Spookymilk Survivor Challenge #1: Fiction 59

The first round Spookymilk Survivor challenge for the intrepid WGOM writers was this: write a complete story in 59 words. Fun! While it is nice that we were writing something of shorter length, we found out that it isn’t easy to convey a full story within those constraints. I was particularly proud of The Winner Group for coming in a strong first place the first week. With a possible 5 points for best score, my team averaged about 3.75 points each. I really liked a lot of the submissions, but the judges could be harsh at times. Results

With this in mind, here was my submission:

Black [Hole] Cat
  Chandrashekar’s Acura worked its way once more through the throng of protesters. “Unfounded fear of scientific experimentation has existed since the Dark Ages,” the biophysicist lamented.
  Later, though, his complex machinery released the upside-down cat, its rapidly-increasing rotations spontaneously creating a gravitational singularity. Chandrashekar wasn’t comforted that there were no survivors to say, “I told you so!”

Judges comments:
Spookymilk: Every now and then comes a story that makes me wish I hadn’t given out any other perfect scores. This one has nice pacing, artful prose, memorable characters and even a twist ending. In 59 words, mind you. 5
Beau: Black [Hole] Cat, brought to you by someone in love with the English language and who knows how to use it. Either that, or someone is playing on my love for Star Trek. Chandrashekar’s Acura! Tee hee. 5

Notes:

  • I’m a little nervous (and a bit embarassed) that this was selected as the “Judges’ Favorite” this week.
  • Part of the idea for the story came when someone’s comment in a gamelog at WGOM reminded me of something I’d heard about years ago, called The Buttered Cat Paradox. It goes like this: A dropped cat always lands on its feet. A dropped slice of buttered bread always lands butter-side down. What happens when you strap a buttered slice of bread to the back of a cat and drop it? Unfortunately, there isn’t room in 59 words to include the buttered slice of bread, but it wasn’t required anyway.
  • The second part of the idea for the story was based on the protests by many scientists that CERN’s Large Hadron Collider could create a gravitational singularity (a black hole) which would swallow up the Earth and end all life here. The thought that something as innocuous as a dropped cat could spawn a black hole (or that people would protest the experiment like there was anything remotely dangerous about it) seemed to be the kick in the pants that this story would need.
  • I chose “Chandreshekar” as my biophysicist as a nod to famous Nobel Prize winning Indian-born astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who did studies on the mathematics of black holes. (Beau, I’m sure Star Trek also used his name as a nod to the scientist.) Earlier drafts had a physicist named “Alejandro Diesanto” or somesuch, but a single name made for a more terse story. And he drives an Acura because his research grants are successful, but not successful enough to drive something pretentious like a beemer or Mercedes.
  • I’m not sure how that last line came about, but it just hit me that since a black hole would wipe out everyone, he didn’t have to be bothered by the fact that the protestors were inevitably correct.

Can’t wait for Challenge #2…

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6 responses to “Spookymilk Survivor Challenge #1: Fiction 59

  1. Were we harsh (really, I’m asking)? You should’ve seen the guy I stopped using as a co-judge after the last one. He often used “Hated it! NEXT” as his only feedback. I guess it comes out because at this point, I’ve read over 100 Fiction 59s and as a result I have high expectations.

    Your explanation on the Acura was exactly what I figured upon reading. I’m a big fan of details like that.

    • Well, in a way, I might have been harsher in regards to punctuation or capitalization, which to me hurt a couple really good ones, but I thought you were a little harsh on the content of some. I don’t know — you’ve seen many more of these than I have.

      • I used to be pretty harsh about punctuation and capitalization, but after years of being reminded that some otherwise talented people are terrible at it, I decided to stop giving it much notice. In fact, in recent years, I’ve fixed grammar and spelling on the ones that needed it so their story or piece could receive its due.

        I’ll admit to wishing it was a non-issue, though.

  2. As far as I know, Star Trek has never had a character named Chandreshekar. I was more referring to the use of the term “gravitational singularity.” I had no idea the name and the science had any relation; I just thought it just sounded good with “Acura.”

    • I think the USS Chandrashekhar was a federation starship in “Star Trek IV: Save the Whales”. I’m pretty sure Dr. Chandra in “2010: The Year We Make Contact” was also a nod.

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