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Thursday, August 12, 2010

And the winner is...

Apologies to all and sundry for the long delay in posting the results for the 7/30/10 Friday Challenge, The Rabbi, the Nun, the Talking Dog, and Everything. Henry was overwhelmed by NASFIC, Kersley has been holed up in the mountains fighting off a pack of rabid feral Cub Scouts, and I was out of town and mostly offline for a few days, only to come back to find that STUPEFYING STORIES production was being held up by yet another really fiddly but extremely aggravating technical problem. (That was finally resolved at 11:30 last night, thanks for asking.) Without further excuses, then:

The Bandit, "The Rabbi, the Nun, the Talking Dog, and Everything"

Kersley: The cadence seems so familiar. Dr. Suess or Uncle Shelby? I can't quite place it. Cute, but it confuses me. Did the Rabbi get tricked into buying a normal dog, and that shamed him into paying the nun? How did getting tricked into buying a normal dog give him a sudden interest in helping children?

Henry: I love the way this one is written though I'm not quite sure why the Rabbi is angry or chagrined. I am guessing the Rabbi tried to use the talking dog and the dog refused to talk, but that's just a guess based on the anger and embarrassment. Having a scene between the second and third ones would help a lot, I think.

Bruce: I really like this one, for reasons I can't adequately pin down. It's got style out the wazoo and reads like some sort of metatext recapitulation of an old joke—which, given the title and the nature of the challenge, is entirely to be expected. But I agree with Kersley and Henry: there seems to be something missing between the second and third segments. There is an inferred reason why the second segment leads to the third that needs to be at least hinted at more broadly. Without that, I can only guess at the reason for the rabbi's change of heart; and while I can guess at some good punchlines, doing so is oddly dissatisfying.

Triton, "The Rabbi, the Nun, the Talking Dog, and Everything"

Kersley: Sooo...a space-dog overhears a nun and a rabbi having a theological discussion and this convinces him to eat all the people in the world? Nah, I don't get it. Enslave them, maybe. Make them sleep in crates while they snooze in our beds. But eat us all?

Henry: You had the most gruesome entry of the week but went somewhere totally unexpected with it. Alien dog- um, canines never crossed my mind once. With all stray signals we humans are beaming off into space, I don't know why the canines needed to listen to a nun and a rabbi debate about religion to decide whether humanity is worth saving or eating.

(Bruce, aside to Henry: Because it's a dog-eat-dog universe out there!)

Bruce: As a longtime fan of Get Fuzzy this one immediately struck me as based on an incorrect assumption, for as everyone knows, it's cats that long to eat monkeys.

Seriously: good story, well-told. I really liked the way you defined Moshe is just a few deft strokes. I think this one has the potential to be developed into an interesting story—but on the other hand, this one also has a distinctly dated feeling to it. It seems to me as if this one could have been published fifty years ago, or worse, made into one of those very-low-budget "two people on an empty soundstage" episodes of Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. ("Guest starring Rin Tin Tin as Xanthor!")

Good basic idea, but it needs to be updated, thought through more seriously, and brought into the 21st century.

Miko, "Petey"

Kersley: I don't know where to go with this one. Is the story borderline racist in having a protagonist, apparently African-American, who doesn't want civil rights? Is the character a cowardly opportunist who hides his views behind his dog? Is it a morality play saying that it's safest to not express your thoughts? I'm really hesitant to judge the intent on this one, because it strikes me in a way you may not have intended.

Henry: Once again, I love the voice and language you use for your audio recordings. This entry is sort of like an episode of South Park -- there's something in there to offend just about everyone! I'm generally harder to offend than most and found myself wondering where you were going with the story. I only figured out the dog was going to be lynched when the character began looking for his dog. Interesting stuff.

Bruce: Miko, Miko, Miko...

I don't know whether to really like this one or be really, really, offended by it. Part of me wants to know how you did it, technically: if this were still the Analog Age I'd say you recorded it and then slowed the tape playback by about 25% to give it that slow cadence and that gravelly voice. I'm sure there's an easier digital way to get that effect now.

Besides, this is why I like to see entries in print: because this is another fine example of how the medium of delivery totally overwhelms the content being delivered.

I think Kersley got close to the essential truth of the story, but shied away from it. The teller of this story is a man with a nasty, bitter, pungent opinion of everyone he meets, who hides behind his dog. He's a very sly man, with a mean streak a mile wide. The characterization is absolutely incredible.

But... then there's this whole race thing, again, and it makes me nervous. I'd want to apply my "Earl and Lucinda" test to this one—Earl and Lucinda being my elderly black neighbors from two doors down—and I have to think that Earl would be truly and deeply offended by this one. (And then, two or three days later, he'd think of some bit of it again and start laughing.)

Decisions, decisions...

ApolloKioku, "The Rabbi, the Nun, the Talking Dog, and Everything" or LHVIA

Kersley: This is a small scene in an epic world. There is so much potential here. Allegorical possibilities abound. (Jenny McCarthy immediately comes to mind with her "I feel in my heart" that her son's autism is due to inoculations.)

Henry: This is an interesting, enjoyable, and short entry. One of my two problems with it is there isn't any explanation why the computer is called TALKINGDOG. You did address it, as it appears the rationale for the name is lost in the mists of time. The bigger problem is why the main character wishes to leave DOG. There is a lot we don't know about this world, but people who are the only ones who communicate with the oracle (or TALKINGDOG, in this case) are generally held in great esteem and enjoy a life of luxury. That appears not to be the case here, but we don't know why. I like this entry, I just think we need to learn more about the character to truly understand his situation.

Bruce: You learn something every day. In my case, I learned that there actually are such things as female Conservative rabbis—or rather, that I was conflating Conservative with Orthodox again.

This is a fragment; a setup; a tone poem. I work with supercomputers daily and the idea of "always perfect" output makes me laugh, nor have I ever once thought of one of them as purring warmly while it solved—hold on a minute... Purring? It's the cats, I tell you! They're behind everything!

And the winner is...

Kersley: I vote for Apollo. It could go in so many different directions, or it could explode all over the screen. It'd be interesting to see which.

Henry: The Bandit. No, wait, Miko, and his front-porch-storyteller voice.

Bruce: I think Miko created the most unforgettable character here, but he also created the most offensive piece. That's not a bad thing; there's a lot of power in carefully crafted outrage, and fiction isn't always supposed to make you comfortable.

But in the final analysis, I'm going to chicken out, and get pedantic. Returning to the original challenge:
And that's your challenge this week. Take this title and make up the story:

"The Rabbi, the Nun, the Talking Dog, and Everything"

All we ask is that the title make sense within the context of your story.
The title of Miko's entry clearly is "Petey," and not "The Rabbi, the Nun, the Talking Dog, and Everything." Therefore I'm going to go along with Kersley and cast my vote for Apollo.

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