Discover more from Lunar Awards
Reimagining Literary Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy
Encouraging authors to write and share speculative short stories across Substack.
Welcome to the Lunar Awards, a Substack that recognizes science fiction and fantasy authors and shares the best speculative short stories across the platform. For writers, this is an opportunity to join a like-minded community and be seen. For readers, it’s an opportunity to discover new writers, and read essays, interviews and reviews related to the genre.
Publishing a short story in any literary journal has always been a tough nut to crack. Respected authors can rack up hundreds of rejections over the course of years before landing a single acceptance. On the heels of acceptance comes more rejection, and it’s never a guarantee of instant success. A handful of stories might be published in respectable journals over the course of a decade or more, but it requires a masochistic approach, where writers must derive pleasure from the relentless onslaught of rejection in hopes of being rewarded for their efforts.
Whittle those efforts down to a sub-genre like science fiction, an approach that also narrows the field of opportunity, and the process becomes counterproductive to the primary goal of getting good stories into the hands of new readers. Being published traditionally can act as a barometer of improvement, and it can lead to recognition and opportunities within the establishment, but it rarely happens. Editors are just as responsible for crafting a general narrative that fits the voice and style of the publication as they are for recognizing commendable, entertaining stories. The two don’t always align.
The final ascent to winning a literary award after publication is fraught with greater perils and an increasingly complex selection process. Achieving this level of recognition is equivalent to winning the lottery without buying a ticket, since there is no baseline judging criteria accounting for quality, and in most cases an author can’t submit their work for consideration.
A good example is the Hugo Awards, which are chosen by the World Science Fiction Society. The WSFS has a constitution that first dictates where a story must be published, not by publication name, but by the publication’s income in relation to the staff. Nominations and voting are exclusive to paying members of the society. These payments are not taken through dues, but a supporting membership in the annual Worldcon event where the voting will take place. The location varies, but members do not need to be present. The membership/ticket type is anywhere from $50-150, depending on whether or not you want to physically attend.
Who buys memberships and votes? The assumption is that it’s fans of fantasy and science fiction. The Hugo Awards is first and foremost considered a fan award. Paying to vote, which can be a barrier, helps to prevent popular vote manipulation. However, it does raise doubts, since anyone with the necessary financial means can still manipulate popular opinion, creating a power dynamic. The alternative, which is crowdsourcing free votes from online communities, remains contentious because popular opinion can be swayed with even less effort.
This is not to cast dispersion on the Hugo Awards (or any awards) and the winners. It’s simply to point out the complexity involved with handing out literary awards, arguably necessary to remove most doubts about their trustworthiness. The goal with the Lunar Awards is to create an idealistic middle ground, where the barriers to entry are lowered, the awards are more attainable, and yet are still held in high esteem. Doing this requires organizing the pool of candidates around a common platform like Substack.
There are a significant number of talented fiction writers on Substack, and many focus on writing speculative short stories. The Lunar Awards encourages existing authors, grows our numbers, provides incentives and is focused exclusively on recognizing quality stories. Another secondary goal is to centralize the speculative fiction community and introduce new members to one another — to allow authors some exposure without the hurdles. Substack is the perfect avenue for that.
It could be argued this is a contest, and not an award, since awards don’t typically require the recipient to submit for consideration. However, the best way to award talent is directly, and not through a series of nominating bodies. The key difference here is that the Lunar Awards and Substack are the platform, but not the publisher, unlike contests. Authors are publishing stories voluntarily for their own subscribers and simply asking to be honored for their efforts. It’s a winning formula.
A body of rotating judges will play a major role in the Lunar Awards. As the system grows and evolves, the character, experience and personality of those judges will be important. While the founder will always have a vote, there will be greater opportunity for unique author voices to be recognized if the judges themselves are from diverse backgrounds with broad experiences.
Your stories need to be told, read, shared and recognized. This is the place to help make that happen. The Lunar Awards are here.
Head over to the Frequently Asked Questions section for more details.