Flavor Text Contest Winners!

First off, thanks to everyone who submitted an answer, this was a lot of fun on my end;I hope you enjoyed it on yours! I really felt reminded of my time teaching university classes – not just the “I used to evaluate people’s writing for my job” bit, but also the strong memory of grading papers. A lot of my favorite assignments that I gave out created a lot of work for me on the back end, and this contest is very much in that camp. I received over 100 entries, about a quarter of which made it to the final cut in at least one question. So reading through over a thousand individual entries and evaluating them ate up a solid chunk of free time over he past, but after some really touch decisions, I’m happy with the results.

I’ve opted to post this ASAP, so I’ve just sent out the emails to winners seeking mailing info. If you entered and want to know if you won something, go check your email-spam folder. Or you can read along and find out. Anyway, because I sent this out just now, if you won, I’m not assigning attributions here just discussing the top responses and winning entry for each. If you want to be recognized for your victory, I’ll include your name/alias/whatever as part of the results for the second contest, which should kick off tomorrow and run until Monday night EST. That post will also be much more concise and, hopefully, better showcase your win.

Process
So I took an initial fast pass on each category and winnowed them down to what I considered potential contenders for a win. These lists ranged from seven to sixteen. After the first pass I picked my favorites out of the remaining ones. My wife, who has elected to be identified as “my wife” (which I believe she assumes you’ll do in Borat voice, but like, she can’t tell if you’re doing one or not, so it’s up to you) assisted. Essentially, I thought it might help to have a second person make their top picks to see if we had consensus on the best ones. When asked if she wanted to weigh in on my contest results, my wife (remember, the voice is optional) was very interested in taking part. I presented the first cut list to her without my picks, then she made her picks and marked the one she thought should be the winner. I then took her feedback into consideration and picked winners.

During the process of selecting winners, several special cases came up that I felt deserved recognition. These were entries that were shortlisted because they were entertaining, but they didn’t really meet the criteria for or spirit of the category and had to be disqualified in the interests of fairness. Since I still had half the promos waiting in the wings for a second contest, I decided to give a few special awards (four) for these and other cases where I felt like someone deserved them but shouldn’t be competing with the people who were playing by the rules. I’ll talk about these as they show up. From here on, I’m going to go question by question and talk about some of the ones that made my or my wife’s final cut and then announce the winner and any special prizes. I’ll wrap up with some random stats from the competition and another special prize. All entries will be rendered in bold while my comments will be in normal script. I’ve left typos as is, but I didn’t hold them against anyone in evaluations as long as I could tell what you meant to type. Finally, this is a super long article because there were a ton of really good entries and I wanted to showcase more than just the winner of each category. If you just want to skip to prize winning entries you can search the document for “[PRIZE]”, which I’ve added at the end of any entry that received an award. Oh, also I gave all the awards dumb names because I’m editing this after spending many hours finishing it to post before passing out.

1.) The “Toothsome Pun” Award
There were a couple trends on this one and some commonly tread ground. Across all the categories, when a bunch of people converged on answers, individual entries only made it to the final cut if they were exceptionally good exemplars. So, in this case, I had a lot of 2:30 (tooth hurty) jokes but they were all about on the same level. There was also a weird number of whimsical quotes that people attributed to Levia, and I really love the idea that she’s actually kind of a goofy when she’s not impaling her victims. My favorite in that variety was“I was wrong to brush off the whispers, this monstrosity certainly lives up to the word of mouth.” – Levia.

I better run Oral-B eaten! This contestant attacked the pun from a very unexpected angle, and then caused me to waste a bunch of time on Google trying to figure out if Oral-B is a funny joke outside of the US or not.

