The Iron Border and the Eight Hour E-Book Challenge

You may remember the eight-hour e-book challenge from last summer, when a couple of us decided to write, proof, format and publish an e-book within a period of eight hours, inspired by J.A. Konrath.

Now Donald Rump, one of the authors who participated in the original challenge has decided to revive the eight-hour e-book challenge and turn it into a monthly event for 2014.

I wasn’t sure whether to take part, especially since I still was hip-deep in university teaching the first two weeks of January. However, I decided that when inspiration struck, I would do it. And inspiration did strike, in the form of this post at io9 by Charlie Jane Anders. Though it wasn’t really the post that inspired me (though it’s a good one), but one of the classic SF covers used to illustrate it, namely this cover of the 1953 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I took one look at the cover and decided to write a story to go with it. And thus The Iron Border was born, a rather gloomy dystopian tale about a young woman who grows up knowing that the world will end when she’s twenty-eight years old.

I didn’t check out One in Three Hundred by J.T. McIntosh, the cover story for the January 1954 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction until after I had finished The Iron Border by the way. Once I did, I noticed that there were certain parallels between McIntosh’s story and mine (which also means that the cover artist did their job well and created an image that illustrated McIntosh’s story). The premise, Earth is doomed and there are limited tickets off planet, is the same, though McIntosh destroys the Earth via solar flares, while I use an asteroid. We even both have a lottery to determine who gets the golden ticket off planet. Both the destination of the escape ships (Mars for McIntosh, Proxima Centauri for me) and the general modalities of space travel (McIntosh uses small rockets, I have space shuttles plus giant generation ships being assembled in orbit) are different, largely because scientific knowledge has advanced in the sixty years (almost to the month, too) since One in Three Hundred was first published. However, the most notable difference is that McIntosh’s protagonists is one of the chosen few (and presumably a white man – it is 1950s SF after all), whereas my protagonist is one of the doomed masses (and one of those members of the doomed masses who decides not to accept her fate meekly at that) and a woman of colour.

As with Old Mommark’s Tale, I more or less wrote the story straight through with a couple of breaks inbetween for eating and TV. The only research I did was looking up Quinceañera celebrations to get the details right and checking the San Diego region for likely locations for the shuttle port before settling on Coronado Naval Base.

This also gave me the chance to have Ana conk a Navy SEAL over the head with a spanner in the finale. Ana’s remark that close up, he’s much shorter than she’d have thought is a reference to the fact that Navy SEALs are often described as huge hulking giants in fiction, whereas they’re not all that tall in reality for practical reasons. For the record, I don’t advocate hitting people, whether Navy SEALs or not, over the head with spanners. And before anybody gets outraged on behalf of US military personnel, check out what the Navy SEAL in question was doing before Ana hit him.

Old Mommark’s Tale only got a single read-through, because the draft was already pretty clean. However, with The Iron Border I found more issues upon first read-through, so I did a second one a day later. When the second read-through was largely clean, I progressed to formatting.

I had already created the cover during a writing break. Initially, I looked at stock photos of young women looking through mesh fences. I even found some photos featuring Hispanic women, which is pretty damn rare, because stock photos tend to be overwhelmingly white. However, none of the stock images I found were quite right. Not did they look SFnal either. So I looked for images of crowds and found this piece of digital artwork by Indian artist Manu Mohan. Now the image is supposed to depict the crowd at a rave, but it reminded me of the desperate masses trying to tear down the fence surrounding the shuttle pads. I added a nicely withered grungy font and had my cover.

Now all that was left was uploading. The story went live at Amazon and B&N within a couple of hours, though Kobo and particularly Apple dragged their feet, so I’m only doing the official announcement now, even though the book has been out for a few days.

So what did I learn from this second eight-hour challenge? Nothing that I didn’t already learn from the first one, namely that it is possible to create and publish a story in a few hours. In many ways, these eight-hour challenges are stunt writing just like NaNoWriMo or Michael Moorcock’s “book in a weekend” sessions. It’s also inspirational and liberating to bring a project from initial idea to final publication in just a few hours.

Will I do it again? Some day certainly, though my next two releases (cause I have finished stories piling up and awaiting editing and proofing) are both stories which took much longer to ripen.

So here is the result of the second eight-hour challenge, The Iron Border.

The Iron Border by Cora Buhlert Ana has lived in the shadow of death all her life. For when she was six years old, a TV broadcast announced that an asteroid would hit the Earth twenty-two years later, extinguishing all life as we know it.
As Ana grew up, she put her faith in the worldwide lottery supposed to select the chosen ten thousand, the survivors of humanity who would escape the doomed planet in giant space arks.
But the lottery is not as fair and unbiased as Ana has been led to believe. And even her best efforts to turn herself into someone who would be useful aboard the great space arks do not bring Ana any closer to the gleaming shuttles that are being constructed behind the iron border only a few miles away…

For more information, visit the dedicated The Iron Border page.

Buy it for the low price of 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Casa del Libro, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Der Club, Libiro, Nook UK, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books, Flipkart, e-Sentral and XinXii.

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3 Responses to The Iron Border and the Eight Hour E-Book Challenge

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