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The What Not To Take To Mars Fiction Prize 

For our first-ever speculative fiction writing challenge, we are asking writers like you to pick a problem of Earth society NOT to take to Mars below and then craft a short story—between 1000 to 3000 words—around it.


What would it mean for a martian society to explicitly try to avoid certain kinds of earth problems? Could they? What might the unintended consequences be? 

We are looking to ground these stories. To that end, at least for this first competition, we are not looking for stories involving magic or unexplainable phenomena. We are not very interested in alien encounters. Lastly, we want to try and avoid unexplainable or miraculous technological advancements.


Through this prompt, we invite you to imagine alternative futures for off-world living. Specific prompts we encourage for this first submission are below, though we are not restricting entries to purely these prompts:


  • Digital Media - example: What technology and institutions will mediate our social relationships and daily life in a closed environment? Could the worst features of modern social media be avoided, or are they inevitable? What will social media exchange between earth and mars look like? 

  • Built Environment - example: How could a built environment be designed that encourages community and movement, instead of an isolated and sedentary lifestyle? What challenges will the first generations experience in trying to create a society in a limited, enclosed environment?  

  • Health - example: What problems in our current public health and medical system could be avoided on Mars? What would the future of therapy look like? 

And who knows? Exploring what's possible elsewhere may provide the fuel and vision we need here and now.

This prize is listed on: 


First Prize: £100

Second Prize: £50

Third Prize: £25

Honourable Mentions (No monetary reward) 


August 4 - September 23 is the submission period. 


Use the below google form to submit your story








The prize is open to writers of any nationality writing in English aged 18 or over at the time of the closing submission date.


Entries must be wholly original work. Entries with two authors are acceptable.


Entries must not be previously published, whether independent on a website or blog, or formally through an existing journal. Likewise, entries must not have won or placed in any other competition. 

If your entry has been long-listed or shortlisted in other competitions, it is eligible as long as it has not been published. 

Simultaneous submissions are allowed but will become ineligible should they be selected to be published or win a prize elsewhere. 


Please read these rules carefully before submitting. Violation of these rules may result in disqualification. 

All entries are judged anonymously. Do not include your name or any other identifying information, including address or phone number, twitter/instagram handle, in the submitted story document. Do not include any drawings or images in the submitted story document either.

Entries will be disqualified if they exceed the word limit. 

Entries are open to any sub-genre within speculative fiction. We do not accept stories intentionally written for children. 


This is a short story submission. The minimum length is 1000 words, with a maximum of 3000. Title is not included in the word count. 


Only one submission per author. If you submit a version with a mistake, you can resubmit the corrected version. To re-submit, we ask that you fill out the submission form again using the same title while including "resubmitted" in the title.

We are only accepting online submission through the google form. We are not accepting submissions through our contact page. 


Entries will be open from August 4 to September 23. The deadline is 11:59 midnight (UK/GMT) on the 23th of September. Entries are only accepted through the google form on this page. Submissions through the website contact form will not be accepted. 


This fiction prize will be broken down by first place, second place, third place, and honourable mention. The first place prize is 100, the second place prize is 50, the third place prize is 25. Honourable mentions will not have a cash reward.

Cash will be sent via direct transfer to a bank account or online account upon acceptance and finally review of eligibility. 


Add title and word count the top left of the first page. 

Use times new roman font, 12pt, black.

Double line spacing.

Add page numbers in the centre of the page footer. 

Save the file is a Microsoft word document - .doc or docx. We also accept .pdf files. 

The file name should be the title of the story. 

Do not put "what not to take to mars" or "fiction prize" in the file title. Only put the title of the story. 


The winners and honourable mentions will be asked to submit answers to a further interview on their inspiration and thinking. This will be option. 


There are no fees for submission for the first round of this project. 


The judges decisions are final and cannot be contested. Judges are unable to comment on individual entries. All submissions will be judging anonymously. What Not To Take To Mars reserves the right to change our judges without notice. 


Worldwide copyright of each entry remains with the author. But authors give What Not To Take To Mars unrestricted rights to publish the winning stories on their site, promotional material, and future anthologies. 


Winners and honourable mentions will be notified by email in October. An online prize event will be held in November.


Q: Can I submit more than one story? 

A: No. For our first prize, we are only accepting one submission. 

Q: Can I withdraw and resubmit my story if I see a mistake? 

A: Yes, you can withdraw and resubmit your story. 

Q: Can I submit by email? 

A: No, you can only submit through our google form. 

Q: I accidentally included my details on the piece. Will it be disqualified?

A: Yes, you need to resubmit. 

Q: Can I submit a co-authored story?

A: We would prefer not. Though if the story wins, the prize money will be split between the authors.

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