Stack Awards 2019: Best Original Fiction shortlist

by Kitty Drake in October 2019
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Perhaps the most enjoyable category to shortlist, the lineup for Best Original Fiction includes stories about porn, Boris Johnson and Polish Christmas carp. It was really exciting to see some of the literary magazines we listed as the best indie lit in the world right now entering the awards. We received our highest number of entries ever this year, and this selection is extremely strong.

Our judges for this category are Ailah Ahmed, editorial director of Little, Brown and Virago Press, and Guardian books news editor Sian Cain. Find out more about them on our awards page, and scroll down to see the 15 magazines shortlisted for this category.

American Chordata | Jersey City, NJ

Mixing short stories and poetry with photography, American Chordata has a way of putting together words and images that feels almost like collage: it’s brash, and thrillingly new. ‘From the Lost City of Hurtlandtis to the Streets of Helldorado (or, Franco)’, by Rémy Ngamije, is a vivid portrait of male friendship, breakups and guilt.

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⚡️Announcing the glorious Issue 9! ⚡️Cover photo by AnRong Xu (@anrizzy ). New design by @noideasnyc . Pre-order on the website to reserve your copy & save the date for the launch party: Friday, July 12, 7pm at @mcnallyjackson_n4 !

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Berlin Quarterly | Berlin

Describing itself as a ‘European review of culture’, Berlin Quarterly was born out of love for English literary magazines, but its outlook feels far more expansive. The shortlisted story, ‘Rain’ by Eloghosa Osunde, is about a dressmaker in Lagos who designs clothes beautiful enough to detract from the scandals of her high society customers: “What did it take to divert poisonous attention? Beauty. Sinful amounts of it.”

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The tenth issue available now – link in bio • #international #culture #editorialdesign #independentmagazine #inspofinds #poetry #art #books #berlin #germany #europe #graphicdesign #photography #poetry #fiction #nonfiction #essays #interview #writers #writerscommunity #journalism #reportage #print #printdesign #ireland #itsnicethat #writer #review #berlinquarterly #cover #summer

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Ecotone | Wilmington, NC

Ecotone won Best Original Fiction last year so it’s wonderful to see their two most recent issues on the shortlist again. ‘Parkway’ in the fall/winter 2018 edition is a beautiful, painful story by Leah Hampton, about a park ranger whose work requires more fortitude than we might imagine. “People use parks for selfish reasons”, a colleague explains to the protagonist when she finds her first dead body, “There’s more murders, starved dogs, more toddlers slipping off cliffs, more sadness than anybody knows.”

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Meet Ecotone 26, the Body Issue!! We’re so excited for you to read and experience our contributors’ work—inside, you’ll find a haunted parkway and New York nightclubs, prosthetic legs and woven climate data, our first dance feature, and much more. If you don’t have a print copy yet, you can start exploring the digital version at This (perhaps brightest ever) cover features a photograph by George Echevarria showing Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre dancers in Tropical Depression (2018).

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Ecotone | Wilmington, NC

In the excellent Spring/Summer ’19 issue, the shortlisted story is ‘Cave Organ’. About a man who works as a cave tour guide, this is a quietly moving reflection on loss: “The worry kept chewing at Randy; and he started drinking more to soften it, started to drink a little during the day, on the job even”.

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Happy solstice! Here’s Ecotone 27 with leaves of beautyberry (1), featuring cover art by Denise Stewart-Sanabria, and cover design by Kinzy Janssen, shown here (2) with the new issue. Arriving imminently in subscriber mailboxes! Want your very own copy? Visit to subscribe or purchase! #newissue #coverreveal #linkinbio #denisestewartsanabria #litmag #happysolstice #flamingos #donuts #callicarpaamericana

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Firewords | Glasgow

A magazine of “fiery fiction and poetry”, the theme for this issue is Power. ‘Little Jacques and the Bad Man’ is a disturbing micro-story by Audrey Kalman about a woman from social services visiting a young family.

Index on Censorship | London

Index on Censorship is a 47-year-old title dedicated to promoting freedom of expression. Neema Komba’s story ‘Let Them Eat Fruit Cake’ is about a soon to be bride whose single wedding day wish is not to eat fruit cake. This is more complicated than it might seem.



The Lifted Brow | Melbourne

A self-titled “quarterly attack journal”, The Lifted Brow features new writing from Australia and the world. ‘The Poison Garden’ is a compulsive short story with eery characterisation: “Esme had the type of face men like best: far apart eyes, a small nose, a wide mouth, a face like another face that has been squished and stretched under a spatula or the palm of a hand”.

