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Sunday, June 26, 2011

And the winner is...

Our ninth challenge calls for the unique application of a classic trope.

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 be worthwhile.

Those of you who vote are allowed to assign a range of “0” to “3” points, per entry. Since challengers may not vote for their own stories, a bonus of 2 points is given to a participant's highest-ranked work, if that participant also takes the time to vote on the other entries.

Official judges receive a 30 point allocation, 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, and there is no requirement for a judge to use the entire 30 point allocation.

Triton is about to put on the “Editor Hat.” It's sort of like the “Sorting Hat” they use at Hogwarts (“Technology? You call that technology? I'll give you technology! Oh, wait... that was magic.”), but a little less sarcastic.

Clarke's Third Law

Triton: First, I would like to heartily thank everyone who participated in the Challenge. I wasn't expecting seven entries; my cup runneth over. You guys rock.

Now for the reviews. Remember, I'm just trying to be as honest as I can, but at the same time I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. It's a fine line to walk, and one I'll inevitably trip over, so I'm just going to apologize now for any ego-bruising that takes place. Sorry! With that said, off we go:

“iWill” by miko

Triton: I'm not quite sure what to make of this one. My first impression after the first few paragraphs was that the narrator was some sort of deity, but obviously that turned out not to be the case. I'm not sure, though, exactly what the case turned out to be. The “I willed” stuff became a bit too repetitive. The narrator's rationalization process vis-a-vis the girl's comments makes me think that he's some geek who doesn't have any luck with women and, as a result of his loneliness and geeky-ness, is kind of losing his mind. I'm guessing the setting is a park or something, he's engaging in some day-dreaming, and at the end he just goes home and goes to sleep. Like I said, though, I'm not exactly sure, so I may have interpreted it all wrong. It's a sad story, and a bit of a disturbing one, since the guy sounds a little psychotic or something. Like a potential Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris, you know? I actually kind of like it, though, in spite of the ambiguity and repetitive “I willed”s. Expand it a little bit, and this might make a good psychological horror story. Unfortunately, however, I am unable to detect anything that actually relates to Clarke's Third Law. If this whole thing was part of a virtual reality machine, then that should have been made more apparent, because my personal conclusion is that the guy is simply delusional. As it is, it just doesn't seem to meet the Challenge criteria.

Arisia: 3 / Arvid Macenion: 2 / miko: voted! / xdpaul: 2
Triton: 1
Total: 8

“The Land of Jade (and Ed)” by miko

Triton: I like the idea of a kid's story and how you contrasted the magic and the technology. The girl's interruptions, though, got tiresome really fast. After the first couple, I think the father should have told her to hush if she wanted to hear the rest of the story. And I'm not sure who the “small, insistent voice from the dark” at the end belongs to – is it Ed or Jade? Because it makes a pretty big difference, in my opinion. If it's Ed, I would change it to “small, metallic voice” or “small, synthesized voice” or something similar so that we know it's the robot talking. As it is, though, I think it makes more sense for the voice to belong to Jade due to her “you're so silly” remark. That remark seems to place the setting in the present instead of the future. Again, the whole ending seems to ride on this one “insistent voice” line. If you meant it to be Jade's voice, then I would probably turn the robot into a teddy bear or something just to remove any doubt. I actually liked the potential of “iWill” a little better, but this story seems more complete and made a stronger effort at meeting the criteria, so it gets a higher score.

Arisia: 2 / Arvid Macenion: 3 / miko: voted! / xdpaul: 3
Triton: 3
Participation bonus: 2
Total: 13

“New Beginnings at Colony 405” by Ryan J

Triton: This story is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for. I like the role reversal, too; having the superstitious folk be the ones dependent on technology and wary of the back-to-nature “witches” was a really neat idea. You really nailed the sense of wonder and uncertainty on the part of the “magic” observer, which I think is important. I really don't have much to suggest in the way of improvement. Excellent job.

Arisia: 3 / Arvid Macenion: 3 / miko: 3 / xdpaul: 2
Triton: 10
Total: 21

“MAGIC” by ApolloKioku

Triton: First of all, I have to say that I love the voice. Very appropriate for the time period. I like the concept of the machine, too. I think this idea would make a pretty cool steampunk fantasy. The problem, though, at least as far as the Challenge criteria is concerned, is that the thing seems actually magical, rather than simply being an advanced piece of technology that only appears to be magical to the uninitiated. A machine that swims against the tide of entropy in such fashion is far-fetched enough; having the ancient Assyrians come up with such a thing, though, definitely demands further explanation. There's also the head-scratcher of Maialen getting shocked when she touches a part of the machine that is made of wood (a non-conductor). As the story stands, it seems to be dealing in magic rather than technology masquerading as magic. Great story idea, but not nearly enough scientific plausibility for the Challenge criteria.

