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September / October Responses and Winners!


Tony, aka Kells
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Welcome to November, everyone, and with its coming I'm pleased to bring you the results of our only two-month contest this season!

The winner of the Challenge for September and October is Sinda Essen, with his story "Love is a Battlefield." We have two runners-up this month (I need scarcely say that judging was extremely difficult!): Tallis Rhul, with his story "The Perfect Moment," and Ben Livingston, with his story "One Last Dance."

I would like to underscore that we had a large number of entrants and six contest judges, and it was still very difficult to come to a consensus. Thank you to everyone who participated for continuing to submit your best work!

My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round -- Fleet Captain Toni Turner, Captain Kali Nicholotti, Commander Karynn Brice, Lieutenant Commander Velana, and Lieutenant Commander Arden Cain.

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"Dakota" by Jorus Cogud

reviewed by Kali Nicholotti

The first time I read this, I got the feeling of a tragic love story where one half of a partnership is torn from the other because of an injury or illness that the other could not control. I tried to imagine what would have led the officers in question to leave a person behind on the bridge and I came to the conclusion that something must have fallen on her, preventing them from getting her out. It was sad, but nothing groundbreaking, as it had been ‘done before’ so to speak, and while I enjoyed the story, I didn’t walk away from it with a profound emotional reaction.

Then, as I prepared to write this review, I went back and read it a second time. This time I picked up a number of things that I hadn’t picked up the first time, including the name of the ship and his last words to her. Suddenly, the emotional reaction was there and I realized just what you had written here. I couldn’t help but go back and read it a third time, in light of the realization that I had made. It was this third time that I really was able to connect with the story and the way that you used words to allude to (and hide) what was really going on.

In the end, I really did enjoy this story. It does, however, seem a bit rushed and in need of another round of proofreading. There were a few typos that caused me to go back and re-read a portion of it, breaking the overall flow, so keep that in mind for next time! Overall, it was a very good story with a great premise and I look forward to seeing more from you next time!

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"Thank You for Being a Friend" by Richard Matthews

reviewed by Karynn Brice

This story was a good entry. Like some of the others, it isn't an "expected" take on the theme and I appreciated that. It kept me engaged, especially since, like the friends in the story, I was curious to know more - more about the woman, more about the marriage, more about why it had ended. I felt special to be privy to at least some of the information that he didn't divulge.

The use of the first person was an interesting way of writing the story. On the one hand, it put front and center in the action, and in a way made the actions of the others seem that much more real, and I think it was designed to make me identify with the protagonist of the story. On the other, however (and this is really a more personal opinion), I have difficulty identifying with the protagonist or getting into a story written in first person like this, because I end up "fighting" the author by thinking "well I wouldn't say that..." or "that didn't happen to me..." (not to mention, I do have difficulty identifying in the first person with a male protagonist). I know some people love reading stories in first person, though, so I wouldn't say this is a definite negative (or something you should necessarily change) - just something that didn't click well with me.

My one real complaint with this story focuses on this rule from the Writing Challenge: "Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe...". Other than the couple of asides that the three in the story were Starfleet cadets, I didn't really feel like there was anything in the story that placed it in the Trek universe over the bar in How I Met Your Mother or the one from Cheers. In fact, by the end of my first reading of it, I had basically forgotten about those few references at all. I would have liked to see something in it that was more distinctly Star Trek, whether it was a character or a situation.

All that being said, though, I really liked the story. Being in the medical field in real life, and having had to deal with getting into residency (and all the headaches that it brings) while watching friends try to juggle both in the pair making the match work made it that much more personal to me. I appreciated the difficulty that the couple faced and found it sad that they hadn't been able to make it work out after all.

Finally, I loved that in the end, it was a story about friendship. Although romance played an important role, it was friendship that was left standing. I appreciated that the main character realized that too, that he had moved on. You did a wonderful job at exploring this. Thank you for your entry.

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"Body to Body, Heart to Heart" by Verana

reviewed by Aron Kells

If you've read anything of the character development of the various Trek series, you'll know of the Spock mystique. The writers sought to say something about the state of humanity, and instead of offering judgments, they endeavored to observe via characters like Data, Odo, Worf, Jadzia Dax, Voyager's Doctor, and others. While the characters ultimately dictated their own successes regarding observation -- DS9 viewers won't forget Odo's crusty but almost yearning assessments of "humanoids" -- they each brought something new to the Spock mystique, as the author does in this tale of a Deltan in Paris. The very idea is wrought with potential complications, but the author adroitly handles most of these; the decision to not skirt but rather to address the cliché of Paris was a very savvy one. More than that, as did Spock for Vulcans, Dax for Trills, Worf for multidimensional Klingon characters, etc etc, Verana establishes here a backstory and a mythos for Deltans, drawing on canon and non-canon sources to create a rich heritage. Though the author admits before the story begins that this is part of Verana's backstory, that nature of the piece is the one I take the most issue with: The story, as a whole, does not feel like a story itself but rather like a footnote. It is secondary, as volunteered, to Verana's larger arc; but how could the author have made it primary? What was important about this event in Verana's history that it seemed most crucial to cover? Almost certainly there is more to this story, and I urge the author to continue uncovering it, perhaps in further Challenge entries.

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"Idle Hands" by Sidney Pierce

reviewed by Toni Turner

Sidney Pierce wove an interesting tale dealing with the death of a friend and the influence of alcohol that made her character vulnerable to strong emotions. The combination seemed to make her do things she may, or may, not normally do. She teetered between the Counselor in her, and a woman needing to be consoled in the arms of a friend, who blamed himself for the death, and obviously needed consolation too.

