Well, that was a lot of work for us judges! But, after days of reading, thinking, rereading, and thinking some more, we've finally come to a decision. We each had our own way of judging things, so I'm copying each judges comments verbatim. There are a lot of comments to read, so let's get started.
Watkinson “Ali and the Phorty” (Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves)
Writing: Rough, although POV was nice and tight
Link to inspiration: 75-80
Folk Talishness: Although the original story was pretty violent, I don’t see a lot of folksiness in this.
Story: A barely-sympathetic protagonist, a drug and violence-filled dystopia, and I get annoyed when friends interrupted my reading to say “Hi.” I think I’ve said this before: writing needs work, but you can tell a story!
They're called the Phorty because they can't spell, not because they're phat?
This one had a distinctly 1980s vibe to it. While reading it I kept getting the sense that I'd read this one before; maybe in Asimov's, or maybe it was rejected by Asimov's and showed up a year later in Aboriginal. The grimy future; the drug saturation; the rave -- do people even do raves any more? -- the character we're supposed to care deeply about (Morigana) who never gets a line of dialog because she's either offstage or unconscious for the entire story, the casual and
extremely lethal violence. And that's where this one lost me. Committing grievous violence against another human is a gut-wrenching and soul-shattering experience, if you're not familiar with doing it, and given that the narrator had to borrow and learn how to use an unfamiliar weapon, I take that as a cue that he isn't. Then when he finds his brother nail-gunned to the wall and disemboweled...
Nah. Unconvincing. A pretty good example of this particular type of story, but too emotionally detached and 1980s to work for me.
An urbanized, very violent retelling of “Ali Baba and the Forth Thieves.” This Ali is much less of a sympathetic character than the original and his brother, Cassim, is considerably more sympathetic. It does appear that Ali acts out of concern for his girlfriend rather than greed, but he’s pretty casual about the violence he inflicts while trying to find her and that is inflicted on his brother for trying to help. I also wonder a bit about the girlfriend, who left voluntarily with members of the Phorty. It seems a safe assumption she knew their reputation, yet left with them anyway. Also, in the original tale, Cassim’s greed leads to his downfall while your Cassim seems to mix concern for his younger brother with greed for the Phorty’s money. While you’ve got the events from the original, the reader has trouble sympathizing with any of the characters. There are people who like that sort of thing; I’m just not one of them.
Anton Gully “Assault and Buttery” (The King of the Cats)
Writing: Pretty good—needs only a little cleaning up; POV slips, but this may be all right for a fairy tale
Grammar: Pretty good
Creativity: Very good
Link to inspiration: 90
Folk Talishness: Very good
Story: Excellent; there are so many little things that had me laughing. You finished it up very well (good closure), but that put the climax a third of the narrative from the end. Maybe if you extend the action sequence with the microwave; that would amp up the tension in the climax enough to warrant the longer wrap-up.
I really loved this story. I can't even say for certain why, and I didn't recognize the source tale it was drawn from, but I really enjoyed the heck out of reading it. It definitely brought the madcap
Irish "encounter with the fairies/leprechauns" tale into the 21st (or later) century and was just a delight to read from beginning to end.
Thanks also for introducing me to the term, "fadge." Do you suppose the people who organized the Hartford FADGE Fest (for Feminism, Autonomy, Diversity, and Gender Expression) are aware of the double entendre?
First, welcome to the Friday Challenge! I’ve always felt “King of the Cats” was an interesting folk tale because the title character isn’t introduced until right at the end of the story. I like your twist with the sentient appliances, particularly enjoying the “Have you read my Instruction manual?” line. The twist allowed you to retain all the charm of the original story. Very nicely done! I’m looking forward to what we can expect from you in the future.
Miko “Trancendence Gate” (How a Soldier Punished the Devil)
Writing: Erg, this sounds over-critical. The writing style seems to be not quite first-person narrow (too much telling) but not narrative story-telling, either (too formal and (I’m sorry!) dry). It wasn’t until Brozik and Grun started interacting that the story started flowing.
Creativity: Good (Although, seriously—he spends every last dime on a space ship and then gives it to some guy? Give him some motivation—why does he want to stay with the Boii and have absolutely no worry about making a living?)
Link to inspiration: 85-90
Folk Talishness: Reads more sci fi story than folk tale.
Story: Over-long, I think. I didn’t get the motivation for him to go to the Transcendence Gate. A lot of philosophical dialogue (verbal and internal). I wonder if some of this could be trimmed and still maintain the intent. I appreciate the use of flashbacks to try to ground the story to one position in Brozik’s life, but it makes the first half rather choppy. And I wonder if there would be more tension in his peaceful life with the Boii if the reader/listener had a better idea of what he had refused. I didn’t have any problem with the “simplicity” of the story. I think if you can get inside your character more, get more action-reaction, you can get your point across without relying on so much intense dialogue. (Unless that’s your thing. You gotta do your thing.)
