Savvy spec fic authors may be aware of The Inklings, but I just discovered them. What are The Inklings, you ask? Wikipedia says, The Inklings was an informal literary discussion group associated with the University of Oxford, England, between the 1930s and the 1960s. Its most regular members (many of them academics at the University) included J.R.R. "Tollers" Tolkien, C.S. "Jack" Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Christopher Tolkien (J.R.R. Tolkien's son), Warren "Warnie" Lewis (C.S. Lewis's elder brother), Roger Lancelyn Green, Adam Fox, Hugo Dyson, Robert Havard, J.A.W. Bennett, Lord David Cecil, and Nevill Coghill.
and Readings and discussions of the members' unfinished works were the principal purposes of meetings. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet, and Williams's All Hallows' Eve were among the novels first read to the Inklings. Tolkien's fictional Notion Club (see Sauron Defeated) was based on the Inklings..
So, The Inklings were a critique group! I would have loved to attend, or even be a fly on the wall, hearing early drafts of The Lord of the Rings and the rest. Wouldn't you? Which brings me to my point. IMHO, authors need a critique group. Maybe your WIP will be the future's The Lord of the Rings--if you get some assistance from your critique group. :)
It is clear to me that some of the authors in our Electric Spec 'closed round'--as Betsy would say--do not have critique groups. A case in point: please do not have random pov switches in your short story. Here's another: do you really need three different timelines in your short story? Probably not.
However, congrats to all the authors that made the closed round! We editors have some tough decisions ahead of us.