Next up, Each acolyte hoped the beast would choose to serve them. Instead, the beast chews all of them. I really like this one a lot. There is a nice joke where we get the choose/chews pun, which has some of the outside the box thinking of the previous one, but it also makes a joke out of the reversal of fortune. A very solid entry that I really had a hard time not giving the win to… however

Attempts to plaque-ate the Maw were unsuccessful. This one is in the same camp as the previous one where it fires off a creative pun but also paints a humorous picture. What ultimately tipped this one over was that it was the one that made both my wife and my short lists. [PRIZE]

However that’s not all! This category also managed to account for a surprising half of the special prizes. For the first, I told my wife to pick the one entry that she would like to see get a special award among those in any category and she chose that made it past the first cut but didn’t win overall. This is what she did with that power: Tooth be told I’ve always believed in the molar the merrier floss-iphy. Why did she pick this one? Sheer commitment to the bit – the pun to total word count ratio is absurd. Congrats, you win the “Welcome to Punderdome” award. Also, she came up with that name in like one minute of being told that I was naming these and asking if she wanted to name hers. Not gonna’ lie, it’s kind of upsetting that it’s a better name than any of the other ones. [PRIZE]

I meanwhile felt a need to recognize “C’mon, give us a smile.” –Jackdaw, which was like precisely calibrated to irk me personally. If you read my flavor text piece (LINK), you know I hate Jackdaw (in that, he is either very successfully written specifically to be annoying or is very poorly written to sound cool – he’s sort of like Schrödinger’s side character in that respect.). It’s also got the cliché misogynist standby of telling a women she should smile more, only in this case, applied to a horrifying monstrosity. So, in recognition of your contributions, I am granting you the “Thoughtful Sadist” award; have a promo bundle! [PRIZE]

2.) The “What’s in the Bauble?!” Award
This is the first instance where a meaningful subset of the entries started going rogue and skipped out on writing to the prompt. I asked for “ominous,” but there were a lot of upbeat responses and jokes. These were all disqualified due to not meeting the prompt, but among those, this is my favorite upbeat one: Life itself worked to repair what was broken. It’s a nice concise text that is a sweet sentiment conveyed prettily.

And my favorite joke answer was This is the weirdest gender reveal ever! This was totally unexpected and not at all on prompt, but it made me laugh.

On the clever riff end, we have: The device is both infinitely useful and somehow completely powerless. Innocuous but seemingly dangerous. Both precious and discardable, the denizens of Rathe are forever torn on these strange artifacts. It doesn’t really meet the requirement of being ominous, but this is a cute bit of text that both functions well within the framework of a fantasy setting but also functions on a metatextual level to comment on both the game play utility of the card and the community’s obsession with it. Another content submitted “Should we really be using these? which is a solid implementation of this same gag.

There are places in the world where the greenery is lush, soft, and warm. These vines are not from those places. “Biological Researcher” – Aetherwind Academy This one has strong “something you’d hear as a voice-over in the trailer for an action movie” vibes.

Finally we had three contenders that all did ominous exceedingly well. “Fyendal left behind many incalculably dangerous artifacts; some escaped study by disguising themselves as the purely mundane.” This has a strong bit of creative flourish with a great mood that evokes some passages of Tolkien.

Then we had The sphere was undamaged by hammers, axes, fire, blades, and saws. The force from within split its surface with ease. This does a great job of implying something horrific with the contrast of these two sentences. It’s an eerie juxtaposition that also really highlight how important word choice and phrasing are when you’re being concise. “The force from within split its surface” if functional but the addition of “with ease” is what gives the ominous mood its bite.

Good as those were, the winner was a super clean little line that something like this: The bauble was its chrysalis. Rathe would be its home. I love this for how punchy and concise it is. And that is an especially notable compliment coming from me because, if you’ve read my writing, you’ll know that my proclivities lean towards long and florid. You’ve got to work hard to sell me on a “less is more” approach to writing, and this one did just that. It’s also a pleasing parallel structure between the two sentences. [PRIZE]

3.) The “Meganets, How Do They Work” Award
There were a bunch of D.R.E.S.S. jokes in this category, so many of you either read or were already familiar with the Dash stories. Unfortunately, a lot of those ended up being overly long because of the urge to contextualize and explain what a D.R.E.S.S. is, which can make them sound less snappy than Dash should. What made for a good Dash flavor text for me was something jokey or sarcastic that played off the action of the card.

