The Nova Short Story Competition is
competition for budding writers of science fiction and fantasy short
Usually contested in two categories, General and South African, the
competition is open for entry from April until 30 September annually.
entries, finalists and seleceted other entries are published in
For a historical list of winners click here.
For a list of stories published in Probe click here
2014 Nova Short Story Competition
Jennie Ridyard for the general section and Arthur Goldstuck for the South African section.
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.
1st Prize - R 1,000
2nd Prize - R 600
|1st Prize - R750
|2nd Prize - R500
|3rd Prize - R250
comments follow below.
to the winners, and may 2015 result in a plethora of entries, rather than a
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....
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
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.
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."
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
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!
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.
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.
writing is great: clean, crisp and clearly the work of someone with real skill.
I liked it one hell of a lot.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
entries felt very much like detailed outlines for novels.
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.
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.
then keep writing, because writers write.
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details, you are welcome to email the convenor of the Short Story Competition.