The Stuff You Should Know Horror Fiction Contest: Get Yer Official Rules Here!

Josh Clark

Chuck and I think that it's time that you, yes you, stopped dilly-dallying about becoming the type of person who submits horror fiction in national contests. Sure, it's summer. Sure, the terror of Halloween is a long way off. Sure, you have sooo much to do. But there's such a thing as good planning, and it's time now for your prospicient side to collude with your dark, creative side and sit down and compose a horror short fiction story. That's what Chuck and I think, at least.

We largely think this because we just happen to be holding a contest you can enter that horror fiction into. Every Halloween, for the last two Halloweens, really, we've eschewed our standard dissection of somesuch topic or other in favor of releasing an episode where we read a short story by a horror master in honor of the darkest of holidays. The first year we read H.P. Lovecraft's The Tomb; last year we read Edgar Allan Poe's Berenice. This year, maybe we read yours. Based on history, at least, you should probably use all three of your names when submitting. It's not necessary, of course, and the very nice people in the Legal department who have been helping us with this whole thing would want me to point out that in no way would have any bearing on your chances of winning. There are some rules, plenty of them, and I've pasted them below.

First, before you read every last word of the rules, here are the broad strokes. The entry window to submit runs from June 18, 2012 to the moment before the stroke of midnight (ghoulish, isn't it?), 11:59 p.m. on July 20. Meanwhile, Chuck, I and maybe a few other distinguished writers or editors here at HowStuffWorks will be digging into the submissions in search of the best 16. It is at that point we enter sinister Phase 2 of our contest, wherein the selected 16 will be published on our site for all to read and subjected to the fiendish machinations of democracy through a bracket-style playoff consisting of four rounds until a single winner, chosen by the public, emerges. That's the one we'll read on our Halloween episode.

A little more. We're looking for truly scary stories, ones that raise the hair on the back of the neck. In addition to scariness, we're going to judge the entries on the interestingness of plot, depth of characters, pacing and the overall quality of writing. Do keep in mind, however, that it will need to be able to be read on SYSK. You know our standards so stick to them. Entries have to be no less than 3,000 and no more than 4,000 words; the work has to be previously unpublished and your own work; the contest is only open to residents of the U.S. and entries have to be in English. Sorry everyone outside the U.S.

You can send your story to, and keep in mind that they will only qualify if the email contains the magic words: "By participating in the contest, I agree to the Contest rules" -- which means you're agreeing to the rules pasted below.

Okay, so that's about it. Read the rules, get cracking and let's see if you can scare the socks off of us. Good luck, everyone. Good, ghastly luck.

Here are the official rules:



1. ELIGIBILITY: Open to legal residents of the continental US who are 18 years of age and older throughout the contest period. Employees, officers and directors of Discovery Communications, LLC. ("Sponsor"), its parent companies, subsidiaries, affiliates or related companies, TV production partners, advertising agencies, promotional suppliers (collectively, "Contest Entities") and the immediate family members (spouses and parents, children and siblings and their spouses, regardless of where they live) or members of the same households (whether related or not) of such individuals are not eligible. All applicable federal, state, and local rules apply. Void in Puerto Rico and where prohibited or restricted by law.

2. CONTEST ENTRY DATES: The HowStuffWorks/"Stuff You Should Know" Halloween Horror Fiction Contest ("Contest") begins at 12:01 AM Eastern Time ("ET") on June 18, 2012 and ends at 11:59 PM ET on July 20, 2012 (the "Contest Period").

3. TO ENTER THE CONTEST: To enter the Contest, starting June 18, 2012, send your horror-themed fictional short story to All entries must be in English and between 3,000 and 4,000 words in length.

Each email/entry must include the following statement: By participating in this contest, I agree to abide by the Contest rules. Any entries received that do not include the preceding statement will be automatically disqualified.

Entrants grant Sponsor an non-exclusive, royalty-free, irrevocable license to use, edit, reproduce, copy, publish, display, distribute, perform, translate, adapt, modify, and otherwise exploit the Entry and to incorporate them in other works in any and all markets and media, whether now known or hereafter developed, throughout the universe in perpetuity. Entrants warrant that they have the sole and exclusive right to grant such rights to Sponsor, and that the Sponsor's reproduction, publishing, displaying, and/or other use of the Entry will not infringe on any rights of third parties, including, but not limited to, copyright, trademark, privacy, or publicity rights, anywhere in the world. Entrants agree that Sponsor shall have no obligation to copy, publish, display, or otherwise exploit the Entry.

