Skip down to story submission
Every editor has to walk a fine line between "artistic freedom" and
"quality control." It can be tough to tell someone that their story
doesn't "fit in" with existing works, or that it needs to be polished a
little bit more before being ready for publication. As such, I'm going to
try to list my standards ahead of time, to keep the process as smooth as
possible for everyone involved.
(Of course, I can't -- and don't want to -- stop someone from writing
just because they're not "following the laws." You can write anything you
darn well want. Bear in mind, though, that if you ignore the rules, your
story definitely won't be canon, and I may give you long mournful looks or
So, if you want to write a story in the Tomorrowlands universe, please
read the rest of the page carefully. Some guidelines are there to limit
your artistic freedom, yes, because we all have to agree on a set of rules
to run a shared world by. But some guidelines are just restating what
should be obvious; and some are there to help you sharpen your ideas of
the world, suggest avenues to explore, or improve your writing -- so don't
be intimidated by the length of the lists!
The following guidelines have nothing to do with Tomorrowlands
specifically; these are the (condensed) rules that come up in every
"shared world" writing situation. If you're curious about them, drop me a
line, or ask a member of your local writer's group.
- Don't write anything that could get you (or me) arrested. This
means child pornography, credible threats of violence against real-world
targets, etc. Also, I may reject any story I find personally revolting --
although, with my standards, this tends to mean things on the order of
"positive depictions of rape" or "unequivocal support of hate crimes".
- Respect the canon. For example, the New Year's Flyby happened
in New York on New Year's Eve, 1996; don't have people act as if the Flyby
never occurred. There wasn't a second one in Seattle (or anywhere else
for that matter); so don't have any dragons buzz the Space Needle on
December 31, 1996.
I plan to eventually establish an "official" timeline (of not just the
events I describe, but also major happenings from other people's stories).
Until then, I'm probably the only person who knows all of what's going on,
so ask me. Lots, if necessary.
- Respect other people's characters. Okay, maybe Dennis Redwing is
actually a close personal friend of your main character, Bob. But maybe
he isn't. That's for me to say, not you. Consult with the character's
"owner" if you want to use someone's character in more than just passing.
- No making real-life people into characters. This is more of a
copyright issue than anything else; someone's "real self" is just as much
their property as their "characters" would be. Plus, it's a quick way to
get in trouble if that person reads the story and doesn't like what you've
done with them.
- No powergaming. No "unblockable death attacks" or "I'm a
reincarnated god" or "have three wishes for anything" or "I'll hold off
that tank battalion while you guys steal the gem" or "well, yes, you
killed me, but I just made myself a new body". First of all, it would be
stopped by the inbuilt checks and balances of the world (or other mages);
read more about this in the next section. Secondly, it's in very poor
This list describes the constraints specific to the Tomorrowlands
universe. Some of these are a consequence of the way the world works;
some of them are a consequence of my personal expectations. They are all
- No self-insertion. Yes, I know this is a world based on Earth, so
logically we all should exist there. But self-insertion constrains the
writer greatly, makes it more difficult to capture an audience, and at
best just leads to an awkward story all around. Please, at least make an
alter ego with a different name, or preferably a different character
entirely. Also, read the disclaimer to find
out why I'm disallowing this. Read the
disclaimer, and did I mention read the
- No cross-migration of characters from/to other worlds.
Tomorrowlands is about people exploring their own world; dimension-jumpers
have plenty of other places to go, and Tomorrowlands inhabitants should
have far more pressing issues than visiting Pern. (Of course, crossovers
are inevitable; I'm not saying don't write them, I'm just saying they
won't be canon.)
- No alien invasions, nuclear exchanges (or threats thereof), or other
world-endangering occurrences. See next rule.
- For that matter, no evil overlords, mad scientists, or secret
conspiracies of mages out to take over the world. The world of
Tomorrowlands has a checks and balances system that keeps such things from
building to threatening levels. I don't want to reveal too much in
advance about this system, but you'll see. (For your reference, the level
at which such threats are addressed is probably about equal to "World
- Follow the rules of magic and therianthropy. I've written an essay
on Tomorrowlands therianthrope classification, which should provide all
the necessary guidelines for the latter. As for the former: Magic is all
about willpower changing reality; it can be done in damn near any way you
want, as long as that's the basic principle. (No saying that magic ONLY
works if you speak in rhymes, or whatever. Your character may
believe that, or do it that way because it lends focus to his belief --
but other people won't, and magic will still work for them, albeit with
Countermagic is basically a flat-out contest of will, and as a rule it's
harder to prevent something from happening than it is to get it to happen;
creativity becomes key in a battle of wills, and it's a lot easier to be
creative on the offensive. Necromancy is covered below.
