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Bewildering Stories

Second Bewildering Stories Contest

Time Travel

Welcome! We’re eagerly looking forward to your stories; in fact, we’ve already received a few in anticipation of the Contest. Come one, come all !

We’ve learned a lot from Contest 1, and we think the following will make things easy and fair for everyone.

Contest Time Window

Sending and Viewing Stories

About the Theme

The theme for this second Contest is time travel. Your story can travel forwards into the mysterious mists of the future; backwards to the misty, mysterious Precambrian days or earlier; or sideways into an alternate past, present or future history that may be, might have been, will have been being... (That’s an example of the future bewildering tense; feel free to invent your own). Twist time like a corkscrew; travel to an alternate Xanadu that never was but might could have been... and truly bewilder us! But a grandiose concept is not required: J. G. Ballard’s “Escapement” humorously features a couple who, while watching television, go on time-travel jaunts lasting minutes or even seconds.

How does time travel actually work? The question is wide open, because time travel is a literary device, not necessarily a problem in physics. The original film based on H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine used what looked like a snowmobile powered by a large rotating fan. It came complete with modernistic control levers and a comfortable seat; very pretty and stylish in a 19th-century sort of way. On the other hand, Isaac Asimov’s Pebble in the Sky propels the humble tailor Joseph Schwartz thousands of years into the future by means of an accident in an atomic research laboratory. And in Ring Around the Sun, Clifford D. Simak used a child’s toy as a hypnotic device for transportation to alternate worlds. Most writers just stipulate a convenient mechanism and take time travel for granted.

You do not have to cite a source for your time traveling, although it might be a nice touch, if you have one. Want some inspiration? We’ll have two reviews of time-travel anthologies coming up in issues 180 (January 9) and 181 (January 16). They’ll cite a number of other references, including some valuable for those of you who would like to take a harder scientific approach to time travel (believe it or not, there are reputable astrophysicists who write about time travel with a straight and serious face). However, our Contest is limited to fiction, please. Non-fiction articles about time travel are welcome in the regular issues of Bewildering Stories.


  1. Length and content:

    • Entries must fit our flash fiction or short stories categories. The maximum length for short stories is 9,000 words; for flash fiction, 1,000 words. If you have pictures — such as of your summer vacation in the year 3006 — we’d love to include them.

    • Our regular issues have a page limit of 3,000 words, which we enforce rather strictly. However, our Submissions guidelines state that the page limit does not apply to excerpts (in The Reading Room) or to Contests. Therefore, all stories in the Contest will appear on one page each.

    • A practical consideration: please keep in mind our Submissions guideline about paragraph length: “It’s a long road that has no turning.” We consider that guideline very important, and it will be all the more so in long pages.

    • The usual guidelines for submissions and esthetics apply. In addition, any entry that the Contest manager (Danielle L. Parker) and editors agree does not fit this month’s theme will be considered as a regular submission. For example, we already have two time-travel stories scheduled for our regular issues; they’re too long to qualify for the Contest.

  2. Sending files:

    You may send the file in almost any format you like. Exceptions: please do not send:

    • .pdf (Acrobat Reader) files; we can’t work with them.

    • .wpd (WordPerfect plain text) files; we can’t even open them. However, we can receive WordPerfect files sent as RTF (rich text format) attachments.

    • If you send a file in RTF (rich text format), well and good, but please do not copy-paste it into an e-mail text unless you have no other way of sending it; that makes a lot of extra work for both you and Ye Copy Editor. Please send RTF files as attachments.

    • Please put “CONTEST” and the story title in the subject line of the e-mail message.

    • You may send one entry for flash fiction and one entry for short stories or one entry for either. Authors are limited to one entry in each division.

  3. Replacements:

    Can you send changes or even replace an earlier entry with a new one? Well, yes... but consider: the original entry will be withdrawn immediately; the amended copy or substitution will go to the end of the queue and may take a few days to appear.

  4. Reprints:

    If the story has appeared elsewhere and you retain the rights to it, you may enter it in the Contest.

    Exception: No reprints from Bewildering Stories. We could already hold a “retrospective Contest” with the time-travel and alternate history and alternate universe stories we’ve published. The Contest entries must be new to us.

  5. “Blind” Contest:

    The authors’ names will be revealed only after the voting ends. The editors and Contest manager may also enter the Contest but cannot win. If they attract enough votes, they may be listed as an honorable mention or readers’ favorite or something to that effect.

  6. Sending votes:

    • When voting opens, please send your votes by way of the e-mail links on the entries page; the links will be added when the time comes.

    • For purposes of voting, the Contest will be split into two divisions: “shorter” (flash fiction) and “longer” (everything else). Winners will be announced in each division for first, second and third place.

    • Votes are cumulative; the more votes you give a title, the higher you rank it.

    • Five votes are allowed in the Shorter division. You must cast five votes but you may not cast more than three votes for any title. That means you must vote for at least two but not more than five titles. You may distribute your votes as you please but within limits, namely 1-1-1-1-1 or 1-1-1-2 or 1-2-2 or 1-1-3 or 2-3.

    • Ten votes are allowed in the Longer division. You must cast ten votes but you may not cast more than five votes for any title. That means you must vote for at least two but not more than ten titles. You may distribute your votes as you please but within limits, namely 5,5 or 5, 4, 1 or 4, 3, 2, 1, etc. in any combination including one vote for ten titles.

    • Incomplete ballots (more or fewer than than five votes in the Shorter division or ten votes in the Longer division) will be counted arbitrarily as one vote for each title mentioned up to the limit allowed in each division in the order listed on the ballot. Single-title ballots will be disqualified. Further, the editors frown upon ballot-box stuffing and will disallow votes that seem to come from an organized claque.

    • Authors may vote for their own stories, but when and if that happens, the ballot will be classified arbitrarily as incomplete, and only one vote will be counted for any title mentioned up to the limits allowed.

  7. No author may win more than once in the Contest. Winning authors will qualify for special prizes at the option of the publisher.

  8. All the stories will be listed in a Contest index, and all the winners will appear together in a special Contest edition to be published after the close of the official Contest.

There, we’ve made it as fair and easy as we know how... Gentlebeings, start your time machines!

Copyright © January 2, 2006 by Bewildering Stories

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