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August Responses and Winners!


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Happy September, everyone, and I'm pleased to bring you, courtesy of our lovely Challenge judges, the winners of August's special contest!

The winner of the August Writing Challenge is Velana with her story "The Life in a Moment." Our runner-up, for the second contest in a row, is Idril Mar, with her bouncy "The Desperate Engineer." Congratulations to them, and thanks to everyone who participated. The option to include poetry or verse in future contests is something I'd like to implement, but when it happens again, we will likely have separate winners in fiction and poetry genres.

Thank you to my fellow judges for this round -- Fleet Captain Toni Turner, Commander Karynn Brice, and Lieutenant Commander Alleran Tan.

Edited by Aron Kells
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"Barely holding it together"

by Arden Cain

reviewed by Toni Turner

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"Barely holding it together" was a good fast-paced read that held my attention to the very last, when Mr. Cain delivered an unexpected punch line, that left me laughing in spite of the desperate situation he painted for his character. Admittedly, as the CO at the Embassy, Duronis II (A.K.A. Til'ahn), I know the answers to the questions that the story may have raised, like . . . What is her species? What distinguishes the species from others? What is fielding? I saw several places where some of her description could have been inserted, but the story stood firmly on its own volition, and I suppose that's all that really mattered. . . well that, and keeping it under a thousand words. :)

Good job, Mr. Cain!

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"The Desperate Engineer"

by Idril Mar

reviewed by Toni Turner

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In truth, at first I didn't collate the connection between the opening statement with the lyrical flow of "The Desperate Engineer", but the more I kept reading, the more the tune of "Camp Grenada," kept popping into my head. I kept asking myself, "Where have I heard this before?" Finally getting the tune embedded into my reading, I got it. "Hey! I got it!" And then the charm of the lyrics came through, along with the humor of the situations stated. I more than chuckled at the prospects of finding Brice glued to the lift door. It was a clever piece of work, charming and fun with just enough silliness to do what the writer intended to do... give us all something different and fun to read.

Well done! :)

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"A momentary Resistance"

by Ben Walker

reviewed by Alleran Tan

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When I review pieces I tend to write the review as I read it, and I can usually tell within a few paragraphs if I'm going to like it or not. So, while my initial "draft" of this review was fairly critical, the backspace key got a fair bit of work today.

This piece by Ben Walker starts a bit slow and is fairly predictable, but it gets better as it gets along. I want to be clear about this though: it's not bad. It's just competing against quite a number of other pieces of truly exceptional quality, so... I suppose I had to get used to the style, and when I did -- and on subsequent rereading -- it's actually fairly snug and it matches the theme nicely. The story, while starting a little weak, strengthens as it goes and by the end is a nicely well rounded piece.

Well done!

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"Join Starfleet!"

by Ben Livingston

reviewed by Alleran Tan

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Ens. Livingston's piece surprised me, actually, by being written in sim style. While that's certainly permitted, I kind of feel that the writing challenges are a good place to stretch the writing muscles that don't get as much of a workout. We read a lot of sims as active writers -- it's nice to read something else every now and agian.

It also surprised me by presenting the recruiter telling a crowd about Starfleet who was, himself, subsequently 'told'. It's an interesting look at a pivotal point in a character's life and I couldn't see where it was going as I was reading it, but in hindsight I suppose the answer was easy. But isn't that the best thing, though? When you make a reader realise something in hindsight that they're like, "Oh, that's so obvious!".

I quite enjoyed this piece and I look forward to reading more of Livingston's work, in sim style or not. Good work, Ensign!

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"The Life in a Moment"

by Velana

reviewed by Alleran Tan

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Okay, this piece had me right from the very beginning.

Life in a Moment is a neat, snug little piece that tugs at the heartstrings and really hit the spot. It opens with an interesting question and a hospital scene that was well described and drew out the emotion in the reader. The scene was quite intense -- I had no idea what to expect and the ending came as a pleasant surprise -- and the very last line tied the whole story back to that opening line.

I really liked this story and I thought it was masterfully crafted, with little to criticise and a lot to love. I felt it captured the theme of the challenge perfectly and ran with it, giving us this excellent and extremely tight piece.

Very well done, Commander!

