The committee (or hangers on) of SwanCon XV were an organised bunch – not only did they run a short story competition with 8 entries, but they produced a 24 A5 page side-saddle-stapled booklet of the entries. Here, we reproduce some of the interesting details of the booklet itself, along with the first paragraph of the stories.
Cover: “Shadowing the Shadow” [Jeremy Reston] hand drawn image, looking down on the head of an individual pointing a gun upwards, but not quite at the viewer’s viewpoint. Background of stylised skyscrapers with human shaped shadow on the middle one.
Inside front cover (p2): Table of Contents, including both the listing of the stories and listing of artworks with artist credits. Also the following disclaimer:
Editor’s Note: The order of these stores, which comprise the complete entry for the short story competition competition at SwanCon XV, was chosen by the random second-order arbitrary decision process and in no way attempts to reflect opinion as to merit.
AFBS* [Chris Stronach] (pp.3-5)
“The tall westerner shivered and pulled his cloak closer as a chill gust of wind blew down the darkened street. Why, he mused, did the Barbarian’s Union insist on bloody loincloths as standard dress year-round? They were impractical, cold, useless for protection from anything, especially sweatrash, and they were so itchy! At least they kept the laundry bills down. He strode silently towards the only tavern in this quarter-The Crazy Gamer. No-one knew the significance of this name, save that it was a relic form ages long past. ”
Down To Night [Jeremy G Byrne] (p.6)
“She had only thirty six minutes. Thirty six minutes they had told her. Yet thirty six minutes can be a long time if you count the seconds aloud as you walk slowly down to the ocean’s edge to watch the setting sun. She had left her wristwatch behind, dropped it on the kitchen table near the radio which still screamed its impotent rage from the shelf above the sink in the empty house now far behind. She didn’t need it anyway. Her footsteps in the sand and her whispered words marked the only time that mattered now.”
Sentient Response No. 2 [Paul Branch, Celine Zhu] (pp.7-8)
“FILE No: 307-216-SR-02-T
CLASSIFICATION: Under observation
DEFINE TASK: PREPARE FOR TREATMENT
Anachronisms [Chris Stronach] (pp.9-10)
“The tones of guitar music crease the air. The sound carries to the old man with the sword, but he does not hear the words. His mind is focussed on the katana, and the way he and it interact to produce a perfect kata. He returns the sword to the scabbard, gradually allowing his mind to encompass the reality of the room around him. He bows slightly as he leaves the hard wooden floor of the exercise area. His feet tingle as the woolen carpet covering the rest of the floor tickles them. He returns the katana to a sword rack and picks up a towel lying nearby. On his way to the shower he pauses a moment to look at himself in a full-length mirror. He sees the figure of a powerfully built man stripped to the waist. His cropped hair is grey, and the wrinkles around his eyes give an indication of his advancing age, but on the whole, he doesn’t look too bad for a man of one hundred and twenty. The anti-agathics are doing their job well, he muses. He moves away, entering the bathroom.”
Blind [Jeremy G Byrne] (pp.12-14)
“From the moment she saw the car draw up outside the house, low, slick, expensive and spotless, something inside her insisted that it couldn’t possibly work. She’d felt it on the phone and she felt it now. Still, she owed it to Joanne at least to try.”
Rhapsody in Green [Guy Blackman] (pp.15-16)
“As an aesthete, I feed on beauty – and I mean that literally, not figuratively. For I am not an aesthete in the human sense of the word, but in the esoteric. Basically, an aesthete is a type of faerie – and for those plebeians out there who associate faerie with “fairy”, but faerie I mean one of those small winged creatures commonly believed to be mythological. Aesthetes are faeries who gain sustenance from beauty. For us, it provides a food source as rich as a human banquet, although we do not consume it in the same way. Without beauty, we wither and fade.”
untitled [Paul Branch, Celine Zhu] (pp.17-18)
“The sky was filled with acidic smog, capable of eating through a person in under a minute. It hung like a shroud over the city, smothering all within.”
Love Drive [Guy Blackman] (pp.19-22)
“Gloria, Stefan and Cuddles returned amidst roars of rapturous blessing from the gathered crowd. Their love was an example to the world: transcendental, everlasting. And they were beautiful – Gloria, with her lustrous red-brown hair, elfin face, lithe body, and, using the common cliché, pert young breasts; Stefan, small but compact, deep blue eyes, sunbleached hair and full lips; and Cuddles, his lines sleek and flashing, with fashionable blue-grey rocket boosters, and the cutest little snub nose you’ve ever seen.”
Other artwork credits (in order of first page reference) are for Jeremy Reston (“IBM”, “Space Food”), Michael Simmons (untitled – 3 such), Alicia Smith (Various), Guy Blackman (“Shaman”), and Kerrie Hanlon (“Cutting Edge”).
No mention is made of the winner – it is presumed that at the time of publication, either this was not decided, or was deliberately withheld.