Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Never Ending Journey: Updates to the 2011 Can. Spec Fic List for the Auroras

We’ve been making some changes to the list of 2011 Canadian Spec Fic. (see 2011 Can. SF tab above). Mostly we’ve been adding new entries as we find them, or when we are provided the information.

However, because the organizational structure has been causing headaches both for us, and for users, based on the category structure (“Best Related Work” simply has too much information to scan comfortably), we have decided to break up those categories into their respective groups: Magazines, Anthologies, Single-Author Collections, Critical Non-Fiction, etc.

We had originally grouped these items together because they are voted for under a single category: “Best Related Work”. But, as stated above, it’s simply too confusing to read in that fashion. Hopefully this will help make the list more manageable on all sides. Let us hear from you on this issue. We’d like the list to be as accessible and complete as possible, but that only happens with user input.

Also, amusingly, it turns out that this list itself can be put forward for an Aurora Award under the “Best Fan Other” category. Though this is obviously not why the list was started, it would be a very generous gesture on the part of those who wish to do so, and would be greatly appreciated by our staff, as Michael has now spent over 125 hours, and counting, on compiling/managing the list. If you are going to vote for/put forward the list in the “Best Fan Other” category, please credit Michael Matheson as the author/creator in your entry form.

And irregardless of whether or not you’re filling out preliminary or nominating ballots for the Auroras this year, if you have information that would help fill out the list, please share it. You can do so by using the Comments field (of the 2011 Can. SF page), e-mailing it to us (at or by giving us a heads-up on Twitter (@fomcontest). And if you can include a link to where that information is available (free to read, at Amazon, the publisher’s site, etc.), we’ll put that in the entry too.

We’re still putting the active links together, and if you spot a line that doesn’t have a link and you know one that works – especially a link to where an article or story is free to read – please send it our way.

Thanks immensely, and keep writing and sending your contest submissions as well. We’ve enjoyed seeing a wide spectrum of work come in over the transom so far, and we look forward to reading the rest of the entries.

Because It’s Aurora Season (A List of Canadian SF Publications in 2011)

Given that the CanadianSF Database has been having coding issues, and that there aren’t really any other breakdowns of published Canadian Spec Fic (that we know of) for the 2011 year, the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest thought we’d help out during the Aurora season by putting together a list of Canadian Spec Fic publications for 2011.

But we need your help. Our list is by no means complete. If you have information, post it in the Comments field (of the 2011 Can. SF page), e-mail it to us (at or give us a heads-up on Twitter (@fomcontest). And if you can include a link to where that information is available (free to read, at Amazon, the publisher’s site, etc.), we’ll put that in the entry too. We’ll be building active links into the list as we go along. Please bear with us for the time being.

To view the list of Canadian Speculative Fiction published in 2011, please visit our 2011 Can. SF page.

Clarifications and Advice: Story Length and Proof Reading

Since we started promoting the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest back in 2011, people have been checking in with us about the maximum allowable story length. Now, I don’t mind answering questions that people want to run by us about this, or any other topic concerning the contest. However, there seems to be a general assumption of leeway concerning this particular entry rule.

Specifically, the question that keeps coming up starts a little something like this:

“I know the maximum word length is supposed to be 4000 words, but …”

The short answer is, yes, the word length is fixed. We’re checking the word count of stories as they come in, and while we will allow a couple of words over the limit – we realize that not all word processing programs perform a similar word count function – if you are only a few words over the limit there’s no reason not to go back and trim until your story stands at 4,000 words, or less.

I can hear the words of protest now, and I entirely understand where those objections are coming from. You’ve crafted a piece where every word flows seamlessly into the next; there’s nothing you can do with that story that will make it more perfect than it is now; every single word is integral to the story that unfolds as your plot hurtles inexorably toward its [insert overly enthusiastic superlative here] climax.

