Gilded Chris Acceptance Speech: Featured User

I’ll wager you’ve never seen a user’s 1,000th edit quite like this.

I want to thank the “Wiki Academy” for naming me a Featured User in only my 4th full month on the wiki—a swiftness matched only by Fanny’s win the month before—and, in so doing, giving me the unique opportunity to post this speech as my 1,000th edit. That remarkable coincidence is something this wiki has never seen before and may never see again.

What was even more gratifying, and even more indicative of how warmly the wiki community has received me, was that, in the month Fanny won (i.e. the June FU ballot, voted on in May), 8 voters saw me as Featured User material when I had only about 500 edits and hadn’t yet been 90 days on the wiki. (I finished with 11 supporting votes that month, placing a strong 3rd.) What I found yet more surprising was that I didn’t draw any Oppose votes for being too new. (Reddy did, somehow, despite being here longer than I, and with a much higher edit count into the bargain.) Apparently, people thought my uniqueness made up for my newness.

Of course, it helped that I write well (if not extensively), and that I present a more outgoing aspect here than elsewhere. As I have told a few of you, you would probably never have guessed that my offline personality is strongly introverted. When it comes to commentary and suchlike, though, I’m a writer, not a speaker, and sites like this play to my strengths.

In last month’s voting, I lost two of my previous supporters because they apparently didn’t make it to the FU polls at all, but five voters supported me for the first time.

The main reason the last two FU elections have been so close is that so many voters tend to support most or all of the main contenders. (Indeed, Jacob, Fanny, Kenzen and our favorite pixie supported nearly all the candidates, contender or not.) Furthermore, the main contenders tend to support each other. All of this leaves the question in the hands of the relative few who are inclined to pick and choose, or who know one candidate but not another. On the July ballot, for example, Reddy and I each had 14 votes. Of these, 10 came from people who supported us both, and an 11th came from our supporting each other. The voting philosophy seems to largely be that there are several worthy candidates who are bound to win sooner or later, so it (usually) doesn’t really matter who wins when.

Indeed, if I hadn’t noticed that I had the strange and wondrous opportunity to accept this award on my 1,000th edit, I wouldn’t really have cared much whether I won this month or next, or the month after. After all, having to run again means another chance to plug one’s work on a high-traffic page.

On a related note, I did a bit of research and discovered that I am only the 2nd user to win a Featured User vote with fewer than 1,000 edits. (Gigi had fewer than 650 when she was featured back in November. Chimmy and UltimateTORINOR seem to me the best bets to break that record, based on their current edit counts and recent FU voter support levels.)

Most past winners had at least 2,000 edits when they were featured. I suspect this pattern is related to the wiki community’s preference for competition stories, which preference I remarked on in my Featured Story acceptance speech last month. Writing such stories and maintaining the associated character pages will quickly ramp up a writer’s edit count. Indeed, probably a quarter of my own edits have been directly related to posting TDI-G&S, which doesn’t even require regular updates to the character pages.

It is generally understood that the main reason for changing the name of this award from Featured Author to Featured User was so TAU could win one of these days, but I suspect the change may have benefited me as much as it has him. My story output, enthusiastically received though it has been, is not extensive—one short story and one vignette. (TDI-G&S, my magnum opus, is as much a reference work as it is a story.) As Spenny noted with his supporting vote, I make my mark here as much with my commentary (including the first Writer’s Workshop) as with my story writing. If the award was still called Featured Author, voters might have been inclined to dismiss me, at least for the nonce, as a “one-hit wonder”.

And so I have my second Gilded Chris in as many months. But enough about me. On to the acknowledgements.

The first round of thanks goes to the nine voters who supported me both months I was on the ballot, and who quite probably would have continued to support me indefinitely if I hadn’t won this month. In no special order, these are Koops, Spenny, TAU, Reddy, Shane, Sprink, TDIRM, Jacob, and Webkinz Mania.

Thanks also to the five voters who, on the July ballot, supported me for the first time: Kenzen, Sunshine, Fanny, UltimateTORINOR, and newcomer Freefalling Lilacs.

As I noted in my FS acceptance speech last month, a candidate can’t win without voters who are supporting him but not his rivals. Three users supported me but not Reddy (although I happen to know that two of these three know Reddy and presumably have nothing against him.) These three are Spenny, TDIRM, and Freefalling Lilacs (“FFL”).

Two of these bear special mention. TDIRM supported me and me alone, among all the candidates, contender or otherwise. (He did support one of the also-rans on the June ballot.)

Freefallling Lilacs just recently became eligible to vote. Our paths have crossed once or twice, but we haven’t had any direct contact that I can recall. Our first direct contact, and her first Feature vote ever, gave me my 14th vote. That’s a heck of a way to introduce yourself, FFL.

