Call for Submissions: Mormon Alternate History Anthology

NOTE: Submissions are now closed! Many thanks to all those who submitted stories.

Submissions are now open for the Mormon alternate history anthology I am editing and publishing with the help of Theric Jepson of Peculiar Pages . Details are below but the gist is: submit flash fiction (<2500 words) and short stories (3000-6000 words) that fit the theme by March 19, 2016. Payment will be a token amount ($15 for the short pieces; $25 for the longer ones), but it will be actual payment for Mormon short fiction, which is, sadly, all too rare a thing.

Before we get to all the mechanics, though, let me explain why I want to put together this particular anthology at this time:

1. It’s been 4 years since we published Monsters & Mormons. It’s time for me to put the editor of Mormon fiction hat on again.

2. About 40 of you very nice people purchased a copy of my Mormon short story collection, which means I have a little over $150 to re-invest in the Mormon lit community (and by the time I’m ready to pay contributors sales may even cover the entire $225-250 budget I have for the anthology).

3. While there is lovely Mormon fiction and poetry being published, history remains the dominant narrative form in Mormon Studies. I want to put Mormon fiction writers in dialogue with that (and mess with it a bit too, of course). And I also like that alternate history is a place where I think both genre and literary fiction writers can do good, interesting work.

4. For all that Mormonism has changed vastly since the end of WWII — becoming more international, more diverse, higher profile, and larger in scale — its basic form and status hasn’t actually changed all that much. We are still very much in the correlated/internationalized/North America-centered/middle-class-centered mode. Certainly technology and society has changed quite a bit, but the Boomer, GenX and Millennial* Mormon experience is not as dramatically different as the earlier periods of our history are from each other. This concerns me because I suspect that we are moving into an era where Mormonism will be more different from the current now than the current now is from the past four decades. I believe that Mormon alternate history is a genre that can (and should) be of interest right now among the Mormon audience because it helps us realize that our beliefs and policies, our ways of worship and community, our formal and informal social and economic structures are not set in stone for all time. If transitions are coming then it might be useful to understand that how current Mormonism exists in the world isn’t how it always has been or needed to be. It also helps us experience other ways of being Mormons and of being Mormons in relation to the rest of society.

5. Most importantly, alternate history is simply an interesting way of exploring the Mormon experience. There’s a vast storehouse of events, characters, documents, decisions, doctrines, and experiences that make up the past 195 years of Mormonism. Let’s use that storehouse to increase the small but important storehouse of Mormon fiction.

SUBMISSIONS INSTRUCTIONS

Email submissions as an attachment in .rtf, .doc or .docx format to submissions AT motleyvision DOT org. In the subject line put either [FLASH] TITLE OF STORY or [SHORT STORY] TITLE OF STORY. See below for word counts for flash and short story submissions.

In the body of the email include your name, mailing address** and any biographical info or writing credits that relate to the story and/or Mormon fiction and/or your career as a writer. If available, include a link to a blog, website, online resume/works published page, twitter account — anything that will provide some context to your work. A brief note on the key historical events, facts, books, journal articles or other sources that informed the story is welcome but not required.

Pseudonyms are discouraged, but will be allowed for special circumstances — please include that consideration in your e-mail if you would like it.

Deadline: March 19, 2016 (at midnight Pacific Time)

WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR   

SHORT STORIES: Must be between 3,000 and 6,000 words. And I will be enforcing those parameters (although I will give a wee bit of latitude because different programs can produce slightly different word counts). I realize that it’s hard to conjure up an alternate fiction world in such a short amount of space. It’s also a delicious, fun challenge.

FLASH PIECES: Must be 2,500 words or less. While a well-crafted piece of flash fiction is always welcome, for these I highly recommend choosing a non-short story form. By that I mean creating a text that reveals the alternate condition of Mormonism in your timeline by masquerading as being from that timeline. This could mean a: newspaper or magazine article, letter(s), telegram(s), trial transcript, hymn/popular song, excerpt from a play or opera libretto, government report, deposition, journal entry, feuilleton, field notes, sermon, lecture, review, bibliography/table of contents, ship manifest, menu, gossip column, news reel or silent film transcript, etc.     

ALSO: No reprints. No chapters from novels. You may have something already written that would be a good fit, but I think it’s quite likely that you’ll better your chances of catching my eye by writing something specifically for the anthology.

Text only. No graphic novels this time (sorry — love them, but they’re not the right fit for this project).

I plan on selecting 5 or 6 short stories and 7 or 8 pieces of flash fiction for the anthology.  Submissions should be of interest to the Mormon audience. Just like with Monsters & Mormons, content should not exceed PG-13 in terms of violence, language and sexuality.