The entry must be an original work created by the entrant. Entries must not include materials (language, phrases, quotations, etc.) belonging to or copyrighted by third parties and such Entries will be disqualified. Entries must not have been previously published, performed, or otherwise exhibited. Entries must not contain the name of any real life person unless such person has consented in writing to such use. Entries must not contain or depict any defamatory, obscene, sexually-explicit, abusive, harassing, hateful, discriminatory, threatening, or vulgar material and must be otherwise fit for publication/posting/uploading, as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion. Entries must not contain any material that infringes upon any personal, proprietary, or any other right of any third party. Entries must not contain the last name, phone number(s), address, or email address of any person, including that of the Entrant. Entries must not contain any references to alcoholic beverages, tobacco, drug paraphernalia, or any description or representation thereof. Entries must not contain any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, or any other form of solicitation. Limit one (1) Entry per entrant during the Entry Period. The use of pseudonyms is prohibited. Multiple Contest Entries received from any person beyond this limit will be disqualified. Contest Entries that are incomplete, garbled, corrupted, or unintelligible for any reason, including, but not limited to, computer or network malfunction or congestion (including, without limitation, at Sponsor's and/or any other entity's servers), are void and will not be accepted. Entries that are not reasonably pertinent to the judging criteria (described below), as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion, or are otherwise in violation of these Official Rules will be disqualified.

From June 18, 2012 to September 10, 2012, a panel of judges selected by Sponsor ("Judging Panel") will review each entry and select sixteen (16) finalists from the total number of entries. The entry will be scored based on the following criteria:

Interestingness of plot - 20%

Depth of characters - 20%

Pacing - 20%

Scariness - 20%

Overall quality of writing -20%

In the event of a tie, the winning entry will be determined by the highest score from amongst the tied entries in "Overall quality of writing" In the event of a further tie, Sponsor in its sole discretion shall choose a Finalist based on an evaluation of which Entrant is superior overall taking all categories into consideration. The decisions of the Judging Panel are final and binding.

On or about September 10, 2012 and continuing until October 5, 2012, the sixteen (16) Finalists will have their entries posted on in order for members of the general public ("Voters") who are thirteen (13) years or older as of September 10, 2012 and current legal residents of one of the fifty (50) states of the US to vote in four rounds, based on the Finalist Judging Criteria described above and otherwise in accordance with these Official Rules, for, in the case of each Voter, the Entry that the Voter has selected ("Public Judging Period").

The round of 16 will be held between September 10, 2012 and September 14, 2012 at 1:00pm EST and the eight (8) entries with the highest number of votes during this round will advance to the quarterfinal round. The quarterfinal round will be held between September 14, 2012 at 1:01pm EST and September 21, 2012 at 1:00pm EST and the four (4) entries with the highest number of votes during this round will advance to the semifinal round. The semifinal round will be held between September 21, 2012 at 1:01pm EST and September 28, 2012 at 1:00pm EST and the two (2) entries with the highest number of votes during this round will advance to the final round. The final round will be held between September 28, 2012 at 1:01pm EST and October 5, 2012 at 1:00pm EST and the entry with the highest number of votes during this round will be declared the Grand Prize Winner.

VOTERS ARE STRICTLY PROHIBITED FROM VOTING BASED ON THE FOLLOWING: RACE, GENDER, COLOR, RELIGION, SEX, NATIONAL ORIGIN, AGE, MARITAL STATUS, DISABILITY, MEDICAL CONDITION, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, CITIZENSHIP OR ANY OTHER BASIS PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE FEDERAL, STATE OR LOCAL LAW, ORDINANCE OR REGULATION. If it is brought to the attention of Sponsor that a Voter has voted using any criteria other than the Finalist Judging Criteria, or otherwise in violation of these Official Rules, his/her vote will be disqualified. Each potential Finalist may vote for his/her own Entry. All votes must be received by October 5, 2012 to be counted. Any attempted form of voting other than as described herein shall be null and void.

In the event of a tie, the Entrant whose Entry receives the higher score for "Overall quality of writing" will be declared the Grand Prize Winner. In the event of a further tie, Sponsor in its sole discretion shall choose a Grand Prize Winner based on an evaluation of which Entry is superior overall taking all categories into consideration.

