The STEM Read Science Fiction Contest

Science fiction writers are the philosophers of the scientific community. Their insights can predict revolutionary innovations or warn of apocalyptic implications. Authors like Scott Westerfeld, M.T. Anderson, Kurt Vonnegut, Nancy Farmer, Jules Verne, and Cory Doctorow use real scientific and technological concepts as the basis for their speculative and imaginative works of fiction.

The STEM Read Science Fiction Contest is looking for original works of short fiction that use fictional characters and situations to explore Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM). Your short story should introduce the reader to interesting characters and help the reader understand a STEM concept.

For example, in Peeps, Scott Westerfeld speculates on what vampirism would be like if it was caused by a blood-born parasite. In the story, he explores concepts of parasitology and epidemiology. In Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton speculated on how research in genetics could lead scientists to clone dinosaurs. For examples of the type of science fiction we are looking for, review the current and past reading lists for the STEM Read, or read last year's winning stories.

Note that your submission should not be the beginning of a novel. We are looking for complete, self-contained stories that create interesting characters, use vivid sensory descriptions, and show a solid grasp of a real STEM concept.

Prizes

1st place winner will receive a scholarship to the STEM Outreach Camp or STEM Saturday Class of his or her choice, copies of books from the STEM Read library, and a STEMfest T-shirt.

2nd and 3rd place winners will receive copies of books from the STEM Read library and a STEMfest T-shirt.

Stories will be judged on the following criteria

  • Quality of writing
    • Grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure
    • Interesting characters
    • Strong plot
    • Use of details and descriptive language
  • Creativity of original concept 
    • Introduce the reader to characters and situations they’ve never experienced.
    • Don’t rewrite The Hunger Games or your favorite Star Trek episode.
  • Legitimacy of STEM concept explored
    • Along with your original work of fiction, submit a bibliography of the non-fiction sources you looked at to learn more about the STEM concept your story explores.
    • Don’t just go to Wikipedia. Look for books, documentaries, and essays from scientific magazines or journals (online magazines and journals are acceptable).

Additional Requirements

Age: Open to all students in grades 6-12

Sources: Include a bibliography page. This should be a list of non-fiction works that inspired your fiction. You do not need to cite these sources in the text of your short story. You can find resources on writing bibliographies on websites like http://www.factmonster.com/homework/t8biblio.html. Stories submitted without a bibliography will be automatically disqualified.

Length/Format: Maximum of 20 pages. All stories must be double-spaced, 12-pt Calibri (body) or Times New Roman font and contain numbered pages. Stories that do not meet these specifications will be automatically disqualified.

Deadline

Short stories must be submitted via email to gkingcargile@niu.edu by 8AM, October 13, 2014.

  • Subject line: STEM Read Fiction Contest.
  • In the body of the email, include your name, grade, school, email address, mailing address, and telephone number.
  • Include your short story as a Word attachment.
  • Multiple submissions by the same author are allowed, but the author will only be eligible to win one of the three prizes.

Additional Questions?

Contact Gillian King-Cargile at gkingcargile@niu.edu or (815) 753-6784.