The Fantasy Prologue Challenge Winners, and a Very Special Announcement
Hello, Vocal community. We're ready to announce the winners of the Fantasy Prologue Challenge. Also, I have something very exciting to tell you. You're going to want to sit down for this.
I've been looking forward to this day for a long time.
We recently closed The Fantasy Prologue Challenge, which has been our most successful Challenge so far this year. Nearly 4,000 original fantasy fiction stories were submitted, all beginning with the same sentence:
"There weren't always dragons in the Valley..."
Reading the thousands of different directions our community took on their journeys into the realm of wizardry and dragons was, for me, a heartwarming experience. This Challenge has always been special to me, because fantasy is my heart's chosen genre. How could it not be, given I turned the last page of The Return of the King at the malleable age of 13? (Truthfully, I loved Tolkien's world so much that I inadvertently plagiarized my favorite story... whoops.)
Yes, I love fantasy. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Brian Jacques, Neil Gaiman, Ursala K. Le Guin... all of these authors found me at an age when the magic in literature feels as real as the real world itself. I hold onto the memory of sitting in the car with my parents after a long trip, parked in our driveway, engine humming, unable to tear ourselves away from an audiobook dramatization of The Horse and His Boy from Lewis' Narnia series. Brian Jacques' Redwall books, whimsical to a fault, were so special to me that I convinced my 80-year-old grandmother to read them, and she was hooked! We read at least six of them together, passing them back and forth between our homes, laughing and crying over the antics of lovable anthropomorphic mice and moles—the purest of characters, presented with an ageless appeal.
Ah. And of course, I can't forget the series that sits right beneath The Lord of the Rings on my shelf of fantasy favorites:
Not only are the Eragon books spellbinding, but I feel a longstanding sense of kinship with their creator, Christopher Paolini. We were both homeschooled in our early years, raised rurally, and deeply influenced in creative spirit by the trees, rivers, rocks, and other natural surroundings. Trees became havens for wood elves. Rivers swam with deadly merfolk. And always, always, there were winged harbingers of destruction—yes, there were always dragons in the valley.
I can't keep it to myself any longer. I'm thrilled to announce that the Vocal+ Fiction Awards will return in October, 2022. The theme of the Awards will be Fantasy Fiction, and the Head Judge will be the Dragon Rider himself: Christopher Paolini.
More details will come soon, including the official prompt and the timeline for entry. Head over to the Vocal+ Fiction Awards page and enter your email to stay up-to-date on all these announcements. You really don't want to miss this opportunity—it could be life-changing. (Hey, might as well sign up now for a yearly Vocal+ plan, currently half-off for a limited time at $49...)
I'm so excited to go on this journey with you all. In the meantime, you might want to re-read your favorite fantasy books. Start writing today. Start meeting your fellow creators on Vocal by leaving comments and feedback. Start doodling pictures of dragons. Take a long walk in the woods, because it's going to be a year of literary Magic. As Christopher would say: "May your swords stay sharp!"
Now, without further ado, here are the winners of The Fantasy Prologue Challenge:
1st Place: "The Bridge Burners" by Jen Gossoo | $10,000
There weren't always dragons in the Valley. Their code just appeared one day, courtesy of some anarchic Editer, injected into the fabric of reality without warning or reason.
In late April, clumps of pixels were spotted crackling like electric confetti in the sky over the lake, the apple orchards, and the arid brown hills. When night fell, these clandestine clusters gave witnesses the impression of sentient comet tails made up of microns: pink, yellow, and cyan.
2nd Place: "The Thief of Reason" by Madoka Mori | $5,000
There were not always dragons in the Valley. I will see them gone from that place once more.
I received my mask in silence, and all about were silent also. There were no cheers. No celebration as the clanmothers inscribed my mask with its first sigil. They thought as did my father: this was a pledge of death. Perhaps they were right. But it is said both friend and foe are better met face-on. Death comes for us all regardless; whether we seek it or run from it.
Better met face-on.
*Results are listed in no particular order*
- The Winter People by Jen Julian
- The Sacred Stones by K.P.
- Fading Light by CD Mosby
- The World Beyond the Wall by BT
- A Hop, Skip, And A Universe Away by MikMacMeerkat
- The Lost Legacy by Lauryn May
- Lyrics of War by Lilia
- Stories of Dragons by Addison Horner
- Mirta by CJ Miller
- Valley of Dragons by M. A. Mehan
- Beasts of Salt & Steel by Ally North
- The Dragon Lands, Chapter One: The Remnant Daughter by Ryan Smith
- The Caffeinated Musings of a Mostly Normal Grad Student by Alex Low
- The Blue Dragon by T Gale
- The Dragon Exam by Sierra Knoxly
- True Morels by Andrea Standby
- The Eyes of the Storm by Jordyn B
- The Accidental by Sena Andeo
- The Last Seer by Annie S
- The Ocean in December by Kayla Goldberg
- Vale of Dragons by Michael J. Wine
- Out of the Caged Sea by Charlotte Lesemann
- Harbinger by James Farrell
- Fiona by Oli Morris
- Fifty Six by Nathanael Johnson
About the author
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Writing reflected the title & theme
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
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Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Original narrative & well developed characters
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab