Category ArchiveVol2 Updates

Vol2 Updates 17 Apr 2012 11:55 pm by David !

MOD 2: The Table of Contents

Last year, submissions closed for Machine of Death Volume 2 with 1,958 stories having been received for consideration. We received at least one story from every continent including Antarctica (44 46 distinct countries in all), and from at least 1,705 distinct writers.

The total breakdown of writers by country — that we could identify using telephone area codes or info in the cover letter — is below. (Many of these writers submitted more than one story.)

1179 USA 70% of total
151 Canada 9% of total
144 UK 9%
75 Australia 4%
15 Germany 1%
14 Ireland 1%
12 New Zealand 1%
8 Brazil 0%
7 South Africa 0%
6 India, Sweden
5 South Korea
4 Netherlands
3 Greece, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Romania
2 Austria, China, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Panama, Singapore, Switzerland
1 Afghanistan, Argentina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Croatia, Egypt, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, UAE

Illustration Submissions

We also received 151 art portfolio submissions from 12 countries. (Broken down in more detail here.) The illustrations in Volume 2 will be commissioned from a combination of: artists who submitted to us; repeat illustrators from Volume 1; and artists known to us personally.

In addition, we are commissioning a handful of MOD comic strips that we hope to include in the book itself. Among the artists already engaged for this task are KC Green (of Gunshow and “HIV INFECTION…”) and Anthony Clark (of Nedroid).

One of the challenges of choosing artists from among the many, many striking and wonderful portfolios submitted to us was matching an artist’s style to the tone and content of the stories we know will be in the book. Many talented artists were necessarily passed over (though we are keeping all portfolios on file for future projects). But among the artists who will be creating new work for MOD2 are:

Shari Chankhamma

Tony Cliff (follow that link and read his comic, guys, it’s great)

Becky Dreistadt (also great)

Alice Duke (guys these are ALL great)

Claire Hummel

Indigo Kelleigh

Lissa Treiman

And we’ll be announcing more names over time. The book will contain 32 stories, so there are slots yet to fill.

The MOD 2 Stories

For more on our decision-making process, you can re-read our writeup when we announced the lineup for Volume 1 — all of the same points hold true. We found ourselves drawn to novel ideas, well-written prose, and relatable characters.

In addition, because of the volume of submissions, more unusual concepts tended to stand out. Our list of “stories we like parts of” is hundreds long, so usually it was the ability of the writer to conclude the story effectively that was the tipping point. Great opening paragraphs were common (which was exciting!) but what really got us going was a great conclusion as well. Wrapping things up in a satisfying way is hard to do, and it was a less common find.

Still, we actually ended up buying more stories than we could fit into one book — some that were just too good to let get away, whether or not we thought we could fit them in. Sadly, we can’t cram all of them into this particular volume, but we do expect they will see print soon in a different form. If we bought your story and it’s not listed here, we have different plans for it.

The stories that will be in Volume 2 proper are:

*Also a contributor to MOD Volume 1.

• “BLUNT FORCE TRAUMA DELIVERED BY SPOUSE,” by Liz Argall. A woman must decide whether she believes that her prediction has the power to shape her destiny.

• “LAZARUS REACTOR FISSION SEQUENCE,” by Tom Francis*. The trials of a supervillain’s henchman tasked with dispatching government spies in the manner of their prediction.

• “YOUR CHOICE,” by Richard Salter. An interactive story allowing the reader to choose the direction of the narrative!


• “TWO ONE SIX,” by Marleigh Norton. A woman struggles to unravel the relevance of her numerical prediction.

• “APITOXIN,” by John Takis. Sherlock Holmes is called to investigate the case of a strange device implicated in a murder plot.

• “CONFLAGRATION,” by D.L.E. Roger. A prediction statistical analyst comes to a startling conclusion about the future of civilization.

• “DROWNING BURNING FALLING FLYING,” by Grace Seybold. The machine has a different effect upon an alien race visiting Earth.

• “EXECUTION BY BEHEADING,” by Chandler Kaiden. Kids turn to desperate measures to add to their collection of “cod cards.”

