Shortlist

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This week's shortlist

Dad, I never skimp on garlic. Yes I know garlic is awesome. Do I need more onion? Yes mum, more onion would be good. Can you get them please? No problem, I’ll get them from the garden myself. By the way, is this for the stuffing or the Solomon Grundy? I’ll take that nod as yes to both. Onion onion onion. Ooo, rosemary, thyme, basil and parsley. Better get them too. Wow, the chillies are coming along nicely. Here we are. This is how you peel an onion and this is how you dice one. This is how you put it in the mortar. Not a glass one. No porcelain either. Has to be a stone mortar and pestle. Has to be heavy. Has to be solid. This is how …

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It’s no secret that for decades publishing houses have been cheating the system. A quick google of ‘best seller scandal’ returns over 5 million results detailing plot after pot of publishers and their cohorts cheating the system by bulk purchasing their own books to improve their ranking, or employing other companies to do so in their stead. So next time a major author or publisher bemoans the failing sales or ‘industry crisis’ maybe they should look inwards. After all, they’ve only got themselves to blame.   After much consideration, bribery, gratuity and schmoozing, we can release the winner for the VISIONS OF 2020 Award. Congratulations to Joey To. Joey’s ‘Uranus Journal’ is a tongue-in-cheek (which cheek? -Ed) deliberation on current trends. Absurdist, but still relevant. As one judge described it: “I …

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Publishers have been clamoring for anything to do with the recent Palace tragedy; this is especially clear in the list for this week. Harry Potter is finally toppled, and a surprise or two round out the top ten. ThisWeek   LastWeek WeeksOn List   10 Diana : Beyond the Grave – Shirley MacLaine (Bloomsbury and Rowling, ?0.5493)MacLaine re-imagines interviews with Princess Diana in her lifetime, plus bonus “beyond the grave” content. Re-entry 12   9 First Man – William Clinton (Harvard Press, ?0.5493)US President Hilary Clinton’s husband tells his story from President, to Diplomat, to Statesman, to “plus-one”. 3 107   8 Diana : Her Story – Andrew Morton (Simon & Schuster, ?0.3135)Essentially a ghost-written autobiography, Morton interviewed the Princess of Wales to expose the truth of her daily life …

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Visions of 2020 Competition Leather Bound Tracey Ulrich takes us inside Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s cabinet in an exclusive look at the three years that destroyed the Queensland arts and culture scene. Ulrich’s pain is clear and her regret at not being able to do something while working for the State Government is palpable. Microchip for a Mind Hally is the first fully independent and individual robot. Behind her metal and silicon exterior, nestled somewhere inside a mess of wires and chips is an intelligent and questioning mind. Her debut essay tries to answer the questions that would keep her awake at night if only she ever needed to sleep. Sandwich, Anyone? In the last decade, over four hundred cooking programs have been made. Fads like macaroons, deconstructed meals and …

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Reader’s Poll – Top books of 2020 Thank you dear readers for voting. As always, your choices delight and surprise us. Only two classic novels make it into the top five this year. So without further ado…drum roll… 1. Putin – Megalomaniac or Superhero, Christina Gorbachev Two years after his assassination at the hands of a Crimean rebel, Christina Gorbachev examines Putin’s achievements, comparing them with those of Stalin and other famous Russian leaders. This is a good attempt to explain Putin’s actions to puzzled Westerners. 2 Lily, JK Rowling Surely all that needed to be said about a certain boy wizard has already been said? A resounding ‘No’, from you, the readers. So this is it, Harry Potter the prequel. Someone more cynical than me might say that JK …

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January 2020: Tomorrow’s Future Today by Francis Fukuyama [3,400 copies sold] Author of The End of History assures us that this time history really has ended as we enter an age of peace and prosperity. February Love and Lasers by David Horst [12,780] Horst’s debut science-fiction novel originally written as fanfiction of One Dark and Mysterious Night, which was originally fanfiction of 50 Shades of Grey, which was originally fanfiction of Twilight, delivers the best of all these novels with vampires, romance, mystery and lasers. March The Resurgence of IS: Where the West went South by Someone Someone [4,677] A testament to Western failure in the 2015-2017 Syria-Iraq War that provides a chilling account of recent IS expansion into North Africa and Southern Europe. April Asian Century Decade by Joseph …

