This is a call for pitches and submissions for short stories in the award-winning Delta Green setting.
My name is Shane Ivey and I’m managing editor for Delta Green tabletop roleplaying game and books of fiction. I and the creators of Delta Green — Dennis Detwiller, John Scott Tynes and Adam Scott Glancy — are reaching out to authors we’ve worked with before and some we’d like to work with now. We’re also interested in hearing from new writers.
This is a complex call for submissions, so bear with me. I may err on the side of verbosity.
If you’re not intimate with Delta Green, the essence of it is here: http://www.delta-green.com/games-and-fiction/
As that says, Delta Green is a modern-day setting which blends technothriller conspiracy and Lovecraftian cosmic terror. It began as a game setting and quickly spun off into novels and short stories. It has won plenty of awards and accolades in both games and fiction. It’s usually about soldiers and federal agents trying to confront and conceal overwhelming supernatural horrors and suffering terrible repercussions.
Since this is an established setting, new stories need to either write around or underneath or just plain avoid things that have already been established in the fiction. For this project we’re looking for stories in eras that have not been covered in depth — more on that in a moment — so that’s not an insurmountable challenge. The original RPG sourcebook Delta Green is nevertheless going to be a vital resource. If we start corresponding and it looks likely that we’ll invite you into the fold, I can arrange to get a comp copy to you in PDF.
In the meantime, here are some key short stories for reference:
Rights and payment will be detailed below. In a nutshell, it’ll be a flat fee of ten cents a word (with a cap of $500.00) for ongoing print, reprint, and digital publishing rights, with two-year exclusivity.
Let’s take a deeper look.
Tales from Failed Anatomies
We’re planning a new anthology of Delta Green short stories. We’re most interested in stories of Delta Green in different moments of the 20th century — the Delta Green of the past.
- The early days before it was created and given a name, in the aftermath of Innsmouth and before World War II
- Its formative years in World War II
- Hunting the horrors the Nazis stirred up in the post-war years
- The new shapes of terror in the Sixties and the debacles in Vietnam that led to Delta Green going underground
- The violent and often disastrous “cowboy” years from the Seventies to the early Nineties.
The original Delta Green sourcebook hits a few highlights in each of those eras.
We’re gathering these stories as bonuses to offer in the Kickstarter campaign for a collection of stories by Delta Green co-creator Dennis Detwiller, Delta Green: Tales from Failed Anatomies. We expect that will hit its funding target pretty swiftly. When it does, then as stretch goals we’ll offer new stories by other authors. That’s where you come in.
The new stories will go out digitally to backers of the Failed Anatomies campaign. When we’ve gotten enough of them — whether that’s during the campaign or after — we’ll publish them in a new anthology, Tales from Failed Anatomies Volume Two.
Tone and Atmosphere
The right tone and atmosphere are critically important. In games and fiction, Delta Green is not about bad-ass men and women winning the day with their bad-assness. It’s about men and women, some of them bad-ass, coming up against terrors they can’t hope to overcome — and the price of struggling against those terrors anyway.
Delta Green is about characters who have legitimate authority but cannot use it blatantly. They have access to the violence and power of government, but their essential purpose of saving lives will fail catastrophically if they allow the threats they face to become public knowledge. They know first-hand what exposure to the truly supernatural does to the human brain.
Comparisons with visual media might be useful, at least to show what Delta Green is not. Delta Green has always been too prone to surface comparisons with, at the worst, things like Men in Black and nowadays Agents of Shield; and at the best, but still not quite right, The X-Files and Fringe. But it doesn’t play like those properties and the fiction should not read like them. Delta Green is cosmic terror in the existential mode of Lovecraft, where the protagonists struggle to find meaning in a universe that demands nihilism. It’s not even as cinematic as a procedural like Zero Dark Thirty, because even in the War on Terror the protagonists in Delta Green have very little in their favor. If anything, it plays more like a modern-day version of Spielberg’s Munich. A sense of desperation and isolation — physical, ethical, intellectual and moral — is crucial. If you have HBO, the new show True Detective is very, very close in mood and tone.
Era by Era
The focus of stories depends on their time.
1930s: Delta Green’s predecessor was a desk in the Office of Naval Intelligence called P4 (Parapsychology, Paranormal and Psychic Phenomena), which was launched to investigate reports of the paranormal in World War I and had its remit renewed in the grim aftermath of the Innsmouth raid of 1928.
1940s to 1960s: In World War 2, P4 was combined with an OSS division dedicated to the paranormal and to psychological warfare under the code name Delta Green. It was deactivated after the war, then promptly reactivated as a Defense Department program that lingered for more than twenty years—always black, always secret. In these years Delta Green’s work was military and paramilitary, with select soldiers and spies pursuing missions around the world that they must conceal at all costs.
1970s to 1980s: In the wake of a disaster in Cambodia in 1971, when a Delta Green colonel’s carelessness killed hundreds of servicemen, it was deactivated altogether. But its leaders and their loyalists kept up the fight without permission or authorization. The next twenty years were the “Cowboy Years,” with desperate men (not yet many women in this old boys’ club) pursuing the same sorts of missions without the benefit of weapons and support except what they could steal.
