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 and finalists are published in Probe

2014 Competition Now in the Judging Phase

Winners will be announced at the AGM in January 2015

2014 Judges

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

Some links...

Nova 2013 Winners Announced!

The Nova Short Story Competition for 2013 closed on 30 September. Winners have been announced below.

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

The general selection judge for 2013 was Lauren Beukes



General Section

  Title Author
1st R 750 Unearthly Creatures Belinda Lewis
2nd R 375 The Seduction of Lady Porcinyrr Ken Cockcroft
2nd R 375 The Jacket Piers Carey

South African Section

Prize Title Author
1st R 1 000 Doppelganger David Platt
2nd R 600 Exploring Otherworld Earth Alison Smith
3rd R 400 Graveyard Shift Sean Harvey


Highly Recommended (In Title order)

General Section
Title Author
At the Crossing of the Moons Michelle Malan
The Last War Julia Louw
Mozie 95004030 Sal Gabier
See You Tomorrow Sal Gabier
The Silent Age Morne Steenkamp
Silver Morne Steenkamp
A Woman of Light and Steel Carmelo Rafala
South African Section
Title Author
Feather Child Caitlin Montgomery
Foo Fighter Hux George Rose
The Jackal Poacher William Mabin
The Last Dreamseer Andre Clarke
Tell Tail Signs Andre Clarke
There but for the Grace Jeannie McKeown
Unconditional Love Ken Cockcroft

Previous Winners

If you are writing a South African science fiction story then we suggest you read the listed guide for useful tips. Even if you are not writing a South African themed story there are still many useful tips contained within the document and we suggest you read it as well.

For more information, please email us.

Membership application form.(121KB)


SFFSA Nova 2012 Short Story Competition -  Winners






R 800   

Alliyah's Journey into Legend

Alison Smith


R 800   

An Unexpected Visitor

George Rose


R 400   

Cassandra's Cry

Richard Willson


General Section





R 750   

Bird Song

Fiona McCutcheon


R 500   


Cristy Zinn


R 250   

Faerie Tales

Dawn Rae

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Final Judges' Comments:

South African Section - Arthur Goldstuck:

I've decided on a joint first prize, for two entries that scored very close to each other, namely:

Aliyah's Journey into legend
An Unexpected Visitor

Both were far ahead of the third placed story.

In 3rd place is:
Cassandra's Cry

The 3rd placed story, was, in turn, far ahead of the rest of the entries.

The defining characteristics of this year's entries were that there was almost no plot to speak of, and that local prospective authors write from a very narrow worldview, culturally speaking. Only the three winners had anything close to a plot. Local writers also seem to have a penchant for introspection, and most of the stories take place in someone's mind as they think back to something that has happened, ponder their circumstances or relate a history. Good storytelling puts us in the moment rather than in someone's navel.

Aliyah's Journey into Legend presented a fascinating potential future. An Unexpected Visitor uses a topical issue, fracking, as an effective background to a story about predestination. Both stories are held back by stereotyping (as is Cassandra's Cry), however, and either could have taken a sole top spot with more defined characterisation.

The bright spot in the selection of finalists is the creativity applied to potential futures of South Africa, both positive and negative.

General Section - Gerald Gaylard:

All of the stories submitted have something to recommend them, which is very pleasing to note. As ever, my chief criterion of evaluation was how well the story fulfilled its own promise, achieved its own project. However, having said this, the final selection was quite difficult, for all of the top three stories were equally fine, requiring some hair-splitting to differentiate them. The stories which did well all had a strong narrative free of cliche, jargon and rhetoric; they featured identifiable characters who carried some emotional charge and significance; they were poetically written with attention to technical matters of grammar, lyricism, rhythm, tone; there was something original in the story that had been developed and elaborated. In the end, it came down to a matter of which story had fewer faults. Indeed, in some ways, the grading exercise amounted to this question of relative flawlessness.


Third Place: "Faerie Tales"

The basic premise of this good story is practically a cliche of fantasy: Cassandra, queen of the faeries, in search of her lost father (Freud anyone?), makes a daring escape from the confines of her page in Mother Goose's Faerie Tales into the outside world. She doesn't find her father, but she does resolve to continue searching at the bottom of the garden for him. As this suggests, the story works around finely wrought changes in perspective that are pleasingly disorientating and challenging. This in itself would not be enough if the story were not also really well written, with a lovely turn of phrase and arch humour. How else does one explain a line featuring a heroine searching for her father that cuts this sharply: "Cassandra led the small contingent that flew over the bald patch in the forest"? So this is a story with a high amusement value and with a striking relevance to a "post-feminist" world in which women and men are seeking for positive role models that are no mere fantasy.

Second Place: "Concave"

"Concave" is a highly topical eco-disaster, post-apocalypse story. Gangs of surviving humans struggle to find shelter in the perpetual asteriod storms that pelt earth. Rather like Mad Max or A Canticle for Leibowitz, this creates a high degree of social tension, not to mention desperation, as neo-medieval hierarchies flourish because people will do anything to survive. There is a unrelentlingly harsh and grim tone to this story that is consistently maintained and appropriate, reminding me of the cyberpunk atmospheres of William Gibson, for example. Nevertheless, a small chink of hope does let some light through right at the very end. Though this may be what Tolkien called a "eucatastrophe" or "a fool's hope", nevertheless it does provide a satisfying degree of positivity and resolution to an otherwise bleak scenario. Indeed, it may well be that our only saving grace is our ability to make choices that do not seem to make sense and may even threaten our own survival.

