John Scalzi is an American science-fiction writer whose books have twice been nominated for the Hugo Award. He currently serves as president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Wil Wheaton is best known for his roles in the movie Stand By Me and on the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. That’s Wheaton above, carrying the spear and riding the unicorn cat; Scalzi is the green Orc with the battleaxe.
Clash of the Geeks is an electronic chapbook resulting from Scalzi and Wheaton’s open call for writers to submit stories based on the image, which is the creation of artist Jeff Zugale. The book is available for free download, although readers are “very strongly” encouraged to make a voluntary payment; all proceeds go to benefit the Michigan/Indiana branch of the Lupus Alliance of America.
On the book’s homepage, Scalzi describes the response to his call for submissions:
The writers who answered the call were an eclectic group. Patrick Rothfuss, author of the smash-hit fantasy novel The Name of the Wind, and Catherynne Valente, who had leapt to the front ranks of modern fantasy writers with the Hugo-nominated novel Palimpsest, were the first on board. Hugo and Nebula nominee Rachel Swirsky and video game industry legend Stephen Toulouse then offered up their own interpretations. Science fiction and fantasy balladeer John Anealio put the vision to music. New writers Bernadette Durbin and Scott Mattes competed against hundreds of fellow writers to tell their spin on the tale. And, finally, Wil Wheaton and John Scalzi were of course obliged to share their own take on the thing.
On the Los Angeles Times‘ Jacket Copy blog, Scalzi also points out that although the contest was originally conceived as a venue for amateur authors, when the submissions began rolling in he decided to open it up to professionals as well:
“Heck, if Joyce Carol Oates wants to try to explain what’s going on in that picture, I’m certainly willing to let her do it,” he posted when explaining the contest. Asked by The Times if Oates did indeed submit a story to the contest, he replied, “I can neither confirm nor deny a Joyce Carol Oates submission, or that it involved an unusual use of peanut butter, or that she created an etymologically viable language for the Orc character to speak, or that she was ultimately undermined by sloppy characterization of the unicorn pegasus kitten. Really, this sort of speculation is totally unnecessary.”
According to Jacket Copy, a few hours after the title’s launch, it had already raised $3,000 for the Lupus Alliance. Scalzi told the LA Times that if the project succeeds in raising $25,000 he’ll consider it a success, and if it cracks $50,000 he’ll “feel like the king of the Internet.”