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Friday, July 8, 2011

The Friday Challenge — 7/8/2011

This week in The Friday Challenge:

STUPEFYING STORIES returns! • Join the discussion...

Henry Vogel reminds us that it is almost impossible to simultaneously balance good taste, accuracy and patriotism. • Join the discussion...

Guy Stewart supports his position by "under mining" it. • Join the discussion...

Henry Vogel postulates shark-jumping as the inevitable third-step trope to beset any who wear capes upon the silver screen. • Join the discussion...

miko smothers the competition, in the Pitch Black, and Then Some! challenge. • Join the discussion...

All this and more, as uncounted small-yield explosives are detonated to commemorate Sidewalk Egg Frying Day, and the inmates discuss the view from their respective places in the asylum.

Everybody was Kung-Fu/Laser-Gun/Magic-Spell/Starship/Dinosaur Fighting!

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 7-8-2011):

  • “Fight” by Ryan J

  • “I've got your backup... Right Here!” by radaliendad

  • “Only the Arquebus, by H. Beam Piper” by xdpaul
    (M says: For those unfamiliar with the title, you might want to glance at the fifth paragraph in Piper's biography on Wikipedia.)

  • “Summer on the Steppe” by Triton

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, 10 July 2011.

Mutants 'R' Us

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

We indulge in personal preference (like for height, hair color) and its infamous cousin, discrimination (rational and otherwise).

We manage selective breeding for utilitarian purposes (like milk cows, beasts of burden), for aesthetics (like dog species, plant variations), and for infamy (like eugenics).

And, we apply genetic engineering for utilitarian purposes (like to protect tobacco from a virus, to give tomatoes a longer shelf life, to protect corn from a pesticide).

It's like guided mutation to serve an idea rather than nature's spontaneous order, where we direct and accelerate the selection of preferred traits rather than leaving it to nature's random trials against fitness to an environment. In the case of genetic engineering, it is done instantaneously by the insertion of genes from another organism.

Now suppose genetic engineering were applied to humans, according to human intentions. Suppose it was technically complicated and costly so only one trait could be engineered into a new person, and the choice could not be made lightly.

Keeping in mind that a mutation may be beautiful or grotesque, debilitating or vitalizing, beneficent or malevolent...

  • Who might be a customer of such a genetic engineering service?
  • With what intention?
  • What trait might a customer choose (aesthetic or utilitarian)?
  • From what organism would they take genes?
  • What affects might that choice have on the engineered person?
  • Or on society?

The Challenge, then, is to pick a single trait from any other organism, presume that trait has been genetically engineered according to someone's intention into (at least?) one human being, and tell the story — maybe about the customer who chose the trait, maybe about the person created to bear the trait, maybe sci-fi, fantasy, horror, comedy, social commentary, or parable.

Let's limit submission length to 1000 words. (Maybe you can expand the good bits later and resubmit it to Stupefying Stories.)

Anyone can enter, except for miko. You may enter as many times as you wish, but each entry must be independent of the others. There is no word limit, large or small, but you are still 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, 15 July May 2011. A winner will be declared by the evening of Sunday, 17 July 2011.

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

The Thing without a Name

As of the 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

Okay, maybe it was my description of the challenge, or maybe each regular who would normally enter has simply taken advantage of the later Stupefying Stories deadline to work out a few kinks before submitting their work for publication. If so, that's forgivable, as long as everyone remembers that a story can sometimes be improved by the judicious application of criticism and/or feedback.

The original deadline was intended to give participants a week to revise a submission and still make it under the wire for Stupefying Stories. By the same token, deadlines exist for a reason. If Neil Gaiman and Stephen King had been available as guest judges for this challenge, their schedules might not have been flexible enough to accommodate any variation. Understand?

With that in mind, we have two options. We could either declare xdpaul the winner by default (not as satisfying), or we could extend the deadline by a week so that a few more challengers can dip their toes into the pool and only take a single week to judge the entries, rather than the planned two weeks, so that entrants would still have a week in which to revise their work.

It's up to you. If at least four challengers commit to participate, we can extend the deadline to 15 July. Right now xdpaul is one, and Ryan J has expressed interest in being the second. Are there at least two more?
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