Let me tell you about Deathmatch. No, it's not a Dolph Lundgren vehicle you'll find wedged between Bloodsport and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation in a Boxing Day DVD bin. Deathmatch is Broken Pencil Magazine's second annual indie writer round robin story contest.
Richard Rosenbaum, Broken Pencil's Associate Fiction Editor & Online Fiction Editor, defines "indie writer" as "someone who tends to fly below the radar of the literary mainstream, whose stuff is too weird or difficult or alienating ever to be one of Heather's Picks at Chapters."
"The archetypal anti-indie writer is Margaret Atwood - she represents everything that Broken Pencil stands against," adds Rosenbaum.
Sorry Madge, pencils down.
$20 and a previously unpublished short story from 1000-3000 words places your tale before the mag's judging team. Judgments narrow the field to eight finalists.
Those finalists are paired up in weekly head-to-head web-based battles. Think old MuchMusic's Combat Des Clips without every option sucking.
When it comes to this competition, the organizers explicitly encourage hype and trash talk, and those familiar with blogospheric vitriol know what happens when you unleash opinionated anonymous commentary.
Fittingly, the press release includes the tagline: "Can you handle the taunting?"
Last year some tempers boiled over as competitive spirit morphed into whiny drama, which in turn morphed into hacking.
"The hacking occurred during the last round; someone managed to get into our system and change the vote percentages so that one story had 100% and the other story had 0%. Then someone else retaliated in the opposite direction. What we had to do was add a 3-day overtime, and restrict the voting to once per hour per IP address and reverse any obviously artificial imbalances," explains Rosenbaum.
This year's official contest rules specify: "no hacking the site".
The champ walks away with $300 and his/her story in the mag. 2nd, 3rd, and 4th get published at the standard Broken Pencil rate of $100.
Entries need to post marked by December 31, so it's a wee window, but there might be something collecting dust on your hard drive that's worth tossing in the pile. And even if you don't enter, there will be plenty of entertaining reading.