Open Call: War of the Worlds: Absolute War
No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s ….Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.
General Carl von Clausewitz devised Absolute War. A war single-mindedly focused on the destruction of the enemy and attainment of a political victory (or conquest) by pure force.
Von Clausewitz rejected the theory.
But intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic have higher regard for Absolute War, and wage it in their devastation of the Earth…
War of the Worlds: Absolute War is a collection of short stories expanding on H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. Generally, we’re seeking to show the entire world’s response to the Invasion.
What We Want
It’s possible to read The War of the Worlds and assign it to any number of dates within a nearly 30 year period. We’ll be working from the assumption that the Martian Invasion occurred in June, 1896. So far as fitting the novel into a real-world context, consider the narrator of The War of the Worlds to have been H.G. Wells himself, the narrator’s wife to be Amy Wells, and the narrator’s brother to be Frank Wells. The book detailing Wells’ perspective of events was subsequently released in 1898.
Please don’t rehash H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. We have had countless adaptions, sequels, and “stories behind the story,” which have copied Wells beat for beat. While we are treating Wells’ account of the invasion as “canon” for every story, find new things to do within the context of The War of the Worlds.
For example, do not consider yourself bound to the invaders’ total domination of earth militaries. History brims with technologically-disadvantaged cultures surviving invaders, and making them pay for every mile in blood. The British military, so far as the battles Wells was aware of, lost by trying to wage an expected and conventional war. Other countries may have fared better. This is well worth exploring.
Preference will be shown to stories set outside the United Kingdom. We want to see the world at war, and a truly international invasion.
May I use Public Domain Characters? Yes.
Am I strictly bound to science fiction, or can I use magic, etc.? You may use magic and other historical fantasy/urban fantasy tropes, but please be creative. We’re more likely to take something along the lines of The Royal Occultist or Manly Wade Wellman—with gentle, background, hidden, subliminated, or possibly false magic—than Lord Darcy or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
May I use the Cthulhu Mythos? Yes, but I strongly encourage, and prefer, fresh takes. Show us something new. The more it feels like a copy/paste of Lovecraft (or previous stories mixing The War of the Worlds and Mythos fiction), the less interested I’ll be.
Do you take reprints? Yes. Just let us know in the submission (this will not count against you).
What genre are you looking for? Surprise us. While you’re bound to the outline of history and the canon of Wells’ text, you’re free to explore historical fiction, military science fiction, fantasy, occult horror or detection, mystery, adventure, pulp, or literary. We’re more concerned with receiving good, creative stories working from these guidelines than their specific genre. Variety makes a great collection.
Stories I Especially Want
(Doing one of these, and doing it well, is an all but guaranteed acceptance. Please query with a full pitch and the first 500-1k words. This list will be updated as authors reserve concepts. Please have your pitch provided by December 1st, 2018.)
- Theodore Roosevelt, police commissioner, preparing New York City for the Invasion. [Claimed.]
- Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo must try to manage a war from his exile on the island of Saint Helena, trying to bind the divided Zulu people together to defend the remains of their land from Invaders (this could also neatly set up that, later, he would be blamed—seemingly falsely—for commanding the Bambatha Rebellion from exile). [Claimed.]
- Nellie Bly getting into the thick of the invasion to report on it, possibly while doing a piece on the recently-defeated Warriors of Dahomey.
- Bass Reeves, late in his career, trying to pursue a murderer across suddenly Martian-infested land (or, truthfully, anything featuring Bass Reeves).
- Raffles the Amateur Cracksman having the heist of his life, as guards are gone and all he has to dodge are war machines, black smoke, and heat-rays. Comparatively easy, surely! [Claimed.]
- Moses Angel and his Jewish Free School doing relief work in London (possibly alongside Charles Spurgeon).
- Stories set in Tibet.
- Stories set in Japan. [One accepted.]
- Stories set in Mongolia.
