Before we find out who won this week’s award, let’s recap each of this week’s stories.
Damn Phones by Robert Madden
Written by occasional contributor Robert Madden, damn phones had our judges (and readers) split. A compelling intro:
“Brian would make the usual effort on his homeward train journey.”
Takes us into the everyday life of our protagonist as he tries to engage other commuters in conversation and drive them away from (or into) distraction.
It opened up an interesting debate about who was in the right and who was in the wrong. Was Brian revealing to us the isolation technology is causing us, or are we to look at Brian’s unwillingness to embrace the technological landscape as the real isolation? It’s an interesting predicament, and one that’s well handled by the author.
Matez by Nick Lachmund
Nick Lachmund’s stories always provoke. This week’s effort imagined a Tinder-style match making app but for friendship. Isolated after moving to his new family home, and encouraged by his wife, our protagonist hops onto the social service in the hope of finding new friends:
I’m a simple man. I like football, movies and drinking beer. On paper, I should be the easiest bloke in the world to hang out with. But it’s small talk and general conversation where I fall down.
While Matez is a fun, tongue-in-cheek tale, it also shines light on the reality of social isolation that can impact anyone. Combining mirth and satire with a darker look at the insidiousness of society has always been a trademark of Nick Lachmund’s work. It’s no less clearer on display here.
Is There Anybody Out There? | Sachin Sharma
Sachin Sharma also looked a male isolation in the Floydian-titled Is There Anybody Out There. There’s even a character here called Nick!
But where Lachmund’s story is outwardly satirical, Sharma’s tale leaves the darkness in the corners. Father-in-law relationships are at the forefront, and Sachin uses technology as a both a connecting force and an element of estrangement:
That day Nick pinged me
Can we chat 4 a bit?
Of course, I replied.
He started to fall apart, describing how he hated every single person in his school. Everyone, who seemed like a friend once, was now making fun of him. Nick thought his looks were to be blamed.
SwaqqxxTube’s EPIC MAIL CHALLENGE | Coco Huang
SwaqqxxTube’s EPIC MAIL CHALLENGE seems ripped straight from the headlines. Any story about the isolating effects of technology must, by necessity, be handled with a certain level of craft and sensitivity. Coco’s contemporary title is subterfuge for a tale as old as time. Dickhead guy objectifies and insults woman.
In this rendition we glimpse through a window the sordid and isolating life of internet stardom, as a PewDiePie-type attempts to exploit his attractive partner’s assets for his own gain.
“My pee bottle is almost full,” says my boyfriend Zeke as he holds its disgusting contents up to the camera. “But that’s alright, I’ll be out soon.”
It was refereshing to see the tale told from a different perspective. Coco manages to capture both the history and the happening of the event in a short space of time, and excellent example of how to structure flash fiction.
Lone Wolf | Shreya Parashar
Shreya has featured on a few shortlists over the past month, each tale with a lyrical lilt that invitees the reader to enjoy the story almost musically. In Lone wolf, a penitent man seeks redemption through conversation and observation with the local newsagent.
“Hey Johnny, are these phones ‘smart’ for real? Y’all look blockheads,” he guffawed.
Old generation rants, always! He believed that he had walked out of prison only to enter a dystopia. And yet he was desperate- to fit in.
Part flaneur, part outsider, this Lone Wolf is a voice insider each of us, desperate to fit in yet cautious of the style of the time. It’s a poignant effort from an author on the rise here at Needle in the Hay.
This was a really interesting award. The shortlisted stories were all variations on a theme, and it was interesting too see how topics around isolation drew out predominantly ‘male’ characters, which was also unexpected.
Second place by 0.9 of a point goes to the exciting Coco Huang. Congratulations Coco and keep up the excellent work.
First place is probably not a big surprise to many of you. It’s not like he hasn’t done this before. The winner for The Casual Act Quaint Award is the inimitable Nick Lachmund with Matez.
Thanks to all the authors who entered as well as the judges who helped out./ Also a big thanks to everyone who backed out latest compilation, WOLVES.
Up now we have the National Bored Band Award Shortlist. Check it out and have your say in the comments!