Diabolical Plots posted a review of the most recent WOTF XXV anthology. Frank Dutkiewicz also reviewed "our" WOTF XXIV back in September, just about the time I posted my review of WOTF XXV. Both the volume XXIV and XXV reviews cover all the stories and are pretty thorough.
First Rule Of Reviews
"Do not argue with reviews." Nope, that's not my issue here. Frank is entitled to his opinion and I appreciate the thoroughness of his work. No, what I wanted to talk about was the fact that (a) Frank disagreed with the WOTF XXV Gold Award decision and (b) then went back and analyzed his own thinking about it. In particular he felt that another story was much more amazing and stayed with him longer... in his opinion. But in reading his meta-reviewing, I think that the very aspect of the winning story which he didn't like, was probably the feature which bowled over the judges. When I looked back at my own, less thorough, review of WOTF XXV, I noted that I didn't find the Gold Award story the best either -- but that takes nothing away from Emery Huang's achievement. Personal opinions are just that -- personal and opinions.
We see this all the time with our stories. You may belong to a crit group where some of the writers "don't get" your stories. That doesn't make either you or them wrong, or right. An editor rejects a story you're sure would be a good fit to their market. But you're neither right or wrong. The editor is using a larger metric in deciding whether to buy your work. It's why we accumulate hundreds of rejections, because it takes a confluence of events and an alignment of the stars for a good story to get sold. That 12 or 13 stories show up in the Writers of the Future anthology each year, after they've slogged through thousands of entries, means that the judges have labeled these the best at a particular time with a particular set of judges.
And I'm okay with that.
I would rather hate living in a world in which there WAS a standard for writing. A website where you could submit your work and it could be run through a computer or passed in front of a committee and get a score. And then that score would determine when and where it was sold. Which stories would be "better" than others for all time. Because such a score would be arbitrary and subjective from the get-go.
Indeed, it is the very subjectiveness of the process which I believe is the reason that Writers of the Future bothers to let people know that they are Honorable Mentions (and Silver Honorable Mentions), Semi-Finalists and Finalists. These are the good stories, the better stories. This is where the real competition rests, between these stories. Winning is great. But in the end I don't envy the judges each quarter, or for the Gold Award, having to decide which stories are "better" and "best".
As for reviews, they serve their purpose when people use them to buy -- or not -- a work. The very things that one reviewer might not like, I find myself saying sometimes, "gee, I think that might work -- I'd like to read that story". And Your Mileage May Vary.
Anyway, that's my two cents.