A Call for Volunteers!

I’m looking for people to help put up posters for the FotM short story contest! Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to take one-or-more posters to your local library branch, bookstore, college/university campus or cafe and ask them very nicely if they would be willing to display them.

Volunteers must be able to pick their posters up from the Bob Miller Book Room at Bloor & Avenue Rd (Toronto.) I also have a limited ability to arrange other pickup points – let me know what might work for you!

A FotM Contest poster in the wild.


If you are interested, drop me an email at fomsscontest@gmail.com. Thanks!

One Month Down, Two to Go!

Submissions have been open for one month, but no fear – they are open for two more! Our readers are poised and eager to see what else you have for us.

Want to help the contest in another way? Help spread the word by posting our poster on your webpage, in your local bookstore, or anywhere else writers might see it.

This year’s Merril Contest poster has been illustrated by Toronto artist Jenn Desmarais (as has our new header.) Working in digital as well as paper mediums, her work is influenced by Laurie Lipton and H.R. Giger. Check her out on Facebook!

The poster is available as a digital download by clicking above. Paper copies are also available – contact fomsscontest@gmail.com if you’d like to post one local to you.

And, of course, don’t forget those stories! Full guidelines here. Queries and questions can be directed at the contest administrator, Charlotte Ashley, at fomsscontest@gmail.com.

We’re Open!

The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is open to submissions!

From now until February 15th, 2015 our readers will consider speculative short fiction up to 6000 words for the top prize of $500, with two honourable mentions of $50 available as well. After that, the long-listed stories will be passed to our panel of judges, who choose between them the three winners. We encourage multiple submissions, simultaneous submissions, strange submissions – well, for more information on exactly what we want from these submissions, have a look at our guidelines.

All entries must be accompanied by $5 CDN (payable by PayPal). If you would like to enter multiple stories, each entry must be accompanied by its own entry fee. All entry fees will go toward supporting the many activities of the Friends of the Merril Collection at the Toronto Public Library, so don’t be shy! Donations to the Friends can also be made directly here.

To enter, send your submission to fomsscontest@gmail.com, then click the button below to pay your fee. Please make sure the name of the story on your payment matches the story you have submitted to us!

Good luck, everybody!

Sharpen Your Pencils!

Things have been a little quiet here at the Merril Contest, but that’s about to change. The reading period opens in five days!

The Submission Guidelines are posted.

There is bounty ready to be won.

Our Judges are ready to read.

Are you ready to enter? Here are five good reasons why you should!

#1: To support the activities of the Friends of the Merril Collection

The Friends of the Merril Collection is a volunteer organization to support and promote the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy. They maintain Sol Rising, a bi-annual newsletter featuring original specfic research, reviews, community news and history; they throw tea parties, book sales and filk concerts, free and open to the public; they host readings, discussions, and  panels. The Friends are committed to building the specfic literary community in Toronto and outside of it by making the Merril’s incomparable resources accessible and available to everyone.

#2: To Pin A Blue Ribbon to Your Submission

This year, the Contest is accepting simultaneous submissions. What does this mean? You can take your best, shiniest story and submit it to us while you have it out on submission at the short story market of your choice. Submitting your story does not sacrifice any of your story’s rights. You can publish it and reap the rewards of a win. Past winners of the Contest have gone on to appear in published short story collections and pro magazines – yours can too.

#3: For a Chance to Be Read By Our Award-Winning Judges

The Contest has enlisted the support of three brilliant authors this year – Leah Bobet, Julie Czerneda, and Caitlin Sweet. All the long-listed stories will be read by all three judges, and in the past, the Contest has returned comments on these entries. This is your chance to shine in the eyes of some of specfic’s luminaries!

#4: To Find a Place for That Odd Submission

Ever feel like “the market” doesn’t have a place for what you’re writing? That your story keeps missing, just by inches, that particular flavour or theme that a magazine or anthology wants? Here’s what we want at the Contest: everything. Send us your zombies, your power-armoured elves, your heartfelt epics, your left-field experiments. Take us ten thousand years into the future or deep into the magic of the days of yore. As long as your story can be called “speculative”, we will consider it. Our readers come from all corners of the speculative fiction map, and are ready to show love to whatever you can throw at us.

