Blog Archives

The 2013 Winners and a Look at Where We Go From Here

Announcing This Year’s Winners

After much deliberation, we are now ready to announce the winners of the 2012-2013 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest:

First Place ($200.00 CDN + critical commentary from Julie Czerneda) goes to:

Ada Hoffmann (The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library)

Second Place ($100.00 CDN) goes to:

Matt Moore (The Binding)

Third Place ($50.00 CDN) goes to:

Ursula Pflug (A Room of His Own)

As discussed previously, we are not purchasing the winning stories this year, merely awarding prize funding (in the belief that winning money for a story, and then still being able to sell its first rights at a later time – and effectively having two primary paydays out of it – is an ideal outcome), so these stories will not be appearing on the website as was the case for the winning stories last year.

And, as promised, the other three stories that made it to the finalist round this year are attributed to their authors below:

Sarah Ennals (Open the Doors, and See All the People)

Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Snow)

Christina Vasilevski (One Thousand and One Cuts)

Congratulations to everyone who hit the finalist round, and a huge thank you to everyone who sent in work to this year’s contest. We appreciate all the support, monetary and otherwise.

We’ll be getting in touch with all of the finalists over the next couple of days to discuss the other non-monetary prize that was up for grabs: the option for any of this year’s finalists interested in doing so to pitch a novel to ChiZine Publications while ChiZine is otherwise closed to submissions.

And with that settled, we now move on to a discussion of what’s coming up down the line.

A Discussion of the Coming Contest Year

With each year of the contest we have been trying something a little different. Effectively, we’ve been seeing what kind of model works best for this kind of contest, in combination with what best serves our entrants, and, of course, our end goal: fundraising in support of the Merril Collection itself.

Interestingly, this year we, again, came a few dollars shy of breaking even (by about $6.25 CDN as I recall). We kind of thought that might happen again when we lowered the prize funding, even with the additional non-monetary prizes on offer. Still, it was worth seeing what this model produced.

And now that we’ve seen what worked and didn’t work with the last two years’ worth of running the contest, we’re going to reconfigure the contest again in advance of the coming contest, the reading period for which will open November 15, 2013.

Also, just a note that (mostly for collective sanity’s sake) going forward we’re going to be referring to the contests by the year in which the winners are declared and prizes are awarded. So, the coming contest will just be the 2014 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest, or 2014 FoMSSC.

The plans for the 2014 contest (already being discussed in some quarters but not yet finalized until we can get everything in order) are to move to a model closer to what we did in the first year, while reorganizing several other things from the ground up and offering a higher total prize than we’ve previously managed. Specifically, we’re looking at the following (bear in mind that everything listed under the “What’s Changing” section is still under discussion, so it’s not fixed yet) in order to produce a more competitive environment, while still trying to fundraise effectively:

What’s Staying the Same: The entry fee will remain $5.00. The reading period will again be three months (November 15th, 2013, through February 15th, 2014).

What’s Changing: We’re trying to figure out the financing for offering a single winner a cash prize of $500.00 (CDN). We will not be having a finalists’ pool, and will instead be awarding two (2) Honourable Mentions (we’re looking at $50.00 each right now) in addition to the winning purse. We’re reorganizing some of the internal workings of the contest as well, and seeing about getting some additional non-monetary prizes to offer. There will be more information coming down the road, as we clarify exactly what we’re doing for the next contest.

Ideally, we’re looking to make this contest a truly competitive environment for submitted fiction. Now, that doesn’t mean we’re looking to exclude anyone working early or mid-career. Instead, it means that we want everyone to try to raise the bar on their own work and send their very best in order to have a shot at that purse. Speaking as an editor, ideas are seldom the issue with any story: it’s almost always the execution where things fall apart. Some ideas, too, end up underutilized or not fully enough explored. But, the point is that revision is a writer’s best friend. I, personally, am a strong proponent of the theory that with revision and careful crafting a story at any level can progress to a more advanced state (work that might only be appropriate for a token market can, with the effort, become appropriate for a semi-pro market, and semi-pro work can, with the input of the required effort, be made good enough for a pro market).

And because we want to foster the pursuit of excellent work we’re trying to put a high enough monetary incentive in place to reward it. Quid pro quo, if you will.

