Spec the Halls is a contest for speculative winter holiday-themed fiction, artwork, and poetry. The holiday may be fictional or real; it may be Christmas as we know and love it, or it may be something much stranger.
What do I mean by speculative? I mean science fiction, fantasy, or even horror, of traditional and modern varieties. Mixed genres or slipstream is okay, as are things whimsical and strange. Horror must be of the supernatural, dark science fiction, or dark fantasy variety. However, although I am including horror, I am not accepting relentlessly downbeat submissions. This is a celebration of the holiday season, so I have a couple of caveats. For fiction, there must be at least one sympathetic character, and there must be at least a glimmer of hope at the end.
Do not submit a retelling of the Christmas story without a speculative element!
Entries must be first posted between November 1st and December 18th, the week before Christmas. They must stay online until Groundhog Day (February 2nd) or until the winners are announced (Groundhog Day is the outside deadline that I'm setting myself for the decision). However, it should be noted that submitting earlier (when there's less competition) will increase a submission's chances of being a "Featured Submission."
First prize is $65. Honorable mention will receive $5. Not to mention the joy and delight of spreading the spirit of Christmas...and twisting it to your own ends. Prizes will be paid through PayPal.
There is no entry fee.
How to submit (and here's where it gets interesting):
Fiction, poetry, art, music--as long as it's speculative and creative, it's accepted.
Reprints are encouraged (see note below), though I'd like to know where the work previously appeared.
Fiction may be of any length, from short-short to novella, but if it runs past 10,000 words it better be pretty amazing.
Artwork may be in any medium, so long as it fits the theme. The image size must be reasonable for online display, but no more than 1000 pixels wide and no more than 800 pixels high.
Poetry may be in any style, from medieval traditional to free-form.
The point of this contest is to share the (speculative) spirit of Christmas. To submit, you must place your story/artwork/poem on the internet in a publicly accessible forum. This means your website, your blog, a shared documents/images service that allows you to share with everyone, or an online community that you belong to. This should be an ad-free space with no pop-ups, and it should not be cluttered up with lots of links. I understand that some free website providers have banner ads that cannot be removed, and I will make allowances for this. If you like, you are welcome to put up a simple "donate" or "tip" button from PayPal or a similar service on your submission page. You must be able to provide a static address link for your submission--link to the submission entry, not just to your blog or website. Please do not use weird fonts or text/background colors for poetry or fiction submissions.
When you post your submission online, you must include the following html in a prominent place:
This [story/artwork/poem] is a part of the Spec the Halls contest for speculative winter holiday-themed fiction, artwork, and poetry. You may find guidelines and links to other entries at <a href="http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html">http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html</a>
Warning: It should be noted that many (though not all) publication markets count posting a short story online as publication, in terms of giving up first publication rights if not in terms of publishing credit. Yes, that includes on your blog, on your website, or in that online community. Submit unpublished material only if you're okay with that. Reprints are strongly encouraged. Password-protected communities are usually not considered as publication, and I will accept entries posted in such places as long as 1) anyone can join, 2) for free, and 3) without too much hassle.
After you've posted your submission, send an email to email@example.com
What to put in the submission email:
A subject line in the following format: "Submission - [Fiction/Artwork/Poetry] - [Submission Title]". For example, "Submission - Fiction - The Nightmare Before Christmas".
A link to your submission page.
Your real name.
A pseudonym, if you would like to use this on your story instead of your real name.
A note stating whether there's anything not PG-rated that I should warn people about in your story.
No attachments! I won't even open them.
For fiction, a brief promotional "teaser" of thirty words or less. This should not be a summary of the work. Think of the cover copy on the back of a book.
For artwork, a link to a "sample" of your submission. This sample should be 100 x 100 pixels. This sample may be a scaled-down version of your artwork, it may be a small portion of the piece, or it may be a combination of the two.
(For poetry, the teaser will be the first couple of lines of the poem, so no teaser needs to be included.)
You may not receive an immediate response, as I frequently don't get all the submissions processed until I send out the next newsletter.
By submitting work to this contest, you agree that this work is entirely your own, that you have the rights to it, and that it in no way violates the rights of another entity. If your submission is chosen to win, you agree to grant non-exclusive rights allowing it to be published on the Spec the Halls website for a period of two months after the contest winners are announced and to grant non-exclusive reprint rights during the contest period (November 1st through Groundhog Day) next year. You understand I may keep winning submissions archived, though I'll take them down at your request except during the two time periods defined above. Even if your submission is not chosen to win, you understand that I may continue to link to the submission unless you request otherwise. If you are under eighteen, your parent or guardian has given their agreement to your submitting under these terms.
What I will do with submissions:
I will post links to all submissions on the contest website, along with the submission teaser or sample, updated every week or so. There will be a regularly updated "featured submissions" page, where I'll put up a very short beginning excerpt of fiction and poetry or a mid-size sample of artwork, along with a link to the submission. An email containing the same information will be sent out on a roughly weekly basis (if there are enough submissions that week). You may subscribe to this by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Subscribe" in the subject line.