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WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round #15

Today we reveal the final two contestants who'll be stepping into the WRiTE CLUB ring and I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all 30 contestants. Win or lose, it was an achievement simply making it this far! But what about the other 102 writers who took the risk and submitted their work? I know you're disappointed, but there is some good news.

For the first time in this contest's history, we are able to offer writers who didn't make it to the ring some feedback. A dozen of our slushpile readers have generously volunteered to critique your submission (one per writer), provided you meet two criteria. The first, you must send an email to WRITECLUB2019@GMAIL.COM to formally request the critique. The second condition, you must have voted (before the deadline) in at least five of the bouts. This 2nd condition may seem harsh, but I have a hard time offering feedback to anyone who is unwilling to support their fellow writers by registering a simple vote. Once we receive your email and verify participation by voting, your submission will be looked at by all 12 slushpile readers and those critiques will be emailed back to you. Because I'm not sure how many of you will take part in this, it's impossible for me to say how long it will take to get this input back to you. Stay tuned for more information.

WRiTE CLUB is a tournament-style competition that runs during the eight weeks prior to the DFW Conference (who is also a sponsor) and it provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win a host of prizes, topped off by a free admission to the following year’s conference. Our writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names and they'll be appearing in head-to-head in “bouts”, with the winner of each match determined by you the reader—by voting for your favorites. Bout winners keep advancing until there are only two remaining and that’s when a panel of celebrity judges, who include well know authors, agents, editors, and other publishing folks, choose the ultimate champion.

Even though the contest is sponsored by DFW, anyone can vote (as long as you have a Google sign-in or verifiable email address), and when you do, we encourage you to leave a mini-critique for both writers. Oh, I forgot to mention that the voters have a chance to win a $60 Barnes and Noble gift card. Each time you vote in a bout your name will be placed in a hat and at the end of the contest, one name will be selected to receive the prize. And as an added incentive to keep readers coming back for more, we're upping the ante. Readers who place a vote in EVERY bout will have their names placed in a second hat and the name selected from that pool will win a $40 Barnes and Noble gift card. Double the chances of winning!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date I post it to give as many people as possible to have a say. Voting for today’s bout will close on Thursday, May 23rd (noon central time). To help keep up with which bouts are open, you can follow along on the WRiTE CLUB Scoreboard updated right HERE.

It’s that simple. The writing piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

A few more rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.
2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.
3) Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will cause that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!
4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

That’s enough of the fine printlike the man says –

Our first contestant in the ring is Terrance East representing the Sci-Fi genre.

"I can't feel my fingers."  I blinked against the bright light as my arms disappeared.
"Perfectly normal. Didn't you watch the induction hologram?"
"Of course, but I didn't think that things would just disappear." The room smelled of electricity and ozone. What had begun as a gentle hum now pulsed and throbbed.
"Your feet and lower legs should be going about now."
They did. I blinked again. A holocam hovered a little too close, and I blew a quick breath to shoo it away. I didn't appreciate that it was my last.
"Systems transference in three, two, one..."
The world went blindingly white. The transference room shimmered back into focus. The smell and sound were gone. Replaced by an overwhelming sense of the expanse of everything.
"Impressive isn't it."
"It's... amazing. So much... nothing."
"You're no longer constrained by your physical body."
"This is incredible." I began to move and the room vanished as I went. I floated past the robotic operating table and the botnurse, then paused at the door.
"We don't encourage that."
"98.724 percent of all Transferals stop to look back at their Organic. 76.387 percent have an adverse reaction."
"I'll risk it." I turned and looked back. The body on the table was pale, lifeless, and wrinkled. I knew it from a lifetime of mirrors. The head, my head, was encased inside the glowing circular opening of the transferal unit. The final vestige of humans as life forms.
Now, with transferal to The Cloud, I too would be immortal. Unlimited. At least my mind or my consciousness. Or my soul. I had wondered about that.
A yellow tint colored my world. The botnurse moved quickly to the glowing unit. It flickered..
"Level one. Adverse reaction."
"What's going on!? What's happening!?" I'm not proud to say I panicked. Totally freaked out and then -
The yellow tinted world twisted into charcoal gray.
"Mr. Templeton? Concentrate on the pinpoint of light in the center of your field of vision."
"There's nothing there!" The edges of the world were black and folding in.
"Find the light. Move towards it."
"There's no light!"


"...empleton? Mr. Templeton? Can you hear me? Mr. Templeton?"
"Do you have functionality?"
"What the hell was that?"
"0.047 percent of Transferals suffer an initial boot issue. Yours was a full boot rejection. We restored from your system backup and you should be just fine."
"Should be?"
"There's a 99.994 percent acceptance rate."
"So that's 6 out of every --"
"It's not relevant, Mr. Templeton. You are free to go."
"That's it? Just go?" My consciousness spun around slowly. It was a different room. No table, no body, just the big picture window from our kitchen back in Texas.
"We've programmed a familiar environment with reference cues and the sensation of physicality. It will help you adjust. You may go."
With that, the walls dissolved and infinity stretched out beyond the vision of my backyard.#############################################################################

On the other side of the ring, our final preliminary round contestant is Sydney Slayer who is representing the Fantasy genre.

