Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion

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September 2018 Microstory Contest -Critiques Only

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message 1: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1046 comments The following rules are from Jot Russell, moderator for this contest:

To help polish our skills and present a flavour of our art to other members in the group, I am continuing this friendly contest for those who would like to participate. There is no money involved, but there is also no telling what a little recognition and respect might generate. The rules are simple:

1) The story needs to be your own work and should be posted on the goodreads (GR) Discussion board, which is a public group. You maintain responsibility and ownership of your work to do with as you please. You may withdraw your story at any time.

2) The stories must be 750 words or less.

3) The stories have to be science fiction, follow a specific theme and potentially include reference to items as requested by the prior month's contest winner.

4) You have until midnight EST on the 22nd day of the month to post your story to the GR Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion. One story per author per month.

5) After, anyone from the LI Sci-Fi group or the GR Science Fiction Microstory Discussion group has until midnight EST of the 25th day of the month to send me a single private vote (via GR or to author.jotrussell@gmail.com) for a story other than their own. This vote will be made public once voting is closed. Voting is required. If you do not vote, your story will be disqualified from the contest. You don't need a qualifying story to cast a vote, but must offer the reason for your vote if you don’t have an entry.

6) To win, a story needs at least half of the votes, or be the only one left after excluding those with the fewest votes. Runoffs will be run each day until a winner is declared. Stories with vote totals that add up to at least half, discarding those with the fewest votes, will be carried forward to the next runoff election. Prior votes will be carried forward to support runoff stories. If you voted for a story that did not make it into the runoff, you need to vote again before midnight EST of that day. Only people who voted in the initial round may vote in the runoffs.

7) Please have all posts abide by the rules of GR and the LI Sci-Fi group.

8) For each month, there will be three discussion threads:
a) Stories - For the stories and the contest results only.
b) Comments - For discussions about the stories and contest. Constructive criticism is okay, but please avoid any spoilers about the stories or degrading comments directed towards any individuals. If you want to suggest a change to the contest, feel free to start a discussion about the idea before making a formal motion. If another member seconds a motion, a vote can be held. I will abstain from voting, but will require a strong two-thirds majority to override my veto.
c) Critiques - Each member can provide at most one critique per story, with a single rebuttal by the author to thank the critic and/or comment to offer the readers the mind set of the story to account for issues raised by the critique. Critiques should be of a professional and constructive manner. Feel free to describe elements that you do and don't like, as these help us gain a better perspective of our potential readers. Remarks deemed inflammatory or derogatory will be flagged and/or removed by the moderator.

9) The winner has THREE days after the start of the new month to make a copy of these rules and post a new contest thread using the theme/items of their choosing. Otherwise, I will post the new contest threads.

**********

Theme: Rip Van Winkle effect

Required elements:

1) Painful loss
2) Compensating gain


message 2: by Paula (new)

Paula | 955 comments Jeremy, I've just read your tale---a couple of hours after reading of the Brazil Museum catastrophe. The story is very good, your writing--as ever--powerful and elegant--and the last line/paragraph rises to sheer brilliancy. A fine piece.


message 3: by Paula (new)

Paula | 955 comments Chris---a trope that might, in other hands, seem overused, but your flowing writing and very original and *felt* details make it new and powerful. Fine work.


message 4: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy Lichtman | 323 comments Paula, thank you. The Brazil National Museum fire is a tragedy of the first order.


message 5: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Paula wrote: "Chris---a trope that might, in other hands, seem overused, but your flowing writing and very original and *felt* details make it new and powerful. Fine work."

Thanks Paula, I appreciate that! I'm trying to work on upping the quality of my writing a bit, which I think, over the past few months, has been a bit lazy. So, I was focused a little more stylistically this month. I'm especially grateful for the comment from you, given your particular writing ability. :)


message 6: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1046 comments Review of “The Perfect Murder” by Tom Olbert

As Khan Noonian Sing noted in Star Trek II, revenge is a dish best served cold – and it is very cold in space.

Jack Dysler has committed the perfect murder of his ex-wife. Now beyond the reach of human justice through time and space, he awakens to a new time and a clean slate. His past is long forgotten, except by his vindictive sister-in-law, Janice. Aided by merging with a dying alien, Janice has waited patiently to avenge her sister’s death. After paralyzing a stunned Jack, she reveals her new form, teeth, tongue and talons, and proceeds to exact her revenge in a most grisly fashion.

