Greetings, short story lovers! Welcome to the internet’s premier writing tournament. We’ve gathered eight fantastic authors and shoved them into an Iron Chef like contest. Same prompt, 10 days, and only one winner.
The second round of The Writer’s Arena tournament is lit. That is to say our contestants were given the prompt fire. This is a prompt that can quickly get out of control, and one that can be brought into any genre. Our authors took an unconventional approach with this and somehow nailed both magical realism and a creation myth.
Make sure you check out both stories before reading our judgement.
Albert Berg hopes to torch his competition with “All Our Incandescent Yesterdays.”
Lu Whitley set her soul alight with “The Dark.”
The way this works is we have two judges and an audience poll. If the judges both decide on one story then that is the winner. If they have a split decision, then the voting determines the contest winner.
Our very special guest judge is the powerful Alasdair Stuart. We’ve been fans of his podcast Pseudopod for ages, so we couldn’t be happier to have him here today. His voice is a soothing balm to the twisted stories of that podcast, and his story analysis is always beautiful and on point. Be sure to download Pseudopod to your podcast device today.
I love the language in ‘All Our Incandescent Yesterdays’. It swoops and flickers like flame itself and manages the one trick a lot of fantasy aims for and very little hits; realistic lack of immediacy. This is a story that reads like the recollections of something, or someone, impossibly old and yet bound by their own memories. That’s a great contrast and it, coupled with the carefully measured length of the piece, really makes it a memorable, haunting piece.
‘The Dark’ plays with similar ideas, and I find it fascinating how the prompt can throw up such similar journeys with such different destinations. The language and setting here are more contemporary and, again, manage the near impossible; to create a sense of place and voice without sacrificing that uniqueness for accessibility.
However, where ‘The Dark’ pulls ahead for me is in the ending. That closing image is, oddly appropriately, chilling. The brief light someone brings to your world, the sense that perhaps everything is not as dark as you think, evokes depression without ever being heavy handed. It’s affecting and poignant but not soppy, a moment of humanity as bright as it is fleeting. And for that, it gets the win for me.
There is one vote for Lu! Thanks again to Alasdair Stuart for his judgement. Let’s see what our next judge has to say.
Fire. One of the most basic and most mysterious things in our world. We have learned many ways to harness the flames but they often still seem to show up unwanted. There is a thin line between helpful tool and destructive force, which side did our authors land on? Let’s see:
“The Dark” by Lu Whitley – As I first started reading this story I thought that the fire was just Erin’s way or describing her inner self. When I realized that we were in a world where everyone’s “soul” was visible to each other I really sat up and took notice.
I love how the flame color is treated, there is no judgement placed, no color seems better than another, but the lack of color is disturbing to Erin. She is the only one whose fire contains no color at all and this makes her self conscious.
I like how it is her apparent deficiency that gets Dean interested in her. He has never seen one like hers and recognizes how special that is.
There was only one part that confused me a little. Coaxed out of her shell by his honest appreciation, she finally allows that her little black flame is beautiful. Just as she accepts who she is, it changes to a deep purple. Now she isn’t unique anymore. Seemed odd.
I do like that she is able to coax the color out again by herself and that it wasn’t just something that Dean could do. The “I have no color without you” line seemed like the worst kind of romance novel crap and I was glad it wasn’t the case.
Still really like this story, well done.
“All Our Incandescent Yesterdays” by Albert Berg – I once tried to write a story from the point of view of the dark. It was pretty bad. This story takes up the opposing side and soars.
The history of mankind’s relationship with fire as a simple declaration of unavoidable love in under 700 words.
I enjoyed the love/hate aspect of this story, reminded me of an abusive relationship where the tables have turned more than once.
The references to weapons of war and the usurper, electricity, were perfect.
The only issue I had is with who our narrator actually is. There are many examples of fire who have no need or who have never heard of man yet this story seems to speak of an elemental fire that encompasses all fires. Nitpicking maybe but it did pop into my head.
Still an ambitious entry and a great story.
This week was another great example of the best part of the Writer’s Arena; authors are given a simple everyday prompt and we get marvelous, unexpected stories. We could have had forest fires or house fires or even campfires but instead, to our delight, we got souls and love. Wonderful. Unfortunately, I am forced to choose one over the other and that is never an easy task. Both of the tales in this battle held my attention and my imagination but one story made me feel a little more. This week my vote goes to “The Dark” by Lu Whitley.
With two judges votes Lu Whitley is the winner! She overcame last year’s defeat and charges on to the next round against a to be determined opponent. Congratulations Lu, you’ve earned it.
Although our audience won’t be deciding this one (this happens when the judges are tied), let’s see what they have to say.
It’s a deadlocked tie! We haven’t seen that in The Writer’s Arena for more than a year. For the sake of our tournament format, it’s probably a good thing our judges picked the same story.
Congratulations once again to Lu Whitley. Her stories are always strong in our Bear Pit rankings and definitely deserve a read.
Thank you to Al for so many great stories this year. We’ll be seeing you at the turn of the year.
The tournament continues and there can only be one champion. Be sure to come back tomorrow for a bout between Tony Southcotte and Thomas Mays.