Five Earths Project FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions for new writers
A number of people have joined the Five Earths Project groups and wanted to know how to go about writing for these groups. In response to that, we’ve created this little FAQ for these frequently asked questions. Click on any of the questions to reveal the answer.
Q: What is the Five Earths Project, and how does it differ from other DC Comics fan fiction sites?
A: The Five Earths Project is a cooperative fan fiction project based upon characters, settings, and events from DC Comics and their affiliated comics lines circa 1985.
The Project consists of five Yahoo groups, each representing one of the fictional alternate universes that existed in DC Comics up until the time of the Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985-86). The universes, designated according to their respective Earths, are as follows:
- Earth-1: The DC Comics home of heroes such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Justice League of America, the Outsiders, the Teen Titans, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and associated characters.
- Earth-2: The DC Comics home of the Justice Society of America, the Seven Soldiers of Victory, Infinity Inc., and associated characters.
- Earth-X: The DC Comics home of the former Quality Comics heroes, including the Freedom Fighters and the Blackhawks.
- Earth-S: The DC Comics home of the former Fawcett Comics heroes, including Shazam, Captain Marvel, the Marvel Family, and associated characters.
- Earth-4: The DC Comics home of the former Charlton Comics, Fox Features, and Tower Comics heroes and associated characters.
As well, three other groups are associated with the Five Earths Project as honorary members:
- Earth-3: The DC Comics home of the Crime Syndicate and Alexander Luthor. This world, formerly in a parallel universe, has been absorbed into the antimatter universe of Qward.
- Earth C: The DC Comics home of DC’s funny animals, including Captain Carrot and his amazing Zoo Crew. This world is not considered an actual parallel Earth, but rather a dimension connected to the Earths similar to Oz or Wonderland, which operates under the laws of comedy rather than the laws of physics.
- Earth-12: The DC Comics home of the Inferior Five and various humor characters, including comic-book versions of real people like Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis. Like Earth-C, this world is another dimension that operates by the laws of comedy rather than the laws of physics.
All of these groups share the history of these universes up until the time of the Crisis. During the Crisis, all alternate universes were destroyed except for these five. These five were merged into a single universe with one timeline. At this point, the premise for this project has its most crucial point: After the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths #12, the five universes were split apart once more, and each now survive on their own. The inhabitants of each universe remember the events of the Crisis and even recall the one day when the universes were merged. Inhabitants of some universes remember it better than others. For example, in the Earth-S universe, memories of the Crisis are hazy for most people, and few recall clearly what happened.
See the Timeline of the Crisis on Infinite Earths for more information.
A major after-effect of the Crisis is the limit on travel between universes. To protect the multiverse from another Crisis, the wizard Shazam and others who fit their roles as the “Monitor” of their respective Earth fortified the barriers between universes, rendering them impassable. So far, only a few short, cryptic messages have passed between worlds. It is planned to eventually allow travel between universes again, but this will not happen for some time yet, and not without agreement from the project founders and key writers in the group.
We now have five separate Earths that are currently kept separated by means of a mystic barrier. No travel is allowed between the universes at this juncture. The stories on our site take place on each of these five worlds.
Q: So, what year is it exactly?
A: The Five Earths Project started out with the stories following the Crisis (August, 1985). Since then, the worlds have each progressed forward in time a bit and are currently around the 1987/1988 time frame. Characters are aging normally as of the Crisis, so that they are all now about two years older since that time.
Earth-1 has a weird timeline of sorts in that the many comics prior to the Crisis needed to be compressed into a logical history (otherwise, Superman and Batman would at least be in their fifties, and Robin/Nightwing would have been in high school for decades). Because of that, we created a Timeline of Earth-1 that notes comic issues as well by years. This timeline includes our stories as of 1985 and shows how time has moved forward and what tales appear in what order.
Q: What comic books are considered part of continuity?
A: Any comic book published before and through the Crisis on Infinite Earths series (1985 to 1986) are considered part of our continuity. This includes titles by DC Comics, Fawcett, Quality, etc. On some titles, in special cases only, a couple of the post-Crisis issues are also considered to be “as happened” on our Earth-1 (see the Timeline of Earth-1 for more information). Our stories pick up after that.
Q: Where can I find the stories written so far in the groups? Do I have to go back and read all the messages?