Finally, the “elephant in the room”: Reddy. Reddy was probably a slight favorite going in, given that he outpolled me 13-11 in the voting for June’s FU. Although I held modest leads (1-3 votes) most of the way this time around, a late surge put Reddy ahead 14-13 with 2 days to go. Most of you know what happened next: he stepped aside, effectively withdrawing his candidacy, because he thought me more deserving and didn’t want to get in the way of making my 1,000th edit truly special.

It’s possible that I might have won even if Reddy had stayed in the game, as I later got a 14th vote, and other last-minute voters might have come off the fence, but such speculations miss the point. The point is that what Reddy did was beyond the call of duty, and my first official wiki Friend may have proved to be my best. The fact that he apparently had this planned in advance changes nothing. Gramercy, Reddy. (That’s an archaic term meaning, “thanks a lot”.)

With apologies to the perennial “bridesmaids”, if Reddy doesn’t win this month, after a gesture like that (assuming he doesn’t step aside for someone else), then there is no justice in the world.

Story Previews

And now, for the “entertainment portion” of tonight’s program.

After a hiatus of almost 4 months, I have resumed work on a short story, “Courtney and the Violin of Despair”, which I expect to begin posting to the wiki by the end of July. I currently expect the story to have 7 short chapters (1-2 pages each) plus a prologue. Tonight’s preview will be the first part of Chapter 2.

The premise is that Courtney acquires a violin bearing an ancient curse (whoops, just lost Sprink) and suffers a series of misfortunes as a result. After seeing the generally dreadful quality of Courtney-bashing stories, both old and recent, I resolved to show that it could be done tastefully and without sacrificing story quality.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with having a single character be repeatedly embarrassed, humiliated, injured, etc. Most comedy, after all, is based on the misfortunes of others. The key to doing this well is to lose the vicious streak (and some of the Courtney-bashing stories I have seen are truly vicious) so you can focus on little things like story development.

The other story I will preview tonight is a TDI reimagining, The Legend of Total Drama Island. It’s too early to tell whether the full story will ever see the light of day, as I currently have substantial notes for only about a half-dozen episodes and I only have about a third of the elimination order set. (I have, however, decided on the finalists.) Because it is my practice to not start posting a story until I have finished writing it, you shouldn’t expect me to start posting LTDI until about year-end, if then.

In keeping with the tradition of breaking new ground with one’s first competition story, LTDI will do a couple of things that, to the best of my knowledge, no one here has done before. These have more to do with the story’s structure than with its events.

Because my muse is basically lazy, LTDI will tend to follow the original more closely than some other reimaginings. The teams will initially be the same as in the original, but that will not last.

Speaking of the teams, I never liked the name “Killer Bass”, and I didn’t want to change one name without changing the other, so my team names are the Screaming Eagles and the Killer Muskies. (That’s short for “muskellunge”, not “muskrat”.)

While more realistic than the original in some ways, LTDI also preserves some of TDI’s cartoonish qualities. Although I haven’t got very far yet with LTDI, I do have a handful of finished scenes. Tonight’s preview is a scene from the talent show. It involves fire, so our favorite pyrophile needs to know. *waits for someone to fetch Chimmy*

Sneak Preview: Courtney and the Violin of Despair

When Courtney was 13 years old, she entered a drawing with other promising young musicians, and won. The prize was an all-expense-paid trip for her and her parents to see the Toronto Blue Jays’ home opener, where Courtney would play the national anthem.

In the fullness of time, the moment arrived for Courtney’s first performance before an international audience. After the lineups had been announced and a local celebrity (an up-and-coming young actor by the name of Chris McLean) had thrown the first pitch, the players stood attentively on the foul lines, awaiting Courtney’s entrance.

Dressed in a formal black evening gown, Courtney strode, nervously but proudly, toward the microphone that had been set up near the pitcher’s mound. Because the visiting team was from the States, Courtney would play both “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Oh, Canada”, with the visitors’ anthem coming first.

When Courtney had taken her place, the Public Address announcer directed the crowd’s attention to her. As that disembodied, faintly resonant voice briefly explained how the young violinist had come to be there, Courtney touched her bow to the strings, nervously checking her instrument’s tune one last time.

The D string broke.

Oh, crap! Courtney thought desperately, as a rising tide of panic threatened to engulf her. I don’t have time to change the string! Everyone’s going to think I suck!

“…So please rise for the playing of the national anthems of the United States of America and of Canada, performed by Courtney Sales,” the P.A. announcer concluded. Under other circumstances, the sound of Courtney’s own name would never have sounded sweeter to her. As it was, however, at this moment she wanted nothing more than to crawl into a hole and disappear from the face of the Earth.

Courtney was good enough that, with a bit of practice, she might have been able to play the anthems decently on three strings; but practice time was a grace that was not meant for her. She would have to do it cold.

