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Hey, gang! I had a movie shoot last night (out of nowhere) that went very late. As such, I’m just now able to post this. Luckily, things are now much simpler around here so this should be easier from here on out.

Here’s how scoring works: in each challenge, each of the judges gives medals to half the field. With 26 responders this means that this time, there are 13 medals: 4 Gold, 4 Silver and 5 Bronze, which are worth five, three and one point respectively. The four people who scored the highest will be the captains. During the season, scoring will work the same, and the team that scores the lowest number of medal points per person per challenge is the one that will eliminate someone (though in all cases, a team with a non-submitter will eliminate someone as well).

It worked out nicely: we have four top performers this week without having to break ties! However, there’s a lot of good stuff here, and even if you’re not a captain, you should read it for fun.

Let’s get to it. At the bottom, I’ll mention which four stories produced the captains and will shortly be asking them to draft their teams.
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Hey there, Survivors! Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve gotten to run my own game? Seven months and three days. Yes, I’m counting.

I believe we’ve hit a wall with 21 players here. It’s not “officially” capped but if nobody else does the pre-draft challenge, this is where we’ll settle.

In the writing seasons, we have a bad habit of ending up with wildly disproportionate teams. This time, if we end up with wildly disproportionate teams, it’ll be the captains’ fault.

By Friday at 9pm Central, have a story sent to me (foreverunchanged@gmail.com) that’s exactly 100 words long, or shorter. It can be about anything. Gilman, DK and I will judge these – while not making them public – and the top three scorers will draft people based on their stories (they’ll see the stories, but not the names of the people who wrote them). Only the captains will know the results of the draft, and nobody else will even be told who the captains are (captains won’t even know the identities of the other captains). This will be as blind as possible on our end. I won’t belabor this and explain all the ins and outs, because if you aren’t a captain, it won’t really pertain to you.

There is no other benefit to being a captain after the draft. Also, it should be obvious, but there will be no elimination after this challenge.

During the game, as you should know if you’ve played before, it’s very bad to fail to submit a story. In this challenge, if you fail to submit, you’ll be subject to random draw at the end of the draft with all the other nonsubs, and your captain will be told the identity of all teammates who didn’t submit a story.

This should be it, unless you have questions for me (if you do, use the email address above, which will be the only one you use throughout the game). I’ll now email everyone about this as well, and from there I’ll expect you to either be subscribed to the site or be paying attention to know when the deadlines are.

Alright, is that everything? I think it is. Cheers, Survivors.

This should be easy enough for me to run even alongside Gods and Mortals, partially because G&M is built for speed and simplicity, partially because it’s a Fiction 59 season, and partially because the current Survivor challenge will never, ever end.

Two challenges per week. I’ll try to schedule as regularly as possible, but with me in retail, yadda yadda yadda. Medal system. Six in the playoffs.

I have a bead on someone for co-judging, but if that person isn’t into it I’ll ask for someone. Update: That person prefers to play. If you’re into judging, let me know and I’ll get someone involved. Second Update: Melissa and Will are going to judge with me. So, polish up your history lessons for Will and your manipulative tearjerkers for Melissa. THE ABUSE WILL LAST ALL SEASON LONG

Annette Barron
Pete Bruzek
Dean Carlson
Kate Crisp
Brian David
Jack Haas
Bret Highum
Ben Johnson
Brooks Maki
Margaret Martin
Matt Novak
Christina Pepper
Jonathon Pope
Ian Pratt
Zack Sauvageau
Sama
Beau
Erik S
Colin Woolston
Sarah Wreisner

Aloha, Survivors! Aloha means hello. Also, it means goodbye, which is likely what we’ll be saying to the person who nonsubbed this week, unless his team decides otherwise.

Bad news aside, we had a very exciting, interesting round of stories here. I didn’t mean to score on a forced curve, but it almost became one just because the best stories were so good. I knew this would be a great season so it’s boring for me to mention it, but I’ll add that we had more variance in concepts and tones than I can remember having in Survivor X. Can this season live up to those lofty expectations? My gut says yes. Prove me right, bitches.

