So we saw a larger shortlist this week, with an eclectic mix of seven stories exploring ideas of race, ancestry and alienness.
Current leaderboard champion Lydia Trethewey returns to the short list with Cuckoo, a story that will be familiar to just about anyone who recalls their childhood. While Lydia has tackled many genres in her time at NiTH, Cuckoo uses realism to reflect the every day reality of ‘difference’ that permeates our early lives.
By comparison Ted Inver is relatively new to NiTH, but the Iceland based author has already made waves, winning the LEMONADE CARBONADE Award with Lemonshade earlier this month. Ted has returned with Machine-Men Fall Again, a post apocalyptic story about cultural identity and control.
Sarah Al-saad’s another former champ returning to the short list. Displaced is the surreal story of one human caught in a very extraterrestrial experiment. Combining the kind of mutant horror you might find in a William S Burroughs novel with the otherworldliness of Dark City, Sarah’s story is equal parts horror and humour, and a strong contender for first place this week.
Making his début among a crowded set, Barry Quinn joins the shortlist with Hu-Man. A Science Fiction story with themes of identity similar to Cuckoo, Barry looks at what it means to be human even when you are quite clearly not one.
This week also saw the welcome return of Sarah Henry to the shortlist. The Shadow Figure’s Philosophy is a mysterious story of beings who visit during the witching hour to study us in our dreams.
And speaking of the witching hour, Madeline Pettet returns to the short list after a long hiatus with The Valley, a stylish picaresque about a girl warned to stay away from the witches of the valley, but finds herself interminably drawn to them.
Not to be outdone, Ash Warren takes us to Shibuya for a piece of magical realism about a girl thrust into the spotlight. Examining the conflict of commercialism and heritage, of celebrity and identify, Ash propels us to the most unlikely of conclusions in Pinker, a unique take on the award.
With a larger short list then what we’ve become accustomed to in recent weeks, it’s not surprising that our judges wanted to take their time deliberating who they think should be the winner.
For those of you looking for insight into the judging process, each week we recruit five judges from former writers, friends and volunteers to score each story out of 10.0. Each judge also provides feedback at their discretion, which is passed on to the authors anonymously at their request. It goes without saying that we couldn’t survive without our awesome judging circle.
Our winner this week, as determined by five judges, is someone who embodies the spirit of NiTH, with a positive attitude and a willingness to jump right into the theme of their stories. Please congratulate Sarah Henry! The Shadow Figure’s Philosophy is our first place winner this week. This is Sarah’s first win at NiTH, although I’m sure there will be more to come if her stories so far are anything to go by.
Well done to Sarah and everyone who made the short list. It was great to see a mix of regulars, mainstays and new faces rounding out the award.
Coming up next… The short list for the Custom Rims Award.