“Repulsion” and “attraction” were words that showed up a lot, of those, my favorite was the simple You’re so… repulsive. It’s a very clean, minimalist implementation of the joke. Also a good use of ellipses . People abuse the hell out of ellipses; if you’re going to use them, you want to make it impactful. My favorite “attraction” riff was “Hope you haven’t got piercings!” – Dash which was an unexpected but funny spin on the concept.

Surprisingly, this was a category that ended up being pretty easily decided as my wife and I promptly converged on the same top pick: “Let me take that off your hands… And head, and legs, and feet…!” To me, this entry best combined the two extant lines of Dash flavor text. It takes the quip that relies on the art to get the meaning across from High Octane and marries it to the halting “I just thought of this” speech pattern of Spark of Genius. [PRIZE]

4.) The “Consummate Entertainer” Award
This category was wide open and ended up with submission that took the challenge in a lot of different directions. The entries that made it through the first pass tended to land in two camps – either short quips or longer raconteur-style sales pitches about what he’s about to show you.

I also got this one which technically contained a Bravo quote, but didn’t really center it, so while it made the first cut, it didn’t make it to the final cut. Still, I liked the approach and could have seen it getting a win if the prompt had been worded a little differently: Beset on all sides, evil figures swarmed him. “For the innocent! For love!” he cried, striking with shining Anothos once, twice, again and again, the creatures falling like leaves before Mighty Bravo. – The Ballad of Bravo, Act 2 – The Battle of Aldevyr

For the other two varieties my wife and I each had a competing favorite, though we both leaned towards our respective carnival barker pick as the overall winner. The best of the quips included her choice of “You may want to take a step back for this…” Bravo and my favorite in: I’ve always found subtlety so mundane… Fun random fact: if you included the word “mundane” (this and the “Fyendal left behind” entry from #2) you made it to a final cut!

This was an interesting category because my wife and I each opted to pick two entries for our final cut and aligned on absolute none of them, making this the only category where that happened. Her pick was “Watch closely as I harness the full spectrum of the Flow; I assure you, everything you see here today- *everything*- is absolutely real.” –Bravo which I didn’t take as the winner, because I think it was edged out by my pick, and they doing similar things. Don’t feel too bad for its author though; they already won a bundle for that Jackdaw line.

No, I gave the win to “Everfest, have you not grown tired of bards’ melodies and braumiesters’ ale? Are you still amused by sparkling lights conjured by the shamans with their smoke? Nothing can compare to I, Bravo of Valdor, channeling the Flow to shatter earth with only my fist.” – Bravo For me, this one, was a bit more boisterous, was packed dense with Rathe lore but managed to do it in a way that didn’t feel like reading a lore entry from a wiki. The over-the-top tone is absolutely on target for Bravo standing atop some crates outside of a tent, trying to draw in a crowd for his performance. The almost taunting nature of it, the implies, “aren’t you board by those lesser excitements?” really paint a vivid scene you can easily imagine yourself into. [PRIZE]

5.) The “Porter to the Honeysett Expedition” Award
Harold Honeysett provided the most competitive category in the entire competition. Sixteen entries made it past the initial cut and we each marked five for our final cut, with only two overlaps. There were a ton of good entries, and this ended up leading to some very touch choices. I’m glad that so many people have embraced my imagined version of Honeysett.

