Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Look at What Lies Beneath: A Breakdown of the 2012-2013 Contest Year

All of the notifications – finalist and rejection alike – for the 2012-2013 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest have now been sent out.

And as we did last year we’re going to share a breakdown of the contest’s internal numbers, operating under the assumptions that transparency is beneficial to this kind of endeavour, that those of you who run similar activities (or might be thinking about doing so in future) might like the benefit of some actual numbers to think about, and that the statistical breakdowns are just interesting in general. You can find last year’s statistical breakdown here if you’d like to compare and contrast the two sets of data.

As we’re not covering all the available statistical information produced by the contest I’ve provided some additional statistics and facts below before launching into the actual (fairly short) breakdown.

Interesting facts about this contest that aren’t reflected in the quick breakdown below (for those looking for more numbers):

  • 5 people opted to send in multiple submissions this year (compared with 14 last year).
  • The maximum number of multiple submissions sent by a single entrant was 4 (3 was the cap last year, and we removed the cap before this year’s contest began).
  • The most common number of multiple submissions sent by a single entrant this year was 2 (compared with 3 last year).
  • We had 5 (for sure, there might be one more I’m forgetting) entries that were not speculative in nature. This is probably a failure in communication on our end, and I’ll see what I can do to further clarify the definition of speculative fiction next time round.
  • Despite a smaller shortlist this year (down to 6 from last year’s 9), the percentage of entries making the finalist shortlist was, in both years, roughly 11.5% (because the smaller number of finalist slots this year was offset by a smaller number of total entries).

And, just off the top of my head, several things we’re very happy about:

  • We had far more women enter this year’s contest.
  • We had a handful of QUILTBAG entries this year (counting QUILTBAG characters in any role in the story, protagonist or otherwise). Not many, but it’s a start and we’ll take it.
  • Speaking to the above, all the submissions we saw containing non-cis-gendered protagonists (yes, we actually did have a couple) were extremely well-handled, which was totally awesome to see.
  • The general quality of submissions was high, which is quite gratifying (though it made things harder in the end, of course).
  • Between this year and last we saw several returning writers improve the quality of their writing, which was absolutely wonderful to see. And we expect even better things from them again next year.

And some other things worth noting:

  • We still have one outstanding payment for a story we never received. We could not get in touch with the entrant despite numerous attempts, so we’re holding that fee in reserve if they want a refund. Hopefully at some point we’ll hear from them.
  • We’re thinking about discontinuing taking .docx files next year (owing to some file compatibility issues). If we do, we will still continue to take .doc and .rtf files.

For those of you doing a compare and contrast of this year’s and last year’s numbers, please note that this year we opted to lower the monetary prizes on offer because we had initially overreached in the first year (we’re looking at raising the monetary prizes again next year but that’s a different post for down the road). That is reflected in the numbers below:

Overall Breakdown:

65 Entrants
73 Submissions (3 hard copy, 70 electronic)

Entrant Gender Split: 31 Male / 34 Female

Submissions by Month:

Submissions in November: 9
Submissions in December: 6
Submissions in January: 18
Submissions in February: 40

Submissions by Region/Country:

North America

Canada: 57
US: 11

Europe

United Kingdom: 1
Ireland: 1

Middle East

Israel: 1

South America

Argentina: 1

Oceania

New Zealand: 1

Finalists Overall Breakdown:

0 hard copies, 6 electronic entries

Finalist Gender Split: 1 Male / 5 Female

Finalist Entries Received By Month:

Finalist Stories in November: 1
Finalist Stories in December: 0
Finalist Stories in January: 0
Finalist Stories in February: 5

Finalist Entries by Region/Country:

North America

Canada: 6

And that’s the way things fell out this year. Next year’s numbers will, of course, look completely different. It’s part of what comes with trying something a little different every year.

What does not change, however, is the announcement of this year’s winners, which will be going up on or before April 1st, 2013. At that time we will announce the names of all the finalists as well.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact Michael Matheson at fomsscontest@gmail.com, or you can catch up with us on Twitter (@fomcontest).

