The judging process for this year’s James White Award has now been completed and the winner chosen – to be announced at the BSFA Awards ceremony on Sunday 8 April. We’ll post details of the winner here at around 7:00pm (BST – GMT+1) on that day.
In the meantime we can now announce the full shortlist with the names of the authors.
Our shortlisted authors for this year’s James White Award are:
Gaea Denker-Lehrman – “Solvers”
Darren Goossens – “Circle
David McGroarty – “A Traveller from an Antique Land”
CJ Paget – “Invocation of the Lurker”
Sarah Stanton – “Chrysanthemum”
Tori Truslow – “Train in Vain”
Thank you to our judges – Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Juliet E McKenna and Andy Cox and Andy Hedgecock from Interzone and to all the authors who took part.
Keeping reading for information about each of the authors and the opening of each of our shortlisted stories.
Gaea Denker-Lehrman: Solvers
Gaea Denker-Lehrman has loved science fiction her whole life. Growing up with one foot in reality and one on the deck of the Starship Enterprise, she raided her parents’ bookshelves to devour Asimov and Heinlein, only discovering a love of Le Guin when she became tall enough to reach the higher shelves of the alphabetically-sorted collection. She currently lives in San Francisco with her two dogs, anxiously awaiting the day when teleportation becomes a reality and the three of them can visit the far reaches of the earth (where, she suspects, life is even more exciting than fiction).
Wind whipped the dark cornfields, jerking the steering wheel under Peter’s grip. It was probably killing his gas mileage. Something blue twinkled through the stalks. As far as he knew, nobody owned this land except farmers and the occasional shotgun-toting maniac. Why would anyone headquarter their business so many miles from the city?
He checked the printout and continued, grudgingly, when the pavement crumbled into dirt. Great, now he’d have to set aside money for new shocks, or whatever mechanics conned people into buying after adventures like these. Driving made Peter nervous. Especially night driving. Especially to new places.
The road straightened, revealing his destination through an aisle of corn: an ultra-modern, glass high-rise. The whole thing was rimmed in blue neon, probably frightening wildlife for miles. Peter checked the map printout again and nudged the car forward.
Peter didn’t trust women with drawn-in eyebrows, and the receptionist was no exception. She sent him into a corner to bubble forms proving his identity, a five-page non-disclosure agreement, and a questionnaire about how he’d heard of Solvers, Inc. That last one was interesting, since he hadn’t so much heard of it, as had been recruited as a Solver himself. Evidently there was a demand for specialized computer programmers, since the average IT-Joe found it easier to throw a list of languages on their resume and just hire a niche Solver if he ever got tapped for an obscure one. Peter bubbled “other.”
Darren Goossens: Circle
Darren Goossens has published a handful of stories in magazines such as Aurealis and Andromeda Spaceways, and a few cartoons in the now-defunct (not his fault) NFG magazine and in a Physics textbook. A scientist by training, his work has seen print in journals as diverse as Acta Crystallographica, The Journal of Applied Crystallography, and Zeitschrift für Kristallographie. With such a wide-ranging interests, it is little wonder he turned to writing fiction. He would like to rest on his laurels but they are a bit thin on the ground.
Sara checked through her backpack for the medical kit and dropped a handful of foodbars and a bottle of water into the side compartment. Slinging the pack over her shoulder, she called out to Thomas, technician, engineer, programmer and grumpy bastard:
“I’m going now. I’ll be back around sunset.”
“You do that,” he grunted.
Surly sod, thought Sara. Nothing changes.
She took a step towards the door.
He did not look up from his console, one amongst many 3D displays and flashing screens, as he said: “You might want to look at this first. More mysterious movements.”
Pursing her lips, she skirted the table and went across to the bank of screens and controls that lined one wall of the main room of their cramped, portable base camp.
“What am I looking at?”
He stabbed a thick, hairy finger at an image relayed down from a low orbit. “That group from further north is coming closer. Their latest camp is there.”
Sara said: “The Green People. Yes, Eng said that a party of them would come before Amon next rose, and it will rise in a couple of days. Is the detachment of Ranii almost at the camp of the Lake Folk?”
He punched buttons and turned a finger wheel and said: “Target three.”
Sara bit her lip at his terminology.
An image sprang up on a second screen. The scene showed a series of infra-red traces making their way through the forest, mid-way between the village and the lake.
David McGroarty: A Traveller From An Antique Land
David McGroarty was born in Glasgow but for the last ten years has lived in London. He has a degree in software engineering and has worked as an actor, a computer programmer and a civil servant. He blogs and posts short fiction at www.davidmcgroarty.net.
A Traveller From An Antique Land
The day after the herring-folk came down from Scotland, a giant walked out of the sea by Porthaven town. Taller than the chalk cliffs and raining rusty seawater over the dock, it crossed the town in a single stride and perched on a hilltop nearby.
The curer, Bill Bowery, was in the harbour, supervising the herring-folk as they rolled out the salt barrels in expectation of the fishing fleet’s return. The curing of the catch had to be quick, and he was watching the Scots too keenly to notice the swell. It was only when an idle pair, the Campbell twins, set down their barrel to stare out over the harbour wall, and Bowery approached in readiness to cuff their ears, that he saw it. The dome of the creature’s head was clear of the surface of the sea and its blank eyes were emerging through the waves. It had the face of a human, set in metal, running red with corrosion. Its features were indistinct, but its size was extraordinary. If it could have opened its mouth it might have swallowed a fishing boat whole. As its shoulders broke the surface, a broad wave rolled out before it like a cavalry.
