I took part in a Fiction Slam earlier this week.

My offering was Steam (which appeared in James Gunn’s Ad Astra in March 2023.

I find such events fascinating.

I went with the desire to develop my public speaking skills. Winning, if it occurred, was secondary (I was runner up).

The other offerings though…Two, to me, stood out. One was a variation of the Alan Alda-Ellen Burstyn Same Time, Next Year and, I thought, fairly well done. Everybody can be a critic and I offered a few suggestions for increasing the emotional power of the piece, but it’s also the author’s work and their call.

The second piece was about a girl who discovers the world is not the bows and favorite white dress of her childhood. There are bad people, and even parents can be horrific whether they mean to be or not.

Again another powerful piece. I made some suggestions on delivery (we read our offerings aloud) but not on content or writing. Both were superb.

The winner was…a weaker piece. Good, but not outstanding. Interesting but forgettable. Cute but not lasting. A hershey kiss and not a godiva truffle.

It lacked ambition, a desire to move the reader to more than a good chuckle, to share a new and/or different experience with the reader.

Basically it was one of those humor items I use to find in Reader’s Digest (not sure if it or those pieces are around anymore). Easily digestable. Required nothing of the reader except a moment of their time.

I know there’s a place for such writing.

But when there’s no effort, why bother? I’m reminded of an Erdös quote.

A problem worthy of attack proves its worth by fighting back!

The winning story never even raised its fists. It turned and ran.

It’ll probably win top prize again and again and again.

But in any case, Steam.