On with it. After all, it’s been hours since the last game got done here already.
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Well Aloha, Survivors! Surely, there’s no better time to get this underway than after midnight where most of you live. Anyway, Big Brother will be over on or before Monday, it seems, so I’m going to go ahead and get an obvious challenge out of the way. To my new players: this one opens nearly every writing game.
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K: Hey, Survivors! This is Kelly “Spookymilk” Wells, your friendly host. Below, you’ll find that my scores don’t seem particularly friendly, but if it was easy to get a five, what would be the point? I only gave two of them and saw enough room for improvement that I issued eight scores of two, but I did enjoy our opening week here. Anyway, it was an optional week, so this was more for you than it was for me.

I apologize in advance for how difficult your next challenge is, but hey, it’s one I’ve always wanted to run and it only works with teams of equal numbers, so eat me.

DK: One of the traditional directions of Fiction 59s is building to some kind of twist or “not what it seems” ending. Because it’s hard not to be aware some of those are coming, I’ve found that I often respond better to stories that build to a strong, natural ending rather than those that come off as a “Gotcha!”.

Will Young, I’m With Stupid

Anthony always hated summer. His skin turned even darker after spending all day, every day in the sun. Not only that, but he was also usually covered in dirt. Hauling supplies up that same hill was never a picnic. When that kid showed up with his magnifying glass and focused the sunlight right on his back, Anthony was thrilled.

K: Wow, this one came out of nowhere. Fiction 59 practically begs for a surprise for its punch, and the problem is that as a judge I know they’re coming – so if you can STILL surprise me, kudos. This one pulled it off. It’s a great opening to the season. I hope they’re all about ants! 4

DK: I like this one because the ant’s nature is hinted at throughout the buildup, and I appreciate the sardonic tone of the ending. 4

Ryan Fossum, SPOILER ALERT!

Both of us in bed, her nails rake my back.
As the pain turns to pleasure I drive harder to match her effort.
Her body writhes forcefully against mine.
Eventually her arms and legs slow to our sheets of ruin.
It only took three minutes; I thought it would take longer.
Should I remove the pillow from her face?

K: Sweet Jesus. If there’s one thing I’ve learned after ten seasons of this game, it’s that Fiction 59 is usually loaded with death (we’re two for two, assuming our friend Anthony bit it in the first one). I LOVE the dichotomy of the second to last and last lines. We have a comedy! Nope, we have a sick tragedy. 4

DK: The “Turns out it’s not sex!” twist story is a popular one (I’ve done it before, badly), but the tension is palpable and the imagery is solid. 3

Patrick Kozicky, Nibbish and his Vogons

Rodney checked his watch fifteen times as he sped down the highway. His mind raced with the car. Three blind dates in four weeks. He promised himself, this would be his last blind date. The car pulled into the driveway. He checked himself in the mirror. He slipped the knife into the back of his jeans. He was ready.

K: I’m counting this as a “death” Fiction 59, since we see where it’s going. I love that Rodney has just enough humanity to promise himself this is it, although we know he’s lying. I still haven’t read the story that knocks me flat, but our opening stories are all solid enough. I’ll admit I saw this one coming, though. 3

DK: This is an example of a twist that just didn’t quite click for me; it may not have been too hard to see coming, and the rest of the building action didn’t elevate it for me. 2

Tom Morgan, I’m With Stupid

Tom’s parents abused him. One day, when he grew up, he wrote about it. Everyone loved it and told him so- except the people who abused him and the other foolish simpletons who chose them over him. They blamed him for not being nice to his abusers. Tom hugged his wife and took his kids to the goddamned zoo.

