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Sunday, May 8, 2011

And the winner is...

Everything went off without a hitch last weekend, and we were able to establish a working structure of sorts, by which entries might be judged. All in all, a good precedent.

But then, after Mike Resnick and Joe Haldeman consented to serve as guest judges last week, Triton asked the following about this week's challenge:

“I wonder who this week's surprise celebrity judges will be. Due to the subject matter of the challenge, my guess is Spielberg and Lucas.”

Oh dear... some perceived precedents are perilous stones upon which to step! I wish I could say that Spielberg and Lucas were available. (Steven, George, if either of you read this and you are available down the road, give me a shout. We'll schedule something at your convenience.)

As challenges are proposed, if I am able to get in touch with anyone who would be particularly suited to serve as a guest judge, I'll happily ask, and even more happily accept volunteers. Frankly though, a writer's first job is to be out there, writing; if we are fortunate enough to receive such a visit in any given week, it is a special occurrence.

In that light I would like to again thank Joe and Mike for agreeing to participate last weekend. Between them, everyone who participated received some degree of professional criticism, and in a few cases, exceptionally useful feedback.

Thank you, both!

Our second challenge did not quite yield the same degree of participation as the first, but everyone still seems to be having fun. Four contestants submitted five entries, and three different individuals assigned numeric votes. (In a dramatic and unforseen turn of events, everyone seemed content to use integers.)

If any of you are able to take a second look at your own work, and see ways in which to improve a concept so that it can be more successfully developed, the effort will have been worthwhile.

I am about to put on the “Editor Hat.” It's sort of like the “Sorting Hat” they use at Hogwarts (“Well, well well... another Weasley? Or are you a Rabbitsley? I get confused.”), but a little more nearsighted. Remember, this time it can only see a maximum of 150 words.

Those of you who voted were given a range of “0” to “3” points you could assign, per entry.

Official judges are given a maximum of 30 points, to assign as they see fit. The only restriction is that at most, only half of those points may be given to any single entry.

Since challengers could not vote for their own stories, a bonus of 2 points was given to a participant's highest-ranked work, if that participant also took the time to vote on the other entries.

"Ooh, it's fuzzy!"

“Dust Bunnies” by Ryan J

M: This is an impressive bit of iconography, and I am strongly tempted to give you a flat-out fifteen point sweep for the impression these critters convey. “Silver furred bodies with small claws” is evocative, but the marketing department will have fits trying to print a poster based on that description. Definitely iconic.

miko: 1I / Ryan J: voted! / xdpaul: 3I
M: 8
Participation bonus: 2
Total: 14I

“Hollow Man” by xdpaul

M: When I said “fur is technically optional,” I left a big ol' gaping loophole, didn't I? The Hollow Man could be an iconic creature-character, but he/it has strayed about as far from the original concept as you can go without being utterly disqualified. I sort of like it, and I'd like to see you do something with it.

miko: 1I / Ryan J: 2I / xdpaul: voted!
M: 2
Total: 5I

“Grampa's Critters” by miko

M: Miko, I have a strong impression that you managed to submit two entries wrapped into one, and the hidden entry is the stronger, more iconic of the two. This is certainly an entry that could very easily be spun into the voice-over for a film (or book) trailer, showing superficial beauty and light, but hinting at something horrifically dark beneath the surface. As iconography, “Grampa's Critters” are weak... but “the others” — despite the fact that we have no clear idea of their appearance — are decadently dark, malformed and memorable. And I am guessing that at least some of them have fur.

miko: voted! / Ryan J: 0 / xdpaul: 2I
M: 11
Participation bonus: 2
Total: 15I

“Phi” by xdpaul

M: Although this is quite a detailed description (if you bother to include measurements, whether they are fixed or relative, that is detail!), it doesn't read as an iconic entry. Relying on a human-mathematical concept as the hook with the implied presumtion that the same concept carries universal weight among alien critters smacks of gimmickery. Not iconic in the least, but your entry doesn't read as a nausea-inducing parody, either.

miko: 2I / Ryan J: 3I / xdpaul: voted!
M: 2
Participation bonus: 2
Total: 9I

“Sassysquatch” by Henry

M: Can we still get the team that animated The Smurfs back together? Or even the group that brought us The Snorks? Hell, there's gotta be some out-of-work eighties animators who'd jump at this chance. You could probably even pay them in sugared cereal. Then you could herd them all into one big room and shoot them, to spare the world. Sadly, this could be all too iconic... but I am going to place my vote solidly in the “gonna spew chunks now” camp.

miko: 2G / Ryan J: 3G / xdpaul: 3G (or 2I)
M: 7G
Total: 15G


Based on the numbers — which also serve as evidence that we all benefit when there are more entries and greater voting participation — we have a clear winner in each category:

(Potentially) Most Iconic: 15-I points — The Others, from “Grampa's Critters” by miko

(Decidedly) Most Yarf-in-a-Can: 15-G points — “Sassysquatch” by Henry

Congratulations, miko and Henry! (Actually, I am not sure we should congratulate Henry for that one. I'm considering a class-action suit, pending the potential inducement of psychiatric trauma.)

miko, as winner of the “iconic” award you are hereby invited to propose next week's challenge, scheduled to be announced the morning of Friday, 13 May 2011.


So what was the lesson of this challenge? A more iconic impression can sometimes be created by what you choose not to tell.
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