- No undead. When people die, their spirits go off Elsewhere, for
reincarnation, or eternal reward, or whatever. Channelling the recently
dead is about as far as necromancy can take you; there's no real way to
"trap" a spirit into the world. If you're desperate, you can go so far as
to animate skeletons or corpses with magic, but they're just that:
magically animated bones or bodies. They're not tortured souls screaming
for release. They don't remember their past lives or have any volition of
their own. They're constructs.
This rule means, by extension, no vampires. Sorry. If you have a
burning need for a vampiric character, make something that looks like a
vampire, drinks blood, and has weird cellular processes that break down in
sunlight; it'll be a zooanthrope, it'll be mortal, and it'll be alive, but
people will call it a vampire. (Plus, a bullet to the head will kill it
as dead as a wooden stake.)
I'm trying to keep the rules simple; if you follow the above, you're
golden. The following list is good to think about, though, as you're
working on that first story.
And, finally, a few tidbits of information about the world that might
otherwise not be apparent:
- Visit the Tomorrowlands forum. I
have a discussion
board set up for the sole purpose of talking about Tomorrowlands
fiction. It's a great place to network with other writers, get answers to
your world questions, and refine your ideas.
- It would be very, very good to explore non-American events. (They
say to "write what you know"; I'm American myself, and haven't travelled
much, so my contributions to the canon are very U.S.-centric.) In fact,
the history as currently written basically ignores world consequences of
therianthropy, in favor of the American timeline; go wild with the rest of
the world, as long as you're not making anything happen before December
- You are NOT required to keep stories "G" rated. Or "PG" rated, or
even for that matter "R". I may have to hide explicit stories behind a
layer of age verification, but I have no personal problem with posting
- Spellcheck, spellcheck, spellcheck! I can't tell you how much
difference this singlehandedly makes to a story. If you're going to write
in the first place, turn out the most professional product you can.
- Fiction is inherently fantasy. Anything can happen. Your story can
take any turn you want. However, keep in mind that plausible
fiction is good fiction; if people react in believable ways, and
events unfold without too many deus ex machinae, your story will be
far stronger for it. (Example: Sure, in the Tomorrowlands universe, they
could potentially elect a therianthrope president in Y2K, but
realistically the average person wasn't ready to vote for one at
that time. Just ask yourself, "Does this make sense given what I know of
- No casual web surfing. (I mean your characters, not you.
;)) In late 1996, BBSes were the big thing for stay-at-home
geeks, and the Internet was something you got introduced to when you left
home for college. The WWW was a fledgling, and to have an e-mail address
was fairly rare. Of course, in our world, the Net rocketed us into the
next millennium. In the Tomorrowlands, magic became the Next Big Thing,
and the 'Net got largely left by the wayside as the dominion of a
subculture and a communication tool for universities.
Cell phones are fairly common among the upper middle class, but GPSes and
the like didn't really catch on, and in general any invention introduced
between 1996 and today probably hasn't had quite as much impact on
Tomorrowlands as it did on Earth.
- Your story doesn't have to be about magic/therianthropes; however,
they've greatly shaped the world, and I'm not sure why anyone would want
to write about "mundane" happenings in Tlands. (Which isn't to say human,
non-mage characters can't be interesting! Just that a story with
no "magical" elements whatsoever is just as easily set in "the real
world" as Tomorrowlands.)
Story's written! Yay! What now?
Well, you can go about this one of two ways. First: If you have
a website, you can post the story up on your site, and drop me a line
about it. I'll link to the story from the official Tomorrowlands Stories page. Second: You
can e-mail me the finished story -- in plain-text, RTF or HTML format,
please; no Microsoft Word .docs -- via one of the addresses on my Contact page. I'll archive the story here at
Tomorrowlands, link to it from the official site, etc.
Here's the legalese. You retain all copyright to your writing and
characters. You grant me a non-exclusive right of reproduction to post
your story, and short character bios, on this site. If, in the distant
future, the universe becomes popular enough to get a book of short stories
printed (or whatever), I'll contact you and we'll negotiate separately for
printing rights and/or royalties and/or etc.
And thank you for helping to make the world of Tomorrowlands a little
bit more real!