#5: Did We Mention the Money?

The Contest is awarding $600 in cash prizes this year: $500 for first place and $50 each to our honourable mentions. Smaller than many literary contests, the Merril might be your chance at a happy windfall.

Get ready! Submission open at noon this Friday, November the 14th, 2014. You can direct any questions or comments at Charlotte Ashley – fomsscontest@gmail.com. Do also follow us on Twitter at @FotMContest for updates!

Hope to hear from you soon!

Announcing the 2014/2015 Judges!

With only two months until we open for submissions, we’re thrilled to be able to announce the 2014/2015 Final Panel Judges!

The three Final Panel Judges for the 2014/2015 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest are Leah Bobet, Julie Czerneda, and Caitlin Sweet.

Leah Bobet‘s first novel, Above, was nominated for the 2012 Andre Norton Award and the 2013 Aurora Award, and her short fiction has appeared in several Year’s Best anthologies and as part of online serial Shadow Unit. She is the publisher and editor of speculative quarterly Ideomancer Speculative Fiction and works as a bookseller at Bakka-Phoenix Books, Canada’s oldest science fiction bookstore. Her second novel will appear from Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2015.

Photo courtesy of Roger Czerneda Photography.

Since 1997, Canadian author/editor Julie E. Czerneda has poured her love of biology into SF novels published by DAW Books NY. A Finalist for the John W. Campbell Award (Best New Writer), as well as for the Philip K. Dick Award (Distinguished Science Fiction), and nominated for several Nebulas, she has won the Prix Aurora Award (Canada’s Hugo) in three categories: Best Long-form (In the Company of Others), Best Short-form (“Left Foot on a Blind Man”), and Best Work (Other) for her anthologies (Space Inc. and, with Jana Paniccia, Under Cover of Darkness.) Her work on the use of science fiction to develop scientific literacy lead to the publication of the Tales from the Wonder Zone anthology series, winner of the 2002 Special Award for Science & Technology Education from the Golden Duck Committee, with the most recent, Polaris: In Celebration of the International Polar Year becoming the first work of science fiction to win the 2007 Canadian Science Writers Association’s Award (Best Science in Society for Youth). Julie has fifteen novels and fifteen anthologies in print, as well as numerous short stories. Her latest release is the epic fantasy A Turn of Light, set in the valley of Marrowdell, itself based in large part on early pioneer settlements. There are house toads as well as dragons, and not all is what it seems. Julie continues to be active in the SF/F community, conducting workshops and appearing at conventions. She served as Toastmaster for the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal and will be GOH at Chattacon 2015, in Tennessee. Coming fall 2014: Species Imperative, the 10th anniversary omnibus edition of her acclaimed SF trilogy, and A Play of Shadow, sequel to Turn and next in what is now the five book “Night’s Edge” series. Julie’s back to science fiction again, hard at work on This Gulf of Time and Stars, first volume of the concluding trilogy to her Clan Chronicles series (Reunification), www.czerneda.com for more.

Caitlin Sweet has been a writer since she was seven and her grade two teacher informed her that her stories were “too long.” Since then, she has been a trombone teacher, a bookstore clerk, an ESL instructor in Mexico and Canada, an administrative assistant at the University of Toronto, a stay-at-home mother and a labour doula. Now she works full time for the Ontario government and part time for the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. Caitlin is the author of A Telling of Stars (2003) and its prequel, The Silences of Home (2005), both published by Penguin Canada and both nominated for a variety of awards. “To Play the Game of Men,” her one and only short story, appeared in 2009 in the Ages of Wonder anthology. Her third novel,The Pattern Scars, was published by ChiZine Publications in November 2011. It too was nominated for some awards, including the 2012 CBC Bookie for Speculative Fiction, which it won. Her re-telling of Beauty and the Beast via Minoan Crete, The Door in the Mountain, was released in June 2014, and she’s now scrambling to finish its sequel for release in fall 2015.


