May 2014

First up a warm welcome to all our newcomers: Mel Watts, Jess Grimmonds, Laurence Deam and Saskia Griffiths, and special shout outs to Debb Bouch and Disapol Savetsila, who scored really well, closely missing out on the top three. This time around we tried a different judging method. In the past, judges were asked to score each author out of ten, using decimal places if they liked. We’ve changed that up so now judges rank each story by preference, starting with 1. That means, like golf, the author with the lowest score wins. In third place is Ingrid Coram’s Separation. Ingrid has featured on our last two short lists and scored highly in both, so keep an eye for Ingrid in future short lists. Second place went to Arizona Red, …

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“No more clocks that strike 13 and starships to Mars. We need to save the earth first.” – Dan Bloom, 2014 I was thirteen when I saw my first climate fiction (a.k.a. ‘cli-fi’) film, although I didn’t have that name for it then. The Day After Tomorrow told the story of Jake Gyllenhaal in a wet t-shirt running away from an apocalyptic-like tsunami. I don’t remember a lot after that, although I was thirteen – and it was Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s not surprising to find that there’s a lot more to the literary genre than this. Popularised by cli-fi advocate Dan Bloom, ‘cli-fi’ can be explained as fiction that explores issues surrounding climate change and global warming. Some call it a subgenre of sci-fi, while others argue that it can stand independently …

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  ‘Remember, beautiful things grow in the most unlikely places.’ He held out a cardboard box with pink, hand painted roses that seemed to soften in his weathered hands. Rosie was old enough to know that when a man gave her something and called her beautiful, it was more of an exchange. And she hadn’t known Martin long enough to believe otherwise. ‘I need to go away for a while.’ He took a step toward her and proffered his gift once again. Rosie realised it was an exchange for his impending absence. ‘But we haven’t finished…’ He’d been squatting in the Simpson’s tired, unused farm shed for months now, but the first frosts had arrived and he wasn’t built for the bitter Warwick winter. ‘One of these days your folks will wonder where …

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Tchk-tchk-tchk-tchk roils the gravel beneath the tires. I’m hanging upside-down on my uncle’s pickup truck from the cab rack. It reminds me of gymnastics when I was in Minneapolis. Palms white with chalk. Gripping the bar like religion and Amelia Leinz saying “one, two, three, go!” as I try my hundredth time to perform a pull-over. I don’t. I land on my head and the cushion that catches my eight-year-old body wheezes. But here it is different. The wheels tchk-tchk-tchk  and the ground passes under me like a river of earth. There is no cushion and no wheeze. I fall I die, says Bob. Robert. His name is Robert. He is my uncle and I met him a year ago. We were standing in my grandma’s kitchen and Sonny was scooping pigs’ feet from …

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There it was, nestled in velvet and lustrous in soft light from a concealed spot. Several other small collectibles lay scattered tastefully around it within the confines of the glass cabinet. No doubt about it though, the Faberge egg was the jewel in this particular crown. With reluctance, I brought my attention back to the suit giving me the tour. “…his lordship is very fussy. You did say you were from here originally, didn’t you? Only he won’t give you the time of day if you’re not Berkshire born and bred.” I nodded. Best to just let them rabbit on. Say nothing and let them make assumptions. Meanwhile I continued my scrutiny, looking for pressure pads, cameras, alarm beams. All the things that make life interesting. The suit coughed to …

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  My eyes settle on the golden green Napoleonic Fabergé egg which sits, perching, encased in strong glass. The bustling Metropolitan Museum of Art surrounds me, its walls threatening to close in at any moment. I exhale and walk to the next exhibit. I check my watch to discover that the auction begins in just fifteen minutes. I’m looking to buy a small house here in New York. I’ve lived in rural North America my entire life, helping my father on the family’s farm, but it’s time to get away. My mother died when I was very young, no more than seven years old, and my father died of a stroke last year. So it’s been difficult. My sister, Denise, moved to South Africa three years ago, disconnecting herself from …

