Discover an incredible new fantasy universe.

Ballads of the Distant Reaches is a shared fantasy universe with a constantly growing story-world. Twice a month, subscribers receive a new piece of short fantasy fiction written by some of the most talented genre authors and screenwriters working today.

Each story is accompanied by a unique illustration from one of our artists, including lead artist and Eisner Award-winner Shay Plummer.

A whole world to explore.

Every ten years, the Amal Empire summons the best bards, orators, and storytellers from across the formidable scope of its lands. It is a great honor to attend this Conclave of Bards, for it affords all the Empire’s subjects a chance to have their tales, triumphs, and sorrows enshrined in the Emperor’s goldstone annals. And to win the Conclave is to receive a binding boon from the Emperor, the Wielder of the Diamond Scepter himself.

Map of fantasy fiction universe The Distant Reaches.
Key locations in the Distant Reaches, circa 523 AE (Amal Era).

But with an empire as large as that which presides over the Distant Reaches, no two bards are alike. Some dream of the Empire’s expansion; others, of its surrender. Some spin tales of love and wonder; others, of tragedy and terror. Some bring folk tales from far villages; others sing epics in service of the great mercantile guilds. All, however, embody the best of their people.

And the crowned winner may have the power to cement the Empire’s grip — or destroy it entirely.

Never miss an adventure.

Every two weeks, our subscribers receive an entirely new gripping tale of valor, skulduggery, intrigue, mystery, monsters, horror, love, or magic gone wrong in their inbox. Don’t miss the latest adventure in the Distant Reaches!

The creative process.

Each Ballads of the Distant Reaches story is collaboratively crafted by a team of writers and editors and is set within the world of the Distant Reaches.

Ballads of the Distant Reaches puts a literary spin on collaborative storytelling experiences such as Dungeons & Dragons. Only instead of a “Rule Book,” our writers have access to a Lore Document filled with the history, secrets, terrors, wonders, and cultural practices of the Distant Reaches. In other words, it’s everything they need to know to write a story.

Writers and balladeers eager to explore the Distant Reaches go through a few steps before they set out on their journey.

  1. First, co-editors Robert Frankel and Benjamin Reeves give the writer access to all that aforementioned lore. Then, the co-editors take into consideration the writer’s interests — narrative, tonal, thematic, and so on — and give the writer a short prompt with a few required elements and a theme.

  2. The writer then pitches three short story ideas, each of which must contain a clear beginning, middle, and end. The editors will work with the writer to select the best of the three pitches, and then the writer is free to start drafting!

  3. Though writers should familiarize themselves with the appropriate lore document when it is available to them, they are not expected to master the information! Over several rounds of revisions, editors will work with writers to ensure the drafted story content fits within the world.

To learn more about the narrative structure and origins of the project, check out Creator and Co-Editor Benjamin Reeves’s article on LinkedIn.

Ballads of the Distant Reaches is currently open for submissions!

Are you interested in exploring the Distant Reaches?

Do you have a ballad you want to share with the Conclave of Bards?

Do you seek a binding boon from the Amal Emperor, Wielder of the Diamond Scepter?

You’ve come to the right place!

Submission Instructions for Writers:

We are seeking writers to participate in the Conclave of Bards! We want compelling characters who make bold choices that force us to keep reading. While every story we publish is set in the fantasy world of the Distant Reaches, our writers have free rein to explore genres such as horror, comedy, romance, mystery, western, or high drama, to name just a few. So if you don’t have a capital-F fantasy piece as a writing sample, that’s OK!

Ballads of the Distant Reaches publishes short fantasy fiction between 1,500 and 6,000 words in length. The sweet spot for our fiction is between 2,000 and 4,000 words in length — any longer than that, and the writer really has to earn it!

Before submitting, please read everything on this page and familiarize yourself thoroughly with our published content.

Ballads of the Distant Reaches publishes original commissioned work. We do not publish reprints or original work set outside of the world of the Distant Reaches.

Instructions: Submit a prose writing sample of no more than 5,000 words, or short screenplay or screenplay excerpt in standard screenplay format no longer than 10 pages, and a brief cover letter to (Unsolicited pitches will not be read and will be deleted.)

