Here is the seventh of the submissions, posted here in no particular order. Please remember that this is the opinion of one editor. There will be others who agree, but there will also be those who disagree. In the end, what you do with your story is up to you; it’s your call.
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The Gears of War
Every morning, Kiyoshi rose from sleep as a boy with messy hair, a slim frame and, usually, an urge to pee.
Every morning, he rolled up the futon and knelt before the shrine honoring his sister’s memory, gazing at her sunny face and burning incense for her. Aiko, the name on the picture said. Aiko, meaning beloved. Beloved of an entire family, jewel in the eyes of her parents and role model in the eyes of her little brother.
Every morning, he brushed his long hair until it lay straight and still against his back, dipped fingertips into bowls of cosmetics to outline eyes and lips and slid into one of his sister’s kimono.
Every morning, Kiyoshi entered the kitchen as a dead girl.
“Aiko!” her mother said, waving her chopsticks. “You’ll be late for work again. Hurry and eat.”
“Yes, mother. Sorry.” Aiko’s lips were always quick to smile with infectious cheer; they spread now in sheepish apology and the smile was returned.
Kneeling at the low table across from her mother, Aiko seized a pair of lacquered chopsticks and began her assault on the feast spread before her: miso soup, steamed rice, a rolled omelet, a bowl of fermented soybeans and various pickled vegetables. She ate as if to fill a bottomless hole, wielding her chopsticks like a weapon to slay her breakfast.
“Eat, eat,” her mother said. “You’re a growing girl and you have a day of hard work ahead.”
Her mother’s name was Hanako, flower child, a strange name for a woman born and raised in a city made of cogs and smog where flowers were rarely seen in any other state than dead and dried. There was one such dried flower in the house, a sad, brittle thing trapped in a frame and hung on the wall.
Do not go to sleep, eat or go to the loo before you have sent me the rest of this story. I’m serious*. This snippet does everything right, and I’ll talk a bit about why.
You had me interested at the end of the first sentence.
Then you immediately went to explore the character. A dead sister always generates sympathy, especially what with sibling rivalry.
Then you added mystery in a subtle way by letting the boy put on the sister’s clothes.
And you sealed it with the concluding fourth paragraph. The boy is now a girl.
Were this section less economically-written, more tell and less show, I might have moaned over the fact that the first four paragraphs start with repetitive words. In this case, it’s perfect. It works. Don’t change a thing (aside from the kimono that should be ‘one of his sister’s kimonos’).
Thus transformed into a girl without explicitly saying so, the character starts interacting with someone else. Through further subtle interaction (eating a lot of food), the story shows that the boy is probably on the verge of becoming a man, adding extra tension to the snippet.
This is a wonderful beginning.
*I am really serious. Send this to the ASIM submissions address with a note that this is a workshop survivor, and the slushmistress will pass it onto me (she has been notified of which stories to pass on). I hope that the rest of the plot both has SFF elements and is as wonderful as this snippet. In any case, I will comment on it privately.