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Friday, September 30, 2011

The Friday Challenge — 9/30/2011

This week in The Friday Challenge:

STUPEFYING STORIES wil launch in T-minus (Really? We're that close?!!) hours, and counting. • Join the discussion...

Henry Vogel uses a ~13.46:1 ratio, to analyze 78 words. • Join the discussion...

Bruce Bethke expresses his appreciation for thought-provoking scientific accuracy in televised programming. • Join the discussion...

Kersley Fitzgerald diversifies her expertise. (“Can we get someone to write an article on ‘diversified expertise’?”) • Join the discussion...

Henry Vogel shares a link to The Rule of Three, an online writing contest. • Join the discussion...

Henry also wins our 78 R.P.M. (Rejections per Manuscript) challenge! Technically, this disqualifies him from the Esquire contest. Congratulations? • Join the discussion...

All this and more, as Arisia reminds M about the importance of International Coffee Day (also known as "Confucius Day" in some parts of the world), and the inmates discuss the view from their respective places in the asylum.

Where Have All the Yahoos Gone?

As of this morning, we have received the following entries for our current challenge (listed in their order of appearance within Files > Friday Challenge 2011 09 30, or linked if posted as a blog/comment):

An enthusiastic “Huzzah” to all who have entered! The judges are considering your submissions, and a winner will be declared by the evening of Sunday, 2 October 2011.

You're the Editor

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

Congratulations, you're the new editor of Astounding Stories of Amazement, a premiere science fiction magazine. The publisher, who doesn't believe in electronic submissions, loved your gung ho willingness to read every last word of every single story in the slush pile. You settle into your chair on day one and reach for the first story. You read every last cringe-worthy word in the poorly written story. With relief, you toss a form rejection letter on top of the story, stuff it in its return envelope, and turn to the next story in the slush pile. Surely, you think, this story will be better. It isn't. In fact, in some ways it's worse. It gets the form letter rejection, too. As does the next story. And the next. And the one after that. You find yourself wishing for stories which are merely bad. Finally, you work your way down to the last story in today's slush pile. You take a quick look at the cover letter for the last story and simply snap.


I can't believe Astounding Stories of Amazement hired a hack like you to edit their fine magazine! Seriously, what was the publishing thinking? The publisher didn't even call me in for an interview even though it's obvious I would do a better job editing the magazine than someone like you. I am bitter, no doubt about it, but am willing to throw you a bone anyway; my finest story! Much as I despise the publisher's taste in editors, the magazine's readers deserve the chance to read this story. You will find it contains every single element required to make a story truly great. In fact, you should go ahead and send the check now and read the story later.

I look forward to your reply.


Everett Hopkins

Against your will, you begin to read the story. Hopkins was right about one thing; he threw virtually every possible science fiction element into his story and then some. It's got space opera, cyberpunk, steampunk, time travel, laser swords, beautiful, large-breasted women hanging on the arms of the strong-jawed heroes, an Adam and Eve side story, swordplay, gun fights, and fist fights. The villains are pure evil with cackling laughs. The heroes are incorruptible and always brave and noble in the face of certain death.

This story is the last straw. Instead of reaching for the stack of form rejection letters, you reach for your keyboard. Everett Hopkins is about to get his very first personal — extremely personal — rejection letter from an editor. Your challenge is to write that rejection letter. Be as sarcastic, snarky, mean, cutting, and scathing as you feel like. Just make sure Everett Hopkins has no illusions of your opinion of his story and, if you wish, Everett himself.

You are not bound by my description of Hopkins' story. If you prefer to envision another steaming pile of science fiction clichés, go for it.

Anyone can enter, except for Henry. You may enter as many times as you wish, but each entry must be independent of the others. Your entry must be scathing. There is no limit on length, aside from the depth of your own invective.

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, Henry 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, 7 October 2011. A winner will be declared by the evening of Sunday, 9 October 2011.

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