Dec 072014
 
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via CC.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via CC.

It’s been a weekend of Christmas-related stress for me. At least now the shopping’s done, the tree’s decorated, and there’s a pan of mulled wine warming with my name on it. Usually I like to give my own thoughts on the stories that are not chosen by the judge. Alas, time has got the better of me. {UPDATE: I’ve recovered from the Christmas shopping and mulled wine, and have written a few comments on the stories that weren’t chosen by the judge.}

As always I was delighted by your stories this week, and it was great to have a few new faces join in the fun. Welcome! The variety in the stories given such strict constraints was amazing. Planes were the dominating subject of course, but a few picked out some smaller details from the photo like the bicycle, and the fact the engineer in the centre of the photo was a woman, leading to some nice battle of the sexes stories.

‘Artificial’ Intelligence? by Avalina Kreska

Language is sacred. A really interesting idea. I love the dialogue between the two cleaners, putting a down-to-earth perspective on the advanced science they are discussing. Then poor Doug getting chewed out by the female AI was a great ending. A nice, fun story, and timely considering Prof. Stephen Hawking’s comments last week.

Twilight of a Champion by Image Ronin

Some really beautiful writing from IR: “the fading body, the last of its kind”, “white trails bisecting perfect blue”, “the world was different now, larger”, “for what are we without oil?”. This is perhaps a situation that some of us may see in our lifetimes. A scary thought. Good work IR. I love writing that entertains and makes you think.

Grounded by Holly Geely

This should be the moto for mechanics and engineers everywhere: “Sacred are the ones who repair, for they keep the [state vehicle of choice] from exploding.” Excellent dialogue as always from Holly in a story the perfectly captures a very nerve-wracking moment for anyone. The last line left a big smile on my face. A sweet story, beautifully told. Well done.

Them by Casey Rose Frank

Tears blurring words is a great way to open and sets up the question of why the character is crying. We never find out who ‘them’ are, nor does the pilot who has gone to investigate. I imagine this is how those back home feel when someone goes off to war, except here the fear is worse because of the unknown enemy. Great story with a chilling ending.

RESURRECTION by Jacqueline Pye

I love the premise here. A superstitious pilot holds on to an ancient relic to help him home. “Bacilli of ancient pustules surge into the flesh like vomit” is a wonderfully vivid description. As the pilot succumbs we are left to ponder if it just the ancient disease that has been resurrected, or if the pilot is also about to be reborn. A great story and clever use of the adjectival meaning of sound for the closing bookend.

Beyond by Koka Kliora

This is a beautiful, tranquil story on the surface. You can really feel the characters love for flying. We don’t know what life is like back on the ground, but I get the feeling all is not well. Flying is a real escape for the character and to me “flying beyond the clouds” sounds like a metaphor for the ultimate escape. A very well told story with a lot of meaning beyond the surface! Well done.

Compatible Soul by Nancy Chenier

I love the contrasts between science (“melding of pilot brain with the vessel”) and spirituality (“fingers danced mudras along the fuselage”). The pilot comes down on the side of science (“what if disbelief could kill her?”) until the “surge of alien awareness”. “Let the pilgrimage commence” indeed. A fantastic bit of sci-fi. Well done Nancy.

My Life by Stella Turner

This made me think of The Jam song The Dreams of Children:

I caught a glimpse from the dreams of children

I got a feeling of optimism

But woke up to a grey and lonely picture

This story has a real childish innocence about it until the rather sad, bleak ending. Great writing Stella.

Bird Calling by Peg Stueber

I love this quirky story told from the perspective of a bird. “Heavy ones” and “predator upright” are brilliant descriptions of humans. And “Wing enclave” where the humans house their “hollow avians” perfectly describe hangars and aircraft. We even learn a little of the spiritual world of the bird, with Gaia directing and observing from above. Such a fun, satisfying story, well done Peg. It reminded me of The London Pigeon Wars, which has some passages told from the perspective of pigeons.

Sacrosanct by Grace Black

This is one of those stories that raises more questions than it answers. I enjoyed it for what it was (a complete story with a beginning middle and end), but it left me wanting to know more, which is a mark of good flash in my book. Who, or what, is the protagonist, what are the trials, what happened to the protagonist’s father? A great teasing story.

Unity by Jim M

A wonderful bit of sci-fi here. I love the hints at the close, perhaps symbiotic, relationship between human and machine (“her gemini invades her gently”, “sororal complicity”). I also picked up great affection, perhaps even love, between them – “sacred are we”, “she’s frail today”, “her bleeding nose is powdered”. A very unique and well written story.

