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Sunday, September 26, 2010

And the winner is...

In the matter of the 9/3/10 Friday Challenge, "Read Me A Story,", the judges are still working through the entries. With eight stories to evaluate, this is taking us a bit longer than we'd originally planned. Kindly bear with us a little longer and watch for the judges' announcement later this week.

In the matter of the 9/17/10 Friday Challenge, "Just one tiny, practically insignificant change...", on the other hand, two of our judges had to admit that they'd both never seen Citizen Kane and never read much Lovecraft, so this is going to go embarrassingly fast.

Van, The Quish, "Hearst vs The World"

Kersley: Pass.

Henry: Interesting idea that the removal of Hearst left Pulitzer to rise from publisher to dictator, though I'm not sure how that was accomplished. It seems as if you're setting up for a spy thriller, with Hearst as the "good guy" working to overthrow Pulitzer. Interesting premise.

Bruce: I like the clever double meaning of the title, "Hearst vs The World." Henry's right in that this is an interesting premise for a corporate thriller, but he missed a subtle point: in your story William Randolph Hearst is employed by Pulitzer, and it's his son, George Randolph, who's plotting to overthrow Pulitzer. Personally I'm far more interested in what's going on in Europe, what with Churchill assassinated and Adolph Hitler diverted onto a much different path, but this one could potentially work.

Watkinson, "Just one tiny, practically insignificant change..."

Kersley: I like the non-American/European vibe. I’m just wondering, would a tourist-trap of a country with legal drugs and prostitution try to take over the world? Of course, the rich playboys of America and Europe might like it if those freedoms extend to the new territories.

Henry: You point out one of the problems with alternate history on the site; it's bound to be U.S.-centric. That said, you came up with a very good alternate history in the Pacific based on the one change in the U.S. I really like this one a lot. It give us a peek at history for which the rest of us have very little knowledge. Based on what you've written, your story takes a very reasonable path forward to the coming war in the Pacific. Very good and very evocative.

Bruce: So let's think this through: a completely different WWI means -- what? No Gallipoli campaign? No Australians and New Zealanders getting slaughtered by the thousands under British "leadership"? No Anzac Day? No Lithgow Small Arms Factory getting established in NSW so that later, should Australia get cut off from Mother England and need to rely on its own resources for defence...

What I want to know is, what is Japan up to while all this is going on? And India: I should think a greatly weakened England would have some serious implications for the Raj.

I really like your start here. I'd like to see you develop it further. In fact, I find myself wondering if an "Australia Alone" alternate history might find an audience. There is a lot of potential is this idea you've presented.

Avery Maxwell, "Avery Maxwell's Citizen Kane"

Kersley: Aaaand once again my ignorance shows through. I never saw Citizen Kane.

Henry: I'm afraid I've never seen "Citizen Kane," either. I know, horrible of me, but there you go. From what little I know, you've taken an interesting path with the same story, but I'll have to defer to Bruce for final judging on this entry. I hang my head an abject same and humiliation for this lapse on my part.

Bruce: You've... never... seen... Citizen Kane? Seriously? I mean, like, never? Oy. Okay, this one plays very nicely off the original, and I find myself wanting to solve some of the puzzles it presents, but in the end this one is just a little too "inside" for me. I can think of certain literati types who would really get off on it, but—as our judges handily demonstrate—for two-thirds of the readers, it would be incomprehensible.

Arvid, "The End War and the Rise of Tian"

Kersley: I really like this one. Where did China get the tech?

Henry: This strikes me as a cross between an alternate history and the original Buck Rogers comic strip. In Buck Rogers, the world was conquered by the Mongols, who had great flying machines that flew far higher than anything the rest of the world had. However, you confused your Roosevelts; it was Franklin, not Theodore, who was President during WWII. Both Roosevelts were Assistant Secretary of the Navy, but those are political positions held by appointees, not military ones held by serving officers. So neither one would likely to have become an admiral, other than in an honorary sense. I do like how you leave things open concerning the vast Chinese technological advantage. Perhaps the aliens crashed in China rather than Area 51?

Bruce: There are a lot of very clever and thoughtful ideas in this one. On the other hand there are lot of historical miscues, and I wish I had time right now to point you to some sources that I think you'd find enlightening. When the Chinese show up with advanced tech, of course, it then veers into pure pulp adventure territory, and I'd love to see where you have in mind going with this.

Carmine, "mki'tfegmwah ohsf'bauw"

Kersley: Pass.

Henry: Besides never having seen "Citizen Kane," I admit to finding Lovecraft virtually impossible to read. I know there are people who love his work, but it just doesn't appeal to me. That said, I hold enough general knowledge to see where you're going with this. I found your non-Cthulhu part of the story quite interesting, with the tensions that led to WWI simply simmering for a couple of decades before leading to a new war. Honestly, I think this entry would have been stronger without the Cthulhu part, though you'd have to come up with some new way to explain the outbreak of war between the U.S. and China.

Bruce: I'm with Henry on this one. The non-Lovecraftian part of this story is interesting, but then it turns into simple pastiche. This one is good for about a 1,500-word writer's joke, but not much more.

And the winner is...

Kersley: I have to pull myself out of judging this challenge due to not knowing enough to judge. I AP’d history so I wouldn’t have to take it in college, and I’ve never looked back.

Henry: In the end, my favorite is Watkinson's entry. I think he took the challenge in the most interesting direction. I admit the freshness of a Pacific-centric point of view probably helped, too.

Bruce: Watkinson's entry is the one I found myself continuing to think about long after I'd read it. It opens up so many interesting cans of worms and leads to so many fascinating possibilities — and that being the heart, soul, spleen and kidneys of alternate history, I'm going to call it a job well-done and declare Watkinson the winner of the 9/17/10 Friday Challenge.

Now, as for the 9/24/10 Friday Challenge, "Write the Winner" — more hints, clues, and ponderings to follow in the next few days.
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