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Sunday, August 15, 2010

And the winner is...

In a stunning break from business as usual, we, the ruling troika of THE FRIDAY CHALLENGE, are actually going to announce the winner on Sunday evening for a change! Don't let it throw you; no doubt we'll be back to our old habits next week.

But this week, in the matter of the 8/6/10 Friday Challenge, "Postcards From the Edge," the considered opinions of the judges are:

Miko, "Pilgrimage to the Holy Land"

Kersley: That was just cool. I’m not sure if the combination of beer and fervent religion was ironic or tells me you need an intervention, but I’m going with ironic and whimsical and Canticle for Leibowitz-ish and…cool.

Henry: Now that's a pilgrimage I would be willing to go on! Not having an inkling of most of the foreign words, I was buying the religious subtext completely. Having it turn out to be beer was just a great turn around (and makes the whole beheading-was-merciful bit in postcard 2 all the better). This was a lot of fun, though it's more of a travelogue than a story.

Bruce: Henry? For some of us, beer is religion. Or at least, as Benjamin Franklin once said, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

Miko? Beautiful, just beautiful. I have enough familiarity with the Czech language to have realized from the start where this was going, and still I savored every delicious golden drop. I was mildly disappointed when I realized that those were not your photos—and so this remains only a pilgrimage in fantasy—but still, it was a very clever idea and very well executed. And admitting this does not come easily to me, as this is closer to my heart. (Pfah! Czechs! What do they know?)

Arvid Macenion, "Postcards Home"

Kersley: Very cute. I love that it’s a camp for “females” -- as if female doesn’t necessarily mean girl. The “do you think maybe she could come over some time?” was just spot on.

Henry: I should have figured we'd get at least one postcards-from-camp entry and yours was fun. As there are only a couple of different ways this kind of story can end -- the kid keeps hating camp or starts enjoying it -- they tend to be predictable. The fun is in how the child finds a way to break through and start enjoying herself. Also, placing Sarah in a camp for lots of different species really helped build the isolation she felt at the beginning. All in all, a good, enjoyable entry.

Bruce: Henry is right; there is a predictable quality to the postcards-from-camp structure that undercuts the impact of the story. All the same, this one was really enjoyable, and I find myself wishing I knew more about the YA market, so that I could give you some advice on developing this into something that might be sellable. Guy Stewart, if you're reading, please feel free to jump in.

M & Avery, "Postcards"

Kersley: [comments unprintable]

Henry: Scribbler lives! What long, strange retcon it's been, too. Guys, we're talking some serious inside jokes in this entry! Add in the ongoing Haldeman autograph bit and you've got something guaranteed to confuse almost everyone. I really liked the absinthe pun, too. Well done in an "I'm still trying to wrap my brain around this one" way.

Bruce: [having trouble with drop i/o, but trusting Henry's assessment that it's the Mother-in-Law of All Inside Jokes]

Carmine Vrill, "Dear Samantha"

Kersley: Cool, enigmatic entry. Some of the word choices are a little off. If I was in a jungle filled with silent monkeys, I don’t think I’d call it “grating.” Like the Bandit’s entry from last week, I feel like the third quarter is missing something. What happened? What do the changes in font represent? Is the writer possessed?

Henry: Very creepy with a nice tie-in to the whole "world will end in 2012" theme, though that's Mayan rather than Incan. The postcards reminded me a bit of Lovecraft. Of course, I've never been able to finish a single Lovecraft story, so take that with a grain of salt. I liked the way you ratcheted up the tension with each postcard and used the font selection to aid in telling the story. Nicely done!

Bruce: And right in the middle of my writeup, as I was sitting out of the deck in the growing dark, swatting mosquitoes, listening to the oppressive racket of the tree frogs, and ducking the occasional low-flying bat -- which is to say, feel quite sufficiently jungle-ish -- my wi-fi connection decided to take a dump. Which is why this is being posted a few minutes after the scheduled time after all. And the short version is, very nicely done, very Gothic.

Watkinson, "Postcards With an Edge"

Kersley: Yeah. There you go.

Henry: In a way, this entry and Carmine's entry are similar in that the main character enters the jungle and is vastly changed by what he finds; possessed (I assume) in Carmine's entry, obsessed in yours. I thought the willingness to kill to preserve his obsession came out of nowhere. The character went from hoping to persuade to willing to kill between the third and fourth postcards. I know that's readily possible in real life, but we like a bit more foreshadowing in our fiction.

Bruce: Trying to reconstruct the comments that were lost when my wi-fi took a dump, basically, I really liked the way you sketched out a complete story arc in a very few well-chosen words. I would really like to see this one developed into a longer story.

And the winner is...

Kersley: When I first read the challenge, I was thinking something along the lines of the babysitter’s voice mails in The Incredibles. I’m happy to be able to vote for Watkinson this week. I’ve always loved his storytelling; with this one, he handles the writing, too. Miko's was very complete, and Carmine's has a lot of potential, but I think Watkinson's matched what I was hoping for.

Henry: Despite selecting the wrong ancient civilization to be holding TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) prisoner, I thought Carmine's entry fulfilled the requirements of the challenge best while also telling a good story. Carmine gets my vote this week.

Bruce: Tough choice. I enjoyed Miko's the most, I liked the tone and message of Arvid's story, I wish I could have read M & Avery's entry even though it was an inside joke, I was somewhat fearful that Carmine's story was going to turn into some sort of Aliens vs. Predators fanfic and greatly relieved when it didn't, and I think Watkinson's entry has the most potential to be turned into something longer and possibly marketable. Reading the reader's comments didn't help much; all of them got votes and none was the clear and overwhelming favorite. Therefore, operating on the principle that I can't ship the obvious prize to Miko by mail -- if you show up at DragonCon, I'll buy you one, instead -- I'm going to cast my tie-breaking vote for...

Carmine Vrill for the win, with Honorable Mention to Arvid Macenion. And Watkinson, I really want to see more of this story and hope you'll develop it further.
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