Archive for December, 2012

awardI’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a weirdo when it comes to charts and lists. I love categorising and compartmentalising, finding a place for everything and everything in its place.  This mental tic, this odd OCD, has started to bleed into my writing and reviewing. Four years ago, I started to put together a chart of the best short fiction I’d read over the course of that year. For want of something better to call it, I dubbed it The Andy Awards (or the Andys for short.)

Now, four years later, the Andys are still going strong. And though they’re not exactly the short fiction Oscars, and though this ‘opening ceremony’ hasn’t been rigged-up by Danny Boyle, I do think there’s some great recommendations of short fictions, new authors and indie magazines which will give readers a few new tastes they might otherwise not have experienced.

And this is important. Short Fiction doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. There is only one dedicated short fiction reviewing site in the world – The Short Review. Arts Council grants are being cut back and indie magazines are struggling. Short story writers are not getting the financial recompense they deserve, let alone the readership. And that’s why I continue to persevere with this list every year.

Strength to Strength

The first year I ran the competition was 2009. That year, the winner was David Conyers, for his story ‘Black Water’, which featured in Jupiter SF magazine. Second place went to ‘The Lion’s Den’, by Steve Duffy, from the Nemonymous anthology, Cern Zoo. And third place was awarded to Rachel Kendall’s ‘Birth Control’, from her collection The Bride Stripped Bare.

In 2010, despite wide-spread industry shoulder-shrugs, the Andys continued. This time, gold was carried off by Wayne Price, whose story ‘The Golfers’ starred in The Route Book at Bedtime. Wells Tower received the silver medal for ‘Executors of Important Energies’, in the chess-fiction anthology, Masters of Technique. And the bronze was draped around the neck of Tania Hershman for her story, ‘Sunspots’, from her collection The White Road and Other Stories. You can read the full chart here. 2010 also saw the addition of a supplementary category, Flash Fiction, and the inaugural award was carried off by Valerie O’ Riordan’s ‘Mum’s the Word’, in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Vol. 3. Indeed Valerie’s story was so good, it practically demanded its own category, and maybe in the coming years, when we see an Andy of Andys (similar to the Booker of Bookers which was won by Rushdie) we may see this story carrying off the biggest award of the lot. No mean feat for a story of much less than a thousand words.

2011 saw the Andys going global. This was a glitzier, whole shebangier award show. I rolled out a red carpet in my front room and drank champers and smoked cigars, and hammered the whole chart out on my blog on my website. The publication of the list was met with shock and awe, dudes, shock and awe. Last year’s winner was the story ‘Great Rock and Roll Pauses’ by Jennifer Egan, from her Pulitzer Prize winning collection A Visit from the Goon Squad. I am still unsure whether Jennifer was prouder of her Andy, or her Pulitzer. By a hare’s breadth, in second place was ‘The Rediscovery of Death’ by Mike O’Driscoll, which featured in the Des Lewis edited The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies. And in third (and by no means was third the worst, just as second was not the best, and first did not have a hairy chest) was ‘Peacekeeper’ by Alan Heathcock, in his collection, Volt. Last year, I also continued with the Flash Fiction category, and again, there was only one choice for the winner: David Gaffney. So good is Gaffney at flashing (ummm) I could have chosen any one of his collection, The Half-Life of Songs, but ‘Live Feed’ eventually won out, after some schizophrenic deliberation from your one-man judging team.

And So, Without Further Ado…

Billy Crystal’s done his whittering on and Ricky Gervais has made some ill-advised gibe, and now we have the drum roll as we prepare for the first award category in this evening’s show…

The Andy Award for Flash Fiction 2012 Top Ten

10. ‘Reduction’ by Julia Escoria, in Hobart, June 12

9. ‘Pigeon Dreams’ by Andrew Stancek, in Flash Frontier

8. ‘Thermoplastic Manifesto’ by B. Drew Collier, in Sein und Werden July 2012 – The Unnatural World ed. Allen Ashley

7. ‘The Glass Chamber’ by Adam Lowe, in Terror Scribes

6. ‘Experimentation’ by Tania Hershman, in New Scientist, Dec 2011

5. ‘Pianissimo’ by Jo Hanslip, in Duality 6, ‘Home’ theme, ed. Alec Beattie

4. ‘The White Zone is for…’ by Dominy Clements, in Beautiful Scruffiness 4

3. ‘OMG U Guyz’ by Christy Leigh Stewart, in Terror Scribes

2. ‘Leap Second, Emendations and Errata’ by Renoir Gaither, in Lucid: A Collection of Experimental Flash Fiction

1. ‘Don’t Be Rough’ by David Gaffney, in Beautiful Scruffiness 4

And so Gaffney carries off the Andy for Flash Fiction for the second year running…

Now on to the Big One.

