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March 17, 2012 — 1,283 words

Flashback Reflections: How Reader Interaction Has Killed My Story and Given Birth to a Better One

By Tim Sevenhuysen

When I was first approached to work on the series that would become Losing Freight, I had very little idea what the project was going to look like. I knew the format—one page every weekday, with a reader interaction poll at the end of each page—and I quickly came up with the story concept—a money-hungry space freighter pilot loses a valuable piece of cargo and has to go on the run—but the actual writing process and the nature of the reader interaction were so unique, so different from anything I'd ever done before, that I quickly discovered that my "normal approach" simply wasn't going to work.

In this blog post, I want to describe some of the ways that Losing Freight, and my approach to writing it, has evolved since I started working on it two months ago. There are two main things that have changed: the types of poll questions I'm asking are different from when I started, and my writing process has evolved, too.

The Polls

At the beginning of Losing Freight, I was asking readers to mostly fill in worldbuilding details, or to choose among various interchangeable pieces within the story. For example, I asked for the name of Tic Bolter's spaceship (the readers chose "The Galactic Pelican"); I asked what the currency was called in Tic's galaxy (they measure their money in "Litres," apparently); and I asked what valuable collectible Tic had managed to misplace (it was an action figure).

Any of these details could have turned out otherwise—Tic's ship could be the Farting Walrus, his money could be quadriloons, and he could have lost a space whale's cosmic hairball—and none of it would have significantly changed the direction of the story. It just would have filled in some of the blanks differently.

As we moved through the first three or four weeks of the story, I realized that readers would soon get bored of these types of questions. I think it was obvious that a lot of the polls had more-or-less completely interchangeable answers, and while those polls can still be fun—and I'm still using them now and then—the real uniqueness of Losing Freight's interactivity comes from the ability of readers to have a direct impact on the shape of the story from one day to the next. I realized that I had to start asking more questions that allowed readers to have that kind of impact.

During Week 4, I asked readers to help choose the setting of the next several pages: they chose a pawn shop on an ice planet. Even that was somewhat interchangeable: it didn't change the plot, only the details and descriptions. But it was heading in the right direction.

During Week 5, I let the readers choose the strategy that one of the characters would use to try to infiltrate the villain's headquarters. Here's where things started to go right, I think: I knew what the next page had to result in, and where it was going to "end up," but I didn't know how the character was going to get there. I had to wait on the results of the poll to write most of the next page.

That continued on in Weeks 6 and 7. I asked which of two characters should go undercover disguised as one of their enemies, what kind of character they would run into on the next page, and whether they would take that character along with them when they escaped. The answers to those questions are definitely not interchangeable. The various poll options drive the story in very different directions, lead the characters down different paths, and affect character development. These types of questions have drastic effects not only on the next few pages, but also on the overall plot of the story.

That's both inspiring and terrifying, to be honest. It's inspiring because I'm adding new wrinkles into the story all the time, forcing myself to write a story that doesn't go straight from A to B; it has lots of different twists along the way, whether I anticipate them from week to week or not. But it's terrifying because I can't really write ahead. Which brings me to the second big change that's been taking place with Losing Freight.

The Writing Process

I began Losing Freight with an outline. It was a pretty good outline, if you ask me, because unlike Greg X. Graves I actually really like outlining. It covered about 12 weeks of the story, with basic guidelines for what would happen during each week, what direction each character would be developing in, a nice rise and fall to the intensity of the action, well-paced "reveals" and plot development...

I prewrote the first two weeks' worth of the story, and kept about a two-week buffer going for the first month or so, taking one day per week to write a full week at a time. I left the appropriate portions of each page blank so that each day all I had to do was slot in the appropriate poll results and hit "Publish."

It was easy. It was comfortable. Then I started changing my polls.

When my poll questions began to change, my comfortable rhythm quickly went out the window. How could I write a page a week or two in advance when I didn't know what was going to happen on it until I'd received the previous day's poll result? I was forced to abandon my precious prewriting, my nice little buffer.

Instead of sitting down once a week to write a week's worth of pages at a time, I now find myself taking that time to outline only the roughest frameworks of the next week's pages—which page is an action scene, a conversation scene, a stage-setting scene?—and to plan out a basic idea of where the characters are going to end up at the week's end.

