Alright, people, here were are with the first results post; normally after this we’d have a vote, but everyone’s invited to do the first three challenges before the first two eliminations, so the next couple of days (if I can wait that long) will be a little break.

One thing I learned this week: you guys are f*&^ing obsessed with death.

Also, three of you are obsessed with not sending in entries. Read on…

Tom Morgan, Dark Stormy Knights

Through the deep, heavy, dull, flaky, white snow trudged a young woman who was none of those things herself. She was leaving the past behind her, staring boldly into the future.

“Finally,” she whispered to no one, “finally.”

Looking forward, sadly, caused her to miss the present: an onrushing bus, which struck her side, killing her in an instant.

K: We sure do have a lot of death in these. I adore this first sentence…I get a sense of who she is by learning who she’s not. The oncoming bus seems a little like a deus ex machina in these Fiction 59s, though. 3

B: So we have a shallow, light, vibrant, dependable, non-white protagonist. Awesome! Actually, I do like the first sentence, despite the commas. The twist ending is a bit cliché, although perhaps it’s just because it has an identical plot to one of my poems.

One of the toughest parts of this challenge is sacrificing word choices to make it exactly 59 words. In this case, “instantly” would be much more effective than “in an instant.” As it stands, it doesn’t feel like the death happened instantly, because we used too many words to describe it. Sure, it’s nitpicky, but when judging this many entries, one has to be. 3

Score: 3

Ryan Sorrell, Dark Stormy Knights

He’d come to dread being setup, though Eddie never tired of doing him the favor. No matter the arrangement, it always played out the same: standing there uncomfortably, waiting for one of them to break the ice, kidding himself things were going well. Inevitably everything would fall apart and he’d get dumped, coming to rest amidst white plastic cubes.

K: Okay, so we have a board game here where a snowman or something is being built on the board. I don’t know what game it is (edit: Beau told me later), but I really like this entry’s ambition. Now someone tell me what game this is so I can slap myself for not coming up with it. Also, “setup” is two words. There would be sixty if it was made two in this entry, but you know what I mean. 4

B: Took me about twenty seconds to figure this one out, and all I can think to say is “Nice!”

My only quibble: “setup” should really be two words in this case. 4

Score: 4

Brooks Maki, Spawn of Steinbeck

Trevor shoveled until the hole was complete. Now he had to figure out how to fill it. Boss’s self-contradicting command “Kill the snitch and bury him in the desert,” rang in his ears as his gun fired. As Trevor’s body fell into the hole, the elaborate pulley system began to tilt the sand down around him. Job well done.

K: Wow…Trevor is one loyal dude. I won’t forget this one. 5

B: Elaborate pulley system. Love it! Unfortunately, “self-contradicting” gives this one away maybe a split second before it should, but it is totally saved by the ending. Job well done, indeed!

In fact, this entry rated as my favorite this week. 5

Score: 5

Ian Pratt, Likes Bacon

A low, desperate Idea scraped through as I stood confronted by the Devil.

“Well?”

The Idea burned, scalded, melted synapses as it clawed its way up from the bottom of somewhere.

“Yes.”

The Devil smiled. My own lips stretched as the Idea smiled. A bright gasp of sulfur, and then we were alone. Me, the Idea, and our smile.

K: Hmm. A little vague and incomplete, despite the sharp writing. I feel like this is missing a payoff, despite how much I like the aesthetics of the last line. 3

B: I am intrigued as to what this Idea is. I am not sure if the Idea killed the devil, or if the devil was expecting something. But as it stands, it doesn’t feel like a complete story, but rather the ending for a pretty good one. 3

Score: 3

John Youker, Spawn of Steinbeck

Marcus the robot awoke one morning and decided to conquer the planet. He charged his lasers, and armed his missle launcher. He mapped out his plan: destroy the major cities and then speak to the united nations. As he exited his home, his one miscalculation came to pass. Marcus was only 4 inches tall and a preschooler crushed him.

