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Friday, October 7, 2011

The Friday Challenge — 10/7/2011

This week in The Friday Challenge:

STUPEFYING STORIES volume 1, number 1 — yes, we are numbering 'em, and last year's issue will be a "special edition" — has officially been released! • Already available on Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (nook), with more options arriving soon...

Bruce Bethke recognizes what Hollywood has known all along: Richard Matheson is legend. • Join the discussion...

Ye Olde Webbesite undergoes a change. • Join the discussion...

Kersley Fitzgerald learns the value of doing what you love. • Join the discussion...

Bruce Bethke posts the shortest UGF evah. • Join the discussion...

Daniel Eness spins fourth place into a respectable payment. (He describes this payment as "cold, hard Washingtons," but by my calculations he earned at least a Lincoln.) • Join the discussion...

Triton wins our Where Have All the Yahoos Gone? challenge. More importantly, he seems to have won Ilka. We pity the goats. • Join the discussion...

All this and more, as "Virus Appreciation Day" baffles holidologists worldwide, and the inmates discuss the view from their respective places in the asylum.

You're the Editor

As of this morning, we have received the following entries for our current challenge (and given the nature of this challenge, as well as our recent switchover to DISQUS comments, I am electing to post the complete entries below):

  • ~brb

    Dear Talentless Hack,

    Were you by chance going to the town landfill on the same day that you mailed your manuscript? We ask because it appears that you have gotten confused, discarded your story, and mailed your garbage instead.

    In the future you may save yourself postage simply by not submitting to us at all. We will be watching for your name; rest assured that we will never forgive you for attempting to foist this load of pathetic crapola off on us.

    With malice aforethought,
    "The Editors"

  • rycamor

    Dear Mr. Hopkins,

    Wow... refreshing honesty! And yes, I shouldn't have this job. It was more of a dare, really. I just told my friends "I don't know anything about writing or editing, but I'm a great BS artist, so why not? 200 bucks says I can walk in there, insult the publisher, steal his cigars, and still talk enough game to get the job." So not only did I get the job, but I'm $200 and a few extremely smooth Maduros richer just for being such a prick. I called him an uptight old fart (I do it cool... people eat it up), so he said "You know... chutzpah like that is just what we need around here. You're hired!"

    Feels good to get that off my chest. It's been bothering me ever since I got the job, especially since I schmoozed my way to a 25% pay raise. Oh, and I didn't tell you about lunch with Neal Stephenson. Coolest dude ever. Ahh, me... Anyway, on to business:

    Since it pains me to think what you must be going through (the guilt is killing me), I'm going to do whatever I can to make it up to you. I see the genius in your story (well I trust your judgment since I don't know what I'm doing here), but what I want is more. More of whatever it is that you do in this story. I'm thinking an ongoing series in the magazine. Story in installments, whatever they hell they call it in this biz. But, since I don't understand this job, I need ammo to convince the boss. So here's the plan:

    1. Make it bigger. MUCH bigger. You know... more boobs, more ray guns, scarier aliens, and make it big enough for 6 issues, and leave the ending a real cliff-hanger so you can get started on the rest of the year. Put everything into this one, man... it's your time!

    2. I'm gonna need your help on the write-up for this, since I don't even know the lingo. Honestly, up until now I've been using an online writers discussion* to help me critique and choose the stories. Soo... how about YOU write up the critique and make it good. That way we're covered no matter what. I know a genius like you can make it sing and we'll be in like Flynn.

    Oh, and one last thing: let's use a separate channel from now on. Keep this on the low-down. I actually talked my way into a 2nd editing job (I "telecommute" every other day). So I want you to send all future stuff to my alias at this publisher:

    Bruce R. Bethke
    Rampant Loon Press

    Just to make it convincing, I'll write back saying I don't know what you're talking about. Play along, but keep feeding me stuff.

    *OK, it's not even an online writers' discussion. They'd figure me out for a hack in no time. I actually use a service out of Taiwan that guarantees full anonymity and only costs $125/month. They're even working on my keynote speech at Worldcon, but enough about me now. Let's get your story polished up.

    Yours truly

    Ryc A. Mor
    Editor in Chief
    Astounding Stories of Amazement

  • passinthough

    Dear Mr Hopkins,

    I read the manuscipt you submitted. After reading your manuscipt I was amazed and astounded at the depth and breadth of your submission. Fortunately for our readers. I am unwilling to subject them to the mental torture I endured as I read your manuscipt. May I suggest that any furture manuscripts be submitted to the DHS to be evaluated as potential torture material.


