Written with tight, no-nonsense prose, C. Winspear’s THE TRADE confronts questions of humanity, first contact, and the need for a particular astronaut’s wanderlust.
The opening line speaks about fulfillment, or how it has become unattainable for our protagonist–which outlines the story’s purpose. What is it to be fulfilled, and to what cost? It’s great to see the goal or troubling deficiency in the story’s first sentence.
C. Winspear wrote this short in the first-person, where internal thoughts are written as regular prose, meaning no parenthesis or stand-alone punctuation. I prefer this. Orson Scott Card does this masterfully in Ender’s Game. It allows the reader to flow into the story, become immersed, and zoom to the end, wanting more.
I’ll admit, at first, I wasn’t sure about this one. The first page didn’t hook me, but we quickly (page 2) got into a fascinating, unprecedented situation demanding the reader’s attention. Then the tension builds with mystery beats, and action beats, and some clever humor beats coming from the alien.
I’d guess the story is around 6,000-7,000 words, but it felt more like 3,000. I was surprised when I went back to check the page count (approximately 20). The tension builds throughout, the characters develop quickly through the scenario, there are no info-dumps, and the prose is mostly invisible.
It’s no wonder the judges at Writers of the Future decided to place this story first in Volume 36.
Sidenote: every Writer’s of the Future winner has an accompanying illustrator for their story. C. Winspear’s THE TRADE was illustrated by Arthur Bowling. Visit his website here.