Our SPSFC 3 Semifinalists

The trophy awarded to the book that won the second SPSFC (Self-Published Science Fiction Competition), Last Gifts of the Universe by Rory August
The SPSFC Trophy

After starting out with an initial allocation of 25-27 books and choosing our top six as quarterfinalists, each team in the SPSFC had the difficult task of picking just two books to advance to the next round.

The voting was close, but two books were the consensus choice of Team ScienceFiction.news to be our semifinalists:

Here are comments made by our judges about Children of the Black:


I was hooked on this book from the second paragraph where, describing space travel, W J Long III sums it up perfectly: "And yet, for all its fearsome and unforgiving menace, fragile beings had taken to it. They had made the lifeless vacuum passable, if not pedestrian. In tiny tombs, they reached out across the dark face of oblivion and made it their own. Though it waited endlessly to consume them, they did not fear it. Instead, they respected it." I cannot think of a better description of our fearful and fearless battle to conquer space travel.

Alex Bree:

Military space opera with human genetic testing and alien life form science experiments gone awry. Interesting concept and take on the intersection of alien life form and human genetics, along with the psionic mind-reading powers. Compounding tension and layers upon layers of conflicting motivations and obstacles made this for an interesting read, and full of action. Big universe feel!

David DuBois:

This is a complex space opera that takes place at the end of a thousand-year-long, galaxy-spanning war between the Sabiens and the Beita. A mercenary group called the TaskMasters are assigned to ransack a research base, a last-ditch technology grab "off the books," so as to not harm the truce. What they find has vast implications for the newly formed peace, and key members of the group break off to protect these secrets. ...

I enjoyed this book because it has depth. The world-building is intricate. Every character has a backstory and inner monolog that allows you to understand their motivations and actions. The good guys aren't completely good, and the bad guys aren't completely bad.

Here are comments our judges made about Woe to the Victor.

Alex Bree:

Action-packed military space opera with moral dilemmas, competing goals, and exciting battle scenes. Captain Lewis Black, Lead Engineer on the failed Reaper missile program Natasha Palmer, and Lt. Allie Perez fight to prevent the end of the world. They know their deaths will buy the colonists fleeing the planet only minutes, and yet they are each determined to make those minutes count. Little do the invading Maaravi know, humanity isn't going down without a fight. And then at the end, you question whether humanity even deserves to be saved. The choices, struggles, and mentality of those on Earth facing certain death is thought-provoking. There are poignant nods to WW II warfare and other conflicts where only death was certain, and yet, brave warriors cling to ideas and values greater than themselves. There is a determination and strength constantly present in the atmosphere even in the bleak circumstances.


Zipping back and forth in time, Green lays out the battle for human existence through the eyes and actions of a small but significant cast including spacecraft pilots, a civilian munitions expert, a Maaravi prisoner of war, a young girl, an AI and a cat. Green has used his significant writing abilities to weave a believable, though a bit scientifically improbable, storyline out of this diverse cast.

Woe to the Victor is a gripping story with lots of action, believable and interesting characters, and quite a few philosophical and moral questions. ... This is definitely one of the best science fiction books I have read this year.

David DuBois:

In a refreshing take, I think the various artificial intelligences were my favorite characters.

When I first started reading this story, I thought the writing was well done but I found the plot to be a bit depressing. I kept at it and came to enjoy the resolve of the people the story focuses on. Things don't always go as planned, but everyone keeps fighting and finding ways to move forward. This kind of story, with everything going against the protagonist(s), often ends up with the "exploits villain's fatal flaw" ending. This refreshingly was not that. Does the story have a happy ending? I'm not going to say, but I really liked it.

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