Every year, QSF holds a flash fiction contest to create an amazing new anthology of queer speculative fiction stories. We ask authors to do the nearly-impossible – to submit a sci fi, fantasy, paranormal or horror LGBTIQA story that has no more than 300 words.
Our 2021 contest launches on March 1st, and closes on May 1st, but we do accept early entries. The theme for 2021 is “Ink”:
1) A colored fluid used for writing
2) The action of signing a deal
3) A black liquid ejected by squid
4) Publicity in the written media
5) A slang word for tattoos
Ink is everywhere. Liquid ink the books and magazines and newspapers we read. Virtual ink in our devices. Tattoos have moved decorative body art ink into the mainstream, and our politicians and celebrities often get more ink in the press than they can handle. And ink can leave an indelible stain.
Tell us about ink (and the stain it leaves) on your characters, the culture, and the world, for better or worse.
We’ll be accepting works from across the queer spectrum, and would love to see more entries including lesbian, trans, bi, intersex and ace protagonists, as well as gay men. We also welcome diversity in ability (physical and mental) and in race. We had our most diverse set of entries yet in 2020 – let’s keep up the trend!
We always get tons of gay sci fi shorts, so if you try your hand at fantasy, paranormal or horror, especially with the other letters of the queer alphabet, you’ll have a better chance of standing out.
Try for something unique – take the road less traveled.
We welcome strictly genre stories and genre stories with romance in the mix.
We have four main criteria by which each work will be judged:
- Is there at least one queer character and/or obvious queer content?
- How well does the work incorporate speculative fiction (sci fi, fantasy, paranormal or horror) tropes and concepts?
- Is the work well-crafted, with a plot, a beginning, a middle, and an end?
- How well/cleverly is the theme used in the work?
We’ll announce the first batch of winners – the works selected for the anthology – soon after the judging is complete.
We’ll also tease you with the honorable mention winners for this year’s book.
Then we’ll announce the judges’ choices – five works that didn’t quite make the top three, but that each of the judges thought deserved special mention.
But the biggest event will be the launch of the book, when the top three winners will be announced.
So break out your writing pencil or laptop or whatever you use, and get ready to write.
What’s the biggest mistake people make when entering this contest?
There are a few. The primary one is not including a recognizably queer character or characters in your story. This is especially true in first person stories, where there are few outside tags/identifiers to show us your person is a certain gender (or ungendered) or what their identity might be. So if you choose to write in first person, take extra care to clue us into what your character’s identity is. The other most common mistake is not being clear enough in how your story adheres to the theme. Yes, we don’t want to be hit over the head with it. But it should be discernible.
What “counts” in the total word count?
Only the actual words in your story itself are counted. We don’t count the title or your name. We don’t count (or publish) “end” or “the end” at the end of a story. We also don’t count scene break characters. We use Word’s count function as our standard, and we deduct any scene break characters from that count.
Does my story need to be exactly 300 words long? Can I go over?
While it doesn’t need to be exactly 300 words long, 300 is the maximum, and stories submitted at longer word counts will be returned to the author for trimming. We’ve had much shorter stories submitted in the past – we encourage you to use the number of words you need to tell your story… up to 300 total.
Should I submit my story “blind” with no name/contact info in the body of the story?
No. Scott compiles all the stories into one document for the judges, and removes that information in the final version.
I’m having trouble matching your story formatting requests. Is this a problem?
While the formatting guidelines make it wasier for us to combine the stories into the final document, we’re not super picky about them, and recognize that some folks have issues following them. So just do your best, and we’ll contact you if there are any issues with your submission.
Here are a few things that may help you if you are struggling with how to write a flash fiction work for the contest:
- Our 2018 Seminar Chat – past winners and judges talk about how to write good flash
- 2020 Winners
- 2019 Winners
- 2018 Winners
- Judge Samples – Works written by the judges as examples for the 2017 theme “Renewal”
- 2017 Winners
- 2016 Winners
- 2015 Winners
- 2014 Winners
- Other 2014 Entries
- The work must be no longer than 300 words long, not including the title/byline. Longer entries will be rejected. We use Microsoft Word for our official word count.
- The work must somehow embrace/explore the theme of “ink”.
- The work can be with or without a queer romance, HEA not required, but must have clearly queer characters and content.
- The work should be speculative fiction – all flavors of sci fi, fantasy, paranormal or horror accepted.
- The work should be a standalone – not connected to any series or universe.
- The winners will be chosen by a panel of five judges.
- Whether a submitted work meets all the qualifications is at the discretion of the judges.
- One entry per person.
- The contest officially begins on 3/1/21. Entries are due by midnight Pacific on 4/30/21. We do accept early submissions.
- Please, no simultaneous submissions.
- Entries should be sent in Word format. We’re not picky about the spacing or indents, etc, but 12 pt. Times New Roman is appreciated, and please do NOT use tabs. Send your work to [email protected], with the email subject line “QSF FLASH FICTION CONTEST: TITLE, AUTHOR”, replacing TITLE and AUTHOR with your own.
- The top three winners will receive cash prizes of $75, $50, and $25 respectively; everyone who is chosen for publication will receive a free copy of the eBook. No royalties will be paid.
- A group of runners-up will be chosen – stories with high point scores that may or may not also be winners. There is no monetary reward for this distinction.
- Each of the judges will also select one work for special recognition as a “Judge’s Choice”. There is no monetary reward for this distinction.
- We will send you a release when we receive your work. If your work is selected for publication, you agree to grant exclusive publication rights to Queer Sci Fi in this year’s QSF flash fiction anthology for 12 months from the anthology publication date. Your right to publish your work elsewhere will automatically revert back to you at that time. You also agree to grant Queer Sci Fi the right to sell your work non-exclusively for 36 months after the publication date, after which we will relinquish all rights to the work. Note: If your story is not selected for the anthology, the rights automatically revert to the you upon notification.
- The judging panel will choose 120 works from all entries submitted to create the eBook and paperback anthology for sale.
- We don’t have the resources to provide personalized commentary or critique for every story that is not chosen for the anthology, but rest assured, we appreciate every entry.
If you have any questions, you can email me at [email protected].
We’ve now run the contest five times, and put out books showcasing the best stories from Discovery and Flight (now out of print) and Renewal, Impact, and Migration.
For our first year, the theme was “Endings“. To see the top three stories and the three honorable mentions from 2014, click here. (16 entries). To see the rest of the submissions from 2014 (where the authors gave us the go-ahead to post them), click here. Scott chose this theme.
For the second year, the theme was “Discovery“. To see the winners and honorable mentions from 2015, click here. (115 entries). Mark chose this theme.
For the third year, the theme was “Flight“. To see the winners and honorable mentions from 2016, click here. (172 entries). Angel chose this theme.
In year five, our theme was “Impact.” For the list of winners, click here. (182 entries). Scott chose this theme. This was the first pf the series published by OWI.
In year six, we tackled “Migration“, and had our biggest year yet (255 entries). Mark chose this theme.
In year seven, we tackled “Innovation.” (233 entries). Angel chose this theme.