Greetings, players! I’m here, I’m sober(ish), and I want to give you the results of the first challenge. I’ve always run Fiction 59 as one of the first challenges of the game, and this time it feels like it’s consistently strong all the way through. I did give a handful of 2s, but even those stories had potential, which hasn’t been the case in the past. Frankly, this doesn’t surprise me. While the crowds I’ve had before include some writing-obsessed folks who took high marks week after week, this is the first game to entirely stocked with people who have clear, well-defined online writing styles and/or senses of humor.

This is all a long way to say: well done, folks. Um…except the one who never seemed to know the game had started yet. He didn’t do so well.

Below, you will see Citizen names, followed by their stories and their scores (B for Beau’s score, S for spookymilk’s). At the bottom, the team scores are tabulated so that you may know if you need to eliminate a player here in the first week.

Oh, and a note on word count: a few players had questions about how things would be counted, and it basically amounted to “If I can tell why you believe yourself to have 59 words, it’s fine.” In short, although it’s supposed to be exact, I definitely don’t want to be handing out zeros. Also, a few people asked about titles. They were allowed.

Enjoy. This game is going to be among the all-time greats, says the person who finds fault with everything. Away we go:


William liked being a snake. Feared by many and revered by the smart
few. Never mind he was a Thamnophis sirtalis (garter snake, duh). Oh
sure, it was nice to dream about being a fearsome cobra or maybe the
dangerous coral, but everyone has their place. Right now, his place is
elsewhere. The lady with the knife looks ups-

K: Do you know that I love snakes? Well, I do. Still, despite the sudden, tragic payoff, I don’t know if this is a complete story nor if it has a big enough twist to get away with not being so. 3
B: I like the whimsical tone (in fact, it reads a lot like my entry in Survivor VI), but the (I assume intentionally) butchered sentence fragments at the beginning detract from the clever ending. 3


“Mom, I’m bigger than you now. The next time you hit me, I’m going to hit you back.” For as long as I could remember my mom beat the shit out of me. Standing ground was a risk – would I be thrown out, would it get worse? I had to take the chance, today was the end of abuse.

K: Aw, hell. Am I looking into someone’s life here? As usual with this challenge, it doesn’t feel like a complete story. Still, it has emotional resonance. 3
B: This doesn’t feel to me like a full story, as I’m dying to know what happens to the narrator next. What I do like is that the tone of the story seems to indicate our hero is in his late teens, possibly even his twenties, juxtaposed by an obvious stunted maturity. Although there’s an issue with tense in the final sentence, I think I may find myself quoting “Today was the end of abuse” in future game logs. 3


“Hold on, almost there,” she pleaded. He ground his teeth, clutched the sheet tighter. “It’s really hard, this is so big,” she moaned between quick breaths. He fought to keep control, to keep from crying out. She pressed her hand into his back even harder, then suddenly recoiled with a shout. “Jesus, that’s the biggest splinter I’ve ever seen.”

K: Har har. I knew we were headed for a joke here…it was just a matter of what double entendre was about to be used. Many Fiction 59s have played with the almost-sex theme throughout the years, but this one is done nicely. 3
B: Meh. The “sounds like something dirty but really isn’t” bit has been done a million times. I found myself hoping that the punch line would actually be about sex, which would have been pleasantly surprising. That would be a mighty big splinter, though! 2

Big Mak

Unwilling to put you through the ritual again, I turned the knife on the fish instead of your trembling arm. Diced, deprived of your blood, and flushed, it couldn’t be resurrected.

Two pain-wracked days later, the package arrived. Fear in your eyes confirmed the contents. I retrieved my knife. You bared your arm. At least this brought temporary relief.

K: Alright, which of you bastards knows me? I fear fish. Aside from that, I also have a mild fear of cults. Still, this story is only partially realized. It makes me wish I could read more, which isn’t really the object here. 3
B: I’ve read this three times and I’m still not exactly sure what’s going on there at the end, but I’m delighted all the same. The final sentence seems to kind of dangle, unfortunately, which keeps this from a perfect score. 4

Erik B.B.

