One Giant Read is delighted to announce that the winner of the 2016/17 Flash Fiction Competition is Bill Cox... Giant Congratulations! Bill will receive a One Giant Read prize pack including Space Agency memorabilia, science fiction books and Star Trek DVDs - well done!
The entries were shortlisted by the team at One Giant Read HQ before being teleported to the UK Space Agency where Susan Buckle, Astronaut Flight Education Programme Support Manager and her colleagues selected the winner.
Here’s what Susan had to say about Bill’s winning entry: “I think [the entry] was extremely well written, captivating, and had a great twist (that North America had been destroyed whilst they were on their way to Mars). The author has clearly researched the topic area to know about current technology and what it might take to build a habitat on another planet: “They had 3D printers. They had biological samples capable of growing in the harsh Martian conditions. They had a DNA library that could produce anything given the right base materials.” On a personal note, I also like the fact it has a female lead!”
Her colleague at the UK Space Agency added: “I like [the] entry as I think it has a good twist to it and is well structured. The author also makes it quite atmospheric and you are left wondering what happened next.”
Read the winning entry here
She paused on the final rung of the ladder.
“An event to be celebrated by all mankind.”
That’s what the president had called it three weeks ago, during his recorded message to the crew. She had been moved by the phrase and later, in her bunk, she had pondered on the significance of the landing and her part in it.
The last two rover missions had both found traces of life on Mars. That had spurred on the launching of a manned mission and Ellie, to her surprise, found herself going through accelerated astronaut training. Her biological specialities made her the ideal candidate from a science perspective.
Now though, a step away from the surface, it all seemed so hollow. The past ten days had seemed like a waking nightmare. What should have been the most hazardous parts of the mission, the insertion into Mars orbit and the subsequent landing, had passed in a daze. At this historical moment the crew were sombre, going through the motions on autopilot.
Ellie look around. The scene before her was unspectacular, a rocky plain that stretched to the horizon. However, the colours, now they were something. Rusty red soil littered with orange boulders under a pink sky. Not a hint of green or blue anywhere. It was as if someone had placed a red filter over her visor.
Ellie gathered herself and jumped from the last rung of the ladder. Her feet touched the ground together, throwing up a small cloud of Martian dust.
There was a script for this moment that she had been extensively rehearsed in prior to launch. It was a speech full of noble ideals and the heroism of exploration. It all seemed superfluous now. It was, after all, more for the consumption of the viewers back on Earth. The asteroid that had impacted the North American continent seven days ago meant that nobody was watching now.
It had appeared from out of nowhere. Undetected by space or ground based observatories until a mere seventy-two hours before it impacted. She remembered the final message from NASA. An extinction level event the mission controller had called it.
She took a moment to look around. There was something about the landscape that spoke to her. True, it was alien and hostile, but humans had always moved on to new environments and tamed them. The crew had discussed it endlessly over the past week. Their mission had been designed to test the technology that would allow them to ‘live off the land’. They had 3D printers. They had biological samples capable of growing in the harsh Martian conditions. They had a DNA library that could produce anything given the right base materials. They had all they needed to survive for an indefinite period. There was nothing waiting for them back home that was any less hostile than conditions here.
“Do you want to say anything?” Mark asked over the radio.