Spooky Challenge

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Challenge
Name: Spooky (Story) Challenge
Date(s): 2007 - 2014
Moderator(s): my_cnnr, trueriver
Founder: my_cnnr, trueriver
Type: fic
Fandom: Mary Renault
Associated Community: maryrenaultfics
URL: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

From 2007 to 2014, the Spooky Challenge was run annually on the maryrenaultfics LiveJournal community in October, with stories revealed/posted on Halloween. Special banners were created for the occasion by my_cnnr, one of the moderators.

In 2011, the community also held a pumpkin-carving challenge, again with a Halloween reveal. A popular activity, it was repeated annually until the community closed early in 2015.

Background

On 21 October 2007, the moderators posted a Sunday Tea Challenge on MRF, to the prompt "Ghosts don't always have the best timing". However, they explicitly described the event as being held "in honour of the season", and screened the stories until Halloween. Most participants interpreted the prompt literally, and wrote ghost stories based on one or another of Renault's books. However, a few participants took the prompt figuratively.

The event was then repeated annually under the name "Spooky Challenge". Initially, the moderators continued the practice of having the stories added as screened comments with a Halloween reveal. However, from 2009 on, participants were instead asked to post their stories separately to the community.

Banner for the 2007 Sunday Tea Fic Challenge, which became the first Spooky Challenge.

Banners

Each year, one of the moderators, my_cnnr, created a new banner for that year's Spooky Challenge post. Some years, the challenge prompt was presented in an additional, smaller banner created in the same style as the main challenge banner.

Example prompt banner from the 2009 challenge, designed to stylistically match the main challenge banner for that year as well as the Halloween-themed variant of the community header.

In many years, there was also a matching header for the community which is substituted for the usual version during much of October. Similarly, the community icon used by the moderator was usually edited to add matching spooky elements. (For example, in 2009, this icon with an added spider was substituted for the standard community icon used by my_cnnr.)

From 2009 to 2011, my_cnnr created a set of slightly varying headers, switching them every couple of days without telling anyone, and then waiting to see if anyone would notice.

2007

Banner for the announcement of the reveal. More obviously Halloween-themed than the Sunday Tea banner, and including an abbreviated version of the challenge's prompt.

Posted 21 October 2007: "Sunday Tea Fic Challenge"

The prompt was "Ghosts don't always have the best timing." Stories were timed to one hour, and posted as commentfic to be revealed on Halloween.

On Halloween, my_cnnr posted an announcement ("Ghosts don't always have the best timing.....") with a link to the original post, which had now been unscreened again. There was no longer any mention of a Sunday Fic Challenge. Instead, she now referred to a "seasonally-themed fic challenge". Furthermore, she had made a new banner, which called it a Halloween fic challenge and included an abbreviated version of the prompt.

Stories

Posted separately:

2008

The prompt was Shadows in the Dark. Stories were not time-limited. They were posted as commentfic, and revealed on Halloween.

Banner for the 2008 Spooky Challenge.

Stories

  • "Cloaked in Shadows" by Oshun to The Persian Boy
  • "Postcards and Parcels" by queen_ypolita to The Charioteer
  • "Shadows" by trueriver to The Charioteer
  • "Shadows in the Dark" by Laura Mason to The Charioteer (posted as a link)
  • "Shadows in the Dark" by greerwatson to The Charioteer


2009

Banner for the 2009 Spooky Challenge.

The prompt was "cobwebs" (no time limit). This year, my_cnnr did not simply write it as text but made it a small banner of its own, in the same style. She also modified one of her usual icons, with spider variants.