The path from Monday to Friday is becoming too wide open to plot it out more than a few days ahead of time. And if things keep going this way, the same thing might happen to the path between Monday and Tuesday! Crazy stuff.

Where This Leaves Me

My "12-week plan" is in shambles. I have been reduced to annotating each upcoming week with only the barest elements of pacing: this is a rising action week; this is a falling action week; this week is a character development week; this week holds a big revelation; this week contains the climax of "Act One."

It's scary for me to be writing in an unknown direction, with very little idea of where my story might go from one week to the next, but that's the beauty of this project: if I had all the details worked out beforehand, the readers wouldn't be having much input, would they?

I'm still learning a lot every week about how to best make use of the daily polls, what kinds of questions readers have the most fun answering, and how to make every day's page exciting and interesting to read. I hope I learn as much over the next two months as I have over the previous two.

Maybe by the end of the story I'll have this thing mastered! Then again, maybe the whole point of this format is that it's unmasterable. And that's part of the adventure.


Losing Freight, by Tim Sevenhuysen, is 1889 Labs' first reader input-driven "Flashback" series.

March 17, 2012 — 303 words

Chapter 8p5 – Shields Up

By Tim Sevenhuysen

"Which button?" mouthed Milly silently.

Tic whispered in Dr. Fester's ear: "Any 'predictions'?"

Dr. Fester started scribbling madly on the floor with his chalk, but seemed not to like the results. He frowned and shook his head.

Tic shrugged, then ran his finger across all three buttons. Four things happened in rapid succession. First, the clamps on the Galactic Pelican's landing gear released and sunk into the floor. Second, the domed ceiling began to recede. Third, Dunter's goons spun around in surprise and raised their blasters. Fourth, a siren clamoured to life as sprinkler heads popped out from the walls and began dousing the entire hangar in fire-retardant foam.

The goons charged towards the ship, but the foam was too slippery and they went sliding out of control. They raised their blasters.

"Pelly, open up!" called Tic.

At the sound of Tic's voice, Pelly hummed to life. Her cargo ramp descended. Then the lasers began to fly, illuminating the falling foam in shifting patterns of light.

"Go, go!" yelled Tic. He lifted Haglyn in a fireman's carry and charged towards the ship, dragging Dr. Fester behind him. Milly returned fire, spraying lasers at random into the foam.

A stray burst raked across Haglyn's Liberati-tuxedoed butt, inches from Tic's face. He threw Haglyn bodily into the ship and reached back for Dr. Fester just as another laser pierced the foam and burned a hole into the little old man's side. Fester fell with a pitiful yelp. Tic grabbed him and dove up Pelly's ramp. Milly leapt in just behind.

"Shields up and get out of here!" screamed Tic.

"Yes, dear!" said Pelly. Her engines fired, her cargo ramp lifted, and they shot out into the snowy evening sky, trailing foam and lasers behind them.

Dr. Fester gurgled, "Didn't... predict... that."

[poll id="42"]

March 16, 2012 — 291 words

Chapter 8p4 – Get to Bay 9

By Tim Sevenhuysen

"Fine," said Tic. "We'll get off at 176. I don't know why I'm listening to this lunatic..."

"One problem," said Milly. "There's no button for 176. It goes from 175 to 177."

Dr. Fester reached up and pressed both 175 and 177 simultaneously. The elevator hit 173, 174, 175, then hummed to a stop. The blue turned green. The doors opened.

They had arrived at a service floor of some sort. The walkways were made of steel grating, with pipes and wires running underneath. Fuel lines and ventilation systems crowded the walls and ceilings overhead.

One of Dunter's goons came around a corner, his boots ringing on the grating. He stopped in surprise.

Milly shot him.

Milly grabbed the goon's PAI. It beeped with an incoming message:

"All personnel on hangar floors 177 and 178, prepare for imminent arrival of fugitives at Bay 9. Take the men alive. The women are expendable."

"Wow," said Tic.

"Predicted it!" cackled Dr. Fester.

"So..." said Milly. "What now?"

Tic dragged Haglyn out of the elevator, then sent it back down to the lower floors. "That'll get 'em thinking. Sounds like we've got to get to Bay 9. Maybe there's a back way in." He clipped the goon's blaster onto his belt, lifted Haglyn, and headed down the steel causeway.

