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Sunday, March 1, 2009

And the winner is....

I believe this is the part where I am supposed to congratulate all of the entrants, declare how splendiferous all of their stories were, and lament how hard it was to select just one winner. But, since gentle encouragement from a confirmed skeptic tends to come off as creepy as an attempt at a charming smile on the face of a mortician's assistant, I shall instead embrace the Simon Cowell role for which I am more temperamentally suited.

I was quite surprised to see how many of you selected Hansel and Gretel; it never occurred to me that it would be the most popular foundation for this exercise. It was interesting to see a spin on Bluebeard, since that's the fairy tale that I've selected for a short story which has been unfortunately set aside for the time being under the OC's First Rule.

Now, for the reviews, in the order that they were previously posted:

tourainfor: While you may not have understood what I meant in posing the challenge "in the spirit if not the vein", you managed to comply with it quite nicely. And uniquely, I might add, drawing on an Indian rather than a European tale and writing an SF spin on it rather than a fantasy-oriented one. (By the way, what I meant was simply that the rewrite didn't have to be dark or quasi-horror, as both the Lee and Gaiman tales are.) I liked the full arc of the story and the clash between the techno and the mystical; I was less keen on the magic acronymn syncronicity and the occasional term, such as "stink eye", that tended to jar the reader out of the storytelling spell you were casting. The good news, of course, is that there was a spell to be cast.

Arisia: The portrayal of the characters and the feelings of the characters was strong, and based on your other story, I suspect this is your natural area of focus. Given this, however, it would have helped to see a bit more justification for the mother's drastic solution. I quite liked the ruthless ending, although it doesn't fit all that well with the traditional witch's death. One criticism: the perspective comes off as somewhat mutable.

Snowdog: The detective angle was an interesting take, but I think you could have played it up quite a bit more and gone with a noir motif to achieve a greater effect. It's a good first draft, and I think it has good potential even if the ending comes rather abruptly. Perhaps a few hints that the girl is responsible would also help.

the bandit: The trial setting worked well enough, although a bit of dialogue polishing is probably in order. The inadmissibility of the eyewitness evidence was very good, although I think you missed the chance to add would might make for a nice chaotic element with a defense-driven, court-ordered exorcism there as well. The repeated hints at incest really don't work well, though, as they transform the children from credibly skeevy opportunists into stock psychopaths.

Henry: This story was the most true to the Tanith Lee tradition and extra points for making me think momentarily of Theresa Edgerton's Goblin Moon. While it's usually a good idea to keep the monster off-screen and let the reader's imagination color in the blanks, in this case we didn't see enough of the monster to let our imagination take over. There's too much of a WTF-factor as one is reading, which tends to reduce the effect of what is otherwise a nicely dark tale with about the right amount of Grimmness.

Ben-El: Liked the idea, didn't like the execution. The story is far too disjointed and doesn't follow up on the title's promise of bringing in an Alice in Wonderland element. (If it did, I missed it.) The Queen-mirror bits were amusing, though.

KTown: Unusual approach. Perhaps it was the geography, but it somehow recalled Herman Hesse. Unfortunately, I found myself more interested in the pedestrian human events that led up to the climax of the story than I did in the climax itself. I'd suggest rewriting everything from the moment they get to the castle; I'd also throw out the Alrick character and replace him with someone less openly sinister and bizarre. The basic mechanism of the fruit as bait works, but the dragon element really seems beside the point. Also, there's a bit too much exposition in the descriptions; the reader really doesn't need to be informed twice what the highest peak in Germany is called.

Jen Stuck: I will freely admit that I had to read this one twice in order to be sure what was going on. I think you tried to do too much in too short a space here. I'd prefer to see it twice or three times as long; show us the stalkery courtship, give us some action and build up the fear, don't just tell us about a few mysterious notes.

Imnay Udosay: You talentless hack! I've read more interesting and sophisticated stories written in pictographs carved into cave walls. You're not a wannabe so much as a tragic never-will-be, and we should all pray to every supernatural being from Abaddon to Zeus that no editor ever inflicts your paralytic prose upon an unsuspecting world. (Oh, wait, the OC says this one wasn't to be judged?) Um, okay, never mind....

The two stories that I found to be the most personally appealing were Henry's and the bandit's. However, torainfor's story didn't just stand out due to its unique source and genre, I also judged it to be the best story in terms of literary quality and the integrity of the tale. Torainfor is this week's winner!
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