Billy the Kid ran through the barnyard looking for a hiding place, well aware of what his assailant was capable. Veering into the hay-barn, Billy concealed himself and readied his weapons. The farmer rumbled into the barn—the Kid charged. Unfortunately for Billy, horns did him no good; Farmer Johnson was able to rubber band the poor goat’s jewels.

K: Fiction 59 quite often lends itself to deception; there isn’t enough time to tell a story with emotional resonance, one would think, so it’s better to go with this sort of surprise. I’m not sure this is the case, but I’m sure this one has that concept nailed. 4
B: Billy the Kid is a goat! Of course! How did I not see that coming? Simply marvelous. 5


She was startled awake by the tinny, electric buzz of her alarm clock. When she tried to turn it off, she couldn’t reach. As her bedside table was six inches from her bed she panicked and jumped out of bed. She fixated on her reflection in the mirror, and roared..?

She’d become a dinosaur. A velociraptor, to be precise.

K: Heh heh. This reminds me of a Far Side gag with dinosaurs at the table; “I’m trying to pass the potatoes!” 3
B: Cute. The sentences do not flow that well together, but the satisfaction of discovering why six inches seemed like such a long distance to the alarm clock brought a smile this way. 3


It took eight bottles of Jack and four cases of Coors but Kid Rock finally finished watching every single episode of two and a half men. He was filled with jubilation as he called Alanis Morissette during the closing credits. “I won the bet, you owe me 8 bottles of J.D. and four cases of Coors, how’s that for Ironic?”

K: I think I hate you for how much I like this, but I like this. I don’t know what I usually expect from Fiction 59, but it isn’t a bet between Kid Rock and Alanis Morisette concerning Two and a Half Men. I find it hard to believe that Kid Rock can define “irony” any better than Alanis, which also makes this funny. 4
B: This is tour de force of hilarity. Jack and Coors together is funny. Requiring them to watch Charlie Sheen for god knows how many hours is funny. Making a bet on it is funny. Kid Rock calling Alanis during the credits is funny. Kid Rock making fun of Alanis’s song about irony by pointing out something that actually is ironic—and in a negative way, ultimately, against Kid Rock—is just icing on the cake. Fantastic. 5


She stood by the door and looked back at him, sticking her tongue at him playfully. He smiled sheepishly. Last night was one he would never forget. He loved her warm body next to his. There was no doubt she was the one. His loneliness was gone. Now she wanted to go for a walk. I grabbed her leash.

K: I can’t believe how many Fiction 59s over the years involve a twist of “it’s an animal.” Is this good or bad? In this case, good, because the writer does it with style. 4
B: At first I was just as disappointed by this one as I was about the one with the splinter, as it seemed to use the “it’s not really about sex,” plot device. But then it hit me; it is about sex! And then it hit me…ewww! Good work. 4


Sam was a strong soul, but Sam had a secret. Sometimes on Saturdays at sunset, Sam snuck to Selena the seducer’s shack. Sam swore things were strictly sexual, but sometimes Sam sensed something more significant. Sunday at sunrise, Selena still sound asleep, Sam stood. “Sleep soundly, my slumbering sweetheart”, said Sam as he stroked Selena’s skin and set sail.

K: I’m being baited, and dammit, it’s working. It’s hard enough to write a story with a word commandment (from one who knows), but to do so with alliteration is pretty sweet. 4
B: I do enjoy alliteration, but it seems to me it’s just here for alliteration’s sake. Part of me senses that there’s a joke in here, that Sam has in fact kidnapped his slumbering sweetheart. But I can’t really tell. 3


He had heard about the “light at the end of the tunnel”, but had never imagined how peaceful it was. Everything was so radiant and warm; like the light permeated him. He never wanted this to end.

With a flash, the moth’s life ended as he flew directly into the campfire.

“Damn moths, why do they do that, anyway?”

