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Brave New World (The 2014 FoMSSC)

Okay, it’s official:

The 2014 FoMSSC will be awarding a $500.00 (CDN) first place prize and two $50.00 (CDN) honourable mentions to the runners up. There will again be a six person shortlist, from which the contest judges will choose the winner and the the two runners up. Entry fees will be holding steady at $5.00 (CDN) per story, and there is again this year no limit on the number of entries you may submit (provided each entry is accompanied by a separate entry fee).

I haven’t updated the other pages on the site to reflect these changes at the time of this post, and will be doing that page by page. And we’re still confirming all of our judges at this time, so I won’t be posting the names of the Final Panel Judges today. However, most of the information for the FAQ will be the same, despite the fact that we’re revamping the prize structure. And the core of the contest is that we still want to see inclusive, innovative, brilliantly written fiction (and only original, unpublished speculative material please). Them’s the basics.

So, polish the holy hell out of your work before the contest begins, and send it in once the reading period opens on November 15th – as with the two previous years of the contest the reading period is three months, from November 15th, 2013 to February 15th, 2014 (entries will be allowed until 11:59:59 pm, UTC-5, on February 15th).

While we’re still changing everything over on the website, or after, you can address any questions, concerns, or comments to me, Michael Matheson, via e-mail, at “,” via Twitter (@fomcontest), or in the various Comments fields on the website.

Oh, and Some Nice News

Ada Hoffmann, who won the first place prize last year for her story, “The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library,” went on to sell that story to Strange Horizons. We are absolutely delighted for her.

Situations like that are, it’s worth mentioning again, why we don’t purchase the winning stories anymore – so that the winners can get a payday (or at least some money from us) and then sell that story again without losing out on the money from the sale of first use rights.

Further Updates to Come (You Know, Obviously)

We’ve still got the list of Final Panel Judges to announce once everything is settled, and we’ll post more information and relevant updates as we get closer to the opening of the coming reading period.

That said, we look forward to seeing what everyone submits this year!


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 (, 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.



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, or you can ask your questions via Twitter (@fomcontest).

An Update on Coming Changes, and the Opportunity to Offer Input

What with the restructuring of the contest (in terms of prizes and rules) that’s taking place in advance of the 2012-2013 contest year, a lot of things are currently being floated as possible ways to improve the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest. We’ll be unveiling a complete list of changes once everything has been settled on, but there are some things that are, in fact, already being firmed up:

We will be bumping the allowable word count to at least 5,000 words. Whether we ultimately go with 5,000 words, or a higher limit, that limit will be firm; send a story over the stated limit and you will be asked to cut it down to the allowable limit or submit something else in its place – this to be done because we would very much like to offer people the opportunity to meet the guidelines rather than simply disqualify entries.

We will have no restrictions on story content as long as it meets the requirement of being speculative (sf/fantasy/horror, fabulist, magic realist, slipstream, etc.) fiction. Technically, this relies on one other thing happening re the contest planning, but given that we are attempting to foster diversity in all respects, give writers the option to explore even the most extreme and/or challenging edge(s) of whatever subject(s) they choose, as well as promote the best possible writing in whatever form that takes, I, for one, will be pushing for this particular change.

The reading period is going to remain three months, and will run from November 15th, 2012, through February 15th, 2013. The deadlines for determining finalists and winners, however, may change depending on any structural changes enacted as we go forward.

The entry fee is going to remain $5.00 (CDN) per story. Relative to that is the allowable number of entries, which we are still debating altering. There are good reasons both for and against changing the number of allowable entries (the current limit is three – and, yes, we did have someone who submitted more than one entry get a story into the finalist round, so there’s room to argue in favour of both sides of this issue), so this will be one of the things we mull over in terms of rules questions when the Friends of the Merril Collection convene to discuss the contest and hash out the changes.

In light of the fact that there are some things settled, but many more not, this seems a perfect time to get some input from you, our potential entrants, and anyone else interested in contributing ideas.

So, I’m going to do something (not actually all that) radical here, and offer everyone reading this the opportunity to have an impact in (re)shaping the 2012-2013 contest. There was some input given in response to the In the Green Room post I made earlier this year, but now is your opportunity to offer any and all suggestions or ideas concerning the contest. Is there something we’ve overlooked doing that you’d like to see as part of the coming year’s contest? Or even feedback on the last go round? Let us hear from you.

You can either do this here, in the Comments field below, or, if you’d like your input to remain more private, you can feel free to send an e-mail to Michael Matheson, at

I’ll be sharing whatever information/feedback/ideas/concerns come in with the Friends of the Merril Collection when we next sit down to discuss the contest, so anything you want to put forth will get an airing.

We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Incidentally, if your post doesn’t show up immediately in the Comments field below, that’s because we’re manually approving all Comments at the moment as we’re getting an inordinate amount of spam on the site. I’ll be approving Comments as soon as I’m able to, so thank you for your patience .