A: You do not need to go back and read all the messages. The stories are gathered regularly and posted on the Five Earths Project website. Each Earth has its own story archive pages (for current stories, Times Past stories, and Future Tales). All the stories can be found on the Five Earths Project website. Please be patient, though. We’ve recently moved to a new website and are slowly migrating the older stories over while adding newer ones. It will take time before they’re all up. Meanwhile, check out the old archive sites (links on the sidebar) for older stories.
Q: What are Times Past tales?
A: As the name implies, these are tales of our characters set in the past. Often they slide in between issues of existing comics or fill in gaps of time where characters were inactive (such as the post-War years for the JSA members on Earth-2). Times Past tales need to adhere to the fact that they cannot contradict anything that has happened in the comics or in tales we have written. They can introduce new, previously unknown characters, though.
Q: I have an idea for a story. Can I just start writing it or what?
A: Because the Five Earths Project is a cooperative, collaborative effort, all stories we write are part of a continuity we are weaving. Therefore, we need to be careful not to step on the toes of what another writer might already have in the works. For this reason, we have a separate writers’ list that all members planning to write for the Five Earths Project should join: The Five Earths Writers List. It is here we discuss our upcoming tales, ask questions, and brainstorm. We do this away from the story groups in order to keep from detracting from the tales themselves and allow those who just want to read the chance to see the final work without being overburdened by lots of preliminary discussion or spoilers.
Another way to chat with other writers is the weekly writers chats. They were formerly held on Saturday nights (5 PM Pacific, 7 PM Central, 8 PM Eastern), for writers and founders to discuss story ideas, characters, and developments. Topics of discussion are open, and all are welcome to join in. (We will resume these chats soon. Check back this FAQ soon for the link.)
Once you have an idea, have discussed it on the writers group or in a chat, and have gotten no dissenting opinion from other writers, you can start working on your tale. You can post it over a series of messages on the group or in one long post. It’s your call.
Q: Can I write stories about any character?
A: All characters are open to use, however there are some writers who have been doing ongoing series (ie. a number of continuing tales with the same characters). In respect of that, you should check with a writer about your plans for a character who might be in a current series. If you post a brief bit about your intentions for a character in a story to the writers list, you’ll get response from those who might be doing a regular series. And often, writers might even let another writer do a “fill-in” issue within their series title. It’s all about communication and cooperation.
Q: Can I bring back a character that's dead?
A: Yes and no. All writers are welcome to write a story taking place before a character’s death (a Times Past story), but bringing back dead characters is generally frowned upon, although there are exceptions.
By common consent of the Project founders and involved writers, it has been determined that certain events of the Crisis remain in effect, and are not reversable. The deaths of characters sacrificed in battle with the Anti-Monitor, for instance, are to be upheld, and these characters cannot be brought back. Characters affected by this decision include:
- Supergirl (Earth-1)
- Flash (Earth-1)
- Green Arrow (Earth-2)
The basic rule of thumb for deciding which deaths are not reversable are: Did the character die sacrificing themselves for the world? Was there a body?
On the other hand, a few apparent deaths that occurred during the Crisis have been reversed, including:
- Huntress (Earth-2)
- Robin (Earth-2)
- Kole (Earth-1)
- Wonder Woman (Earth-1)
Note: Wonder Woman (Diana) of Earth-1 was still returned to the clay she came from in our continuity, just as she was in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12, and she has been molded into a baby once more by her mother, Queen Hippolyta. In effect, she will have to relive her life again. Her sister Nubia is now the second Wonder Woman.
Q: Any specifics in the writing mechanics I need to remember?
A: Writers should write the stories in past tense. Said instead of says, was instead of is, et cetera. All stories in the archive are in past tense, and this saves the Archivists an incredible amount of work when it comes time to edit tales for posting there. The only exception to this is if a story or chapter is written in first-person present tense.
Also, take the time to spell check and proofread your chapters before posting. If you don’t do it at that time, do it when you prepare the file for archiving (see below).
Q: How often can I write stories per group?
A: To allow a fair use of characters and to not flood the groups, we ask each writer to limit his or her story output to one complete story per group per week. If you wanted, you can write one tale a week on each of our Five Earths Project groups. This way everyone gets a chance. By the same token, we ask writers to only post one tale on a group at a time (ie. don’t start multiple tales at once). This keeps the writer focused on finishing the work he started and again allows for fair use of characters.
Q: I finished posting my first tale. Is there more to do?
