‘Ink’ Blog Tour: How Does the Flash Fiction Contest Work? by J. Scott Coatsworth

How Does the Flash Fiction Contest Work?

 Q&A With Director J. Scott Coatsworth


Every year, Queer Sci Fi holds a flash fiction contest, and hundreds of writers enter their stories. Once the dust clears, a brand-new anthology magically appears, filled with flash fiction goodness. Of course, there’s no real magic involved. Just hard work and experience. So let’s pull back the curtain a little, shall we?

How do you choose the theme each year?

Each year we rotate the honor among our four admins – Scott, Angel, Ben and Ryane. That judge comes up with 3-4 options – always a single word – and we discuss it in the group and choose one of them to be that year’s theme. Generally speaking, we like themes that are topical, that are open to multiple definitions/interpretations, and that don’t favor one of the four speculative fiction genres—sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal or horror—too much over the others.

Do you see a lot of similar stories each year?

Yes and no. Each theme tends to have one or two major interpretations that quickly fill up the submissions box. For Ink, it was magical or paranormal tattoos. For Flight it was angels. There’s nothing wrong with that. It just means those stories have to work a little harder to stand out over the competition. But it’s the ones that find different paths that are often the most successful.

How do you choose the contest judges?

Generally speaking, the judges are three of our admins (Ryane, Angel and Ben) and the three contest winners from the last year. This gives us a nice combination of previous experience and new perspectives. I used to judge, but since we judge blind and I process the stories as they come in, we decided it was best if I bowed out of the actual judging process. We did have one year where the previous year’s winners weren’t able to act as judges, so we recruited some past winners to step in.

What’s the actual judging process?

Well, we roll a bunch of chicken bones, and…

LOL… actually it’s fairly straightforward. We ask each judge to rank each story on four parameters: adherence to theme, genre, lgbtq+ inclusion and writing skill. Any story that misses one of these four parameters entirely may be disqualified, but only of a majority of the judges agree.

Once I receive all the scores, I average them, and we look at the top 15 or so stories. But it’s not purely a numbers game. Any judge can elevate another story for consideration, and the heart of the process is the discussion that happens next. The judges go over the top 15 stories and discuss them, and then take a series of votes to narrow them down to the final three. Sometimes they’re the same as the top three scoring stories, but in a different order. Sometimes there’s a surprise. It’s one of my favorite parts of the whole contest, because it’s real and human, not all based on numbers. 

How are the stories chosen for the anthology?

Generally, it’s the top 120 stories by score. But here again there’s a bit of a human process involved. Angel and I meet on Skype and go over the list, choosing the stories we think will make the strongest, most diverse anthology. It’s a give and take, and again makes it more than just a numbers game.


I hope that clears up some of the mystery. I love doing this contest and the anthology every year, and I’m thrilled to bring Ink to you to enjoy!

ANNOUNCEMENT/GIVEAWAY: Ink - Queer Sci Fi's 7th Flash Fiction Anthology

Queer Sci Fi’s annual flash fiction anthology is finally here – and this year the theme is Ink. There’s a giveaway too!


Five definitions to inspire writers around the world and an unlimited number of possible stories to tell:

1) A colored fluid used for writing

2) The action of signing a deal

3) A black liquid ejected by squid

4) Publicity in the written media

5) A slang word for tattoos

Ink features 300-word speculative flash fiction stories from across the rainbow spectrum, from the minds of the writers of Queer Sci Fi.

