Secret Life of Data: Short Story Competition

“We're an information economy. They teach you that in school. What they don't tell you is that it's impossible to move, to live, to operate at any level without leaving traces, bits, seemingly meaningless fragments of personal information. Fragments that can be retrieved, amplified...”

― William Gibson, Johnny Mnemonic

Competition Details

When we think about the security of data on our phones and computers, we might think about passwords and permissions, or about data encryption – but we rarely think about what our data looks like, or what it does as it moves around hidden inside our phones, computers, digital devices, our apps and networks. This secret life of data – the traces, bits, and fragments of personal information that we leave behind us online – is the focus of this short story competition.

We are looking for creative stories that bring to life the secret life of data – perhaps imagining this life as a journey, a quest, a romance, or a tragedy; thinking of a computer’s internal architecture as a house, a jungle, a zoo, or a city; and the data as characters facing danger in the form of various digital threats and vulnerabilities.

This competition is part of the Digital Security by Design (DSbD) Futures programme delivered by the ESRC funded Discribe Hub+. Shortlisted stories will be published in a Secret Life of Data Anthology and will help the DSbD research community think more creatively about the movement of data through new computer chip architectures.

Visit Digital Security by Design (DSbD) to find out more about the technology that is being developed as part of the programme.

How to enter

  • Entries must be made in Word doc. or pdf. format and submitted via email to: jgi-admin@bristol.ac.uk
  • The maximum length of submissions is 4,000 words (this does not include the title), and there is no minimum length.
  • Stories can be written in any style and can be based on any genre (eg. Myth, Mystery, Crime, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, Horror, Romance, YA, Children’s, etc.).

Deadline for entries

Closing date for receipt of entries is 9am (BST) Monday 12th September.

Evaluation and Prizes

  • Prizes are: 1st prize - £10002nd prize - £5003rd prize - £250
  • All entries will be read by our readers. They will be looking for stories which engage closely with the competition theme: what does our data looks like, what does it do or feel as it moves around hidden inside our phones, computers, digital devices, our apps and networks? They will be looking for stories which imagine this secret life of data – the traces, bits, and fragments of personal information that we leave behind us online.
  • Readers will select a shortlist of 10 stories for the judging panel. The judging panel will select the top 3 prize winning stories for the competition
  • The judging panel includes:
  • Each of the 10 shortlisted stories will be published in the Secret Life of Data Anthology in both print and ebook formats
  • Each of the 10 shortlisted authors will receive 2 free copies of the Secret Life of Data Anthology. Additional copies will be available for purchase
  • All prizes will be awarded at an Awards Ceremony to be held in Bristol on 2nd November

