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Sunday, August 22, 2010

And the winner is...

In the matter of the 8/13/10 Friday Challenge, "Planet of the Dogs," the judges opinions are—

Actually, before we get to that, I just want to take a moment now to say how delighted I am that we not only got four really good entries this time, we also got a lot of really good commentary on the entries. This is when it works best, folks; when we get a good discussion going and start to think not only in terms of what makes a particular piece of story-telling fun, interesting, and exciting, but also in terms of ways in which we can help each other to improve.

And with that bit of gushing out of the way:

Guy Stewart, "Laughing with Kiiote"

Kersley: I think this really speaks to the challenge. In an interesting way, it also shows how we'd have to change our ideas of modesty if we were to develop a relationship with a dog-like race. The physical transformation from walking on all fours to walking upright was thorough. One questions, though--is that just a description of what would happen if they stood, or are they altering like a Transformer?

Henry: I'm intrigued enough by the little you wrote that I would love to read the story you plan to write! We don't get a feel for the technological level of the Kiiotes, though I'd guess not equal to that of the humans. I like the idea of a race which can alter its physical structure to allow it to walk upright or on all fours. That capability answers a lot of the challenge questions all by itself. And if some of the Kiiote had ever visited earth in the past, you've got a ready-made science fiction answer to the origin of the werewolf. There's lots of potential in this one.

Bruce: I was wondering if anyone would submit an entry like this one. I was relieved when Phenda was not required to reciprocate the gestures of greeting. This one definitely gets the coveted "Most Like What I Would Have Written" comment.

In oblique response to Henry's question though, I wonder how often someone thinks to write a story in which the intelligent aliens *were* technologically advanced enough to have visited Earth in ages past, but have since regressed. After all, the Chinese claim that they discovered America in 1421; they just didn't think it was a very interesting place or worth the work of colonizing.

Triton, "Xanthor, P.O.W."

Kersley: It's a good start, but I don't think it goes far enough. I like how Pack Father's history is a reverse Mowgli and his brothers. And how they view plants as "bait." He's just a little too human, though.

Henry: That was a fun scene but a few things don't really quite scan for me. Barring some kind of racial memory, I don't see how the origin of this canine species could ever be known as exactly as Xanthor tells it. I also got the feeling that Xanthor was monologuing, as he was willing to expound on just about every subject asked of him, especially when he gave away the olfactory component of their computers. Were Xanthor some kind of comic book supervillain, I could readily see that one bit of information coming back to bite his race in the end. It was fun, though.

Bruce: I'm actually rather getting to like Xanthor. He's not just a German Shepherd; he's a Nazi Shepherd. He's arrogant, insolent, supremely overconfident, and as Henry suggests, it would be really gratifying to see his superiority complex come around to bite him in the—er, tail—in the end. It's hard work to create a good villain. In Xanthor, you've got one who is reaching for greatness. I also really like the way you've pulled a reverse Mowgli, as Kersley pointed out, and also rolled in a bit of Tarzan, to end up with a ungrateful wolfling raised by apes instead of a boy raised by wolves. I don't have Henry's problem with the exactness of Xanthor's recounting of his species' origin; oppressive ideologies are often accompanied by an unshakable faith in the associated creation myths.

Arvid Mcenion, "The Best Meat in the Universe"

Kersley: Ohhh, there are problems galore, but I think it does what it was intended to. The vision of six-foot coyote-aliens in the mess, face-first in a bowl of taco meat gets the laugh.

Henry: Good job writing the speech of the canines in such a way that we were more or less capable of figuring out what they were saying while leaving just enough uncertainty to make things interesting. I'm rather doubtful an admiral would accept the word of a junior officer and UFO history enthusiast as sufficient to jeopardize first contact with a new species, either. It was a fun story, though, and the ending was well worth a laugh, even if it didn't actually answer any of the questions posed by the challenge.

Bruce: A very good short-short joke story. It needs further development and could stand to be another 500 words longer, but still, a great setup for the punchline. Oh, and the fractured communications in "doglish" are terrific. Keep it up.

ApolloKioku, "Contact"

Kersley: If you had only spent time on writing lovely, creative descriptions of the Yote, instead of the first scene of the story! There is something about this that makes me really want to read it when it's done.

Henry: What an intriguing collection of fragments we have from you! I really hate that deadlines prevented you from completing this (though I do understand) as it's a very tantalizing glimpse of the story to come. Please remember us when you finish it (there's the rewrite drop, for example) as I would love to read the finished story. As you predicted, though, there's not enough to judge in reference to the challenge.

Bruce: Fascinating fragments. Absolutely fascinating. Beautiful writing, and I really like the way you give us an insight into your writing process this early in the rough draft process. Yours is the only story that suddenly got me thinking of all the old Coyote/trickster myths and legends of the desert southwest, and wondering if there isn't a connection. I really want to see the ideas sketched out in this entry developed further, and I really like the way you made your Yotes poetic and gentle, not borderline werewolves.

And the winner is...

Kersley: My vote's for Guy. I think he answered the challenge best, but I also thing he really thought about (or even researched) how exactly a dog would act and communicate.

Henry: This was a good week for the challenge, with entries that were all over the place. In the end, I think the questions posed by the challenge were best answered by Guy (whose complete story I'm also looking forward to reading), so Guy gets my vote this week.

Bruce: After re-reading all the entries, re-reading my fellow judges' comments, and re-reading all the reader comments, I have to—somewhat reluctantly—ratify the troika's decision and declare Guy Stewart to be this week's winner. This reluctance has nothing to do with Guy's entry, but rather comes because Apollo's entry was beautiful but incomplete, Arvid's entry rough-edged but made me laugh, and Triton's entry... well, there's some seriously evil intelligence at work there, that's for sure. I also find myself shying away from calling the decision because of some misplaced sense of a "Mercy Rule," instilled in me long ago, probably during one of my dreary seasons of Cub Scout baseball.

But, no. Guy's entry is head-and-shoulders above the others and clearly the best writing, the best thought-out backstory, and the best answer to the challenge. So Guy Stewart is this week's clear winner—with a special Second Prize to be awarded to Triton, for inspiring this challenge in the first place.

Hmm. I suppose one of these days we should consider replacing the troika with a tetrarchy...
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