Winner announced for Second Clarke-Bradbury SF Competition
The jury of the second Clarke-Bradbury International Science Fiction Competition organized by the European Space Agency's Technology Transfer and Promotion Office has now selected the winners and runners-up out of 109 stories and images submitted from 29 different countries. The competition, on the theme of ‘the Space Elevator’, was open to all ages, and encouraged images to be submitted as well as stories.
The Space Elevator is conceived as a 100 000 km ribbon of carbon nanotubes extending into space up which climbers will travel to release payloads into different orbits. It is anticipated that the Space Elevator will reduce launch costs to around $100 per kilo when it is operational in 12-15 years. From the fairy story Jack and the Beanstalk to Arthur C. Clarke’s 1979 novel The Fountains of Paradise, the idea of a Space Elevator has captured the imagination of scientists, engineers, writers and artists alike. The Space Elevator currently being extensively studied and developed is based on the ideas and concepts of Dr Bradley Edwards, Space Elevator International.
The Second Clarke-Bradbury Science Fiction Competition, managed by the Maison d’Ailleurs (CH) and the OURS Foundation (CH), had two categories - science fiction story and artwork – which had to relate to a Space Elevator and incorporate technologies and applications in some way. For example, imaginative use of the Space Elevator as a cheap access to space for launching oversized or fragile objects to distant planets, or for space tourism, or space exploration or terra-forming. The Jury assessed the entries in accordance with the following criteria:
Some judges looked for evidence of scientific and technological accuracy and the way technology was used, others were more concerned with whether the story was a good read. It appeared that most of the entrants were familiar with the Space Elevator – though more than a few stories concentrated on disasters which might befall it. Although a number of authors found themselves confined by the focus on technology, many wrote lightly fictionalised descriptions of journeys up the Elevator with no real thought of the problems. Thus the jury looked for stories which created a sense of drama or difference.
the jury input, the Winner of the Second Clarke-Bradbury International
Science Fiction Competition for 2005 in the Story category was
ultimately chosen by the organisers to be the story Clever by Christian
Doan, a writer and artist living and working in Melbourne, Australia.
The tale is about nanites – tiny alchemists able to construct anything
from raw material. Injected into the body, protected by the saline,
they could be carried anywhere – including up a Space Elevator – but
when they escaped in a bead of sweat and the saline solution evaporated
then they were free to do their work! This story was chosen because of
the quality of writing, the technology idea behind the story and the
thriller feel to the text. It was a convincing future technology and a
fluently-written suspense story with a subtle, unstated twist at the
end. The use of viewpoint was interesting and the way the scenario
established refreshing. The story was also short and stood on its own
with no need for further explanation.
Runner-up in the Story category is Scott Rolsen from Denver, USA for
his work entitled Ervin's Watch. This is a story of opposites – female
soldier and monk; different times and places – where a long forgotten
elevator is used to return to Earth. The writer skilfully manages to
give an idea of the length of time that passes on the trip in his tale.
The Winners and Runners-up receive a monetary prize from Dr Brad Edwards, Space Elevator International and Philip Ragan, Space Elevator International - Australia. They also receive complementary copies of the ESA Brochure on Innovative Technologies from Science Fiction, as well as another ESA publication, Science Fiction, Technology Fact based on the cover art of SF novels and magazines in the collection of the Maison d’Ailleurs. The European Space Agency will also publish the most promising and interesting stories and images as a book.
Dr Edwards said on presenting the prizes that he was delighted with the interest shown in the Space Elevator concept and the many good stories which had been submitted – though he added that he was a little disappointed that several of them saw his Elevator destroyed! David Raitt added that there were some very imaginative names for the Space Elevator and some innovative uses – including sky diving regattas. A number of the stories focussed on a breakdown and subsequent repair of the Elevator, others used it as a rescue mechanism or to escape an overcrowded planet, and several concentrated on the ride itself. Raitt also pointed out that just like the early science fiction writers who were constrained by the actual science and technology of the time, the Competition authors, having no actual operational Space Elevator to draw on, could only extrapolate from their own experience with real Otis-type elevators – so the inside and function of their Space Elevators was more like the lift in a department store or skyscraper – very little time taken to travel and no spacesuit required!
Clarke-Bradbury SF Competitions helps raise the awareness about the
European Space Agency and how technology can be used in innovative
ways. An important aspect of the Competitions is to try and foster an
interest in young people in science and technology in general and space
activities in particular because of the decline on young people
studying the sciences."