Deathmatch 2016 – Finals

WEEK3_WINNER

Back to the Lightning Round Results , Round One, Round Two

Rules:

Step One: Read the stories.
Step Two: Create a user account for comment and voting access.
Step Three: Vote for your favourite. Repeatedly. You can vote once every hour.
Step Four: Sound off in the comments. (Check out below for the commenter perks)

Like your favourite comments.

Liked Comments = greater voting power!

icon_level1Bronze: 50 up-votes will earn commenters Bronze status, which means that their votes will count for 2.

icon_level2Silver: 200 up-votes will earn commenters Silver status, and their votes will count for ???.

icon_level3Gold: ??? up-votes will earn commenters Gold status, and their votes will count for ???.

Gold: 400 up-votes will earn commenters Gold status, and their votes will count for 5. – See more at: http://www.brokenpencil.com/deathmatch-2016/deathmatch-2016-lightning-round#sthash.htH5irfx.dpuf

Step Five: Blog, tweet, tell all your friends – help your favourite author win!   #bpdeathmatch
Step Six: Repeat until Deathmatch Champion is crowned winner!

Click here for the extended description of Deathmatch rules and regulations. VOTE AND COMMENT! By registering an account you agree to be signed up for Broken Pencil’s newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time.

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Moulting

By: Madeeha Hashmi

The grass always wrapped around my ankles in your backyard. My skin was printed with phantom anklets whenever I was outside hanging the clothes to dry. They were little circle arguments persuading me to stay and never leave. I let my feet be convinced deep into the soil, without thinking about how I would weed myself out of your life.

Read on...

Jean Claude Van Damsel in Distress

By: Ryan Power

This story begins at the end—the end of a 1000 year lineage of Ninjas.

Van Damsel stands, eyes ablaze under her ninja mask, knuckles bloody. Seventeen bodies litter the dusty street of the one-horse American cowboy town. She’s royally Kung Fu-cked the Hanoku Clan, terminating what was, until yesterday, the deadliest clan of ninjas on Earth. Yesterday Van Damsel stole the Clan’s sacred and all-powerful Shadow Scroll from their secret headquarters in Japan. Then they’d chased her halfway around the world on their solar powered hover bikes, finally catching her in this buckaroo boondocks. But they were too late, she’d already solved the riddle and absorbed the Scroll’s power—gaining the ability to disappear into any shadow and reappear out of any other shadow. Now she has the power of four out of five scrolls. One more and she’ll become Queen of the Ninjas.

Read on...
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183 Responses to “Deathmatch 2016 – Finals”

  1. jampat says:
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    Moulting is getting my vote. Loved it! Please help my voting power 🙂

    1. chipotle says:
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      spice it up, all the way up. Voting Madeeha.

      1. sara says:
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        Me too! Moulting all the way!

        1. sara says:
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          Oh wow, I didn’t even notice that I totally copied your comment, Takokun.

          1. Takokun says:
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            Great minds think alike?

            1. sara says:
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              Great minds vote for Moulting!

              1. Madeeha Hashmi says:
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                Sending lots of virtual love to Takokun and sara! 🙂

                1. Takokun says:
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                  Converting virtual love into votes 🙂

        2. bee says:
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          Go Moulting! Bring it home!

      2. Takokun says:
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        How you don’t have a full flask is beyond me, chipotle. Please send this smoke-dried jalapeno some upvotes.

        1. chipotle says:
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          I’ve been trying to pepper the treads here and there- but cooking isn’t my fuerte. (excuse my Spanish)

          1. Takokun says:
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            Reading these puns makes miso happy 🙂 Luckily, udon have to be good at cooking for soy many people to upvote you.

            1. emgee says:
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              I bet you can do better Takokun hahaha.

              1. Takokun says:
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                Sadly, that is the extent of punniness. (But, I guess it worked if I made you laugh if not at my fail, but directly at me. It’s something.) I could probably draw you something better, but that’s about it :/ This’ll have to do for now, sorry!

                1. Takokun says:
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                  of my punniness* Jeez, what am I even saying anymore.

      3. Madeeha Hashmi says:
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        Thanks for bringing the flavour! I really appreciate your votes.

    2. Takokun says:
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      Me too! 🙂 Moulting all the way!

    3. B.B. says:
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      Oh nice! Maybe I can get up to a half flask with everyone’s help! Hook me up!

      1. B.B. says:
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        Haha, this comment went waaay down the thread – it was in response to team Madeeha voting power!

      2. Takokun says:
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        You have my upvote!

    4. PatriciaL says:
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      Both stories are so good, although so very different. It’s a difficult choice but I’m going to go with JCVDID this round. The dynamism and creativity of the piece have left a lasting impression with me. Power to the Damsel!

      1. Ryan Power says:
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        Thank you, Patricia. I appreciate your support!

    5. Madeeha Hashmi says:
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      Thank you so much! Happy to see that you’re still here for the final. =)

  2. notamightyduck says:
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    Yeah Ryan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. orcalove says:
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      The JCVDID up-vote train is here! It takes more than a good story to win Deathmatch. We need voting power!

      1. notamightyduck says:
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        Checking in for today. Let’s get to it.

        1. caityb says:
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          Time to play the game. Let’s get some up-votes over here.

        1. Mancub says:
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          HaWOoOOoOOOoOo!!!

      2. thesimon says:
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        Hey Ry guy, hope you make it out dude.

        1. devious_darren says:
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          Let’s get some beakers on these people!

          1. thesimon says:
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            I second that.

            1. Teamunicorn says:
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              Where playing defense, it’s obvious to me now. hahaha. Keep em coming!!

          2. PatriciaL says:
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            Let’s hear it from team JCVDID!!

        2. PatriciaL says:
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          I second that!!

      3. victorialeader says:
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        Give Ryan some loooooovvveeee!

        1. PatriciaL says:
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          Sending lots of love to Jean Claude Van Damsel.

          1. Ian says:
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            goooooooo ryan!!!

            1. Mancub says:
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              Shocka braaaa!!!

            2. Teamunicorn says:
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              unicorn magic!!!

    2. Ryan Power says:
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      Thank you!!! It feels amazing to receive all of your support.

    3. emgee says:
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      Let the good rhymes roll, I want you guys to be green filled too!

  3. jampat says:
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    Thank you for the wonderful stories!

  4. B.B. says:
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    Back in the Lightning Round, I had a feeling that these would be the two stories in the final! I voted for Moulting back then, and I will keep voting for it now, but I am happy to see it up against such a worthy opponent.

    1. Madeeha Hashmi says:
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      Believe it or not, when I first heard the good news that my story had been selected as part of the top 16, my only personal goal was to make it past the Lightning Round. I can’t believe “Moulting” has made it this far and I have you and all the other supporters to thank for that. I am so grateful!

      1. emgee says:
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        Congratulations Madeeha, very well deserved.

        1. Madeeha Hashmi says:
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          Thank you, emgee! Seeing your strong support for “Moulting” throughout has been so encouraging!

          1. emgee says:
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            I am a firm supporter of your story, although I am voting differently today. A successful writing future lays ahead for you if you choose it. I have no doubt. “Moulting” is a delight. Thank you!!

            1. Madeeha Hashmi says:
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              Very kind of you, emgee! Thanks! 🙂

  5. gocampo says:
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    Good luck to you both! Thank you for the reads!

  6. PatriciaL says:
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    Congratulations and good luck to both of you–am looking forward to an interesting match.

  7. Ryan Power says:
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    The mighty Madeeha! Here we are in the final round, just the two of us. I feel blessed to have made it this far. Some incredible stories have fallen. And I am honoured that people rallied for mine and carried it this far. Now it’s our turn to battle. Two stories from opposing ends of the storytelling spectrum, about as different as they come. I feel a bit like the underdog coming into this match, but I will do my best and fight until the end. Anything is possible. It’s time for the champion to rise! Let the people decide!

    1. Madeeha Hashmi says:
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      Congratulations on making it to the final, Ryan! Like B.B., I also thought yours would be one of the stories battling for the champion title when the Deathmatch first started. I just didn’t expect that I’d be the other competitor!

