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Mini Sledgehammer: Burning Man 2013

For the first time ever, Sledgehammer had a presence at Burning Man! To see a write-up on the event, click here. Congratulations to Fran Hewison, who took home the golden sledgehammer, and to Alexis Martin-Vegue and Suze Campagna, aka Scout, who both took home writing-quill pendants as prizes. Here are their stories.

Jane Austen clones



By Fran Hewison

It is a truth universally acknowledged  that the larger a lady is in sense and sensibility land, the more husbands she can hope to attract. For a large woman is always in need of several undersized men to satisfy her needs.

Yes, sadly all the men in this society are born with one small, and I use the word advisedly, yet telling defect. Although the yare all six feet tall or more, the yare possessed of a penis roughly the size of your common or garden matchbox.

Thus those females of greater dimensions are deemed to need more men to satisfy them. Smaller women, however, are judged to be less in need of stimulation and must therefore make do with onelly one or two husbands.

This society may seem strange to us, as a civilized, patriarchal world. Indeed, sense and sensibility land is a result of a failed  20th century social experiment which aimed to promote the idea of society described in Jane Austin’s novels by forcing randomly selected test subjects to endure endless reruns of the film pride and prejudice, whilst they were under the influence of McDonalds and LSD. The idea was that a group of overly compliant women would develop as a result, for the benefit and enjoyment of men, who were beginning to get dissatisfied with all the uppity feminists cluttering the place up.

Sadly, something somewhere must have gone terribly wrong. Instead of the desired outcome, the experiment  produced  a group of plus-sized, overly fertile and entitled women and weak, underequipped men. Observers speculate that this may be due to secret gene therapy carried out on the subjects, as well as the extremely kinky burlesque shows which both male and female participants had to watch.

The result was sense and sensibility land, a place where proper values are turned on their head. As a moral, upstanding anthropologist, I can only condemn such goings-on.

However, one  good thing came from this terrible, terrible mistake. Our own society abandoned its dangerous slide towards female empowerment, and once again embraced the inequality of the sexes, not to mention the status of women as objects who only achieve validation through marriage.

But why bother telling you, my gentle readers, of such horrible things? Because I, the intrepid Dayle Darcy, am about to undertake a voyage to this distant, dangerous place. Despite the fact that I feel nothing but disdain for the women of the society, and to some extent the men,  I admit to a certain curiousity about these people and their ways. Especially the intriguing Eliza, head of the family with whom I shall stay.

But enough – here I must break off, as my transport is now arrived. I shall write further of this matter when I am safely installed within the bosom of my host family, the Bennets.

© 2013 Fran Hewison



By Alexis Martin-Vegue

It is not quite as it appears when you look out on this oppressive landscape. It looks like 19th century England, but what I know now is that it’s  just a projection implanted in my brain by the beings of this planet. How I ended up here is a story too long to tell. It’s irrelevant now anyway. What is relevant is the steps I’ve made towards my escape.

I’m contained here by a force field encapsulating the planet. I know it’s lowered once ever y 36 hours to let trash ships leave its atmosphere. If I am able to further the rocky alliance I’ve made with one of the trash barge captains, I may garner a ride for my pod in the barge’s trash bay.

The other thing I’ve done is attempt to blend in. Luckily, I bear enough resemblance to Jane Austin that it seems to be working. All of the labor on this faceade(??) planet is done by clones of Jane Austin. How or why that came to be I don’t know. The native residents of this place remain concealed to me. I stumble around in my bustle and try to keep a tenuous grip on my sanity.

I woke this morning screaming again, realizing the desperateness of my situation. The only things keeping my spirit are focus on my plan to escape and memories of my life before this. I get a grip on my outburst and turn my focus once again to the plan, knowing today is the day.

I dress in my drabbest dress and most comfortable shoes. Very unlike some of the ornate Victorian things I have been donning. I hope to slip into the garage housing my bod unnoticed. It’s Friday and all of the clones will be at the theater preparing for the burlesque show they perform each week, broadcasted to who knows where for the natives to watch.

I sneak out of my townhouse through the alley door and head down to the industrial district where I know my pod is being kept. My footsteps sound so real and hollow echoing on what I know isn’t  really a cobbled street. I reach the garage unwatched and pay my bribe to the Jane who lets me enter. She helps me push the pod off the loading dock into the trash bin. I await my friendly captain to pick me up. It smells musty in my pod from what I can only estimate as a year of storage.

Finally, after a white knuckled half hour of waiting, the barge rolls in. The trash and I are loaded into the ship, the ship’s skeleton crew pretends not to notice me inside the pod, as promised by my friend Jane. I am grateful. The ship has a few more stops, the new are headed up.

