Who knew so much could happen in ten minutes?!?!? If you missed any of the stories, go check them out here. Finished? Great! Let's read what the judge had to say:
Four delicious stories you brought this week, each bursting with alphabetization and generous doses of despair. Lethal doses, methinks. Never trifle with a grammarian!
In "The Instigator," Lauren Greene brings us Quint, a zoo, and my absolute favorite, Kunkletown. Despite its flashes of humor--like the bear thief and "know-everything-itis," this story is a sad one of a marriage's end and a husband's desperate but ultimately failed attempts to prevent it. I really love how you keep tying together the physical events--the bear, the sunrise, the map--as a reflection of reality, and in a heartbreaking echo of Jessica's analogy habit. Some really good layering there, deftly tucked into the narrative.
In Messages Left," Nancy Chenier stages a fantastic countdown as her framework, beginning the story at the moment of apocalypse and moving backward through time ten minutes. I loved the awkward parallel between the boss' and boyfriend's messages, the armageddon movie and real life, and the gorgeous, compelling frame of the opening lines ("My apartment building trembles") with the ironic last ("How badly do I need a life change?"). In many respects this is a story told in pairs, and it's wonderful.
Alicia VanNoy Call brings us "A Perfect Spiral," a noir tale of a man whose grisly discovery eventually saves him. The tension of opposites in this story is just fantastic: death vs life, fantasy and dreams vs gritty noir fiction, the electric-blue light of the opening vs the dark of the end. I love, love, LOVE your last line, the way it rolls, the way it stops short; it's so perfect. And kudos for some really crisp and amazing sensory work, soggy cardboard and Hefty bags, muck in silvery hooves, rain tapping on the poncho hood. I'm crazy about it all.
Michael Simko, no surprise, presents an ill-behaved "Sweet Extinction." This massive fantasy mashup of elves ("Death to the elves!"), orcs, orgres, fairies, goblins, AND, serving as the cherry on top, Germans, pits brother against brother and pretty much everyone against everyone else in a tale of political machinations. It's a hilarious romp of a ride as the protagonist flails every which way he can. And mega props for not just throwing in a z, but giving us Zed, Zee, and Zi, right alongside Uff da and xiphoid. I was cackling out loud by the end.
Special Challenge Champion: Michael Simko. Because your words were just awesome. As they always are. :)
Grand Champion: Alicia VanNoy Call. Your episodic structure was spot-on for noir, as were the grimy details, the rain, the cop pair, the bar, the body in the alley; but the underlying magical touches of the dead, dream-speaking unicorn and the protagonist with an incurable disease transformed the story into something else entirely. Some absolutely fantastic storytelling.