Once again, I left the wintry north on a Thursday in mid-March for sunny Orlando, Florida, to bestow the Dell Magazine Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing on a lucky winner. The award is co-sponsored by Dell Magazines and the International Association for the Fantastic and is supported by the School of Mass Communications, University of South Florida. The Dell Magazines Award is conferred, along with certificates to the runners up and honorable mentions, at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. This year marked the thirtieth anniversary of the conference and I was amazed to discover that I had been giving out the award for more than half of them.
Although my co-judge, Rick Wilber, and choose the stories from a blind read, we were delighted to learn that this year’s winner, Josh Eure, is a creative writing student of the (soon-to-be) two-time Nebula Award-winning author, John Kessel, at North Carolina State University. Josh, who already holds a traditional author’s resume that includes stints as a rock-wall belayer and a hammock weaver, as well as jobs in fast food, on a seed farm, and fueling aircraft, will be continuing on in the university’s graduate writing program this fall. On Saturday evening, I presented him with the award and a check for five hundred dollars for his story “We Were Real.” This compelling tale of the not-too-distant future introduces us to a powerful and distinctive new voice. Josh’s story will appear online next year. In the meantime, please check out asimovs.com for last year’s hilarious award-winning story “Blank, White, and Blue,” by Stephen Leech.
This year’s first runner-up and the author of “The Best and Bitt’rest Kiss,” Sarah Miller, is a senior at Bard College at Simon Rock. Sarah majored in psychology and linguistics, and is a graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop and the Alpha SF, Fantasy and Horror Workshop for Young Writers—a workshop for teenagers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Last year, Sarah received an honorable mention in the contest, and she was accompanied to Florida this year by her friend, and another of last year’s honorable mentions, Emily Tersoff.
Maggie Morgan, our second runner-up with her story, “Suspended,” is another of John Kessel’s students at NCSU. Unfortunately, Maggie, along with three of our honorable mentions, could not be in attendance at the conference. One of the missing was Rahul Kanakia of Stanford University. Rahul, a 2007 finalist as well, was recognized this year for his story “Between Dusk and Twilight.” A fellow Stanford student, Jennette Westwood, received a certificate for “Locked and Keyed,” while Elena Gleason of Knox College and an Alpha graduate was awarded an honorable mention for “Aeroplasty.”
Happily, though, Lara Donnelly, a freshman at Wright State University, was on hand to pick up her certificate for “The Case of the Unassuming Book and the Very Soiled Trousers.” Lara is also a graduate of the Alpha Workshop. I hope to learn something about the secret of Alpha’s success when I attend it as a guest over the summer.
In addition to spending time in individual writing conferences with each of our finalists, I had the chance to catch up with Terry Bisson, Marie Brennan, Suzy McKee Charnas, Ted Chiang, Stephen R. Donaldson, Andy Duncan, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Daryl Gregory, Joe Haldeman, Elizabeth Hand, Judith Moffett, Patrick O’Leary, Kit Reed, Peter Straub, and a number of other authors. I look forward to seeing many of them again next year.
Asimov’s is proud to support these academic awards with IAFA. The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts is a worldwide network of scholars, educators, critics, editors, publishers, and performers who share an interest in studying and celebrating the fantastic in all art forms, disciplines, and media.
We are actively looking for next year’s winner. The deadline for submissions is Monday, January 2, 2010. All full-time undergraduate students at any accredited university or college are eligible. Stories must be in English, and should run from 1,000 to 10,000 words. No submission can be returned, and all stories must be previously unpublished and unsold. There is a $10 entry fee, with up to three stories accepted for each fee paid. A special flat fee of $25 is available for an entire classroom of writers. Instructors should send all the submissions in one or more clearly labeled envelopes with a check or money order. Checks should be made out to the Dell Magazines Award. There is no limit to the number of submissions from each writer. Each submission must include the writer’s name, address, phone number, and college or university on the cover sheet, but please do not put your name on the actual story.
Before entering the contest, contact Rick Wilber for more information, rules, and manuscript guidelines. He can be reached care of:
Dell Magazines Award
School of Mass Communications
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida 33620
Next year’s winner will be announced at the 2010 Conference on the Fantastic, in the pages of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, and on our website.