So, real talk: college is pretty much kicking both Si and me in the butt (Si's gotta write like a million grant essays), so CFFC might be rough for the next little while. We haven't decided as of yet, but CFFC may be transitioning to a twice-a-month basis, since a lot of our time is consumed by college. (Plan on it being run this next week, though!)
We love running this competition and have a lot of fun with it and all y'all, but we agree that it cannot be allowed to negatively impact our education/careers. There will be weeks (like this one) where Si is planned to judge that I'll step in for (because Si's schedule is a lot more crazy than mine), and we may have to call off some weeks all together due to time conflicts in both of our schedules (I'm looking at you, November & finals).
We are on the look for another judge, and are open to guest judges. If you or anyone you know would like to take a stab at judging some flash fiction, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would prefer people who have participated in the competition in the past (and remember it's never too late to participate!), but other experience is not necessary--only an interest in flash fiction. Si, Rin, and I had no prior experience judging flash fiction competitions before we started this up--we just thought it would be fun and rewarding, and it has been. We always strive to encourage people to be better than before, and to do better ourselves; the best way to do that is through experience. We'd love to have you on the team, even if only temporarily. There's no soul-selling or contracts involved; if you wanna judge, but can only do it once, we can definitely work with that. There's very little restriction in our judging style, though we have a couple of general guidelines we usually adhere to--we'll fill you in if you're interested!
Now, onto the judging. I've got an exam to take (and lots of calculus homework that's built up . . . shhh), so I only had time for two of these this time around. In case you didn't read through all of that up there, it's-a-me, Mars, judging this round. (Also, you all should know I'm taking a grammar class this semester; you have been warned.)
Jeff Rowlands with Clearing
The surreal tone of this piece is alluring. And--bear with me, I'm becoming a grammar nerd--I really appreciate the variety in the sentence structures in this piece (though there could be a few less sentences that start with 'He' or 'She', particularly when they're straight in a row). I'm finding that using be-verbs in most sentences is common for many people, and that's what can attribute to the feeling of repetition. Here, however, the number of transitive and intransitive verbs ("action verbs) largely outweighs the be-verbs. I believe this is the main reason this piece has such a flow to it. On the other hand, there are a number of grammatical issues--consider:
Weary, walking through the woods somehow he’d managed to lose the trail, had been wandering for hours when he came open a little clearing, an oasis of calm.
The meaning of the sentence is mostly clear, but it's very convoluted, grammar-wise, and might confuse a reader. Adjusting a few things leads to something like:
Weary from walking through the woods, somehow he'd managed to lose the trail, and had been wandering for hours when he came to a little, open clearing; an oasis of calm.
The tone doesn't quite fit the original, so more tweaking would be in order, but that's the general gist. Most other sentences with errors have only one or two and aren't as potentially confusing. Some could probably be left alone, as it is the author's prerogative to choose to include purposeful errors for flow and style (the key word being purposeful, of course). The content doesn't particularly enthrall me (it's a peculiar (in a good way) idea, but it's not very conflict-driven), but it's still good--the flow and surreal nature of the writing is what makes this piece. Keep up the good work!
with The Deal
The thing that grabbed my attention the most about this piece is how callously the people being sold are talked about. "Pieces" instead of "people". It reflects a lot of the real state of the world when people don't actually want to address the ugly side of society and how we interact with others. Dehumanizing someone you're going to murder makes it a lot easier to do the job.
I believe the last line was probably supposed to be a bit more plot-twisty of a reveal, but I knew from the moment 'brain' was mentioned that it was a zombie piece. The other bits of foreshadowing were great--the way the woman regarded the main character, shuffling, an ugly face, clumsily sitting, a "hider", "eyes as dead as mine"--but there's no pretense when 'brains' (or even 'human flesh') enters the picture. The great reveal would be more exciting if it hasn't been stated outright (brains being the equivalent of being stated outright).
The stench of live human flesh made me anxious and hungry. I thought about her brain pulsing in her pretty skull, then I quickly shook the thought off.
The stench filling the room made me anxious and hungry, and I stared at the woman for a moment. Then, quickly, I shook the thoughts off.
('Pretty skull' could probably be included, but I got a lot more of a creeper-psychopathic vibe when I read it that way.) If the plan is for the last line to be a kicker, the suspense has to build instead of being let out of the gate at the get-go.
I was very pleased by the way this subverted a lot of zombie-story tropes, however. The humans and the zombies cutting a deal is generally out of the picture because zombies have no sentience, but this way opens up a lot more avenues for story-telling. It's kind of like smashing vampires and zombies together, and I think it's really cool (because now we can have zombie spies (e.g. hiders), and spies are cool). It also raises questions about the nature of these zombies--by 'breeding', does the main character mean popping new zombie babies (which would certainly be very different from the norm), or turning people? Do they still smell like rotting flesh? How did the transformation change them, precisely? Etc., etc.,. Good job on this piece!
"Welcome, we've been expecting you." she smiled, her smile as fake as her eyelashes. Perfectly made up red lips curled upwards, her smile not quite reaching her eyes.
I shuffled nervously into the room. The stench of live human flesh made me anxious and hungry. I thought about her brain pulsing in her pretty skull, then I quickly shook the thought off. I was here to negotiate a deal, focus was necessary. A man sat next to her, immaculately dressed in a fine suit and tie. He didn't look at me just stared ahead, and why would he, I wasn't a pretty face. His expression was inscrutable.
The room was dimly lit, just a lamp hanging over the large table they sat at. I clumsily sat down in a chair across from them.
She pushed a sheet of paper towards me.
"We have four thousand pieces to give you. You must sign this document. It states you will not attack the city for the next twelve months," her smile was gone and she was all businesslike.
"We were promised six thousand—" I began but the man cut me short.
"Take the deal," he stressed, "we have enough firepower to wipeout your entire species."
He was still not looking at me and I could feel my anger rise. I glared at him and that's when I noticed the thick makeup he was wearing.
A hider! He was one of us.
He suddenly looked at me, his eyes as dead as mine, pleading me to take the deal. I too didn't want unnecessary bloodshed. Four thousand human livestock would be sufficient for breeding and eating for a year.
I signed the paper. Yes, once upon a time I had a name, now just another zombie.
Great going, everyone! Thanks for all your participation. See you all on Saturday!