Established in 1969 and based in Johannesburg, Science Fiction & Fantasy South Africa (SFFSA) is a club for fans of both science fiction and fantasy. Membership benefits include:

Monthly meetings 
Annual mini-conventions An extensive library
Quarterly  Probe fanzine
NOVA Short story
Much much more!

International and country members are more than welcome 

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The Nova Short Story Competition is our annual competition for budding writers of science fiction and fantasy short stories. Usually contested in two categories, General and South African, the competition is open for entry from April until 30 September annually. Winning entries, finalists and seleceted other entries are published in Probe.

2015 Nova Short Story Competition

Now Closed

Winners to be announce at the AGM - 16 January 2016

Prizes to the value of  R5000.00 including cash and books.

Books include:

Alex Scarrow - Time Riders: The Infinity Cage
Clive Cussler - The Bootlegger
Conn Iggulden - Wars of the Roses 2: Trinity
Greg McLean - Wolf Creek: Desolation Game
Greg McLean - Wolf Creek: Origin
J D Oswald - The Golden Cage
Jean Johnson - Damnation: Theirs Not To Reason Why
Philip Briggs - DK Top 10: Cape Town & The Winelands
William Gibson - The Peripheral

For a historical list of  winners click here.
For a list of stories published in Probe click here

2014 Nova Short Story Competition Results

2014 Judges

Jennie Ridyard for the general section and Arthur Goldstuck for the South African section.

The South African section of the competition is sponsored and judged by Arthur Goldstuck of WorldWideWorx 

South African Section

Of the five entries in the SA section, only two made the list of finalists. 

  South African Section
Title Author
1st Prize - R 1,000 Chemical Creatures Gary Kuyper
2nd Prize - R 600 What Shem Remembered Reen Collett

General Section
Title Author
1st Prize - R750 Foxfather Maya Pillay
2nd Prize - R500 Electric Sheep Kerry Anderson
3rd Prize - R250 Short Cuts Stephen Nel
Special Mention String Magic Leon Louw

Jennie's comments follow below.

Congratulations to the winners, and may 2015 result in a plethora of entries, rather than a dearth.


Judge's Comments

Talk about having your prejudices turned on their head! I tend to shy away from excessive description in fiction, an inclination rather too many of the entries clearly didn't have, and yet, and yet....

The winning story, FOXFATHER, surprised me by being filled with description, yet this is handled so delicately, and is so integral to the prose, that there is none of the jarring (and yawning!) that excessive adjectives and adverbs can cause.

FOXFATHER is wonderful: beautifully written and compelling from beginning to end. I was intrigued from the very first line, and when it finished I wanted more. It immediately felt like a winner.

I wasn't disappointed on re-reading either. FOXFATHER's world-building is intricate yet feels entirely natural, and the new yet familiar landscape it creates is rich with detail, taking in superstition, ritual, festivities and religion in a fearful, old-fashioned place where dual moons are due to eclipse, "pressed so close together now that they form a misshapen hourglass."

This sort of thing can so easily be overworked, yet only once did I reach for my red pen and question a line, and then only because it wasn't quite as smooth as the others.

The main character -- a young girl -- is layered and complex, and those she encounters are delicately painted yet vivid. Creating such vitality and depth in less than 6000 words is an impressive achievement indeed. I hope this talented writer never puts their pen down!

Second place goes to ELECTRIC SHEEP, an entirely different story, being firmly science fiction, and set in the technical, jargon-rich world of gaming. It's fresh and smart -- occasionally too smart, for the writer clearly knows their stuff, and the computing references sometimes went over my head. Also, I'm not entirely sure the use of lower-case "code" names for the protagonists -- root, banks, grub -- works, but techies may differ.

However, into this world are introduced sympathetic characters that are skillfully, sparsely drawn yet completely real -- game developers with an obsession -- and there is much delightful wit, clever banter, and an excellent storyline too, with a sharp twist.

The writing is great: clean, crisp and clearly the work of someone with real skill. I liked it one hell of a lot. 

 Third place goes to the truest "short story" of all those shortlisted: SHORT CUTS. It isn't necessarily the best creative writing out of the other entrants that didn't make it -- occasionally it's dry, and the introduction of the "sci-fi" elements is at times clumsy and hackneyed -- but it is consistent, it sticks firmly to its purpose, it doesn't veer off plot, and it juggles elements of Dystopian versus Utopian realities very deftly. With nods to current affairs, echoes of classic science fiction, and a very firm salute to 1984, SHORT CUTS is snappy and smart, and has a twist that made me shout "hah!"

I'd also like to make special mention of STRING MAGIC. At just shy of 8000 words, this read like a sped-up novel that had been crammed into a short story, which put it out of the running for one of the prizes. There is just too much happening, too much being skimmed over as if the writer has cut chunks to make it fit the competition criteria. Basically, it needs a polish.

However, the more I read the more impressed I was by STRING MAGIC's wit and humour, and the great dialogue and rounded, flawed, funny characters.
It could well become a fantastical sci-fi novel with a real South African flavour. I do hope the writer expands it, and makes it into the hectic, energy-filled ride of a book (or books) that it could be.

And then there are the others. Generally, the shortlist showed varying degrees of writing talent, and there were a few near-misses for the top three: some are beautifully written but lack coherent plot, some start well then go off on tangents and end up in plotline cul-de-sacs.

Often I felt there was a great story lying beneath something that needed more work, and then conversely I'd find a story that was worked to death, and had become overwrought.

Further down the list descriptive passages tended to be weighty, adding nothing but bloat to the stories. Some showcased elegant prose, and I sat to attention, but then the plot became flaccid, or the characters drifted away and lost me.

Many entries felt very much like detailed outlines for novels.

Once or twice I was frustrated by a lack of continuity, while on several occasions I snarled at characters having "visions of" things, and "seeming to understand" things, and "somehow knowing" things.

Clichés crept in, as did sneaky grammar demons, particularly with "is" and "are". I'd recommend particular vigilance with self-consciously "great" writing, because sometimes a window merely closes, sometimes a glass just breaks -- no verbose description is required. Kill those wordy babies! Stuff them in a computer file along with those tired clichés -- the piercing eyes, that deafening silence -- and let them be forgotten.

And then keep writing, because writers write.

- Jennifer Ridyard


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