November - December Short Story Competition

Discussion in 'Writing' started by norm, Nov 5, 2012.

  1. norm

    norm We parley for nobody

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    "The machine had been invented a few years ago: a machine that could tell, from just a sample of your blood, how you were going to die. It didn’t give you the date and it didn’t give you specifics. It just spat out a sliver of paper upon which were printed, in careful block letters, the words DROWNED or CANCER or OLD AGE or CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN. It let people know how they were going to die.

    "The problem with the machine is that nobody really knew how it worked, which wouldn’t actually have been that much of a problem if the machine worked as well as we wished it would. But the machine was frustratingly vague in its predictions: dark, and seemingly delighting in the ambiguities of language. OLD AGE, it had already turned out, could mean either dying of natural causes, or shot by a bedridden man in a botched home invasion. The machine captured that old-world sense of irony in death — you can know how it’s going to happen, but you’ll still be surprised when it does.

    "The realization that we could now know how we were going to die had changed the world: people became at once less fearful and more afraid. There’s no reason not to go skydiving if you know your sliver of paper says BURIED ALIVE. The realization that these predictions seemed to revel in turnabout and surprise put a damper on things. It made the predictions more sinister –yes, if you were going to be buried alive you weren’t going to be electrocuted in the bathtub, but what if in skydiving you landed in a gravel pit? What if you were buried alive not in dirt but in something else? And would being caught in a collapsing building count as being buried alive? For every possibility the machine closed, it seemed to open several more, with varying degrees of plausibility.

    "By that time, of course, the machine had been reverse-engineered and duplicated, its internal workings being rather simple to construct, given our example. And yes, we found out that its predictions weren’t as straightforward as they seemed upon initial discovery at about the same time as everyone else did. We tested it before announcing it to the world, but testing took time — too much, since we had to wait for people to die. After four years had gone by and three people died as the machine predicted, we shipped it out the door. There were now machines in every doctor’s office and in booths at the mall. You could pay someone or you could probably get it done for free, but the result was the same no matter what machine you went to. They were, at least, consistent."


    -Introduction to 'The Machine of Death.'​


    And so with this introduction as our guideline, we venture into the final short story competition of 2012. I take no credit for this idea, I merely discovered this collection of short stories and thought it would make for an interesting theme.

    The rules:

    -Your entry must be between 1500-5000 words
    -Your story must involve a character who has learned the manner of their own demise (because they got a slip of paper from a machine that told them so.)
    -The title of your story must be the cause of death on that slip of paper. Here are some examples of story titles/causes of death from the Machine of Death short story collection:

    - Flaming Marshmallow
    - Firing Squad
    - Cancer
    - Almond
    - HIV Infection From Machine Of Death Needle
    - Exploded
    - Murder and Suicide, Respectively
    - Exhaustion From Having Sex With A Minor
    - Heat Death of the Universe
    - Nothing
    - Killed By Daniel

    These are just some of the titles that are part of the Machine of Death collection, to give you an idea of what some people have come up with. I am NOT asking you to use these existing titles. Come up with your own, if possible.

    Due date will be December 26th, Midnight in your respective time-zone.

    Have fun!
     
  2. norm

    norm We parley for nobody

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  3. Wilson Geiger

    Wilson Geiger Greymane

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    Awesome theme! Not sure I'll have time, but December may free up a bit.
     
  4. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    The preambular introduction is full of logical inconsistencies, but I'll bite... ;)
     
  5. Igor

    Igor Ze vriter

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    I like this. So we post this a separate thread in the stories section, like that?
    Or is there something else at foot I'm not aware of?
    Igor
     
  6. Andrew Leon Hudson

    Andrew Leon Hudson sf-icionado / horror-ator

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    I'm game. Is this the same format as the stories in the book?
     
  7. MrBF1V3

    MrBF1V3 aka. Stephen B5 Jones

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    My first thought is FEATHERS. But-- already written, and it was a flash. (Is anyone old enough around here to remember that?)

