In a continuation of collating winning stories, podium placing and feedback, I’ve trawled through some of the old flash fiction competitions.
This post is dedicated to the world of the Angry Hourglass, run by LadyHazmat/ Dr Rebecca, pathologist, writer and good friend to flash fiction.
Angry Hourglass allowed longer word counts than many other flash comps and the participants were some of the most inspiring and talented short fiction writers out there.
I didn’t compete here as often as I would have liked, a rare treat. I did a fair amount of weeks as a judge.
Judges feedback on podium placed stories, below:
Honorable Mention: The First
A veteran footballer – the first black player – rebels against the problems of racism and homophobia in the sport by rejecting his lifetime achievement award. When he remembers racial abuse he says it didn’t ‘throw him off his game’ as fans of the opposing team might hope for, but ‘he used it like Popeye used spinach.’ Wonderful! And, as he has ‘grabbed the microphone’, it leaves the reader speculating on what he is about to say.
Runner Up – The Man in Blue
I’ve been to Auschwitz and this story even on the first read took me straight back there. Thankfully merely as a visitor, but it’s not a place you can forget. It can be hard to write about such serious subjects especially with so few words to play with. So many people love trains, as can be seen in all the other stories; the journeys, the excitement; the possibilities about where you could be going to. Then there’s this place. Miles of train tracks, ash and detritus.
The simple title gave no clue about the story and then the memory of trains and the people it brought to him for this evil man was one he enjoyed; while I could but shudder. It didn’t sound like the protagonist was that haunted by his past, but it was good to find out in the end he was – at night, at least. Evocative and brilliantly done.
2nd Runner Up: Angels of The Somme
The imagery was breathtaking in this piece.
Classic juxtaposition and inverted expectations? Bet I know who this is! (post-edit note – yep, quick check proves me right!) The whole, disgusting, overblown mess of the UK referendum captured in the tight writing, repetition and returns of the imagery. I loved the irony of Harmony’s name and the panning the writer gives social media (despite me being a massive user!)
Flash Master/Winner: Loyalty Scheme
I chose this one because of my favourite line in it, and the build up to it. It could have ended right after ‘room’, because that line was so hideous. I could imagine the eyes of this fellow squinting in through the window while she’s there unsuspecting. SO CREEPY! Well played!
I read this as a sinister stalker type, and it made me more and more uncomfortable as it went on. It’s not too sinister, just a guy noticing things (a little creepily at times) about a girl he likes, until that one outstanding line… that just freaks me out! *shuts the curtains*
Favourite Line: “I know she likes to eat by herself and the glow of the TV screen makes her look like an angel in the dark abyss of her lonely room.” – Mein Gott! Why would you write this?! Brilliant and terrifying.
Honourable Mention for beautiful poetic prose: The Scream
The title and first line drew me in completely:
‘She sits on the ship, hands on molten face.’
The pace builds with the imagery and repetition:
‘She screams in the waiting rooms of the unwanted diagnosis.
She screams in the monotonous offices of loathing, bullying and oppression.’
Who is this embodiment of our anguish?
‘Edvard Munch once saw her… She is the Scream.’
Second Runner Up :Angel of the North(ern Line)
Well, come on, you know I’m sucker for a bit of humour so getting me grinning from Line 1 is a good thing – as long as it delivers for the rest of the piece too. And this one did. Nice idea and I’d like to know what the writer had been drinking when they came up with the idea (it seemed like a four pinter story to me).
Anthropomorphic trains was a good slant on the love story for this weekend (why did I volunteer for this weekend – what was I thinking btw?!) and mawkishness was replaced by the rather rude Barry the (well you know). Thanks for the laughs!
Flash Master / Winner: Spit | Fire
He’s sworn two oaths. One to his homeland, one to King George.
My interpretation of the wonderful introduction to this story is that our narrator is one of the refugees who flew for the RAF during WW2.
The economic use of language is stunning
“He’s skimmed the cordite skies of Poland, barrelled the shrapnel-strewn Belgium ether, endured the insectile fury of the Messerschmitt swarms above France.”
“on the lowest ranks—he must know his place.”
Language such as
“A private chapel of hellfire. A crucible of death.” depicts the treacherous, and perhaps, ironically, the spiritual nature of this task.
This story explores the alienation of the WW2 fighter pilot, and the alienation of a refugee.
“And when he lands, there is no celebration, no credit.” Brilliant.
2nd : A Dot in the Night Sky
A mythical, mystical tone woven through a story that seems both sad and hopeful at the same time. Abandoning traditional science fiction explanations for lyricism creates something. Befitting the subject, a piece far bigger than its 226 words that left me taking a deep breath and thinking after I’d finished reading it.
You there, with your 70 words and plastic tulip – I liked this very much.
2nd: Babes in the Wood
I absolutely love, love, love the concept behind this piece. I want a whole book filled with the stories of the children who never lived! I want to know if the same children get to live this one night year after year, or if it is reserved for only the children who hadn’t lived since the previous equinox. Do they truly have just one night? Do they know? Do they wait for it, planning? Mark, make this happen for me, I’m begging you.
Flash Master / Winner: The Soul Catcher
A beautifully written tale of possession that spans the ages, and invokes a frightening future. It’s truly sublime.
The story here is very old–and the voice is sublime–describing the feast of images–from water and mirrors to technicolor and instamatic (“watching a soul come to life”) to the tech of today. The future implications are ominous with Google Glass. Yes, it scares me, too.
2nd: Hide and Seek
Mark takes his title and uses it to structure the whole story. Each line a carefully constructed blow to the senses. We are caught up in the narrator’s stream of consciousness; the raw hopelessness of the situation – ‘hide when he drinks, hide when he doesn’t…’
Every time I read this there’s a new line that stands out. The form and structure are experimental but fit the piece beautifully. It also helped it to stand out in the outstanding field.
Stunning. Horrific. Real.
2nd: The Day A Dog Fell From The Sky
This story made me sad, but then it made me happy. The description of Laika in the first part was pretty visceral and heart rending. But then… aliens! Or the Space Illuminati. Either way, thumbs up.