More announcements to come! Subscribe to the blog for automatic updates, or follow us on Twitter @FotMContest!

Gearing up for 2014/2015!

Hi everybody!

We’re gearing up for the 2014/2015 Friends of the Merril Collection Short Story Contest, and the first item of business is to update our contact information!

Effective immediately, Charlotte Ashley will be taking over from Michael Matheson as Contest Administrator. Michael will be staying on board in an advisory capacity, but the switch has meant some new contact information. Our primary contact email is still fomsscontest AT gmail.com, but the NEW Twitter account is @FotMContest. We hope you’ll follow along for news and updates as the contest draws closer!

More updates soon!

The 2014 Winners/Honourable Mentions: One Stands Alone

It took us a fair bit longer than it has in past years to choose a winner for this contest. Couple of different reasons for that, all of which are largely internal, so we’ll not be sharing them here. Though we do apologize for making everyone wait so long (especially the finalists) after the promised deadline to see the results of this year’s contest.

So, without further ado, we present to you the first place winner of the 2014 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest:


First Place ($500.00 CDN):

Scott Shank (Unnamed)


And we have two honourable mentions to award, respectively, to the following shortlisted writers:


Honourable Mention ($50.00 CDN):

Star Spider (The One in Green)


Honourable Mention ($50.00 CDN):

Barry King (The Politics of Bird Flight)


We’re again this year not purchasing the winning stories. Though there has been some debate about going back to doing so, which we’ll talk more about once we’ve come to a decision on that. But in the meantime, we also need to mention who the remaining finalists (or, technically, finalist) were, and attribute the remaining story to its rightful author, who we will once more congratulate for making it to the shortlist. So:


Charlotte D’Arcy (The Walk)


Now, ordinarily, the remaining shortlist attributions would have three names. But we had a, well, an interesting year, and we’ll go into more about that with the forthcoming numbers breakdown post.

In fact, we’ll have updates aplenty to follow on forthcoming changes to the contest in advance of next year (based on what worked and what didn’t this year we’re changing things up again), along with the promised numerical breakdown and additional information that we provide every year.

But, for now, we’re going to give everyone some space before we do that. It’s taken us this long to decide on a winner, and for the moment we’d like to just let all the winning parties/recipients of their honourable mentions revel in their victories, and give us a breather so we can get in touch with everyone and get them their prize monies.


In the meantime, we would like to, once again, take the opportunity to thank everyone who has helped with, participated in, otherwise aided or supported the contest this year. We’d also like to take a moment to again congratulate this year’s winner, honourable mentions, and shortlisted writers, and very much hope you will take the opportunity to do likewise.

As always, if anyone has any questions, or needs to get in touch with us for whatever reason, you can do so by e-mailing me, Michael Matheson, at fomsscontest@gmail.com, or you can find us on Twitter @fomcontest.

A Breather Before Returning to the Fray: The 2014 Finalist Shortlist

Well, that’s another reading period and rush to get a finalist list compiled done and over with. We had an interesting, and … well … strange year three, actually. This year’s finalist list is compiled from about half of the number of submissions we had in the first year, despite having a significantly larger prize available this year than in either of the first two initial years.

It was an interesting shift in submissions, and not just because of the numbers. From year to year we see slightly different submissions patterns. The first two legs of the three month submission period have been more or less identical all three years running. It was the last third of the contest this year that was odd. And unexpectedly slow. We have a fair bit of number crunching to look at and see what we can shift to amend that. Though I’m inclined to think that part of it relates to the prize structure we used this year.

