A science-fiction short story based on plot elements by several contributors, to be written by the Rev-Master and podcast by him as a special edition of The Rev Up Review podcast in late 2006.
Send in, by email (email@example.com), or by commenting below, about 200 words describing the plot of the beginning (or once the Plot Thingy is underway, the next part -- see the update below) of a short story. I'm not looking for finished prose, just a brief outline of an idea, on the lines of:
There's this guy who's looking for a Christmas present for his girlfriend, and he goes into a shop and buys a jewelry box. When he gets it home and examines it before wrapping it up, he finds there are some blinking lights inside, that weren't there when he looked at it in the shop, along with some buttons marked in a foreign language. He presses one; there's a loud bang and a blinding flash, and when his eyesight returns he realizes he's not where he was, but in some place he's never been before. It looks like he's standing on a flat plain that recedes from him in all directions, to infinity. The ground is smooth and hard, and the sky is an even blue, cloudless. At his feet is the box. He picks it up and opens it, but the lights are dark, and pressing the buttons has no effect. As the memory of the loud bang drains from his head, he can tell that the place isn't quite silent. There's a faint hissing, swishing sound, and a coolness on his face tells him there's a light breeze. The wind is moving steadily in one direction. He decides to start walking, but which way?
That's just an example. Send me something like that, or something completely different. (If you're reading this after the first plot contribution has been announced on The Rev Up Review, you'll need to start yours at the point where the previous one left off.)
At each stage I'll read out my favourite of the contributions received, and that contributor will win a prize (winners will be invited to choose from a growing list of new SF paperbacks). The end of that plot segment is the jumping-off point for the next. In the above example the next plot contributions could say what the guy does next -- how he decides whether to walk into or away from the wind (or do something else entirely), or if a completely new plot element is introduced at that point, or...whatever. I'll choose my favourite from those received at each stage, and that will form the basis for the next.
I'm aiming for six plot segments, each of which I will pick from plot contributions received. When the plot is complete, I will write the story myself (though naturally that doesn't exclude anyone else from doing the same) and read it on a special edition of The Rev Up Review in early 2006.
That, I think, is all. If it isn't, I dare say I'll find out soon enough....
Julio's winning entry from RUR #15 (update added 2006-01-14):
The news that Earth would start importing grains and vegetables from Mars, came followed by protests, plants closing down, and financial instability. After being laid off and finding no way to support her 2 year old daughter a young woman decides to follow the "Martian dream", that is, move to Mars, find a job, get a place to live, and raise her daughter on a new planet.
Not having Martian Visas would be a problem. She arranged for her daughter to be transported by relatives who were legal Martian residents, passing her off as their own daughter. After 48 hours of their departure the young woman had not received news of their arrival on Mars, she got extremely worried and hurried to find a "transporter" that was willing to take her there the next day, the price was not reasonable, practically all her savings, but she needed to get to Mars as soon as possible and find out what had happened to her daughter.
The Time Traveler's winning entry from RUR #19 (update added 2006-03-26):
She and a young man that would also be transported that day, were placed inside hidden compartments on a medium size space utility vehicle. After the 4 hour ride to the red planet, Martian Customs agents discovered the young man under fake floor panels, arrested the transporter, and confiscated the vessel. The young woman was not found by the agents, she was now trapped, unable to move in her hiding place, inside a space vehicle that would be parked for months in space, with limited oxygen.
The woman is trapped under the floor, and the crew has vacated the ship. The ship is placed in a minimal maintenance environment. The oxygen is turned off, the heat is turned down and only the core systems are left on. The residual oxygen left on the ship is all she has to sustain her. The floor panel locks from the outside and the crew is not expected to return within a few days. Although some low-level ship personnel knows she is still hidden they are unable to help her without jeopardizing their jobs and freedom. She has a personal communication device (PCD, like a cell phone), which only reaches her daughter's PCD on Mars.
Duncan's winning entry from RUR #21 (update added 2006-04-17):
Point of view switches to the daughter who receives the phone call from her mother. After the mother explains the situation, the daughter promises to help. The daughter, who is 14 years old, has her own problems. On arriving on Mars her relatives, who were posing as her parents, are arrested for political dissent. She is placed in a detention area for an indeterminate length of time while the Mars authorities search for her records. The authorities are suspicious of the lack of records. The daughter says nothing of this to her mother when they talk via the PCDs. The daughter has befriended a strange fellow detainee who says there's no way out of the detention facility, but there is a way to jack into robotic devices that have complete mobility on Mars.
The detention facility has communal entertainment facilities, which include poorly maintained virtual 3D devices for gaming. It also has a sophisticated monitoring and control network, but the poor rates of pay for detention facility staff mean that this isn't well looked after. Thestranger has worked out a way to link these two systems together, and get out onto the network at a high level of trust. Delighted to have a girl to show off to, he gets the pair of them into a shared 3D environment and they surf out into the Martian Customs network, to find the transporter which the mother is on. The transporter has been slaved into the Customs systems, so they are soon able to get into the bridge control systems on the transporter itself.
Danny's winning entry from RUR #26 (update added 2006-08-12):
The girl calls her mother, and asks her where she is on the ship. The mother says she is in the hold, and that the air is getting very stale - but they are all worried that turning the oxygen systems back on in the ship will be noticed. Instead, the hacker starts up a small maintenancebot, which is able to move about the ship under its own power and it heads off to the hold. The bot unlocks the floor panel that the woman is under, but then the daughter and the hacker are cut off.
Unable to reach her daughter, the woman searches the ship. All primary systems are offline, including the food preparation apparatus. But she does find some emergency rations in the life pod, as well as a device that can control the ship remotely, bypassing the main computer. She accidentally activates an emergency protocol that powers up the engine and transports the ship to a smuggler haven near Deimos. Smugglers find the ship, and most of them are angry that she has given away their location. The first lieutenant however has a daughter himself, and convinces them not to kill her. They let slip that the man who was hiding on the ship with her is very important to them. While they prepare to move to Phobos, the woman tells the lieutenant about the hacker that was helping her daughter. The lieutenant is suddenly very insistent that her daughter is in danger. He knows of that hacker, and tells her that he is a paedophile.
What happens next?
The hacker, who cut the connection deliberately and disabled the daughter's PCD, tells her that he could reconnect to her mother, but first she has to do something for him. When she realizes what he wants she runs away to the guards, but they don't really care and just put her in her cell for the night. The next morning she tries to avoid the hacker, but he corners her eventually. Before he can harm her though, another prisoner, who says that the lieutenant called him and asked him to protect her, knocks him out and says that they need to find the man her mother was travelling with.
That's up to you. Email your 200-word plot outline for the next segment of the Plot Thingy to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to win a prize and see your name in...pixels!