Helpful Definitions & FAQ
What does "speculative" mean?
The word “speculative,” taken literally, can be applied to anything imaginative, or any work of fiction. However, in an SF&F (science-fiction-and-fantasy) context (as in our contest), we narrow the definition to works that include science-fiction, fantasy, supernatural horror, or interstitial (falling-somewhere-between-the-cracks) elements; in other words, the story or poem should involve something that could not take place in ordinary reality at the present time. Magic realism is also included here, or whatever the current term is for when “respectable” authors write this stuff. A poem/story about how wonderful your grandmother is and how much you love her is not speculative, even if you are lying. A poem/story about how your grandmother is actually a Gorgon is speculative. See the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America or the Science Fiction Poetry Association for more detailed information and more links.
What is the “prose” poem form?
A prose poem is in paragraph form. This means with no line breaks. A line break is when the poem moves to the next line (like this)
or the next stanza (like this)
in mid-sentence. A prose poem can be more than one paragraph long, but it should be formatted as if it were a story or essay. This is a prose poem:
This is an amazing example of a science-fiction poem, despite the fact that it has already devoured part of my left leg. If its scales were iridescent and it had filmy wings, it would be an amazing example of a fantasy poem (I guess it's a pretty good example of a horror poem in either case). Now that I look closely (it glanced up, briefly, and then went back to its munching) there is a faint iridescence on its gleaming metal scales, but this appears to be due to a light coating of machine oil rather than to fairy dust. My knee seems to be giving it a bit of trouble.
This is NOT a prose poem; i.e., a poem formatted like this, with line breaks, is not eligible for the OddContest:
This is an amazing example
of a science-fiction poem,
despite the fact that it has already
devoured part of my left leg.
If its scales were iridescent
and it had filmy wings,
it would be an amazing
example of a fantasy poem
(I guess it's a pretty good
example of a horror poem
in either case). Now that I look
closely (it glanced up, briefly,
and then went back to its munching)
there is a faint iridescence
on its gleaming metal scales,
but this appears to be due
to a light coating of machine oil
rather than to fairy dust.
My knee seems to be
giving it a bit of trouble.
Poems in form (metered and rhyming, or following a traditional structure, e.g., haiku) are not prose poems and thus are not eligible for this contest. Poems written in free verse (formatted with line breaks, but non-metered and non-rhyming) are sometimes mistakenly assumed to be prose poems. Just because there are complete sentences in the poem does not make it a prose poem; it also needs to be formatted without line breaks; i.e., as a paragraph or paragraphs. Note that online examples elsewhere have occasionally been inadvertently modified by site display constraints or incorrect formatting, or are just plain wrong. See Poetic Form: Prose Poem or Wikipedia. And perhaps the article “Mutable Boundaries” if you’re a glutton for punishment.
The Prose Poem
The Prose-Poem Project
What is "flash" fiction?
A very short story, generally one thousand words or less. For the purposes of this competition, we have arbitrarily chosen a limit of 500 words, not counting the title. Note that this is a maximum length; shorter works are not penalized (there is no minimum length). Flash fiction as defined in other publications can run anywhere from 6 (Wired), 25 (Espresso Stories), or 100, to as long as 3000 words. See Flash What? or Wikipedia.
Our current winners
Flash Fiction Online
What is the difference between prose poems and flash fiction?
Hmmm. That's a good one. Flash fiction would normally involve a plot, a story arc, and a dénouement, whereas this is not required in a prose poem (but is certainly acceptable). A broad spectrum of short works in paragraph form exists; some works are indubitably one thing or the other, and some fall in between (see "interstitial," above). There is no definite dividing line between the two, no matter what you may have heard.
do you define word count?
We do not include the title or an epigraph in word count—the exception would
be a false epigraph, where the quote and its attribution are entirely fabricated
by the author and intended to serve as an integral part of the work. Same
deal for footnotes. Dedications are not recommended. We use standard word-count
available in software; if your piece goes over the limit, it will be excluded