I was born on a mountaintop in ancient Koyu, a place where dragons wind around the stony spires and winter red trees and breathe out the misty smoke that drifts through our sky like clouds.

This is what my grandmother taught me, her hands weaving spells in the air and pulling on the dragon mist to paint pictures in my mind.

She taught me other things too, how to eat the petals of the blossoms that drop from the twisting shoyu tree; the flowers that show us the future. The petals are soft and fat, the size of a baby’s palm, pearlescent white with a blush of pink and, at its heart, the reddest of reds.

They look juicy and full of water and the first time I eat it I am afraid, afraid all that water will rush like a dark river down my throat and I will drown, drown while dreaming of the future.

But as succulent as the petal looks, it is not. It’s as light as air; it tastes like the memory of candy, sweetened with icy melon and fiery hawkfruit, or like nothing at all. It tastes like everything and emptiness all at once, for Grandmother says that is the future - not my future, of course, I am nothing in the vastness of the universe. What we taste is the future of all things.

What did I see, that first time I ate a shoyu petal, you ask? Why, I saw you. Sitting in a tea shop, eating a cookie shaped like a shoyu petal, laughing and pulling the pictogram off your tongue, the pictogram that comes when the cookie is gone, and your lovely eyes try to see me as you puzzle out the dragon-wrapped mountain on the candy disc and then with one bite it is gone. You eat it and nothing is left.

I ask my grandmother about this vision; she paints the air and tells me, in the future there are not so many shoyu trees, so people do what they can.

And then she teaches me to weave the long soft gortse hairs, and the coarse ones too, into braided yarn, and then the yarn becomes a blanket and the blanket stays with me at night when I try to find her in my sleep, the dragon-mist softening my dreams.

I search for her, the girl of the shoyu vision; the future girl who drinks tea and laughs so freely. I cannot find her in the dragon mist again.

She is not there.

The other girls rustle and wake, disturbed by my tossing and turning.

Settle down, Ryu, they say. Their jewel-like eyes light the darkness in our small stone room.
Go to sleep, Ryu, they whisper as one.
We are as one in all things, but not in this.
They want to sleep; they want to follow, but I do not.
I want to break things; I want to dance in the sky.

I want to lead.

As always, leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detractions.

We’ll be back next week with SAVE WEEK.  Did one of your favorite pieces lose their bout? Then you'll want to make sure you come back next week when everyone will be giving the opportunity to possibly SAVE three contestants from elimination. Don't miss it!

Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!


  1. I enjoyed both of these entries. What a great way to end the first round! My vote goes to Sydney Slayer for the beautiful imagery and the intriguing premise that left me wanting to read more.

  2. Very well done! Congrats to you on making it to the last initial bout!
    Terrance East: Very strong. I liked the description of the body left behind. Use of statistics by the disembodied voice is effective. I had a hard time at just a couple points with the body/no body AND physical movement. What you're trying to describe is complex. I would recommend having a well-defined set of rules for your world as you write.

    Sydney Slayer: Your futuristic fortune cookie was so interesting. Also the phrase "tastes like the memory of candy." Love that--could try to imagine that all day.

    Going with Terrance East today!

  3. Both are very interesting premises. I'll also go with Sydney Slayer for the beautiful descriptions.

  4. Again, both well done. I had some trouble picturing the one by Terrance East but the concept was intriguing. A little tweaking and it should be amazing.

    The second one by Sydney Slayer was simply amazing. The imagery used made it easy to picture. That feeling that you must break out of the mould you've been placed in comes through loud and clear.

    My vote goes to Sydney Slayer today!

  5. This is a hard one, as they all have been! Both are well written, but the imagery in Sydney Slayer's was more vivid and easily understood. Terrance East built the suspense and provided an intriguing story. It's was not an easy decision, but I'm going to go with Sydney Slayer today.

    Thanks for all the great entries throughout the first set of bouts!

  6. What a wonderful way to end the preliminary bouts!!! Two beautiful, thought provoking entries, another super difficult choice!!! Terrance East, I loved the intriguing scenario you set up in the passage (and yes, I got the Orpheus reference--loved the way you updated it for your futuristic science fiction!) Sydney Slayer--what can I say? The language, the imagery, were incredibly gorgeous, creating a wistful sense of love and life passing by. I'd vote for both if I could, but since I can't I'm voting for Terrance East because even though sci-fi isn't a genre I usually read, I was intrigued enough to want to continue. Congrats to both authors, and all the best in the next bouts!!!