Let’s get started with some word play, “The primitive Warlords of the Savage Lands live their lives by one law: He Who Conquers, Divides.” – Harold Honeysett And then when we had: “I once saw their alpha sitting on a throne of…all types of viscera. I’m still unsure if it were food or fashion. Hopefully neither. Likely both. “ – Harold Honeysett

My wife really loved this entry that follows, though ultimately felt that the eventual winner was a better fit for the prompt: “Lloyd and I followed the ghastly scent for miles. We came upon the brute in a clearing beating it’s chest like a gorilla. It spotted us peering through the thicket, and we ran. That is the last time I saw Lloyd – Harold Honeysett She was very taken by the introduction (and presumed subsequent consumption) of “Lloyd”. For me, the entry had echoes of the Lhurgoyf’s famous “’Ach! Hans, run! It’s the Lhurgoyf!’ —Saffi Eriksdotter, last words” flavor text, which isn’t a bad place to be; it’s likely one of the most well-known examples of the genre across all CCGs.

Even with so many good entries in the category, there were two that really fought it out in the end. Our runner-up: “A pile of corpses as a davenport is clearly a display of dominance; however resting on the broken bones and sharpened fangs of your slain enemies may actually be comfortable to these savages.” – Harold Honeysett pretty much had me at “davenport” which is a great word (it’s a genericization of “sofa” based on a Massachusetts furniture company, A. H. Davenport Co. which was active from the 1900’s to the 1970’s.). It’s since died out in terms of actual use, but the word is very evocative of a particular aesthetic and time period to me. Again, great word. Is it a stretch for Rathe? Perhaps, but it’s a really good pull and the quote as a whole felt on brand for how I imagine Honeysett.

Still, that effort was surpassed by our category winner: “Throne. Bed. Warning. Food store. As grotesque a thing as it was, one could not deny the utility of the corpse pile.” – Harold Honeysett “One could not deny the utility of the corpse pile” is a fucking spectacular line. I’m honestly amazed that it wasn’t already used in Harrow or Gideon the Ninth. It’s just the sort of line that is immediately fun and kind of absurd to say, but it also has a great economy to it with the terse list at the front end implying jotted research notes. [PRIZE]

6.) The “Lux in Tenebris” Award
I totally get the desire to keep flavor text in world, but I really love a good literary quote on a card. I like it enough that I recently shelled out like three times the cost of the cheap version of Karakas (Magic card) so I could get Legends copies with the Emily Dickinson quote. When getting ready to evaluate this this category, I assume there would being in a whole lot of genre fantasy quotes, and I was definitely on target with that. I got a significant amount of “I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone,” from Tolkein, so those all went in the initial cut. Also, I should note that while I definitely have consumed a lot of genre fiction over the years, I find a lot of it to be pretty forgettable and tend to favor the things that people want to append “literary” to as a descriptor as opposed the more popular current authors. So, entries that got a litter pretentious probably had an edge. What can I say? You don’t spend over a decade in English and Film departments and not come out on the other side with some snobbish sensibilities.

This category was also the one where I made the most cuts for entries that didn’t quite hit the mark. Between the art and card name, I felt that any flavor text needed to have some sense of serenity, peacefulness, or some aspect of a silver lining. The entries that took it straight into mourning with no upside got pruned out in the first round, which took out a solid chunk of the pool. Also, as an interesting little tidbit, two people submitted “What is grief, if not love persevering?” which is apparently a WandaVision quote (I haven’t seen it; get off my back). Google tells me that people really like that quote (there are a bunch of articles about it anyway), but A.) it’s not really a “book or poem”. B.) I don’t think it beats out the eventual winner anyway. However, what’s extra interesting is that both people who submitted said WandaVision quote won prizes elsewhere. One was the author of the Jackdaw quote, and the other was the winner of our previous category. Anyway, I wrapped up the first round of cuts with nine entries remaining. Oh which I picked three final cut entries and my wife picked two; both of which overlapped.

Of the ones entries didn’t make that final cut, I think the top contenders were: “I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.” – Margaret Atwood, “Variation on the Word Sleep” and “…for he felt that any movement might destroy the image, and this delicious sense of being held with loving care.” -Excerpt from The Stone and the Flute, by Hans Bemmann. Both of these were evocative choice and excellent submissions.

“Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness – for then,
The spirits of the dead who stood,
In life before thee are again”
– Spirits of the Dead, Edgar Alan Poe

was damn close to winning. I very much love Poe, what with spending a big portion of my life in the Baltimore area and having a general propensity for melancholy. However, this was the only one of the three finalists that didn’t have consensus, and I’m still happy with choice of the eventual winner. But yeah, great choice with this one.

Here’s the complete version from my copy of Matt Hughes’s Edgar Allan Poe: This and Nothing More Illuminated Edition.

Then we had the runner-up in “All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.” – Cormac McCarthy, The Road Again, a really good pull on the quote though with, perhaps a bit more of a dour cast, which funneled into the consensus pick for winner of this category.

“Peace flows into me
As the tide to the pool by the shore;
It is mine forevermore,
It ebbs not back like the sea …”
– Sara Teasdale, ‘Peace’.

For the curious, the rest of the poem finishes:

I am the pool of blue
That worships the vivid sky;
My hopes were heaven-high,
They are all fulfilled in you.

I am the pool of gold
When sunset burns and dies —
You are my deepening skies;
Give me your stars to hold.

Teasdale is masterful at juxtaposing themes of loss and tranquility. Of all the quotes people picked, this is the one that felt most suffused with a sense of serenity. While ruminating on the particular feeling of tranquility in the aftermath of a horrific event, I thought of another poem of hers that I adore: “There Will Come Soft Rains,” a piece that inspired the Bradbury short story of the same name, which quotes it directly (it’s probably my favorite piece of Bradbury’s work). [PRIZE]

On a very non-FAB-related book tangent, I’m currently midway through The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, which is good, and I’m forever re-reading This is How You Lose the Time War, which is beautifully written and the audiobook version is exquisite. I don’t get kickbacks or anything, this is just me shilling stuff that I like, because it’s vaguely related to what I’m writing about.)

7.) The “For This We Fought the Battle of Ages” Award
So, there’s a big tonal change from the last category here. Pretty much as soon as I thought this contest up, I knew that I wanted to do a song lyric category, but I felt I needed some loose genre bounds. Since this is my capriciously devised contest, I was obviously going to pick a genre I liked. Based on a bunch of stereotypes of card-playing nerds that I have no evidence with which to back up, I guessed that I had a better shot at getting a solid amount of entries with “metal” as opposed to something like “90’s grunge/alt rock” (dated) or “Dream Pop/Baroque Pop” (too girly?), or more esoteric genres that only exist in my head like “ethereal waifs singing about profound longing” (probably better not to dig into that). I picked this particular card art because it’s functionally a metal album cover already. Anyway, all of that is to say that this ended up in an interesting place because practically no one submitted lyrics from bands I listen to –c’est la vie. At least that prevented me from being biased towards personal favorites.

After the initial cut I had eleven entries left, at which point, I immediately and embarrassingly realized that two of them were different parts of the same Dethklok song. Which is kind of hilarious that a semi-fictional band got that much representation. What can I say though, Dethklok is a really intuitive fit for a fantasy game. The song in question? “Awaken”. Of the two submissions using this song, my favorite was

“The time has come, to awaken him
I call upon the ancient lords of the underworld
To bring forth this beast and awaken” Dethklok, Awaken

This next one had some nice overlap between card art and lyrics as well as overall mood. In that respect, it kind of anticipates the eventual winner, which did those same things but turned up to 11.

Here at your feet,
I rest my head,
Hear the roar of time,
The birth of stars.
Insomnium: album: “Shadows Of The Dying Sun” (2014)

In second place we have
“Fire of the black star rise
Shine your light where the white light dies
How I lust for the wisdom you hold
In the shadows under blood of stars.”

