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
2016 Nova Short Story Winners
1st Place - R2000 A Wink and a Smile - Gary Kuyper2nd Place - R1000The Uncanny Valley - Philip Machanick3rd Place R 500The Reluctant Immortal - Deon Schneider
The competition is sponsored by Arthur
Goldstuck of WorldWideWorx
Other Finalists (In Title order)
The Broken Gyroid -Jaco van Hemert
Frozen Assets - Gary Kuyper
The New Neighbors - Gary Kuyper
The Silent Pool - Sharon Angus
2016 Nova Short Story - Judges Report
year, all three winners are members of SFFSA. This is not unexpected,
because the number of entries of members increased from 18% in 2015 to
Congratulations to the winners. Individual emails will follow in due course with regard to receiving your prizes, and more.
to Prof Levey for his judging and comments. These will be published in
the next addition of Probe. For those who cannot wait a month or three,
here are his comments:
REPORT ON 2016 SFFSA SHORT STORY COMPETITION
should like to thank SFFSA very much for inviting me to judge the 2016
Short Story Competition. What a pleasure. Each story was intrinsically
interesting, while some were gripping and memorable.
it is also the case that there was a certain sameness in the top seven.
Even taking into account the single story which was more fantasy than
science fiction (and which was the winner) they mostly featured
post-apocalyptic settings, portals, circular spatio-temporal cycles and
droids of various kinds exhibiting fairly predictable relationships
with human beings. Also plots that were fairly easy to guess at,
particularly in terms of endings.
Missing, in my view, was a
sense of the larger picture, since all stories focussed on small
scenarios, often narrated by a single persona.
I did not see all
the stories submitted, since those that reached me had already
undergone a winnowing process. However it might be worthwhile in
revising the rules for the 2017 Competition to encourage writers to
range more widely, to avoid the post-apocalyptic and, since this is a
South African competition, to foster a more South African ambience, as
succinctly laid out by Arthur Goldstuck in his guidelines.
regard ‘A Wink and a Smile’ as the clear winner. It effectively
recreates a nineteenth-century feel, is sparely and evocatively
written, draws the reader in with enticing hints and subtly employs the
evocative image of the mirror with its undertones of the Gothic, the
unconscious and the double. One is taken into the narrator’s mind more
deeply than in the other stories, which tend to dwell on the
superficial and do not delve into character. Fortunately, though the
plot is foreseeable and the ending is not unexpected the story is not
boringly predictable, but instead satisfies the reader by leaving him
or her in a suitably chilling atmosphere.
Second was ‘The
Uncanny Valley’. Not only does this explore the robotics phenomenon
identified by Prof Mori in the 1970s, but it also does so with just
enough explanation to draw the reader along, rather than hold up the
plot with tedious detail. Andy the central character is indeed
sufficiently human to hesitate in carrying out a command to destroy the
leader of a Jihadist cell (an unfortunate stereotype) because he wishes
to raise questions such as the afterlife, but otherwise a little too
perfect in operation and outward appearance. Hence the reader suddenly
finds herself in the uncanny valley. The distinct uneasiness which
results is hardly allayed by the Bosnian professor Mensch (his name
something of a giveaway) who is tasked with making the navy droids as
lifelike as possible. He speaks of a collective intelligence and uses
the precise words that his creation does: ‘very disconcerting’. The
navy droid operators are shaken by this, unexpectedly dumped in the
uncanny valley they have hitherto been speaking of at a theoretical
‘The Reluctant Immortal’ comes third. Its basic, ironic
notion is that one can purportedly sign a contract with an insurance
company for several resurrections, not a single death. This neat
inversion of the mundane is continued where Daniel Ryan discovers to
his dismay that he is not in fact human but has been constructed,
‘grown’, with a superior brain so that he can affect probability waves
in a wormhole. By this means he is transported to another planet for
the purpose of its colonisation. He might survive, but might not.
Characters and conflicts between them are well drawn, and various
internal dialogues Daniel conducts with himself and ‘the Nerd’ are
interestingly differentiated by means of italics and Roman fonts, but
the story might have been shortened. Furthermore, its presentation is
not perfect, with font size changes and other minor glitches.
the other stories, ‘The Broken Gyroid’ is situated in a
post-apocalyptic future where humans have won a war with machines.
However, the main character, Takeshi, has a sympathy for the latter.
The environment is effectively described. While one tends to concur
with Takeshi that the machines are more likeable, the denouement is
rather obvious. ‘Frozen Assets’ is distinctly ironic as the title
suggests, since the vast sums paid by the wealthy to have their bodies
preserved for a far-future utopia where they can be brought back to
life are liabilities: in a post-apocalyptic future their bodies are
discovered by a hunter-gatherer who regards them as delicacies to be
eaten. The concept is not especially original, though.
Neighbors’ deals with a well-worn theme: the arrival of the
Cerrellians, a superior species, on Earth. They introduce themselves to
Mary Bush, the US President. They mention that another aggressive race,
the Vhog, exists but is unlikely to discover the backward and
marginalised Earth. Promising to send a present, they depart. An object
duly materialises containing rabbit-like beings with wide smiles. Bush
and her advisers assume this is from the Cerrellians but it turns out
to contain the Vhogs themselves. Humour is a welcome feature of this
story but dialogue is contrived and the ending weak.
Pool’ seemed at first sight very promising. It is the only story with
an African resonance. A hiker, Malcolm, knows of a secret pool high in
the mountains. On going there after a drought, he discovers that a deep
pool has become shallower and the bottom is visible. He dives in and
comes across a corpse and a heavy gold necklace. He is compelled by
some force to put the latter on, though reluctantly. This is an
unconvincing section of the plot. He is instantly transported to
another locality where he has apparently just won a battle and, he
thinks, is treated royally. However, the next day, he is taken by a
woman up a hill where she makes an obeisance to him, locks the necklace
around his neck and pushes him off the edge into the same pool. At this
point, somewhat too late, he realises that he is in fact not a monarch
but a sacrifice. Though he is muscular, the necklace is too heavy for
him and he is dragged to the bottom. The circularity is intriguing but
is somewhat too overt, while the logic does not hold: how could
Malcolm, now much stronger, not swim to the surface with the necklace
if he had managed to do so previously?
I congratulate SFFSA on doing a remarkable job with limited resources. May the next Nova arrive at the speed of light!
David Levey (Prof.)
10 January 2017
The competition is sponsored by Arthur
Goldstuck of WorldWideWorx
The Nova Short Story Competition FAQ can be found here.
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details, you are welcome to email the convenor of the Short Story Competition.