• “SCREAMING, CRYING, ALONE AND AFRAID,” by Daliso Chaponda*. A Johannesburg police detective stalks a serial killer with the aid of a witch doctor.

• “ROCK AND ROLL,” by Toby W. Rush. Teenage girls spark a rivalry when given the chance to meet their favorite pop star backstage.

• “MACHINE OF DEATH,” by Karen Stay Ahlstrom. A strange device is unveiled at a party.

• “TETRAPOD,” by Rebecca Black. An expat in Japan clings to an attraction to a fellow English teacher in a sea of foreignness.

• “OLD AGE, SURROUNDED BY LOVED ONES,” by ‘Nathan Burgoine. An identical twin is tested, and receives two prediction slips at once — her own and her (prediction-abstaining) sister’s.

• “IN SLEEP,” by Ren Warom. A future/cyberpunk tale of a singer whose prediction is somehow changed for one far more horrible.

• “MADE INTO DELICIOUS CHEESEBURGER,” by Sarah Pavis. The tale of a jealous cow.

• “IN BATTLE, ALONE AND SOON FORGOTTEN,” by Ed Turner. Every orc in history has received the title prediction — until now.

• “FURNACE,” by Erika Hammerschmidt. Future archaeologists must puzzle out what the MOD is and what it was used for.

• “SHIV SENA RIOT,” by Ryan Estrada. An MOD technical-support call center representative in India faces the chance to get her own prediction for the very first time.

• “ZEPHYR,” by George Page III. Space marines form into fighting units coordinated by the times of their impending deaths.

• “LA MORT D’UN ROTURIER,” by Martin Livings. The winds of change begin to stir in pre-Revolution France.

• “MEAT EATER,” by John* & Bill Chernega. An official U.S. Government pamphlet prepared for your young child’s first death prediction!

• “NATURAL CAUSES,” by Rhiannon Kelly. A Machine peddler comes to town, and bares secrets that most would rather stay hidden.

• “OLD AGE,” by Brigita Orel. A quiet story of a loving relationship.

• “PEACEFULLY,” by M.J. Leitch. In a post-zombie world, everybody gets one of only two predictions: PEACEFULLY or VIOLENTLY.

• “BLUE FEVER,” by Ada Hoffmann. The official royal singer must compose a ‘deathsong’ for a visiting dignitary.

• “NOT APPLICABLE,” by Kyle Schoenfeld. As a dictator rises to power, more and more people worldwide begin to receive the titular prediction.

• “CECILE,” by Hollan Lane. A woman very much in love struggles with the possibility that her lover will be her death.

We’re very proud of the scope and variety of this collection of stories. Like Volume 1, it’s diverse in tone and subject matter, but this time, many of the stories take for granted a certain familiarity with the MOD concept and brush past the “Intro to MOD 101” type stuff into more creative, more unexpected, or more subversive territory.

We’re also quite proud of the diversity of our writers. For at least six, this is their very first fiction sale. Others are old pros. Gord Sellar was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2009; Rhiannon Kelly is still in high school. It’s a great spread.

In addition, the book will contain the following stories by the three of us:

• “LAKE TITICACA,” by M. Bennardo. Kids dare each other to visit the only machine in town — in the back of Mr. Szyzylly’s rusty old arcade.

• “MONSTERS FROM THE DEEP,” by David Malki ! Nobody knows where the machines came from — or why they are suddenly issuing more and more violent predictions.

• “CANCER,” by Ryan North. A terminal patient discovers that her prediction may not be as straightforward as it seems at first.

At this point we expect the book to be around 5-10% longer than the first volume. Also: LIKE TWICE AS GOOD, FOR SERIOUS

What’s next?

After a period of consideration and discussion among ourselves and with professional colleagues, we have decided to shop the manuscript to publishers. Knowing what we know now — how we want to release this book, and what we could stand to gain or lose from doing it ourselves like we did the last one — we’re going into this with our eyes as wide open as we can manage, with the power to say “no” to any deal that doesn’t make sense for us, or doesn’t treat you, the reader, with the respect and consideration you deserve.

