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Friday, June 3, 2011

The Friday Challenge — 6/3/2011

This week in The Friday Challenge:

Henry Vogel expresses awe, on one of only a few subjects that elicit no snarky commentary. • Join the (respectful) discussion...

Allan Davis girds himself bor battle against OTOGU, and seems to enjoy conflict. • Join the discussion...

Bruce Bethke sics an earworm or two on the unsuspecting public... and apparently, earworms got attitude. • Join the discussion...

xdpaul Daniel Eness accuses J.D. Salinger of verbosity. • Join the discussion...

xdpaul wins the Props for Props challenge showdown, and passes the ball. • Join the discussion...

All this and more, as M inexplicably celebrates National Macaroon Day by joining SFWA, his 4yo daughter continues blissfully unaware National Rocky Road Day's greater significance, and the inmates discuss the view from their respective places in the asylum.

That's Infotainment!

As of the deadline for our current challenge, we have received the following entries (listed in their order of appearance within Files > Friday Challenge 2011 6 3):

  • “A Game of Thrawns” by Ernest T. Scribbler

  • “Luck” (a.k.a. “Ladder”) by Ryan J

  • “Master Move” by miko

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, 29 May 2011.

Childhood's Lend (of an Idea or Two...)

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

A few days back, I went to wake my son up in the morning, and found him already sitting up. He was staring at his hand, and moving the fingers. He looked up to me, grinning, and in an excited voice told me “Dad. I have a robot hand.” He'd been dreaming, and was in that cool stage when it's hard to sort out what was dream and what was real. And it left me thinking all day about cyborg kids.

When I was a kid, I spent all my time imagining. Leaves falling from trees were leaf gliders used by the warriors of a civilization of mice. Invisible dragons lurked in the clouds, specifically tasked to ward me from bullies. (I don't remember getting picked on, but I do remember the dragons ready to ward off the bullies. So either I've forgotten how rough elementary school was, or the dragons worked).

Nowadays I still love to lose myself in imagination, but it's a different experience. I find myself self-editing a bit, based on years of experience. Ideas that might have potential are often dismissed before they can take root and grow. The years of living, the books I've read, the things I've done have shaped the way I imagine, and often enough, puts limits on the imagining. Stuff that seems silly tends to get discarded, even though there may be something wonderful mixed in there that I could use.

Contrast this with the way kids see the world. Not every element that shows up in the imagination games kids play is necessarily original, but it is still always new. After all, they haven't seen this stuff a hundred times before, and they haven't lost the excitement of new things. And because it's new to them, they mix ideas and themes in ways adults would never have thought of.

The webcomic AxeCop is drawn by a 30ish year old cartoonist, who listened to the games played by his 5 year old brother. He was so struck by the originality, weirdness, and irrepressible fun of the 5 year old's imaginary world, he began to draw comics of the stories his brother told.

While the weirdness of this comic may not be to the taste of all, the author is unashamed of that weirdness. Kids are not ashamed to be strange. (Not at first, at least.)

So this is the challenge. Write something. A piece of a story, flash fiction, etc. But incorporate an idea from a kid. Anything, as long as it wasn't something you'd have thought of as an adult. It doesn't have to be as weird as AxeCop. If children are not immediately available, use an idea that you had as a kid, or something overheard from a kid, or something like that. Maybe something from AxeCop, if that moves you. The stuff there is the certified product of a 5 year old mind.

The point is not to be weird, though that may be the result; the point is to bypass our adult idea-filters and look at things anew. When you see something you've seen a hundred times as if the first time, good odds are you'll see something you missed. And maybe that thing you missed is something that needs a story.

250 words or less. Eating candy while writing is technically optional, but may help.

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 kid-vision 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 Ryan J 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, 10 June May 2011. A winner will be declared by the evening of Sunday, 12 June 2011.

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