This month we’re looking ahead and behind at the same time. Did you ever hear how aliens gave the ancient Egyptians the blueprints and technology to build the pyramids? Or that other definitely true story about European pilgrims sitting down to eat turkey and dressing with Native Americans? We’d love to read your best advanced civilization, primitive civilization mash-ups! And we just know you can come up with some great stories even more fascinating than those two old yarns.
This is a continuation of our series of monthly theme prompts here at Sci-Fi Shorts. Our goal is to invoke the Mid-Month Muse to help inspire us to create amazing science fiction tales around a common idea. It is always fascinating for writers and readers to experience the many different imaginative interpretations and styles that arise from these prompts.
Entries should be submitted in the usual way using the Write for Us submissions link.
Mention the title of the prompt (Feasts with the Beasts) in the Notes field of the submissions form.
Submissions must be received by December 15 in order to qualify.
Entries must comply with all the usual SFS Guidelines.
Your work can be horror, dystopian, alien, or whatever, as long as it’s Sci-Fi and addresses the prompt's theme.
Submit as many times as you like.
Important: You may continue to submit stories to SFS that are outside the contest, and we encourage you to do so.
After the prompt has ended and all the entrants have been processed (usually before the first day of the following month), we will list and link to the participating stories in a blog post. The editorial staff will choose a top story of the month for special mention.
Alongside the theme prompt, we will also have some pre-made art related to the theme in the image-prompts discord channel. For those of you who are visually inspired, image prompts can be an excellent resource. While it is an aid we recommend using, you can still submit a story without an image and we will choose one for you.
There are many first-contact stories in the archives that exemplify this prompt’s theme. Some of the more famous ones from vintage sci-fi authors like Lovecraft, Wells, Sagan, and Clarke tell stories about the discovery of a technologically advanced alien race that threatens humanity — usually on a grand scale.
Your submissions for this prompt may follow this pattern, but they need not. You could also choose to write a story about a robot and a human competing over a love interest, or a chess game. Or maybe a boy sits down to have dinner with a pack of intelligent Golden Doodles. Or a quantum scientist must outwit his future self to save the world. Let your imaginations run wild with this.
Some of my favorite advanced versus primitive civilization stories are ones where the imbalance of technological power seems obvious at first but becomes ambiguous and leads to a non-zero-sum game where everybody wins, or at least nobody loses everything. Here are two of those from the latter part of the 20th century:
The Road Not Taken — Harry Turtledove, Analog Science Fiction, 1985
The Story of Your Life — Ted Chiang, Starlight 2, 1998
Turtledove’s short story reminds us that neither technology nor society advances all at once, and some parts may be much more advanced than others. It all depends on which road we choose to follow.
Chiang’s novella may be my favorite sci-fi story published in the last fifty years. In 2016, it was adapted into a movie titled Arrival but the story is somewhat different — more focused and nuanced. Examining topics as varied as linguistics, optics, game theory, determinism, and time itself, it is a perfect blend of hard sci-fi and humanistic writing. And speaking of the writing part, Chiang’s use of a strange past-future-perfect tense in parts of the story makes my head explode as a writer, but also makes perfect sense as a reader.
The links above will take you to online versions of the two stories. If you haven’t read them, I encourage you to take a moment and do so. Especially Chiang's.
We hope we have provided inspiration for some amazing new flash science fiction stories from our talented group of writers, and we look forward to reading them.
Good luck, and have fun!
— The Editors