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
 competition
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.

2016 Nova Short Story Winners

1st Place - R2000
A Wink and a Smile - Gary Kuyper

2nd Place - R1000
The Uncanny Valley - Philip Machanick

3rd Place R 500
The 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

This 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 78%.

Congratulations to the winners. Individual emails will follow in due course with regard to receiving your prizes, and more.

Thanks 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

I 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.

That said, 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.

I 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 level.

‘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.

Of 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.

‘The New 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.

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

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