    Interesting idea, Let me mull on it a while.

    B5
     
  8. norm

    norm We parley for nobody

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    Yes, you post your story in a a separate thread in the Stories sub-forum. The title of your post should be easy to identify, something like:

    Nov/Dec Short Story Entry - Title of Story

    As for format, do whatever you please; your story can be as similar/dissimilar to the format of the book as you like.
     
  9. Andrew Leon Hudson

    Andrew Leon Hudson sf-icionado / horror-ator

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    To clarify - I meant to ask, "Is the book also comprised of individual short stories, each named for the particular label of death in question?"

    EDIT: Clearly, it is. I just reread your original post and you say so right there.

    Label of death has, immediately, become leading candidate for my story's title, btw.
     
  10. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    I remember the feathers :)
     
  11. norm

    norm We parley for nobody

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    I started something yesterday, I've got about 1200 words so far and a vague idea about what my story is.

    I think I'll expand the rules a little bit, since many of the stories in "The Machine of Death" do this, and since I've inadvertently started doing this myself with my entry: Your story title/cause of death has to be prevalent in your story, but does NOT necessarily have to be the cause in which your main character dies. The first story in the book, entitled "Flaming Marshmallow", is an example of this. That title represents someone else's cause of death, not that of the main character.
     
  12. Andrew Leon Hudson

    Andrew Leon Hudson sf-icionado / horror-ator

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    I started brainstorming titles yesterday and wound up plotting my story out in some detail. I'm glad to read your last post because, although I will follow through on the titular death, I'm working it into something that hints at other parts of this story world as well.
     
  13. norm

    norm We parley for nobody

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    I had a productive night last night. I'm now up to 3,658 words. This story has taken some turns in really weird directions, even for me.
     
  14. norm

    norm We parley for nobody

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    I hope everyone's found some inspiration for this one and have started working on a story.

    I reached 4000 words with my entry about a week ago, then decided to stop and set it aside for a little while. The story is just too strange, and too different compared to how I normally write. I'm not sure if it works for me or not, so I'm hoping to flush it from my memory by starting up some other stories. I'll look back at it a few weeks from now hopefully with a fresh perspective, I'll see how I like it then.
     
  15. Andrew Leon Hudson

    Andrew Leon Hudson sf-icionado / horror-ator

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    I'm heading for the halfway point of my entry and I'm simultaneously really enjoying it and a little frustrated; only because, unlike other prompts, this is so integrally connected to one line of books that it's basically impossible to submit it anywhere else. I guess that's a reason for me to buy a copy of volume two next summer in the hope they decide to go for volume three!
     
  16. norm

    norm We parley for nobody

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    Unfortunately that is one drawback. It occurred to me when I picked the theme that some of the writer's on the forum like submitting their works elsewhere. I was hoping it wouldn't be too much of a problem.
     
  17. Andrew Leon Hudson

    Andrew Leon Hudson sf-icionado / horror-ator

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    I said this to a writers group member, who nodded and made hmmming noises and then suggested I translate the basic story to another setting with a prescient aspect, the Oracle at Delphi perhaps. I don't think it's going to work.
     
  18. Andrew Leon Hudson

    Andrew Leon Hudson sf-icionado / horror-ator

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    Okay, here I am, approximately 4.7k split about equally over two posts:

    NOT CHECKING

    Fun prompt. It sparked several ideas, two in particular that I'm a little tempted to write up. Not sure, given the submission issues it might be a bit of time wasting. But hell, I'm always procrastinating on my WIP so who knows?
     
  19. Hereford Eye

    Hereford Eye Just Another Philistine

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  20. R.J.

    R.J. Is Winter Coming?

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    I have 4299 words sitting in a Word document for this short story but I am struggling to find a nice wrap-up/end for it. For the first time I've ventured outside my usual fantasy stuff to do a take on a space story (I hesitate to call it SF) but I am not sure I like it. Lol. Going to print it out and read through and see if I get any ideas as to how to finish this one...