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The 2021 Dell Magazines Awards

by Sheila Williams

Jazmin Collins
Photo credit: Jazmin Collins

When the 2020 Conference on the Fantastic was suddenly postponed to 2021, we all hoped that we’d be back in Orlando, Florida, for this year’s presentation of the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. Alas, with the Covid-19 pandemic still not under control, the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) opted to hold the 2021 conference virtually. The conference did an excellent job of this, and we were able to bestow our awards at a virtual ceremony on March 21, 2021. The award is cosponsored by ICFA and Dell Magazines.

The winner of the 2021 award was Jazmin Collins, a junior at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania. Jaz­min first learned of our award through her professor and former ICFA president Jim Casey. Originally from New Mexico, Jazmin has a double major in English and computer science with a minor in Japanese. She is obsessed with HCI—human-computer interaction—and builds brain kits for VR at home during her spare time. Her favorite authors include Naomi Novik and E. Lily Yu. Jazmin received the 2021 Dell Magazines Award and a check for five hundred dollars for her bittersweet tale about the lives of sentient flowers told via “My Gardening Journal.”

Samuel Owens
Photo credit: Samuel Owens

Our first runner-up was Samuel Owens. Sam is a senior at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. He is finishing up a dual major in economics and philosophy and a minor in creative writing. Sam is a runner who has attended the Alpha Writers Workshop and the Iowa Young Writers Studio. After graduation he plans to work as a research assistant at a DC think tank. His award was for “The Piano Player,” a story about an AI who evolves from robot cage fighter to virtuoso musician. Another story by Sam, “Man’s End,” received 2021’s only honorable mention.

This year’s second-runner-up award went to Jack Hawkins. Jack is a junior at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, who is majoring in English with a minor in Psychology. His favorite authors include Peter Watts and Octavia Butler, and, in an interesting generational succession, I was pleased to learn that he discovered the Dell Award through the works of Seth Dickinson, one of our previous award winners. Jack is receiving his award for a complex tale about an AI and “The Chronicle of a Dying World.”

Although we weren’t able to meet in person, my co-judge Rick Wilber managed to host a lovely Thursday night Zoom get-together for Jazmin, Sam, Jack, and some special guests. These included SF authors E. Lily Yu, Sarah Pinsker, Joe and Gay Haldeman, Alan Smale, Marie Brennan (who received the award in 2003), Ben Loory, and James Patrick Kelly, as well as critics Gary Wolfe and Dale Hanes, Tachyon editor/publisher Jacob Weisman and his colleagues Bernie Goodman and Rebecca McNulty Goodman (a former award finalist), and Clarkesworld editor/publisher Neil Clarke. This entertaining event was made possible by Fran Wilde, who was also in attendance and who is the director of Western Colorado University’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing, Low-Residency MA and MFA, Genre Fiction Concentration. We are grateful for the support the award receives from Western Colorado University.

Jack Hawkins
Photo credit: Sharon Hawkins

Jazmin also got to do an online reading of an excerpt of her story on Saturday morning. Hosted by Alan Smale, the readers included Ben Loory and Suzanne Church in addition to Jazmin.

It is our fond hope that our 2020 and 2021 finalists will join us in person at the 2022 Conference of the Fantastic in Florida!

The Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing was established by Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine and the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts in 1993 to promote the writing of science fiction and fantasy by college undergraduates. The contest is open to all full-time undergraduates at accredited colleges and universities. The award is not limited to unpublished authors, but all submissions must be previously unpublished and unsold, and they should be from 1,000 to 10,000 words long. Writers may submit an unlimited number of stories, but each manuscript must include a cover sheet with the writer’s name, address, phone number, and the university the writer attends. Manuscripts should be double-spaced, with adequate margins, and numbered pages. Names should not appear on the manuscript itself after the cover sheet. Find out more about the award at or on Facebook at The deadline for next year’s submissions is Tuesday, January 4, 2022, at 11:59 p.m.

Copyright © 2021 Sheila Williams

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