    R Aset Editor

  • Triton

    Dear Mr. Hopkins:

    Thank you very much for your submission to Astounding Stories of Amazement. I don't think I've ever received a submission quite like yours, and that's saying a lot.

    Unfortunately, I fear that my little rinky-dink magazine just doesn't have the appropriate level of gravitas required to host such an amazing story. So, instead, I'm forwarding your submission to one of our subsidiaries, a publication called Raging Bull Dyke. I'm sure they'll love your beautiful, large-breasted female characters. I'll even encourage them to include your address in the publication so that all of your new-found fans can shower you with their praise in person.

    Thanks again.


  • Jack Calverley

    Dear Mr Hopkins,

    I have to report that someone interfered with your postal submission before it arrived at our office.

    It seems all your communications are being monitored. Your speculative fiction inadvertently made reference to some items of science fact which the authorities are unwilling to have released to the public.

    I cannot tell you which aspects of your story aggravated them (they would not tell me) but they made it perfectly clear that neither this magazine nor I, in any future role, may ever publish any of your work.

    The inane drivel which they substituted for your piece read like an early reject from the recent attempt to simulate a million monkeys writing Shakespeare. In fact I was reminded of those X-Factor competitors whose total lack of talent is apparent to all the world except themselves. I guess you've seen them too. Sadly from time to time the occasional ignorant narcissist with pretensions to write submits to us!

    But I do resent the arbitrary imposition of authority as, I expect, do you. And despite your doubts about our editorial policy I feel a personal duty to warn you that if they have not already interviewed you: they surely will (unless they are content just to watch you. For now).

    They didn't actually tell me that I couldn't contact you, but I probably should not be writing this. So this had better be our last ever correspondence.

    I'm not sure whether Mexico would be a safe bet, but I guess Europe or Asia ought to be - if you make it across the border.

    Good luck!

    J Calverley

  • miko

    Dear Reader,

    Thank you for your letter of the 30th ultimo. I am indebted to you for your frank appraisal of my editorial competence; a spur to self-examination and re-dedication is always welcome. Doubtless there are better editors than I, so I have forwarded your letter to the publisher for reconsideration of present staffing.

    Thank you also for your accompanying submission. I accept with full confidence your contention that this is your "finest story". It is apparent you have taken our publication's title quite literally, for I do indeed find your story astounding and its content amazing.

    In my judgment as editor, however, I have concluded that your submission is not right for this magazine. Consequently, I have decided to decline the opportunity to publish your story. I trust your evident awareness of this department's deficiencies will mitigate any disappointment you might feel.

    I encourage you to submit your story to other publications as their responses are certain to be most edifying. Do write back when you meet with success, for to watch the forgone acclaim of a roused readership accrue to a competitor will be a gratifying lesson to us all.

    Thank you for your interest and good luck with your writing.


    /s/ miko

    Editor (pro tem), Astounding Stories of Amazement

  • xdpaul


    Congratulations! In what is, I am quite certain, the finest story that ever leaped, fully formed, from the mortal confines of what surely must be the largest and most misshapen cranium (due no doubt, to such intense and fevered content) since that estimable literary inspiration Joseph Merrick breathed his last, I can do little else but marvel.

    An extraordinary work, this "Twin Dawns on Za'atar."

    I'm sure you are well aware that no published author has ever intentionally named a planet after oregano.

    Even more stunning is that you so cleverly use the motiff of the twin suns to subtly suggest the budding sexuality of the bioengineered twin heroines, Dawn One and Dawn Two, as well as their most prominent physical features, respectively known as Dawns 3 and 4 and Dawns 5 and 6.

    My favorite line comes when the heroines realize that the sheer fabric of their form-fitting space bikinis are nanometers too thick for them to squeeze safely through the pneumatic bank teller tubes in order to orally deliver the urgent message to the President of Za'atar because email hasn't been invented yet due to the rip in the space time continuum.

    "As the clingy fabric released its tender hold when the women simultaneously tugged at the material, the twin dawns of the twin Dawns dawned in the autumnal summer glow of the twin dawns of Za'atar."

    It is as if you have invented a new language that holds a warped mirror up to English and mocks it openly.

    The only thing I will change slightly in the story is the presentation of the hero, Ttereve. Not only is the obvious sexual subtext between himself and his alien sidekick Shep the Space Sheep too subtle for our readers, it is almost to the point that it is hardly apparent at all! Let's change that, shall we?

