Emma Kerkman ’25.
Emma Kerkman ’25 has been selected as the winner of the Dell Award, formerly the Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing, for her story, “Lolo’s Last Run.”

Set in post-nuclear Alaska, the story follows a ghost doing his government job of finding survivors in the snow and taking them to safety. The piece is character-driven while exploring themes of purpose and self-worth. This relates to what Kerkman loves about science fiction, and why she writes it in general. She feels genres like realistic fiction can be boring, while “science fiction puts ordinary stories in incredible worlds” and allows for creative freedom.

The Dell Award goes to the best unpublished science fiction or fantasy short story (under 10,000 words) submitted by an undergraduate and is meant to help students who may not have other opportunities to be published. Because of this, finalists are determined by a blind read.  She was also awarded Honorable Mention for her other submission, “Kodak Gold.”

Although she was confident in her work, Kerkman acknowledged, “I submitted on a whim, as I was studying abroad when the deadline happened.” Nevertheless, she is thrilled with the result. “While it’s not a prestige thing, many of the best and most notable scientific fiction writers of our time have also won the award … [it] feels good to have validation.” Kerkman said having both of her stories chosen added to her feeling that she’s on the right path.

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Kerkman thanked Hamilton faculty for helping her hone her craft and for their encouragement.  She wrote the winning story in Professor of Literature and Creative Writing Tina Hall's fiction workshop.  Other supporters have been her advisor Margaret Thickstun and Jane Springer, also professors in the Literature and Creative Writing Department, all of whom encouraged her writing. These resources, along with Hamilton’s exceptional program, are why Kerkman chose Hamilton, she said.

This is the first time a Hamilton student has been named a winner or finalist in the Dell competition. Other finalists represent Vanderbilt University, Oberlin College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Goucher College. Kerkman will receive $500 and be flown to Orlando, Fla., in March to attend the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, where she’ll have the opportunity to share her piece at a private reading. Additionally, her story will be published in an upcoming edition of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine.

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