Arc and The Tomorrow Project: competition results

25 May

Today we are delighted to announce the results of the first Arc/Tomorrow Project short story competition.

While we are a quarterly we have virtually no room in Arc for writing that comes at us from odd angles. The competition is the one chance we have at the moment of developing new talent.

So how did it go? Pretty impressive, I’d say: we recieved around a hundred proper stories (none of your “flash fiction” here), representing thousands of hours of effort and struggle (and, I hope, at least some fleeting pleasure).

Was choosing the shortlist difficult? No. The first rule of judging and reading fiction (and saying this puts the fear of God into new writers – but it’s true) is that you can tell within seconds if a story is alive. It’s something to do with the way the prose and the ideas lock together. It’s a rhythm, a cadence, something you only pick up by constant practice – and it’s unmistakable.

If the competition hadn’t gone well, we’d have been wading through passable stories for days. As it is, our shortlist is made up entirely of stories that sing.

And while we were reading, half a world away in San Francisco, the Tomorrow Project was building our new website. Here it is:

Together, Arc and the Tomorrow Project will be generating conversations around our winning fiction, giving writers an exciting, inspirational  platform and valuable feedback on their work.

All Arc’s shortlisted stories are here.  Visit

The hero of Adrian Ellis’s 18% Happier learns more about himself, his girlfriend, and his disgust with technology than he bargained for.

In A Private Party by Peter Dennis, lingering online profiles of the dearly departed manifest themselves as artificially intelligent personas, and Nikol faces his worst nightmare: a rogue Sponge.

Before They Were Killed by Tom Chatfield imagines a world fought over by two races, the dogmatic Faction and the rationalist Guardians – a world whose future is determined entirely by its past.

In Dying for the Record, A.J. Ponder’s love-struck hero, Piri, sets out to accomplish the impossible: killing himself.

And in Inherent Vice by Dave Darby, cinema and spirituality have combined into strange new forms.

Also on the site you’ll find our first winner.

T.D. Edge has had his short fiction has appeared in various publications, including Aeon, Realms of Fantasy, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Flash Fiction Online. Writing as Terry Edge, he has also published several YA/children’s books. He has been a street theatre performer, props maker for the Welsh National Opera, sign writer, school caretaker, soft toys salesman and professional palm-reader.

His winning story, Big Dave’s In Love, is published in Arc 1.2 next Monday, with artwork by the celebrated artist, musician, designer and illustrator Dave McKean.

Big Dave’s In Love is a profound and very funny homage to Carlo Collodi’s wooden child Pinocchio, set in a hyper-animated, hyper-aware world.

It is a story about how intelligence emerges out of emotion. It is about pleasure, and trust. It is also, by some margin, one of more perfectly structured stories we’ve read this year.

Here’s a taste:

I skip down the street like I got sherbet up me backside. I sweep me arms wide and sing to the pigeons and the cats and the bespectacled mice what study form under the bookie’s shop floor.

“What’s up, Jack?” says one of the cats.

I should hold back the news, at least until I make it to the public bar of The Airpod and Nanomule. Then again, everyone in Gaffville deserves to hear the glad tidings.

“Big Dave’s in love!” I shout, so loud I even gain the attention of the rebellious rooks on the multi-coloured cogni-nylon thatched roofs. Other less cynical birds whoop and coo and shake their feathers in sheer joy. And I do a leap to click my boot heels together because this is what we’ve all needed to save us, ain’t it the truth.

Gaffville’s pavements change colour from doomy brown to cheerful gold as I pass, sensing my mood of altruistic delight. In the transpods, high above the roof-tops, formerly morose citizens wave splendidly down at Jack who is no doubt grinning like a dog with jam-covered balls.

For I am Big Dave’s batman, and if I’m hopping down the street wearing a grin as wide as the boss’s waistline, then perhaps they won’t be doomed to melt away, into the general bio-electro-mechanical sludge that washes across all but a few patches of life on this poor, tired planet of ours.

Because everyone knows, of course, that unless the big man finds a new reason to live, it will be only our dwindling love for him what keeps us shielded from the gunk.

With the news not having reached the bar yet, all is still gloomyful in The Mule, and I decide to play it normal to start.

“All right?” I say, shoulders drooped and feet a drag. Around a dozen blokes are sagging on their stools at the retro-1940s bar, all brass pumps and sceptical-looking landlord.

A few grunt by way of greeting; I slump against the counter and say, “The usual, Ted, and make sure it’s warm.”

I observe the etiquette, which is to let out a big sigh, followed by, “Bit nippy for the time of year, ain’t it?” The others observe the return etiquette, which is to nod sagely and take another sip of their briny brews.

But I can’t contain myself no longer. I gulp half my recycled pint in one slurp, bang down the glass and shout, “The drinks are on me, everybody!”
I pull out a wad of Bank of Dave notes, currency only in Gaffville, and tell Ted to stick it behind the bar.

“Must be a week’s wages here, Jack,” he says, eyes smiling for once.

Now I’ve got their attention, I take a deep breath and yell, “Big Dave’s in love!”

Needless to say, the course of true love doesn’t run quite as smooth as Jack hopes – find out what happens next in Arc 1.2, out Monday 28 May for screens, e-readers, tablets and phones and in a collectible print edition. Visit for details and, if you haven’t already, to pick up Arc 1.1, “The Future Always Wins”.

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