The Final Reckoning
The Stretcher finally reaches its climax this week. The last three contestants have each answered the last Challenge, with their personal perspectives on the question raised by Douglas Adams in his Entry Beyond the Brochure or Build it and We Will Come. That question was 'What is the thing you'd really love to have if only someone had the sense to make one?' I'm delighted to tell you that several other Researchers, some of them Stretcher veterans and others just up for it, have offered their answers too. You can read them all through the links below.
First though, let's announce the three that you'll be voting on. We started out with fourteen fine writers, but I have to say that the three who've come through are all very worthy representatives of that special group of individuals who started out in this competition. And they certainly don't disappoint in this final round, with three very different but brilliant pieces. One of these three great Entries must win the Stretcher:
There's no judging in this final round – except yours. Read these three Entries, decide which of the three contestants deserves to win the Stretcher competition and vote as follows:
Have Your Say!
Please email your votes to The Stretchers. If you can't use this direct link, hovering your mouse over the link should reveal our email address. If you cannot get the link to work, simply post below and we'll try to help you. You must quote your username and h2g2 Researcher number (U-number) with your vote; votes without these will be rejected without query.
Votes received after the deadline of 13th September (the Sunday before the next issue of the Post, following the summer break) or cast on site will not be counted.
Every Researcher can vote, including the three final contestants (who are entitled to vote for their own pieces if they feel it's the best), but we can each only vote once. In the case of multiple votes by one Researcher, only the last one will be counted.
We've finally gone past needing Rich's beloved formula for sorting out the scores. This will be a straight tally. If there's a tie, then so be it – we'll have two or even three winners.
We'll announce the winner in the first issue of the Post after the summer break, on Thursday 17th September.
For Your Reading Pleasure – Five More Final Challenge Entries
Thanks to the authors of these five, every one of them a fine piece of writing and a rewarding read in its own right:
...and finally, last words from the people who brought you the Stretcher...
Stretcher Thoughts of Ms GB
The EG and the wider guide are all the richer for the birth of The Stretcher, so my main thanks go to Skankyrich, whose idea it was. My grateful thanks to the brave contestants. I don't know how you managed to submit articles within the timeframe as well as cope with your RL commitments. Thank yous all round to my fellow judges Pinniped, Rich, Pailaway and guest judge Taliesin, and the ever-patient B'Elana for the constant tweaks, corrections and improvements often way past the deadline for The Post. Thanks also to my confidants offsite
If I hadn't been asked to be a judge I probably would have entered, but I don't know if I would have lasted the course. This was a new experience and learning curve for the contestants and the judges. It was extremely difficult remaining impartial and almost impossible to resist pointing out errors, etc, when the articles were uploaded for review. I'll not comment on the various fallouts and spats because this is a time for celebration of the amazing event which was The Stretcher. At the time of writing I don't know the winner, only the final three. It matters not to me who carries off the first title. You all earned my respect for entering in the first place. Let's hope we can all look upon this page: The Stretcher Hall of Fame 20091 (comments are welcome there) with pride in the final result, a page of entries which makes remarkable reading.
Obviously I have favourites, but they are entries, not individual writers. So, I'd like to share my choices: one entry per contestant, in alphabetical order, of course. Congratulations to you all, and thanks again for entering.
- Shell Shock by Alex Ashman
- Down's Syndrome by Beatrice
- Oysters by Danny B
- Achilles' Heel by David B
- The Last Act of Cannibalism in Fiji by dmitrigheorgheni
- The New Organic: Eating Locally by Frenchbean
- The End of the SS Canberra by LL Waz
- Using a Shell to Hear the Sea by Matt (the Hoopy) Esq
- The Date2 by Merry Anne
- Teenage Drinking by minichessemouse
- The Agen Prunes of Lot-et-Garonne by minorvogonpoet
- The Shelling of Copenhagen by Psycorp603
- Egg Shell Mimicry Advice for Young Lady Cuckoos by Tibley Bobley
- SHELL by Trout Montague
An extra thank you to all who joined in the fun by submitting articles on the set themes, but we would have loved more. Please do consider joining in next time, non-contestants? If you can't commit to being a contestant, then write an entry on one (or more, if you can manage) of the themes (it won't be judged but you may end up with an honourable mention and be part of The Stretcher Hall of Fame 2010).