      I’m feeling very lucky to be here. I can think of a number of other stories that I would have been just as happy to see in the final other than my own. It’s been a great Deathmatch so far.

      Also, I completely agree that anything is possible. Considering that we finished the last round only 60 or so votes apart (not much considering the total amount), I’d say you don’t have to feel like the underdog. I’ll be looking forward to a good fight. Good luck!

      1. Ryan Power says:
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        Thanks Madeeha! Your humbleness is admirable, but you are very deserving of your place here in the finals. I’ve been supporting Moulting since the beginning. It’s only because we must now face off against each other that you will no longer be getting my vote. I hope the wild differences in our stories make for interesting commentary. Good luck to you too, although you have something even more powerful than luck — skill!

  8. Silly Silly Pumpkin Billy says:
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    Flower Power, I take it back. Van Damsel isn’t the Montessori school of short stories. You’re the Montessori teacher who blazes up at lunch, lest he hit the kids who’ve been playing with number blocks for 3 years and still haven’t figured out how to count. You do have intention! You just keep telling yourself and telling yourself and telling yourself that everyone has a beautiful mind and everyone can be right. Glad to see you’re not an American! Their gun laws are too lax. I’m running for cover if I ever see you climb the stairs of a clock tower.

    By golly your concept is big! World religion in a nutshell? So much reading between the lines. And a goddamn alternative RPS reference, so cowboy kills ninja? You better watch yourself – the Europe beats Asia interpretation is way more obvious. Everyone here thinks you’re a colonialist and there’s no getting around it.

    Is The Shinning really about the moon landing? Does Willy Wonka make his candy from dead kids? You can’t write an “any interpretation goes” story and then add a “but… it’s not about separateness.” Writing tip of the day – tighten your symbolism. Otherwise, someone can call your story a neo-nazi manifesto and your content isn’t sharp enough to challenge it.

    1. Ryan Power says:
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      Billy, I’m not sure why you put quotation marks around the words “any interpretation goes”, because it’s not what I said. Misquoting people isn’t polite and it is a logical fallacy (straw man fallacy). What I said was “people are welcome to interpret my story how they choose. It’s fiction, not a straight forward text book. My goal is to entertain, not to preach. The story is open for interpretation and discussion. The point is to get people thinking, not to tell them how it is.” This doesn’t mean every interpretation is right. The interpretation has to be within reason. Calling the story a neo-nazi manifesto is obviously too far of a stretch. I get the point your making (I’m not trying to attack your example). However, the point I was making before is that I recognize every reader will bring different life-experiences to the story and will therefore see it differently. Different minds will pull out different meanings. There is no way around that. We all think differently. Diversity is part of what makes humanity so beautiful. Over the course of my adult life, I’ve been in many book clubs and writing courses, and I’ve never encountered a story that everyone interprets the same way. What I was trying to say above is that differing interpretations are ok, because when different minds discuss their different interpretations, even greater understanding can arise. Each mind may have a piece of the puzzle and when each piece comes together they can make a beautiful picture. There may even be symbolism in a story that the author is unaware of because it came from the subconscious. It might take a different mind than the author’s to get the author to see it.

      Now that being said, I am not trying to say that every piece of symbolism in JCVDID is flawless. There is too much going on. And, like I said in my last match, I consider myself a writer-in-training. This piece is experimental. Writing is a pursuit that can be developed over the course of an entire life. Sara had a legit point about the cowboy and ninja being able to be interpreted as USA and Japan. That idea never entered my mind while writing it. But I can see how she came to that conclusion. However, I could easily delete that one line about cowboys beating ninjas. It is not crucial to the story in any way. So thank you both for opening my eyes to that interpretation. I will delete that line so I don’t mislead others to the country vs country interpretation. I don’t want people to go there.

      Now, Billy, I appreciate the way you function as Madeeha’s bodyguard and show up in each of her matches to bully her competitors with your rhetoric. But I’m not here to butt heads with you. JCVDID is what it is, and you are welcome to think of it as you do. Your interpretation of the story is yours to do what you want with. If you want my interpretation, here it is — The characters represent different attitudes or mindsets that have surfaced throughout history. The stories within the story move from man vs man, to man vs nature, to man vs himself. It unfolds in the same way that I see history unfolding (timeline wise). First there is warring opposing cultures, warring over something unknowable (religion) – (This was a major conflict of our past). Then there is the destruction of nature (our present conflict — even our present wars are over natural resources). Then their is the spiritual awakening (our future… I hope). The evolution of the characters’ attitudes from beginning to end is how I see the evolution of the collective human psyche. The progression of the collective human psyche isn’t black and white. It’s not as linear as that. Our minds don’t all change at the same time. There is still a great deal of man vs man conflict happening today. However, the issue of man vs nature is growing and becoming more threatening to humanity than man vs man. So I see today’s main threat as man vs nature. Our greed (like the Aliens’ greed) is destroying nature. I also see that the reason for these first two issues is that collectively mankind has not fully looked inward and gone through the man vs himself struggle (our future conflict). When we do this and learn from this process (as a species, many have done this as individuals), then we will be able to drop the man vs man and the man vs nature struggles, and live in harmony. I don’t mean to propose this as fact, but rather as an idea. And I don’t expect all readers to get this out of the story. This is what I take from it, my thoughts being shaped by my past. All readers have different minds. Readers can take from the story what suits them. My hope is that readers will take something from the story that puts a smile on their face.

      You should also take into account another layer of this story. I wrote this piece to be a Deathmatch within Deathmatch. The characters each have their own story and they battle the way our stories battle, leaving only one champion. I got lucky and battled two stories with characters similar to mine (unicorns and Aliens).

      So, Billy, with all your writerly knowledge, if you think you can pull off a piece of writing that does all of this, and functions as an entertaining story, I invite you to try. I would love to read it.

      But please keep in mind that even with the underlying global, spiritual, and political concepts within JCVDID, it is not meant to be taken too seriously. I mean, really, it is all one big joke… a ninja walks into a bar…

    2. sara says:
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      Thanks so much for your awesome answers, Ryan. I find your story very intriguing. I am answering down here because what SSPB says about tightening up your symbolism still resonates with me. I am actually fine with what you say above about the imagery of Van Damsel and the bartender being scrambled beyond specific cultural references, but I worry about the North American references in your depiction of the alien bros who represent the future of humanity / will be the ones to figure out the proper relation to the sacred.

      1. sara says:
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        …like there is a way in which, if you think too hard about it, the project of modernity that the aliens represent is what created modern fundamentalisms…

        1. Ryan Power says:
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          Sara, I appreciate you taking the time to think in such depth about my story. When I thought of the characters for JCVDID, I wasn’t trying to reflect any specific people or countries. It is interesting to me that people have interpreted it that way. But like Van Damsel and the bartender are not supposed to symbolize Japan and USA, the Aliens are not supposed to symbolize North Americans. I thought of the characters to symbolize different mentalities. The mentalities are not equated with countries, but rather can be held by people of any race or nationality. Van Damsel and the barkeep have the mindset that their spiritual belief is the truth and that people with different beliefs are wrong. The mindset that the Aliens represent is one I think will be an issue in our future. It is the desire to for the immediate satisfaction of our senses, regardless of the consequences. To stay blind to the results of our actions because they don’t directly affect us negatively. Humans may have had this desire in the past, but were unable to act upon it to the extent that we do now. This desire currently surfaces in many aspects of life, from the way we eat to the way we date. (fast food, tinder — next, next, next). This attitude is what the Aliens represent. It is global, not only North American (although the problem may be exaggerated in North America).

          How technology comes into it is not that technology itself is the problem. Technology is just technology, it can’t hurt the environment unless humans use it to hurt the environment (the spaceship won’t hurt the witch unless the Aliens use it to hurt the witch). The problem is that, because of technology, humanity’s ability to destroy nature is growing faster than our desire to live harmoniously within nature. The global awakening I talked about before will occur when the collective human psyche desires the prosperity of all rather than the satisfaction of one’s immediate self. Once this happens, we will use technology to repair nature rather than destroy it.