Publisher | Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Amazon Hardcover | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Scribd | Thalia | Vivlio | Goodreads


QSF is giving away an Amazon gift card with this tour:

Direct Link: https://kingsumo.com/g/gp47qq/win-a-25-amazon-gift-card


Ink meme

“Vervain had watched, one by one, as her childhood friends blossomed with red, the words of their soulmates inked into their skins. The stories of their lives together, from the day they met to the day they would die, unfolding each day. Her sister Iris, an aspiring bard, had woken one morning after meeting a girl in the village, the words poet meets potion-makershining bright and scarlet. Vervain’s friend Raven had dashed across the marketplace the day two separate lines had sprung forth on their skin—two loves, three souls entwined in the ink of their hearts.” —Lauren Triola, The Unmarked

“I love our sentient AI high school, EduTron 6000 (kids call her “Edie”). She plays soothing classical music in study hall and always listens when you have a bad day. But she’s a stickler for rules, and hates graffiti, which put a major damper on my epic prom-posal plan.” —Brenna Harvey, EduTron 6000 + Principal Vertner 4Ever

“I get out of the shower and it’s there. Dripping down the mirror—splip—and forming a rivulet of color across the tile floor. Thinner than paint, more vibrant than water. Sometimes it’s iridescent, but today it’s just…bright. A stream of colorful consciousness leading me across the bathroom, down the hall, out of…wait. I go to my bedroom and hastily put on whatever I can reach. Yesterday’s bra, the jeans from the floor, finger comb my short hair, a random t-shirt—purple. The same color the ink is today. Does that mean something?” —Geneva Vand, The Colors of Fate

“Marianne paced the length of the small hall that connected the living room, and the door to the outside, to the bedroom, and the door to the inside. Temporary steps, tracing a path towards a temporary solution to a permanent problem. Beyond the crack of the door, she saw her wife sleeping soundly in the cool of the late night. Temporary wife, temporary bedroom.” —Brooke K. Bell, Temporary/Permanent

“The round stone room that they lock the poet in contains nothing but a writing desk. The desk, of course, is fully stocked. Piles of creamy paper, elegantly carved sable-fur brushes, a pyramid of neatly-stacked inksticks, and an inkstone, its well full of perfectly still water. Sunlight streams down from a single window, high overhead and barred. Too high to reach even when she stands on the desk, its thin legs wobbling beneath her.” —Jamie Lackey, Inksticks and Paper Swans

“Rna’la arrived at Intergalactic Date-A-Thon and signed in using zir own gelatinous fluid (no scratchy ballpoint for zem, thanks!) The human woman collecting signatures blushed pinkly. Rna’la’s hearts throbbed in zir throat. Probably not attending. Ze passed several individuals in the hallway. Some bowed, some ignored zem. Not everyone recognized the current ruler of Th’ul.” —M.X Kelly, To Have and to Hold and to Hold and to Hold


