- “Two Worlds Apart” by Dustin Blair Steinacker
The winning story was selected by judges Anne Charnock, RJ Barker and Una McCormack.
The winner receives £200 and publication of the story in Interzone.
The judges also awarded a special commendation to:
- “A Sip of Pombé” by Gustavo Bondoni
RJ Barker, author of Age of Assassins, praised the winning story:
A short story is a hard thing to write. You have to establish a a realistic and believable character in a very short space of time to carry it (sometimes I struggle to do this with a whole novel at hand). Then of course you have to tell a satisfying, and self-contained, story. An SFF short story is an even harder thing to write because you not only have to do all of the above but you have to establish a world with rules and structure and make the reader buy into it. ‘Two Worlds Apart’ does that brilliantly.
Life springing up on a planet with no sun that just wanders the galaxy? Is that even possible or likely? Probably not, I reckon, when you start thinking about radiation and meteors and all that science stuff. But did I ever question it in this story? No. Not for a moment. It absolutely sold its premise and ideas and I flew through it with a real sense of wonder at the alien-ness of it all, it felt like something new – and that is a beautiful thing to happen. More than that, the story itself left me with a sense of hope and real feeling that in the end people are worthwhile and I think, in a time when the news cycle is increasingly grim, that’s an important message to be putting across. A worthy winner in among a set of stories that showed some real talent at work and were a pleasure to judge.
And Anne Charnock added:
A tightly written story with well-drawn characters, ‘Two Worlds Apart’ poses profound questions about what it is to be a species. Earth hopes to join a Consortium of species and, as a test, a group of human emissaries aided by a Consortium facilitator – an augmented insectoid – is attempting first contact with the Tarshach. The Tarshach face extinction, their energy resources close to depletion. But will they accept help? Why do the Tarshach repeatedly ask “What is expected of us?” A fascinating glimpse into the imagined cultural differences between intelligent species, the inevitability of good intentions lost in translation.
Una McCormack said about runner-up, Gustavo Bondoni’s “A Sip of Pombé”:
Our world at the moment seems to have turned inwards, away from the stars and the promise of the stars, becoming lost in divisions and threat. ‘A Sip of Pombé’, which concerns an illicit Ugandan mission to Mars, shows us how humanity can be audacious and strive towards a better future. It reminds us that if we are to have such a future, it must be found together. A fine story within an excellent set of short stories.
The other shortlisted stories in this year’s competition were:
- “Imago” by Matthew Eeles
- “Ms. Höffern Stays Abreast of the News” by Sarah Pauling
- “My Fault” by Sarah Palmer
- “The Big I Am” by E.M Faulds
Award administrator Martin McGrath said the 2019 James White Award will open to entries in October.
[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]