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May 2006
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"It was a dark and ion-stormy night…"

IT WAS A dark and stormy competition. Some writers wrote truly terrible prose; others wrote clever stuff that really wasn't "bad" enough. So how to judge such a competition? The same way I always do: pick the ones that make me laugh the hardest.

This competition was not without flaws, and I don't just mean the prose: instead of the usual fifty words, I increased the word count to one hundred—then promptly forgot about it until a few writers delicately reminded me. It's a mistake I won't repeat. I found the shorter entries punchier, and more entertaining.

First Place
"It was a dark and ion-stormy night, as you know, Bob, and as you also know ion-storms are especially dangerous in the orbit of Tau Deltoid IV."
"I do know it, Brent, and I would also add that proton-showers can have a nasty effect on a ship's trichometers anywhere in the Tau Deltoid system."
"God, how I hate you!" simmered Brent, who resented any mention of shipboard trichometers because of their nigh-infinite bulbulousness.
"Not as much as I hate myself," beamed Bob plangently.
—James M. Pfundstein
Bowling Green, OH

Second Place
It was a dark and ion-stormy night in the ruined city. Corythra roused from her bed of worthless currency in the vault of the abandoned bank; she sidled forth into the storm, enjoying the salty tang of negative ions until she achieved enough voltaic lubricity to attract a mate.
—Lyman Caswell
Des Moines, IA

It was a dark and ion-stormy night full of hard cosmic radiation that blasted down on Tim Beefman's sleek and slender silver-sided space ship, Beefman's Pride. Booster rockets on full, Tim's manly muscled hands caressed the ship's controls like the firm curves of a woman. Any woman. Just not his girlfriend.
—Steve Forstner
Chase, MI

It was a dark and ion-stormy night in New York City. The entity remained locked in this lead lined vault in this once cancer clinic. Madame Curie herself had visited this upper Fifth Avenue basement with its cache of radium. It was her contaminated body that had given it "life." Now all it needed was freedom.
—F. X. Gallagher
Berne, NY

It was a dark and ion-stormy night. The aurora borealis hung in the southern sky like a curtain being vacuumed by a giant. The moon rose in the west, while the sun hung motionless in the sky like a spicy Martian burrito stuck to the ceiling.
—Daniel J. Maines
Clifton Spring, NY

It was a dark and ion-stormy night on Retal 77, and the sun was shining through the fur of the mutant bunnies, who were dancing through the molecules.
—Peter T. Mayhew
Chevy Chase, MD

It was a dark and ion-stormy night; dense fog obscured the silv'ry moon. I'd made it to the final table of the Texas Hold 'Em Tournament at Surreptitia. The dealer shuffled the cards, stirring the air. Libling shouted, "Don't let the candles go out!" I'd eaten a bad hamburger, I didn't know what time it was, but with pure vision I knew Pete Beagle held two hearts. I said as much. He replied, "Think so?" Yeah, I thought, I'll be the last man standing, the new deity. I felt born-again as I went all in. Alas, the pitiless stars…
—Mariam Kirby
Mineola, TX


Haunted by the Ghostwriter:

Genre authors have tried their hand at ghostwriting. Alas, they couldn't always hide their true styles. Give an example of a paragraph written by a famous genre author that was exorcised. Keep it to fifty words or less of amusing prose.


"Behold," said Mr. MacGregor. "My electron-destructogun outclasses your carrot-based shielding!"
(E. E. "Doc" Smith ghostwrites for Beatrix Potter)

Email entries to carol [a-t] cybrid [d-o-t] net.

Be sure to include your contact information. Entries must be received by May 15, 2006. Judges are the editors of F&SF, and their decision is final. All entries become the property of F&SF.


First prize will receive a signed U.S. HC edition of The Separation by Christopher Priest (published by Old Earth Books).
Second prize will receive advance reading copies of three forthcoming novels.
Any runners-up will receive one-year subscriptions to F&SF.

Results of competition #72 will appear in the Oct/Nov 2006 issue.

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