Ladders rose up the concrete walls at regular distances. They found one labelled Bay 9.

Milly climbed up and carefully lifted a trapdoor. She beckoned them to follow, quietly.

Tic helped Dr. Fester climb, then lugged Haglyn up on his shoulders. They came out in a hangar service closet. Pelly was clamped down on the landing pad. The main entrance, at the far end of the hangar, was surrounded by Dunter's goons.

"Tic," hissed Milly. She gestured to three poorly labelled buttons on the wall.

[poll id="41"]

March 15, 2012 — 1,638 words

In Review

By Letitia Coyne

Readers, have you ever wondered how you can get rich on the bonanza that is independent fiction? Have you considered picking up a pen and then realized there really is a skill to getting a story onto the page? Here’s an alternative to consider.

Review. I mean it. Not just a few lines of recommendation at Goodreads -- if you have an enormous history of loved books clogging your living areas, you could turn out to be one of the great lights of the digital revolution.

Reviewers need a big clap; it isn't easy. It's a vital role, and its importance will come to the fore as the independence movement in fiction progresses. At present there are names in high places, known reviewers at the big print papers, whose word can make or break a novel. They are the people the readers go to to hear what they should be reading and what they should think about it. Going forward, a new group of people with real insight and the ability to summarize a book reliably for the wider audience will emerge with great power. Go for it now! All hail the powerful.

Meek, you will have to wait until you inherit the earth, I'm afraid.

I’ve been hunting out reviewers in the week since Touchstone hit the presses, looking at their work and their preferences and trying to find people who might like to review for me. In the spirit of sharing that has arisen, and with the sudden absence of inspired blog material, I thought I’d share one of my past lives with everyone.

Now, there are people who share like this with such precise beauty and wonderful phrasing that it makes me shake my head and eat my own words. Someone like that would be Penny Goring in her incredible work, Temporary Passport.

My own worst memories are of the decade 1965-75. Do you recall it? Ugggghhghghg!

Moulded plastic furniture and shiny clothes that melted on your skin if you went too near a candle. Colors like mustard, tangerine and burnt orange, lime green, mission brown, and acid yellow. Light blue shimmer eye shadow, beehives and Osti patio frocks; white shag pile rugs, everything circles and holes and MODERN. Help, my skin is crawling away. Plastic. Plastic. Ewwww. Plastic jewelry! Plastic sofas. Plastic wood-grain bas relief matadors and geometric design curtains still lurking in forgotten caravans. MARBLECRAFT! K Tel record selector.

I need a Bex and a little lie down.

When I review those days, I watch Rocky Horror, Velvet Goldmine and JC Superstar to recall the history that never really was, but I fantasized about anyway. Frankie said, 'Don't dream it, be it,' in a small town picture theatre in north Queensland and loaned me dreams above my station.

We were hippies and students, too, so we knew the poverty and the gypsy soul, but it was a decade or two earlier in the twentieth century and Penny’s cities in Europe might as well have been on the moon. Those I know who made it to the far off brighter lights were the sensible souls who studied nursing or teaching, then did Europe on a dollar a day or backpacked in packs without the obligatory pack, worked bars in London, and squatted in Brixton.

I do miss that time, though, before we learned we were all destined to burn in a nuclear holocaust.

We knew we should husband the earth, and that men didn't have the right to keep taking as long as the planet kept giving. We knew it. But when the great terror campaign was perpetrated, most of us became yuppies and lived well in glass and chrome and very nice cars. We ran ahead of the fear, or celebrated with who-cares-anyway when there’s nothing you can do about it. We remembered life before the sexual revolution and yet we let the media strangle and distort the message so that women were left with the right to say yes. And only yes. To everything. And we did nothing.

Then all the guys became girls. The straight boys were pretty, the gay boys were macho; we all wore leather and feathers or tartan and painted our hair to match our clothes. When there was money we dressed in labels and drank all day. When there was none we knew all the best came from op shops [before TV current affairs shows taught the senseless how to forage].

And tonight I'm listening to Queen's first album, from back when they were poor, and wondering who we actually ended up being - Baby Boomers, the scourge of the earth – when I should be babbling about the week in review. What’s happened lately...?

