Kepler Award

Criteria & Results


Judges are asked to decide whether either or both stories deserve some level of award – winner, second place, or honorable mention, and to evaluate stories using the following criteria: Does the story –

1. creatively extrapolate and speculate based on established fact and solid theory, without exposition. (Stories can incorporate fantasy elements, as Kepler’s Somnium did, as long as they don’t contradict established facts)
2. have science as an integral part of the story, in an exciting, inspirational, and thought-provoking way, and
3. Meet all expectations for good story-telling — intriguing characters, believable and compelling action, satisfying conclusions.

Judges are asked to include any comments, reactions, and reasons for their decision, and rate the stories on points 1, 2, and 3 from 1 to 100. All individual feedback remains private unless the judge specifically allows any portion of it to be shared.


2020: We were pleased to see that this year submissions were closer to what we’re looking. There were two finalist stories sent to the judges.“I Dream of Stars”, by Steve Pantazis, and “Jupiter Rises”, by John M. Campbell.  Overall, the judges decision was that neither one sufficiently met the criteria to be awarded a prize but that an honorable mention for one might be in order.

Therefore, we are naming “I Dream of Stars”, by Steve Pantazis, as Honorable Mention for the Kepler Award 2020

STEVE PANTAZIS is an award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction. He won the prestigious Writers of the Future award in 2015 and has gone on to publish a number of short stories in leading SF&F anthologies and magazines, including Nature, Galaxy’s Edge and IGMS. When not writing (a rare occasion!), Steve creates extraordinary cuisine, exercises with vigor, and shares marvelous adventures with the love of his life. Originally from the Big Apple, he now calls Southern California home. You can learn more about him at

Here is Steve’s comment on his inspiration for his story:

“Logan, my protagonist in “I Dream of Stars,” was inspired by the girl who lived across the street from me when I was eleven. She had spina bifida and used crutches to help her walk. What inspired me about her was her indomitable spirit. She was a “can do” person who never let her disability slow her down. I wish I would have stayed in contact with her because I know she went on to do amazing things. Her fierce spirit will always be with me, and it’s infused in the pages of my story.


Finalist John M Campbell:
John M. Campbell has made a career in the aerospace industry. Now, he speculates on the worlds currently unknown to us that science and engineering may unlock. He is compelled by the promise technology offers to address many of the issues facing human survival. The prospect of extraterrestrial life on Mars and the outer planets fascinates him. He finds intriguing the likelihood that machine intelligence will surpass mankind’s ability to control it in this century. Inspiration for his stories often comes from the strange realities of quantum physics and cosmology. He hopes his stories will inspire careers in science and engineering as the authors he read inspired his career.
His story “False Identity” appeared in Compelling Science Fiction Issue 12 and can be read here:   For more of his stories visit his web page at   John lives with his wife in Denver, Colorado.

We also pass on to the finalists that portion of the comments and reasoning the judges offer for passing on.  Since the award itself will not be given this year, we will also make donations to the The Planetary Society and Astronomers Without Borders.

For 2020 our judges were:
Professor Virginia L. Trimble —  Professor of physics and astronomy, University of California, Irvine, specializing in the structure and evolution of stars, galaxies, the universe; the communities of scientists who study them; history of science; and scientometrics.  She has published more than 600 works in Astrophysics and dozens of works in the history of other sciences. She received the NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing “for informing and enlightening the astronomical community by her numerous, comprehensive, scholarly, and literate reviews, which have elucidated many complex astrophysical questions,” the Klopsteg Memorial Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the George Van Biesbroeck Prize  for “many years of dedicated service to the national and international communities of astronomers, including her expert assessments of progress in all fields of astrophysics and her significant roles in supporting organizations, boards, committees and foundations in the cause of astronomy.”  She is known for an annual review of astronomy and astrophysics research that was published in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and often gives summary reviews at astrophysical conferences.  In 2018, she was elected a Patron of the American Astronomical Society, for her many years of intellectual, organizational, and financial contributions to the society.

Dr. Andrew Burt  –   founder & moderator of the first writers workshop on the web,; founder of the world’s first Internet service provider (; donation funded, & still going strong); CEO ReAnimus Press  specializing in bringing out of print books back to life; former Vice President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, professional science fiction writer, retired computer science professor at the University of Denver (research in networking, security, privacy, and free-speech/social issues), and CEO of TechSoft

Douglas Dluzen, PhD,  —  a geneticist who has studied the genetic contributors to aging, cancer, hypertension, and other age-related diseases. Currently, he writes and communicates about health disparities for a variety of publications and audiences for the NIH. He also studies the biology of health disparities and the microbiome in Baltimore City as a Visiting Professor of Biology at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. He is a huge science advocate and believer in science education and communication and volunteers as an editor for the Journal of Science Fiction. His fact articles can be found in Clarkesworld and Analog and his fiction in Analog. You can find more about him on Twitter @ripplesintime24.

Joe Stech  —  editor-in-chief of Compelling Science Fiction magazine, a cloud software consultant, and an avid rock climber.


2019:  The first year of the award was something of a trial run.  While we got a number of submissions, we felt that none of them were truly addressing the requirements of the award.  So for 2019 we returned everyone’s reading fee and made sure that for the future the award page emphasized even more what we were looking for.

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