From regular science fiction to steampunk magic realism, The Salam Award for Imaginative Fiction rewards short story writers for their creativity and artistic talent.

For the fourth year running, the competition has released its honourable mentions - including winners, finalists and commendable announcements for the year 2020.

By the deadline on July 31, the competition this year received a record number of submissions (around 150), from Pakistani nationals all over the world and across the country - ranging from the United States, Canada, and the Middle East, to villages in Sindh and Punjab.

Since no applicant identifiers (including name, gender, location, biographical details etc.) were available to the jury, the stories were judged blindly.

The selections for 2020 were as follows: 

Winner:

The Smokesense of Pluvistan by Nihal Ijaz Khan

A writer from Lahore, Pakistan, Nihal's interests include reading and occasionally writing weird, strange stories involving obscure ideas of little practical use that seem to matter only to him. He is also especially fond of dogs. When he isn't involved in reading or weaving hapless narratives, he can be seen struggling to make it big with his lawful wife, medicine.  

Finalists:

  • Into the Light by Zunaira Nadeem
  • Door One-Seventy-One by Hira Awais

Honorable Mentions: 

  • Of Sweet Seas and Starlight by Zahra Mukhi
  • Visions of Host by Eman Kamran
  • Jinns by Mehak Khan

Furthermore, a majority of the participants were women; a large number of submissions came from students, but also from a multitude of professions including filmmakers, teachers, and lawyers. 

This year’s distinguished jury included Ellen Datlow, Aliza T. Greenblatt, and Sami Shah for taking the time to provide their valuable feedback. 

Sharing their thoughts on The Smokesense of Pluvistan, they described the strangeness and wonder of the setting that first drew them into the story and the love the characters had for each other that kept them reading. A story full of sadness, longing, and beauty. They were particularly impressed by the beautiful use of language. 

“The imagination and rising talent of Pakistani writers is undeniable. The love for storytelling and the beauty of words shone through the submissions. There were many wonderful stories, and choosing the top stories was a difficult task,” they added.  

The winning story will be available on the Salam Award's website, followed by a reading. They hope to receive more recommendations by next year!

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