By now everyone knows there was a bit of a kerfuffle over censorship at Smashwords. It had to do with PayPal not liking some content.

In an email directed to all 30000+ Smashwords authors, publishers and literary agents, Mark Coker, Smashwords Founder, outlined the problem:

“PayPal contacted Smashwords and gave us a surprise ultimatum:  Remove all titles containing bestiality, rape or incest, otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal account.

PayPal tells us that their crackdown is necessary so that they can remain in compliance with the requirements of the banks and credit card associations (likely Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, though they didn't mention them by name).”

So then, no man can buy or sell fiction unless he bears the mark of approval by bankers. And erotica is such an easy target. Sexual aberrations crowd our waking nightmares; we are never to forget the dangers of perverts. They’re everywhere waiting for us to blink and they’ll pounce. They’re front and centre of the ‘fodder for irrational fear’ files.

Like child eating, broom flying, Satan sucking, night dancing, spell casting, evil spreading witches before them, they’re waiting in the shadows. We jump at every sound. If we don’t do something about the threats, our fears will choke us all. We’d better burn someone soon, or we’ll all be doomed.

And just like witch trials, or lynchings, there is a fear of guilt by association. If anyone stands up for the group to be excised, they risk being ‘tarred with the same brush’. We’ve gone over this ground so often in history we know the drill. We watch our feet as society is cleansed for our benefit. We know that there is nothing we can do to save them without risking our own safety. And no one is going to risk losing their safety for a rapist, am I right?

Except we are talking about authors, here, not rapists. Not people breaking a law. Not people practicing any violation of anyone else’s rights. We are talking about the arts.

The primary role of the arts across the board is to discuss the world in all forms and in all variations of form. Art should prompt us to ask ourselves what we think and what we value. In fiction we can watch a scenario played out for us without injury. I am more afraid that the role of our arts community should be reduced to supplying some mindless color and movement; more afraid that the only voices we should hear are those who say what they are expected to say; than I am afraid of some works of fiction with sharp edges.

Well, surprise! This time it’s good news. Mark Coker wrote today to thank Smashwords authors and customers for writing in support of those works blacklisted.

He explained:

“Yesterday afternoon I met with PayPal at their office in San Jose, where they informed me of their decision to modify their policies to allow legal fiction….

…. Smashwords authors, publishers and customers mobilized. You made telephone calls, wrote emails and letters, started and signed petitions, blogged, tweeted, Facebooked and drove the conversation. You made the difference.  Without you, no one would have paid attention. I would also like to thank the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). These three advocacy groups were the first to stand up for our authors, publishers and customers. Their contribution cannot be overstated.  We collaborated with them to build a coalition of like-minded organizations to support our mutual cause. Special kudos to Rainey Reitman of EFF for her energy, enthusiasm and leadership.

I would also like to thank all the bloggers and journalists out there who helped carry our story forward by lending their platforms to get the story out.  Special thanks to TechCrunch, Slashdot, TechDirt, The Independent (UK), Reuters, Publishers Weekly, Dow Jones, The Digital Reader, CNET, Forbes, GalleyCat & EbookNewser and dozens of others too numerous to mention.

I would like to thank our friends at PayPal.  They worked with us in good faith as they promised, engaged us in dialogue, made the effort to understand Smashwords and our mission, went to bat for our authors with the credit card companies and banks, and showed the courage to revise their policies.”

Good work, world! There might be other things we can change together!

So then, who wants to be a famous reviewer? Who has memories? Who has something to say about censorship? Who wants to change the world? Speak.

March 15, 2012 — 286 words

Chapter 8p3 – What Does That Mean?

By Tim Sevenhuysen

"Good work, Doc," said Tic.

Dr. Fester cackled. "Knew it would work. Predicted it!"

"Uh huh." Tic let Haglyn's unconscious body slip off his shoulders onto the floor of the elevator. He sat down beside her, panting from a combination of exhaustion and relief.

"You've been here before, right?" said Milly to Tic. "Any idea where this elevator might take us?"

"What's the top floor it goes to?" asked Tic.

"Um... 178."

"Perfect. Send us there. Those are the hangars. Pelly should be up there somewhere." Tic wiped sweat from his forehead. "Whew. Haglyn is way heavier than she looks."

