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kitsuno
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 6:12 pm    Post subject: Winners of the 2009 Samurai Fiction Contest Reply with quote
The contest is over - here are your winners:

(Links will be added web formatting is completed)

Winner:
Johnny Jones, Samurai - by Nina Boal (Wave Tossed)

2nd Place:
Edo Dragnet - by OnnaMusha

3rd Place:
Great Saigo's Worms - by OnnaMusha

4th Place:
Sato the Builder - by C.E.West (Kitsuno)

Honorable Mention:
Tenshu, the Last of the Toyotomi - by Carmen Sterba


Other Stories:

Beloved - J. Workman

Unfilial - J. Chillard (Gozen)

Trial By Fire - Mike Baker (Maikeruart)

Kyouran - J. Chillard (Gozen)

Second Seige of Jinju Fortress - Thomas Dowling



Links to these stories and the rest will be available in the Featured Articles
section of Samurai-Archives.com soon.

I'd like to use this thread to allow the judges to comment if they want, to have the authors comment if they want, and any readers to comment.


Last edited by kitsuno on Sun Jan 24, 2010 5:29 pm; edited 6 times in total
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Wave Tossed
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thanks for voting me the winner. What is the prize? Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 8:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
Thanks for voting me the winner. What is the prize? Very Happy


My congratulations and the admiration of millions of web-goers.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 1:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave, that was funny. I haven't read the other stories yet, but it seems like your victory this year was well deserved.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 3:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
Thanks for voting me the winner. What is the prize? Very Happy
That was a great story, Wave! Made me chuckle so loud I woke my dog up! Laughing Congrats! You certainly deserved 1st prize!
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thanks everyone for your compliments on my story. I had a LOT of fun writing it! Very Happy Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 1:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:
Wave Tossed wrote:
Thanks for voting me the winner. What is the prize? Very Happy


My congratulations and the admiration of millions of web-goers.
Aw geez, I was hoping for 500 ryo at least. Very Happy Just Kidding Twisted Evil
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 1:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Congratulations to all the entrants and winners. John
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I enjoyed reading them, and I could actually follow them all. Last year I had a hard time with most.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 29, 2009 4:34 am    Post subject: It's all a learning thing Reply with quote
Congratulations to WT for her win, she deserved it for sure. It was a perfect way to lance the poison of all those misconceptions, and bloody funny too!
I'm disappointed that my own stories came nowhere, and as it's all grist for the mill I'd welcome feedback on them, even though I know it's going to be negative!
Anybody who had a chance to read Kyouran, I was exploring why Lord Asano lost it, since nobody ever really knew why. I must have missed the mark by a looonnnggg way, and I knew it might be irritating for some people. Still, I didn't think it was so badly crafted. So, was it annoying, pretentious or just boring? I need to learn from my mistakes, and I'd be grateful for comments.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 29, 2009 5:08 am    Post subject: Re: It's all a learning thing Reply with quote
gozen wrote:
Congratulations to WT for her win, she deserved it for sure. It was a perfect way to lance the poison of all those misconceptions, and bloody funny too!
Thanks! I had a lot of fun writing it. Very Happy
Quote:
I'm disappointed that my own stories came nowhere, and as it's all grist for the mill I'd welcome feedback on them, even though I know it's going to be negative!
Anybody who had a chance to read Kyouran, I was exploring why Lord Asano lost it, since nobody ever really knew why. I must have missed the mark by a looonnnggg way, and I knew it might be irritating for some people. Still, I didn't think it was so badly crafted. So, was it annoying, pretentious or just boring? I need to learn from my mistakes, and I'd be grateful for comments.
I read Kyouran earlier, as you know. I thought it was a great story; it turned Lord Asano into a human being, neither a paragon nor a completely evil person. Hopefully the link will become available so others can read it and provide feedback.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 29, 2009 5:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Grammar issues aside (I over rushed to finish and made some simple mistakes). I wonder what the judges thought about Trial by Fire
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 29, 2009 7:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
gozen wrote:
I'm disappointed that my own stories came nowhere, and as it's all grist for the mill I'd welcome feedback on them, even though I know it's going to be negative!


Well, for one, you were up against some stories that really captured the judges, so I think that is something to consider.

Some things that struck me as I read it:

Something about the first paragraph makes me think "petty" and I'm not liking the person telling the tale. If I have no investment in the character, why am I reading this?

"ordinary, country bumpkins" -> delete the comma. Generally, I'm not noticing many grammatical errors.

I'm not convinced about the character. This is a hard one to write about, admittedly--there are plenty of preconceptions about the 47 ronin story. Still, I'm just not feeling the character of Asano, here. It seems, rather, like an attempt to justify your view of events, rather than a look at the human emotions, etc. of the moment; things just felt too flat to me.