This year also saw the first tentative steps toward a more inclusive vein of fiction in the kind of work we were receiving: we had our first few entries featuring or utilising QUILTBAG characters, and some work that also played with or explored gender identity. We’re looking forward to seeing more of that next year.

In any case, things are on the move, as it were, and good things are coming down the pipeline.

Once again, we’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who participated in, aided, or supported the contest this time round. We also want to once more congratulate our winners and finalists, and hope you will do likewise. And if you have any questions, or need to get in touch with us for any reason, you can do so either by e-mailing me, Michael Matheson, at fomsscontest@gmail.com, or you can hit us up on Twitter (@fomcontest).

Advertisements

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).

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.

The 2012-2013 Reading Period is Officially Closed

The 2012-2013 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest reading period is now officially closed.

And for the next two weeks while we sort through all the submissions we’ll be … um … reading.

I suppose, ultimately, that was predictable.

In any case, we’ve acknowledged receipt of all the electronic entries and catalogued them. Well, all save one, whose author we have not yet been able to get in touch with (it looks like the e-mail address tied to their PayPal account may no longer be active). Still working to sort that one out. And if you happen to be the writer who submitted your work and haven’t heard back from us yet, and are reading this now, please do get in touch with us as we don’t yet have an entry to go with your payment.

Speaking to situations like the above, if anyone else has sent us something electronically and not heard back from us please do get in touch with us because we did not receive whatever you sent.

We’ll also be keeping an eye out for any late postmarked hard copy submissions (everything postmarked no later than February 15th is eligible) , but you’re more than welcome to get in touch with us and query as to the status of receipt of a hard copy entry if you sent one and haven’t heard back about it yet.

Please use fomsscontest@gmail.com to get in touch with us, or you can DM us on Twitter (@fomcontest).

We’ll be sorting through the submissions in hand over the next couple of weeks, and the proverbial cage match to determine who makes the finalist list will be held at the end of February. Consequently, we’ll have the finalist list prepared by March 1st.

There will be six finalists this year (down from nine last year), and we’ll be posting up the titles of the finalist stories (without attendant names) on the website at the same time as we send our Final Panel Judges copies of the finalist entries. Notifications will be sent out to the finalists at that time as well (via e-mail). Finalists may announce that they are finalists in this year’s contest, but we ask that you please not mention which story is yours in order to help preserve impartiality in the final round of judging.

As with last year we’re also going to get in touch with everyone who did not make the finalist list in order to let all entrants know the status of their submission(s). And once all the numbers have been compiled we’ll be posting a statistical breakdown of the contest, following the same format as last year. Both for transparency’s sake, and also because the breakdowns prove to be interesting in general.

And at this point we would like to thank everyone who has, again this year, been good enough to help us through various means. To all those of you who have taken the time to promote the contest, and to those of you who have offered direct support via submissions, thank you immensely. We appreciate all of you sticking with us while we try different things from year to year, and are grateful for all the input and feedback we receive as well.

And speaking to things done differently, we’ll address more fully this year’s non-monetary prizes and how those will work for the finalists once the finalist list is posted.

Thanks again to everyone who stuck with us for the second year, and thank you as well to those of you who are new to us this year.

If there are any questions or concerns you would like to raise while waiting for the shortlist to be posted (or, generally, really), please don’t hesitate to contact us. Again, you can reach us either via e-mail at fomsscontest@gmail.com, or get in touch with us via Twitter (@fomcontest).

One Week Left to Enter – Don’t Be Left on the Outside Looking In

Well, there’s now one week remaining to submit your entries to the 2012-2013 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest.

If you’re not already familiar with the guidelines or other specifics of the contest, you should visit either the Contest Rules page, or you can see the last post on the website, “It’s Time: The 2012-2013 FoMSSC Reading Period Opens at Midnight“, for a breakdown of the basic information and some more in-depth information on what kind of work we hope to see for this year’s contest.

We’ve seen a fair number of entries thus far, but we are well short of our goal for this year. Now, admittedly, that will have no impact on the prize monies to be disbursed to the three winners (though the entry fees do go toward the prize monies, the total value of that pool is guaranteed regardless). Nor will it affect any of the other prizes we’re awarding/providing this year (see the Prizes page for more information). But, as the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is a fundraising initiative designed to aid the Merril Collection of the Toronto Public Library system,  we obviously hope, every year the contest runs, to do better than break even.