"Speaking of which... Is she okay?" Milly knelt down beside Haglyn. "Huh," she said.

"What?" asked Tic.

"What's this tuxedo made of?"

"I don't know. Want me to call up the Liberati and ask?"

Milly stuck out her tongue. "No. But look: she took a shot right to the chest, didn't she? The tux isn't even damaged. Do you think it acts as some kind of armour?"

"Maybe," said Tic, "but even so, she looks like she's in rough shape."

"At least she's alive."

Dr. Fester suddenly said, "One hundred seventy-six."

"What?" said Milly.

In response, Dr. Fester reached into the pocket of Haglyn's Liberati tuxedo, pulled out a piece of chalk, and started scribbling on the floor of the elevator. At the end of his convoluted equation, the result was 176.

"What does that mean?" said Tic.

Dr. Fester cackled. "Predicting it!"

"Predicting what?"

"I think he wants us to get off at that floor," said Milly.

"Why? The hangars are all on 178. He doesn't know what he's talking about."

"I don't know," said Milly. "Maybe he does..."

The elevator dinged for floor 160, 161, 162.

[poll id="40"]

March 14, 2012 — 1,272 words

The Birthmark by Nathaniel Tower

By

 

            The first time they made love they were underneath the ladder leading to the hayloft in his grandfather’s barn. He had to make love to her there to prove he wasn’t superstitious. She needed a man who was grounded in reality. For her, he could be anything.

            “Jesse, I think there’s straw up my ass,” she whispered in his ear right before he was about to climax.

            “Jessie, don’t ruin the moment,” he responded.

            No one had called her Jessie until they had met. He chalked up their similar names as a sign. She thought it merely a coincidence. There were other coincidences as well, most notably the similar birthmarks on their left butt cheeks, although he couldn’t always tell for sure that his was a birthmark or that it was on his left cheek.

            She would have laughed at him if she knew that he thought they were making love.

            Making love to her in that barn was the highlight of his life.

            “I love you,” he told her.

            But before he could even utter the final syllable, she had buttoned her blouse and jeans and was off, her bare feet crackling the loose hay with every step.

            He was too stunned to chase her. “Wait,” he called, but there was no one nearby to hear.

            Jesse, a hard-headed man by nature, assumed that Jessie was playing hard to get, so he vowed with his grandfather’s tombstone as his witness that one day he would bring the woman back to the haystack and begin his family.

            Unfortunately, Jessie was quite a bit more elusive than Jesse had anticipated. She was the type of woman that swooped into a town, seduced a handful of man, and then disappeared. He found this out when he asked around and learned she had also slept with his best friend under the name of Florence, although he had called her Flo against her wishes. Jesse harbored no ill will towards his friend, but he was envious that someone else had seen his Jessie’s birthmark, which was what had caused Jesse to fall in love with her.

            With only a butt cheek birthmark to go on, Jesse knew the search would be difficult, but a vow was a vow. Jesse would bring that woman back to the haystack and make love to her again and again until they had a family. He imagined himself caressing that birthmark as she repented for her loose ways.

            The search lasted for days, weeks, months, and years, but he never relented. He had very nearly slept with dozens of women, all of whom seemed to be his Jessie, but he would always check for that birthmark right before the deed, and when their asses came up bare, he confessed to them through sobbing tears. The women undoubtedly would have been furious with him if he hadn’t seemed so pathetic. They each held his naked body in their naked arms, pressing his hair up against their breasts, collecting the tears on their delicate skin.

            This continued for nearly a decade until one comforting woman, a tattoo artist, said to him, “I know her.”

            Almost instantly, the tears dried up, like some clichéd sudden end of a storm giving way to an even more clichéd bright blue sky filled with sun and rainbow.

            “Where is she? Are you sure it’s her? How is she? Is she married?” the questions flowed from his tongue.

            The answers came: “I don’t know,” “pretty sure,” “she’s okay,” and “yes, at least she was.”

            He begged, “Will you help me find her?”

            “Yes,” she said, having already fallen in love with him, secretly hoping that helping him find the invisible woman would cause him to feel the same about her.

            After two years had passed and the money for food and lodging had run almost dry, the woman decided to make her move. “You know, you can call me Jessie if you would like.”

            “It wouldn’t be the same,” he responded.

