Machine of Death This page last updated 2/26/07.

On this page we've tried to address some common questions people have asked about the project. If you have additional questions not answered here, please address them to info at machineofdeath dot net and we will do our best to answer them promptly.

Do you accept previously-written material?

Yes, we're happy to read and consider it, but it has to fit the theme! It can't be about death prediction in general - it has to feature the titular machine in some way.
What's the machine called? Can I make up details or backstory about it? How consistent do I have to be with the world? (REVISED)
There's no 'official' name. We've heard it called "Mortality Prediction Device" or simply "the machine" or any number of euphemisms. So please take the initiative and fill in the details -- we are very interested in stories that take the basic premise and flesh it out in novel and creative ways! The only hard-and-fast rule is that the machine is always, somehow, right.

Whenever there's a question of, "I have a great idea, but I'm not sure if it's in line with what they're looking for," you can query us if you like, but more often than not we'll say "Go for it!" Publishing good stories that explore this theme and shine light into all the various corners of this world is our sole concern. Inter-story continuity and concerns like that are secondary, and can be worked out later if we like your story.

The best way to know if your story matches what we're looking for is to read this page, the guidelines page, and the Approaches to Avoid page, and then be as creative as you possibly can. Assume that all the easy approaches have already been done, and show us something a little more unusual or clever or interesting.
Can you give me a better idea of how long submissions should be? It says "very short" and "very long" submissions will still be considered, but what does that mean?
By "very short" we mean "flash fiction" - that is, something that runs less than 1,000 words. By "very long" we mean something that verges on novella length - say, 10,000-12,000 words. We will consider those pieces as well and possibly print a few, but we are really looking for good short stories. Probably most of the submissions will fall somewhere between 2,000 and 6,000 words (or 5 to 20 pages if you prefer).

But of course, the best guidelines to follow on how long your story should be is to make it as long as it needs to be - but no longer!
How much background will be explained in the editorial/intro to the anthology? In other words, does the individual writer need to info-dump about the concept in the story, or is it something the reader will already know about? (REVISED)
The descriptive passage at the head of is the introduction to the book. So you can assume that anything already written in the introduction will be known to your reader. It isn't necessary to explain that the machine is always right, or that it uses a blood test, or that it is cheap and common. The only time you will NEED to explain anything is if you are deviating from what is described in the introduction (e.g., maybe the machines aren't so common or inexpensive in the setting you've chosen) or if you are adding any information of your own about how the machine works or what it looks like and so on.

If you have a description of the machine that is funny or creative or evocative or symbolic, then by all means include it! But otherwise you can treat the machine just like you would a telephone or a stove -- that is, you can talk about it casually without feeling the need to tell people what it is.
Do submissions have to be prose, or can they be in other formats?
We are thrilled to consider any submission that we can read! It can be prose, poetry, a play, a comic, an illustration, anything. If it has words, though, they should be in English - that's the only rule. And it would be helpful if graphic submissions were in a format that can be easily reproduced in black & white on a 6" x 9" page.
Are submissions really open to anyone?
Yes, anyone, from any country! If you 're outside of the U.S., though, it'd be nice if you're in a country that uses PayPal (so you can get paid). And your submission should be in English.
Who owns the rights to my story? Am I selling you the rights?
No! You retain all the rights. We just license it for publication. You are free to re-sell your story, option it for a movie, make a million bucks from it. We just want to put it in the book.
What about all this Creative Commons stuff? Can other people distribute and re-sell my work?
NOT resell! The particular Creative Commons license is very specific about what terms are allowed. The idea here is to get the text of the book into as many hands as possible, so that more people read your work (and thus, it's been shown, buy the physical book). Those people are then free to forward the PDF to others, or to make derivative works (for example, someone could set your poem to music, or a film student could adapt your story into a short film, or someone could make a comic book from your story). However - and this is important! - the license stipulates that for any derivative use, your name must always remain attached to the work, and that the results must stay under the same CC license (so the song, film, or comic in the example cannot ever be sold and must be free for others to modify in the same way).

Same principle for any eventual audiobook version - if we end up making an audiobook, it will be a free podcast that people can download, set to music, etc. but it cannot be re-sold and it cannot have the authors' names removed.

If Spielberg happens across the PDF and says, "Man, I'd love to make this particular story into a movie, as a commercial venture," that's not allowed under the terms of the license and he'd have to buy the rights from you, the author.

And, of course, individual contributors to the anthology are free to opt-out of having their work included in the PDF and/or audiobook without prejudice, if they'd rather only be in the printed volume.
Who's making money here?
We are investing our own money into this project! Meanwhile, we're still fleshing out the logistical details, but if it all works out, the idea is this: The book will be available on Amazon for anyone to buy at its regular retail price. The profits from those sales go to us as publishers (more on that in a second). However, we will also send the contributors a special link that will allow them to buy copies of the book directly from the printer without the retail markup. You can then sell those copies at whatever price you like, give them as gifts, autograph them, do whatever - any money you make you can keep.

The profits that we make from Amazon sales of the book will go directly towards two things and two things only: First, reimbursing our upfront costs, e.g. the payments to the authors. Then, if we ever make more money than we put in, the monies will go towards expenses such as the cost of comp copies for reviewers and press; flyers and promotional items (Ryan and David both exhibit regularly at comics and small press conventions); advertising; seed money for a second volume; etc.
Why do you need my phone number?
In all cases, we will attempt to contact accepted authors via email because it is easier for everyone. But, email addresses are not 100% reliable - they get shut down, clogged with spam, hacked, or passwords are forgotten. Then there's always the issue of legitimate emails getting shunted into a spam folder. (And sometimes people even find themselves involuntarily lacking Internet access.) The phone number, then, is simply something we'll use to get in touch with people if email fails.
The introduction says the machine "had been invented a few years ago." Does this mean that all the stories should take place within a few years of the machine's invention? (NEW)
Feel free to set your story anywhere you like along the timeline of the machine's existence, however you imagine it. Your story can be about the very first machine, or it can be about a world in which the machine has been common for decades. Or anywhere in between.
More questions? Ask away: info at machineofdeath dot net

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