K: Is this autobiographical, what with there being a Tom in this game? I’m a little behind on his blog – maybe that would give me my answer. This one has some meaning behind it, but unfortunately, it’s a bit of a mishmash and feels like more anecdote than story. 2

DK: If Tom wrote this, it could be kind of meta, in which case, Tom, I don’t blame you for not being nice to your parents. In any case, though, the last line is a little bizarre. 3

JG Berwald, Nibbish and his Vogons

So I sees my partner Murphy from across the precinct and I moves to catch up with him. “Ey, Murph!” I says, “You nabbed The Wrench last night while I was snoozin’?”
Murphy shrugs, “Had to move fast; I wonder if that bastard put a price on my head yet?”
“I’d wager he has!” I says, brandishing my roscoe.

K: I wish this felt more complete somehow, because I love the tone and payoff. Something about the opening line is TOO conversational, maybe, given where we’re going? I’m overanalyzing, but hey, it’s my preseason too. 3

DK: I appreciate the commitment to both the language and the tense in this one, and the flavor that language adds makes this ending feel like a fluid development out of this kind of scenario. 4

John Wreisner, Nibbish and his Vogons

I got the telescope for my twelfth birthday and only looked at the moon three times. The apartment across the street was too enticing. One night I saw a man hit his wife with a spatula and blood came out of her hairline like yolk leaking out of an eggshell. After that the moon didn’t look so mysterious anymore.

K: If this is a death, we’re five for six. This is very Rear Window-y, which can’t possibly be bad (unless it felt like a straight ripoff, and it doesn’t). The imagery here is just horrible, and again, I mean this in a good way. Once again I suppose I don’t feel like we have something complete here, but I’ve always been a bitch about Fiction 59, so whatever. 4

DK: I love the yolk analogy. I’m not really bothered by the Rear Window-esque setup; my biggest issue is that this doesn’t quite hit as a satisfying complete story. I like it, but I feel like it’s merely a beginning. 3

Dean Carlson, SPOILER ALERT!

Senior executives from Hasbro and 20th Century Fox were sitting around the table. They’d been breathlessly waiting years for this moment. Lucas had finally written the Star Wars prequel he promised them and was now unveiling the film’s new marketable character. “Start printing money boys,” Lucas gleefully proclaimed as the long-eared character appeared on the screen. “Introducing Jar-Jar Binks!”

K: It seems like fish in a barrel here. I mean, there’s nothing untrue being presented, it just seems a little obvious. I think it suffers from the fact that I’m not even a Star Wars fan and I knew where it was going. 2

DK: Har har. This isn’t a twist, so much as a punchline that’s not hard to see coming pretty early on, but I still smirked. 3

Matt Novak, Nibbish and his Vogons

He’d shaken off the catcher twice on the last pitch. Now Ramos called for a slider. Why waste an out pitch on a one one count? But he’d throw it; didn’t want the Braves to pick up on the tension.

The pitch whirred towards the plate, cutting at Bourn’s knees as he swung over the top. One and two.

K: Baiting me with baseball is certainly not a bad idea, and I know immediately who these players and teams are, but the story’s incomplete (we don’t even know what Bourn’s outcome is here!) and we have some weirdness in the second sentence, which starts with “but” and has a second half that omits the opening article. I know Fiction 59 begs for that sort of thing, but still, most people avoid it. 2

DK: I almost came away expecting more (I mean, I am: did they get Bourn out or not?) but as the complete story of one pitch, it’s pretty solid. 4

Peter Bruzek, Nibbish and his Vogons

He started tiring six miles into the trip. The directions were clear, but the journey seemed impossible. He only wanted to see the louvre, eat Flamiche, and maybe flirt with some pretty girls. Instead, he was going to drown in the Atlantic Ocean.

“Fucking Google Maps” was all he could think as his head dipped underwater that final time.

K: Don’t hate me, but this is totally what I want out of this challenge. There’s a hell of a stinger, and the more I think about it, the funnier it is (and the harder it is to believe that it was delivered in 59 words). This sounds like something only I would do, what with my rotten sense of direction. 5

DK: Stories where people die because of bad luck or circumstance, if the pathos is there, are kind of a sweet spot for me (cause I’m a sick, sick dude) and the unfolding of the situation is great. 5

Shawn Ashley, SPOILER ALERT!

