Writing Contest! $500 in Prizes!

A classic Gernsback contest, from Science Wonder Quarterly, Fall 1929

Hugo Gernsback was a master promoter. He often used contests to engage his reader and drive subscriptions to his publications. Early fans eagerly submitted their credentials and stories in the hopes of recognition by the “pros” — or at least gaining esteem in the eyes of other fans.

First Fandom Experience is so-named because we hope to capture — or even recreate — the sense of what it was like to participate in the inception and early growth of organized fandom. To this end, we’re pleased to announce our first writing contest.

Announcing: The Cosmos Prize

Cosmos was an ambitious serial novel orchestrated by the staff of Science Fiction Digest (later Fantasy Magazine) beginning in June, 1933. The story of Cosmos spanned 17 chapters written by 16 different authors. Raymond A. Palmer drafted the plot outline and coordinated the work of the writers. The young fanzine editor was able to convince many of the prominent professionals of the day to participate.

You can read the entirety of the novel and explore the full history of the event at The Cosmos Project web site.

As you can imagine, making this all work was a major challenge. The results… well, also not surprisingly, are a bit of a hash. Still, Cosmos represents an iconic event in the early history of science fiction fandom, and deserves remembering.

Even more than remembering, Cosmos deserves a better ending than it got. In this writer’s humble opinion, the final chapter utterly failed to capitalize on the potential of the installments that preceded it. Penned by no-less an esteemed professional as Edmond Hamilton, the concluding Chapter 17 — Armageddon in Space — seemed to ignore much of what came before. This has always bothered me. The Cosmos Prize is our attempt to right (or re-write) an historic tragedy.

First Fandom Experience will award prizes, both cash and merchandise, to selected writers who submit alternative versions of Chapter 17 of Cosmos.


  1. One Grand Prize consisting of $300 in cash, as well as copies of FFE’s publications: The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom: A Tour of the 1930s; The Complete Science Fiction Digest and Fantasy Magazine, a three-volume set including Cosmos.
  2. One Second Prize consisting of $100 in cash, as well as a copy of FFE’s publication: The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom: A Tour of the 1930s.
  3. Two Third Prizes, each consisting of $50 in cash, as well as FFE’s publication: The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom: A Tour of the 1930s.

All prize winners will also receive an FFE T-shirt and lapel pin. Prize-winning submissions will be published on the FFE website and may also be included in future print and digital publications.

Contest Rules

  1. Submissions must be received by January 15, 2020.
  2. Submissions should be sent electronically to CosmosPrize@firstfandomexperience.org.  Text, Microsoft Word or PDF format only.  If art is included, a 300-dpi JPG or TIFF file should be provided for the graphical elements. Include your name and email address at a minimum.
  3. By submitting an entry, you agree to grant FFE the right to use your submission henceforth, in both print and digital form, in whole or in part, for the purpose of promoting FFE and its works.  You retain copyright to your submission and may use it in any other way you choose.
  4. Prizes will be determined solely by the FFE team.
  5. Successful submissions will:
    • fit with the overall narrative of Cosmos
    • bring the story to a compelling, meaningful, exciting and/or evocative conclusion
    • capture the style and sensibility of science fiction of the 1930s
    • show originality, coherence and strong expressive force
    • focus on replacing just the last chapter of Cosmos, Chapter 17 – avoid the temptation to rewrite the entire novel
  6. Prizes will be announced on February 15, 2020 at the Boskone 57 convention in Boston, Massachusetts.  You do not need to be present at the convention to win a prize.

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