Work from writers who are non-LDS, women, international Mormons and Mormons from diverse backgrounds are highly encouraged. New writers are also welcome.

While Monsters & Mormon slanted more pulp, I expect this anthology to slant more literary, although, of course, the most important thing is that you write an excellent story with well-crafted prose that has an interesting Mormon alternate history concept and as rich world building and characterization as can be accomplished within the space limitations.

About that concept: for this anthology the alternate history must be post-1800 (no Book of Mormon stuff) and pre-2020 (so no alternate history science fiction) and Mormonism must be central to the story even if it is dealt with in a subtle or oblique manner. Restoration and Pioneer era stories are very welcome, but I’m also very interested in stories from alternate 20th centuries.

Any fantastical elements must be within the realm of Mormon worldview/doctrine/folk doctrine and of alt-history science, physics and engineering. The use of well-known figures from Mormon and world history is fine. It can also get a bit gimmicky if you’re not careful.

And while it may be tempting to get a little didactic with the concept or the characters, stories that are overtly Utopian/Dystopian or have political or theological axes to grind probably won’t land well with me. So if you’re trying to make a point, make sure the art and craft of the story complicates it. Or even better: let the extrapolation of your alternate timeline jumping off point be the primary driver of your thinking and writing.

OTHER INFORMATION

Title: TBD
Publisher: Peculiar Pages (just like Monsters & Mormons)
Editor: William Morris
Length: 30,000 to 60,000 words
Publication: Fall 2016 (likely September or October)
Format: ebook only (we are considering crowd funding an expanded print version but a lot of things have to fall into place for that to happen)
Booksellers: Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and Nook (Barnes & Noble); we’ll also consider other online vendors and direct sales

Rights & Payment: Worldwide English exclusive for 10 months from date of publication. We’ll be using a modified version of the SFWA contract. As mentioned above payment will be $15 for flash fiction and $25 for short stories. Should net profits from sales of the anthology exceed my and Theric’s monetary investment in it, there is the potential for royalty payments for the authors (but that’s a small potential — based on our knowledge of the Mormon market for short fiction this anthology will likely come in at a loss or [cross your fingers] as a break-even venture). All of this will be spelled out in the contract. The crowd funded, expanded print anthology will be a separate contract and payment should it come to pass.

That’s all I have. There will be more posts in the future with potential ideas and resources and further reading. Now: what questions do you have for me? If you prefer not to post them in the comments below, contact me at the submissions email listed above or on Twitter @motleyvision.

*Heh

**This is so if you are selected for the anthology, I don’t have to send out a batch of emails asking where to send the check and a signed copy of the contact. If you don’t feel comfortable with me having your mailing address then include an additional, reliable way of contacting you (as in: an alternate email address, a number you can be texted at, a twitter handle, etc.).

A Review of L.T. Downing’s Get That Gold

Get That Gold is a tale of the LDS Restoration, aimed at middle-grade readers (and for families to read together, according to the author.)

I started this story with some trepidation. I always feel that way about books written by writers in this LDS community. I once read something that Angela Hallstrom wrote about how, as a writer of LDS fiction, she didn’t feel she could be a reviewer of LDS fiction. The two were becoming less compatible for her.

I have determined to be both a writer and a reviewer because I feel that I have a kind of duty, if that makes sense. I love LDS fiction. I actually read it, and I read it growing up. Therefore, I am a legitimate part of the audience, and as a writer, I can provide good feedback and some relevant insights about books I read, mingled with real constructive criticism as someone who works hard at the craft myself.

The problem is, this means sometimes I’ll be reviewing the story  of someone who has reviewed mine. There can be a feeling, in this small community of “tit for tat,” etc, whether people mean that or not. So I’m just going to state up front, right now:  all of you people in this community who are reading my stories? And writing reviews of them? I expect your honesty, and I can handle it. If you did not like something about my story, say so. So that I can improve. If you found dialog disingenuous or forced. If you disliked a character. If you felt my plot fell apart, or my pacing was off. (Mark Penny pointed this out about Lightning Tree, and gave me only three stars because of it. See? I really can handle it.)

Not to say I don’t believe my stories are awesome. I think they are. And those of you who have appreciated and reviewed them, thank you for taking the time to write a review! It really helps motivate us as writers to get feedback not just from our audience but from our peers who are among that audience.

OK. Disclaimers aside. I’m going to say the stuff I’m dreading up front, like ripping off a bandaid.

