STAR FLEET BATTLES

INPUT GUIDE- CL29

INPUT GUIDE: CAPTAIN'S LOG 29

ADVICE TO FICTION AUTHORS

    Writing fiction for SFB is one of the most challenging and rewarding activities possible. Some people write with difficulty, some with ease, and some cannot write at all. Some stories we have published were written start-to-finish in 48 hours; some were written and rewritten a dozen times over ten years. We are always short of good fiction and whenever a Captain's Log goes to press, there is only rarely a story selected for the next issue. What follows are some rambling comments about the best ways to proofread, edit, and submit your manuscript.

Submissions

    Basically start by a one-page memo saying that you have written or are writing a story and asking for any pointers. You should include the date and location of the story, an outline of the events, and the ships/weapons you will be using. If you are inventing a new tactic, ship, or weapon, so note it and include the normal submission for that item. We will advise you of any land mines we see and how to avoid them. Often, you can get an answer more quickly out of Steve Petrick than out of Steve Cole.

    Keep track of your various drafts and be sure that SVC is working from the most recent version. Always include your name and the draft number or date in the body text of the document.

    Send your story by Email. The preferred method is pure text, but some have made rich text format work. Try sending a one-page sample first so SVC can see if he can open the file on his G4 Macintosh. Avoid using style sheets. Do paragraph indents with a tab, not with a style sheet or hanging indent. Lots of weird style sheets carry artifacts into the Macintosh that crash PageMaker.

Checking and Proofreading

    There are two different things here. Proofreading means fixing typos and punctuation. This isn't a major problem; SVC has always said "I can fix the punctuation in a good story; I cannot fix a bad story that is nicely punctuated." Even so, it's a good professional habit to fix all the typos and get the punctuation done right. It just looks better and is easier for SVC to read.

    Checking is another matter. Are the tactical decisions logical? Does a ship combat story leave SFB players asking "Why didn't he use the tractor beam instead of letting his ship get hit by that drone?" Is the technology accurate? (If you are using transporters between Earth and the Moon, you blew it.)
Here are several good ideas to help edit/check your story:

    Your joy on seeing it published will be tempered when you find the typo that has been there all along and that nobody noticed.

Changes by ADB Inc.

    You can expect some changes to be made to your story. If there are major plot loopholes that are not easily fixed, we'll give you a chance for a rewrite. If we can fix them easily, we'll just do it.

    In most cases, changes by ADB Inc. don't change the plot or story or even the characters. We trim out excess verbiage, add details, sometimes rewrite dialogue so that Klingons don't sound like teenagers from New York, etc. If we have to make major plot changes, we probably just sent it back and told you to try again. Here are some examples of changes edited into stories so you can see that fears of such changes are not justified:

    You can always suggest or ask for changes to our changes but the final decision is ours. It's our universe so we decide what fits; it's our money so we decide what's good enough to print.

The Name is the Thing

    If you have trouble coming up with character names, you can either use the phonebook (the most common source) or you can check any of a dozen on-line sites that provide writers with common names for various ethnic, historical, and national groups. There is also the Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook.

    Ask us before using a character (or a relative of acharacter) who appeared in another story.

    Ship names are easy. You can check the available lists which have been posted on the bulletin board, or make up a name, or just use "name1" and "name2" and so forth. ADB Inc. will have to check the published history of each ship to see if you are accidentally using a name which is listed as destroyed in the previous year. If we can't let you use the name you picked, we'll pick another one, and if you don't like it, we can discuss alternatives. We are happy to do ship names for you after your story reaches the point of being edited for publication.

    Planet names are listed in GPD and in Captain's Log #23, both of which include the F&E hex number.

Dealing With ADB Inc.

    The most important thing to remember is that the two Steves who work at ADB Inc. are busy and don't have time to sugar coat the bad news or make you feel good about botching your story. You will get a straight and honest appraisal of your work, so don't take it personally if they didn't try to make you feel better.

    It is important to note that the Star Fleet Universe has a coherent and consistent "vision" which is one reason it has survived this long. If SVC says that your idea of how Lyran nobility works doesn't fit the vision, you can try stating your case, but if he turns you down twice, quit arguing before you get the dreaded "just don't send me stories any more" letter.

Words of Wisdom

Pet Peeves and Common Errors

    Pet Peeve #1 is failing to list the specific date and location of your story. At least a year and a general area. Work into some of the dialogue other "recent" events from other published works.

    There is a way that dialogue is punctuated in the English language. It gets hard to follow the flow of the story when SVC has to correct two or three typos in every sentence of dialogue.

