Million Writers Award Reviewed

By Henry F. Tonn

 

A Brief History of the Award

The Million Writers Award is probably the most comprehensive award given for online fiction in the United States. It was begun in 2004 by Jason Sanford, the founding editor of storySouth, to reward online fiction writers, and the program has shown considerable growth over the years. Editors and readers nominate stories from which a group of judges select the ones they like best, forming a list of Notable Stories. This year no less than 190 stories of all genres were selected, and from this list Jason Sanford will choose the ten he considers of greatest merit. The public will vote on the story they like best, and prizes will be given to the top three winners. The system is highly subjective – I have seen outstanding stories that did not make the first cut – but relatively democratic.

 

The 2010 Awards

Initial plaudits go to Roxane Gay this year who had no less than six entries from six different online journals selected as notable stories. This is an emerging star in the literary world; all six of her stories are engaging and constitute a good foundation for a future book. “Gravity at the End of the World” is about a bunch of rednecks and their distorted relationships (“Cliff drives an old Chevy pickup that is slowly disintegrating.”); “Things I Know About Fairy Tales” concerns a woman kidnapped for ransom in Haiti, and “Bone Density” tells the story of a woman married to a college professor while she is having an affair with a reclusive poet. The author of these excellent works has a wonderful eye for detail and there is a magnificent diversity in her subject matter.

The most stunning story I read is “Inspirations” by Seanan McGuire, the haunting tale of a captive woman kept in chains by a religious sect which bleeds her regularly as part of their rituals: “She counts the weeks by the cuts on her arms and dreams the day the knife slips again and the fever returns to court her, love her, and carry her home to the mountains of the sun.” Another interesting piece of slipstream-fantasy is the cowboy-vampire story “Conquistator de la Noche” by Carrie Vaughn. It’s a classic life-and-death struggle between the good guys and the bad guys.

Other good ones are “On A Clear Day You Can See All The Way To Conspiracy,” by Desmond Warzel, all in dialogue, about an obnoxious disc jockey who is pulled into a War of the Worlds scenario; “Marge Pulls a Heist” by Don Shea, about a drunk woman in a mink coat who tries to rob a deli where the employee knows her; “After the Fall” by Rebecca Serle, about a man whose wife decides to live on the ceiling rather than the floor (??); and “The Face” by Sean Hayden, about a man whose (how to put this delicately?) stool in the toilet looks like Jesus and he decides to charge people admission to see it.

By the time this review appears the top ten stories will be available. Visit the Million Writers Award website and read them, then vote for your favorite. You’ll be glad you did.

Posted May 15, 2010