- A story set in the Arctic Circle or northern Canada with Inuit (and other) peoples dealing with this invasion. How well do the Invaders adapt to the cold?
What We’re Looking for in Submissions
- A complete, well-structured story.
- Competent characters acting in competent ways. Challenge the characters by putting them in situations where their competency doesn’t necessarily apply (easy to do in a Martian invasion), forcing them to work out a creative solution. Don’t let anyone act the fool for convenience.
- Creative uses of the Martian war-machines, as well as stories featuring their less-explored technology.
- Set during the Martian invasion of June, 1896 (as described in H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds).
What We Don’t Want
That’s the big one. Nothing will make us pass on a story faster than historical inaccuracy. We’re willing to work with authors on such things as culture, clothing, food, and general language. The background history of a story is easiest to fix, and we’ll love talking about it with you.
But inaccurate attitudes are a sort of historical inaccuracy that will make us immediately pass on a story. This often leaves stories unfixable.
Bigotry is not the default of history. While you are welcome to explore such things, keep in mind, this should be treated meaningfully rather than as extraneous, exploitative, or a given. Presenting all—or the majority of—your characters as racist, sexist, or the like is one of the fastest ways to the reject pile. We’re far more interested in nuanced portrayals of people than stock types.
People in the 1890s held a wide variety of opinions. Reflecting this, instead of repeating the same stock figures, massively increases your chance of acceptance.
The following will be immediately rejected:
- Jack the Ripper.
- Victorian governments or scientists developing a nuclear bomb or WMDs.
- Warfare waged against Mars itself.
- The Martian invasion leading into an alternate history scenario—or alternate history scenarios themselves.
- Killing or significantly altering the lives of historical figures.
- H.G. Wells-focused stories (unless requested).
- A murder covered-up by the Invasion’s chaos.
Common Historical Errors to Avoid
- Corsets were not uncomfortable, or dangerously binding.
- The Victorian English were not deeply repressed, and most “Victorian sexuality” commentary has no basis in reality (what does, only applied to upper-class Americans in New England). Most jokes about “Victorian sexuality”—such as skirts on piano legs and the insistence on the word “limbs”—were started by the English, about Americans.
Payment: 5% of the gross profit will be paid for each accepted story. These payments will be issued to you at quarterly intervals. Stories under 1,500 words will only receive 4% of the gross profit.
Rights: First World Digital and Print.
Deadline: January 20th, 2019
Word Count: 4,000-20,000
How to Submit your Story:
- All stories should be sent, as an attachment, to email@example.com.
- The file must be formatted in .doc or .docx.
- The interior of the document must be in double spaced Times New Roman (12 point font).
- Indents must be placed through your system’s Paragraph function; do not set indents by pressing tab or space. If you already have tabbed or spaced indents, please remove them first. Please use full em dashes (—).
- At the top of your document, please include William Shunn’s submission header.
- Tell us a bit about yourself in the body of your email. Don’t stress this, it won’t make or break your submission. Please include your word count and bio.
- Place the collection you’re submitting to, your name, and your story title in the subject line of your email. For example, “War of the Worlds: Absolute War / H.G. Wells / The Crystal Egg”
Special Thanks to Sophie Iles for the Banner Art (http://www.sophieiles.co.uk/)
Download the War of the Worlds: Absoulte War Guidelines in PDF
The PDF contains extra information about the Martians and their technology from H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, to assist authors as an at-hand guide.
Fascinating premise. I’ll need to reread Wells before even considering it.
I look forward to seeing what you might come up with!
I currently have a 100 word drabble about the WoW which I could use as a start point for a bigger piece, but might also work on it’s own. I’d be willing to let you use it for free. And I include it here.
If I take it to a fuller piece it would be much less graphic
[David Rae’s “Occupation” removed from comment to protect his rights as an author.]
Thank you very much, but we’re looking for stories which much more closely resemble Wells’ Invasion. In the future, please make submissions to the email address listed above.