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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


United Kingdom: 1
Ireland: 1

Middle East

Israel: 1

South America

Argentina: 1


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, or you can catch up with us on Twitter (@fomcontest).


By the Numbers: A Breakdown of the 2011-2012 Contest Year

As of this morning all responses – both finalist notifications and rejections – have been sent out.

And looking back over the entries there were very few problems with the submissions we received. And the things that were minor issues were pretty much the things you generally expect to see in any slush pile:

  • One story that had no speculative element.
  • Stories with copyright notifications embedded in the text.
  • Mail server issues that led to one or two people having to resend their submissions after Gmail ate their subs en route.
  • Some trunk stories.
  • A number of pieces that could have done with another read through for formatting and copyediting issues.

But these are all basic things. What we are very pleased about is the level of response we saw, even in this, our inaugural year. And to that end we’ve provided a breakdown of the entrants and submissions information. It should also serve as more general interest information for those who are curious about what (some of) the internal workings of a contest like ours look like:

Overall Breakdown:

80 Entrants
102 Submissions (16 hard copy, 86 electronic)

Entrant Gender Split: 51 Male / 29 Female

Submissions by Month:

Submissions in November: 6
Submissions in December: 4
Submissions in January: 30
Submissions in February: 62

Submissions by Region/Country:

North America

Canada: 87
US: 8


United Kingdom: 5 (2 from Scotland)
Czech Republic: 1


Australia: 1

Finalists Overall Breakdown:

1 hard copy entry, 8 electronic entries

Finalist Gender Split: 3 Male / 6 Female

Finalist Entries Received By Month:

Finalist Stories in November: 0
Finalist Stories in December: 2
Finalist Stories in January: 2
Finalist Stories in February: 5

Finalist Entries by Region/Country:

North America

Canada: 8
US: 1

And speaking to finalist information, we’ll be revealing the names of the authors of the finalist stories when we declare our winners, on or before April 1st. In the meantime we’ve given the finalists free rein to discuss that they are on the list – so you may have already heard from some of them about this – and we’ve just asked them not to reveal which story is theirs in order to keep the Final Panel adjudications impartial.

As ever, if you have any queries please address them to Michael Matheson at