It's that time of year! Our birthday! This August, The Arcanist turns four years old and we have no plans to stop anytime soon. It also means that our annual fall story contest is finally here.

And the theme this time: Halloween itself!

In the past, we've released the winning stories over the month of October, and the previous themes have had a Halloween feel to them. This year, we're just going for it. Why not? After all, 2020 has felt like a horror movie since day one.

Remember, we make these contests intentionally open-ended. As long as your story is speculative and has some aspect of Halloween (costumes, masks, hauntings, whatever!) your story will be considered! Obviously, make sure the story is 1,000 words or fewer.

One thing will be different this year: we have a special guest judge! Christopher Stanley, last year's champion and author of The Lamppost Huggers and Other Wretched Tales, will be teaming up with us to make our final selections! We're super excited to have him on board.

Here's a full list of what we're after:

What We Want

In short, we want Halloween stories. These can be comical, emotional, violent, frightening, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, anything that you can come up with in that head of yours - as long as it has something to do with Halloween.

Again, in order for your story to be considered, it MUST incorporate some kind of speculative element and adhere to the aforementioned prompt. You can have ghosts and ghouls, laser guns and spaceships, but somehow bring Halloween into the mix.

Here are some more rules and guidelines:

  • All stories must be 1,000 words or fewer. All stories over the word limit will be automatically rejected.
  • Only original stories will be considered. No previously published stories or fan-fiction, please.
  • No porn, no hate speech, no excess gore. These are no-brainers but apparently need to be said anyway.
  • Multiple submissions are okay! There’s no cap to the number of submissions you can turn in for the contest. However, keep in mind this isn’t a lottery. More isn’t necessarily better. One great story is going to trump five okay stories. That being said, if this is in your wheelhouse, fire off those Halloween stories faster than we gobble fun-sized candy bars.
  • Stories must address the prompt in some way. A word of advice: Get creative. This prompt is meant as a theme to keep you on track, not a bible to be followed prescriptively. Write your Halloween story.
  • All entry fees are non-refundable.
  • Because of the volume of submissions we anticipate, there will be no rejection letters. When you submit, you’ll be given a receipt of the transaction. All winners will be contacted by October 1st. If you have a problem, feel free to reach out by email, but we won’t be giving status updates like we normally would.

How Much Does This Thing Cost to Enter?

We’ve decided to go with the simple fee structure listed below:

  • Early Entry (August 4 — August 14th - CLOSED): $5
  • Standard Entry (August 15 — September 15 - CLOSED): $7
  • Late Entry (September 16 — September 26 - CLOSED): $10

Winners will be announced on October 1. Winning stories will be published every Friday throughout October!

The entry window is about two months long. This is designed for you to spend enough time to make a nice, polished story but still keep a sense of urgency.

So, What Can You Get Out of This?

If The Arcanist was a house on your street, we'd be the ones handing out full-size candy bars. Since we live inside a basement tethered to the internet through ethernet cables coming out of our eyes, we are instead giving out the next best thing: CASH.

The winning stories will also be published throughout the month of October and runner-up stories will be collected alongside the winners and published in a new, mini-collection. Both winners and runner-ups get a free copy of the collection (in PDF form).

Here are the prizes:

  • First place prize is $200 USD
  • Second place prize is $100 USD
  • Third and Fourth place prizes: $75 USD

All payments processed through PayPal.

Wait, How Do I Enter?

To enter, click this link and fill out the form OR fill out the form at the bottom of this post. You will be able to upload your story via the form and checkout.

If you are submitting multiple entries, please send them as a separate order so nothing gets lost. You should receive a receipt via email after your submission has been made. Please check your spam folder to make sure that emails from us are not being filtered before reaching out for confirmation.

Have any questions? Drop us a line at editor(at) Thanks!