Comments to the post include:

  • "Oh, I was wondering when we'd get the announcement, as I was itching to get my thinking cap on." — comment by queen_ypolita, posted 2 October 2009 12:53 pm
  • "Nice spider (stroking it gently to help it recover from hurt feelings)- pretty, pretty.... Not spooky - no!" — comment by fawatson, posted 2 October 2009 01:11 pm
  • "(stroking it gently...) Eeep!!!! Better you than me." — comment by greerwatson, posted 2 October 2009 02:08 pm

And:

  • "At least one of my contributions this year will be the long-delayed story that was supposed to be for LAST year's spooky story challenge. :D *fails spectacularly at deadlines* — comment by innervoice_chan, posted 2 October 2009 09:50 pm
  • "That wasn't a fail. It was an, erm...extended beta reading. So last year's Shadows in the Dark now have cobwebs, do they? How lucky for us!" — comment by my_cnnr, posted 2 October 2009 10:27 pm

Stories

For the first time, the stories were not posted as commentfic; instead participants were asked to post them separately, on or after 28 October. On that day, an admin announcement was made to remind them it was time. One consequence of the separate posting was a tendency for stories to be somewhat longer.

One of the Halloween 2009 variant headers, showing the spiders in the process of spinning webs; a later header included finished spiderwebs. A fan commented: "I just noticed the spiders on the community header! What a nice idea to make it seasonal. (Don't tell Greer - she's scared of spiders!)" — comment by fawatson, posted 11th-Oct-2009 01:08 pm

Community Headers

The community header was modified by my_cnnr to reflect the season, expanding on the theme used in the banner. She did not, however, make a special announcement.

In fact, there were a series of alternative versions, which were swapped out to increase the number of spiders and webs and move them around. This too was eventually spotted....:

  • "Hey! No fair! Those spiders are moving round the header!!!! (And there are more of them!)" — comment by fawatson, posted 15th-Oct-2009 04:14 pm
  • "*huge grin* You know - I think you're the only person that has noticed...and that's enough to make it worthwhile! *emo hugs* Glad you're enjoying! (and hope we're not creeping out greer too too much!)" — comment by my_cnnr, posted 15th-Oct-2009 05:23 pm

2010

The prompt was "lurking" (no time limit). Again, my_cnnr did not simply write it as text but made it a small banner of its own, in the same style. The banners were in a locked post and not displayed on Fanlore.

Comments to the post include:

  • "So I just stuffed my hands into my mouth to avoid waking up my roommate. Because, oh good gods the header. The unbelievably wonderful header. dgtrdfhnghngbgvdxcgyvblukvcvby And the prompt, of course. Very nice. Oh god the header, the header." — comment by toujours_nigel, posted 1 October 2010 10:34 pm
  • "And the glowy spooky eyes in the prompt banner! Header and prompt definitely need to go into a banner archive." — comment by fawatson, posted 2 October 2010 02:43 am

To pass the time for the rest of the month, the moderators made three "Spooky Renault" posts[1] to which they posted suitable excerpts from Renault's books. For these, yet another banner was created to top each post; and my_cnnr modified one of her icons to match the 2010 theme.

Stories

Participants posted their stories separately, on or after 28 October. On that day, an admin announcement was made to remind them it was time. Again, a consequence of the separate posting was a tendency for stories to be somewhat longer.

Community Headers

Once again, my_cnnr modified the community's header to reflect the season. Since the community had now been closed, she made a special announcement to non-members explaining that the "decidedly spooooky banner" was intended to advertise the challenge.

As in the previous year, there were several variant headers. For example, this version has four pairs of feline eyes; other variants had eyes placed in different spots and at differing levels of opacity, some so faint that you wouldn't notice the eyes at all unless you were looking for them.

These excerpts indicate that at least some members did eventually spot the switches:

  • "As a matter of curiosity, just how many versions of this year's header did you do? — comment by greerwatson, posted 28 October 2010 11:24 pm
  • "*giggles* A few. Some changes to the lurky eyes - that's all. Didn't realise you'd noticed. Or were you too spoooooked out to mention it? ;) This header wasn't at all what TR and I planned, but it happened, and seemed to work. Never really pleased with some bits of it, though." — reply by my_cnnr, posted 29th-Oct-2010 06:42 am
  • "Some changes to the lurky eyes - that's all. Didn't realise you'd noticed." Blink and you see it. Blink and you don't. Version one had no eyes; but since then they've appeared and disappeared in various places. Changed colour once or twice, too. Rather fun, really." — comment by greerwatson, posted 29th-Oct-2010 07:38 am

2011

The prompt was "the unquiet dark" (no time limit). The banners were in a locked post, and they are not displayed on Fanlore.