          1. Ryan Power says:
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            Again, these are ideas, not fact. The global awakening is what I hope will happen. I really have no idea what will actually happen. I don’t mean to speak in a way that indicates I know the way it is. I’m just trying to propose an idea for discussion. The story is meant to be lighthearted.

  9. Andi Schwartz says:
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    Congratulations Madeeha! Still rooting for you, my final death match wish is to have lost to the victor!

    1. Madeeha Hashmi says:
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      Thank you so much, Andi! I know there have to be “losses” in the Deathmatch, but “Louisa” is still a winner to me. I know that sounds super cheesy, but I actually mean it.

      Hopefully I can make your wish come true with your support. 🙂

  10. Kris Bone says:
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    Congrats on being in the final round, you two! Hope you have your Tridents polished. We’ll be letting the lions into the ring before long.

    1. Ryan Power says:
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      Thanks Kris. Going into the quarter-finals, I would have guessed that you’d be here now in the ring with Medeeha instead of me. I hope I can put up as good of a battle as you would have. My Trident is dinged-up and bent from the battle to get here. I hope it’ll hold up against lions.

      1. PatriciaL says:
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        I’m really enjoying the wit you all display in these comments!

    2. Madeeha Hashmi says:
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      Thank you, Kris! I would tell you that my Trident is ready to go, but haven’t you heard the news? Apparently I’m a dragon now and won’t be needing it. I breathe fire after all.

      Joking aside, I’m very happy to see you on the comment board. “Incisor” was one of my favourites and, like Ryan, I also thought it would be in the final round against JCVDID.

  11. Rhys Timson says:
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    There’s a big deathmatch-shaped hole in my life right now. I keep returning to the scene, like a dog whose owners have moved house without taking him. It’s like my brain can’t figure out what’s happened. I’m dealing with the impulse by voting in this round.

    Thanks to everyone at Broken Pencil for selecting my story for the final 16, and to all those who voted for me – the support was amazing. Sorry, thread-hijacking over.

    1. Norah says:
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      Aww, I am one of the fiction editors at BP, and this warms my heart! Thanks for your great story, Rhys.

    2. Madeeha Hashmi says:
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      It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to read your story during this year’s Deathmatch, Rhys. I’m glad that we had the chance to compete alongside each other in the same competition. Hoping you’ll stick around on the comment board during the finals!

    3. Ryan Power says:
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      Rhys, I am happy to have you in this thread. I hope you keep the comments coming!

    4. Andi Schwartz says:
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      I am feeling the loss, too! But the sleep is nice, isn’t it? 😉

      1. Rhys Timson says:
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        The sleep is great! Not waking up at 3am and finding your slender lead has vanished in just a couple of hours, that’s good too. Still, there are the flashbacks…

  12. Silly Silly Pumpkin Billy says:
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    This should make for a promising final. Moulting – the story about tangling your pubes with someone and being too afraid to turn to the scissors. (We’ve all been there. Why do you think everybody rips them out by the roots these days). Van Damsel – the overwhelming clutter that reminds us all of imagination.

    Flower Power, you really are the Damsel in distress against Madeeha. You’re going to need to show some real cleavage if you want anyone to save you from this vote-dragon.

    I’m not sold on Damsel yet, though. This pander bot. How could Broken Pencil not pick you? You called out those vain bastards by name in the outro. But is the merit there? Is there a difference between a cowboy and a ninja? Would there be a difference between an Amazon and a ninja? Did you just cut out your favorite comic book characters and see how they landed when you tossed them against the ceiling fan?

    Someone way back when called your unicorn God. (I bet you J.O.’d when someone told you they found God in your writing. How many times has this comment board made you cum?). But it’s not God. It may be religion you’ve symbolized, but there’s a difference between religion and God. Ryan, would you ever tell someone that their observations are wrong? Or is the story filled with just enough nonsense that everyone can be right? You’ve written the Montessori school of short-stories.

    Sell me Ryan! I’m bored of Moulting. I spent a whole round with it. But I don’t think that you’ve out written it.

    1. Ryan Power says:
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      Silly Silly Pumpkin Billy, the spice in the commentary. I’m glad you’re still here with us. You are right, I am up against a mighty Dragon, but if I succeed, it won’t be the first dragon I’ve slayed. There was this one time when I had too much to drink in Thailand and… how does the saying go… you have to slay a few dragons to get to the princess. (Madeeha you’re beautiful, no dragon at all… I’m just joking around). Billy, now that I’ve played on your level, let’s get serious.

      There was a lot of talk about the symbolism in my story. The symbolism is in the story for those who want it. But you don’t have to look for it to enjoy the story. JCVDID is meant firstly as a playful joyride and a celebration of imagination. People are welcome to use their imaginations while unravelling the symbolism. Their reading is up to them. If they discover something meaningful to them, I am happy about it. Even if it wasn’t exactly what I intended. But some of the commentators thus far have been pretty astute. I did intend the unicorn to symbolize God. Van Damsel and the Barkeep were supposed to symbolize the opposing religions (or more accurately the religious followers). Sure I could have chosen different pop culture characters. Vampires and Zombies are popular right now. So why choose a ninja and a cowboy? The short answer would be because I like ninjas and cowboys. I wanted a scene where I combine kung fu and a western setting. Just for the fun of it. The long answer is I chose them to represent opposing cultural religions in order to highlight an issue I have with our current global society. Sure I could have made Van Damsel a suicide bomber, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it. And would you really have wanted me to beat you over the head with it? It would have been too obvious. It would have taken away from the main purpose of the story, fun. I chose silly characters because I didn’t intend to call out individual religions or point fingers at anyone in particular. I have no issue with religion. Religion serves a fulfilling purpose in many people’s lives. The problem is the us vs them approach… the I’m right and your wrong approach, the my God is real and your God isn’t approach, the I’m so righteous in my belief I’m willing to kill over it approach. Van Damsel and the Barkeep in no way symbolize Christians or Muslims or any country or any religion. To me, they symbolize an attitude that some people have about their religion… people that take their religion so seriously and are so convicted in their belief that they are willing to break the very commandments of their religion in order to ‘prove’ that they are right. The issue I have is with zealots fighting over their faith when their faith teaches love. The message in this scene of JCVDID is to be and let be. We all have the right to believe what we choose. It’s in trying to control others’ beliefs that the problem arises. This righteous attitude (both in the story and in the real world) can lead to pain and suffering. At the point in the story when Van Damsel and the Barkeep fight, there is no proof whether unicorns even exist. They fight over the unprovable.

      You ask me if I would tell someone if their observations were wrong. I feel that people are welcome to interpret my story how they choose. It’s fiction, not a straight forward text book. My goal is to entertain, not to preach. The story is open for interpretation and discussion. The point is to get people thinking, not to tell them how it is. But that said, yes I would tell someone their observations are wrong, if they were somehow using my writing to create separateness between people. I want to bring people together with my writing. To give them reasons to feel connected, not separate.

      But when you boil it all down, Billy, the real point of this story is to let your imagination take over and to have some fun. I believe that people learn the fastest through playing. I just want to spark that playfulness in people. There is a lot of seriousness in the world right now. I wanted to serve a dish that was fun. So I guess I did craft the Montessori school of short-stories. But I don’t see anything wrong with that.

      1. Ryan Power says:
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        Billy, by choosing the unicorn as a symbol for God, I in no way intended to define what God is. The unicorn symbolizes more the idea of God — what people believe God to be, not what God actually is.

        1. thesimon says:
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          You get my help.

          1. Ryan Power says:
            x

            Thanks, I need all the help I can get!

        2. Teamunicorn says:
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          You are worth the title my friend.

        3. PatriciaL says:
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          One of the things that I really like about JCVDID is the fact that it has sparked so many thoughtful comments in this competition! (More indication that there is a wealth of below-the-surface depth in the story)

    2. sara says:
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      Why am I happy to see SSPB again?? I thought that I hated him for making Lee so sad, but now I am laughing at his pubic hair jokes?

      Okay, my big thing re: the cowboys and ninjas is what happens when we think a bit harder about the implications of that whole cowboys definitively beat ninjas line – I felt like that line basically said “proving once and for all that the USA beats Japan.”