As we’ve mentioned in prior posts, we lowered the total value of the monetary prize pool offered this year, and opted to offer a set of non-monetary prizes in addition to the cash winnings, because the amount we offered in the first year turned to be a good, if not yet, entirely feasible pool. The Friends of the Merril Collection is a volunteer organization whose activities are funded by memberships and donations, so there’s a delicate balance to be maintained. While we certainly do want to offer larger monetary prizes, in addition to being able to offer interesting and useful non-monetary prizes as well, we’re still looking into ways to make that work.

Now, in the first year of the contest, we talked about the idea of sponsors. And we do actually on the Sponsors page mention that we’re open to direct contributions to help fund the prize pool, and/or have that money accrue toward the fundraising efforts once the value of the prize pool is met. We never really did get off the ground with doing that, but I think this might not be a bad thing to come back to.

We initially talked about offering space on the Sponsors page for a link to the website of contributing organizations, but there’s certainly also the possibility of doing individual posts on the website highlighting sponsors as a form of thank you.

It’s all worth looking into at this point, and we’d love to have your input (whether you would be considering contributing or not). Any and all can get in touch with me, Michael Matheson, at fomsscontest@gmail.com, or you can get in touch with us on Twitter (@fomcontest).

Anyone who has any other questions relating to the contest should also feel free to use that contact information.

And to those of you who are still considering entering the contest, but haven’t done so yet, please note that there is a base entry fee of $5.00 (CDN) per story, with no limit on the number of stories you can enter in the contest this year, and that the deadline for entries in the 2012-2013 contest is midnight (UTC -5), February 15th, 2013. Also, though you can enter either electronically or by hard copy submission, your hard copy entries need to be postmarked no later than February 15th.

Many thanks to all of you who have submitted your entries so far this year, and we look forward to seeing whatever else comes our way in this year’s contest.

It’s Time: The 2012-2013 FoMSSC Reading Period Opens at Midnight

Come midnight (UTC-5 for us) tonight the 2012-2013 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest reading period will begin. It will run until midnight (again, UTC-5) February 15th, 2013.

If you’re new to the site, or have no prior knowledge of the contest (it is only the second year, after all), the boilerplate looks like this:

The Friends of the Merril Collection are running our second annual Speculative Fiction Short Story Contest in order to raise awareness of, and funds for, the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy through the Friends of the Merril Collection (whose stated objectives, codified in the organization’s constitution, can be found at http://www.friendsofmerril.org [which is technically still being rebuilt and should be back online shortly]).

The annual Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest distributes cash prizes to three winning entrants, as judged by a panel of authors, editors and other notables in the Canadian Speculative Fiction community. The 2012-2013 year has also seen the addition of several non-monetary perks to the prize pool, including possible publication with ChiZine Publications, and a chance to have your work critiqued/evaluated by writer and editor Julie Czerneda.

The contest is open to international entrants without restriction on country of residence, entrant’s publication history (or lack thereof), or any other delimiting factors (though entrants not of age of majority will need a parent or guardian’s permission in order to enter).

Entries must be original, previously unpublished short stories with a maximum length of 5,000 words, and must be submitted as an e-mailed .doc or .rtf attachment (composed in Standard Manuscript Format) to fomsscontest@gmail.com.

Again, the reading period runs from November 15, 2012 through February 15, 2013, and each entry must be accompanied by an entry fee of $5 (CDN). There is no limit on the number of entries you may submit this year (we’re going to try taking the limit off completely and see how that goes).

For full rules see either the Contest Rules or FAQ pages. For all other information please use the menus and tabs to navigate the site.

If you have questions relating to anything about this website or the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest please address them to Michael Matheson at fomsscontest@gmail.com.

That Content Advice I Kept Promising and Am Finally Getting Around To:

For a while now I’ve been meaning to post about the kind of entries we would like to see this year. I’ve been talking about it so long and not actually getting to it that it’s beginning to feel like a running gag. And now that we are all but literally down to the wire on the opening of the reading period, this seems like an excellent time to finally get around to addressing what we would like to see from you, our entrants, in this, the second year, of the FoMSSC:

We want diversity. We want inclusive fiction. We want to see QUILTBAG characters (as protagonists or secondary characters, not as stereotypical homophobic or other phobic depictions of QUILTBAG characters please). Send us your weird stories, your unclassifiable stories, your work that pushes the envelope. Send us your interstitial work, or something that falls neatly into genre lines. Whatever. As long as it has a speculative element (SF/F/H, magic realism, slipstream, fabulism, surrealism, etc.) we’ll read it. Challenge us. Make us pause in awe at the beauty of your craft and your extraordinary prose. Evoke wonder.

