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"First Draft"

IN Competition #86, we asked you to take a famous science fiction/fantasy story, then give us the rough draft version. The unpolished opuses we received would bring a smile to the face of even the most hard-bitten slush-pile reader.

A shout-out to all of those who submitted the first sentence of Neuromancer, but as you will see below, one of them tickled our funny bone more than the others.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Published version
The three laws of robotics:
1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
First draft
The three clauses of the U.S. Robotics EULA:
1. U.S. Robotics is not liable for any injury to humans caused by robots.
2. U.S. Robotics is not liable for any consequences of robots failing to follow instructions.
3. Damage sustained during operation is not covered by the U.S. Robotics warranty.
—Charles Schmidt
Fridley, MN

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
Published version
Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.
First draft
Dead people outnumber living ones by like, 30:1. So right now, thirty dead people are standing behind you. That's pretty cool if you don't turn around.
—Stephanie Peaden
Titusville, FL

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
Published version
Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair. The doctor told him there were no bugs in his hair.
First draft
Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair. The doctor told him he should really do something about those bugs in his hair.
—Paul L. Bauch
Park Ridge, IL

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Published version
Quentin did a magic trick. Nobody noticed.
First draft
Quentin did a magic trick. Everybody in sight beat him up, and he limped home knowing he would quit magic and go to law school.
—Phyllis Holliday
San Francisco, CA

Published version
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
First draft
The Lion, the Witch and the Water Closet by C.S. Lewis
—Lissanne Lake
North Bergen, NJ

Neuromancer by William Gibson
Published version
The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
First draft
The sky above the port was the color of television buffoons on the Fox Channel; it was white.
—Eric Cline
Bowie, MD

F&SF Competition #87

Authors receive all sorts of mail from their fans, from words of praise to some serious criticism. Then there's the really odd pieces of fan mail. Take a famous science fiction/fantasy author and craft the letter that they never want to receive. Make sure the entries are fifty words or less…all of them funny. (Six entries per person, maximum.)


Dear Mr. Arthur Clarke:
    Your novel 2001 fills me with great hope for the future.
Signed, Watson

  Don't forget to include your mailing address, ZIP code and all. If not, we won't be able to send you your prize if you win one, and that would be sad.  


Send entries to Competition Editor, F&SF, 240 West 73rd St. #1201, New York, NY 10023-2794,
email entries to carol [a-t] cybrid [d-o-t] net.

Be sure to include your contact information. Entries must be received by January 15, 2014. 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 limited edition copy of What the Doctor Ordered by Michael Blumlein (published by Centipede Press).
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 #87 will appear in the May-June 2014 issue.

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