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A Million and One Writers

Now that I've read all the short story finalists for the Million Writers Award and cast my vote, I wanted to share my thoughts on them. Maybe this will help you find one that sparks your interest. This is the order they are listed in, and also the order in which I read them, which may have affected my judgment. Who can say?

    • Terry Bisson "Super 8" : This story builds momentum with fast cuts between characters and flashbacks/dreams and had me hooked all the way through. The pacing was superb. I clicked with the characters and really wanted to know what would happen next. I thought some of the dialogue could have been improved, but otherwise Super 8 was stellar.
    • Jai Clare "Bone on Bone" : I think that this is the best technically-written piece out of the ten. Another very strong entry, about a woman who loves a jazz pianist. The prose was perfect, but I didn't connect with it in any strong way... I enjoyed it from a distance.
    • Xujun Eberlein "Second Encounter" : Old enemies from China meet in a professional setting and trade war stories. Also well-written but personally unsatisfying for some elusive reason. It was interesting, and I enjoyed it on a surface level; I just never settled down into it. As with all these opinions, your mileage may vary.
    • Alicia Gifford "Toggling the Switch" : A murder! Or rather, if I've got my legal terms right, involuntary manslaughter? from the perpetrator's point of view. For a short story, this one somehow covered all the bases and did it well. Sex & drugs, life & death, crime & punishment. Plus it ends on the tasty edge of a moral dilemma. I'd like to read a novel by this woman.
    • Richard Grayson "Branch Libraries of Southeastern Brooklyn": While Super 8 was my favorite story because I felt like an outsider brought into an intimate circle of friends, "Branch Libraries" was the one I identified with personally. Maybe it's just my predilection for architecturally-based fiction, but I loved the format and the story. I guess I'd describe it as a boy's love letter to libraries.
    • Trebor Healey "The Mercy Seat" : After the tender memories evoked by the previous entry, this story was a wicked shot in the arm. The most brutally beautiful/ugly of the lot. It made me feel something, and that's always a plus in my book.
    • Dave Housley "Ryan Seacrest Is Famous" : The current leader in votes the last time I checked, this is a very short story about a former classmate's envy of the host of American Idol. I thought it was funny and may have even at one point "LOL'd," as the kids say. Otherwise it didn't really stand out to me. I may have just been experiencing short story fatigue at this point.
    • Joan Shaddox Isom "Remade Tobacco" : Further evidence of the critical mass hypothesis, this one sort of slid right by me. It's about a Native American girl, cigarettes, and her family, especially her veteran dad. A section in the middle joggled a bit in my mind and broke up the pacing. Might be a personal problem.
    • Corey Mesler "Madame Sabat's Grave": A regional folk tale of a witch's death and burial, written in word-of-mouth style. Once again, good story, but I just didn't care. There was nothing in the narrative for me to really hold onto. I need to be in the right mood for ghost stories, which is essentially what this account is.
    • Chika Unigwe "Dreams" : It's been a while since I read a story told in the second person. I found the effect vaguely disconcerting (perhaps due to the protagonist being a female; women may not experience the same aversion that I did). Otherwise, this is a good colorful story with a couple of nice twists.
This is why I would be a terrible critic, because I hate to say anything bad about someone else's work. Remember, the preceding are only my opinions based on one reading at one given time. I want to congratulate all ten writers for making it this far. Every one of these stories is excellent in some regard and worth a look. Readers: give them a chance. Writers: I love you all.


Alicia Gifford said...

Thanks for your comments about "Toggling the Switch" and for taking the time to read all the stories!

sui generis said...

You're very welcome. Thank you for writing it!