Wow! You all made it extremely difficult for our judge! If you missed any of the stories, go read them here. (Feel free to make your own comments.) Done? Good. Now let's read what the judge had to say:
This week my thoughts turned toward the tension of paired contrasts: a new day that’s a final day, and a debilitating condition that is itself defeated. And in the funny way these contests sometimes work, you responded in pairs: the brink of suicide (Lauren Green & Margaret Locke), super-human transformation (Dr. Mike Reddy & Christy), condemned prisoners (Mark Driskill & Michael Simko), macabre physical procedures (Holly “Stephen King” Geely & Kate “All Who Agree, Say Eye” Julicher), and even reborn space explorers (Clive Tern & Nancy Chenier). We also had mountain-climbers (Phil Coltrane & AJ Walker), heart-sore near-princesses (Rose Ketring and Tamara Shoemaker), and incurable incapacitations redeemed by technology (Charles Short and Geoff LePard). How do you do that?!
Thank you so much for sharing your fascinating and terrifying and wondering visions here. It was an honor and pleasure seeing through your eyes, if only for a moment. (Of course, with several of your stories, a moment was more than enough, thank you!!!)
Margaret Locke: What a pleasure to see you at FTT! I hope this is the first of many times. J Loved the look at Tourette’s and its possibilities, and I’m so grateful for the introduction to the very real and awe-inspiring Tim Howard. Thank you.
Dr Mike Reddy: LOVED your imagery—esp the sun “kicking off the bedsheets of night,” what a visceral image!—and the nod to the very, very brilliant Oscar Wilde. And a totally fab last line.
AJ Walker: Cheeky boy, daring to write about Rebekah and a dragon! I love how Rebekah’s physical journey from home to monastery to caves mirrors her internal quest for peace. And I am SO glad you allowed her a bit of hope at the end (I was waiting for you to kill her off).
Lauren Greene: What I loved best about your story is the reminder of how we never know how our words may affect others. A single text saved Marty. May our words bring healing too! We can’t know the darkness others may be battling. Thank you for sharing this story.
Holly Geely: This story ought to have been marked NSAL, “Not Safe After Lunch,” haha! This was both gruesome and hilarious at the same time and just about did me in; I didn’t know whether to vomit or howl with laughter. In fact I’m still shrieking over “His father would have supported him, if his mother hadn’t required his liver for that potion.” DARN THE LUCK!!!!
Tamara Shoemaker: This too was some really, really good worldbuilding. I could totally see our outcast mermaid student miserably flopping along while biding her time. What a fun take on the prompt, from windows and sunrises to the bottom of the sea. Really nice.
Rose Ketring: This piece read like a garden; I could almost feel the breeze and smell the wildflowers myself. How incredibly rich a tale, and so gently told.
Charles Short: I really loved the tension here between a man whose contagion demanded absolute isolation and his innate need for companionship. This story read almost like a cautionary tale and reminded me in way of Geoff’s story, in that the marvels of technology ARE amazing, and yet they are not enough. Such a good reminder.
Christy: Ahhhh, Gilbert, and what he sacrificed for the sake of others! The final lines reminded me of the frame of my favorite musical, Aida, in which Radames and Aida, ancient lovers, meet again in modern times. Are there any themes more universal than love and loss? You’ve illustrated them so well here.
Mark Driskill: Like Margaret and Lauren’s protags, your Captain James was saved from suicide by last-minute intervention from others. This is SUCH a huge story. Oh my word, I’ve no idea how you fit it all into 500 words. I so love your imagination; I’m especially dying to know the history (and fate!) of the Meridian Stone.
Kate Julicher: This was some really fantastic storytelling; it read in some ways like those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books I gorged on as a kid. Well, a combination of those and the urban legend about waking up in the tub with a note saying, Call paramedics as we’ve just harvested a kidney. –What a great read. Terrifying world. May our society NEVER reach the point where we think this sort of thing is okay.
Michael Simko: First off, yes, being a putz always counts, regardless of the category. :D This was a tremendously fun read. I couldn’t help picturing Cap’n Jack Sparrow, with your womanizing egomaniac who probably deserved the execution he was supposed to get but OF COURSE got saved by a very nice woman at the end anyway. What a romp. Thank you!
Nancy Chenier: I’m a huge Robin McKinley fan, so it was impossible for me to read your story without thinking of her mind-speaking black pegasus Ebon and his rider (one of my favorites!). You’ve taken this Ebon in a direction all your own, however; it was satisfying on so many levels to see Ebon’s deepest fears conquered. The relationship between Ebon and Luna (such great names, all of them!) also worked beautifully as they transitioned between kinds of beings and as Ebon found the courage he needed and peace he deserved. And the gorgeous last line WE hoped for. J
Special Challenge Champion: Geoff LePard: I so appreciated looking out of James’ eyes; technology has brought us SO far, and I’m grateful, but there’s still so much it can’t do. James’ own determination earned him the triumph he’s achieved; I’ve rarely felt so proud of a fictional character.
Runner Up: Clive Tern: OHHH the deliciously fabulously wonderful worldbuilding! What *I* would give to smell chappaberry and the sea, or fly in an aelectropede. This is a strong example of what seamless worldbuilding looks like, and it’s used to marvelous effect here. I could spend a lot more time in this world. Hint, hint.
Grand Champion: Phil Coltrane, “A Conversation in the Airport Lounge.” Ahh, the gorgeous Philippines! I wonder which volcano you had in mind?? I love that part of the world, and this scene read so vividly for me. I loved your saucy interpretation of the prompt—chat windows and Tequila sunrises, haha! Some really wonderful repartee here (“I’m clean and sober! Except for the alcohol, of course”) and character development. Complex and interesting perspective, too, with the thoughtful busboy the one painting the picture of the lovers. Unique take, excellent pacing, fresh writing (do you speak Tagalog!?), strong characters, and a man leaving “paradise” to return to his true “paradise”? That’s a CHAMP tale for me. Awesome work.