A hearty congratulations to the winners and runners-up of Christopher’s Fantasy Fiction Challenge of 2022, hosted and arranged by the fantastic folks at Vocal Media! The competition launched on September 28, 2022 and submissions ended on November 8, 2022. The prize for first place was $10,000 and a half an hour Zoom call with Christopher, and for second place it was $5,000 and half an hour Zoom call with Christopher. Twenty-five runner-ups each received $50. All twenty-eight stories are available to read here.
It was far from an easy decision with so many great stories to choose from, but Christopher eventually selected writer M. Fritz Wunderli as the first place winner, with a tie for second place between writers Jen Gossoo and Kelly Belmont. Great work from these gifted authors! You can read their stories in full (links below). In the meantime, we’ve featured the first few paragraphs of each to whet your literary appetite.
“The Rain Maiden” by M. Fritz Wunderli
A thousand years ago a drought plagued the village of Shan Yu. Not a drop of rain had fallen on the village in three years. Believing Shangdi was angry with the villagers, they danced in his name, praying for storms and rain to fall on Shan Yu. But after dancing for seven days and seven nights, not a single cloud appeared in the sky.
Shu Li wandered into Ningjing forest at the end of the seventh day. Her feet were blistered and raw, her arms were heavy, and her hope exhausted. Just a small child, Shu Li meandered aimlessly through the dark forest. After wandering numbly along the winding and narrow trail, she slumped against a Yueliang Tree with white bark and crescent leaves. Weeping into the palms of her hands beneath the tender boughs of the Yueliang, Shu Li did not hear the visitor approach.
“Qapkas” by Jen Gossoo
Everything was orange, starting with the trees that ringed the clearing: aspen, birch, cottonwood, maple, and the larches whose needles paled to gold every Fall.
Beyond that golden eye sprawled the evergreens: fir, pine, cedar, spruce, and hemlock; conifers that swathed the Kutenai mountains in a close, dark blanket of growth, rolling down to the rivers in the valleys below. They would still be green beneath ermine coats of snow come November.
But for now, everything was orange.
In the middle of that autumnal company, stark as a gold fleck in a dark eye, fluttered a flag of color; a shred of day-glo orange rustling in the breeze that snaked over the mountainside. Nothing else moved in the clearing save for the aspen, who inclined their golden heads and whispered amongst themselves.
Two miles skyward, another golden eye rolled towards the fleck in the clearing, bright as a beacon on the mountain’s dark shoulders.
“Ember and Sky” by Kelly Belmont
The smell reached her first. It wasn’t her kind, nor was it Elven or Dwarf. She’d smelled this scent only a few times before; the first time was long ago when her dam taught her to hunt and track. They’d come across a wide trail that cut through a lush pine thicket. Her dam stilled her before she could move forward into the clearing.
“What is it,” her young mind asked. “It smells strange.”
An image entered her mind’s eye. The creature walked on two legs like an Elf or a Dwarf, but it was neither. Its features were plainer, though similar to both.
“It is called man.”
And if you’re wondering what Christopher has been up to lately, be sure to check out his upcoming project, Fractal Noise, and view his recent livestream Q&A! And there’s still time to enter the giveaway!
Vocal Challenge Winners 2022