Historical & Mythological Short Fiction

Ink of Ages Fiction Prize

World History Encyclopedia's international historical and mythological short story contest

The 2024 Winners

We're excited to announce the official winners of the inaugural Ink of Ages Fiction Prize, an international writing competition highlighting historical and mythology-inspired short fiction, sponsored by Oxford University Press. Every shortlisted story was read by each of our seven specialist guest judges, and re-read by Zhihui and Joanne from the World History Encyclopedia editorial team.

Scores were awarded for literary merit, originality and creativity, historical interest, and impact and enjoyment. Bonus points were awarded each time a judge placed a story in their personal top five. The whole shortlist was commended by the judges, and decisions were tough! Congratulations to our winners, and thank you to everyone who entered a story. We enjoyed reading every single one.

Each unique story made its mark on the judges

"Unique as each one is, all the stories [on the shortlist] make their mark."

Timothy Bent

Oxford University Press Editor

"What amazed me about the submissions was the diversity of styles and choices of subject, which I thought was really wonderful."

Louise M. Pryke

Historian & Author

"In the imaginations of these talented writers, history and myth stand, move, and move us in ways that only the best fiction can."

Stefan Vranka

Oxford University Press Editor

"Congratulations to the Ink of Ages contestants for creative, fun, and fascinating stories. Many authors featured a little-known historical figure and wove a personality and story based on the few threads found in the actual record. Other authors gave us first-hand fictional accounts of familiar events, often with surprising but historically consistent perspectives. Those stories remind us that no two witnesses see any incident the same way."

David Tollen

Author & Speaker

"The difficulty with historical stories is balancing the historical interest with creativity and readability in order to write a story that flows easily and is a joy to read. Congratulations to all shortlisted authors, and especially the winners and highly commended, for achieving this. The level of merit may have made the judging difficult, but also made it highly enjoyable – thank you all for submitting." 

Wendy Orr


"These often very moving stories, inspired by world history and mythology, were a privilege to read. It was a joy to see emerging voices and experienced writers bringing everything from local folklore to classics, and from lesser-known historical events to unique takes on familiar ones, to life."

Joanne Taylor

World History Encyclopedia

The 2024 Prize Shortlist

We've enjoyed re-reading the longlist and have selected 17 short stories based on their literary merit, originality, creativity, historical interest, impact, and enjoyment. The shortlist is now in the care of our specialist panel of judges. We appreciate everyone who has supported us in the first year of the Ink of Ages Fiction Prize and are excited to announce the shortlist for the 2024 prize!

| Tracy Bradford | Suzanne Scheideker Cook | Nandita Ray | Bill C. Wilson | Paul J P Slater | Sulayman Kindi | Victoria Alvear | Daniel Wan | E. Jamieson | Jenyth Evans | Sherry Christie | Louis Hill | Alice Rowe | Susan James | Firza Hapsari | Sallyann Halstead | E V Wallace |

Moment of Grace

by Tracy Bradford

Inspired by The Great Plague, London, 1665.

I knew two things as surely as I knew life was short—that the woman standing a mere handful of feet away was the most beautiful creature God had ever breathed life into and deigned to place on earth with the rest of rotten humanity, and that not even such angelic loveliness could save me from the hangman’s noose.

Between Two Worlds

by Suzanne Scheideker Cook

Inspired by selkies in Scottish folklore.

As Shawn walked along the path to the sea, his heart felt heavy. Shawn watched the clouds blowing out over the ocean. Although last night’s storm was leaving, another much bigger storm of impending war with the English was looming on the horizon. Shawn’s mood started to lighten though as he admired the brilliant blue sky and the clouds reflected in the puddles.

The Seventh Month

by Nandita Ray

Inspired by the Hungry Ghost Festival.

I drift down the river silently, spread-eagled, buoyed by the cold water as it flows back to the estuary with the ebbing tide. My fingers tingle as water streams between them. The mighty berembang arise from the undulating banks, like silent sentinels guarding the river, their ghostly silhouettes barely visible.

A Somewhat Laughing Matter

by Bill C. Wilson

Inspired by the Western Front of the First World War.

The initial offensive at Loos had been a catastrophe for the British high command, as
sixty thousand casualties had gained them not an inch of ground. Hard lessons were being learned in real time on the western front, and it was going to take more than wishful thinking in the halls of leadership to break the stalemate.

Ruby Crane

by Paul J P Slater

Inspired by a true story at a WWI rehabilitation centre for blind soldiers in England.

