The JUST A POE BOY Short Story Contest saw 5 short stories make the cut, each approaching Poe and psychological horror in their own unique way.
The award had several criteria that focused the creative approach around themes and elements of story telling common to the work of Edgar Allan Poe.
All in all, our anecdotal opinion is this was one of the best short lists we’ve seen in a while. The stories were weird, creative and unique, but in many cases also clearly written with neat twists at the end.
Before we get to the winner announcement, I asked two of our judges to discuss what horror means to them in the short story format. Here’s a snippet from that conversation.
Question: What is horror in the short story format?
I’m not into the slasher style horror, so I’m glad there wasn’t anything like that in the short list, I would have found it hard to judge. The brief asked the writers to look at subtle weirdness and confusion as part of it. I thought Penguin did that well, although it wasn’t easily readable and made some odd choices with the way the story weas formatted, I thought it was scary in a very modern way. No ghosts etc, but there was this way about the writing in that it seemed to create some really creepy moments without giving too much away. It reminded me of the Salad Fingers cartoons a bit as well.
Now that you bring up that Salad Fingers I can totally see it, but for me Penguin was a bit to hard to really get into. I mean it’s a short story, but it took me a while to get through it because I had to keep going back and forth.
Excuses by Sebastian Melbourne was pretty compelling. The lead in mentions Kafka and I could see that aspect to it, and it ended strongly as well. I don’t think you have to say less. Horror isn’t just about weirdness for the sake of being weird. For me, at least, I see horror as an element of the human condition where our hidden fears are revealed or realised.
Well if you think that’s the case, there are a couple of other strong candidates. Both The Search and Butterfly reveal these ‘hidden fears’. Both these stories have the bad guys for main characters as well.
Yeah and there was this ‘gets-whats-coming-to-them’ apsect to both. The Search has a Poe-esqe ending where there was a hint of the supernatural and Butterfly revealed a kind of ‘horrific truth’ that I also thought was very Poe.
In fact both these stories, even though they felt very contempoarary and not too thick on the horror tropes, felt like Poe stories, if not in the language certainly in the theme.
So what about You Bring Poison?
It’s hard to chose between the stories. If Excuses presented horror as despair, and Penguin showed horror as a kind of digusting madness, then You Bring Poison was anxiety, obsession, fixation. The ending was chilling. I think the short format suits this kind of ‘stream of conciousness’ sort of style. If it was longer, the reveal at the end might not have had the same effect.
After tallying the results of our five judges this week, who scored each story out of 10 based on adherence to the brief and their own criteria, the winner of the JUST A POE BOY Short Story Contest goes to:
YOU BRING POISON by Adrianna Villasenor!
This contest was Adrianna’s first time short listing at Needle In The Hay, and we look forward to bigger and better things over the coming months.
Thanks to everyone who entered and to our judges for this week’s award. They certainly had their work cut out for them as it was a cracking short list with a wide range of talent on display.
There are several awards open right now, so head over to our awards page and check them out. We’ll also keep you posted on our next short list, the TRIGGER WARNING Contest. And if you missed any of the short list, we’ve linked them below.
1. EXCUSES by Sebastian Melbourne
2. YOU BRING POISON by Adrianna Villasenor
3. “Penguin!” by Micha Viorp
4. The Search by Daniel Norrish
5. Butterfly by Amber Fernie