I watch London shrink away beneath me, hoping I’ll never see it again. W  break out of the atmosphere and my vision is flooded with relief of  blackness. My pod and I are expelled from the barge’s bowels and as I float into space I drift into sleep, hoping to dream of my next adventure.

© 2013 Alexis Martin-Vegue



By Suze Campagna, aka Scout

I have visited many planets in my lifetime and met many interesting  beings, and experienced many wonderments, oddities, amazements. But nothing as wonderful, odd or amazing as the time I crash landed on the Planet Licklepish.

I was on my way to my home planet when my fuel tank failed to tell me it was near empty. I was searching for a place to stop when I accidentally caught the strong gravitational pull of the planet.

Luckily, I landed in a bed of soft, green sand. As I set out to seek help I saw the landscape was covered with florescent pink, green and orange flowers.

As I walked through a field of flowers they started dancing with the beat of my steps, so I stopped to dance with them. I tried the funky chicken, they didn’t like that much. I tried a waltz, but flowers don’t make good waltz partners. I tried a celi dance I learned on the Planet Green. That was fun. Then when I tried a burlesque dance the flowers (? liked?) that.

As we got into it, I saw a bunch of women in full length dresses approaching quickly and angrily. As the y got closer, I noticed that though they were all different sizes, they all had pretty much the same face. The chubbiest one of them all came at me and yelled.

STOP! Don’t encourage them!

What? I asked. We were just having fun.

“When they cance too much they release a strange liquid.”

Just as she said that, the plants let out what sounded like a fart, and a liquid oozed out of their leaves. It was odd(?).

“Too late,” said a skinny one, who I realized had the face of an old Earth writer, Jane Austin.

The smell was familiar. As I put it to my nose, I knew instantly it was the fuel I needed. I explaned my predicament to the Jane Austin clones. All started dancing and helped me gather enough hfuel to get me home.

They also asked that I never reveal the coordinates of their planet. But  if I ever run out of fuel in that quadrant, I now know  where to go.

© 2013 Suze Campagna


Sledgehammer at Burning Man

We’re very excited that Sledgehammer was represented at Burning Man this year. 2012 Individual Winner Courtney Sherwood attended the annual arts festival with golden sledgehammers as prizes for the first-ever Burning Man Mini-Sledgehammers. Here’s her report.

Nothing at Burning Man ever goes quite as planned, and my attempt to bring two 36-minute Sledgehammer contests to the Nevada desert this year proved no exception. I made plans with organizers of two different camps to hold different competitions over the course of the week.
The first 1,000 or so events submitted to the official guide are included in print listed distributed to everyone in attendance, and organizers of the rest have to hope and pray that their events find an audience. Somehow, one of the contests made it to the guide and the other didn’t. It’s no coincidence, then, that dozens of people showed up for the first contest, and nobody made it to the second.
ImageThe official meet and greet for the first-ever Get Lit(erary) at Burning Man collaboration took place immediately before the Sledgehammer competition, so I had to run to get to the contest site on time, and when I arrived there were at least 40-50 people already waiting to go. Some had started writing without any direction from me, and one person spoke up to say that they had agreed to write about Jane Austin clones.
Rather than halt the action that was already under way, I decided to go with the flow. So I stepped to the microphone and asked everyone to take a quick break from writing while I introduced myself and explained how Sledgehammer works in the real world. I told everyone that they had 36 minutes to write a story that incorporated the prompt they had chosen together — Jane Austin clones — and two prompts of my own — burlesque and the phrase “mental floss.” Then I stepped back and turned on the timer.Image
When time ran out, I invited anybody who was interested  to step up and read. So many people raised their hands that I imposed a three-minute time limit. According to my notes, at least 19 people opted to share their stories, and plenty of other people wrote but did not read outloud.
Within 1-2 stories, it became clear that nobody had heard me say “mental floss.” Not a single story incorporated that phrase. So I judged according to these criteria:
1- use of the other two prompts.
2- beginning, middle and end.
3- originality (a few stories that seemed original at first came  to seem less original when other people stepped to the mic with very similar plots and phrasing)
4- audience reaction.
5- arbitrary caprice.
By the time everyone had read, we had been there for close to two hours, and we were running out of stage time — musicians were scheduled to perform in the space we occupied. There were so many entertaining and bizarre stories that I knew it would be impossible to go through my notes and give a completely fair and just ruling, so I quickly chose three people as winners who had scored well during the reading, but I also emphasized before the audience that I could not vouch for the fairness of my judgment, and that many, many people had told excellent stories.
After we wrapped up the event, the manager of the stage —  the event was at the Lost Penguin Cafe — came up to tell me that we’d drawn one of the biggest crowds of the day, and said he’d loved to host Sledgehammer again next year. I thanked him for hosting, and promised to get there early and to be better prepared if we do it again.
Thanks for hosting it, Courtney and Lost Penguin Cafe! We look forward to seeing what comes up next year.