      1. Ryan Power says:
        x

        I never intended for the ninja or cowboy to represent specific countries. They are meant to symbolize an I’m-right-your-wrong attitude that sometimes surfaces within politics or religion. They are opposing cultural characters, but both are convicted in the belief that they are right. They fight for their beliefs even though their beliefs can’t be proven. To me, this reflects all the people throughout history who have attacked others based on their opposing beliefs or culture… from the Romans feeding Christians to the lions, to the crusades, to the current religious wars and prejudices that our generation faces. This scene exists to shed light on the unaccepting attitude and prejudices that people carry with them. It dramatizes it in a cartoony way to show how ridiculous it is. To show that these prejudices bring only pain. The scene is ridiculous because humans are ridiculous to act with so much hate towards other cultures.

        The cowboy beats ninja part in brackets is a shout out to the game bear/ninja/cowboy (a rock/paper/scissors spin-off). In that game ninjas beat cowboys. I reversed it. The cowboy has a shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach. Even if you have mad skills, the big gun can still take you down. A massive amount of damage has been done to the collective human psyche because of colonizers’ belief of being superior. The cowboy doesn’t symbolize any specific person or country. He symbolizes any person who feels so superior to another that he can kill with ease, the way a butcher kills an animal — without remorse. The cowboy shooting the ninja is an act of disrespect to the sacredness of life. All life. Your welcome to read the story however you choose. But I never meant to bring either USA or Japan into it.

        1. sara says:
          x

          New question: I’ve been wondering about something since your reply to SSPB: what about how the unicorn shows up and the bartender sees briefly that his convictions were legit? It’s interesting as well that the characters who apparently represent fundamentalists aren’t the ones who destroy the unicorn – it’s the super chill spiritual seekers who do that.

          1. Ryan Power says:
            x

            Thanks for asking, Sara. I appreciate your curiosity!

            Van Damsel doesn’t believe in unicorns (God), so unicorns don’t appear to her in death. She just dies. Bullet to the head. Out of the story. The barkeep, however, is a believer. So in his death he sees the unicorn. He understands that it is the unicorn (God) that takes his life, ushering him into the beyond. This understanding fills him with love in the moment of his death.

            It was the witch (nature) who sends the unicorn to kill the barkeep. This is because God’s will comes to life through nature’s actions. … and sometimes killing is an act of nature. Like a lion killing a gazelle.

            The Aliens are the future of humanity. They are the exciting, life transforming developments that come with technology, but also the negative side of the coin, the environmental degradation, large-scale war, watershed poisoning, etc. that is happing alongside our current technological and population boom. The Aliens are incredibly intelligent, yet have grown apart from nature. They are out of balance, like us. They kill nature (the witch) because of their greed. This is what we are doing now, by clearcutting entire forest regions, and filling the ocean with plastic. Then the Aliens eat the unicorn. Well, as the saying goes, you are what you eat. I have a prediction for humanity. Humanity will recognize the divine within ourselves. I predict that humanity will have a global awakening (the Aliens’ vision in the form of a seven day drug trip induced by the magical unicorn flesh).

            Then the story ends there. But it ends at the beginning. Because that is the beginning of a new era — When humanity wakes up, recognizing the divine within ourselves and the interconnectedness of everything, we will become the guardians of this Earth. The Aliens eat the unicorn. God is gone. But God is not dead, only God as an object (the form of a unicorn) is gone. The notion of a personified God is no longer necessary in this new era. God is within (literally, the aliens ate it). In humanity’s awakening, we will recognize God everywhere. Within and without. Then the story ends abruptly on the word and. No period. Open ended. There is more to the story, but it is unwritten, like our future. And, like our future, it is up to us to write it.

            1. Ryan Power says:
              x

              This is not meant to be too serious. It is open for interpretation. I hope the story functions as a fun read without looking beyond what is immediately going on with the characters or plot. The symbolism is just another level for people who want it. It is not meant to carry the story at all. If the story doesn’t hold up without it, than the story fails. Also, I am not trying to say that this is the way the world is. My intention is to present an idea, to get people thinking. I could be way out in left field here with my global observations. It is only one way of seeing things. I’m not trying to claim to be right, but rather to offer a perspective.

              1. sara says:
                x

                Oh yes, I should address this as well! It is very fun, and I actually like thinking about it even though parts of it feel problematic to me (see below). In fact, I like thinking about it *because* of those problematic aspects. So, it’s fun + it makes me think. You’ve succeeded in your goals!

        2. PatriciaL says:
          x

          Good point, Ryan.

      2. Silly Silly Pumpkin Billy says:
        x

        Oh, Lee the Pee. The Sensetive Soul. He was never built for a cempetition called the Deathmatch.

        1. Sid says:
          x

          Are the extra e’s on purpose? Like, Lee and Pee both have two e’s, and then he’s added two e’s in his misspelling of sens-e-tive soul and c-e-mpetition? Or is this SSPB when he’s doing a rush job?

        2. Lee Sheppard says:
          x

          It’s probably too late to deny you the hero narrative that you have built around my withdrawl from Deathmatch, William the Anonymous, but let me be clear for you and the other people still hanging around to enjoy the commentary: while the tome of your commentary and the fact that you have very clearly been encouraged by at least one of the moderators was unambiguously a factor in me choosing to leave the Comment Rings of the Deathmatch, the choice involved a great number of factors, most of them considerably more important than you. And yes, I was motivated, primarily, by sensitivity. I am sensitive. This is, perhaps, not the negative character trait you seem to be implying that it is. And if sensitivity is out of place here, then, voila, so am I. Does Deathmatch deserve such a champion as you? Maybe. But I hope not. That would be, I think, a shame.

          Then again, I’m just being sensitive. To my own needs and, I suspect, the needs of others. Enjoy this venue while it lasts, William. Where can we bask in your brilliance when it’s all over?

          Oh, and I’ve been chewing on your comment that you might be a teacher. That’s right, just like you asked, coach, I’ve been picturing you up at the front of a classroom. You’d be one of those educators who measure their success by the number of people they turn away from a discipline or practice for which they are too soft or talentless. Am I right? I’m right. I know because I’m sensitive. But so are you, you just don’t like to use your sensitivity it to behave kindly or generously. Lucky students when they have a teacher like William the Anonymous.

          1. Lee Sheppard says:
            x

            Note: “tone”, not “tome”, though I will admit to also being dismayed by the volume of your occasionally intelligent commentary. Also, it should read: “sensitivity to,” not “sensitivity it to.”

            1. Takokun says:
              x

              Lee Sheppard v. SSPB again? This is so Round 1 guys… I swear to Jeebus if SSPB replies to this. Please we only have like two days left. Spare us. Please.

              1. Lee Sheppard says:
                x

                Takokun, I promise to spare all y’all. Promise. Promise. Promise.

                1. Takokun says:
                  x

                  Bless your soul.

    3. Rhys Timson says:
      x

      Hate to say this, but SSPB is right. You’re going to have to do some seriously fancy footwork to avoid being pummelled by the Hashmi vote monster, Ryan. Good luck!

  13. Ryan Power says:
    x

    OK Billy, you win. Here is my critique of Moulting.

    Madeeha, keep in mind that I’m not a pro critic and this is just my opinion. I could be way out to lunch in some areas. But these are my thoughts on the story.

    Moulting

    This is a well crafted piece. The characterization is superb and the writing beautiful. Madeeha uses a combination of first person narration and intricate details/personal thoughts to flesh out the characters. Also the writing has a poetic beauty to it. As seen in lines like,

    “In those days, I almost always woke up to find you sleeping on the floor with our blanket half covering my body on the bed, and half keeping you barely warm enough on the floor. It made a tent, covering the expanse between us – a little shelter from the ways in which I was growing apart from you.”

    And lines like,

    “Your pulse moved through the wooden floors and drummed a gentle beat underneath the soles of my feet.”

