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Across the Universe

The Kickstarter Project



Mid-June Update

The deadline for story submissions has passed. The editors are now considering all the stories they've received, making their best choices for the anthology, and we're still on track for publication in early December.


As of today (March 28, 2019), the Kickstarter campaign has ended as a massive success! We were seeking $6,000 to fully fund the book. We raised $8,010 from 258 backers, meaning the book will be four stories longer than originally planned.

The editors are now considering stories to fill the book with the very best of alternative Beatles tales. If you're a writer, see the guidelines below.

But thank you, everyone (and especially you 258 backers) for helping make this idea a reality. I'm looking forward to reading the book, and to sharing it with you, later this year.



The Kickstarter campaign to fund Across the Universe is a success! As of this writing (March 22, 2019), we've raised $6,594 of the $6,000 we needed to move the anthology into publication. There are still five days left (Kickstarter being what it is), and now we're aiming at our first stretch goal, which will increase the size of the book by at least two stories: a scant $406 will get us there. So backing the campaign now will definitely get you a book of fantastic tales of alternative Beatles later this year (we're aiming to have the book in backers' hands by the beginning of December). Thank you for all your support!

During the last few weeks, in addition to wonderful support from would-be readers, we've heard from more than a few would-be writers. And now that we're assured of funding, editors Michael Ventrella and Randee Dawn have announced the writers' guidelines for those of you eager to get into the book. As of today, they are open to submissions. They write:


[Note, as of June 2019, the submission window has closed. Thanks for your interest!]

We have confirmations from authors Spider Robinson, David Gerrold, Jonathan Maberry, Alan Goldsher, Cat Rambo, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Jody Lynn Nye, Lawrence Watt-Evans, and Gail Z. Martin, with notes by Janis Ian and Nancy Holder.

We should have room for a few extra stories as well. But only a few.

Book Theme

The theme of the anthology is "The Beatles—What if?" What if Brian Epstein hadn't managed the band? What if George Harrison hated sitar music? What if Ringo had been the true star of the band all along? What if the Beatles had been aliens? Or magic users? Or zombies? Or American?

Story Concepts: What to Avoid

The confirmed authors have already begun their stories, so please avoid the following ideas:

This is not to say that you cannot do a variation on these, but keep in mind that if we get more than one story with the same theme, your chance of having your story accepted is reduced. That said, do not contact us with your idea first. After all, two authors can take the same basic idea and produce completely different stories.

Story Length

The story should be no more than 4,000 words. This should be sufficient for what should most likely be a somewhat humorous tale. Payment is $200 a story, so there is no advantage to padding your story. Take as many words as you need to make a great story, but if it is too long, it had better be so great that we can't refuse it. A good but padded story may get rejected over a concise, fast-moving one, because we want to fit in as many stories as possible.

I'm Unpublished. Can I submit?

Yes! We encourage that. But you will still face the same standards for submissions as the published authors. (Pro tip: Check your spelling and grammar.)


Submit your story in 12-point, Times New Roman/Times Roman font, double-spaced.

If you have questions about other formatting (like setting up the story's first page, and page numbering), refer to Shunn's manuscript formatting guide.

The file should be RTF, not Word or DocX or anything else. The first page should be your cover letter—keep it brief—which will include your contact information and a 50-75 word bio. List previous publications or relevant experience in the bio.

Where to Send Your Story

Send your complete story/cover letter to WhatIfBeatlesAnthology [at] gmail [dot] com—do not send to Michael or Randee personally. We will accept submissions until June 14. Please continue to check this space for any updates. If you have not heard from us by August 1, you can safely assume that your story was not accepted.

Advice on Copyright Issues

Cory Doctorow was unable to contribute to the anthology, but did offer us these suggestions concerning copyright issues when dealing with real people and real songs. Keep his comments in mind:

Characters are copyrightable, but a mere mention of names is not enough to violate a copyright in Eleanor Rigby (the character), or Eleanor Rigby (the song).