“Oh, yeah,” he breathed as he loomed above me, not really looking at me. A line of hot sweat ran off of his forehead, heading straight for my mouth.
I stare up at him, unimpressed.
He’s going to blow it soon. My husband often does.
“Fuckin’ frame!” He yells, as the picture falls to the ground with a crack.

K: This is so disturbing that it can only belong to Shawn Ashley, right? This is visceral and I feel this scene almost more than I want to. I almost went with 5, but hey, I’m going to be tough this season, I guess. 4

DK: As another “not sex” story, it’s okay, but the tense change throws this one off the rails. I’m sort of waiting for someone to write a really good, engaging story for this challenge wherein people are actually having sex. 2

Ben Johnson, I’m With Stupid

It hadn’t been a terrible day. Bad perhaps, but insufficient to require what was coming. Did that matter? It didn’t. What did? Did Anne? She’d be sad, disappointed, maybe angry? Probably this time she’d be beyond any of that. Paul knew he didn’t care how she felt. Feigned concern had become as reflexive as breathing.
He took the hit.

K: This one feels like a paragraph that’s part of a much longer story. I can feel our relationship here, but I don’t get the sense of completeness I’m looking for. A shame, because I think the stakes could be raised and we could end up with something pretty strong. 2

DK: The tone is effectively dark and despairing, although it feels a little choppy (I could see the argument where the choppiness is intended as part of the effect, though). 3

Leif Bierly, SPOILER ALERT!

Her chest was cut open wide. Looking down and inside herself, she screamed. Steve thought it couldn’t get any worse. She realized suddenly that it was a dream. No one in the history of people could have cancerous tumors resembling sliced green peppers. The dream and she woke up to the smell of bacon sizzling in the kitchen.

K: If you’d told me I would be reading a story that ended with “It was all a dream” I would have been mighty annoyed, but the imagery is strong enough for me to like what we have here. Plus, omelets rule. 3

DK: The protagonist is Steve? I know it’s kind of judge failure sometimes if they don’t fully “get” what’s going on, but I can’t really latch on to the throughline of this story, especially with the strange ending (and I’m not sure if the author accidentally a word or is saying “the dream woke up”.) 2

Beau, Nibbish and his Vogons

Jackie finished her lunch, said goodbye to her friends, and went outside to wait.

“Hey Jacqueline!” she heard behind her. “Are you expecting someone?”

Jackie hated that name. Looking up at the shrill voice, she replied sternly, “Yes, my mother is coming to pick me up. I’m taking her out to lunch.”

The nurse sighed and walked back inside.

K: Hey, we have some layers here. Spoiler alert (oops, I forgot that was a team name, but I mean this): a little deception goes a LONG way with me, and Jackie has some going on here. I also get a sense of who she is just from the way she hates her proper name. I can’t tell if Jackie is a mental patient or if she’s just a deceptive nurse, but I’m sure this is interesting either way. 4

DK: Simple, but effective, without a “Gotcha” or anything, and the two lunches thing suggests a depth of conflict at the same time as the story itself is complete and satisfying. 4

Andy Rustleund, I’m With Stupid

The entrance to the fifth and final chamber lay just ahead. So far, everything had been easy, maybe too easy. But what Indiana Jones saw next stopped him cold. “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?” He was NOT going in there. “Dr. Jones, we need all of the chaperons with the class, please.” Zookeepers. He hated those guys.

K: Alright, I rolled my eyes in a good way. The last three words paid it off nicely; the joke is delivered AND it sounds like Indiana Jones should. 3

DK: Kind of a groaner more than a smirker for me. 2

David Larson, SPOILER ALERT!

