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Tony (Kells)

November & December Responses & Winners

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An enormous thank you to all the writers who entered this end-of-the-year Challenge, and a special shout-out to the newest members and Challenge participants, Suvi Ila and Sal Taybrim; we always appreciate having new entrants and your stories were a pleasure to read!

Without further ado, I'm pleased to announce the winners of the "Treason & Plot" Writing Challenge! "Sins of the Mother," courtesy of Sarah, the writer behind Saveron, mightily impressed the judges for this round and is our winner, while "Pray for Favour," from Ed, writer of Diego Herrera, is our runner-up. All my congratulations to you both, and please join in congratulating these authors and all our participants in this thread!

My special thanks to this round's judges, the writers behind Fleet Captain Kali Nicholotti, Fleet Captain Toni Turner, and last round's winner, Lieutenant Sinda Essen.

Please do leave your congratulations below!

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"Devil in the Silence"
writer's character: Sal Taybrim
judge's character: Aron Kells
First, I have to give some immense praise to the phrase "...it looked like the whole planet was in the middle of a giant snow globe that was being shaken continuously, never giving anything time to settle," which neatly describes not only the weather but also the frantic, pitched atmosphere of this story. I would like also to applaud the way in which it's told, as the events unfold solidly with a fine flow; the inflections in the plot (Dailing in the barn, the Bakalens' first words, and so forth) occur at pleasing points and the story feels almost like a very short version of the hero's journey. And while this story works very much on the level of its sentences and lines of dialogue, I was most impressed by its devotion to Trek's history: It was a brilliant maneuver for Lilly to mention Janus 6 (which, for those who don't know, is the home of the Horta -- I didn't know, but once I looked it up, I was immensely pleased). However, within that brilliant maneuver is the story's weakest point, as the sentient-life-we-don't-think-is-sentient has been done many times in Trek, from the Horta to the crystal life forms of "Home Soil" (who so memorably labeled humanoids "ugly bags of mostly water"), that once that reveal has occurred, the story loses a lot of its momentum. Evans hasn't been developed beyond the hero of the piece, and while he doesn't need to be -- I don't necessarily think this is a character-driven story -- I do need something to keep me going beyond the Bakalens' first words. Or, put another way, just because the revelation-of-sentience storyline has been done before doesn't mean it can't be done again, only that any further use must develop the concept beyond the surprise reveal, and that is what I'd like to see in this story. Maybe something to think about for a future story? Regardless, I do hope you'll enter the Challenge again as I am very impressed by your work with story structure and style. I'll leave this review with another of my favorite lines, from the story's beginning: "On a planet where the miners had fifteen different words to describe the precise kind of cold the current weather was displaying, and another seventy-three to cover the specifics of icy precipitation, being able to single out one instance as cold enough to mention lent an air of significance to a simple saying." Well done!
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"A Past Forgotten"
writer's character: Suvi Ila
judge's character: Aron Kells
I very much appreciated the ambition of this story! It's not quite 1200 words, and still it makes a gesture at what seemed to me to be a double twist. The first twist, which comes at the end of the first section, is almost entirely condensed into the final sentence of that section and in Johnna's puzzlement, which neatly becomes the reader's as I wondered why she looked vacant. The second section jumps right into the story behind the story and ends, too, with a question that calls to the Challenge's theme and also provides the second twist, which more implicitly than the first questions the nature of what I just read. The structure, then, is controlled well here, and I want to strongly praise that. My major difficulty with the story is that the first section, when read on its surface, is a little too overwrought and often saccharine, but -- and bear with me for a moment -- I believe this has the potential to make the story work even better. It could be that this highly idealized scenario is meant to be the treason or revolution of the story's last line, and if that's so, I think it's an incredibly clever idea to do so and to frontload that before any explanation. However, I have these questions: We get much less character in the second section by way of thought, emotion, or luxuriating in detail, and so I have a hard time determining why the first section would be the ideal of choice. The story seems to be making gesturing at "love conquers all," but if that's the case, I find it odd that -- in an egalitarian, utopian universe like Trek's -- the fantasy is very much based in clear gender stereotypes of the twentieth century before. And while the story does leave me with these and many other questions, most of those are productive and don't require the story's revision for me to find pleasure in them. Again, this is a story with a very clever concept, and I thank you for the submission

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"Operation Remember"

writer's character: Hannibal Parker

judge's character: Kali Nicholotti

There is a kind of grit that is laced throughout this entry from the very beginning, conveying the idea of a tough natured Marine who had been through plenty. It also set up the idea that the man wasn’t happy with how things turned out. Throughout the story, readers get a good sense of the back-story and of events that have lead up to the moment we are glimpsing, and the use of imagery throughout did a good job of pointing out just how this character was thinking and why. And just when you think you understand, and maybe even share, in his depression, both reader and character are struck with the solution – an out, offered from an unlikely source. As a reader, it seemed to be a no-brainer; take the opportunity and live knowing that you did what you could to make things right. After all, the story seemed to set this character up to do just that.

