And the winner is...
Ben-El: An impressive piece of work, but... I don't know. It just didn't grab me. Maybe if I'd actually read or watched I, Claudius it would have made more sense to me, but as it is, it seems like it's relying on some common subtext that I just don't have. That, and every now and then you throw in a jarring anachronism; for example, distances measured in meters. An ancient Roman would have used steps or paces. (Two steps to a pace, 125 paces to a stadium, 1000 paces to a mile. You have to know these things when you're the king.)
All in all, it's an impressive piece of work, and I can't help feeling that it's due to some failing on my part that I don't quite understand it.
Al: You were doing good until I got to the Qwarumpf tributes. Then, when the Elder God Dread Qwatchoolyoo made his appearance, I lost it. I understood what you were trying to do with the names, once I went back and sounded them out, and this does make for a clever little bit of Imitation Lovecraft, but in print the names read more like silly jokes than anything else and they undercut the story. I think, if you took yourself just slightly more seriously, this would be a more effective story.
Good try, though.
Vidad: I don't know what to say about this one. Increasingly, I never know what to say about your entries. It's good, it's funny, it's clever — and then it breaks into a wonderfully awful Art Garfunkel solo. If that segment had just ended with the sound of Garfunkel being devoured by zombies... Yeah, I know, an overworked cliché, but after 40 years of listening to his reedy tenor it's something I devoutly desire.
In the end, bonus points for rhyming "Mossberg" with "Pittsburgh," but it didn't advance to the medal round.
Henry: I don't know how to fault this one. It feels like it's just one more light edit from being salable to a fantasy magazine, but I'm not sure what I would change. This one would have been the winner, in a week with weaker competition. But...
Snowdog: I found plenty of faults in this one. It's too topical. There are too many inside jokes. In three days it will be old news. In three months it will become a Federal crime to write something like this that might be construed as disparaging to The Chosen One.
Then Karen insisted that I listen to the audio version.
Whoa. Damn, you have a natural story-telling style that just smooths right over all the story's faults. You really tell this one well, down to giving each character a slightly different but uniquely identifiable voice. (And just a subtle kiss of reverb in exactly the right spots? Nice production values!) If I had a project right now that required a voiceover talent, you'd be at the top of my call list.
But... but... but it isn't fair to those who can't do that kind of production. But it's just so darn entertaining. But...
Karen and I had quite a disagreement over this one.
Which leaves us with Rigel Kent, and I don't have much to say about "Blaze of Glory" except that it's beautiful, and it works. Maybe I didn't have the right idea in mind when I issued this particular challenge, but this one definitely nails the idea I had. I suspect Bane either would have really liked this story, or else really hated it, because it's so much like something he would have written.
Thus, we ended up with a split decision. I picked Rigel's "Blaze of Glory," while Karen picked Snowdog's "Night of the Obamanation." We negotiated; we bargained; had Henry's "Lord of the Hunt" been given the same audio production treatment as Snowdog's story we would probably still be debating it. But in the end, we settled on Rigel Kent as the winner, with second place to Snowdog. So Rigel and Snowdog, come on down and claim your prizes.
And Snowdog, if you would like to write a guest piece on just how exactly you did a production like that, I'm sure we'd all be eager to learn.