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Lunar Awards Season One Winner Announcement!
A story about hard parenting choices and letting go of the ones you love most.
Congratulations tofor winning the first ever Lunar for her short story, “Sweet Sixteen”! You can read Meg’s stories and essays on her Substack, Stock Fiction. Let’s talk about this season’s entries, why this story in particular rose to the top, and what our honorable mentions have in common with the winner.
There was no shortage of good writing this inaugural season, making it hard to narrow down the choices. I suspect it’s only going to get more difficult as the Lunar Awards gains traction. A wonderful variety was represented. If you’re a fan of any particular speculative sub-genre, you’re likely to find it in at least one of the submissions. I encourage everyone to read, like, comment and share these short stories on Notes.
Both fantasy and science fiction offer an opportunity to create rich worlds, full of interesting characters, environments and lore. Many of the submissions embraced that opportunity, but a good story is about more than what you can pack into 2500 words. It’s also about what you leave out in the editing process. In a few of the entries I found myself lost in the rich details, wanting for the core conflict to surface quicker.
I immediately know something’s not right with the world Meg built, but she chooses to leave out that detail. Never once did I question this decision. I know it’s serious; it must be, because the protagonist’s parents are each willing to leave her behind as a matter of survival and protection. There is no discussion of how the world came to be so dangerous, or why space travelers are met with disdain. All we need to know is that forward momentum is necessary.
Foundationally, “Sweet Sixteen“ is a character driven story. That’s a hard sell with speculative. Fans of the genre are used to expansive universes, full of people groups, creatures and history. Both of the honorable mentions also focus the reader’s attention on a single person or entity. There was no doubt about the struggle and yearning of the individual.
Struggle. Conflict. Desire. That’s the heart of any good story, regardless of the genre. Quite a few of the submissions were fantastically told tales, even fun to read, but left me wondering what the protagonist was really, truly after, or why it even mattered. What were they willing to lose, or what were they trying to gain? Within the first few paragraphs the obstacles should be instantly recognizable. As an author the best question to ask is what’s at stake?
In “Sweet Sixteen”, the struggle is a child coming to grips with her transition into adulthood and understanding her parent’s decisions. She could rebel. She could choose to stay or leave, but she must ultimately learn to make the hard choice. Her parents are setting that example. Survival is not easy. Even though we want the daughter to be okay, to be reunited with her parents, for the mother and father to resolve their differences, for life to be perfect and fair — it’s not. We can relate as the reader because many of us have to make those same kinds of hard choices every day.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that endings must be emotionally charged or sad. It’s better that they be true to whatever direction the story is headed. George Saunders talks about this on his Story Club Substack, in an essay titled “On Darkness“. You can bring levity and joy into a story, yes, even a fantasy or science fiction short story, and remain true to the conflict. Meg’s story just so happens to lean on loss, of a childhood and of parents.
Finally, I’ll say what stood out about Meg’s story is the pacing. It never hangs on too long or lingers on the extraneous, and it concludes with satisfaction. “Sweet Sixteen“ started as close to the end as possible, while still allowing the whole story to unfold. That’s the sweet spot where readers finish a story and do not feel jilted by an abrupt ending. It’s hard to do, but Meg accomplished the task wonderfully.
Thank you to everyone who entered. I look forward to our next season!
In the story “A Sexbot Reads Checkhov’s “The Darling““, written by, a sexbot trades in attachments of the emotional kind.
In the story "Mycelial", written by, an earthly sentience observes the local inhabitants and desires to become like them.
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