View Full Version : Prompt/Challenge/Invitation

09-02-2004, 11:31 PM
A little while ago I was writing what I thought would be a short story and what turned out to be something of a background piece for a future story. As I was contemplating what form the story would take, I had a number of different ideas - too many to feel comfortable choosing just one. I had the idea of seeing what other people would come up with based on the same premise.

So I'm opening this up to other people. I'm going to post the short background piece here (and on my site and LJ) and hopefully collect stories from other people based on the background piece.

The rules are as follows:

At the end of this post is a short piece of fiction that establishes a situation. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to use that background as a springboard for an original story. The piece must form the basis for the story you will write. You can not contradict anything that has been written though you can fill in any blanks that haven't been filled (the exception to this rule is that some of the salesman's claims might not be completely true - that's all that I'll say). Details such as genre or setting are all up to you.

You will retain all rights to your story (I retain rights to the original piece) - I only require that you allow me to post the stories on <a href="http://www.mirrorshards.com/reflections/" target="_new">my site</a> or <a href ="http://bizarrorajan.livejournal.com">livejournal</a>. I want to collect as many of these as possible in one place. Stories can be sent to me at rajanykATgmail.com (make sure to replace the 'AT' with an @ symbol). Please submit either in MS Word format or in some kind of text format. Entries in the body of an email are fine.

I saw a number of possible stories coming out of this, so hopefully you will, too. I'm looking forward to reading the responses.

The background piece follows (it's a little rough, I know, but bear with me):

"The Guardian XF," the speaker said, "will revolutionize parenting from now on." He was all teeth and enthusiasm. "UncleMonk is committed to helping you raise your children in a world free of harmful influences. Now the power to create a safe environment for your children is in your hands."

The members of the audience collectively leaned in. They wanted to hear more of what the speaker had to say. Control was what they craved, after all, and this man was promising it.

"The process is quite simple," he continued. "It relies on a technique we call 'environmental editing' or EnvEd. Your child simply goes through the world as usual, but using the Guardian XF, you control what little Timmy or Samantha experiences. It's a full sensory filter designed to specifically target harmful exposure and eliminate it from your child's sensory experience."

Now there were whispers and scattered comments among the listeners. They liked this idea. "How?" someone yelled out.

The speaker smiled more broadly. "I'm glad you asked. The Guardian XF was developed over several years by an advanced team of engineers and cognitive specialists specifically recruited by UncleMonk Enterprises. They created a device with a sophisticated artificial intelligence, a device that can safely be inserted into a child's brain, one which can operate independently, but also be updated via a simple control interface. You have complete control, and the operation is completely transparent to them. It's safe, easy, and foolproof. And most importantly of all, it's customizable. We want to empower parents, not replace them. You determine what your child experiences. The Guardian control panel software installs easily on your home system and all the controls are accessible through a very easy interface that we will be demonstrating later."

"What if you have more than one kid?" someone said.

"That's not a problem for the Guardian XF. Simply purchase two modules (we have an affordable family package) and each module can be controlled separately through the Guardian control panel software. If you want both kids on the same profile, that can be done, too. Simply use the software to duplicate the sensory filter for all your children."

"What if my neighbor has the Guardian as well?" another audience member said. "Can they access my kid's module?"

"Not at all. There's absolutely no chance of that. Let me assure you that the uplink to the Guardian module is completely secure. It uses a complex encryption system that ensures that each module has unique access information and can only be controlled by the owner or owners of the system."

The screen behind the speaker shifted from the UncleMonk company logo to a representation of the Guardian control panel GUI, an interface resembling most other popular applications. Ninety percent of the audience was familiar with the basic operation from the appearance, the other 10 percent had at least seen it before.

"Now, we already covered in the opening slides some of the harmful behaviors and environmental stimuli that the Guardian XF protects against - nudity, pornography, profanity - but now I can show you how to customize the Guardian XF. Now each module will come programmed with a default set of filters, enough to address most parents' concerns. These include all commonly accepted profanity, all nudity and all sexual behavior as well as a few other minor stimuli. If this is all you need, once the module is implanted and the software installed, you can activate the module and that's it."

"Let's say, however, that you want a little bit more than the default package. Let's say that you want to filter out PDAs, so-called public displays of affection. You don't want your child to have to see two college students on a park bench, making out as if their lives depended on it." Scattered laughter from the audience. "All you have to do is select the custom filter tab, utilize the search button and enter in PDA or kiss or making out or whatever. I'll put in PDA. As you can see, the system is smart enough to recognize the term, and gives you a list of specific items to filter out. You can select all PDAs, just kissing, just kisses with tongue, hugs, etc. I'll select ‘kisses with tongue’ and select to add it to the filter profile. Once that's done, the system will automatically create a link to the module in the target child, or children if you've selected one profile for multiple kids, and add whatever criteria you've selected to their profile. Now if your child happens to see two people kissing with tongue, the module will intercept that signal before it reaches the child's cognitive centers and selectively remove that stimulus from his awareness. He might be standing right next to a couple going at it on that park bench," - more laughter - "but he won't see it."

"But what will he see?" someone shouted out. "A big blank spot?"

"No, of course not," the speaker said. "That would hardly be acceptable, would it? No, we at UncleMonk realize that your child's filtered reality has to be at least as realistic and logical as the unfiltered world is. You actually have two options with this. If you choose to completely filter out such stimuli, the module will use the background environment and fill in an appropriate field over the offending stimulus. In our park bench example, the module would use the field of vision to fill in an empty park bench."

