In a ‘verse full of snake oil, genuine opportunities stand out. The Pod and Planet fiction contest opened today, a contest that has paid out billions in isk and ships to writers of all backgrounds. Judges include CCP Falcon and CCP Delegate Zero from the EVE storyline group. Some of the winners have produced insightful, publication-quality fiction that digs deep into the underpinning questions of EVE lore.
Unlike most writing contests, though, Pod and Planet isn’t hung up on prose quality. The contest solicits applications from non-native English speakers; what matters is the story. Winners may not have perfect grammar, but they typically score high for plot, setting, and character.
That said, some categories are weaker than others. Competition is fierce and rigorous in the lore-based division – stories that don’t feature player characters or corporations – but the Humor category sees fewer and weaker submissions. Consider this a tip: if you’ve got a funny observation about EVE tickling the back of your brain, write it down and send it in. Your odds are decent. (Full disclosure: I’ve got a couple of submissions in mind under another name. Yes, I understand that I’m decreasing my own chances by writing this piece.)
Telegram Sam, who’s run the contest since 2012, is easy to reach and quick to answer questions. I reached out to him after his recent interview with Crossing Zebras, and I found him friendly and self-effacing. He’s quick to emphasize that, even after five years, he’s still surprised by the initiative and quality that random players bring to the table. His killboard is a litany of lowsec hijinks in cheap ships, but Pod and Planet has made him a name, and that contest hands out citadels like candy. You’d think he might get a bit of a swollen head, but I’ve seen no evidence of that.
Most of the pot comes from donors, of course. His longtime backer and current partner MysteriousAlt has chipped in tens of billions. Podcasts are reliable contributors as well. Last year, though, the high roller was eve-bet.com, which shut its doors for legal reasons in November 2016. The gambling website had contributed almost half the total prize value. This year, MysteriousAlt tackled the entire shortfall personally.
The contest faces other challenges. Its prizes and quality are disproportionate to its web presence, which has bounced from Blogspot to a free site provider, and never quite looks as professional as it could. Consider it another of Pod and Planet’s many opportunities: a trustworthy web developer could do Telegram Sam a world of good. The same goes for advertising. Like most calls for submissions in the publishing world, Pod and Planet needs to maximize visibility. The contest is never hurting for applicants, at least for the main categories, but I hear a constant refrain of ‘I wish I’d known about this.’
That’s a common theme across player-created content. For every Pod and Planet, ten or twenty initiatives die out after their first run, or just plain fail for lack of interest. I couldn’t tell you what Telegram Sam’s secret is, but I’m willing to bet it involves tenacity. When the first flush of an idea wears off, when you’ve taken a hard look at its flaws and potential, there’s value in adjusting your approach and pressing on. Persistence gets attention.
As a parting thought, consider Pod and Planet the closest EVE will ever get to ‘walking in stations.’ The best stories immerse you in the EVE universe in ways that the game can’t hope to replicate.
Submission deadline: November 3rd, 2017
Jenne Expery is a low-wattage independent who dabbles in shipping, salvage, trade, exploration, and nearly victimless heists. He can usually be found bumming around Derelik and Domain under one name or another. Preferred contact method: EVEmail to Jenne Exupery of Manticore-Horizon Shipping (MANHO).