Most of the short stories I have currently or will put into the Other Works tab are from writing competitions. Golden Years was from a competition specific to a genre called Solar Punk; I’d never heard of that genre beforehand but coming up with a fitting story wasn’t too difficult. Triple Whammy is different from my usual style because it was from an interesting competition. It turns out the U.S. Army has open writing competitions as part of its TRADOC (that stands for Training and Doctrine Command) Mad Scientist initiative. It’s called Mad Scientist because it’s used as a method of crowdsourcing and the idea is to let people’s imaginations run wild as they write what they think certain situations might look like in the future. I don’t recall exactly what the guidelines were for my submission but it was broad, and was something like “what do you think overseas threats will look like in 2050?” It then provided an outline involving relations between fictional countries. This year the prompt was based on what information landscapes (computing/infrastructure/media/communication) might look like in 2035. I didn’t submit anything for it since the guidelines specified nonfiction entries only.
When I wrote Triple Whammy I hoped it would be different from other submissions. I figured most contestants would bring in Star Trek- style sci fi words and bring in things like tanks made of indestructitanium that could only be damaged with a quadrilliwatt femtopulse laser. That’s why I centered the plot around a journalist instead of diving deep into the battlefield. Even though it didn’t win the competition writing it was still a fun experience. I always try to learn something new when writing and the countries mentioned are not real but after some Googling I found they’re the names of places that are used in army training scenarios. I also learned a lot about 3-D printing, although I couldn’t work a lot of those details into the story. I would definitely recommend the TRADOC Mad Scientist competition to other writers who are looking for new challenges. The whole point is to ask for ideas of what the future might look like and in that sense it seems like more outlandish the submissions get the better. It’s a great way to bring out your wildest dreams.