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Issue 41 is out tomorrow!!!⁣ ⁣ Subscriber copies will be landing in mailboxes any day now, and bookstores and newsagents will have this beautiful bright yellow+blue issue on their shelves from tomorrow. If you want to, you can subscribe now starting with this issue, or even buy a single copy. Alternatively, if you want to read this issue in digital form instead, you can.⁣ ⁣ We hope that those of you in Melbourne can join us tomorrow evening at the launch of Issue 41, feat. special readings, at The Alderman from 6pm. We’ll be treated to readings from Issue 41 contributors Antonia Pont, Nick Robinson, Aimee Knight, and Harry Reid.⁣ ⁣ Issue 41 of The Lifted Brow features an incredibly strong mix of new work – including cutting essays, provocative fiction, biting commentary, thoughtful criticism, vibrant poetry, and as always so many pages of comics and visual art.

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Mal | London

Made in collaboration with the Serpentine Galleries, Mal is a quarterly journal of sexuality and erotics. ‘Beyond Criticism’ is the first story in Issue 4: Real Girls. Opening with a covert Pornhub viewing session on a train, this is an exquisite and often toe-curlingly uncomfortable account of prejudice and culpability in the age of #MeToo.

Mayday | Copenhagen

Taking in everything from right-wing extremism to Kundalini yoga, Mayday is a magazine about new ways of thinking. In this fourth issue, there’s a series of tiny sci-fi stories imagining alternative futures.


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Migrant Journal | London

Started in 2015 to counter the dominant narrative around migration, Migrant Journal’s sixth and final issue features a wonderful imagining of the origins of the Polish Christmas carp — a fusion dish between Jewish, Polish, and  Soviet traditions.

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The last issue. No. 6 Foreign Agents. Available online at, at @offprint_projects this weekend and in your favourite bookshops in June. Launch 5 June, 5-7PM @athenaeumnieuwscentrum

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Sand | Berlin

Editor Jake Schneider opens the nineteenth edition of Sand with an account of finding, at his local U-Bahn station in Berlin, a poster from the newly renamed “Homeland” Ministry, offering to pay people to leave their homes in Germany and return to their “homelands”. An issue about us-and-them dynamics, the shortlisted story, ‘Citizen!’, is about Brexit, parenthood and Boris Johnson.

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Our new issue has arrived from the printer and it's absolutely beautiful! We can't wait to share SAND #19 with our readers and contributors around the world. If you're Berlin-based, come along to Out of Place: Launching SAND #19 at @acudmachtneu next Friday for live readings from our contributors followed by music til late. If you can't make it to the launch, pre-order your copy of the issue here. We ship to anywhere in the world: #literaryjournal #SAND19 #berlin #printisnotdead #literature #poetry #prose #shortstory #translation #nonfiction #art #sneakpeak cover art by @v.dcharles

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Sand | Berlin

‘Sweet Blood’ by Alex Luke was published in Sand’s eighteenth issue. About an unlikely connection between a Ghanian-American teen and an impoverished, elderly white Virginian, this is a story about the ghosts of racial violence, and how they snake their way into the present.

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There are only a few copies of Issue 18 left so go to our website (link in bio) or @newsstandmagazines and order them before we sell out! #printisntdead #issue18 #SAND #literaryjournal #literature #prose #poetry #nonfiction #art #translation #berlin #englishlit #magazine #magazinecover #words #installationart #visualart

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Somesuch Stories | London

The fourth issue of this UK literary journal is themed ‘redemption’. It’s a fabulous theme, especially now, when it feels like we’re all going to hell in a handcart. Daisy Johnson’s shortlisted story plays with our definitions of fiction: it’s part essay, part literary reimagination of Eve in the garden of Eden; Eve “horny and desperate and disappointed and loving and clever and weary and purposeful in her actions.”

South London Review of Hand Dryers | London

A delicious spoof of the London Review of Books, the South London Review of Hand Dryers is a dedicated literary review of, um, hand dryers. Editor Wedgley Snipes’ Classifieds section at the end of issue two is a totally unhinged series of ads for, among other things, used sellotape, gibbon meat, and an “Older woman, partially submerged in gravel”.

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It’s back! The @southlondonreview returns for its second issue with this controversial cover featuring a towel-based drying system. Ridiculous. At this rate the cover star of issue three will be the back of my jeans.

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The Stinging Fly | Dublin

Sally Rooney is a contributing editor to this brilliant Irish literary magazine of new writing, and there’s an echo of her attention to the minute detail of how we see ourselves and are seen by others on these pages. In the shortlisted story, Harpies, our narrator describes herself: “I am small, brunette, and round. I crouch next to beauties like a full stop. I accentuate.”

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Making its way out into the world…. Issue 40 of The Stinging Fly. #thestingingfly #newwriting #literarymagazine #behindthescenes

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Winners will be announced on November 14 at the Stack Awards ceremony at Somerset House. Tickets are available now.

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