And, conversely, there are a couple of things we need you to refrain from doing. We’re not buying and displaying fiction (just awarding monetary and other prizes to jury selected work), but that still means we won’t be able to consider your stories if they don’t have a speculative element or if they use copyrighted characters (unless you own the copyright to that character). And, though it goes without saying, send your own work only please.

And now, to quote myself a couple of times (from this post: In the Green Room: Thoughts on the 2011-2012 Contest Submissions, and Some Advice), here’s some additional advice regarding the kind of things we’d like to see:

[S]everal pieces of advice.

The first couple, from Julia Rios, from her article “Reaching into the QUILTBAG: the Evolving World of Queer Speculative Fiction“, which appeared in the March 2012 issue of Apex: “write complex characters”, and “actively encourage diversity”. Careful readers will note that that second piece of advice from Julia was intended for editors and publishers, but I think it applies to writers as well. And you’d do well to read the entirety of that article, if you haven’t already.

The next comes from Catherynne Valente, from her stint as editor at Apex, and was the heart of the submissions guidelines page while she was editor (and Lynne Thomas left that section in when she took over as editor last year):

“We do not want hackneyed, cliched plots or neat, tidy stories that take no risks. We do not want Idea Stories without character development or prose style, nor do we want derivative fantasy with Tolkien’s serial numbers filed off.

What we want is sheer, unvarnished awesomeness. We want the stories it scared you to write. We want stories full of marrow and passion, stories that are twisted, strange, and beautiful. We want science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mash-ups of all three—the dark, weird stuff down at the bottom of your little literary heart. This [venue] is not a publication credit, it is a place to put your secret places and dreams on display.”

And we, too, would be interested in seeing the kind of work Stone Telling‘s statement about the kind of diversity they would like to see covers:

“[W]e are especially interested in seeing work that is multi-cultural and boundary-crossing, work that deals with othering and Others, work that considers race, gender, sexuality, identity, and disability issues in nontrivial and evocative ways.”

And, lastly, you should read Expanded Horizons‘ list of what they want and what they don’t want to see, as discussed in the Expanded Horizons submission guidelines. You will write better stories for thinking about what they’re talking about.

The other thing I’m going to quote myself on was an answer given in the comments of that same post. The question was “[H]ow far can we go in describing sex or violence? What about cursing or political criticism?” And the answer was this:

A story has X words to work with. Everything that is included in the story which doesn’t move the plot forward or address your themes hinders your story. The overtly sexual isn’t generally an issue if it’s handled well, but sex scenes rarely, if ever, work in a short story because they detract from the time given to something else. The obvious exceptions are the works of Poppy Z. Brite among others, and stories like Kij Johnson’s “Spar“, which is a brilliant exploration of a whole host of themes, using the central pivot of “sexual” interaction as violence and trauma. It’s also one of the most disturbing (and potent) horror stories you’ll ever read. And, yes, if something as explicit as “Spar” came in and finished in the top three, we’d post it on the website with a disclaimer warning people that it contained adult level content.

Violence is trickier. The shorthand is that if it serves the story (and that story isn’t a blatant case of torture porn or revenge/rape fantasy) then it’s admissible. If the violence is just there to shock, offend, or experiment without purpose, take it out and do something more interesting in that part of the story instead. I routinely see stories coming my way in the slush pile at Apex where the violence is unnecessary, painted in loving detail, and falls into that “personal fantasy” category that submissions editors cringe when they see hit the inbox. And worse still it’s almost uniformly directed at women. I don’t really expect anyone entering this contest to be doing that, but it should be on record that we don’t want to see that.

You can feel free to curse in the story – but in most cases it detracts from, rather than strengthens, a story. And you’re welcome to engage in political criticism, but remember that subtle is better, defaming actual people is libel, and polemics don’t make good fiction (well, alright, they can, but it’s pretty rare). Also, Clarkesworld in their submissions guidelines mentions the following as something they’re not interseted in, and it’s true for us as well: “stories where the Republicans, or Democrats, or Libertarians, or the Spartacist League, etc. take over the world and either save or ruin it”.

