Earlyworks Press Science Fiction Challenge 2011

The £100 winner of the Science Fiction Challenge 2011 is 

R J Allison

Second prize of £25 goes to

Brindley Hallam Dennis 

£5 runner up prizes to 

Rosemary Goodacre, Andrea Tang

and Robert Leonard

Also highly commended were 

Peter Rolls, Andrew Irvine, K S Dearsley and Chris Sanderson.

Their works will appear in the science fiction anthology Telescoping Time published this summer (2012). The aim of this competition was to produce stories, illustrations or strips which make a realistic contribution to the debate about how humans and extra-terrestrial species might prepare for contact and learn to co-operate rather than destroy each other through fear or prejudice, by accident or design.

Please scroll down to read excerpts of the winning stories.

For details of the previous Science Fiction challenge, 

click here.


The Winner


from Last Contact

by R. J. Allison

Everybody remembers where they were when the Message stopped. We’d been expecting it, of course. The first section decoded, the header, had clearly specified the length of the whole transmission. The Message had been streaming in for decades, but we knew exactly when it would come to an end. Ceremonies had been planned across the world to commemorate the moment, but that moment never arrived. The Message just stopped, suddenly, abruptly, and several months too soon.
      ‘The Silencers have got them,’ said Prentiss. ‘That’s what they get for giving away their position.’
      He and I, and seventeen other people, were on board the UN Research Vessel Relayer, orbiting Neptune. I was running some tests on the transmitter array when the news came over the ship’s PA system. Prentiss sat beside me in the engineering module, checking the secondary power system. His comment broke the moment of startled silence which followed the announcement.
      ‘The Silencers are just a legend,’ I said, as much for my benefit as his. Cool reason would restore our courage. ‘Transmission could fail for any number of technical reasons. Or natural ones.’
      He said nothing but I could tell he wasn’t convinced. I looked at the schematic of the transmitter array on the screen, and a tingle of alarm passed through me. What if he was right?...


© R. J. Allison 2011



A Selection from the 

Shortlisted Works


from The Cover Story

by Brindley Hallam Dennis


Two men in badly fitting suits came into the bar and walked over to my table. They said, are you the writer?
I said, I’m a writer.
They said, you wrote a story called The Cover Story?
I said, that’s right.
They said, that’s a strange story.
I said, it’s science fiction.
Is that a fact? the big one said.
I said, I wrote it for a competition.
Now where did you get an idea like that from? the little one asked.
I said, where do any ideas come from? And he looked at the big one.
Where indeed, the big one said, and they both looked at me.
I said, what’s this all about?
Refresh my memory, the big one said, about the story, and he added, go get us a drink Jake, and the little one went off to the bar. The big one leaned in close. Don’t worry too much about my partner, he said, if he seems a little over eager...


© Brindley Hallam Dennis  2011




from Stars in the Water

by Andrea Tang

“Here we are.”
     In a South American marine research facility, Dr Warren Harding and Dr Len Dresmon stopped at one of the glass windows of a large aquarium tank. Looking through the glass pane of the tank, the two marine biologists spotted a strange formless figure in the blue water. It floated motionlessly.
     “This is Tetra,” Harding announced.
     “Magnificent...” Dresmon remarked, taking a step closer to the glass to get a better look at the oddity.
     “She's not moving much right now, but there are times when she's quite active,” Harding informed.
     Dresmon looked at him curiously. “She? You've gendered it?”
     Harding looked away and rubbed his arm sheepishly. “Well, not exactly. It's just that she seems female to me for some reason.”
     Dresmon chuckled. “Don't fall in love with the specimen, Warren.”
     Harding laughed lightly. “I don't think that would be possible.”...


© Andrea Tang 2011



The anthology is available from the

Earlyworks Press Publications Page

Doug McGuffey standing next to the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) Flight Structure. Photo courtesy of NASA/GSFC/Chris Gunn


'It takes an alien race to show us our humanity' 

- Eric Brown in 'Kethani', his novel about alien contact, published by Solaris Books.

