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Sunday, October 23, 2011

And the winner is...

Ever pushed an envelope so hard you turned it into a postcard? Admittedly a poor analogy, but with this challenge, it's the first one that came to mind.

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 numerically 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.

xdpaul is about to put on the “Editor Hat.” It's sort of like the “Sorting Hat” they use at Hogwarts (“Why are you asking about my point-of-view? It's hair, mostly.”), but a little less sarcastic.

xdpaul: There was no point to this challenge, which makes what transpired in the results so remarkable.

Perhaps it's my bias, or simply my surprise at such an obtuse and impossible challenge being met at all, but I must applaud the work of everyone who participated this week.

These were incredibly fine stories. Such variety. Such mood. Such code.

To put it very basically,

20 GOTO 10

That said, someone's got to win, and I have only a finite number (greater than zero) of points to distribute. So here we go.

Zero (point?)

“0111001101110100011011110111001001111001” by J.M. Perkins

xdpaul: This one is as stunning in its elegance as it is its brevity. As straight code, it is beautiful to look at, and the seemingly random movement in the pattern tells a story - one that ends where it begins, with a lot of action in between. In this form, its inscrutability is an expression of the Zero Point of View (ZPOV.)

That elegance is amplified when the story is decoded. Converted to ASCII in plain English, it successfully expresses (or mimics, at the very least) a theoretical ZPOV. It is, at once, metapoetic, poetic and a darn good story.

Cool to see a good brain doing good work: not showy at all. A fun tale, a well-played puzzle, and I envision it as a subroutine in GERTY's AI - not HAL's - friendly, but not terribly self-aware. A lot is here in very little space.

Jack Calverley: 1 / miko: +
xdpaul: 6
Total: 7+

“No One's Story” by RoyO (a.k.a. "qwertyname11")

xdpaul: I'm happy to take this ride, even though, when all is not said and not done, this one is, at least on the strictest technical level, written in the 3rd person, masquerading as ZPOV. Acknowledging that, it is a very funny lyrical approach to the cunning insight that this Challenge is annoying and stupid. I really like how the poem telescopes back in on itself, thereby negating the ZPOV character.

A clever read, a good commentary, but I think it loses points on an intentional category error: it is a poem technically in third person, not a story in ZPOV. I'm glad for the error, because it is a fun literary take on the Challenge.

Jack Calverley: 2 / miko: +
xdpaul: 2
Total: 4+

“Moinomi” by Jack Calverley

xdpaul: "Maybe" is the operative word here. This is well written, but I'm not entirely sure it isn't an elegant 2nd person with some disorientation thrown in (and a clever cheat for some critical dialog). I'll leave the jury out on whether this story meets the challenge criteria precisely, though, because it is unique and quite readable. And I'm arbitrary.

As a story, I think there just must be something in attempting ZPOV that inspires recursive tales. This one folds back in on itself nicely. I can't help but wonder if the disastrous recovery of the deleted information and the error that fails to recognize the transfer of the virus is a bit rough. I don't know if it is pacing or in the narrative of the transmissions, but I feel just a bit railroaded, not by the narration, but by the content of the mystery. Is there another way to suggest the disaster less overtly?

Jack Calverley: voted! / miko: ++
xdpaul: 2
Participation bonus: 2
Total: 4++

“Carnival Day” by WaterBoy

xdpaul: I think this is the 1st person point of view...of the Carnival. Which is sort of creepy, which I like. I might change the title on this one to "Every Day is Carnival Day," and it skates off the map (I think) away from the letter of the challenge, although it captures its remote, impossible spirit nicely.

Jack Calverley: 3 / miko: _
xdpaul: 1
Total: 4

“Joblog” by Arisia

xdpaul: If I were the sort of person who weeps at great literature (I'm not) - this one would be worthy of tears. There is so much here - the ZPOV functional non-awareness of the operation, the power interruption and methodical tick-down, and the moving plot elements of the mysterious object detection. If Hitchcock ever wrote code for routine operations, he wouldn't do better than this.

joblog is a powerhouse thriller and a tragedy and an unsolved mystery. No wonder Marvin struggled with such deep bouts of depression. If your own internal CPU had to deal with orderly chaos like this on a daily basis, wouldn't you? I've got to say that no story has ever made me as glad to know that my own Maker loves me sacrificially as joblog has.

Unbelievably moving. I'm hard to shock. I was throttled to the core. I've read a lot of good stuff this year at the FC - it is a pleasure to count this among the elites.

Jack Calverley: 1 / miko: _
xdpaul: 15
Total: 16

“LiteraryExcellence” by miko

xdpaul: And the hits keep on coming. I laughed a number of times at this wry commentary on the seemingly random tastes of literary critics, and the preposterous notion that short stories can compete on a quantitative basis. Miko's tongue-in-cheek objection to the restrictive and draconian FC Scoring System is noted. As reward, I give him zero points. I'm sure that, in lieu of 1st place, the irony of such is award enough for him.

Very nice.

Jack Calverley: 2 / miko: voted!
xdpaul: 0
Total: 2

“No Point” by miko

xdpaul: This one doesn't so much as tug at the heartstrings as it plays them like a harp. Challenge aside, this is a beautifuly rendered recursive story. I think the hidden roots of 3rd person (3rd tree?) POV (or possibly 1st person, depending on how a tree thinks of itself) do expose themselves a little, but they are somewhat better hidden than in "No One's Story" and, frankly, I think it is still pretty close to the concept of ZPOV to qualify. I get the impression of the story happening elsewhere, but the unconscious but living tree having some sense of that story, and, more importantly, the story of the tree expressing itself without an aware narrator.

I like this plant a lot more than that doormat the apple tree in Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree" (which I think would have been better named as "The Taking Boy") by virtue of its zen indifference over a life well-lived.

Jack Calverley: 1 / miko: voted!
xdpaul: 4
Participation bonus: +
Total: 5+

“Document not found” by Yahoo (a metatextual SNAFU)

xdpaul: [Please note the omission of one of the Challengers. In keeping with the spirit of this particular Challenge, that is wholly intentional.]

Jack Calverley: 2 / miko: _
xdpaul: null
Total: 2


Our winner stands headless, shoulderless, and point-of-viewless above (beyond? through? except?) the others, while our runner-up made a thoroughly impersonal, yet impressive, impression:

2nd Place: 7+ points — “0111001101110100011011110111001001111001” by J.M. Perkins

1st Place: 16 points — “Joblog” by Arisia

Congratulations, Arisia! As winner, you are hereby invited to propose next week's challenge, scheduled to be announced the morning of Friday, 28 October 2011.


So what was the lesson of this challenge?

xdpaul: There wasn't one... but golly, the Challengers this week zeroed in on the contest in ways I simply could not imagine. I can't remember the last time there were this many entries without a spectacular wipeout of some sort. "Zero point" may equal zero flaws! What an unexpected result!
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