One entry stood out for all the judges – ‘Error’, by Luke Young. As strangely beautiful as it was starkly terrifying, it displayed many of the qualities that make for fine short fiction: a gripping storyline, a palpable sense of voice, and an ability to make an imaginary world seem (all too) real. As many of us now grapple with life lived in the company of more computers, tablets, and smart phones than ever before, ‘Error’ dramatised the uncanny emotions engendered by our relationship to technology – or, rather, technology’s relationship to us.
Two other entries were also admirable runners-up. ‘Albert’, by Rowan Curtis, deftly paired machine-learning and AI with an exploration of animal consciousness to ask pertinent questions about what is means to be human. And ‘The Banana Tree’, by Udani Kottearachchi, was an evocative account of the struggle for natural resources in a dystopian, post-pandemic nightmare. The judges would also like to single out ‘Hunters and Hunted’, by Rachel Dauncey for an honourable mention.