The problem with many stories I see is that they seem to focus on an idea, so that one idea gets fleshed out, but there isn't much else to it. I would devote more time to the rest of it. Also, figure out what the character's redeeming qualities are, and why we care.

This feels like historical fiction where you are using the fiction to try to change the audience's perception of history, and that turns me off, I guess. That may not be what you were going for, but it is what I took away from it.

Also, your subject matter is unfortunately done to death on the boards in one way or another.

Overall, the general concept of delving into a character's mind and plumbing the depths of their soul isn't a bad idea, but you need to work on it some more.

-Josh
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 29, 2009 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
maikeruart wrote:
Grammar issues aside (I over rushed to finish and made some simple mistakes). I wonder what the judges thought about Trial by Fire


The grammar issues REALLY hurt. I don't recall if we were told about them before voting, but unfortunately it is rather like turning in a painting where you haven't spent time adding the details; it doesn't feel unfinished, it just feels bad.

The overall concept wasn't bad, but the execution just never grabbed me. I couldn't tell you if that was purely the grammar and various typos until after a re-write.

I do recall that you had a strange way of not introducing the speaker that made it very difficult to track who was talking at any given time. There were several other similar things that I don't know if that is what you think of as "grammar" or just stylistic issues.

-Josh
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 29, 2009 11:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Quote:
This feels like historical fiction where you are using the fiction to try to change the audience's perception of history, and that turns me off, I guess. That may not be what you were going for, but it is what I took away from it.

Thanks for your feedback. I actually had no deep thoughts on why Asano did what he did, I just wanted to explore it, and this is what I came up with. I know some people have very strong feelings either way, but I don't - I wanted to flesh him out, make him less a hero and more human, but it clearly didn't read the way I wrote it!
I guess it's the subject matter, and the personality I gave him, that were the problems.

Back to the drawing board!
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 30, 2009 5:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
maikeruart wrote:
Grammar issues aside (I over rushed to finish and made some simple mistakes). I wonder what the judges thought about Trial by Fire
The grammar and spelling issues are important. I was sometimes distracted by some of the mis-spellings and lapses in grammar, which is especially an issue in a "thriller" type of story where the action builds upon itself and moves forward.

As for the story itself, I did get involved in it, despite the spelling/grammar issues. However, the main viewpoint character's motives were unclear and it was unclear as to whose side he truly was on. At the end, you reveal the ultimate motive, but instead of getting into the character's "self", you have the character tell the motive rather than showing this man's horror at what he saw and experienced in the temple; so it came off at a bit "dry" in tone. And then I got confused at the epilogue as to what was actually going on inside the character.

Probably what would have helped is to have a friend read, criticize, and perhaps edit the story before submitting it.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 30, 2009 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
My initial thoughts on Dragnet:

Quote:
Quote:
The boss is Abe Kintaro; my partner is Gannin Biru. My name’s Furudai.


This really should have been followed by "I carry a jitte."


I generally like to kill off foreign language words in English texts. The only time I don't is when there is really is no direct English equivalent. For machi-bugyô, there is nothing wrong with "town magistrate" -- but the distinction between yoriki and dôshin might be harder (unless we directly port them into "policeman" and "detective", which is "close but no cigar."

One thing I don't always have a problem with is "-san," and that is because it has a broader usage in Japanese (applicable to first name, last name, etc.) that "Mr." properly does. It's often easier to leave it.

On "Sato" --

The one thing the ending lacked (in the sense of the eternal repetition) was instead of this:
Quote:
so he turned his back on the burning village and broken bodies, and returned to work.


it would read this way: :
Quote:
so he turned his back on the burning village and broken bodies, and returned to work. Kichi staggered around the corner. "Sato...."


Interesting story, but it definitely needs some tightening. I agree that the repetition of Kichi's appearance had me curious. That's a good effect, but it may have had a bit of an over the top resolution. And Kichi should not (probably) have retained the injuries from one visit to the next.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 30, 2009 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
AJBryant wrote:
My initial thoughts on Dragnet:

Quote:
The boss is Abe Kintaro; my partner is Gannin Biru. My name’s Furudai.


This really should have been followed by "I carry a jitte."

I generally like to kill off foreign language words in English texts. The only time I don't is when there is really is no direct English equivalent. For machi-bugyô, there is nothing wrong with "town magistrate" -- but the distinction between yoriki and dôshin might be harder (unless we directly port them into "policeman" and "detective", which is "close but no cigar."



I did think about adding "I carry a (insert equivalent here)," but I had some trouble deciding what to use, as Joe Friday always says "I carry a badge," and it is usually said right after "I work here." This intro varies in each episode and he doesn't always add "I carry a badge." Plus, a jitte wouldn't be the equivalent of the official seal of office for the yoriki, and I wasn't sure if he carries a badge or not, so I just left it off. It was easier.

