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Friday, September 17, 2010

The Friday Challenge - 9/17/10


We continue to battle the "connection reset by peer" issue. What's supposed to happen is that TheFridayChallenge.com should link through seamlessly to the actual host, thefridaychallenge.blogspot.com. But what's been happening for the past few weeks is that some users, about half the time, go to TheFridayChallenge.com and get a "connection reset by peer" or "connection timeout" error instead of a working link.

If you go directly to thefridaychallenge.blogspot.com, there's no problem. Likewise, if you come into this site via the RSS feed, there's no problem. This only happens to people looking for TheFridayChallenge.com—which, unfortunately, is the URL we've been promoting for the past two years.

Thus far we have been unable to determine whether this problem is caused by Google, Microsoft, or some other third-party. All we know for certain is that it's persistent and has become aggravating enough to make us think that severing the automatic link, and serving up TheFridayChallenge.com as a semi-static front page requiring a manual click-through to the blog, is a good idea. (The thefridaychallenge.blogspot.com URL will remain viable for thems as are in the know.)

How about you? Have you run into this problem? What do you think of our proposed solution? Join the discussion...

And with that said: also this week....

Guy Stewart concludes his series on idea generation with the list of the final twenty-five SF/F story ideas he came up with starting from a single source. Is there one here you can use? Join the discussion...

Miko's entry, "Daysh's Homework" takes the win in the 8/27/10 Friday Challenge, "What I Did Last Summer," after one of the longer and most interesting debates we've had in some time. Want to review the judges' findings and argue over the results? Join the discussion...

Ultimate Geek Fu asks, what is that mysterious je ne sais quoi that enables some TV series to develop loyal followings and live on in the hearts and minds of fans for years after they're cancelled, while other more commercially successful series fade from memory as soon as the final credits from the final episode scroll off the screen? Share your ideas...

Splattering Guts for Fun & Profit casts a jaundiced eye on steampunk: meaningful new contribution to the SF canon or simply the latest fashion? Join the argument...

Critical Thinking takes a bye week owing to the start of the fall semester, and likewise, caving in to the demands of Otogu, Ruminations of an Old Goat does the same. Drat those teachers and employers. They expect...results.

Bruce Bethke breaks some family news of the bad kind. What this means for the future of STUPEFYING STORIES and Rampant Loon Press remains to be determined. Read the rest...

Also, Fitz of Distraction tackles an important aspect of the writer's lifestyle, Rigel Kent announces his latest publication, Guy Stewart gives us a sneak preview of "Invader's Guilt", and the inmates discuss the view from their respective places in the asylum. All this and more, this week in, THE FRIDAY CHALLENGE.

The Kid, The Boy, and The Creature

Turning now to the 9/10/10 Friday Challenge, "The Kid, The Boy, and The Creature," as of the deadline we have received the following entries:

Miko, "Stranded"

Arvid Macenion, "The Kid, The Boy, and The Creature"

topher, "Friday Challenge Entry #9"

Ben-El, "The Kid, The Boy, and The Creature" (drop.io)

If we've missed any entries, or if anyone has snowdogged in an entry after the deadline, please let us know so we can fix this list.
Update: Well, it turns out that Ben-El has attempted to set a new record for snowdogging. His entry, "The Kid, The Boy, and The Creature" is on drop.io now; the password is "challenge". How about it? Shall we let him get away with it?
As always, even if you haven't posted an entry this week—even if you never enter in any week—you are invited to read, comment on, and vote for your favorites. Don't be shy about leaving feedback on the writer's sites, either. Writers thrive on knowing that somewhere out there, someone is actually reading the words they have written. The winner will be announced Sunday evening.

And now for this week's new challenge.

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

In keeping with this week's emphasis on steampunk, Henry and I conducted a little brainstorming session to try to come up with a point of departure for an alternate history. What we were looking for was just one small event, seemingly insignificant in itself, that occurred sometime in the late 19th century and that, had it broken the other way, might have changed the entire course of world history.

The event we finally settled on took place in 1885. The one tiny change is this: on the verge of committing a truly tasteless prank involving some professors' chamberpots, young college student and Harvard Lampoon writer William Randolph Hearst stops, thinks, "Nah, I'd better not," and doesn't go through with it.

The result? Young Hearst does not get expelled from Harvard but instead graduates and goes on to a successful career in—oh, real-estate speculation. Therefore his parents do not give him control of the San Francisco Examiner just to keep him out of trouble, and a decade later, his mother does not help him add to his growing newspaper collection by buying the New York Morning Journal. Therefore on February 15, 1898, when the U.S.S Maine explodes and sinks under mysterious circumstances in Havana harbor, Hearst's paper is not locked in a circulation battle with Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, meaning Hearst and Pulitzer are not competing to see who can scream the loudest for immediate war with Spain. Therefore the Spanish-American War never happens; the U.S. does not seize control of Guam, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, and scoop up the Republic of Hawaii while they're at it; a certain ambitious young Assistant Secretary of the Navy does not get the opportunity to resign his post and lead any charge of anybody up any hill, thus putting himself in position to be nominated for vice-president when William McKinley runs for re-election in 1900—

And that's when our prognostication machine seized up, because by 1900 the world was already so different from history as we know it as to be nearly unrecognizable. Ergo, we're going to lob it over to you. This week's challenge:

Sketch out, in three paragraphs or less, the synopsis of an alternate history story that you think you might like to write, beginning from this premise.

Note that we did not say to write the actual story itself. Don't do that now; we have something fiendish and deviously brilliant in mind for that. But definitely, develop at least one idea for a story.

As always, we're playing by the loosely enforced Official Rules of the Friday Challenge, and playing for whatever is behind Door #3. The deadline for this one is midnight central time, Thursday, September 23.

Now put on your steam-powered thinking hats and get imaginative!
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