The results are in for round three of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction challenge. After scoring first in round one and third in round two, I was feeling pretty confident about round three. I was a little nervous, because I knew competition would be stiff. But the assignment that I received was right up my alley with Genre: Thriller–Location: a radio tower–Object: ice skates. The piece I wrote was my favourite of the three, by far. It was the most “me.” I was totally in my element.
And guess what?
I didn’t even place in the top half of my group! That’s right. Not even an honourable mentions, when I was pretty sure that I had one of those coveted top four spots in the bag, haha.
We don’t get to read the other entries, but they did post the synopses of the top eight pieces for each group. I’m not entirely sure where I went wrong. Based on the synopses of the higher scoring pieces, I may have been slightly off genre. Or perhaps I didn’t do anything wrong, and the competition was just that much steeper in round three.
Either way, I still had a blast with this challenge. Now I get to enjoy a bit of a break before the NYC Short Story Challenge starts in January 2018. I thought I’d share my not-so-winning piece with in the Story Laboratory ! Head over and check it out. Don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments!
FFF is a weekly feature to encourage readers to get into flash and short fiction. I’ll be using FFF to share some of my own short stories, and also to highlight the writing of other authors, new and established, who are looking to expand their audience. If you are a reader, please leave feedback! If you are an author, please contact me if you have a short story you’d like to see on “Sarah Does Sci-Fi.”
“22XX: Escape Velocity” by Jelani Wilson
They say it’s bad luck to be born on the dark side of the Moon. According to legend, it dooms you to die in space. I never really believed it even though people have been telling me that since I was little. I can’t help but wonder if that’s why I ended up where I am now, floating out here in space in a stolen shuttle with my best friend and my nanotech professor.
The good news is we’re on our way to Europa. We’ll be safe there. The bad news is space is fucking huge. Nothing like those vintage space operas where you can zip across galaxies between commercial breaks and extended monologues.
As if on cue, my best friend, Herb, ducks into the cockpit, his chubby face sagging, glum, and burned-out. Even his cybernetic optics manage look a little dim. He’s a much better prodigy than I am. He’s only in this mess because he got roped into the calamity I caused by choosing the wrong research to ‘revise’.
He yawns, his spiky hair wilting. “Thrusters are charged and ready.”
Professor Tsai scoots out from under the communications terminal. “Good, you two should get suited up.”
Herb motions to me as he leads the way down the cramped passage. The vacuum suits are racked behind the bunks. As the name implies, they keep you alive in space. The helmet has built-in phytoplankton air filters, emits a full-spectrum distress signal, and shields you from meteoroids and cosmic radiation – all while pumping you with enough survival meds to keep you alive for up 2500 standardized hours.
It’s honestly better to die. You’ll either be insane, in a coma, or maybe both after floating that long in the void.
“Yo, you all right, Sasha?” Herb asks me as he puts on his helmet and clicks on the intercom.
“Yeah, I just don’t like space travel,” I reply, my voice washed in static. “And there’s so much to think about. Even if we get to Europa, what are the chances of us ever being able to…”
“Go home again, finish school, have our lives back, and all that bullshit?” he says with a flippant yawn.
“Well, uh, yeah...?”
He shakes his head at me like I’m an idiot and laughs. “Seriously, Sasha? Don’t you get it? We’re free! We’re finally fucking free!”
Not what I was expecting.
“No more exams, no more indoctrination, no more competition, no fucking pressure. Don’t you hate being treated like a scholarship magnet? The entire Solar System is ours to explore now. Hell, you’re about to see Delia, again.”
He tosses me a disk-shaped compression canister I manage to catch without dropping.
He’s got a point.
So then, maybe it’s a good thing I reworked that abandoned nanotech research for my class project and ended up revealing a scientific breakthrough the military would kill for?
The only thing is my parents don’t treat me like scholarship magnet. They believe in me, even though I’m really not all that great for a kid who’s supposed to be a genius. If only I were as wary of my
If you’d like to continue the adventure with Sasha and Herb, make sure you grab a copy of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements which includes Jelani Wilson’s story “22XX: One Shot”
Whenever we envision a world without war, without prisons, without capitalism, we are producing speculative fiction. Organizers and activists envision, and try to create, such worlds all the time. Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown have brought twenty of them together in the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change. The visionary tales of Octavia’s Brood span genres—sci-fi, fantasy, horror, magical realism—but all are united by an attempt to inject a healthy dose of imagination and innovation into our political practice and to try on new ways of understanding ourselves, the world around us, and all the selves and worlds that could be. The collection is rounded off with essays by Tananarive Due and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and a preface by Sheree Renée Thomas.