But mainstream book publishing is in a tough spot, these days. Things just keep getting harder to do the way they’ve always been done. Some people in the industry have told us that we’re just the kind of project they need to shake things up. So if it makes sense, we’ll have those conversations.

What that further means, though, is that right now we can’t put a date on the release of the book. If a publisher buys it, it’ll probably be out next year sometime. But if they don’t? We’re going to try and have it out this fall. I personally think the World Science Fiction Convention in August would be a nice occasion to make a debut. But we can’t say anything for certain just yet.

As always, various other ideas and projects are simmering away, and we continue to thank you for your continued support. So many of you have come up to us at conventions to say you’ve enjoyed the book, or that you’ve recommended it to your friends, or just to talk it up loudly within earshot of strangers — thank you so much for that! That latter thing is 100% true and has absolutely sold books right in front of me, I’ve seen it happen.

We’re thrilled to have reached so many people so far. But, you know. There’s 300 million people in the US alone that haven’t read it yet. Our work’s still cut out for us!

Thanks again, guys. More info to come on release dates as the dust settles.

Oh, and the title!

Previously we announced the title to Volume 2 as You Can’t Shoot the Cancer Squad: Tales of the Infallible, Inscrutable, Inevitable Machine of Death. Still, we’re not quite settled on it (and of course any eventual publisher may have a say in the matter as well).

The trick is that we don’t want to just slap a number — “Machine of Death 2” — on it, because we want people to pick it up even if they haven’t read the first one. So a phrase, or a Machine of Death: Subtitle format, seems like it could be the right tack. My favorite runner-up so far is something along the lines of You’ll Live Forever (And Other Lies): Tales of the Machine of Death.

But you know what? We need some help. Leave us comments with your title suggestions!

Events &Vol2 Updates 09 Dec 2011 07:29 pm by David !

MOD2 Samplers free from TopatoCo!

We had a great time at the Super-Stupendous Machine of Death Magic & Variety Show! If you missed it, the livestream is archived here. (We’ll be posting some better-quality video over time.)

Thanks to master magician Pop Haydn for a great evening of entertainment!

And thanks to you folks who attended, as well — we collected nearly 60 pounds of food that was donated to Los Angeles’ Westside Food Bank.

We also played a game with Bill Chernega (on the left, with MOD1 illustrators Kris Straub and Kevin McShane). Bill is co-author of the story “MEAT EATER,” which will be in MOD2.

We’re still waiting to hear back from a few folks about their contributions to MOD2, but we will of course post much more about that book, and those stories, when we can. Illustrators who submitted portfolios — we’re still reviewing that material as well, and will be in touch with some of you soon.

We gave out MOD2 Sampler Booklets at the show, but even if you weren’t there, you can get your hands on one too! While supplies last, all copies of Machine of Death that ship from TopatoCo will come with a free sampler booklet included. It contains two brand-new stories from MOD2 as well as a handy primer to the concept (so it’s good for new readers too). Thinking of giving a copy of MOD as a gift? If you pick it up from TopatoCo, you’ll get the sampler free!

Here’s a quick review of some of the other fine things in our TopatoCo store:

So Many Deaths shirt

MOD Emblem Shirt

I Know How I Will Die shirt

Fine gifts for any thinking creature this holiday season! Thanks so much for your support!

Events &Vol2 Updates 14 Nov 2011 02:02 am by David !

Magic show THIS WEEK! Plus updates

These pictures are of the press kit for the upcoming Italian version of MOD1, La Macchina della Morte! The exclamation point is not in the title of the book, that is just me being excited. The Italians are going all-out with a promotional blitz that includes custom bookmarks inserted into other books in stores, point-of-purchase ads and displays, media coverage in the Italian press, even some sort of app. It’s incredibly exciting to watch a large publisher’s promotional machine swing into action on our behalf. I hope the book does well in Italy when it comes out next year! Tell all your friends in Italy to buy a copy!

Oh and if you have friends in Germany, tell them to buy one too, when the German edition comes out in January.

Oh and if you have friends in Spain, tell them to buy one of the Spanish versions too.

If you have friends in France, you might as well tell them too.