Your sample may be published or unpublished. It may be a sample from a longer work, but it must have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Though we are not picky about manuscript formatting, our eyes greatly appreciate a simple font (Ariel, Courier, Times), size 12, and double-spaced. Include your name and a good email address for contact. Submit your sample only in .PDF, .RTF, .DOCX, or .DOC file formats. If your piece has been published previously, you can send us a .PDF of that!

You may include the cover letter in the body of your email. We simply want to know who you are, what makes you tick, and why you want to write for us! Think of this less as an admissions essay and more of a cool hang-out.

Diversity Statement: The Distant Reaches are for everyone! We greatly encourage women, writers with disabilities, writers of color, Black writers, Indigenous writers, Native writers, LGBTQIA+ writers, older writers, and anyone from marginalized and/or otherwise underrepresented communities to submit their work. We want to hear from you! The Distant Reaches are as diverse as our own world, and we know your voices will only enrich it. Please note: We are unable to work with writers in translation at this time, but we hope to be able to do so soon!

Rejections/Response Time: We will do our best to read your submission and provide you with a response as soon as possible. We hate to be left waiting, too! Most rejections will be sent out within 30 business days of receipt and often more quickly. Thank you for understanding that we are not able to provide personalized feedback on your submission.

Pay: All authors and artists are paid for commissioned work.

Confidentiality: An author’s personal information (name, address, phone, secret identity, submission material) will not be shared with anyone beyond the editors of Ballads of the Distant Reaches, unless the author gives us written permission to do so.

The Team.

Benjamin Reeves — Creator & Co-editor

Benjamin Reeves is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and journalist. Across platforms and genres, he seeks to tell high-stakes stories about people confronting the seen and unseen forces of power, wealth, and influence in the world.

His feature screenplay Kane won the 2020 Big Apple Film Festival’s science fiction and fantasy competition and was an official selection of the 2020 Stowe Story Labs. His debut film, a sci-fi short called Crossing Acheron, which he wrote, directed and produced, premiered as part of the 2021 NYPause Film Festival.

Reeves’s journalism has appeared in publications ranging from the Los Angeles Review of Books to The New York Times. Reeves earned an MFA in screenwriting from the Brooklyn College Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, an MA in Experimental Humanities from New York University, and a BA in Latin and History from Knox College.

Robert Frankel — Co-creator & Co-editor

Robert Frankel is a queer writer, filmmaker, and Air Force veteran. His work has placed at the Austin and Nashville Film Festivals, as a finalist in the ScreenCraft and WeScreenplay competitions, and twice in the top 15% of the Nicholl Fellowship. His feature screenplay Bitter Root was an official selection of the 2021 Stowe Story Labs, and he is an alumnus of the Writers Guild Foundation’s Veterans Writing Project. His short film, May I Speak, Now?, was a finalist for the Best Comedy Micro Film Award at the 2021 Portland Comedy Film Festival. He tells stories about wonder, passion, and cruelty.

Frankel earned a BA in Economics from the University of Washington, Seattle, and an MFA in screenwriting and producing from the Brooklyn College Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema.

Shay Plummer — Lead Artist

Shay Plummer is a college-trained and battle-tested illustrator who resides in the Northwestern US. As the art director and lead illustrator for the ongoing story and soundtrack project Magic Sword, Plummer continues to use that experience to weave together worlds, creatures, and characters in all manner of weird works, including his own unending stream of imagery, comics, projects, and games.

Plummer’s work as a contributing artist has been featured in many publications over the years, some of which are: DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and Image comics; Wired and Field & Stream magazines; and the AMC cable channel. In 2015, Plummer contributed to the Eisner Award-winning anthology Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream.


Benjamin Reeves
Writer, filmmaker and journalist. Creator and co-editor of Ballads of the Distant Reaches. Journalism on business, tech, politics, and culture in publications including Vice, Worth, Chief Executive, Los Angeles Review of Books, and others.
Robert Frankel
Robert is a queer writer, filmmaker, and Writers Guild Foundation Veterans Writing Project alumnus. His work has placed at the Austin Film Festival, in the top 15% of the Nicholl Fellowship, and as ScreenCraft and WeScreenplay competition finalists.