Wednesday, November 18, 2009

100 word fiction competition

The competition will likely be over before you read this post, but the idea is interesting and the entries are fun.
From Boingboing, 100 word fiction competition:

The prize is a $700 HP MediaSmart EX495 PC, set up as a Windows home server, with 1.5TB of storage and Mac/Time Machine support. The winner shall be chosen at arbitrary whim. Runners-up get something random from the gadget dungeon.
The theme is "Found in Space." 100 words long. Go.
Entries are in the comments.  The contest started on Nov 16 and I don't know when it ends.

My entry (#838):
.

The inhabitants of the ISS suited up grimly, but not-quite with panic.  The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell flapped through the air.  Something had impacted the side of the station, causing another leak for the station and disrupting communications.  Oh, the disruptions that would arise, and for more than the station, when the object was found.
Outside, they strapped themselves to the attachment points and leapt away; their scientific knowledge taking them to the correct location.  Once there, their terrible years of study suddenly turned to ashes.
A teapot, clearly having orbited between Earth and Mars, was visible in the wreckage.

.
How I worked up to the story:
Some very basic brainstorming:

am I in space or does the thing come to Earth?
Science Fiction?  Humour?

A first attempt that felt like a false start:
Prince smelled hot metal in the afternoon breeze.  He loped upwind, curious.  Soon, he heard the popping of cooling metal, and finally felt the heat on his muzzle.  In front of him was something outside his experience.  It was smooth and regular like a home or vehicle but smelled entirely different.  His lip curled and his shoulders hunched in concern.
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I like this story much better: 
The inhabitants of the International Space Station suited up quickly and grimly, but not-quite with panic.  A book, McMaster University's The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell floated and flapped through the air like a square butterfly.  Something had impacted the sunward side of the station, causing yet another leak for the station and disrupting communications.  Oh, the disruptions that would arise, and for more than merely the space station, when the object was found.

Three of the eight current inhabitants crowded into the airlock, pausing to check their radios.  Inside, the others would be listening to offer advice and possibly interpret the... interesting English of the Japanese member.

Outside, they strapped themselves to the attachment points and leapt away, using their knowledge of physics to swing them to the correct location.  Once there, the terrible years of study and training suddenly revealed themselves to be useless.

A tiny teapot, clearly having orbited between Earth and Mars, was just visible in the wreckage.

Unfortunately, this story is sixty words too long.  I don't take 100 words to an exact requirement - I will be satisfied with 95-105, but this has to be too long. What can be cut? What can be shortened?
The premise is imagining a group of (presumably non-religious) scientists being struck by Russell's Teapot.  
This isn't needed:
Three of the eight current inhabitants crowded into the airlock, pausing to check their radios.  Inside, the others would be listening to offer advice and possibly interpret the... interesting English of the Japanese member. (34 words!  Down to 128)
Nitpicking: International Space Station to ISS. McMaster University, a book, floated and, like a square butterfly, merely, and training, tiny, just (14 words.  Down to 111!)
More nitpicking: quickly and, sunward, yet, space, 'revealed themselves to be useless' to 'turned to ashes, 'using their knowledge of physics to swing them to the correct location' to 'their scientific knowledge taking them to the correct location' (10 words. Down to 101!) 
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The inhabitants of the ISS suited up grimly, but not-quite with panic (13 words) .  The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell flapped through the air (10 words).  Something had impacted the side of the station, causing another leak for the station and disrupting communications (17 words).  Oh, the disruptions that would arise, and for more than the station, when the object was found (17 words).

Outside, they strapped themselves to the attachment points and leapt away; their scientific knowledge taking them to the correct location (20 words).  Once there, their terrible years of study suddenly turned to ashes (11 words).

A teapot, clearly having orbited between Earth and Mars, was visible in the wreckage (14 words).

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Now, the story might or might-not be any good, but I like it.  Further, how I thought of the story interests me.  Now, I had seen this comic about Russell (at Boingboing) sometime before learning about the contest so the two could have been linked in my mind.  However, I only consciously thought about Russell's teapot halfway through the story.  I certainly was not thinking about it when I started, nor even when I started the ISS story.  That part of the creativity process, well, just happened.


It has happened before.  A few years ago, I made a story for my wife, a story that went nowhere, when I suddenly had a strong ending in mind.


I am definitely not saying either story is excellent, but the sudden appearance of a strong ending, a twist, a good conclusion, greatly improved the story.






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