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Friday, July 15, 2011

The Friday Challenge — 7/15/2011

This week in The Friday Challenge:

STUPEFYING STORIES gets official guidelines, a submissions address, and swings the door wide open! • Join the discussion...

Daniel Eness lights one up. • Join the discussion...

Henry Vogel spends far too much time watching really bad movies. • Join the discussion...

Ryan J soundly whips the competition, in the Everybody was Kung-Fu/Laser-Gun/Magic-Spell/Starship/Dinosaur Fighting! challenge. • Join the discussion...

All this and more, as Barbershop Music Appreciation Day is followed by Pandemonium Day (which technically starts when everyone realizes they've been listening to barbershop music), and the inmates discuss the view from their respective places in the asylum.

Mutants 'R' Us

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 7-15-11):

  • “Daily Journal” by Triton

  • “Genesculpting” by Ryan J

  • “Mud Muscle or Blood” by xdpaul

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, 17 July 2011.

The Thing without a Name

As of the extended deadline for our current Greater Challenge, we have received the following entries (listed in their order of appearance within Files > Greater Challenge 2011 07 08):

  • “The Eagle of Prometheus” by xdpaul

  • “The Taste of Flesh” by Carmine Vrill

  • “Material Girl” by xdpaul

  • “Return to Earth” by Ryan J

  • “SBP 003 Origins Study Record” by Carmine Vrill

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, 24 July 2011.

Make the familiar strange, and the strange familiar

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

I've always been intrigued by moments where characters from disparate backgrounds interact, whether it's a historical explorer interacting with an unfamiliar civilization, or an alien making first contact with humanity. Or the confusion of the first day of school. Two characters experience the same scene with totally different eyes, they understand and interpret different things about it. One character might see a man with a gun, the other might see a man with a Glock something-or-other (firearms are not my strong point currently).

One author who did this really well was Vernor Vinge, in Deepness in the Sky. (minor spoilers follow) This is a story of first contact, between a planet of insectoid natives and the human aliens. When the insectoids are the viewpoint characters, their world is described in familiar terms, because to them it is not strange. When the humans are on board their ship, the same applies; it is all very familiar to them (though a little more description is cleverly slipped in to help things make sense to us non-space age folks). But for me, the most interesting part was when their world views collided. Humans entered the world of the insectoids, and when they perceived the same environment the insectoids had occupied all along, to them it was strange and alien, and the contrast between the human and insectoid perceptions of the same things was profound. I recommend this book wholeheartedly.

Another example was the article Body Ritual among the Nacirema, which made familiar circumstances seem fascinatingly new and alien by taking the perspective of an outsider looking in. (An adapted version of this was circulated where I grew up in the north, focusing on the Naidanac tribe.) Familiar things can gain new interest, if you approach from a new angle.

So this is the challenge. Take something familiar and make it new. Maybe it's just new to the viewpoint character, so they are observing details that a more experienced character would ignore. Maybe it's totally alien. If you want you can do it Vinge style, and constrast observations of the same thing made by two characters; this can be a great way to show what's important to each character, by showing what they notice.

Or reverse it, make something totally alien seem as ordinary as anything, because to the viewpoint character, it is.

Let's say, over 200, under 2000 words?

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. Your entry must be at least 200 words, and no longer than 2000 words, 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, 22 July 2011. A winner will be declared by the evening of Sunday, 24 July 2011.

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