Final Notes Before You Head Out and Start Submitting Your Entries

Before everything gets going we wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who was good enough in the inaugural year of the FoMSSC to submit their work, to help us promote the contest, and to otherwise help us aid and support the Merril Collection. We’ve appreciated the help every step of the way, and we look forward to all the entries we’re going to see over the course of the coming reading period. As always, if you have questions or concerns, please feel free to direct them to me, Michael Matheson, at fomsscontest@gmail.com, and you can either follow the website here, or the contest Twitter feed (@fomcontest) for updates.

Good luck to everyone entering the contest this year.

New Wonders to Unveil: Further Updates re the 2012-2013 Contest

In our last post, wherein we detailed the revised guidelines for the 2012-2013 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest, we announced that there were two parts to the prize we were awarding to the first place winner of the coming contest: a monetary prize, and a critique of the winning work put together by one of Canada’s foremost authors and editors.

Since we had to make sure several things were in place before we could make the announcement as to who the luminary we’re working with is, we’ve had to hold off on doing that. Until now. Our apologies for keeping you waiting so long, and so I’ll make this brief.

The author, editor, and educator who has agreed to provide the critique to our first place winner?

Julie Czerneda

Julie Czerneda

Yes, Julie Czerneda. A gifted writer, a generous editor, and an educator possessed of a wonderfully keen mind, Julie is also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met (an opinion widely held, and with good reason).

And for those rare few of you who are unfamiliar with Julie’s work, in her own words:

Since 1997, Julie E. Czerneda has turned her love and knowledge of biology into science
fiction novels and short stories that have received international acclaim, multiple awards,
and best-selling status. A popular speaker on scientific literacy and SF, in 2009 Julie was
Guest of Honour for the national conventions of New Zealand and Australia, as well as
Master of Ceremonies for Anticipation, the Montreal Worldcon. She’s busy writing short
stories as well as her next novel, having finished her first really big fantasy, A Turn of
Light, to be published by DAW March 2013. Most recently, Julie was guest speaker at
the U. of South Florida’s symposium on Women Writers of SF, and co-edited Tesseracts
15: A Case of Quite Curious Tales with Susan MacGregor. (No matter how busy, she’ll
be out canoeing too.) For more about Julie’s work, visit http://www.czerneda.com or visit her
on Facebook or Goodreads.

We’re absolutely delighted to have Julie on board for this year’s contest. And given all the prizes available to be won it’s going to be a fantastic year. The reading period opens November 15th, and we’ll be posting about the kind of stories we want to see from entrants (and offering some advice) between now and then.

But, for now, here’s the short version:

Give us stories that show an inclusive approach to fiction. Give us three-dimensional characters. Give us characters, protagonist and/or secondary, who run the spectrum of the QUILTBAG. Give us unusual and/or experimental structures. Give us stories told through structures or ideas used a thousand times before, and tell them in new and fascinating ways. Give us the stories you want to tell but haven’t found a home for yet; consider this a testing ground where no one is going to tell you not to run too far or too fast. Show us work that blazes like a comet across heavens full to bursting with starlight and wonder.

We’ll be talking more about the contest in the days to come, but in the meantime please feel free to share this news. And if you have questions, or need to reach us for other concerns (I don’t know what that would be right now, I’m just putting it out there), you can either write to Michael Matheson at fomsscontest@gmail.com, or contact us via Twitter at @fomcontest.

And … We’re Back: The Guidelines for the 2012-2013 Contest

Well, all things considered, figuring out exactly how we were going to restructure the 2012-2013 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest took slightly longer than anticipated. However, the hiatus has given us time to pull together a fantastic slate of prizes, as well as time to streamline the process and work out what we’re actually able to do, and how we’re going to go about doing it this year.

The first thing I want to mention is that all of our excellent final panel judges from the 2011-2012 contest year are returning for the 2012-2013 contest. For those who don’t already know, that means the work of those who reach the finalist stage of the contest will be judged by Leah Bobet, Sandra Kasturi, Michael Kelly, Chris Szego, and myself (Michael Matheson). We should have updated bios up for everyone on the Judges page by the end of the day.

