The members of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, Inc. (BSFS) created the Compton Crook Award in 1982 to honor the best first novel of the year written by an individual author (collaborations are not eligible) in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genre. Since its inception, the award has been presented at Balticon — the four-day annual Maryland regional science fiction convention produced by BSFS, currently held on Memorial Day weekend in the Baltimore, MD area.
The Award was named in memory of Towson State College Professor of Natural Sciences Compton Crook, who wrote under the name Stephen Tall, and who died in 1981. Professor Crook was active for many years in the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and was a staunch champion of new works in the fields eligible for the award. The first Compton Crook Award was presented in 1983 for Donald Kingsbury's debut novel Courtship Right, a work published in 1982.
The Award is presented for the best first novel in the genre published in the previous year (for instance the 2011 winner, State of Decay by James Knapp, was published in 2010). It includes a framed award document and, for the novel's author, a check for $1,000 and an invitation to be the Compton Crook Guest at Balticon for two years. (This includes transportation and lodging at the Balticon host hotel for the author and her/his spouse/significant other/companion.) The first year the Compton Crook Guest is presented the award and the second year they are asked to present the new winner's award. For both Guest years, the author is offered opportunities to participate in Balticon events and program panels, present readings, and participate in autograph sessions alongside the Balticon Guest of Honor.
The Committee puts a lot of time and energy into finding novels which are eligible Compton Crook Award candidates. Due to budget constraints, we can only purchase one copy of each book we find. We encourage publishers, author's agemts or authors wishing to donate additional books (3 to 5 copies) as that gives our members more opportunites to read and vote. In addition, it helps us to bring into consideration any novels our research might have missed. See Candidate Eligibility Requirements for eligibility information.
Publishers encouraged to send us notice of any debut science fiction, fantasy or horror novels you are releasing or have released which you would like considered for the current award year.
Agents are encouraged to contact us about or and/or send us copies of genre debut novels you represent which you believe meet eligibility criteria.
Authors, if you believe your debut novel is eligible to be a candidate for the Compton Crook Award, by all means send it to us!
When sending copies of candidate novels, at least one copy must be a print copy. We recognize that providing multiple print copies represents more expense both for product and shipping, therefore we will accept additional copies in pdf or epub format on CDs (Nook, and/or Kindle formats may also be included on the CDs, as long as there is a pdf and/or epub version). In addition, this year we are trying something new: we have purchased some inexpensive e-readers for the Compton Crook readers to borrow and read candidate books on, so we would be happy to accept download links for up to two pdf or epub copies of each candidate book, which we will use to install the books on our electronic readers. The earlier donated books and links are received, the more reader exposure they will benefit from.
The BSFS package shipping address is:
BSFS - Compton Crook Award Committee
PMB 61 at Parcel Plus
8775 Cloudleap Court
Columbia MD 21045
All Compton Crook Award book donation packages should include a memo or letter which:
- indicates that the novel is intended for Compton Crook Award consideration;
- provides both email and telephone contact information for the publicist and/or author; and
- states that the novel meets requirements as listed in the Candidate Eligibility Requirements.
Finalists are notified in February. Voting for the Award is closed in mid-March April and the winner is notified and extended a formal invitation to be our Guest at Balticon. One copy of each donated book is retained in the BSFS library and additional copies will be offered at the BSFS Books for Kids fund-raising auction at Balticon, to Baltimore City School libraries, and at the Baltimore Book Festival in September.