Your Vote Required!! in the April 2011 SDMB Short Fiction Contest - Anthology Thread!!

Would making it a sticky help? Or would that actually hurt the cause? 10 stories with only 19 total votes is pretty low; and even fewer actual voters since you can vote for multiple stories. Maybe if we just keep bumping…

I don’t see a solution, except possibly a thread title of “Hot naked chic/dude pics here” to lure in the masses. Amateur fiction is just not a popular thing, not even among those who write it. I think we write for ourselves and not for others.

I went to a writers’ workshop last summer which focused on getting published, and instead of inspiring me, it totally turned me off. What other people think about my writing isn’t important enough to me to change what kind of writer I am.

How about we ask for three volunteers to be an impartial jury.
They would not be able to submit a story, but simply come up with their top three stories (no names attached to any of the storiesl!) and then have those final three voted upon.
Would make it easier to read only three of the the best.

Catching up before I run off to rehearsal. In no particular order -

I don’t know how one goes about coding text for Nooks, Kindles and whatever the other one is called. It’s an interesting idea, though…

We have tried stickies in the past with both the Poetry Sweatshops and the Short Fiction Contests. Part of the problem with a sticky is that it puts the thread up there where all the board rules are, so in a strange way, it’s easily ignored unless there’s a fair amount of activity keeping the thread bolded. I’ve suggested going to ‘free-floating’ in the hope that it would encourage commentary, as a perfectly legitimate way of keeping the thread active.

At present, not even all of the authors have voted - we have 10 submissions and 8 votes. There has always been a large discrepancy between the number of ‘views’ and the number of votes. I think some of that gap might be ‘view inflation’ due to authors checking to see how the voting is going - I know I, myself, sometimes click on the page like a bored monkey. Some of it, too, is going to be a reluctance on the part of the readers to comment or vote - while I’d be interested to know people’s specific reason for not voting, I have a feeling that causality is going to be as difficult to obtain as the votes themselves.

I’m considering the ‘impartial jury’ idea, but I have to say one of the things I like the most about the open contribution format is that I think there’s benefit for all the writers to seeing each other’s work. And after all, one of the few things we get out of this is the thrill of telling our family and friends that something we wrote on the fly can be seen on the web. Unlike that short story that is up to its tenth draft, or the unfinished novel, any flaws that the author might be embarrassed about are forgiven because of the time constraint - oddly, that constraint gives us a little more freedom.

It’s a funny balance - we’re sort of like a Writers’ Group having meetings in a public place. I rather like the mix of contributors and spectators, even though I don’t think we’ve quite found the groove of it yet.

Anyway, those are my brief thoughts for the moment - I’d like to throw open the floor to commentary about the stories. Perhaps some of the writers who aren’t uncomfortable about ‘outing’ themselves might ask ‘did you get…’ or ‘what did you think of…’ type questions, as well.

I’ll start - because I’m working on a pair of plays right now, I’m concentrating on improving my dialogue writing. In ‘State of the Art’, I deliberately chose to imply rather than state much of what happened - what do you guys think? Did that work for you?

I had to read “State of the Art” more than once to parse it out. The vagueness was actually very well done, but I’m the kind of person who needs to be hit upside the head with information. I did like that most of the story was dialogue-heavy. What didn’t really work for me was the final two paragraphs. That artsy style really contrasted with the rest of the story. (I’m not at all an artsy-interpretive person). It kind of threw me off.

Whoo. Was just able to finish all the stories. I forget, can we start commenting now, or wait until the polls are closed?

EDIT: Nevermind, I see we’re going for comments!

State of the Art

Disclaimer: I only dabble in writing for fun/practice. Much respect for those that do it well.

For me, you pulled it off. I had to re-read a few of the earlier paragraphs to figure out what the exact circumstance your protagonist was in, but then I realized what he had done and what he was in trouble for. I liked the story a lot, because as an visual artist myself, I found the irony of

destroying your own work out of integrity or spite to be satisfying, and sort of painful in an emotionally attached way. Interesting angle, not at all what I expected. I’m not sure what to offer in any form of constructive criticism, as I don’t consider myself an experienced writer, but nothing jumped out at me as particularly jarring or forced (which is always a good thing). If I had to pick something, perhaps the raw emotion of the artist’s choice on his dilemma wasn’t coming through as pronounced as perhaps it could’ve… but a 2nd draft can easily address any of that!

And, of course, you mentioned the spring-time theme slipped your mind, but I couldn’t hold that against the work as it stands on its own.

Good work!

As for my own (Equinox), I didn’t re-read it for a week. Ugh… the pain upon re-reading it. Perhaps way too heavy on the purple-prosiness! I’d love some feedback, in a critical way, to learn how to pull off hard science fiction in a serious way, but not to have it feel too forced or thick (or whatever else I’m not seeing). Also, did it make any sense, especially to those not into SF?

Science fiction is not something I tend to voluntarily read. No particular reason; just a preference, no different from avoiding (for example) westerns or mysteries. At any rate, I didn’t consider your story to be what I think of as science fiction. I’m sure that some would, but to me, an object in space does not necessarily mean science fiction.

