Springtime means three things to us at The Arcanist: reading on the porch, trying out new (possibly boozy) iced tea concoctions, and another flash fiction contest! This time, we’re celebrating one of the most widely recognized genres in popular culture, the western!This. But more speculative!

As with all of our previous contests, this prompt is open to interpretation. Your story can be a Space Western (any Firefly or Cowboy Bebop fans out there?), a Fantasy Western (anyone else read the Dark Tower books?), a Horror Western (The Hunger?). No matter what you decide, remember that your Westerns must have a speculative aspect.

No straight-up, high noon duels or train robberies. Unless that is it’s a duel between robots or a train full of goblins and their gold. Those would be right up our alley.

What We Want

In short, we want westerns. These can be comical, touching, violent, frightening, and anywhere in between. Just be sure it falls into the themes and aesthetics of a Western. An outlaw/outlaws on the run from the law, a town overrun by a gang of no-gooders, outsiders trying to lay claim to land what’s not theirs, etc. You know what westerns are!

Again, in order for your story to be considered, it MUST incorporate some kind of SPECULATIVE element AND adhere to the prompt. You can have elves, laser guns, giant cyborg-tarantula hybrid bandits, just something more than a run-of-the-mill story that happens to take place in the west.

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 westerns faster than a wild mustang.
  • 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 western story.
  • 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 April 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 (January 27th — February 7th): $5
  • Standard Entry (February 8th— March 20th): $7
  • Late Entry (March 21st— March 29th): $10

Winners will be announced on April 1st.

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.

We are also offering a discount this time around. If you are a member of our Patreon page or sign up now, you will get one free Standard Entry submission! That means you save $7 and help our cause, too. We want to keep this as simple as possible so if you are a Patron, simply go through the submission process and we will refund your entry cost at the end of the standard entry submission window.

Become a Patron and save here.

  • All entry fees are non-refundable.

So, What’re Y’all Offerin’ at This Hootenanny ?

Well shucks, it’s time to get down to brass tacks.

Besides praise from your friends and family, the top four stories will receive CASH prizes and will be published in The Arcanist throughout the month of April.

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.

AND we will be releasing a special western anthology to celebrate the winners and the runner-ups. The winners and runner-ups all get a free copy of the digital edition.

Wait, How Do I Enter?

To enter, click this link and fill out the form (CLOSED!). You will be able to upload your story via the form and checkout. You can also click this button:

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)thearcanist.io. Thanks!