On the other hand, I have really mixed feelings about this one. Technically, it's very well done. I am as always impressed by the sheer quality of Miko's writing. Even Grün is an interesting character, and that's hard to make happen with someone who spends his portion of the story mostly spouting philosophy. From time to time I thought I caught a distinct scent of Dr. Pangloss coming from him. But Brožík himself is... *too* weary. Of course, he's an old soldier, and of course he's world-weary. That's the whole point of the story. He's so world-weary that he's looking for a way out of it. But this world-weariness and bleakness becomes oppressive, and while I remained intellectually engaged in the story right to the end, my emotional engagement checked out quit a bit earlier.
Which means you've probably got a bestselling award-winner on your hands here, as this is much the same way I felt while reading Cormac McCarthy's, The Road.
Folk tales books are full of stories of returning soldiers who help a stranger and receive a valuable gift in return. “How a Soldier Punishes Devils” separates itself from the crowd by having the soldier trick his way into heaven. Your version updates the story quite well and introduces some uncertainty at the end. Did the soldier manage to release his attachment to this world and safely move on or was he destroyed? I believe one could argue for either choice, which makes your story just that much more interesting (sort of like “The Lady and the Tiger” in that respect). Well written, as always.
Waterboy “The Three Little Hew-mons” (The Three Little Pigs)
Writing: Hee hee
Link to inspiration: 95
Folk Talishness: Yup.
This story is cute, clever, funny, and a pleasure to read. But at the end of the day this is Star Trek fanfic, and when stacked up against some very serious competition this one doesn't make the final cut. If there weren't serious I.P. issues involved and we weren't likely to get sued by Paramount, I could definitely see publishing Ferengi Bedtime Stories and having it be a very successful little book a la Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, though. Thanks for submitting it.
That was an excellent Feringi take on “The Three Little Pigs,” up to and including the important lesson from the Rules of Acquisition. The only change I would have made to the story would have to have the Ferengi pay with pressed latinum rather than by check. But that’s a minor point for a truly spot-on rewrite of such a well-known tale!
Allan Davis “The Girl, The Box, and Entropy” (Jack and the Beanstalk)
Writing: POV slips. The paragraph about the slums and the rich leaving—that could have been done really effectively with observations while Jack traveled to the stalk. Mention the abandoned mansions filled with squatters, etc. Several paragraphs on getting to the shuttle, then no reaction when he finally arrives at the station? Horrors! How did Jack know Charlotte might want to leave? A lot of this could use a tighter POV. “Grossman”—ha ha!
Grammar: Watch your paragraph breaks—if someone talks, then someone else does something, make a new paragraph. “Ahead of him, he watched…” how can he be ahead of himself?
Creativity: Very good
Link to inspiration: 75
Folk Talishness: Not very folk-taley; much more a sci fi story.
Story: It needs tweaking—especially regarding motivation—but I really liked it. Based on the title, I thought it was going to be about Pandora. It’s a real SF story based on a fairy tale—not a fairy tale based in space. I don’t know that that means anything one way or another other than I could see it in an SF mag before a collection of parodies. It needs cleaning and tightening, but I like the plot.
Maybe it's just because I just finished reading Joe Haldeman's Marsbound, but I *really* liked this one. It has some technical flaws that I would like to see fixed in a rewrite, but on the whole
it's an engaging, fast-paced story that just grabbed me and took me along for the ride. And then the One Independent Wonder: the Vornock'kk (how do you pronounce that, by the way?) lucky charm that actually *does* tweak entropy to change its possessor's luck -- marvelous bit of business there, of the sort that really makes a short story, but would cause horrendous complications in a novel. (There must be more to it than simple luck. If it's always lucky, why does it choose to desert Grossman at the key moment and go over to Jack?)
(Oh, and also, I kept expecting Mr. G's name to be Gigante.)
Anyway, a fun, engaging read, and definitely one of my top picks.
When I first thought about writing science fiction versions of fairy tales, “Jack and the Beanstalk” was one of the first stories that came to mind. You went in a totally different direction than I would have, though. You found a nice twist on the harp with Charlotte and subtle take on the golden egg-laying goose with the Vornock’kk box. Having the box end up saving Jack’s life was a good twist, too. The writing could be tighter, but this is a really good adventure short story that pays homage to the original. Nicely done!
The Bandit “A Squadron With One Pull” (The Brave Little Tailor)
Writing: It’s Bandit. What do you think?
