Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Friday Challenge - 12/19/08

illo: Greetings from Hoth!

Well, it's been a fun week here on Hoth! We're still having trouble adapting the landspeeders to the cold, and sadly, the Gungans, those stalwart heroes of the rebellion, being amphibians who never evolved a hibernation instinct, all froze to death in the first 48 hours. But the med-bots assure us that Senator Jar-Jar Binks is perfectly preserved, and when this war is over he should make an excellent full-body mount in the Coruscant Museum of Unnatural History.

Meanwhile, closer to home, we have some good news to report. Those of you who've shared our worries about when our late bloomer might start to develop his powers will be happy to learn that in the past week, The Kid has demonstrated an unfailing, and dare we say it, superhuman ability to miss the schoolbus whenever the wind chill dips below zero! We're not sure exactly how he's going to use this newfound power to fight crime and/or evil, but we consider this a promising sign and are sure the details will become clearer as we work on it.

Over on the work front, in the meantime, things are proceeding about as expected. Thanks to a strong last-minute kick I was able to meet all my deadlines and get all my big projects for the year wrapped up with a few days to spare, which earned me the right to jump in and pick up the slack on someone else's big project that was behind schedule. At the last minute it became apparent that the project still wasn't going to be ready on-time, though, even with all the galley personnel rowing at top speed, and so the decision was handed down from on-high to slip the schedule by a month. But since we managed to finish out the year with no one going postal or in the cardiac ICU for a change, we were all rewarded with guaranteed job security next year, expressed in the form of cancelling the three open job reqs in our group. Hooray! Less competition!

And with that said: it's time to get back to talking about the Friday Challenge.

I'm going to depart from the usual procedure this week and start by announcing the 12/19/08 Friday Challenge first, because — well, heck, because it's Sunday already, so you may as well get a few minutes head start less-late start on it. This week we're looking for your best Pre-Christmas rant. Not about Christmas, no; I want you to write about the ordeal before Christmas. Write about shopping, write about finding the perfect tree, write about that one insipid Christmas song that's going to drive you crazy if you hear it one more time. (My choice would be "Last Christmas" by George Michael.) If that doesn't inspire any visions of terpsichorean sugar plums performing Busby Berkeley routines in your head, then write your nomination for the second-worst Christmas movie of all time. (Jingle All The Way having already secured the uncontestable title of The Worst Christmas Movie Ever, Hands-Down.)

As always, we're playing by the so-called rules for the Friday Challenge, and playing for whatever is behind Door #2. This week the deadline will be sometime on Friday morning, December 26th, as I certainly expect Thursday the 25th to be full beyond capacity.

Now, getting caught up on the backlog, we turn to the 11/21/08 Friday Challenge, which as you might remember was to write something with a Thanksgiving theme. The entries were:

Jamsco, "Giving Thanks" — A good piece, well-written. But as you yourself point out, it is also a rewrite of last year's piece, and as such it's not fair to put it in competition against fresh work.

Kremben, untitled — This one, to be honest, creeped me out a little, as I thought for a moment that Bane had risen again. Very... disturbing.

Waterboy, "It Ain't Me" — I loved this one. It cracked me up. What's more truly, authentically, the genuine American Thanksgiving Day experience than OD'ing on turkey and then dozing off in front of the TV while watching an NFL game? Especially the hapless Lions?

Passinthrough, "Charlie" — As always, a charming snapshot of life. You consistently produce these wonderful, succinct images. It wouldn't hurt you to stretch out and go longer, as you have this great, droll, Bud Luckey sort of story-telling style. Much as it might go against your grain, I'd definitely like to see you tackle something longer.

Snowdog, "A Thanksgiving Carol" — Another truly weird one. Are you sure you and Vidad aren't the same person?

Rainwrites, "Thanksgiving" — A very good, very clever story, with an interesting role-reversal twist. I wouldn't have thought there was a new and strongly SF story to get out of this topic, but you proved that there is. I think that with one more pass for polishing, this one would be publishable in the pro or semi-pro market.