The James Webb telescope, six times more powerful than the Hubble, will be launched in the next few years. It may well show us for the first time, alien artifacts on planets in orbit around other stars. It is more likely than any previous human endeavour to lead us into contact with intelligent life from beyond the solar system.  More info from NASA


A selection from the

Shortlisted Works


from In Their Image

by Rosemary Goodacre


‘I told you they were androids,’ Carlo insisted as he lounged with Peter and Jan in the rays of the warm Xenobian sun.
      ‘They seem so intelligent,’ Peter said: it was as though each had his own personality. ‘Besides, what about the Message?’
      ‘You know that was transmitted over a century ago,’ Jan reminded him.
      He sighed. Now they had seen an android being recharged he could no longer imagine they were alive. They had also seen the Warehouse, where broken down androids were recycled and new ones assembled from a complicated array of components, apparently made from electrical circuitry, metals and advanced kinds of plastic. The more he discovered about their structure the more he marvelled that the completed androids had limbs which moved as smoothly as those of live creatures, and features whose arrangements bore an uncanny resemblance to a human face.
      ‘I’m off to compile our report,’ said Carlo.
      ‘Mind what you type out,’ Peter begged. ‘Don’t make it sound – well, patronising, when you describe how they’re built.’
      Carlo stared at him. ‘Why the hell should it matter, so long as my report’s accurate?’
      ‘It’s just that Xweft and a few of the others are fluent in English: I’d hate them to be, er, offended…


© Rosemary Goodacre  2011




from How do you Feel?

by Robert Leonard


“Vasily...wake up, Vasily.”
     Vasily Pavlov opened his eyes to find his bedroom dancing about as his mother shook him awake.
     “Mum: it’s Saturday – there’s no school on Saturday.”
     He lay back down, but his mother was insistent. “Vasily – get up; you have a visitor – an official visitor. It’s something to do with that competition you entered.”
     “Have I won something?” he asked.
     “I think so...perhaps...I’m not sure. Put your dressing-gown on and come downstairs.”
     Vasily leapt out of bed and shrugged his way into the thick dressing-gown that his mother kept promising him he would grow into, and followed her downstairs.
     When he reached the hallway, Vasily jumped from rug to rug, so that he wouldn’t have to walk barefoot on the cold stones, and nervously entered the front room.
     Murmured chatter stopped as soon as he arrived and all eyes turned towards him. His mother and father were perched on the edge of the sofa like a pair of parakeets. 
     Sitting comfortably in the armchair opposite his parents was a very old woman. She had a twinkle in her eye and she was smiling at him.
     “Good morning, Vasily,” she said. “I’m sorry to get you out of bed so early on a Saturday morning. My name is Sofia Tereshkova. I am Director of Exopsychology at the Moscow Institute of Advanced Learning and I wanted to congratulate you personally on winning the Chocolate Star breakfast cereal competition.”...


 © Robert Leonard 2011





from Protocol 909

by Peter Rolls


Bzzz, bzzz…
     The red phone buzzed and the General snatched up the hand-piece. ‘Bishop.’
     The caller's voice was crisp. ‘It's Jensen, sir – at Wolf Lake. I think you should come over. I'm invoking Protocol 909 …’
     The General pumped his fist in silent triumph. ‘909? Are you serious? This isn't some fancy kite-flying?’
     ‘Needs your attention, sir.’
     ‘With you in an hour.’

The General looked hard and looked again ‘You've checked all this out? … It's not a local glitch – or some radio-ham jokester?’
     ‘No chance,’ said Jensen. ‘I fed the co-ordinates to our auto-link set-ups at El Diablo and Zebedee. They give the same profile.’ He spread out two more record-strips.
     The General made up his mind. ‘OK. This is the biggie. And it's on my watch …’ He did a double fist-pump. ‘The rulebook says we put this straight up the line. Pack your bag.’...

© Peter Rolls 2011




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