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Friday, May 13, 2011

The Friday Challenge — 5/13/2011

This week in The Friday Challenge:

Henry Vogel plays a serious game of “call a poker deck a smeerp pile,” while Bruce Bethke points out that an awkward young ensign never made it past chapter four. • Join the discussion...

xdpaul keeps on chooglin'. Does “chooglin'” matter, or even squeak? • Join the discussion...

Henry Vogel doesn't quite believe Natalie Portman is an astrophysicist, but has fun seeing Tom Hiddleston get hammered. • Join the discussion...

Kersley Fitzgerald admits that she is occasionally at a loss for words, but embraces her cinematic compensation. • Join the discussion...

miko wins the “Ooh, it's fuzzy!” challenge, by not giving an explanation. • Join the discussion...

All this and more, as we collectively celebrate Blame Someone Else Day, Vidad prepares for World Naked Gardening Day (don't worry, it's a safe link!), and the inmates discuss the view from their respective places in the asylum.

Recasting Genres

As of the deadline for our current challenge, we have received the following entries (listed in their order of appearance within Files > Friday Challenge for 5 13 2011):

  • “Recasting Genres” by miko

  • “Strangler with a Sprained Hand” by Ernest T. Scribbler

  • “The Big Bad Wolf” by Triton

  • “The Task of Amon T. Yoder” by xdpaul

An enthusiastic "Huzzah" to all who have entered, despite almost a day's worth of unanticipated technical difficulties! The judges are now considering your submissions. A winner will be declared by the evening of Sunday, 15 May 2011.

What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

And now it is time for this week's Friday Challenge, courtesy of miko:

I hope none of the FC faithful is spending today hiding under the covers, tragically afflicted with friggatriskaidekaphobia. For those folks who are so afflicted, I suppose luck is nothing to be trifled with. But what is luck?

Is it mere chance, i.e., nothing at all? Is it the immanent agency of beneficent Providence, or else of capricious Fate? Is it a mysterious force shaping events, one that we provoke with hubris or placate with ritual? Is it superstition? Is it the name we give subjective value judgments concerning effects perceived as good or ill, whatever their cause?

We’ve all heard stories of lottery winners who ended up broke, and even in jail. We’ve all heard Lou Gehrig tell us he considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of this earth”, even as he confronted a future of inevitable debility, suffering, and premature death.

Is someone unlucky because he got in a car crash, or lucky because no one got hurt? Is someone unlucky because he had a heart attack, or lucky that he now better appreciates his life and loved ones?

We think something unlucky while others think it lucky. Today we think something lucky, yet tomorrow think it unlucky. Is it only a matter of harmless opinion, or does our view of the good or bad luck in events affect us, and thereby change the subsequent course of events, for better or worse?

The concept of luck is tied up with meaning. How does an opinion of what luck is affect people’s behavior? How does it affect their outlook on life and their sense of happiness or discontent?

Do you have a good luck charm? Do you perform some ritual before every big game? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Why? Do you believe you control the course of your life, or that you simply “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”?

Well, I offer these spurs because I want you to pick any view of what luck is, and then write a story showing us that view in full flower. Maybe we see the material consequences, or maybe the psychical effects - maybe for someone who accepts that view, or maybe for one who rejects it.

Specifically, I want your story to demonstrate an answer to the question, “What is luck, and why does it matter?” I think your story could hinge on character, or plot, or setting, and so could serve as an exercise in developing any of these.

So the Challenge is to show us the nature of luck within 250 words.

Make it traditional or far out, technological or interpersonal, historical or futuristic, a biography or a parable, a rant against the gods or a lesson for a child when life seems unfair (or too easy) – whatever.

Anyone can enter, except for miko. You may enter as many times as you wish, but each entry must be independent of the others. You are not allowed to supply a more lengthy nature-of-luck sketch in 250-word chunks, and you are not allowed to build on anyone else's setup.

Everyone is asked to vote, and to say a few words about what they liked, and why. Or to say a few words about what they disliked, as the case may be; by submitting an entry, you implicitly agree to accept criticism, because there will probably be some handed out, and no one is immune. When voting, please rank a work as either “0” (not so good), “1” (not as bad), “2” (could have been better) or “3” (pretty good stuff!). If you give either a “0” or “3” vote, feel free to argue in support of your reasoning.

Don't like the negativity? Feel free to think of the levels as “0” (Not bad for a first attempt), “1” (Right on!), “2” (Holy cow, I wanna buy this now...) or “3” (Sweet mother of God, how did you write something this awesome?!!). The point is to clearly differentiate, and rank according to your own preference.

For the purposes of this challenge miko will be serving as Ye Olde High Marker, Voluntarily Walking th' Plank.

As of now, we are playing by the loosely enforced and slightly modified rules of The Friday Challenge. All entries are due by 6 AM Eastern time on the morning of Friday, 20 May 2011. (miko: I’ll keep my fingers crossed that, with any luck, we’ll get at least one entry...but not twenty-eight!) A winner will be declared by the evening of Sunday, 22 May 2011.

Oh, there is one more thing... but it is the most important! Have fun. Always have fun.
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