One sentence worldbuilding contest results

Wow.  Jesus.  That was hard.  First, I went through all the entries looking for two things: 1) Do I really love it, and 2) Is this the best or only entry from this person.  That got me down to 35 entries.  I want to say, at this point, that there are a lot of entries that didn’t make this cut that make me really, really, want to read the story, and that all of the entries from here on did.

The next phase was hard: I asked my self how much did I want to read the story, plus how well did it imply things about the world?  I sorted these into, “Oh, fuck yes,” and, “almost oh, fuck yes.”  There ended up being 19 “Oh, fuck yes” entries.

I got it down to 15, then glared at the spreadsheet and realized I had to change the rules a bit.  There will be 5 honorable mentions, 5 runners-up, and 5 winners.  All of these are listed in the semi-random order my spreadsheet put them in.

Here are the honorable mentions:

  • Experimental Error:The very last issue of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence ran an editorial that considered whether robots were sentient and if so, whether they were capable of understanding that we were, too.”
  • Chris Wallace:I bought my watch because it was self-winding, purely mechanical, and had no electrical parts, which is why I still love it and why it’s the only thing that still works.”
  • Stevie:I have always wondered if we woke her, with our shaft drillers and our tunnel borers, or whether, instead, it was the natural rhythm of her life to sleep and wake, and this was just her time; she has never answered me, and longevity is seldom the fate of those who presume too far on the patience of a god.”
  • Jsimon:The dog-spirit nipped playfully at my toes, which made me realize I’d already drifted some distance from my body.”
  • evergreen:I woke up when the subway pulled into the Haight Street station and the police got on to ask the riders to show their bar codes.”

Here are the runners up:

  • Pamela Dean: “All the trees and goblins had run off the vases again, so that Daisy was furious and the Queen, as threatened, fell into the most annoying sort of decline.”
  • mandrake:The Cloud was full of lunatic scientists, leaders, and the occasional Pope, but the first of the Uploaded to remain sane turned out to be a twelve-year-old-girl with terminal cancer and an excessive love of Hello Kitty.”
  • Private Iron:I have no time to tell stories, but my dim-witted friend here keeps copious notes, some of which are highly incriminating and all of which are heresy.”
  • Star Straf:Every morning I wake to fresh scars that my body double earned in the war.”
  • Nils Weinander:On a cold September morning, an exiled angel lay on a roof above a backstreet in Norrmalm, Stockholm, watching two garbage collectors pulling back in horror as they found a mutilated body behind a container.”

And, finally, the winners.  Five of them, all of whom will receive autographed copies of the next Incrementalist novel:

  • bckinney:The legionnaires drove the sandgrouse from the oasis, and the spirits from their shrines, but they could not quiet the ghosts on the salt-flat wind.”
  • Jo Walton:Grandma always told me if things got bad to look for a Carthaginian ship, and now, with cops from seven planets on my tail and the High Priest of Baal so close he was practically tying knots in it, I took a glide around the port trying to look as if I was taking an idle interest in spidersilk and shadesong instead of weighing up whether I was desperate enough to take her advice.”
  • chaos:The murder charge didn’t stick because I’d backed him up first, but that left me on the hook for neuroprivacy invasion and the HIPAA violations that go with that, not to mention old-fashioned assault and battery.”
  • Cpaca:It was a simple mistake – they told me it was Wednesday, so I figured the Norse Gods had won here.”
  • Barbara Robson:In 9,998 out of 10,000 parallel worlds, I am madly, passionately in love with you, you bastard.”

There.  Congratulations!

And, everyone who entered: Please write those stories!  I want to read them!

Contest: Quick Update

Sorry I’ve taken so long to get to this.  I’ve a new project that is demanding all of my attention–it really wants to be written right now, and my opinion on the matter doesn’t interest it.  But I plan to get to this SOON.  The amazing Jenphalian is helping me with it, so that should be encouraging.  Meanwhile, thanks for your patience.

The Dream Cafe One-Sentence World Building Challenge (CLOSED)

I have a thing for first sentences.  I just kinda love them.  I have a file where I store them as they come to me, and sometimes that first sentence will generate a second, and a third, and once in a while turn into a book.  Yesterday, I came up with one that I’m going to do something different with: I’m using it to issue a challenge.

