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Friday, December 16, 2011

The Friday Challenge — 12/16/2011

This week in The Friday Challenge:

Bruce Bethke paraphrases Samuel Clemens, in the latest addition to our “Slushpile Survival Guide.” • Join the discussion...

Henry Vogel shares the story of his geekiest Christmas gift ever (and this one wasn't it, just in case anyone was wondering). • Join the discussion...

Kersley Fitzgerald becomes a quivering mass of mucous, but still finds the time to share a valuable PSA. • Join the discussion...

Guy Stewart wins our Parklife challenge, by bringing a truly invasive species into the greenhouse. • Join the discussion...

All this and more, as the proximity of National Ding-a-Ling Day and National Chocolate Covered Anything Day suggests permutations too bizarre to discuss in a family-friendly forum, and the inmates discuss the view from their respective places in the asylum.

A Reindeer to Remember

As of this morning, we have received the following entries for our current challenge:

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, 18 December 2011.

“And now, for the next century and a half...”

And now it is time for this week's Friday Challenge, inflicted by M:

Last night I stayed up until 3 AM, to meet a submission deadline. This morning I attended my daughter's Christmas program... and after lunch, we attended another program, put on by one of the schools we are contemplating once she starts kindergarten.

Now, in getting out the door this morning, I only managed a single cup of coffee. Normally I'm a three-cups-to-start-the-day man. If I don't get it, I won't get a lot of other things, either. I mention this, because it is undoubtedly the source of this week's challenge.

The second program we attended was A Christmas Carol, acted out by a half dozen elementary students from a local Montessori school. Production values were a few notches below those of William Hartnell-era Doctor Who, but the kids were expressing an admirable degree of creativity and enthusiasm, and pulled off a respectable degree of memorization, given their ages.

As my attention — compounded by the aforementioned deficiency of caffeine — drifted, I realized that although I've grown to resent this annual infliction of Dickens' lesser work (and all the myriad retellings that infest popular culture under the guise of public domain interpretation), it is a notable example of our genre subtly infusing the public consciousness, to the degree that it is difficult to imagine any displacement.

You see, despite the hokum that Robert Zemeckis tried to foist on the public with his mo-cap travesty a few years ago, A Christmas Carol really is science fiction. Sure, it's fantasy, too... and a bit of horror, for good measure. The narrative is filled with time travel, voyeuristic spirits, and dire warnings from beyond the grave, and if it wasn't for the fact that I encounter handfuls of pallid, uncreative variations on the same theme every winter, I'd probably think it was the most brilliant thing ol' Chuck D. ever wrote.

What bothered me was that, in over a century and a half of imitation, no one has managed to do better.

Now, you all know the basic plot well enough to verbally sketch it in under 200 words, and brevity of concept is part of what makes A Christmas Carol such an appealing tradition, for young and old alike! So 200 words is what I'll give you, to sketch out the essence of your own SF/F/H-holiday tale. You must have elements of all three genres, and at least one lovable character... and you may not borrow from anything recognizably Dickensian.

You may post your entries as comments below, post on your personal blog and give a link below, or add to The Friday Challenge Yahoo Group in our current directory.

Anyone can enter, with no restrictions, and you may enter as many times as you wish.

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, 23 December 2011. A winner will be declared by the evening of Sunday, 25 December (yes, on Christmas Day!) 2011.

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