'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!

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Comments

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA January 7, 2013 - 5:25am

Working on mine. I fear people might mistake it for a cautionary tale. Ohhh no. I want this.

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA January 7, 2013 - 7:08am

An hour and a half later and I'm only up to 1,100 words. Man, this one's coming slowly.

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep January 7, 2013 - 10:48am

@TomMartinArt 1,100 words in 90 mins!! Oh sure, rub it in! I average 500 words an hour no matter how hard I try. You're doing just fine!

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA January 7, 2013 - 1:14pm

Well I already had 400, so only 700 were from today's hour and a half. I stopped to research so often.

William Bryan Estes's picture
William Bryan Estes from Brady, Texas is reading Savage Sword of Conan January 9, 2013 - 5:36am

 Are there any limitations on language, themes, or how graphic I can get?

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 9, 2013 - 8:05am

@William, we're not exactly shy around these parts, but make sure you're serving the story first. Being shocking for the sake of it doesn't always work. 

And keep in mind that old saying: "People cuss when they don't have anything clever to say." 

mepstein73's picture
mepstein73 from MA is reading Frankenstein January 9, 2013 - 8:08pm

Made an account just to enter this...

I finished my story (now just need to edit), but just to clarify, I'm curious how detached from 'human' is 'non-human'. That is, how close can we get (in terms of biology) with it still being non-human? Where does cybernetics fit in with this, then? Genetically still human, but with augmentations (or certain faculties... shall we say, removed). Does that mean they're non-human, if they don't perceive the same reality as the average, everyday fellow walking around with two arms, two legs, a head and a beating heart?

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff January 10, 2013 - 7:38am

guys you're godspeedy!

Still outlining here. Seriously I might be the slowest LitRea writer.

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 10, 2013 - 8:17am

@mepstein73, you have your prompts. No offense, but it's not a challenge if we have to explicity spell it out. 

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like January 11, 2013 - 11:40am

+

mattymillard's picture
mattymillard from Wolverhampton, England is reading Curse of the Wolf Girl - Martin Millar January 13, 2013 - 11:23am

Hey!

I was just wondering whether multiple submissions were allowed or are we limited to one?! I'm liking the theme - it's interesting!

Cheers

Matty

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 13, 2013 - 12:20pm

@matt, once. 

ender.che.13's picture
ender.che.13 from Northwestern U.S. living in the southeast peach. is reading Ken Follett January 13, 2013 - 1:43pm

Oooh. Thanks, @thankeeka. I almost overlooked that little detail.

@Rob, are there any specific rules or guidelines for formatting?

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland January 13, 2013 - 4:53pm

Never written Sci-Fi before, but love it. I will for sure be entering something in this. Also, Scare Us changed my life as a writer too. I'd suggest anyone that has the time and loves to write, to submit something to Teleport Us!

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 13, 2013 - 6:43pm

@ender, format as you would a short story for submission, i.e., Times New Roman, 12 point font, double-spaced, etc.

MattD's picture
MattD from DC Area is reading Falkenberg's Legion January 15, 2013 - 8:29am

First draft down. Set the burner to simmer. @Rob, I saw that in the previous contest there were revisions made to stories based on comments made. Will that be true this time around?

JamieM's picture
JamieM from Scotland January 15, 2013 - 12:28pm

Just got a wee question to double check a point - when it says feature a non-human character does this character have to strictly be the main character in the story or can they just have minor role?

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. January 22, 2013 - 6:40am

Ok! Just finished a second draft and topped out at 4005 words (ARGH!).  Time to pull out the hatchett.

Spencer Richard's picture
Spencer Richard from Canada is reading Go Set A Watchman January 22, 2013 - 10:55am

@DorianxGrey   I like that idea. It sounds really... fresh .... Maybe you could have a non-organic dog or something as well? :)

Looking forward to this challenge, hopefully I have time to whip something up.

Chacron's picture
Chacron from England, South Coast is reading Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb January 22, 2013 - 2:53pm

Fitting place to make my first post on here, sci-fi is my thing but writing a story as short as 4000 words certainly isn't, I'm used to being limitless and to this day I've never entered a writing contest in my life....nice challlenge and good way to start I guess, looking forward to getting an idea finished and submitted!

Ben_Sharp's picture
Ben_Sharp from London January 23, 2013 - 3:39am

'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.'

 

Damnit. There goes my entire premise. :)

 

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. January 23, 2013 - 9:04pm

Yay!  Back down to 3782.  How's everyone else doing?

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA January 26, 2013 - 7:21pm

I'm not too far in, but then I've been taken with WAR in the forums. Now that I'm bumped off I'll have more time to shave the corners off this remarkably odd idea I've got. 

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon January 27, 2013 - 1:00am

How dystopic does the dystopia need to be? Is it the general grittiness of the future, like Snow Crash or Bladerunner or is it total and utter darkness, like The Road or 1984?

Really looking forward to this challenge. I can feel the gears starting to turn in the back of my head. 

Chacron's picture
Chacron from England, South Coast is reading Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb January 27, 2013 - 4:30am

Rob, can we workshop a first draft of the story we submit or does it have to be one that's never been posted on Litreactor?

Jane Pierrepont's picture
Jane Pierrepont from Montrose, Colorado is reading Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet January 27, 2013 - 1:31pm

Excited but terrifed....sci-fi definitely not my genre!  Good to get out and streatch the word process though.  So can the technology and non-human be a combination?

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep January 27, 2013 - 6:55pm

Finished first draft at 2:30am this morning. It's over the limit, 2nd draft is probably going to increase the count, so 3rd pass will be a hack and slash. It will be painful!

Frank Chapel's picture
Frank Chapel from California is reading Thomas Ligotti's works January 28, 2013 - 11:23am

Ive almost finished my first draft, 3,340 words. Hope i can finish n polish before the 28th of Feb.

Having barely missed the Horror challenge i'd really hate it if i missed this one.

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep January 31, 2013 - 8:08pm

I just fed my story to my writing group and other friends. It's like giving wolverines raw meat.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like January 31, 2013 - 8:23pm

Finally started on something for this. May or may not make it in.

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 1, 2013 - 12:23am

Where do you draw the line at main character? In a small tableau, everybody is pretty main. I am hoping your defenition of main is pivotal, not verbose. 

jhoeschen's picture
jhoeschen February 10, 2013 - 2:19pm

Is there a prefered file format, font, and line spacing for the submission?

Robert Gislason's picture
Robert Gislason from Iceland is reading Ender's game February 11, 2013 - 2:46pm

I am also wondering about the featuring of non-human character. Is it ok that "it" plays a major role in the story though "it" is a minor character?

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this February 12, 2013 - 7:19am

***Feature*** a non-human character

Frank Chapel's picture
Frank Chapel from California is reading Thomas Ligotti's works February 12, 2013 - 1:40pm

Non-human = main character