Grammar: Very good
Creativity: Very good
Link to inspiration: 99
Folk Talishness: Pretty good (that’s more a criticism of the Grimms)
Story: Until just now (Wednesday night, 9:01) I had only ever read the Mickey Mouse version. Having now read the Brothers Grimm, I understand where you were coming from. I would have loved to have seen you alter the story for modern writing sensibilities as well as the sci fi genre. The story as the Grimm’s wrote it has very little tension. Ironically, Mickey does a better job—what with the misunderstanding about the giant and the flies and the few close escapes while he’s sewing the giant up. I’d like to see how you could put your personal spin on the plot, as well as the setting. But, dood! You have a maintainer as the hero of the universe! How could I not love that?
I think this one gets closest to the spirit of what Henry had in mind when he proposed the challenge. Even though I knew from the outset that it was a sci-fi'd up rewrite of the brave little tailor, and even though the astronomy makes no sense, it *reads* like a Brothers Grimm tale. There were no surprises here, but all the same, it was a pleasure to read. Thanks for submitting it.
I don’t think it would have ever occurred to me to update “The Brave Little Tailor,” yet you pulled it off quite nicely. Your source is immediately obvious to anyone who has read the original, but your approach is sufficiently different and amusing to draw all readers on to the end. Naming the ship ASOP was a nice touch, too. Is it a safe assumption you played around with your story title until you found one that could reasonably be used to honor Aesop while still taking the acronym from that title? All in all, a fun tale that reproduces the original with a science fiction setting!
Topher “A Modern P.I.N.O.C.C.I.O.” (Pinocchio)
Beth: (long time-no read!)
Writing: It reads as a rough draft. Generally, unidentified machines and the overuse of “something” (as well as “a certain point in the process”) are frowned upon.
Grammar: Um…I’m thinking maybe you should think about perhaps searching for a book called “Commas for Dummies.” Unless this was rushed. I’d understand if it was rushed.
Creativity: This score depends on if you’ve seen Astro Boy. It’s almost identical to the first few scenes in the movie.
Link to inspiration: 85; I like the names—George, James Cricket, etc.
Folk Talishness: More fiction story than folk tale.
Story: Once I started reading I kicked myself—of course Pinocchio! I feel like this had terrible great potential but not enough time to reach it. Pinocchio is practically pre-written for an android story—have him go through trials to learn what it means to be human, then reach sentience or self-awareness. Why hasn’t it been done before? Oh, yeah, it has: Astro Boy. (I’ve never seen the original; just the recent movie.)
Pass. All editors have their deep-seated personal biases, for and against; the ideas they'll always find interesting and the stories that just turn them off on-sight. Stories about parents obsessed with technologically resurrecting their dead children just don't work for me.
After reading your entry, “Pinocchio” is such an obvious fairy tale to select that I have to wonder why it never crossed my mind as an option. You also manage to snag some of the original of Astro Boy at the same time, with the scientist attempting to bring his dead child back to life. From the point of view of the original, though, you’ve really only just started the story. The main part of the original story is how Pinocchio learns what it is to be human and to be responsible.
Topher “Red Hood Courier" (Little Red Riding-Hood)
Writing: A bit rough. This is (mostly) a tight POV so you don’t need to use “she thought.” Your tags (identifying actions used to cut the over-use of “said”) are really good.
- “But before he could even turn to make an escape the entire area was lit up in a sudden ball of bright green light…”
Technically, “before he could even turn to make an escape” is a clausey-thingy and should be completely set off with commas. Many authors, however, would only use a comma at the end.
- “Using the last of her strength, she bent her left thumb back until she heard the tell-tale crack, and began the mental countdown of how much time she had left.”
“…and began the mental countdown…” has no independent subject; the subject is the previously used “she.” Therefore, it does not require a comma.
Link to inspiration: 70
Folk Talishness: Again, more sci fi story than folk tale. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Story: Same as the previous. I’d like to learn more about the wolf. The green explosion was a bit of a deus ex machina—for the reader, at least, if not for Red. You have a gift for taking a modernized fairy tale and re-introducing its original darkness.
Much like "Ali and the Phorty," I got a sort of sense of 1985 all over again as I read this one. It's well-written and a decently clever riff on the source, but as with so many VR/cyberspace stories, gets confused over just where to draw its boundaries between external reality and the cybernetic spirit world. That, and all of this takes place in the space of 900 nanoseconds? It's a pet bugbear of mine, but that's about time enough for one electron to travel about 300 meters. I have long since grown tired of little girls who swear like longshoremen. That's been old since the first "Bad News Bears" movie. It's time to find a new cliche.
