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Million Writers Award: more than 100 top short stories

April 23, 2009 | 12:40 pm


For the sixth year running, storySouth has announced the longlist for its Million Writers Award. About 175 short stories make the list; all were published online during 2008. Many were only published online.

On May 15, 10 finalist stories will be announced and put to a public vote; three will receive monetary prizes, with $500, a respectable sum, going to the winner.

It is a loose, shambolic nominating process -- Jason Sanford, the organizer, explains that while stories had to be at least 1,000 words, a couple of too-short stories made the list anyway, just because they were good. The preliminary judges, most of whom are announced after the nominations were made public, are scattered across the country, holding a variety of academic, literary and entirely unrelated jobs.

All of which means that this big list of stories spans a wide range that's wider and rangier than most literary awards. Here, a piece from the Paris Review goes up against Tor's science fiction, university literary journals, Serendipity's magic realism and Thuglit's violence.

There was a bit of a to-do when storySouth announced, concurrently with the nominations, that Narrative magazine had earned the Million Writers Award for best online publication 2008. Narrative's eight nominations put it ahead of all other magazines, but some of its business decisions -- to charge for some submissions, and to make premium content available for a fee -- have rankled some in the literary journal community. But Sanford responded to critics:

Based on the feedback I've been receiving, there are other concerns being raised here. I suspect some of this results from Narrative becoming the first online literary journal to equal the best print journals in power and prestige. I see this as nothing but a good thing. When I started the Million Writers Award, online journals weren't considered the equals of the worst print publications, let alone the best. It's good to have one of us on top, so to speak.

It's true, online publications are starting to be seen as a place to publish good and innovative work by those who didn't, at first, see the potential of online publications' low overhead and wide reach. Admittedly, with almost 200 stories making the nomination list, there are bound to be a few clunkers. But if you have the time to spare and are curious about the boundaries writers are pushing in short fiction, this is a very good place to start.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: MisoCrazy via Flickr