Rules

  1. Closing date for receipt of entries is 9am (BST) Monday 12th September
  2. The Secret Life of Data Short Story Competition is open to all published and unpublished writers. You do not have to be affiliated with the University of Bristol to enter. There is no geographical restriction on entry – the Secret Life of Data Short Story Competition is open to everyone, whether they are based in the UK or outside the UK.
  3. Entries must be made in Word doc. or pdf. format and submitted via email to: jgi-admin@bristol.ac.uk
  4. All entries must be in English. All entries must be in a sans serif font (e.g., Ariel, Calibri, or similar), font size 12, double spaced, with normal margins. Entries should not include diagrams or illustrations. The word limit (excluding title) must not exceed 4,000 words.
  5. All entries must be submitted as an attachment to an email. The body of the email should give the author’s full name and confirm the author’s agreement with the competition rules but must be free of all other personal information (e.g., “Please find attached my entry for the Secret Life of Data Short Story Competition. I have read and agreed to the rules of the Competition. Yours, Agatha Christie”).
  6. Entrants must be aged 18 years or over on the closing date.
  7. Entries will be read and judged anonymously; entrants’ names and email contact details should only appear in the submission email and not anywhere on their stories/manuscripts. The stories/manuscripts must be free of all personal information about the author.
  8. The maximum length of submissions is 4,000 words (this does not include the title), and there is no minimum length. 
  9. Stories can be written in any style and can be based on any genre (eg. Myth, Mystery, Crime, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, Horror, Romance, YA, Children’s, etc.).
  10. Entrants may enter as many stories as they like. There is no entry fee.
  11. Each submission must be accompanied by an email confirming an entrant has read and agrees to the rules of the Secret Life of Data Short Story Competition.
  12. Entries must be entirely the work of the entrant and must never have been previously published, in print or online (including self-published, ebook, magazines, journals, websites, blogs, social network sites), or broadcast or won a prize in another writing competition on or before the competition closing date. Any entry found to have been plagiarised will be disqualified. Simultaneous submissions are welcome but please let us know as soon as possible if a story is to be published elsewhere, in print or online (including self-published, ebook, magazines, journals, websites, blogs, social network sites), or broadcast or wins a prize in another writing competition on or before the competition closing date.
  13. Receipt of entries will be acknowledged by email. If an entrant does not receive an email acknowledgement within 24 hours of submitting their entry they are very welcome to contact us to confirm their entry has been safely received: jgi-admin@bristol.ac.uk
  14. All entries will be read by our readers. They will be looking for stories which engage closely with the competition theme: what does our data looks like, what does it do or feel as it moves around hidden inside our phones, computers, digital devices, our apps and networks? They will be looking for stories which imagine this secret life of data – the traces, bits, and fragments of personal information that we leave behind us online.
  15. Readers will select a shortlist of 10 stories for the judging panel. The judging panel will select the top 3 prize winning stories for the competition. The judges’ decision is final and no individual correspondence will be entered into. Judges or readers will not comment on individual stories or give feedback on individual stories.
  16. The judging panel includes: author Joanna Nadin; author Mimi Thebo; computer scientist and creative futurist Lizzie Coles-Kemp; poet, writer, and co-director of the Olaf Stapledon Centre for Speculative Futures, Will Slocombe; storyteller and founder/CEO of Vivida, Simeon Quarrie; Sian John from Microsoft; and Paul Waller from the National Cyber Security Centre.
  17. All entrants agree to have their work published in the Secret Life of Data Anthology in both print and ebook formats, should they be the author of one of the 10 stories that are shortlisted. Authors will retain worldwide copyright on their work (including film and dramatic rights) but the Secret Life of Data Short Story Competition organisers have first publication rights to publish the 10 shortlisted stories in the Secret Life of Data Anthology in both print and ebook formats.
  18. Once notified that they have been selected for the shortlist and will be published in the Secret Life of Data Anthology (paperback and ebook), all shortlisted writers must confirm and verify that their shortlisted story has not been published and is not due to be published in print or online (including self-published, ebook, magazines, journals, websites, blogs, social network sites), or broadcast, or won a prize in another writing competition.
  19. Each of the 10 shortlisted authors will receive 2 free copies of the Secret Life of Data Anthology. Additional copies will be available for purchase.
  20. Prizes are: 1st prize-£1000, 2nd prize -£500, 3rd prize -£250.
  21. All prizes will be awarded at an Awards Ceremony to be held in Bristol in October 2022 (date tbc) and prizes will be sent to any of the writers who are unable to attend. Prizes, including free copies of the Anthology as well as cash prizes, are not dependent on winners attending the Awards Ceremony.
  22. Entrants will not be contacted individually about the competition results unless they are selected for the shortlist. The shortlist and final winners will be announced on the Competition website on October 14th 2022.
  23. Any entrant wishing to withdraw a story from the competition before the closing datedo so by emailing us with this request: jgi-admin@bristol.ac.uk
  24. Entry confirms acceptance of all the competition rules. Entries that fail to comply with the entry rules and requirements may be disqualified.
  25. If you have any questions about the competition please contact: jgi-admin@bristol.ac.uk

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Important information

Deadline: 9am (BST) Monday 12th September

How to enter: email jgi-admin@bristol.ac.uk

Cost to enter: free

Format: Word .doc or .pdf format

Max length: 4,000 words (excluding title)

Min length: none

Prizes: 1st prize - £10002nd prize - £5003rd prize - £250

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