Team Tar Vol On and SPSFC2

Team Tar Vol On is back for the second annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC2). The competition takes up to 300 self-published science fiction novels and whittles them down to one ultimate winner. We’ll start with all 300 books being split between ten different judging teams, who will select their top three to be semifinalists. The semifinals will see each book passed to two more teams, whose scores will help narrow thirty semifinalists down to seven finalists, to be read by every judge in the competition before a single winner is crowned.

For those who followed the competition last year, we’ve changed a few things this year. The biggest one is that we have allowed authors to resubmit books that were eliminated in the first round of the previous competition. If we receive over 300 submissions, new entries will take precedence, but there are plenty of resubmissions in the competition this year. A more subtle change, but no less important, is the addition of a non-judgmental alternate to DNF (did not finish), called NMS (not my style). Sometimes, a reader can recognize quality in a book but simultaneously recognize that it’s a poor fit for them as a reader. In this case, they might like to bow out of the scoring without weighing the book down with a DNF. This year, that will be an option.

I’ll be back shortly with more details about our first-round slush pile and our process for narrowing them down, but first, let’s meet the second iteration of Team Tar Vol On, in their own words.


I am your host, the titular Tar Vol, back for a second year. I have been primarily a fantasy reader–though I watch plenty of sci-fi–but I’ve been expanding my reading lately and have found a lot of really fantastic science fiction, including several that don’t get nearly the attention they deserve. I particularly enjoy the cultural clashes that you may find in multiverse or first contact stories, but I’m pretty flexible as to subgenre if I can find some well-drawn characters and/or interesting concepts. I do dislike technobabble, and I also don’t tend to enjoy wall-to-wall action, so marketing a book as a thriller is a red flag in my book, although not an insurmountable one.

I discovered self-published fiction through the SPFBO, reading the winners three straight years from 2019 to 2021 (which range from quite good to outstanding) and finding some of my best reads of the last few years among books that fell in the semifinals. I’m excited to discover even more hidden gems in the SPSFC and to work with a mix of new and old blogger friends. I blog here, and I’m also very active on both Twitter and Reddit under the name tarvolon, and on Goodreads under my own name. When I’m not reading, I’m probably hanging out with my wife and three little ones, watching hockey, or watching/playing one of my three favorite sports that are called “football.”


Josh (Garik16 on Twitter and the standalone blog) is a former hockey and baseball analytics writer turned sci fi, fantasy and occasional romance reviewer. His interests cover much of SciFi/Fantasy genres, although they favor character based works to ones relying on long descriptive texts, and tries to read a wide variety of works from outside of the Western or white world. This is his first time judging SPSFC.


Hey All, Matt here—an SPSFC virgin and rookie reviewer walk-on for Team Tar Vol On. The intrepidness of this contest and community feels like a gateway to so many exciting characters (fictional and not). Hopefully, I can put down some words along the way that help the Blaster Trophy find it’s way into your grip. That’s right, I’m looking at you.

My Science Fiction journey started early, with a launchpad built from treehouse readings of John Christopher’s Tripods Trilogy and fueled by not-so-clandestine trips downstairs to watch Maryland Public Television’s late night Red Dwarf airings. Lately, I trend across sub-genres toward idiosyncratic people in extraordinary situations—at around a quartz-ish 7 Mohs of Sci-Fi. Though, to borrow a title, I’m a sucker for An Adventure In Space And Time.

When not on a snowboard, paddle board or soccer pitch, you can reach me @matthewwick on Twitter—don’t be a stranger. Good luck to everyone in SPSFC2!

Sarah D.

Sarah D. grew up playing in the imaginary fantasy worlds of her own creation, and now continues to enjoy storytelling that makes her feel truly immersed and emotionally invested. You’ll most often find her reading inclusive speculative fiction that challenges the status quo, character-driven graphic novels, compelling middle grade/YA, and smart romance that avoids basic tropes. When she’s not reading, she’s entertaining preschoolers as an outdoor educator, making friends with corvids, and dancing out her inhibitions. You can find her bookish commentary on Twitter or Goodreads as Sarah D.

Note (December 2022): A fifth judge, Jeff Rutherford, had to withdraw following the slush stage, so we will proceed with four in the quarterfinals and following. 

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