K: I’ve seen a lot of punchlines that were similar, but this one works. Though the emotional resonance falters as a result of the hero being a moth, one has to realize that this is the intention. What I don’t like here is the change in perspective. Jarring. 3
B: Kind of an abrupt change in perspective we have here. Maybe it’s just me, but why would someone care (enough to say ‘damn’) if a moth flew into a campfire? Either way, the punch line is just a bit too obvious. 2


They travelled the freeway in silence. He looked straight ahead; she glanced out the side window, ignoring him. If it were up to him, they wouldn’t treat each other like strangers. He smiled hopefully at her. Nothing. He fixed his gaze forward again. Eventually, the bus reached his stop. He got off. She didn’t. The bus slowly pulled away.

K: Does this person know me? I am fascinated by emotional distance. Frankly, this story gets the concept of emotional distance across as much as anything. Is there a payoff? I’m not sure. That would be the only issue here, but I think it’s an intentional display of the man’s humdrum life. 4
B: I was suspecting that the two really *were* strangers. I was not suspecting they were on a bus. I also love how the ho-hum ending sort of exemplifies the pathetic nature that is this man’s life. 4

hungry joe

After I decided to leave her once and for all, I realized that I did still love her. Irrelevant, but it still made me sad. She tried to take me in a firm embrace, as if it could make me change my mind. I sorrowfully pushed her back and prepared to kill head, so that the body may die.

K: Surprisingly similar to the previous story. Women suck, don’t they? I guess I don’t feel connected to the characters, though. It feels a little…Nu Metal-style whiny and cliche, or something? 2
The awkwardness of the prose in the last sentence doesn’t fit in with the rest. And, so…he kills her? I guess nothing led me to care about either of their fates, so the ending had no impact on me. 2

Dread Pirate Will Young

That was stupid of him. Sure, he did not realize it at the time. Instead, he succumbed to the instantaneous gratification of quieting his friends and to the dogmatic belief that he was immune from Newton. Once gravity exerted its will, everyone hooted with delight. Everyone except him. After all, his legs were splayed when the metal railing arrived.

K: If there’s one thing I love, and there are several, it’s the artful retelling of a vulgar story. In this case, a racking of the balls is given the poetic treatment. Nice. 4
Very well written, but for some reason it doesn’t work for me. If we’re talking children, “dogmatic belief” and “immune from Newton” seems a bit over the top. If it’s someone intelligent enough to be able to think in those terms, one would think they wouldn’t be in this situation. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but that’s what happened. 3

New Guy

The thief paused mid-flight, struck by something the man had said before collapsing.

“You’ve done well for yourself tonight.”

He pulled the bag from his pocket, felt the weight in his hand, the shifting contents inside, the blood still wet on the outside. He tucked into a dark corner to undo the drawstring.

He had done well for himself.

K: I’m torn between loving the mystery and being angry at it as a result of knowing that I’ll never know how it continues to play out. In any case, I’m intrigued by the victim’s complimentary last words. 4
B: Very innocuous, considering the circumstances. I like the image of the victim (likely a criminal himself) collected enough to compliment his assailant as he dies. 4


“Home Field Advantage”

Doc Barrett was on the hill, trying to finish the ninth as sun set on the sandy diamond. Matthews whistled Doc’s changeup high into the air over center field. “Incoming!,” Rodriguez shouted from short, but Williams didn’t hear him as he leapt, glove straining. We hit the deck. After the mortar hit, Doc bolted for center with his medbag.

K: Things I love: a) baseball and b) war movies. Well done. Normally this would bode poorly, as I have high expectations for such things. In this case, I could’ve asked specifically for all of them to be war stories, and still wouldn’t have expected one to be done with such care and poignance. 5
B: Took me a second to realize what was happening here. Funny and sad all at once. That’s hard to do. 5


As the light turned green, I gunned the engine. I only had 120 feet to get to 60 before I
merged into the tightly spaced cars whizzing past. I merged left and settled in. As I took my work exit, it hit me. My commute was a microcosm of my life. Every day is different, yet nothing ever

K: I’d love to say that this story wasn’t a true story. I’d love to. Anyway, though the prose is fine, I don’t feel for any particular character here and the analogy is a stretch. 2
B: I don’t get how the two situations are analogous. Nor do I detect any irony. Oh, well. 2


He googled the unemployment office for the 32nd week. He didn’t use a bookmark, because that was too permanent, or an admission. He wasn’t a factory worker. He’d gone to school. He responded “Yes” to “Did you look for work?” But he fantasized about putting his fist through his monitor in lieu of clicking the button that read “Submit.”

