Techsmart gigabyte sci-fi short story competition

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I’ve been of a mind to enter as many writing competitions that I could manage. Strange as it may be, this one caught my eye. This is the pitch: 

“All aspiring writers, if you have a science-fiction short story in you, it’s time to put fingers to keyboard and send it to us. Why? Well you could have the opportunity to have your story published in TechSmart. Good enough some might say, but more importantly, there’s an amazing Gigabyte U2440N notebook up for grabs for our overall winner, worth R10 000!

There’s a little twist though; all sci-fi stories must have a South African angle. Whether it’s Jabraltians invading Jozi, Cape Town stuck in a Cerebral Time Vortex, or Durban doppelgangers poisoning prime-ministers – get Mzanzi in there!

So, if you think you are the next Asimov, Clarke, Dick, Herbert or Heinlein, start writing today!”

A South African angle to a sci-fi story? We’ve had quite a bit of that recently with all Neill Blomkamp’s latest films, so I thought why not? I looked at the rules. The first one caught my eye:

“Stories must be no longer than 700 words (excluding title) or they will not be accepted. ”

That’s not a short story, as the first to comment on their post pointed out, this is flash fiction. Okay, I can do that. Many writing competitions have flash fic as a format, so this is a good place to start. Previously, I’ve attempted a horror flash fiction with a 500 scene called Cats Eyes which I’m still attempting to cut down to 500 words. Extraneous words notwithstanding, I was quite pleased with the result. As soon as I find a horror flash fic competition, that’s where it will go.

Now, on to the task of creating a sci-fi story set in South Africa using less words than what is usually needed to describe the first location of a sci-fi setting. I was teasing about an idea of what would happen to good ol’ Mzanzi should a momentous scientific discovery be made elsewhere in the world. Something like fusion power, or wormhole time-travel, something that will change the way humans relate to each other.

What I went with is the development of the universal immunity system chip. A choice that seems a bit counter-intuitive for such a narrow word count now. Can I explain the Sci-Fi concept of such a chip in less than 700 words? (Well, you see, it’s a chip that hijacks your auto-immune functions and optimizes the fight against foreign bodies, like diseases. 17 words. Maybe I should have included this bit as lazy exposition) What I was hoping for was to be able to describe the function of such a device when left in the hands of our mostly lawless, racially divided, multiculture of mistrust.

Will I succeed? Well, we’ll find out when I am updating this site from a brand new Gigabyte laptop.

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