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Science in My Fiction contest – CANCELLED

SiMF regrets to announce the cancellation of the 2011 Science in My Fiction short story contest.

This is due primarily to lack of apparent interest. With just two weeks remaining until the entry deadline, SiMF has received just 25% as many entries as we’d received by the same time in last year’s contest.

The lack of interest could be partly due to the more specific nature of the entry guidelines (i.e. the requirement that stories take place off Earth). Another possible reason is the SiMF managing editors have experienced a series of setbacks which prevented them from dedicating time to promotion of the contest. The final setback occurred this past weekend when our 5-year-old son fell and broke his arm. This proved to be the final straw and solidified our decision to end the contest.

We’d like to thank the judges for agreeing to aid us in the contest. We apologize to them, and to all the writers who did enter or were planning on entering. We would have preferred the results to be different, but unfortunately at this point we feel this is the only decision left to us.

Thanks to all readers, fans, and those who submitted for your support!

Playing ‘Red-Light, Green-Light’ in Space

If you dislike insects, then long term space travel is probably not for you. Contrary to the space operas you may have read or watched, wise humans will always surround themselves with creepy critters who love to do our dirty work. For that matter, can we even survive happily or well without our companion animals? Can we remain humans as we know ourselves in the absence of other Earthling species? I suspect not.

Since the start of 2011′s Science in My Fiction Contest, I’ve been tweeting and blogging links to science news items that may prove useful to potential contestants. First, I touched on some interesting technological ideas for use in science-inspired fiction. Then I reminded writers that ecology-based worldbuilding doesn’t end when humans leave Earth behind. This week, I recommend maggots, parrots and molecular ‘traffic lights’ as likely candidates for your far future fiction:

In space stories, there are a couple everyday events that are usually ignored or glossed over as much as possible. Death and poop. These are naturally messy processes and products, and we will need systems in place to turn our losses into something beneficial. We could do as we do now and send low-status humans to clean up and process the ‘waste,’ or we could invent robots to do the work, but I think we can do better than that. Why not save ourselves a lot of inconvenience and bring nature’s cleaning crew with us on our long space journeys? Yes, I’m suggesting we recycle the dead and the digested with the help of fly larvae. Think of it as our descendants’ way of ‘returning to the earth’ without having to make a U-turn in space.

Even after we’re well-settled in space, we may never discover alien life that we can recognize or communicate with. That doesn’t mean humans will ever be alone in the universe. We may dominate the Earth, but we’re hardly the only clever beasts around. We’re not even the only tool-users! In the future, spacefarers may need to choose their shipboard plant and animal communities with even greater care than their human crew, and with that in mind, I would like to recommend brainy birds. It might be tricky to engineer space environments favorable to delicate species, but it might be worth it for the sake of biodiversity. And you never know when a speech-mimicking, tool-using, air-travelling seed disperser might come in handy on a starship.

In the far future, there will literally be sickness like we’ve never known. Along with many of the things we’re familiar with on Earth. There really should be no doubt that various methods of genetic engineering will come in to play – if not before liftoff, then certainly while we’re between-worlds – but not every genetic problem humans (or the species we bring to space with us) have now or develop later will require us to replace ‘bad’ genes with ‘good’ genes. Sometimes the problem isn’t the DNA itself, but the little under-appreciated messengers employed by the genes. Per DNA instructions, mRNA tell cells what proteins to make in order to function, but sometimes the little messengers stop short and deliver only part of the blueprint. The results can be deadly, so it’s a good thing for our fiction (and our futures) that we’re working out how to bring more subtlety to our interactions with genomes.

Now, go! Write! Win! And if you come across a scientific development you’re interested in sharing, leave a comment or ping me on Twitter @sandykidd.

The Far Future is Before Our Very Eyes

The second annual Science in My Fiction Contest is on and bedeviling writers! This year, in addition to asking writers to base their short story submissions on recent scientific developments, all contest entries must also be stories set off-Earth.

At a stretch, nearly any scientific advance made on Earth could be applied to the far-future, and authors of speculative fiction should ideally always practice that kind of literary yoga. But while some technological leaps are more obviously applicable than others, many things are taken for granted on Earth to the extent that we need to be reminded that they require re-thinking for all other settings. 

Because of the contest’s secondary requirement, I’ve been tweeting daily links to recent space travel and far future-relevant scientific developments. Not everyone follows me on Twitter, however, so I’ve decided to bring a few examples of SiMF Contest-ready science to the blog for helpful discussion and speculation. 