As Courtney struggled through “The Star Spangled Banner”, working around the missing string as best she might, the crowd quickly realized that something was wrong. The consensus opinion was that the girl was either unable to overcome her nerves or was simply overrated—“not ready for prime time”, in either case. The spectators would surely have been far more sympathetic had they known the truth, but they suspected nothing.

As Courtney played, each missed note lacerated her soul like a hot knife. As she became increasingly rattled, she began making mistakes (not many, to be sure, but enough) that couldn’t, strictly speaking, be attributed to the missing string. It could scarcely have been otherwise, for maintaining full control under Courtney’s circumstances requires a level of emotional maturity that is beyond the ken of most 13-year-olds.

(Trivia: this excerpt is based on an incident at a Denver Broncos game some years ago, when a small-time professional saxophonist struggled through the anthem with a broken valve. Courtney’s surname is a tribute to a late coworker of mine.)

Sneak Preview: The Legend of Total Drama Island

“And now,” Chris continued, having fully regained his composure, “for the Killer Muskies’ second act. Let’s hear it for Beth and Izzy, and their dueling fire batons!”

The other Muskies knew more or less what to expect, of course, but most of the Eagles looked skeptical. Izzy had a lithe build, and she had already become known as something of a pyrophile, so it wasn’t hard to picture her twirling a fire baton. But Beth? That dumpy little nerd girl? She hardly seemed the type.

As Khachaturian's famous “Sabre Dance” blared over the speakers, the two twirlers strutted their stuff to its wild tempo. It quickly became apparent to the Eagles that they had misjudged Beth, just as her own teammates had done that morning. The girl had game.

Beth and Izzy whirled like dervishes. They twirled so fast that they seemed to be using flaming hoops, rather than batons. They threw their batons and caught them; sometimes their own, sometimes each others’, in progressively more difficult ways.

The other campers were mesmerized, captivated. Not in the same way they had been when Justin and Lindsay were dancing; but the effect was no less profound. Only Heather seemed unaffected, for she was lost in dark visions.

This is bad, the dragon lady thought grimly. I can’t spring my little surprise on Weird Goth Girl if the team needs my score. Sticking it to Freakenchick isn’t worth throwing a challenge for.

Then, in the final maneuver, disaster struck.

Prancing toward opposite ends of the stage, Beth and Izzy dropped to their knees. Sliding along the floorboards, the twirlers flung their batons back over their heads with a flourish. Without looking back, they kept their throwing hands aloft, awaiting the arrival of their partner’s batons. They had practiced this move extensively, and had it down to the point that they could almost have done it whilst taking their math finals.

This time, however, Izzy threw her baton on too low an arc. Or perhaps Beth threw hers too high. The batons met in midair and caromed off to the sides.

Izzy’s baton fell to earth and, on a short hop, came to rest at the base of the stage backdrop. The cheaply constructed and unsafely finished backdrop burst into flames.

“Incoming!” Justin cried as Beth’s baton spun toward the Eagles’ seating area. Lindsay screamed—a piercing, bone-chilling shriek—as the Eagles scattered. The bleacher seating was as shoddily constructed as the stage backdrop and ignited no less readily, so the Muskies were obliged to join their rivals in a hasty evacuation. The bleachers burned energetically, casting sparks and embers over the retreating campers.

“Perfect!” Heather muttered under her breath. She could now bring her nefarious scheme to fruition; and for that, her scorched tutu seemed to her a small price to pay.

As a corps of interns (recognizable by the bright red pullover shirts they wore) battled the twin blazes, the teams reassembled for headcounts. Just as the Eagles noticed that Lindsay was missing, a soul-rending wailing scream of untold terror and anguish erupted nearby. Even without everyone else accounted for, there was no mistaking the source. No one could scream like Lindsay.

Heather, with Katie and Sadie in tow, was the first to arrive at the spot where Lindsay lay. She was curled in a fetal position with a compact mirror in her hand, gibbering softly and shaking uncontrollably. Heather didn’t immediately know what the uberbimbo’s problem was, but saw an opportunity to make the best of what was clearly a bad situation. Heather had become concerned that Katie and Sadie’s insubordinate attitude might start to rub off on Lindsay, and the queen bee reasoned that giving aid and comfort now might go a long way toward keeping her most faithful ally docile and obedient.

“Lindsay, what’s wrong?” Heather asked with only partially feigned concern.

In response to a familiar voice, what passed for Lindsay’s mind began to emerge from the abyss. She stopped gibbering, and her shaking began to abate. As the blonde bombshell lifted her head and turned to face the source of that voice, her allies could see what had shocked her so badly. Heather and Katie gasped, shrinking from the horror before them. Sadie shrieked and fainted dead away.

(Trivia: the interns’ red shirts are a reference to the original Star Trek series. Captain Kirk’s security personnel wore similar shirts, and had roughly the same life expectancy as TDI interns.)

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