Fast Fiction Contests

What we are looking for with Fast Fiction

October 2021 Contest Theme Prompt

Chaotic. Unsettling. Grotesque. Anxious.

The galaxy is fuelled by fear. Plague-riddled worlds, dehumanizing tortures, and unspeakable threats are common menaces to citizens and soldiers across the stars. Whether it is a horror lurking in another trench, or a supernatural force, something terrible is surely waiting around the corner…

Terrible Things encourages writers to unpack the subgenres of terror and tension in Warhammer 40,000. These subgenres include: psychological thrillers, cosmic horror, suspense, splatter/body horror, survival horror, Aesop fables, and haunting gothic fiction. 

What makes a tale terrifying? Consider checking out these 8 tips for writing horror in a short story. You can also check out Warhammer Horror at Black Library and be prepared to break conventions.

  1. We are looking for entertaining, weird, and grimdark short stories that take place in the fictional universe of Warhammer 40,000. Science-fantasy, horror, military, crime, dark comedy, and romance stories are all accepted.
  2. Stories must have a clear connection to the Fast Fiction theme as told through the environment, characters, or conflict. Subtext is great, but if we can’t see the connection it won’t be chosen.
  3. Be efficient with your writing as the maximum word count in Fast Fiction is 1,000 words. Economy of language is part of the challenge. 
  4. We prefer original characters with unique personalities. We want to see distinct characters that grow and change through the story. 
  5. Don’t just slap it together. Make sure to review your submission for grammar and spelling. 
  6. Be creative! We appreciate the road less travelled, so take risks and grab our attention with a unique hook.
  7. From beginning to end: While it may be tempting, your entry should not be a prologue to a larger tale and must feel like it has a strong beginning, middle, and end. This is a short story, not world-building.
  8. Everybody gets one: Participants will be limited to one submission each.

Deadline for submissions is October 31, 2021 11:59pm PST

Who is judging?
In addition to our editorial team from Cold Open Stories, each Fast Fiction features judges from the Warhammer community. We are thrilled to be joined this month by the following community members.

Guest Judges Reveal Coming Soon!

How to submit

  1. Format your manuscript/entry submission according to this Standard Template Construct (STC): The Cold Open Stories Manuscript Template for Submissions, and ensure that it follows British English spelling conventions. The University of Oxford Style Guide is a great reference for this.
  2. Save as a .docx and attach it to an email.
  3. In the body of the email, provide a brief paragraph that includes your name, the title of the short story, word count, your social media / website (if you have one). Also include a maximum 100-word short bio about yourself.
  4. Edit the email’s subject line so it reads: FAST FICTION TERRIBLE THINGS 2021 SUBMISSION followed by Title of Your Story
  5. Email your formatted email and STC-styled story to 

The fine print

COLD OPEN STORIES is a place for authors to share their talents, get seen, and celebrate fandom. We are committed to helping new and emerging voices get recognized, and no money exchanges hands through our site. We believe that diversity in fiction in an excellent way to find new voices and stories. We want this to be reflected in our content and welcome submissions from every race, nationality, gender, and sexual orientation.

Want to learn more about how your Short Fiction submission will be presented, promoted, and potentially adapted into an audio drama? Expand one of the categories below for more details.

Reply Process

  1. Upon submission, writers will receive an email confirming that their entry has been received. 
  2. If the piece does not meet submission criteria, the writer will receive an email explaining why the piece has been rejected. If the writer does not receive a letter of rejection at this point, then the piece has met all submission criteria and will be passed on to the editing team for review. (This review process may take some time, potentially several weeks depending on the size of the amount of submissions received during any given period.)
  3. Once the piece has been reviewed, the writer will either receive a letter of rejection if the piece needs more work, or an offer to continue with the revision process in preparation for publication.
  4. Upon acceptance, the writer will work closely with the editing team in order to further revise the piece and come up with an end product that all parties are satisfied with.
  5. Once the piece is ready, both parties will sign a contract allowing Cold Open Stories permission to publish the piece. More about this process can be found below.

Our average initial response time is one to three days, however the tides of the Warp are ever-changing and some astropathic emails may be missed! If you haven’t heard back from us after a week, feel free to contact us as

1. The Author grants Cold Open Stories permission to reproduce and publicly distribute the short story in digital form on the Cold Open Stories website (
2. Authors maintain the ability to publish their work with other partners or websites, blogs, subreddits, but a “First published on" is greatly appreciated.
3. The Author agrees that the short story was written by them as an unofficial fan work and was made for non-commercial entertainment.
4. The Author agrees that any edits to the short story’s content will be offered for review and consideration, and that creative control over these edits remain with the Author. Control over these edits are waived for formatting requirements necessary for posting on the Cold Open Stories website (font size, colour, page breaks).
5. The Author will maintain ownership of the short story. Publishing, submission, and selling rights remain with the Author if the story goes to print or it is shown there is a demand for it.
6. The Author will receive written credit on the Cold Open Stories website with a “Written By” acknowledgement preceding the short story. The Author will receive links to their social(s) and website (if available) and will provide Cold Open Stories with a brief biography to include on the site.

1. The Author assigns to Cold Open Stories the permission to promote the short story across social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for the purposes of directing traffic, generating readership, and reader entertainment.
2. The Author grants Cold Open Stories the permission to include extracts or passages of the short story in promotional materials.

1. The Author gives Cold Open Stories the option to adapt the story into an audio drama or dramatized narration (digital format) which would include dialogue by actors, composition of original music, and sound design. Creative control to make edits or changes to the short story to fit this adaptation is understood. Authors have the option to opt-out if they are not comfortable with this. 
2. The Author grant Cold Open Stories permission to publish, reproduce, and publicly distribute the produced audio drama or dramatized narration across streaming services (Apple Podcast, Soundcloud, Podbean, Spotify, YouTube) in serialized and completed formats.
3. The Author will receive verbal and written credit in the Cold Open Stories adaptation with a “Story By” acknowledgement.
4. The Author agrees that Cold Open Stories receives an exclusive first right of refusal for other proposed fan audio adaptations.

13. The Author agrees that the work performed in writing the short story was done on a volunteer, non-commercial basis and acknowledges that there is no employment relationship, remuneration, or salary offered by Cold Open Stories for the actions of publishing, promoting, or adapting the short story online.
14. Individuals or organizations who are interested in financially supporting Cold Open Stories or the Author will be directed to support the Author directly on their website or social accounts, or to donate to a charitable organization, identified by Cold Open Stories, which is committed to improving accessibility for multi-barriered populations.