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5: The Bible (Revised Progressivist Version) The RPV is thinner than previous versions but it’s still pretty thick so it’s nonetheless suitable as tinder or a dust-collecting paperweight. This modernized translation by Bishop Ferulci includes more vernacular and slang, a popular version by a popular man who’s advocated innumerable progressivist liberal reforms in and outside of the church. 4: Magical Cocktails of the Galaxy The Lunar City Times calls this “the most complete cocktail recipe collection in the galaxy” and, for once, we agree with them. With over 6000 cocktails—including one with Martian Gin sprinkled with fizzy dust from Farian 7—you’ll never have trouble getting as wrecked as an overloading hyper-drive. The holo-version comes with hi-res slow-mo demos in case you’re already too plastered to read. 3: When Two Or …

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A strange situation this time around with 4 of the 5 stories sharing second place. Well done to Fingernails, Grading On A Curve, Mrs Williamson’s Rose Garden and The Box on running a tight race. Ultimately though our congratulations go to Lisa White for her story “Better Than Most.” A win on your first short list probably doesn’t qualify as a NORMAL SUCCESS, but it’s more than deserved (Insert ‘Better Than Most’ pun here). Don’t forget to check out all the new awards we have up for the first couple of months of 2015 on the awards and collaborations page. Also, the NORRISH GIFT Award short list is up right now. That’s all for the moment. We’ll have some interesting new elements coming up this week, including a public schedule …

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My next door neighbour has: a whipper snipper; a leaf blower; a chainsaw; a ride on mower; and a shredder. Well he used to. He may have had other tools in his back shed, like a spade or a rake, but they never came to my attention. It was the noisy petrol guzzling buggers that keep the garden under the thumb that piqued my inner good Samaritan. And that is the point I tried to make after I politely knocked on my neighbour’s door last Sunday afternoon. “There’s no law against leaf blowers,” he grunted. “Do you think you could maybe give it a rest on Sunday’s at least.” “What are you a religion freak or sumthin?” I must admit his massive illustrated biceps and the can of bourbon and …

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“Fuck you,” I muttered. Traffic was bad, the weather worse and my mood – surly. Cutting me off was not the best idea at that moment. I memorized the make and model of the car, and the license plate as well. If I ever came across that particular vehicle, I would fuck it the hell up. The phone went off in the seat next to me. I glanced down at it. My boss. Again. She could wait. She was a douche-and-a-half, and I was only going to be ten minutes late. Maybe twenty. But still. I was only late a couple of times a week. She could bite me. I moved a bit closer to the bumper of the car that had cut me off. I’d been in line for …

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The figures that prowled the swirling, golden mist were indistinct, yet terrifying. Their forms were hunched and misshapen, no two alike. Some red, some black, some scaled, others spiked or hairy. All were equally horrible. The way they moved was worst of all. They never stayed in one spot for more than an instant. They flickered in and out of visibility, appearing and disappearing at random. They were unpredictable, everywhere. Leo wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around his head and hide, but he dared not look away from the monsters. If he did, they would kill him. A demonic face loomed in front of him. Its skin was red, intricately patterned with gold swirls. A cruel, thin-lipped mouth was stretched into a manic smile that revealed pointed …

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As the bell signals the end of another tedious and sultry day, there is hurried gabbling, shuffling of papers, textbooks squashed with little dignity into bulky schoolbags, a snatch or two of nervous laughter, leather shoes thundering across the carpet, and the door closing with its plaintive squeal. Silence. She remains at the desk, in the right-hand corner of the classroom. A bead of sweat trickles down the side of her cheek, but she brushes it off before it lands on the grid paper. She scratches the paper with her pencil; solid, consistent strokes of a well-practiced swimmer approaching the final lap. She finds the last coordinate, plots the last point. As expected, the points join in smooth curves. The hyperbola and parabola intersect perfectly. Satisfied, she takes her time …

