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Short Story Contest

The 2023-2024 NESFA Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Story Contest is now closed.

The contest was open from July 1, 2023, through September 30, 2023. Winners were announced at Boskone 61, February 9–11, 2024.

The past winners are listed here.

Short Story Contest Rules

Welcome to the NESFA science fiction/fantasy short story contest. Note that there are some changes to last year’s contest rules. Please read these rules and if you have any questions or concerns, ask us before submitting your story.

The purpose of this contest is to encourage amateur and semi-professional writers to reach the next level of proficiency. We will look for engaging openings, good character development, well-structured plotting, powerful imagery, witty or humorous language, unique word or phrasing choices, and convincing endings. This contest is intended for beginning writers. If you have received more than $1000 for your fiction writing from any source on the date you submit your story and/or have published, in any paying publication, a novel or multiple shorter works adding up to more than 40,000 words, you are no longer eligible. If you are unsure, send us your publication history. Also, past winners of our contest are no longer eligible.

The deadline for submissions is September 30, 2023. All submissions must be emailed to in flat text, rich text, PDF, or any format readable by MS Word, Open Office, or LibreOffice. Please include your submission as a file attachment rather than in the body of the email. Story pages should be numbered, with the page number and the story’s title at the top of each page.

A qualifying story must have strong science fiction or fantasy elements and must be shorter than 7,500 words. Stories must be original works of fiction submitted by their authors. No reprints, fan fiction, or poetry, please.

Please place your contact information (name, preferred email address, and preferred postal address — for possible awards) either in the body of the email with the story attached or in a separate attachment to the same email. Don’t put your personal information anywhere in your story. We want to judge your story on its own. We will not use your personal information for anything other than contacting you about this contest. Winners will be asked later for information they want to be part of any public announcement. Please note: Since we do not publish contest entries, your name should not appear on the story anywhere. Pseudonyms are not useful for this contest.

The contest will be limited to the first 60 qualifying entries. While the submission deadline is September 30th, we may close off submissions for this year sooner if the response is larger than expected.

We reserve the right to disqualify submissions on technical grounds (including, but not limited to: if we can’t read the format, if you send us a picture book, if it isn’t in English, or if it has no SF or fantasy elements, etc.). Our first readers may also disqualify your submission if, on a quick perusal of the first few pages, they believe your story contains too many flaws to be competitive in this contest. Yes, this is a judgment call. We urge you to have a trusted reader (such as a teacher, a writer, or even a literate relative) review your work for basic flaws in grammar, syntax, logic, and plausibility before you submit your story.

We’ll allow you to correct purely technical problems, but if the first readers reject your submission a second time, you are done for this year. You can try again in a future year if and when we run this contest.

Judges will provide feedback for all qualifying contest entries sometime after Boskone. First-round judges will consist of NESFA members and volunteers. Winners will be chosen by a final panel of judges, including at least one professional writer.

The winner, runners-up, and honorable mentions will be announced during the awards ceremony at Boskone, in NESFA’s newsletter following Boskone, and in various electronic media, including e-zines, newszines, and the Boskone and NESFA websites, blogs, and Facebook pages.

The winner will receive a certificate of achievement, three NESFA Press books, and a free membership to their choice of the next Boskone or the Boskone after that.

Runners-up will receive a certificate and two NESFA Press books. Honorable mentions will receive a certificate and one NESFA Press book.

Winner, runners-up, and honorable mentions will be encouraged to select their books at Boskone and either take them immediately or ask for them to be shipped later.

There is no entry fee. Please submit only one entry per author. Prize recipients may be required to sign an acceptance form for prizes won.

NESFA welcomes all writers and topics. We look forward to reading your submission and wish all of our writers good luck in this year’s NESFA Annual Short Story Competition.