PHP 2012 Stories That Tickled Me – 5/5

[ Lees dit in het Nederlands ]

Any good story* is about people. (Or anthropomorphic animals. Or aliens. Or hyperintelligent shades of the color blue. Or… You catch my drift.) However cool the worldbuilding, however neat the new ideas about science, at the core of a good story are the characters. What happens to them, how does it affect them, how do they react, how are they changed? An idea does not a story make; characters do!

This is not an idle remark, of course, but an intro to the PHP 2012 story I’m discussing today: De Twee Gezichten van Hillert Goddaart by Sarah de Waard. This story stands out for many reasons. The economy of words, for one: De Waard draws her characters, settings, and plot points with strong, evocative sentences and nary a word too many, so that the story feels short and tight despite its length. The worldbuilding, for another: the city where Ceska and her grandmother struggle feels real, as real as their toil.

But most remarkable to me is the way the fantastical elements—for this is fantasy/horror story—are smoothly embedded into what is really a tale about a girl on the verge of puberty, her relationship with her tough grandmother, and the tragedy of an absent mother.

The speculative elements are there, and they are essential to the plot. But they are woven smoothly into this very human tale about real people with real motivations, emotions, flaws, and desires. The human aspect remains paramount, and De Waard demonstrates seemingly without effort how the fantastical can stay low-key even in a so obviously speculative story.


* Of course, there are, or may be, many other types of good stories; but for the sake of argument, bear with me here… 🙂


This the fifth and final part of a five-part series on Paul Harland Prize 2012 stories that I especially enjoyed, in no particular order. All they have in common is that they went on to be finalists in the Paul Harland Prize 2012 (and as such judged by the final jurors), and that I liked them.

Please note that these remarks reflect only my private opinion. I am in wholehearted agreement with the final line-up, the selection of winners, and the ranking of the finalists as the jury determined it.

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