Whew! What a conference that was! Best ever, right?
I managed to get in and post the contest results over the weekend, but I’d just like to share a few more details here. Writer Jennifer Lott [who lives in Prince George] won Honorable Mention for her spec fiction story Thirty Minutes to Live. Here’s a taste:
Damn, noble death by portal was slow.
Anita set her phone timer for thirty minutes and took a second to make sure her doom was on track.
The braided ring of alien metal under her bed clinked quietly as it rotated. It was already projecting a narrow beam of light from under the bed to a spot in the middle of her carpet. The spot was slowly widening. Only a pencil would fit through at the moment, but soon it would be human-sized: opening onto a wondrous, horrible place.
The planet Glithera hadn’t always been horrible. When the portal was finished expanding, she was going to make it right.
She walked out of her bedroom, leaving the door open, and faced her combined living
room and kitchen.
Her basement suite wasn’t well stocked for final wishes. She spread her most expensive chocolates across her kitchen counter. Five left. She could eat one every six minutes. She uncorked the wine meant to grow old and dusty. It wouldn’t age now. She’d need it to fill the minutes between chocolates.
Makes you want to read on, doesn’t it? Final judge [the incomparable Diana Gabaldon] says of this story:
‘Remarkable! Deft, imaginative and emotional, it’s pretty much a whole fantasy novel compressed into fifteen pages. You want it to expand.’ Congratulations, Jennifer!
Multiple winner of past contests, Michael Carson [from Kamloops] also won Honourable Mention this year for his historical piece, ‘Andouille‘. Here’s a tiny sample:
Perhaps it was a stirring of heartfelt compassion for the far-off country of his birth that compelled Monsieur Boucher, in the fall of 1915, to offer up his only son to the Great War. A more plausible motive for his decision, however—and the prevalent theory held by those few who had sounded the shallow depths of the man’s heart—was M. Boucher’s recent remarriage:having divested himself of the former Madame Boucher (God rest her soul) who succumbed to a fever contracted, or so M. Boucher attested, due to her inability to keep her mouth shut even when surrounded by contagion, Monsieur Boucher had apparently been inspired to make a clean sweep of the rest of his family. M. Boucher no doubt felt he would have better luck producing a son of greater work-ethic and intelligence with Judit, the new, younger, and far less loquacious Madame Boucher.
Indeed, any of the residents of Norway House who concerned themselves with the domestic affairs of their neighbors—which is to say the majority of them—conceded that producing even one heir with M. Boucher could only have been achieved through stealth, under a shroud of darkness or a fume of whiskey. Still, there was no shortage of either during the long Manitoba winters. Norway House was a cold place—anyone would tell you that—and hard on those whose dreams exceeded the reach of a sawblade or fishing line.
Albert—the aforementioned ‘rest’ of M. Boucher’s family—was sitting in the woodshed sketching in a tattered notebook when his father arrived to inform him of the good news that he was to be afforded the honour of dying—perhaps even gloriously—for La Belle France.
Perched above them, Andouille the pigeon (Albert’s intellectual equal according to M. Boucher), flapped an unheeded warning.
Judge Diana Gabaldon says of Andouille: ‘A misleadingly simple, very touching story about a boy and his bird who go to war, their innocence and affection for each other a place of refuge amid chaos and violence.’ Congratulations, Mike! [You won my heart with that second sentence alone…]
And finally ‘Bliss Street‘ is the story that wins the Jack Whyte Storytellers’ Award this year.
Vanna’s dad had tried to sell the house on Bliss Street a few times, but the stack of printed-out emails he’d left on the collapsible card table that served as his desk was a litany of realtors and potential buyers alike declining, ranging from the polite – doesn’t suit my needs – to the blunt – looks like it’s been used as a crack den – to the evocative – gave me intrusive thoughts about murdering my entire family. Vanna tossed the letters out the lounge room window and into
the skip she’d wedged in the narrow alley between the house and its nearest neighbour. Then she tossed the card table too, for good measure. She followed them with some used paper plates, which had been a staging ground for the mould that now lingered across most of the kitchen.
“Joke’s on you,” she told the house. “Can’t murder your family if cancer gets ‘em first.”
She’d found out she was a homeowner at the same time she found out her dad was dead. The emotions evoked were complex, and she wasn’t gonna be the one to deal with them. She’d tweeted about it instead: Waiting for someone in your family tree to die and hoping they forgot to cut you out of their will is the only real millennial house-buying strategy. Then she’d thrown an overnight bag into the boot of her car, cancelled her bookings, put up a Facebook post saying the tattoo parlour was closed for a few days, and driven to Melbourne to take a look.
Of this brilliant, spooky little piece written by CZ Tacks [who came to us all the way from Australia this year!], Diana says: ‘A lovely, immersive story about the relationship between a woman and the house in which she grew up. It’s about forgiveness, healing and rebuilding—for both of them.’ Slam dunk, CZ!
HUGE congrats to these three talented writers. We’ll watch for your work to be published in Pulp Literature in 2023. And I for one can’t wait to read whatever you write next!
SiWC Contest Coordinator