    However, regardless of the narrator’s emotion, the personality is dull. The narrator seems sweet and tender throughout the story. Then at the end she suddenly seems like a vacuous bitch when she just ups and leaves without even saying goodbye. Imagine how that would make you feel. You’ve been in love for months, maybe even a year (it doesn’t specify), and then suddenly after a night of cuddling you wake up and your partner is gone. Just gone. She didn’t even take any stuff. Is she dead? Kidnapped? WTF happened to her? Should you call the cops? — fill out a missing person report? Well, if you do, the cops will find her and say, “Sorry, Sweety, your girlfriend snuck out without saying goodbye and left for good.” That’s cold! I found the sudden shift in personality jarring. It is a really easy fix though. Add a detail to show her tenderness as she leaves. Maybe a note. Most people who commit suicide find the emotional strength to leave a note. Plus a note could give you a chance to jump into the narrator’s style of writing and round her out even more.

    The conflict found within the theme of dependency is strong, but I think more tension would pull the reader even deeper into the emotional struggle. There are many options to achieve this. Here is where the difficulty of making the decision to leave can be amped up. Although the narrator’s character is round, their lover/ex lover isn’t. Knowing who the narrator is leaving could be a devise to increase the tension of leaving. If the reader gets to know the one being left, then the reader will also feel the emotion of leaving them.

    Madeeha, you say that the relationship could be seen as platonic, but I have trouble with that. Would two people who feel platonically towards one another spend so much time entangled in bed that their hair grows together? It seems to me that it would take stronger than platonic feelings for that.

    I think a hook or twist could really put the reader on the edge of their seat. It could enhance the commonality of the fall in love then fall out of love plot. To me, as it is, the plot leaves something to be desired. If you wanted, you could amp up the reveal that they are both women. It could work as a twist. But there are many ways in which this could be achieved. If you get stuck trying to think of a good twist, just throw in a unicorn or a UFO. That always works.

    The writing in the end is beautiful. The setting is very concrete and has been handled well, centring the reader in the couple’s home. Also, there is a quality to the remembered scenes from the narrator that really illuminate her. All said, this is a wonderful story. Madeeha is a very talented writer. For me, the strongest part of this entire piece is the way Madeeha engages with the reader through emotional qualities that are both relatable for many readers and relevant for our time. That, combined with the poetic beauty of the prose, has lifted this story to become the 2016 Deathmatch Champion. Job well done!

    1. Sid says:
      x

      Such a literal reading from the king of metaphor.

      1. Sid says:
        x

        I just realized that SSPB said something similar about your reading of his critiques, but this is something that’s been nagging at me for a while. Why do you keep reading Moulting so literally? Madeeha has left space for interpretation, just like you. The imagery of entanglement can be read metaphorically as a deepening of their mutual unhealthy dependence on one another. When you read Hemingway, are you like, “why are these dudes all such vacuous bitches”? No, you read for what the other imagery in the story tells you about the characters’ inner states. (Hopefully.)

        1. Ryan Power says:
          x

          I understand that the entanglement is metaphorical. And it works beautifully as a metaphor for dependency. But I read it as literal too. I’m still visualizing two characters with limbs intertwined, because that is what’s being described. It would be stronger if it worked on both levels. That’s just my opinion. I feel that it makes for a strong story when the literal reading and metaphorical reading can both work independently. What I mean by that is that the surface of the story can be taken for what it is and enjoyed. You don’t have to look beyond it. But if you do, their is a metaphor that illuminates a new realm of thinking about the story (and hopefully even about your own life). But first the literal translation has to be accurate. If two people are described as entangled in bed, then they are entangled in bed, regardless of the metaphor they stand for. I feel this would be accomplished by ceasing to shy away from making the decision of them as lovers or friends. Just commit to a choice. Are they friends or lovers? If they’re lovers than their entanglement can be literal and metaphorical. The literal is solidified. It won’t take anything away from the metaphorical side of the story. The dependency will be just as strong. The hidden meaning will still be there. The reader will still be able to see the relationship as standing for all manners of dependency whether drug, relationship, familial… etc. Nothing will be lost, but something will be gained. It will be stronger because it takes a stand. It makes the choice of who the characters are.

          I think the story is really well thought-out and put together. I’m very impressed by it. These are just areas that could be looked at it to please readers with similar minds to mine. For others it might be perfect from start to finish the way it is. I used strong words, but these are all relatively small critiques. I don’t see any major issues with the piece. What I meant by vacuous bitch, was directed at the one action of the narrator. Nothing else. One small detail could eliminate the jarring feeling I got from realizing how cold the narrator could be. If Madeeha wants the narrator to act so cold, than it’s all good. Keep like that. But if not, add a little softening detail around the situation. It could be achieved in a few words. It won’t take away from the metaphor. Again, nothing will be lost, only something gained. Overall the story is already fantastic. These are suggestions for Madeeha in case she wants to give her story another run over now that’s she received all the feedback from Deathmatch. If she wants to leave it as it, it’s plenty good enough. There’s lots to love about this story.

          1. Sid says:
            x

            Two things:

            I guess I don’t find the narrator’s departure jarring at all. The other woman has been controlling the situation from the start – when she first serves the narrator breakfast, she doesn’t ask the narrator if she’d like to come the next day. She just tells her that this will happen again tomorrow. The relationship is uneven. I feel like the other woman is the one with this vision for the two of them (always sorting out the details of their lives) and the narrator’s lack of understanding of what she would want results in them just going along with this way of life. Perhaps the narrator seems cold for leaving, but the other woman has not been interested in whether this is what her friend / partner really wants.

            Secondly, I think that we should acknowledge that there is a kind of fairy tale vibe in this story. It really opens it up for interpretation.

            1. Sid says:
              x

              Wait, two more things:

              I identified with this story through a past romantic relationship and through a past friendship.

              For the friendship, we never shared the same bed (though def not unheard of for two friends to share a bed – especially two women), but we filled the space in each other’s lives that a romantic partner would fill in many other ways.

              I liked the way the story made me think about how those two people in my life were similar – such clear visions of what they wanted and who they wanted me to be, and I just went along with things for years in both cases.

              1. Ryan Power says:
                x

                I understand that the relationship is open for interpretation. And I’ve known lots of girls to cuddle. But I don’t really understand why not make the choice to define the relationship. They already seem so much like lovers that I think most readers would assume they are lovers. Unless the fear of defining the women as lovers would sexualize them. Just the word lesbian will increase the pulse of many a man. But those men probably already read into it that they are lovers. I’m just curious. It’s all very interesting to me.

                1. Sid says:
                  x

                  I do hear you on this, but I also like the ambiguity. How about this possibility: platonic but the other woman has unacknowledged feelings for the narrator. Whoa!

                  1. Sid says:
                    x

                    Actually, scratch that – that interpretation casts a kind of a dark shadow on queer desire that I don’t like. What I mean is that the openness allows you do your own interpretive work. But I know that a few people have said they’d like it to be more defined, so you’re not alone.

            2. Ryan Power says:
              x

              I like this! Especially the part about the fairy tale vibe. It does really open it up. Nice insight!

              The departure of the narrator though, I was just explaining my reaction. If I had it, others might too. I felt like the partner was quite generous. She opened her house to the narrator and fed her. She opened her life to the narrator. But even if she is controlling, does that make her less human? Do controlling people not feel pain when someone mistreats them? I just really feel that in the end of a relationship we should try our best to leave the other person smiling. By that I mean leave them in a way that helps them feel thankful for the experience of being together instead of used. Of course there is usually pain associated with breakups, but overall I want the person to look back at the relationship and feel good about it. Like their life was somehow enhanced because of it. So they move on and heal and open themselves to love in the future. Too many people hurt each other in relationships these days. People get jaded. It can become harder and harder to find love the more times you’ve been hurt, because getting hurt makes love seem like less of a believable concept. What message do you want to send with the breakup scene? Regardless of how controlling the narrator’s lover was, does she not deserve a goodbye of some sort? By not giving one, the narrator becomes just as cold. It’s in leaving without giving her lover closure that I see the flaw in the narrator. It is that action that transforms her for me. Maybe what Madeeha is trying to say is that dependency changes us. But I think she wanted the ending to be more hopeful than that. Personally, I would rather see the narrator get through the dependency without losing her human decency. But that’s only my opinion. This is Madeeha’s world that she’s created. The choice is hers.