To be performing on stage with all her idols — it HAD to be a mistake. Rocky had a more realistic storyline. Yet here she was, plying the drums, laying down a beat with the tightest jazz all-star ensemble, well, EVER. She glanced around as she played, taking it all in. And ever so carefully, Sharlee added…more…cowbell…

K: Oh, boy. This is kind of an outdated joke and we take kind of a while to get there, although I do like the mini-swipe at Rocky. The wide-eyed ditziness sells it, though. 3

DK: The sweet, wide-eyed tone of the story proper makes the ending – which could be a yawner in a more even-keeled setup – hit the right mark. 4

Zack Sauvageau, Nibbish and his Vogons

Spencer noticed the clock and began to chew faster. He took a sip of water to try to moisten the sticky ball of food in his mouth. The timer hit zero; his efforts were in vain. Ryan smirked, and placed his hand out expectantly. Spencer’s heart sunk. He couldn’t believe he just lost his wife over a fucking burrito.

K: Is this a reference to something? Either way, that’s a hell of a payoff. The vagueness might be hurting this one. I want more. Not MUCH more, but a little more. 4

DK: Love it. Well-balanced blend of tragedy and comedy, and the “twist” – the wife loss – doesn’t feel tacked-on because the tension rises throughout the buildup. Hard to critique this one because it just works so well. 5

Brooks Maki, Nibbish and his Vogons

I stopped to lean against this wall.
My wall.
Instantly, I felt trembling upon my touch.
My wall will fall.
I’m compelled to stay, lend my supportive hands.
My wall.
Breaking contact condemns it to destruction.
My wall will fall.
My hands bleed as the wall fights to come down.
My wall.
I let go.
My wall will fall.

K: This is high concept, and I’m sorry to say after a few reads it hasn’t given me that moment of A-HA yet. I get that the wall is actually weakened by our lead character, but I don’t know why. Are we in a bad relationship here? I’m going to be annoyed when I find out what I missed, I hope. 3

DK: I’m kind of teetering on the balance between 4 and 5 with this one; it doesn’t quite hit a perfect emotional response for me, but I want to generally reward out of the box/original thinking on these standard Spookymilk challenges that achieve as much success as this one does with a different approach. 5

Colin Woolston, SPOILER ALERT!

A size small red and blue Spider Man glove dangled from his frozen index finger, it’s pendulous swing keeping time with the heart pounding in his chest. His mouth fixed itself in a ridiculous Mr Bill “O” of shock and horror. The blood on the street accepted his tears hungrily, and they both mixed slowly as the sirens approached.

K: Is this Uncle Ben’s death? I think so. Anyway, the Mr. Bill simile would be right at home in a comedy, but felt out of place in our dark piece here. 2

DK: Nothing wrong with this; I like the consistency of the iconographic imagery and the contrast it makes with the harsh realism of the situation. It just doesn’t hit me as sharply as some of the others here do. 3

Don Campbell, I’m With Stupid

The terrible scream of the audience pierced through his mind. His concentration was shot. The knife in his left hand trembled visibly. The maw of the beast before him was coated in slaver and he could smell rot emanating from its matted fur. He faltered for but a moment, but in that moment he knew his streak was over.

K: Glorious. I felt and saw everything here, and I don’t detect a single wasted word. From the word choices to the unfortunate payoff telling us everything we need to know, this is my favorite of the week. 5

DK: Very good. I feel like I’m there in the arena, which is all I can ask of any of these stories. 4

Jake Elliott, SPOILER ALERT!

Everything was perfect. I’m not quite sure how it got that way, but it was. I had always lived paycheck to paycheck, but suddenly money was no longer an issue. All my worries seemed distant. I could do whatever I desired. Abruptly my alarm went off, everything wasn’t perfect. I hit the snooze button and went back to perfection.

K: Another “It was all a dream!” I tells ya, people. I don’t object to the idea of this one, but I wish the dream had been a little more specific, and I wish the morning reaction had been a lot more pissed off. 2

DK: Might be the result of getting another use of a dream setup (I know that no one, likely, knows what anyone else is writing about, but it just doesn’t generally help when there’s several stories that use similar devices) but this doesn’t do much for me. I knew right off the bat that everything wasn’t going to really be perfect, so the rest of it was just marking time. 2

Zillah Glory, SPOILER ALERT!