– ‘Spirit of the Black Star’ by Inquisition

That last line is particularly choice. Seeking astral knowledge really hits Runeblade flavor.

As for the actual winner, I feel like this is one was so absurdly apt that it felt like it was written for the card:

I have taken the mantle and scarred my flesh,
and bore the weight of my astral lineage. – Vanum “Jaws of Rapture”

I’m not sure how you beat that. It’s pretty much perfect. [PRIZE]

I guess since I did my “this is what I’m reading” bit, I should also shamelessly plug the metal I’m listening to because why not. I’m currently obsessed with this song from Alunah

but that whole EP is great, as is their most recent album Violet Hour. I liked their music from before the 2018 lineup change, but the last two releases really landed for me.

I’ve also been revisiting the tragically disbanded (“for now”) SubRosa’s More Constant Than the Gods, which I recently caved and paid a criminal amount for on vinyl. I also named this category’s award for another one of their albums.

8.) The “Bashō’s Apprentice” Award
(Note: I’ve been fairly permissive in syllable count for words that could easily be plus or minus one depending on regional accents.)
I just want to say that I’m impressed with how many people attempted this one. I think poems are a more intimidating creative writing task than prose, even heavily prescriptive ones like haiku. I assumed this would get far fewer entries than it did. But instead I had to trim the ninety four entries down two nine and still ended up awarding three prizes for this category. Oh, did that get your attention? Let’s talk about that first actually.

A bunch of people decided to go for jokes with their answers, which wasn’t really on prompt (disqualification). And several of you geniuses realized “Whirling Mist Blossom” is itself five syllables and perfect for one of the lines of your haiku if you’re into being too clever by half. However, one entry combined these elements in a downright elegant joke that cracked me up and also got a laugh from my wife who has never played a game of FAB. And the winner of this special award is:

Whirling Mist Blossom
Ira Specialization
Draw cards. Go again

Just chef’s kiss perfection on the execution here. I award you the “Literally Funny” Award, I’m sure you’ll brag about it responsibly. That brings us to the serious entries. There were two that were very, very well-matched and two that were just a little behind them. We’ll touch on those latter ones first.

A delicate breeze
Blossoms paint the night’s canvas
Haze and peril looms

The middle line is the standout here, though I do appreciate the work “haze” is doing in reference to Ira.

Swift beauty and grace
Petals blossom and die though
Night’s evening mist

I thought “Petals blossom and die” was a great take on “ephemeral beauty and/or danger”. But, as I said, competition was stiff and there were two real standout entries. In fact they were so close that I actually couldn’t make a call. It’s the only category where I really couldn’t settle on a winner, and since I had promos for a subsequent contest anyway, I decided to award two entries the prize. Well, that was the plan anyway until I went to write this post up only to discover that one of the entries was also the winner of the Harold Honeysett catagory. Per the rules, you can only win once promo bundle, but you may freely give yourself a firm pat on the back for a job well done with this contribution:

Nature’s patient blade
Stone becomes rubble and dust
A relentless breeze

“Nature’s patient blade” is an foreboding and enamoring opening. One of the things that’s always appealed to me about a lot of classic Japanese artistic forms is the use of negative space, silence, and pauses (if you ever get the opportunity to catch a Noh performance you, should do it). The things that aren’t there or the spaces between them end up really shaping the content that is present. One approach to haiku that I find effective is when each line ends with a sort of implied pause for contemplation, which is something I get here. Moving on in the poetry ramble, our co-winner is: [PRIZE]

Moonlight touched petal
Side to side, ever graceful
Like daggers singing

A lot of the strong pieces in this category conjured really compelling imagery, but I especially like this one because it’s not an intuitive or common trope; however, when you pause to think about it, you can imagine a petal floating side-to-side in the breeze as a similar motion to a dagger plunging in and out of a victim. Going back to the prompt, I think that’s an supurb combination of “ephemeral beauty and danger”. [PRIZE]