            “I’ve always wanted to make love under a ladder in a hayloft.”

            “I’ll never make love with a woman other than her.”

            “I can have a birthmark on my ass, too.”

            “But it won’t be the same,” he said again.

            “Sure it will be. You don’t know squat about this girl. You love the idea of her. I can be that same idea.”

            “But it was destiny. And I made a vow.”

            “Vows can be broken. They’re broken every day. And destiny doesn’t know what’s best for the world. Sometimes, I like to think we can make our own destiny.”

            “But there was something in that mark that connected with my soul.”

            “I’ll make one just like it on my ass.”

            “You can’t make one just like it. It’s one of a kind.”

            “Sweetie, I think I can repeat my own work.”

            Speechless and confused, he stared at the tattoo artist, noticing for the first time the irony of her art-free skin.

            “You mean…”

            “That’s how I knew her, love.”

            “Are you sure?”

            “It’s the only thing I’m sure of.”

            Jesse stared at her for a long time, imagining this woman creating the most beautiful mark upon the most beautiful woman, a mark he thought only God could have made.

            And then he broke the silence.

            “Well, get drawing,” he said. “We’ve got a hayloft to visit.”

            He was finally bringing his Jessie home.

 


Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online lit magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short fiction has appeared in over 100 online and print magazines and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His story "The Oaten Hands" was named one of 190 notable stories by story South's Million Writers Award in 2009. His first novel, A Reason To Kill, was released in July 2011 through MuseItUp Publishing. Visit him at www.bartlebysnopes.com/ntower.htm

 

March 14, 2012 — 539 words

The Death of God by Tim Reynolds

By

“You know you’re the last, don’t you, Neela?”

She does, of course, this beautiful, fragile Child of mine. She’s conserving air and energy but she nods to me from her cot, although with her eyes closed she can’t see me. Or maybe she does... what stands before her mind’s eye no one will ever know, even me. Omniscience isn’t quite what my Children have assumed down through the ages.

She stirs.

“I don’t know if this will come as any comfort to you, Child, but the last of your siblings down below on Terra Toxica went away thinking how blessed you and your fellow crew members were to not suffer the ravages of that plague they had created and released in my name while you were here in orbit. Every one of them would have traded places with you in a heartbeat, even if only for a heartbeat. Every one of them would have traded the pain, the blindness, the bleeding and the madness which came to each and every one of them, young and old, rich and poor alike. Came to them all before their last, strangled, choking breaths.

“With you alone remaining, my Child, I’m able to hold you closer than ever. No one else seeks my succor. No one else struggles or suffers. You truly have my undivided attention. But as a matter of respect I ask for your permission, your leave to share these last moments.

“I see you nod once more. Thank you. And so, here I... AM.

“Oh, my Child, I wasn’t aware of how cold you are. Here, let me warm you. Now that I’m right here, is there anything you wish to talk with me about. Anything at all? No? Ah, I see. You’re drifting away and it’s too late for discourse. At least you’re not alone here at the end, unlike your fellow space station crew members. Of course they weren’t really alone because I never left them, but they believed they were alone. In their silly despair they thought I had forsaken them.

“Two of them went out through the airlock unprotected, preferring to face the vast emptiness of space rather than the vast emptiness of their futures. Three of them shared a poisoned cup, hoping for a painless, peaceful end. Judging by their convulsions and consciousness-shredding fear, it was neither painless nor peaceful. I could have made it so, had they asked, but they didn’t.

“Is that a tear I feel slipping down our cheek? Silly Child of mine, there will be no pain for you, only peace. Ah, it’s a tear of love. Well, that’s all right then. Here, let me add a tear of my own, now that I can, thanks to your generosity.

“Oh, my Child, you’re done. Your oxygen is depleted and it’s finally time to sleep. Sleep well my—

 


Tim Reynolds is a Calgary writer with his most recent published stories in the genres of science fiction, horror, and steampunk. Other hats he occasionally dons include that of poet, stand-up comic and photographer, all detailed at www.tgmreynolds.com.

 

March 14, 2012 — 258 words

Introducing ULTRA: 1889 Labs’ Anthology Collection

By Terra Whiteman

Aside from serials and webfiction-to-print, we're about to take on an even bigger project; one that you can be a part of.