WRONG: "Activate tractors." Said the Captain.
RIGHT: "Activate tractors," said the Captain.

Here are a few other examples of formatting errors.

WRONG: On turn one, impulse nine, I armed disruptors.
RIGHT: On Turn #1, Impulse #9, I armed disruptors.

WRONG: Though the Romulans had impulse, ...
RIGHT: Although the Romulans had impulse, ...

Thinking is put in italics without quotes, but is punctuated the same. Hence, This is the way to do it, I thought.

Avoid using abbreviations for ranks and titles. Thus, sergeant and governor instead of Sgt. and Gov. are preferred.

The abbreviations "Mr." and "Mrs." are acceptable.

The proper term is Star Fleet, not Starfleet.

This article includes material from several fiction authors including Jim Davies, Loren Knight, and Garth Getgen.

Notes on Ship Designs and SSDs

    Don't try to base historical ships on published Stellar Shadows ships. Don't have more deck crews than ready racks. The Federation doesn't use casual fighters, nor does it put gatlings on ships which are not carrier escorts. (There is one exception, the SCS; no other carrier has, or will get, gatlings.) We don't like spacing boxes a half-box apart or breaking the hull outline. We do it now and then when we cannot avoid it, but such cases should be rare; don't send a ship with a lot of such tight spacings. Scouts are not generally built with weapons that will blind their sensors.

USEFUL NOTES

Beware the spammers!

    Spam is a fact of life, and all Email systems use various forms of filters to keep it out (none with any real success).
Unfortunately, these spam filters can disrupt normal Email, and someone like SVC who gets 200 pieces of spam every morning (over 300 every day) can tend to get a little trigger happy with the delete key. (Even worse, the 2000+ spam filters tend to catch things you wouldn't think they should be catching.) To make sure your message doesn't get mistaken for spam, the subject line should include "SFB" or "SFU" or "F&E" or "GPD", since spammers would not include those in spam sent to millions of their victims.

    When sending an attached file, be sure that the file name is something specific. A file named "sample" is probably going to be thrown away as suspected spam, while a file named "SFB Turn Guages" would obviously not be a virus from someone. Be sure to mention the file name of any attached files in your Email. Type it in manually since often times the systems do not display the names of attached files on their own (although many times they do). That allows us to match up files with Emails.

    Avoid using subject lines that are easily mistaken for Spam. Phrases such as: You gotta see this!, You said what?, Let me help you, Need to talk to you, Did you see this?, About our previous conversation, here is the file you wanted, etc., are all heavily used by spammers to trick people into opening those Emails.

While we all hate spam, you have to consider several things.

    First, they wouldn't be doing it if they weren't making money. (A spam company tried to recruit us as a customer, promising that for a $200 payment to send a million spams they would get us $3500 in sales of basic set. We declined.) Second, a lot of products wouldn't get onto the market any other way. Third, some of the offers are not what they seem. (Enter your personal data to apply for a lower mortgage rate and you may be giving that data to a criminal rather than a mortgage broker.)

Making and Maintaining Contact With ADB, Inc.

    Be sure that any document you send includes your name, address, and Email address on the document itself (e.g., on an SSD in any open spot, in a story or scenario near the top, etc.). Attached documents often get separated from the Emails they are with and we sometimes find interesting ships with no information on who sent them. If you send several SSDs, put your information on every single one of them.

    If you are in the habit of sending in submissions and moving now and then, go to Starlist and enter a request for Starlist. That puts your name in the master file. If we find a ship with your name and an old address, we check the master Starlist file as the first try to find you.

    If we cannot contact you any other way, we will post a note in the Lost Souls topic on the BBS. If you lose touch for a while you might want to check the board and see if your name is in that topic. Maybe we have good news for you?

    One pet peeve. Many people have Email systems designed to defeat spam and require us to "confirm" or "request to be qualified" to send you mail. We're usually too busy and treat such responses as "no contact" and list you in Lost Souls. So if you are sending questions or submissions to ADB Inc. and you have one of those Email systems designed to require confirmation before it will allow mail through, add us to your allowed recipient list before sending Email submissions or questions to us.

    Origins is coming up and Steve Cole is always happy to meet with anyone about anything, a submission, a background question, help with a project, or whatever. He does this after exhibit hall hours, at a table in the tournament room. Many people Email him submissions before the convention and he reads them in the car while Petrick drives through state after state.If your submission is rejected by Steve Petrick, you can ask him to show it to SVC, but don't send a second copy to SVC.

Copyright 1999-2004 Amarillo Design Bureau, All Rights Reserved

Updated 19 November 2004