Hah! I got them done before midnight! Albeit, only six minutes before, but still! I win!
Mars, by the way. Sorry to make y'all wait! Here are your fab winners!:
Keshia Nowden's The State of Being Alive
Ah, that second line reminds me of talking to Cleverbot. (Though, perhaps, the syntho-human really is as sentient and capable as humans, and the main character is just specie-ist.) I like the technology presented here; the peek into this world and its interplanetary intersections is cool.
The story, while a complete piece, fell a little flat for me due to the lack of conflict. While fascinating, there's no real danger or obstacle for the character to overcome (the robot frustrates him for a moment, but that's mostly all). I didn't feel very attached to him either--the concept is great, but I would have liked to get to know the main character a little better.
Also, electropad, you suck. (He never did get that human, did he.) Nice piece.
SueAnn Porter's Frank and Chester
I love how immediately Frank's character is established. From the second line, I could already guess at what his living situation is. The description of his greasy white hair and the scratching at the beard generates a powerful image of the character. The theme of empathy in the piece is pure and strong. You can feel Nurse Jackson's hesitance, perhaps guessing what she might be thinking ("I could lose my job for this"), but human compassion won out in the end. It's an emotion-evoking piece.
with Listen for What is Left Unsaid
When I read through this story, I got the firm reminder of a song I'm rather fond of (the Sound of Silence (specifically the lines that go: "People talking without speaking // People hearing without listening")) from the tone of the story. My favorite line is,
So while the rain hid my tears, we talked of so many things, shielded and warm, and the storm passed through and over me.
The piece doesn't really have conflict to it, so it's not super exciting. However, it does have an arc building up to that second-to-last paragraph and then the piece resolving. Often times, with a story like this, there's just a flat telling of an event, but this is crafted in such a manner that there's a story arc, giving it the ability to hold its own as. Good job!
Listen for What is Left Unsaid
I need to talk to a human: that was my one only need, but they all needed something else.
I remember how so many people came, but not the right one. I needed to talk to a human. Not an officer, not a psychologist or counsellor, but a human. Someone who didn’t dissect each word, analyse each muscle flicker or peel me apart for the bits they wanted.
I needed to talk to someone who’d listen to me…. I did try. I sat and talked, and they listened but didn’t hear. They took their bits and did their jobs. Maybe they thought they could patch me together with ‘job-well-dones’ and positive outcomes.
But I needed to talk to a human. The need gouged me out, leaving me hollow. And into that depression dripped all the bitterness of unheard words, where everything else drowned.
And then I found you...years later: in a park, smirking at my shoes and sodden clothes while rain poured down. You offered me coffee from your Thermos as an apology and shared your umbrella.
In my words, so inconsequential at the time, you heard what I couldn’t say, and in yours, I caught what I needed to hear. So while the rain hid my tears, we talked of so many things, shielded and warm, and the storm passed through and over me.
That was years ago, but I’ll never forgot the hours with you. I don’t even know your name or where you are now, but I still have your umbrella and make coffee when the world threatens to storm, and I go out to talk to humans, to hear the words that they cannot say.