Ditto for all your friends in Croatia, Korea, Japan, and Israel.

That’s right — there will be eight different foreign editions of MOD1 coming out next year across the world, and we are just pleased as punch! I hope all of the covers will be as cool as that flowery skull design.

We’ll be reading from the Italian press kit (and doing many other things) at the Super-Stupendous Magic & Variety Show in Los Angeles this very week! It’s on Thursday night, the 17th, 8pm at the Fake Gallery in Hollywood (4319 Melrose Ave, 90004). Admission is free. Drinks and snacks will be served. I will be there in person along with MOD illustrators Kris Straub and Kevin McShane, and Ryan North will be there via Skype (for you to chat with!). We have a Facebook invite too. There’ll be magic. Music. Games. Talking — including the official public announcement of the stories that will comprise MOD2. If you can’t come, watch the livestream right here on the blog. So excited about this.

I’m excited to see a magic show, sure. But just as much, I’m excited to say “I want to do something fun. What’s stopping me? I guess…NOTHING” and then I just put on a dang show. I really hope you can come be a part of it.

If you have not heard from us regarding your MOD2 submission

Please contact us right away. All emails should have gone out by now. Some are bouncing back. We do what we can.

Regarding the illustrations

Here is some demographic information on the illustrator submissions! There were 151 valid portfolio submissions in all. 85 were from men and 66 were from women, for a % split of 56/44 — it’s super great to see it be that close.

110 submissions (72.8%) came from the US
18 submissions (11.9%) came from Canada
9 submissions (6.0%) came from the UK

We also had:

Australia: 4
Greece: 3
Ireland: 1
Hong Kong: 1
China: 1
Indonesia: 1
Thailand: 1
Sweden: 1
New Zealand: 1

for a total of 12 countries and 4 continents represented. Not bad!

We will be contacting the artists we wish to hire soon. We will not be contacting the ones we don’t need for MOD2, but we will be keeping all info on file for any future projects.

Future projects

What of them? Thanks for your great suggestions in the comments to the last post. We’re taking all options under advisement, although we are definitely keeping MOD2 at the forefront of our attention right at the moment. We still have to edit the stories, commission the illustrations, and put the book together, which is a big job. But we are definitely carefully considering possible next steps as well. So keep the ideas coming!

Evidence Photo Contest Winners

Will be announced this week.

An MOD subreddit

Is now a thing.

We leave you with

Tiffany showing a little team spirit. MOD apparel is available in our TopatoCo shop.

Vol2 Updates 04 Nov 2011 11:42 pm by David !

Almost done.

Most of you who submitted stories to MOD2 should have by now received an email from us. There are still a handful that have yet to go out, as we correct typos in email addresses and so on, but they should all be sent soon. If you have not heard from us by Tuesday November 8, please contact us with the title of your story and the email address you used to submit. With 2,000 emails to send, it’s possible a few got missed, for which we apologize. Thanks for your patience!

Okay, so what now?

Matt will be at the Minneapolis Indie Expo this weekend along with MOD1 artist Katie Sekelsky and (on Saturday morning only) MOD1 author John Chernega! Stop by, say hello, pick up a book or bring yours to get signed, and grab one of our free MOD2 sampler booklets!

Some folks have been posting their stories online. If you’d like to read some of the stories we couldn’t fit in the book, you can search the #MachineofDeath hashtag on Twitter, or one enterprising reader has also set up There’s also a list growing here at Tree Lobsters.

The official title and full table of contents will be announced at our Super-Stupendous Magic & Variety Show in Los Angeles on November 17. It’s a free evening of entertainment we’re putting on as a special “thank you” to celebrate a year of MOD — and you’re invited! But even if you can’t make it to L.A., you’ll be able to watch a live stream right here on the site.

And what’s next? We’ve made no secret of the fact that we want to publish more of your stories. We’re going to focus hard on MOD2 for now, but then what? More books? Ebooks? A podcast magazine? There are lots of directions we could go, and we have lots of crazy ideas, but we’d like to hear yours too. What would you like to see? (Remember that we have to, and want to, buy the stories that we publish — so “put ’em all on a blog!” is not necessarily the most viable option.) But leave a comment with your thoughts!