Wherever else in the galaxy humans are ever able to settle, we will first need to travel there. Everything we take with us may become lighter than feathers once outside Earth’s gravity, but before then, it must be launched. Every ounce of weight correlates to the amount of fuel required for lift-off. Once weightless, all cargo still has volume and mass, so we must also account for how much room is required to store it when it’s not in use, without cramming in the crew like so much ballast. These issues are tricky for short missions and incredibly problematic for long missions, but some far future dilemmas may have answers rooted in ancient arts. I give you Textiles in Space

Essential items like food, water, tools, and people are not the only things we send to space. On short journeys, of course we include materials for science experiments, and satellites to be put in orbit, but we also allow astronauts a few small personal items. For example, several flutes recently circled the Earth. On short missions, these little things are of arguable worth in space, but on long missions they could become hugely important – psychologically, if in no other way. But again, every item aboard ship takes up valuable ‘real estate,’ and so the size of allowable personal items must be carefully reconsidered for long-term space travel. Fortunately, we humans are capable of placing remarkably high significance on our virtual possessions. Talk about space-savers. 

Astronauts are scheduled to within an inch of their sanity. Every moment is carefully planned to ensure that the science gets done, all maintenance is performed, and everyone sleeps and exercises enough to protect their health. Even their so-called ‘free time’ is scheduled in advance. But people are people, no matter how far off-Earth we may travel. Even if we take great pains to send no trouble-makers into space, it’s only a matter of time before somebody starts some shenanigans. Why? Well, rules are all well and good, but rule-breaking is powerful stuff. Eventually, every long space mission will have to deal with man-made mischief. Perhaps if we designate time for it on ships’ calendars we can mitigate the damage… 

Those are just three examples of obvious or easily ignored science that could be useful for writers speculating on the future. I’ll bring up more like these as the contest progresses, but in the mean time, what are your off-Earth science suggestions for SiMF contestants?

Announcing the 2nd annual Science in My Fiction contest!

Science in My Fiction and Crossed Genres Publications are thrilled to announce our 2nd annual Science in My Fiction contest!

Last year’s contest was a huge success, and we’re excited to see what new and creative ideas authors can come up with this time!

This year the contest is slightly different. Here’s how it works:

Authors write a science fiction or fantasy short story inspired by a scientific discovery or innovation made or announced within the past year. It can’t be peripherally added: the science must be integral to the story. We’ll be looking for thoughtful, creative and well-researched application of science to a story. Writers must include a link to a relevant article or study of the applied science when they submit their stories.

Entries will be narrowed down to 10 finalists by the Crossed Genres publishers. Then a panel of judges will read and rank the finalists based on a points voting system. The top 3 stories will be published in Crossed Genres’ Science in My Fiction 2011: Offworld, an anthology of the 3 winning stories plus the 12 monthly stories published to the SiMF blog (Release date: 11/24/11).

Why is the anthology called Offworld? That’s the twist to this year’s contest. All story submissions must be set somewhere off Earth. It can be in orbit, on the moon, a distant world or in deep space, but the story has to take us away from the comfort of our home planet.

The winner will receive professional pay (5¢ per word) for their story, plus print and ebook copies of the anthology. Second place will receive 3¢ per word plus copies, and third place will receive 1¢ per word plus copies.

FULL DETAILS AND GUIDELINES FOR THE CONTEST HERE

2011 CONTEST JUDGES:

Tobias Buckell – Author (NYT Bestselling novel Halo: The Cole Protocol)
Liz Gorinsky – Hugo-nominated editor, Tor Books & Tor.com
Cameron McClure – Agent, Donald Maass Literary Agency
Joan Slonczewski – Campbell Award-winning author; Professor of Biology
Lavie Tidhar – Author (The Bookman, Camera Obscura)

Huge thanks to our amazing panel of judges for agreeing to help us out!

Submissions will be open from June 1 through August 31. So show us your science chops – prove to us there’s still a place for science in SFF!

FULL DETAILS AND GUIDELINES FOR THE CONTEST HERE

And Still She Moves: A year of Science in My Fiction

Today marks one year since we launched Science in My Fiction!

Since then our amazing contributors have written over 100 blog posts, ranging in topics from sapient dolphins to piezoelectrics to quantum gravity to the color of alien pants.

In late April, less than 2 months after our launch, we were approached by the editors of the popular science site io9 with a request for the rights to reprint occasional SiMF posts on their site. Numerous SiMF posts have been reprinted on io9 since then.

In late July, Kay Holt’s tongue-in-cheek post I Know Why The Vampire Sparkles (Inspired after a grudging read of Twilight) was picked up on BoingBoing; it spread from there, being linked literally hundreds of times and translated on numerous international sites. To date the post has been read by over 125,000 people on the SiMF site alone.

Over the summer, SiMF hosted the first annual Science in My Fiction short story contest! The contest was a big success and we hope to host more contests soon!

And in October SiMF began publishing monthly science-inspired fiction with our first story, Stephanie King’s “Ending Alice“.

We have lots more in store for the future, including (if there’s enough interest) a print collection of Science in My Fiction posts, with proceeds going to science-based charities. Thanks to everyone who supported us during this remarkable first year, and please keep reading and writing!

Science in My Fiction contest winners announced!

The judges’ voting on the Science in My Fiction contest is complete! Below are the winners, Honorable Mentions and Finalists. Subscribers can read the top 3 stories by going to the Subscribers Area or clicking the links below.

