'Teleport Us' - LitReactor's Sci-Fi Writing Challenge

'Teleport Us' - LitReactor's Second Writing Challenge

The utopia and its offshoot, the dystopia, are genres of literature that explore social and political structures. Utopian fiction is the creation of an ideal society, or utopia, as the setting for a novel. Dystopian fiction is the opposite: creation of an utterly horrible or degraded society, or dystopia. Many novels combine both, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take in its choices, ending up with one of two possible futures... (Wikipedia)


This past summer we launched our first ever public writing challenge, Scare Us!, in which we dared you to stretch your writing muscles and terrify us with short works of fiction in the horror genre.

And you came through big. In total, 156 stories were submitted, and they received 680 ratings. And the top-rated stories received critiques from some heavyweight authors

It was so much fun, we wanted to do it again. But we have to keep things fresh, which means switching up genres. And we talked about it a lot. We wanted something that would be fun, while presenting a serious challenge. A genre that would be a great vehicle for telling stories and force you to re-examine yourself and your work.

Introducing: Teleport Us, our science fiction writing challenge!

Just like last time, this is a public contest. You don't have to be a paying member to participate. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or a seasoned wordsmith. Even if it's the first story you've ever written—anyone can submit. Also, anyone can read and rate stories, and offer comments and criticism.

To get in on this, you have to write a short story in the science fiction genre between 1,500 and 4,000 words.

But you didn't think we were going to make this easy, did you? You also have to adhere to a couple of guidelines. Your story must: 

  • Explore a utopian/dystopian theme
  • Feature a technology that's scientifically plausible
  • Feature a non-human character (what is a non-human? you tell us!)

Everything else is up to you.

Here's the run of show: 

  • Feb 1: The submission and reviewing period begins.
  • Feb 28: Submissions close.
  • March 1 to March 31: The reviewing period continues.
  • April 1: The top-rated stories will be selected and... well, we're not announcing everything just yet.

Got questions? Ask us in the comments section!

Never written science fiction before? I asked Kat Howard, our resident sci-fi instructor, to weigh in with some advice. Here's what she had to say: 

Science fiction is the literature of possibility. This is the place where you can imagine a different world - perhaps a better one - and make it real. Approach it bravely, with a seeking mind, and as you write, allow yourself to be astonished.

Got it? Good. Start writing... submissions open in less than a month!

Rob Hart

News by Rob Hart

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor, as well as the publisher at MysteriousPress.com. He's the author of New Yorked, nominated for the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, as well as City of Rose and South Village. Short stories have appeared in publications like Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Needle, Joyland, All Due Respect, and Helix Literary Magazine. Non-fiction has appeared at Salon, The Daily Beast, Birth.Movies.Death, The Literary Hub, Electric Literature, and Nailed. He lives in New York City. Find him online at www.robwhart.com

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Comments

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks January 2, 2013 - 10:13am

I'm incredibly excited for this. I missed Scare Us! and I've never been big on sci-fi, but I've had an idea rattling around that would work well. Yay!!

Joe Stern's picture
Joe Stern from Suffern NY is reading The Girl Who Played With Fire By Stieg Larson. January 2, 2013 - 10:54am

Does non-human mean not someone form earth? Or a person who is not a humaqnoid species? I have an idea about a race of people, who don't live on earth, but are Humanoid. Can you be more specific? thanks!

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 2, 2013 - 11:05am

@Joe: You and I, born of woman on planet Earth and possessing normal, non-altered DNA, are human. Anything else--anything at all--is fair game. 

Jimothy Scott's picture
Jimothy Scott from Canada is reading The Grapes of Wrath January 2, 2013 - 11:11am

I missed scare us as well. If I make a story for this and put it through a few rounds in the wrokshop is it considered "void" in anyway? Or must we only sumit to the event?

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 2, 2013 - 11:20am

@Garrett, putting it through the 'shop is fine. Just make sure to submit to this before the deadline. Only caveat: The story can not have been posted elsewhere first, like a lit mag or blog or something. 

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep January 2, 2013 - 11:27am

I'm so excited about this!  I already have a story in mind!  Wheeeee!

Sean Joseph McCann's picture
Sean Joseph McCann from New Zealand! is reading NOT The Hobbit January 2, 2013 - 11:53am

Ooh, I loved the last writing challenge! This is going to be fun!

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry January 2, 2013 - 12:23pm

Sweet.  I've been waiting for an excuse to write my futuristic sex-bot dystopian erotica story.  You guys are in for a treat!

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA January 2, 2013 - 12:42pm

"Non-human" is giving me a question- would a transhuman or posthuman be allowable? 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism

Steven Zore's picture
Steven Zore from Brooklyn, New York January 2, 2013 - 1:18pm

Time travel is plausable is it not? Please correct me if i'm wrong, because my story will have a time travel premise.

