Photography by Heather Haynes

In Association with

The 2014 BSFS Amateur Writing Contest has closed. The winners were announced at Capclave 2014 in October. Check back in spring 2015 for the opening of next year's contest.

To promote the creation of quality genre literature in the state of Maryland, we're holding the annual Baltimore Science Fiction Society Amateur Writing Contest and encouraging everyone to enter. Anything that falls into the "speculative fiction" genre--science fiction in all its forms and fantasy in all its forms. Urban fantasy, hard science fiction, dark fantasy, it all counts. That is to say, the work must have a speculative element.

Your chance to get your story directly in front of Neil Clarke!
The three winners of the BSFS Amateur Writing Contest, along with the cash prizes and convention recognition, will also have their stories read by Neil Clarke. Neil will have the option to publish any and all of these stories in Clarkesworld Magazine if he so chooses. This is not a promise of publication, only that Neil Clarke himself will look at the winning stories.

Past winners

What are the basic rules?

You have to be 18 or over to enter, a Maryland resident or currently a student at a MD two or four year college, and you cannot either be a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America or have been published in a professional science fiction/fantasy magazine ("professional" as defined by the SFWA list here: This contest is to help amateurs reach the next level, not assist those who are already there.

Word minimum is 1,000 words. Word limit of 5,500 words. In other words, your story has to be at least 1,000 words, and cannot be more than 5,500. All submissions should be formatted using the standard short story submission format (courier font, 12 size, double spaced, etc. see William Shun's example here:

First page formatting example:

Body text formatting example:

The contest opens on April 1, 2014. We will be accepting entries until June 15, 2014. The winner will be announced at Capclave on October 11, 2014.

BSFS Officers and Board members and the Chair, Vice Chair, and Department Heads for Balticon MAY NOT ENTER.

Is there an entry fee?
No. The contest is absolutely free to enter.

How many entries may I submit?
You may submit only ONE entry.

What are the prizes?
1st place is $250
2nd place is $100
3rd place is $50

The 1st place winner will be invited to Balticon to do a reading of either a selection of their winning story or the entire story (depending on length and the availability of time and the wishes of the winner). The top five entries will all receive free memberships to Balticon.

The winner will be announced in October at Capclave, the convention put on by the Washington Science Fiction Association, which focuses on the short fiction form, and sponsors the WSFA Small Press Award . The top three entrants will be invited to the convention and the ceremony.

Along with the cash prizes and convention recognition, the three winners will also have their stories read by Neil Clarke, bypassing the slush readers at Clarkesword Magazine. Neil will have the option to publish any and all of these stories in Clarkesworld if he so chooses. This is not a promise of publication, only that Neil Clarke himself will look at the winning stories. If he passes, then BSFS reserves the right to publish your story in our Balticon convention guide the BSFSFan.

Who judges this contest?
BSFS members and volunteers.

How do I submit?
You can only submit electronically. The story should be in a word document (.doc format, please no .docx) and attached to an email sent to bsfs-amc at bsfs dot org. The subject heading should be "BSFS Contest Submission: [Insert story's title here]" Anything else will be deleted.

What are you looking for?
Gripping openings, quality stories, interesting characters, strong plots, powerful images, biting satire, unique word choice, touching endings.

Do you accept fan fiction?
Due to copyright conflicts, do not submit fan fiction.

Do you accept poetry?
No. However, we do have a separate Balticon Poetry Contest.

So I'm a writer who is under 18. What can I do?
Well you can't enter THIS contest, but we do have the Jack L. Chalker Young Writer's Contest.

I'm a writer based inside of Washington DC or in Northern Virginia. Can I enter this contest?
No, sorry, you have to reside in or go to school in MD. You may want to talk to our friends at the Washington Science Fiction Association and ask if they'll start something up. At the least, you should go to the convention they run in southern Maryland every year in October called Capclave. George R. R. Martin will be their guest of honor this year!

WSFA is here:
Capclave is here:

I'm a BSFS member/WSFA member/Maryland Writers Association member/Maryland Romance Writers/[insert other organization here], will I have an advantage?
NO, absolutely not. A project manager will remove all names and contact information from entries before giving them to the judges to read. Only the quality of your story will matter.

If I bring my piece to the BSFS critique circle to get critiqued, will I have an advantage?
Only in the sense that critique which addresses the flaws of a piece and serves to strenghten many elements (characters, story, diction, etc.) is always beneficial to both the writer and a piece. You can get that critique at the BSFS Critique Circle, but you could get it from other sources, too. In the meantime, although a couple (not all, not even most) of the judges do attend our critique circle and will happily offer any attendee feedback, each judge is different and might demand different things from a piece. Plus you have no way of knowing who will read your piece anyway. Plus, with the way that we're judging, eventually all of the judges will read and vote on pieces. Therefore trying to tailor an entry to a specific judge would be a terrible mistake. You just have to make the story as good as possible.

Are simultaneous submissions allowed?

Are reprints allowed?
No. Please do not send us anything that has been published anywhere else, including on your own blog/website/Facebook.

I turn 18 before the contest ends. Can I enter?
As long as you turn 18 by June 15th, and meet all of the other requirements, yes.

What if I get published in a professional magazine after I submit to the BSFS Contest?
If you submit, but get notified that you'll be published in a professional magazine before the contest end date (that is, you receive your acceptance letter by June 15th), please let us know.

How long does BSFS hold the printing rights to the story?
For the first place winner, we'll hold exclusive digital and physical printing rights until it is published in the BSFSFan for the Balticon which follows the announcement. So the announcement of the winner is made in Oct 2014; we hold the exclusive rights up to Balticon 2014 where we will publish it in the BSFSFan. Afterwards we hold non-exclusive rights to publish the story for up to five years afterwards. So years later we might decide to do an anthology of some kind of the winners (we would inform you beforehand), but after its published in the BSFSFan you may still submit your story elsewhere and have it published without our consent. We encourage you to attempt to get it published elsewhere.

For second and third place winners, we reserve the right to ask them if we may publish their stories on our website, or in an anthology of some kind. Otherwise we will not retain any publishing rights.

Will I be required to submit proof of residency and age?
Possibly. Please be prepared to submit proof of residency in MD (a bill, piece of mail, copy of ID, student transcript, etc.), as we do reserve the right to check that potential winners meet all requirements.

Will I be published in Clarkesworld if I win?
Winning is not a guarantee of publication in Clarkesworld. Winning is only a guarantee that your story will be read by Neil Clarke himself. Neil will then decide if he wants to publish your story or not. If he passes, then BSFS reserves the right to publish your story in our convention guide the BSFSFan.

I have a question not addressed here. Where can I get it answered?
Send it to BSFSEvents at BSFS dot org.

"Balticon" is a service mark of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, Inc.
Copyright 2013. BSFS is a 501(c)3
non-profit organization.
Design by John Zaharick
Powered by FreeBSD and Apache
Since January 26, 1999 the BSFS Website
has been visited times.
Baltimore Science Fiction Society, Inc.
PO Box 686
Baltimore, MD 21203-0686
Phone: (410) JOE-BSFS (563-2737)
webmeister at bsfs dot org