That’s it for now. Thanks, everyone. What a crazy year this has been. Come on, let’s do it all again.

Vol2 Updates 31 Oct 2011 08:29 am by Matthew

Some clarifications on what to expect

A little while ago, David put up a quick update about where we are with our story decisions. There weren’t a whole lot of details in the post, which caused some folks to speculate about what’s going on. David is recovering from the post-convention haze of World Fantasy Con, so I figured I’d fill in some of the gaps.

Expect a response in the next week. We hope to email everybody over the next several days — the sooner, the better. I expect that the bulk of emails will go out by Friday, but some decisions may take just a little bit longer.

Some folks have been speculating that it’s taking us longer to reply because we’re writing personal responses to everybody. This would be an amazing thing to do! But sadly, that’s not what’s causing the delay. You should expect to get a form response. We are trying to add a little extra detail to some of the form responses, but unfortunately none of them will really be personalized.

At this time, we are still making decisions. Some people were speculating that everybody who’s been accepted has already been contacted. This isn’t true. We are still making final decisions and sending out acceptances. This is the part that’s taking a while, so there’s no reason to assume that the response is one way or another until you actually hear from us.

What’s taking so long anyway? There are a few things that are contributing to the delay, but mostly it’s because we have so many great stories to pick from. Here’s a little insight into what we’ve been doing for the past few months.

1. First, we’ve read your stories! We laughed, we cried, we were delighted. But there were so many that not all of us were able to read every single one. I’m still catching up on a few stories that Ryan and David have marked as their favorites but which I haven’t read yet. They are both also doing the same. So there is a small amount of second and third reading being done, but luckily the list of contenders is (by this time) pretty manageable.

2. Second, even for the hundreds of stories that all three of us have read, we don’t always agree. In fact, we often disagree. Imagine if you and two of your friends had to take a list of 2,000 movies and agree on which 30 were the best. You’d probably easily agree on broadly which ones you liked… But when it got down to the nitty gritty of the top 1%, your different tastes would come out. So this is what we’re doing right now: arguing about which of the stories we like are the absolute best ones. Just think, at this moment, one of us may be making a passionate argument in favor of your story. This is actually happening!

3. Finally, in addition to picking the best stories, we have to consider variety too. There’s another dimension to our decision-making, which is that we want a broad range of stories in the book — different genres, different viewpoints, different settings. So we find ourselves sometimes diving back into the pile of contenders to pick out stories that have qualities that may be otherwise underrepresented. This balancing act is a pretty complicated calculus, and it’s taking longer than we thought.

Whew! So that’s what’s going on with us. One of the things that this experience has taught me is that a rejection from a publication doesn’t always mean that your story isn’t good. A book edited solely by Ryan would be different from a book edited solely by David or a book edited solely by me. Different editors love different kinds of stories — just like different readers love different kinds of stories. Because that’s what we really are: we’re readers.

When we publish the table of contents for volume two, it’s not going to be a list of the “best” stories out of the 2,000 submissions we got. It’s going to be a list of about 30 stories that we think make a great book together — a book that we’re going to love reading and we hope other people will love reading too. For many, many, many stories that we don’t accept, there is some other hypothetical book that we decided not to publish that they would be perfect for. So keep that in mind if we decide not to go with your story.

Why don’t you publish all those other hypothetical books too? One thing at a time! We’ve talked about whether there’s something else we can do with some of the stories that won’t fit into volume two, but we haven’t made any decisions yet. We have some fun ideas, but first we have to finish what we’re working on now.

We also don’t want people to get sick of Machine of Death. That’s why we’re not publishing a book with 200 stories in it. (Also, it would be super expensive.) But if readers keep clamoring for more and more stories, then we certainly have a lot of material we can consider again. But this is all in the distant future of six to twelve months from now, and we may have a whole new set of ideas in that time. We want to keep doing awesome stuff whenever we can, but we don’t know exactly what shape it will take.

Anyway, thanks again to everybody who submitted. We’ll be contacting you as quickly as we can with the results!

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