He looked twice, which was the wrong thing to do.

The up-swell knocked Laura to the floor. Curded milk and the remains of eggs-over-easy covered her new Laboutins. “You jack nut! How -?”

Spencer grabbed her wrist, pointed.

It was Zarek. Seventeen. Head dangling. Blue. On his swollen belly, a crow.

The Bad-Luck Ball faded. Out went all innocence.

K: As often with stories this vague, I’m going to assume it belongs to Zillah. The imagery is strong – SO strong – but there’s too much left unsaid here. 2

DK: There’s probably something really clever going on here, and Spooky’s probably got whatever it is, but I haven’t. I hate, then, to expose this to weak grading because of possible judge failure again, but I can’t say it works for me. 2

Bret Highum, I’m With Stupid

I had clung there for so long. I’d known I would fall; it was as inevitable as the changing of the seasons, but the terror of the emptiness below me had had turned my complexion a brilliant red before a chilly gust of wind broke my tenuous hold. I started to fall, spiraling downwards, screaming silently the whole way.

K: There’s a lot of imagery here, but a lot of it feels obvious, particularly “as inevitable as the changing of the seasons.” There’s talent here but it feels wasted on an anecdote with no lyrical surprises. 2

DK: This is another good example of something that works for me better than the winky twists usually do. The ending is exactly what you’d expect, but because the buildup sells the impossibility of any other conclusion and augments it with strong imagery, it connects. 4

======================================

So, there we are. Josh Mitchell and Sean Kelly were both no-shows for I’m With Stupid for some reason, but hopefully they’re not going to be long-term problems.

This is normally the point where I figure out the team’s average score per person, and the losing team votes someone out. This is a non-elimination week, though, so you can all instead use it to strut around or bitch at me about how I missed the point.

At any rate, challenge two will be posted tomorrow sometime, and you’ll hate me, because it’s pretty in-depth. It could produce a lot of awesomeness, though. Or hey, it could fail to inspire anyone. That’s the trouble with running new challenges.

See you then.

Cheers,
The Milkman

Alright, Survivors and Survivorettes (once again, there aren’t enough Survivorettes. Females used to dominate this game. Is my sex appeal dead or something?), here we go.

Fiction 59 is always the first challenge in this game, and this season is no exception. It’ll be a short week, but don’t sweat it too much, because there are no penalties for sucking.

Your task is to write a complete story in exactly 59 words. There’s some confusion between Google Docs, Word and other programs about what constitutes a “word,” but let’s put it this way: if I can figure out why you came up with 59 words, it’s good enough.

Stories can be about anything, and will be scored on a scale of 1-5 (I’m going to come out and say that “1” from me is almost nonexistent. I have to assume you were saying “FU” to the challenge and giving no effort to even consider it). You’ll notice that I give a lot of threes, but don’t think of that in terms of 60% – think of it more in terms of Netflix: 5-Loved it, 4-Really Liked it, 3-Liked it, 2-Didn’t like it, 1-Hated it. I just “like” a lot of things.

Anyway, there will be no elimination this week, and no penalty for not submitting, although penalties for not submitting will be harsh later. This is a chance for you to try something and see what we think of that style, and for you to get an idea of who your teammates are. So, while there’s no penalty for not submitting, your teammates will almost certainly notice that you didn’t submit and will wonder if they can rely on you in the long run.

Since there’s no elimination this week, scores will mean nothing other than giving noobs and people new to the writing seasons a barometer. In the case that this week is needed for a future tiebreaker, however, your scores will be used (so the reasons to do this are mounting, I guess).

They’re due Saturday by 5pm Central in my inbox (foreverunchanged@gmail.com). Judging goes like this: I don’t open the challenge emails, I just set them into a separate folder. At the end of the submission period, my wife randomizes them so I don’t know who wrote what. I copy the document and send it to DK, and we do our scoring. Then I cut and paste his scores and comments into my document, and post the results here. Normally, then, the losing team would have to vote out a member (anonymously) by Monday, but since there’s no elimination, you can expect me to post a new challenge either late Saturday or early Sunday that will be due the following Saturday.

