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The Edge Hill Short Story Prize Longlist ... and other stories

On the Edge of the Hill...

My lovely little book of weird short stories about animals has just claimed its biggest achievement: a spot on the 2022 Edge Hill Short Story Prize longlist. I could not be more delighted. I've long dreamed of being in the mix for the Edge Hill, and I distinctly remember quietly pinning my hopes for Edgy glory on Fauna when I first started sending it out. And now look at it. Sitting pretty among these other incredible titles:

The Edge Hill Prize has been running since 2006 and remains the only prize in the UK dedicated to celebrating a single-authored short story collection. It's been won in the past by such luminaries as Colm Toibin, Sarah Hill, Kevin Barry (twice), and Daisy Johnson, and this year's longlist is also stuffed to the gills with incredible talent. Its also proudly made-up of titles published by small independent presses such as Reflex Press, Boiler House Press, Fitzcarraldo, Galley Beggar, Influx, and of course, my own publisher Fly on the Wall. A roaring testament then to the vitality of these indie endeavours and the risks they take when keeping the craft of the short story alive.

The longlist gets whittled down to a shortlist in September and then winners are announced in November, so a solid few months before I get to see if the crimson-backed flameback woodpeckers fly any further. Whatever happens, there's a whole cornucopia of wondrous short tales gathered here and I'm so very proud that Fauna is among them. Dare to dream, folks, dare to dream.

This is How it Will Be...

Talking of prizes, I recently scooped second place on the Cranked Anvil Short Story Prize with a brand new tale of mine This is How it Will Be. This odd little tale of a life displayed in a picture book came spilling out of me at a creative writing club session that I was part of in the Narratives of Neurodiversity Network Discord channel. One wistful Monday eve we gathered, grabbed some random prompts and set to writing for a while. The prompts this time included that little panel from a comic of some kind (we neglected to note where it was from, annoyingly!) and the following random lines selected from random books:

"His apartment was in one of the gimcrack buildings in the settlement that straggled away around a near-by flyover" - JG Ballard, Complete Short Stories Vol 1 - p.564

"As it happened, in fourteen months he was blessed with another boy" - Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, p.99

"We understand that considering a care-home can be daunting" - 'Konect', free local magazine, p.10

Over the ensuing forty-five minutes I played around with these ideas until I landed on the concept of a baby being shown his entire future in a graphic novel. This is How it Will Be as a title arrived soon after and from there it wasn't hard to fit in apartments, care-homes, flyovers and the feeling of things being 'daunting'. You can read the resulting tale on Cranked Anvil's site right now, if you like.

This little success sits as proof that if you just carve out some time to do some writing, you never know when something valuable might just come tumbling out. I distinctly remember being very close to not going to that session of Creative Writing Club that evening after a long and stressy day in work. It turned out to be just what I needed.

I've Seen Things You People Wouldn't Believe...

In stark contrast, I've had another publication this week which has taken literal years to come together. My first proper journal article has just been published in the latest edition of the Science Fiction Film and Television Journal. It's titled '"Is this To be an Empathy Test?": Autism and Neuroqueer Expression in Blade Runner'' and is effectively a rehash of one of the chapters of my PhD thesis. It goes on a deep dive into the depths of Blade Runner, my most fave film of all time, and comes back up with a new suggestion: that Ridley Scott's masterpiece is actually a parable about neurodiversity, right? It's my spicy hot-take on a 40 year old film that has been endlessly analysed and re-analysed, but yep, I'm pretty sure I've cracked the nut now. No more interpretations of Blade Runner needed.

This paper began life in 2018 when I signed up to take part in a 'Chapter to Article' workshop at Manchester Uni while I was still a PhD student. I went through agonising rounds of drafting and re-drafting, only made worse by the redrafting of my actual thesis, and I eventually got myself tied up in a labyrinth of knots with it. I sent it to one academic journal who suggested such enormous structural changes that I crumbled and all but shelved it. A few months later, with the PhD done, I pulled it out of the rain-soaked streets and gave it a once over. Last chance, it went to SSFTV. And they said; yes please. Although not without a few structural edits. But this time, I had the headspace, got them done, and a few more months of waiting while the slow wheels of academia turned, and now its finally here. And I never have to watch Blade bloody Runner again. Except I will. Because I love it so.

If you'd like to read the article, you can find it on SSFTV. If you can't get beyond the paywall through institutional access, then drop me a message and maybe I might accidentally send you the PDF when I reply. Viva la free education.

Our Transformations...

Ooh, there's another publication to tell you about. My Oxford Flash Fiction Prize longlisted tale 'Our Transformations' which was included in the accompanying anthology Sticks and Stones. It's a fun tale of a relationship told through nine 100-word vignettes, all of which are themed around mythological monsters. It's sort of a postmodern Ovid, a contemporary Odyssey, that kind of thing. I managed to squeeze in Cthulhu, phoenix, minotaur, hydra, medusa, centaur, mermaid, siren, and saint, all within 900 words.

Read it in the anthology here, or the ebook version here, or, if you can stomach looking at my face for a while, I made a video of the tale. Enjoy:

Leave your maps behind...

Finally, I really need to tell you about Cloister Fox. Edited by the wondrous Verity Holloway, this is the first issue of this attractive little zine of weird and dark stories. There's a whole bunch of creepy tales within the pages from the likes of Rob Shearman, Ally Wilkes, Chịkọdịlị Emelụmadụ, Daniel Carpenter, and Natasha Kindred and I can't pick out a favourite among those because they are all so damned good. But that one about the cake in the fridge is particularly special.

My contribution is a story called 'Gallows' Hope Circular', and came out of a story idea I'd had ages ago and clutched onto in guarded fortress in a distant corner of my brain. I've always loved going out on long country walks, something we regularly did as a family growing up and a practice I've heartily continued in adult life. One thing I don't love, however, is getting lost on walks as a result of very poorly written walking guides. You know, those ones that say things like 'bear east', but neglect to say exactly how much to bear east, such that you end up going south and find yourself knee deep in a bog. So, anyway, I wanted to write a story in that style, in the format of a walking guide, with all these irritating vaguenesses built in. In the end, however, the voice takes a bit of a step back to allow the actual landscape of the story to strides forward instead, revelling in all its weirdness. The result, I think, is something a little more unsettling. An aura. A vibe. A mood. A place, perhaps, that doesn't appear on maps...

So, I'll leave you with the totally sublime artwork that accompanies the tale, as created by illustrator James Powell. It exactly captures the mood I was going for. It also quite nicely sums up this blog post. Sometimes writing is forbidding, sometimes it takes ages, but always we must stride in and let it reveal its secrets...


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