“The Perfect Murder” shows that despite advancing into space, humanity’s worst traits are there too. Yet justice is not thwarted and the protagonist meets a satisfying ending. The story is tightly written and does not dwell too long on one particular part. There is no extra fluff to cut through, just lean muscle – or perhaps just a finger.

I think for me the weakest link is the coincidental arrival of the alien at just the right time to merge with a distraught Janice. I understand it is critical to moving the plot forward. It is the deus ex machina that most of our stories often use, necessarily, to meet the required structure of our monthly competition.

Overall a good story, 3.75 stars out of 5. 


message 7: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1099 comments Justin wrote: "Review of “The Perfect Murder” by Tom Olbert

As Khan Noonian Sing noted in Star Trek II, revenge is a dish best served cold – and it is very cold in space.

Jack Dysler has committed the perfect m..."


Thank you, very much, Justin, for that complimentary and very elegantly written review. (Very creative use of metaphor. My compliments.)

I guess I have to plead 'guilty' on the use of convenient coincidence (but hey, Dickins got away with it all the time) - I was really going for dramatic irony, though.


message 8: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1099 comments Critique by Tom Olbert of -- "Goodbyes and Greetings" by Justin Sewell

A moving and very starkly visualized tale of a man giving up the woman he loves for his duty to complete a top secret mission to take a man to the stars.

On an American base in the Antarctic, our hero says goodbye to his wife, deceiving her into believing he has to stay behind and freeze to death so she and the others in their party can get to safety on the only out-going plane. Ripped from her man's arms and dragged onto the plane, she departs, believing him to be alone in that frozen wasteland and soon to die. The deception is revealed when our hero hears footsteps crunching in the snow behind him. A friend's hand on his shoulder signals the beginning of his fantastic though tragic adventure. Turns out, this base is really a top-secret U.S. installation built over an alien star ship buried under the ice. It seems the ship was left there deliberately as an invitation to humanity to visit the world of the ship's builders. The protagonist, torn with guilt for abandoning his wife, steps into what is apparently an alien sleep chamber and awakens, presumably ages later on an alien world where he is greeted by a beautiful alien female who has apparently claimed his late wife's identity.

The sensory aspect was very potent. We feel the sharp sting of the Antarctic cold on the man's face and the whipping of the snow. We see the eerie red glow of the plane's lights as it takes off. The emotional impact was effective as well. (The parting of lovers as the plane takes off reminded me of Bogey saying goodbye to Bacall at the end of "Casablanca.") The moral conflict of love vs. duty was effective as well.

A couple of minor complaints:

The middle scene where the hero is taken in a snow cat to the underground complex was perhaps unnecessary, or at least too long. I felt it was excessive detail which distracted from the heart of the story.

The ending, while interesting, was a bit unclear. Why was the alien using his wife's name? Did she read his mind and assume a more human-like form based on his memories? Was it reincarnation? I got the feeling it was an illustration of true love transcending time and space. Maybe we weren't supposed to understand the details, but I just felt the time taken in the middle scene would have been better spent at least describing the alien world and maybe hinting at who or what the alien really was.

Overall, a good story.


message 9: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1046 comments Tom wrote: "Justin wrote: "Review of “The Perfect Murder” by Tom Olbert

As Khan Noonian Sing noted in Star Trek II, revenge is a dish best served cold – and it is very cold in space.

Jack Dysler has committe..."

It was dramatically ironic! :)


message 10: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1046 comments Tom wrote: "Critique by Tom Olbert of -- "Goodbyes and Greetings" by Justin Sewell

A moving and very starkly visualized tale of a man giving up the woman he loves for his duty to complete a top secret mission..."


Thanks Tom for the review! It gave me a perspective I had not thought about while writing this. I will agree that the middle segment is perhaps weaker than the rest. I had a difficult time after the introductory part figuring out how I could get the hero into the ship and pod and on his merry way with the minimum amount of fuss. I feel that I often start a story well and then back myself into a corner without enough words left to make a strong ending.

I always find it interesting to see how others interpret my work. For example, I'm not sure Jamie was his wife. I was actually thinking more like girlfriend, but leaving his wife is more powerful. The long sleep between Earth and the alien world is barely hinted at I admit, and the alien woman did not have telepathy in my mind (no pun intended) - though that would make it even more interesting if she had read Erik's mind.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to review my story!


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