A: Yes! There are a few steps to go before an Archivist will post your story on the Five Earths Project website:
- Create a story text file: In order to help the Archivists, we ask all writers to put all chapters of each story and put them in a single text file. We ask that it be in a pure text format (preferably using Notepad or Wordpad) so that we don’t need special tools or word processors to read it.
- Edit, edit, edit: Self-editing of your story (or having a friend edit it for you) cannot be overemphasized. We at the Five Earths Project want all of our stories to be as professional and high-quality as possible, and this includes correcting all grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes that inevitably creep into any story. While we’d prefer that you correct those mistakes before you post your story, it’s even more important to correct them for your story file. It looks more professional, and it shows more respect for your readers. There are several spell check and grammar check programs available (such as Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, or OpenOffice Writer) that can help you fix your errors. If you don’t have a version of Word on your computer, you can get a free word processing program similar to Word but free at OpenOffice.org, which notes spelling errors. Many browsers (such as Firefox) also have add-ons that can catch spelling errors as you type. If you still need help, you might want to ask a friend to help you by correcting mistakes. Please also edit your story file for any continuity errors that readers may have already noted in feedback at the group.
- Write a teaser: Each story in the archives is given a short teaser or blurb that is meant to interest a casual reader enough to read the story. A teaser tells the essential pitch of the story without giving anything away, and they vary in length and are usually two to five sentences long. Every story has a conflict of some kind or there wouldn’t be a story; so when writing a teaser, try to sum up the central conflict in a concise way that will catch a reader’s interest. If you have trouble writing teasers, don’t worry too much about it — just give it your best shot, and one of the editors will spruce it up a bit. For real-world examples of teasers and taglines, just check out My Comic Shop.com for teasers from comic publishers or look for the plot summary or tagline sections of almost any movie on the Internet Movie Database for inspiration on writing a teaser. Please place this two-to-five-sentence teaser at the beginning of your story text file to make it easier for the Archivist to find it.
- Upload your story text file: After putting your edited story into this text file, upload it to the proper folder for completed tales in each group’s files section. This allows an Archivist the opportunity to edit the file and process it for archiving at the Five Earths website. We want to present our best work on the website, and this helps us to do so. If you need help with this, ask one of the seasoned writers over on the writers list.
Q: What happens if I just post a story without checking with the writers list first?
A: Since the Five Earths Project uses a shared continuity, we consider continuity between all our stories and the comic-book stories published by DC Comics and others to be important. So unless you’ve done your research (mostly by reading our stories first) it’s likely that your story might have some continuity problems. If that’s not the case, your story will probably be archived, as long as you provide a carefully edited file that collects each of your chapters.
If your story does have continuity problems, there are a few things that will happen. First, one of the long-established writers or editors here will ask you to make some changes to fit it into continuity. This usually works out well, but there has been some friction in the past between established writers and new writers who don’t want to accept any advice from anyone.
If that doesn’t work, then your out-of-continuity story will probably be ignored and never archived to the website. Or it could be rewritten by another writer, in which case you’ll lose creative control over the story, although you’ll still receive credit for the parts you wrote. Since we like to publish as many of the stories posted at our site as possible, some writers tend to eventually rewrite stories that have continuity problems rather than leave them completely alone. But this usually happens months or years after the original writer has abandoned the site, since we like to give every writer a fair chance at making their story fit into our continuity.
Q: Oops -- I never got around to finishing my story. What happens to it now?
A: In some cases the story fragments that were posted to one of the groups will be left alone. We hope that all writers who begin a tale will stick around to complete it, but this doesn’t always happen, and even established writers for the site have some stories left unfinished for months or years at a time.
In other cases, another writer who has an idea for completing that story will do so with the original writer’s permission, if possible. (In many cases, the original writer is no longer around, or has quit the groups, or has forgotten their unfinished story, so getting permission isn’t always possible.)
Another writer might also use parts of this incomplete story to build part of their own story, giving credit to the original writer for the part they originally wrote. This usually happens when only a small fragment of the story has been posted. An example of this type of story can be seen in Sentinels of Justice: The Calm Before the Storm, which was written by adding a number of edited short stories (that didn’t originally work in continuity) and story fragments to original pieces by the writer and rewriting them into a cohesive whole.
But in most cases, we’d really like you to finish your own story, and we’ll leave it alone until you say otherwise.
Remember, this is a co-operative fan fiction project. The main purpose is to have fun and create entertaining stories. It cannot succeed without the help and cooperation of all the writers.