The return of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Are you a previously unpublished writer (or a “nonprofessional,” in that you’ve not been paid for your writing at pro rates)? Do you have a hankering to write a Star Trek story and maybe see it published? Well, Pocket Books has a deal for you:


Yep! It’s a new version of the writing contest Pocket conducted each year from 1997-2007, which launched numerous writing careers including one for the guy whose blog you’re reading right this very second. For those of you unfamiliar with my secret origin, I entered stories in each of the first three Strange New Worlds contests, after which I was offered a contract to write a Star Trek novel for Pocket, and I’ve been working for them ever since. If I can do that, imagine how much someone with actual talent might accomplish?

snw1 snw2-cover snw3-cover Strange New Worlds Writing Contest – Official Rules

The contest has a few changes from those of old, though:

Notably, it’s only open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia (that means none of the territories or even overseas military installations).

Unlike the previous contests, you’re only allowed one entry per person, so if you’re going to do this, make sure you bring your A-game.

The submission period is much shorter, beginning today (October 8th) and ending on January 15th, 2016.

Up to ten (10) winners will be selected for publication in the resulting anthology, as opposed to the old 18-23 winners rule. One major change is that two winners will receive “first prize” packages that includes the opportunity to publish a non-Star Trek novel through Pocket’s self-publishing platform. This is a new wrinkle, and one about which I have several questions, so I highly recommend doing your homework in this department before opting to proceed.

It appears the resulting anthology will be published as a “digital first” title. In English, that means e-Book, with a possible print edition later.

Assuming you’re thinking of taking on this challenge, be sure to read the complete rules before submitting an entry, and pay strict attention to the registration and editorial guidelines. Do your research, and understand what you are signing up for before you submit anything. You can find complete details here: Strange New Worlds Writing Contest – Official Rules

For those who decide to enter the contest, I’m happy to answer questions (assuming I have those answers, obviously), but let me state for the record that I am in no way affiliated with the contest and do not speak for Pocket Books, Simon & Schuster, CBS, or anyone associated with the contest. As such, I’m really not interested in discussing why the rules are what they are, or how someone might think they suck for this or that reason. So, you know…FYI, and all that.

On the other hand, questions about actually entering the contest or prepping your entry or requests for general tips or advice are welcome, and I’ll do my best to answer those. Any responses or  opinions I might provide will be strictly based on past experience and (if possible) info I can obtain from people connected to the contest. I can’t guarantee anything on that front, though.

Best of luck to those of you opting to undertake this challenge!

57 thoughts on “The return of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

  1. If I am reading this correctly, you cannot introduce new characters– they have to at least been past “guest” characters. That takes away a couple of my concepts, but leaves some others. The 10,000 word limit may be the hardest part.

    Thanks, Dayton.


    1. You obviously can have other characters that you introduce for the purposes of your story, but the focus likely should/has to be on known characters, which can be of any size or role from any episode. Even then, it’s all in the execution. Stories have been written in previous anthologies about particular bit characters, or an alien seen for two minutes in the background.Check out the previous anthologies to see how creative some people got while working within the parameters.


    1. If it’s like the previous contests, the reason likely had to do with the headaches associated with contests and awarding prizes, and issues raised with taxes and fees that vary from country to country, and other legal red tape.


    1. We’ve been talking about this on my Facebook page. I’m still waiting for an “official” answer, but this is what I posted the other day:
      I keep getting asked what is admittedly a key question with respect to the new Strange New Worlds writing contest: What the hell is a “non professional writer?”

      Well, you’re looking at one.

      Oh, wait. They call me “unprofessional.” Different thing.

      Anyway, as several folks have noticed, there is currently no definition of “non professional writer” on the contest rules page. I have inquired about this point, but given that this is New York Comic-Con weekend, it’s a good bet that many of the folks who could answer this question are not available to do so.

      With that in mind, and with the caveat that this is an *** assumption *** on my part, I’m going to guess that the definition is at least similar if not identical to what was offered up in the days of the original contest. From the rules for Strange New Worlds 10:

      “Entrant must not have published any more than two short stories on a professional basis or in paid professional venues.”

      That’s all there was. If you’d published no more than two fiction short stories in what was recognized as a professional venue, and/or you were paid a professional per-word rate, then you were eligible to enter the contest.

      Again, this is a SWAG* I’m making here. Proceed with that in mind.

      If I get a response to my inquiry, and/or they make a change to the contest rules page, I’ll be sure to post that here. In the meantime, good luck to those of you opting to enter the contest!
      (* = Scientific Wild-Assed Guess)


        1. Feel free to friend me on FB. I have followers, but they don’t tend to see most of my postings because of my privacy settings, which tend to be set for “Friends only.”


      1. Good to know I’m not the only one! 🙂 My wife and I have dinner plans tonight, either to celebrate, or (more likely) to commiserate a loss- but the one thing we didn’t expect was to still be waiting with baited breath! That ‘on or around March 31st’ clause is a killer.


