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December Prompt: Treasures, Brightly Wrapped


Your challenge this month is to write a story where the main character discovers something surprising about themselves. Something that explains everything about them.

But that's not all. We also want you to wrap it in a beautiful package of prose. Of course, we will expect the grammar, spelling, and punctuation to be immaculate. Beyond that, we want a story that is so bright, so impactful, and so memorable that your readers will not be able to just rip off the paper and forget it.

This is a continuation of our series of monthly theme prompts here at Sci-Fi Shorts. Our goal is to invoke the Mid-Month Muse to help inspire us to create amazing science fiction tales around a common idea. It is always fascinating for writers and readers to experience the many different imaginative interpretations and styles that arise from these prompts.


  • Entries should be submitted in the usual way using the Write for Us submissions link.

  • Mention the title of the prompt (Treasures, Brightly Wrapped) in the Notes field of the submissions form.

  • Submissions must be received by January 15 in order to qualify.

  • Entries must comply with all the usual SFS Guidelines.

  • Your work can be horror, dystopian, alien, or whatever, as long as it’s Sci-Fi and addresses the prompt's theme.

  • Submit only one story for this prompt.

  • You may continue to submit stories to SFS that are outside the contest, and we encourage you to do so.

Note that we have changed the rules for this prompt by asking you to submit only one entry. If you have more than one story that fits the theme, please submit the others as non-theme entries. Also, if the editors feel your theme entry is good enough to publish but does not quite satisfy the theme requirements, we reserve the right to accept it as a non-theme submission.

After the prompt has ended and all the entrants have been processed (usually before the first day of the following month), we will list and link to the participating stories in a blog post. The editorial staff will then choose one story for special mention as the Editors' Pick of the Month.

Image Prompts

Alongside the theme prompt, we will also have some pre-made art related to the theme in the image-prompts discord channel. For those of you who are visually inspired, image prompts can be an excellent resource. While it is an aid we recommend using, you can still submit a story without an image and we will choose one for you.


We've chosen two vintage examples for this prompt, a novella and a short story, that perfectly exemplify the theme. (Well, except they're way over our word budget.) They reveal surprises after subtly and expertly foreshadowing the twists. Writers and critics have recognized both as treasures of the sci-fi genre.

To start, the names of the two authors might be surprising to you. They are not the usual suspects: Asimov, Bradbury, Silverberg, etc. (Although both stories are included in Robert Silverberg's 1975 anthology coincidentally titled Strange Gifts.) Both writers had relatively short careers. Lafferty was forty-six years old when he published his first sci-fi story and his writing career all but ended after he suffered a stroke in 1980. Neville had a similarly short but successful writing career which he voluntarily gave up after becoming disillusioned with the conventions of science fiction and the prospects of building a literary career in that genre.

  • Bettyann — Kris Neville, New Tales of Space and Time, 1951

  • All the People — R. A. Lafferty, Galaxy Magazine, April 1961

The main characters in these stories both seem like normal people facing the normal challenges of their normal lives until they discover something remarkable about themselves.

In All the People, the MC suddenly discovers that he knows everyone. I mean, like, everyone in the world. And not just their names, but where they live, where they work, and who their families are. He thinks this might be slightly odd, but he's not certain of that.

In Bettyann the titular character loses both parents and a limb in an automobile accident as a baby. Growing up in a small town with loving adoptive parents, she experiences all the typical joys, embarrassments, and adolescent torments you would expect a young girl to face. Her whole life is very close to being ordinary. So close...

We hope we have provided inspiration for some colorful and surprising new flash science fiction treasures from our talented group of writers, and we look forward to unwrapping them.

Good luck, and Happy Holidays!

 — The Editors

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