Flash Fiction Contest: Virology

Holy moly! Was it only seven months ago the Vault ran our first Flash Fiction contest? What an exciting half year it has been. With an influx of new followers on social media, I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you a little more about us, and why we run these contests.

The Story Seed Vault is an online micro-fiction publication that aims to entertain and educate our readers about scientific research through fiction. We are an international publication based in Sydney, Australia. As Story Seed Vault is new to the industry, we are pushing to increase our reach and to partner with science communicators all over the world.

One of the ways that we do this is by holding thematic Flash Fiction contests. Our first competition was based on Antarctic research, judged by two members of the Australian Antarctic Division, and our second is on bees, judged by two prominent European researchers. You can read about these contests here and here.

This time around, we’ve taken a different tack. Instead of picking a theme that was based on our site views or audience selection, I reached out to several researchers I admire to see if they were available to judge our contest. The first to respond with enthusiasm was Dr. Bish Marzook, a virologist currently based in Oxford. Her enthusiasm is definitely catching and so, it is with great excitement that I introduce our judges for the first Flash Fiction Contest of 2018!

Our Judges

Dr Ben Johnson is Head of Communities & Engagement at Springer Nature. He runs the Nature Research Communities, where authors and editors tell their personal stories. Ben has a PhD in influenza virus and researched vaccines at Imperial College London, before entering publishing. He can be found on Twitter @drbenjohnson.

Dr. Bish Marzook is a virologist, comedian, and writer. Armed with a PhD in virology from The University of Sydney, Australia, she recently moved to the UK for a post-doctoral position in biochemistry & cell biology at Cambridge. Viruses remain her one true love. She can be found on Twitter @bish_marz.

The Topic: Virology

We want your best micro-fiction, 140 characters or less, inspired by research on Virology. Innovative vaccine delivery systems, viral warfare, viruses that hijack personalities – we want them all. Go forth and research!

Criteria

  1.  It must be based on topics/research relevant to VIROLOGY. The more recent the research, the better. We will judge a great story with science from a few years ago  over an alright story with a study published yesterday.
  2. If the story is about VIROLOGY but the research provided is generic educational info, it will not be awarded a placing.
  3. The story has to be able to stand on its own – the science can provide context/make it more interesting, but it should not rely heavily on the science to be entertaining.

Prizes

Like our previous Flash Fiction contests, we will be selecting 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place entrants.We will paying the placed winners $10 each.

If you are happy to waive this prize, we will be donating this amount to Virology Comics, an educational organisation based in Europe. The funds raised will be used to ship free comics to American public schools. Virology Comics is run by Dr. Susan Nasif, who can be found on Twitter @VirologyComics.

Submission Timelines

Submissions open 10PM AEST January 25, 2018.
Submissions close 10PM AEST January 27, 2018.
Results will be announced 1PM AEST February 1, 2018 and the winning stories will be published over the week of February 5th, 2018.

See our submissions page for how to submit and information on payments and copyrights.

 

50 | 1st Place

Tending to her flower patch, BioBot #5338 counted 1,994 bees – up from last year. She greeted each one, commending them on jobs well done.

This story was awarded 1st place in our 48 HOUR FLASH FICTION CONTEST. Annabelle Woodger is worried about the bees. This story was inspired by her research into conservation efforts and the developments of bee robots to support organic bees. Giving this a positive twist, she has created a positive future where bees and robots live harmoniously. It made our judges wonder and imagine a world in which this was possible, just as a story seed should. Congratulations Annabelle! // Alex Massey

//Annabelle travels everywhere with a small bee toy in her bag named Beatrice. Sometimes she posts pictures of her on Twitter @yayannabelle//

49 | 2nd Place

“It’s not the neurons. They have minds like ours constrained by bee bodies.” To prevent future contamination Jim gassed the trained bees.

This story was awarded 2nd place in our 48 HOUR FLASH FICTION CONTEST. It was inspired by a piece of research co-authored by our judge Dr. Clint Perry. His team trained bees to score goals with a small ball. When these motivated bees solved cognitive tasks, it called into question previous suggestions that they had a small quantity of neurons. Frank Hubeny takes this concept and gives it a dystopian twist. The results? A story our judges thought was ‘intriguing, fun, and dark’. // Alex Massey

//Frank Hubeny lives north of Chicago.  He writes poetry and short prose.  He blogs at https://frankhubeny.blog.//

48 | 3rd Place

In this field ripe with death, I flourish – bitter nectar draws them in. We play pretend it’s mutual, but they can’t help but need the buzz.