But that’s when we all, as readers, get a surprise. Though I found the end somewhat rushed and less dramatic or gritty, or image provoking as the beginning (perhaps because the writer was running out of words/space – a constraint I understand), we find our battle hardened Marine doing just what we thought he wouldn’t do; going against his own thoughts and doing the morally right thing.

Overall, I think this was a well written story. In the future, the only feedback I might offer to the writer is to delve more into a realm that is unknown (perhaps through a character not as well defined as Parker) and avoid the clichés if only to get some experience writing perspectives and situations that aren’t as often seen or followed by writers/screenwriters/etc. Such exploration may net a true gem, even to those who know your writing well. With This story, as it stands, however, is good and I appreciate that you took the time to include the exposition that you included. It was a good read and I certainly look forward to seeing more!

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"Sins of the Mother"

writer's character: Saveron

judge's character: Sinda Essen

This could well be the most thought-provoking story I’ve ever come across in the writing challenge.
I must admit at first I didn’t know where the story was going, or how it fitted in with the theme. Although the easy style of writing made reading it very enjoyable from the start.
The characters are all well-grounded in just a few appropriate words. It was easy to develop an idea of how Admiral Heraan spoke or Cadet Bourke looked. I even got a sense of how the echoes of the auditorium sounded. Saveron clearly follows the old writers rule very well - show, don’t tell.
The set-up is clever, a debate between two high-achieving students. With Admiral West as our eyes and ears the event feels pretty mundane, the sort of lecture you’d expect at any university. This allows the pacing to be pretty relaxed. That sense of the ‘everyday’ adds a nice element of misdirection so you don’t know where the story twist is going to appear from. I was half expecting West and Everington to use the debate as a catalyst for their own plotting which meant I was focusing on them when Vanyeris dropped her bombshell, which made it all the more effective.
The Undiscovered Country ranks as one of my favourite Star Trek films and Saveron’s reference of it in this story is a particularly genius move. The themes of treason and plot are obviously major ones in the film, but Sins of the Mother is not a simple retelling of the same story, rather a continuation. Saveron and the characters have the benefit of hindsight, as do we as readers, which makes Vanyeris’s argument all the more intriguing. Plus dropping in some SB118 history in with the canon stuff was a particularly effective touch.
All in all, a very entertaining and well structured piece of writing.
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"No Turning Back"
writer's character: Robert/Kaitlyn Falcon
judge's character: Sinda Essen
This topic lent itself to some interesting and thoughtful stories and No Turning Back was a very strong take on the theme.
The arguments that Admiral Colt puts forward are entirely reasonable, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance as he very aptly puts it, and Colt is acting out of the best interests of the Federation.
As a character, Colt is perfect for this story. Falcon presents his readers with an officer who is planning treason, and yet for all the right reasons. Typically the plotter would be a bad guy, but Falcon doesn’t write Colt as such,. Instead he gives us a man who’s trying to do his best but is held back by Federation bureaucracy, a very sympathetic character.
Structurally, the story is spot on. Considering it consists simply of a conversation between two characters Falcon makes the most of the lean set up. A quick description of the office sets the scene and adds some nice touches and almost all of what follows is dialogue. While that could be a weakness in other stories it is a strength here and Falcon doesn’t waste a single word.
I like stories that make me think, and No Turning Back certainly achieved that. It left me considering a very interesting dilemma - who’s to say Colt is wrong? If I were in Captain Rainsford’s shoes, would I agree to go along with the coup, too, despite the consequences?
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"Pray for Favour"
writer's character: Diego Herrera
judge's character: Toni Turner

"Pray for Favour" was a study of survival, and a subject that Herrera particularly handles well. I like his in character personalization as it put the piece in a mode that endeared the character to most readers as they, in some way, could identify with his troubles, and the mindset his world had taught him. Things that kept him coming back night after night . . . "human" kindness for his beggar friend, and survival.

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Congratulations to the top winners, and all the rest of the writers too! You, in no way, made judging your work easy. :)

Edited by Toni

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To echo Captain Turner, I agree it was very difficult to judge this round due to the excellent quality of all the submissions.

Congratulations to the winners, and congratulations to all the competitors - it may have been hard to judge, but reading the stories was a pleasure.

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Thank you everyone and particularly Sinda Essen for your very kind words, I'm honoured.

It was an excellent round with an amazing array of creativity in the stories presented, which I always enjoy reading.

Congratulations Ed!

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Congratulations, Sarah and Ed! Great work!

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Congratulations to the winner and to all of you who were able to submit a story. That's a success in itself. :)

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Congratulations to everyone, especially winners. Great reads, all of the entries.

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