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July / August Responses and Winners

Tony, aka Rouiancet

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Thank you to everyone who participated in our late summer July/August Writing Challenge! I'm pleased now to bring you the judges' decisions. I will note that a clear final field was harder to come by in this contest, as some final rankings were only one point off another.
The winner of the Challenge for July and August is the writer behind Ben Livingston, with his story "The Genetic Engineer's Manifesto"! Our runner-up is the writer behind Evan Delano, with his story "Resignation"! Congratulations to both of you, and watch the Community News in the coming weeks for more about these authors and their stories!
My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round -- the writers behind Fleet Captain Kalianna Nicholotti, Fleet Captain Diego Herrera, and Commander Melitta Herodion.
Writers and all interested parties will find individual feedback posted below this message. Please feel free to use this thread to offer your congratulations to the winning writers!
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"The Enemy Within"
writer's character: Toni Turner
judge's character: Melitta Herodion
Of all the ways to interrupt the theme of under my skin, a literal interruption could quite possibly be the trickiest to deliver in a truly meaningful way. But that was what this piece did as well as touch on such raw emotions coursing through the main character in a very convincingly within such a short amount of space.
Perhaps the only concern that I have with this one is that I found it odd that you used sim thought tags ( oO Oo) when the rest of the story was written in a narrative formatting. While I did understand what was being said it did detract a little from the consistency of the story in my eyes. I am also more then a little curious as to what scenario led the Captain and her crew to that moment and the implied desperate circumstances that they faced.
Despite the short size of this entry with each sentence and each additional detail I was blown away and found myself having to rethink my previous assumptions. For that reason I deeply enjoyed reading this one. Good work.
"The Genetic Engineer's Manifesto"
writer's character: Ben Livingston
judge's character: Diego Herrera
The first thing that grabbed me about this was the fact that it really is a manifesto, and that makes it stand out from quite a few of the entries I’ve seen in this or previous competitions. The unique interpretation of the theme was also very nice to see. The entry is very punchy in general as it does everything that it needs to do, including fleshing out just enough detail about the narrator to give us something to sympathise with, throughout the course of the speech itself.
The only piece of constructive feedback I feel I can offer is that for me there were maybe a few too many sentences started with conjunctions. This can be an effective technique in writing and, indeed, in oration. However, if overused, it can disrupt the flow of prose. While it did serve to help create the regular cadence of a confident speaker, I felt that other techniques you used were more successful in achieving this goal.
In fact, there were a range of literary techniques used throughout this entry that really enhanced the quality of its content. Rhetorical questions, varied sentence length with the shortest of them being used to convey key points and a regular, insistent use of the imperative really lend force to the presentation of the speaker’s points. To some degree, they’re quite unsettling and I think that’s part of the key to this piece’s success. It makes an argument for something that’s considered taboo in the established canon of the Star Trek future as well as our present day lives and it justifies it quite well.


"I've Got You Under My Skin"

writer's character: Alora DeVeau

judge's character: Diego Herrera

This entry does a great job of misdirecting the reader into making a big assumption right from the start. Descriptions are used to maximum effect in this pursuit; a focus on the emotions of the principal character send us down the path towards the final twist while giving us someone to engage with. Most of us have been in the position where we’re the new guy or girl and all but the most confident of us have probably sat around waiting for someone to introduce themselves!
I would have loved to have more to engage with. The idea of Ensign Esther settling in wasn’t presented quite strongly enough to be the main plot element to my mind, and the episodes of dialogue could easily have been folded into a sentence of narrative or two as they didn’t seem to be essential. I was also a little confused as to why the ship wasn’t named - choosing any name at all would have been relatively easy. To some degree, it didn’t matter but, as readers, we do care about those kinds of details!
There were some clever instances of word play that I really appreciated. “She loved the way his whiskers tickled her cheek when she hugged him” was a great way to drop a subtle clue without giving the game away. It’s always good to see tricks like that being deployed and being taken off in a direction you didn’t necessarily expect at the end of a piece of writing and I thought this entry did that effectively.


"All Things Are Subjective"

writer's character: Saveron

judge's character: Kalianna Nicholotti

As always, Saveron’s writer delivers an amazing entry composed of subtle, underlying tones that come together to make the reader go ‘ah!’ near the end. Though one of the longer entries, I feel it keeps the reader involved throughout, walking us through a short time in the life of the character, all while expanding on monumental history that had lead to this moment. Coupled with the very ‘realistic’ and believable persona of a Vulcan, this piece offers anyone who would read it, a great story.
The theme for this challenge, however, isn’t readily apparent until you consider the ‘Subjective’, and view it all in the lens of individuality. It’s not as easy to catch on to as some of the other entries, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it is not impossible to make the connection.
Overall, this is a great entry that I really did enjoy reading. Though this ‘Subjective’ is something relatively unfamiliar to me, there was enough in the story to explain where they came from and what they were, all while building up to an end the writer can be proud of. Thanks for the great entry and I look forward to what you come up with next!



writer's character: Evan Delano

judge's character: Aron Kells

It's hard to pick out what to talk about first in a story in which so many things are working so well, but let's arbitrarily jump in with the structure. Using the resignation letter genre is a fascinating choice that pays off well in what it's able to do: It's not so much meant as a plot exposition as a declaration of character, and the tradeoff is a working one of philosophy rather than scenery. The smaller choices work well to create a full background for a story that's done well (Paragons vs. Perfects receives a particular mention), and there's a neat and very quiet moment in which the aliens are described (perhaps a shout-out to Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End?) -- very nice! The questions I have are mostly based upon plot choices: Would Starfleet try to forcibly remove Gardner? Were the events of Insurrection really enough to eliminate every other duckblind mission? But while those have an impact on the story's reading, the writing itself more than makes up for small stumbles in the plot and draws the reader on without letting go. Excellent, excellent work!


"Under Our Skin"

writer's character: Idril Mar

judge's character: Aron Kells

It's always nice to see something of Idril, but of course the risk run with an established character is that readers may need more background than a short entry can provide. Not so here: Idril and her Mar stand alone quite easily in this welcome story that takes its major characters to Scotland. The opening descriptions easily set the tone of the piece and drops the reader right on the summit with Idril and, eventually, Mar's past hosts. The scene is a beautiful one, and the story needs no more than that single scene to complete its work. The only confusion I had with regard to the story was, however, that I wasn't sure what its work was, exactly. Is it thinking about age? Is it, as its last line suggests, a reminder of Idril's lack of isolation, even in her own head -- and, as the story would seem to imply, is that a good thing? Put simply, how is the woman we meet in the first sentence different from that we meet in the last -- or is she? -- and if she is, how is the reader meant to read into what happens there a transformation? Of course, there's no reason that this story must be structured in such a way, and it's quite a lovely little vignette by itself. The writing, as usual, is wonderful, and I suspect that we'll be seeing more of Idril and Mar in the future....

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Congratulations Livingston and Delano, I really enjoyed your work! Great going!:)

Edited by Toni
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