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The 2018 Dell Magazines Award

by Sheila Williams


Left to right: Alexandra Barr, C.E. McGill, Arthur Davis, Brittney Hubley, and Rebecca Kuang

Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing co-judge, Rick Wilber, and I were once again delighted that the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts and Dell Magazines cosponsor the award. The winner gets a plaque and a check for five hundred dollars. The 2018 award and finalists’ certificates were distributed at the Thirty-Ninth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in March. It went to Arthur Davis, a junior at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Art, who has studied with the writer Gregory Frost, is originally from Texas.

Traditionally, our award winner participates in an author reading. Arthur read his story alongside Stephanie Feldman and Eileen Gunn. During the comment period, an older man raised his hand. He told us he wasn’t actually with the conference. He’d sort of wandered in from the John Deere Convention that was going on concurrently at the hotel. He said he was a veteran and that if he hadn’t been there to hear Arthur read he would never have believed that someone so young could write so convincingly and so compassionately about PTSD. High praise indeed! Art’s award-winning tale, “Happy? Sad?” should be available on our website next year. In the meantime, please check out last year’s winner, “Noor” by Taimur Ahmad.

The award is decided by a blind read, which means the results always include a few surprises. A big one this year was that our first runner-up, Claire Spaulding, was also last year’s first runner-up. Claire couldn’t attend the conference this year because she was spending a junior semester in Argentina. She’s studying sociology at Columbia University, and she received her award for “Four Days to Opening Night.” The first runner-up award comes with a two-year subscription to Asimov’s. Claire is well fortified with four years’ worth of subs, but perhaps she’ll add additional time to her subscription next year.

Our second and third runners-up each get a one-year subscription to Asimov’s. This year’s second runner-up, Rebecca Kuang, is a senior at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. R.K. is about to embark on a Marshall Scholarship to Cambridge for an MA. in Modern Chinese History. As R.F. Kuang, she’s also sold a novel, The Poppy War, to Harper Voyager. R.K. received her Dell Award for the eerie tale of “The Corpse Return.” Our third runner-up, Brittney Hubley, is a senior studying English and Creative Writing at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. She received her award for the delightful, and aptly named, tale of “Shitbucket.”

We had a great group of honorable mentions. Rick and I were pleased to discover that Alexandra Barr, another of last year’s finalists, was returning to pick up her 2018 award for “Flood Daughter.” Alex is majoring in English at the University of Alberta. Both she and Britt­ney first learned about the Dell Award from author, professor, and ICFA attendee Greg Bechtel.

Alas, one of our honorable mentions, Garrison Kammer had to miss the conference because he and his wife had just had a baby. A student at Bellevue College in Bellevue, Washington, he received his award in absentia for “Venus Return.” We were very happy, however, to meet C.E. McGill, our final honorable mention. Originally from Scotland, Charlie is a senior at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. She is studying the narratives of science in fiction and history and minoring in physics. Charlie received her award for “Sapphire, Dagger, Hall.”

The finalists dined with Kij Johnson, Maria Dahvana Headley, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Ben Loory, Rich Larson, James and Kathy Morrow, Lara Elena Donnelly, Nick DiChario, Gregory Norman Bossert, editors/publishers Neil Clarke and Jacob Weisman, and writer/scholar (and an earlier Dell finalist) Rebecca McNulty and her husband Bernie Goodman. Neil Clarke and writer/editor Julia Rios set aside hours to talk to the students about fiction and publishing. Previous award-winners Rich and Lara were excellent role models: Rich had just sold four novels, and Lara’s first book is a Nebula nominee!

Other attendees at the conference included John Kessel, Sandra McDonald, Sarah Pinsker, Ted Chiang, Eugene Fischer, Nisi Shawl, Joan Slonczewski, Karen Joy Fowler, Kelly Robson, Usman Malik, Theodora Goss, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Geoffrey A. Landis, Ellen Klages, John Chu, Mary Turzillo, Carmen Maria Machado, Ann Leckie, David D. Levine, Fran Wilde, A.M. Dellamonica, Carolyn M. Yoachim, Sam J. Miller, Geoff Ryman, Andy Duncan, Peter Straub, Charles Vess, Kay Chronister (another previous Dell winner), James Patrick Kelly, and Max Gladstone. Many of these people spent time visiting with our finalists as well.

You can visit with previous finalists and current writers at our Facebook page. Find out more about the award at or on Facebook at

We are actively looking for next year’s winner. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday, January 9, 2019, at 11:59 p.m. Stories must be unpublished and unsold and should be between a thousand and ten thousand words. All full-time undergraduate students at any accredited university or college are eligible.

Before entering the contest, contact Rick Wilber for more information, rules, and manuscript guidelines. Reach him by email at Next year’s winner will be announced at the 2019 Conference on the Fantastic, in the pages of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, and on our website.

Copyright © 2018 Sheila Williams

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