Thanks to everyone who came to play! And special thanks to the judge who got her decisions to me early so I could post this before heading to GenCon tomorrow! If you missed any of the stories, go read them here. Now let's read what the judge had to say:
First of all, thanks to everyone. Quite a surreal gathering today, everything from anthropomorphic rabbits to cthuloid squirrels. Three of the eight depicted heists—one even combined the surreal and the heist. A rollicking read.
“Squirrels and Nuts” by Dave—Holy Disney-Lovecraft mash-up, Batman! I finally got the pun of the title as I was starting a second read through, which elicited a sincere groan. The portrayal of the tentasquirrels (appearance and actions) is delightfully creepy-weird. The tantalizing description of the tapestry makes me want to risk insanity to see it.
“Special” by Ashley Gardana: I enjoyed the slow introduction of what being “special” meant. Like the narrator herself, the reader can write off the early clues as “Every family thinks that.” A regular human could hear through walls and smell frying meat a block away, right? One of my favorite bits: the stranger who smells of “sandalwood and familiarity”. This piece left me wanting to read the conversation these two animalis might on to have.
“The Dog’s Day” by A.J. Walker— The tension between what the MC says and what he thinks is hilarious. This captures so succinctly the struggle of humans having to endure social events, weddings being the least escapable. Strip away the Hallmark sentiments and the ritual, and what do you have? A dog in a tux, a stolen tiara, and a buddy-of-the-groom motivated by an open bar. The animal (dog) and the art piece (tiara) seem to do double duty as cause of conflict and as symbols of the bride and groom: a too-expensive glittery thing marrying a dog in a tux (who will most likely run away).
“Heist” by Madilyn Quinn—Magical realism abounds (ahem) in this heist-with-a-twist tale. There’s the “shared history” between a magic-using MC and her (or his) partner, an anthropomorphized rabbit. The set up is great with the second paragraph elucidating the first in a most surprising manner, obliterating any expectations a reader might have based on the title. I very much enjoyed the rabbity behavior of Ben and the way in which the MC communicates and uses water as a weapon.
“Flaws” by Realmommaramblings—Our third heist-like piece. This one seems to be set in a SF universe, as evidenced in probably my favorite line in the piece: “filling the recycled air with the shrill pitch of failure”. It’s almost Firefly-esque (which always makes me happy). The MC seems to be struggling with the “quirk” of a paralyzing self-sabotage—who can’t identify with that to some degree? That the captain refused to leave a member of the crew behind despite a huge error only emphasized the Firefly connection. Such a dynamic made me want to go on more adventures with this crew.
Special Mention goes to “Never Make a Promise You Can’t Keep” by Geoff Holme for very cleverly contorting the brackets of the prompt to fit the whole story (affect/effect error notwithstanding). Moreover, the use of the special challenge elements fit right into this story (Mona Lisa as a point of comparison, and a believable appearance of a German shepherd). Oh, the things a young man will do for a pretty face—only outstripped by the things we do for family.
Special Challenge Champion: “Lost Love” by Lauren Greene—for deftly combining the animal and the art piece and making it a major plot point. From the end of the first paragraph (“Maybe our date could turn into a lifetime of happiness”) I was ready for the deal breaker. The strike-out didn’t take long—and each strike build on the previous one’s intensity: the small disappointment in the wrong wine, then the bean ball of him suggesting that cats are “mangy animals” and strike three, his disregard of the Renoir. The dramatic irony worked well here, too. Richard is so clueless about the subject of a very important painting that he doesn’t realize the MC is talking about her cat.
Grand Champion: "Anything but Tidy" by Audrey Gran Weinberg--This tale answers the burning question: If cleanliness is next to godliness, what sort of accommodations would a demonic creature seek out for relaxation? I loved the pacing of this one, the slow reveal of “the change” paralleling the build of the MC’s anxiety as she seeks out chaos in this pristine little B&B. The internal grousing interspersed with dialogue complaints created nice tension. Although I might prefer clean accommodations, I was right there with the MC, getting annoyed over a pristine toilet brush and downright frustrated over the orderly art studio. (No, no, art needs to be deliciously chaotic! Like all my first drafts.) Ah, well, Marie-Louise paid dearly for her relentless tidiness.