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"When Consciousness Isn't Life"

by Kalianna Nicholotti

reviewed by Karynn Brice

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This was a story that grew on me. I have to admit that the first time I read it, I didn't quite catch all the interesting details that became more apparent as I went back to re-read it in preparation for writing my critique. I always like it when a story gives more on its second or even third time through, so if that was your intent, job well done.

One of the things I caught and enjoyed the second time through was an interesting bit of irony. At the beginning of the story the EMH "complains" (if that's the right word) that it is only brought out in times of crisis but by the end, when it is used in a more mundane capacity, it seems to object just as strenuously. When I noticed this, I just had to smile as I thought "can't you make up your mind?".

I think my biggest complaint is just that I personally had a hard time connecting with the EMH and sympathizing with it. It came across more like a petulant adolescent in my mind than as someone I wanted to "win.". Also, it seemed, to me, to be exploring a concept that has already been done before by Star Trek in the realm of AI (bringing to mind episodes from Voyager about The Doctor and TNG about Data) without bringing anything particularly new to the discussion, and in that respect I didn't find it particularly compelling.

On a very minor point, there was at least one sentence that was noticeably missing a few words (a typo I presume). This likely would have been caught in an extra edit.

All in all, however, it was a well-written entry with some fun details. Your descriptions are vivid and therefore your story comes to life. Also, I always like when an author is brave enough to take on mundane moments in life as these can be some of the hardest to tell in a way that pulls people in. Overall, this was another good, solid piece of writing by Kali Nicholetti. Bravo!

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"A Moment in the life of a miracle worker"

by Jorus Cogud

reviewed by Aron Kells

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This was one of the few brave entries that dared to break the short story standard, and it's well on its way to becoming a fine piece. I've always liked dialogue in poems, and this poem uses the spoken word to great effect. The stanza collections of tercets (three lines) are consistent throughout, and don't leave me wondering anything about the form of the poem. However, I would note that sometimes the content suffered at the hands of that form: There are many lines that don't do anything to change or enhance the feeling of the poem, and it could definitely benefit from some pruning. The metaphors the poem uses are excellent, but I wanted more of them! As it is, they sort of sneak in at the end when I really wanted them there from the beginning. If had to pose one question to the author, it would be this: What about the form or content of the piece you're trying to present made you write it as a poem? Could it have worked as a short story? If not, why not, and what could you do to enhance its "poem-ness"? But these are questions for possible revision, not of the piece as it's presented here; and I am quite pleased with this poem's entry and that its author entered it into this contest. Well done!

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"A Moment in the life of a space amoeba"

by S'Acul Aveunallliv

reviewed by Aron Kells

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I very much like to see experimental pieces, and especially after this author's last entry that I judged -- which, while it played with time, was much more a straightforward narrative -- I was pleased to see something quite different this time around. But with that said, I don't think that this piece works -- yet. I would very much like to see the author continue to work on it, as I think there are some beautiful moments, some very humorous moments, and a lot of potential, but those parts don't yet add up to a cohesive whole. The piece's largest difficulty is courtesy of its content; writing from the poetic perspective of a giant space amoeba is no easy feat, and I applaud the challenge. However, the author needs to keep in mind that the readers of the poem will come from very human perspectives, and that it can be very difficult to connect with ideas that are too large or abstract, such as the single line "cold" or the very open third stanza. To rewrite, I would suggest grounding this poem in the readers' shared experiences -- again, definitely a challenge to find "shared experiences" between human readers and giant space amoebas -- but the poem presented to this contest has convinced me that the author is up to exploring. Good work!

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"Eileen"

by Sakorra Jefferson Reed

reviewed by Aron Kells

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A fantastic idea, this, and one that was grew from seed to tree in spectacular fashion. The believable dialogue and the careful consideration of detail -- the way Eileen knows the crew by their first names, for example -- really help to build the world of this piece. In my review of S'Acul's piece, I mentioned that that poem needed grounding; even though this story is told from the perspective of a ship, it's absolutely grounded in its own character and its interactions with its human crew, and that's enough to get reader onboard (pun intended). Great descriptions! The usage of verbs that were a joy to read! The story ends in a great place! My only question, at the end of the story, was this: Why now? Why were the moments described in the story the most important in Eileen's "life"? Were they? And if they weren't, what were? But I'll note that these questions come about as a direct result of my vestment in Eileen's character, and that is courtesy of a powerful author. Wonderful job!

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Thank you so much!! Congrats to you, too!laugh.png And thanks to Commander Kells and the whole Challenge team!

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