Today, I took a man for a walk for the first time. It’s not a real job, more something for me to do while Daddy tidies their flower beds.
We walked to Daddy’s work in the mornings. It’s not far from our home. In the late
afternoon, we sometimes catch a lift home from one of St. Dunstans delivery drivers.

Tools of Fate

by Sulayman Kindi

Inspired by the execution of Ottoman Prince Mustafa in 1553.

Mahidevran stared at her reflection in irritation. Another wrinkle. But could the Venetian ceruse, a lead mixture that was all the rage amongst the European nobility, reverse the inevitable fate of age? On the other hand, why should she bother? Years had passed since that upstart Ruthenian witch had worked her charms on Sulayman.

The Untold Story of the Murder of Isis

by Victoria Alvear

Inspired by the ancient Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris and the beginning of the erasure of the power of the goddess.

Many are familiar with the ancient Egyptian story of how my consort, Osiris, was killed by his jealous brother, Set. But few know about Osiris’ murder of me, Isis.
After Osiris’ death, I waited in the dark Cave of Creation for him to remanifest. As
Creation itself, we embodied beingness in endlessly fascinating forms, for the earth teems with all manner of life.

After the Siege

by Daniel Wan

Inspired by the Siege of Suiyang, China, in 757 CE.

Taam's hurried bootsteps echoed like miniature war drums through the empty streets of Seuiyeung. The city's garrison had miraculously fended off a rebel force almost twenty times their size for over eight months; perhaps the commanders were still alive…
His heart skipped a beat. A row of thirty-six corpses lay in the plaza outside the city’s magistrate complex.

The Coin

by E. Jamieson

Inspired by the story of the first marathon, after the Greek victory over the Persians at Marathon in 490 BCE.

Athens lay so quiet that morning.
The silence crept through every street, down cobbled alleys and over terracotta rooftops. The rats in the gutters stopped their scratching, wondering what new predator this was. The dogs considered barking, but the silence held a finger to its lips, and the canines, cowed, settled back down and pretended nothing was wrong.


by Jenyth Evans

Inspired by a set of three inscriptions about the priestesshood of Athena Nike.

Homer sang of those chosen by the gods: armour glittering in battle; delivering heroic speeches; agonising between long life or glorious death. But he never once harped about them dodging horse shit on the road.
I stepped around the latest pile in our path, and tugged my veil further over my head.

Mater Patriae

by Sherry Christie

Inspired by Caesar Augustus's thwarted attempts to find a successor within his family.

“So Antonia has popped out another one,” Julia rasped. “Always
good to have heirs to spare.”
Livia flinched. “The gods have blessed Drusus and Antonia,” she
agreed, managing to keep the barb from her voice.
“A pity they are not blessing your older son,” Julia shot back.
Caesar Augustus smiled, relaxed and affable with his treasured
daughter. “Only a matter of time.”

To be Free

by Louis Hill

Inspired by the Trojan Horse.

‘It’s pointless!’
‘It’s not pointless. You’re being an idiot.’
Alex paces. ‘I don’t like it when you call me that.’
‘Don’t be one then.’
Leo reclines back along the wall that runs the perimeter of the square.
‘You know,’ he continues, ‘there was a time when you would take my
advice without questioning it, little brother. Don’t you know how wise I am?

Mnemosyne and Her Muses

by Alice Rowe

Inspired by Greek mythology.

“Sister, tell me a memory.”
Lethe lounges in her underworld river, arms languidly crossed and leaning on the bank. She has had her fill of washing away mortal memories for one day, their shades floating like empty breath on the parched plain behind her. She faces a pool, shaded by cypress trees and deep as midnight. Mnemosyne emerges from the still surface,


by Susan James

Inspired by what happened to Oliver Cromwell's head after he was posthumously executed.

My mother and I climbed the narrow staircase, past rooms shared by other families, along hallways that stunk of boiling vegetables and wood smoke. Ours was at the very top of the house.
‘We must be quiet,’ I said.
Not only because of what I would have to show her inside but also because my father lay dying behind a curtain in the eaves.

Girl Beasts

by Firza Hapsari

Inspired by Calon Arang from Javanese and Balinese myth.

When I was little, my mother turned me into an abomination.
Her witchcraft was a warmth in hollow, an embrace made out of naught. It erupted my tangled hair, coaxed fangs from my bare gums, and grew dirt-caked
nails into crooked claws.
“There.” My mother patted my head, closing the leather-bound book in her hands.

Circles in the Sand

by Sallyann Halstead

Inspired by the life of Carl Gauss, the mathematician.

It was Archimedes who was to blame. He was the one who’d started it off, the whole strange story. But then he’d been at the start of all their stories, one way or another. However far they travelled, whatever path they took, their journeys had all begun
at the same point. With one old man and those circles in the sand.

