In June we launched a story competition. The idea was to be inspired by the music of IIVII, aka Josh Graham. The story needed to be a distopian narrative inspired by his artistic world.
After receiving many amazing submissions, it was really hard to chose. But in the end, the jury decided on nominating “Only the Mountain” by Lotte Brown as the winning story. Josh Graham has read the winning story.
About the author:
Lotte makes and presents text in various forms. Poems, interviews, stories, and findings have been published in Deus ex Machina, HART, publications of art center Het Bos and elsewhere.
In Becoming the Forest, an ongoing art project and journal in collaboration with visual artist and founder Una Hamilton Helle, she explores themes as placemaking, plant sentience, and the way nature functions as a projection screen for ideology.
Lotte interviews, observes, reads, thinks and writes on behalf of different research centers, government institutions, and art organizations.
Photo: Kurt Stockman
Report of the Jury
The jury of the first Consouling Sounds story contest examined the 12 entries with dedication and came to the following conclusion:
The level of quality of the entries was high. There was an element of intrigue and reflection in all the entries. They were all fascinating stories. The themes that were developed often referred to challenges in our contemporary society. The imagery was original. It was clear that the musical oeuvre of IIVII had been listened to carefully. Some entries were stylistically very strong, others were refreshingly original in terms of plot twist and interpretation of the dystopia. The jury is therefore grateful for all the efforts made and the commitment shown by the authors. It would like to encourage all writers to continue to further develop their writing skills, especially the youngest (17 years old).
Given these observations, it was not easy to determine the winner. Even after an extensive meeting of about three hours during which all stories were discussed at length in terms of style, content, use of language and storytelling technique, it was still a close race to the top.
The jury came to the following top three:
ð winner: Lotte Brown - "Only The Mountain"
ð Second place: Gert-Jan van den Bempt - "Green Park"
ð Third place: Bruno Lowagie - "Objectief Natuur".
Explanation of the entries of the winners:
Third place: Bruno Lowagie - "Objectief Natuur".
The story "Objectief Natuur" depicts a world in which Big Tech companies have taken over the world, which ultimately results in the destruction of the earth. It clearly refers to a number of contemporary issues (such as the forest fires, the pandemic and the erosion of democracy in which new rulers are suddenly creating a conglomerate). This brings the level of dystopia very close.
It is terrifying because the story, despite its very Hollywoodian and grandiose nature of the story, feeds you with the idea that this future might actually happen one day in real life. This plot reminded the jury of, among others, Dave Eggers "The Circle" and "Dark Matter" by Blake Crouch. A very clever and very well worked out idea with a strong plot twist at the end. There is a clear connection with the world of IIVII which is shown in the details, such as the lack of sleep that can only be solved in a medicinal way.
Second place: Gert-Jan van den Bempt - "Green Park"
The story "Green Park" presents a world in which there is a great divide between privileged and unprivileged citizens. By an act of fate, a sincere statement leads to an irreversible path for the main character, who, without realising it, finds himself trapped in a hopeless situation. The realisation that just one small statement can have such a huge impact is a suffocating thought.
This story was extremely well and compellingly written. The imagery was original. There were a number of details that the judges found amusing and therefore well found, such as the compulsory 10,000 steps a day. The build-up was nice, but the plot twist at the end left us wanting for more elaboration. It was an anarchic and philosophical story that the jury enjoyed reading.
Winner: Lotte Brown - "Only The Mountain"
In the story "Only the Mountain", we discover a post-apocalyptic world from the perspective of the I-narrator. After the impact of a meteorite, almost all life has been destroyed. Only a specific mountain and a house located somewhere on it, can offer a slim prospect of a chance of survival. Exhausted but driven by an instinctive urge to survive, the main character searches for this place in a what remains to be a fairly desolate and lonely landscape. Through constant internal dialogue, the reader gets familiar with the events in the personal past as well as with the wider world that haunts but also drives the main character forward.
The story is strongly written, compelling and enthralling. The setting is unique. It is a post-apocalyptic setting, yet there is hope. In a way, it is postdystopian: there is a warmth and tenderness, because there is promise of healing.
This story is hugely symbolic. It can be read in a literal way, but it can also be interpreted as the processing of a trauma, any trauma really. This gives the story an extra dimension that leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and makes its literary quality particularly high.
Technically, this was also one of the best entries. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is almost literally something that we need to carry up a mountain. In terms of the page layout, we also see the mountain reflected in the design, which was a great find. It helps to feel the difficulty that the main character experiences during the climb. Despite this thoughtful technique, the story nevertheless comes across as very organic.
"Only the Mountain is a sad but at the same time a healing and purifying story that does away with literary expectations. In that sense, there is a very strong resemblance to the musical work of Josh Graham aka IIVII, whose music breaks through all genre expectations, and who also always combines cold detachment with catharsis and the prospect of recovery.
For all these reasons "Only the Mountain" by Lotte Brown is the winner of this competition.