I suppose I should have given more thought to the use of the Japanese titles; oddly, it didn't cross my radar, one of many oversights, I'm sure. I simply equated "the boss" with the machi bugyo, yoriki with Detective Sergeant and doshin with uniformed cop. I had fun with it anyway, and I hope y'all enjoyed reading it!

On "Sato the Builder," I must admit I half expected the return of Kichi, such as he was at the end of it...the resolution had a shock effect, but the ending had the feeling of the man in a post-apocalypse scenario walking off into the sunset like a curtain on a sense that has no "good" resolution. I had an ambivalent feeling towards the ending and it created a sort of indescribable sense of the indefinite. I liked it and I didn't like it. That make any sense? But the Kichi business was quite amusing, the epitome of bathos.

On "Tenshu: The Last of the Toyotomi," I found it had a comforting feeling in its language, the attention to small detail at the perception level of Naa-hime gave it the feeling of a tale told to children, with the difference in perception that comes with being a child witness to a great and world-shattering event. The poems had some of the reflective quietness that comes from the childlike appreciation of beauty but also the tinge of emotion at the end that marks one who is too attached to the events surrounding him or her. It sounds like a child's thoughts. The only thing that jarred me were some unfortunate confusing turns of phrase like:
Quote:
Nothing made sense, why would Ieyasu, who was Senhime's granddaughter, attack their castle?
This gave me the image of Ieyasu in ladies' dress and hairdo with whiteface and little bowlike red lips. I must say it jarred me a little, but I realized what it was supposed to be saying after that!
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 30, 2009 8:48 pm    Post subject: Re: It's all a learning thing Reply with quote
gozen wrote:
I'm disappointed that my own stories came nowhere, and as it's all grist for the mill I'd welcome feedback on them, even though I know it's going to be negative!


I agree with Josh-it's not so much that the stories were bad as that the general level of competition was higher this year. I enjoyed all the stories this year and was extremely pleased to see such a variety of genres and approaches-it's about time someone tried (intentional) comedy.

For 'Unfilial', it read to me like a chapter from a larger work than a self-contained story-more like a prologue to something else. It also had the disadvantage of using an historical person as its main character. People would have to know who Yoritomo was and the situation he experienced in the aftermath of the failed rebellion to get the full gist of the story. Even here on the SA, that's going to be limited. I used to wonder why more authors of historical fiction didn't use real historical figures as their main characters, but over the years I've come to understand that it's terribly restrictive. You're either battling lack of knowledge on some reader's part or butting heads with the preconceptions people have of these characters. For all the hell James Clavell sometimes gets for changing the names of his characters in Shogun, I think it was a smart move on his part. It allowed him far more creative freedom.

One aspect of the story I really liked was that it didn't glorify the warfare of the era as so many stories do, and showed the harsh reality of the times.

On 'Kyouran', you run into the same problem. Since this is historically based, there are details that helped kill the story for me-such as Asano bitching about how much wealthier Kira was than himself, even though Asano's income was ten times (or more) greater.

One aspect that another judge pointed out that hadn't occured to me but that I thought was a great idea was to emphasize the hypocrisy of Asano's musings in the story. While he craved Kira's acceptance and approval, he in turn had disapproval, resentment, and contempt for virtually everyone-even his own vassals. Bringing this out would have made for a more ironic and interesting story.

Personally, I would have found things more interesting had Kira been the main character. He's never more than the cardboard villain in most versions of the 47 Ronin circus and would have been more of a blank slate for you to work with.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 30, 2009 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
maikeruart wrote:
Grammar issues aside (I over rushed to finish and made some simple mistakes). I wonder what the judges thought about Trial by Fire


It was tough to read and figure out who was supposed to be speaking at times. I liked the idea of the main character using his ultimate target (Mitsuhide) as his tool to destroy another foe as well. The supernatural aspect was a welcome touch. However, the main character's plan was tipped way too early-it would have had far more impact being revealed later in the story (at about the same time the supernatural aspect showed). It would have had a two-for-one climax rather than giving one up right off the bat and getting a diluted one later.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 30, 2009 11:20 pm    Post subject: Kyouran Reply with quote
One aspect that another judge pointed out that hadn't occured to me but that I thought was a great idea was to emphasize the hypocrisy of Asano's musings in the story. While he craved Kira's acceptance and approval, he in turn had disapproval, resentment, and contempt for virtually everyone-even his own vassals. Bringing this out would have made for a more ironic and interesting story.

Thanks for your comments. With regard to Asano, I foolishly thought I had achieved that! I tried to make him complicated, hating his province, feeling superior at the same time as feeling resentful for his inferiority. Ultimately, as this story begins, he is pretty sure he is facing death, so a lot of what he is thinking is all part of the preparation - to die with as much dignity as possible and to lose the weakness of his temper and tantrums.

