Monday, November 21, 2011

Spookymilk Survivor X: Bantam Bulwyr

In 1830, Edward Bulwer-Lytton's novel Paul Clifford began with a line so incredibly overwrought and hamfisted that it essentially broke written language. At Spookymilk Survivor, contestants are tasked with honoring that glorious line by trying to top it.

The concept is to write an opening line to a book - a sentence so horrible that anyone who read it would immediately close the book, throw it in the garbage and picket the author's house. I've never done very well with this particular challenge, but here's what I came up with.
Ayo, peep this. Back in the day (and I mean way, way back in the day), this crazy powerful cat, God, said the word and ‘bam’, everything came outta nuthin’ – the sun, the world, even the hood… everything.
Here's the judges' input:

K: This is a tough one. Yes, it’s gross and ham-fisted. Does it teeter on the brink of intentional comedy? Yeah, I think it does, but in the end it sounds more desperate to be cool than anything, like an after-school special written by 45-year-old white guys. 4

DK: I’m not sure I’d want to read Genesis, or the Bible, in this style (I’m not sure I’d want to read Genesis all the way anyway), but it feels a little too much like trying to be bad. 1

So... yeah. My first one of the season and a 2.5 overall. There was some discussion on the actual site about the nature of the challenge itself and the extremely subjective nature of what is "bad" and what is just trying too hard. Both judges seemed to think mine was trying too hard to be bad. Spooky was able to fight through it, DK wasn't. Fair enough. In retrospect, I do hate the "bam" that I put in there. If I had to write it over again, I'd leave that out.
I would take a little bit of an exception to DK's comment about "trying to be bad" for a couple reasons. First off, that is, of course, the point of the challenge. I could understand if mine felt forced, but that actually leads me into my second point.
We live in a world where this dude makes albums and sells them to lots of people (a recurring set of skits from one of his albums, which were actually the inspiration for my entry, were titled "The World's Greatest MC", where KJ opined about Jesus' status as "world's greatest MC"). More power to him if he's able to do that, I guess, but the point is that my paragraph (which is obviously meant to be Genesis 1:1, as taken verbatim from the "Thug Life" bible) is actually right about in line with the overly-thick desperation to be cool and relevant that exists in some segments of Christianity. These people were all around in church when I was growing up, the 'Thug Life Bible' might not exist, but the mindset certainly does. I suppose Poe's Law could come into play, as it often does in these matters, but I've seen too much sincerity from certain corners of this niche to make me think that it's as simple as "trying to be bad".

Either way, the rest of my team bailed me out, so we keep on marching. Well played, vogons, I get to keep using one of my favorite categories, and we keep thinning out the herd.


  1. I don't see the point of the challenge as "trying to be bad" so much as writing in a way that comes across as sincere and with true effort, but is bad anyway. That just didn't come across for me with yours compared to most of the others. I understand the context you're referencing it as being part of, but when I judge, I try to use the reactions I have to the submissions on their faces.

  2. Yeah, I understand what you mean. There might be more discussion to be had if it had been close, or if there hadn't been a nonsub, but I think it's a fairly safe 'agree to disagree'.

    Seems like there was a lot of that for this challenge.

  3. And like I said at the outset, this one wouldn't have gotten less than a 3 if we hadn't been doing the forced curve. I like that it forces separation when I'm a player, but as a judge it makes these decisions a lot more weighty, in way I'm not sure I fully appreciate.

    Yeah, we disagreed on a lot this time, and when that happens, you can probably take solace in the fact that Spooky's "right" and I'm "wrong", more often than not. Sean probably wouldn't want to hear that, though.

  4. Eh, I would say that more than anything, the scoring on mine pretty clearly showed the two sides to it. Neither was 'right', per se, just like I don't think either was really 'wrong'. Just two sides of thinking on a super-subjective challenge.

  5. So you're my 4/1 twin. I wonder if another team tried to pay off DK...

    DK, I hope you'll find the forced curve not as painful when there's longer challenges where I think it's easier to separate the men from the boys.

  6. @Beau - I got the reverse 1/4, but we all know that DK and I have always been practically of one mind.

  7. I was going to make that crack on our thread, but the opportunity never arose after I thought of it. Damn.