Saturday, August 27, 2011

Looking for judges for Singular Source

Last week, I announced a science fiction short story contest, Singular Source. It's been keeping me busy, but it's been a lot of fun. I'm using parts of my brain that I haven't used in years.

In addition to publicity and raising money for prizes (please donate!), I'm looking for judges.

My goal is to have three judges. I'm assuming that I'm going to have a sufficiently large number of entries that three judges are warranted. For the three judges, I wanted to one with an academic background (a professor of something tech-related or literary or...), one published author, and one aspiring author. I wanted the professor, because the story will be published as part of an academic book. The published author will bring a professional eye/ear. Including the aspiring author will help build community, both to educate the aspiring author about what it's like to be a judge and to bring attention to a new voice.

I will likely end up being the academic judge. This seems appropriate, because I'm editing the book. If this is the case, I will not take an honorarium. Any money that I raise for honorariums will be divided among the other judges.

I've asked lots of published and aspiring authors and almost all have declined. (I do have one affirmative nibble that I'll announce in the coming days.) Among the people I've asked are Vernor Vinge, Greg Wilson, Kavita Philip, Daniel José Older, Karl Schroeder, Antoinette LaFarge, Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi, and Wil Wheaton. I've really enjoyed communicating with science fiction authors. They've all been really nice and actually took the time to answer the query. Although, they have all said "no," it's been a pleasure to come close to greatness.

Do you have any suggestions for who I should ask?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Donate to Singular Source

Last week, I announced a science fiction short story contest, Singular Source. Today, I'm going to write about the prizes and why donations are needed.

There are certain things in life that start out as a good idea and then they snowball. :)

When I started thinking about running a contest, I knew I could offer publication to the winner. I wasn't sure if I needed to offer cash as well. I asked around a bit, but I didn't get a good answer, as I don't have many writers in my social circles.

After talking to Chris Szego of Bakka Phoenix Books, she made it clear that a cash prize would dramatically affect the quality of submissions. Writing fiction is a labour of love. I think it was Frederick Forsythe who said that you can't make a living writing, but you can make a killing. There are a few fiction writers who do extremely well (think Danielle Steel and John Grisham), but there are many more who are toiling away anonymously. We would need some cash prizes to make it worthwhile for people to enter.

Chris also said that the absolute minimum rate that professional authors receive is $0.03 per word. I did a quick calculation: 1 000-word short story would be paid $30. This seemed a pittance to me. Over the last year, I have looked into writing non-fiction magazine articles and doing freelance writing online. While these gigs pay enough to make a modest living, three cents a word is well below even these standards.

I realized that it was within my reach to make a real difference, not just to the winners, but to the science fiction writing community by offering significant prizes. I could have scraped up enough money to pay for some small prizes on my own, but running a fundraiser would get more people involved. This too would benefit the community by growing the pool of receptive readers.

So, I am running a campaign in IndieGoGo (we were rejected by kickstarter). I'm offering some fun gifts for contributing, such as acknowledgement in the book, glossy postcards, buttons, chapbooks, and the final hardcover book. Do me a favour and throw me a buck. It's a gift not just to me, but also to the literary arts.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Announcement: Singular Source Short Story Contest

I have exciting news to share.

I am running a short story contest, called Singular Source. I am looking for hard science fiction stories about future programming in the presence of large source code archives. The winner will be published as the last chapter of our edited volume Finding Source Code on the Web for Remix and Reuse to be published by Springer Verlag in 2012.

We are funding the contest through an IndieGoGo campaign. Please consider contributing. Even a small amount will help.

It's common to end academic books with a speculative chapter, and what would be more speculative than a science fiction short story? I invited Vernor Vinge to submit a story, because I think the future might be the programmer archeologists that appeared in his novels, Fire Upon the Deep and Deepness in the Sky. Rather than writing software from scratch, people are taking pieces from existing systems and combining them. In this style of programming, knowing the archives is as important as the ability to put the pieces together.

Unfortunately, Vinge declined. However, he did give his blessing for a short story contest. So, here we are.

While this isn't my first literary competition, it has been a long time. I was once the Secretary of the Library Committee at Hart House, University of Toronto, which runs an annual short story contest.  Bear with me as I try to avoid making novice mistakes. Feedback is of course welcome. Chris  Szego of Bakka Phoenix Books has already set me straight on a number of aspects of the contest. Librarians, Annette and Kim, from the Merril Collection, have also provided helpful advice.