Sorry, but I really can't accept entries that aren't posted somewhere on the internet.
That isn't to say that if you've sent your story in directly, you're disqualified. You still have well over a month to take that same story and put it somewhere that's publicly accessible.
This isn't meant to be a barrier to entry. You do not need to have your own domain, a paid webhosting account, or anything of that sort to do this. Do you have Tumblr or a free blogging account with Wordpress or Blogspot or Blogword or Wlogprlog? You can use that. Medium.com is pretty much tailor-made for people who have a social media account of some kind and just want to publish one thing.
The reason for this requirement is that I don't want to act as a publisher here. I am interested in getting into publishing, but not by following a "send me your work and maybe you'll get money if I like it best" model. Nope. If all I'm offering is exposure, it's going to be proper exposure; i.e., I don't use your content to draw people to my space, but rather I highlight your content and send people to your space to see it.
If you already have a space where you're putting/promoting your creative content, this works out well for you. If you don't, you might find that you have a taste for doing it.
Basically, the meta-goals for this project are to help people who are self-publishing with self-promotion, and to get more people comfortable with putting their work out there themselves, whether it's commercial/professional or not.
If you write a story for the challenge and decide you'd rather submit it for publication/shop it around than post it in public, great!
Congratulations on having answered the challenge! Because of time constraints, I likely can't include you in the immediate round-up or the contest, but if you're selling you're work you probably don't need the inducement of the nominal prize money involved. Drop me a line when your story is live/available and I'll give it a boost.
Previously published stories that fit the bill are okay!
My main goal here was to stimulate a new wave of writing that challenges gendered assumptions, but I know that I'm not the first or only person to do so, and if we can shine a light on other, existing examples, I'd like to do so.
The same requirements apply for old stories as new, which means it has to be something that anybody with an internet connection can read for free. If your story was previously published online in a zine or similar venue that keeps its archives up and readable for free, you can just give us that link. If it's not in such a format, then so long as the rights to do so reside with you, you can put it up somewhere, ideally with a note that it's a "reprint" and where it has previously appeared. This will not weigh on the judging in either way, but it's generally good etiquette.
Stories featuring non-human characters of types that aren't always gendered to begin with are certainly welcome!
However, while I won't say I have a preference for one type of story, I suspect I'll find stories that use human characters without gendering them to be a bit more impressive than ones featuring genderless robots or energy beings or disembodied consciousnesses.
Stories with sexual content (implicit, explicit, tacit, or otherwit) are okay!
I'll very likely include some kind of content heading on the round-up post linking to the stories, but stories that are varying degrees of not-work-safe will not be judged any differently.
I am a published erotica writer myself. At one point, I was considering making the story Making Out Like Bandits an agender romance. I decided that wasn't actually right for the characters as they were emerging, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the concept. The idea that we can have relationships, sex, and love without having to refer to gender is as important as the idea that we can have stories without referring to gender. In fact, I'd say it's part of why this is important.
Stories that refer to the concept of gender or to gendered people in general are acceptable; gendered characters are not.
That is, your story can refer to men, women, boys, girls, etc., as in "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard." or "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.", but to qualify, no actual character who appears or is referenced in the story must be gendered in the text.
Characters need not explicitly be agender.
They can be, but they don't have to be. A way to think about it is something like this: many characters in many stories have no canonical height. The text will tell us that they're short or tall only if it is somehow relevant, which it often isn't. This doesn't mean that all such characters are "avertical", only that the conventions of storytelling recognizes this information as extraneous excepting cases where it is not.
Stories that relate to but don't fulfill the requirement of the challenge do not fulfill the requirement of the challenge.
Go figure, right?
If you send me your similarly themed story because you think I might find it interesting... I might find it interesting, but depending on the volume of submissions I may or may not actually have the time and wherewithal to read it. It won't be included in the judging, and isn't terribly likely to receive a link alongside the stories that did fit the challenge.
This isn't to say that there's only one way to play with gender or break down the binary in writing, but I've laid out a challenge that addresses one particular facet.
There is room for more than one conversation on the internet at a time (I know, I've checked. Twice.), and room for conversations to overlap. If you have a story or project that sort of overlaps with the challenge, I really don't mind you using the attention this challenge is generating to boost your own efforts, but there are better ways to do that then basically asking me to make an exception. See the next clarification.
You can send a story without entering the contest.
If for any reason you don't want your story to be judged/considered for the prizes, just say so in the email.
I cannot give critique or feedback on stories, sorry.
I am likely to say a few words about why I pick the stories I pick to win, but time constraints aside, writing feedback is really not my area of expertise, nor is it why I'm doing this.
If you blog about this challenge or related topics, please send me a link at my contact email address (blueauthor [standard email punctuation number 1] alexandraerin [standard email punctuation number 2] com) or tweeting @alexandraerin
You can be talking about what I'm doing, talking about what you or other authors have done in this area in the past, talking about similar stories or similar challenges, sharing your experience or advice with de-gendering your writing or freeing it from gendered assumptions, etc.
If you want to further the dialogue, I really encourage you to do it in this fashion (blogging about it and telling me you blogged about it) rather than by emailing me with your observations and experiences. The thing is, I only have so much time in the day and so much energy for discourse. If you email me your experiences and I respond, whether it's just, "That's very interesting." or "That's very interesting, and here are my thoughts...", then who are we helping? Two, maybe three people are seeing this. That's not a good use of anyone's energy in my book.
The advantage of a challenge like this is that it gets people talking about something out in the open. Let's keep the conversation there.