Arisia: 1 / Arvid Macenion: 2 / miko: 2 / xdpaul: 1
Triton: 2
Total: 8

“The Best of Times” by Arisia

Triton: This rang a familiar note, because I'm sure we've all had frustrating co-workers at one time or another. I'm not sure I really “get it”, though. I understand the others trying to motivate Bob into performing better, but I'm not making the connection between their little stunt and his improved performance. And how did they know where (or when) he was going, anyway? And were the paychecks for the stunt, or for whatever they do at their regular jobs? Or was this stunt their “regular jobs”? There's just a little too much information missing. There's a potentially cool story here, but certain ambiguities need to be hammered down. I did, however, really like Bob's failed attempt at provoking Clarke's Third Law. I think that was an interesting and clever way to meet the criteria of the Challenge.

Arisia: voted! / Arvid Macenion: 1 / miko: 2 / xdpaul: 1
Triton: 2
Participation bonus: 2
Total: 8

“The Devil You Don’t” by xdpaul

Triton: This seemed like a cool, straight-forward story, and, unlike your shark story, I actually thought I was going to make it all the way through this one without having my mind scrambled. Then the stuff about “datastream”, “hacking”, and “firewall” appeared, leaving me wondering at the end exactly what was real, what was metaphor, and what was just bits on a computer screen. And I have absolutely no idea what “anthropomorphized an antibody” refers to, except that it might possibly be the warehouse door. Which, of course, isn't “anthropic” at all, so that can't be it. Unless it is. Anyway, if you had just had the dinosaur be a mechanical thing and all the action be real (non-metaphorical) and left it at that, then I think the story would have been stronger. Adding the ambiguity just made it more nebulous and confusing for me. You have a wonderful imagination and an exquisite way with words, but, frankly, reading your stuff occasionally makes me feel like a real dim-wit. Subtlety's a fine thing, taken in moderation, but one must be careful not to out-clever one's reader. Sometimes it's better to just let the cigar be a cigar.

Arisia: 3 / Arvid Macenion: 1 / miko: 2 / xdpaul: voted!
Triton: 3
Participation bonus: 2
Total: 11

“The Devil's Path” by Arvid Macenion

Triton: This one's a home run. At the end, I could almost see the other critters sitting around listening to Grandfather tell his tales of legend and myth. The primal emotions of fear, uncertainty, awe, etc. really come through; like Ryan J, you nailed what I consider an important aspect. My only nitpick is that animals are used instead of humans, and that seems like a little bit of a cop-out to me as far as as the Challenge is concerned since Clarke's Third Law is a phenomenon of human psychology and animals don't use technology anyway. This is a minor point, though, and everything else about the story is simply excellent. Well done.

Arisia: 3 / Arvid Macenion: voted! / miko: 3 / xdpaul: 3
Triton: 9
Participation bonus: 2
Total: 20


Based on the numbers, we have a very close first and second place:

2nd Place: 20 points — “The Devil's Path” by Arvid Macenion

1st Place: 21 points — “New Beginnings at Colony 405” by Ryan J

(Ryan J did not get an opportunity to vote this weekend, but if he had, I strongly suspect we would have seen another tie!)

Congratulations, both of you! Ryan J, as winner you have the option of proposing a new challenge... or, since you have already served as HTM twice, you may elect to pass the “Editor Hat” to Arvid Macenion, so that you may more quickly participate again. The next challenge is scheduled to be announced the morning of Friday, 1 July 2011.


So what was the lesson of this challenge?

Triton: I can't stress enough just how pleased I was to have so many fine entries. Y'all really came through for me, and I appreciate it. There was something valuable in every story, but two of them stood out above the rest: “New Beginnings at Colony 405” and “The Devil's Path”, with a slight edge to the former. Both of these stories took hold of the Challenge criteria and really sucked the marrow out of it. Congratulations to both Ryan J and Arvid Macenion for their magnificent efforts.
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