Thanks so much to our judge, Ross Jeffery, for making the difficult decision this time around. The shortlisted stories are all fantastic and we were very glad to hand the decision over to someone else!
Many congrats to all who made the shortlist and the longlist for this comp, and everyone who sent a story.
Well done to our winners!
This is the second quarter where we have a professional audio recording of the stories as part of the prize and voice artist, Holly Joyce, and sound engineer, Jake Lewendon Nicholls, have done a brilliant job for us. Thank you!
- Cravings by Sam Payne
- Edging by Iona Rule
- How I Learnt to Cook by Anne Howkins
- How to Become a Wallflower by Shaun Laird
- Lilith Comes to Me After I Pray for Wholeness by Kate Tooley
- Nesting by Louisa King
- Our Mary by Donna L Greenwood
- Sister of the Jilted Bride by Jess Moody
- The Outsiders by Jean Cooper Moran
- The Search for Oretha Wells by Andrew Boulton
- The Six by Katie Oliver
Ross Jeffery’s Comments
Firstly, I would like to thank Amanda Saint and Retreat West for allowing me the huge honour of judging this quarterly competition and for taking my theme suggestion of the uncanny on board.
I am a huge lover of the horror genre, I write it myself and I was lucky enough to have my debut novel ‘Tome’ nominated for the Bram Stoker Awards and the Splatterpunk Awards this year (so I like to think I know a little bit about what I’m judging) – it is a genre that I love and I personally feel it doesn’t get much love outside of the fans of that genre, even
publishing houses are scared of it most of the time, but luckily for me and you there is a huge horror community out there thirsty for new horrific offerings so keep them coming.
I’m thrilled that Amanda took my theme on board and I have been
dying to see what you have all come up with… and boy, I wasn’t disappointed. The stories that I received were all fabulous pieces of flash fiction, they delved into the strange, the uncanny, the horrific, the weird – and all were of such high quality, believe me when I say this, there was something to savour in each macabre offering, which made my judging a hard task, but one I was thrilled about doing.
Below are my choices of the winner and two runners-up plus a couple of honourable mentions.
Winner: Our Mary by Donna L Greenwood
When I set the brief of the uncanny for this competition I was hopeful that the stories would unsettle me, that there would be a great sense of foreboding, a huge slice of horror, a ladle here and there of unease and a whole lot of eeriness. ‘Our Mary’ delivers all of that and more. We get a delightfully eerie tale about a sleepwalking sister, but there are subtleties to
the story that grip the reader into a cold embrace that makes the marrow of your bones turn cold.
This is a deftly crafted piece of flash that gripped me from the first paragraph, the prose is delightfully constructed and the voice of the protagonist is spot on. To quote David Foster Wallace “Good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” And I feel well and truly disturbed after reading ‘Our Mary’ – a stunning piece of flash that
has made the author someone that I will continue to read for years to come.
Runner-Up: Lilith Comes To Me After I Pray for Wholeness by Kate Tooley
This piece is a masterclass in weird fiction – think of Sarah Hall, Emily Harrison and Angela Readman (the comparisons are deserved), I do love me some weird fiction, and when that strange fiction contains elements of body horror… well, I just swoon in appreciation of it!
This story takes the reader on a journey of transformation, of the ridding of self to become the other; the depictions of this are put across in beautifully horrific imagery that plays on the readers mind long after the story has finished. But what I enjoyed most about this story are the things unsaid, the reasons behind what happens and the possible allegories that it brings to the surface of the readers thoughts. This is a powerful piece of fiction.
Runner-Up: Cravings by Sam Payne
This particular story had the oddity factor and I bloody loved it. I love stories that are told from a young protagonist’s point of view, how their minds might not be seeing things as they are, how they in turn become somewhat of an unreliable narrator. But there is always that niggling question lurking in the background… are they really unreliable or is this actually happening? The author deals with this deception / truth brilliantly and it made for a great story. I loved the voice of the characters and the unease at the observations the children make about their mother and her recent cravings. Chilling and odd, another cracking story.
The Search for Oretha Wells by Andrew Boulton – I really did enjoy this story, it was up there for me as being one of the finer stories in the bunch I read. But I felt that this story, the characters the location was just too big for the word count. It left me with too many questions, but that’s a great thing because I feel that if this would be expanded upon it would make quite a
unique novella or novel (the Cormac McCarthy vibes were strong with this piece).
The Six by Katie Oliver – I enjoyed the story telling tool of this piece. I thought that the clipped narration really worked to further cement the ideas that the author was trying to get across and with the characters all represented as numbers it makes them a faceless mob – but we also in a
strange way can picture each of them and their defining features and characteristics.
Many congratulations to Donna who wins £200 and Kate and Sam who win £100 each! We’re sure we’ll see Andrew and Katie’s stories published somewhere soon and all of the other stories on our shortlist.
The next theme is ECHO chosen by judge, Vanessa Gebbie, and the deadline to send your stories is 26th September.