Thirty-six short stories were submitted for the first ever FutureBook speculative fiction competition run with digital reading platform the Pigeonhole. Authors were tasked with imagining the "future of the book", with the five best entries to be serialised on the Pigeonhole's app, and the winner to be announced ahead of FutureBook Live, The Bookseller’s publishing conference, to be held on 30th November in London.
The shortlisted writers are Norfolk-based editor Louise Harnby with ‘Living Fiction’, which imagines a world where authors tap into downloaded crime stories direct from the minds of convicts; freelance editor Jamie Groves with “The Paper Pages” a Matrix-tinged future in which schoolchildren are uploaded with literature every night; Scottish writer Ian Green with “The Once and Future Book” which features a romance novel written by a bot; the anonymous Fire Bird with “Flying Lessons” an excoriating tract on the potential heartlessness and profiteering future of publishing; and finally Northern Irish writer Ian Sansom with his “On Developments in Book Delivery Systems”, which offers a a touch of humour and class with which to cleanse dystopianed palates.
The anthology of five shortlisted stories will launch on 25th November, with each new story to be released on consecutive days in the run-up to the conference. The winner will be announced on the morning of 30th November and the winning author will be invited to take part in a panel discussion on the state of publishing, and the themes around the ‘future book’ raised in the anthology. The discussion will be chaired by Pigeonhole co-founder Anna Jean Hughes and the panellists are Natasha Bardon, publishing director, HarperCollins; Anwen Hoosen, founder, Bird Literary Agency; and Aki Schilz, director of The Literary Consultancy.
Judges for the competition are Molly Flatt, author and associate editor of FutureBook; Tom Hunter, director of the Arthur C.Clarke Award for Science Fiction; and Hughes.
Hughes said: "It's rare to judge a competition of such quality, it made the decision incredibly tricky, but the end result is a collection that not only engages and thrills but also asks important questions about where our industry is going. I can't wait to dig further into their ideas with our panel on the 30th."
The full programme for FutureBook Live can be accessed here, and tickets can be bought here. FutureBook Live takes place on 30th November in London, at 155 Bishopsgate.