Share your dreams of pleasure with us

31 Aug

Arc and its business partner The Tomorrow Project share a common belief: that the future is shaped through fiction. Now, we could pontificate about this sort of thing at length but since Thomas Disch got there first, we decided instead to put our money where our mouths were, and run a unique short story competition: a way that Arc, a small quarterly, could still help develop and publish the very best new talent, while promoting conversations and debates on-line through a separate, dedicated website.

Well, that operation is pretty much up and running now, and the competition is establishing a reputation for excellence. We’ll be announcing the winners of this summer’s competition on this blog very soon.

Meanwhile,we are ready to roll again – and this time, we are looking for short stories, between 3000 and 5000 words, exploring the future of pleasure. What new games will we play? How will we indulge ourselves, and at what cost? What new joys will the future hold?

Pleasure is, strangely, a rare subject for science fiction. This is partly, I suppose,  to do with Thomas Hardy’s dictum that “Light writes white”. It’s hard to engage a reader with tales of other people having a nice time. But pleasures exact their costs, and there have been a few works that attempt to explore the rigours, as well as the joys, of bringing pleasure to others. Some of Jack Vance’s books gave more than cursory attention to the business of music-making; Spider Robinson and his wife Jeanne wrote not one but three books about the choreographic possibilities of zero gravity – Jeanne’s dance project nudges ever closer to being performed for real.

More often, pleasure turns out to be a primrose path to perdition. Though when the nightmares are as considered and as sharply drawn as Dick’s Martian Timeslip, say, or David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, only a fool would complain. 

There are very few works that make stories out of games. John Brunner’s Squares of the City connected pervasive gaming to urban planning to the surveillance state in 1965, for heaven’s sake, but few writers have interrogated the territory since. (If I’m missing a trick here – there surely must be examples I’m forgetting – drop a comment on this blog.)

So, if you want to write for Arc, here’s your challenge. Enter our third short story competition and share with us your vision of the future of pleasure, entertainment, games, toys and fun. And if you need inspiration, you will find some of these themes explored in Arc 1.3: Welcome to the Afterparty, out on 24 September for iPads and iPhones, for Kindle for Android devices, Windows and Mac computers, and as a collectible print edition

Technology, in whatever guise – from robotics to synthetic biology to geoengineering – should feature prominently, but we’re looking for fiction, not raw opinion, and the human element will have to be compelling.

Anyone, anywhere in the world can enter. Entries must be recieved by 23:59 on Sunday 14 October 2012. Arc’s editors will select one story for publication in Arc 1.4, out this December. We will pay £500 for that story and £200 for each of five runners-up. We will use all of these stories to stimulate conversations about the future on our Tomorrow Project website.

More details, including full terms and conditions, are at

Game on.

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