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March/April 2012 Responses and Winners!


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Greetings, folks! As you may know, with the retirement of Captain Tallis, I've taken over as facilitator for the Writing Challenges, and I'm pleased to say that I was extremely pleased by the turnout for the March & April round! Please also remember to give your thanks to our fantastic panel of judges -- Karynn Ehlanii Brice, Toni Turner, Eden Redstone, Arden Cain, and last round's winner Velana -- who read and ran every entry and provide the feedback you'll see here shortly.

Without further ado, the winner of the March & April challenge, with his story "The Tempest," is Alleran Tan! Please also congratulate this round's runner-up, Kalianna Nicholotti, with her story, "In the Shadow of a New Alliance."

Alleran, I'll be sending you a message shortly to set up the subject of the next challenge, for May and June, which should begin in the next couple of days!

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"In the Shadow of a New Alliance"

by Kalianna Nicholotti

reviewed by Karynn Ehlanii Brice

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I'd like to start off by saying "well done." This is a very well-written piece of writing and one that I really enjoyed. I loved your characterizations and descriptions of Ili'kai and Kital Creena. You did a great job at bringing both to life and I love the foil they made for each other. Additionally the pace was great and kept me interested and the story was without any glaring spelling/grammar mistakes which made it easy to read.

My one criticism is that in my opinion the overall plot felt a little recycled. For me, it was too reminiscent of Pocahontas, Avatar, and Insurrection with a twist thrown in of the TNG episode "Who Watches the Watchers." While it had the twist in the middle, I found myself more or less expecting the ending, and I didn't feel as though it brought anything unique to the general plot of "great civilization conquering a weaker, more earth-connected civilization." I felt like it just made the same points that others have already done and would have liked to see a new take on the theme.

That being said, I did love the twist in the middle and the move away from the "kill the natives" motif. I also loved that the ending left it all ambiguous. I love that it stops short of resolving the problem and that, unlike the other previously mentioned stories, we don't know if good will conquer in the end - and that brought some of that element of "the unexpected" that I was hoping for. When it was done I wanted more, and that's always a great mark of a good story.

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"Tentacle Storms"

by Zinna

reviewed by Toni Turner

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"Tentacle Storms" was a well-written fast paced piece with plenty of action. Lt. JG Zinna did a very nice job with descriptions and dialog.

In reading this story of the ultimate sacrifice the crew made, was a side story of and entire a family that was compelling. I kept getting flashes of the last Star Trek movie when Kirk was born. So much so that it was distracting to picture anything except the tentacles of the Romulan ship. What was surprising, was that after keying up for the wife and baby to survive as per movie, Zinna did an about face, and they all perished, which to me was a more realistic approach, considering the devastating effects of the attack.

Well done, Lt. Zinna!

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"Standfast... The Tempest has Arrived!"

by Viktor Lanius

reviewed by Toni Turner

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This was definitely an original story carved from the writer's creativity. It was a story of fears, and reaching out for someone to calm them - Someone to see the cause of nightmarish dreams, when Ensign Jameson could not. A story of being lost and needing a guide. And that guide was the ship's counselor. To me, Lanius brought the essence of what a counselor can do to help those in need of his service, and that's something we tend to miss in our daily sims.

Other than a few spelling errors, this story was well-written, giving it an easy flow from one scene to another. I find Lanius' easy writing style pleasing, and the more I read the more I want to read.

Excellent work, Mr. Lanius!

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"The Gathering Storm"

by Eyas Wulfantine

reviewed by Eden Redstone

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The author is good with description and there are nice touches that bring the moments alive (monolith against the tempest, chasing nemesis at their heels, etc.). Nicely done. However, I think the story loses a lot of its impact by the use of flashbacks. If you had removed the boarding scene and started instead with the Graven and Sala as prisoners then moved to the clifftop, I think it would have had greater emotional impact and just ended with the body washing up on shore, and maybe a finger twitching or some such so that the reader realizes for his/herself that Graven isn't dead. Even still, its an emotionally compelling story and I felt for Graven, could understand the depths of his grief and how that led to his decision to jump. Nicely done.

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"More than just a storm"

by Tal Tel-ar

reviewed by Arden Cain

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What would shoreleave be without a little choas? Well the answer would be, it a pretty boring time despite the persons original intent. Even with this common theme being used throughout most fiction, I deeply enjoyed this story because it kept me on the edge of my seat. I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next and at no point did I find the encounter describe stereotypical.

This story was very detailed and well planned. With that in mind I would have liked to get a more background to explain why an assassination squad would want to kill Tal Tel-ar. It seemed that aspect of the story wasn't given as much attention. This particular conflict also takes place during a severe storm but as soon as the fighting starts the details about the storm and its impact upon the fight seem neglected. While such details aren't necessary it would have been interesting to see how the weather affected or aided the combatants.

This story was certainly a thrill ride for me, the likes of which I generally find in action based novels. The story also featured some interesting insights to the main character. Going from a serious and/or stress outlook to one of determination and final to a more distinctly relaxed individual during the course of the night away. I hope to see more of this character and his exploits.

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"Hollow Scream"

by Damian Fleming

reviewed by Aron Kells

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This story begins immediately with a clear image of what's going on and runs with it, from the bridge to the runabout, thanks to the shared knowledge of Trek reader and author bring to the table. To the writer I give mad props for combining the normal Trek "magic technology" (aka technobabble) with real science (sound waves won't travel in space, but maybe the nebular gases are substantial enough to serve as a propagating medium). There's a lovely build-up of tension to finding the freighter that plays with the closed-in response the reader will likely have to the image of the nebular fog. Finally, zombie Bolians were not what I expected, so great job making me jump in the end!

I'd recommend a slower pace, especially toward the end of this story, to allow the horrifying imagery really do its job instead of relying upon simple surprise. Where does this story really end? Whose story was it, in the end?

All in all, "Hollow Scream" was an unexpectedly dark story that results from a beginning in the bright Trek universe, and that's a lovely clash. Well done!

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"The Tempest"

by Alleran Tan

reviewed by Aron Kells

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This made me laugh straight off, and with so many dark and heavy responses to this challenge, that approach was an unexpected but welcome turn. I was more impressed, though, by the idea of the universe's worst Klingon in hell, and this story would have rated highly simply for that idea. But what makes this a poignant story is that it doesn't just rely on that first disjoint of Vaala in Grethor to make its points. It's deeper than that: It's a story about faith. Is what happened to Vaala real, or isn't it? And by "real," does the reader want to believe in the truth of sensation or the truth of the character?

This story could benefit from some redrafts to tighten it up, as it feels slightly rushed, especially toward the end. Let it breathe and take its time in the telling and it'll be a masterpiece. Regardless, "The Tempest" was a very strong showing with the Trek background, the strong characters, and the thoughtful examination of big ideas combining to make it into the strong story it is.

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"Lost Feelings of Sand and Rain"

by Danica Valyn

reviewed by Velana

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Evoking a place with only words is notoriously difficult, but you absolutely nailed a beach in Florida after a summer storm; I felt like I was back home. I also loved the emotion between these two characters which you showed us through their actions as well as their dialogue. Understanding that this was just a moment in time in their long relationship, I still feel like I wanted more meat to the conversation, more conflict. What drove these two people apart in the first place? You left me wanting more, always a good thing. As it is, though, it's a beautiful scene full of nostalgia, love and maybe even a touch of regret.

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