Except … that’s almost never true. Whether it’s a first pass you’re working on, or a tenth revision, your story is going to have words, phrases, and probably some minor plot elements or flourishes that hinder, rather than enhance, the piece.

Think of it this way: all stories have a natural rhythm. The ones that work, anyway. That rhythm is a function of multiple elements; some of these we can define (pacing, language use, narrative drive, and plot, among others), and some we can’t (things which are intrinsic to each writer’s own style and manner of expression).

The easiest, and move effective, way to tell when a story’s rhythm is right is to read it out loud. Anything you trip over needs revision. Any dialogue that doesn’t sound realistic or plausible when you try to speak it should be cut or revised. Sections that sound needlessly repetitive are. You don’t have to read your work to someone else – though that gives you feedback on the way someone else hears your story, which is equally useful – but this will let you hear the way the words actually flow together.

Any awkward constructions, clichés, and those things that sounded perfectly fine in your head but really, really aren’t when you put them down on paper, won’t stand up to a reading, and you’ll be able to catch them fairly quickly.

The other reason to read your work out loud is to address an issue that is cropping up in numerous submissions we’ve received so far: we’ve seen an extraordinary number of errors such as typos, fragment sentences, and some formatting issues in the work coming in (like header information embedded in the body text …). One or two typos are forgivable; between faulty and/or inadequate programming on the part of word processing spell check features, and exhaustion, typos happen. The rest … the rest looks like what it is: sloppy editing. Reading your story out loud will help you catch these errors too. Even typos.

Anything that makes your story hard to read, that causes us to trip over it as we progress, makes it that much harder for your story to compete. All story submissions are really participations in contest format anyway, no matter where you send them; the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is just actively referred to as a contest. But, from the get go, we want to be blown away by your extraordinary command of the English language, your exquisite gift for phrasing, by your ability to make music with the written word, and tell a story that pushes boundaries (not the boundaries of good taste though, that’s just … no), takes flight, and soars.

The bottom line? Every story can do with revising. Remember, you’re competing: we can’t award points for stories that were almost mind-blowing.

If you have questions about the above, or anything else relating to the contest, please ask. Address your queries to Michael Matheson at And, as always, we look forward to reading what you send. And remember, the hard deadline for 2011-2012 submissions is Feb. 15, 2012.

Now Halfway Through the 2011-2012 Reading Period

Happy new year everyone!

With the rollover from 2011 to 2012 the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is now halfway through the current contest year’s reading period. We’ve seen some great submissions so far, and we’ve even had our first submission for 2012.

And it’s timely then, that with the advent of the new year, WordPress sent us a 2011 “Year End Report”. We thought the demographics information was fascinating, and wanted to share with you who has been involved in what is quickly becoming a truly global contest.


“Most visitors came from Canada. The United States & The United Kingdom were not far behind.
Most Visits by Region:
North America
South America
Most visits by Country:
North America: 66.7% Canada, 32.8% United States, 0.3% Mexico, 0.1% Honduras, 0.1% Jamaica
Europe: 60.9% United Kingdom, 19.9% Germany, 7.3% France, 2.6% Italy, 2.1% Denmark
Africa: 95.6% South Africa, 4.4% Malawi
Oceania: 100% Australia
Asia: 23.2% India, 15.9% Philippines, 12.2% Thailand, 9.8% South Korea, 9.8% Japan
South America: 88.9% Argentina, 11.1% Peru”

We’d love to see this multinational trend continue, and we’re always delighted to receive international submissions. We’d also like to, again, take the opportunity to thank everyone who has spent time promoting the contest. There are far too many of you to mention in list format, and we’ve had the opportunity to send some of you personal thank yous, and still others more general appreciation. But, for all those we haven’t gotten around to thanking yet, we wanted to say that we really do appreciate all the help.

So, with that said, we look forward eagerly to the submissions still to come. Just remember, everything has to be in no later than Feb. 15, 2012.

As always, any questions can be directed to Michael Matheson at