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Friday, November 3, 2017

The Friday Challenge: 11/03/17

With a few hours left before the poll closes--

(Memo to Self: make the deadline midnight Thursday for all future Friday Challenges)

--it looks like "Flowers for Momma" has jumped out to a commanding lead in the 10/13 Friday Challenge. However, there is a tight battle for second place between "Queen of the Prairie" and "Let the dead bury the dead" and that race remains too close to call, so unlike the TV networks, we're not going to announce the results just yet. If you haven't yet read these three stories, there's still time for you to do so and then vote for your favorite. Winner to be announced after the poll closes.

¤     ¤     ¤

Meanwhile, as promised, here's today's new Friday Challenge.

This one stems from a real-life incident that happened to me just a few weeks back. Because we live in Minnesota, where it can go from sunny and summery to snowing in a matter of hours, and because my wife and I run on very different biological thermostats, we have a dual-control electric blanket, so that we can set the temperatures separately for our respective sides of the bed. Unfortunately, on one particularly cold night recently, the digital control for my side of the bed malfunctioned. The blanket never did switch on; the controller just sat there blinking an error code all night long.

The next morning I got online with tech support and solved the problem in a matter of minutes, by getting the instructions for performing a hard reboot on the blanket. But...

Rebooting the blanket. I still don't know which thought is more troubling: that I needed to reboot the blanket, or that I needed to do a real-time online chat session with a tech support person to get the procedure for rebooting the blanket.

That would have been the end of it, except that I wrote a Facebook post about it, and Alfred Fingulin asked in a comment:
But is the blanket sharing info with Facebook and Google?
Oh, my. From there, the silliness took off.
Ooh, "smart sheets," surreptitiously collecting DNA evidence. Very cyberpunky dystopian future stuff. Somebody tell David Stegora.

More like surreptitiously queuing up advertisting directed to me. What if I have read an advert for Intel microprocessors before I can tuck myself in?

You underestimate the intelligence of this bedding. Weave in nanoscale olfactory sensors, flexible audio transducers, and OLED display elements. You climb into bed and the sheets whisper in a soft and seductive voice, "Alfred, maybe you should take a shower before you come to bed. Irish Spring deodorant soap will add a little Irish to your game."

The next generation bedding will have zonal sensor matrices. You'll climb into bed and after getting the ad for soap, a tiny voice from down at the foot of the bed will scream, "And for God's sake, use Desenex!"

Just imagine what happens when you put the sheets on upside down. The foot of the bed will be whispering subliminal ads for Head and Shoulders, or maybe rogaine.

...and you'll develop a strange compulsion to line your hat with Odor Eaters.
The companies that make supplements promising to make you grow firmer&fuller could better target their ads...
Let's hope there's no Halt and catch fire hack for blankets.
I've worked decades in electronic and software engineering. I reap an advertising blanket. Now I know how Robert Oppenheimer felt about the atomic bomb.
You get the idea, or at least, I hope you're getting an idea. Because that's this week's challenge:
As we move into the coming age of the Internet of Stuff, what do you think will be the silliest | most useless | most obnoxious | most terrifying common household thing to be put under digital control and blessed with Internet connectivity and a glimmering of artificial intelligence?
Now write a short (1,500 words max) story developing that idea, and send it to:, with the subject line "11/3 Friday Challenge." The deadline for entries is midnight Central time, Thursday, 11/16/17.
Snowdog rules apply. In the event that we receive too many good stories to select a clear winner, the top three stories will be posted online and a voting widget will be provided, in order to determine the winner by popular acclaim.

Now, ready, set: get writing!

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