So, we’ll talking about the changes to the contest by doing a quick breakdown of the new guidelines (I’m going to update the Contest Rules page to cover everything in more depth, so this is just some quick information to get your started), then go into what prizes are up for grabs this year.

The Quick Breakdown of the 2012-2013 Guidelines

The reading period will be open from November 15th, 2012 through February 15th, 2013. As with last year, you can get your entries to us either via e-mail (fomsscontest@gmail.com), snail mail (see the Contest Rules page for the mailing address), or if you’re in Toronto you’re welcome to drop off your entries in person at the Merril Collection.

The entry fee is still $5.00 (CDN) per story, and we’ve removed the restriction on the number of stories you can enter so there is no limit on the number of entries per person. Now, that being said, the best option for a lot of entrants is still going to be picking one piece to submit and polishing it until it shines. However, for those of you who have a small body of polished work that you’d like to submit you’re more than welcome to; we’re still kind of hoping to be able to offer some kind of feedback on entries that don’t hit the finalist stage of the contest, but that may or may not be feasible due to time constraints and how many entries we get. We’ll have to see what’s possible once things get going.

As announced back at the end of July we are bumping the maximum allowable word count on submissions up to 5,000 words (firm limit) per story. We are still taking only fiction, so no creative non-fiction or poetry please. Also, we’re still taking speculative fiction (SF/F/H, magic realism, fabulism, slipstream, etc.) only so your story must have a fantastical element.

We’re going down to six finalists this year, and while that’s going to make the selection process post reading period somewhat more difficult we’re doing it for a couple of different reasons, one of which has to do with the revised prize structure (finalists now also get a prize for hitting the finalist stage of the contest: see the Finalists section of Prizes below). And from that shortlist we will pick three winners. The prize structure is discussed below.

We are no longer going to publish the winning stories. Though we published the winning 2011-2012 stories on the website, we just can’t offer people the kind of traffic (from this platform, anyway) that their stories deserve. And, frankly, we’d much rather you get your prize money from us and then still be able to sell first publication rights for your story elsewhere for another large (or, hey, larger) payout, and get it some real exposure. Though we’re not abandoning the opportunity to help you get published: see the Finalists section of Prizes below for more on that.

Prizes

Finalists

While we do highlight all the finalists here on the website (through listing your names and stories) and we did get a chance to host many of the local finalists at the Chiaroscuro Reading Series earlier in the year, that’s really all we’ve been able to do in the past for those finalists whose stories didn’t win the contest. This year, through the generosity of ChiZine Publications, all the finalists will get the opportunity to pitch a novel to CZP. Now, this may or may not seem as awesome to everyone who hits the finalist stage, but since CZP is otherwise closed to all submissions until July 2014, that’s a hell of an opportunity. Please note, this is for novels only, and this is a chance to wow CZP with your amazing query skills and a sample of your work. It is not a guarantee of publication.

First, Second, and Third Place Winners

As with last year there will be monetary prizes awarded to the first, second, and third place winners of the contest. We’ve reduced the monetary award for first place (turns out we set the bar slightly too high last year) but we’ve added an additional prize to be awarded to the first place winner to make up for that. The prize structure for this year is as follows:

Third Place: $50.00 (CDN)

Second Place: $100.00 (CDN)

First Place: $200.00 (CDN)

First Place Winner Only

In addition to the monetary award for first place, this year we have a very special additional prize to award to our first place winner. One of Canada’s foremost authors and editors (you can think I’m engaging hyperbole all you want, but wait until you see who it is) has agreed to review the winning story and offer critical feedback and marketing advice to the first place winner. This is decidedly worthy of its own post (and I’m perfectly happy to be a tease right now) so we’ll be talking about this in detail not too far down the road.

There’s a great deal more to cover in terms of the specifics of submissions, including what we’d like to see in the coming year, and other concerns related to the contest. But we’ll be covering everything in the runup to the opening of the reading period (and probably talking more about these things once this year’s contest gets underway as well). I’ll be updating the rest of the site to reflect the changes we’re making to the contest over the next day or two. In the meantime, if you have any questions, you can feel free to me e-mail them to me, Michael Matheson, at fomsscontest@gmail.com, or you can ask your questions via Twitter (@fomcontest).