Today is the launch of ULTRA, 1889 Labs' official anthology collection, which will be coming out semi-annually from now on. So, tell your friends: submissions are OPEN.

How does it work?

You'll notice the ULTRA section on the top menubar of the site. Once you click, there is a section allowing you to submit your story to us. Anyone can submit their story, but the word limit should be between 500-2000 words. ULTRA is essentially a short story anthology, so we'll only be accepting short story submissions. There is no genre restriction, so go nuts.

However, we will not be accepting tie-ins to already established webserials. We want completely new, original and stand-alone work.

Once the submissions are given a look over and accepted, they'll go into the 'inbox', where readers can read and vote on which stories they like the most. Stories that receive more than ten facebook 'likes' become featured on the main page of the ULTRA section.

Then, a handful of the approved submissions are chosen to appear in the anthology. This anthology collection will be out in print and ebook, available through all channels that our other books (and ebooks) are. If you're a prospective author up for a bit of a challenge, this is a great opportunity!

So, what are you waiting for? 

 

 

 

 

March 14, 2012 — 279 words

Chapter 8p2 – Don’t Think

By Tim Sevenhuysen

An abrupt silence fell over the yeti hunters' mess hall. The detention block sirens clamoured faintly from below. Three dozen of Dunter's most rough-and-tumble, violent employees stopped chewing, dropped their utensils, and stared.

Tic's knees wobbled. There was nowhere to run, no point in trying to fight. Maybe if he gave up and begged for mercy? He opened his mouth to surrender...

"Help!" shouted Milly, suddenly.

"Huh?" said Tic.

A few of the yeti hunters got to their feet.

"Prison break!" Milly continued. "They're trying to free our captive!" She grabbed Dr. Fester by the arm and shook him. "They've already shot one of the Liberati, see?" She nodded to Haglyn, draped over Tic's shoulders. "They're right behind us. We've got to lock them down, quick!"

The yeti hunters looked at each other. Some of them drew blasters and scatterbeam guns.

Tic gulped. Out of the side of his mouth, he whispered to Milly, "I don't think it's working..."

Turning his face away from the room, Dr. Fester covered his mouth with one arm and let out a warbling, high-pitched, howling growl. Every yeti hunter was instantly on high alert.

"Er, and they've got a yeti with them!" said Milly.

A hunter with a beefy scatterbeam gun jumped forward. "Ah ha! Let's get it, boys!" A hearty cheer rose up and the hunters swarmed towards the doors, piling into the stairwell.

Milly elbowed Tic to get him moving. The bloodthirsty hunters, hackles raised at the thought of an intruding yeti, took no notice of them as they shoved their way towards the far end of the mess hall, slipped into an elevator, and jammed the UP button.

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March 13, 2012 — 287 words

Chapter 8p1 – Take the Stairs

By Tim Sevenhuysen

"We'd better take the stairs," said Tic. "We don't want to get trapped inside the elevator."

"Stairs it is." Milly led the way through the door. Tic followed with Haglyn draped over his shoulders and Dr. Fester ambled along in the rear.

"Is there any way to barricade this door to buy us some time?" said Tic.

"I have an idea," said Milly. "Stand back." She held up the Liberati blaster and fired it at the door lock, fusing the lock together.

Tic said, "That... shouldn't have worked."

Milly shrugged. "It was the only idea I had. Let's go!" She headed up the stairs.

The stairwell led upwards through a narrow space, climbing the walls like concrete vines. Every three or four flights was punctuated with a red door.

From down here at the bottom, Tic couldn't see the top. "I have to carry Haglyn up all that?"

"Don't worry, don't worry!" said Dr. Fester. "We won't make it to the top!"

"That's not as encouraging as you might think it is," said Tic, sighing. "Okay, here we go." He began to plod up the stairs.

Two flights up he was breathing hard. Three flights up he began to sweat. Four flights up he heard banging at the door below. Adrenaline took over, and he made it up a few more flights before a burst of laser fire tore the door clean off its hinges.

"No more time!" shouted Tic. "Pick a door and in we go!"

Milly yanked open the nearest door, hurrying Tic and Dr. Fester through. They found themselves in a wide open hall, filled with tables covered in food. At each table sat three or four angry-looking yeti hunters.

[poll id="38"]