A reminder ("Spooky Stories?") was posted on 16 October 2011, and an opening introduction ("The 2011 MRF Spooky Story Challenge") on 28 October.

Stories

Participants posted their stories separately, on or after 28 October. On that day, an admin announcement was made to remind them it was time. Although, as in the previous year, there were some longer stories, several were drabbles; and, for the first time, some were ITOWverse stories.

Community Headers

Once again, my_cnnr modified the community's header to reflect the season. This version retained only the horses from the standard community banner and added a darker filter on them. As in the previous year, there were several variants. These comments indicate that members did spot at least some of the switches:

  • "I see the big MRF banner (Spooky version) has gone into Mark Two, sans the bits with the white background—which did stand out rather—but keeping the horsies. Looks very smart." — comment by greerwatson, posted 9 October 2011 01:35 pm

2012

Halloween-themed variant community header used in October 2012. The Spooky Challenge banners were created in the same style to match the header. The banner for the 2012 Jack-o-Lantern Challenge followed the same theme, but with a pumpkin on the window seat.

The prompt was "I'll haunt you" (no time limit). The banners were in a locked post and not displayed on Fanlore.

Comments to the post included:

  • "Yay for a new spooky story challenge! I was just thinking about it yesterday and wondering if you were planning to spring something on us." — comment by queen_ypolita, posted 4 October 2012 01:10 am
  • "Yay halloween prompt :) I'm new, so I don't have posting access,[2] but I think I'd like to take part in this, if my muse grants me an idea :)" — comment by punch, posted 5 October 2012 06:33 pm

Stories

Community Headers

Only one variant header was made, expanding the scene beyond the window seat and including a bust of Alexander as well as the now traditional sculpture of horses. (It should be noted that the banner for the 2012 Jack-o-Lantern Challenge followed the same theme, but with a pumpkin on the window seat.)

From fawatson's post "Spooky Header" (20 October), it would seem that the traditional seasonal variant went up a little late in 2012:

  • "Lots of gloom and I see Mary is being haunted by Alexander!"

2013

Posted 10 October 2013: "I know it's all very exciting....."

The prompt was Scare me!. The banners were in a locked post and not displayed on Fanlore.

Comments to the post include:

  • "Brilliant! I haven't written drabbles in ages." — comment by toujours_nigel, posted 10 October 2013 05:13 am
  • "ha. I live to serve. And may I just say how very lovely all the new Halloween art is?" — comment by toujours_nigel, posted 10 October 2013 05:47 am
  • "Hah! I thought we'd be scaring ourselves again this year." — comment by greerwatson, posted 10 October 2013 06:16 pm
  • "By all means, let us scare the pumpkins, too. ;-)" — comment by greerwatson, posted 10 October 2013 07:47 pm

Stories

Stories were posted separately to the community on or around 31 October (Halloween).

Community Headers

Once again, a special header was made for the community, modifying the usual header to accord thematically with the Spooky banner of the year.

2014

Posted 12 October 2014: "To Dance to a Reel......"

The prompt was Flickering Light. For the first time in several years, it did not have its own special banner, and was simply presented as text.

There were no comments to the post.

Stories

Stories were posted separately to the community on or around 31 October (Halloween).

Community Headers

Once again, a special header was made for the community, modifying the usual header to accord thematically with the Spooky banner of the year. It was posted on the same day as the prompt, and—unusually—remained up until late November, when it was belatedly replaced by an autumn-themed variant.

References

  1. ^ Posts with quotations were made: "Spooky Renault" (13 October 2010) with a quotation from Fire from Heaven; "Spooky Renault", later the same day, with a quotation from Return of Night; and "Spooky Renault", posted 26 October, with a quotation from The King Must Die.
  2. ^ In 2009, maryrenaultfics had become a closed community; and, although they could comment as soon as they joined, new members did not have automatic posting privileges.