The “purple-prosiness,” as you put it, didn’t detract, in my view. Events did seem a bit rushed, however, and you may want to think about perhaps omitting one or two so you can flesh the others out more fully–your “jar of life” was a wonderfully descriptive sequence; the other attempts to communicate/attack the object somewhat less so. And the first few paragraphs regarding “what is it, what does it mean?” seem to me to want to say too much–again, you may want to try not packing in quite the amount you did. Just my opinion, though; others may feel differently.

Overall, rather good. Certainly, an original idea!

I am mostly just curious whether people thought my story (“The Brickites”) was scary, or just kind of dumb. It is the first horror-ish story I have written. It was fun, but I don’t know… MrWhatsit had to sort of kick me in the rear to get me to even submit it once I wrote it, I’ll put it that way. I have confidence problems when it comes to my writing skills. If you think it sucks, you can tell me! My feelings won’t be hurt!

I will try to post some commentary on other stories soon.

Thanks Spoons! I’ll take that very much to heart.

My very short comments on all the stories in order (excluding mine):

April Fool
Overall, I enjoyed it very much. An endearing story, and the dialog was good. I did find I had to suspend a certain amount of believability for the technology which would be required to pull of such a long range, live feed, but it didn’t get in the way of the story unfolding, as I was genuinely curious as to where and how it was going to intervene in a serendipitous way. Also, I’m glad you didn’t get entirely too sappy with the ending, and used some restraint between how the father chose to deal with his daughter on the issue.

Big Feet, I know Your The One
Okay, I’m a sucker for tales like this. I liked the banter between the two characters, and found it pretty amusing. It was enjoyable for me, mostly because the “field” of “cryptozoology” is fun, and here was an intimate little tale between an eccentric pro, and a rich buffoon. If it had to criticize, and I like Douglas Adams as much as the next guy, but I’m more inclined to like story endings that provoke you to dwell on the story, rather than a punchline, but still, I smiled.

I think this is one of the stronger contenders, because the dialog between the father and daughter felt very natural. The story comes full circle. Of course, events had to be rushed because of word count restraints, but the message was nice, and the last line was perfect.

May Day
A clever satire on a mad man, racial absurdity, and current events, tied very closely with the theme. At first it took me a bit to imagine the scene, but it eventually clicked, and I was pretty amused. Although, self-reference usually pulls me out of the story, in this case it didn’t really hurt, because of the nature of it all.

The State of the Art
See post #27.

Giraffe Back Fat
Gross, yet awesome. And awesome, because it was gross. Just… whatever’s going on in that brain of yours, promise me it won’t stop.

The Brickites
Who couldn’t be entertained by this one? It’s like a forgotten short they left out of King’s Night Shift anthology (and that’s saying a lot, myself being a huge King fan). I almost wish the idea could be explored longer (but I think you took it as far as it could possibly go). I think most importantly, you made the character self-aware of the absurdity of the situation. It helps in keeping the readers with him, because we all know what we’d be thinking if something so ridiculous were to go down like that to us… there’d be no one to commiserate with, except yourself! So his comments were right on the money… I’ll be looking at bricks askance for a while. So yeh, MsWhatsit… your husband was right; It wasn’t dumb, it was good fun, and sure, not really scary, but surreal and slightly creepy. You had me all the way through.

Lesson One
Not really a fan of magic or fantasy, but I found nothing particularly detracting about it (that’s right, I used the word “detracted”). You had an interesting spin on the idea of teaching someone how to use magic in a lighthearted, and organic way, so it was thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying. Nice characterization!

Spring Break
Okay, what the hell?! Two magic stories in a row! This one was a bit more out there, but it paid off for me a bit more, too. It didn’t hurt that it was set close to my hometown either (wink). I found the custody exchange during school breaks to be a bit jarring, considering he was sent immediately to the location of a faux-reality TV show his father hosted, but hey, the imagery of a headless giraffe-monstrosity terrorizing the urban decay of residential Detroit gets a thumbs up in my book. Weird and quirky. Good dialog too.

Anyway, good work to all… it was very hard to vote and I can’t wait for the next round… there will be a next round, right Le Ministre de l’au-delà?!

Well, I don’t understand the ending, so perhaps it doesn’t work for me. Sorry.

Disquieting, like something out of a Madness in Lit. class.

Okay, MrWhatsit was right - I’m very glad you submitted this, and I think you should be very happy with it. The way in which the ‘breaking’ of reality contrasted with the protagonist questioning his sanity was very much in keeping with a ‘Twilight Zone’ kind of style. This is very well done; first person narrative is a good choice for the situation. I like the central idea of something totally everyday and common becoming malevolent; it underlines the desperation of trying to escape from the Brickites.

Yes, it makes sense. The purple-prose, as you put it, doesn’t bother me at all. You are describing an Earth-shattering event. It’s one of the hardest things about Science Fiction - the situations are so huge, it’s difficult to focus on just one aspect or just one character. Bradbury, Asimov and Clarke didn’t go for casual, naturalistic prose, either.