  7. I enjoyed both entries!

    Terrance East: I liked this scientific perspective on death. It made sense and was believable. Maybe there's a state in between physical body and total soul/consciousness where there still remains a 'physical memory'- to address the 'feeling' of movement and also the state of panic. Would a freed soul feel panic or just be?

    Sydney Slayer: Your prose and imagery are lovely - your description of the petal and eating the petal. I could see the grandmother's graceful hands weaving spells in the air with the dragon mist.

    I feel like I can't choose...I want to vote for both of you. I guess I want to follow the journey of Mr. Templeton's soul. So I'll vote for Terrence on this one.

  8. Dang that's hard. Not genres I usually read or write in so I am always so impressed with the work and imagination that goes into a piece of work. I thhhiiinnnkkkkk I am going to go with Terrence, maybe....

  9. Two great entries. Terrance East's entry was horrifying, but that was the point--great job grounding something incredibly complicated in concrete details so we know what's going on in just 500 words. Sydney Slayer creates some beautiful poetry here, but I never really got a sense of what the heck was going on. If both pieces were expanded into something more, I would probably prefer Sydney's, but based just on what's here, my vote goes to Terrance East.

  10. Terrance East - I'm not sure what to make of this. I like the idea of a transferred consciousness and its implications, but this ends up going nowhere. I like some of the description but a lot of it is bogged down in jargon. It feels like soft sci-fi attempting to be hard. -- The body on the table was pale, lifeless, and wrinkled. I knew it from a lifetime of mirrors. -- I love the idea of describing one's own body, but the unfamiliarity of seeing it in a new perspective is what's interesting, and that's not here. Using the spacing to represent nothing as the consciousness glitches is gimmicky. It should have the same spacing as the rest of the story. As with about 90% of the entries, absolutely no figurative language. Would have been nice to see a little, especially when describing death and the expanse of forever.

    Sydney Slayer - Bravo on your opening -- I was born on a mountaintop in ancient Koyu, a place where dragons wind around the stony spires and winter red trees and breathe out the misty smoke that drifts through our sky like clouds. -- Gives the piece a feeling of bigness and importance, and the imagery is great. The whole piece is filled with fantastic imagery. It's all about taste and touch and fear and it makes the reader feel without being sappy. It's a very good piece of writing. As with some of the other entries, I think the spacing at the end, the last line offset from the ones above is a little bit of a trick to make us feel your last sentence. I wouldn't do that. If you turn in a manuscript to an editor, you do it in a certain format, and you wouldn't break the format by offsetting a line for impact. Let your words make the impact. Also, watch those semicolons. Two of them are used incorrectly -- She taught me other things too, how to eat the petals of the blossoms that drop from the twisting shoyu tree; the flowers that show us the future.-- and -- I search for her, the girl of the shoyu vision; the future girl who drinks tea and laughs so freely. -- Remember, if the clauses can't stand on their own, they can't be combined with a semicolon, unless it's used to break down a large list.

    Sydney Slayer gets my vote all the way, maybe the best piece of the contest.

  11. These were good entries. Terrance East painted a clear picture of what was happening (not too easy with such odd events) and kept it lively and interesting.

    But I vote for Sydney Slayer for the very poetic tale. I liked that the cadence and structure was not normal - it read like a well-delivered oral piece by a skilled storyteller ("weave into yarn, and the yarn becomes a blanket and the blanket stays with me", that kind of long repetition and rushing flow).

  12. Vote goes to Sydney Slayer with a close margin.

  13. Terrance East was a bit too scientific for me, although well written and I understood the concept and idea behind the story line, I found it rather 'harsh' and sterile but that was probably the point.

    On the other hand Sydney Slayer's piece was rather more to my taste, lovely descriptive phrasing with an ethereal feel to it with a punch at the end.

    My vote today is for Sydney Slayer.

  14. With two intriguing entries from entirely different worlds to finish out, here we go...

    Terrance East: The concept is interesting and initially pulled me in. As a person with a strong science background, I can appreciate your stating statistics throughout the piece as you did. But it distanced me from the main character and made him feel more like the bot nurse. I wanted more emotion from him, more evocative writing of this experience, instead of all the nth degree percentages that only served to make it feel more "science-like." Without his emotional responses, I simply can't care. Also, he contradicts himself when he says: I began to move and the room vanished. Then he goes on to give details of what's in the room and that he paused at the door. He talks of immortality and infinity, but never once do we have the feeling of what it *means* for him personally. Is he thrilled because he's leaving behind a diseased or old (or both) body? Is he scared at the possibilities now opened up to him, but excited too? These are the things I like to see so I can connect and root for a character.

    Sydney Slayer: Wow. This piece is magical. Not perfect. But pure magic. Not only is the language beautiful, but you evoke deep emotion throughout beginning with: I am afraid ... I will drown while dreaming of the future. We feel the character's deep longing and know exactly what she wants, what she yearns for in her heart of hearts. What she's willing to fight for. And it's all wrapped in imagery I can see, hear, touch, and taste. This is the kind of writing I've been waiting for the entire contest. Thank you.

