To aid the national security community in imagining contemporary threats, the Australian Security Research Centre (ASRC) is organising Australia’s Security Nightmares: The National Security Short Story Competition. The competition aims to produce a set of short stories that will contribute to a better conception of possible future threats and help defence, intelligence services, emergency managers, health agencies and other public, private and non-government organisations to be better prepared. The ASRC competition also aims to raise community awareness of national security challenges, and lead to better individual and community resilience.
New, unpublished writers are encouraged to enter the competition.
The first prize is $1000, with the second prize being $500 and third prize being $300. In addition up to 10 Certificates of Commendation will be awarded. Jakeman Business Solutions is sponsoring the first prize.
The winner will be announced at the Safeguarding Australia Summit dinner on 24 October 2012. The competition’s full terms and conditions are at below.
Entrants need to write a short story with a security scenario as the story plot line or as the essential backdrop. An Australia context to the story is required, and the story needs to be set between today and 2020. While the story is to be fictional, it needs to be grounded in a plausible, coherent and detailed security situation. Rather than just describing on an avalanche of frightening events, writers are encouraged to focus on the consequences and challenges posed by their scenarios, and tease out what the official and public responses would be. Such stories provide more useful insights for those planning to face security threats.
The power of scenarios should not be underestimated. Australia’s national security planning relies heavily on their use. For example, Defence has a highly classified collection of scenarios called the Australian Capability Context Scenarios (ACCS) which reflect possible circumstances under which the Australian Defence Forces might be employed. The ACCS are used to test concepts and capabilities through Defence’s experimentation framework. They are a critical element of Defence’s most important top secret strategic defence planning document, Defence Planning Guidance. For more information, see Defence’s The Strategy Framework 2010.
WHY ARE WE DOING IT?
In 2002, the Foreign Policy Magazine reported that “Shortly following the September 11 attacks, the U.S. Army enlisted the help of some of Hollywood's top action screenwriters and directors, including the writers of Die Hard and McGyver, to conjure up possible scenarios for future terrorist attacks”. The U.S. military went down this path because there had been a failure of imagination by the national security community to conceive that an adversary could do something so radical as hijack and crash planes into buildings.
As noted in the US Government’s 9/11 Commission Report “Imagination is not a gift usually associated with bureaucracies [but it is] crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratizing, the exercise of imagination.” A key way that the national security community has tackled this problem has been to generate audacious, radical and even far-fetched terrorist scenarios. These scenarios allow security specialists to identify the myriad of security threats, assess their likelihood and consequences, and then prioritise and manage the most important risks.
Fast forward 11 years, and while the threats from terrorists are now well integrated into national security plans, there are a host of other threats that now pose major risks to Australia. These include pandemic outbreaks, global energy disruptions, food security shocks, civil society breakdown, and transnational crime destabilising entire countries. Some would cause small scale disruption and deaths in Australia, and others would cause catastrophic loss of life and possibly even the collapse of the nation.
The ASRC wants to foster imaginative thinking so as to ensure Australia is better prepared to deal with the varied threats facing our security.
1. The Short Story Competition is open to all Australian and New Zealand residents over the age of 18 as of 30 September 2012.
2. Only one entry is allowed per participant.
3. All entries need to be original, unpublished stories with the writer owning the copyright. Publication includes paid publication of any sort or online publication. Entries are ineligible if they have previously won prizes.
4. Stories entered into the Competition must not be submitted for publication elsewhere until after 24 October 2012 which is when the winners will be announced.
Short story content and style
5. A security nightmare must provide the story plot line or be an essential backdrop to the story. While the story is to be fictional, it needs to be grounded in a plausible, coherent and detailed security situation. A story describing an avalanche of frightening events might be entertaining, but might not necessarily be insightful. So writers are encouraged to focus on the consequences and challenges posed by their scenarios, and tease out what the official and public responses would be. The story needs to have an Australian context. The story needs to be set between today and 2020. Entrants are free to use any scenario they like, or use the suggestions below:
- Cyber attackers shut down electricity grids during heat waves in Australia.
- Vehicles carrying chemical waste or radioactive ore are diverted, destroyed or derailed in Sydney.
- Vigilantes take action over the increase of allied foreign military on Australian soil.
- A foreign power desperate for oil and gas threatens to annex Australia’s offshore petroleum fields.
- Civil order breaks down and conflict takes hold in Papua New Guinea, leading to foreign powers entering that country uninvited.
- Climate change and collapse in fishing stocks lead to 500,000 unauthorised migrants fleeing to Australia.
- Dozens of anthrax laden envelopes are sent to Australian government buildings, shutting down government administration for several weeks.
- Following months of political deadlock, a renegade police/military group steps in to lead Australia out of the impasse.
- A small asteroid lands in the Pacific Ocean creating a massive tidal wave on the Australian coastline.
- A major power closes sea lanes in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asian archipelago dragging Australian into a military conflict.
- Strategic competition between India, China and the US in the Indian Ocean region forces Australia to make unpalatable choices.
- Australia’s population becomes polarised against ‘the other’ leading to internal tensions.
7. Stories must be between 2,000 and 3,000 words. Stories that are under or exceed these word limits will be deemed ineligible.
8. First prize is $1000, with second prize being $500 and third prize being $300.
9. Up to 10 Certificates of Commendation will be awarded.
10. The first, second and third placed winners will be announced at the 11th Safeguarding Australian Conference Dinner on 24 October 2012.
11. The stories of the financial prize winner winners and commendation certificates winners will be published in the ASRC’s publication “Australian Security Nightmares”.
Assessment criteria and process
12. The following criteria will be used to judge the winners:
- 50% quality of writing, originality, engaging nature of the story, and structure.
- 50% coherency, detail, plausibility and consequences of the security nightmare that provides the story plot line or is the essential backdrop to the story.
14. Entries are to be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line of “Short story competition entry”. Hand delivered or posted entries will not be accepted.
15. All entries will be acknowledged by email when they are received.
16. Entries must be received by email by 23:00 (AEST) on Sunday 30 September 2012. Late entries will not be accepted.
17. The short stories are to be attached in a word file using 12pt Times New Roman, single spaced and with a 2.5cm margin on all sides.
18. All stories must have a title.
19. Under the title, the following information must be provided:
- Author name
- E-mail address
- Phone number
- Postal address
- Word count of the story text.
- The following statement: “I declare that this work is entirely my own and has not been previously published. I abide by the rules of the competition. If my work wins or is deemed suitable, I authorise ASRC to publish my story in the publication in print and/or ebook formats called “Australia’s Security Nightmares”.
20. The financial prize winner winners and commendation certificates winners authorise ASRC and its publishers to publish their entries in a publication called “Australian Security Nightmares”. To minimise administration, only if more than 100 publications are sold will the authors be entitled to royalties. Over 100 copies, royalties arrangements will be as per those recommended in the standard book contract published by the Australian Society of Authors.
21. Stories will not be returned.
22. ASRC reserves the right not to award any prizes or commendation certificates if it deems no entry is of sufficient merit to warrant a prize.
23. No feedback will be provided to any author.
24. Stories that have been submitted for other publications, both print and online, are ineligible for entry.
25. The judging panel will be appointed by the ASRC.
26. The judging panel’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
27. Entries will be disqualified if they are defamatory, and/or do not conform to the terms and conditions.
28. By submitting an entry, all participants agree to abide by the above terms and conditions.
For queries/ submissions: email@example.com