Frank Chapel's picture
Frank Chapel from California is reading Thomas Ligotti's works January 2, 2013 - 1:03pm

I hate to ask, but "scientifically plausible", does that mean anti-gravity cars and time travel are out? What about that trick where you make up a piece of tech: "thank god they invented the (insert tech name) that allows us to smoke in space and measure the position and time of photons without varrying degrees of accuracy."

Cause when i think plausible i think Hard Science Fiction like Contact, 2010, and Poul Anderson, Kim Stanley Robinson.

So, do i need a graduates degree in physics, or anything?

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks January 2, 2013 - 1:22pm

Shit, I have a question. Is ambiguity fair? My story won't be as good if I have to admit that he's non-human from the start.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 2, 2013 - 1:31pm

@Tom, as long as they're not naturally-occuring humans like you or I, that's fine. Just make sure it's clear. 

@szore and Frank, anti-gravity cars and time travel? Sure! By scientifically-plausible, we mean you can't have your narrator throw his shoe at the sun and make it explode into a unicorn army that feeds on human flesh. We're looking for stuff that feels possible--it's up to you to convince us. 

@Courtney, ambiguity is fine. And fun!

Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons January 2, 2013 - 2:10pm

Never written science fiction, but what the hell. I am going to try. When I read the "non-human" rule I took it at face value and figured the protagonist could be a cat or dog for earth or another creature not from earth, just not a human being. Am I wrong? Not that my character will be a cat or dog.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 2, 2013 - 2:20pm

@Covewriter, it's your story! Give us your interpretation of a non-human!

Oscarone1's picture
Oscarone1 from California is reading The back of a cereal box January 2, 2013 - 2:22pm

     I know this is an English only workshop, but can the protagonist say something in alien or spanish language as to make the story more real or interesting.  Just a couple of sentences in a foreign language.  Porfavor (meaning, Please.)

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 2, 2013 - 2:27pm

@Oscarone1, sí, se puede.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK January 2, 2013 - 3:08pm

If I write a first person piece, and the protagonist (who is non-human) is a different character to the narrator (who is human), but the narrator features heavily in the narrative (as it is their story, their musings and thoughts, etc.) and the protagonist doesn't appear immediately, would it still count?

Or, in English: I'm thinking of writing a story told from a human's perspective, but my main character won't be human. As my protagonist and narrator are different people, my narrator will play a part in the story as a supporting character. Will this count as following the rules, or does my narrator have to be non-human?

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 2, 2013 - 3:17pm

@Seb, I updated the text. Hopefully that helps. 

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks January 2, 2013 - 3:21pm

It makes me happy that you just said "si', se puede," because that's my background. Because to a labor union fanatic, it means "Yes, we can," and it was an agricultural union slogan by Cesar Chavez.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK January 2, 2013 - 3:21pm

Nice, thanks.

JEFFREY GRANT BARR's picture
JEFFREY GRANT BARR from Central OR is reading Nothing but fucking Shakespeare, for the rest of my life January 2, 2013 - 3:21pm

And this is why we need detailed instructions on q-tips and toothpicks. Oy vey.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks January 2, 2013 - 3:31pm

Just to piss off JGB, I have another question!!

No, seriously, I wasn't around for Scare Us! and I read the comment about workshopping -- is the draft we submit the final one? No revisions? I can't really tell by looking at the Scare Us ones. I think I thought of it more as a workshop game than a contest.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 2, 2013 - 3:33pm

@Courtney, your submission is locked once you've sent it in. So make sure to revise it nice and good!

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry January 2, 2013 - 4:17pm

And this is why we need detailed instructions on q-tips and toothpicks. Oy vey.

@JGB:  Sometimes I want to buy you a beer.

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. January 2, 2013 - 4:34pm

This should be interesting!  I've had a few idea's running around in the back of my head that should work out nicely for this :)

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On January 2, 2013 - 5:37pm

Can't wait for this! I got involved with Litreactor just as Scare Us was winding down, and I submitted something hurriedly that was never finished. Now I can suffer blocks and frustrations like everyone else right from the get-go.

hamchuck's picture
hamchuck January 2, 2013 - 5:56pm

Is there a fee to enter? Any catches? Do you assume rights to the story after I submit it to you or do I still own it?

 

Thanks   

leah_beth's picture
leah_beth from New Jersey - now in Charleston, SC is reading five different books at once. January 2, 2013 - 6:12pm

People reading this - ScareUs brought me to LitReactor, and it was AMAZING fun. And joining LitReactor was probably the smartest thing I've done yet as a writer.

Join us! Enter TeleportUs!

(I will...so long as I find the time to write something...)

