It is with great pleasure that we can now announce the short listed stories from our 2016 Story Quest Short Story Contest, and the winners:
- First Prize (US$100): ‘Old Growth’ by J. Ashley Smith
- Second Prize (US$50): ‘Of Dreaming and Destiny’ by Jamie Lackey
- Third Prize (US$25): ‘Pevel Was Here’ by Michael Stroh
- Three other short listed stories which will also be published in SQ Mag:
- ‘Reef’ by Kat Clay
- ‘The Skull Collector’ by Jodi L. Milner
- ‘My Son, the Afterbirth’ by Tony Conaway
The field was particularly strong this year, with a very sizeable percentage of stories scoring above ‘good’ by the judges. Nevertheless, these six stories were clear standouts and well deserve their prizes and/or publication in SQ Mag.
This year’s contest had the theme of ‘Growth’: What is it that denotes life? What do we yearn for in our favourite narratives, when we see how our favourite character could achieve their dreams if only they might extended themselves, shift and change. We believe this intriguing theme helped draw out some fascinating and moving stories.
Special thanks to Lee Murray for being our guest judge, and apologies to contestants and other interested parties for such a late judging process. Also thanks to IFWG Publishing Australia for their ongoing support and sponsorship of the contest.
We’d like to welcome you back in 2017, to our new quarterly format, a step-up in the world of short story publishing. We’re now publishing 8 stories in an edition, and offering more incentive for writers with a higher payment per word.
With our new format, we won’t be losing any of what made and makes this magazine great. We’re still committed to varied genres and publishing authors from diverse voices and places. The announcement of our special edition will come very soon. So we can focus on that, we will be closing general submissions for a short period of time to open the themed edition. However, we will still be looking for long fiction, and for the time being returning authors and resubmissions will remain open.
Escaping the grief of miscarriage, Helena and Jonathan head into the tropical rainforest of North Queensland. Lena starts to accept their drifting away, while finding a renewed vigour amongst the green and leafy forest. A walk down the path of grief, of rediscovering herself, leads Helena to startling changes she could not have expected. – SY
Helena stares out the passenger side window as the four-wheel drive winds up the narrow trail, her reflection transposed over lush Daintree rainforest. Ancient trunks shrouded in moss and vines, dense carpets of ferns, conifers and prehistoric cycads; a world displaced in time, a sea of green deep enough to drown in.
In the driver’s seat, Jonathan glares straight ahead, hands gripped firmly to the wheel. Every line of his body radiates tension. It seems he still hasn’t forgiven her for her morning breakdown.
‘God, Lena. I’m doing this for you,’ he’d said, standing in the doorway of their bedroom. ‘You need a change of scenery. It’s been months now. You can’t spend the rest of your life hiding away inside the house!’
Lately everyone seems to be telling her what she needs, and what she can or can’t do. It doesn’t stop the tears though, doesn’t still her shaking hands. She never used to cry. Now she can’t seem to stop.
‘Come on, Lena. Please.’
But she hadn’t responded, just sat on the end of the bed, staring at her half-packed suitcase.
Reviewed by Damien Smith
If you’ve managed to snag yourself a copy of Wall of Storms, the second book in the Dandelion Dynasty trilogy, I’m am reasonably certain you will have already experienced the wonder that is Grace of Kings. If not, what on Earth are you doing starting the second book of a trilogy? Luckily, I’ve previously reviewed Grace of Kings right here at SQ Mag. Nip over and have a quick read of that review, then settle down for however long it takes you to plough through an 800+ page Big Fat Fantasy. I’ll wait.
When the world can be fed on the hurts, the small slights and arguments that pepper our lives, surely most people could be well fed? Not so for Greg, who looks out into the universes to see how it could be done differently. Sometimes though, people just need to get their teeth into something. – SY
Meek as a newborn lamb, Greg Rindes bowed his head and plodded inside the strifeteria. The yellow-painted brick building was several thousand feet long and wide and held nearly all the staff of Milligan’s Alternate Reality Analysis Center.