I particularly like the focus on the scientist’s niece for the ending, it kept the whole story in a human perspective. Also, the jar of life being what inspired the scientist was also a very nice touch - too often, the imagination of a scientist character gets obscured by the engineering competence. Good scientists have things like imagination, inspiration and emotions, they just work to avoid letting them colour the results.

Certainly, if the Good Lord’s willin’ and the creeks don’t rise. I derive tremendous benefit from these, as it forces me out of a mindset of waiting for ‘the right time and inspiration’ and causes me to just sit down and write.

I’m hoping to continue the Short Fiction Contests in the last week of every other month (The even-numbered months, for those of you who use numbers for dates.) in alternation with Poetry Sweatshops (in the odd-numbered months).

Okay, less than 24 hours to go, and we have a tie! There must surely be more voters out there; now’s the moment.

Smdb fiction

April fool, post #2
I enjoyed the premise, and I imagine it could be mined for more enjoyment with respect to using remote controlled children’s toys in military operations. That idea has a lot of potential. I had some trouble with the style of writing though. Things were phrased in ways I’m not used to reading. Perhaps ESL?

Big Feet, I Know You’re The One, post #3
Hey objectivity dismissed. I enjoyed the premise, and had a lot of fun with the characters and dialogue. It did end a little abruptly, perhaps exploring the subsequent trials and the issues that brought up would have been interesting.

Rebirth, post #4
Cute story, but a bit straight forward.

Equinox, post #5
The premise was great, and the story had me sucked in til the end. But I guess I didn’t really get what happened at the end. Did they live or die and why? If it was the water bottle, why did that work?

The State of the Art, post #6
Very clever usage of the photo, and interesting story about an artist regretting his art enough to take opposing action.

May Day, post #7
So what is the SDMB giraffe in joke? Or is that just a reference to this thread? Anyway not sure what to say. This story caught me off guard but mostly in a good way. Wackadoo but mostly in a good way. And the SDMB references were cute.

Giraffe Back Fat, post #8
Hah! Short and sweet. We might want to have a micro fiction contest sometime.

The Brickites, post # 9
Wow. Very SK of you to turn an innocuous thing into a thing of terror. And extra points for focusing on the bricks rather than the giraffe.

Lesson One, post #10
Cute story. Good use of photo. Interesting description of magic.

Spring Break, post #11
Another cute magic story. Pretty good use of giraffe.

So I voted for Big Feet, State of Art , Equinox, Brickites, May Day for best stories.

Best use of giraffes go to April, Big Feet, Back Fat, and Spring Break. Best use of bricks goes to Brickites. Best use if both goes to Art and Lesson.

I found Rebirth to be serviceable, but I had trouble finding a specific hook. I was surprised that it’s in the lead in the poll. I’d love to hear what the hook was for others.

Me too lol. I liked your story but it felt like it belonged in a different contest.

It seemed like there were a lot more stories this time. I found myself wanting to download an ePub version.

I got the gist of him wanting to destroy his own work. I wasn’t sure what was going on with the mention of the other art thieves tho.

The prose was great. I just didn’t understand the ending. Did the water bottle save them or not? Why and how?

It was kind of creepy cute like a Stephen King story. Bringing terror to something innocuous and absurd. I don’t know if it was full on scary, or more Buffy scary.

What I loved though is that I do that all the time! Whenever I see a repeating pattern I always pretend it’s a magic eye picture and focus my eyes to make things pop out. I’ve even done it to brick walls before. I love it when someone else writes about doing something when I thought I was the only one!

I have a very limited attention span, and there aren’t a lot of one sentence contests around. :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks jackdavinci, actually I voted for yours and Brickites.

As far as my ending, I was going for slightly ambiguous, but I did have an intent in mind I was hoping might come through upon re-reading. There are some clues/symbology seeded throughout:

I’ll only underline the hints here, as I prefer the reader to mull over a possible conclusion. I took a shot at a few allusions, and one direct mention of Noah’s Ark. The Object used color and light in a cryptic way. He saw the earth as a fragile “jar of life”, and dubbed these packages metaphorically. I regret naming the nuke package an “army”, and would change it to a “raven” in a 2nd draft. What did he ultimately send as an “olive branch”, and how did the Object respond? Despite going dark, it was a responce this time; perhaps misperceived? When Noah sent the final dove, it never returned. What was the last thing Noah saw as a sign from God, and what did that mean? What was the last thing the protagonist’s niece saw in the final minutes? What was the Protagonist’s final wish? Anyhow, I’m compelled by the idea of what would go through your head, and how you’d spend your last hours if you knew the world would end. The protagonist ended up savoring these last few moments because he saw himself and humanity taking the role as Earth’s sentinels as a vindication of how he lived his life, even if it proved too late. He was beyond hope, and accepted this fate, choosing to embrace the end of everything he loved. Who’s to say his contribution was really a lost metaphor, regardless if he thought so, himself?