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A Trail of Stories in Their Wake: The 2012-2013 Finalist Shortlist

As I’ve already noted today, culling down to a six-story finalist list this year has been extremely difficult. Ultimately, it ended up taking far longer than we had anticipated. Although, I take some comfort in the fact that it actually took the same number of days to compile the shortlist this year as it did last year (15, for those of you who are counting), since we posted last year’s finalist list on March 1st, but 2012 was actually a leap year so we had the extra day to read and debate before our self-imposed deadline.

In the end, though, I want to apologize to all those of you who have had to wait longer this year than we originally estimated. I prefer to keep to deadlines myself, and we didn’t quite manage it this year. There’s always next year, though.

So, we had a spate of excellent work to read through, which is a large part of what made this stage of the contest so difficult and incurred the delay in deciding on our finalists. There was, I think, some concern that the excellent body of work we saw in the first year might have been a fluke, and that we would see a greater variance in quality this time around, especially because we were offering a smaller monetary prize this year, not considering the non-monetary prizes on offer to balance that out. However, the entries that came in for this year’s contest put paid to that fear.

We did see a smaller total number of entries: specifically, 73 entries to last year’s 102. But we were kind of expecting that with the smaller monetary prize. And we were absolutely delighted to see so many entrants from last year submitting work again this year, despite this year’s prize pool. Incidentally, we are looking at reworking the monetary prize structure in the coming year (working on how to manage a higher first place prize, and balance things out better). That will partially involve the sponsorship option we’ve been looking at the past couple of years (if we can swing it that might also lead to some additional non-monetary prizes), and once things get going on that front we’ll talk more about it here.

In the meantime, yes, we had an excellent list of stories to read through, and as with last year I will post a breakdown once I’ve crunched the numbers.

So, again, a huge thank you to everyone who entered. The finalist list is posted below, and we’ll be getting back to everyone who entered in order to let you know the disposition of your story.

Also, we would please ask that all the finalists refrain from mentioning which story is theirs. You are all more than welcome to say that you are a finalist in the 2012-2013 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest, but we don’t want to bias the Final Panel Judges before they make their decisions as to the three winners. Thank you.

And speaking to the final round of adjudication: the finalist stories will be passed onto the Final Panel Judges in the next couple of days, and we’ll be announcing the three winning stories on or before April 1st, 2013.

So, without further ado, here are the six stories, sans author names, that made the finalist ballot for the 2012-2013 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest:

A Room of His Own

One Thousand and One Cuts

Open the Doors, and See All the People

Snow

The Binding

The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library

As we did last year, once the three winners have been announced we’ll release the names of the authors behind all of the finalist entries as well.

I will offer my personal apologies that many of the response e-mails are going to be going out slowly over the next couple of days. However, you will get an update on your submission, and hopefully in relatively short order. The contest doesn’t exactly have a lot of staff so we’re working as fast as we can on this.

Thanks for bearing with us, and, again, thank you to all of you who entered, and to those of you who helped us promote the contest as well. It’s all been greatly appreciated.

As always, if you have any questions you can address them to me, Michael Matheson, at fomsscontest@gmail.com.

A More Literal Cage Match Than Expected: 2012-2013 Finalist List Delays

A quick update:

If you’ve been following our Twitter account you may have noticed the following statement:

So, re the FoMSSC: We’re having some trouble pulling our finalist list down to six.

So much for deadlines …

Now, it’s kind of a fond joke around here that compiling the finalist list for the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest involves a proverbial cage match. That sentiment is true for a whole host of reasons. It’s partly an issue relating to having quality stories to work with, slush reader tastes, and this year we’re dealing with a somewhat smaller finalist shortlist.

Long story short, we are experiencing delays in compiling the 2012-2013 finalist list, and this year there is a more literal than usual cage match occurring.

So, our apologies. We’re shooting for having a finalist list put together and posted by the end of the day.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or queries you can address them to Michael Matheson at fomsscontest@gmail.com.

Thank you for your patience.