Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Taking Submissions: The Kepler Award October 2021 Window (Early)

October 2, 2021

Monthly Submission Window: October 1st-2nd, 2021
Prizes: First prize: $300, optional second and third prizes of $200 and $100
Theme: Using modern science facts to create a science fiction story

The Kepler Award
Science Fiction and Fantasy


The mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler wrote “Somnium” (The Dream), a science fiction/fantasy story to present his research and thoughts on astronomy and lunar geography in a way he hoped religious and scientific authorities of the day would find acceptable.  Through his science fiction/fantasy filter he put forth ideas on moon-based astronomical observation, likely lunar life forms, and space travel.

The purpose of the Kepler Award is to recognize and encourage writers of excellent science fiction and fantasy stories that creatively extrapolate on known science in constructive and exciting ways.  Fantasy elements that don’t contradict established scientific fact may used.

So far, 2021 Judges of the Finalists will Include:

Professor Virginia L. Trimble —  Professor of physics and astronomy, University of California, Irvine, specializing in the structure and evolution of stars, galaxies, the universe; the communities of scientists who study them; history of science; and scientometrics.  She has published more than 600 works in Astrophysics and dozens of works in the history of other sciences. She received the NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing “for informing and enlightening the astronomical community by her numerous, comprehensive, scholarly, and literate reviews, which have elucidated many complex astrophysical questions,” the Klopsteg Memorial Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the George Van Biesbroeck Prize  for “many years of dedicated service to the national and international communities of astronomers, including her expert assessments of progress in all fields of astrophysics and her significant roles in supporting organizations, boards, committees and foundations in the cause of astronomy.”  She is known for an annual review of astronomy and astrophysics research that was published in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and often gives summary reviews at astrophysical conferences.  In 2018, she was elected a Patron of the American Astronomical Society, for her many years of intellectual, organizational, and financial contributions to the society.

Dr. Andrew Burt  –   founder & moderator of the first writers workshop on the web, Critique.org; founder of the world’s first Internet service provider (Nyx.net; donation funded, & still going strong); CEO ReAnimus Press  specializing in bringing out of print books back to life; former Vice President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, professional science fiction writer, retired computer science professor at the University of Denver (research in networking, security, privacy, and free-speech/social issues), and CEO of TechSoft   https://www.aburt.com/

Douglas Dluzen, PhD,  —  a geneticist who has studied the genetic contributors to aging, cancer, hypertension, and other age-related diseases. Currently, he writes and communicates about health disparities for a variety of publications and audiences for the NIH. He also studies the biology of health disparities and the microbiome in Baltimore City as a Visiting Professor of Biology at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. He is a huge science advocate and believer in science education and communication and volunteers as an editor for the Journal of Science Fiction. His fact articles can be found in Clarkesworld and Analog and his fiction in Analog. You can find more about him on Twitter @ripplesintime24.




There will be cash awards, paid publication in our online magazine, and inclusion in our print anthology

Semi-finalists will be chosen from submission rounds throughout the year.  Finalists will be chosen by December 27 (Kepler’s birthday).



What we are looking for:
Based on the scientific research of the day, including his own, Kepler presented his research and results and speculations based on his knowledge of astronomy, offering explanations reasonable for the time regarding why the surface of the Moon looked as it did and what kind of beings might be living there.  He explained what Earth would look like from the Moon and how the practice of astronomy would differ.  Using elements of fantasy he described what some of the difficulties on traveling from the Earth to the Moon would entail.  In doing so he anticipated some of the real challenges astronauts would face.  So, in your science fiction story: 

— creatively extrapolate and speculate based on established fact and solid theory, without exposition.
— You can incorporate fantasy elements, as Kepler did, as long as they do not contradict established fact.
— Some aspect of science must be integral to the story, exciting, inspirational, and thought-provoking.
— All expectations for good story-telling apply! : intriguing characters, believable and compelling action, satisfying conclusions. Please read our regular submissions page for more details on what we are looking for in general.
— A plus is incorporating in a clever and significant way any of Kepler’s work.
— You can include notes and references at the end, but the story must stand completely on its own without them. (No footnotes or exposition in the story!)
—  For an Excellent example of what we’re looking for. please read  “A Walk in the Sun“, by Geoffrey Landis republished here in Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores in 2016.
— Stories that focus on the Moon, past, present, or future. as “Somnium” did, or involve Kepler or aspects of his work, will especially be welcome.


The award will include $300, a plaque, publication in our online magazine at our usual rates, free one-year subscription, inclusion in our print anthology at our usual rate, and one free copy of the anthology.
At the discretion of the judges, if they find other of the finalist stories of sufficient merit, 2nd and 3rd place awards, and honorable mentions may be awarded.  If so, 2nd place award will be $200, 3rd place will be $100, and any honorable mention will be $50, in addition to a free one-year subscription to our magazine.  One or more of these individuals may also be published in our magazine and/or our anthology, at our usual rates 
From any funds received in excess of the cost of maintaining the award, recipients will receive a pro-rated 10% share.  Another 10% of any such funds will be donated equally between The Planetary Society and Astronomers Without Borders
The balance of any such funds will go to expanding the features we offer our readers, including our projected project to translate Somnium from the original Latin into English, to make it freely available.  This translation will incorporate the notes that Kepler later added, as well as diagrams and illustrations.  We will make it available in print and online at a reasonable price, since no reasonably priced translation like this is currently available

You can go HERE for results of the judging.