However, if I actually wrote a short SF story featuring Eleanor Rigby and Father Mackenzie and if he were darning the socks and she were picking up rice at a church after a wedding and wearing a face (that she keeps in the jar at the door) then you could legitimately say I am taking so much of the song’s structure and plot, that I am effectively creating an infringing derivative work—just as Cats! expanded Eliot's silly poems into a rock opera, (Which, given that the poems were written in the 1930s, are still under copyright.) And that would need permission and or fee.

Of course, if this were a true parody in which it turns out that all the lonely people are actually smoking weed and having great sex at sock-darning parties, then that might be a fair use. But if it is just that she keeps her face in a jar by the door because she is an actual alien, and the rice is to feed her growing insectoid child whose mind control will take over the earth.… Well, I dunno. Lots of courts would frown at that as just being an unauthorized sequel/unlicensed derivative work.

And others are not okay. Saying that character names may never be used is silly. If I said that Cory Doctorow was "the Father Mackenzie of Sci Fi writers,” darning your antique 1950's pajamas rather than hitting the hot spots, copyright law wouldn't even be involved. (Titles and short phrases are not copyrightable and that's just an analogy). But the fan fic extrapolation from an existing delineated plot, even if a plot developed in a song, might not be.

I don't think there is a trademark angle. The courts have dealt relatively harshly with claims like that unless there is some way to claim sponsorship and affiliation.

Bottom line:

Avoid retelling stories in the songs, avoid using the song lyrics (titles are okay), and avoid using copyrighted characters (such as the ones in the Beatles movies—no Blue Meanies, please).

Original information, first published February 28, 2019

What if the Beatles had never met? Would we enjoy Dave Clark Five-mania (as Spider Robinson suggested)?

What if Brian Epstein hadn't managed the band? What if George Harrison hated sitar music? What if Ringo had been the true star of the band all along?

What if the Beatles had been aliens? Or magic users? Or zombies? Or {gasp} American?

Help us answer those questions, and many more, as we gather together some of the biggest names in speculative fiction—and some wonderful musicians—to create Across the Universe: an anthology of speculative Beatles fiction. The writers who've already clamored for places in the anthology will be writing a series of speculative fiction stories across the genre-verse: horror, science fiction, and fantasy. Some humor, some not.

And once the book is funded, we'll also be opening up some slots for story submissions from you! (Story submissions will be judged on their merit, not on whether or not the author supported this project.) The editors will announce guidelines and how to submit at that time.

Why are we doing this?

Why this book? Because this is Something we've been wanting to do for a while. We sought out great writers Here, There, and Everywhere and invited them to Come Together and participate. (A few gave No Reply.) They're All Together Now excited about it, because they have a Real Love for the Beatles. There's a Place for each one. Every Little Thing is working out, because we don't want to come at this project all Helter Skelter.

With your Help, We Can Work It Out. If you contribute now, you will Get Back a wonderful book full of great stories. It'll be nothing short of a Revolution. We can't Wait! We promise it's going to be amazing. And when you get to The End, you'll say "Yes It Is."

From the editors, Michael ∓ Randee (Two of Us)

Who's involved?

Co-Editor Michael A. Ventrella writes humorous adventure novels like Big Stick, The Axes of Evil, and Bloodsuckers: A Vampire Runs for President. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies, including the Heroes in Hell series and the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. He's edited the Baker Street Irregular anthologies (with Jonathan Maberry), the Tales of Fortannis fantasy series, and Release the Virgins! As a musician, he has played in many bands that loved to do Beatles covers. His web page is michaelaventrella.com.

Co-Editor Randee Dawn is a Brooklyn-based veteran entertainment journalist for outlets including Variety, The Los Angeles Times, and The Today Show by day, and a speculative fiction writer by night (sometimes also by day). Her fiction has been published in magazines and anthologies including Fantasia Divinity, Where We May Wag, and Children of a Different Sky. She is the co-author of The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion. More information available at randeedawn.com.