4. CONTEST PRIZES: During the "Stuff You Should Know" podcast's 2012 Halloween episode, Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant will read the Grand Prize Winner's Entry (Total ARV: $0 USD). Odds of winning will be determined by the number of eligible entries received and the quality of each entry.

No prize substitutions, in whole or in part, are permitted except by Sponsor due to prize unavailability, safety or security considerations, or any other reason as solely determined by Sponsor in which case a prize of comparable value will be awarded.

5. GENERAL: All taxes on prizes and all expenses related to acceptance and use of prizes and not specified are the sole responsibility of winners. Winners will be notified by email, phone, postal mail and/or express mail at Sponsor's sole discretion. If a winner is 18 or older, as is required for entry, but not of the age of majority in state or province of residence, the prize will either be awarded in the name of parent or legal guardian, or parent or legal guardian must ratify and sign any and all documents required of winner. Inability to contact a winner or the return of any prize notification as undeliverable will result in the prize being forfeited and awarded to an alternate winner. By participating, entrants agree [a] to these rules and decisions of Sponsor, which shall be final in all respects relating to this Contest; [b] to release, discharge and hold harmless Contest Entities, their subsidiaries and affiliates or related companies from any and all injuries, liability, losses and damages of any kind resulting from their participation in the Contest or their acceptance, use or misuse of prize including, without limitation, personal injury, death and property damage; and if a winner, [c] to the use of his or her name and/or photograph for advertising, publicity and promotional purposes in all media, including but not limited to on air and within, without compensation (unless prohibited by law) and agree to execute specific consent to such use upon request. Sponsor is not responsible for and shall not be liable for: [a] electronic, hardware or software program, network, Internet, or computer malfunctions, failures, or difficulties of any kind, including without limitation, server malfunction or for any human, typographical, printing or other error relating to or in connection with the Contest, including, without limitation, errors which may occur in the administration of the Contest, processing of entries; the announcement of the prize or in any Contest-related materials, [b] failed, incomplete, garbled, or delayed computer transmissions; [c] late, lost, misdirected or incomplete entries or postage-due mail; [d] damage to entrants' or any person's computer or the contents thereof; [e] any condition caused by events that may cause the Contest to be disrupted or corrupted; or [f] any damage to prizes during shipping or delivery. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify, or suspend the Contest if fraud, technical failures or any other factor beyond Sponsor's reasonable control impairs the integrity of the Contest (or portion thereof), as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion, and limit entries to those submitted prior to the action taken, or to proceed in such a manner as may be deemed fair and equitable by Sponsor in its sole discretion. Any attempt by an entrant to deliberately damage any Web site or undermine the legitimate operation of the Contest may be a violation of criminal and civil laws and should such an attempt be made, Sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law. In the event of a dispute as to any registration or play, the authorized account holder of the email address used to register will be deemed to be the registrant or player. The "authorized account holder" is the natural person assigned an email address by an Internet access provider, online service provider, Internet service provider or other organization responsible for assigning email addresses for the domain associated with the submitted address. Potential winners may be required to show proof of being the authorized account holder and/or proof of employment. Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual it finds to be tampering with the entry process or the operation of the Contest or the Web Site; to be acting in violation of the Official Rules; to be acting in violation of the terms of the Web Site, or to be acting in a non-sportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. Entries may not be made by any other individual or any entity, and/or originating at any other Internet Web site or e-mail address, including but not limited to commercial contest subscription notification and/or entering service sites. Any winner who enters by any of the methods described above will be disqualified and an alternate winner selected. Use of any device to automate entry is prohibited. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any entry at any time in the event it is determined that the entrant has not complied with these Official Rules. This Contest is governed by the laws of the State of Maryland, with jurisdiction and venue in Montgomery County, Maryland, and all claims must be resolved in the courts of Montgomery County, Maryland.

6. USE OF ENTRY INFORMATION: Information collected in connection with this Contest will be used for the purposes of administering the Contest, and will be treated in accordance with Discovery's on-line privacy policy, available for viewing at

7. WINNER LIST: For a list of winners, mail a self-addressed, stamped envelope to be received by November 30, 2012, to: The HowStuffWorks/"Stuff You Should Know" Halloween Horror Fiction Contest, One Discovery Place, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

SPONSOR: Discovery Communications, LLC, One Discovery Place, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

©2012 Discovery Communications, LLC. All rights reserved.