Not coming soon to a bookstore near you

Pocket Books, publishers of the Star Trek novels, among other things, sponsor a writing contest every year–the Strange New Worlds anthologies which publish Star Trek fiction by previously unpublished authors. The first such anthology was published in 1998, the fifth earlier this year, and Pocket is currently accepting entries for the sixth contest, winners to be published next spring. The rules of the contest are, simply, these: write a short story, up to 7500 words, using the Star Trek characters, doing nothing to the characters that Paramount wouldn’t approve of. The resulting stories have ranged from interesting character pieces to fanwank rubbish, with most falling somewhere in the middle.

Interestingly, Enterprise, the new series, debuted a mere five days before the deadline for the fifth contest. Enterprise was represented in the fifth anthology by three stories. Deep Space Nine, which debuted in 1993 and saw its final episode in 1999, was represented in the same anthology by one story. I find it difficult to believe that Enterprise received three times as many submissions in five days as Deep Space Nine did in the five months that Pocket accepted submissions.

This year I’m writing a story for submission. Actually, I’ve already mailed one entry off, am finishing work on a second, and plan to write a third by the October 1st submission deadline.

Let’s discuss the entry I’ve submitted. Written, mailed off this past Monday.

Picture for a moment a young Wesley Crusher. He’s a precocious sort, prone to wandering around the USS Enterprise-D, get into all sorts of trouble, etc. But he’s merely a passenger aboard the Enterprise, this is early first season Next Generation, he hasn’t been made an Acting Ensign yet.

Suddenly, Wesley saves the ship, and Picard rewards him by dubbing him “Acting Ensign.” Wesley gets to do all sorts of things that the regular crew would do, people who have had advanced training, people who have suffered through Starfleet Academy. People who, basically, have a clue.

Wesley, however, is merely a gawky teenager who has no training, hasn’t been to the Academy.

Picard lets Wesley fly the ship. It’s his duty station.

What happened to the person that Wesley displaced? What happened to the person that went to the Academy and learned all about interstellar navigation, who worked his way up through the Academy, served on ships other than the Enterprise and earned his position through pluck and skill? How might he feel about young Mister Crusher?

Imagine all that. In one hundred words.

There’s a fictive form called the drabble. It’s a story of one hundred words precisely. No more, no less. Beginning, middle, end, one hundred words.

I harbor no doubts that many stories are disqualified each year from Strange New Worlds for reasons of length; the rules are specific, the story cannot be longer than 7500 words. But there’s no corresponding rule for brevity. So why not one hundred words?

I don’t expect the story to win. I would, frankly, be greatly shocked. But simply for the cachet of being able to say that I submitted a drabble to the Strange New Worlds contest, that makes the whole experience worthwhile.

More about the other stories as they reach completion.

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