When I was younger I tried writing science fiction stories, including one where astronauts find the true Platonic Solids on the back side of an asteroid and thus all of philosophy (great set-up, I think, but it had a really lame-o ending). Maybe I should try again: There’s a $5,000 award waiting for me at Dartmouth!

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HANOVER, N.H. – October 25, 2017 – The Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College announced today the establishment of the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards, a global award program to honor creative works around speculative fiction.

While speculative fiction can take various forms related to science fiction and fantasy, the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards focuses on near-future creative writing featuring themes relevant to computational work or computing.

“The arts have always had strong creative connections to the sciences, including computational science,” said Daniel Rockmore, director of the Neukom Institute. “These awards recognize the role of artists as gadflies for the good, provocateurs and satirists when the sciences overreach, and as far-seeing prophets of scientific potential, for good or bad.”

Driverless cars and robot aides may make routine headlines today, but, before these ideas became reality, they were featured in speculative fiction, where they would often serve as the inspiration for social commentary and critique. George Orwell, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, and Margaret Atwood are all masters of speculative fiction who have written stories that are fantastic, but not far-fetched, and, in many cases, have proven to be uncomfortably prescient.

“Great speculative fiction achieves an emotional uncanny valley in its reader,” said Rockmore. “It feels like it could happen tomorrow, and we might not like the way it looks. It shows you that, without care, things could go badly.”

The inaugural awards will be announced in spring of 2018 in three categories honoring playwriting, and literary fiction for established and for first-time authors. Topics related to the societal effects of artificial intelligence, big data and other digital technologies are examples of themes that are relevant for consideration. Entries will be judged by panels of writers and scientists to be named in the early part of next year.

“Many of us have read, and continue to read, the greats of the genre, but there also seems to be a huge uptick in people writing speculative fiction today.” said Rockmore. “This award program is meant to recognize artists that inspire us to think deeply and carefully about the future that computational science and ‘the digital’ are creating; the best of this kind of work is both thoughtful and thought-provoking.”

Each award comes with a $5,000 honorarium. The winning novelists will receive their awards during a Dartmouth-hosted panel to discuss the genre and their work. The award-winning play will be performed in summer 2018 as a reading in Dartmouth’s Department of Theater VoxFest, followed by an additional reading the New Works Now festival at Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vermont.

The Literary Arts Awards is part of the Neukom Institute’s initiative to explore the ways in which computational ideas impact society.

“Books, plays and the arts generally connect in both obvious and subtle ways to the development of computational tools and ideas,” said Rockmore. “Conversely, computational sciences have played an important and transformative role in the arts, not only through their impact on modes of production of artwork, but also as a formative influence on its themes and motivations.”

All works published from June 1, 2015 are eligible for consideration. The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2017.

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