A cyberpunk (TM ~brb) version of “Little Red Riding Hood” is an approach that simply wouldn’t have occurred to me. I like the idea of the data courier and the wolf as an avatar. I think this story works better for you than “Pinocchio” because the original was a fairly short tale to begin with. I’m not quite sure why Red had to draw the wolf avatar as close as she did, though. When her defense kicked in and wiped the area, I got the feeling it wiped a much larger area than just the few feet around Red. Having just gone back and read that section again, there’s ambiguity to the effect, so I could just be reading too much into it. I’d drop the f-bombs, though. They just seem unnecessary.
M “Olive Drab” (Bearskin)
Writing: For the most part, POV is nice and tight. There were a few other minor things, here and there. The old man leads Oslavsky through a fortress that wasn’t mentioned before. The only major thing being I had no idea what the story was about.
Link to Inspiration: 50
Folk Talishness: Not really.
Story: This is a strange combination of intense, visual, personal writing and situational confusion. I got a very good idea of the situation and character of Oslavsky without having a clue where he lived or what was going on. I felt like there was tons of really interesting history and back story that might have given enough context to understand the story; but then I realized I needed more about the old man. The original story seemed to have the character going around, being nice to people while he became more grotesque. Yours is more ambiguous. He follows the old man in vain, able only to save three girls from a fire. I feel like I’m missing something. “’It should have gotten the other side.’” What should have? What other side? Is the old man the devil? If so, why does he lose power when his suit disintegrates? I don’t understand!
Wow. Just wow. I didn't recognize this as being any folk tale I was familiar with, but as a post-Apocalyptic sci-fi military tale, this one kicks serious ass. It may be 6,500 words long, but I didn't notice that at all. Good job.
Though your entry is, as you said, a very loose interpretation of “Bearskin,” it still has the “feel” of a folk tale. I found the story compelling, interesting, and was somewhat reminded of Fredrick Brown’s “Arena,” with the exception that there are innocent civilians around to complicate the matter, with a smattering of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” with the old man being the recruiter, leader, enemy. You did an excellent job of creating a sympathetic main character whose only wish is to live in peace yet is feels duty-bound to bring a final end to the war he thought was over. Very good stuff. Very well written.
Avery “Afterthought & a Glow-Worm” (The Fisherman and his Wife)
Writing: Pretty good. Why does the narrator assume the glowworm has done something when, as far as he can see, all the thing’s done is “glow”? (In the original story, the fish tells the fisherman, “It’s already done.”)
Grammar: Very good
Link to Inspiration: 75
Folk Talishness: All of the elements are there, but the presentation’s not very folk-taley. I don’t dislike the first person POV. It’s just the voice isn’t one that would lend itself to a fire-side story (ironically, the writing may be too good).
Story: If you based your story on the bare-bones, simply written story that I read, I’m really impressed with your personalization. The one I read didn’t have the fish change, either. Nice touch. Anora was a nasty, despicable person; you gave her a lot more passion and personality than the original. I didn’t really catch why the glowworm was talking like that, though. I would think that if the glowworm could do all that, he could fix their ship and get them out of there. (The Babysitter responds: “Maybe the wife was too stupid to think of it.”) The reason for the warning about glowworms wasn’t really explained. Why wouldn’t you want to meet creatures who have to do you favors to reach their next form? Still, I liked that each blessing had unforeseen consequences, and I liked that you limited the blessings to a more traditional three (plus one failed one) instead of the several of the original story.
I have a love/hate relationship with this story. I think I used to date Anora but dumped her ages ago. As a character she *really* got on my nerves -- even as I could see exactly where the story was going, and knew that it was her insanely irritating qualities that were absolutely required in order for this story to work.
For reference, I feel the same way about The Taming of the Shrew, except I feel Bill copped-out and went for the fake happy ending in that one.
I loved the glow-worm, and the way its fractured Wormglish was actually making a sort of sense by the end of the story. Poor long-suffering Jorge is just a wonderful narrative voice. The story is
beautifully written, well-executed, and perfectly paced.
Ah, the talking creature who fulfills wishes and wife who is never satisfied with what she’s received. It’s definitely a staple in the world of folk tales. I’m not sure why it’s always the wife who’s never satisfied with the results of the wish, but folk tale women get their moment in the sun in the myriad of smart-wife-with-a-foolish-husband stories. Your story is very nicely done, Avery, capturing the essence of the wish-fulfillment folk tale. I had no problem picturing the story and feeling the reluctance the husband felt each time it returned to speak with the glow-worm. This well-written piece makes me really look forward to your next Friday Challenge entry!
While certain judges preferred some stories more than others, we all agreed on one thing; "Assault and Buttery" had all three of us laughing. It was our unanimous favorite. Therefore, Anton Gully is this week's winner! Come on down and collect your prize! Also, for the best job channeling the Brothers Grimm, we're issuing an honorable mention The Bandit.
Congratulations to the winners and thanks to everyone for providing such great entries for this challenge!
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