Stretcher Thoughts of Skankyrich
The Stretcher has been a fascinating project, if I do say so myself. I wasn't quite tenacious enough to keep going until the end, but I'm rather pleased Pin has asked me to contribute to the last editorial in the series. I'd like to use the opportunity to tell you a bit more about the thinking behind it, but perhaps it would be better to start by debunking a few of the myths surrounding it.
First of all, it wasn't my idea. The credit for that has to go to Jordan, really; we were discussing the limitations of the various fora when he suggested we probably needed a new and entirely different type of writing workshop. The idea of The Stretcher formed in my head in response to that conversation. One thing that irks me about h2g2 is the tendency to discuss things to death rather than using the time to do something productive, so rather than start some kind of discussion forum to talk about how to improve writing on h2g2 yet again, I thought we should just try something different. This competition was the result.
It wasn't set up to decide who is the best writer on h2g2. Yeah, that was one of the early stated aims, but it was never feasible, so that was a bit of a white lie. I'm sure you can all think of half a dozen writers who could lay claim to that crown who didn't take part. We could only ever hope to find the best writer on h2g2 who liked the idea of writing a piece every fortnight to order, in a strict timescale and to a variety of styles, and who had popular appeal. But that's much less snappy, yes?
I never sought to save the Edited Guide. Why would I? I rarely read it, hardly ever write for it these days, don't review it and don't sub-edit it. That's like accusing me of thinking Shakin' Stevens was the best rock star ever on the basis that I liked him when I was five. I only ever do a little Curating on quiet, rainy afternoons. I argued strongly for submissions to be directed towards PR or AWW specifically for reasons I'll come to shortly, but the boost each of those fora got was, in my view, a secondary benefit. And I didn't write one of the Challenges. The few ideas I came up with were too awful to be seriously considered. My role, as I saw it, was to maintain a spreadsheet of scores, make sure a column got written every fortnight and pretend I knew what I was talking about well enough to avoid being found out for the fraud I am. And I'd have got away with it, if it wasn't for that pesky meddling seal...
Most writers here seem to be entrenched in a mindset defined entirely by the Guidelines. We look at those behemothic words in awe and terror. Generally speaking, the best UnderGuide writers are put off by their constraints, while the best of the Edited Guide writers see the elitism of the UnderGuide as something terrifying, as if the Guidelines themselves define their comfort zone. The fascination for me lay in encouraging people to simply ignore those boundaries. I hoped one of the UG poets would submit a modern-day 'Charge of the Light Brigade' to PR, or that one of the EG writers would get enough confidence from their AWW experience to take some narrative work back to PR. Maybe we'd even get to the stage where we'd look around the table and not know which of the faces were pigs and which were humans, to borrow from Orwell (completely out of context, perhaps).
Now you might hate the idea of widening, or abolishing, the Guidelines. In my opinion, you're like someone who says he doesn't like Chinese food having only heard about it rather than tasted it. I hoped that The Stretcher would provide enough pancake rolls and prawn crackers for you to realise what a wonderful diversity of writers is out there, and that we should be celebrating the best of them equally. In that sense, The Stretcher didn't quite work; those who submitted pieces to PR that weren't entirely suitable did so with trepidation, and offered to withdraw them as swiftly as they put them in. Even so, a number of pieces did tease out the boundaries just enough to intrigue us all, and I've seen plenty of writers encouraged by the reactions they got, particularly to their AWW submissions. Some of the 'contestants' even thought their writing had improved as a result of the competition, and when we're talking about people like Beatrice that's some claim. So all in all, this is an encouraging start.
Finally, the Oscar speech bit: thanks to my fellow judges, Galaxy Babe and Pinniped, for indulging me and for putting up with my constantly heavy-handed bickering; to pailaway and Taliesin for their contributions after I stomped off; to B'Elana for cheerfully editing our columns way after the deadline with not a murmur of complaint; to everyone who voted for putting the judges straight and, of course, to the contestants for the dozens of brilliant pieces they submitted.
Stretcher Thoughts of Pinniped
I guess that leaves me. It can be brief, because the other guys have said it all. Except for this, maybe.
We called it the Stretcher because the best writing is a stretch – a quest for improvement every time. When you set out to write, whatever your standard, then remember the example that our contestants have given us, and try to make it the best thing you've written so far. If you do, I guarantee your Entries will get more and more pleasurable to read, and more and more rewarding to write.
Thanks everyone for supporting the Stretcher. See you for the next one!