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John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton launch charity e-book

ClashofthegeeksThe image is designed to strike fear and loathing into the heart of anyone with a sense of decency: writer/actor Wil Wheaton, wearing the evil-clown sweater, astride a winged unicorn kitten, attacking author John Scalzi as a greenish, ax-wielding Orc. With volcanoes.

The cover of "Clash of the Geeks" was designed by artist Jeff Zugale, at Scalzi's direction. All the contributions to the book, including stories by Scalzi and Wheaton, are based on the image.

Donations made for the e-book, which Scalzi is calling a chapbook, are voluntary -- technically, it can be downloaded for free, in multiple formats -- and will benefit the Lupus Alliance of America.

A few hours after its launch Monday morning, $3,000 had come in. "We don't have a particular sum in mind to raise, and speaking from experience of having done several charitable writing projects, results really are all over the board," Scalzi told The Times in an e-mail. "We'll be happy with whatever we get. But off the top of my head I'll say this: If we eventually raise $25,000, I'll consider this a successful project. If we raise $50k, I'll feel like King of the Internet."

Scalzi is the author of "Old Man's War" and has twice been nominated for a Hugo Award. As a young man, Wheaton portrayed Wesley Crusher on "Star Trek: Next Generation" and later began writing (he's also lately been seen on "The Big Bang Theory"). Both Wheaton and Scalzi, who are friends, are engaging, disarming writers who've been blogging since the early days; often, they share their in-jokes with their readers.

They invited those readers to contribute to "Clash of the Geeks" in a writing contest, getting hundreds of submissions about the picture. "We were originally supposed to have just one winner, but when it came down to it we couldn't decide between the final two (by Bernadette Durbin and Scott Mattes)," Scalzi wrote. "Then we realized we didn't have to choose between them, and picked them both."

Although the contest was implicitly designed to be open to amateur authors, Scalzi encouraged anyone to participate. "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. "

The e-book, which is published by Subterranean Press, also includes stories by professional writers -- Patrick Rothfuss, Catherynne M. Valente and Rachel Swirsky -- as well as a tech-oriented one-act play by online gaming community legend Stephen Toulouse, and the musical transcription of a ballad by songwriter John Anealio. All take on the very serious clash of an Orc-like Scalzi, a clown-besweatered Wheaton and the terrifying unicorn pegasus kitten.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image credit: Subterranean Press

 
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