    My vote: Sydney Slayer

  15. These are both incredible! I love the black mirror vibe of Terrance's piece. And Sydney's paints an amazing fantasy world that I would love to spend more time in. The prose was spellbinding, but there were also run on sentences that made it a little difficult to follow at times, and in the first vision the second person "you" is used in "I saw you", but later it gets switched to third with "I searched for her. She was not there." It should either continue with the second and say, "I searched for you." Or just leave off the second person and say that it was a girl throughout. I'm wrestling with this, but I'm going to cast my vote with Terrance. That piece made me uneasy in the best way.

  16. Loved both these stories but for the descriptions and mood evoked, my vote is for Sydney Slayer.

  17. While I tend to lean more towards the science fiction realm, I had a difficult time connecting to the out of body experience that Mr. Templeton was going through.

    Sydney painted a very colorful world, which I was easily drawn into. While I'll be the first to admit I had to read it a second time to understand some of the details, the warmth of the setting lead me to cast my vote in her direction.

  18. Congratulations, Contestants!

    Terrance East: This is an interesting concept. A little tightening up and polishing would make it even better.

    One thing I tend to do is use "that" when I don't need to. You've done the same, and it slows things down a beat: "Of course, but I didn't think that things would just disappear." Read it aloud with and without "that". See the difference?

    I know what ozone smells like, but what does electricity smell like? Vaguely like ozone, no? I stopped reading to try and imagine the smell of electricity. Leaving it "smelled of ozone" would have been sufficient and kept me reading.

    Mr. Templeton's consciousness rises from his body and pauses at the door, where he's advised not to do that. Ignoring the advice, he turns and goes back to look at his body. This was confusing to me. Why did he go to the door only to turn back around to see his body? Wouldn't he have looked at his body straight away? What does the door have to do with it?

    Using "!?" comes off as a cheat, and you've done it twice. If you allow your words to create a sense of panic, there's no reason to use double punctuation. This is something an editor would likely have you remove.

    I like that he's dropped off in a room that looks like his kitchen, to help him adjust to life as pure consciousness.

    I wonder if consciousnesses get together and interact. Could he have a poker night in his kitchen? Are there laws and rules? Is there pain and pleasure as a consciousness? What is the point of becoming an immortal consciousness if there's nothing left on earth to see? These are all questions that would keep me reading if it were a book.

    Sydney Slayer: Such beautiful imagery and meandering writing. Meandering in a good way, like the way someone tells a story over and over again, but changes little things each time. It's somehow comforting.

    I know it's fantasy, but the word "gortse" threw me. I know what a dragon is, but I couldn't paint an image of a gortse. Maybe like an alpaca? A sheep?

    At first, I liked the tense shift, when she says "I saw you." It reaffirmed the feeling of being told a story while I fall asleep, a story that has me as a character.

    But then the narrator switches tenses again and goes back to an unknown girl. "I search for her, the girl of the shoyu vision; the future girl who drinks tea and laughs so freely. I cannot find her in the dragon mist again." I don't understand that switch, and it actually made me feel mildly disappointed. I loved the idea of being part of this story, and was sad when I was kicked out of it.

    It's hard for me to make my choice today because I sincerely enjoyed aspects of both stories. Since I can only choose one, I'm going to go with Terrance East.

  19. Terrance, your piece was intriguing and seems like a great start to a story. I would have continued reading.

    Sydney, your piece made me feel like I was lulled into a dream. I don't know how you did it, but I felt like I was floating through your writing. It was evocative, imaginative, and just beautiful.

    My vote today is for Sydney Slayer.

  20. Great end to the first round. Nice job to everyone!

    I loved both of these.

    Terrance East - The disembodied statistics made me curious about who it was - A computer or soulless human? I was a little confused by the end, but so was Mr. Templeton so it was fitting.

    Sydney Slayer - The imagery was fantastic. It felt warm, soft, flowing. Initially I felt off with the shifting tenses, but with a second read through It grew on me.

    My vote is for Sydney Slayer.

  21. What a way to close out Round 1

    Terrance East is an intriguing submission, showing us death (and rebirth/reboot) from the individual experiencing the eschatological event. Even though it is not clear exactly where the larger story is going, the submission is strong, giving a good feel for the voices of the characters in the tale. The almost clinical description of the body was a good decision, as was avoiding needless figurative language. It’s a good reminder that fiction can be just as powerful by describing what is actually occurring in a scene as when a writer uses analogies to tell us what we should be thinking. Many of the better entries in this round have avoided the needless use of figurative.

    But I digress…..