I’m always interested by the reasoning contests employ for using the significantly larger first prize and a couple of honourable mentions as opposed to offering a scaled three tier (first, second, third place) set of winning placements. I’ve heard differing accounts of how people react to the former, but given the first hand evidence gleaned from trying it this year I think we’re going to go back to a three tier placement system. People seem to feel better about having a larger number of chances to actively place, and to effectively be on the pedestal, as it were; the idea of being a mere honourable mention seems to lower interest–this based on feedback I’ve heard, and the significantly smaller pool of entries themselves this year. We have a small core of dedicated entrants from year to year, but the rest of the submissions we receive are totally reliant on a combination of prizes offered, our outreach (general and specific), and how we talk about the contest. Those, let us call them casual entrants, are the equivalent of people who purchase gratuitous or upsell items while shopping, or who purchase things off the impulse bays in a retail environment (the racks set up with candy, magazines, and other often low-cost per unit/relatively high-margin items near cash registers, for those of you who’ve never worked retail). Those are the people who are going to end up entering because they came across the contest while planning on doing something else. And I suspect that offering fewer placement prizes actively hurt us with that potential pool of entrants this year.

Anyway, the full numeric breakdown is coming after we announce the winners and I’ve had time to look at all the information and organize it. But the numbers are going to be a fair bit different from prior years. And the discussion of what’s going to change from this year to next year will come up then as well. And, of course, that’s one of the excellent things about not being tied to a specific structure from year to year: we can alter how the contest is set up from as we go both in order to experiment and to refine what works for us.

Though a sneak preview would be to say that from conversations had thus far this year and from a preliminary l0ok at the numbers we’re likely going to revert to the three tier prize structure I just mentioned, and will also quite likely be opening the contest up to simultaneous submissions next year.

But all of that is for down the road.

Right now, we’re focusing on the finalist shortlist from the 2014 contest. And to start that off, thank you to everyone who entered this year. Especially given the smaller number of entries, as every one of those that did come in was very much appreciated. And we’ve posted the finalist list below, but we will, as always, be getting back to everyone who entered.

Again this year we ask that all of the finalists please refrain from mentioning which of the stories below is theirs, though they are as always free to mention that they have a story on the 2014 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest finalist shortlist. We just don’t want to bias the Final Panel Judges before they see the shortlisted stories.

As to the final round of adjudications: The finalist stories will be passed on to the Final Panel Judges over the next few days, and the First Place winner and the Honourable Mentions will be decided upon and announced no later than April 1st, 2014.

In the meantime, the shortlisted finalist stories for the 2014 FoMSSC are presented below, sans author names:


The One in Green

The Politics of Bird Flight


The Walk


As was the case last year, once the winner/honourable mentions have been announced, we’ll release the names of all the writers of the remaining shortlisted works as well. And there is a reason there are only four shortlisted stories out of a possible six on that list, and I will discuss why that was the case in the coming numerical breakdown of the 2014 contest.

There are fewer response e-mails to send out this year, so we’ll hopefully be able to get through those in short order, though it will still take us a few days to get to everyone. Also, some of the slush readers this year have attached feedback to their responses, so any feedback earmarked for entrants will be passed along in the response letters.

For the time being, a well-deserved thank you to all of the entrants, our dauntless team of slush readers, everyone who helped promote the contest, and to those of you who have helped in various capacities since the contest’s inception.

And, that being said, any questions or comments you want to send our way? Address them to Michael Matheson at fomsscontest@gmail.com, or hit us up on Twitter (@fomcontest).

We’ll see you back here when we announce the winning story/honourable mentions and reveal the writers of all the shortlisted works.

The 2014 Reading Period is Now Closed!

We’ve had our local midnight, and the 2014 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest reading period is now officially closed. (The PayPal button on the Pay Entry Fee(s) page is gone again and everything–it’ll return with the opening of the 2015 reading period come November.)

And so now the contest staff retreat to our individual lairs, libraries, and other congenial places, to read and reflect on this year’s entries in aid of preparing the coming shortlist.

Indeed, the next two weeks are for slush reading and making sure that any stray physical entries get accounted for. Everything else looks to be in order at the moment. I believe we’ve replied to everyone who sent us an entry (or entries), but if you’ve not heard from us at this point please do give us a shout. You can do so via e-mail (address your query to Michael Matheson at fomsscontest@gmail.com) or via Twitter (@fomcontest).


