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Winner’s Sample “The Long, Small Hours” by Travis Burnham

The Long, Small Hours

Travis Burnham

            It’s a dark night for dark deeds, and the avatars of seven gods of chaos are scattered across my lawn. They look human enough behind their masks and through the filter of the security cam, but they aren’t fooling me.

            Some young prepster with his blond hair slicked back is the first to step up to the front door and taps the mic plate before talking. The second he opens his trap, I know it’s Abhotehath, the Hundred-Tongued God, because he’s so polite when he says, “Please don’t deny us, James, or I’m afraid we’ll have to kill all of you.”

Creepy windbag.

He rambles on a bit more, says they want the homeless guy, but I can read between the lines: they want me. They’ll take Mary and the kids, Charlie and Zoey, too.

And then the gods of chaos cut the power.

Final Challenge

Here’s what the remaining three Gauntleteers now face.

Final Challenge: “Trailer for Your Muse”

Your Final Challenge is to watch the following movie trailer, and craft a short story based upon it. Your goal is to create a story different than the movie itself, but one that has stemmed from the same material. One that is—we hope—much better.

When life gives you tomatoes, make ketchup: movie trailer for The Purge.

Final Deadline: Thursday, December 8th @10PM EST


“Regarding Fanfiction”, 3rd Challenge

Your next challenge is to review the following fanfiction piece entitled “A Particle, a Wave” by Archive of Our Own user kvikindi. It was published on 08-18-2014, and is based upon Captain America, set in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. We want to hear all of your in-depth thoughts on it, up to and including commentary on fanfiction itself.

“A Particle, a Wave”

Deadline: Sunday, Nov. 20 @10PM EST

Round 2 Results

If you haven’t been to visit our forum, these are the competitors who made it. Believe us, it didn’t come easily.

Congratulations to:

Michael Anthony Ashley
Shawn Proctor
Daniel Ausema
Alexis A. Hunter
Pendergast Smith

And thank you to all who competed.

The Second Challenge

The next challenge of the 2016 Gauntlet is here!

Second Challenge: “Tell My Story”

Your next challenge is to write the story of a fictional character who has recently died or disappeared. Relate to us this person’s tale in a speculative fiction story of any length, with any amount of graphic content you wish. Tell us about what led up to their disappearance, and what may be coming next. The narrator’s relationship with this character is for you to decide. There is only one real catch. This story must be written in second person POV.

Deadline: Wednesday, Nov. 9th @ 10PM EST

Round 1 Over, Sign-Ups Closed

To our brave Gauntleteers, and everybody else watching out there, thanks for helping launch the Gauntlet in 2016. That’s a wrap for sign-ups, and we enter our first judging period. First Round results to be posted Tuesday, Nov. 1st.

First Challenge: “Times Like These”

First Challenge: “Times like These”

Your first challenge is to read and review the following article about one of science fiction’s notorious tropes, time travel. The article, “The Foolish Errand of Time Travel” by Colin Dickey, appeared in New Republic on September 19 of this year. It is itself a book review. The piece discusses Time Travel by James Gleick, asking scientific questions, and pulling from most every popular time travel story we’ve heard of. We want to know a) what is your opinion of the article? And b) what do you think of time travel, and how it is used in science fiction?

Article: “The Foolish Errand of Time Travel”

Winner’s Sample: “Blindness”

We’d like to present our Gauntlet Champion, Dimitra Nikolaidou, in a little better context. During these past four rounds, she proved to be a well-rounded competitor not to be trifled with. She answered our challenges with the kind of storytelling, criticism, and sense of humor we demand. You should pursue her articles over at, and her short “The Garden of Daedalus V” now posted in the Quantum Shorts competition! You can follow this rising Greek author for updates on Twitter (@D_Nikolaidou). But the best place to start getting to know her lies below.

Here is a sample of her winning entry, written in under two weeks for our Final Round.


(From “Blindness” by Dimitra Nikolaidou)

His foot slipped, and he fell.

But as he fell, among the snowdrops and the flame and his own short gasps, he saw her. And she was everything he had been promised. And he did not scream, even as his back hit the frozen ground and the world went away.

“I had never thought it would be her.”

Plato’s grandfather kept saying the same thing every time they opened the window. He had been blinded early in the days of the new regime, when taking the eyes of artists was more common than the rain, and the violence had taken all his words away. And yet, every time the shutters unlatched, this single sentence was let out, floating in the air between them.

He glanced at his grandfather, then turned towards the small part of the square that was still visible from their apartment among the tall buildings and the weighted clotheslines and the rusted antennae. The statue of the masked woman in its middle was the only shade of white among a sea of dirty concrete.

Almost a thing of beauty.

He laid against the windowsill, looked down. Every woman walking in the street looked exactly the same, the bones of their faces twisted in the exact same shape to form the same flower-like mask. Hands covered under gloves, clothes similarly cut. Not even his own eyes could tell strangers apart.

The policewoman in the corner was a different one again, as far as he could tell by her height and the way her uniform fit, and the apartment opposite them had been vacant for three months now.

No, Grandpa had to mean the statue. Brave Lady Manya, the first one to free herself from the tyranny of beauty that held all women captive before the new regime took over and elevated them, whether they wanted it or not.

“I am going for a walk,” he told his mother, backing into the room. She turned her head around, her hands still on the keyboard. She was worried about him. He felt it in her stance. It had only been three weeks since he had been released. Grandfather’s silence though had seeped through the walls of this house, and she only nodded as he picked up his tiny camera and put on his coat, the slits of her eyes turning back to her screen.

Final Results

Hello World. It’s the Gauntlet.

After weeks of challenges, writing, critique, of trials and tribulations, we have our winners’ circle. News broke on Twitter, and in our forums the night it happened, but now let’s get it in our News reel. There were 35 warriors of letters this year, and many of them shined.

  • Our 2nd Runner-Up for 2015 is Sammi Jenkins, the 2013 Gauntlet Champ, and perennial contender.
  • Our First Runner-Up is Daniel Ausema who was strong throughout the competition, both as a writer and reviewer (despite how crazy the challenges got).
  • Our Champion is the newcomer, joining us from Greece, Dimitra Nikolaidou. Stay tuned, because we’d like to tell you a bit more about her!