107 | First Place

In the beginning, they went to war. Now arbitrium came through to the descendants with instructions to settle; to make a new home and wait.

This story tied for 1st place in our 48 HOUR FLASH FICTION CONTEST. Bacteriophages (or ‘phages’) are viruses that replicate inside bacterium. In 2017, researchers discovered that the original phage and their progeny communicate using the arbitrium system. So, how does this work? Once a phage enters a host, they release a peptide chain message. The initial phage then communicates that its replicated progeny should destroy their host cells or maintain the cell’s life and integrate the phage genome into the host cell genome. This research drove Alex Robinson to ask: If such “simple” entities are capable of such complex message transmission and group decision-making, who knows what else viruses can communicate to each other? 

//Alex Robinson @pronerdalex is a nerd and a nurse. They write table-top RPGs and co-host @letsdoitpodcast, a sex ed podcast. Check out Alex on Medium for more of their sexual health writing.//

106 | 1st Place

Fly away with your tiny wings, my Charon. No monkey-business for me anymore. Flee, for pain is yellow, and death is human.

This story tied for 1st place in our 48 HOUR FLASH FICTION CONTEST. There’s an outbreak of yellow fever in southeastern Brazil, and people are clubbing infected monkeys to death, mistaking the victims for the vectors—the mosquitoesResearchers are investigating whether the outbreak is linked to Rio Doce (river) pollution caused by the Samarco’s dam collapse in 2015, which destabilized the ecosystem. The dam collapse, an event also known as the Mariana tragedy, is considered the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history.

//Rodrigo Assis Mesquita @RGMesquita is a mostly strong-willed SFF writer from Brazil.//


105 | 2nd Place

“Didn’t think I’d see you here again. Relapse?” The bartender at the Virulent Virus raised an eyebrow. “The usual?”
I grunted.
He slid over a Flutini.

This story was awarded 2nd place in our 48 HOUR FLASH FICTION CONTEST. We typically associate viruses with death, disease and malware. In short, nothing good. This year’s flu season has done nothing to redeem our perception of this infective agent. So when I read how researchers could potentially use genetically-modified flu viruses to cure cancer, I wondered if staving off this disease could be as simple as downing an influenza-infused martini in the future. Perhaps, like how our ancestors tamed fire, something once-thought deadly will revolutionize humanity. // Personal statement by the Author

A SCIENTIFIC NOTE FROM THE JUDGES: Ingesting influenza would probably ‘kill’ it in your gut. However, there are viruses that do use ingestion as their route of transmission like adenovirus, which are also being explored as a cancer treating agent. We have allowed for creative license in this story as it is important to highlight positive uses for viruses.

//Bijou Lin is current on all her shots, of both vaccine and vodka variety.//

Winners | Virology Flash Fiction

Ahhhhh! It’s time to announce the results of our 48 HOUR VIROLOGY FLASH FICTION CONTEST!! I’m thrilled to reveal that once again we got enough submissions for this competition to be worthwhile.
Thank you to all those who submitted and to our amazing judges, Dr. Ben Johnson, Head of Communities & Engagement at Springer Nature and Dr. Bish Marzook, virologist, comedian, and writer. Ben and Bish kindly volunteered their services and as thanks, we are donating their combined $40AUD fee to Virology Comics.


This time around, we have an astonishing result – a tie for first place!

First Place: “Death is Yellow” by Rodrigo Assis Mesquita AND “Arbitrium” by Alex Robinson @pronerdalex

Second Place: “Relapse” by Bijou Lin

Third Place: “The Heist” by Megan Hippler @MeganHippler


Congrats to all our winners and thank you to all those who submitted! The winning stories will be published next Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Want to support Virology Comics?

You can donate funds directly to their PayPal account susan.nasif@cimaza.be. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook

We plan on doing more 48 hour competitions in future, so make sure to subscribe to our Twitter feed and stay tuned for future updates! We also announce competition topics early on Patreon, so for just $1 you can get advance notice of all future competition details.

Flash Fiction Contest: Virology

Holy moly! Was it only seven months ago the Vault ran our first Flash Fiction contest? What an exciting half year it has been. With an influx of new followers on social media, I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you a little more about us, and why we run these contests.

The Story Seed Vault is an online micro-fiction publication that aims to entertain and educate our readers about scientific research through fiction. We are an international publication based in Sydney, Australia. As Story Seed Vault is new to the industry, we are pushing to increase our reach and to partner with science communicators all over the world.

One of the ways that we do this is by holding thematic Flash Fiction contests. Our first competition was based on Antarctic research, judged by two members of the Australian Antarctic Division, and our second is on bees, judged by two prominent European researchers. You can read about these contests here and here.

This time around, we’ve taken a different tack. Instead of picking a theme that was based on our site views or audience selection, I reached out to several researchers I admire to see if they were available to judge our contest. The first to respond with enthusiasm was Dr. Bish Marzook, a virologist currently based in Oxford. Her enthusiasm is definitely catching and so, it is with great excitement that I introduce our judges for the first Flash Fiction Contest of 2018!

Our Judges

Dr Ben Johnson is Head of Communities & Engagement at Springer Nature. He runs the Nature Research Communities, where authors and editors tell their personal stories. Ben has a PhD in influenza virus and researched vaccines at Imperial College London, before entering publishing. He can be found on Twitter @drbenjohnson.

Dr. Bish Marzook is a virologist, comedian, and writer. Armed with a PhD in virology from The University of Sydney, Australia, she recently moved to the UK for a post-doctoral position in biochemistry & cell biology at Cambridge. Viruses remain her one true love. She can be found on Twitter @bish_marz.

The Topic: Virology

We want your best micro-fiction, 140 characters or less, inspired by research on Virology. Innovative vaccine delivery systems, viral warfare, viruses that hijack personalities – we want them all. Go forth and research!


  1.  It must be based on topics/research relevant to VIROLOGY. The more recent the research, the better. We will judge a great story with science from a few years ago  over an alright story with a study published yesterday.
  2. If the story is about VIROLOGY but the research provided is generic educational info, it will not be awarded a placing.
  3. The story has to be able to stand on its own – the science can provide context/make it more interesting, but it should not rely heavily on the science to be entertaining.


Like our previous Flash Fiction contests, we will be selecting 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place entrants.We will paying the placed winners $10 each.

If you are happy to waive this prize, we will be donating this amount to Virology Comics, an educational organisation based in Europe. The funds raised will be used to ship free comics to American public schools. Virology Comics is run by Dr. Susan Nasif, who can be found on Twitter @VirologyComics.

Submission Timelines

Submissions open 10PM AEST January 25, 2018.
Submissions close 10PM AEST January 27, 2018.
Results will be announced 1PM AEST February 1, 2018 and the winning stories will be published over the week of February 5th, 2018.

See our submissions page for how to submit and information on payments and copyrights.