    Sydney Slayer submission, though, is a story that requires the use of figurative language to describe what a person is experiencing. And it works extremely well. It also had a great opening sentence that pulled the reader into the story. The mountain, the dragon, and the use of the word “shoyu” give the submission an Asian flare. As with Terrance East’s entry, this is a story where I have no idea where it is going, but these 500 words make me want to find out.

    One of the hardest votes of this Round. In the end, I’m going with Terrance East because I really want to know more about the world of Mr. Templeton.

  22. Both of these are fantastic, with beautiful worldbuilding threading throughout their respective pieces. I love the depiction of the body slowly dissolving as consciousness transfers into the Cloud in East's story, but ultimately my vote goes to the beautiful delicate time-twistiness of Slayer's seer.

  23. Congrats on being the last 2 contestants out!

    Neither genres are those I choose to read, so read both twice to be sure I didn't miss anything from not understanding this genre as much as others.

    Terrance East, your story unfolded quite easily in my mind, and despite not usually enjoying Sci-Fi, I can truthfully say I enjoyed this, and was quite engaged in it. There were areas I didn't fully understand (more a genre thing I think, than your writing), and I liked the idea of your "being" seeing yourself on the table as you had in years of mirrors. I think overall the piece could benefit from being tightened (but that has been true for most entries in the contest) and if possible have a bit more showing and less telling

    Sydney Slayer, again a genre I don't choose to read, but your story also was very interesting. Some of the language is poetic and quite lovely, but with tense changes going back and forth, I admit to getting confused and shaken out of the story more than once. Your opening paragraph did very clearly paint a picture of your world, and for fantasy work, I think this is especially important to the reader, so well done. I also liked that your MC had a very easy to pronounce name. As silly as this may sound, that is part of why I have never enjoyed reading fantasy, as so often the names of characters and places are so obscure and hard to pronounce that it makes the reading harder in a sense.
    As mentioned, you have some very lyrical sentences, but unfortunately I got lost several times reading this piece.

    Both submissions could easily be expanded to a much larger body of work, and it would be very interesting to read how both of these pieces develop.

    Both have also given me an insight into genres I admit to not liking, and both have delivered well. So well done!

    Based purely on the fact that I found it easier to follow, understand and interpret, voting today for Terrance East.

  24. Sydney Slayer gets my vote. incredible imagery, the first story started out fine but the ending got lost.

  25. I like the idea of uploading your self into the cloud. My vote goes to Terrance East

  26. I'm going to go with Sydney Slayer for this one, although it was a tough decision. I loved the imagery and the promise of more story without getting too confusing in this word limit. I was confused what the girl in the vision had to do with the MC's wish to lead - I feel that within these confines, everything should be connected, and I didn't see it there. But the atmosphere was perfect, so it gets my vote.

    Terrance East did a fabulous job. I loved the concept and "The Cloud" name. I think there's a lot going on in this world, and there was so much to explain that it felt a bit rushed to me. But I am intrigued!

  27. I love sci-fi, so I love Terrance’s piece. It was condensed story but the the whole story, so that was great. I vote for Terrance.

    Both were super great, though. I had some issue with a bit of lag for internal dialogue in Sydney Slayer’s piece. It’s such a minor quibble, thought.

    Really, both were so great!

  28. I enjoyed both pieces today. My vote goes to Terrance East.

  29. Both these pieces were well written. Terrance East provided a glimpse into the future. As intriguing as I found the idea of entering “The Cloud” instead of dieing, I didn’t find Mr. Templeton interesting enough to follow his journey. I wanted him to have more wonder and confusion of the transference, and I wanted him concerned for that slight chance he was no longer whole.

    Sydney Slayer provided great description using all the senses. I’m intrigued by the idea, but I did get confused over the actions and timeline. Using second person is so difficult to use well, that shy away from reading most stories with it, but I think it offers some possibilities.

    Jumping timelines is tricky, but if done well, Sydney Slayer will have a good story, For that reason, I’m casting my vote for Sydney Slayer.

  30. My vote to Sydney slayer.
    I get a more complete sense of story from that, of character, questions, and possibility.
    Terrance east's story feels like it's missing some stakes, something to root for or an outcome to strain against.
    Both stories were enjoyable and interesting.
    Thank you.

  31. Wow -- a very cool way to end the prelims: Two compelling and enjoyable entries with a common theme of altered perceptions of reality. I absolutely liked both of these, but ironically, I share some of the same sense of disorientation that Mr. Templeton and Ryu experience as I read them.

    Terrence East gives a scene of transference of consciousness, a recurring topic in sci-fi. I like a lot of the ways it is presented in the piece -- the use of dialogue to drive the events helps keep the reader anchored in the immediacy of the story, much more-so than long blocks of telling passages from the interior of the MC's POV would. Blending in some of the concrete elements of the futuristic science through the dialogue also helps -- the second voice helps provide answers to the reader as much as to Mr. Templeton. The premise, while familiar, is intriguing and negotiated well in the story, although there are several unanswered questions.