This story was awarded 3rd place in our 48 HOUR FLASH FICTION CONTEST. Much like humans, it appears bees can’t resist a caffeinated beverage. In 2015, researchers reported that bees may select caffeinated nectar over an uncaffeinated but otherwise equal-quality alternative. In fact, flowers may be lacing their honey with extra caffeine to attract the bees. Liz Duck-Chong creates a poetic take on this research, speculating about the dark intent of flowers. // Alex Massey
  
//Liz is a writer, guitarist and photographer. She can be found at @lizduckchong, or signing photographs of random celebrities.//

Winners | 48 Hour Flash Fiction Contest

The Contest

After the success of the Antarctic Flash Fiction contest earlier this year, I ran a Twitter poll to decide our next themed story competition! Abuzz with excitement, our readers selected a much loved creature… BEES!

We asked you for your best micro-fiction, 140 characters or less, inspired by research on Bees. You definitely delivered! Thank you to all those who submitted.

Our Judges

Dr. Clint Perry Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow, Queen Mary University of London, Clint uses integrative neurobiology to explore the cognitive capacities of insects and the underlying mechanisms of memory, learning and emotion. His recent work includes teaching bees to roll balls, which gained worldwide media attention.

Dr. Eirik Sovik is an associate professor at Volda University College. He studies the function of biogenic amine systems in insects and their relation to reward processing. He can be found on Twitter @EirikSovik.

The judges kindly volunteered their services and as thanks, we are donating their $40AUD fee to the Xerces Society.

Results

Each of our winners donated their $5 prize to the Xerces Society. Congratulations to all and thank you for your generosity!

First Place: Annabelle Woodger, @yayannabelle

Second Place: Frank Hubeny, https://frankhubeny.blog

Third Place: Elizabeth Duck-Chong, @lizduckchong

Congratulations!

Congrats to all our winners and thank you to all those who submitted! The winning stories will be published next Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

We plan on doing more 48 hour competitions in future, so make sure to subscribe to our Twitter feed and stay tuned for future updates!

Flash Fiction Contest: Bees

A few weeks ago, I ran a Twitter poll to decide our next themed story competition! Abuzz with excitement, our readers selected a much loved creature… BEES! I’m very pleased to announce that we have found two guest judges and will be running this contest in alignment with the dates of Australia’s National Science Week (12-20 August).

Concern over global bee numbers has lead to a surge in research interest over the past 20 years. It has also attributed to an increase in amateur beekeeping, particularly in Western Australia. The WA Apiarists’ Society, the peak body for hobby beekeepers, has seen numbers grow from 46 members in 2007 to more than 800 in 2017.

Our Judges

Dr. Clint Perry, a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow at Queen Mary University of London, uses integrative neurobiology to explore the cognitive capacities of insects and the underlying mechanisms of memory, learning and emotion. His recent works include teaching bees to roll balls, and exploring positive emotions in bumblebees, which gained worldwide media attention.

Dr. Eirik Sovik is an associate professor at Volda University College. He studies the function of biogenic amine systems in insects and their relation to reward processing. Some of his recent works include exploring culture in bumblebees, and the underlying mechanisms of colony collapse in honeybees. He can be found on Twitter @EirikSovik.

The topic: Bees

We want your best micro-fiction, 140 characters or less, inspired by research on Bees. Robot bees, cyberpunk bees, gritty film noir bees that are addicted to substances – we want them all. Go forth and research!

Criteria

  1.  It must be based on topics/research relevant to BEES. The more recent the research, the better. We will judge a great story with science from a few years ago  over an alright story with a study published yesterday.
  2. If the story is about BEES but the research provided is generic educational info, it will not be awarded a placing or honorable mention.
  3. The story has to be able to stand on it’s own – the science can provide context/make it more interesting, but it should not rely heavily on the science to be entertaining.

Prizes

Like our Antarctic Flash Fiction Contest, we will be selecting 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place entrants, with 1 honorable mention per judge.

We will paying the placed winners at the rate of $5 per story. If you are happy to waive this prize, we will donate this amount to a bee conservation organisation.

Submission Timelines

Submissions open 9AM AEST Saturday August 12th 2017.
Submissions close 9AM 9PM AEST Monday August 14th 2017 (extended after a scheduling error on Twitter).
Results will be announced 1PM Sunday August 20th 2017 and the winning stories will be published over the week of August 21st 2017.

See our submissions page for how to submit and information on payments and copyrights.

 

28

Our microbial siblings huddle beneath ice and drink deep of the iron at Blood Falls. Could they tell us if red tastes the same on Mars?

The McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica are one of the most inhospitable places on Earth. Yet, below these glaciers lies an ecosystem that is somehow thriving. The Blood Falls of Antarctica are iron-rich and inhabited by microbial lifeforms closely related to Proteobacteria. Inspired by this ecosystem and the panspermia theory that speculates life could have originated on Mars, Bex Shea contemplates if they could tell us more abut Mars. This story was awarded 1st Place in our ANTARCTIC FLASH FICTION CONTEST.

//Bex Shea is a writer, roleplaying game enthusiast, and monster sympathizer with a particularly weak spot for Earth’s most cunning predator, the housecat. They are on Twitter at @bexshea and online at www.bexshea.com.//