Winner Announcement: The Poke The Mango Award

With four on point and pointed displays of augmented reality it was always going to take something special to stand out from the pack this week.

Andrew Szermerdy’s second showing on the Needle short list continues his propensity for banterific dialogue, meandering through a perverse work of virtual peek-a-boo as our two protagonists try to make ends meet only to meet at the end… as meat. Here’s what Andrew had to say about his inspiration:

“I wrote my piece on a whiff; like all my better efforts, it also came out almost automatically, without much or any thinking by me.

Once the initial idea of a machine which creates perceived reality out of imagination solidified into an instrument with an “on-off” switch and possibly (implied in the writing but not spelled out) having an interface with the operator’s mind, I applied the idea to the most mundane, everyday life of a person, taken randomly of a boring day, and somehow my subconscious, muse-kissed mind channeled and transformed this boring, drudge of a day into one brilliant outstanding day for the hero.

I would like to say that this was intentional, but it was only created by me, yet not intentionally; for my pen was guided by my “muse”, I only needed to hold the instrument in my hand. I am one of the many writers and creators who, I surmise, like me, get into the creative mood on a level of thinking and planning that is done in recesses of our minds which we don’t have in the forefront of the conscious.

There is an entire philosophy of how creation and problem-solving works which philosophy I needed to create in order to explain this phenomenon, which more-or-less coincides with the phenomenon that has been described since ancient times as “being kissed by the muse”.

Jeanette Stampone also explores the relationship between desire and reality, though through a parent / child relationship. The mother and daughter of Not-So-Imaginary Friend subtlety demonstrate the passing of time into adulthood, and the sacrifices we make to our own creativity and imagination as we accept more of life’s responsibility. Jeanette brought her own experience to bear for this one. Here’s what she has to say:

With a background in community services work, I have come into contact with a number of people experiencing mental health issues. It has created an interest and empathy, which I enjoy exploring through my writing. This inspired the idea of AR Therapy and the hope that in the future, mental health issues can be treated without medication.

While this award was about augmented reality, I still wanted to make the story believable and develop a concept relating to present-day issues. I played with a few different therapy ideas, finally settling on the need for the character to share their feelings, without being judged.

Lydia Trethewey’s outstanding Synthesis engages with contemporary issues of the returned soldier, set in a near future we experience the trials, tribulations and PTSD of an augmented warrior who can see chemical reactions in a way similar to synaesthesia. Here’s some insight into the maestra’s method:

The idea of human-computer interfaces as sensory augmentation got me thinking about how technology could be returned to the service of something more primal, animal. Chemicals and pheromones are present to us as theoretical concepts, but are also felt. How does the skin become an interface with the world? In a way Synthesis pushes back against the idea of bodily augmentation without a cultural framework in which to understand it. Kyle’s amplified experience of his world leaves him isolated and discordant.   

I had been reading about synaesthesia, and it seemed consonant with sensory augmentation as an idiosyncratic experience of reality. It seemed to highlight the impossibility of imagining things beyond the limits of our senses. Metaphors – the warm sunlight tastes like butter, my voice is starched cotton – become literal descriptions. 

Finally, Sean Crawley opens up our eyes to the Gothic cyberpunk world of In Tendo Capital. The tongue in cheek title hides a compelling narrative about escape from passivity into action and responsibility. It’s a desperate, despairing yet hopeful tale where sometimes you don’t need eyes to see, only vision. Sean has this to say on his story:

The Poke The Mango Award prompt was a nice challenge for me as I’ve never played Pokemon, let alone Pokemon Go. I did read a news report about two men who fell off an ocean bluff while hunting Pokemon with their phones. This was not such a surprise as the sight of people heads down in their phones is hardly unusual these days. I extrapolated the reliance on augmented reality to the point of a person not needing their eyes at all. I mixed this in with a dystopian society keen to keep its citizens within the city borders. My writing method often involves just getting a start and letting it happen. I had no idea there would be a fiord, southern lights and a makeshift surgical clinic. And please don’t ask me about the names Verm and Kiak – perhaps I have been augmented with a cast of virtual characters ready and waiting to appear in my stories. Oh, the joy of writing.  

 

With such a diverse range of stories (and authors), our judges had their work cut out for them. Would it be Lydia Trethewey’s augmented soldier, Sean Crawley’s blinding virtual reality, the mother daughter bond of Jeanette Stampone, or Andrew Szemeredy’s micro-episode of blurred lines and observational irony to take out first place?

Winner Announcement

Our winner this week is enjoying a bit of the limelight, having just published a great little guide on writing short stories, she’s put proof to the pudding (that’s a saying, right?) and taken out first place in the Poke The Mango Award.

Congratulations to Jeanette Stampone for her story, The Not-So-Imaginary-Friend! Though it was a close fought race among the others, Jeanette rose several points ahead of the pack this week. Well done Jeanette!

That wraps it up for us today. If you’re keen to read some more fiction, part 5 of our illustrious ‘To The Nines’ Serial Award is up now.

We’ve also just published a little guidebook on how to write a short story in 7 days. You can grab it from Smashwords for free right now. Reviews much appreciated!