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Taking Submissions: 2023 Weird Christmas Sixth Annual Flash Fiction Contest

November 6, 2023

Deadline: November 6th, 2023
Payment: $75 first prize, $50 for each “prompt” prize. $5 for every “honorable mention” (10-12).
Themes: Stocking Stuffer, Weird Christmas Special, Weird Cards (see below on all three of these for more details!)

As climate change continues to plunge the world into an unending firestorm of hell, sweat, and humidity, why not ignore reality a bit more by helping me announce the always blissfully ignorant wish-fulfillment that is the SIXTH ANNUAL WEIRD CHRISTMAS FLASH FICTION CONTEST!

As you might have guessed by the title, this is the sixth year of running this highly unprofitable but highly disturbing exercise in literary fatuousness. (Last year’s results show here.) The point, as always, is for you to come up with something that is deeply, concerningly, life-alteringly odd while at the same time making me feel cozy and festive, like the nuzzle of a favorite teddy bear that is suddenly leaking an ooze from its eyes that smells suspiciously like bile.

This is a contest for flash fiction of no more than 350 words that’s both about Christmas (or any other winter holiday) and simultaneously weird. Exactly what that means is, of course, up to you because you’re the one with literary pretentions and a damaged psyche. All you have to do is make something about the Christmas season seem new and unsettling with a bit of that grinning like you’re not sure if it’s funny or creepy, and you make your fellow co-conspirators in this hell of existence a bit more bearable.

There are three “Prompt Categories.” You have three ways to enter this year, and four ways to win a top prize. There will be one overall winner and then three winners in each of three separate categories:

  1. “Stocking Stuffer” – In this category, just write whatever the hell you want. Anything goes as long as it fits the rules and general guidelines down below.
  2. “Weird Christmas Specials” – Take a well known Christmas show (the old Rankin Bass specials, the Grinch, or It’s a Wonderful Life, say), and mess it up. It can be a single reasonably well known scene gone wrong or just some recognizably weird version of the premise. For this one, you can even write a “script”, and I’ll try to have a performance of the winner. But the word limit still applies. (If you’re ambitious and want to actually submit a performance rather than just a script, I’m open to that as well.)
  3. “Weird Cards” – If you’re absolutely stuck for a story idea, head to Twitter or Tumblr or Facebook or Instagram and find an old card I’ve posted. Write a story inspired by it. Be sure to link the card when you submit your story.

I’ll have one overall winner (1st prize, $75) which can come from any category and then a $50 “prompt prize” for each of these three categories. Yes, that means that one prompt prize will kinda be “second place” for that category, but… look, don’t overthink it. You’ve got four ways to win.

Otherwise, the rules are the same as previous years:

  • Deadline November 6, 2023. Winners will be announced on the podcast/site as soon after Thanksgiving as I can get the podcast out.
  • 350 word max limit (title not included). No exceptions.
  • $75 first prize, $50 for each “prompt” prize. $5 for every “honorable mention” (10-12). [I use Paypal but can make exceptions.]
  • Winners will be read on my podcast (preferably by you, but I can find others) and published on my site.
  • Submissions must be EMAILED to [email protected]. Either paste it into the body or attach a file. Please include your name, but writer bios are unnecessary (until we get to the winners).
  • You can submit multiple stories, even multiple stories for each prompt. I will accept poetry, but it must be narrative.
  • Identify somewhere in the subject line or title if you’re entering it as a “Special” or “Weird Card” category entry. Otherwise, I’ll assume it’s for the general “Stocking Stuff” prompt.

And then I’ve got some general guidelines to answer the perennially asked questions:

FirstWhat should the story be about? Make it weird, strange or odd. It can be “Haha!” weird or “Oh, Jesus, no!” weird. It can be genre (sf, fantasy, horror/weird, bizarro, etc.) or it can just be off-kilter. Sentimental is fine, but it better be sentimental in a way that leaves me feeling…uncomfortable. As long as it’s something about the holidays we aren’t expecting, it fits.

SecondDoes it have to be specifically about Christmas? It must be related to any winter holiday (Christmas, Hannukha, Kwanza, solstice celebrations, “Yule,” etc.). You can include other holidays like Halloween or Easter, but it still needs a strong connection to the winter season’s celebrations.

ThirdHow do I know what you like? A few people asked which well known authors I like for comparison. I don’t advise trying to copy their styles, but a few names that you can check out anyway: Michael Cisco, Steve Aylett, Leonora Carrington, Gene Wolfe, and Shirley Jackson just to name a few who sort of circle around what seems right for this. The best thing to do is to see what I picked from the previous contests herehereherehere, and here.

FourthA tease: I’d love to collect and publish all of these after another round or two, and I started looking into it. So keep in mind that it might be more than just a random online contest somewhere down the line…And that leads me to…

FifthDo you keep the rights to the story? I’m asking for first rights to publish your story here and on the podcast. Beyond that, feel free to submit it somewhere else simultaneously, as long as the other venue doesn’t ask for exclusivity while the contest is ongoing. I’ll also contact everyone individually before publishing them, so if you’re only interested in winning and don’t want to be added as an “honorable mention,” say, you’ll have that option. Note that if I publish it, and you do want to take it somewhere else after the contest, it will technically count as a reprint. Keep that in mind if you’re hoping to get this published somewhere that pays more than I can, and, truth is, reprints won’t be as attractive to most markets. I’ll talk to each winner individually before publishing anything. I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m exploiting your hard work for “exposure”… but if I’m publishing a story as an “honorable mention” and paying at the bottom of the rates, that’s essentially what that works out to. Just want to be totally clear about that.

FinallyWhat if I’m trying to make a career as a writer? Is this thing legit? I’m working toward being a “pro/semi-pro” market. Every piece that ends up on the site/show will be paid this year. Thank you Patreon supporters! And thank you to Ko-FI.com supporters! All four of the winning pieces (the overall and the 3 prompt prizes) will count as “pro sales” according to almost all writing organizations. For the “honorable mentions,” it’s still modest ($5, or 1.5 cents per word), but at least if you get accepted, you can mark it as a semi-pro sale on your resume/CV according to many writers’ associations definition of “semi-pro.” My goal is to meet the Science Fiction Writers of America’s definition of “pro” as at least 5 cents/word, or $17.50/story, but I’m not quite there yet.

Oh, and don’t use AI. Don’t be an idiot. Current language AI is all about pattern copying from things other people have written. That’s pretty much the opposite of weird. If you’re too lazy to write, try a Burroughs-esque “cut up.”

If you have any other questions, please contact me at [email protected] or [email protected].

Via: Weird Christmas.