2019 Longlist – Dystopian Novellas

New Welsh Writing Awards 2019: Aberystwyth University Prize for a Dystopian Novella Longlist

New Welsh Review is delighted to announce the longlist for the New Welsh Writing Awards 2019 which this year sought entries across two categories: the Aberystwyth University Prize for a Dystopian Novella, run in association with Aberystwyth University, and the Rheidol Prize for Writing with a Welsh Theme or Setting, which was made possible thanks to the generous support of long-term subscriber Richard Powell.

Now in its fifth year, the Awards were set up in 2015 to champion the best short-form writing in English. Last year, the winner of the Aberystwyth University Prize for an Essay Collection was won by Ed Garland for Fiction as a Hearing Aid which New Welsh Review will publish on 19 September 2019.

This year, in the dystopian category, the settings range from Britain in the 1800s to the twenty-second century, from an archipelago-bound London to a military research base in rural Wales. Characters in these dystopian novellas face conflicts from identity theft or being abandoned by their parents, to being the last human left alive on the planet – or so they thought….

In the Rheidol category for writing on Welsh settings and themes, the Awards attracted a strong field of both fiction and non-fiction, varying from an epistolary account from the 1700s, to a memoir of growing up in Zimbabwe and on a Ceredigion smallholding, to a story set in interwar Cardiff. We ascend slate-quarry faces with 80s oddball postal dole-claiming rock climbers in Snowdonia, while elsewhere in the longlisted entries we learn about the gaps between generations and the current state of identity politics in contemporary Wales.

New Welsh Review editor Gwen Davies judged the Awards with help from students from Aberystwyth University’s Department of English and Creative Writing. Congratulations to our longlisted writers below, in alphabetical order by author surname:

Longlist

Rosey Brown Adrift (Cardiff, Wales)

Adrift follows fourteen year old Anna as she navigates the final year of her schooling, and the dystopian landscape around her – a UK rendered archipelago by sea-level rise – with London as an all powerful, ultimate destination. Encouraged by her domineering mother, she studies for the exams that could provide her a scholarship to London. Surrounded by a watery, dilapidated landscape, Anna can’t wait to leave, and believes there is nothing left for her to discover in her village – but soon a girl called Clover appears who makes Anna question her worldview. 

Rosey Brown lives in Cardiff, where she works as a coordinator of community arts and education projects. She makes zines, sometimes makes music in bands, and has performed with and written for experimental music ensemble NewCelf. She is also part of Sull, a new collective of eleven artists who are running a new arts space/studio in the Capitol Centre. She was part of the Hay Festival Writers at Work scheme in 2016 and 2017. 

Kate Cleaver Piss and Wind (Swansea, Wales)

In 1800 a sailor, James Norris, was placed in Bethlem Hospital, under a court order, after attacking several people whilst in a rage. Having been placed in Bedlam he raged against the conditions and almost killed one of the keepers. Dr Munro and the apothecary, Haslam, gave him the diagnosis of being incurable. Norris’s ability to escape meant Haslam created a restraint for Norris, who was kept in a cage. The dystopia that he lived in is all the more horrifying because it existed. In 1814 a philanthropist, Edward Wakefield, visited Bedlam and found Norris chained to a pole, a mere shadow of the sailor he’d been. What shocked Edward most was the fact that Norris could hold a conversation. Norris became the poster boy for asylum reform and slowly the law and social expectations changed. For Norris, his conditions got better, he was given a low security cell and the ability to move around. But for him this small freedom only lasted three months and ended in tragedy.

Kate Cleaver, née Murray, is studying for a PhD with Swansea University. She is researching the lives of ordinary people who found themselves incarcerated in the Briton Ferry Insane Asylum, Vernon House. She has begun to create stories, James Norris was one that she couldn’t help but tell. The story is based in truth and for her, Kate has found that linking her stories to historical fact is a way to bring people from the past to life. As Kate Murray, she has been published in both adult and children’s fiction, as well as some non-fiction colouring books.

JL George The Word (Pontypool, Wales)

In a not-wildly-distant future, two teenage boys, Rhydian and Jonno, hide in the attic of an abandoned house in a bombed-out street. They listen to the sound of approaching military machinery—but there are no bombs or tanks, just a bank of loudspeakers that will broadcast their country’s most dangerous weapon: the Word. The boys have the ability to compel anyone who understands what you’re saying to obey you. Raised in a military research centre, sheltered from the world and taught that their island nation was a bastion of greatness attacked by jealous neighbours. This centre’s effort to use the Word as a weapon exposes the fautlines in the boys’ relationships and raises some important moral concerns. 

JL George was born in Cardiff, lives in Pontypool, and writes weird and speculative fiction. Her work has appeared in anthologies including Resist Fascism, The Black Room Manuscripts, and Into the Woods, and she is a 2019 Literature Wales bursary recipient. A graduate of Manchester and Cardiff universities, her academic interests lie in literature and science, the nineteenth-century Gothic, and the classic weird tale. She once dreamed of growing up to be the female Nicky Wire, but fears she may actually just be the Welsh Daisy Steiner. You can find her on Twitter at @jlgeorgewrites