One last piece of business: Ryan Fossum asked about the game out of nowhere (he hasn’t played since season V) and Patrick Kozicky finally got back to me as well. If a third person shows up, and I think one might, the three of them will randomly be added to the current teams. But then, folks, we’re capped. Okay? Good Lord.

Cheers, Survivors. I like the level of talent this season. Don’t f*&^in’ let me down.

Hey there, kids. These are the Fiction 59 stories that were used to draft teams. There were a lot of people who didn’t send one, which is a little disconcerting, but hey, it’s the only Spookymilk Survivor we have, right?

Peter Bruzek

Pablo had a chance to show his loyalty at the trial and he had declined. Now that the coup had failed, the crown had no use for mute confederates.

He had seen his fate, but he did not flee, he simply closed his eyes and died with a whisper.

“Sic semper prōditōrēs.” Thus always to traitors – even passive ones.

Bret Highum

I cautiously inserted the slim wire into the case. The designer had known this was a weakness, and he had added features to deter men like me. But with a well-practiced twist at just the right angle, I avoided both blocking mechanisms and triggered the release.
I’ll be damned if I’ll pay two dollars for a bag of Funyuns.

JG Berwald

She was known as a gifted chef and, to those closest to her, a clairvoyant who always believed in embracing what fate decreed. No one was surprised when we found a feast’s worth of delicacy-filled Tupperware containers chilling in the freezer labeled “For My Funeral On Friday” the day after she was suddenly killed by an errant bus.

Geoff Beckstrom

I looked across at him. He intimidated the hell out of me, a face hard and worn from years on the
streets. It was clear that he was much stronger than I having beaten me twice already and taken
my money. I refused to give up, though, as I made my move, took a deep breath and proclaimed –
“checkmate”.

Erik Sundberg

It’s tough growing up in a small town. It’s even tougher ending up as a stripper in the small town you grew up in. Do you have any idea what it’s like giving lap dances to kids you used to babysit for?

And if my old Gym teacher asks me for head one more time, I swear to God…

Zack Savageau

For him, every day was the same:

An early alarm.

Thankless work.

Home after dark.

He felt like he was stuck in a bad movie; forced to relive every day. Time blurred. A day turned into a year, a year turned into his lifetime.

I’ve found the same thing’s happening to me. I fear it happens to us all.

Dana Hazen

There was a show put on by MPR called Wits. Many, many public radio fans, geeks, and passerby (who had previously purchased tickets) came to the Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul. They were entertained by Neil Gaiman, Josh Ritter, Wil Wheaton, and Adam Savage until they puked from laughing.

Colin Woolston

“Dammit woman I’m talking. Finish the dishes,” said Harlan.
Harlan and Merle sat on the porch silently, wooden rocking chairs keeping time with the crickets. Cheryl was visible through the window between the two men, dishtowel in hand, glaring at the men.
“I’ll do it tomorrow. She’ll know then,” said Harlan.
Merle’s weathered hand reached out; touched Harlan’s quietly.

Rachel Dwyer

“How the Mighty Fall”

The God-king was the only one left. With the blood of his bodyguard on the blade and in the name of those he bitterly oppressed, I sank the weapon deep into him. If there was to be a sacrifice today, his blood and his life will satisfy the gods. We shared a glare of mutual hate as he sank.

Zillah Glory

It took too long.

Outside of the drone, a ground-up reminder that bones don’t break down as quickly as hoped, there was silence – loud enough that when Sarah finally bit through her nail and her teeth clicked, everyone sighed.

“Who’s going to-?” She licked. Metal.

“Me.” Martin? Since when? He shuffled. Grew.

Her nail, forgotten, bled. She kept laughing.

