Newman University student wins prestigious writing award

Feb 23, 2012

Newman University student Rebekah Baldridge of Wichita was recently named the recipient of the prestigious Dell Award for undergraduate excellence in science fiction and fantasy writing. The award is presented annually to a full-time undergraduate college student by Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine for best science fiction or fantasy short-story writing.

Rebekah Baldridge

Baldridge, a junior majoring in English and philosophy, submitted her work entitled Superposition in December 2011. Baldridge heard about the contest through Bryan Dietrich, Ph.D., professor of English at Newman. She initially wrote the story for Dietrich’s creative writing course last semester.

“The story set itself apart instantly in its use of, and love for, language,” Dietrich said. “Far too little imaginative fiction is beautiful and poetic. This story was clearly both, so much so that I walked out of my office stunned and speechless for a while after reading it. I literally sought out people in the hallway to show it to; when that wasn’t enough, I started calling folks and reading it to them.”

Superposition went through several revisions with the help of Dietrich and fellow classmates prior to its submission at the end of the semester. The story involves an insurance company experimenting with time travel. Its product includes the ability to go back in time and undo damaging accidents. The story centers on the primary scientist for the project, Jake Shroeder, and his ultimate deterioration as his work damages his relationship with both his wife and his coworker.

According to Baldridge, “It is, at heart, a love story,” adding the story is loosely based on a game that Newman’s Sloppy Joe Improv Troupe, of which Baldridge is a member, did during a practice session last year. “Dr. Dietrich encouraged me to enter and I loved my story, but I never believed for a second I had a chance of winning. I was caught completely off guard!”

As the Dell Award winner, Baldridge will be flown to Orlando, Fla., where she’ll receive free registration to attend the 33rd International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) March 21-25. Her lodging is also covered and during the Saturday night banquet she will be recognized and presented a $500 check. In addition, her story will be published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine either in print or online.

“I knew in my gut it would win. Not that it might win.” Dietrich said, adding, “What I adore most about Rebekah is her absolutely earnest love for literature. It is unadulterated and infectious. She bounces with joy over each new writer she discovers, she wrestles with every word the way Jacob wrestled the angel of the Lord, and she finds deep meaning everywhere she turns.

“The Word has left its mark on her, and she will leave her mark on the world. One cannot write a new story about time travel. Rebekah did,” he added.

Dietrich will also be in Florida for the ICFA. He is scheduled to serve as a panelist, a moderator, and will be reading from one of his published works. Dietrich has published six books, which are collections of poems which delve into the realms of science fiction and monsters.

“Dr. Dietrich is wonderful,” Baldridge added. “He encourages us to talk about what we want to discuss about a text, and helps us use our own ideas to interpret things we don’t understand, instead of just giving us a black and white textbook answer. He’ll help you think and give you clues, but the important thing is that he makes you think.”

About Asimov’s Dell Award
The award was started by Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine editor Sheila Williams and science-fiction writer and journalism professor Rick Wilber in 1992 to honor the legacy of Isaac Asimov and to encourage the works of younger writers. The award is also sponsored by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA), and the School of Mass Communications at the University of South Florida.

About The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA)
The purpose of IAFA is to promote and recognize achievement in the study of the fantastic, mainly through the organization and management of an annual academic conference, the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA). IAFA publishes the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, a peer-reviewed journal for scholarship within the field of the fantastic, and a news blog which shares information relevant to the IAFA membership.