To be honest, the most important thing at the time was trying to find a reason for his actions, a reason that was as Japanese as possible - I really wanted to leave out anything that we westerners would have seen as a heroic motive. [/quote]
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 4:53 am    Post subject: More reviews Reply with quote
More commentary this morning:

On "Beloved" -- I certainly enjoyed the action in this one, also the colorful onomatopoeia and assonance (especially "muddled puddle" and "choked croak"). Also, the use of the standby cry of the zombie was really amusing, more so because we see it from his limited POV and can understand why he says it at this point. I thought the use of the term "Beloved," capitalized as it was, was a bit artificial, as Fukiage's assessment of those who qualified didn't match up with the accepted meaning of the word. I loved the details of the action, especially once it moved into the townsman quarters. I had the feeling that there was an ongoing backstory but there wasn't enough information to put it together. Why did the samurai say "so, it's you?" A hint that they are on to Fukiage but no linked information that puts it together; perhaps if the previous samurai that knew of the problem had been linked with the one he faced, we could have seen the hints of public perception of the shadowy creature we followed. Also two misused words slowed me down: "caste" for "cast," and "hue" for "hew." A good but flawed story.

On "Unfilial"-- I found the descriptive color enjoyable and effective in this piece, and, even though I know little of the history of this conflict, I was able to figure out at least some of the reason Yoritomo heaped the mental abuse on his father that he did. I found the flashback exposition sometimes distracting, though, and I had to read some passages two or three times to get the gist of it. I wondered if this is the alternate POV line of the events in last year's "The Stone Steps," which was set slightly later (as Ushiwaka is a baby in this one and somewhat older boy in the other story). It does make me wonder if gozen is working on a larger story arc here, perhaps a novel? One last thing I found slightly confusing was the anger issue of Yoritomo against his brother--the description made me think Akugenda had done something immediate to make Yoritomo angry, but the only suggestion I could gather of it was Yoritomo's long-festering resentment of his brother's treatment of him, which I wouldn't think would be enough to distract him from the immediate problem of Tomonaga.

On "Trial by Fire" --I found the premise and the unfolding of the plot to be quite good, especially the double purpose of Sadanori; however, I found the grammatical errors too distracting to truly enjoy it. I noticed several points at which tense changes; there are inappropriate word choices and many misplaced commas. These problems made the exposition seem clumsy, although I could see the kernel of the story, and that part was quite engaging. I especially loved the visual description of the stages of Nobunaga's decline. Somehow the flattery and deliberate action of Sadanori seemed almost like an outline, though. It read like a draft of a story that could be much better with more editing.

I haven't been able to read the last two stories (although there are many tantalizing hints of all the other folks who have read "Kyouran,") but I'll have to wait on those 'til they're posted here.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 5:15 am    Post subject: Story Reply with quote
Onnamusha, thanks for your insightful comments. Once again it's clear that I missed the mark with Unfilial - my intentions never seem to translate to my writing! I was trying to come up with a more interesting reason for Yoritomo being separated from his father and brother in the snowstorm. I liked the idea of him making a deliberate choice, being the master of his own destiny, rather than just "lost" and surviving by pure luck. Of course, those not familiar with that part of history could care less, and that was the risk of it (I thought...!)but for those who were familiar with it, I had hoped that they would enjoy my inventiveness. Oh, but I was so glad to see you mention my descriptions! I failed miserably with descriptions last year, so I've been working on getting more descriptive without bogging the story down. Thanks!!!

If Unfilial had worked, I would have incorporated it into the beginning of my magnificent octopus, but I'm not sure that it does, so I'll have to have a rethink.

Kyouran, I was so incredibly proud of that, I thought I had nailed a really good story. Oh, self-delusion, what a terrible thing!

Well done on your own success, I hope you are going to do more writing, maybe turn out a novel or five? Let's face it, there just aren't enough good novels on historical Japan around for those of us addicted to reading.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 6:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
onnamusha wrote:


I did think about adding "I carry a (insert equivalent here)," but I had some trouble deciding what to use, as Joe Friday always says "I carry a badge," and it is usually said right after "I work here." This intro varies in each episode and he doesn't always add "I carry a badge." Plus, a jitte wouldn't be the equivalent of the official seal of office for the yoriki, and I wasn't sure if he carries a badge or not, so I just left it off. It was easier.


How about 'I have a tattoo?' -- it worked for Toyama no Kinsan Laughing

as for the other stories, they'll be up by sunday.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 9:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Regarding "Beloved", the action turned me off. Not because of the action, but because it felt like I was reading a Hong Kong action movie script, not a Samurai fight scene. In particular I remember too much kicking and moves that seemed awfully reminiscent of karate, which is really an Okinawan art.

-Josh

PS: Sawasdee Pi Mai (Happy New Year) everyone!
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