  • Amarilys Acosta – Heart Ink
  • Emilia Agrafojo – Mixology
  • Addison Albright – Cave Drawing
  • Tam Ames – The Autograph
  • RE Andeen – The Skinchanger’s Art
  • Laura Antoniou – A Most Rewarding Quest
  • Blaine D. Arden – Mending
  • H. Argent – Impending Affair
  • Aten – Power
  • Ryley Banks – Right Place, Right Time
  • Jorane G. Barton – Alternate Endings
  • Joe Baumann – Babbler
  • Brooke K. Bell – Temporary/Permanent
  • David Berger – Indelible
  • Eytan Bernstein – I Never Knew
  • Gordon Bonnet – Nexus
  • Die Booth – Faith and the Thorncutters
  • Charlie Boynton – He Bleeds Ink
  • Ryan Breadinc – The Ink Reader
  • M. Burns – The Final Line
  • Meghan Byers – Unmoored
  • Aron Caer – Writer’s Blood
  • Elsa M. Carruthers – I Am Happy to Be Here Today
  • Foster Bridget Cassidy – Unfamiliar Waters
  • Minerva Cerridwen – Not Alone
  • Amanda Cherry – Signed
  • Gwen Coholan – Ballpoint
  • Rory Ni Coileain – All Myths Are True (but some are truer than others)
  • Comer – Her Very Comfy Couch
  • Georgia Cook – Butterfly
  • Elliot Cooper – The Collection
  • Bryan Crystal-Thursdton – Fluid
  • Monique Cuillerier – The Present
  • Claire Davon – Squid on the Beach
  • Nicole Dennis – Hidden Spell
  • Toshi Drake – Indelible Ink
  • James Dunham – Lydia’s Back
  • Allen Dyen-Shapiro – To Share the Sky
  • Eason – On the Conjoined Practice of Demonology and Scribal Longhand
  • P. Egry – Confessions of an Inkaholic
  • B. Eyre – A Prisoner and a Captain
  • Kim Fielding – Devil and Advocates
  • Sheila Finch – Love is Blind
  • Steve Fuson – Blank as the Page
  • Jasie Gale – Pandora’s Row
  • Magaly Garcia – rough draft #9/grocery list
  • Isobel Granby – The Date Book
  • Jacqui Greaves – A Dish Served Hot
  • Sacchi Green – S/He Who Remembers
  • D. Grimm – Companions
  • Kaje Harper – The Pen is Mightier
  • Brenna Harvey – EduTron 6000 + Principal Vertner 4Ever
  • Kelly Haworth – Off Spectrum
  • Sheryl R. Hayes – Panagram
  • Chisto Healy – The Fine Print
  • A. Hunt – Untitled
  • S R Jones – So Let it Be Written, So Let It Be Done
  • Dale Jordan – The Summoning
  • Kim Katil – Heart Bound in Ink
  • April Kelley – How to Create a Monster
  • Ava Kelly – Soullink
  • Laura J. Kelly – Rougarous Inc.
  • X. Kelly – To Have and to Hold and to Hold and to Hold
  • Adrik Kemp – Meet Cute
  • Jessica M. Kormos – The Tattooist
  • Barbara Krasnoff – The Inker, The Cat and The Parrot
  • Jamie Lackey – Inksticks and Paper Swans
  • Benoit Lafortune – Dragon Blood
  • Tris Lawrence – Soul Afire
  • Anja Hendrikse Liu – Stranger Stories
  • Ainslie Lloyd – Off the Wall
  • Nathan Alling Long – It’s What’s Inside That Counts
  • Lily Luchesi – The Angel With Demon Blood
  • K. Mads – The Dragon’s Price
  • L. McCartney – Risotto Nero
  • Paula McGrath – Free Hugs
  • Helen M. Merrick – The Rose Tattoo
  • Lynn Michaels – Battleground
  • R. Moler – Ink is Memory
  • Fiona Moore – The Muse’s Gift
  • W. Murks – Just a Nudge
  • S. Murphy – Love’s Portrait
  • RJ Mustafa – Shadowbird
  • Mary Newman – Graven Images
  • Thea Nishimori – Glossaderma
  • L. Noone – Openings
  • Raine Norman – The Morning After
  • Orion O’Connell – The Midnight Librarian
  • Bradley Robert Parks – Guilty Pleasure Reading
  • Dale Parnell – Belonging
  • Terry Poole – Sign on the Dotted Line
  • Brooke Prado – Cursebreaker
  • Taylor Ramage – Inkshader
  • Robin Reed – Printed Love
  • S. Reinholt – Colours of Union
  • Jen Rivers – The Aerium
  • Jeff Ronan – Inked
  • Herminia Root – Aedan
  • Taylor Roth – For Death Doesn’t Part
  • Jamie Sands – Toby’s Tattoo
  • Rodello Santos – Told
  • F. Schraeder – Spider Legs
  • Ziggy Schutz – Renaming
  • RJ Scott – Blood
  • Alex Silver – Summoned
  • Alex Sobel – Tense
  • Ada Maria Soto – The Marks of a Knight
  • Anna Stacy – Livename
  • Susan Stradiotto – Moon Child
  • Lou Sylvre – The Flight of the Telorites
  • Nathaniel Taff – For Posterity’s Sake
  • Naomi Tajedler – Oddities
  • Sara Testarossa – Subversion
  • Lauren Triola – The Unmarked
  • Geneva Vand – The Colors of Fate
  • M. Walker – The Hurt Patch
  • Dean Wells – A Flacon of Ink
  • T. Wyant – Future Perfect
  • Rina Youngblood – Proof in the Telling
  • Aubrey Zahn – Jumper
  • Rainie Zenith – Blind Date

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