1990s: In 1994, Delta Green’s longtime leader died after discovering another conspiracy within the government, the Majestic group. The Majestic group had made a deal with the inhuman forces that Delta Green fought, thinking they were merely aliens with amazing technology. Delta Green had to go even farther underground. Its new leaders were careful. They arranged the conspiracy in cells, like resistance fighters or terrorists. They put a handful of people in the civilian government where they could arrange for federal law enforcement agents to be assigned to Delta Green operations under cover of mundane investigations.
2000s: In the 2000s, Delta Green’s cold war with their Majestic rivals ended in a very hostile takeover that left Delta Green agents running Majestic’s operations. And then the War on Terror changed everything again. Delta Green splintered. The old Defense Department program was reactivated and some veterans joined it. Others, warily refused to come in from the cold.
Today: In the modern day, Delta Green is not about UFO conspiracies and fear of the government secretly going rogue, which were its most popular trappings in the 1990s. It’s about the government having gone rogue years ago with all of our consent. It’s about the War on Terror and its aftermath, through the lens of the cosmic terror of the Cthulhu Mythos.
In every era, it’s about the consequences of violence and secrecy for people who embrace them for what they see as the greater good. And of course it’s ultimately about death—the struggle to find reasons to resist it, the day-to-day necessity of denying it, and the human response to the comprehension of all-encompassing futility.
What We Don’t Want
No retreads. If you’re going to tell a story about an existing monster or threat — Deep Ones or dimensional shamblers or Carcosa or whatever — make sure you are using it to say something new and interesting about the people of Delta Green and their struggles.
No general Cthulhu Mythos stories. This is a collection of Delta Green fiction, and every story needs to be about characters and issues in that particular setting. If your story would work just as well in any other collection of Cthulhu Mythos fiction, it won’t belong here.
Pulp and action-hero thrills. There are plenty of Delta Green characters who put up a front of tougher-than-thou machismo. They’re either in denial or soon to be dead. Delta Green is about men and women confronting the most awful truths of a world where Azathoth and Yog-Sothoth are real — including the truths of what violence does to the psyches of people who perpetrate it.
Process, Rights and Payment
PITCH: First, send me a title and a summary of what you have in mind. Just a pitch! Make the summary a few lines long. Give us a sense of how your story is going to evoke HPL’s beloved cosmic fear. Tell us which elements of the Delta Green property you expect to use. I might ask if you can revise the pitch and what you have in mind for the story, but maybe not. If the final version of the pitch fits well with what we already have in the pipe, and we’re all in agreement — if you’re willing to write it for us if we get the Kickstarter funding — then we’ll announce it to our Kickstarter backers as a stretch goal. If the campaign reaches the stretch goal, then we’ll assign you the story with the deadlines listed below. If the campaign fails to reach the stretch goal, we’ll postpone further work on the story. We may revisit it later, after the KS project has been delivered.
DRAFTS AND REVISIONS: When you send the first draft of the story, we’ll review it within a few weeks. We will probably send notes for revisions. (Fair warning: Since Delta Green is a longstanding property with specific themes and history, we may be finicky.) When we get the revision, we might send more notes for the final version. When we get the final version, we’ll edit it and send the edit to you for review and approval.
- Pitch: February 10, 2014.
- First draft: March 24, 2014.
- Final draft: May 12, 2014.
PAYMENT: If we accept the final revision for publication, Arc Dream Publishing will pay ten cents a word up to a maximum of $500.00 (five hundred dollars). We will pay the full amount on acceptance of the final draft. If we accept the pitch, the KS project hits its stretch goal, and you send us a first draft, and we fail to accept, pay for and publish the final version within two years of receiving the first draft, we will pay you a “kill fee” of two cents a word up to a maximum of $100 (one hundred dollars) and all our rights to the story will cease. (In other words, if we sign you up for a story but can’t get the final draft right, we’ll cancel it and pay a kill fee. I’ll only commit to stories that I’m pretty confident about, so I hope that won’t come up. If we accept and announce your pitch and the KS project does not hit that stretch goal, you don’t write anything more and we don’t pay anything.)
RIGHTS GRANTED TO ARC DREAM PUBLISHING: First publication. Unlimited print, reprint, and digital publishing rights. Exclusive publishing rights for a period of two years from the date of our acceptance of and payment for the final revision of the story. You retain copyright to the story and may republish it after the term of exclusivity. However, there is one important caveat about republishing: Delta Green, and prior works in and elements of the Delta Green property, are copyrighted by and trademarks of the Delta Green Partnership, which is a separate entity from Arc Dream Publishing. If you wish to republish a Delta Green story, you will need a license from the Delta Green Partnership. (Publishing it free on your own website is allowed without permission, after the exclusivity period, if you include the stock Delta Green license with the story.)
If you have any other questions or requests, please let me know. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (205) 296-6670 (leave a message), or by Skype or Google Hangouts on request.