    So, like Mr. Templeton struggling to adjust to his new perspective, I find myself puzzled about some things:

    -- Who or what exactly is Mr. Templton speaking to? The 'botnurse'? It's not made clear, and the botnurse isn't even mentioned until the middle of the piece. It's disorienting for the MC to be interacting with a disembodied voice for so long. And -- how exactly is the communication happening? Through "the cloud" that he's been transferred into in some way, I assume, not through the ears of his former body?

    -- Is that "cloud" of the story the same as our internet-based interconnected computer hardware, or something more futuristic? It's unclear and never expanded on.

    -- So is Mr. Templeton now 'dead' or 'alive' since his body seems to no longer be functioning? This brings up all sorts of questions related to metaphysics and ontology -- where exactly is the "I" of Templeton now, and is it really him? This is the central subject that the story revolves around and it's touched on, but then brushed off ("I had wondered about that"). Yes, its an ocean-deep subject and I certainly don't expect a 500-word story to wade too far into it, but I think it does the reader a disservice by not even sticking a toe into the surf. It also leaves the reader slipping more into confusion than wonder.

    -- What's the point of the reconstructed 'environment' of the Texas kitchen? The voice says, "it will help you adjust," but then the walls immediately disappear and Templeton is off into infinity. The 'will' seems to have been instantaneous.

    1. (Review split due to length)

      Where Terrence East took a sci-fi, clinical approach to the issues of reality and consciousness, Sydney Slayer goes for lyrically word-painting a story that touches on some of the same issues. The writing in this submission is captivating, charming, and mesmerizing. The imagery is beautiful and graceful, and I'm intrigued by the story of Ryu and his (her?) vision.

      But I also find that trying to get a clear overall picture from this piece is like trying to take the colorful facets of a kaleidoscope and merge them into a cohesive whole -- they're beautiful, but still frustratingly impossible to get a unified image out of:

      -- Is Ryu male of female? It helps to have a good understanding of the MC of a story, but the name "Ryu" doesn't tell this Western reader the character's gender, and his(?) name isn't revealed until the end. I'm guessing Ryu's male, but it's open for debate at this point.

      -- Tense shifts make it hard to pin down the "now" of the story. The grandmother "taught me to eat the petals" (past-tense), then "the first time I eat it I am afraid..." (present-tense). "What did I see, that first time I ate" (past). "I ask my grandmother." (present), and so forth.

      -- The sudden insertion of "you ask? Why I saw you." is confusing. The reader's reaction is, "Me? I didn't ask anything, and what do you mean, you saw me?" Who is Ryu supposed to be talking to? The 'future-girl' he saw in his vision? The one he never spoke to or interacted with, and never saw again? Why does Ryu shift to speaking to her directly for a few lines, and then back away again for the remainder of the piece?

      -- Who are "the other girls"? Other girls he's watched from within shoyu-petal visions? Or other girls there with him. Or again -- 'her'? Because if they're with Ryu, maybe by the use of "other girls," Ryu means she's female as well?

      -- Why does Ryu's inability to see the future-vision-girl make Ryu not "want to follow"? Follow what? Follow the other girls into sleep? But they can't follow themselves, so that's awkward, and then Ryu's proclamation that (s)he instead wants to lead makes it even more confusing. Lead what and where? And why the "break things"? And "dance in the sky"? Beautiful, poetic turns of phrasing, yes, but totally meaningless without enough context for the reader. Unlike you, I do want to follow, Ryu -- follow exactly what the heck you're talking about.

      I find both of these compelling, enjoyable, and entertaining, but unfortunately, ultimately as substantive as Mr. Templeton's Texas kitchen walls, or reaching through dragon-mist and nibbling on shoyu petals. I like Terrence's attempts to ground the piece in the plausibility of science, while I also enjoy the beauty of Sydney's evocative, poetic imagery. And I can accept that not every artistic piece has to MEAN SOMETHING -- sometimes the joy is simply in the journey and the beauty of the passing landscape.

      Still, this is a difficult choice for me, but I'm going with Terrence East. I connected with the clearer telling of the story just a little better.

  32. These were both good pieces today. My vote is for Terrence East. I like the take on death and the afterlife in the cloud. There was some unneeded words and repetitions but overall didn't take me out of the story. Sydney's story was quite poetic. Beautiful descriptions and lyrical writing. However I got lost in the flowers and couldn't find the path. The repeated switching of tenses and POV got to me. I like the idea that this character wanted to be a leader not a follower but the first 400 plus words didn't convey that. It felt like the last few sentences were the actual start of the story but that may be the consequence of starting the story with an MC that is asleep. Whoever wins both of you should keep writing this story. I'd love to read them :D

  33. This one is really hard. Both authors did a great job of pulling me in and making me want to continue their stories. My vote today is for Terrance East because I love the idea of a human existing in the cloud. I haven't seen that before and thought it had a lot of possibilities.

