Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion

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And the Oscar goes to Andy Lake, the Four Time Champion of the Science Fiction Microstory Contest

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message 1: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1180 comments Mod
The Apostate Revenant
by Andy Lake

“The council recommends – erasure,” pronounced Dalakar, the High Priest. The other Councillors assented in sombre unison.

“Then why is it not done?” asked Hanina. “Is there some complication?”

Dalakar looked with concern and deep sympathy into Hanina’s eyes. “It is Tinenka. She is there with them.”

Hanina always knew such a day might come, ever since Tinenka left to join the apostates some ten years before. That had broken their father’s heart, and Hanina had scarcely recovered from the betrayal. The betrayal of not only the Teachings of their Great Ancestor, but also of the special bond she felt they had as sisters.

“As Guardian of the True Word, foremost in line of descent from the Teacher, the decision falls to you,” said Dalakar. “But a decision of such importance requires a time of calm reflection, as specified in the Teaching. However, before you withdraw for reflection, you should know this: the apostates have been testing a new technology, one that could destroy all we hold dear in our civilisation.”

“They have the resources to create such a weapon?”

“It has the power to bring confusion where there is good order, uncertainty where there is faith, and return us to the times of discord and conflict that prevailed before the Teacher of the True Way brought peace and harmony.”

Hanina reciprocated the bows of the Councillors and withdrew to the ceremonial Chamber of the Guardian. She thought back to last year’s Festival of the Word. She remembered how, following the tradition of her father, she had set an extra place at the table for the feast, the Chair for the Welcome Return of the Lost. Did not the scriptures say that those who stray should be given the chance to repent and return, and another chance, even another chance beyond the last chance?

But if a lost soul will not return, or incites others to apostasy, then the last option is erasure. And, Hanina reflected, that is exactly what it means: not only loss of life, but being erased from all record, from all hearts, from fond memory, from all hope of return.

As she contemplated the unthinkable, the comms-screen came to life, and she saw before her the figure of Tinenka stepping from the screen and projected into the room.

“Hanina!” Tinenka exclaimed, her smile mixed with tears.

Hanina, startled, moved forward as if to embrace her sister, stopping short in front of her image. She too smiled, but the smile was quickly replaced with a frown. “How …?”

“Oh my sister, I have missed you so. You look so good in your ceremonial robes! And here am I, dressed like a country yokel. But I don’t have much time. Our engineers have created this tunnel into your comms so I can try to tell you the truth about what we are doing.”

“The truth? That you have devised a weapon to –”

“No, Hanina, not a weapon. Do you remember how as children we would pretend to go back in time? Well, we have developed technology to ride “bubbles” through time. We can go back to any time and see what actually happened, without interacting with it. Oh Hanina, what we have seen! The past is not as we’ve been told. And just think! With your resources, we could have teams of viewers working the bubbles to see every moment of our Great Ancestor’s life. Hear his actual words, what he really said, all the other things that are not in the scriptures, and how people at the time – ”

“But we already know what is true – all we need is here in the Teaching!”

Then Tinenka’s projection froze, and faded to nothing as Dalakar entered the room.

“Such an offer is tempting, is it not?” said Dalakar. “But imagine what would happen. Everything we know for certain becomes conditional, until proved by investigation. And everyone has their own viewpoint, selecting one morsel of information over another. Who would have the final say? Good order would be fatally undermined …”

Hanina held up her hand, and said softly, “We will meet as sisters again in the High Mountains of the Hereafter.”

As Hanina authorised the erasure, Dalakar found himself moved by conflicting emotions of pride and sorrow, feeling for both the young women he had watched over as they grew up. Hanina had risen to the test, but even so he could only think, “How I wish it could have been different.”


message 2: by Ronald (new)

Ronald Jones | 58 comments Congrats, Andy!


message 3: by J.F. (new)

J.F. Williams | 215 comments Congratulations, Andy! Very interesting concept in that story.


message 4: by Andy (new)

Andy Lake Thanks Ron and Jack!

A little surprised - felt the story was a little choppy after editing

Fundamentalism and similar kinds of closed thinking were on my mind when I wrote the story, after reading a couple of news items - very different circumstances but ones where people have a world-view that explains everything from a given theory or text.


message 5: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 442 comments Way to go Andy! Great story! :)


message 6: by Thaddeus (new)

Thaddeus Howze | 60 comments Congratulations on your fourth win, Andy. Great work.


message 7: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Kraftchak (smkraftchak) | 123 comments Congratulations, Andy! A well written powerhouse, as usual.


message 8: by Heather (last edited Feb 27, 2016 07:33PM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments Congratulations, Andy and the other two finalists.

I'd also like to say congratulations to Jack - even though he didn't win the contest - on a brilliantly subtle literary rendering, in Barrel of Horrors, of pretty much the same concept as Andy wrote about.

Jack's 'summing up' of that very situation, as

"The barrel won’t be kind to you, brother. They don’t believe in fairy tales ... even ten years away from the barrel can’t get rid of that fear ... bottom of the barrel, you are."

"No, Red. No-o-o-o-o!"

is testament to his being possibly the most talented, natural born story teller in this group.


message 9: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 223 comments Congrats Andy!!!


message 10: by Paula (new)

Paula | 888 comments Well, I agree, Andy--a bit choppy and here and there can use some more work, but nevertheless--an excellent story. Congratulations!


message 11: by Jack (new)

Jack McDaniel | 244 comments Heather, you embarrass me. And thanks!

