I am the creator and co-editor of Ballads of the Distant Reaches, a bi-weekly anthology of illustrated fantasy short stories.
I created this project and storyworld beginning in mid-2021 and brought on co-creator and co-editor Robert Frankel shortly thereafter. This project brings together some of the top genre writers working today with an incredible team of illustrators, including our lead artist, Eisner Award-winner Shay Plummer.
Ballads of the Distant Reaches has a deceiving simplicity to it: We publish a new illustrated short story every two weeks, and publish newsletter-style content about the project on off-weeks. The stories and newsletters are delivered directly to the inboxes of our subscribers. In terms of its narrative structure and potential scale, however, it’s highly complex.
The Ballads of the Distant Reaches storyworld is constantly expanding, both with lore developed by us, and with additions from our writers. While all of the stories take place in the same fictional universe and function as an anthology, we’ve used a unique “story within a story” structure to maximize the creative freedom of our writers while keeping the overarching story moving forward. Ballads of the Distant Reaches revolves around the “Conclave of Bards,” a gathering of storytellers from throughout the fictional universe, who are all competing to tell the best story. It’s a little bit like The Canterbury Tales.
Ballads of the Distant Reaches aims to maximize the potential of true cross-platform storytelling (sometimes referred to as trans-media storytelling in Hollywood). In practical terms, this means that right now, while the short stories on www.distantreaches.com are the narrative core of the project, we also produce and distribute unique narrative and lore elements across our social media channels.
Long term, the plan is to add additional platforms. While the short stories on www.distantreaches.com are the narrative core of the project, we developed the world and the story structure with the intention of expanding it into other media — from podcasts, film, and TV/streaming to books and interactive media such as video or tabletop games. As with our approach to social media, we don’t intend these to be duplicative of the short stories, although there will certainly be some overlap. Instead, these expansions will be truly additive, molding the world of the Distant Reaches to best fit each new platform. Read more about the strategy here.