2020 has messed with everyone’s heads, mine included. But like Nick Fury, until the world stops spinning I’m going to keep moving on the assumption that it will continue. To that end, Reclamation Project: Year Two carries on! The submission cutoff date is still October 31st, although that may slide as production requirements change. I certainly haven’t been talking about it nearly as much as I have meant to, so let’s fix that, shall we?
I get a lot of questions from would-be contributors about technical details: “Do the humans have laser guns?” “Would it make sense for a furry settlement to have helicopters?” “Does Pax Machina communicate via radio waves?” And while some of this stuff is covered by the setting Wiki, I almost always give the same answer, which is: “Yes, if that makes a good story.” As the editor of the series, I’ll take care of hashing out inconsistencies if they’re big enough that I think they’ll actually cause a problem, but the world is a large and complex place—whether a vehicle has wheels or antigrav is nowhere near as important as who’s in the vehicle and where it’s going. So don’t worry so much about the nuts and bolts! To maximize your chances of acceptance into the anthology, focus instead on the Reclamation Project “formula.”
And just what is that? So glad you asked! Keep in mind, this is just a quickie list of some things to focus on. It’s not a hard-and-fast formula or boilerplate—we don’t want to just crank out write-by-numbers stuff—it’s just a set of touchstones to look for when you’re writing, or possibly a nudge if you get stuck. Not every story needs all of these elements, but these are good places to start, with examples from the Year One anthology to illustrate them.
Furries Being Creative and Proactive; Humans Being Stuck—Or Breaking Free
- A vibrant furry city being built over the ruins of a disaster
- Bird-folk scavenge ancient water purifiers to found a tea shop with rails to perch on instead of stools
- A furry-friendly anthropologist is considered an existential threat by human supremacists for suggesting peace is even possible
- A sumptuous and elegant dinner party where RP dignitaries gossip about food shortages
The new world being built by the furries should be vital and exciting; the old world being clung to by the humans is stagnant, decadent, and ultimately self-devouring. This is not black-and-white or good-vs-evil. The humans have been born into these broken systems just like a rat born in a maze, and it takes a rare specimen to think of climbing up out of the walls instead of just following the path in front of them no matter where it goes. The furries, by contrast, were dropped in a giant (if dangerous) sandbox and left to find their own way. The natural consequence is rigid, cargo-cultish mindset on the part of humans, and an open-ended, “Everything is risky anyway, why not give it a shot?” mindset in the furries.
- The world is healing and rebuilding after a post-apocalyptic dark age
- Furries and humans bonding in the direst of moments
- An invading army is pushed back by the power of rock’n’roll (and a bit of blackmail)
- A scientist grafts algae into volunteers’ bloodstreams so they never need to eat again
This has been discussed at length elsewhere, but I want to mention it here because it is at the heart of what the Reclamation Project is all about. Now more than ever, we need to provide an optimistic vision, something positive for the world to move toward, instead of reacting to the darkness of the past.
The WTF Moment
- A cute little cartoon character is the face of a deranged global AI
- The heroes of your story are an anthropomorphized fish person and a cybernetic octopus who secretly have crushes on each other
- Carriages pulled by giant beetles… magnetic coins that attract a mountain of junk around them… a coming-of-age ceremony based on going to a distant mountain to be fitted with a jetpack…
- The terrifying Frankenstein robot with bloody serrated edges is HITTING ON ME???
The world of Reclamation Project is a weird and uncanny place, full of surprises. Don’t just think outside the box—question the very existence of the box and think outside the inverted hypercube! Try not to be arbitrary with it: the WTF moment should be important to your story, either as a core part of the premise, a plot point that moves the story forward, or to reveal/change something fundamental about your protagonist. Action (see the next point) may be spice for your story, but the WTF moment is part of the main course.
Action! Danger! Suspense!
- Hovership battles against massive robot centipedes
- RP forces are marching on the city—with or without higher approval
- You’re alone and cornered by a Pax Machina drone that could kill you in an instant—but doesn’t? What does it want?
- Ambushed by river pirates!
Besides being strange, the world is dangerous, whether that danger comes in the form of mutant monsters, killer robots, marauders, or marching fanatics. Reclamation Project is fantasy adventure, and there’s no adventure without risk. Be careful with this, though: avoid being graphic or cruel in your depictions, even if the characters are being cruel in what they do. Action should be snappy, to-the-point, and serve the larger themes of the story.
Character Is King
- The Steward chooses to sacrifice herself so the Prefect can escape—whether for love or duty, who can say?
- A rabbit defies every voice telling him to stay underground, chasing a star
- An assassin takes on the role of sin-eater, saving his would-be targets when he can, and minimizing casualties when he can’t
- A former soldier literally cannot live without someone to conquer
On some level any story, of any genre, is an exploration of character, and the Reclamation Project is no different. Whether your hero is a hardboiled detective, a Regency-era gentlewoman, or a tabby cat that sounds like Antonio Banderas, it’s the things they value, the choices they make, and the consequences of those choices that make a story resonate. A fascinating twist without a character behind it is just an intellectual exercise; a compelling world without engaging people living in it is just a travelogue.
So when coming up with your story, dig in here. What are the stakes for your character? Does the story change them, or do they remain steadfast and thus change the world? A by-the-numbers adventure story with a compelling cast of characters will get you a lot farther than Big Ideas being delivered by cardboard cutouts (see also Star Wars vs. 2001: A Space Odyssey).
Preferably, of course, you’ll have both big ideas and exciting characters! But when in doubt? Focus on character first.
Focusing on these elements should help make your story a great fit for The Reclamation Project. Go forth and create something amazing!