I enjoyed reading this piece as it was well-written, although I'm not a big fan of forum censored words, and words that could be better said (e.g. god-[...]ed).

Good Job, Sidney. Well done!

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"Adequate" by Alleran Tan

reviewed by Velana

I feel like this story absolutely nailed the point of the challenge and proved that it's possible to weave believable romance into Star Trek, even in a situation as devastating and gory as a massive battle with the Gorn. I immediately felt something for both Servan and Evans even without knowing their backstory. The writing was strong enough to make us root for this star-crossed couple and to hope they would make it through together, without any unnecessary, info-dumped history. And I can't say enough about the poetry of the language used, in particular phrases like "the growing pool of green blood seeping into the hungry sand." So wonderfully evocative. This was a romance worthy of an entire novel.

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"J(o)ust for the Princess" by Vitor Silviera

reviewed by Velana

There are endless romantic possibilites when you bring in the idea of Holodeck dates, but that being said, I feel like this story was fairly off the mark in terms of romance, and I don't just say that because it didn't work out between Vitor and Violet. Not all love stories have to end with marriage and babies and happily ever afters, but there are certain things that the audience expects to see in a romance, such as mutual admiration and respect. I'm sorry to say that the latter in particular was missing here, to a degree that I wound up disappointed in the main character. It's okay for him to be upset that Violet didn't appreciate the date he set up...it's not so okay for him to deal with that upset by reducing her to nothing more than her cleavage.

Also, there were many grammatical errors in the story, problems with tense, sentence fragements, etc. These are things that could have easily been fixed by having a beta reader.

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"Stone on a nightengale" by Segolene LeMarnix

reviewed by Arden Cain

Of all emotions, love, could quite possibly be the hardest to express to another individual.This task is only complicated further when the other person doesn't feel same for whatever reason. This is the situation that the main character of this story finds herself in and I was quite pleased at how she processes and describes those emotions to the reader.

I would have liked to see more on this, more detail and perhaps a longer story but that is neither here nor there. The the main flaw with this story is that I feel that it didn't quite hit the challenge's topic considering that the main character is essentially breaking up with her former lover. Even with the slip up at the end, there is nothing romantic about that particular task.

Although brief a lot of detail was conveyed giving the reader a glimpse into the character's head or more pointedly, her heart and that was wonderful to see. I look forward to seeing more on this character in the future.

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"The Perfect Moment" by Tallis Rhul (RUNNER-UP)

reviewed by Karynn Brice

I really liked this story. I liked that you took a less traditional take on the theme, and that it didn't have a happy ending. You did a good job of introducing us to Diego and giving us a sense of his character. Even in the constraints that the Writing Challenge format imposes, he became real, with strengths and foibles, and by the end I could really feel for him.

I think my favorite part about this story was experiencing Diego's growing self-realization. It was gratifying to watch him grow from a more self-important "understanding" that seemed to be superficially reciprocating the sacrifices that his beloved had made for him to his final life lesson. If only more of us could learn similar lessons before it was to late.

Finally, I really liked the loose parallel between the first and last paragraphs. It tied the story up nicely, but in a way that reminded us that life goes on, even when something so momentous happens that we feel like it shouldn't. I apologize that this doesn't have any constructive criticism in it - I really couldn't find anything in your story that I would change, and it was honestly one of my favorites. Nice work, Tallis Rhul.

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"One Last Dance" by Ben Livingston (RUNNER-UP)

reviewed by Aron Kells

As Challenge participation has risen, so have my expectations. Satisfactory stories are not enough to compete against recent winners that concerned themselves with neonatal deliveries and ex-Borg philosopher-Ferengis. "One Last Dance" sets itself apart via its use of pure whimsy: the dance! the descriptions! the unexpected Latin! This entry insists that you read it, and it's helped along by its author's strong sense of dialogue, as well as the (understated) tension between the two characters. To add to my previous assertion: This entry insists that you read it completely, as a surface reading will not reveal the complexities of the relationship between the two characters. In fact, that would be my sole complaint: This story so deftly handles its undercurrents that it neglects its surface and left me wondering why I was supposed to have cared after a first reading. Lucky readers will stick with the story and reap the benefits of further readings; but the work of the story should be evident during every reading. Nevertheless, "One Last Dance" managed to stand out from its competition during a Challenge in which its competitors were many. Well done!

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"Love is a Battlefield" by Sinda Essen (WINNER)

reviewed by Kali Nicholotti

What I like about this story is that it takes the theme and turns it around so that the main story isn’t about romance so much as a rivalry between two students. I noticed that many writers chose to write from the perspective of an Academy Cadet, but again, this story was slightly different in its approach which made it stand out. The story begins smoothly enough and we, as readers, quickly get the sense of who to like, and who to not like. Immediately we take sides as the contest rules are set forth and it’s not hard to hope that the underdog wins.

Yet, as things progress, you provide even more hurdles for this character, ultimately leading to an end that was far from what I predicted was coming. You managed to pack a lot into a few short paragraphs, and while I would have liked to have seen more on his dates and the events that led to their problematic ends, you did a great job of conveying those events without going over the word limits for the writing challenge. The ending is similar; it seems sudden and like it could have used more buildup, but you managed to pull it off in a way that gives the readers what they need without great expansion.

Ultimately, the story was enjoyable and fit the theme well even if it wasn’t quite what one might expect right off the bat when reading the theme. Great job on all fronts and I look forward to seeing future submissions!

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