I enjoyed both Island of the Stone Boy and Get That Gold, but I felt both could have benefited from another round of editing. Not sentence structure or grammar; I think Downing is flawless there. More for story flow, descriptions and dialog. Particularly when description and dialog mixed, I felt jarred a lot. There were some tag echoes, a bit too much description of character movement/action in the middle of dialog, and some of the character descriptions and actions were hard to picture in my head.

OK. I got that out of the way. Moving on:

Get That Gold is eminently worth your time. I loved this story, and I know my kids will love it, and I fully plan on reading it to them as a bedtime story for the next several nights. I was deeply touched by this story. I loved the depiction of Joseph, especially. I was moved to tears at times. I loved the depiction of Emma. I loved Joseph’s family. I can tell that Downing put a great deal of time and effort into her research, and as a reader I trust that. I really enjoyed being transported into the setting and time period of the restoration. Above all, I felt the excitement, the deep and spiritual profundity, of Joseph and his retrieval of the Gold Plates.

There is a slapstick feel about Downing’s fiction at times. Her humor runs to the bad-guys-being-silly-and-getting-hurt sort of thing. While I am not the biggest fan of slapstick, I know this will make my kids laugh a whole lot as I read it to them. As an adult, I probably need to loosen up and enjoy it more, too.

I know that this story has been waiting for a while to be published; that one of the big 3 LDS publishers finally turned it down several years ago because they felt the fiction made light of the sacredness of the Joseph Smith story. I felt the opposite. I felt, after reading this, excited to re-read Joseph Smith History in my scriptures, and the testimony of the witnesses. I felt excited to read the Book of Mormon. I think that this story is a jewel, to be honest. As I read it to my children, I expect it will engage them in the story of the Restoration, and help them to be interested in Joseph Smith as person. I find this to be a vital part of my own testimony and am grateful someone has taken the time to write a story that will help young people see the excitement, the danger, the fun and funny in such an important story.

THE MORMONS, An illustrated history of

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Roy A. Prete has edited and Merrell has published a new coffee-table book titled The Mormons An Illustrated History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here’s the publisher’s pitch to make you want a copy:

From its establishment in 1830 in New York State, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown to be a world religion with almost 15 million members in 150 countries. Mormons are so called on account of their belief in the Book of Mormon, which tells the story of the ancient people of America. The Mormons is the only illustrated history of its kind, and traces the faith from its foundation by Joseph Smith and the early days of intense persecution to the building of Salt Lake City under the leadership of Brigham Young and the massive expansion of the Church in the second half of the twentieth century. The book offers perspectives on the Church’s core values by those who practise the faith every day. Contributions from a range of Mormon experts consider a variety of topics – including the origins, beliefs and practices of the religion, its phenomenal success in recent decades as the Church has become increasingly international, its relationship to other churches, and the lifestyle of its members – making this the perfect introduction to Mormonism, one of the fastest-growing Christian churches in the world.

•The only pictorial introduction of its kind on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

•Insightful contributions by Mormon scholars on the origins of the Church, its core beliefs and the lifestyle of its members

•With more than 250 colour photographs and drawings

The promotional fellow who sent me a copy suggested the volume “should appeal to Mormons and non-Mormons alike.” He said so because I asked who the intended audience was. I asked who the intended audience was because I couldn’t figure it out just by looking. Continue reading “THE MORMONS, An illustrated history of”

_Saints on Stage: An Anthology of Mormon Drama_ is Now Available

SaintsOnStage-Cover.inddSaints on Stage: An Anthology of Mormon Drama is now available at Zarahemla Books’ website, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

After a half decade of delays, obstacles, research, and revising, I am so pleased that this behemoth is now ready to release onto an unsuspecting world! The plays it includes (from such Mormon Letters luminaries as Eric Samuelsen, Margaret Blair Young, Melissa Leilani Larson, Thomas F. Rogers, Susan E. Howe, James Arrington, Scott Bronson, Tim Slover, Robert Elliott, and Thom Duncan) have effected my life in profound ways and I hope other people will feel the same. They make up some of the finest accomplishments in the history of Mormon Drama. The volume is huge… nearly 700 pages. It has 11 plays, playwright biographies, and a 30+ page introduction on the history of Mormon drama. We’ve tried to be thorough, we’ve tried to give you something meaningful. I hope you’ll see why this is a project I thought was worth working and waiting for.

_Saints On Stage: An Anthology of Mormon Drama_ is Off to the Printers!

It’s taken the better half of a decade, but Saints on Stage: An Anthology of Mormon Drama is off to the printers. This is the description of the book on Zarahemla Books’s website:

SaintsOnStage-Cover.inddSaints on Stage is the most comprehensive and important work on Mormon drama ever published. This volume anthologizes some of Mormonism’s best plays from the last several decades, many of them published here for the first time. Several of these plays have won honors from institutions as varied as the Kennedy Center and the Association for Mormon Letters.