End of Days

by E V Wallace

Inspired by the Theran Eruption circa 1550 BCE.

Spray dashes against my face, soaking the deck and dripping from the rigging. I gasp, then choke on the black fumes that blot out the sun. The only light emanates from Thera and stains the horizon blood red.
“Bansabi, my son, keep your head down. They’re closing.”
Father’s warning may have sent ice running through my veins but I still struggle against laughter.

The 2024 Prize Longlist

The WHE team have enjoyed reading all 145 entries in such a rich and diverse pool of submissions, with stories from all over the world. We appreciate that you’ve supported us in the first year of the Ink of Ages Fiction Prize and are excited to announce the longlist for the 2024 prize!

In no particular order:

Offspring of an Evil Eye – Timothy Sacks

Bequeath – Susan James

Under the Floor – Amanda Rautio

The Calcutta Bangles – Padmini Sankar

The Endless Pursuit – Quill Kukuj

The Legend of Alexandria – Victoria Peña Morante

The Beggar at the Lake – Jude Owers

The Long Journey Home – J. August Quander

The Lamentation of a Sinner: An Addendum – Leila Murton Poole

Between Two Worlds – Suzanne Scheideker Cook

The Family in Cupboard Swamp – Robert S. Davis

Catiline's Conspiracy – Simona Rotella

Exposure – Maxwell L. Davis

The Coin – E. Jamieson

The Day the Fire Broke Out – Julie Dron

A Blessing of Fools – Abigail Ottley

The Eternal Reciprocity of Tears – Marie McMullin

When Libraries Burn – A.M. Weald

Between Earth and Heaven – Rui Xian Xu

For King and Conscience – Juliet Hill

Ruby Crane – Paul J P Slater

Mater Patriae – Sherry Christie

A tale of Armangohar – Aisan Shaker

Fall of the Black Flag – Kyle J Callam

The Weaver's Lament – Mahad J Miami

To the Drumbeats of Duty – Vivek Vasan

Khepri's Geese – Gary Thomson

The Foreigner – Lucía Ximena Ubilluz Almagro

The Untold Story of the Murder of Isis – Victoria Alvear

Stain Removal – Mary Ethna Black

Tools of Fate – Sulayman Kindi

Mnemosyne and Her Muses – Alice Rowe

Wangu wa Makeri; The fierce woman ruler – Oliveolea

Il-Milgħuba – Simon Cutajar

In Search of Orange – Grace G Moran

To be Free – Louis Hill

A Somewhat Laughing Matter – Bill C. Wilson

End of Days – E V Wallace

Sight of No Return – Sarah. E. Buchanan

The Baby and the Snake – Ahmed Dodo

Beyond the Lens – Anne Meale

The Ballad of Shaykh Siddiq – Muhammad Munhib Shah

Legend of Java – Jefremy Juari

Book of Abuchi – De Lyon world

Egeri’s Last Journey – Rosa Barquin

My Mortal Sister – Meg Keane

After the Siege – Daniel Wan

The Prime Minister's Letters – Marelize Louw

Under a Turning Sky – Catherine Leyshon

Theodosia Raises Taxes – Abigail Epplett

The Datu and the Fish Man – David R. Q. Therro

The Western Wind – Nelly Shulman

Growing Up Sun Wukong – Hailey Samford

The Bride – Pratima Agnihotri

The Strange Warrior – Abdullah Asad Iqbal

Gateway to the Spirit World – Cassandra Puren

Sun, Wind and Hyacinths – Antonia de Castro Burica

The Fountain of Youth – Umair Mirxa

To the Fairest – Amanda Botström

Girl Beasts – Firza Hapsari

The Sign – Val Valdez

The Reptile Curse – C.J. Hawkings

Gloria – Harrison Voss

A North Carolina Story (a war a coming) – Larry Alderman

They, the Maidens of the Wind – Corina Catrina

Under the Distant Skies – Batuhan Aksu

The Lost Generation – Lyn

Moment of Grace – Tracy Bradford

When Icarus Loved The Sun – Morgan Stofko

Pentheus (A Fragment) – Howard Canby

Forgotten – Joan Nelson

Kallias and Acanthus – Justin Rosenthal

The Anchoress of York – Tabitha Bast

The Dream of the Pricolici – Maxim Dănuța - Maria

In Another Age – Dahlia Constance

Surviving the Titanic – Hannah Foreman

Circles in the Sand – Sallyann Halstead

The Seventh Month – Nandita Ray

Feast of the Fire Gods – Pax

Myrrhine – Jenyth Evans