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Friday, May 18, 2012

The Friday Challenge - 5/18/12

Re the 5/11/12 Friday Challenge, "What's in a Name?"

To recap, the challenge was to look at a list of ten titles picked more or less at random from the STUPEFYING STORIES slush pile and then -- based solely on the story titles -- to decide which two you'd be mostly interested in reading first, and which two you'd put off until later, or perhaps never. The ten titles were:

1. "Plus One, Minus One"
2. "The Secret"
3. "The Longest Night"
4. "Pink Denim"
5. "Killing Mercy"
6. "The 3D Version"
7. "Jeremy"
8. "Too Dumb to Die"
9. "The Man Who Talked His Way to Mars"
10. "The June Meeting"

This was an interesting little exercise. It's kind of hard to quantify the results, as some respondents picked only their single favorite title of the lot while others ranked all ten, but totting up the results and stirring in a generous measure of handwavium, we find that:

The winner, in a runaway, was "The Man Who Talked His Way to Mars." Tied for second, we find "Too Dumb to Die" and "Pink Denim," while "Plus One, Minus One" comes in third.

Meanwhile, the losers are "Jeremy" and "The Secret," tied at four thumbs-down each and no thumbs-ups, and then "Pink Denim" again, with three thumbs-downs, followed by (preceded by?) "The June Meeting," at two up, two down.

It's interesting to note that "Pink Denim" appears on both the best and worst lists, indicating that whatever else is going on, people aren't left apathetic by that title, and that even "The Man Who Talked His Way to Mars" picked up one thumbs-down, on the grounds that, "the whole story is given away in the title." In order of total votes received, both for and against, the titles that got the most attention were "The Man Who Talked His Way to Mars," "Pink Denim," "Too Dumb to Die," and "Plus One, Minus One." 

What does this prove? Probably just that we have a disproportionate number of Heinlein fans in the crowd, but all the same: this is interesting food for thought. Your thoughts, comments, and observations?

And now, on to this week's challenge.

"First, begin at the beginning..."

Continuing in the same vein as last week's challenge, for this week's Friday Challenge I have again, more or less at random, plucked out the first sentence (or two or three) of six stories. The submissions you are considering are:

1. "The boy was odd. This much he knew for himself. This much he had heard his seniors -- his mother, his father, his uncles, the officers at the Academy -- mention to each other, nodding their heads confidentially, not once but many times during his short eighteen years of life, leading up to this day."

2. "Mr. George Lawrence, C.M.G., First Class District Officer of His Majesty's Civil Service, sat at the door of his tent and viewed the African desert scene with the eye of extreme disfavor. There was beauty neither in the landscape nor in the eye of the beholder."

3. "For a week Mr. R. Childan had been anxiously watching the mail. But the valuable shipment from the Rocky Mountain States had not arrived. As he opened up his store on Friday morning and saw only letters on the floor by the mail slot he thought, I'm going to have an angry customer."

4. "Stock cue SOUND: "Presenting SCANALYZER, Engrelay Satelserv's unique thrice-per-day study of the big big scene, the INdepth INdependent IMmediate INterface between you and your world!"
    "Stock cue VISUAL: cliptage, splitscreen, cut in bridge-melder, Mr. & Mrs. Everywhere depthunder (today MAMP, Mid-Atlantic Mining Project), spaceover (today freeflysuiting), transiting (today Simplon Acceleratube), digging (today as every day hominage with autoshout).

5. "Bob Wilson did not see the circle grow. Nor, for that matter, did he see the stranger who stepped out of the circle and stood staring at the back of Wilson's neck -- stared, and breathed heavily, as if laboring under strong and unusual emotion."

6. "It was a vast, shining globe and it cast a light of lambent topaz into space -- but it was not a sun. Thus, the planet had fooled men for a long time. Not until entering close orbit around it did its discoverer realize that this was a world in a binary system and not a third sun itself."

The challenge is the same as last week's: you are the submissions editor. Your time is not infinite. Knowing nothing more about these stories than what you see above, which beginning is most likely to keep you reading? Which is second most likely to do so? Which one or two are most likely to make you say, "Okay, that's enough," mark the story FORM REJECTION, and then move on to the next manuscript in your in-basket?

Make the case for your choices. Put your thoughts in the Comments on this post. And then let's all meet back here again next Friday to discuss the results.

Kind regards,
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