I’ll keep this brief. I’m savoring the tension, but no need to be antagonistic about it. This is an interesting behind-the-scenes glimpse into running a writing contest, for anyone considering that.
[NOTE: This will not be brief, as it turns out.]
Sign-ups for the July Size Riot flash fiction contest opened up on June 1, like they do the first of any sign-up month. But as we all know, the July and October contests are up for a vote (January is always Cruel; April is always Gentle), so I had to assemble a form for readers and writers to suggest topics. Writers want something fun or challenging to write about, and readers want to read new work by these amazing writers on the topics of their interest. Around June 6 I finally posted the form, and over the next ten days all sorts of suggestions came in. Participants could recommend their preferred topic and then a second one of their choice.
On June 17 I pasted all the suggestions into a spreadsheet, alphabetized them, merged the duplicate entries, formatted them all, and in they went to the ballot. Now the public at large had ten days to vote on their favorite topics; as a favor, to take the edge off the decision-making process, I gave everyone the option to select up to three topics of their choice. Sometimes that helps other topics emerge.
Sometimes more choices don’t necessarily help: in the case of nomination, more than a few people simply restated their primary choice in slightly different words. Since similar topics get merged into one, they effectively threw their second nomination away. Similarly, with three votes to distribute, some voters saw the opportunity to boost one thing they liked and then maybe a jokey or ironic topic. If enough people feel the same way, some topics can rise to the lead that might never have had a chance if people only had one vote. That’s something to think about.
Of course, I don’t want to lock the process down just to prevent spoofing. Google Forms gives me the option of securing only one vote per account (and yes, we have had people in the past attempt to stock the ballot with multiple votes, as some people see the honor system only as an opportunity), but to do that, the program would require people to log in. Most people have a Gmail account—it’s easy enough to start up a dozen burner accounts—but not everyone does, including the writers. I didn’t want to lock anyone out of the process, even to prevent multiple votes from a single user. Also, I’m trying to keep this as anonymous as possible. People are already trusting me with their contact info and, in some cases, their real names. I want anyone who participates in these contests to feel secure. Unfortunately, that comes with the risk of enabling people with nothing better to do to fuck up the contest for legitimate participants.
I’m not saying that’s what happened now. It has absolutely happened in the past.
Another reason to keep this open is to admit as many ideas and as many readers as possible. After de-dupes, a total of 38 topics were listed on the ballot. Over 90 people voted on them, but they were voting for the topics they want, and if their topics don’t win, they’re not likely to read the stories (90 votes does not mean 90 stories or 90 reviews). And that’s fine, that’s what we see in Size Twitter, on the various Size message boards, and even at SizeCon: we’re all under the Size umbrella, but we’re heavily siloed, and people are only into what they’re into.
Of the 90 people who voted this round, 20 of those were in the final 24 hours, when I posted a reminder of the ballot about to shut down. The winning topic had been holding steady at around ten votes for two weeks, then abruptly doubled in the last day. I cannot see who voted, I can only see the timestamps of when the votes were submitted, so it’s impossible to say what any of this means.
Terms and Conditions was an interesting idea, and it did pretty well throughout the ten days of voting. It never took the lead, but it was always in second or third. That would’ve been a fun topic to work with.
As I made sure everyone knew, Butts was eligible to be nominated for this contest. In an effort to prevent certain topics from dominating during each nomination cycle, I put a three-year moratorium on any selected topic. The election of ButtyJuly17 meant that Butts wouldn’t be an option until July 2020. Similarly, readers/writers will be able to suggest Unaware for the October contest. Regardless, no one voted for Butts until several days into voting, when it moved into and held third place.
…I see now that Unaware was on the ballot. I apologize, these things are difficult to keep track of. That would have been ineligible, but it’s too late to do anything about that now. Sorry, to the one person who voted for Unaware.
I’m endlessly surprised that Feet has such a poor showing! In all other forums and social media platforms, foot fetishists come out in record numbers to announce their preference. But out of over 90 votes, this topic only got two! Left and right, I guess.
Romance was a popular topic throughout the contest, as well, vying for second place against Terms and Conditions. It was a lovely idea, a Size romance. Personally I was surprised it did so well, but with three votes to spread around, people had a little love to share with it.
Well, that’s enough of that. Almost every topic got at least one vote, most got between three and nine votes. The leaders were Butts and Terms and Conditions with 13 votes each, taking fifth place. Tied for third place at 15 votes were Romance and Size in Other Historical Periods, a late shower but strong grower. That also sounds like an intriguing topic! I hope it doesn’t go forgotten, or maybe people will take it up on their own, outside of the contest.
And I can only guess it’s because of the prominent news events that dominated all of May, plus weeks before and after it, that Smashing Cops was nominated. Vigilantism ended with three votes, Justice earned nine, but from June 17 to June 26, Smashing Cops never lost the first place position, sometimes down to a difference of only one vote. And like I said, in the final 24 hours it shot from ten to 20 votes.
There you are, true-believers: bienvenue à SmashingCopsJuly20! Best of luck to all our participants.
I had some misgivings about this as a topic, when I saw where the votes were headed and thought about what it would look like in practice. When the topic was announced today (Saturday, June 27), some people voiced concern about the sensitivity of the subject run through the filter of size erotica. Some writers who’ve participated in many contests felt compelled to drop out.
SmashingCopsJuly20 will not be the topic of the next Size Riot flash fiction contest. What will it be? I’ll let you know soon.