And on an entirely different note, the Friends of the Merril Collection are currently seeking a new home for the Friends website, so if you’ve been encountering some Friends related links on the website which aren’t actually going where they’re supposed to, that would be why. You can, however, still access the old Friends of the Merril Collection website in the interim. We’ll let you know once the new website is up and running again.

One Journey Ends, The Next Begins – The 2012 Winning Stories Are Now Available To Read

You can now read the three winning stories from the 2011-2012 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest. They will be available here on the website for ninety days, from April 5, 2012 – July 4, 2012.

And with the posting of these stories we now put to rest the inaugural year of the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest. Thanks to all of you who have helped through various means – everything from sending submissions on down – we’ve managed to make an extraordinary success of the contest.

In light of that success, we begin the work of preparing the way for the 2012-2013 contest later this year. But, for now, we’re going to sit back, take a bit of a breather, and enjoy the fruits of our labours as we round out the last attendant details of the 2011-2012 contest (like making sure our winners get their limited edition booklets).

So, please join us in once again congratulating Sarah Ennals, Jason S. Ridler, and Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon on their winning entries, and enjoy the stories – which you can read from the Winning Stories (2012) page of the website. Going forward, the Winning Stories (2012) page is also where we’re housing the permanent record of the full finalist list for the 2011-2012 contest year.

If you would like to show your appreciation for the winning works you are more than welcome to do so in the Comments fields, either for the individual stories, or the Comments field of the Winning Stories (2012) page itself.

We also intend to post up some pictures of the finished limited edition booklets containing the winning stories once the artist crafting them has completed the booklets, but for the most part we’re going to ease into the next contest year. It’s been a long five months, and we’re looking forward to a little downtime around here.

And if you need anything in the meantime please don’t hesitate to either contact Michael Matheson at, or drop us a line on Twitter (@fomcontest).

And the Winners Are …

And now, friends, followers, entrants, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The declaration of our juried winners in the 2011-2012 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest:

First Place ($350.00 CDN) goes to:

Sarah Ennals (The Emmet)

Second Place ($100.00 CDN) goes to:

Jason S. Ridler (Rikidōzan and the San Diego Swerve Job)

Third Place ($50.00 CDN) goes to:

Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (Your First Real Rocket Ship)

The three winners of this, the inaugural contest year, will each be receiving, as part of their prize, a hand-crafted limited edition copy of the booklet being specially produced to house the winning stories. As previously discussed on the contest website two other copies will be produced, one of which will remain with the artist, and the last is to be added to the Merril Collection. We hope to post photos of the finished booklets once they’re ready.

The winning stories will also be published on the contest website as soon as everything is in place to make that possible. We’ll have them up and available to read by our stated deadline of May 1st without fail, but we hope to be able to post them a good deal sooner.

And, as promised, the remaining finalist stories, complete with name recognition for the authors, are listed below:

Colleen Anderson (The Ties That Bind)

James Bambury (The Mobius Garden)

Suzanne Church (Muffy and the Belfry)

Barbara Gordon (Climbing Boys)

Claire Humphrey (Weathermakers)

Kari Maaren (My Profit On’t Is)

We’ll be posting updates to this information and any attendant contest information in all the usual places, so you can keep an eye out for new information here or on the contest Twitter account (@fomcontest). And, as always, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to send them to Michael Matheson at

A New Addition to the Prize Pool

As you may have noticed from the general theme around here, and the fact that the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is about writing, we absolutely love books. So, you can imagine how ecstatic we were when the Merril Collection staff offered us a very special prize to be added to the 2011-2012 contest prize pool:

The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is adding a very limited edition (5 copies) hand crafted booklet, containing the stories of the 2011-2012 winning authors, to the prize pool. One copy will remain in the Merril Collection as part of the permanent archives. One copy will be retained by the artist producing the booklets, and the others will be distributed, one booklet each, among the winning authors. The details for the production of the booklet are not yet fixed as the design specifics are dependent on the length of the winning works, among other factors.

However, we think you’ll agree that the limited edition booklets are a fantastic addition to the already excellent prize pool. And, of course, once the booklets themselves have been produced (sometime after the conclusion of the 2011-2012 contest) we’ll post photographs of them to the website.

We’ll be updating the information on the contest website to reflect the new prize listing over the next few days as part of the runup to the official opening of the 2011-2012 reading period.

In the meantime, if you have any questions relating to this, or anything else about the contest, you can get in touch with us at

Keep an eye out for more updates to the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest relating to our Judges and other aspects of the contest. Also, if you’d rather we came to you with our updates, you can follow the contest blog (using the Subscribe widget to the right) to stay on top of updates and news items.

And remember, the 2011-2012 contest officially opens on November 15, 2011. So get writing.