              1. Sid says:
                x

                Okay all good points and we will agree to disagree about the end. I think that it’s interesting that the narrator feels like she has to make a clean break. It’s interesting that she’s not strong enough to leave in any other way. I think that the narrator is flawed for sure – she lacks self knowledge and that’s unfair to the other woman who only sees evidence that she wants to be there. But the other woman is definitely subtly controlling at the beginning of the story, perhaps even exploiting the narrator’s inability to turn down this space where she is receiving something that feels like care and security. Is the other woman generous? Or self interested? She’s definitely creating a situation in which she has the narrator all to herself and where the narrator has no opportunity to come to know herself independently of the other woman. Hmmm, I say!

                See, if it were all tied up in a neat little bow, we couldn’t have all of this fun thinking about it!

                1. Alton Simms says:
                  x

                  Very interesting insight but more importantly very mature way to respond, color me impressed!

                2. Ryan Power says:
                  x

                  Yeah Sid! Now we’re getting somewhere. I’ll up-vote this comment.

                  In this reading, both characters are really screwed up people. The lover for being so manipulative and controlling. And the narrator for being so weak. It is very dark. I was trying to be more hopeful for the narrator. I wanted to like her. But she’s so weak she can’t take the time to write a few sentences on a piece of paper. I like it. I do like it. But with this reading I connect the drug metaphor the most. That would explain the urgency of the dependency. Then all the hair matting and skin melting and never leaving the house makes total sense. It is really intense. It is the opposite of the love story that at first you think you’re in for. I think this is my favourite way to read Moulting so far. So dark, but so good.

                  Thanks for getting into it with me!

                  1. Sid says:
                    x

                    Can’t take the time? Or knows that there is a chance she won’t go through with it if she hesitates? Don’t be too hard on her – maybe she’s had a rough life!

                    Haha, I’m glad you’re having fun getting into it – I am too. I hadn’t read it since the lightning round and it was great to revisit it.

                    Madeeha, I hope you enjoy reading these comments!

                    1. VishyBatman says:
                      x

                      Comments gettin squished y’all!

                    2. Ryan Power says:
                      x

                      You’re right. I’m being too hard on the narrator. I’m dramatizing my observation of her for the sake of making the comment thread more interesting. It’s just a sissy move to not say goodbye. But it works well for the darker interpretation of the story.

    2. Silly Silly Pumpkin Billy says:
      x

      🙂

    3. Madeeha Hashmi says:
      x

      Thank you for your thoughtful feedback, Ryan! I think if I were to write this story again, it may be interesting for me to explore more of the other woman’s character. I agree that that’s something which could have involved people in the story more. If you also wanted a critique, I’m sorry that I didn’t get a chance to write one. I haven’t had a lot of a free time this weekend, unfortunately.

      Sid, I really did appreciate reading your conversation with Ryan. It’s pretty amazing to me that there are people who have read and thought about my story so deeply. Some of the things you said were exactly on point in terms of what I had intended! I love that you were able to pick up on the other woman’s behaviour being controlling or manipulative. That was what I was going for, although I kept it subtle.

  14. Ali Shuja says:
    x

    Moulting has struck me as one of the best stories I have read in a long time.
    And so has Van Damsel. Got to say, Ryan, though your story is all violent when you read it at first, you really have deep meaning in what you wrote.
    Had it not been for Moulting, you would certainly have received all of my votes.
    Two equally interesting stories in the final! Good luck to you both! 🙂

    1. Ryan Power says:
      x

      Thank you for your kind words, Ali. I’m glad you enjoyed JCVDID. And you are right about Moulting. It is truly a beautiful story (in a dark but hopefully way). I think Madeeha’s writing has really captured an emotion that speaks to a lot of people, especially in today’s world.

    2. Madeeha Hashmi says:
      x

      Thank you, Ali! It means a lot that you took the time to read my story and vote for it. I agree that there’s more to Ryan’s story than first meets the eye. The contrast between our two pieces makes for a great final round.

  15. Ali Shuja says:
    x

    Hail Moulting! Hail Madeeha Aapi!

  16. dewi65 says:
    x

    Congratulations on reaching the final. Let the battle begin. Good luck to you both and may the best story win.

    1. Ryan Power says:
      x

      Thank you, dewi65. I’m glad you’re still with us for the final round.

  17. Rhys Timson says:
    x

    2752 vs 2053? Madeeha, come on, you could have held back a bit, given us a final that went down to the wire.

    1. Sid says:
      x

      I don’t know – we’ve seen Ryan come back at the last minute!

    2. emgee says:
      x

      I’m pretty amazed by the intense participation at the poll, for so long!

      I read that the deathmatch use to happen over a 7 weeks span before… 🙂

    3. Takokun says:
      x

      Plot twist: She actually was holding back. This isn’t even her final form.

      Also Rhys, I was wondering where one would be able to read your story, The Black Hole of Westminster. (I believe you spelled Westminster wrong in your latest post. Creepy tyops.)

      1. Takokun says:
        x

        Why I think this:

        TeamJCVDID ended with 3.5k last round.
        TeamMoulting hasn’t reached the 3k mark yet and its the last day. I’d say they’re holding back.

        And if anything her vote rate was just slowly and steadily rising, whereas TeamJCVDID’s was falling behind each day. I’d be blaming them for not having the fancy footwork you mentioned previously and not the fantastic voters in TeamMoulting. TeamJCVDID’s gotta move quick for a comeback though – about 15 hours left…

        1. Rhys Timson says:
          x

          Not blaming anyone! Was just a tongue-in-cheek comment…

          1. Ryan Power says:
            x

            There could be any number, or combination, of reasons that Moulting is kicking ass against JCVDID.

            1. Many voters who were voting for both stories have had to choose a side.
            2. Team Moulting came into the match prepared, with beakers and voting power. They were organized in their battle tactics.
            3. JCVDID can only beat characters it calls out within its own story (unicorns and Aliens).
            4. Moulting is simply a more popular story and no amount of fancy footwork can change that.
            5. JCVDID is just waiting for the last hour to make a come-back. Come-backs are always more exciting, so Team JCVDID has a plan. They’ve been handing out fliers all week at the local university and are throwing a major rager with the $400 prize money. Thousands upon thousands of party-jock-wannbe-frat-boys slathered in Axe body spray and high on testosterone, creatine, and alcohol have been recruited and instructed to vote within the last hour. They’re all anxiously waiting to vote, so the party can begin. Mwahahahaha

      2. Rhys Timson says:
        x

        Thanks for letting me know about the typo. You can read the story as soon as I can find someone to publish it. Thanks for the interest!

    4. emgee says:
      x

      CONGRATS Madeeha!
      I just voted for the last time and would like to wish you the very best with your career 🙂
      Well done Ryan, you fought till the last drop like.
      Also, thanks to all the participants- I enjoyed the battle format and the eye opening discussions.
      SALUT!

  18. Teamunicorn says:
    x

    Not to be too picky, but the deathmatch page needs a shortcut right from the profile where we are directed at first.

  19. Ryan Power says:
    x

    Well, there’s only an hour left. Deathmatch, it’s been great. I’m immensely grateful to the fiction editors that chose JCVDID for the final 16 stories, to all the voters who supported it, and for the commentators who gave such useful feedback. It feels amazing to put the story in front of an audience and to receive so much support. Thank you all. I’ll be back in 2017 to read the next batch of stories. Congratulations, Madeeha! Wear the crown with pride! You deserve it!

    1. EmilyCarrDickinson says:
      x

      Very gracious of you to say so, a real class act. Keep on writing, you’re going places Ryan!

    2. Madeeha Hashmi says:
      x

      Thank you so much, Ryan! It was an honour to share the stage with you during this final round.

  20. Silly Silly Pumpkin Billy says:
    x

    Flower Power, your right! I have been body guarding M-to-the-Dee. Not on purpose though. Haven’t you heard then rumours? That gal can spit fire!

