Dappled Things is very pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 J.F. Powers Prize for short fiction that has “one foot in this world and one in the next.”
1st place, “Father of Lies” by Lance Nixon
Runner-up, “Miracle” by Chukwuebuka Ibeh
Honorable Mention, “Ordinary Time” by Robert Whitworth
Dappled Things fiction editor Natalie Morrill has the following words about our winners:
Lance Nixon’s “Father of Lies” is a gem, expertly calibrated in every plot point and psychological turn. This is a wise, sharp little story. The protagonist’s long commitment to sustaining the fiction of an absent father remembering his daughter creates a framework for his compelling, complex and memorable character. The ending, with its subtle twist, lands perfectly. The writing drew us in (and reportedly brought one of our readers to tears). And yet it’s also a funny story, something our readers received with gratitude.
Our very close runner up was “Miracle” by Chukwuebuka Ibeh. One editor remarked that this felt structurally and spiritually reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor, though with a voice and atmosphere all its own. The journey of a desperate wife and would-be mother to a prayer meeting and miracle-worker, hoping for the gift of motherhood, forms the backbone of the story, but the miracle she receives is not the one she expects. We were absolutely delighted by this story, and we’re thrilled to see such excellent work coming to an American Catholic journal from Nigerian authors like Ibeh.
“Ordinary Time” by Robert Whitworth is a lyrical, sparkling and sometimes wry tale that stood out to us among the longlisted candidates. While its narrator wrestles with the apparently arbitrary injustices he witnesses in his modest daily life, his neighbour praises the saints, practices the bagpipes, and declares his love to everyone. The refrain that repeats throughout the story leaves us with a sense both of hauntedness and of hope.