    Nothing drastic, just a punchy, torrid and explicit scene of raw and naked passion between Ttereve and the Sheep. Perhaps Dawn Two should walk in on the affair, and run off in tears, finally realizing that his macho rebuffs of her advances have complex roots in his secret proclivities.

    Also, instead of single-handedly defeating the villain's army with a space pinecone and a waffle iron, it seems a more natural creative choice for him to use subterfuge. I believe he should borrow Shep's space suit and pass himself as an ovine temple priestess, and sacrifice his body to the lusts of the enemy soldiers, thereby passing on his debilitating venereal disease to them, securing victory.

    Of course, that means the inevitable elimination of the consummation scene between Ttereve and the twin Dawns, but it is a minor loss, I'm sure. It could easily be replaced in a later, collector's edition with an "author's cut" fondling scene betwixt man and sheep that would be too avant garde for even our progressive family magazine.

    I have spoken with the publisher, and his recollection of you is such that you must be an incredibly busy and important person to give such a personal impression. It is, in his words, as if, "he has never met you in his life."

    With that in mind, to spare you from the annoying details or distract you from more important ventures, I have taken the small liberty of making the above edits, and have demanded a rush on the publication calendar.

    Your story will be in print and distributed electronically worldwide by the time you receive this letter, which I had to send via media mail in order to return the wonderful DVD you sent of yourself reading your unpublished poetical odes to the yttrium mines of Jupiter.

    I have also included a payment check. It is, by far, the most pleasant 2 and 1/5 pennies per word (rounded up for your benefit!) with which I have ever had to part. I did take the liberty of discounting the slightly padded word count by eliminating from the final text all conjunctions, articles, pronouns and references to cybertechnology. They hardly affect the meaning, and saved me a whopping $7.32 (rounded down for your benefit!)

    Finally, in the process of assuming the editorship at ASoA, I have discovered that we have a unique glitch in our spell-checking process. Our printer, unfortunately _reversed_ the name of your hero from the original. I will include a correction on the back page of the following issue, but I'm sure it won't affect the pleasure I will derive from being the first professional publisher to, at long last, expose you to the light of day.

    Again, congratulations, Everett. No one in the publishing industry will possibly forget your name after this.

    Warmest Regards,

    X. D. Paul
    Astounding Stories of Amazement

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, 9 October 2011.

Local Newsworthy

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

They say truth is stranger than fiction. In that case, it only stands to reason that actual events would provide fertile ground for story inspiration.

The show Law & Order already does this with their “ripped from the headlines” story plots. Now, we're going to do it, too. Except we're not limiting ourselves to police procedurals.

I want to see the truly bizarre, the outlandish, the stuff that makes the news precisely because it is so out of the ordinary. And — here's the catch — I want the news story to be from your home state.

For example: If I was entering this challenge, I would write a story based on the real-life account of Hogzilla, the enormous pig-monster killed by a hunter in south Georgia in 2004. For my story, perhaps I would write about an English fox hunter who, no longer satisfied with his canine prey, decided to brave the steamy forests of the Alapaha basin in an attempt to bag the most formidable of porcine trophies – the giant hogs (created by the feds during the Cold War) who know no fear of man and eat absolutely everything they see. Or something like that.

So pick the weirdest, wildest, or simply most appealing news story from your state and write a story that is inspired by it. It doesn't have to be recent news; you can go back in time as far as you want. But your story must be inspired by an actual news event from your state. (Or province, if you're Canadian. Or shire, or canton, or okrug, or whatever.) And, at the end of the story, I'd like a short “author's note” describing the actual event, or at least providing a link to where we can read about it. That way, we can compare your story to the real event that inspired it.

(Make sure to put this author's note at the end of the story, not the beginning. Otherwise, it'll spoil it.)

There are no topic or genre limitations. Minimum word count is 500, maximum is 2000. I'll be placing an emphasis on “out-of-the ordinary” when I'm judging and awarding points. Stories inspired by serial killers and bank robbers and such are okay, but stories inspired by giant mutant hogs are better.

Good luck!

Anyone can enter, except for Triton. You may enter as many times as you wish, but each entry must be independent of the others. Your entry must be between 500 and 2000 words in length, and must not build upon the work of any other challenger.

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, Triton 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, 14 October 2011. A winner will be declared by the evening of Sunday, 16 October 2011.

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