EdVaughn's picture
EdVaughn from Louisville, Ky is reading a whole bunch of different stuff January 2, 2013 - 6:23pm

SciFi is way out of my comfort zone but I missed Scare Us! so I gotta do this. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Cyborgs are non-human, right?

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 2, 2013 - 7:08pm

@ham, as noted in the post, there's no fee. You retain the rights. 

@red, cyborgs definitely count as non-human. And that's the whole point: push you out of your comfort zone!

Sancho LeStache's picture
Sancho LeStache from El Paso is reading Hunger January 2, 2013 - 7:32pm

So damn excited! I already have a good Idea of what I'm going to do! Scare Us was one of the bigger highlights of last year for me, so it's really good to start this one off with another contest like it.

Wonder Woman's picture
Wonder Woman from RI is reading 20th Century Ghosts January 2, 2013 - 9:51pm

I'm so excited about this! Lots of ideas running rampant in my skull right now. I loved the Scare Us! challenge (which was my first time submitting a story) so Teleport Us! really has me feeling giddy. 

Wonder Woman's picture
Wonder Woman from RI is reading 20th Century Ghosts January 2, 2013 - 9:52pm

SO giddy, in fact, that I double posted. WEEEEEEEEE!!!

Michael Paton's picture
Michael Paton January 3, 2013 - 3:23pm

   I have many fleeting ideas.  Before I allow my mind to wander down the wrong path, I'd like to know if the non-human can be an object A La "The Maltese Falcon". It could be a bill in the Utopian congress .

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 3, 2013 - 4:45pm

@Michael, an object isn't a character. Sorry. 

Brandon Byes's picture
Brandon Byes from Kansas City, Mo is reading The Girl Next Door January 3, 2013 - 6:53pm

I've never written sci-fi before, I can't wait, this should be fun!

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA January 3, 2013 - 9:35pm

an object isn't a character.

I feel like screaming this whenever some filmmaker says that the REAL star of the movie is the spaceship / city / house. 

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff January 4, 2013 - 3:29am

I love you guys. I'm so in on this teleportation thing.

Hopefully, being winter and cold outside, I'll have a chance to be more present this time than around Scare us. The outline of my story is forming quick! 

This sci-fi stuff is kicking in.

MRMC's picture
MRMC January 4, 2013 - 10:20am

Will we retain the rights to our story?

Sasha Janel McBrayer's picture
Sasha Janel McBrayer is reading The Night Circus, Graceling January 4, 2013 - 12:00pm

How do we submit?

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading A Million Little Fibers by Steven McTowelie January 4, 2013 - 7:57pm

Can the non-human be a robot with a human brain?

(kidding... my idea is only half as asinine as that)

Chris Johnson's picture
Chris Johnson from Burlington NC is reading The Proud Highway January 4, 2013 - 8:41pm

"By scientifically-plausible, we mean you can't have your narrator throw his shoe at the sun and make it explode into a unicorn army that feeds on human flesh."

This is the best single sentence story ever. Screw Hemingway's "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 5, 2013 - 8:43am

@MRMC, yes, you retain rights. 

@Sasha, submissions open Feb. 1. There'll be an interface for it. 

@Chris, thank you.

Jeff's picture
Jeff from Florida is reading Another Side of Bob Dylan by Victor Maymudes January 5, 2013 - 9:52am

Now you're talkin'! Count me in.

SarahElizabeth's picture
SarahElizabeth from Pennsylvania is reading All the Light We Cannot See; Monster January 5, 2013 - 4:26pm

@Christ, I totally agree. The. Best. Sentence story. Ever. Hemmingway's actually has a level of ambiguity. You could have a baby that is perfectly ok except that it has no feet. Or a baby that is allergic to leather, and these were the second pair of shoes given to you by an unsuspecting aunt who was trying to be thoughtful.

I'm so in on this. I'm really not into horror, so Scare Us wasn't really my thing (my brain is just twisted enough that I would have scared MYSELF and not slept for a week).

However, I can do Sci-Fi. Whee! It'll be different, as Sci-Fi is not my genre of choice. Which is always fun.

Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons January 5, 2013 - 8:20pm

The only science fiction I've read are the classics, and not many of those. But, I actually have a story  idea that seems good to me now. I feel out-classed. Litreactor folks know SF. I'm scared but hey its all about stretching your imagination and learning to write. 

Dorian Grey's picture
Dorian Grey from Transexual, Transylvania is reading "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck January 5, 2013 - 9:30pm

Perfect. I've got a great idea for a story. It's about a guy named Montag who lives in a dystopian future where they burn books. 

thankeeka's picture
thankeeka January 6, 2013 - 4:59pm

Question:

"Feature a non-human character"

How "featuring" does it need to be? Does that mean the main character has to be this main character? They have to have a sizeable role?

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this January 6, 2013 - 6:54pm

@thankeeka, main character.