Here’s how it works.  Write the opening sentence of a story.  Make it the kind of sentence that will cause the reader to continue reading, but, more than that, and here’s the kicker: see how much of the world, the setting, the characters, the story you can imply–and note that word imply–in just that one sentence.  The contest will run a week (closing 6pm central, 4/18/15), and I’ll judge the entries myself.  The winner gets an autographed copy of the next Incrementalist novel by Skyler White and me, which should be out in something like a year.  I’ll disqualify anyone I think is angle-shooting, whether by writing an absurdly long sentence or by some means I haven’t thought of yet.  I encourage talking about the entries–you know, arguing or speculating about what is or isn’t implied.  I also encourage everyone to then take his or her sentence (or someone else’s, with permission) and turn it into a story.

Please preface each entry by saying Entry: as per the example below.  Enter as many times as you want.

Special note to those who are tuning in from Facebook or Twitter: only entries here, on my blog, will count.

Here is my sentence, to get you going:

Entry: I always come together at bed time, and spend a few minutes before I fall asleep just lying there and finding out what the rest of me has been up to.

Think you can do better? Go!


ETA: I’ll start judging soon.  God help me.

A Tale of Two Words

Two phrases have come up over the last week.  One is the old, “Racism is prejudice plus power,” the other is, “White people need to recognize that they benefit from racism.”  It struck me that one thing going on here is that the words benefit and power are being used in a way that I do not think useful for understanding and fighting the injustice that affects all of our lives–yes, all of our lives, even if some more than others.

When we are told, for example, that white people, or straight people, or men, have “power” this seems to mean (I speak under correction), have advantages.  But power, at least in the social sense, means the ability to force another to do what you wish, through violence or its threat, or economic coercion.

It seems as if there is some sort of magical transformation happening here: “Almost everyone who has actual power is white and male, therefore, if you are white and male, you have a share of that power.”  Is that actually the thinking?  If it is, I hope my expression of it is sufficient to show its absurdity.

The working class only has power when it is united, and racial and sexual divisions are used to prevent that unity.  That is why I do not have the benefit of any sort of decent health care: because racism and male chauvinism (to be sure, along with many other things) have been used to keep the working class from exercising its power to destroy the parasitic health insurance and profit-based privately-owned pharmaceutical companies.  I am denied the benefits of scientific discovery because those divisions interfere with the power we need to prevent the gutting of NASA and other research programs that could increase human knowledge.  I do not have the benefit of living in a world where everyone around me has access to education and culture.  I do not have the benefit of truly effective mass transit, of efficient renewable energy, of a program to fight climate change. All of these are things that could be, and must be, fought for by a united working class.  But the working class is kept divided by, among other things, racial prejudice.

So, no, I do not benefit from racism.  If my sex, my race, my sexual preference, and even more, my fairly comfortable (if uncertain) middle-class income mean that I am less oppressed than many of my brothers and sisters, this does not mean I benefit from racism.  And it certainly does not mean I have power.

In essence, you are telling me that I should work to make those who are more oppressed than me as oppressed as I am.  Seriously?  Is that the best we can do?  Perhaps you claim it is a “start?”  That someday in the future all racism and sexism will vanish, and we will all be equally oppressed, and then we can work together?  Well, first, no, I don’t think that day will ever come without the destruction of capitalism, and, secondly, I think that this “start” works to drive the class apart, to set sections of the oppressed against each other.

And then there’s a purely tactical point: If you actually manage to convince someone that he benefits from racism, is that a very strong argument that he ought to devote himself to fighting it?  It seems to me that part of the fight against racism involves pointing out the ways in which it hurts everyone.

To summarize: if, instead of working as hard as possible to increase, accent, and solidify categories such as race and sex, we were to devote our efforts to bringing the working class together, fighting ignorance where it occurs within the class as part of organizing its independent strength, we could actually do something that would give us all power, and work to the benefit of the entire working class, and, ultimately, the human race.

Only a Link, But One That Matters

I’m putting this here just to make sure that anyone who checks my blog but not twitter or facebook can find it. If you want. It is a major piece of ugliness that has been going on within the SFF community for many years, and which Laura Mixon tracked down and gathered evidence on.  It may not matter to you, which is fine. But it matters to me, because this has an effect on a community that I’m part of, and also has an effect on what stories I get to read.  If you have a weak stomach for abuse, you might want to skip it.

Here is the link.  The discussion is happening there, so there’s probably not much point in saying anything here.  Still, feel free if you wish.