2016 Story Competition Roundup
This was an excellent year for entries and the shortlisters had a lot of trouble sifting out the final batch from the hundreds received. This year’s most distant entry was from Australia, with Cyprus being the next closest, the majority coming from the south of the UK. The favourite themes this year were ‘Ghosts’ (inevitably), ‘War’ and of course ‘Unlikely Romance’ which always gets our hearts pumping.
Of course a year of SWCSSC cannot go by without a spot of controversy, this time in the form of a very short entry that was practically a poem, but was accepted as a type of flash fiction after much debate.
In the end though, no matter a stories credentials or history, our Chief Judge has the last say and this year it is respected sci-fi author Robert Scott-Norton who has agreed to fill those heavy boots and tell us who has the honour of rising up from the literary mire to win this year’s comp.
Chief Judge’s Comments – Robert Scott-Norton
Third Place – The Dissolution by Theresa Curnow
A single setting. A man and his mother, and something bad outside the boarded up windows. A dead father who needs to be buried. This is bleak, yes, but the writer held my attention through this darkness. The characters were simple and true. There is no happy ending here; the story tracks on to its inevitable conclusion—but that scarcely matters.
There is an almost forgivable mini exposition dump towards the end that unbalanced things for me, but that ultimately doesn’t detract from an enjoyable read.
Second Place – Maria’s Curse by Charles Warren
There’s a quest and a knight and a beast—there’s always a monster to be slain. In this tale we have a story within a story and it just about gets away with it because the author brings colour to the setting and characters. I felt like I was there, listening to the old woman recount her story. Description is handled well, with a strong sense of time and place created.
The final reveal is perhaps inevitable. The old woman archetype at play here was never going to be up to any good. And there’s a slight issue with pacing, I suspect due to the story within a story conceit. Those quibbles aside, this stood out from the pack as a strong runner-up.
First Place- An Act of War by Valerie Thompson
This had me from the first line. ‘Everyone was frightened, except me.’ OK, with such a strong hook, there’s every risk that the story fails to deliver, but the author delivered an impactful tale that drew me in immediately.
There’s a war. People are scared. What happens when the enemy gets a little too close for comfort? And what if you’ve got others in your care? Children?
It takes a young girl to solve the problem and her solution is all there in the story, but it still came as a surprise. The author obviously has a great understanding of feeding the plot.
With such a strong premise, the author had a great foundation for a tale that explored the ideas of losing hope and innocence. Language was tight and flowed simply and clean. Descriptions were evocative and characters brought to life with an effortless ease. Just enough of a sketch to make these characters breathe.
An Act of War is a worthy winner for this contest.