3.22.19 ‘Across the Universe’ Beatles Spec-Fic Anthology Now Open to Submissions – UPDATED

The anthology I am co-editing with Michael Ventrella, Across the Universe, is now open for submissions!

Through a Kickstarter campaign (which successfully reached two stretch goals by the time it ended March 28), we were able to raise enough to go ahead with this project, and we have confirmations from authors Spider Robinson, David Gerrold, Jonathan Maberry, Alan Goldsher, Cat Rambo, Keith DeCandido, Jody Lynn Nye, Lawrence Watt-Evans and Gail Z. Martin with notes by Janis Ian and Nancy Holder.

We should have room for a few extra stories as well. But only a few.

Book Theme
The theme of the anthology is “The Beatles – What if?”  What if Brian Epstein hadn’t managed the band? What if George Harrison hated sitar music? What if Ringo had been the true star of the band all along? What if the Beatles had been aliens? Or magic users? Or zombies? Or American?

Story Concepts: What to Avoid
The confirmed authors have already begun their stories, so please avoid the following ideas:
·         Beatles as zombies
·         Beatles as medieval fantasy adventurers
·         Beatles as super heroes
·         Beatles as time travelers
·         Beatles as “the Scooby Doo gang”
·         Beatles as Tetrad wizards representing the elements
·        Beatles as animatronic robots

This is not to say that you cannot do a variation on these, but keep in mind that if we get more than one story with the same theme, your chance of having your story accepted is reduced. That said, do not contact us with your idea first. After all, two authors can take the same basic idea and produce completely different stories.

Story Length
The story should be no more than 4,000 words. This should be sufficient for what should most likely be a somewhat humorous tale. Payment is $200 a story, so there is no advantage to padding your story. UPDATE 5/1: We are paying $.05/word. New post to come explaining further (there is still no advantage to padding your story, though) . Take as many words as you need to make a great story, but if it is too long, it had better be so great that we can’t refuse it. A good but padded story may get rejected over a concise, fast-moving one, because we want to fit in as many stories as possible.

Along those lines, a “short story” should be defined as not less than 1,000 words for the purpose of this book. We want you to write the story at the length it most makes sense, but we are not publishing drabbles or flash fiction, and prefer stories in the 2,000-4,000 range.

Reprints, Simultaneous Submissions, etc.
No to reprints. (We do have one already, and that’s it.)
Yes to Simultaneous Submissions but you are obligated to let us know if it is accepted elsewhere before you hear back from us (or) August 1, whichever comes first.
No Multiple Submissions. Send us your best, one time

I’m Unpublished. Can I submit?
Yes! We encourage that. But you will still face the same standards for submissions as the published authors. (Pro tip: Check your spelling and grammar.)

Submit your story in 12-point, Times New Roman/Times Roman font, double-spaced.

If you have questions about other formatting (like setting up the story’s first page, and page numbering), refer to Shunn’s manuscript formatting guide.

The file should be RTF, not Word or DocX or anything else. The first page should be your cover letter – keep it brief – which will include your contact information and a 50-75 word bio. List previous publications or relevant experience in the bio.

Where to Send Your Story
Send your complete story/cover letter to WhatIfBeatlesAnthology (at) gmail (dot) com – do not send to Michael or Randee personally. We will accept submissions until June 14. Please continue to check this space for any updates. If you have not heard from us by August 1, you can safely assume that your story was not accepted.

Advice on Copyright Issues 
Cory Doctorow was unable to contribute to the anthology, but did offer us these suggestions concerning copyright issues when dealing with real people and real songs. Keep his comments in mind:

Characters are copyrightable, but a mere mention of names is
not enough to violate a copyright in Eleanor Rigby (the character), or
Eleanor Rigby (the song).

However, if I actually wrote a short SF story featuring Eleanor Rigby
and Father Mackenzie and if he were darning the socks and she were
picking up rice at a church after a wedding and wearing a face (that she
keeps in the jar at the door) then you could legitimately say I am
taking so much of the song’s structure and plot, that I am effectively
creating an infringing derivative work—just as
Cats! expanded Eliot’s
silly poems into a rock opera, (Which, given that the poems were written
in the 30s, are still under copyright.)  And that would need permission
and or fee.

Of course, if this were a true parody in which it turns out that all the
lonely people are actually smoking weed and having great sex at
sock-darning parties, then that might be a fair use.  But if it is just
that she keeps her face in a jar by the door because she is an actual
alien, and the rice is to feed her growing insectoid child whose mind
control will take over the earth….  Well, I dunno.  Lots of courts
would frown at that as just being an unauthorized sequel/ unlicensed
derivative work.

And others are not ok.  Saying that character names may never be used is
silly.  If I said that  Cory Doctorow was “the Father Mackenzie of Sci
Fi writers,” darning your antique 1950’s pajamas rather than hitting the
hot spots, copyright law wouldn’t even be involved.  (Titles and short
phrases are not copyrightable and that’s just an analogy).  But the fan
fic extrapolation from an existing delineated plot, even if a plot
developed in a song, might not be.

I don’t think there is a trademark angle. The courts have dealt
relatively harshly with claims like that unless there is some way to
claim sponsorship and affiliation.

Bottom line: avoid retelling stories in the songs, avoid using the song lyrics (titles are okay), and avoid using copyrighted characters (such as the ones in the Beatles movies — no Blue Meanies, please).

Paperback writers, unite!

UPDATE: IF you want to help get great writers into this anthology by sharing the submissions info and contact link, here are two flyers you should feel free to print out and pass around! We all need a little help from our friends.



  1. Randee on 3/29/19 at 1:56 pm

    Yes, I’m commenting on my own post for anyone reading this far down. We’ve gotten several submission so far, and I can now tell you a few things I’d like to not see in every story:

    1) Overuse of name-checking lyrics and song titles out of context. It’s cute once or twice. Beyond that, you’re pushing things.
    2) Not everything has to be about someone being dead.
    3) Ensure there’s really a *story* there. Without actual plot and character development, you’re writing elevated fan fiction. And there’s nothing wrong with fan fiction, but this is not a book of fan fiction.
    4) Get weird. Take chances.

    All for now.

  2. J.H. Moncrieff on 4/03/19 at 4:45 am

    Thanks for this! I’ve already alerted my boyfriend, the ultimate Beatles’ fan. He hasn’t written a short story in years, but perhaps this will change that.

    • Randee on 4/03/19 at 10:38 am

      Can’t wait! I’d love it if you submitted, too!