K: Okay. Damn. I feel the anger here, and I want to hug the subject. In 59 words the writer has gotten across loneliness, anger, and apathy. Tall order. 4
B: Okay, I was wrong. Apparently, funny and sad all at once is not so hard to do. The angst is just dripping from the screen. In a yummy way. 4


“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!”

K: 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
B: 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


Hey, what’s up.
Give me a break.
Give me a break.
Dude I have no idea what you are talking about.
Give me a break!
I want a break off of your kit kat bar.
Kelly, this is a snickers.
What is up with you dude?
Nothing, give me some nougat.
Okay, that seems fair.

Cute. Not much more than cute, and it feels more like an anecdote than a story, but cute. 2
Funny, but we’re looking for a story, and this just feels like a dialogue sequence in a larger chapter. 2


He woke to see his smoldering car upside-down and his partner with a hole in the back of his head.
“Where are the files?” demanded the man standing over him.
He spit a bloody tooth on the man’s shoe.
“I thought that’d be your answer.”
He closed his eyes again and waited for the whisper of a silenced .45.

K: This is another beautiful moment that I wish was part of a bigger story. Glorious writing, but where’s the rest? It would be perfect…if I wanted a beginning and not a full narrative. 4
B: Nice imagery. Nothing fancy here, but pleasant all the same. 4


For fun, Beau and I wrote them too:


One day, a young black man with a checkered past decided to conquer his demons. Taking two steps forward, he began his journey on the straight and narrow. Sadly, his path was frequently blocked by his white peers. But with support from his extended family, he marched on. Suddenly, from the corner of his eye, he found salvation. Checkmate.

K: True story: I had this pegged as a chessboard gag from the beginning. It did bother me, though, that the story seemed to suggest that black gets the first move. Reading it again, now it doesn’t feel like that was the intention. I’m psyching myself out here.


Though its cold, gray brick facade was uninviting, the castle’s interior was much worse. Fire traps singed my eyebrows as I sought the cargo I came for. I plunged through. Despite the treachery, I reached my ostensible goal. The look on the short fellow’s visage was grateful but apologetic. Damn it all, anyway. The princess was in another castle.

B: Heh heh. What starts off dull and pedantic instantaneously becomes awesome at the end. I love it when video game characters are anthropomorphized. Also, “short fellow’s visage” and “damn it all, anyway” are delicious.


Well, there you go. frightwig never sent one and may or may not be alive, so he gets a -1 on this one. Oh, and a cruel aside: nib sent the one above to replace an earlier one he’d written, which both Beau and I were ready to give a 4. Damned second-guesses, eh?

VINDICTIVE VOICELESS VAGRANTS: 3.5/5/2.5/2/4.5/2/2 = 21.5
NICK PUNTO’S FURY: 3.5/-1/3/4/4/3/4 = 20.5
THE WINNER GROUP: 4/4.5/3.5/4/2.5/5/3 = 26.5

It’s a close one, but the non-submitter makes the difference. This means that Nick Punto’s Fury bring up the rear in the first challenge, probably as a cosmic punishment for making me think of Nick Punto, and have until tomorrow night (Monday) at 10pm Central to vote out a member.

Here’s how it goes: all members of a losing team must vote for a member to be eliminated, except frightwig, who automatically casts a vote for himself (this will always be true when a person does not submit). Voting results will happen in the same post that leads into Challenge Two, and will be anonymous. However, if you feel like making a smartass comment along with your elimination vote, I’ll post it. Again, it will all be anonymous, unless you make it otherwise.

Anyone who fails to vote before the voting period ends will automatically vote for himself. Ties will first be broken by performance in this challenge, and after that, if necessary, by a die roll. It’s cruel, but that’s all we’ve got to go on when we’re this early in the game. At any rate, I don’t expect it to come up.

Cheers, Survivors. You’ll dig the next challenge. It can be difficult, but players always count it among their favorites.