First Place: "Bird Song"

This is the most poetically expressed of all the stories submitted. A lovely lyricism, primarily provided by strong metaphors, pervades the piece, and this really makes it stand out. Some of this is apparent in the gentle humour of the story. The protagonist, a certain Minnie Crump, is described as a "creature of passionate ambitions, none of which had been fulfilled. She had waited for more than forty years for her knight on a white charger to sweep her off her feet. Perhaps because of her dumpy figure, her long nose and mottled complexion, and the croaky quality of her voice, no knight had ever shown such inclination." This humour expands into absurdity; an alien ectoplasm infects her lucerne at the bottom of the garden (a recurring trope in these stories?) and turns her chickens into amazing singers. Predictably, Minnie achieves the ambitions she has long craved by becoming opera star Maridonna Carli (with the help of a certain chicken). Things go horribly wrong when the chicken dies and she must somehow still fulfill her concert contracts. Taking a walk to the bottom of the garden, she decides to try some lucerne salad...upsetting the pecking order, and the opera world, in the process.

It remains for me to thank you for the privilege of judging this competition. It is encouraging to see that humour, as well as deadly earnest seriousness, is alive and flourishing in the sf world. All power to you, and many warm congratulations to this year's winners.

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SFFSA Nova 2011 Short Story Competition -  Winners

The General section was judged by Alan Swerdlow, who placed the top 3 stories in the following order
Position Title Writer
1 Inactive  Cristy Zinn
2 Sibling Rivalry Linda  McCullough
3 QCP: Quantum Control Protocol Willem Kemp

The South African section was judged by Arthur Goldstuck, who placed the top 3 stories in the following order
Position Title Writer
1 Chatoyancy  Patrick Coyne
2 The Day the Galaxy Came Willem Kemp
3 A New Jerusalem  Dennis Lane


These stories, in alphabetic order, were the Highly Recommended for the General Category:
Title Writer
As Though to Breathe Were Life Eron Fasser
Carine  Dennis Lane
Checkmate  Daphne Olivier
Goldstruck  Gary Kuyper
Hybrids  Gary Kuyper
Nature's Journeymen Patricia Jacobs

These stories, in alphabetic order, were the Highly Recommended for the South African Category:
Title Writer
Gate 31 Glen V. Thompson
Twister Daphne Olivier

Judges Comments

General Section Judge: Alan Swerdlow

I approached the judging as I would any new piece of writing submitted for critical evaluation - an assessment of the quality of the writing, originality of narrative, construction and how often I thought about the work subsequent to my initial reading.  In other words, did it stay with me, alter my perceptions, make me think anew and appreciate the crafting of the submission?  That was the initial reading.  When I re-read each short story, I began to apply the filters of our expectations of science-fiction and the demands of the classic short story.
I can't say that I was completely bowled over by the ten finalists, but I was impressed by the huge rise in standard since the last time I was asked to judge this competition.  Sadly, science-fiction lends itself to repetition, mimicry and the dispiriting murk of clich?.  The tropes of the genre are almost obligatory and all too familiar.  Then there is the easy temptation of (quite obviously) blinding the reader with science, even when it is science of one's own invention!  Unfortunately, too, a more pervasive disappointment is that for many the appreciation of the genre seems to have frozen some time around the arrival of Buck Rogers or Dan Dare.  For almost everyone who made a submission, though, the alternate, future or possible state of being is inevitably a dystopia.  Why is that?  Does it simply reflect our present times and circumstances?  Is science-fiction inherently pessimistic about the human race, or is the interaction between humankind and scientific development doomed to inevitable human fallibility?
That marriage between imaginative possibility and understanding that is the hallmark of good science-fiction writing doesn't always come along in quantity, but thankfully it does come along.  What disturbs me is how very seriously we take the genre: why is it that both within this competition and the great big realm of science-fiction writing out there and on the bookshelves, there is almost a complete absence of humour and wit?  Since wit is something born of a rigorous intellectual approach rather than the emotional, it seems to me that it is an almost essential component in this field. Yes, there was a fair sprinkling of irony in these submissions, but that's not quite the same thing.  Perhaps the previously mentioned intimations of doom and failure don't allow room for wit to grow.
However, the moments in which we sit up in surprise and delight while reading and say "Now that's interesting" are when it all comes alive.  I'm pleased to say that I had enough moments like that whilst reading these entries to have made the whole exercise worthwhile.  On occasion, a very promising notion was let down by woolly writing and artificial dialogue.  Conversely, some clean, dynamic writing and an obvious ear for the way in which people communicate looked vainly for an idea to support.  Fortunately, since science-fiction is an elastic and welcoming structure, we did have some attempts at fantasy and the mythical, and that's to be encouraged.
Congratulations to all, and may SFSA grow from strength to strength.  May all our futures be possible!

South African Section Judge: Arthur Goldstuck

1.  Chatoyancy - A well-rounded, well-told story drawing on an old theme: that the San are in touch with higher powers. An unusually humorous and clever epilogue, despite a fairly predictable climax, clinched first place. Stylistic flaws include the lead character lecturing her partner on the purpose of their trip AFTER their arrival; and a cliched view of the scientific establishment.

2.  The Day the Galaxy Came - A very rigid scientific culture attributed to the aliens is inconsistent with their ability to cross the stars; however, this is more than balanced by the consistently maddening response of the sangoma to the visitors, and a fun twist on the power of muti.

3.  A New Jerusalem - Beautifully researched insight into South African history, and a great twist in the end, but pedestrian as a story. The characters don't come to life, and it barely has a plot.

4.  Twister - A conventional time travel theme with a conventional approach to explaining a historical disaster in the context of time travel gone wrong. The reason it goes wrong saves the story, but the stereotyped characters kept it from the top three.

5.  Gate 31 - Conventional and predictable horror story, with poor sequential structure, but with a superb climax.

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For more details, you are welcome to email the convenor of the Short Story Competition.

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