My story “Citizen-Astronaut” just won second prize in the 2010 Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest. This is a contest for positive stories showing the near future of manned space exploration; the stories are judged anonymously. I won a year’s membership in the National Space Society and a prize package containing various Baen Books, Jim Baen’s Universe and National Space Society merchandise. Second prize does not include publication, but I now have a very nice recommendation to include in the cover letter when I submit this story elsewhere.
I have to admit that I feel a little bit strange about this win, as I finished the story barely in time and submitted what I considered an extremely rough draft. Basically, I used the contest deadline as a goad to get me to finish the story. I always used to use the quarterly Writers of the Future Contest deadlines for this purpose and I’ve kind of been missing that lately. At the same time I submitted the story to the contest, figuring it would not win, I also sent it to my critique group, and they agreed with me that it can be improved (in particular, it’s a bit exposition-heavy and the main character’s primary problem in the the front half of the story is not as well connected to the climax as it could be).
Part of me says I should take this prize win as validation and just submit the story as-is. However, I think I will go ahead and revise it, though perhaps not as heavily as I might otherwise have done.
The next question is where to send this story (an optimistic space-based hard-SF adventure) first. It’s an excellent fit for Analog, of course, but Clarkesworld pays better, replies faster, and seems to be catching a lot of positive critical attention. Your thoughts?