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  They like to say Pierre brought unhappiness to our town, but that’s bull. He made us realise how unhappy we were. That’s why everyone is gathering to burn down Pierre’s house. They’re at the school hall, officially there for a PTA meeting, but they’re passing out the pitchforks and torches. I should know, I found the pitchforks in our pantry; the Bunnings receipt still attached. Mum never did like putting things in the garage. I get up and pull my boots on, deciding against breakfast or showering. When I open my closet, I see my school uniform still hanging where Mum put it a week ago. It’s still smooth from the iron. I move it out of the way and pick the dark blue turtleneck that Pierre gave me. …

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Even the walls of the cinema are specked with dirt and grime, ash from the ciggies and gum from the smoker’s mouths. Occasionally some schmuck drifts out with a small shovel and a mop. They always have pimpled faces and look like they should be studying, as if it’s shocking to view the world without a book in their eyes. The people milling around the bus stop fall into three categories: the mentals, the crones, and the kids. They all flash their concession cards like VIPs in a club. The old crones shuffle and hobble their way to the front of the line, to the seats under shelter. They use their frailty like NFL players use their strength, with heads held high and opinions loud. But it’s the mentals you …

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Macy stared up at the ceiling as another drop of condensation narrowly missed her head and splashed onto the pillow. For nearly an hour now she’d been playing a game of Russian roulette with the air conditioner which was working so hard to fight off the February heat that the drips were now big enough and so frequent that she really ought to have put a bucket underneath it. Instead, she just lay there, waiting in anticipation for the next droplet to fly past her, knowing it was only a matter of time before her face was speckled with moisture. She could hear her mother in the next room lamenting about something that was surely insignificant and unworthy of that much attention and she knew that she should probably go …

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If I hadn’t been so stricken by Gran’s fragile state, I probably would never have agreed to her outlandish request. I had a mountain of work waiting for me back on the farm and here I was jet setting across the country to find a woman I had never met, or heard of in my life, with nothing but a piece of paper with name and address of Molly Pinton from Sydney and a box with strict instructions not to open it no matter what. Strange woman my Gran, kind and generous but there was nothing ‘sweet little ole lady’ about her. Only a couple of months before she went, she was up on Flynn’s old nag trying to push the poor thing into a gallop, strangest sight I ever …

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“Each day I stress out” I said as I pulled my jacket off my right arm and hung it on the rack. “About what?” said the glassy-eyed, older-age psychologist, pushing a bit of hair up above the rim of her glasses, using her middle finger as the index was wrapped around an expensive pen. I told some stories about growing up, about hiding in the cornfields, about my mum’s apron that was never completely white despite the sun bleaching it regularly received. As I grew up the barn became smaller, and more empty, fewer chickens, and the ladder’s rungs less trustworthy and the city moving closer with frequent trips to specialists, for her. There was one day, before an appointment, I was twelve, I was lost, I was complete in …

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Katrina Miller stood at the door awaiting the arrival of her husband. They were married for one year upon their parents request. Patrick, her husband did manipulative things to her. In fact, both of them were manipulating each other. They grew up in the village Amri and both their parents felt that they would have made a great couple. So they granted them their wish and a extravagant wedding was thrown in the Bahamas. ” I am home. Where are you?” ” I’m in the kitchen.” ” Why do you have to be so impatient?” ” I saw your facebook status.” ” I’m in front of you. Try and beat that.” ” Whatever. I am going to bed” ” Someone sounds like they are upset.” Katrina retired angrily to bed …

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Before we get to it, I just wanted to welcome our first timers, Laura Solomon, Lisa Ducasse, Chinelo Oputa, Yiyu Xiang, Ingrid Coram and Gabriela Blagoeva. It’s great to see fresh faces from such a diverse set of locations. So we ended up with a HUGE short list for the award this time round. It’s funny when you have the high quality problem of so many great entries that you can’t slice it any thinner. I thought… let the judges decide. Wonderful as always, our five judges this week were made up of previous NITH participants and friends of the website. I am indebted to those of you who help out with running the award, and thank you for your honesty in proving some excellent feedback. What was most interesting, and …

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