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Friday, June 4, 2010

The Friday Challenge - 6/4/10

This week in The Friday Challenge
Guest columnist Sarah Pottenger continues her explication of the proper care and feeding of commas and provides plenty of easy-to-emulate examples of good usage. Is this the sort of column about the nuts-and-bolts of writing that you'd like to see more of? Join the discussion...

Henry Vogel delivers a simple and yet profound column on the true meaning of Memorial Day. Sometimes images speak far more eloquently than words. Join the discussion...

Bruce Bethke takes a rain check on writing a "Name This Column" this week, being stuck for hours in a construction-caused traffic jam in central Wisconsin and "sun check" not being in the lexicon. Nonetheless, the discussion continues quite well in his absence and Watkinson clues us all in to 6 Reasons Space Travel Will Always Suck...

Ultimate Geek Fu starts out with a discussion of the mysteries of book cover design and ends up on a quest to find the world's cheesiest cover art, which Avery wins hands-down. Oh my ears and whiskers, indeed! Join the discussion...

Avery also takes the win in the 5/28/10 Friday Challenge, "tlhutlh Daq Qapla'," while The Bandit takes the still inadequately explained win in the 4/30/10 Friday Challenge, "The Land Before ZIP Codes." Join the discussion...

Also, Kersley Fitzgerald plumbs the depths of the vast chasm between platitudes and practice, and inmates discuss the view from their respective places in the asylum. All this and more, this week in The Friday Challenge!

Geek Confessional
Regarding the 5/28/10 Friday Challenge, "Geek Confessional", as of the deadline we have received the following entries:

AJW308, "The Play-by-Mail Game"

Athor Pel, "The Espresso Machine"

Ernest T. Scribbler, "The Fountain Pen," Part One | Part Two

Stephen117, "The Time Machine,"
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

Miko, "All in a Day's Waste"

Miko, "THPBPT!"

Kersley Fitzgerald, "The Mower"

Just in case anyone is inclined to ask: yes, it's perfectly acceptable to submit more than one entry, if you're simply bubbling over with creativity, and no, Kersley, being a member of the ruling troika, is not competing for the prize; she's just in it for fun this week. That's okay, too.

If we've missed any entry, or if anyone snowdogs in an entry after I've written this post, please let us know and we'll fix it ASAP. As always, remember that even if you didn't submit an entry this week—even if you never submit an entry in any week—you're invited to read, comment on, and vote for your favorite entry. Writers thrive on knowing that someone else out there is actually reading their words.

The winner will be announced on Sunday.

Speaking of prizes...
Just a mild reminder that when we speak of prizes, we actually do mean to give out merchandise prizes, as evidenced by the growing untidy heap behind Door #3. If you've won a prize lately, claim something, please. If you've claimed something but we've forgotten to send it out, kindly give us a gentle nudge. Watkinson in particular: we've now sent two packages to you. Have any of them made it through? We've never had trouble with mail deliveries to Australia before, but we're beginning to wonder if there's a special "no deliveries" rule for people who live on Kalgoorlie Road.

The Lesser Challenge: A Truly Fantastic Book Review
And now for this week's challenge. As we were pulling together the contents for the inaugural issue of STUPEFYING STORIES, it became uncomfortably obvious to us that we were missing the one thing that all real magazines have.

No, not advertisers. Well, I mean, yes, we are, but— no, and not a serious acquisitions budget, either. All right—yes, that, and the time to actually to do this right, too, and—

Okay, four, we're missing four things that all real magazines have, one of which is... dramatic pause, please... BOOK REVIEWS.

No, this is not a call for everyone to grab something off the review pile and start reading and reviewing. There isn't time enough for that now, and besides, we were just about to toss the whole lot anyway as they're getting pretty stale. No, the more we thought about it, the more we realized that there was only one sort of book review that would be truly good enough for the inaugural issue of STUPEFYING STORIES, and that, of course, is a purely imaginary review, of a book that does not actually exist.

Hence, this week's challenge. We're looking for a 500-word review of the book, by any author, dead, imaginary, or fictional*, that does not actually exist, but that you wish you could read.

[*Please don't use any living author's name, unless you have the explicit permission of the author. You see, there's this unpleasant little thing called libel...]

As always, we're playing by the loosely enforced Official Rules of the Friday Challenge, and playing for whatever is behind Door #3. If we get enough entries and they're good enough, we might even actually use some of them as shims and fillers in the inaugural issue of STUPEFYING STORIES!

This being a lesser challenge, the deadline for this one is midnight Central time, Thursday, June 10. However, since we'll be very surprised if any of us are actually awake at that time, the effective deadline is when the first rooster crows at the first light of dawn on Friday, June 11.

[It's a very Rube Goldberg—or for our U.K. friends, Heath Robinson—kind of thing. The neighbors down the block do indeed have a chicken coop, and none of us have succeeded in sniping the @#($*&$ rooster yet. When the first rays of the breaking dawn touch the sides of the shed, the rooster goes off, which sets off the geese in the cow pasture, which sets off my Labrador retriever, which...

[Well, let's just say that I haven't had to use my alarm clock since last Fall.]

The Greater Challenge: July 4, 2050
As for this month's greater challenge: I'm going back to the well and dipping out one that has worked very well for us before. Quite simply, I want you to imagine that it's July 4, 2050. What does the world look like? What kind of holiday are the people of this nation celebrating today?

Reunification Day, on which we celebrate ridding ourselves of that pesky American exceptionalism and humbly rejoining the community of responsible nations? Defeat Day, on which we celebrate the president's historic trip to Moscow, during which he stunned the world by apologizing for the Cold War and then unilaterally surrendering to Russia? Could this be Oppressed People's Payback Day, the highlight of which is the ritual burning in effigy of an "Uncle Sam" cowboy at the big community bonfire tonight? Or is it perhaps even Dependency Day, on which we celebrate all the blessings of Mammon that Fearless Leader showers down upon we, the little people, who are too weak and foolish to know what's really in our own best interests?

Or maybe, just perhaps, God willing, is this Blood of Tyrants Day?

That's the challenge. We're looking for stories that celebrate freedom, liberty, independence, and all that jazz. For our U.K., Canadian, Australian, and Romanian friends: if the July 4th date doesn't work for you, substitute one you like better. This being a Greater Challenge, we are looking for actual complete stories of at least 1,000-words in length. The deadline for this one is July 1.

Any questions?
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