Today the strifeteria was holding its monthly puncheon full of rich, junk food physical conflict. Several of Greg’s co-workers were standing in the dining rings, beating each other with their fists and feet. The air was thick with the stink of blood and sweat.
Each time one of the combat diners struck a blow, the air between them filled with high-calorie conflict threads that both chubby combatants absorbed through the conflict pores around their bodies. Like the fighters, several staff members outside the dining rings had grown fat from consuming too many physical conflict calories. Nevertheless, they still cheered when the diner fighters resumed beating each other senseless.
A man floats in the deeps of Malta, returning to a place he has spent most of his life avoiding. The power of the ancient sea has long overshadowed his life and tonight marks a new turning point in its history. -SY
Thirty miles off the shore of Malta, his wife of forty years wept like an orphan. It was their first vacation in far too long and taken at her insistence. A return to the old country. Needless to say, it hadn’t gone well. Call it a clash of cultures, a patriotic scrimmage. These kinds of wars were fought on quiet fronts.
Back in the navy, he’d been little more than a handyman for the Marinai housing outside of Sigonella, a lowly liaison to the local contractors. Still, he’d been proud of his uniform, and she had too. It’s what caught her eye when he’d first sat at her table. Tonight, when he asked her to dance, she shyly agreed. This was a game they played, pretending the old days were new. When every kiss was the first, there would never be a last.
A dozen men in long beards and tourist prints took offense to his attire. When they tipped him overboard, they made sure he fell facing the night sky. They wanted pop-eyed fear, cries of desperation. He turned his face to the sea. He couldn’t bear to see her framed by such filth.
The waters slapped hard against him, wrapped tight, and pulled him down. He floated in darkness and thought only of her. Already the ship was distant, the slow roll of its wake finding the Mediterranean’s rhythm. They would reach the Syrian coast in two days. Maybe someone would stop them, but it wouldn’t be him. He would exhale. He would inhale. After a quick struggle, he would rest.
Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston
When we finished All is Fair, we left Cathy as the new Duchess of Londinium, having rescued a house full of women and servants inconvenient to the political aspirations of the powerful Aquae Sulis ruling class. She is secure in the love and respect of her husband, Will Iris, believing that he will back her as she challenges the Victorian-era status quo.
In free-bioform Hong Kong, Dorotéia Fernandes performs on her lute. A meeting with Kailee, part bat-part woman, lingers with her well beyond their evening conversation. A whole new world opens before her. -SY
Puffs of breeze were the first I knew of her. A gust of wind first tickling at my hair from behind, then blowing into my face. Then a voice: “Dorotéia.” And a few seconds later: “Ms. Fernandes.” It was a thin, high-pitched woman’s voice, with only a hint of Cantonese accent, and it came from somewhere above me.
It was late, and dark. I’d just finished my recital at Hong Kong University’s concert hall, and I was in the nearby Tai Mo Shan Park, trying to walk off my post-performance adrenaline. The path I was on was dimly lit, and when I looked up there was at first only a black sky. But in the next moment I saw a flicker of movement, a shape. She was flying, hovering, then landing on the path in front of me. The span of her wings must have been eight or ten feet, but her body was tiny, the top of her head barely my waist-height. She was dark brown, almost black, and whatever she was wearing was close to the same shade as her membranous wings and the skin of her face. Only her hair was a different color; a splash of closely-cropped blonde curls at the top of her head and disappearing behind huge, pointed ears.
“Ms. Fernandes,” she said again, “please don’t continue down this path. There are some men ahead who look…unsavory.”
Reviewed by Lee Murray
I thought I’d start 2017 with a short and explosive read to launch us into the New Year, so James Rollins’ Crash and Burn, a Sigma Force short story was the perfect choice.
For readers not familiar with Rollins’ Sigma Force novels, the series focuses on a clandestine division of the United States’ DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency), a band of former special forces operatives retrained as scientific field officers and assigned to protect US interests against everything and anything that can go wrong in military experimental science.