The Dell Magazines Award Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing is an award given annually to the best short-story written in the science fiction or fantasy genres by a full-time undergraduate college student.
The award was started by Asimov's Science Fiction magazine editor Sheila Williams and science fiction writer and creative writing professor Rick Wilber in 1992, when they met at the World Fantasy Conference in Pine Mountain, Georgia. As Sheila Williams said in a column in Asimov's a few years ago, "At the convention, we hatched the idea of an award that would honor the legacy of Isaac Asimov and encourage the works of younger writers. Isaac, who had begun publishing science fiction stories when he was eighteen, had died that spring. When he was a young man, there were numerous magazines vying for short fiction. During the ten years that we worked together, he often mentioned that he had founded Asimov's Science Fiction magazine so that talented writers who were just starting out would find the same kind of welcoming home for their stories that he had once found. Rick and I both felt that starting an award aimed at the works of younger writers would be a way to further Isaac's objective. The creation of this award, which came to be known by the extremely long name of The Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing was announced ten years ago at the 1993 Conference on the Fantastic in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The award is co-sponsored by two organizations that strongly believe in promoting the works of early career writers, the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts and our own magazine. It is also supported by the Graduate Program in Creative Writing: Low-Residency MA/MFA in Genre Fiction at Western Colorado University."
Since then, the award has changed its name to the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. Sheila and Rick are the co-judges these days, but the spirit of the award and its significance remain exactly the same.