So, the deal was this: my call for Fiction 59 stories was meant to decide teams. Here’s how:

The top two story writers would draft teams based on their stories, and each player would be allowed to know where he or she was drafted, but wouldn’t have access to anything else. However, with just 9 of 16 players doing a story, I’m considering this: the two top story writers will still draft, but they’ll be able to see who’s who. The people who don’t submit stories, though, will be subject to a random draft and may not end up with teammates that they want.

I plan on getting the stories read in just a couple of hours here, so if you have one to send, it’s time.

Spooks

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.

Your competition, and also you

HALL OF CHAMPIONS

SPOOKYMILK SURVIVOR

I: Rachel “The Double-Dealer” Flynn

II: Ryan “The Snake” Fossum

III: Patrick “The Gentleman” Kozicky

IV: Brienne “The Submitter” Maner

V: Rusty “The Porn Star” Greene

VI: Brooks “The Unlikely Hero” Maki

VII: William “The Soulful” Schuth

VIII: Brooks “The Survivor” Maki

IX: Zack “The Ice Cream Man” Sauvageau

X: Pete “The Vacuum Cleaner” Bruzek

Turbo: Brooks “The 1956-1979 Montreal Canadiens” Maki

XI: Matt “The Cold-Hearted Motherf*&^er” Novak

All-Stars (XII): Andy “The Quiet Man” Rustleund

XIII: Sarah “Clarence’s Hope” Bizek

XIV: Dan “The Professional” Kautz

XV: Christina “Assault And” Pepper

XVI: Matt “The First-Time Player” Novak

XVII: Stacy “Saintly Patience” Snell

XVIII: Brian “Checkmate” David

XIX: Annette “Eammon for the Top” Barron

XX: Daniel “Neville “Smash “Hardware” Hardwood” Longbottom” Caouette

XXI: Pete “The Comeback Kid” Bruzek

XXII: Dan “The Even More Professional” Kautz

XXIII: Melissa “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” David

XXIV: Stacy “Fucking” Snell

GODS AND MORTALS
I: Dragging Rivet’s Name Through the Mud One Last Time: Matt Novak (Ultragrandpa) and Michael Rivet (Friph Flipher-Fiph)
II: Bahambo Number 5: Pete “Triple Crown” Bruzek and Michelle “Single Tiara…So Far” Pratt

BIG BROTHER
I: Brooks “Oh, for the Love of God” Maki
II: Michael “#DDB” Rivet
III: Pete “Fortune’s Fool” Bruzek
IV: Erin “All Seven and We’ll Watch Them Fall” Leslie
V: Jake “Littlefinger” Elliott

FALL, CAESAR
2014: Brooks “The Creator” Maki
2015: Matt “The Artist” Novak
2016: Matt “Waited Them Out” Novak
2017: Annette “I Would’ve Voted for You” Barron

THE ROYAL RUMBLE
2013: #21 Greg “The Gallant Glutton of Greatness” Johnson
2014: #29 Jonathon “Big Papa” Pope
2015: #8 Christina “Am I in This?” Pepper
2016: #22 Annette “No Backs Stabbed” Barron
2017: #30 Bernice “The Vulture” Nicaise
2018: #17 Carrie “Solid Gold” Bard
2019: #16 Jake “The Jabroni” Elliott

PLAY WITH THE PROSE
(Writing, non-elimination)
I: Sarah “Centipede Face” Johnson
II: Sarah “The Johnson Eliminator” Wreisner
III: Colin “Lonely Old Moon” Woolston
IV: Melissa “Not Sidebar Material” Diamond
V: Sama “No Family Reunions” Smith
VI: Sarah “Tumor Face” Wreisner
VII: John “Cult Following” Wreisner
VIII: Joshua “Peed the Bed” Longman
VIII: Annette “Oh, Right, That’s Who Won” Barron

WEREWOLF (most recent)

Werewolf Stats Spreadsheet

PUZZLE CHALLENGE
I (Pure): Matthew “The Obsessor” Gilman
I (Power): Kelly “The Novak-Destroyer” Wells

DIPLOMACY
I: Matt “Exploiter of Worlds” Novak (France)

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