K: Youker hasn’t played the last few Survivors, but I’d be surprised if this wasn’t he. Poor, stupid Marcus. My gripe here would be that I feel like I’ve heard this ending a lot before. Cute enough. 3

B: Heh. I like the setup a lot, but the payoff is a bit of a letdown. The spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues don’t help either. Still, a solid entry that shows promise for the author. 3

Score: 3

Dean Carlson, Spawn of Steinbeck

Whoaaaa… Shit!!!! Bam! One minute I’m biking through the woods, the next….thwack! Jesus, my head! Losing consciousness I notice my awkwardly dangling leg through my blood splattered googles and a broken bike crumpled against the offending boulder. Looks like I just missed that tree, too bad it was the only thing between me and the edge of this cliff.

K: This opening feels like it’s trying to smack me in the side of the head or something…I can dig the concept here, but I would have preferred something more descriptive. (Also…”googles?”) 2

B: The beginning is pretty awkward with sound effects from the present, then a switch back to the past, then a quick switch back to the present again. I would like to see blood-splattered googles, however.

First person, stream-of-consciousness works for a story like this, but it just isn’t as strong as the other entries. 2

Score: 2

Sarah Bizek, Likes Bacon

Her late-night lover approaches. He pulls her forcefully close from behind, driving a moaning from her throat. Her back arches. He tucks a red curl behind her ear. “Who’s your Daddy?” he whispers, but the voice does not belong to her forbidden lover. Bleeding out, jugular sliced in two, Annie Warbucks is “adopted” by her Daddy one last time.

K: Sweet, merciful crap. Every year there are a few that I love despite how icky they make me feel. This is one of those. I was getting mildly aroused until the final jarring sentence, actually. Ahem. I think the one thing bugging me a tiny bit is that I don’t have a motive for Warbucks here, although I realize that’s by design. 4

B: I once told a contestant they were going to hell. You are going someplace far below that. 4

Score: 4

Dave Johnson, Dark Stormy Knights

Woodword saved the three puppies with the desired traits and loaded the other eight into a gunny sack. The sack eventually went still in a barrel of rainwater.
Turning, he saw the new kid in one of the empty stalls holding another sack. As the kid tilted it up the bottom exploded into Woodword’s chest. Neither were seen again.

K: Whoever this is, I need you to know that no animals were ever harmed in the making of Survivor. Well, THIS Survivor. 4

B: I like the first sentence quite a bit. The rest just doesn’t quite provide the imagery I was hoping for, though the story itself is fine. The ending, however, is just a bit off the mark. Was the explosion so enormous that both bodies disintegrated? Or were they just only figuratively never seen again? Or were they in such a remote place that nobody looked for their remains? There might be an obvious answer, but I guess I’m not seeing it. 3

Score: 3.5

Ben Thietje, Dark Stormy Knights

Yes, Marianna was a whore; a giant, stinking whore. This much was certainly clear. But what he couldn’t figure out was – how could she cook with her hands bound like that? The smell wafted lazily into the tiny room. He couldn’t help but creep in.

“Don’t ask questions, sexy. Just taste this.” She whispered.

Moments later, he was dead.

K: Good thing that Marianna here has one extra “n” than my daughter. That would just be weird! Anyway, this person did him/herself a disservice with the first ill-fitting sentence, which seems tacked on to amuse me (mission accomplished, admittedly). I like the black widow story just fine without it. 4

B: It’s hard for me to buy this story. Why would anyone mistakenly think she could cook with her hands bound rather than assume she somehow escaped? Still, well written, and I appreciate that. 3

Score: 3.5

Matt Novak, Spawn of Steinbeck

“Want to sign up for our discount membership club?”
“Sure,” he answered.
Sometime later the man opened his door to a knock, brushing the “It’s A Boy!” balloon aside, as it drifted towards the open portal.
“I’m here to collect. Membership has costs.”
“Are you the devil?” asked the new father.
“No,” he laughed fiendishly, “I’m a corporate attorney.”

