expected Evans to recognize the earnestness in Mr Gunnerson’s actions and not lumped him in with everyone else. It still works very well the way it is and probably makes more sense but we just had more time to sympathize with Tom than with Evans.

Well done!

The Queen’s Cure” by Joseph Devon – I liked the overall tone of this story. The straightforward way that things are laid out and the way that the the dialogue is written lend a very fable or fairy tale-like feel to this tale. It seems to want to be read aloud maybe to a child at bedtime and, if I am honest, I did read a few passages that way just to see how it felt. 

The bickering among the wise men was great. I could picture it perfectly with each one having their own different (sometimes contradictory) opinions and shouting over each other to be heard and to be selected as the one who will heal the queen. Even when the first to try fails and is beheaded they argue. Even as they are locked into a banquet hall until the queen is healed, they still bicker. 

I liked the idea of creating a prophesy to get the wise men out of their predicament. I marveled at the imagination it would take to plant a child in a new home just in case you needed that prophesy sometime in the future. Gives you some insight into the character of Raspialis. I did wonder how about the logistics of some parts of the prophecy forging if they were all locked up but that was minor.

The best part, to me, is when they present the prophecy to the king. He agrees and accepts completely but just when the wise men think they have succeeded and are free to go, he demands of them something impossible. 

If the prophecy states that there is a dragon inside that child and that is the root of the Queen’s illness then that dragon must be slain. So the King demands they produce the dragon. Seems like the prophecy idea has backfired. 

Luckily for them, Raspialis didn’t make the whole prophecy up. He more or less stole it from a book and then just added the “mute” part. Turns out that the prophecy was true, there is a dragon in that child and it needs to come out now. As an added wrinkle, the queen is also a dragon, in fact she is the mate of the dragon inside the child. The time has come to transform them both and send them on their way.

The part of the story that bothered me a little was the whole dragon storyline. The coincidences and happenstances that had to line up to make everything work bordered on unbelievable, even for a fairy tale. Still, the story works and fits the prompt very well. 

The yearly Arena tournament is a double edged sword for me. While I do look forward to some of the best stories of the entire year as our authors tend to bring their “A” game when the championship is on the line, I also dread the idea of having to choose between them all. This week is no exception. Mr Devon and Mr Webb are worthy contenders and I would sleep easily having voted for either one. It is my duty to choose, though, and choose I must. This week my vote goes to the story that resonated more with me, that seemed to have more weight behind it. That story is “Impossible Wings” by David Webb

There you have it folks, a unanimous Judge’s decision for Mr. David Webb. Let’s see if our audience agrees:

That’s a resounding 3-0 win for David Webb! Congratulations David! You are moving on to the second round of The Writer’s Arena tournament. Will David make it all the way to the finals like last year? We’ll know soon enough.

Joseph will enjoy not having to worry about a story for the next couple months. His watch is over for the year.

Be sure to come back tomorrow as Albert Berg takes on fan favorite Lu Whitley!

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