Friday, October 31, 2008

The Friday Challenge - 10/31/08

Okay, we've got a nice field to pick from this week. The entries received for the 10/24/08 Friday Challenge are, in no particular order:

Snowdog, "The Night of the Obamanation," which was submitted as both an mp3 file and in print form. (Actually, Snowdog not only posted his entry in two media forms, he also posted it days before anyone else. I guess we'll have to stop calling it "snowdogging," huh?)

Al, "The Qwatsch"

Ben-El, "Khaki Shorts: An Alternate History of the English Speaking Peoples (Part I: Mushroom Cloud)"

Vidad, "The Big Guy," which is presented both in print and on YouTube and purports to be "a zombie hip-hop opera," God help us

Henry, "Lord of the Hunt"

Rigel Kent, "Blaze of Glory"

As always, you are invited to read | watch | listen to the entries, comment on them, and vote for your favorites, with the winner to be announced Sunday night — and this time around, in honor of the coming election, we're doing it by Chicago Rules, so vote early and vote often!

I might add that my mom's family comes from Chicago. I was driving by a cemetery there once and saw two guys with shovels standing on my Uncle Charlie's grave, digging like mad. I stopped the car and yelled, "Hey, what the Hell do you think you're doing?!" One of them yelled back, "Never mind us. We're just getting out the vote."

And we have (another) winner...

Meanwhile, as I continue to clear the backlog of accumulated Friday Challenges, it pleases me to announce that we have a clear winner in the 10/10/08 Friday Challenge, "Ten Words," and that winner would be Snowdog, for his story, "Armstrong." Excellent work, Snowdog, and if you're interested, I'd recommend polishing and tuning that one just a little more and then trying to get it published.

Vidad, nice try, but some of your puns fall horribly flat. The rest of you, interesting wordplay but nothing that really stands out, except for —

KTown! You started out writing a great sonnet, but then in the last line blew it and started making sense. Don't you know anything about modern poetry? What were you thinking?

The 10/31/08 Friday Challenge

For this week's challenge, we're going to swing over to the sci-fi side of the house and give you an idea that's so hard, it clanks. Picture this...

Wait. First, in fairness, I should tell you up front that I'm also working on a story related to this idea, and if you come up with something that really knocks me out I'm apt to appropriate your idea and give you just a few meager words of credit in the dedication, if it ever sells. And with that warning in place:

Picture this...

You are a lone astronaut returning to Earth, the sole survivor of the first manned expedition to the Jovian system. But as you approach Earth, it begins to become apparent that there's something weird going on, something wrong. Maybe it was that strange and disastrous energy surge that hit the ship as you were leaving Europa; maybe it was something much cooler-sounding that Bethke hasn't bothered to figure out yet. But after you land, the truth, however incredible, becomes inescapably obvious. Somehow, you have been pushed through a wormhole into an alternate universe

A strange, horrible, stupid universe, where Kennedy won the 1960 election, not Nixon. Where some guy named McNamara canceled the nuclear propulsion program in the early 1960s, along with the X-20 Spaceplane, and yet the idiots still managed to get to the Moon — in fact, they even did so a decade earlier than in your world — but they did it riding extravagantly wasteful and dangerous chemical rockets, and then they never went back again. A world where the U.S. went back into Indochina after Eisenhower successfully got us out; where President Johnson (Johnson?! You mean that corrupt cracker who went to prison in the Billy Sol Estes scandal?) launched some kind of crazy expensive experiment in social engineering called "The Great Society;" where the western world experienced massive social upheavals in the 1960s, and where the U.S. fought a long, so-called "Cold War" with the Soviet Union ("You mean the USSR didn't collapse in 1968 after the Prague Spring?"). A world where atomic power was never developed beyond a rudimentary level; where it almost seems as if society turned its back on technology in the 1970s; and where nobody even cracks a smile when you drop that old Vulcan proverb: Only Nixon could go to Moscow.

(Yes, Star Trek exists in both universes. But in your universe it starred Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike and there were no "space hippie" episodes.)

I could go on and on — and on some more — but in the interests of brevity, let's cut it off here. You've just been thrown into our world from a parallel universe in which the 1960s as we know it never happened. What is the one thing that strikes you most strongly about this world, and how do you react to it? Alternatively, what is the one thing (aside from that ten thousand pounds of triethylborane fuel you need to get off this stupid rock and back into space) that exists in your world but not here that you miss most?

As always, we're playing for whatever is behind Door #2, and possibly a bit of credit if I ever succeed in getting this thing published. The deadline is midnight Central time, Thursday, November 6. And with that said: I'm really interested to see what you come up with that I haven't thought of already.