Collateral Damage by KM Zafari

A brilliant description of a difficult dilemma: sabotage the planes, kill the pilots, and be branded a traitor, or let them fly. Inactivity would be the easier choice, “but she couldn’t bear to see another dead child carried through the streets.” Great story.

Blessings On Your Young Courage by Ed Broom

An unlikely hero, Vern the graffiting ne’er-do-well, is taken in by the kindly Father Shep. The whole story hangs on Vern’s latest graffiti: ITS OK 2 B SACRED. Has he misspelled scared (he’s perhaps not the brightest chap) or is he truly sacred after being spared from the disaster that wiped out his family? Nice ambiguity in a great little story with good use of the bookends.

Sacred by Denise

A nice use of the opening bookend as the name for a plane. Ironic, or was it truly the hand of God that caused the destruction of the town? I love the line “how could a lifeless object change lives so dramatically?” Of course the answer is “power is not in the weapon, but in the hands of those who use it.” The closing lines are chilling and left me wondering if the cries and agony were imagined of if the character had gotten some form of revenge. Lovely writing.

In the Cockpit by Brett Milam

I love Brett’s writing. It’s raw and hard hitting with the occasional spam-filter tester. A great title that, once you’ve read the story, puts a whole new spin on ‘cockpit’. In a male-dominated career, Kathleen shows that women can more than hold their own. I love “patriarchal patronizing” and the “Pecker Philosophy”. This was also one of only a few entries to use the adjectival meaning of sound as the closing bookend. Well done.

Crash Test Impulses by Brady Koch

I like conflict in that the character somehow wants to show respect to the cadavers but feels that saying a prayer would betray her scientific objectives. The story ends brilliantly with her inappropriate laughter being covered by the din of the jet, and cadaver, blasting off.

Here’s what judge, John Cassidy, had to say:

I was truly amazed by the imagination of all these beautifully written stories. I loved the wonderful ideas and expert use of language that crafted all the entries.

My desk is littered with lists of top 15, top 10, top 5 and, the most difficult of all, top 2.

When all the stories are so competently written and when there is but one judge, then it comes down to personal preference.

So if you are not a winner this week – blame the judge and have another go next week!

Honourable Mention

Redressing the Balance by Stephanie Ellis

A well written amusing piece with a serious undertone and a sting in the tail. Couldn’t help thinking of a certain economy airline that might pinch this flight  idea!!

Honourable Mention

The Morning After by AFOdom

Simple but very effective story with that wonderful closing line that leaves the reader intrigued and wanting more.

3rd Place

Meg the Engineer by Jim M

What a piece of genius crime writing – such an original take on the photo prompt. I enjoyed this story and was sorry it had to end. I wanted to know what happened after that…I’m certain there’s a longer story just gagging to be written!

2nd Place

Burning Bridges by Geoff Holme

This was just a whisker away from the winning story. Its wonderful rhythmic, chiselled use of words made me wonder if the author is a poet.

It is such a clever piece of writing with an under layer of tragic reality. It is full of action and suspense and the language is exquisite, right down to the last “B-b-b-om.”

 Winner

HANGER HANGAR by Bunmi Oke

I found this story disarmingly simple yet highly inventive.  Its brilliant perspective focuses (pardon the pun!) on just one action, the taking of a photo. One almost feels nervous for the six year old  wielding and tottering with  this awkward piece of equipment that seems so precious to his dad. Despite the economy of words, the characterisation is excellent and absorbs the reader for those brief moments. Then it’s over, literally in a flash – but as the author puts it brilliantly “(forever) captured and cashed into my childhood memory.” Congrats on writing such a delightfully different story.

HANGER HANGAR

Bunmi Oke

Sacred it truly is, the privilege to peep through his favourite antique of a gadget.

But how objects at both extremes hang precariously bother me some – as though if my grip wobbled, the fellow on the ladder to the right with his aircraft would come sliding, crashing into the pretty lady in the center. Dad yaks about the device’s ‘wide angle lens,’ ‘aspect ratio,’ (or is it ‘field of view’?) as responsible for that ‘panoramic view.’ Whatever.

Thrill of my 6th birthday treat peaks with the brief flash on depressing the knob – this moment captured and cached into my childhood memory by the shutter’s clicking sound.