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Friday, May 6, 2011

The Friday Challenge — 5/6/2011

This week in The Friday Challenge:

Henry Vogel ruminates on the Hugo Awards, and speculates that many science fiction readers will eventually go blind. • Join the discussion...

xdpaul offers a fresh short column, and becomes a happy miser. • Join the discussion...

Ryan J wins the "Editor Bait" challenge in a showing strong enough to impress Joe Haldeman, while Mike Resnick threatens defenestration. • Join the discussion...

All this and more, as global media inexplicably focuses on the events separating Save the Rhino Day and Lumpy Rug Day, and the inmates discuss the view from their respective places in the asylum.

"Ooh, it's fuzzy!"

As of the deadline for our current challenge, we have received the following entries (listed in their order of appearance within Files > Friday Challenge 5 6 2011):

  • "Dust Bunnies" by Ryan J

  • "Hollow Man" by xdpaul

  • "Grampa's Critters" by miko

  • "Phi" by xdpaul

... and one entry posted in the comments:

  • "Sassysquatch" by Henry

An enthusiastic "Huzzah" to all who have entered! The judges are now considering your submissions. A winner will be declared by the evening of Sunday, 8 May 2011.

Recasting Genres

And now for this week's Friday Challenge.

Oh, wait... this is where I am supposed to offer disclaimers!

The good news is that there are no disclaimers. The bad news is that some of you are disappointed by the lack of disclaimers.

And now — yes, really! — it is time for this week's Friday Challenge, courtesy of Ryan J:

Sometimes new great new ideas come from trying something different. It makes sense — ideas rise from our experience, and if we live in a regular daily rhythm without much variety, the scope of those experiences will be similarly limited, and so will the font of inspiration that’s fed by our experience. (As a guy with a 9-5 job, family, etc, my days are often in that rhythm. I figure vicarious experience through reading counts, though...)

Ideas that seem discordant can mesh to make something new and remarkable. When a friend explained Firefly to me (“sort of a cowboy western in space”) I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard of, but when I actually sat down to watch the show, I thought it was brilliant. It got me thinking about how the stories told in Firefly related to both the western and science fiction genres.

Fundamentally, the structure of a story exists independent from the setting or genre. Frodo bearing the ring to Mordor while the Nazgul pursue is a great story. The structure is the same whether he’s going to Mordor, or fleeing across state borders with a bandit friend and a posse hot on his heels. The skeleton of the story is very similar to lots of other stories — it’s what you flesh over the skeleton that makes the story powerful or memorable.

So let’s change the skin, and see if we can jar some ideas loose by recasting genres. In 200 words or less, take a scene from a story — one you’re writing, maybe, or from a favorite book — and recast the genre. Fantasy to western, regency to cyberpunk, whatever. And not necessarily as a parody of the original (unless you can't help it or really want to).

Be sure to tell us where you started, and where you ended up. If an idea pulls you away from the original, run with it — the point is to look for new ideas, not to cut and paste the word “sword” for “blaster rifle”.

Anyone can enter, except for Ryan J. 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 alien sketch in 200-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 Ryan J will be serving as High Territory Marker. (Ryan J: As I’m not a cat owner, I’m not sure I understand the relationship between a feline motif and the title, but it’s probably gross. While I like cats, they cause allergic reactions in me. Since good writing provokes a reaction in the reader, that seems appropriate.)

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, 13 May 2011. (Ryan J: That’s a pretty auspicious day for our family, by the way: our son was born on a Friday 13th.) A winner will be declared by the evening of Sunday, 15 May 2011.

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