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Finnigan was a despicable human being, a fact he himself well knew. He looked up at the large colorful rosette of St. Jude’s Chapel illuminated with the warm soft glow of tens of hearts in prayer. ‘Ah, Christmas Time!’ he whispered with relish, breathing hot air into his gloveless cupped hands. It was freezing but Finnigan knew his hardship would soon be rewarded. He’d scrounge around the crowd for a while and then it’s straight off to The Sidetrack. He could already feel the whiskey streaming down his throat, heating him up, filling up all his empty spaces… Finnigan willed the doors to already open – floodgates letting the wave of parishioners spill put into the courtyard and Finnigan’s outstretched arms. He had found out long ago that he belonged …

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  The last time I cooked dolmades, you told me that for years, out of consideration for my feelings, you had avoided mentioning that dolmades were no longer your favourite dish. That you were so sick of them that it was hard to swallow even the first few mouthfuls. I realised that our meals had become dull and repetitive, so I stopped cooking dolmades, and found new recipes, using unusual and exotic ingredients. You read a book at the table, leaving the food to get cold, or sometimes eating distractedly. You offered no comment. You seemed tired. To re-awaken your interest, I wore a daring dress. You told me it was too tight, and that it was time to embrace the dignity of middle age. How right you were. It …

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  Mr Davis hummed to himself as he trimmed the hedges. The lovely rose bushes that his neighbours grew along their white picket fence weren’t looking as well kept as usual. His neighbours must have agreed, because a few minutes later an elderly woman came outside armed with gardening gloves, pruning shears, and fertiliser. Mrs Williamson. That was her name. She and her husband had introduced themselves when he moved in. Must’ve been five years ago now. It was normally her husband who did the gardening. She reminded Mr Davis of his own mother, always pottering around in the garden. His mother had loved flowers. Mrs Williamson, however, didn’t have his mother’s knack. She clipped the rose canes in the wrong places and put too much fertiliser on some plants …

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From behind the counter, Harry slides an empty cup towards Rob. “Morning. Scrambled eggs with bacon and toast?” Rob nods. “And hash browns please.” The waitress pours steaming black coffee into the cup. “You hardly ever have that.” “Need the energy to work on that new picket fence of yours, right?” says Harry as he grabs the bowl of egg and cream mixture from the fridge underneath the bench. Rob smiles and glances at the television in the corner. It’s showing the news as usual, something about some president reminding everyone that his country still got plenty of nukes. Harry shakes his head. “Crazy bastard.” He ladles the egg mixture into the pan. It hisses. “Hey, doesn’t your grandson have a test today or something? He doing well?” “Yeah, they …

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With a scowl on her face, Henri’s teacher told me what had happened. ‘Your son is only thirteen, Madam. This is serious.’ ‘I apologize on his behalf. I’ll have a talk with him.’ She sighed, seemingly dissatisfied. ‘A student’s education isn’t the sole responsibility of the school. The family also needs to take an active role.’ Is she trying to say I failed in educating my son? ‘Henri is still young. He needs plenty of guidance,’ she continued. I mustered a smile. ‘I understand.’ ‘Well then, thank you for coming.’ I bowed at her, and left. Henri was standing near the door, head hung low. ‘Let’s go,’ I said. He nodded. We left the school and walked to the main road. The entire time, Henri was quiet. ‘Are you going …

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  I wake up. At least I think I am awake. I can feel the faintest sense of sunlight on my skin, filtering through my eyelids, gently urging me to wake up. But I can’t move. My breathing feels laboured. My heart struggles with every beat. It can’t be morning, surely not already, I’m exhausted. Just lying here, feeling the sunshine, breathing in and out – it’s all so exhausting. That’s the only problem when you have a medical mind like mine. You know what your body has been up to all night – breathing, beating, digesting, repairing, regenerating. If only I could stop all of that activity, just for a minute, I might be able to summon the energy to get out of bed. But it doesn’t and I …

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 3. Choosing a winner is never easy. In fact, it can be downright impossible. At Needle we use different judges for every award. Former winners, short listers, friends, people we meet on the street. We believe that everyone’s voice should be heard, and that doesn’t just mean for writers. Still, choosing is never easy. Third place this week goes to “The Choice”  2. Needle turned two recently.  In those 24 months we’ve seen some wonderful stories pass through the short lists. Debb Bouch’s Troika is no different, taking out a close second with a moving triple edit. 1 Our winner this week engaged the spirit of the award  with a unique and entertaining vingette. Both comical and poignant, it’s pleasing to see this author’s recent efforts haven’t been in vain. …

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