We are delighted to announce that Moso Sematlane is the 2024 winner of The Stinging Fly/FBA Fiction Prize. Established in 2022, the €2000 prize, sponsored by Felicity Bryan Associates, is awarded annually to an emerging fiction writer published in The Stinging Fly during the previous year

Sematlane’s winning story, ‘A Fern Between Rocks’, was his first ever published story, and appeared in Issue 48 Volume Two of The Stinging Fly, published in Summer 2023. The story is now available to read on our website along with a new author’s note. Sematlane was announced as the winner of the award at the launch event for our Summer 2024 issue at International Literature Festival Dublin on Saturday May 18th.

Judging the 2024 prize were author Mike McCormack (Solar Bones), Stinging Fly contributing editor and author Mia Gallagher (Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland) and Felicity Bryan agent, Caroline Wood. The panel was chaired by Felicity Bryan agent, Angelique Tran Van Sang, and Eoin Rogers, Programme Manager of The Stinging Fly.

Awarding the prize, the judges stated:

A Fern Between Rocksis an exquisitely written story about a young man, newly arrived in Lesotho, obsessing over a man he spies in a jazz club. Atmospheric, transporting, subtle, touching and full of longing – it is an incredibly mature piece of writing with a wonderful sense of place.
This story grows with each reading. A thing of immense beauty, spiked with shocks so subtle it takes a moment to realise what’s just happened. Like jazz itself, it circles with great delicacy around its themes – war, manhood, desire, loss, the need for belonging and the power, perhaps, of art to knit together the impossible in a way that makes sense, if only for a moment.

Accepting the prize, Moso Sematlane said:

Receiving this award came as a total surprise to me, being published in The Stinging Fly last year was already a highlight, now receiving an award for that story just blew my expectations off the roof. I am glad and deeply honoured to have this story recognised in this way. I had the best time writing it, so witnessing how it is still moving in the world is a source of great satisfaction for me. It no longer belongs to me in the way it once did, but I am honoured that short fiction from Lesotho can be recognised on such a big scale.

The judges also highly commended two other stories: ‘Stars’ by Greg Thorpe and ‘The Big Why’ by Brendan Killeen:

Set in New York and San Francisco and suffused with an aching tenderness for a lost time, ‘Stars’ is a story about a gay man coming out and finding his people. Controlled, confident writing, full of sensuous, glowing imagery, all underscored with an uneasy undertone that snags on the attention and inexorably draws you – as the narrator himself is drawn – towards an ending that is beautiful and brutal in equal measure. A hugely impressive piece of work.


‘The Big Why’ is a beautifully rendered story of how a father and son’s trip to a museum takes a surreal twist away from the ordinary towards something both ridiculous and profound.  There is skill, patience and daring in abundance here and the author’s handling of the story’s several moods is marvellous. This is a writer to look out for.


Previous winners of the award:

2023: Leopold O’Shea, The Afterlife
2022: Emer O’Hanlon, ‘Diana in a Lonely Place’