Artist Dave Alvarez is an animator and cartoonist who has worked on films and comic books for Warner Brothers (Looney Tunes) and Disney studios, as well as his own comic strip Yenny. For more of his art, see dascomics.com.

The authors

In addition to these authors who are lending their names and stories to get the anthology funded, there will be open slots in the book for which the editors will be reading story submissions—perhaps yours!—as soon as the book is funded.

Spider Robinson is the creator of the beloved Callahan's Place series, and also well-known as a musician. With his wife, choreographer Jeanne Robinson, he co-wrote the Stardance trilogy. He is the winner of three Hugo Awards and one Nebula Award, as well as the Robert A. Heinlein Award for Lifetime Achievement. He was a Guest of Honor at the 2018 World Science Fiction Convention. spiderrobinson.com

David Gerrold is the winner of the Forry and Skylark awards, as well as the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards, but he will probably be longest remembered as the creator of Star Trek's tribbles in his script for the original series episode "The Trouble with Tribbles." He also created the Sleestak race in the TV series Land of the Lost. And he is the author of the wonderfully moving "The Martian Child." He was a Guest of Honor at the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention. gerrold.com

Jonathan Maberry is the author of V-Wars (soon to be a major series from Netflix). More generally, he is a suspense author, anthology editor, comic book writer, playwright, and teacher. His early writings focused on martial arts, before he branched out into folklore, the occult, and thrillers. He is the winner of five Bram Stoker Awards, and was nominated for nine others. jonathanmaberry.com

Lawrence Watt-Evans is the winner of the Hugo Award for "Why I Left Harry's All-Night Hamburgers." He was an officer for both the Horror Writers Association and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. watt-evans.com

Alan Goldsher is an author and musician. His ten novels include Paul Is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion and My Favorite Fangs: The Story of the von Trapp Family Vampires. His music journalism has appeared in Bass Player and Guitar Player, and his sportswriting has been seen in ESPN The Magazine. As a professional bassist, he has recorded with Janet Jackson, Cypress Hill, and Naughty by Nature; toured the world with Digable Planets; and performed at the 1994 Grammy Awards. alangoldsher.com

Cat Rambo is a science fiction, fantasy, and technology author. She co-edited Fantasy Magazine and Ad Astra: the SFWA 50th Anniversary Cookbook, and has been nominated for the Nebula, World Fantasy, and Compton Crook Awards. She is the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. kittywumpus.net/blog

Keith R.A. DeCandido is an author, musician, and martial artist. He has written tie-in novels to more than a dozen television series, and was named a Grand Master by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. He also writes comics and the high-fantasy police procedural series Dragon Precinct. decandido.net

Jody Lynn Nye is the author of over 50 books and more than 160 short stories. Alongside her own work, she has collaborated with some of the best names in the SF/fantasy field, including Anne McCaffrey and Robert Asprin. She worked with Asprin on his humorous fantasy MythAdventures series, and has continued them since his death. jodynye.net

Gail Z. Martin is best known for her Chronicles of the Necromancer series. She has also written steampunk adventures, urban fantasy, mysteries and more. ascendantkingdoms.com

Nancy Holder is a writer, editor, and game designer. She is the winner of five Bram Stoker Awards and the Scribe Award. She contributed to the design of FTL Games’ Dungeon Master, writes a column for the SFWA Bulletin, and teaches writing. nancyholder.com

Janis Ian is a singer-songwriter whose most widely recognized song, "At Seventeen", was released as a single from her 1975 album Between the Lines, which reached number 1 on the Billboard chart. She's the winner of two Grammy Awards (out of ten nominations in eight different categories). In the 21st Century she has become a science fiction fan and author, with stories appearing in several anthologies (including Stars: Original Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian). janisian.com

Let's Kick It!

So please, click through to our Kickstarter project here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/667435382/across-the-universe-tales-of-alternative-beatles. And please, tell your friends!