Timeline and Judging:
Submissions rounds will be the first and second days of every month (12:00 am of the 1st through 12:00 am of the 3rd), EST)  Please submit only one story for consideration.These dates coincide with our regular submissions rounds, but candidates for the Kepler Award submit to a separate folder.  Semi-finalists will be chosen throughout the year from each submission round by staff of Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores.

Submissions for the Kepler Award require a non-refundable $20 reading fee. 
For writers in dire economic circumstances, please let us know in the comments with your submission and we will refund a portion of your fee.

 By December 27, Kepler’s birthday, finalists will be chosen.  Award winners will be chosen by the judges listed above, and other judges to be added,  

Winners will be announced by February 4 (the date when Kepler first meets Tycho Brahe), at the latest.

Publication of the story will be within the year it has been announced as a winner.  All awards will have been given out by March 7 at the latest.  This is the date of NASA’s launch of the Kepler space telescope mission to discover Earth-size planets in our region of the Milky Way — it did a really good job too, having a confirmed discovery record of 2,351 planets!  Remember when everybody wondered if there were any other planets out there?

Judges, the staff of Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, and their family members are not eligible to apply for the award.
If in the opinion of the judges no submission is found suitable for the award, award money will be donated equally between The Planetary Society and Astronomers Without Borders

— By submitting a story, the writer agrees that if they receive an award they will allow their story to be published in Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores magazine and in an anthology published by us, and that in addition to the award amount they will be paid for said publication at our usual rates.
— Submissions must be in English and the original work of the submitting writer, although if the native language of the writer is other than English, we will publish the story both in the English language version they provide along with the version in their native language.
— Submissions may be reprints, but not have been published within the past year or be available anywhere as a stand-alone, either paid or free.
— Submissions may be in written story, graphic novel, audio, or video formats.
— All submissions are to be made online, unless you are Howard Waldrop.
— Writers agree to work with us in cases where we request editing and revision of their submission.
— Submitting writers agree that if they are chosen for the award they will accept the terms of our standard contract for the publication of their story.


About Kepler and Somnium

Kepler was a brilliant mathematician and astronomer. Though living in a time of great political upheaval, religious war, and intolerance, suffering through times of poverty and illnesses of his own and his family’s, yet he was the first to correctly explain the motions of the planets, the influence of the Moon on the tides, the refractive process of vision, how a telescope works, and much else*.  He supported the then radical idea that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

Over a number of years Kepler wrote “Somnium” (The Dream), a science fiction/fantasy story.. It is one of the earliest known works of science fiction.  In it, a narrator falls asleep and dreams that he reads a book in which with the help of a spirit teacher an old woman takes her son on a trip to the moon.  Some of the story’s elements were inspired by the classical Greek writers Lucian and Plutarch, but Kepler’s purpose was much more astronomical than fictional. He was presenting some of his research and thoughts on astronomy and lunar geography in a way he hoped the religious and scientific authorities of his day would not find objectionable. Through his science fiction/fantasy filter he put forth ideas on moon-based astronomical observation, likely lunar life forms, and space travel.

He let the manuscript be read by colleagues he trusted, but in 1611 a copy got loose and was circulated through an unknown readership at a time when Europe was aflame with thousands of human torches, innocents burning at stakes before jeering mobs.  Within four years fear, dogmatism, and personal antagonism had decided that the old woman of the story was Kepler’s hot-tempered old mother. She was accused of witchcraft, imprisoned for fourteen months, shown instruments of torture, and subjected to graphic descriptions of how they would be used on her.  For five years much of Kepler’s research was abandoned while his time, heartbroken guilt, and money went into saving his mother from being tortured and burnt at the stake.  He finally obtained her freedom, but she died within two years, her health broken by her imprisonment.

Kepler resumed his work, including expanding on Somnium with the addition of over 200 explanatory footnotes. Perhaps past caring about the possible repercussions, in 1630 he had begun the process of publication when he became sick and died.  For a time his son-in-law carried on the project, but he also died.  Kepler’s son finally brought the work to publication in 1634.

Somnium has never been widely available, and is not even now.  We will present it slowly, translated from the Latin, paragraph by paragraph, incorporating the footnotes into the text where appropriate, with illustrations and commentary on the science, with respect to Kepler, and in the hope that someday soon humans will no longer burn each other to death.



* NASA’s page on Kepler, gathering a lot of good information and links about Kepler, including a list of his firsts.

Portrait of Johannes Kepler engraved by C.Barth; published in Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, Germany,1859



October 2, 2021