WINNER
Del Dryden – Extra Credit

After earning two graduate degrees, practicing law awhile, and then working for the public school system for over ten years, Del Dryden finally got a clue. She tossed all that aside and started doing what she should have been doing all along, writing fiction! In hindsight she could see the decision was a no-brainer. Because which sounds like more fun? Being a lawyer/special educator/reading specialist/educational diagnostician…or writing spicy romances novels and the occasional piece of science fiction?

When not writing or doing “mommy stuff” Del reads voraciously, blogs intermittently, noodles around with web design, and plays computer games with her husband. She is fortunate enough to have two absurdly precocious children, one delightful rescued mutt, two fancy mice and three African Dwarf frogs.

Del and her family are all Texas natives, and reside in unapologetic suburban bliss near Houston. Find out more about her and her writing at http://deldryden.blogspot.com.

2ND PLACE
J Y YangCarrier Signal

3RD PLACE
Durand Welsh – The Justice Arm

Honorable Mentions
James Beamon – “Dialogues With Talking Heads”
Bruce Golden – “The Sum of Their Receptors”
John Eric Vona – “Regular Robots and Irregular Humans”

Finalists
Sarah E. Glenn – “Patch Test”
Chris Hayes – “Maternal Instinct”
Ariyana Spencer – “Carnivores”
Erika Tracy – “Still Life With Dog”

Congratulations to all the Finalists!

Big thanks to the judges and slush readers, everyone who supported the Kickstarter drive, and everyone who entered the contest!

Contest finalists selected (Not yet contacted!)

The finalists for the Science in My Fiction contest have been selected. The 10 stories have had the authors’ names removed, and have been sent to the judges.

We have not contacted the 10 authors yet, nor have we announced their names or the titles of the 10 finalists. This is primarily so that the finalists don’t go blogging about being finalists in places where the judges might notice. Authors will not be contacted until the judges have returned their votes.

I will mention that, completely unintentionally, we ended up with 5 finalists from male authors, and 5 from female authors. We ignored all information about the authors until the stories had been selected, but we were pleased to discover the even split when we finally checked. We also discovered that 3 continents are represented in the Finalists.

The results of the judges’ voting will be announced on or before July 23. The 10 finalists will be contacted shortly before the announcement.

LAST DAY to enter the Science in My Fiction contest!

TODAY (Wednesday, June 30) is the final day to get your entries in to the Science in My Fiction contest!

Remember, there are $400 in cash prizes to be won, plus more! And the finalists will be read and voted on by an amazing panel of judges. Each of the top 3 stories will be published: the original cover art will be provided by Julie Dillon, and each of the 3 stories will be accompanied by original black-and-white artwork.

- 2,500-10,000 words
- 1 entry per person
- Only unpublished work
- Authors MUST cite the discovery/innovation which inspired their story, and provide relevant URL(s).

Entries sent after midnight US Eastern time will be discarded without consideration. Now’s the time!

We’ve gotten some great entries already. Wow us with SCIENCE!

Submission guidelines
Judges
Entry form

TWO DAYS LEFT to the Science in My Fiction contest!!

This Wednesday, June 30 is the final day to get your entries in to the Science in My Fiction contest!

Remember, there are $400 in cash prizes to be won, plus more! And the finalists will be read and voted on by an amazing panel of judges. Each of the top 3 stories will be published: the original cover art will be provided by Julie Dillon, and each of the 3 stories will be accompanied by original black-and-white artwork.

- 2,500-10,000 words
- 1 entry per person
- Only unpublished work
- Authors MUST cite the discovery/innovation which inspired their story, and provide relevant URL(s).

We’ve gotten some great entries already. Wow us with SCIENCE!

Submission guidelines
Judges
Entry form

TWO WEEKS LEFT to enter the SiMF contest!

Wednesday, June 30 is the FINAL DAY to enter the Crossed Genres Science in My Fiction contest!

* 2,500-10,000 words
* SF/F inspired by a recent scientific discovery or innovation (Citation required)
* 1 entry per person
* Only unpublished work

10 finalists will be selected, and the finalists will be voted on by a panel of 6 judges:

Athena Andreadis – Associate Professor of Cell Biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School; author of To Seek Out New Life: The Biology of Star Trek.
Nicola Griffith – Nebula, World Fantasy, Tiptree, and Lambda Literary Award-winning author
Michael Kabongo – Agent; owner, The Onyxhawke Agency
Randall Munroe – Creator of the webcomic xkcd; Programmer
Cat Rambo – Author; Managing Editor of Fantasy Magazine.
Brett Savory – Editor-in-Chief of Chizine: Treatments of Light and Shade in Words and co-Publisher of Chizine Publications.

The winner gets a $250 prize. 2nd Place gets $100, 3rd gets $50. The top 3 stories will be published on the Crossed Genres website, and in limited-run print and digital editions. There will also be 3 Honorable Mentions.

Just two weeks left! Read the detailed rules, and then get those entries in!

Winners will be announced on or before July 21. The top 3 stories will be published online at the time of official announcement.