Craig Shaw Gardner: Dangerously Creative Writer of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction


Broadcasts from the underside, and somewhere over slightly to the left

The Visible Kirk

Thursday, August 03, 2006So what is it with this "Kirk Polland Memorial Bad Prose" panel, anyways?

Ever since we had our annual dose of Kirk a couple of weeks ago, I thought I might explain it here to those who are not fortunate enough to attend Readercon (a situation they should surely rectify.) But it got to be summer, I got busy, it became insanely hot, my website e-mail broke down, yadda yadda. But now it's time for this blog to get back to work! (Insert mental picture of the burly A-Rama-Ding-Dong rolling up his sleeves.)

So, the Kirk contest, invented by Eric Van and his talented minions at Readercon, is kind of like "Pictionary," where players invent fake dictionary definitions of obscure words, and then have to guess which one is correct. Except, in the Kirk version, the contestants all write fake prose -- fake BAD prose -- and the audience (usually many hundreds of people) have to guess the correct answer. Which they regularly do not. Sorry, audience.

With me so far?

So, back in the dim recesses of time, at the very first Readercon, which was held at a small hotel in Brookline, MA, I was approached by Eric to participate in the very first of these contests. I suggested that I help out by being the first reader of the prose -- the bad writing excerpts are broken in the middle, with me reading the first few lines to give the audience a taste of what they are in for. The contestants -- generally three others besides myself and Eric, all take turns reading the (mostly invented) endings, and the audience then votes on which ending they believe to be real.

So, at this very first Readercon, a couple of decades (!) back now, Eric gave the first set of contestants the first few pieces of bad prose, and we all wrote (in long hand!) our bogus answers. We were all instructed to come up with the very best bad prose possible, so that we might have a chance to win.

But a very strange thing happened to me along the way.

I started trying to turn out genuine bad prose -- really I did -- but my mind kept coming up with not just bad but SILLY conclusions to all the prose samples. I couldn't help myself. It was just the way my brain worked.

And so it came to pass that I would provide silly answers (or sillier answers) to the prose, and so step outside of the true competition. Which helped to make Kirk funnier and move faster (occasionally, the prose would just get to be too awful), and became my small part in making Kirk the institution it is today.

Well, your explanations are fine as far as they go, I hear you say. But we want examples!

And I'll give you one, from our most recent competition, in my very next blog.

Posted by Craig Shaw Gardner at 9:09 AM |  

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