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Tony (Kells)

January & February Responses and Winners

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Thank you to everyone who entered this special image-inspired Writing Challenge! I want to especially thank our first- and second-time entrants; it's always fantastic to have new writers in the Challenge, and in this case, it really paid off!

I'm pleased and honored to announce that the winner of our first image-inspired Writing Challenge is Sal Taybrim, with his story "Conspiracy Theories"! We have a tie for runner-up: Ceilidh Riverview, with "New Beginnings," and Kieran Waddell, with "Back-up Plan." My congratulations to all three of you, and please join me in congratulating these talented writers in this thread!

My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round, the writers behind Fleet Captain Toni Turner and Lieutenant Commander Velana!

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"Conspiracy Theories"

writer's character: Sal Taybrim

judge's character: Velana

This story made me smile, not only for poking much fun at the reboot movies (which, let's face it, kind of had it coming), but for making us feel mightily for this poor kid who wanted to believe so badly. I love a good beginning quote and this one was perfect for what followed. The dialogue was great, the idea was well-executed, and the reader was left wondering if the alternate timeline wasn't just a one giant conspiracy to which we have all fallen victim. Kudos for pointing out plot holes in the reboot timeline that have been much discussed, but never explained.

***

"The Rescue Plan"

writer's character: Rode Mitchell

judge's character: Velana

While I really enjoyed the premise of this story, I feel like there was so much further that it could have been taken. We got a sense that Captain Jackson was thinking about his crew, but we never got a sense of him as a person. Was being a hero more important to him than sleeping for a century while his friends and family grew old and died? Also, why was a rescue mission so imperative to Starfleet that they sacrificed a crew of officers and Marines? We've seen stories about lost colonies and ships before, so that does happen, but what was it about the Monitor that made retrieving their descendants so vital? All of these questions were raised, but not answered in this story. I think with some fleshing out, the story of this crew would be one for the history books.

***

"New Beginnings"

writer's character: Ceilidh Riverview

judge's character: Toni Turner
"New Beginnings" took a different approach that I found most creative and clever, especially given the title, and the repercussions of the ending. It was a presentation of a theory that had me enthralled throughout, imagining the the benefits of "combining parts of A.I. technology in replacement limbs with injured vets", and how wonderful it would be to mend those broken lives. Yes, I was taken in just as the people in the story were, until the ravages of the act became known, and I felt their outrage, and disappointment, but fictionally, the "New Beginnings" would be something so all-consuming, that it would go far beyond reason in a endless quest for knowledge.
***
"New Beginnings"

writer's character: Ceilidh Riverview

judge's character: Cassandra Egan Manno (please note that this double review was a mix-up on my part; however, in the interest of providing feedback, here it is!)
This is a fascinating story with a lot to enjoy, so allow me to take you through some of my favorite moments, as well as those that I think were pulled off with the most skill. I'm always going to give props to high-concept stories, and this is no different: In my opinion, Trek severely lacks stories that investigate the ramifications of intelligent AIs and bio-machinery (like prosthetic limbs), and I was happy to see this story tackle that concept. It's also pleasingly conversational -- which makes sense, since much of it is told as a personal log -- and I thought the structure of the story was at its strongest when it let sentences stand as paragraphs. The bookending of the story as a case study that Ceilidh was reading was a good idea, but I'm not sure that it worked in practice; I think the story would have been just as effective if had just been the story of Eve, since Ceilidh doesn't answer the question that I wondered, too: What happened to Eve? Finally, I'd like to offer some praise for setting the story on Mars, because I think the red planet is vastly underutilized as a setting on Trek! However, that comes with a question: Given that this story revolves around a car crash and artificial limb replacement, I don't see why it's necessary to set the story in the twenty-third century. If the story had just updated its tech a bit, I think it would've been fine. Minor quibbles aside, quite a good entry, and an unexpectedly chilling take when the primarily upbeat story is compared against the image that inspired it!

***

"Back-up Plan"
writer's character: Kieran Waddell
judge's character: Cassandra Egan Manno
It isn't easy to wear many hats in just over twelve hundred words, but this "Back-up Plan" is a good example of a story that does so. At times a character piece, an action sequence, and a celebration of UFoP history (look for the references to Hollis and the USS Paladin, among others!), this is an ambitious little story that captures in parts the image that inspired this Challenge. However, the "muchness" of this story is also the aspect I would have liked developed in more detail. When the story starts off with Leanna, I was intrigued by her history, her physicality, and the way her actions were described ("...interrupted by urgent bleating from her scanner and she rapidly cursed, silenced it with a jab..." is a very pleasing set of words to me!) -- but when it switched to action, I wasn't quite ready for that yet, as I still wanted to know Leanna better! Major props for making the hero of this story a female character and a physician, though! A strong entry for this image-inspired Challenge: Well done!
***
"Going home"
writer's character: Richard Matthews
judge's character: Cassandra Egan Manno
Stories that examine the writer's PC in greater detail are always welcome, because they can provide development for both the writer and the reader that sims during a mission or shore leave couldn't. "Going home" is no exception, as we get to see during its course more of Matthews's life aboard the Vigilant. It handles well the trouble that such stories often have, too, of not providing those that aren't familiar with the character enough background to understand the emotional stakes involved. It's a very cerebral piece, and that works well for what's happening here; I didn't want for more action and was happy to engage with the dialogue and thinking going on here. If there's one thing I could suggest to this writer, it's to add that little spark of something extra for his next entry: This was a well-done, strong, competent story, but it just didn't have that interesting high-concept quirk or memorable character or snappy edge to its dialogue that pushed it over the edge. My suggestion, then, is to really focus on a single aspect (like one character, or the dialogue, or a unique structure) and develop it strongly for your next entry. The foundational skills are all here in spades, it's just a matter of making them work wonderfully for you!

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Congratulations to the winner and runner-ups. Great work and I'm sure I'll read them again. It's always interesting to read stories again after reading judges responses.

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Congratulations to all the winners!

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Yes, congratulations to the winner and runner ups! You're stories were awesome!

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