People began to run. The older townsfolk were the first to flee. Bowery was young at forty, proud of his stout build, which he thought lent him status. Wanting to appear sure on his feet, he stood firm until the surging waters threatened to lift him from the harbour wall and into the sea…
CJ Paget: Invocation of the Lurker
Colum was born and bred in Birmingham, England, but does NOT have the accent. He sold his soul to sci-fi in the 70s, and has been waiting since then for his jetpack, Martian holiday home, and Venusian girlfriend to appear. His work has been published in Fusion Fragment, Daily Science Fiction, Jupiter SF, Electric Spec, and the Anywhere but Earth anthology. He has stories forthcoming in the Rocket Science anthology from Mutation Press, and the Explorers anthology from Dead Robots Society.
Invocation of the Lurker
Tara shifts uncomfortably on the batik cushion. Her pale skin scatters light from candles and glow-globes, creating her own little puddle of luminosity in the twilit room. Her hosts keep to the edges, the outer darkness. Their lights are the glow of intoxicant roll-ups, or the many stylistic flourishes of zoner fashion. There’s the winking-blinking of electronics, worn like jewellery or implanted into flesh; communications devices that one-time-rich-people like Tara don’t need. Some lights are the symptoms of ‘bad-bugs’, designer viruses left over from the Big-Bad-Mad; phosphorescent teeth, luminous pattern-rashes, glowing veins. In the zones people sometimes accept these infections willingly, as a badge of tribal membership. Everyone in this group has green, glowing irises; she’s surrounded by voyeuristic stars.
It’s not fear that’s the source of Tara’s discomfort, they’ve been perfectly gracious hosts: it’s embarrassment. She’s ashamed of her unscarred skin, her clean blood, her enhanced looks and her good education. Every time she opens her mouth she doesn’t belong. She makes a point of being excessively polite and deferential, so they see she doesn’t think they’re beneath her. She activates her neural weave and noodles around a little on the local nets, to show she doesn’t fear getting head-hacked, though in reality she’s quaking behind her personal firewalls. She’s careful to drink the mint tea with exhibitionist appreciation, so they see she’s not some tourist, afraid of bio-mal in every mouthful.
Sarah Stanton: Chrysanthemum
Sarah Stanton grew up in Perth, Western Australia. Halfway through university, she abandoned a promising career in not having much of a career when she transferred from an opera performance course into a Chinese language major, having fallen for the Middle Kingdom more or less overnight. Three years, two exchange programs and one potential firework accident later, she has settled in Beijing as a freelance translator, editor and proofreader specialising in the literary and creative spheres. As a writer, she has been published in a variety of magazines and indie projects, including Voiceworks, Hunger Mountain, dotdotdash and Starry Rhymes. She blogs at theduckopera.wordpress.com and tweets @theduckopera.
In, out. In, out. Wa, ni tai hao le, you’re so good, you’re so big. Lift. Arch. Fall. Insert Coin.
He reaches for the bedsheet, snorts, wipes himself off. Spit hangs from the corner of his mouth like a fine, clear rope—an ant could climb up and down it twice and he might never know. If I had a face which could screw itself up into disdain, I would not hesitate to do so; but I was not born with the capacity for displeasing expressions. I smile instead, plastic and motionless, murmuring qin’ai de, my dearest, as per the Program.
He’s fumbling with his belt buckle now, pulling on his shoes, the tea I have brewed left unnoticed and cold by the bed. Some men cannot wait, not even for pleasure. His ration ticket lies by the cup, crumpled from a dirty pocket and a hot hand; this will go to the accountants, later on. Now I smile and see him to the door, until next time, until next time, and at last he is thumping down the stairs. The Program bids me replace the bed linen, brew fresh tea and adjust my appearance as well as I may. I have fifteen minutes before the next man comes.
Not so long ago, there were one hundred and nineteen men for every one hundred women in China; these days it is one woman to over one thousand and rising. The few women that remain become the wives of Party members, mistresses to the elite, absurd status symbols for those that can afford them.
Tori Truslow: Train in Vain
A child of Essex who grew up in Hong Kong and Bangkok, Tori Truslow now lives on the banks of her native estuary, where she writes about all sorts of things – particularly cities, cultural crossings, gender, ghosts and the sea. She is a graduate of the Warwick MA in Writing, and her work has appeared in Polluto, Clockwork Phoenix 3, Paraxis, Goblin Fruit, Stone Telling and elsewhere. Story got its teeth into her at an early age, and she does her best to spread the affliction by running workshops in schools, universities and beyond. Find her online at http://toritruslow.com
Train in Vain
Kitsana felt the floor tilt and countered with clock-tight muscles, feeling fresh sweat beading on her back. She stepped tiny circles, bare feet on teak, keeping time with the piphat musicians. The motion had spilled a platter of syrupy orange sweets, which she tried to avoid stepping on as they rolled across the boards. There were too many sets of lungs, too much skin in here; the high-up grilles did not let in enough breeze. Her fingers were too heavy. Surely everyone could see how sluggish her hand-movements were, would realise that the long tapering talons of her dancing costume weren’t purely ornamental. A new creation from Lady Machinery’s workshops: claws that looked like thin brass and acted like living steel. There was nowhere in a lakhon nai dancer’s costume to stow a pistol, so they had to be creative with the costume itself. She almost hoped she’d have to use them, that something would happen to stir up the air in here, break her free from the stiflingly bored stares of their guests.
But the French mission had so far passed without event. The visitors had spent the morning at the Court of Machinery, viewing nangfah-built automata, watched by other agents from Lady Song’s troupe. Kitsana wished she had been assigned that section of the visit. The rooms of the Court of Machinery were always cool, despite the great engines that shifted the chambers around so that no-one could ever infiltrate its heart without a map.