Senescence by David Rudden (winner of the FBRSSC*)

And so dear friends we come to the day that marks the end of the 2011 *Fantasy Book Review Short Story Competition. After 8 months and hundreds of great little stories we can now proudly publish the winning entry, the simply wonderful Senescence by David Rudden.

Frank P Ryan, who made the final judgements on the submissions, said of David’s story:

“An outstanding piece of short fiction for such a relatively young author.  Rudden creates an entirely believable word, edgy and threatened, yet leavened by a sense of community and compassion. The raw power of the characterisation and the subtlety and poetic earthiness of the language is as good as I’ve seen in short stories in any genre.  It reads as if Seamus Heaney had written a fantasy short story.”

An illustration, by Mark Salwowski, from the PDF of Senescence by David Rudden.

You can read this winning entry now, for which the author received an Apple iPad, by clicking on this link – Senescence by David Rudden – or by clicking on the images above and below. The magnificent artwork in the PDF template is the work of Mark Salwowski (, the illustrator who worked with Frank P Ryan on his fantasy novel, The Snowmelt River. Read and enjoy.

We also caught up with David and asked him about her entry and writing in general:

FBR: Was this your first short story competition?

DR: I’d entered a couple of competitions in school but the Fantasy Book Review competition is my first as an adult writer.

FBR: What was the inspiration for your short story? Where did the idea come from?

DL: This, like most stories I write, came from a half-formed idea and a couple of lines I knew the story would revolve around. I’ve always had a fascination with the old trades, the notion of master and apprentice and the idea of… not exactly secret knowledge, but specialised knowledge, the person in the community who knew things that others didn’t and so was given that little bit more importance.

This is one of the few stories where I’ve drawn heavily on my own experiences for material. I’m from a miniscule village myself (albeit without an arcane wasteland a few miles north) and after finding out that my own father (a woodwork and construction studies teacher) served his apprenticeship making coffins, the opening line popped into my head and proceeded to bounce around for a couple of years before taking shape. Carpentry is all about knowing the strength of materials, their breaking points, how much they will yield and how much they’ll resist. For a village right on the cusp of where things start to fray and break apart, knowing those things is important.

Text taken from the PDF of Senescence by David Rudden.

FBR: How long did your short story take to write? Was the writing experience a pleasant one or did you experience difficulties?

DL: Surprisingly it actually rattled along quite easily! Sometimes I have to walk away from a story for a few weeks and then attack it from another angle, but Senescence came together fairly rapidly. I started with a loose plan that organised what would happen and when, and then wrote it over the course of about a week. I’m lucky that I have a informal writing group that are very good for telling me when I’m writing nonsense or if I should keep going.

The ending completely changed in the writing though. I had a strange moment of ‘am I allowed do that?’ and then decided that if it made sense in the writing I’d keep it, and if not things would go a very different way. I like to think it worked out, though.

FBR: Were you happy with the finished story? Or would you have liked a little bit more time?

DL: I try my best not to fidget with a story when I’ve finished it. I usually put it aside for a few days and occupy my mind with something else as much as possible, then go back with a fresh set of eyes. There was a little bit of polishing to be done, especially towards the end of the story, but nothing that required more than a slight rework.

All here at Fantasy Book Review would like to congratulate David, thank him for his truly exceptional entry and wish him all the best with his future writing. Our short story competition, which ran from April until November of this year and was kindly sponsored by Swift Publishers.

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