Frequently Asked Questions
How do the awards work?
A writer who has a Substack subscribes to the Lunar Awards, and they are notified via a post when a new award season starts.
The writer reads the rules, publishes on their own Substack, and then adds a link in the comments of the award season post.
An award season runs for 21 days. When it ends (including the reading period) a post is sent to subscribers identifying the winner and discussing a few of the honorable entries.
What are the general award entry rules?
It must be posted on the Substack platform (no external links, doc files, etc.) and must not exist behind a paywall. Comments or accompanying features (like author’s notes) can still be paywalled.
It must be written in English.
It must be speculative.
Only one category submission per user profile per award season is allowed.
A submission will only be considered once. Do not resubmit the same short story or first chapter over multiple seasons, even if it has been edited.
A link to the submission must be posted in the award season post comments during the submission period. Each entry will be verified with a reply.
The previous award season winner of any category is not eligible to participate in the next award season. One award season must pass before becoming eligible again.
What are the Short Story category award entry rules?
It must be 2500 words or less. There is no minimum.
It must be published no earlier than the award season start day, and no later than the deadline day. A total of 21 days.
It must be standalone (no serials or parts), but it can be a part of an anthology.
What are the First Chapter category award entry rules?
It must be a part of a serial. The serial does not need to be finished to be considered.
Unlike a short story submission, a serialized first chapter can be published any time before the close of the current award season.
There is no word limit, but anything beyond 5000 words has a lower chance of being considered.
Do I have to subscribe to the Lunar Awards to be considered?
Yes. The winner will be announced here before an author is contacted directly. This will also be the central location to announce future award seasons, post essays, reviews and interviews.
Is there a reading or award entry fee?
What is speculative?
Speculative is the broad range of genres that encompass fantasy and science fiction, which can include hard science fiction, fables, sword and sorcery, creature features, space opera, time travel, low fantasy, magic realism, etc. There are too many sub-genres to name them all. Dark speculative is allowed, which may cross over into horror. True crime or any horror that does not include a foundational speculative element will be rejected.
The subject matter is left to the author’s imagination. There are no prompts.
Are AI submissions allowed?
Absolutely not. If you have to ask how much or how little AI can be used to write the story, then you should not submit for consideration.
What are the judging criteria?
In short, the Lunar Awards looks at:
Mastery of storytelling. (50%)
Editorial control. (25%)
Short Story Category
A great short story makes a promise at the start, and it makes good on that promise by the end. Don’t leave the reader hanging or try to subvert expectations. You can use an even balance of character, plot and setting, or you can lean heavily into any one of those. Avoid common tropes, but don't be afraid to explore common themes from a fresh perspective. It should be professionally polished. Editorial control over the entire piece is important – you know what to leave and what to cut. However, it's not going to be rejected for a spelling mistake or two. Images associated with the story won’t sway the judging either way. Don’t try to mimic an entry based upon what is written on. Readers need new voices and want to hear yours.
First Chapter Category
A serialized first chapter will be judged upon its ability to hook a reader and introduce a larger narrative. A first chapter typically includes the protagonist, some unique aspect of the world in which the protagonist lives, and it makes a promise about what type of story is about to unfold. An inciting incident or central conflict is not always necessary in a first chapter to be successful, but leaving it out means using a combination of exposition, character development and worldbuilding to attract a reader. Just like with short stories, any included images won’t sway the judging either way.
The Lunar Awards doesn’t discriminate or give preferential treatment. Decisions are made purely on the merits outlined in the judging criteria. Personal bios of any kind should not be included in the comments. If anyone wants to know more about you, then they can visit your Substack. Credentials are also not important. The number of publication subscribers or comments and likes on a short story doesn’t matter, either. The goal is to find and award the absolute best speculative fiction on Substack.
Why only a 21-day window?
This is very important. It keeps the number of entries lower and balances them between new and seasoned writers. Because each award season launch day is impromptu, there’s no preparation. You could write something for the future, but you might have to wait a few months, or maybe even a year before it can be submitted as an entry. Only the judge(s) know when the next award season will start.
Is there an actual award?
The winning submission will be permanently linked on the Past Winners page. The submission and author will also be featured in a spotlight post. First place will receive a custom high resolution image badge for the award season category that can be displayed proudly on Substack, or used in merchandising at their discretion.
Some seasons may include direct monetary prizes depending upon paid subscriber revenue and sponsorships.
I’m not going to submit an entry. Is there another way I can help?
Yes! Get the word out to your own Substack subscribers through a post, cross-post or chat. We need as much support and recognition as possible in order to make this an ongoing success.