June 26, 2013

Announcing CCLaP's 2013 anthology: Design Us a Time Capsule

CCLaP Challenge: Build Us a Time Capsule

Every autumn since 2010, CCLaP has put together a special anthology project with an open, unjuried submission policy; in other words, except if a submission was written deliberately to be embarrassingly awful (which has never happened), we otherwise accept and publish all other entries, presented in a variety of formats depending on the year. So in 2011 that was the online anthology Twitfic, in which various writers wrote cohesive long stories but deliberately cut up into chapters the size of individual tweets; then in 2012 was the traditional print anthology about setting and travel, Amsterdamned If You Do, edited by Traci Kim, as well as the dark science-fiction anthology American Wasteland, marking the tenth anniversary of 9/11 by imagining the twentieth anniversary but if McCain and Palin had won the 2008 election and every one after that; and then last year we did a special audiobook-only anthology, A Podcast Dreadful, in which half a dozen writers wrote and performed serialized stories about bizarre and macabre subjects, spaced out over twelve radio-style 45-minute episodes.

And for this fall, I've decided to go way off the beaten path; to be specific, I've decided to invite all of you to design a time capsule for CCLaP, and then I'm going to publish a book containing all the suggestions and ideas we get for it. And to be clear from the outset, although certainly I encourage all you creative writers to come up with as outlandish of ideas as you can, written out as a short story if you'd like (but more on this in a bit), my hope is that this results in a real plan that I can actually build next year, inspired by my fandom of a wonderfully obtuse organization called the Long Now Foundation. Adored by the hacktivist crowd (think Cory Doctorow and the like), this group pulls off outrageously nerdy, press-inspiring stunts in order to raise awareness for what is actually a really practical issue -- of the ways that the knowledge and art we as a generation are producing right now will last throughout time, and how future generations will be able to access that knowledge and art, not just in terms of years but centuries and millennia. We take the "cloud" and digital media so much for granted these days, a problem compounded by the fact that so much information is now being originally produced in a digital format to begin with; but bearing in mind that the height of the Roman Empire was now about two thousand years ago, there's no equal guarantee that any of these shared computer networks are going to be around another two thousand years from now, nor any of the digital devices needed to view these files, nor any of the software needed to decode those files. And sheesh, we've seen just in our own lifetimes how easily corruptible all the options are for storing digital files, first magnetic tape then floppy disks, CDs, and now USB dongles and entire hard drives that will sometimes go belly-up with no warning.

It got me thinking about something I think all creative organizations should think about -- just how well is our collection of intellectual content prepared to survive the years and decades, as well as the calamities that occur along the way? Although there's a small chance of all of it happening at once, there's actually a shockingly small amount of things that need to happen for almost all of CCLaP's digital files to disappear forever; both my home computer and its hard drive backup would need to get destroyed, as well as a handful of CDs that have archived some of the content over the years, plus the server where this website is hosted. Granted, the Long Now Foundation inspires you to think in even grander terms than that -- there's something really delightful to the idea, for example, that 500 years from now, since CCLaP was the only basement press that went to the trouble of preserving all our material, we have become the new Samuel Pepys to singlehandedly define an entire generation to a far-flung future -- but there are actually some very real-world issues to be thinking about along these lines as well, like whether your own group's files will last even beyond your own death, or God forbid the death of your home computers.

So, I want to build a physical archive for all our intellectual content; and at that point it becomes a balancing game, between the amount of money I spend and the amount of security I'm getting, so that's why I'm looking for everyone else's input, as far as smart, cheap ideas to make such a physical archive as protective against time and the elements as possible. For example, I imagine already that one of the things this archive should have is printed-out pages of all our books but with all special layout removed, just 12-point double-spaced Times text on numbered, unbound sheets, so that if all the digital copies eventually become corrupted or destroyed, it's as easy as possible to scan these texts back in and have OCR software turn it back into a digital file; but how best to output and store these pages? On cotton sheets and stored in acid-free boxes? On handmade paper and stored in Mylar? Laser-etched onto Lucite? What's the cost of each option, versus how long they're designed to last? Or for another example, definitely I'll want to include as many digital storage options as I can fit in and afford too, because just as we can't predict when such options will be unusable in the future, nor can we predict whether it might be just exactly what future generations need; so with the right materials, and the right type of packing, will we be able to prep some digital devices to still be working 50, 75, 100 years from now?

This is a real competition, and there's a real prize to be awarded -- the winning inventor gets a free copy of all twenty books CCLaP will have published by the end of this year (a $440 value), plus retains the rights to their design, if they wish to patent it, sell it as a commercial kit to other arts organizations, etc. Basically I'll be judging the entries on a sliding scale, weighing how much I can afford them versus what kind of protection they can provide; so in other words, you might get a few "points" if your solution is waterproof, a few more points if it's fireproof, yet a few more if it can survive heavy crashes, but get thrown out altogether if it costs more than a few hundred dollars, or can't fit in an apartment closet, which is where it actually will be stored. But, I don't want all you creative writers to be out, just because you can't think up of an actual feasible plan; and that's why I'm awarding another prize as well, for best fictional plan, with that inventor also receiving a free copy of all twenty of our handmade books. This can be written in any way you want -- as a faux-scientific report, narrative short story, etc. -- and can include illustrations if you're feeling inspired. And like I said, except for the rare chance of any deliberately disastrous entries, all other submissions will be gathered up and published as a book this coming winter, a chance to be published by CCLaP even with just a short piece of work, and with there being an almost 100 percent guarantee that you won't be turned down.

As always, I hope to make this as widely inviting an event as possible; so I hope over the coming weeks you'll make sure to mention this at any writing websites or forum systems you frequent, bookclubs or workshops you attend, academic programs you're a part of, etc. And to that end, I've set up a special easy-to-remember URL for the project, [cclapcenter.com/timecapsule -- OOPS, STILL NOT UP YET], that has a much more condensed version of the project's subject and rules, so please start passing that link along as much as you can, and remind everyone that their piece is almost guaranteed to be accepted. As regulars know, I mean for these anthologies to not just be interesting and entertaining, but to give all writers out there a chance to do something with us at least once a year, even if they don't specialize in the professional-level full-length manuscripts that we exclusively publish the rest of the year; and for reasons that will become clearer later this fall, I'm particularly hoping for a big fat chunk of content for this specific anthology, a good 60,000 to 70,000 words with any luck when all is said and done, so I'd love for this material to come with your help from a wide and diverse swath of people from around the planet. I look forward to seeing what all of you come up with, and of course regular updates and reminders will be coming here and to our newsletter all throughout this summer and fall.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 6:19 AM, June 26, 2013. Filed under: CCLaP Publishing | CCLaP news | Literature | Literature:Fiction | Literature:Nonfiction |