    Here’s where I stand: Moulting is the best story in the top 8. My criticisms were few, and got them out quickly.

    Best story in the competitions though? Nah. I think Tiny Girls won it. And there was that creepy one about the fur coat. We saw some good stories bite it after the first weekend.

    But Flower power, I’ll give it to you straight. Straight as an arrow. Straight as a republican. You’re second best in this top 8 field. But you took more risks and ended up with more flaws. And someone’s got to point them flaws out otherwise you’ll be as bad a writer tomorrow as you are today.

    Criticism ain’t easy. You gotta know writing. And this comment board is sappy as hell, so few are dishing it.

    So I’ve got a challenge for you, and for Ms Mad. What do you think are the shortcomings in each others stories? This’ll be tough because it’s been three weeks and all the obvious stuff is taken.

    You’ve both heard a tidal wave of compliments, so this’ll be better for both of you.

    1. Ryan Power says:
      x

      Silly Billy, believe it or not, I am thankful for all the criticism I received during this Deathmatch. It’s been a valuable learning experience. And I am honoured to have made it to the finals. I agree that some amazing stories didn’t make it through the lightning round. I was a big fan of The Wooden Indian. Obviously with a story like JCVDID, perfection wasn’t was my main goal. I wanted to submit a story that would stir things up a bit… get people talking about both the good and the ugly of it. Part of why I didn’t try to submit a shiny story tied up in a nice bow was for the comment board. Because I wanted the learning experience. Plus, at this point in my development, I’m not a perfect writer. But that won’t stop me from taking chances. I didn’t learn to surf because I was afraid to drop into double-overhead waves, if you no what I mean.

      So how about before I critique the Mad Queen’s writing, I critique your critiques. Your writing is witty, I’ll give you that. And you come up with interesting metaphors. But you seem to let go of logic in order to write in a bigger, more flashy style. On the surface it seems intelligent and convincing, but the logic isn’t sound. It would never hold up for a real thinker. Take your comment from 4:34 on Feb 24. You start off by calling me the Montessori Teacher of writers and then you write a bunch of fluff about running if I had a gun etc. Although funny, yes, this is a logical fallacy. It is an Ad Hominem. It means you are attacking the man instead of addressing the argument. It de-legitifies what you actually say. Then in your next paragraph you claim that my concept is World Religion in a Nutshell. That is not my concept, it is an interpretation you had. By making it mine, you are creating a logical fallacy, straw man fallacy. It means you present something as if it came from the opposing side of the argument. Then you can attack the false argument (the straw man). Then go directly from that fallacy to another. You claim that everyone thinks that I’m a colonialist. This simply isn’t true, maybe some people think that, and maybe you think that, but not everyone. I am not a colonialist. So you have exaggerated the fact. Then you mis-quote me, putting false words into my mouth. This is another straw man fallacy. Then you conclude your whole statement by saying “tighten your symbolism. Otherwise, someone can call your story a neo-nazi manifesto and your content isn’t sharp enough to challenge it.” This logical fallacy is a slippery slope. You have let your reasoning snowball. My symbolism could be tighter, yes (although there are reasons for it to be the way it is too). But no one is going to mistake JCVDID for a neo-nazi manifesto.

      Do you see all the logical fallacies in your writing? That was just one of your critiques. Your writing against Lee was also logically unsound. That is why you come across as a bully. It seems that you’d rather attack the writer and attempt humour than create a sound argument for your conclusions. I’m not saying your conclusions are wrong. What I’m saying is that the way you explain them isn’t logically sound. It appears you never took, or you slept-through, applied logic 101.

      That all said, I appreciate you in these comment feeds. You have added an element of humour. Your comments have been more risky than anyone else’s. And you do have some valid points. My suggestion to you is that you pick up a book on applied logic before a real thinker comes along and tears you apart.

      1. Silly Silly Pumpkin Billy says:
        x

        What? The comic monster is taking me literally? Am I supposed to believe that Aliens will be eating unicorns in 1000 years? No. Are you supposed to believe that you’ve accidentally hailed Hitler? No. The point is that if you don’t tighten your writing people can come to some unwanted conclusions. For someone who writes with so much to interpret you sure don’t know how to interpret.

        That was a disappointing post to read.

        My new point – you two have played it too safe on this comment board. Dig deep into each other. I want to know if you actually know writing, or you’ve written a fluke. Fuck. Compliment each other for all I care, but get below the surface. Consider it an exercise – you’re both self-confessed novices. It’ll be more valuable than posting octa-porn.

        1. Ryan Power says:
          x

          You have some good points, Billy. I wasn’t trying to say you didn’t. I agree with you on many things, including some of your critiques of JCVDID. I was just trying to say that the way you present your points could also by be tightened. However, I thought about it after sending that post and realized it doesn’t really matter that much if there are logical fallacies in your comments. The comments are opinions. People are welcome to share their opinions regardless of what the opinions are and how they came to them. These logical fallacies are very useful for swaying public opinion. They are often used in politics. But the logic still isn’t there. It’s smoke and mirrors.

          1. Ryan Power says:
            x

            Madeeha, Billy suggests that we critique each other’s stories for the sake of learning. However, unlike the anonymous Billy, you and I have faces and names attached to this comment thread. So I ask, do you want me to critique Moulting? I will write a full critique, but will only do so if you want it on here.

            Also, this brings me to another thought I had. I thought it could be interesting to start a writers’ Facebook group. We could post rough drafts and comment on each other’s work. It could be useful for a lot of us. Getting feedback from our fellow deathmatch competitors could be quite helpful with future writing projects.

            1. Madeeha Hashmi says:
              x

              Ryan, it’s up to you if you’d like to write a critique. I’m happy with whatever you choose to do.

              The Facebook group sounds great! I’m in if everyone else is.

              1. Ryan Power says:
                x

                OK I’ll write the critique at the bottom so it isn’t so skinny.

                My name on Facebook is simply Ryan Power. There are a few Ryan Powers out there. But I shouldn’t be too hard to find. If you put in Vancouver or Vancouver Island it’ll narrow down the search. I’m open to start a writer’s feedback group with anyone on this forum that is interested in writing — writers and commentators.

        2. Lee Sheppard says:
          x

          Hey coach, me again.

          This constant desire you express for the writers to, as you say “dig deep into each other,” is something that people have been avoiding, I would aver, because you are so mean. What do I mean? Well, there are other people participating in the Deathmatch Comment Rings offering critiques of the stories. (Were, actually. You might have chased them off, believe it or not.) They don’t (or didn’t) say insulting things. You are, undeniably, an insightful critic of stories. You sometimes mistake one story written by a writer for the writer herself or himself. You also sometimes spice your insights with vulgar and violent imagery. Then, when us real people (see Ryan’s comment from Feb. 27, 2016 addressed to Madeeha) whose clearly stated opinions and vulnerabilities you attack, whose work—published stories we spend long unpaid or underpaid hours on—you attack, are asked by you to “dig deep into each other” it’s really hard to feel inspired to do it. You make people feel defensive. I have been stuck thinking you are some sociopathic genius who is trying to upset the writers so that we, in fits of anger and discomfort, start digging into each other. But now I think you might just be looking for the other writers to step up and engage with each other’s work more critically. (You read that right, William the Anonymous, f.k.a. SSPB, I suspect you are a writer, though I wonder if your self-critiques prevent you from ever showing your work)

          Is it confusing for you that instead of critiquing each other’s work some of us spend our time critiquing you and defending our stories from your relentless attacks?

          Teaching technique: model the behaviour you want to see. So, if you want the writers to critique each other, critique their work in a way that they want to engage with and then want to emulate. Make it look appealing to us. Show us a way to do it that is incisive, but not cutting. (I think you see what I did there.) Set the tone. Thing is, I suspect that all of the writers here have some workshop experience and have honed their critical abilities to varying degrees. Only, you get off on fighting. You want us to fight. You want us to get dirty. You may want us to “get below the surface” for the educational value too, but it sure looks like you only want us to do that because below the surface is where it hurts more and because that’s where the vital organs are.