9.) The “Poet Laureate of Rathe” Award
In my mind, this was always “the hard one”. It was the first one I thought of when I decided to do this competition, and I knew it was going to be difficult. As I noted in a piece I wrote a last year, I really hate the original flavor text on this card. It takes a fantastic piece of art that that is engaging and thought provoking and kicks its legs out for a joke that’s not particularly funny. I know I’m taking this sort of personally, but it just felt like a cowardly move – like the art is very provocative, so let’s take a step back and diffuse the situation with a joke. It’s like if Snag had some dumb one liner about “keeping an eye out,” totally pisses away the mood your art worked hard to establish. Anyway, back to the challenge. Keats is probably my favorite poet, and “La Belle Dame sans Merci” is one of his best known works; it’s quoted and alluded to all over the place (This is How You Lose the Time War, the novella I mentioned earlier, finds an amusing way to sneak it in).

On the other side of this challenge we have H.P. Lovecraft who, despite being a garbage human, birthed the genre of cosmic horror. Lovecraftian notes permeate the tone of many Demonastery and Runeblade-aligned cards, and the creature on Consuming Volition would definitely feel at home in Lovcraft’s work. These two distinct approaches set the table for this challenge. Like I said, it was a tall order. And, as expected, it got the fewest entries by far at seventy five, which was still a pretty good turn out. Of those, the initial pass left only seven.

A lot of people went with the poetry route, which I realized after the fact may have been implied as a thing I was looking for here, but that wasn’t really my intent. Still, some solid prose entries got through, most notably: Above the sedge sits a delicate love, but on the lustre of the lake’s surface, looms an evil older than the aeons. I think using “sedge” is, perhaps, a little on the nose, but this is a very economical submission that gets in the some ominous beauty on the front end before diving into Lovecraft territory with “an evil older than the aeons”.

I tagged this one:

The beauty is of fairest rose
To any who shall see her face
Below the surface though is but
Creation’s disgrace

This one really felt like it had great bones –“Creation’s disgrace” is an A+ description– but I think the overall entry could have been tightened up a little with some wording tweaks here and there. Like I said, strong foundation and worthy of mention, but not quite there.

Then we had this entry with a really nice cadence to it that, combined with the subject matter, made me think of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” You could certainly keep worse company than Coleridge.

Treacherous beauty neath the waves
The foolish youth deceived
The warning signs all were there
But none of them believed

Which brings us to the winner, and a fun fact to go along with it:

O calm thy soul against my lips,
Red blossoms like my hair,
The water’s cold, the wind is high,
Such fragrant air.

And death does look thee in the eyes,
I hold against my will,
Autumn leaves and slender branch,
I’ll love thee still.

So, this piece is hauntingly lovely, and it also does something very cool, which is that it takes the perspective of the monster. “Red blossoms like my hair” combined with the art let us know that the “me” in the poem is the creature and not the man. The “I’ll love thee still,” closing is just super compelling and leaves you thinking about the whole story the poem tells with the art, which then prompts you to go back and re-read the poem and reexamine the art to reassess the whole situation. The concept of something that we would initially see as monstrous, grotesque, and horrific feeling love for a person is a very interesting narrative space. It made me think a bit of the Alastair Reynolds short story “Beyond the Aquila Rift” which is worth checking out if that sounds like your vibe. “Beyond the Aquila Rift “was also turned into a Love Death + Robots Season 1 short on Netflix, which was inferior to the short story but does have a really good ending sequence (Alastair Reynolds’s “Zima Blue” was also adapted for Season 1 of Love Death + Robots, and it’s easily the best piece in either season of the show).

