Comma Press Writing Competition: Redefine The Spy Genre

Edward Snowden, CCTV cameras, the partner that checks your phone… what is modern-day spying? Comma Press seeks short stories redefining the spy genre

Espionage: The practice of spying or of using spies

The next Comma Press New Writers Anthology will present a new kind of challenge to emerging and previously unpublished writers. We want you to write a short story which centres on espionage. This is your chance to breathe new, contemporary life in to a genre which has is increasingly blighted by clichés and stereotypes. Comma Press have spearheaded a new wave of genre writing in the short story form; from updating the grand old tradition of the horror story with The Uncanny to putting the science back in to science fiction by partnering writers with scientists in Beta-LifeLitmus and Bio PunkNow, in partnership with Creative Industries Trafford and ACE, we think it’s time to tackle the spy story with fresh new writers.

Let’s start with what we DON’T want: We have a rough set of guidelines for submissions and general pitfalls here. But for this project in particular, we want writers to avoid the many and well worn clichés of the genre. The era of the Cold War thriller is long gone, of course, but it isn’t just a case of re-pinning the badge of enemy or ‘other’ onto the presumed ‘bogeymen’ of the day (as defined by the media – terrorists, extremists, etc). We want stories that are more intelligent than that, more politically savvy. We are of course living in the age of Google (owning all our data), WikiLeaks (exposing government wrong-doing) and PRISM (allowing one government to spy on another), not to mention bizarre politics-culture crossovers like the North Korea/Sony debacle… the watchers and the watched no long fall into neatly partitioned groups.

What we DO want: Tension, suspense, compelling mysteries, and a redefinition of what modern spying actually is! Espionage can, of course, take many forms and we hope for a broad swathe of spying-types; from the political to the domestic, corporate to state-sponsored, private interest-led to cellular fanaticism. But remember: always avoid the clichés and well-worn tropes; if it’s been done before, ditch it. We want to meet characters we wouldn’t normally meet in a spy story, to find ourselves in settings the genre has barely visited before, and to be compelled from the first word to the last. Comma is also perennially concerned with structure: for this project we want writers to play with the different shapes a spy story can take, and to find new ones. Plot is everything in the thriller genre, so even when nothing seems to be happening, in the background, everything has to be…

Deadline: 1 July 2015

For more info and how to apply

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