Yo! I was the shitty mystery judge who totally didn't get their shit together for a low-volume reading job. The results are up, and so I'm not going to bother with a balanced assessment of everybody's work. Instead, just to celebrate the few who put themselves out there, I'm going to talk about what I enjoyed from everybody's work.
The anxious part of me loved this to pieces. I could tell the writer enjoyed the process. Particularly I was drawn into the voice, which was incredibly singular and unforgettable. I was laughing all the way through it. I believe by allowing the narrative to tinker with absurdity and chaos, and simply having fun, there were some sentences that sparked interest and attention and were truly innovative. I love a lot of poets, and some of my favorites shirk convention and create something unique through odd adjacent shifts, like Michael Robbins, Kyle Flak, James Tate, and others. I could imagine them each finding something about this piece that grabbed them.
Oh Shit I Didn't Think of a Title
I read this after The Quest, and so I imagined it would be similar in how the name implies an impulsiveness. However, I was misled by my own assumptions, but not in a bad way. On the contrary. This story reminded me indirectly of Vonnegut's Breakfast For Champions, specifically in how the perspective shifts toward the end. Whereas Vonnegut goes from third to first by introducing himself as a character, this goes from strict second-person into first-person direct address, and flawlessly, and completely entertaining with a strong seasoning of vile, but never losing the tension that comes with the stranger, who hovers excellently across the protagonist's entire day. The cheese sandwich factory scabs also sounds like my new favorite psychobilly band.
Blowing it Spectacularly: The Lustful Gaze of a Saucy Stepdad
Y'all, your fucking titles! I'm actually amused though, and was impressed by how much understanding of tension and situation we got in the beginning simply from people talking. Being dialogue-heavy from the very beginning is difficult when it comes to building context, but I knew who was talking, what their relationship was, and what their other relationships were, that it compelled me through the story and into the action, which occurs only we're more than halfway through the story. That's not an easy feat, but it felt easy to read.
The Bloody Scarab's Wrath
The main character finds himself beginning as strongly unsympathetic. He's selling his own wife to score. Yet, the sympathy--or empathy for that matter (depending on who you are)--I end up feeling for this character came as a pleasant turn and surprise for me. I was expecting to despise everybody like I did in other entries. However, the heart reveals itself splendidly, and when it's crushed, I feel flattened myself.
Also, if the bloody scarab in a vial is a Cowboy Bebop homage: thank you.
If not, still. It made me think of it, so thanks!
While I regret not being able to provide a thorough critique, as the other judges took upon themselves, I'm happy I had the chance to read your work, and hope to read more later.