So after discussing the entries, we finally agreed that Rain is the winner. Rain, come on down and claim your prize.

Update, 5 p.m.: as for the 12/12/08 Friday Challenge, which as you no doubt remember was to jump forward 20 years in time and describe life with The Car of the Future, we've had a remarkable response. The entrants are:

BoysMom, untitled

Ben-El, "Just Smurfy"

WaterBoy, "Night Shift," Part One | Part Two

Passinthrough, untitled

Rigel Kent, "Outlaw Motorists Agency," Part One | Part Two

And finally, KTown, the one Luddite here who resolutely refuses to get his own blog, has emailed in, "Frank vs. The Future"

But wait, there's more! In some kind of very strange demonstration of serendipity and synchronicity, the notorious infamous well-known blogger Iowahawk wrote this piece on his blog site, which is not in contention for the prize but definitely well worth reading. What makes this trebly odd, though, is that that bizarre electroeconobox pictured in his post is a "Citicar," which it turns out was designed by the father of Chris Muir, the fellow who writes and draws Day by Day. Talk about a small, nay, claustrophobic world.

Weird stuff, Maynard.

Update, 10 p.m.: after convening the entire Rampant Loon editorial staff, we had a really lovely dinner, and then over milk and cookies got down to the serious business of stuffing our faces with even more freshly baked Christmas cookies. Oh yeah, we read and traded comments on the entries, too.

KTown: there are some great ideas here and some great lines of dialog, but this really reads more like the script for a story than the actual story itself. It's a great framework, and in another week it might have won, but this time around the lack of description and action worked against it. I'd love to see this one fleshed-out into a proper story, or alternately, developed into a proper script and a short film. But as it stands right now, it's neither fish nor fowl.

Passinthrough: another delightful piece of mood and tone, but the same comments as above still apply. Don't be afraid to stretch out and write something longer.

BoysMom: as with Passinthrough's entry, I really like the mood, and there is a really cool idea lurking in here. But to be a story, it needs to be developed further; there needs to be at least one character. Maybe instead of talking about the grandparents driving up to visit, tell us the story of their visit, leading into the conflict between their naive "if you haven't done anything wrong you don't have anything to worry about" belief versus the narrator's somewhat more sanguine "you never know what the software will deem suspicious" theory. You don't have to resolve this conflict, or even bring it fully onstage. You can get a lot of mileage out of the tension between parent and child, and the One Thing that stands between them that they both know they can't talk about without arguing. But to be a story, you need to show us this tension (or something equally significant), not merely tell us about it.

Wow. I think my comments may be almost as long as your original entry. You must be doing something right, to get this much response out of me.

Ben-El: this is the one we kept reading at each other, with everyone trying to do their best PAL 900 voice. I would love to hear Snowdog make an audio performance version of this one — there's no way to sell it anywhere or make any money off it, but I'd love to hear it all the same. But in the end, there can be only one, so this one didn't make the cut. Sorry.

WaterBoy: this was my pick. A good story all the way through, from front to back, and this week's clear winner on the grounds of being closest to publishable. The thought of the president's daughter being stark naked as a political protest — well, I was thinking of Jenna Bush, of course, but then someone said, "Chelsea," and we all went "GAAAAAH!", and someone else said, "Caroline Kennedy," and we all began screaming and wailing, so perhaps you need to spend a few more lines making it clear that this would be a photogenic protest, and not one of those ghastly Code Pink "Breasts Not Bombs" horrorshows. But I was all set to declare this one the winner —

Except that once Rigel posted his Part Two, the panel split. Rigel's entry was not nearly as polished, but it definitely scored big on the creepy and paranoid elements. So in the end...

In the end, we decided we were never going to get to the cheesecake if we kept arguing about the relative merits of WaterBoy and Rigel's entries, so we agreed to call it a split decision and move on. So I guess, in the end, there can be only one, except when there are two. Rigel and WaterBoy, come on down and claim your prizes!