The Stephen Dixon Award for Short Fiction honors the extraordinary work and life of long-time McSweeney’s author Stephen Dixon. The prize recognizes emerging fiction writers experimenting with form and expanding the boundaries of storytelling. The inaugural winner of this year’s award is Kristina Ten for her story “Adjective.” We’re also pleased to announce Maz Do as the first runner-up for her story “When the Moths Came.”

“The Stephen Dixon Award for Short Fiction,” says Antonia Frydman and Sophia Frydman, daughters of Stephen Dixon, “was created to honor our father’s work by giving recognition to emerging writers of formally experimental short fiction, whose work feels aligned with his in being both rigorously boundary-pushing, and deeply humane. Although our father published many novels, his practice was centered around short stories, and each one was a chance for him to reinvent the form. We are thrilled with the selection of Kristina Ten’s short story ‘Adjective’ as the winner of the inaugural award, and Maz Do’s story ‘When the Moths Came’ as the runner-up. Ten’s use of a playful formal structure to a heartbreaking end resonates strongly with our father’s work, as does Do’s dark fantasy of domesticity and loss.”

“I’m so honored to receive an award bearing the name of Stephen Dixon, a true giant of electric, convention-busting fiction,” says winner Kristina Ten. “Stories like ‘Wife in Reverse’ have absolutely expanded my understanding of what fiction can do. For me, the appeal of experimental fiction—like speculative fiction, another mode I reach for often—lies in its ability to defamiliarize the familiar, positioning readers to evaluate that once-familiar thing through new eyes. With ‘ADJECTIVE,’ I’m interested in how the mad-libs form can engage with the experience of workplace microaggression, and itself feel uncomfortable, a bit like an interrogation. Much of my writing has to do with diaspora, hyphenated identity, and notions of homeland, along with the questions of self-definition and self-determination that naturally come up through those. Mad libs—especially mad libs with only the illusion of choice—felt like an exciting, new-to-me way of exploring these topics.”

The winners were selected by judges Jessica Alexander, Joseph Grantham, Vi Khi Nao, and C Pam Zhang. Kristina Ten will receive $1,750, and Maz Do will receive $750. Both stories will be published in McSweeney’s Quarterly 72 and online at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.