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The Baltimore Science Fiction Society Amateur Writing Contest is open to amateur writers over 18 years old who are residents of Maryland and to students attending any Maryland 2- or 4-year college. The contest is absolutely free to enter.

The 2024 contest will:

o Open: April 15, 2024

o Close: June 15, 2024 at 11.59 PM

o Winners will be announced at the Capclave Convention that will be held September 27 - 29, 2024 in Rockville, MD.

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society Amateur Writing Contest promotes the creation of quality short speculative fiction and has been held annually since 2013.

The contest is open to adult writers living in Maryland. Any short story that falls into the speculative fiction genre – science fiction and fantasy in all their forms – is welcome. Urban fantasy, hard science fiction, dark fantasy, it all counts so long as the work has a speculative element. BSFS judges award First, Second, and Third cash prizes for the best stories.

"I'm not a big science fiction writer and when I heard about the BSFS Amateur Writing Contest, I almost let it slide. But I had a few science-fiction ideas floating around my head and the contest was the push that I needed to finally type up a story. I was proud to have entered but I figured I didn't have a chance to win because I knew the competition would be stiff. When my story won first place, I was shocked and overjoyed, to say the least. This is an important award, and I won! I feel that my writing skills have been validated by the members of BSFS (which, by the way, is such a great organization). I've now started reading and writing science fiction much more seriously. I certainly am an amateur writer, but with BSFS’s help and encouragement, I can bet on the fact that I’ll be a professional author one day." – Isabella Madruga 2022 winner

See the other past winners here.

Who may enter?

o Entrants must be over 18 by the final day submissions are accepted and be legal residents of Maryland or students enrolled at a Maryland 2- or 4-year college. Maryland writers under 18 may instead enter the Jack L. Chalker Young Writers' Contest, also sponsored by BSFS.

o Entrants must be amateur writers. Writers who are eligible for full membership in the Science Fiction Writers of America as defined here may not enter this contest whether or not they are an active member of SFWA. If you submit an entry and then get notified that you'll be published in a professional magazine or book before the last day submissions are accepted, you must inform us and the committee will decide how to handle your entry.

o We reserve the right to verify that potential winners meet all requirements.

o Multiple authors may collaborate on a story so long as all meet the entry criteria. If the story wins, all writers will receive memberships to Balticon and have the opportunity to read the story, but the prize money is not increased.

o Previous winners of the BSFS Amateur Writing Contest may enter a new work provided that they meet other entry criteria.

o BSFS Officers, Board members, the Chair, Vice Chair, and Department Heads for Balticon may not enter.

What writing may be entered in the contest?

The Amateur Writing Contest is limited to stories of speculative fiction between 1,000 and 5,500 words that have not have been previously published. Please do not send us anything that has been published anywhere else in any form, including on your own blog/website/Facebook or self-published edition.

This is a short story contest. We do not accept scripts, screenplays, or non-fiction essays for this contest. To avoid potential copyright conflicts, we cannot accept fan fiction. BSFS has a separate Annual BSFS Poetry Contest for poets.

The stories must be written by you without the use of AI. If a story is suspected of having been written by AI, the contest reserves the right to investigate the origins of story and to disqualify stories for which the authorship cannot be ascertained.

How do I enter?

You may submit only one entry each year.

Entries must be sent in .doc/.docx format from a PC or Mac and formatted using the CLASSIC short story submission format presented on William Shunn's website. Entries that are incorrectly formatted or are of the wrong length will not be considered. Please note that the formatting requirement is strictly enforced and you will be nagged to reformat your entry if it does not comply. If the reformatting is not complete before the end of the open submission period, your entry will not be allowed.

Entries must be submitted electronically. Attach your story to an email sent to amateurwritingcontest [at] bsfs [dot] org. The subject heading should be "BSFS Contest Submission: [Insert story's title here]". Anything else will be deleted.

Who are the judges and what are they looking for?

The judges are BSFS members and volunteers. Before being sent to the judges all identifying information is removed from the manuscripts. Only the quality of your story will matter.

The judges are looking for stories with gripping openings, good world building, interesting characters, strong plots, powerful images, biting satire, good word choice, and touching endings. No explicit sex or gore please. In judging entries we consider how much we enjoy a story, how original it is, whether we like the style, and whether the story is presented as if to a publisher, that is, fully edited with correct spelling and punctuation using grammar and word choices, including slang and dialect, that are appropriate to the story.

Contest judges tend to be very sensitive to poor grammar, mixed tenses, and other copyediting errors. If you want your story to be seriously considered, we recommend that you pay close attention to these details.

What are the prizes?

Awards will be presented at at Capclave, the annual con of the Washington Science Fiction Association. Capclave focuses on short fiction and is where WSFA presents its annual Small Press Award.

1st place is $250

2nd place is $100

3rd place is $50

Honorable mentions are awarded for Fourth and Fifth place.

The top five entries will receive free memberships to Balticon, the BSFS convention that is held each year in Baltimore on Memorial Day weekend. The First, Second and Third place winners will be invited read their winning entries at Balticon if time allows. With the author's permission, the First place entry will be published (all or in part as space allows) in BSFSFan, the Balticon souvenir book. (See below for more publishing details.)

BSFS reserves some publishing rights to the winning stories

By submitting your story to the contest you agree that BSFS may hold some publishing rights to your story if it wins a prize. No story will be published without the author's consent.

If your story wins First place, BSFS will hold exclusive digital and physical printing rights until the story is published in the BSFSFan for the next Balticon. While the announcement of the winner is made at Capclave, BSFS holds exclusive publishing rights until the next edition of BSFSFan is released to the public at Balticon. After that release BSFS retains non-exclusive rights to publish the story for 5 years from date of publication in BSFSFan. This is to allow us to publish an anthology of winning stories perhaps, or make other appropriate uses of the story. After the winning story is published in the BSFSFan, we encourage you to submit the story elsewhere and have it published. You do not need our consent for this publication but we would appreciate if you would tell us the good news.

If your story wins Second or Third place, we reserve the non-exclusive right to publish the stories digitally or physically for 5 years.

I have a question not addressed here. Where can I get it answered?

If you have any questions, please send them to amateurwritingcontest [at] bsfs [dot] org

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