100YSS Contest: Canopus Award

Image: J. Rho (SSC/Caltech), JPL-Caltech, NASA

Jason Batt, creative and editorial manager of 100 Year Starship, explains the space-exploration organization’s Canopus Award for science fiction and the link between narratives and technology breakthroughs:

Often, the stories of science fiction began with the simple question, “What if?” Science fiction challenges us to look beyond the world in front of us, to imagine what could be, and envision distant worlds and removed realities. These tales have inspired both scientists and engineers towards discovery, invention, and exploration, and in so doing, transformed our very world.

Dr. Mae Jemison, former astronaut, engineer, and physician said, “Imagination, varied perspectives and a well told story are critical to advancing civilizations. In particular, beginning with the simple question ‘What if?’ pushes us to look beyond the world in front of us and to envision what could be, ought to be and other realities. Both science fiction and exploratory non-fiction have inspired discovery, invention, policy, technology and exploration that has transformed our world.”

To celebrate these perspectives, 100 Year Starship (100YSS) has recently established the Canopus Award, an annual writing prize recognizing the finest fiction and non-fiction works that contribute to the excitement, knowledge, and understanding of interstellar space exploration and travel.

100YSS, led by Dr. Mae Jemison, is an independent, long-term global initiative working to ensure that the capabilities for human interstellar travel, beyond our solar system to another star, exist within the next 100. It is dedicated to identifying and pushing the radical leaps in knowledge and technology to achieve interstellar flight, while pioneering and transforming breakthrough applications that enhance the quality of life for all on Earth. We actively seek to include the broadest swath of people and human experience in understanding, shaping and implementing this global aspiration. The 100YSS Canopus Award is given to celebrate fiction which explores these same challenges and goals.

100YSS is launching the awards at a particularly fortuitous time. The recent announcements of Kepler-452b exoplanet, major financial support of searches for extraterrestrial intelligence and the space probe New Horizons close encounter with Pluto and the amazing images it is generating highlight how we all look up and dream of what’s out there. The Canopus Award celebrates that passion that is common to the public, researchers and science fiction fans alike.

The 100YSS Canopus Award is awarded annually to the writers of the most distinguished publication with a primary component of interstellar exploration or travel in each of the key categories. The Canopus Awards are given to authors for outstanding inspirational and education contributions in order to promote the dream and goal of interstellar exploration.

Canopus awards will be made in two categories. The first category is Previously Published Works of Fiction with an award made for Long Form (40,000 words or more) and one for Short Form (between 1,000 and 40,000 words). The second category is for Original Works based on this year’s 100YSS Public Symposium a theme “Finding Earth 2.0”. An award will be made for Short Form Fiction (1,000-5,000 words) and one for Short Form Non-fiction (1,000-5,000 words).

The award is named for the second brightest star in the night sky, Canopus, which connects humanity’s past, present and future through fact and fantasy. Over the millennia Canopus not only heralded planting seasons in the Rift Valley, but was a major navigation star for everyone from the Bedouin of the Sinai and the Maori of New Zealand to deep space probes like Voyager. Just as Canopus has helped explorers find their way for centuries, great writing — telling a story well ––is a guidepost for current and future interstellar achievement.

100YSS is currently accepting submissions for original works and nominations for previously published works July 25 through August 31, 2015. The public is invited to nominate previously published works.

Winners will be announced and honored during 100YSS’s annual public symposium, October 29-November 1 in Santa Clara, California.

For more information about award criteria, nomination and submission, visit http://100yss.org/initiatives/canopusaward.

To nominate or submit works to the Canopus Award, visit http://www.bit.ly/canopusaward.