      2. Remember, the rules state “Prize Winners will be notified by email on or about March 31, 2016.”

        Maybe they’re avoiding April 1st, just in case people think they’re being pranked. 😀


    1. As I said on my Facebook page:

      While I was talking to my editor about other things an hour or so ago, I asked about the contest and whether winners had been notified. She replied that so far as she knew, no official announcements had been made, and no one (winner or not) had yet been contacted.

      Take that as you will. I’m sure I’ll be posting about the contest winners when that info is made available because HEY! Cheerleader, here.


      1. Well, I have to say, that’s a lot more comforting than my assumption, ‘I guess they contacted all the winners yesterday, and by inference, the lack of email in my inbox means…’ Well, you get the picture. 🙂

        Thank you for checking in for us!


  2. Dean’s advice during the old contest remains the best (paraphrasing, but accurately, I think): Be so busy writing other things, you don’t have time to fret about the announcement deadline!


  3. Well I’m another entrant who has been “haunting social media” the last few days trying to find out something about the contest and coming up with nothing. But thanks Dayton… you’ve been more helpful than anyone so far. And it is slightly comforting to realize at this late date (never noticed before) that the rules did say on “or about” March 31.


  4. Don’t think my last post went through but basically I just said thanks Dayton for the info… I’m another one who’s been “haunting social media” the last few days trying to find out something about the contest. I’d never noticed the “or about” clause so that’s somewhat comforting to know.


    1. The Fog Of Ward: Strange New Worlds
      The Search, Part 1.

      FADE IN, comments section. Concerned commentors are gathered around the main status display.

      LORRAINE J ANDERSON: We’re in trouble, people. We’ve scoured the internet for over seven days, and it all comes up the same. No answer from Simon & Schuster.

      GBJ: There must be something we overlooked.

      MICHAEL POTEET: Lorraine, I’m the last one to say it’s hopeless, but given the ‘or about’ clause in the official rules, expecting an answer in April may be optimistic.

      GORDON BAILEY: Regardless of the timeframe, missing the deadline is appalling.

      ANDREW GILBERTSON crosses his arms and harrumphs in the background.

      GBJ: That leaves us with two options. Vent our frustration on the message boards, or continue to wait in exquisite agony.

      LORRAINE J ANDERSON: I want a third alternative. I cannot believe that we can’t-

      (A console starts beeping.)

      GBJ: Some kind of large prose-tome surge has just activated our security sensors.

      (Onscreen, a large book decloaks. The registry reads ‘Strange New Worlds, copyright 1998’- clearly a prototype of its class.)

      MICHAEL POTEET: A short story collection with a cloaking device?

      GBJ: It’s hailing us.

      LORRAINE J ANDERSON: On screen.

      DAYTON WARD [on viewscreen]: Hello, comments section. Sorry to startle you, but I wanted to remind you that it’s worth the wait. And I’ve brought back a little surprise for the publishers…

      (Fade out, roll opening credits.)


  5. Twelve days late, and still no word. The worst part is Simon & Schuster sending emails to promote their other books, just to psyche us out.


    1. I know- every time I see that name in my inbox, my heart skips a beat- but then, nope, just a promo for another book. It’s like a bad horror movie, with lots of cheap jump-scares… except it’s my life. 😉


  6. When you consider how strictly they insist entrants adhere to the contest rules, as far as deadlines and manuscript submission requirements, it really does strike me as ironic that it’s the contest sponsors who have such a cavalier attitude toward the whole thing.


    1. To be fair, they ARE the multi-million dollar publishing company, while we’re the fans potentially getting something for nothing, so there does seem to be *some* sense to that arrangement… 😉


    1. Well… not seeing my name there was just a tad more crushingly-devastating than I’d expected… but it’s good to finally know, at least. Closure, and all that. At least I got to finally fulfill my dream of submitting a story- if not the dream of having it selected- and for that, I’m greateful.


  7. Yeah, at least it’s finally over. I was disappointed too. I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up when I enter writing contests but I did this time. I really thought the story I submitted was pretty good (he says immodestly.) Oh well.


    1. Same here. I knew the odds, but somehow, this one just… felt like a winner. Oh well, indeed.

      Maybe we should start a library somewhere? ‘Strange New Worlds Runner-Ups,’ where we can at least share our entries with each-other? 🙂


  8. For anyone who is disappointed, I feel your pain too, but don’t despair. I’m sure plenty of excellent stories had to get a pass for arbitrary reasons. My TNG story included the Borg, so maybe one of the judges really, really hates the Borg? Or they already had too many TNG stories? I’m very proud of what I wrote.


  9. Someone has posted on the ST page for the contest… Tristen something or other… about posting non-winning entries. I don’t really know anything about him/her but it might be worth checking into. If you go to that page, it’s the last entry in the comments section, or it was. Anyway, you’ll see it.


    1. Sorry, folks, but I can’t have links to fan-fiction sites or anything similar here. You’ll have to exchange that information via email or messenger or something.

      Thanks for understanding. 🙂


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