  34. Wow, the writers really brought it this year. What a way to finish the initial round of submissions! My vote goes to Sydney Slayer for the amazing imagery and depth of feeling within their piece.

  35. My vote goes to Terrance East. Reading this was like watching a movie in my head – the dialogue drew me into the scene and I could almost imagine myself as Mr. Templeton. Great writing!

    Sydney Slayer – beautiful imagery, but I didn’t get a sense of the main character and so wasn’t able to really get into the story.

  36. Terrance: nice job starting mid-action, although opening with dialogue is risky. I’m not sure who the MC is talking to. A robot? Why is there a holocam? This is confusing as a short piece, but seems like a story I could get into. I really like where the MC blanks out, I feel I’m right there for the ride.

    Sydney: lovely voice. Several sentences are very long and winding, which is lyrical but sometimes confusing. The tense shifts a bit, and present tense seems to refer to two different times. The paragraph addressed to You might make more sense in context, but it’s confusing here as I don’t know who You is. Beautiful ending.

    I vote for Terrance, because it was easier to get in the MC’s head and understand the story.

  37. My vote goes to Sydney Slayer today. The piece was lyrical and very literary. It conjured up images and made me feel as though I was floating through them.

    Terrence's piece was fun but I didn't really connect with it. I had a hard time feeling grounded in the story.

  38. I vote for Sydney Slayer - I like the lyrical prose and the imagery/world-building

  39. Terrance East -- That's an interesting twist. I enjoyed it.

    Sydney Slayer -- I love the mythology you've built here. You get my vote.

  40. Terrance East: Neat concept. I'm not sure it was as fleshed out as it could have been, perhaps due to the word count restriction. As it is, I'm not overly invested in Mr. Templeton's fate, nor am I entirely certain what all his transference entails.

    Sydney Slayer: The writing in this piece is rich, evocative, and graceful. Shifting from "you" in the vision to "she" after the vision threw me a little, as did the ending. You immersed me in the world and in the magic, developed the relationship between Ryu and her grandmother, showed me a vision, gave me a hunger to find the girl of the vision somewhere in the dragon mist, and then plopped me down in what I imagine is a dormitory of sorts with hive-minded, glowing-eyed girls who want to sleep and follow. The girls and then Ryu's desire to break free and lead felt a little out of the blue. But going back to the writing... It was incredibly immersive, and that counts for a lot. I'm willing to overlook all of the issues mentioned above because I really want you in the next round.

    Sydney Slayer has my vote!

  41. Terrance East-- I enjoyed this. I'd prefer a little less dialogue, but I understand that with a 500-word limit, there can really only be one focus to the sample.

    Sydney Slayer, your writing is beautiful.

    My vote is for Terrance East, purely because I would probably read more.

  42. I found Terrance easier to read. And I want to know more. That's my vote.

  43. Terrance East for me. I love the uncertainty element in this :)

  44. Sydney Slayer for me because dragons were mentioned.

  45. I vote for Terrace East. The idea of transferring to the Cloud to gain immortality hooked me. Sydney Slayer lost me at dragons. My mind just stops there and as I read further, there were beautiful words that I could not connect with.

  46. I enjoyed both pieces, but my vote goes to Terrance East, for the fascinating premise and impeccable delivery. Although I loved Sydney Slayer's lush language (always a plus for me), it's more telling than showing. Plus, alas, I've seen that YAish trope so many times.

  47. A final round of applause not just for the final two contestants but all of them.
    Terrance East representing the Sci-Fi genre.
    I liked the dialogue and the concept of transferal to the Cloud. Plus the scare from a malfunction that feels familiar. And the percentages. Humour and tension.

    Sydney Slayer who is representing the Fantasy genre.
    Very visual opening, although the two 'and's threw me until I re-read the sentence. Beautiful phrases and images, but a mix of sentence length early on would be even better. The cadence is there as the story builds, the magic unfolding - into a misty ending. Beautiful and mysterious. I don't read enough fantasy I fear, so the meaning is vague to me.

    I love the writing of Sydney Slayer's dreaming but have to vote for the starker future reality from Terrance East. However, SAVE WEEK eases my conscience.

  48. The suspense is over for two more writers who made it to this point! Congratulations to both.

    Terrence East’s piece set up some good panic! The smooth voice that’s supposed to make everything better but really doesn’t. Then there’s the interesting scenario about whether we really know what happens on the cloud. Very imaginative piece.

    Sydney Slayer’s piece has a wonderful sense of grounding, despite all the fantasy elements. They were introduced and explained well without leaving the reader guessing too much. It also sets up some form of quest, since it feels that the tea drinking girl will figure larger in the later aspects.

    My vote goes to Sydney Slayer most especially for the last line - promising a story of finding your place and growing into a leadership role.

  49. My vote goes to Terrence East. The opening captured me immediately and I felt the emotions of the character. Great suspense. I felt like this was a scene that would fit perfectly into a sci-for novel.

