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Short Story Contest 2021 Rules and Themes

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  • Short Story Contest 2021 Rules and Themes

    The theme this year is, “Can’t Stop the Signal.” This invites questioning what reuniting with your people looks like. What can we accomplish when we revisit older dreams of years ago, stronger and more experienced? What is the outcome when we connect with people, places, and systems we never knew existed? What does the world look like when hackers from around the world unearth a promise buried and forgotten?

    For more inspiration, see:

    Now. DA RULES.

    The contest is now open and will close Wednesday, June 30th, 2021, 00:00 (midnight) LOCAL LAS VEGAS, NV, TIME ZONE.

    People's​ Choice judges will be given stories to read and judge on July 6th it will close July 13th, 2021 00:00 (midnight) LOCAL LAS VEGAS, NV, TIME ZONE (7 days total voting time). Judges representing different parts of the hacker community will be chosen secretly and announced publicly when winners have been decided upon.

    All stories will be posted via public links on July 6th and announced via Reddit and the Twitter account. All winners will be announced on July 13th, 2021.


    Please submit to DCshortstory[at]

    Please submit ONLY in a .txt file, all other formats will be REJECTED. You may include line breaks and specific formatting you feel is important to the tone of your story. "Bad" language is not proscribed, but do remember, your winning story will be published for all ages to read.

    Please do not include any of the DEF CON staff, goons, etc., without EXPRESS WRITTEN PERMISSION from the individual which MUST BE forwarded to DCshortstory[at], along with contact information. The individual will be contacted by a member of the short story contest staff before the story is considered eligible for entry.

    Please keep your short stories to actual SHORT stories. That means a submission no less than 1,000 words and no more than 20,000. If you feel you have a story worthy of, and requiring, additional length (or works just fine as a haiku), include your plea in your submission email.
    Leave the manuscripts and 404 page novels to your publisher and agents.

    Please keep your stories in tune with our community. We want stories about hackers hacking, science, technology, nerdy things, geeky things, zombie things, making things work the way they were never intended to work, you all know the drill. Story must include the DEF CON convention in some way, either located at it or influenced by it as a few examples.

    One entry per author. Please do not spam us with the "thousands of resumes sent out is sure to get me an interview!" technique. Write one GREAT story, not lots of MEH stories.

    Illustrations and graphics are not accepted. This contest is about the beauty of the written word. We don't want graphic novels. Show us a picture in my head that is painted with your vocabulary.

    Please remember when submitting to include the TITLE OF YOUR PIECE and the AUTHOR NAME you wish to have published. Real or handle, that is up to you but include it in your .txt file. We can't be chasing you down for titles and names. It will go in as "Untitled" or "Author Unknown" if you do not.

    After submission you will receive a confirmation email within 48 hours. If you do not receive a confirmation email then your submission has not been received and will be ineligible. Please contact us at the provided email if your submission is not going through.

    It is your responsibility to verify that your story is included in the public listing on June 15th. Failure to contact us within 24 hours after it has gone up disqualifies your story. If you do not see your story, please contact us at the provided email.


    We will be putting ALL of the short story entries on the Conference media and we will be listing the winners in the online Conference program in a short blurb, letting everyone know where they can check to read more.

    The winners will get recognition in the online program and in social media. Time permitting, the winners will walk the stage and/or be recognized at the Contest Closing Ceremony.


    As DEF CON is onsite in a limited capacity and not every entrant may desire physically going to the site, each place winner will have their choice between two prizes:

    First place winner will receive two (2) human badges, received at con, onsite OR $150 Visa Gift Card.
    Second place winner will receive one (1) human badge, received at con, onsite OR $75 Visa Gift Card.
    People's Choice winner (voted by the community representatives) will receive one (1) human badge, received at con, onsite OR $75 Visa Gift Card.

    All entrants will get their story in the DEF CON media.

    Tips for winning:

    Spell check, grammar check, watch your tenses and your "voice." Double-check your dates, your math, your facts. We are paying attention. If you misspell on purpose, make sure the reader can tell it's on purpose! Follow the rules as mentioned above. Write a good story.

    *IMPORTANT: Communication/Updates/Contact at Con will be done through the Twitter account @DCShortstory. Follow it or you will miss things that are relevant to the contest.*

    Best of luck to all of you! Now get writing!

    A fox in a box of bricks and blocks.