"Now we realize that this could be problematic. If our child sees an empty park bench he's liable to sit down on it, and that could cause a lot of trouble and fear and embarrassment. So our second option allows for the module to present the offending stimulus in a non-offensive manner. Once more referring to the couple on the park bench, the couple would still be obvious to the child, but they wouldn't be seen as kissing. Perhaps just sitting there."

"Then why not just use that option all the time?" Someone said.

"Because it's not as consistent, I'm sorry to say," the speaker said. "Excising some kind of sensory stimulus is a lot easier for the module to do than it is for it to simulate non-offensive stimuli. We've done our best to program the modules to deal with countless offensive stimulus situations, but there may still be times where it doesn't work as well as we might like. Fortunately you can select either option on a case-by-case basis. For profanity, for example, with auditory stimuli, the first option would work fine. In fact I would recommend it. With nudity, though, you will probably want to go with the second option."

"So then the person would appear as if clothed?" someone said.

"Exactly. More questions?"

Another audience member raised his hand. "How specific can you get with the custom fields?" he said. "I mean could you, say, use it to filter out, um…specific types of people?"

The speaker nodded. "We at UncleMonk do not endorse using the Guardian XF to specifically target along racial or other social bias types, but there's nothing preventing it. If that's what you want to do, feel free. It's your system - use it how you like. And on a slightly similar topic, there are a series of economic filters that you can use - if the sights of tenement buildings and poverty and homeless people offend you, then filter them away. Your kids will never see them. You won't have to burden them with society's ills. More questions?"

A woman stood up. "I think this sounds great. I just want to know how I can get one."

The speaker showed his teeth. "It's simple…and affordable, too…"

09-13-2004, 07:41 PM
Anyone interested at all?

09-13-2004, 09:19 PM
I'm not sure, Rajan. I've been finding that the prompts that get the most response on this board are those that require the least writing (like the AW Novel, three words at a time...)

Any thoughts or comments on why this is?

09-13-2004, 10:02 PM
Ah, it probably has a lot to do with people's time. It's much easier to write a couple of sentences than a whole story. I completely understand that. Just thought I'd post to see if there was any interest.

I've been meaning to check out the other prompts here, but once again time is a factor. Still, I'll have another look. I think three words is a bit short for me, but I'll take a look at the others...

Chaoc Kazdul
09-14-2004, 08:34 AM
It all boils down to time.

09-15-2004, 12:39 AM
Rajan, the requirement of posting one's story on your site may also be discouraging participation. You can't really require that; it's unenforceable.

I like the idea you've invented, but I believe it would make a better beginning to a story if the presentation were less talky. You have a long series of paragraphs where nothing happens but speech. Maybe start somewhere in the daily life of a child who has the implant. The child's friends have similar implants, but their parents have programmed theirs differently...

09-15-2004, 12:48 AM
The only reason that I wanted to post them on my site was to have a repository for all the stories - the thing I was intrigued about was to see what different people would come up with, and since I've floated this idea in various places, it would be easiest to collect them all in one place. I figured some people would be uncomfortable with that, and that's fine - perhaps I worded it a bit harshly though making it a requirement - I just want people to see them all.

As to the story part, the reason I opened this up to other people was because you're right - it isn't much of a story, it's just setting up the premise of this device. I didn't give an actual beginning because I wanted to see what story ideas (from start to finish) other people would come up with. I wanted people to assume that such a thing were actually real and present in society. If so, what kinds of interesting stories would result from it - what kind of terrible things could happen? what kind of interesting things could happen? Where would it lead? I didn't really want people to directly continue from where I left off, I wanted them to start fresh using the idea as a background.

That being said, I only would want people to do it if they were interested and turned on by the idea. I threw it out to some friends of mine and they seemed to like the idea and it gave them some of their own. I figured that this forum might be another place where people might want to try it out. If not, that's fine, too. I just thought I'd put it out there.

In the end it's just a way to look at how different people approach a common idea - what kinds of stories, and writing, and styles would come out of it? That's what I was interested in.

This is rather long-winded - I apologize for that. Just trying to explain...

09-15-2004, 09:40 PM
you're right - it isn't much of a story, it's just setting up the premise of this device. I didn't give an actual beginning because I wanted to see what story ideas (from start to finish) other people would come up with. I wanted people to assume that such a thing were actually real and present in society.

That's kind of what I gathered from your first post. I know school's started for a lot of folks, but I hope somebody here takes you up on it... It's kind of a scary premise to work with, and I think with parents able to lock out certain TV stations, internet sites, etc., it also has a lot of relevance...

09-16-2004, 06:48 PM
I think a shoprt prompt might be better? My excuse is that I any significant bit of writing I do is off to markets -- sadly I don't write much just for the hell of it anymore. Perhaps you might try a flash fiction concept instead, something more throw-away?

09-17-2004, 11:27 PM
Perhaps you might try a flash fiction concept instead, something more throw-away?

I don't think his prompt rules out flash, but I have noticed that folks seem more willing to try shorter stuff than longer stuff here...

Chaoc Kazdul
09-18-2004, 07:41 AM
It's definately an interesting prompt, and I may give it a shot when I'm caught up on my readings.