    Sydney’s writing is more like beautiful poetry. It’s so full of flowing description, that I got a little lost in the words and had to read it a couple of times to find the story.

  50. I'm on a deadline so I need to vote and run but I'm sorry. Terrance East has it for me tonight.

  51. My vote is for Terence for making up such a world. I loved the lyrical language in Susan's story, but it got a bit overwhelming and I lost the story.

  52. Terrance East gets my vote.

  53. My vote goes to Sydney Slayer this round! Loved that beautiful imagery and I could almost taste the shoyu petal on my tongue. I'd love to read more!


  54. Terrance East: The robonurse (?) seems to have more personality and character than your former (?) human. The voice and tone fit the genre, but there needs to be some "humanity" left in this new cloud-based entity...I can't get emotionally invested in 1s and 0s. I would have liked to read a bit more of his memories, regrets, loves, etc., at this most important moment in his being, and less about what fraction of transferees experience technical glitches.

    Sydney Slayer: The tense shifts throughout and second-person "you" only served to interrupt the flow of this lovely, lyrical, ethereal, almost mystical prose. I assume Ryu is female, but there's some ambiguity here, and about exactly when and where this story is being told. But I'm charmed, nevertheless. That voice! I can imagine a very old woman gathered with her grand-daughters around a fire, telling this story and passing on the "old ways." A treat for the ears.

    Today's vote for Sydney Slayer.

  55. Terrance East: good idea, but missed opportunities. More show less tell would have made the story better.

    Sydney Slayer: Beautiful story, great imagery that turned the written word into a piece of art. Sydney Slayer gets my vote.

  56. I vote for Sydney Slayer. The writing is great, and the picture it paints is amazing. It really is beautiful imagery. I also really like the story.

    On Terrance's, I like the idea behind the story, but the writing I found to be annoying (sorry if that's a bit harsh).

  57. My vote is for Sydney Slayer. I want to read more of her story and find out more about what Ryu is seeing in her petals. Is it the reader or someone this story is addressed to? I want to find out more about this grandmother that can paint the air. I just want to read this story. The imagery and beautiful prose really drew me in.

  58. Both very good and very interesting. I loved the imagery and detail in Sydney Slayer’s piece. Very good style and imagery. The Terrance East piece had an intriguing and inventive idea behind it, and was easier to follow. My vote goes to Terrance East.

  59. Love the mysteries in each piece. Voting for Terrance East.

  60. My vote is for Terrence East. I thought the description of the downloading of the main character's consciousness into the Cloud very well done, and I'd be interested to read more of the story.

    Sydney Slayer -- the story was interesting, but a little too confusing to really catch my interest. I want to know more about what's going on, but it doesn't make me want to read further.

  61. Terrance East wrote a solid sci-fi piece, which I always appreciate. I'd love to read more set in that world. Sydney Slayer wrote a beautiful tale with lyrical prose, and I am honestly stunned by it. That's a good thing, by the way. My vote goes to Sydney Slayer.

  62. Terrance East
    What worked:
    This was an interesting idea and you managed to keep the action pretty clear despite the confusion. It's not easy to describe the absence of substance so that the reader can still picture what is going on.
    What didn't:
    Instead of a conflict, this piece has more of a hiccup. I didn't really have time to get invested or concerned before it was over.

    Sydney Slayer
    What worked:
    This is a beautifully evocative piece and its obvious you put some care into word choice throughout. It feels almost poetic in its storytelling.
    What didn't:
    I think the POV could be tightened up a little. I much prefer the "you" in the middle to the "she/her" at the end.

    My vote goes to Sydney Slayer.

  63. Tough choice. I mean I love both genres and for the exact same reason. As I've said before, they are limitless. On one hand we have the transition from Organic to Digital and the other we have poetic prose with dragons and visions.

    My vote goes to Terrance East, instead of far future it feels like near future. Where we are able to analyze and digitize consciousness into an entity capable of interacting with the Internet of Things and beyond. I mean it's a transcendence a type of evolution, and with everything that is advancing in our daily lives it feels almost tangible. I like how the robots had exact mathematics, how the process of joining the Cloud is not always smooth. That physiological health is still a factor and a high priority great job!

    For Sydney Slayer I have to confess I'm a sucker for dragons. I love the shapes, roles, colors, and variety that exist and are being made across multiple genres. The moment I read about them I wanted to visualize them, but then the plot then turns to the protagonists musings and symbolic visions. Now the musings and symbols are interesting good use of sensory details, and I like the setting, but it never felt like it coalesced into a moment or point. Is the protagonist a dragon, Ryu is one of the Japanese words for Dragon. In book form I would keep reading but for this it didn't feel substantive.

  64. Both of these entries peaked my curiosity. Terrance gets my vote today for clarity. I really enjoyed Sydney Slayer's descriptions though.




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