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Sunday, July 26, 2009

And the winner is...

Well, that was a pleasant change. For the first time in far too long, we actually found the time this evening to read and discuss the entries in the 7/17/09 Friday Challenge before picking a winner.

Al: there are some clever ideas in "Dark Mirror," but it reads more like a sketch or an outline than an actual story, and the reference to Speaker Pelosi in the final paragraph undercuts the whole thing by making it seem more like the setup for some not terribly clear contemporary political joke. Interestingly, we agreed that if the name "Pelosi" were simply removed from that last sentence, it would greatly improve the tone of the entire piece. The active characters in the story are the President, "Bob," and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. If that last sentence were to refer only to The Speaker of the House, it would be more in keeping with the rest of the story.

Unless, of course, it was meant to be a joke at Speaker Pelosi's expense, in which case, we didn't get it.

However, that's going quite far off on a sidetrack. The depiction of the gallery of history in the Library of Congress is a very strong idea, and we wonder if there isn't more you could have done with that, or some way you could have presented that without the framing device of the President's conversation with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. You've really developed the alternate history well. It's the framing story that's weak.

Henry: actually, we couldn't find anything to ding in "The Declaration." It's an engaging story, well told, with a great setup and ending. You do a nice job of establishing the alternate history without succumbing to the risk of slipping into a Don & Rob lecture.

For anyone not familiar with the expression: that's always a risk when doing stories of this kind. When you find yourself with information readers need to know in order to understand the story, but that the characters living in the story already know as a matter of course, there's always a terrible temptation to just blurt it out by having Don turn to Rob and say, "As we both know, the course of history took a dramatic turn when..."

Good job establishing the alternate timeline without sounding like you're establishing an alternate timeline. Very smooth.

However, in the final cut, we picked Guy as this week's winner. There are just so many enormously cool and weird things all going on at the same time in "Throwing Wotan's Spear" that we don't know how you managed to fit them all into one very short story. Transatlantic zeppelin service, Zulu peacekeepers in occupied Berlin, Robert Goddard and Albert One-Beer meeting in a German beer hall to discuss liquid-fueled rocketry and atomic physics while under the influence of too much beer and Wagner. I had the feeling the story was missing just one thing that would make it perfect, but couldn't quite put my finger on it, until just now as I was writing this up and realized that what it was missing was a cameo guest appearance by either Jerry Cornelius or Una Persson.

Anyway, it was fun, weird, trippy stuff, and this week it's our winner. So Guy Stewart, come on down and claim your prize!
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