And while we focus on getting everything organized and read on this end, I’ll take a moment to thank everyone who has been good enough to help out with the contest in any capacity:

A sincere thank you to those of you who submitted; to those of you who spread word about the contest; and to those who have been generally supportive of our efforts to promote and fundraise for the Merril Collection. This year’s contest was an odd one (no other way to put it really) in terms of the submissions patterns we saw. The first two years were fairly consistent. This one not so much. So everyone’s continued support has been distinctly appreciated.

In any case, there’ll be number crunching in that regard later. And we will, of course, share that breakdown with you once it’s ready.


In the meantime, keep an eye on the blog for any updates, and in a couple of weeks’ time we’ll have the shortlist up and running.


And as always, if you have questions, queries, or just need to get in touch for whatever reason, use the fomsscontest@gmail.com e-mail address, or ping us on Twitter (@fomcontest).

See you all again in a couple of weeks.


Coming Into the Home Stretch – Two Weeks Left In 2014 Reading Period

Well, we’re coming up fast on the end of the 2014 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest reading period. This year’s reading period will close at 11:59:59 p.m. EST (UTC-5) on February 15, 2014. (Or, put more simply, our local version of midnight on the date thereof.)

If you’re working on a submission (or more than one as we’re still allowing unlimited entries) hopefully things are going well. We’ve been delighted to see all the entries that have come in so far. Though, somewhat unaccountably, we’ve had a slower submissions year than the first two years of the contest. So we’re hoping to see a deluge of work correct that at the close, but we would very much appreciate it if anyone so inclined would go forth and help spread the word that we’re here, still looking for more entries, and we’ve got (really rather excellent) prize money to disperse.

Ideally we’d like to see an uptick in entries because of the contest’s mandate: to provide both exposure and financial support to the Merril Collection of the Toronto Public Library system (incidentally, the number of items listed in the Collection on that link is slightly out of date – the Collection houses closer to 80,000 items at the moment) through the efforts of the Friends of the Merril Collection. The contest has been quite a success in the first respect, and for two years running we’ve come so close to doing the second. (For those who aren’t already aware we’ve come just shy of breaking even on the prize monies every year the contest has run thus far.) Everything we (potentially) raise above the funds needed to cover the prize monies goes directly toward supporting the Merril Collection through Friends activities. The current Events page (for 2013) of the Friends’ website will give you an overview of the kind of things that means. And at the end of the year the Friends also make a direct donation to the Collection to help the Merril purchase special acquisitions.

So, long story short, if we can raise more than we need for the prize pool this year we can finally have something to put directly toward supporting the Merril Collection as well as paying the prize money for this year. Which was one of the major reasons the contest began in the first place. (The others being to offer another venue for people to get paid for their work, and to get writers some more exposure as well.)

Speaking to the prize pool (for those just now coming to the contest website): This year’s First Place Prize is $500.00 (CDN), and we’re awarding two Honourable Mentions (of $50.00 each) as well. Which is the highest we’ve yet offered.

If you have just come to the website and require some  additional information, the quick breakdown is as follows:

  • There is an entry fee of $5.00 (CDN) per entry. Though you may enter an unlimited number of times. (You just have to pay a fee for each story you send.)
  • Entries must be original, previously unpublished speculative fiction (SF/F/H, magic realist, fabulist, slipstream, and so on). The only exception is that you can send us something which was previously published in another language but has never appeared in English (though we need to see the English translation).
  • All entries must be a maximum of 5,000 words in length.

For the complete set of rules see the Contest Rules page and the FAQ page.

And, as always, any questions or queries can be directed to Michael Matheson at fomsscontest@gmail.com, or on Twitter @fomcontest.

That said, we’re looking forward to seeing the rest of the entries that come our way, and announcing the shortlist once the reading period is closed and we’ve had the two weeks it takes to get everything in order for that.

In the meantime, good luck to you all. Also, a hello and welcome to those of you who’ve just come across the contest for the first time. And we’re quite serious about feeling free to contact us. If there’s anything you need addressed, or any questions you have, let us hear from you.



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