Entry Nickname: Making Boys Cry
Title: Virtual Rebel
Word Count: 90,000
Genre: Science Fiction
The warrior. It's a title 18-year-old Kali Ling earned bringing men to their knees -- inside video games.
As an athletic avatar for the Virtual Gaming League, Kali's living a better life than any college kid in 2054: ultimate fame, zero responsibility, and nonstop partying in L.A.'s hottest clubs. But when her teammate Nathan overdoses and Kali is named captain -- the first female one in history -- it's time to level up to adulthood.
Objectives for Quest "Grow Up and Kick Ass" include embracing her Chinese heritage and training with her team's latest recruit (whom she can't help picturing in nothing but a strategically placed controller). But just as she's ready to lead, Kali uncovers a sickening fact behind the sport she loves. Too many hours inside a realer-than-life virtual world drives gamers to drug addiction and insanity, and the industry has been whitewashing the truth for the sake of ratings.
For ratings? Oh, it's on like Donkey Kong.
Furious, Kali tackles a new kind of end boss: the venality of electronic sports. But the VGL unleashes its Back Down or Face Expulsion attack. As leader of her team, it's not just her future on the line, and as a female captain, thousands of girl gamers are counting on her to prove women can compete on the same level as men. But when the industry erases Nathan from its database and spits on his memory, Kali's rage jumps +20. Back down? Pffft.
Role model. Rebel. Either way, it's game over. Permanently.
This wouldn't be the first time I died. Sure as hell wouldn't be the last, either. But while most watched this virtual world from the safe haven of reality, there was nowhere else I'd rather spend my Saturday night.
Crouched high on the tower's parapet, I overlooked a sea of wheat fields. The scent of lavender and taste of wheatgrass wove together in the air, drifting with the breeze that swept through my hair. I took a deep breath and smiled at the irony, as thick as the mountain air filling my lungs. Lavender. Wheat fields. Tranquility.
"Heaven," I whispered, chuckling to myself. "For those who'd love to fight in hell."
Movement in the fields caught my eye, down and right. A zigzag carved its way through the ten-foot tall stalks, heading straight for the tower. My smile widened. Maybe this sucker had the balls to take on Kali Ling.
I stilled inside. Even breaths. No fear. At the field's edge, the stalks trembled violently. The air filled with the rainstick rustling of brush and dry grass. Yes. Someone would emerge. I gripped the sword sheathed across my back and waited, muscles tight, mouth watering. Come on. Give me something. A brute. Six -- no -- seven feet tall, wielding a mace. Or an axe.
Give me anything.
A rabbit scurried out from the field. Nothing followed. The grass fluttered in the breeze. Birds chirped, nestled in the nearby sycamore trees. It was the rabbit, and only the rabbit.
Entry Nickname: Girl Destroys World
Title: MAGICK 7.0
Word count: 85,000
Genre: MG Fantasy
In fourteen-year-old Anne’s opinion, there are two kinds of quests: the kind that lead to unicorns and lollipops, and the kind that get you and everyone you love killed, horribly and painfully (possibly by zombie sharks). She knows this because her budding magick abilities have accidentally entangled her in a quest, and so far she hasn’t encountered any lollipops.
She could opt out, but then as per Paragraph 5 Subparagraph 3 of the Official Questing Regulations she’d be exiled forever and all of her friends would be tossed into a dungeon. She’d rather kiss a Steam Troll than let that happen.
Her task? Slay a silver dragon that doesn’t exist. In just three days. With only the guidance of a wizard with a platypus for an arm and a sassy holographic sparrow. It’s all pretty straightforward (“straightforward” being a relative term) until she meets Lord Oswald, a weirdo in a cryogenic chamber who wears a lab coat and comfortable loafers. As the duly licensed Antagonist, he should be trying to stop her. Instead, he swaps roles and steals her quest.
That’s when Anne learns she wasn’t on a mission to save the world, but to destroy it (so not exactly environmentally-friendly). And Lord Oswald seems more than happy to see it through to completion. With the atomic clock counting down, Anne must figure out why she’s suddenly the villain of her own quest and pray to all things platypus-related that her unstable magick can defeat Oswald’s ten-thousand-year-old “technology.”
If she stops him, she might yet become a HeroTM
If she doesn’t, everyone dies (in which case, definitely no lollipops).
At Saint Lupin’s Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children they didn’t play favorites. Each orphan was treated with the same amount of disdain and neglect. They were provided with one threadbare tunic, one pair of ill-fitting shoes, and one dusty and moth-eaten overcoat. They were given a daily ration of gruel, and they were bathed exactly once per month, just before going on duty in the coal mine. This, incidentally, was consistent with the advice given in the popular self-help guide, How to Raise Orphans and Make Money.
There were three ways to leave Saint Lupin’s. The first was to get adopted. Perhaps by a nice family who would whisk you away to your long dreamed-of castle on a hill—one surrounded by forests and glens, filled with interesting and friendly people, rich with history and bright with promise and hope. The board of governors was extremely pleased with its track record in this regard as it had managed to prevent all adoptions since the Institute’s foundation.
The second way was to reach the age of fourteen and be unceremoniously kicked out on your bottom.
The third way was to embark upon a quest. Although quests were heavily regulated (so they could then be heavily taxed), there were no restrictions regarding age or background and thus anyone could apply. The secret to a successful application was first to fulfill a prophecy (also heavily taxed). At Saint Lupin’s, both of these topics, that is, quests and prophecies, were considered particularly taboo subjects of inquiry.