Andy, I always feel my stories here are choppy after I have to cut them back. I always wish I could include the extra 200 - 300 words.


message 12: by Andy (last edited Feb 28, 2016 04:40AM) (new)

Andy Lake Many thanks Chris, Thaddeus, Sharon, Heather, Carrie and Paula!

Jack - when we had to write/edit to around 650 words we wanted the extra 100 - now we have the extra 100 here on Goodreads we need a few hundred more ... Maybe it's time to go for a full-on short story of 2k-5k words with some of the more chunky story ideas!


message 13: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Alleson (goodreadscomjjalleson) | 105 comments Congrats, Andy. An intriguing theme; brilliantly delivered as always!


message 14: by Gary (new)

Gary Hanson | 29 comments Nicely Done Andy, excellent story.


message 15: by Kalifer (new)

Kalifer Deil | 317 comments Andy, always top drawer!


message 16: by Paula (new)

Paula | 888 comments Well, Andy, great idea, but keep in mind some of us--possibly those who've done journalism?--*like* the supershort form. But maybe we should all do another contest, one for the standard US 2-5K short story form? sf, presumably--or sf and fantasy--?
And Jack, I agree with Heather, your writing's crackerjack/first-rate. Wish you'd used an original/(not "game") plot, as that was the only problem with the piece.
Richard and J.J., pheomenal pieces too, btw!


message 17: by Andy (last edited Feb 28, 2016 12:35PM) (new)

Andy Lake Yes. other good pieces too and congratulations to Chris, Sharon and Kalifer as finalists too.
Everyone here writes fluently, I think - just a question of hitting the right story and the right moment.

I do of course like the super-short form too, Paula!

Sometimes though I think a story could work better with a little more attention. Like here I dropped out quite a lot of build-up that would give more insight into the characters and relationships, as well as their beliefs. My head was into world-building while my scalpel was busy making their world smaller ... :-)


message 18: by Andy (last edited Feb 28, 2016 12:34PM) (new)

Andy Lake Thanks JJ, Gary and Kalifer !

Now I have to come up with next theme etc... won't be long with that I hope


message 19: by Timothy (new)

Timothy | 21 comments Congratulations on the win Andy. Great story.


message 20: by Heather (last edited Feb 29, 2016 09:17AM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments I suppose it does depend on perspective - eg the jounalist's perspective, as Paula mentioned is one such - as to what we like (in terms of length of story and content and degree of subtly and so on. 'Writing fluency' though is pretty much a given in a group such as this.)

Re 'content' and 'originality' and the use of 'something old'/'an old game' (as apparently 'not original'), I thought that a key strength of Jack's story 'based on an old game' called Barrel of Monkeys actually was his very ability to reintegrate that old story (old game) back to where it belongs, which is in the pantheon of archetypal stories of us humans!

Once reminded of the archetypal home of all of our minds it should be easier for the reader to go back and 'take away' from that home whatever it is that 'saves their world.'

It was also what I was trying to do - in my own way (which was the story-within-story literary technique), as opposed to the (excellent) way Jack did this (and I have no idea of course if what he did was consciously intentional or just his creative mind leading him blindly.) My way, in my story, was to (consciously) use the catastrophic emergence of the Shadow Side of Science (as personified by Splendour's implied work-life-story (on the level of one parallelity) and (on another parallelity) represented archetypically by Bellarophon's mythical-life story) - who, in non shadow form, had been an archetypal hero (the Power of Modern Science) who killed The Monster while riding Pegasus (the spiritual, creative energy within humans) - and the turning to wanting power for power's sake. Bellarophon wants to feel Power, so Narcissus sets up two mirrors (called an infinity mirror) that shows, to Bellarophon, the multiplying/the effective hypertrophying of Bellarophon's power. The lure of that infinity mirror set up by lazy Narcissus, who wants Bellarophon to do all the hard work of gathering and focusing the beams of that ever-increasing 'reflected power' into 'a thing of beauty' (which is what Narcissus wants to see reflected back) IS an archetypal but real life scenario! **it happens! (If you've ever lived around a narcissist you will know that they do use the wants and needs of others to achieve a good reflection of themselves without actually doing much more than manipulating those others!!) (Of course the word limit worked against my being able to develop all this.) I could have perhaps helped myself to be understood by actually using the word "catastrophe" to describe what the Shadow Side of Science has done! But these archetypes ARE subtle and so I chose to make their presence be vaguely felt as opposed to spelt out ... but the danger of that, as in real life, is that a vague sense of discomfort IS targeted for dismissal!

It really doesn't matter where the characters of the pantheon are from - Roman, Greek, Nordic, Chinese, Japanese, African or any other culture including those identified nowadays as Indigenous ... or for that matter from a sub-culture of any culture, eg from a 'gaming culture' - creativity is always about reintegration and renewal. ('A quality-of-renewal' is a far better word than 'originality' in my opinion because 'originality' has unfortunately come to imply 'new' and 'separate' ... and nothing is!)


message 21: by Richard (new)

Richard Bunning (richardbunning) | 1 comments Well done Andy. Great story amongst a very high quality, if smaller than usual group.
I have to say that Kalifer's was a very strong stand out winner for me. That's the thing though isn't it, books are as individual as people.


message 22: by Andy (new)


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