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Letter From The Founder
Welcome, dear reader, to the first annual STSC Christmas fiction symposium extravaganza (We probably need to come up with a simpler and more elegant title for 2023).
Long time readers of our collective work here will know that each month we put out a unique collection with a set word as a theme. Well this time around that word is ‘Fiction’ which means that our extremely talented group of writers have taken it upon themselves to pen some new short stories for us all to enjoy.
As well as many regular storywriters I am thrilled to see some of our members return from hiatus for the occasion as well as people new to the medium of the short story stepping up and having a go. Some of these stories are Christmassy (Tis the season after all) and some are not, but all are excellent and show what a vast array of different voices and perspectives that we have on offer here.
So we hope you enjoy our offering which is essentially a completely free and unique book length short story collection. And we also of course hope that you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and that you will continue reading our work and supporting what we do here in 2023 and beyond.
Thank you as always.
Until next time,
(The authors were given the option to write their own blurbs for this to do their own work justice. These appear below in italics. Few chose to exercise this option)
Fan fiction for a podcast that mocks the whole idea of the podcast. What kind of a crazy STSC Extended Universe is being created here? Well, I have no idea but judging by this it is a hilarious and weird place and so is more than welcome. Trilety adds another string to her bow.
One of my favourite things about the Symposium is how the friendly competition aspect inspires members without websites of Substacks to get involved. And so Phil has entered the fray and presented us with a dropbox link for a story of his from 2007. 15 years ago. Man, that makes me feel old. I wonder if this is just the start of what we will see from Phil?
Who’s coming to breakfast? Death. Like the actual guy. It’s not a metaphor. Here’s what critics are saying: ‘An instant classic that lays bare the truth of our times. A triumphant literary achievement from one of the 21st century’s writers.’ - me. ‘Better than those rubbish poems’ - my parents. ‘It was okay’ - my wife. ‘I didn’t actually read it and I’m only doing this because I knew Adam in high school and he paid me. Please don’t use my name.’ - famous author who asked to remain anonymous.
He just keeps on getting better and better with each new story he releases. Beautiful, poetic prose and absolutely unique storytelling. Can’t wait for his physical book release. Phenomenal.
This is Lyle’s first go at properly writing a short story. Well it’s clear as day that he has ‘it’ and I hope that this will be just the beginning of his pursuing this creative writing path. Remarkably assured and constructed work here.
A work of real atmosphere and sustained eeriness, helped along by the perfectly chosen imagery (both in the prose and in the accompanying illustrations). I know that this one will stay with me.
The man with many alias (in true pulp inspired style) decided to casually drop a near 5000 word story on us, in the best tradition of Christmas generosity. This has a ghostly Dickensian vibe without being a pastiche or send up. This is hugely entertaining and more revieling about the writers life than many of us would care to admit.
The spirit of Christmas and family and fun captured in 350 words. An unbelievably difficult task that Frank makes appear effortless.
I’m always intrigued by how people can take seemingly simple (or generic) writing prompts and really run with them and make the whole much more than the sum of the parts. This story from Clint is a prime example of this in action. I like how it simultaneously embraces cliche while also subverting the readers expectations.
He’s back! After a six month posting absence (during which he has written at least one novel) Brady returns with a story that had me smiling from ear to ear throughout. One of the most readily identifiable and unique voices around these parts.
Another first time fiction attempt, another fantastic story from someone who has more talent for narrative (and especially wordbuilding) than I suspect he gives himself credit for. This was so good that it inspired Jeanne to paint one of the characters, which is a pretty high and well-deserved compliment.
Wow. A story that begins with the beautiful game takes a decidedly unbeautiful, but extremely powerful turn. I was riveted and stunned by the dark turn this took.
The one word prompt was fiction. Everyone else wrote a short story. But Terry said ‘hold my beer’ and decided to write an epic poem instead. What else can you say to that other than to stand back and applaud.
The narrative and time scale shifting was absolutely masterfully done and that is a very difficult thing to do well in the confines of a short story. Extremely impressive storytelling.
This story is written from the point of view of an uploaded consciousness that was harnessed for use by a future civilization and came to realize its eternal digital existence as a nightmare. If you’ve ever hesitated at tech enthusiasts’ visions of uploading ourselves to survive our bodies’ mortality, this short piece might resonate.
What better Christmas treat from Edward than for him to drop the third and final part of his Impossible Island sequence? As I have said before he has the enviable gift of being able to produce quantity that is all very high quality. And this latest is no exception.
I kept the character’s name as Alex Dobrenko because I used actual e-mails from my spam folder as inspiration and was too lazy to change it.
Of all of the story prompts I have seen people work with, using material from your spam folder might be the most original. Genius. I am tempted to steal this idea but I don’t know if I could execute it as well as Alex has here. And as always Alex’ illustration choice just takes it to a higher level of absurd hilarity.
Lovely stuff. Writing fiction for a young audience like this takes an extra level of ability. I’m always impressed by people who can write stories that in Aesop fashion could be from anytime and speak to everyone like this.
Always interesting when someone cottons on that fiction can be anything and that there aren’t really any rules. Craig has gone of the deep end with this realisation and we are all the better off for this madcap absurdist gem of a story that has resulted.
Tony dropkicks the rulebook of standard short story writing practices and instead delivers this beauty. Because what else was he going to do? Conform? No chance.
Whenever someone pens and publishes a work of animal fiction, their work tends to be marketed as Watership Down for the chosen animal. Well, this short story, with imagery by stellar paleoartist Esther van Hulsen, might as well be Watership Down for ophthalmosaurs, marine reptiles that lived ~160 million years ago. I will let you decide the verity of that, dear reader, should you choose to read on. Enjoy!
Turns out Vita- a dark horse for this Symposium who expressed seemingly zero desire to get involved- has quite a way with dialogue and moving a narrative along. Another first time story poster who I suspect may now have a taste for it.
It is a short story, appended by still-shorter stories about the story. Some may say that this is an essay disguised as a short story and that I am cheating. To that I say, “Pfffft.” Every word is still about the craft, and about that mythical goal we call authenticity. Thus, it remains a phantasm, through and though.
Sneaky. I applaud it, though.
I can see why most people didn’t take up the self-blurbing opportunity. It’s difficult, it turns out. Anyway this is my first short story in a while and I hope you all enjoy it (2023 is going to be predominantly fiction from me by the way). Thanks.
So that was the STSC symposium on Fiction. We hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed creating it.
Thank you for your support with these projects we put together, thank you for reading them and thanks for all of your comments, feedback and notes. Thank you for taking the time to share them and pass on the word.
And of course above all thanks to all of the contributors and those who help support the STSC via my personal Substack, especially those who keep a low profile, I hope we will be able to coax more of you into taking the plunge and participating in future issues.
And finally: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!