K: Oh, groan. It’s all for a silly joke, but I rather like the construction here, as the story is told without being spelled out. Unfortunately, the “club” itself is a little vague. 3

B: I can’t even begin to guess what the membership is for, or how the man’s newborn son has anything to do with it. I also can’t tell if the end is an attorney joke or it’s actually relevant to the story.

Anyway, I like the setup a lot, but it’s just too vague for me to understand what’s going on. 3

Score: 3

Josh Mitchell, Likes Bacon

I slipped the razor under the stream of water and waited for my mind to clear. No more pain nor guilt. My life was a loss so I had to end it. Only this bit of solace could I offer: it was by my hand. I place myself in ruin and I would end this existence. No tears left.

K: Death count: 8, plus a bunch of puppies. Devil count: two. It’s a dark season already. Anyway, the prose is nice, but the story really lacks specificity. 3

B: Well, this is pretty straightforward, which I like what with the usual surprise endings this contest tends to generate. However, it isn’t sad for me because the character is too vague to be invested in. Yes, it’s only 59 words, but I’ve seen it done. 3

Score: 3

Tanya Laumann, Dark Stormy Knights

When he met her only the faint tan of his finger spoke truth. Noticing how his rough hand made smooth her belly but contorted her breath, the man let his desire build into the perfect anecdote for guilt. Waiting until she left before dressing, he smirked. The ring back in place, his betrayal was vaulted away, forever in memory.

K: And when y’all aren’t killing people off, you’re writing about inappropriate sex. Very descriptive writing, although “anecdote” is meant to be “antidote” here. Eh, I’ll just chalk it up as a typo (ditto for breath/e) 4

Anecdote…do you mean antidote? Also, breathe should be breath. I don’t point these things out to be a grammar Nazi; it’s just so much more important to make every word count when doing something short. Mistakes can detract away from the story, which it did here to an extent.

Despite this, I am liking some of the poetic phrasing. The first and last sentences do a pretty good job of evoking the personality of this man. 2

Score: 3

Dan Kautz, Spawn of Steinbeck

He sat down and hit the power button. His eyes burned from sleep deprivation and the glare of the screen. He searched his innards for a spark of creativity. Sweating profusely, he maniacally cut and added words, vivisecting his work like a literary Doctor Moreau. His fingers bled. Finally, he exclaimed, “Fifty-nine words, exactly!” Then he slumped over, dead.

K: There’s death #9! I don’t really like metafiction, and this is no exception, though it’s written cutely enough. 2

B: This is surely the first time “vivisecting” has made into a Survivor entry. Typically, meta entries run the risk of being lame, but this one did make me laugh out loud, so I appreciate it. Just the thought of one of our contestants being so worked up over this first challenge that they keel over is quite amusing. Unless you actually did die. Then I’ll feel guilty. 4

Score: 3

Sam Landman, Likes Bacon

ALERO’S CURSE

Alero excelled at receiving blowjobs. His unit attracted the female mouth. Never once in 1,740 blowjobs did he ever ask for one. Even yelping “Bees! Bees!” couldn’t shake them. He hated himself for this. And when he put a gun to his lips, he wasn’t experiencing life on the receiving end. He was ending his reign as “Blowjob King.”

K: This is fantastic, and I’m still giggling at it. The needlessly exact number is the icing on the cake. How many would it take for me to think it was a curse? Anyway, others dabbled in suicide, but this one has a suicide with a hilarious motive. Love it. 5

B: What a marvelous first sentence. In fact, if this were Fiction5, this would be hands down the winner. Even the name is perfect. “Bees! Bees!” is also just a great touch of silliness while still being appropriate for the situation. The last sentence doesn’t quite live up to the rest, but this is still an entry I’m not soon to forget. 5

Score: 5

Drew Geraets, Spawn of Steinbeck

Will clenched the hot desert sand. He had spent years studying scorpions and this was his first research assignment in the Kalahari. Alone and dizzy, his left cheek burned and head throbbed with each heartbeat. “Stupid!” Will choked to himself, his lips numb. He hated science, himself. There was no surviving a cape cobra bite this far from camp.