This volume includes historical backgrounds and playwright biographies, as well as an introduction that provides an extensive overview of Mormon drama. The following plays are included:

Fires of the Mind – Robert Elliott

Huebener – Thomas F. Rogers

Burdens of Earth – Susan Elizabeth Howe

J. Golden – James Arrington

Matters of the Heart – Thom Duncan

Gadianton – Eric Samuelsen

Hancock County – Tim Slover

Stones – J. Scott Bronson

Farewell to Eden – Mahonri Stewart

Martyrs’ Crossing – Melissa Leilani Larson

I Am Jane – Margaret Blair Young

Seers and Stumbling Blocks: John Turner’s _Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet_

For those Latter-day Saints uninitiated in the intricate details of Mormon History, John Turner’s Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet would be a complete shock to the system. Most Mormons are aware that Brigham Young was a man who many took offense to because of his frank talk, combative tongue, and indomitable will. However, many are less aware of how truly radical and assaulting he could be in his most extreme moments. Condoning and covering up (if not authorizing) moments of extreme violence. Deeply disturbing racial and gender prejudice. And his language! I’m not just talking “damns” and “hells” here… sensitive Mormons will be shocked to find a prophet of God using profanity, vulgarity, and racial slurs that they would wash their children’s mouths ten times over for using (and these were often speeches he gave in public! Or in letters that were meant for the President and Congress!).

Fortunately, I do know my Mormon History well enough not to have an honest and forthright biography like this shake the foundations of my belief system. I was familiar with the vast majority of the events and context of the history (and also knew enough to recognize moments when Turner was abridging information and knew which”side” he was taking in certain thorny historical debates). Having been the research assistant and co-writer on a play about the Utah War and the Mountain Meadows Massacre, not to mention the writer of a number of other Mormon History plays that included Brigham Young as a character, I had to get to know Brigham Young pretty intimately. My persistent interest in and study of Mormon History really does make it hard for people to surprise me (I love it when antagonistic anti-Mormons try to shock and rattle me with Mormon history facts and I can tell them, “I know. And did you also know that…”).

So that background helped me in the more disturbing episodes of the very informed journey that Turner brings his readers on. However, Turner, capitalizing on the new opportunities that the Church’s more freeing attitude about its history and archives have afforded, did bring me to depths even my amateur Mormon historian experiences hadn’t made me aware of.  There were times that I had to stop, digest what I had read, and do an internal check on how it fit into my belief system (and if there was anything in that belief system I had to modify as a consequence). There were times that I was disturbed by what I had read and had to backtrack through my mind and heart and fortify my faith by connecting it to other just as real facts and context that were part of the fabric and tapestry of Mormon History. But those kind of facts can rub the soul raw after a while and leave you feeling sensitive.

Continue reading “Seers and Stumbling Blocks: John Turner’s _Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet_”

Blinded by the Fire: Cultural Memory and the Response to My Mormon History Plays

Farewell to Eden_Georgiana and StephenNOTE: This was written for a final paper in my Dramatic Writing MFA Writer’s Workshop class where I was supposed to apply Anne Bogart’s book A Director Prepares to my own  work. Thus the navel gazing…

In her book A Director Prepares, Anne Bogart addresses various challenging experiences theatre artists face in creating their art. In the book she confronts Memory, Violence, Eroticism, Terror, Stereotype, Embarrassment, and Resistance. Although she writes from a director’s perspective, I found them particularly helpful from a playwright/screenwriter’s point of view as well.

Having been both a director and a writer for the theater, I have found both creative processes put me in a similar place intellectually and emotionally (especially when I’ve been a director for my own work, it just seems to be a different step of the same process). Although I will write about how all of these qualities addressed by Bogart have affected my work in future posts, I would like to focus on each of them one at a time. So first on deck for this series of essays is…

Memory:

In her book, Bogart states:

Theatre is about memory; it is an act of memory and description. There are plays and people and moments of history to revisit. Our cultural treasure trove is full to bursting. And the journeys will change us, make us better, bigger and more connected. We enjoy a rich, diverse and unique history and to celebrate it is to remember it. To remember it is to use it. To use it is to be true to who we are. A great deal of energy and imagination is demanded. And an interest in remembering and describing where we came from (p.39).

For me this statement from Bogart has resonance on so many levels. In my work, I’ve focused a great deal on historical drama, especially from my Mormon heritage. My intense interest in Mormon history has bled into a number of my works, reaching back as far as my high school juvenilia. Continue reading “Blinded by the Fire: Cultural Memory and the Response to My Mormon History Plays”