The Andy Award for Short Fiction 2012

20. ‘Stories’ by Michael Moorcock, in Stories, ed. Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

19. ‘Loser’ by Chuck Palahniuk, in Stories, ed. Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

18. ‘At the Rail’ by Andrew Coburn, in Where are we Going? Anthology, ed. Allen Ashley

17. ‘A Decent Neighbour’ by Ben Nardolilli, in Duality 6, ‘Home’ theme, ed. Alec Beattie

16. ‘The Twilight’ by Allen Ashley, in Wordland zine from The Exaggerated Press, Issue 1

15. ‘The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon’ by Elizabeth Hand, in Stories, ed. Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

14. ‘The Cottage on the Hill’ by J. Robert Lennon, in Electric Literature November 2012

13. ‘Survivor Type’ by Stephen King, in The Mammoth Book of Body Horror

12. ‘Broken Angel’ by Gary William Murning, Amazon Exclusive Short

11. ‘Catherine and the God Market’ by Shiela Adamson, in The Road Unravelled, Earlyworks Press

10. ‘The Devil on the Staircase’ by Joe Hill, in Stories, ed. Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

9. ‘Walking Wounded’ by Michael Marshall Smith, in The Mammoth Book of Body Horror

8. ‘Amanuensis’ by Wynn Wheldon, in Prole 7

7. ‘Changes’ by Neil Gaiman, in The Mammoth Book of Body Horror

6. ‘Inertia’ by Stephen Bacon, in Wordland zine from The Exaggerated Press, Issue 1

5. ‘Fruiting Bodies’ by Brian Lumley, in The Mammoth Book of Body Horror

4. ‘She Murdered Mortal He’ by Sarah Hall, in Granta 117: Horror

3. ‘The Discord of Being’ by Alison J Littlewood, in Where are we Going? Anthology, ed. Allen Ashley

2. ‘Philanthropy’ by Suzanne Rivecca, in Granta 120: Medicine

1. ‘Fringe’ by Jen Campbell, in ShortFICTION 5

Honourable mentions to:

‘Afternoon Show’ by Edith O’ Deer in The Horror Zine; ‘The Special Advisor’ by Tania Hershman in Five Dials 25b; ‘The Great Switcheroo’ by Roald Dahl in Switch Bitch; ‘Catch and Release’ by Lawrence Block in Stories, ed. Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio; ‘The Hide’ by Sarah Smith in Duality 6, ‘Home’ theme, ed. Alec Beattie; ‘The Goldrush’ by Louis Malloy in ShortFICTION 5; ‘Dead Countries’ by Gary Budgen in Where are we Going? Anthology, ed. Allen Ashley; ‘The Job Catcher’ by Darren Dillman in Prole 7; ‘The O’ Malley Portrait, Oil on Canvas, Late 21st Century’ by Michael Heery in The Road Unravelled, Earlyworks Press; ‘Scarred’ by Deb Hoag in Terror Scribes; ‘Stalling an Ambush’ by Emma Lee in Sein und Werden July 2012 – The Unnatural World;

December is a time, for many, of gargantuan feasts, of troughing through bucketloads of meat n veg n cake n chocolate, followed by cheese and biscuits and wafer thin mints. All of that washed down with beer, wine, brandy, eggnog, cider, and whatever’sleftinthecupboard, as well as a handful of those miniature chocolate liquors. It’s a hellish time for the body, what with the sproutfarts and muffintops in abundance, and all topped off with that Christmas jumper your Aunt bought you and you just have to wear. And then you take a peek at the photos some family member has rattled off on their mobile phone or tablet or gravestone and your maw gapes into a silent scream at the sight of yourself, a monster.

secondshortreview2Which brings me on to my Book of the Month for December, The Mammoth Book of Body Horror, which I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing for the new-old kid on the block, the returning, undispited King of the short fiction reviewing websites, The Short Review. This is a monster of a book, a goose fat for Christmas tome, a veritable tramscotcher. And as such, my ‘short’ review has had to be subdivided, carved in two like the turkey. Anyway, part one’s up today. Here’s the gen:

the_mammoth_book_of_body_horror-PAUL_KANE-MARIE_OREGAN1The Mammoth Book of Body Horror: Twenty-Five Stories of Transformation, Mutation and Contagion
edited by Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan

Constable & Robinson 2012

And here’s a lovely quote from the book:

““The acromegaly infected the left side of his face, warping the facial bones like untreated pine boards. The flesh on that side of Rand’s face resembles a water balloon filled to capacity. The upper forehead bulges like a baby emerging from its mother’s cervix, its weight pressing against his bristling brow ridge. The puffy, bloated flesh of his cheek has long since swallowed the left eye, sealing it behind a wall of bone and meat. (…) But these deformities alone did not make Rand Holstrum the successful freak that he is today. While the left half of his face is a hideously contorted mass of bone and gristle, like a papier-mache mask made by a disturbed child, the other side is that of a handsome, intelligent man in his late fifties. That is what draws the fish. He is one of the most disturbing sights you could ever hope to see.”

From Freaktent, by Nancy A. Collins.

And here’s a sneak-peek at my review intro:

One could be forgiven for thinking that The Mammoth Book of Body Horror is a book suffering from elephantitis. Weighing in at a not-to-be-sniffed-at five hundred and odd pages and containing twenty-five stories – some of which are real heavyweights, almost novellas – this epic tome is not one which can be gobbled down quick. And that’s not only because of the sheer scale of the book. At times unsettling, at others heart-stoppingly terrifying, and constantly, viscerally shocking, one could say this is the literary equivalent of the infamous Quadruple Bypass Burger from that Las Vegas staple, the Heart Attack Grill.

Lip-smackingly taste-tastic. But count them calories.

You can read the full review by getting click-happy here, my dear.

Or if you fancy reading another body horror scare story, you could do worse… oh, a whole scary lot worse, than reading my story ‘Lip Service’ here, for freemans, or else, daring to read my story of infested brains and bodily transformation and all that jazzski, ‘Sharkways’ here.

Paying Homage at the Oxford Bar

Posted: December 3, 2012 in Writing Talk

rankinThis weekend, I took in the delights of that most literary of cities, Edinburgh. Here’s me paying homage at the famous Oxford Bar, the very old-school pub frequented by  Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus character.