Picofarad #19

Winter 2009

Contest Announcement

It's time to announce the winner of the Harry Potter contest! And as the Picofarad editorial office has been flooded with absolutely no entries, the deadline is being unilaterally extended to March 1st, after which there will definitely be a final announcement of either a winner or a concession that the latest litigant is actually right and J.K. Rowling did rip him off. So send in those remarkable coincidences!

To cover up the gap in the zine, we instead bring you derivative prose of another sort...

Deal Me Another Hardback

Recently I was assigned to read a book called At Empire's Edge. This is a very memorable and thought-provoking work, with the thoughts mainly being on the topic of how in the world the writer keeps getting book contracts with a major publisher. Especially when it comes to the prose, which actually goes down in quality book by book.

Even worse, it's a consistent bad, rather than the sort which becomes bad on average due to occasional howlers. So I can't even get a cathartic therapy session with Dr. Thog out of this. But after some thinking, I've come up with an idea for a new game. It's inspired by the author's tendency to stick to themes. Consider the descriptions of various women in the book:

"She was thirty-six years old, wore her hair pageboy style, and was pretty in a no-nonsense kind of way."
"Nalomy was twenty-six years old, pretty in a hard sort of way, [...]"
"But she was comely in an empty-eyed sort of way [...]"

Or the tendency of the hero to be repeatedly knocked out cold:

"But it was too late by then, as the floor came up to strike the back of his head, and the lights went out."
"The back of his head hit duracrete, the arms of darkness reached out to enfold him, and Cato was gone."
"There was a clang, followed by an explosion of pain, and a fast fall into darkness."

The game I have in mind is poker. Your "hand" is a book you've never read before. Repeated tics, like the above, count as identical numbers. Bad sentences from the same chapter or section count as the same suit. Particularly bad bits in successive parts count toward a straight, and five in the same part are deemed to be a straight flush.

In the above example, I could discard the last knockout, since he's being hit on the side of the head for once rather than the back, and claim a full house.

There is a variation that could be played with loose manuscript pages out of slush piles, but you should probably never admit to trying it. Have fun, anyway.

Next: The Encounter Log

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