Anyway, about that fun fact: after I picked the winners for the categories, I put together a spreadsheet of everyone who made it to a final cut. Then I noted each instance where they made a first cut, received a final cut selection from myself and/or my wife, got a special award, or won the category. We’ll hop into the stats more at the end, but every winner entered most of the categories, and every winner made the first cut on at least two categories… every winner but this one. The contestant who submitted this entry only took a stab at about half the categories. It’s like they came through town as some sort of poetry gunslinger, blowing through just long enough to win this one with what appears to be practiced skill and then walk into the sunset. [PRIZE]

10.) The “I Stared Into Infinity, and All I Got Was This Award” Award

And now we draw to the end of the contest, wherein I gave you complete control to do whatever you wanted, and y’all took that freedom and scattered all over the place, which made it very tricky to evaluate because there was no rubric to hold people to. We had quotes warring with poems, while jokes circled the perimeter. Thus we ended up with a grab bag to close us out with some delightful chaos. My wife and I diverged on our approach to this one a bit. I selected five final cuts out of the fifteen that survived the first pass. Meanwhile she just pointed to one and said, “that’s that winner” (and she was right). But let’s take a step back and enjoy some of the contenders.

As I said, a fair number of people took a comedic approach –there were many mentions of mushrooms. Yet, for my money, the best joke answer was actually the very succinct They told me not to drink that crazy brew. I feel like the success here is self-explanatory.

A couple people went with quotes, and the best one, which could have been a stronger contender for the win were it not tragically disqualified for exceeding the word limit (remember the citation is included). Still you can enjoy it here:

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain
BY EMILY DICKINSON

We also got an imagined in game quote: “I tasted every note and wept at every scale, as I descended the stair of secret chords. My soul is incomplete, till I find that place again.” – Rodrick the Song-Mad “I tasted every note and wept at every scale” is a pleasing bit of psychedelic rambling from ol’ Rodrick the Song-Mad, which like, LSS, if you need a Demonastery-based bard… just-saying.

And our winner: “There is no satisfaction in even listening to the symphony of time – in obsessing over each flat, sharp, or ill timed note that spells temporal chaos. But imagine considering yourself competent enough to compose it…” This one leaned into the musical nature of the card name harder than a lot of the others that merely flirted with that space, and it really knocked it out of the park by playing with the art to situate our central figure as an audacious prodigy structuring unreality to his purpose. [PRIZE]

Special Prize (and some stats)
At the end of the contest, once I assembled the spreadsheet that I mentioned above, I organized it by how many times the listed contestants made a first or better cut. After that, it was clear we had nine people that outperformed the rest, six of whom had three (we’ll call them) points. There was one person each for four and five points, and one person who racked up a staggering seven (and won for their Dash quote)! Although the person with five was also especially impressive because every single one of those five appearances was a final cut. So, in recognition of almost making it time and time again, I’m going to award them a prize as well. So if you wrote the following bits, congrats! I grant you the “You Earned It” Award!

Each acolyte hoped the beast would choose to serve them. Instead, the beast chews all of them.

The sphere was undamaged by hammers, axes, fire, blades, and saws. The force from within split its surface with ease.

“Hope you haven’t got piercings!” – Dash

“Be silent in that solitude, Which is not loneliness – for then, The spirits of the dead who stood, In life before thee are again” – Spirits of the Dead, Edgar Alan Poe

The beauty is of fairest rose
To any who shall see her face
Below the surface though is but
Creation’s disgrace

[PRIZE]

Contest the Second
Thanks so much again for everyone who participated and for those of you who committed to this very long read (far and away the longest post on this blog). I had a lot of fun conducting this contest, even if I made a lot of work form myself in the process (hence the lack of a proper article this week). I hope you had fun participating, even if you didn’t take home a prize in the end. I’ll have a much shorter and much sillier contest for the remaining promo bundles that I hope to get up tomorrow. I should probably give out a reminder that my Tales of Aria preview will drop on September 7th. Then I’ll close out here with a thank you to LSS: this was an absolute blast, and I appreciate being selected to get a kit. Thanks for supporting my strange flights of fancy and weird approach to content.

*Header Image – Consuming Volition by Sherbakov Stanislav

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