          You have obvious critical intelligence. I ain’t joking when I say I would love you to meander over to my blog to read and critique my work. But I’m a big strong person comfortable in his sensitive skin. So are the other writers who have engaged with you here. I find the idea that you may interact with less strong people in the same way as you interact with all of us here intensely troubling. You are a novice, too, William the Anonymous, no matter how long you have been critiquing work and no matter whether you would confess it or not.

          1. Ryan Power says:
            x

            Thanks for the back-up, Lee. You have a good point here about Billy, and said it much more clearly than I did when I brought up that stuff about logical fallacies. I think Billy missed the irony of what I did there. I used a bunch of the same fallacies while critiquing Billy that he has been using throughout this competition. And guess what, it upset him. I just wanted to turn the magnifying glass around to him so he could see how it feels to have someone publicly pointing out flaws in his writing. When someone critiques you in that style, it seems intelligent and witty, but it leaves you confused because something doesn’t sit right with the critique. Some people can’t put their finger on why it feels unfair. Well, partly it’s because it’s not logically sound. All said though, I am happy to have Billy’s critiques of my writing. He’s like a dentist that doesn’t use freezing. Of course we’d all rather numb the pain before getting a tooth pulled. But if you don’t have any anesthetic and the tooth is infected, it’s still gotta get yanked out regardless of how bad it hurts.

          2. Lee Sheppard says:
            x

            (Sorry Takokun, I broke my promise promise promise.) I just still hate bullies, especially relentless, loud, intelligent ones. I had to come back to check on my colleagues, so I had to read the comments, so I wanted to back Ryan up, so on and on and on. If I post again I promise it’ll be all pleasant emoticons and no harsh words. We are nearly all done here.)

            1. Takokun says:
              x

              … Fiiiiiiiinnnnnneeeeeeee. But just to remind you, breaking promises is wrong Mr. Sheppard – you gotta model the behaviour you want to see.

              1. Lee Sheppard says:
                x

                What are these strange feelings I’m having. Takokun? <3 <3 <3

                1. SueEllenMischky says:
                  x

                  An erection ha ha!

                2. Takokun says:
                  x

                  Hunger maybe? Or maybe that’s just me..

  21. Lee Sheppard says:
    x

    Since I couldn’t resist replying to something William the Anonymous (a.k.a. SSPB) said, I feel obliged also to say this also:

    Ryan, Madeeha, you and your stories are, in my humble and subjective opinion, quite deserving of their place in the finals. Good luck and much love.

    Your sensitive pal, Lee.

    1. Ryan Power says:
      x

      Thank you, Lee. It’s been a pleasure to share this Deathmatch experience with you!

    2. Madeeha Hashmi says:
      x

      Thank you so much, Lee! Nice to see you on the comment board again.

    1. Madeeha Hashmi says:
      x

      Interesting photograph, Ryan. I can see why it would remind you of “Moulting” after reading your explanation.

      According to the website, the artist means to comment on Japan’s consumption of both the female form and sea creatures. I definitely think the image conveys that idea, but I’m not sure it goes far enough to be critical of the phenomena it explores, especially in relation to women.

      One way in which this picture is very different from “Moulting” is that it still sexualizes women. I was very careful not to sexualize or objectify the women in my story — at least not in the way that a lot of fiction written for a straight, male audience does. I think there is a tendency in our society to somehow make the conversation about sex and sexuality if a woman is involved and I wanted to move away from the negative influence that narrow focus can have.

      Thanks for sharing the photo. It’s thought-provoking if nothing else.

      1. emgee says:
        x

        haha, I just realized there was a nipple in that photo!
        I appreciated the fact that you stayed away from objectifying women 🙂

        More and more people embrace their sexuality nowadays, ultimately making it tangible and recognizable from an outside perspective. I appreciate that more and more people are doing so, for themselves only, but ultimately rather express my own privately. And that’s what is sort of a bit of a let down (if i can call it that) from your story, why not go there? It feels very private going trough her thoughts, yet the narrator will filter out that side of her love life. It’s hard to buy the authenticity of this love because of that.
        This void suggests an other array of questions to me. Is there a way to speak about sexuality that doesn’t objectify it? Why wasn’t it important to include it, if it is romantic love that they feel towards another? Why did you play it so safe?

        1. Madeeha Hashmi says:
          x

          I think I talked a little bit about this in Round 1, so I’m sorry if this is repetitive!

          I didn’t write “Moulting” to be a love story. By that, I don’t mean there is no love between the characters. For me, this is about a relationship of dependency, whether romantic or platonic. I wanted readers to choose how they saw it for themselves. Including sexual intimacy would erase the reading that this could be any other kind of relationship, suggesting that only romantic relationships can have this unhealthy dynamic.

          That said, thank you for your feedback! It has really made me think about how I would present sexuality without objectifying women in future pieces. I admit that it would be challenging to get it right, so I hope that I can become skilled enough as a writer to do that one day.

          1. emgee says:
            x

            I have the feeling that even though desires can be expressed into reality, the source from where it came from is still non-exhausted, as if our passion was non-reducible. All the words can be used at a given time, put in a certain order, but edited later, and later, and forever. The crooked expression of our desire, the almost symbol, the unfinished object is maybe what we can share at best?

            But, I have no firm idea of what humans can achieve. For all that I’m sure, the way you write is astonishing and I’m curious to read more from you!

            The love that you described in your story could have been many kind, I even surprised myself thinking it was the love for drugs. I think you nailed dependency. I re-read your story and agree with Ryan, I have sensed many feelings throughout and seen many sweet images -the honey, the bananas, the pancakes- despite the depression.

        2. PatriciaL says:
          x

          I hear ya, emgeeI

      2. Ryan Power says:
        x

        Very true. Thanks for your insights here, Madeeha. I know you didn’t sexualize the characters in Moulting, but somehow my straight, male mind has a difficult time not seeing sexuality in a story with two women entangled so closely in bed that their hair grows together. I am growing out of this mindset, but there is a lot of cultural conditioning to break free from. Thanks for a story that focuses on emotion rather than physicality.

      1. Rhys Timson says:
        x

        Not sure there’s a good way, Ryan…

        1. Takokun says:
          x

          … Or even just an okay way, Ryan.

          1. Ryan Power says:
            x

            I was thinking of the scene in Moulting where the two women are in bed together so much that their hair tangles together. They are stuck together because of their dependency. This reminded me of that, but with tentacles instead of hair… even more stuck together. I think it’s a cool pic… I meant it as a compliment.

            1. Takokun says:
              x

              The photo itself is really well made and thought provoking. There is so much to talk about in that photo. For deathmatch forum’s sake, I especially like the aesthetic quality the octopi creates.. as well as how octopus itself tastes. (Tako = Octopus in Japanese. Hence the fried Octopus balls in my profile pic.)

              I meant it as a joke too and I understood the relation as well 🙂 Was just taken by it off guard, and wanted to poke fun at you :/ Sorry. I also never knew camels were into photography let alone writing short stories.

              1. Ryan Power says:
                x

                No worries, Takokun, I take no offence to your comment. The day I can’t laugh at my own blunders is a sad day. I just wanted to be clear that I in no way intended that photo to be insulting. I found it interesting. It sparked a thought about Moulting and dependency. Octopi seem to be a theme for this deathmatch, with tentacles on the tournament board and all.

            2. Rhys Timson says:
              x

              I found it funny. Was kidding.

              1. PatriciaL says:
                x

                Me too, Rhys—I found the comment quite amusing.

  22. Madeeha Hashmi says:
    x

    It will take a while to sink in, but I’m so happy to have won the 2016 Deathmatch! Thank you to Broken Pencil for choosing my story as part of the top 16, to all of the people who voted for and supported “Moulting,” and to everyone who took the time to engage with my story. All of my 15 opponents are skilled writers and equally deserving of the Champion title. I look forward to reading work by all of you in the future!

    1. Rhys Timson says:
      x

      Congratulations Madeeha! A well-deserved win.

    2. Lee Sheppard says:
      x

      Way to go, Madeeha. Well deserved. “Moulting” is so beautiful and rich. And you are ever generous. Congrats, Champ.

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