K: Eleven deaths now! Wowsers. Nice writing, but the story is a little disjointed. I like Will, though, and his dying thought being nothing more complex than disgust with science. 3

B: There is something subtly hilarious about poor Will. He is obviously book smart, what with studying scorpions for years(!), but yet his mind seems so simplistic, on one track only, even in death. All of this and the character only said one word of dialogue, which probably wasn’t even needed.

“He hated science, himself” is another great sentence from this challenge. 4

Score: 3.5

Shawn Ashley, Spawn of Steinbeck

He sat at the counter. “How much for a scoop with chocolate?”
The waitress rolled her eyes. “Two dollars.”
He counted. “Just the scoop?”
“One fifty.”
“I’ll have just the scoop.”
Annoyed, she brought it. He ate it quickly, left. She went to clean his bowl and saw eight quarters beside it. “He gave me a tip,” she whispered.

K: Hey, a happy ending! After the pile of bodies I’ve dug through, this was a refreshingly light story. The realization that the man was so intent on leaving her a tip that he drove down the price was very sweet. 5

B: This is just too damn sweet. I’ve read it three times now and it just gets better each time. I keep trying to think of a way this could be better, but I can’t. Thank you. 5

Score: 5

Joseph Rakstad, Likes Bacon

I still think the city lights are so beautiful. Even when laying on the pavement, head throbbing, aching. Jill groans to let me know she’s all right. I sit up to see the beggar running to the darker side. I guess he’s just that desperate. Thank God we’re all right. Joke’s on him though, we just filed for bankruptcy.

K: My favorite bit here is the opening sentence, considering where the story goes from there. If anything, I would have liked to stay with the nice stuff a little longer, if possible, to make the payoff that much more surprising. I like how it plays, though. 4

B: Oh, that last sentence is just filled with so much goodness. The words that precede are a mix of awkward wording (laying, instead of lying), and simple charm. “Darker side” is also a nice touch.

In other words, uneven, but the ending saves it. 4

Score: 4

Peter Bruzek, Dark Stormy Knights

The writer looked over the results of his inspiration from the night before. Horrified, he realized it was trash – unlikable characters, obvious jokes, and stale plot devices. He was discouraged, but he knew what he had to do.

Weeks later, the network’s pitch meeting began.

“So, there’s this womanizing musician who lives with his uptight brother and lazy nephew…”

K: Aaaaaand we have Two and a Half Men already this season? Tedd, is that you? You’re not even playing! It’s funny enough, though I wish the writer’s problem would have been that he had an idea that was too good for network TV, and that’s why he had to create Two and a Half Men. 3

B: Wow. Two years in a row with “Two and Half Men” references in this challenge. While amusing, the punchline wrote itself by the end of the first paragraph (I was anticipating the script being sold to Jerry Bruckheimer). In fact, it would have been better had no specific show even been mentioned, and just left it with “the network’s pitch meeting began.” 3

Score: 3

—————————————————————-

Non-Submitters: Tara Kinney (Likes Bacon), Scott Stearley (Likes Bacon), Nathan Bahls (Dark Stormy Knights). Attention, you three: while you won’t get to vote in the event your team loses this three-week opener, you’ll want to help your team and your own cause in the meantime by doing the challenges.

TOTALS SO FAR

Likes Bacon: 4/-1/5/3/3/4/-1 = 17 divided by 7 people = 2.43
SPAWN OF STEINBECK: 5/2/3.5/3/5/3/3 = 24.5/7 = 3.5
Dark Stormy Knights: -1/3/3.5/3/3/4/3.5 = 19/7 = 2.71

So far, Spawn of Steinbeck is on pace to be Immune after this opening bit, but there’s plenty of time for them to screw that up. In the meantime, hopefully you can bother your non-submitting teammates and get their heads into this thing before they’re eliminated without a peep in this game.

I’ll put up the new challenge Tuesday, or before that if I decide I can’t wait.

Cheers, Survivors.